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I beg to move,
That the Police Pensions (Amendment) Regulations 1968, a draft of which was laid before this House on 22nd February, be approved.
This and the following Order make some minor amendments to the Police Pensions Regulations 1966 and I should like to give hon. Members a brief explanation of each of the changes.
First, the amendments contained in Part I are concerned with the administration of the pension arrangements for policemen who serve temporarily overseas. I want to stress that they do not affect in any way the pension rights of these officers or their dependants. The policemen concerned are those who leave their police forces in this country to serve for a time overseas. In the past, a number of officers served in this way in police corps set up under the Police (Overseas Service) Act 1945. More recently, service overseas has been under arrangements governed by the Overseas Service Act 1958.
During their overseas service officers continue to be subject to the police pension scheme in all respects, and responsibility for their pension position over that period, up to the present time, has fallen to be undertaken by the particular Secretary of State under whose aegis they serve. For reasons of administration it is desirable for these pensions functions, at present being performed by different Departments, to be transferred, for the most part, to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development, and some provision to enable this to be done was made in Section 12 of the Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1967. The amendments contained in part of the Regulations, which I now introduce, follow upon the Act of 1967 and make the changes in the Police Pensions Regulations which are necessary before my right hon. Friend can assume these functions.
Part II of the Regulations contains three separate amendments. The first of these, Regulation 3, makes provision for a larger gratuity to be paid in certain cases to widows or to children of policemen. At the present time the Regulations provide that when a policeman dies from injuries received from an attack or while effecting an arrest or preventing an escape his widow or his children shall receive, in addition to a pension, a gratuity amounting to twice the maximum pay of a constable in the force in which the policeman served. As the pay of a constable in the Metropolitan and in the City of London police forces is £50 a year higher than in other police forces, there is a difference in the amount of gratuities which may be paid in these distressing cases. This amendment provides that in future in all cases the gratuity will be assessed on the same basis, that is twice the maximum pay of a constable in the metropolitan police whether or not the policeman was a member of that force. Currently the gratuity would amount to rather over £2,500.
The next two following amendments are both concerned with preserving the pension position and the continuing application of the pension scheme in relation to former and serving policemen of police areas which are absorbed into other police areas in certain circumstances. The pensions regulations already provide, in Regulation 97, for preservation of rights and the continued application of the scheme in most cases of alteration of police areas, but these amendments provide for kinds of cases which are not at present specifically covered.
Regulation 4 makes the necessary provision in relation to all former members and serving members of the River Tyne police force in the event of the dissolution of this force by a harbour reorganisation scheme under the Harbours Act 1964. Regulation 5, which is a rather technical amendment, makes provision for cases where the whole of an existing county or county borough police area is included in a new county or county borough police area by reason of an order made under the Local Government Act 1958.
I now come to Part III. Regulations 6 and 8 of this Part will slightly reduce the complexity of the main Regulations because they revoke certain provisions which at this date have no application. These provisions governed the payment of allowances to children of police officers who died before 5th July, 1948. I should perhaps explain that the reason why separate provision existed for the payment of awards by reference to this date is because that was the date when the police pension scheme was incorporated for the first time in Regulations; previously the scheme had been contained in the Police Pensions Act 1921. That date, 5th July, 1948, was also the day on which the National Insurance Scheme came into operation, which leads me to the amendment in Regulation 7. National Insurance benefits are not payable to some children of deceased policemen because their fathers could not complete the necessary contributions. Therefore, since 5th July, 1948, the Regulations have given police authorities discretion to increase the allowances of these children up to amounts which are related to certain National Insurance benefits for which they did not qualify.
When the amounts of these benefits are changed it is the practice to make related changes in the amounts which the police authorities can pay. Hon. Members will be aware that, from 9th April, National Insurance benefits for children become payable at different rates in accordance with the Family Allowances and National Insurance Act, 1967. The amendment in Regulation 7 makes related adjustments, as appropriate, in the amount payable under the Police Pensions Scheme, but no adjustments are made which would reduce payments already being received by children.
Finally, the House should know that the Police Council for Great Britain has been consulted about all the amendments in these Regulations and agree that they should be made.
The Under-Secretary knows that, for some time, I have been consultant to the senior police officers' associations—the Superintendents' Association of England and Wales and the Scottish Superintendents' Association—which I am sure will warmly welcome these Regulations, especially Regulation 3, which comes appropriately so soon after the shocking incidents in which large numbers of police officers sustained injuries—several of them serious injuries—in the line of duty. As regards Regulation 4, most senior police officers welcome amalgamations, which make for greater police efficiency, more effective use of manpower, more uniformity in conditions of service and easier exchanges of personnel.
But there is one matter in respect of pension arrangements which is greatly resented by senior officers and is wholly contrary to the public interest. This is the practice in the Metropolitan Police of requiring the compulsory retirement of fully fit superintendents at the age of 55, compared with a retiring age elsewhere of 60. This practice was condemned by the Oaksey Committee in 1948, by the Estimates Committee in 1957, by the Royal Commission, and in the Select Committee's Report on the police which we debated in February last year. The outcome, of course, is that many a fit superintendent does not wait until he is 55 but goes earlier. Why should he wait, since at 55—
I am emboldened to raise this since Regulation 5 refers to the combination of police areas which accompanies amalgamations. In the case, for example, of the Essex Constabulary, the Romford police area was merged with the Metropolitan Police, and this created the extraordinary anomaly that superintendents transferred from Essex can go on to the age of 60, whereas those in the Metropolitan Force must retire at 55. Indeed, many Metropolitan Police officers are going much earlier to ensure that they get employment. This is an anomaly and an injustice which has been condemned twice by Estimates Committees, and by the Royal Commission, and by the Oaksey Report.
I wish merely to draw the Minister's attention to the matter and to emphasise to him the disastrous effect which this practice is having on the retention of experienced senior officers at a time when the crime rate and the shortage of police manpower require that experienced men should be retained. I have been in correspondence with the—
Order. We cannot discuss the general question of the age of retirement of police officers except, as the hon. Gentleman pointed out, with reference to Regulation 5 and the position of an officer who would be damaged by the combining of two police forces.
This is the whole point, Mr. Speaker. Regulation 5 amends Regulation 97 of the principal Regulations, which deals with alterations in police areas and the bringing together in one force, one authority and one fund, the fund being the source from which pensions are paid. I wish to draw the Minister's attention to the fact that, certainly in the case of forces affected by amalgamation with the Metropolitan Police Force, there exists the extraordinary anomaly that one could have two officers of the same rank, one with hi.; terms of service protected and able to remain until he is 60, the other being precluded from so doing and having to retire compulsorily at 55.
In fact, as I have said, because of the general employment position, many officers are retiring before they reach the age of 55. The result over the five years up to January last year—the latest figures I have—has been that, at a time of increasing crime, 27 out of 35 chief superintendents and 131 out of 144 superintendents left the service before reaching the age of compulsory retirement. This is a terrible wastage. It is manifest stupidity to put a fit man on pension five years earlier than is done elsewhere in the country—this is the point, Mr. Speaker—and to pay another man to do his job. The Select Committee on Estimates in 1957–58 said of this appalling practice:
It is financially indefensible to pay one mart to do a job and to pay another suitable man for not doing it.
I make no apology for raising this matter tonight because, although I do not expect the hon. and learned Gentleman to give an answer here and now, I want him to take the message back to the new Home Secretary, who, we all know, cares deeply about the police, their efficiency and their morale. I want him to do something about it. Previous Home Secretaries have refused to tackle the problem. I hope the present one will look at it anew.
I have a point to raise on Regulation 4. I speak for the Port of London Authority police, whom I have the honour to represent in this House, in an honorary capacity. The River Tyne police are, apparently, to be brought into some local force. If, or when, the new Transport Bill, which also covers docks and harbours, is ever passed by the House and comes into force, will the Port of London Authority police, at present a private body, have the advantages, if they be such, of the Tyne police force and have the benefit of the pension to which they would be entitled under this Regulation, or will they be excluded from it? I should be hopelessly out of order if I were to discuss the merits of nationalising our docks and harbours but—
I respectfully agree, Mr. Speaker, but I want to know whether this Regulation would apply to the body which is my concern. We are discussing the Regulation and those to whom it applies. I am asking the Minister whether, if changes were to take place in their status, it would apply to the Port of London Authority police. It is a matter which he must face in the near future, and I suggest that no time is better than the present.
The introduction of the Regulations is felicitously timed, coming as it does on the day after the demonstrations in Grosvenor Square, a day when tributes to the police have been paid in the House. It is a reminder of the interest Parliament takes in the welfare of the police and their families, and shows the interest the Home Office takes, which would have been even greater on many occasions in the past had it had the means.
The reasons for the Regulations have been carefully explained by the hon. and learned Gentleman. Although at first sight some of them did not seem so welcome, one feels obliged to accept the explanations he has given.
Part I concerns the transfer of functions to the Minister of Overseas Development. Bearing in mind the somewhat tough attitude the Ministry of Overseas Development has had towards gratuities, pensions and emoluments of expatriate officers, I hope that it will be as sympathetic towards the police officers whose functions are to be its responsibility as the Home Office has always tried to be.
My hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) was right to point out the anomaly concerning chief superintendents and superintendents, which is not so much created as intensified by Regulation 5.
With regard to Part III, it seemed unfortunate on the face of it that children whose fathers die after 9th April were to get less by way of discretionary payments, but bearing in mind that the other provisions to which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred enable increases to be made over the present provisions, I feel that, with whatever reluctance it may be, we must accept the position as he stated it and as put forward in the Regulations.
As always, the Regulations are complicated. At last, after a long period which I remember very well, there was consolidation. The position became unsatisfactory because consolidation became so complex by being delayed so long. I hope that consolidations in the future will be more frequent than in the past.
With the leave of the House, perhaps I may make some comments on the points made.
I do not intend any disrespect to chief superintendents, superintendents or the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) when I say that the hon. Gentleman will realise that the subject he raised does not really arise directly out of the Regulations. I shall certainly draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to his remarks. As he pointed out, this is a subject which he has discussed with previous Home Secretaries.
Regulation 4 refers to Tyne Police and Tyne Police only. The River Tyne police force is subject to the Police Pen sions Act and Regulations, whereas the Port of London Police are not. Therefore, we cannot deal with the latter in any event.
I appreciate the remarks made by the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton). I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development will apply the police pensions schemes as sympathetically as the Home Office tries to apply the Police Regulations.
I sympathise with the right hon. and learned Gentleman entirely on the need for consolidation. The last consolidations were in 1966. We cannot have consolidations every other year—and I know that he did not suggest that—but we are certainly aware of the unwieldy nature of a succession of amendments brought before the House involving infinite cross-references. The usual course in the past of providing consolidated regulations after about four years will be followed in the future.