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Police Pensions (Re-Assessment)

Volume 149: debated on Friday 16 December 1921

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asked the Home Secretary whether a constable who retired after 31st March, 1919, has a right to have his pension re-assessed on the Desborough scale of pay which came into operation on 1st April, 1919, or whether such re-assessment is at the discretion of the police authority who granted the original pension?

I do not think it can be said that police authorities were bound in law to carry out the recommendations of the Desborough Committee, either as regards increased pay or re-assessment of pensions, but I believe that these recommendations were in fact given effect to in all proper cases.

Is there any right conferred by this House on the men, or are the scales of pay and pension recommended by the Desborough Committee, and afterwards adopted by this House, subject to alteration at the discretion of the police authorities?

I am sorry to be persistent in this matter, but I did not gather from the right hon. Gentleman's answer whether the amounts of pay and pension, as adopted deliberately by this House, are subject to alteration at the discretion of the various police authorities. Is that so, yes or no?

That is a legal question, of course, and I am advised that the local authorities have a discretion in that, as I have said, they are not bound in law to carry out the recommendations.

Am I not entitled to ask the Home Secretary, who has charge of this matter, the simple question whether, after this House has approved of a certain scale of pension and pay, behind that the various police authorities have the right and discretion to alter it at their own free will?

On a point of Order. Where my question is not answered, and intentionally not answered, by the Home Secretary, the Minister to whom I addressed it, because, as he says, there is some legal question involved in the point—in my humble opinion it is a matter of administration—surely I am entitled to press for an answer, yes or no, where the House itself has deliberately laid down that a certain scale shall be adopted in reference to these men?

The hon. Baronet has received a quite clear answer on the legal position, namely, that the Home Secretary was advised that there was nothing legally binding on the local authorities.

With all submission, that is not a clear answer. I asked the right hon. Gentleman if he would kindly say, yes or no, whether it is in the discretion of the various police authorities to alter the scale laid down in this House.

May I ask the Home Secretary whether he has taken the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown as to the right, of local bodies to over-ride a decision of this House?

No, Sir; I have not taken the advice of the Law Officers, but if the House desires it I will do so. The answer I gave was that I did not think it could be said that police authorities were bound in law to carry out the recommendations of the Desborough Committee, either as regards increased pay or reassessment of pension. That is the advice I have been giveen. It is a purely legal question, and not a question of fact at all.

Will the right hon. Gentleman leave out for the moment the Desborough Committee's decision, and say whether, in view of what the House definitely decided, the local police authorities have the right at their discretion to flout the House, and do what they like?

At the end of Questions

On a point of Order. In view of the character of this extraordinary Session, and of what the Leader of the House has said about the desirability of devoting the Session to Ireland, I am in a difficulty, and I should be glad to have your advice, Mr. Speaker, on the position which arises out of the very unsatisfactory answer given to-day to the question which I put to the Home Secretary. The answer failed entirely to give me the facts to which I was entitled. In view of the great unrest that has been created throughout the police forces of this country——

The hon. Member is not entitled to make a speech. I understood that he had a point to put to me.

I was endeavouring to explain the point on which I desire your advice, and that is, how to bring this matter before the House, so that the House may show its decision, which, in my opinion, it has already given in connection with this matter. It is an urgent matter, because of the fact that there is great unrest among the police forces of this country, due to rumours that the Home Office will not stop, or will not do anything to prevent, local police authorities altering the scale of pay and pensions which have been definitely laid down by this House. Those rumours have been confirmed to-day by the answer given by the Home Secretary, and they are against the opinion of the House. I should like to know how I can raise this question, and when, with a view to getting a decision of the House on this very important matter.

The hon. Member had better consult me in the course of the day. I had no notice of this question. If he will be good enough to consult. me in the course of to-day, I will give him the best advice I can.