HC Deb 04 December 1919 vol 122 cc772-7

(2) The Secretary of State in Council may make Rules for regulating the classification of the civil services in India, the methods of their recruitment, their conditions of service, pay and allowances, and discipline and conduct. Such Rules may, to such extent and in respect of such matters as may be prescribed, delegate the power of making Rules to the Governor-General in Council or to local governments, or authorise the Indian legislature or local legislatures to make laws regulating the public services: Provided that every person appointed before the commencement of this Act by the Secretary of State in Council to the civil service of the Crown in India shall retain all his existing or accruing rights or shall receive such compensation for the loss of any of them as the Secretary of State in Council may consider just and equitable.


I beg to move, in Subsection (2), after the word "may" ["The Secretary of State in Council may make rules"], to insert the words, "when a period of two years has elapsed from the commencement of this Act."

At this rather late hour I shall be as brief as possible, but I wish to get rid of the invidious task put upon me. These Amendments have been drawn up by a strong body of very distinguished members who were once in the Indian Civil Service who feel the extreme difficulty in which the service will be placed by this Clause. They have charged me to bring the Amendments before this House for their protection. They want protection from the form of oppression that will be found in the Government of India's letter of 5th March, 1919. I will quote (see page 17) a very few lines: "Ministers may naturally prefer their own agents and be disposed to treat lightly vested claims to more important and desirable appointments. Officers and Civil servants refusing, render themselves unpopular and will be treated with less consideration than they receive now." …An officer finding his position made intolerable should be entitled to apply to the Government of India for redress against the Minister….

12.0 M.

In the case of the Minister being found to be wrong in his treatment of the Civil servant a difficult position would undoubtedly ensue. The ultimate solution would be to grant retirement with proportional pension. This is really a dreadful piece of tyranny. A Minister falls out with a Civil servant, and the Central Government finds that the Civil servant is right and the Minister is wrong. The answer at present to that is that the Civil servant is to be retired with a proportionate pension. I can imagine nothing more dreadful than that one, whose life's aim has been to carry out his duty in that very greatest of services, the Indian Civil Service, who engages in controversy with a Minister and is put down by him, and who is subsequently pronounced by the Central Government to be perfectly in the right, should be offered money —not redress—but a proportionate pension. Why should this dishonouring charge be kept in the Bill, and why should a Civil servant, who is acknowledged to be right, be offered money, not redress, in this way?


What the hon. Member is complaining of has not been adopted by the Joint Committee, and it is not in the Bill. There is in the measure quite a different procedure, giving the Civil servant a right to approach the Governor-General under Clause 36. Therefore, to postpone the making of the rules does not meet the point at all.


Do I understand now that the result of this proposal will now be not offering a proportionate pension but redress and reinstatement, or will it still only be this proportionate pension?

Sir J. D. REES

As an old Civil servant I confess that I share the view which has been expressed by the Secretary of State. When this matter was very fully discussed with the intention of doing justice to Civil servants I urged that the suggestion of the hon. Member was not necessary because it was always done as a matter of course. Therefore I do not see in what respect the public service is not adequately safeguarded.


The Joint Committee have recommended retirement on a proportionate pension when it is the desire of the Civil servant, and this is forced upon him. The personal concurrence of the Governor is regarded as essential in the case of orders affecting the position and prospects of officers, and that is the procedure we adopt. My hon. Friend has often asked questions on what he calls the pronouncement of the Government of India, but this is a pronouncement in favour of Civil servants which places them in the same position as those under the Executive Council with a right of appeal.

Colonel YATE

We all know that there has been much anxiety on this point. A certain number of these Civil servants may desire to retire, and will they be allowed to take their proportionate pensions and go before this Bill comes into operation? That is a question which is very much agitating the Civil servants of India. They have a certain covenant and the Secretary of State has never told me whether those covenants are being broken by this new procedure or not. I put a question yester- day about the taking away the appointments of Governorships from the Viceroy, and we thought that was reserved under the terms of the covenant. If the right hon. Gentleman is going to break those covenants will he say openly that they are to be broken and what steps he has taken to give compensation to those who refuse to serve under the new conditions of proportionate pensions?


I shall exercise my discretion with the advice and assistance of my Council. It must be obvious that it is far better that a Civil servant should retire than work unwillingly under the new Constitution. I want the co-operation of all those who remain in India to make this measure a success. As a matter of fact, all the information I get from India is that Civil servants, having expressed their apprehensions about certain aspects of this Bill and their preference for certain Amendments, will, in accordance with the great traditions of the Service, do their best to make it a success. So far as I have observed, the agitation seems to have been far more among ex-Civil servants.


I am urging that the right to retirement on fair terms should be safeguarded. If the right hon. Gentleman can assure me on that point, and that Civil servants have proper redress, I shall be satisfied.


Seeing that the people of India have to pay all these pensions and charges may I ask what is the annual income of the majority of the Indian people? Is it not less than £1 a year?


That question is not relevant to this Clause.

Amendment negatived.


I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (2), to insert the words Provided that every person appointed after the commencement of this Act by the Secretary of State in Council to the Civil Service of the Crown in India shall only retain those rights, or receive compensation in respect of them, subject to the unrestricted right of the Government of India to amend this Act respecting the Government of India, or to change the rules and regulations made under this or any subsequent Act, without involving the Crown in any liability for compensation to such persons. I think we should, certainly in India, on this question, carry out exactly the same principles as we do in this country. It is well known that when you amalgamate four or five towns into one and the town clerks lose their jobs, the ratepayers have to find compensation. What my Amendment seeks to do is to prevent the creation of any further vested interests of this nature during the ten years before India gets full responsible government—at any rate, in the Provincial Legislature. It must be obvious to the Court that the great difficulty is the fact that the Indian Civil servant will now be subordinate to Indian Ministers in certain affairs, such as education, and local government, and agricultural administration. The Indian Minister in turn is responsible to the Assembly, and these are cases in which difficulty may arise in years to come. The next step forward will be to give complete responsible government to the local Legislative-Assembly. The I.C.S. will be definitely under Indian rule, just as Civil servants in this country are under the rule of the right hon. Gentleman on that bench. When that time comes these men may find that their jobs are no longer open to them. There may be retrenchment on a very large scale, and everyone who has been appointed before the passing of this Act will in that case be entitled to full compensation for the loss of his position if he is retrenched. What I seek to provide by this Amendment is that no fresh vested interests shall be created during the next ten years. People who join the I.C.S. must realise that if they are retrenched in future years they will not have a right to claim compensation. It is of great importance that this should be stated clearly, otherwise we are likely to have the greatest friction between India and ourselves in times to come. India is now reaching the stage to which Japan came after she had engaged a number of British people to teach the Japanese how to do certain work. The information imparted, the teachers were sent back. The same thing is going to occur in India. We are teaching the Indians to manage their own affairs and in time they are bound to take the places of their British teachers who have hitherto done the work and have trained them. When that stage is reached there will be great friction, especially if the Indian Civil servants feel that they are ill-treated, and we do not want them to feel that; therefore that should be made quite clear to those who go out during the next few years, that their jobs will be temporary and not permanent. The danger is that in the next few years the Indian Civil Service will be packed with new men who will consider that they have large claims to compensation if steps are not taken to warn them that their position is not a covenant for life, but is only for a term of years in view of the possibility of retrenchment in the future.


This is a very far-reaching Amendment, because what my hon. and gallant Friend does—unwittingly, I am sure—is to empower the Government of India to amend this Bill. The Government of India cannot amend any Act. It is the function of the Indian Legislature to which my hon. and gallant Friend has referred. Secondly, the Indian Legislature cannot amend this Act because it is an Act of Parliament, which no subordinate Legislature can amend. He talks about Rules and Regulations made by the Government of India. The Rules and Regulations to which he refers are not Rules and Regulations made by the Government of India, but are made by the Secretary of State in Council. Those are difficulties owing to the way in which the Amendment is drafted. In the second place, he seeks to guard against a danger which I do not think exists. This Bill gives compensation to Civil servants appointed before the passing of the Bill. It does not give compensation to anybody appointed after the passing of the Bill. Every Clause as it stands is a Clause to show that that constitution is temporary and transitory and bears upon it the mark that in ten years' time—I am not looking so definitely into the future as my hon. and gallant Friend—there will be an exploration with a view to a further step forward. Therefore every Indian Civil servant, be he Indian or British, who enters the service after the passing of this Bill knows that he is going out there to help India through a transitional stage of self-government, and no question of compensation can ever arise.

Amendment negatived.


I do not select any other Amendments on this Clause, nor on Clauses 37, 38, and 40.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 37 (Appointments to. the Indian Civil Service), 38 (Public Service Commission), and 39 (Financial Control) ordered to stand part of the Bill.