HC Deb 04 April 1935 vol 300 cc668-75

10.35 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 132, line 6, to leave out "Part of this."

In moving this Amendment, I hope I shall have permission to discuss the next Amendment standing in my name.


I am prepared to accept the first Amendment.


I am very much obliged to my right hon. Friend. In regard to the second Amendment—


In the circumstances, I suggest that the hon. Member should move the first Amendment and let that be dealt with.


Then I will formally move it.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move, in page 132, line 6, after "Act," to insert: and any Act of any Indian Legislature. My right hon. Friend has shown himself to be in such a gracious mood to-night, and so amiable in entertaining appeals, that I do hope he will be able to make a concession on this point, which would give a great deal of comfort to members of the Civil Service. In the memorial which I mentioned earlier they laid particular stress on the desire that their rights should not be whittled down. It is of the utmost importance to any man joining the Indian Civil Service that he should not join under one set of conditions and find, when he is no longer in a position to make an independent contract, that the contract of service has been very largely altered. Before deciding whether to withdraw or to press this Amendment, I should like to ask two questions. First, does my right hon. Friend consider that this Amendment adds anything or not to the Clause? Would an act of an Indian Legislature be an act done under this part of this Bill? If the answer be "Yes," I should like to ask the second question. If this is merely a question of clarification, would it not be better, for the sake of clarity, to make it perfectly certain, so that at no time hereafter may there be any doubt as to whether an Act passed by an Indian Legislature is an act done under this Bill?

10.38 p.m.


I suggest to my hon. Friend that it would be better not to insert these words. This Bill has been carefully drafted so as to cover exhaustively the conditions of service of the Secretary of State's Service, and therefore no act of an Indian Legislature could affect those conditions, because it would be repugnant to this Bill. It would be very inadvisable to insert these words. If we were to do so, any court dealing with this Clause would say, "There must be some respect in which an act of an Indian Legislature might deal with conditions of service one way or the other, making them worse or improving them, otherwise these words would not have been put in." If anybody can show us any place in the Bill where the conditions of service are not covered, we shall look into it; but at the moment we are satisfied that the conditions are covered, and it would be unwise to insert these words.


In view of the very full and reasonable explanation of my hon. and learned Friend, which is quite a reassurance on this point, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

10.40 p.m.

Mr. D. D. REID

I beg to move, in page 132, line 15, at the end, to insert: If the sterling value of the rupee should at any time fall below one shilling and sixpence, any such person as aforesaid shall be entitled to receive from the revenues of the Federation or, as the case may be, from the revenues of a Province in respect of any payment of salary falling due to him at such time an additional sum equivalent to the difference between the sterling value of such salary at the date of payment, and the sterling value of such salary calculated at the rate of one shilling and sixpence to each rupee. I understand that salaries are paid in rupees, and although any depreciation in the value of the rupee might not technically be an alteration in the conditions of service under the control of the Minister it might be of great detriment to an officer whose salary is so calculated. I have noticed that the Secretary of State has been very anxious that nothing should be done which would cast any slur on any Indian Minister or any Indian Legislature, and I think I can say that this Amendment casts no slur of that kind. It is true, I believe, that there is a movement among persons in India to depreciate the value of the rupee. I remember in my early school history books instances in which drastic action was taken against persons who had depreciated the currency, but I think the Secretary of State is bound to admit that in these later days depreciation of the currency has become a perfectly respectable thing. It is happening all over the world. Even in the Indian Legislature at some future time they might do it for their own purposes and very unwittingly and unintentionally affect the salaries of officials. I do not think that the words of the Clause as they stand are wide enough to cover a thing of that kind. It might be that depreciation will take place in some indirect way, and the result would be the same. There does not seem to be any reason why the salary should not have reasonable security. I hope that the Secretary of State will think this is a case in which precautions should be taken.

10.44 p.m.


If the rupee were to depreciate and if the cost of living did rise, certainly the Civil Service should be compensated. The question I put is whether it is wise and necessary to put a provision of that kind into the Bill. My advice to the Committee is that we had better not put such a provision in the Bill. We have never had such a statutory provision before. The rupee has depreciated at times, and the Civil Service has been compensated. We certainly regard ourselves as under a moral obligation to make a compensation to them in future. I suggest that it is much better to leave the matter at that point, rather than introduce a provision of this kind, for the following reasons. First of all, a provision of this kind would suggest that a depreciation of the rupee is likely. I do not want to make that suggestion; I do not want it to appear that depreciation of the rupee is likely.

Secondly, it may well be that, if the rupee were depreciated, an exchange compensation of this kind would be less easy to work, and less beneficial to the civilians themselves, than some other method—for instance, a rise in their rupee salaries. We have found in recent years, in the diplomatic service, how difficult it is to apply exchange provisions of this kind, and it may well be that a better way of meeting the situation would be to raise their salaries generally. For these reasons I suggest to the Committee that it is better not to alter the present state of affairs, which has worked satisfactorily in the past, and has given the Services compensation where there has been depreciation. A provision of this kind, in the first place, would disturb a very sensitive opinion in India on the question of the exchange, and, secondly, may not be the best means of giving compensation.

10.47 p.m.


When the Secretary of State says that he deprecates any suggestion that there may be a fall in the value of the rupee, would he consider whether it is not a fact that active Indian politicians have definitely stated that they intend to do what they can to depress the value of the rupee? Accordingly, I feel that we have to contemplate that possibility. It may be that the rupee will be strengthened as a result of these reforms, but our powers are going to be very much decreased in those days, and that is why we ask that the officials should have some security. This is a matter which is taken very seriously by civil servants, and I think the right hon. Gentleman agrees that it is one of the points about which they are generally very much concerned. When he says that if the cost of living should rise action will possibly be taken to meet the 'case by a rise in salaries, I would point out to him that that is not quite the point. The Indian civil servant has to continue to pay the £100, or whatever it is, in this country for the education of his children, for keeping his wife, and so on, and that has always been taken into account. We want to make quite certain, that it will be taken into account in the future.


It will still be the Secretary of State.


I should have thought that the Secretary of State, when he finds this angry surge of opinion against him in India, would be immensely strengthened by being able to call attention to the fact that it is provided for in the Act. We cannot be guided by what has happened in the past. It is unfair to all those who are serving in India that we should make that our criterion. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will continue to reconsider this question.

10.50 p.m.


I am sure the House accepted with satisfaction my right hon. Friend's assurance that this point will not be left out of account, and that if civil servants in India do suffer for an alteration in the exchange, provision will be made to compensate them. On the other hand, my own experience in dealing with similar problems in the Colonial Service makes me doubt very much whether it is possible to fix the matter beforehand in anything of the nature of a definite, rigid provision such as is embodied in this Amendment. The fall in the rupee in terms of sterling may not involve any increase in the cost of living in India itself, although undoubtedly involving a loss to the civil servant in that part of his salary he has to transmit home for the education of his children. Therefore, if you raised the whole of his salary it would not be fair to the Indian taxpayer; nor could you have such a provision as this without some corresponding provision if the rupee rose. In that case the Indian civil servant would gain nothing. I cannot see how it is possible, as the variations of exchanges and then economic consequences may be so very different in different circumstances, to prescribe beforehand any definite rigid rule by which the compensation shall be paid. It will be better to rely on the very definite assurance of the Secretary of State that this matter is in his mind, and that where civil servants suffer in consequence of an alteration of the rate of exchange they will be compensated.

10.52 p.m.

Viscount WOLMER

The point which neither the Secretary of State nor the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) meets is that in the Indian Civil Service you will have two great different interests in this respect. The Indians who are members of the Indian Civil Service will not be affected by the alteration of the value of the rupee to the pound sterling in the degree that British members of the Indian Civil Service will be Their position will be totally different.


But this Amendment will not fit the case.

Viscount WOLMER

No, but I do not think the solution which the Secretary of State proposes fits the case either. What we want is the establishment of the principle in this Bill that if the relation between the pound and the rupee alters to the disadvantage of the man who has commitments in India, he shall have compensation for that fact. The Secretary of State has given a sort of personal assurance. He has given an official assurance which he thinks would be binding on his successors, and he says to me, by way of interruption, "We have given it for years." My point is that the situation in the future will be totally different from what it has been in the past. As the services in India get more and more Indianised, the number of Civil Servants who will be affected in this way by the depreciation of the rupee will get less and less. The Secretary of State says, "Do not suggest in the Bill that there may be a depreciation in the rupee." I never heard such rot in my life.

He knows perfectly well it is a, burning question. He knows that not only a great many Indians, but a great many English think that the Indian Government might be well advised to depreciate the rupee in the interest of India. The idea of our suggesting it to them in this Bill is absolute nonsense. The rupee may depreciate for two great sets of reasons—either because of misgovernment or because affairs in India are going from bad to worse; or as part of a perfectly sound financial policy on the part of the Indian Government desiring to improve their agriculture or their export industries. In either of those cases the Civil Servant who has to make heavy remittances to England will be very much prejudiced, whereas the Indian who is a Civil Servant will not be affected in anything like the same way. The cost of living will rise or fall with the value of the rupee. It may not rise or fall absolutely concurrently with it, but roughly speaking it will follow it. The dwindling minority of European civil servants who have heavy charges to bear in England will be placed in a very different position. It is not merely the civil servant who is educating children in England. A civil servant may have all sorts of other charges. He may be supporting aged parents or invalid relatives, and there may be all sorts of obligations of that sort which it is impossible to define in an Act of Parliament.

Let us consider the position of the Indian Government that deliberately decides to devalue the rupee. The Indians who are civil servants will not be in the least affected, but the Europeans who are civil servants may be very much affected. Then the Secretary of State says, "I can use my powers to see that the Indian Government give special compensation to those civil servants who happen to have commitments in England." Will not that be an increasingly difficult position for the Secretary of State to take up? It will become increasingly difficult to recommend to a democratically elected Government, "You must give compensation to these particular members of our Civil Service because they happen to have children whom they choose to educate in England." That will be an attitude which will become increasingly difficult for the Secretary of State to maintain in face of the sort of glamour that any hon. Member can visualise for himself. Therefore, I suggest that if we put the principle in this Bill that, if there is depreciation of the rupee as against the pound sterling, those civil servants who are Europeans who have commitments in England should have a statutory right to have made good to them any loss they may thereby suffer, we are giving to these people a guarantee they cannot possibly get by any promise such as the Secretary of State has just made. I want to ask the Secretary of State this question: Is not this one of the points which the deputation he received the other day stressed most strongly? If the Indian civil servants feel very strongly on this point, and when we consider the matter from an intimate knowledge of the facts of India, it is one which this Committee ought not to pass by lightly.


It is one of the points which were raised




I think that the Committee are ready to divide. Does the hon. Member realise what he is doing?

Viscount WOLMER

The Secretary of State has not made any attempt to give an answer, and I think that we are entitled to press for one. It is a very vital point and there has been no attempt—

It being Eleven of the Clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow

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