§ 7.53 p.m.
The ATTORNEY - GENERAL (Sir Thomas In skip)
I beg to move, in page 146, line 17, at the end, to insert:Before recommending His Majesty to make any Order in Council under this subsection the Secretary of State shall consider any representations made to him by any subscriber to or beneficiary under the said funds or either of them, or by any persons appearing to him to represent any body of those subscribers or beneficiaries.This Amendment is designed to allay any fears that may have been entertained that the Order in Council would be made without any representations being first received.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Lieut.-Colonel APPLIN
I beg to move, in page 146, to leave out lines 32 to 34.Provided that His Majesty in Council may, if it appears to him necessary so to do, extend the said period of three years.That period is the period in which the money subscribed both by the military and the civil people is to be kept in India. There is a real feeling of alarm on the matter. These are funds subscribed by the serving officers themselves, during their life-time service in India. When they retire they are entitled, or in the event of their death the widows or beneficiaries are entitled, to that money. It is very urgently desired that there should be some safeguard whereby these funds cannot be touched. We do not even know whether the funds are in existence, and we shall be glad if the Secretary of State will say whether there is a full fund capable of paying the whole of the money subscribed.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
That point should be raised on the Question," That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," and not on this Amendment, which deals merely with the question whether the period shall or shall not be extended three years by an Order-in-Council.
§ Lieut.-Colonel APPLIN
Perhaps I went rather beyond the Amendment. The point of the Amendment is to prevent the fund from being kept in India beyond three years, and I will try to show why that would be a real danger. It would be possible, if some application were made, for His Majesty in Council to issue an order that the fund should remain in 895 India for three years, five years or for an indefinite period. We would like some assurance that the funds are adequately protected if they remain in India over the three years. Unless we can have some such assurance as that I sincerely hope that the Secretary of State will accept the Amendment. It is a very simple Amendment and can do no harm. Three years is a very long period.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Sir S. HOARE
There is no difference of opinion between my hon. and gallant Friend and myself in this matter. I am as anxious as he is to see this fund brought over here at the earliest possible moment, supposing that the subscribers and beneficiaries desire it. I assume that anyhow some of them will desire it. If that be the case, he can rely on the Government of India and the India Office funding this sum in Great Britain at the earliest possible moment. From the financial point of view, there is a certain gain for the Government of India in having the fund sent over to Great Britain. At present the fund forms part of the general funds of the Government of India, and a comparatively high rate of interest is paid on it. If the fund were transferred to Great Britain the Government of India would be dispensed from paying what is a fairly high rate of interest upon the fund, and the fund would then have to be invested in gilt-edged securities in Great Britain. My hon. and gallant Friend will therefore see that there is no reason why the Government of India should not expedite the transfer of this fund.
We have introduced into the proposal a certain element of precaution for this reason: The fund amounts to about £12,000,000 sterling. So far as we can see now there should be no reason whatever why we should not set up this fund in Great Britain within the three years. However, in dealing with a sum as big as £12,000,000 one has to take into account the effect upon the exchanges and to contemplate the possibility, even the very remote possibility, that for exceptional reasons it might not be possible on a. certain date to bring the whole sum to Great Britain. To meet a very remote contingency we ask for this amount of latitude. My hon. and gallant Friend ought to keep a further point in 896 mind. It seems probable that the funding of the sum in Great Britain will mean a lower rate of interest than that at present given by the Government of India. It might, therefore, be to the disadvantage of the subscribers and the beneficiaries to bring over the fund too hurriedly, particularly at a time when the return upon gilt-edged securities is as low as it is. I merely throw that out to him as a suggestion in favour of this measure of latitude we are asking for ourselves. I can assure him that as far as I am concerned, the Joint Select Committee are concerned, and the Government of India are concerned we are anxious to see this fund set up in Great Britain at the earliest possible opportunity. We think that it can be set up within three years, but we would like this provision made.
§ Mr. ANNESLEY SOMERVILLE
Do I gather that this fund is a separate cash fund earning interest for the benefit of the subscribers to the fund and is not used by the Government of India for its special purposes, and that it would be transferred as a total cash fund to this country and earn interest in this country?
§ Sir S. HOARE
I have already answered the first question, and evidently the hon. Gentleman did not listen to what I said. I said that it was part of the general funds of India, and, as such, was receiving a comparatively high rate of interest. Certainly when it comes over here it will be a separate fund and will obtain whatever interest can be obtained by gilt-edged securities.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
I must be very stupid, but I was not clear whether this fund was a book fund or an actual cash fund kept separate from the Indian revenues.
§ 8.3 p.m.
I welcome the statement of the Secretary of State. He has given one more proof, if that were necessary, of his anxiety to do everything he can to allay the anxieties of the pensioners in this country. He has indeed given proof of that by another Amendment on this Clause by which he seeks to clarify the position. The Amendment which I sought to move was solely to limit the indefiniteness of this proviso, and I wished to do so because we all have the greatest possible sympathy with the pensioners, 897 the right hon. Gentleman himself more than anyone. Although this Clause is being introduced to alleviate their anxiety, I think the indefiniteness of this proviso has almost increased their alarm, because they feel that they are possibly being fobbed off by a promise which may or may not be fulfilled. In view of that, I should be prepared to support the omission of these words, but can visualise circumstances such as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out in which a short period of grace could be of considerable help in enabling this transfer to be effected smoothly. As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, questions of exchange might enter into it, or the investment at home of a large sum of money might affect Stock Exchange values here to the detriment of pensioners. I want to ask, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman to consider this suggestion I have made in a sympathetic way. I know that he wants to bring the money home as quickly as he can. I suggest that four years—three years in the Statute and a one year extension—would be sufficient.
After all, he himself in the past has seen the advantage of having a definite fixed maximum laid down. On page 309, Volume II, of the Records that were laid before the Select Committee there is a memorandum by my right hon. Friend, dated 25th July, 1934, and in paragraph 8 he says that he is abandoning one scheme and substitutinga scheme whereby transfer could be made at any rate allowed by the financial conditions of the time, but subject in any case to the completion of the transfer by a fixed maximum period.Later the right hon. Gentleman says:It will, however, probably be desired that a limit shall be set by Statute to the period of transfer,and further down:It is thought, therefore, that the statutory maximum. period should not be shorter than 12 years.I know that he has reduced that period of 12 years to three with the idea of effecting the transfer as quickly as possible. But in so doing he has abandoned his principle of a fixed maximum period and I think that he has increased the alarm of the pensioners. I am quite convinced that he means to do it as quickly as possible, but the pensioners outside are frightened because they have not read his memorandum; they know only this proviso, and they fear that it may provide 898 a loophole for non-fulfilment of the promise made. I therefore hope that my right hon. Friend will revert to his previous idea and put in as short a term as he can. Now this is to be done by Order-in-Council. Will it be possible for this House to amend that Order, or will it have to accept or reject the Order as presented to it? Obviously, the people outside this House would feel that they were getting more protection from Parliament if it were possible to amend and not merely reject or accept the Order.
There is just one other idea which possibly underlies this proviso. There is an option to the pensioners either to have the fund brought home or to leave it there. Some no doubt will have it transferred; some will leave it there. Suppose the transfer is completed for, those who want to have it brought home,, is there any intention of keeping alive this power to bring funds home in case circumstances in India should change and people who had acquiesced in leaving their money there should desire subsequently to have it brought back? Pensioners would be in sympathy with that view, and it might indeed encourage them to consent to their money being left in India. If the right hon. Gentleman has that wholly benevolent idea in mind, I respectfully suggest that he should introduce special words for the purpose. If he has not already got it in mind, I wonder whether he will examine it, or perhaps tell me now why it is unnecessary. I apologise for taking up the time of the Committee, but it is the only occasion on which I have addressed the Committee on the Bill. The pension Clauses are important and affect many people in my constituency, and I feel it my duty to do what I can in regard to them.
§ Sir H. CROFT
May I add my plea to that of my hon. and gallant Friend and ask whether the Secretary of State cannot do something to make this time limit definite?
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I am under the impression that three years, with an extension by Order-in-Council, is really a safe procedure. The three years are only to be extended by a resolution of both Houses. I think that that is a considerable safeguard, particularly after the assurance which I have given, namely, that all the parties concerned wish to set up this 899 fund in England as soon as possible. I hesitate to go further than that, but I am quite ready to consult the Government of India on the point. One has to be extraordinarily careful in dealing with these questions of a big transfer of exchange from one country to another, but I will look into the point again with the Government of India. As at present advised, I should have thought that three years, with an extension only possible by Order-in-Council, which under an Amendment I am moving later in the Bill, can be amended, was sufficient, because we all want the same thing.
The hon. Member for New Forest and Christchurch (Major Mills) asked me whether the pensioners can continue the option or, whether, having refused to take the chance, the chance will not recur. I am afraid that they must make the decision now. It would naturally be very difficult to carry through the proceeding if we did not know— I do not say in a few days or weeks—what is the sum to be left in India and what is the sum to be funded here. The option therefore must be once and for all. We are already circularising the pensioners and the beneficiaries, and at present I have no information to make me judge whether the majority of these subscribers and beneficiaries will wish to leave their money in India or bring it home here.
If the Indian Government are paying 5 per cent. on that money, will they continue to pay it?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think that that will arise better on a later Amendment in the name of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft).
§ Sir H. CROFT
I think the Committee will realise that there is really nothing between us. The Secretary of State has promised to consider the question, and personally I am prepared to leave it there if my hon. Friends are agreed. We are grateful for the consideration which the Secretary of State has shown and appreciate the powerful arguments which he has put forward.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I beg to move, in page 147, line 14, to leave out "reductions" and to insert "alterations."
§ Sir H. CROFT
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for seeing the point. There might be an alteration in the value of the rupee or some other consideration, and it might not be a question of a reduction but of an increase.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I am afraid there are more likely to be reductions than increases, but I am quite ready to leave the question open.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ The following Amendment stood upon the Order Paper: In page 147, to leave out lines 23 to 28.—[Sir H. Croft.]
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I should be grateful to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) if he would explain the purport of this Amendment before I decide whether to select it or not.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Sir H. CROFT
The lines referred to are:references to the Indian Military Service Family Pension Regulations or the Indian Civil Service Family Pension Rules shall be construed as including references to any Regulations or Rules which may be substituted thereforeI desire to move their omission merely for the purpose of elucidation, as we are not clear what the Government's proposal means.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
If the hon. and gallant Member merely desires to move the Amendment for the purpose of putting a question, I will select it.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. BUTLER
These words have been inserted in the Clause in order to prevent a difficulty in regard to the position of funds with branches at home and in India. They refer to the regulation of sterling branches of funds kept at home. I agree that the words are rather obscure, but, I think, if the hon. and gallant Member goes into the matter, he will find that they are valuable.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."901
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Sir R. CRADDOCK
There are one or two points in connection with this Clause on which I feel the situation has not yet been made clear. The Committee may not understand the present position in connection with these family pension funds and what will he the effect of bringing them to this country. The Secretary of State referred to them as being funds of the Government of India and indicated that a fairly high rate of interest was being paid on them, but I think I am not mistaken when I say that in fact there are no such funds at all, and that the interest which is supposed to be paid upon them is purely a pro forma matter in connection with the calculation made by the actuary as to the value of a particular fund at any particular moment. What happens is that all contributions made by serving officers who are in India are paid into the Treasury and credited as ordinary revenue. On the other hand pensions are paid just as any other ordinary expenditure would be paid ou of the Treasury. A fund as such does not exist and no interest on a fund as far as I am aware appears in the accounts of the Government of India. All that is kept for the purpose of making up the value of the fund is a pro forma account showing the annual contributions, the excess of contributions over payments, and what would be the value of those contributions, had interest at the rate of 5 per cent. been calculated upon them all along. It is a question of the actuarial valuation of the whole fund as it stands at a given moment in view of the demands likely to be made upon it as the years go by and so forth. The anxiety of the pensioners arises from the fact that the fund does not actually exist.
The Secretary of State says that it is not intended that the finances of the Government of India should ever get into such a state that this obligation could not be met. That would be all right as long as the right hon. Gentleman himself was Secretary of State. We believe that he would see that these obligations are met and probably that may be so for some time to come. But what people have to remember is that this is not merely a question of what is paid to a few pensioners who are alive at a given time. It may be necessary to extend this for another 50, 60 or even 70 years. No 902 one, not even the Secretary of State, not even the present Government, would dare to say what is going to happen in India in 30 or 40 or 50 years. Therefore it is all the more necessary that these funds should be brought home and funded and although there may be some drop on account of a lower rate of interest, yet security is worth a great deal more than any loss which may be incurred in diminution in the pensions, and that loss need not be so great as is anticipated so long as the actuarial value of a fund continues to be a considerable and reliable sum.
As regards the other matter to which reference has been made, what the Secretary of State has said is quite true as to the period within which funds could be transferred. First of all, the idea was 15 years and then 10 years was suggested. Finally, just at the end of the Joint Select Committee recommendations there is a reference to a note by the Secretary of State expressing the hope that it would be in quite a short time. That was the expression used, and I may say that I interpreted "quite a short time" to mean about three years. The point of the anxiety about this question of extension is that it takes away entirely all the benefits of that reduction first from 15 years to 10 years arid then to three years. Surely it ought not to be outside the capacity of the finances of the Government of India to remit £12,000,000 in a space of three years. But if it is—if it cannot be done in that time—then it is certainly desirable that the period should not be left at the Greek Kalends, which is 1Jhe exact position under the Bill. There must be some sort of definite period. I think the right hon. Gentleman was prepared not long ago to say 10 years, but lie is not bound under the wording of the Bill as it stands to limit it even to 10 years.
There may be other Governments, other parties, in power and there may be great agitation in India by people who say that their financial position is imperilled by these demands. All sorts of things may happen. Therefore, on behalf of these pensioners and beneficiaries, many of them widows and children, I venture to represent to the right hon. Gentleman that something less vague than this wording to the effect that the period may be extended should be included in the 903 Bill. Even if it were a further two years making five years in all, that would be something definite. But if there is nothing definite in the Act some other Government—I do not care which party it represents—may be anxious to go on extending and may use a majority for that purpose. The whole security of the pensioners and the satisfaction which they got by this very provision—which as I have pointed out, came down to a period of a few years—will be lost of it is possible in future for the Government of the day, whatever it might be, to go on postponing this matter. That is why I ask that we should have some definite date than the Greek Kalends. I hope very much indeed that the points I have put will be re-examined by the right hon. Gentleman to se how far be can meet those anxieties.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I sympathise with the hon. Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock) in his desire to see that these pensioners are safeguarded, and I understand his apprehensions in regard to a, fund which has hitherto existed only as a bookkeeping fund. I am sure his apprehensions must be greatly increased by his close association with the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) in the last few months, because he has contemplated the possibility of other Governments coming in India, and he knows that Indians are only too apt to imitate closely the practice of the British Constitution. I am sure that, in the course of his association with the right hon. Member for Epping, he has learned what a past master in the raiding of funds the right hon. Member for Epping is, how he has raided the Road Fund, the Health Fund, and so on. Therefore, I have great sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's apprehensions, and I hope that he and his friends will do their best to see that the right hon. Member for Epping never comes to be in charge of our finance in this country.
§ Sir R. CRADDOCK
My apprehensions in this matter existed long before I knew my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill).
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I appreciate the indication that the Secretary of State gave 904 that he will reconsider this matter, and after the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock), I think the reasons for the Secretary of State's decision must have been made quite clear. When the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee), speaking for the Socialist party, called attention to the fears expressed by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), I would ask him to realise that these fears, which have been expressed almost indefinitely against this Bill, are nothing to the dread which exists in the minds of a very large number of pensioners in India. It may interest the Committee to know that I have had placed in my hands this afternoon, by a pensioner from India, a short statement which will at once show the hon. Member for Limehouse why they feel nervous. This statement points out that in every Province in India, with two exceptions, allowing for the abolition of pay cuts, there is an estimated Budget deficit, and if we take the last three years, there is only one Province in the whole of India, the Punjab, which has shown a balance. If we take the deficits in the Provinces this year, we find that Bengal has a deficit of 68 lakhs of rupees and Assam one of 58 lakhs, and in the other Provinces also there are considerable deficits.
These facts, therefore, are very real before the minds of these pensioners, who say: "When you see these great deficits at the present moment, if the finances of India are taken over into less experienced hands, are we not entitled to ask from the Imperial Parliament for every kind of protection to see that we do not suffer a grave loss?" I do not mean from any design, because I think the well-affected Indians will certainly desire to fulfil their obligations in every respect, but I must also remind the Committee that the Congress party has deliberately declared for repudiation, and, that being so, one must appreciate the fears of these people. I remember a, reply given to me by the Secretary of State two years ago, when he said, "I beg the hon. and gallant Gentleman not to overrate the influence of Congress." I said I hoped he was right, but since then Congress has swept practically every Hindu seat throughout the length and breadth of India and holds the great majority of the elected representatives in the Chamber. Therefore, 905 these fears are very real, and I welcome the promise of the Secretary of State to reconsider the question.
We all hope there will not be a default, but supposing there is, may I ask the Under-Secretary of State what steps he would take to secure the position and what are the powers that he would actually use in such a contingency? We might have hoped that the Amendment an the Paper in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Springburn (Mr. Emmott) would be considered, but if the procedure outlined in the Amendment is regarded by the Government as too drastic, cannot the Government adopt the alternative of a temporary advance from the British Government sufficient to cover the deficit, the advance being recoverable from the Federation and Provinces in due course? If the Government has no fear of this state of affairs, which is clearly dreaded by a large number of pensioners in India and elsewhere, why cannot the right hon. Gentleman give that assurance, and why cannot we have the definite determination of the Government to guarantee these funds and to see that they are recoverable from the Federation or the Provinces concerned?
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. A. SOMERVILLE
It is easy to understand why beneficiaries under these funds should feel uneasy. It has become clear in the course of the discussion that some of these questions have an analogy in the Teachers' Contributory Pensions Fund in this country. The contributions made by the Government to the teachers for their superannuation scheme are not put into a separate fund, but are entered in the books of the Government, and as each liability falls due the pension is paid. I can understand the reluctance of the Secretary of State to fix a definite term within which these funds should be brought to this country, supposing all the beneficiaries determined in favour of that course and supposing the funds were brought over at once. The Secretary of State has told us that the total involved is £12,000,000. In order to bring those 'funds at once to this country, the Indian Government would have to issue a loan of £12,000,000. I cannot see that it could transfer the fund in any other way, and in view of what has been said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) as to the 906 possibility of repudiation on the part of the Federal Legislature, with a majority of Congress representatives, one can thoroughly understand the uneasiness of the beneficiaries under these funds.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ Sir B. PETO
I want to put this view to the tinder-Secretary of State. I understand these funds are contributed to by the servants of the Government of India, and they are really their funds, the provision that they have been making for their widows and for the education of their children and the like. In that case I hold that the Government, which is making this great change in the Government of India, is really in the position of a trustee. These are not the Government's funds at all, and whether it is £12,000,000 or any other sum to be transferred, it is not £12,000,000 of Government money, but £12,000,000 obtained from civil servants. That being so, what right have they to say that the date can be postponed when they will transfer these funds home and place them in what is regarded by the beneficiaries as security at an unknown future date? The Government are bound to satisfy these people that the funds to which they have contributed are absolutely safe. They have the Government's assurance that a certain course will be taken. 'In that case, as in the case of any other trustee in similar circumstances, a change in the investment ought to be made. The beneficiaries should have the last word, and all we are asking is that they should be given the kind of security that they require. In those circumstances, the Bill as it stands is misconceived. It deals with this money and the difficulties of transferring it home as if it were money that belonged to the Government. It is not. It is merely money that has been deposited with the Government that has hitherto existed in India. That Government is to be changed and people have a right to say that they demand a change in the security of their funds.
§ 8.36 p.m.
§ Mr. BUTLER
I feel that the Committee desire an extra word from the Government in relation to these important Family Pension Funds. I think that the spirit that prevailed in the earlier part of our discussions ought not to be spoiled by anything that any of us may say on this important matter. The 907 hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) showed a proper appreciation of the seriousness of the subject by the manner in which he accepted the assurance of my right hon. Friend that he would give the matter his most serious consideration. Many of us know people and have people connected with us who are vitally interested in this subject, and it is for everyone in the Committee to realise the serious apprehensions that may be felt—we believe very often upon a misconception of what the future of India may hold—and, whatever may be our view about the Government of India Bill, it is our duty to deal with this subject with extreme care.
The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth accepted the assurance of my right hon. Friend, and therefore I need not repeat my right hon. Friend's words; but I would point out to those hon. Members who have been critical that the Amendment moved by the hon. and gallant Member for Enfield (Colonel Applin) was withdrawn. That proves that the hon. arid gallant Member appreciates that the Secretary of State has this matter very much at heart. The hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto) made a point which I think we have fully met. He said that the beneficiaries should have the last word. It is our intention in discussing the family pension funds that the beneficiaries should have the last word. As is well known to the Committee, and was known to the Joint Select Committee, the beneficiaries have been given the choice of transferring their balances in the four pension funds to this country or of keeping them in India. The choice will be theirs. My right hon. Friend has pointed out that there will be a difference of interest if they do transfer to this country and those who decide to do that will have what they regard as a certain safeguard. Others, however, may like to keep their balances in India. In any case, we fulfil the wishes of the hon. Baronet in giving the beneficiaries the last word.
It would be wrong and out of order if we were to extend the discussion to any other subject than the Family Pension Funds. The hon. Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock) raised the question of what would happen in the 908 future of India. That is an open question. He was right to point out that the beneficiaries of these funds may be drawing their money for as long as 100 years hence; at any rate, for 60 or 70 years hence. Therefore, the Committee will have to project their minds rather far into the future. We consider, nevertheless, that the safeguards which we have included in the Bill are sufficient to meet the apprehensions of the beneficiaries under these funds, but, as I have said, the opportunity will be given to them, if they desire, to bring their funds home. The question was raised in the speech of the hon. Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock) whether the terms of Clause 261 were satisfactory. He said that we were putting the matter off to the Greek Kalends, and that, whereas the Secretary of State originally proposed 12 years, this had been reduced to three years, and that we now had the proviso to Clause 261 in which we say:Provided that His Majesty in Council may, if it appears to him necessary so to do, extend the said period of three yearsI need only repeat the assurance given by my right hon. Friend that there is no intention to delay unnecessarily or unduly the return of any funds which beneficiaries may desire to be transferred to England. The object of the proviso is to meet any unforeseen contingency. We have all been through financial crises and know the uncertainty that attaches to these important matters, and the reason for the insertion of the proviso was not to put the transfer of these funds off to the Greek Kalends, but to provide both Houses of Parliament with an opportunity of deferring the transfer of the funds if it be not a suitable moment to do so. If the funds are removed to England for the benefit of certain of the beneficiaries, it is important to choose the right moment for the transfer. It is important from the point of view of the interest that may be derived, and so forth. I think, therefore, that it is a wise provision. It is not intended to delay the transfer of the funds or to operate against the advantage of the beneficiaries that we have inserted the proviso.
§ Sir B. PETO
Even if the three years remain, the Government would still have an option, inside that three years, of 909 selecting the best time for the transfer in the interest of the beneficiaries.
§ Mr. BUTLER
I appreciate the point of view of the hon. Baronet. The words of the Bill are "before the expiration of three years," and I agree that this is possible, but in these matters, in view of the passage of the Bill and the time necessary after the passage of the Bill to transfer these funds, we have shown wisdom in including this proviso. I hope that the hon. Baronet will take my assurance that it is the intention of my right hon. Friend that the funds which beneficiaries desire to transfer shall not be, unduly delayed. I appreciate the hon. Baronet's point, but I think we are showing extra caution in inserting the proviso. May I reinforce what my right hon. Friend said and point cut that it will be necessary for both Houses to approve the Order-in-Council if this extension be made. I should have thought that a sufficient safeguard to those who think that we are introducing this provision to delay matters. The general criticism was that there should be some less vague provision. Surely the best reassurance we can give is the fact that my right hon. Friend has, since the period of the Joint Select Committee, materially reduced the time in which these funds should be brought back from 12 years to a possible period of under three. I think that that, coupled with the assurance that 'both Houses have to give their approval to the Order-in-Council, ought to go a great way to ease the anxieties of hon. Members who have intervened in the Debate.
I hope that from those few words the Committee will have realised the anxiety and the seriousness with which my right hon. Friend has considered this subject. I feel sure the Committee will have realised by the provisions to be found throughout the Bill, whether they be in the special responsibilities of the Governor-General, whether they be in the Clauses dealing with the Services which we have just passed, or whether they be in the powers given to the Governor-General or to the Governors to enact Bills to pass taxation to meet these liabilities, that we have really provided for any eventuality in the future, and that my right hon. Friend, after what he has said about the anxieties of the Services, intends to do whatever he can to meet 910 the views of people to whose case this Committee should have special regard.
§ Clause 262 ordered to stand part of the Bill.