HC Deb 11 April 1935 vol 300 cc1473-8

Notwithstanding anything in this Act, the East Indian Annuity Funds Act, 1874, and the Bombay Civil Fund Act, 1882, shall continue to have effect but subject to the following adaptations, that is to say, that anything to be done under the said Acts by or to the Secretary of State in Council shall, after the commencement of Part III of this Act, be done by or to the Secretary of State, and for any reference in the said Acts to the revenues of India there shall be substituted a reference to the revenues of the Federation.—[Mr. Butler.]

Brought up and read the First time.

10.43 p.m.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

This is a Clause which saves the Bombay Civil Fund Act, 1882, and the East India Annuity Funds Act, 1874, and it reproduces the provisions of Section 96 (3b)of the existing Act. Its effect is to save any rights possessed by members of the Civil Service under these two Acts which govern their pensions. The only adaptation in the language of the Clause is that instead of using the term "Secretary of State in Council." we use the term "Secretary of State," as elsewhere in this Bill, and instead of" revenues of India," we use the term, "revenues of the Federation." As these Acts govern the conditions of pension of a number of Civil Servants, I think the Committee will agree that it is right to save them.

10.44 p.m.


I am afraid 1 do not know to what these Acts refer. Are the civil servants, for instance, who are affected by the Bombay Civil Fund Act connected with the Provincial service of Bombay as distinct from the all-India Service? Is the responsibility for safeguarding their pension rights a responsibility of the Province of Bombay or is it an all-India matter 1 The same question arises in the case of the other Act.


These Acts cover old obligations to the civil servants referred to, who have retired and are few in number. The Committee will agree that there might be legitimate anxiety among them as to their pension rights and conditions if we did not save the Acts by a reference in this Bill.


I am not objecting to that. The point really is whether the responsibility is one that should more properly appertain to the Province of Bombay than to the whole of India.


I appreciate the hon. Member's point. It has been thought advisable that this should be on the revenues of the Federation and not on the revenues of the Province of Bombay.

10.45 p.m.

Viscount WOLMER

I do not want to be discourteous to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, but really he has explained this new Clause in a very sloppy manner. I defy any Member of the Committee who is not on the Treasury Bench, and therefore not had access to the information which the Government naturally have, to say what will be the actual effect of this Clause. My hon. Friend says that these two funds affect certain civil servants. He has not told us how many and what sort of civil servants and in what way they are affected. I want to ask a number of questions and my hon. Friend must forgive me doing so because we are only doing our duty on the Committee stage by raising these points. The Government have put down a large number of new Clauses. I am very glad they have, for I recognise that nearly all of them, if not all, are put down to meet points which have been raised either during the Committee stage or on deputations which the Government have received. We have the right to be told, in fact we have a duty to ask, what the exact effect of those proposals is, because they are new to us.

Perhaps we private Members ought to have been able to read, up the Acts of Parliament referred to in this new Clause for ourselves, but, really, it has been physically impossible to keep pace with the number of subjects we have had to study in regard to the Clauses and Amendments with which we have had to deal during the last few days. Therefore, I do not make any apology for asking my hon. Friend these questions. Is this Clause put down to meet one of the points that were raised in a deputation to the Secretary of State recently from the All-India Services? Is it a point of that magnitude? Does it affect the whole Civil Ser vice, or merely a small class of retired civil servants who. draw their pensions by virtue of these Acts of Parliament, which are not the Acts under which ordinary civil servants draw their pensions?


Will my Noble Friend ask his other questions?

Viscount WOLMER

It is rather difficult to frame some questions unless one knows the answers to the others. I am going to cross-examine my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. We are entitled to do it in Committee, and it is our duty to do it. I want to know whether this is a big or a small question, and whether this Clause affects the great point made by the Indian civil servants that their pensions should be recoverable from the Secretary of State


I think I may answer that question by saying that it does not arise on this Clause.

Viscount WOLMER

I am very much obliged to you for that information, but as I am unaware of what is in these two Acts, it is impossible for me to know what the answer to that question is. I am merely trying to respond to the request of the Attorney-General that I should ask all my questions together. If he would be good enough to answer this preliminary question, it would make my subsequent points clearer. I am not in a position to know what the effect of these two Acts is.


I rather think the Member for Aldershot is slower than usual. Surely all that this Clause means is that whatever in these other Acts can be done by the Secretary of State in Council can now be done by the Secretary of State.

Viscount WOLMER

Not at all. If it had not been for this Clause, these Acts would have been rejected.

10.52 p.m.


Every one of us agrees with the Noble Lord that every member of the House should do his best to secure the pensions of these civil servants. I feel sure that no examination of any position in regard to them could be too close. Feeling very strongly on this matter, and as one who listened very carefully to what my hon. and learned Friend said just now, it does seem that this does definitely protect a very small

number of civil servants who retired a long time ago. That seems to be the effect of the Clause. Whether it goes further or not I cannot be sure, but I think we might, in our cross-examination, have the graciousness to thank the Government most sincerely for this small act on behalf of the civil servants. It is one of the things the Government are doing to try to make the position of retired civil servants absolutely secure. I have no hesitation in attacking the Government if I think right, but I do say that when the Government are trying to help, as I sincerely believe they are, they will not do less to help the civil servants if someone gets up and thanks them for what they are doing.

10.54 p.m.


I would like to thank my hon. Friend for his unsolicited testimonial. I am afraid he differs in this respect from the Noble Lord who has been kind enough to offer some observations on my explanation of the Amendment to the House.

Viscount WOLMER

The last thing I desire to do is to criticise my hon. and learned Friend. [Hon. Members: "Sloppy."] His introduction to this Clause was sloppy. That was so unusual on his part that I felt I must comment on it.


On the first occasion on. which I have had a strict cross-examination from the Noble Lord, his imagination in contriving questions to ask me ran short very quickly, and he found only two questions from his fertile mind and his noble imagination. I will answer the two questions. He asked whether this was a big or a small point. I would say it was an extremely big point, considering that we are protecting the pensions of retired civil servants. From that point of view it is an extremely important point. As regards his second question as to whether this was raised in the Civil Service memorial, I am not quite certain of that point, but I think it was not. I think it was not a point put up to us by the Civil Service organisation. I speak subject to correction, but that is as far as my memory serves me. At any rate, it is a matter in which, in order to secure the position of men who retired a long time ago, the Government have themselves thought of a proviso which will be some satisfaction, I hope, to them. We pay the best attention to memorials, but on some occasions we have to give ourselves the credit of having thought of things which the memorialists have thought of too. The Noble Lord referred to the question of the nature of these Acts. I am sure he will have read the requisite Sub-section—(3)—of Section 96b of the present Act; Nothing in this section or in any rule thereunder shall prejudice the rights to which any person may or may have become entitled under the provisions in relation to pensions contained in the East India Annuity Funds Act, 1874. That alludes to one of the particular Acts in question. If the Noble Lord would examine it with me we might get a closer knowledge of these points. At present I have only been able to gain the following knowledge of its contents, namely, that it secures to civil servants who have retired some time ago an absolute title to their pension and secures them against sequestration. In view of the contents of that Act, and in view of the contents of the Bombay Civil Fund Act, 1882, I think we should agree that it is well worth saying that notwithstanding anything in this Act those two particular Acts shall continue to have effect. I think that answers the points which the Noble Lord has raised—

Viscount WOLMER

No. There is one more. Do those Acts enable pensioners to sue the Secretary of State for pensions if they are withheld?


Yes, from my knowledge of the Acts I can tell the Noble Lord that is so. I think that has answered all the questions which the Noble Lord raised, and I am sure it has done me good to have to answer him in more detail.

10.57 p.m.


There is one point I should like to put. It is the case, as far as I am aware, that these Acts were passed when funds which had been collected by the Services themselves in Bengal, Madras and Bombay were finally taken over by the Government. The Government then undertook the liability of paying the pensions under this scheme, and that is why there is a particular obligation about these pensions. It was the money of the Services and was administered by them until the whole business was eventually taken over by the Government.

10 58 p.m.


I had listened to every word of this Debate, but until the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) intervened and asked those questions I had not the least idea of what the Clause was about. The statement made by the Under-Secretary in answer to the Noble Lord's questions has made every point abundantly clear, and has shown the necessity for the Clause, and it would have saved a great deal of time if we had had that statement at the beginning.

Clause added to the Bill.

Ordered, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—[The Attorney-General.]

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Tuesday next.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.