HC Deb 19 February 1948 vol 447 cc1318-9
31. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, why covenanted subordinates of the Indian State Railways, holding contracts signed on behalf of the Secretary of State for India in Council, have been refused any compensation, if they wished to leave their employment on the handing over of the railways to the Dominions of India and Pakistan

The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker)

The contracts of the persons in question were, for legal reasons, made in the name of the Secretary of State for India. But, in fact, they were signed by an agent of the Government of India, and contracts made in the United Kingdom bore a note stating that the official would be subject to the orders of the Government of India, and that his salary and pension, if any, would be subject to the vote of the Legislative Assembly. These officials have not been dismissed in consequence of the transfer of power; on the contrary, the continuance of their conditions of service was guaranteed by the Indian leaders. If, nevertheless, they now wish to retire, the terms on which they do so must evidently be settled by the Government by whom they are employed.

Mr. Digby

Is the Minister aware that these people are suffering great hardship because they can, get no compensation, whereas those in a slightly higher grade are able to obtain compensation?

Mr. Noel-Baker

The difference is that the latter were appointed by the Secretary of State as part of his service, and when his control over them ceased their career was terminated. The career of these other people is not terminated if they choose to carry on.

Mr. A. R. W. Low

When the right hon. Gentleman says that their career is not terminated, has not their career been much worsened by the fact that the Minister of Communications in India has publicly stated that he will give preference to Indians over Europeans?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I quite admit that that is a point for consideration.

Mr. Edward Evans

Have these employees to pay their own passage if they want to come home?

Mr. Noel-Baker

That is another question. If the hon. Member will put it down, I will answer it.