Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1948, for the salaries and expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for India and His Majesty's Secretary of State for Burma and certain salaries and expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, including the salary of the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations: and for sundry India and Burma services, including compensation payments and other expenses arising out of the setting up of the independent Dominions of India and Pakistan and the grant of independence to Burma, certain expenses in the Persian Gulf and certain grants in aid"—[Mr Noel-Baker.]
§ 3.44 P.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker)
The Supplementary Estimates which I have to present are quite straightforward, and I hope that I can explain them adequately without detaining the Committee for long. Indeed, the notes in the Estimate itself do most of the work for me.
The £10 asked for under subhead A is simply a token Vote to obtain the authority of Parliament for the payment of salary due to the Secretary of State for Air while he was Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations. The money required is in fact available from savings effected under Vote A.
Subhead L provides for compensation to members of the Secretary of State's Services in India and to officers of the Indian Army on premature termination of their employment due to the transfer of power. The scheme of compensation was announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 10th April last year, and it has been published in two White 1616 Papers. The total sum asked for is £9,800,000, of which £7,600,000 goes to members of the Defence Services, and £2.2 million to members of the Civil Services. The Committee will be glad to know that the great majority of all the valid claims have already been put in and met. Of the military claims 2,988 have been paid, and 41 are under examination. There may, of course, be a few more belated claims but most of them have come in. Of the civil claims, 658 have been paid out, 65 are under examination and 209 have not yet come in. The 209 are, of course, mostly people who are still serving with the Governments of India and Pakistan.
Subhead M provides the sum of £715,000 for the same purposes in Burma As the date of the transfer of power was so much later, the proportion of the claims received is smaller but a substantial number have, in fact, already been dealt with. The proportion that goes to members of the Defence Services is much smaller, only £15,000 out of the total.
Subhead N provides for the expenses of the High Commission in Burma, which since 4th January has become our Embassy, and will, therefore, be dealt with by the Foreign Office. The largest single item there is £8,100 for travelling and incidental expenses. The staff that was not locally recruited had to be sent out at very short notice, and accordingly they had mostly to travel by air, which wa[...] relatively expensive.
Under subhead O provision is made for the cost, since 15th August, of our High Commissions in India and Pakistan The headquarters of the High Commissioner in India, Sir Terence Shone, are in New Delhi, of course. He has Deputy High Commissioners in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras, and we hope that he will soon have a fourth at Cawnpore. The High Commissioner in Pakistan, Sir Laurence Grafftey Smith, has outposts at Lahore. Dacca, and Peshawar. Both Commissions have done invaluable work in the face of great difficulties. Their burden is very heavy, and it seems almost certain that I shall soon have to ask Parliament for a further increase of staff. These two Commissions carry on our relations with Governments which between them rule 400 million people, and with whom we hope that our relations will continue to 1617 be as close and friendly as they are today Therefore, I trust that no one will think that we are asking for too much.
Subheads P and S cover certain expenditure in relation to the transfer of power in Burma. Subhead P provides for two motorcars which were presented by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to the President and Prime Minister of Burma respectively as a token of the deep and sincere good will that exists between the Governments and peoples of Great Britain and Burma. The Secretary of State for Air represented His Majesty's Government at the independence celebrations on 5th January and presented the cars. Subhead S provides for payments which I am sure the Committee will approve, made by the Governor of Burma to subordinate staff at Government House. They were made as a recognition of long and faithful service. I understand the gifts were much appreciated; certainly they were richly deserved.
Perhaps I ought to say a word in reference to the large saving on subhead E of the original Estimate. Since the evacuation of Burma in 1942 the Government of the United Kingdom have been making advances to the Government of Burma. Those advances have been used, partly to meet Government deficits and partly to finance the reconstruction of key industries and the provision of civil supplies. We expected that, during the financial year 1947–48, we should advance £25 million for the above purpose. In fact this did not happen. The Government of Burma became their own masters in matters of finance early last year, and they did not take the advance of £25 million for which we had provided.
That, however, does not represent a net saving, for when the sum was voted by the House we expected to receive certain payments from the Government of Burma from the projects which were started there and from the sale of Army stores, including stores for the Civil Affairs Service in Burma. Those payments were not received. The result is as shown in the Supplementary Estimate. The financial position in relation to those transactions was fully discussed when the Treaty between our Government and the Government of Burma was drawn up last autumn, and Article 6 of that Treaty refers to the agreement then reached about it and sets 1618 out what was then settled about the liquidation of the outstanding debt of Burma to us.
There is one other Burmese item in the Supplementary Estimate under subhead R, the Burma-China Railway When this railway was built the Government of this country bore the cost of the Burma section, and we advanced the funds required to the Burmese Government. The belated credit, which is mentioned in the note at subhead R, is a refund of money which we so advanced, but which was not required. On the other hand, we were liable to reimburse the Government of Burma for the payment of pensions to the dependents of local recruited personnel who lost their lives during the building of the railway. The Government of Burma will, in future, be responsible for the payment of the pensions and we are making provision here for a sum of a little less man £6,000 as the final payment in full discharge of our liabilities to the citizens of Burma.
There remains subhead Q, which provides for the gift of £20,000 from the Treasury to the British Red Cross Society. That is a contribution from the Government to the Fund which the British Red Cross Society have raised for relief work to help refugees in India and Pakistan. I should not be in Order if I attempted to discuss the great movement of the population from East to West Punjab, and vice versa, which happened during the autumn months. I have heard a great deal about it, both from representatives of India and of Pakistan. During the proceedings of the Security Council in the matter of Kashmir in the last few weeks, I had the particular advantage of long talks about it with Mr. Gopalaswami Ayyangar, the very able leader of the Indian delegation, who is himself the Minister in charge of refugee questions.
I myself know a little about refugees, because after the last world war I helped Dr. Nansen in his refugee work for the League of Nations, which included the exchange of two million Greeks and Turks in 1922 and the succeeding years. I think I know the immense difficulties which are involved in a large movement of population on this tremendous scale. In east and west Punjab, of course, there were more than 10 million people who 1619 left their homes to cross the border between the two countries. In my view, in the handling of these refugee problems, both the Governments of India and Pakistan, once they got the troubles under control, have shown unbounded zeal and a great deal of wisdom in dealing with the matter. According to my information, they have already settled a large proportion of the refugees, and certainly they are working together closely, and in friendly co-operation, on the very complex problems of property which are always involved when such movements happen.
In those events there has happily been less loss of life than was at one time feared. There has been, however, a grievous loss of life. It is to deal with this great problem of human suffering and need that the British Red Cross Society has offered its contribution. From the beginning of the troubles the Society were very active in providing medical supplies and comforts for India and Pakistan. They decided, with the full support and concurrence of the Government, to send more active help in the form of a British field hospital, staffed by British personnel. From their slender resources the Society have ear-marked £25,000. They are appealing to the public for further help, and, I believe, are receiving generous response. I wish to express the very warm admiration which the Government feel, not only for what the Governments of India and Pakistan have accomplished, but also for what the Red Cross are doing now. It may seem a small matter, but I believe it will have a great symbolic value and I warmly recommend it to the Committee.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)
Some important matters are raised by the Supplementary Estimates. I think the Committee will agree that it is the most typical work of Parliament to scrutinise expenditure, particularly of Supplementary Estimates, which imply, in many cases, that the original Estimate was not correctly made. In this case we have the satisfaction of knowing that the total amount asked before in the India and Burma Services is a small amount, owing to the anticipated saving referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, details of which can, and should, be found in the Treaty 1620 negotiated with Burma. I do not think, therefore, that I need go at great length into the immense sum of £10,810,411 which has been drawn back in order to help to meet the expenditure in payment of compensation which is found under subhead L.
Before coming to the important issues which I wish to consider, I would like to welcome the Secretary of State back from his travels. I am sure there is plenty to occupy him here, and we hope to see more of him than we have recently. In fact, the taking of the Supplementary Estimate may give us an opportunity of giving him a little exercise in his home paddocks, and we shall be glad to see his form.
The two great issues to which I wish to refer are, first, this question of compensation about which I wish to ask a variety of questions; and, second, the question of refugees and the gift of his Majesty's Government to the Red Cross. The first issue raises matters concerning one of the most remarkable services in the world. A set of men not only in the Forces but also in the ranks of the Civil Service have had, through no fault of their own, to terminate their career at a variety of ages and under a variety of circumstances, some of which have been extremely drastic to the personalities concerned. It is the duty of Parliament to devote a little time this afternoon to the consideration of this matter. We owe a great deal to these men, members of the Services, both civil and military, for the services they have rendered to India, to the tradition of their own Service and the common cause of Great Britain, India and Pakistan, and also Burma, which comes in later under subhead N. Therefore, I cannot under-estimate the importance of these issues. I am glad that, to a certain extent, the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman have given us some satisfaction that the cases dealt with have been dealt with expeditiously, and that a great many of them have been handled so far
I want, however, to ask one or two questions of the right hon. Gentleman, first on subhead L. My first question is in regard to the placing of these men. The right hon. Gentleman will realise that in reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Eastern Dorset (Colonel Wheatley) on 11th December, 1947, he gave an answer and a series of replies to supplementary questions indicating the various offices to 1621 which these men should apply in order to find a placing. Since that date I accepted service upon a committee known as the India and Burma Services Employment Liaison Committee, with a view to placing these men who have been retired and have accepted their compensation. I should like to ask the Secretary of State to give us some idea of the latest figures of placings. At the date in question, some 221 had been placed. I now understand, from what information I could obtain, that some 400 have been placed. The point I want to bring to the attention of the Secretary of State is that there has been a certain success in placing members of the Civil Service proper, but there has been great difficulty in placing those ex-policemen, many of them high up in the service of the State in India, who have applied for positions.
I am not satisfied that we can leave these men, many of whom I have inter viewed myself, with the sense of frustration which they have at having terminated a career very often at a time when a man feels best—that is between the ages of 45 and 50—and finding themselves unable to find a job. That is particularly the case with the police. I hope that we may hear from the right hon. Gentleman of further strenuous efforts to place these men within the ranks of the Government and the vast range of offices and posts which they control. In the India and Burma Services Employment Liaison Committee we have done our best to approach a variety of businesses We have had a reasonably good response although not sufficient to cover all the cases that we have. On 11th December the right hon. Gentleman referred to a variety of agencies, including his own office in Commonwealth Relations. He mentioned the London Appointments Office, of Tavistock Square, the Technical and Scientific Register, the Military Department, Commonwealth Relations Office, and the Defence Services Section of the London Appointments Office. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can add any further agencies to that list, or in any way excite interest within the ranks of the Government in this vital matter.
These men are the victims of State policy. They are men to whom the deliberate and continued attention of the Government ought to be given. I cannot go into the question of State policy on this Estimate. Many of us on all 1622 sides of the Committee were concerned in it, and we all feel that we have a duty to these men. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will interest his colleagues in all the Government Departments in placing them on their retirement. I draw special attention to the Colonial Development Corporation and the Overseas Food Corporation. Would it not be possible to place many of these men in positions with those Corporations?
I now come to some details about the type of man involved in this compensation. I wish to ask a question on the particular subject of the judges. A Question was put to the right hon. Gentleman on 3rd February, 1948, on this subject. It was answered by the present Secretary of State for Air, who concluded his answer by saying:My right hon. Friend is considering whether the question of compensation to any European Judges who may resign in consequence of changed conditions should not be reopened"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1948; Vol. 446, c 270]We have had a great variety of requests from judges that their case should be considered. I understand that hitherto compensation for judges has not been granted because it has been felt that the judges are in a different category from civil servants and the military. They are outside the hurly-burly of politics and may be expected to serve whatever Executive may be in power at the moment. Nevertheless, the Government have already indicated that they intend to re-open this question and, in view of the many requests that we have had from judges, I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to carry this matter further on this head of compensation and tell us whether these men are entitled to be included.
I turn to another great branch, the non-Secretary of State's services and the provincial services. During the Committee stage of the Indian Independence Act, as long ago as 14th July last, we drew attention to the case of these men. The matter was taken up in another place on 28th January, where an ex-Viceroy, Lord Wavell, interested himself in the matter. We have understood that it is not likely that these men will be covered by this Vote, but I think that I am entitled to ask the Government whether or not that is the case. If it is not, we have understood that the Government intended to raise the 1623 position in which people of these services find themselves with the Governments of the two Dominions involved. We do not suggest that there is any intention that these men should be victimised. In fact, from the statements made by the administrations concerned, one would have every feeling that perhaps their material interests were being safeguarded. However, I think it is legitimate to ask the Government whether, as a result of the approaches which I understand they contemplated making, they are able to give the Committee any assurance either that these men are to be covered by the terms of a subhead of this sort, or that, while retaining their positions in India and continuing with their work, they may expect the same standard of amenities, the same consideration, and the same treatment generally as we attempted to negotiate in the old days when considering the future of the services in India.
A statement has been made by a Minister in India that there will be a natural tendency for preference to be given to Indians. If that be the case, it is naturally rather disturbing to these men who are continuing to serve in India are unable to profit by the terms of this subhead by obtaining any compensation for retirement. I do not wish to labour the point further, partly in order to remain within the general rules of Order and partly because here we are dealing with matters which are fundamentally the concern of the two Dominion Governments in India. The questions which I wish to repeat to the right hon. Gentleman are: Has he made representations to the Dominion Governments concerned; can he give an assurance that the future of these men is a satisfactory one; and can he tell us whether there is any chance at any time of the judges, and them, coming under the terms of the compensation which we are considering today?
I next wish to raise the question of the compensation of members of the Burma Services. The Government of Burma have gone a long way to meet the representations made by us in the Debate on the Independence of Burma Act, for treatment of a favourable character to be given to those who are not members of the Secretary of State's Services. There has been a decision to calculate pensions on a liberal basis and to give an ex gratia Jump sum resettlement grant to certain 1624 of these servants. We on this side of the Committee consider that the Government of Burma deserve thanks from us for the action they have taken in regard to these men. I hope that if the right hon. Gentleman has an opportunity he will indicate to the Government of Burma that certain Members of Parliament, at any rate, wish to show their gratitude for the action which has been taken.
In regard to the remaining subheads, I wish for a moment to discuss the cost of the representation of our High Commissioners in the Dominions of India, Burma and Pakistan. It will be seen that of these three subheads, the one for India is by far the greatest, and a simple process of reasoning will result in the deduction that India is a larger country than Burma or Pakistan. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the fact that the Indian High Commissioner is to have representatives in Calcutta, Bombay, Madras and Cawnpore, and that the Pakistan High Commissioner is to have local representation in Lahore, Dacca and Peshawar. I should be interested to know why there is this differentiation in the numbers of Deputy High Commissioners between India and Pakistan. Does it mean that the representatives in Lahore. Dacca and Peshawar will be also of the status of Deputy High Commissioners? I see that there are to be four Deputy High Commissioners in India and only two in Pakistan, and I see that one of the Deputy High Commissioners for India is to be paid at a higher rate than the other three. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can explain which of them is to get the higher rate and to which position that higher rate will attach.
I notice that there is a definite sum of £36,000 for local staff, the number of which is unmentioned, and its relationship to the Foreign Service allowance at the present time is not stressed These are large figures, and I think we should have some further explanation from the right hon. Gentleman as to the extent to which his office is to be enlarged. I understand that it will be out of Order to discuss this, and another sum of £24,600 for a house for the High Commissioner. There is reference to it at the bottom of page 28. It will certainly be the desire of my hon. Friends and myself to have some explanation why, in the case of India, there is to be this considerable extra expense. Would the right hon. 1625 Gentleman prefer the matter to be raised on the Ministry of Works Vote, or may I ask the Minister for an answer now?
§ The Chairman
The appropriate place would clearly he on the Vote concerned, and the point might be raised when we reach that Vote.
§ Mr. Butler
It would be today, of course, Major Milner, because it is all included in the same Supplementary Estimates, but I cannot, with my respect for Order, take it unless you permit me to do so
§ The Chairman
The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that it would only be appropriate to take up the point on the Vote with which it is concerned
§ Mr. Butler
I had hoped, Major Milner, that you would be lenient and allow the matter to be discussed now, because it means that the Government will have to lace extra time being spent on this matter when we come to the Ministry of Works Vote. I do not understand at all the transaction which has taken place and to which reference has been made. We shall reserve our right to ask the right hon. Gentleman to discuss this point on another occasion
I now want to turn to a main issue arising out of this sum of money, and it is to ask the Government when a further treaty or understanding is to be reached between India, Pakistan and this country. The right hon. Gentleman himself referred to the treaty with Burma, and, as he pointed out, there is an indirect reference to it in the Supplementary Estimate we have before us today, and to the bringing in of a further £10 million as a result of these negotiations. We have been informed from time to time that there is to be a treaty between India, Burma and this country, and, presumably, if there is to be such a treaty, all sorts of matters—finance, defence and others—will be raised, and it will be the duty of the High Commissioners, as I see it, in India and Pakistan to help to negotiate any understanding which we may come to with the new Dominions. Can the right hon. Gentleman say, in reply on this particular subhead, if I am right in understanding that the High Commissioners will be involved in the task of drafting any such agreement, and thereby act as links 1626 between our three countries. It will be very interesting to see how this part of the Indian mosaic is to be proceeded with and if we are to have a further under standing with Pakistan.
Leaving aside the gifts of motorcars, which I hope were comfortable and adequate for the purpose, though I do not think the right hon. Gentleman told us what make of motorcar was supplied—
§ Mr. Butler
It would be very interesting to know how the Rolls-Royce and the Austin were partitioned between the two offices
§ Mr. Butler
Under another heading, there is a grant to the Governor of Burma to cover special expenses, including £108 spent on his journey from Burma home. I do not wish to go into the details, because we on this side of the Committee would like to pay a very great tribute to the work of the late Governor of Burma. I would only like to say that, had this Supplementary Estimate been for a greater amount we should have conceded it with the same satisfaction. We consider that the final work done by this Governor not only showed a high order of diplomacy and great efficiency, but great experience among the Burmese people, and we think this is an entirely proper gesture and we warmly support the Supplementary Estimate.
Now I come to a rather larger issue, and that is this decision of the British Government to give £20,000 to the British Red Cross Society The original facts of this matter were set out in an answer given by the right hon. Gentleman on 18th December. I then noticed from his answer that the total number of refugees coming from East to West Punjab, and vice versa, was 8,500,000 or thereabouts. The right hon. Gentleman on that occasion said that the Government were making great efforts, but he had no details to give to the House. It was interesting to hear from the right hon. Gentleman today that the figures in question have gone up, according to his latest information, and are now 10 million persons, with an unspecified number of those having perished on the way 1627 The right hon. Gentleman, I am sure, realises that in the whole history of India and her many invasions from the North, one wave following after another, there has never been such a story as this. In all in the invasions of the past, and with all the adventurers who came into India, such a tragedy as this never took place. This figure is five times that of the movement of persons which took place in the Greco-Turkish episode, in which the right hon. Gentleman himself was involved.
The Committee will therefore see that we are dealing with something of staggering proportions, and there are many of us who desire to help the Government with the prosecution of their Indian policy, whatever our views may be. We have no opportunity to do so while in Opposition, and, sitting at home, unable to help, we have been looking for some method of helping without interfering, because this is clearly a matter which falls within the power of the two Dominion Governments. We therefore welcome this device of helping the British Red Cross Society, but we must not conceal from the Government our view that this is a small sum of money compared to the magnitude of the tragedy, and the very agency chosen, noble though it is, has only limited powers of mitigating some of the great suffering in these areas at the present moment.
Therefore, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, when this matter is reviewed from time to time—and if the figures of the refugees go u[...] to the alarming extent which appeared from his speech this afternoon, namely, as estimated, by 1,500,000, since 18th December—the Government would be prepared to reconsider this matter, and to decide whether they cannot make a further grant available to the British Red Cross Society, and, at the same time, consider other methods of mitigating the evil and distress by simply offering help, and not in the desire to interfere in the present troubles.
I do not think this country can escape a sense of responsibility for what has happened. That is why I think I am quite within reasonable bounds in requesting the Government to consider any further help that can be given. It was partly due to the manner in which the final transferences of power took place that these tragedies occurred. It was due, in our 1628 view, partly to the speed with which the matter was carried out. I cannot attribute complete responsibility to any man, but I can say that upon this country there rests a distinct sense of responsibility. Therefore, it is essential that, in considering the amount to be granted, we should be as generous as possible and use every possible means of giving help where help is needed.
The Committee may have in its mind some picture of the tragedies that have occurred. Many of these people have left their ancestral holdings in which they spent their lives with only what they could carry, and driving before them selected heads from their herds of livestock, a mixture of peoples, shopkeepers, artisans, village menials, once supposedly rich landlords, business men, lawyers, and doctors, all in one great river of humanity, such a river as even Kipling never described on the Grand Trunk Road in "Kim." This picture has lived with many of us. We have thought of the convoys, followed, as they always inevitably are in the East, by the village dogs and other animals. We have thought of them, of the losses on the way, of the halts at night, of the smell of the smoke and of the dusty road which many of us remember from our early days in that great country. We have felt deeply moved that the conclusion of British rule in India should have been marked by such scenes.
It is, therefore, with great feeling, that I, personally say that I trust that we in this country—and I am putting it on a basis of country, not of party or sides of this Committee—will realise our responsibilities, and will do our best to help the Dominion Governments who have done so much. I should like to say that, so far as I know, these Dominion Governments, within the severe limitations placed upon them, have done their best to deal with a problem of staggering proportions.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
I am very much in agreement with almost everything which the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A Butler) has said, although I thought it a pity that he marred the otherwise agreeable tenor of his remarks by the references he made, towards the end of his speech, when discussing the grant in aid to the British Red Cross Society. I do not think that anybody on this side of the Committee 1629 would think that the sum of £20,000 was too high; I think we would all agree with him that it was, of course, far too low. I should be as glad as he if the Government would reconsider that figure, would consider giving more to the British Red Cross Society for relief work in the Punjab, and would investigate the possibility of other ways, or other agencies, by which they could contribute to help in that relief work without, in any sense, seeming to interfere with those internal affairs which properly fall within the province of these two Dominion Governments.
But the right hon. Gentleman was very wide of the mark when he said that we have a great measure of responsibility for those disasters, and that they were worsened by the speed with which the transfer of power was conducted, and in suggesting, as he did, that we could, of course, have gone much more slowly, and thus avoided this appalling catastrophe in the Punjab. I do not wish to minimise that catastrophe; in fact, it would be impossible to do so, and childish even to try; but it would be a great pity if it went out from this Committee this afternoon that in its considered opinion it was owing to the rush job performed by the Viceroy and the Government that the catastrophe happened.
If the right hon. Gentleman will cast his mind back to the situation in India a few months before 15th August, he will surely remember—because he has made a great study of the problem—that the British civil servants and the British element in the Civil Service were fast breaking down at that time. It was not a question of saying, "Let us go more slowly; let us wait a few years," but a question of being able to hand over while we still had something to hand over, and while we were still in control, and could reasonably and properly hand over to the Governments of Pakistan and India. As he well knows, the situation had gone so far that, if we were going to delay any longer, it would have meant an entirely new approach towards the Indian problem which would have involved sending out vast numbers of replacements for the Civil Service, and the rebuilding of our whole structure in India, which had run down and was near its end. It is wrong to say that we rushed the job of handing over that structure.
1630 Had we not done it then, there would have been no structure to hand over.
It is a great pity, after the very charming and just tribute which the right hon. Gentleman paid to Sir Hubert Rance the Governor of Burma, for the delicacy and skilful diplomacy with which he terminated our connection with Burma, that he should, by implication, have suggested that such was not the case in regard to the present Governor-General of India, because, no doubt, the final arrangements were very largely undertaken on the initiative of the Viceroy. He was the person on the spot who could best judge how matters were proceeding, and who could give the advice, which he doubtless gave, to His Majesty's Government that it was a situation he could no longer control, and that, unless we handed over then, an entirely new attitude would have to be adopted towards India, which would have involved us remaining there for to or 15 years longer.
§ Mr. Butler
I think the hon. Member is making a very fine, but somewhat exaggerated case. I would never have considered staying in India for that length of time. All I ventured to suggest was that it is very unbecoming for us to sit back and to say that we have no sense of responsibility for the tragedy—a responsibility which I certainly feel myself.
§ Mr. Wyatt
I am very glad of the right hon. Gentleman's intervention because in his speech he went much farther than that. Perhaps I am replying in an exaggerated way because I am replying to an exaggerated case. If that is so, the fault is, in the first place, with the right hon. Gentleman, and I am bound to answer the charges he made. The gravamen of his charge was that, owing to the speed with which we rushed the transfer of power in the concluding months, this disaster was so much greater than it might otherwise have been. Of course, if he now says that he does not mean that, then I accept his withdrawal.
§ Mr. Butler
I would only say that I do not regret a single word I have said; I stand by everything I said. At the same time, I do not think the hon. Gentleman need exaggerate his case, although he is perfectly at liberty to make his case. I am not so self-satisfied as some of the people who have been respon- 1631 sible for these matters, which I personally feel very deeply.
§ Mr. Wyatt
I quite appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman does not feel self-satisfied about the situation in which we finally handed over our power in India; nor do I. The case I am trying to make, however, is one which answers his charge that it was owing to the manner in which we rushed this business that the disaster was so great in the Punjab. I am only trying to show that it was not. In point of fact, as he and I both well know, the roots of the Indian problem lie much deeper and further back than that. One might easily say that if correct action had been taken in the period between 1920 and 1930, none of this trouble would have happened at all and that there would not even have been a partition between Pakistan and India. However, I do not wish to digress any further on that point. I hope I have said sufficient to rebut the charge which the right hon. Gentleman has made.
In my view, Lord Mountbatten, the present Governor-General of India, is just as much entitled to the thanks of this Committee as Sir Hubert Rance, the Governor of Burma, and anything which we can do, particularly by increasing the rather paltry sum of £20,000 which has been given to the British Red Cross Society, and by extending our help to the people of India in the great suffering which they have undergone—almost inevitably owing to the circumstances of the situation in the Punjab—should be done by this Committee, or, at any rate, by His Majesty's Government at the request of this Committee. I hope the Government will do so.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Gammans (Hornsey)
I do not wish to enter into an argument with the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) as to whether or not our evacuation of India was a rush job. I will content myself by saying that I feel no sense of pride whatever in it. What is more, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), when I think of these millions of hapless, wretched individuals going along the roads of India as a result of this exchange of populations, I cannot just wash my hands of it and say "That has nothing whatever to do with us." That is why I support this sum of money 1632 for the Red Cross, and if we had been asked for more I think the Committee would have agreed.
There is one remark which the Secretary of State made when he introduced this item, which may cause some misgiving throughout the world if it goes out as I understand he said it. The words which I think he used were: "Luckily there was not so much loss of life as was feared." With half a million people dead—
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
That is precisely the figure I am challenging. I do not think the figure was anything like half a million.
§ Mr. Gammans
The right hon. Gentleman should be in a much better position to know than anybody in this Committee. If the figure is not half a million, what is it? There have been statements by the irrefutable Press all over the world to the effect that it was considerably more than half a million. Whether it is half a million or something slightly less than that, I think the phrase "not so much loss of life as was feared" is a pretty airy-fairy way of dealing with a tragedy of this magnitude.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but the point he raises is important. I did not in the least mean to deal with this matter in an airy manner. I was, of course, referring to a statement made by Lord Mountbatten when he was here in November, in which he said that the probable figure was more like 50,000 than half a million. I do not think anybody really knows what the figure was, because the losses occurred partly in small killings and partly by sickness and disease on the roads as the refugees moved. I think most good judges of the case accept the tact that the figure is very much less than half a million, which figure was widely used at one time and almost universally believed. I thought it had been understood that that was no longer accepted.
§ Mr. Gammans
Whether it is half a million or something less is immaterial to the point which I am trying to make; namely, that if the number of people who died as a result of this forced evacuation runs into anything like what we consider, it is a pretty poor state of affairs when it goes out from a member of His Majesty's Government that that figure "is not as much loss of life as was feared." When the right hon. Gentleman and his 1633 friends were recommending their policy to Parliament, if he had said that as a result of this policy 10 million wretched individuals would be trooping along the roads of India and that an unspecified number would lay down their lives, I do not know that we should have accepted it quite so readily as we did. I think it is unfortunate that a remark of that sort should be made by a responsible Minister of the Crown. I would support the right hon. Gentleman if he were to ask for an additional sum as grant in aid for the Red Cross.
I would like to reinforce what my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden said about uncovenanted services. That subject has been brought up in the India Debate and in the Burma Debate. I do not feel that we have had from His Majesty's Government, either then or now, anything like the assurance which we are entitled to expect. We certainly owe a deep moral obligation to those people. They and men like them have served the Crown for many years past, and it would be a disgraceful thing if we should try to evade our responsibilities to them by any sort of legal quibble.
The other point I want to raise is in regard to Burma. I imagine that this is the last Estimate for Burma which we shall ever consider. Therefore, in one sense, it is like the cost of buying a wreath. What about the payments for war damage? Should they not appear somewhere in these Estimates? What is the position of people in Burma who deliberately destroyed their property, at the instance not of the Government of Burma but of the British military authorities? That loss runs into a large sum of money. What is the legal position? Is it, as we were given to understand some time ago, that they have to make their claims against the Government of Burma? Is it not right that there should be, at any rate, some token sum in these Estimates so that they would know exactly where they stand? I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to deal with that point, and also on this question of the uncovenanted services, that he will be able to give an absolute and firm pledge that we shall stand by these people whatever may happen to them.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Sir Stanley Reed (Aylesbury)
I do not want to traverse the ground which 1634 was completely covered by my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), but there is a special point with regard to the non-Secretary of State's services which I wish to put to the Minister. It concerns those in the service of the railways, who were engaged by the old companies which are remaining in the service of the two Governments. I have not had any complaints about the actual position to date, but I understand that those employees have been warned that they will not be eligible for promotion, because all the higher posts will go to Indians.
§ The Chairman
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I do not think the railway services come within the purview of any of these Estimates The Estimates appear to refer to the Civil Service. It is not competent to raise a question which does not come within the Estimates before the Committee. If the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) will forgive me for saying so, I do not think the question of war damage comes within the purview of these Estimates either.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
On a point of Order, Major Milner. Surely such questions as that come under the heading of the High Commissioner's salary?
§ The Chairman
No, I do not think so. I do not think he has any responsibility. No doubt I shall be corrected if I am wrong, but I think he is merely a representative of this country in that country, and he is not responsible for past events.
§ Mr. Nicholson
With great respect, Major Milner, he is not there merely to discuss questions of trade. He is there as the representative of His Majesty's Government to look after the interests of United Kingdom nationals in the two Dominions, and I submit that it is within the purview of his work, and that we shall have no other opportunity of discussing it.
§ The Chairman
We are now discussing Supplementary Estimates. The question which the hon. Gentleman raised may or may not be a matter under the Estimates proper, but we are dealing only with the specific matters covered by these Supplementary Estimates. It is quite clear that we cannot discuss general policy.
§ Sir S. Reed
I thank the Chairman for his Ruling and I will find some other opportunity of bringing forward the point I wished to make. An appeal has been made not only to vote this £20,000 for the Red Cross but, at a later stage, if the Government so propose, to consider extending that up to the very maximum of our resources, grim as the position is today. On the question of mortality, I hope the estimate given by the Minister—about 50,000—is somewhere near the mark. I must say, knowing something of the unspeakable miseries of these migrations, even in less tragic circumstances, when death comes from hunger, disease, epidemics and in other forms, that I am convinced, in my own mind, that if ever an accurate estimate is made, it will be very far in excess of the numbers that have been given to the Minister.
I am sorry that any impression of responsibility, other than our responsibility for common humanity, has been raised over this matter. Anybody who knows about these Indian villagers, and about the Punjab, could not be other than profoundly moved at these great migrations, with these tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands moving from East to West. I do not think anything in history, except the migration of the Chinese into Manchuria, over several years, although definitely organised, was on such a scale as this, with anything like the enormous sacrifices entailed. I hope, therefore, we shall keep vividly before our minds the suffering and the misery which our former fellow subjects—indeed, our fellow subjects today—are experiencing.
We should gladly devote this sum to the very best means to which it can be spent, and that is to the Red Cross, which has no political or administrative affiliations. We should devote as much as we can afford when the time comes, if the demand is made by the Government, in token of our affection and gratitude to India after our long connection with her, and should discharge the obligation which we owe, not because of any political reason—that should never have been mentioned—but because of the need for the relief of human misery and suffering. On that, I am sure, we shall find ourselves agreed this afternoon, and on a later occasion, if need be.
§ 4.43 P.m.
§ Mr. A. R. W. Low (Blackpool, North)
I would like to associate myself with everything that has been said on both sides of the House about the desirability of the Red Cross grant, and about considering whether it should not perhaps be increased, but I would like to ask the right hon. Gentlemen this question. Is it not, in fact, the case that voluntary contributions have gone from this country in excess of that amount, and is he also aware that contributions greatly in excess of that amount have been made by British individuals and institutions, both in India and in Pakistan? This is by no means the measure of the help which has already gone from citizens of this country.
The second point I wish to raise is in connection with the High Commissioner's establishment. I notice that, if one totals up the £160,000—odd for the High Commissioner of India—I think that applies only to seven months—it come approximately to £280,000 for 12 months, and I would sympathise if the right hon. Gentleman has any intention to increase that should the necessity arise. I would point out to the Committee that the total for our representation in Egypt is £350,000—and between Egypt and this country the trade is not as much as it is between India and this country. Although this sum of £280,000 may seem enormous, we have to bear in mind, as a Committee, the need of helping our trade and keeping our prestige as a people before the people of India.
I would like to ask him also, in this connection, whether he is absolutely satisfied that the allowances paid to members of the High Commissioner's staff are sufficient, bearing in mind the tremendous rise in the cost of living in all parts of India, and bearing in mind, too, the terrible difficulties which are experienced by anyone in India, particularly of non-Indian origin, in finding accommodation where he may live alone—and certainly the tremendous difficulty in finding accommodation for himself and his wife? I am sure the right hon. Gentleman is aware of that and I am sure, too, the Committee would support the right hon. Gentleman if he found it necessary to increase the allowances. I would like to come to the matter which has already been mentioned, and that is, the position of the non-Secretary of State's civil servants, about whom, I 1637 understand the High Commissioner is, or may soon be, in negotiation with the Government of India and the Government of Pakistan. Perhaps I might put a question or two to the Minister. Has there been any discussion between the High Commissioner and either of the two Dominions upon the position of these civil servants—servants of the Government of India or of the Government of Pakistan—following the experience which the two Dominions have had since the handing over of power on 15th August? Reference was made by my right hon. Friend to a speech made by the Minister of Transport, Dr. Mathia, in which he said:In the public interest it is necessary now to build up as quickly as possible a reserve of Indian officers with the training and experience required for holding key positions on the railways This cannot be done overnight Therefore, a beginning in this direction must be made immediately We propose, therefore, that, when vacancies arise hereafter in key positions, preference should be given definitely to Indian officers of proved ability, irrespective of considerations of seniority This would necessarily imply that individual claims of senior non Indian officers would in some cases be overlookedWhen I put that point in a supplementary question last Thursday the Minister said, of course, it was a matter to be considered. The question is, have there been any discussions between the High Commissioner and the Governments of the two Dominions about that point?
The second point I would put is this. Since Lord Wave11's Question, in another place, has there been any discussion about the issuing, by either the Government of India or the Government of Pakistan, of a proportionate pension to the civil servants of British, or non-Indian or non-Pakistan origin, who may feel it is better to retire in the circumstances—to one of which I have already referred? I understand—it may not be correct—that the Government of Pakistan are far more amenable to the suggestion that a proportionate pension should be paid than are the Government of India. Perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman would tell us a little about this. My last question about the position of these men is this. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that the Government of Burma thought it right, in view of all the circumstances, to give to men in the same position in Burma a resettlement grant of £500. Has that suggestion been discussed with either the Government of India or the Government of Pakistan?
1638 I have always felt that we in this Committee and in the House of Commons owe a definite moral obligation to these men. I know that that has been denied frequently by His Majesty's Government. I think it has been quite wrongly denied. I would stress once again the fact that these men originally took service under the Government of India—and not directly under the Secretary of State—for which the House of Commons had a responsibility. I would stress the fact that they have lost prospects in that service directly as a result of action taken by His Majesty's Government in this country, action which has been approved by the House of Commons and by this Committee. Would the right hon. Gentleman reconsider this matter? Perhaps he cannot come to a final decision yet; but if he will reconsider the whole position as it is now, and as it has arisen since 15th August, surely he must come to the decision that more has yet to be done for these men who were servants of the Government of India and who may yet be servants of the Government of India or of the Government of Pakistan. These are matters which, I believe, the High Commissioners will be discussing, or have discussed already.
I close by emphasising to the right hon. Gentleman and to the Committee the enormous difficulties which face the representatives of His Majesty's Government in both Dominions at this time. Everyone with whom I have come in contact who has been in either Dominion speaks very highly of what has been done there. I should like here to interpose a word of praise of the right hon. Gentleman's office, from my own experience of the way in which his office have handled compensation. I think no praise can be too high for that. There are still many questions outstanding. There are bound to be difficult questions outstanding because of the transfer to Pakistan. Many of the questions concern individuals in this country, and concern money which they have saved in provident funds, money which is due to them in pensions, or, perhaps in some other way, from either of the two Governments. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to help the High Commissioners in getting for the men who served the Indian people as well as the people 1639 of this country so well, and who have now returned to this country, their just and due savings and rewards.
§ 4.55 P.m.
§ Lord John Hope (Midlothian and Peebles, Northern)
I want very briefly to draw the attention of the Secretary of State to the specific plight of some men of the non-Secretary of State's Services—the men of the Bengal Ferry Pilots' Association. I was in touch with the right hon. Gentleman's Department about this matter while he was away. Their position is not a bit satisfactory. I hope today to obtain some enlightenment from the Secretary of State about the future—
§ The Chairman
Do I understand that the people of whom the noble Lord is speaking are civil servants? If they are not, it is not in Order to raise this matter.
§ Lord John Hope
They were originally appointed by the High Commissioner. Under subhead O is the High Commissioner's salary, and under subhead A the salary of the Secretary of State. So, I submit, I am entitled to raise the matter now.
§ The Chairman
Unless it is a matter for the High Commissioner or one of the responsibilities of the Secretary of State on these Supplementary Estimates, the noble Lord is not entitled to raise the question now. Perhaps he may raise it on the main Estimates: I do not know. The only item before us now on which it seems to be appropriate is that which refers to civil servants. If these men are civil servants, then the matter concerning them may be raised now; but if they are not, then this matter cannot be raised now.
§ Lord John Hope
I think I have no alternative then, Major Milner, but to resume my seat, hoping that what I have lacked in constructive contribution I have gained in brevity.
§ 4.57 P.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
I want to ask about the re-employment of the people who have been displaced and to know how the work of re-employing them is progressing, because we are all anxious about it. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will see fit to issue 1640 certificates about re-employment in general for those from both the covenanted and the uncovenanted services The High Commissioners have a great task to undertake. They are representatives of His Majesty's Government in the Dominions of India and Pakistan. Their duties will fall under two heads. One will be to look after the interests, as all diplomatic representatives have to do, of United Kingdom nationals, of whom there will be many who will be employed a long time in the two Dominions, for the desire of both Dominions to have British technical advisers must be great. Their other main duty will be concerned with trade and commercial relationships between this country and the two Dominions.
I think it is an appropriate moment to call attention to the fact that a good deal hangs upon the commercial and economic assistance we give to the two Dominions, particularly Pakistan, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will call the attention of his colleagues most concerned to the fact that Pakistan is in need of British capital goods. Whatever privation it may cost us in this country I am sure the investment of British capital goods in Pakistan will be a sound investment and will be amply repaid. I am shocked at the sum of money voted for the expenses of the two High Commissioners' offices, which is relatively so small. The right hon. Gentleman reminded us that their work is concerned with a large part of the globe inhabited by 400 million people. I am sure that any suggestion for voting greater sums for these offices will be supported with acclamation by the Committee.
You have not allowed us, Major Milner, to touch upon the uncovenanted services, but I should like to reinforce the remarks that have been made about the people concerned. I will also touch on something which is out of Order, for I know that you will permit me to do so when you hear what it is. It is a serious subject. This is the first occasion on which we have debated India since India and Pakistan became Dominions, and I think it appropriate that at least one hon. Member should say something which will be echoed by all hon. Members, and that is how much we share with India and Pakistan their grief at the death of Mr. Gandhi, who performed great work for 1641 the cause of conciliation in India. I have said enough, because I know it is out of Order, but I hoped, Major Milner, that you would permit me to say that
§ The Chairman
That matter is clearly out of Order now and tribute has, in fact, been paid to Mr. Gandhi.
§ Mr. Nicholson
I am sorry if I overstepped the mark. I merely wanted to say that, if any Dominion of His Majesty is plunged into grief, we in this Committee wish to he associated with them.
§ 5.1 p.m
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker
I am most grateful for the tone of the speeches made this afternoon. I will do my best to answer the specific questions which have been put to me, but if I do not give full satisfaction I hope hon. Members will extend to me their indulgence. I commence with three general observations which arise out of the speech of the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler). I wish to associate myself fully with what be said about our gratitude to the Government of Burma for their general attitude in the drawing up of the treaty which we made. I want to associate myself, too, with the tribute which was paid by him and others to the work of the former Governor of Burma, Sir Hubert Rance Third, I consider that the work of Indian Civil Service has been one of the great governmental achievements of human history.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
One of the Minister's hon. Friends was trying to suggest that I sought to draw a distinction between certain English administrators in the East, simply because I mentioned only Sir Hubert Rance The reason I mentioned Sir Hubert Rance was that he was specifically mentioned in the Supplementary Estimates, whereas others were not. I hope it will not go out that we are trying to draw distinctions.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am sure the Committee will be clear on that. There is one small point, of which I should like to dispose before turning to the larger subjects. I was asked whether any arrangements had been made for dealing with war damage suffered by British interests in Burma. The question of liability for war damage was raised during the negotiations which led up to the Burma Treaty. Unfortunately, we were unable to reach agreement, and the matter 1642 has been reserved for further discussions between the two Governments. It has not been forgotten.
The first major question raised by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden was the re-employment of members of the Secretary of State's Services in India and Burma The right hon. Member again outlined the machinery which I described in a written answer on 11th December fast. I made that answer very full in the hope that it would help the men who were looking for new appointments; and I have every reason to think that it has helped them. As he indicated, in my Department we have a special branch which deals with policy, with vacancies in permanent Government service, with openings in the Foreign Office, and openings in the Colonial Office and their services abroad. In the London Appointments Office of the Ministry of Labour we have a special India and Burma Services Section which deals with temporary Government employment, public corporations and business firms. Under the Ministry of Labour at York House, we also have a Technical and Scientific Register, where an officer with Indian experience interviews members of the Indian engineer, railway and forest services, and does what he can to help. Then we have the unofficial committee, under the chairmanship of the right hon. Member for the City of London, to which the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden himself also belongs, which has done admirable work in trying to find vacancies for men whose cases are brought to their attention by the different Government agencies which we have set up.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
For the sake of accuracy, may I say the chairman is the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson).
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
The right hon. Member is quite right. The number of men who have so far registered for re-employment is about 800. Of those, we have had intimations from 78 that their present desire is to continue in the service of India and Pakistan, and they probably will do so. We believe that, of the 800, the number intending to stay on in the service of India and Pakistan is a great deal larger than 78, although they have not let us know. Of the remainder, whatever 1643 the figure may be, 406 have actually had appointments; and it is believed that within the next month between 50 and 75 more will get what they want.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
No, this is only the Secretary of State's Services. I will come to the others later. I am afraid experience has shown that it is very much easier to help officers who are under 48 years of age than to help those who are over that age. Indeed, with those under 48 we have made extremely good progress. We do not despair about the others, and we make every effort we can to help them. For my part, I believe that, as their qualifications become better known, we ought to be able to find work for them in a Britain which needs workers of all kinds.
I was asked specially about the Indian Police and the Burma Frontier Service. Again, we have been able to offer those under 48 years of age reasonable alternative employment. We hope that if the present prospects continue, and if they like the kinds of jobs offered to them, a considerable proportion of those under 48 will be settled by this summer. Unfortunately, the people in the engineer and forest services are mostly between the ages of 48 and 55, for whom, as I have said, it has proved very difficult to find jobs, though we do not despair The right hon. Member asked me whether the creation of more agencies would assist. I do not think so. I think the agencies are now quite rationally organised, and are well known to the men in question. Perhaps we can make even greater efforts than we have made. Certainly I will consider very favourably the proposal just made by the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson), that we should make periodic returns of the results achieved. That might be useful to everybody.
The question of proportionate pensions for non-Secretary of State's Services officers who want to retire was raised by the right hon. Member and by nearly every other hon. Member who spoke. The Committee knows that shortly before the transfer of power the Governor-General and the Provincial Governors tried to obtain the agreement of their respective Governments 1644 to the granting of proportionate pensions to officers of the Central and Provincial Services who did not wish to continue to serve after the constitutional change had been made. In Bengal the Government agreed that proportionate pensions should be granted to both European and Anglo-Indian officers whom they did not wish to keep, and who did not wish to stay on. However, the Central Government and the other Provincial Governments took a different line—
§ Lord John Hope
Since the Minister has mentioned it, could he say whether that includes the Bengal Ferry Pilots Association?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am afraid I could not, without notice; and I am not sure that I should be in Order if I could.
The Central Government and the other Provincial Governments took a different line. They said they could see no justification for granting pensions to officers who were unwilling to stay on, although they had a guarantee that the conditions of service would not be changed. It must be remembered that these officers have always been subject to the control of the Governments by whom they were appointed. It must be remembered that they never had the right to retire on proportionate pensions. Therefore, so long as there is the guarantee that their conditions are not to change, the case for demanding proportionate pensions for those whom the Governments wish to keep is clearly not very strong, and so far no evidence of any breach of that guarantee has been received.
The Government are of the opinion that the new Governments which employ these men should give a proportionate pension to officers whose services they do not wish to retain, or to officers whose conditions of service are materially altered to their disadvantage. When I say that, I hope that no one will think that I am interfering in the relations of the new Governments and those who serve them. We have, of course, a delicate problem in considering what we should do, supposing that there was clear and unmistakable evidence—and I repeat that we have received no such evidence—that the conditions were changed. In that case, it might hardly be reasonable to expect that the European members of the services would stay on.
1645 As for the Minister of Transport's speech, to which reference has been made, I am afraid that the full and precise implications of it are not entirely clear to me, or, I think, to many members of the Committee. The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations is at present either in Karachi or Delhi—he is going to Delhi in any case, if he is not there yet—and he is going to discuss the matter with the Minister of Transport.
§ Mr. Butler
While the Under-Secretary is there, can he also discuss the case of the Bengal ferry pilots?
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Robert Young)
I understand that this subject has been ruled out of Order by the Chairman.
§ Mr. Low
I did not intend to speak on that subject. The right hon. Gentleman said that he thought the implications of the Minister of Transport's speech were not quite clear. That is all very diplomatic, but surely the implications are absolutely clear? He says that events would:necessarily imply that individual claims of senior non-Indian officers would in some cases be overlooked.I do not challenge the Indian Government's right to do that, but surely it is a fact which ought to be taken into consideration?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
We shall, of course, take it into consideration, but the hon. Member will agree that I should probably do well not to add anything further, especially as the Under-Secretary of State is to discuss this matter with the Minister himself.
I come now to another matter, raised by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden, which is also rather delicate, namely, the position of the European judges of India and Pakistan, and the question of compensation and proportionate pension for them. His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have come to the conclusion that those European judges, who may resign in consequence of changed conditions, should be eligible for proportionate pensions, and that compensation also is due in those cases where a substantial part of the 1646 expected period of service has been lost. I add that consideration is now being given to what ought to be the amounts and conditions of award.
I pass now to the staff of the High Commissions in India and Pakistan. In answer to the first specific question put by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden, I can tell him that there will be a Deputy High Commissioner at New Delhi; he will take the place of the High Commissioner if he has to go on leave, or if he should be away in other parts of India on his duties. The highest salary among the Deputy Commissioners will be paid to the man who is at Calcutta, in view of the great importance of the post. In Pakistan, the representative at Peshawar will not be a Deputy High Commissioner, although the other two will be. The Committee have shown generosity in regard to what I said about the probable increase in the scales of the staff. I am particularly indebted to hon. Members who have shown conclusively that the scale of our missions is very modest, considering that they have to deal with British interests in countries containing 400 million people, which is about one-fifth of the human race. We must also remember that not only have we an immense trade with India and Pakistan, which is now vital to our economic reconstruction, but we also have tens of thousands of people from the British Isles who intend to remain there, and may be looking to our High Commissioners for help. It may well be that we shall have to give higher allowances to those who are employed in these missions. It is true that the cost of living is very great, that the difficulties of finding lodgings is almost unbelievable, and that the hardships which members of the missions have had to put up with have been very considerable. I again associate the Government, as warmly as I can, with the tributes which have been paid to the admirable work these missions have done during the past very trying months.
I come now to the refugees and the work of the British Red Cross Society, and to the question of the very small sum for which we have asked. I regard the events of recent months as being one of the great tragedies of history. I hope that nothing I have said can lead anyone to think differently from that. I agree with the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed) that our primary responsibility 1647 arises out of our common humanity with the peoples of India and Pakistan. I cannot accept what the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden said about responsibility for the events which have taken place, nor would he expect me to do so. I agree with the hon. Member for Aylesbury that we had better not pursue that question tonight. There were terrible events, and communal terrorism very nearly got out of control. The Governments of India and Pakistan acted together with great courage and understanding, and they got it under control again—I think that that deserves to be remembered.
As I indicated when I opened the Debate, we offered the British Red Cross Society only a token gift. We should all have wished that the gift was very much larger, but it is merely a symbol of the affection the people of this country feel for the peoples of Pakistan and India. The Government considered giving a very much larger sum, but we came to the conclusion that it was really not a very reasonable proposition to ask Parliament to vote a large sum of money for this purpose, when we owed to India and Pakistan something like £1,000 million, which we shall be able to repay only very gradually over a period of years.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I do not want to complicate the issue of the sterling balances in India, but it is well known that we have on the books a large debt which is against us and in their favour.
The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden asked me if I could say anything about broad general policy, and whether we were now considering making treaties with India and Pakistan such as we have made with some other countries. I would not, on this occasion, think it appropriate for me to answer that question in any detail, but I would say this: we want to do everything we can to further good understanding and effective co-operation between our Government and the Governments of India and Pakistan. We have, of course, been considering our financial relations in the recent past, and no doubt an announcement will be made about that matter in the early future. On the broader questions of 1648 defence and general relations, I think it is desirable that things should settle down a little more in the sub-Continent before we proceed to tackle the large problems of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke. I would end by expressing the desire of the entire Committee that our relations with both India and Pakistan will continue to be warm and friendly, that their relations between themselves will be the same, and that they will work in co-operation for their common good and the benefit of the world.
§ Mr. Gammans
The right hon. Gentleman made a remark just now which, without qualification, may lead to a tremendous amount of misunderstanding both here and in India and Pakistan. When he says that this country owed £1,000 million, does he mean that His Majesty's Government have surrendered any right to put in a counter-claim, or are admitting that without any qualification?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I did not mean that, but I do not think I had better add to the explanation I have given.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
I would like to thank the Minister for his statement about the judges. For a long time we have been asking that judges should have the right to retire on proportionate pension and be eligible for these terms of compensation. As I understand it, the Minister has now conceded the case and we are much obliged. It should not be thought that by pressing this case we are asking the judges to give up their responsibility in India; no words of mine should be interpreted as a desire that they should withdraw from service in India if they feel that they can continue to serve in that country. I sincerely trust that while the right hon. Gentleman has not been able to say more about our relations with the two Dominions on a treaty basis, we shall not lose sight of this question and that, meanwhile, every step will be taken to bring relations more closely together, which has been the object of all of us today. I will not go into the question of balances because I do not believe that that is any more in Order than the question of the Bengal Ferry Pilots' Association.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
In thanking the right hon. Gentleman, may I say that I am in full agreement with the words which fell from him about the judges.
§ Question put, and agreed to.1649
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1948, for the salaries and expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for India and His Majesty's Secretary of State for Burma and certain salaries and expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, including the salary of the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations; and for sundry India and Burma services, including compensation payments and other expenses arising out of the setting up of the independent Dominions of India and Pakistan and the grant of independence to Burma, certain expenses in the Persian Gulf and certain grants in aid.