HC Deb 11 November 1948 vol 457 cc1714-5
38. Sir W. Wakefield

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if he will state the number of ex-civilian gazetted officers and non-gazetted staff recruited for the war for the Indian Ordnance service from the United Kingdom who have had their claims rejected for the payment of furlough at the termination of their service in spite of the provisions of the Government of India Defence Department. letter No. 067/1/ MG 12-A, dated 27th November, 1939, with annexure of statements 1 and 2 together with Department of Supply letter No. 067/14 (M.P.12-A), dated 14th December, 1940; and what action is he proposing to take to ensure justice being done and the proper claims of these men being settled.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Before the transfer of power, the Secretary of State for India made strong representations to the Government of India about these men. The Government of India, with whom the decision rested, admitted that the men were entitled to take furlough during the period of their contracts; but they held that there was no obligation on the Government to allow them to take furlough when their service came to an end. By a misunderstanding, however, some of the non-gazetted officers were told, when they were appointed, that they would be granted furlough when their service ended; this promise the Government of India have honoured. No such promise was made to gazetted personnel and their contracts contained nothing to support their claim to furlough at the end of their service. I do not know how many such claims have been made and rejected; but since they seem to have no legal basis, and since they were rejected before the transfer of power, I do not think it would be useful for me to raise it again with the Government of India now.

Sir W. Wakefield

In view of the fact that these men feel that they have a grievance and a just claim, could not something be done by the Government to meet their grievance?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I will very gladly discuss the matter with the hon. Member if he so desires. I do not want to do any injustice at all, but this is a matter for the Government of India and since, as I said, it was rejected before the transfer of power, I do not think it is likely to be accepted now.

Earl Winterton

Does not the right hon. Gentleman accept the fact that responsibility must rest with His Majesty's Government, because the majority of these men were enlisted at the time the India Office was a Department of His Majesty's Government? Does the right hon. Gentleman take the line that we are not responsible for people enlisted long before the Government of India came into existence?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Not at all, but what I am saying is that the Government have, in fact, carried out their legal obligations.