HC Deb 18 November 1948 vol 458 cc540-4
14 and 15. Mr. A. R. W. Low

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (1), what progress has been made in the discussion with the Governments of India and Pakistan about the provision of proportionate pensions for non-Secretary of State servants;

(2) whether he will start discussions immediately with the Governments of India and Pakistan for the provision of compensation for those non-Secretary of State civil servants whose position has been prejudiced by changes of government policy towards them since August, 1947.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

I am glad to tell the hon. Member that the Governments of India and Pakistan have now agreed to allow European members of the non-Secretary of State's Services who are not domiciled in India or Pakistan to retire on proportionate pension, it they so desire. The Government of India have reserved the right to postpone release for as long as a year from the date of application, if they think it necessary in the public interest to do so. The Government of Pakistan have made the same general condition, but for technical officers they have fixed the maximum period of postponement at two years instead of one.

Details of the arrangements are being published in announcements which the Governments of India and Pakistan are issuing today. I will, with the hon. Member's permission circulate the text of the announcement made by the Government of India in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The Governments of India and Pakistan do not feel able to grant the right to compensation in addition to the right, which they have now conceded, to retire on proportionate pension.

Mr. Low

Would I be right in saying, following that answer, that this arrangement does not apply to those non-Secretary of State servants who have already retired—that is, retired before the making of this announcement; if so, is it not wholly unfair to these men, whose retirement may well be due, and normally has been due, to the changed conditions; and has not this difference in treatment been brought about largely by the fact that His Majesty's Government have purposely postponed discussing this important matter with the Governments of India and Pakistan?

Mr. Noel-Baker

No, Sir. The hon. Gentleman has asked three Questions. First, this is not retrospective; it does not apply to men who have retired. Secondly, in our view that is not unfair. The hon. Gentleman will have noticed that the two Governments have felt it necessary to reserve the right to postpone release for a year in one case, or in some cases even two years, because they find it difficult to do without the services of these men; they regard those who have resigned as having walked out on them; for that reason they would not agree to make it retrospective. Nor do I think if they did agree, that would be fair to those who are now to be retained perhaps for a year after they wish to retire. Thirdly, the hon. Gentleman asked if the Govern- ment had been guilty of delay in negotiating this matter. I think not; I think it was not possible to deal with it until the sterling balance negotiations had taken place, which was in July of this year. Since then we have pressed it vigorously.

Mr. R. A. Butler

Would the right hon. Gentleman be ready to receive representations from some of us on the subject of those civil servants who have resigned; would the Government seriously consider accepting liability for their case, now that the Governments of India and Pakistan have accepted liability for the case of those who are remaining; and would he further accept the fact that there is great satisfaction in the House that, to the extent of the concession that has been given, the Indian and Pakistan Governments have been generous towards these men?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman and I will transmit to the two Governments what he has said in his concluding words. With regard to the earlier point, of course I shall be very happy to receive representations on this matter, but I could not enter into any commitment about what we shall do. I have not so far received evidence which seems to me at all conclusive that anybody has been forced to resign by action taken by either of the Governments.

Sir Ronald Ross

Are these pensions guaranteed by the British Government?

Mr. Noel-Baker

No, Sir. These are non-Secretary of State pensions. The conditions of service were drawn up entirely by the Government of India.

Mr. Low

Is it not true to say that His Majesty's Government have not so far pressed the Governments of India and Pakistan to grant any form of compensation to men who are forced to retire in the changed conditions; and is it not extraordinary that they have shown such weakness, when they managed to get the Government of Burma to give similar servants a gratuity or compensation on retirement?

Mr. Noel-Baker

If I may, I will send the hon. Member the details of what was done by the Government of Burma, which I think he will see do not at all support the conclusion he has drawn in connection with these men. I do not think it would be right for us to press the Governments of India and Pakistan to do this, for the reasons which I have already explained.

Following is the Government of India's announcement:

In response to representations made to them and having regard to the constitutional changes that took place in India on the 15th August, 1947, the Government of India have, in consultation with the Provincial Governments and in agreement with His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, decided to extend the right of retirement before completing the service normally required for earning a retiring pension, or other retiring benefits, to European officers of Civil Services in India who were not already eligible for this concession, viz., officers other than those belonging to the Services previously under the rule-making control of the late Secretary of State for India. Officers who may prematurely retire from service pursuant to this decision will receive such proportionate pension or gratuity or Provident Fund benefits, as the case may be, as would have been admissible to them in the event of their discharge from service on the abolition of their posts, without alternative employment being provided, under the relevant service rules. Officers will also be eligible for such leave preparatory to retirement as may be admissible to them under the normal operation of the rules applicable to them. These concessions will be limited to European officers of non-Indian domicile, who are permanent employees of Government.

His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have agreed to bear any extra cost that the Governments in India may have to incur on account of the grant of this concession. They have also agreed to bear the charges on account of the grant of repatriation passages to such of the European officers and their families as avail themselves of the concession of premature retirement but are not, under the service rules applicable to them, entitled to free passages. Repatriation passages for this purpose include single railway fares from last place of employment in India to the port of embarkation and from the port of disembarkation to destination.

Efforts will be made to release officers wishing to retire under this scheme as soon as possible, but the releases may be staggered where the exigencies of public service demand. In no case, however, will the release of officers who wish to retire be postponed beyond 12 months.