HC Deb 24 March 1955 vol 538 cc2277-93

Order for Second Reading read.

3.40 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Although this Bill appears to be somewhat technical and complicated, its aim is, in fact, simple. As is set out in the opening sentence of the Financial and Explanatory Memorandum, the main purpose of the Bill is to enable Her Majesty's Government to take over from 1st April, 1955, the control, administration and payment of the pensions of persons who served the Crown in India and are now living outside India, Pakistan, Aden or Burma.

The Bill is a simplification and an improvement of existing arrangements. While many details are filled in in the Financial and Explanatory Memorandum, I should like, if I may, to give some further points on the Bill's history and purpose. Finally, with the permission of the House, at the end of any debate which may arise, I will attempt to answer the points which may be raised.

Following on the Indian Independence Act, 1947, hon. Members will no doubt recollect that in 1948 the Government of India purchased for a capital sum of £168 million sterling annuities from which their sterling pensionary commitments have since been met. This purchase was made from sterling standing to India's account and the annuities purchased appear as part of the National Debt charged on the Consolidated Fund. The debt is shown in the normal way in page 58 of the Financial Accounts of the United Kingdom for 1953–54. Those, of course, are the last accounts which have been before the House. The balance of debt outstanding on 31st March, 1955, is £129 million. The last figure shown is somewhat more than that, but that figure was for the year ending 31st March, 1954.

Later, that is, after the 1947–48 Agreements, it became clear that considerable administrative advantage could be gained both by the Government of India and by Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom if the latter could take over responsibility for these pensions, offsetting the financial liability against the cancellation of part of these annuities. This is the arrangement which is now agreed in the present Bill. This proposal was started, I understand, in the time of the right hon. Gentlemen the Members for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) and for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) when they held office at the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Treasury respectively. The Agreement which has now at last been reached is shown in the letters attached to the First Schedule of the Bill.

If I may take the Clauses of the Bill one by one, Clause 1 approves the arrangements which have been agreed with the Government of India. These arrangements are set out in the letters exchanged between the Financial Minister of India and the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom in India which are contained in the First Schedule of the Bill, that is, in pages 4 to 7 of the Bill. The arrangements, in brief, involve, first, the acceptance by Her Majesty's Government of the obligation to pay the pensions in question; secondly, the payment to the Government of India of a capital sum of approximately £40 million sterling.

This sum is the difference between the capital cost of the pensions as now estimated, and the amount of the debt outstanding on 1st April, 1955—that is the figure I mentioned a moment ago of £129 million—and the third main point in this Agreement is the payment of a further capital sum of about £6 million to the Government of India in respect of the Indian Income Tax which they would have collected from the pensions had they not been transferred under this Agreement. On the other side of the ledger—and I will explain this in detail in a moment—the National Debt is reduced by £88 million sterling; that is the item I have already referred to in page 58 of the last accounts.

The number of pensioners affected, which includes members of the non-Secretary of State's as well as the Secretary of State's Services, is about 23,000. All categories of pension—Service, disablement and family pensions and pensions from what are known as the Un-transferred Family Pensions Fund—are included. The pension bill for 1955–56, the coming financial year, is about £5.8 million and will, of course, decrease each year. I should apologise to the House, because, as the final draft of the Bill came out in the wash, in page ii of the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum, paragraph 7 (a), there is the figure of £5 million and that should be £5.8 million.

Similar terms are under discussion with the Government of Pakistan, but final agreement has not yet been reached. Clause 1 (2) empowers the Secretary of State, with the concurrence of the Treasury, to give effect to any agreement reached with the Government of Pakistan. If agreement is reached, the amounts payable to the Government of Pakistan would be approximately £360,000 in respect of the difference between the balance of the annuities and the estimated cost of the pensions, and £400,000 in respect of Income Tax.

Returning to India, the Agreement to transfer the control of these pensions will, I hope, be generally acceptable to the House and will be welcomed, I trust, by retired members of the Indian services. Hon. Members are no doubt fully aware from Questions which have been asked from time to time and correspondence in the Press and their own constituency correspondence that Indian pensioners have felt some apprehension about their pensions and have also asked for pension increases. The existence of this feeling and the presentation of these requests are a minor source of friction between the two Governments, more especially as the Government of India have felt unable to grant any increase in pensions and Her Majesty's Government have felt obliged, in order that ex-members of the Indian Services should have comparable treatment with pensioners of the United Kingdom Services, to extend to the former benefits, where appropriate, of such measures as the Pensions (Increase) Acts, 1947 and 1952, and the many improvements in disability and widows' pensions.

If this Bill is enacted, the award of all the benefits which have already been granted and the future payment of the pensions themselves will become the full statutory obligation of the United Kingdom Government. The transfer will, therefore, I submit, be of mutual advantage to both Governments and to the pensioners concerned.

May I say—I am still on Clause 1—another word about the financial effects which are somewhat complex, I am sorry to say, and how they will affect the United Kingdom Exchequer. There will be an addition to the Votes to provide for the payment of the pensions which will amount to £5.8 million this year and will gradually diminish. This will be offset by a saving to the Exchequer by the cancellation of a debt of about £88 million sterling together with the interest thereon. This latter sum would, in the normal course of events, have been discharged by the payment of the annuities until their extinction in the year 2007–8. This figure of £88 million is the latest estimate of the future cost of the pensions to be transferred.

As I have already mentioned, the amount of the debt outstanding on 31st March this year is £129 million. This latter figure was arrived at as a result of the estimates of the pension bill, made in 1948. The difference, of about £40 million, will continue to be paid from the Consolidated Fund, and this debt will be discharged in 10 equal annual installments with interest at 1 per cent. per annum.

Under the Agreement of 1948 this annual surplus would, if the present proposals were not accepted, in any case have accrued to the Government of India year by year until the year 2007–08. The payment of this £40 million, therefore, is only the acceleration of the payments which would otherwise have become due to the Government of India and is not a new commitment. Her Majesty's Government originally proposed that, under the arrangement in the Bill, the payment of this surplus should be made each year as it accrued, but the Government of India pressed for it to be paid in one lump sum. The agreement to spread payment over ten years represents a compromise between the two opposing points of view.

A third point, which I mentioned earlier, is that there is also a payment to the Government of India of a capital sum of about £6 million in respect of the Indian income tax that would otherwise have been collected from the pensioners. Against this payment must be set considerable savings to the United Kingdom Government. The United Kingdom Income Tax law makes provision for certain relief from tax in this country in respect of tax borne in another country, and Indian pensioners have been entitled to this relief in the past.

As Indian tax will not be deducted from pensions after 1st April, 1955—that is, next week—the pensioners will not have to bear double tax and so the need for affording them relief will disappear, and the yield of United Kingdom tax from the pensioners will increase. In addition, the necessity to compensate pensioners for Indian tax in respect of which full double taxation relief could not be given—I will refer to this later when explaining Clause 2—will largely disappear.

The saving to the Revenue in double taxation relief and to the Exchequer from the disappearance of tax compensation will ultimately counter-balance the payment of the capital sum of £6 million to the Government of India. The payment of this capital sum will be made also in ten equal annual instalments, together with interest, and will be voted.

I come to Clause 2 of the Bill. The Government of India Act, 1935, conferred immunity from Indian income tax on certain classes of Indian pensioners residing outside India. The grant of independence to India in 1947 made it possible for the Government of India to withdraw this immunity, and they did so with effect from 1st March, 1951. Because the immunity was originally conferred by an Act of the United Kingdom Parliament and because a subsequent Act of the same Parliament—the Indian Independence Act of 1947—made the withdrawal of the immunity possible, Her Majesty's Government accepted the moral obligation to compensate pensioners for any extra taxation which they incurred by reason of the decision of the Government of India. The grant of this compensation was announced by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer in the House of Commons on 18th June, 1951.

Payments under the tax compensation scheme have so far been made from the Commonwealth Services Vote under the authority of the annual Appropriation Act, but the opportunity is now taken under the Bill of giving permanent statutory cover to the scheme. As I have already explained, the need for the scheme will largely disappear after pensions have been transferred to the United Kingdom Government, though a few isolated cases may occur in the future.

A similar immunity was conferred on Burma pensioners by the Government of Burma Act, 1935. This immunity was withdrawn by the Government of Burma on 1st October, 1954. The Indian scheme has, therefore, since been extended to pensioners of the Government of Burma. As, however, control of Burma pensions is not being transferred to the United Kingdom Government, the Burma scheme will continue in full operation.

I have already said that Her Majesty's Government have extended the benefits of certain Pensions (Increase) Acts and other Measures to Indian pensioners, Some of these increases were covered by the Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1948 and the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1952, but in other cases payments have been made from the Commonwealth Services Vote under the authority of the annual Appropriation Act. Clause 3, read with the Second Schedule, empowers the Treasury to make rules covering all cases. These rules will not alter the basis on which the benefits have already been given. The power to make an Order under Clause 2, and to make rules under Clause 3, is to be exercised by Statutory Instrument, which may be annulled by a Resolution in either House.

It is not Her Majesty's Government's intention that the arrangements proposed in the Bill should affect the liability to United Kingdom Income Tax of pensioners residing outside the United Kingdom. Pensioners who are regarded as resident in the United Kingdom for Income Tax purposes are at present chargeable to United Kingdom Income Tax on the whole of their pensions and they will continue to be so when the new arrangements come into force.

Pensioners who are not regarded as resident are at present not chargeable to Income Tax on their pensions. Under the new arrangements they will, I understand, come within the charge to United Kingdom Income Tax on the whole of their pensions, but I am informed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has it in mind to propose legislation to continue the exemption which the non-residents at present enjoy.

I apologise again for the technicality of the Bill. I have tried to reconcile with some simplicity of explanation the complexity of the subject matter. I should not like to end my remarks without expressing the thanks of the Government to Ministers in India, and to officials both there and in the United Kingdom, for all the work which they have put in to reach this agreement. A number of those concerned, like the pensioners whom we have been discussing, are members of the Civil Services to whom the Bill applies. They are carrying on, as I had the opportunity of seeing for a few days last summer, the great traditions of administration of which they—that is, the present civil servants in the Indian sub-continent, no less than we in this country—are justly proud.

The administrators in the sub-continent are faced with the most tremendous problems. I certainly appreciated some of the forces of nature with which they have to contend. I think that we might say that their occupation out there is indeed a vocation, with rewards beyond mere material payment. We must hope that it is an encouragement to these pensioners to know that their work in these countries which they love so much is being carried on so well by their successors.

3.58 p.m.

Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)

First, I should like to congratulate the Minister on his lucid exposition of what is necessarily a very complex Bill, especially in its financial implications. We on this side of the House welcome the Bill. As the hon. Gentleman said, when we were in office we started the negotiations which have resulted in this Measure being brought forward today. We make no complaint that considerable time has passed since these negotiations were started, because, of course, in the nature of things, these matters take a tremendous time to negotiate and work out.

We are sorry that the arrangement with Pakistan is not far enough advanced to enable it to be included in the Bill. We hope that there will not now be any very great delay—as I understand. I believe that the Bill makes no difference at all to those pensioners who served in Pakistan.

The whole of the Bill, with all the transactions that have led up to it, presents an excellent example of good, intimate and friendly Commonwealth relations such as exist between all the various members of the Commonwealth. The question of paying pensions to British civil servants employed by the Government of India at the time of the transfer of power could have been an extremely awkward matter, but, in fact, it has been worked out from the beginning with great friendship and smoothness.

As I understand, although the Bill makes one or two useful changes, the essentials are not altered; that the pensions concerned will continue to be paid, as they have been in the past, out of Indian money, out of the sterling balances owing to India which are as much Indian money as any other money in her possession. That needs to be emphasised. These pensions will still be paid out of India's money, and India will continue to recognise the obligation to pay the pensions which she undertook at the time of her independence.

As I see it, the changes are, first, that owing to the recalculation of the actuarial considerations involved, it has turned out that less of a capital sum will be needed to discharge these pensions than was originally anticipated; and that, therefore, some of the sterling balances set aside for this are, in effect—and this is a result of all the complex finance of it—being paid back to India. More important, the administration of the pensions, is to be transferred from Indian to British officials. As the hon. Gentleman said, this will make it easier for Members of Parliament to take up cases. That has been a difficult thing to do in the past, because of the passing from London to Delhi and Karachi and back again.

It also means that it will perhaps be easier for the Government to pay any increases of pensions they award to make them equivalent to similar pensions in this country—although that has been done—and it will make Income Tax simpler. No great charge will fall on the Revenue, but for the people concerned, Income Tax problems will be simpler.

Some people have from time to time asked why it was that India refused to pay increases of pensions to these pensioners when increases were awarded on similar pensions in this country. That point has been made, and some times adverse comments have been made on it. As I see the matter, India has been absolutely right and justified in her attitude. It was no part of the original bargain that such increases should be paid. Certainly, neither India nor any other Government can make payments of pensions to people living in their own territory dependent on the decisions of other Governments.

It is impossible, and, in fact, would lead to increases being paid to pensioners living in India beyond the scope of increases paid to pensioners of the Indian Government. It would be as though we had undertaken to pay pensions to a certain number of, say, Americans resident here, and were compelled to increase those pensions every time the American Government decided to do something in their own country, regardless of what we were doing here.

No injustice has been done as a result of India's decision. Both the previous Government and the present Government paid all the appropriate increases to the pensioners concerned. I am a little sorry—though I understand why—that Burma cannot come under this scheme. It will create certain anomalies, and the administrative advantage to pensioners who served in India or Pakistan will not apply in the case of Burma. All I wish to say about that is that Her Majesty's Government must have responsibility for the proper adjustment of increases of pensions, and so forth as, I have no doubt, will be the case.

There are a number of smaller points which I should like to raise on particular Clauses when we come to the Committee stage. I do not think that any Amendments will be put down, but there are one or two points about which I am not certain, and which I should like to raise when the Chair puts the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." Apart from that, as I have said, we welcome this Bill. Had we been in office, we should have introduced something very much like it ourselves, and we shall facilitate its passage through the House in every way reasonably possible.

4.5 p.m.

Sir Patrick Spens (Kensington, South)

I should like to start by saying that I am not one of those drawing a pension payable by the Indian Government, either directly or indirectly, and, therefore, have no personal interest in this Bill. On behalf of many pensioners who have been anxious about their pensions, I wish to voice the gratitude with which they will receive this arrangement which, I think, has been made very wisely both by the Government of India and Her Majesty's Government.

I differ with the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) on only one point. It is not only a question of the control and administration of the payment of pensions, but, as I understand, Her Majesty's Government now undertake the primary liability for the payment of the pensions, after certain payments and cross-payments have been made. Whatever happens in the future, I understand, Her Majesty's Government remain primarily liable for the payment of these pensions. Not only that, but they have gone out of their way to bestow at once on the pensioners the increases which they would have received had the pensions been previously payable out of moneys from this country. That, of course, will be very much appreciated.

The main advantage of this is that there were obviously possibilities of great differences between the two countries about these pensions. One of the difficulties arose when India, quite rightly, thought fit not to impose Income Tax on British pensions at all; but in the ordinary course of events, quite rightly, under her own powers, thought fit to impose Income Tax on incomes drawn by persons resident outside India who were drawing incomes from India. Under such a general category necessarily fell the whole of the pensions of those members of the services concerned.

That immediately created a very great difficulty and we all appreciated very much the attitude of the late Government, when, I think almost at the very first time it was raised in this House, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer accepted the responsibility for making good to the pensioners the difference between the amount by which their pen- sions were diminished because of the extra Indian income tax. That has gone on ever since. This cannot be received otherwise than with great satisfaction by all these pensioners.

When I read the Bill for the first time I was concerned whether all classes of pensioners drawing pensions from India were covered. In spite of what has been said by the Minister, I am bound to say that I am still a little anxious. The Explanatory and Financial Memorandum refers to: … the pensions of persons who served the Crown … That is a technical expression. The Minister has told us something of which I was not at all sure when I first read the Bill, that the non-Secretary of State services as well as the Secretary of State services are covered. That will relieve a great deal of anxiety among those who were members of the non-Secretary of State services and drawing pensions from India. Even so, do these two expressions, the Secretary of State services and the non-Secretary of State services, cover everyone? Is there not a possibility that there are still some categories drawing pensions from India who do not come within one class or the other?

There were persons whom all of us back from India regarded as protegés of the first Lord Wavell, who did his best to try to look after the financial interests of a number of persons in subsidiary services—persons in local authority services, services of corporations, services of railways and various other categories who did not come under the original arrangement made before the separation in 1947. I should like to hear a statement, either now or later, making it quite clear whether they are in the categories of pensions derived from India payable to persons in this country who served in India other than in purely civil employment, not covered by this Bill.

There is another point to which I want to refer. Those of us who have taken some interest in Indian affairs know that there is dispute even now in certain cases where the right to the pension or the quantum of the pension has not yet been agreed either by the Government of India or the Government of Pakistan, or the Government of Burma, although I have never had a Burmese case myself. I am wondering whether it is possible for Her Majesty's Government to take over, deal with and settle these disputes.

I am rather afraid, when looking at certain clauses in the letters, that it is contemplated that some of those concerned may still have to bring proceedings in India or Pakistan, which I think would be extremely regrettable. If it is possible to make an absolutely clean sweep of all the difficulties now, surely this is the time to do it. If there have been any difficulties between the Governments over the payments of these pensions, I would urge most strongly that we should do everything we can to clear up all these matters at the present time. If Her Majesty's Government could see their way to taking over any disputed cases and dealing with them directly, I think that would be of very great advantage.

I was also anxious about those who were drawing pensions from India and who were not resident in this country. At first sight, they did not appear to come within the provisions of the Bill. I gathered, however, from the Minister that, although it may be necessary for a short period for the Commissioners of Inland Revenue to charge these pensions, as from 1stApril, with Income Tax, his statement gives some assurance to these pensioners that that position will not last for long.

I think it is desirable that all the anxieties of this fairly large class of pensioners should be removed once and for all. I must say, speaking with diffidence and care, that this Bill comes at a time when some of us are very glad to see these arrangements brought to completion, because we have been compelled to regard with considerable apprehension and anxiety some of the proposed legislation, including, perhaps, changes in the constitution of India, which are being very seriously considered there, and which, to our minds, appear, at first sight, to be whittling down and lessening the protection of private property in India.

It is, therefore, a great thing that the pensioners who draw their pensions from India should have, as I believe that they now have, a first and primary liability on Her Majesty's Government for their pensions. I congratulate the Government and members of preceding Governments, who initiated the original talks, because I well know how difficult and prolonged they have been, on the completion of this arrangement, and I hope that before very long arrangements with Pakistan will also be completed.

4.15 p.m.

Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)

This is one of those pleasant occasions when there is no controversy whatever between the two sides of the House. It also seems to me to be an occasion—and I was very glad that both my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) and the Under-Secretary of State used it—to pay tribute to the men whom we are discussing today—the men who have done such very fine work in the past for India.

There have been many civilisations in India and they have given many different gifts to her. Some of them have given gifts of stone for great buildings. I do not think that any of our gifts can be compared in that respect to the gifts of past civilisations to India. We cannot compare, for instance, the odd little parish churches scattered about India with the magnificence of the great mosques which we see as a result of the Mogul civilisation. That is not our memorial.

Our memorial is something very different. It is the construction of a great system of law and order which has given to India something which she did not possess before we went there. In the construction of this great system, the men whom we are discussing today have played a notable part. It is not, I think, always realised—although I am sure everyone here realises it—that during those years when the Government of India was being carried on by us 800 British civil servants were looking after the vast number of 200 million people.

Sir P. Spens

Four hundred million people.

Mr. Dugdale

Statistics are a little difficult to check up, and the population statistics of India are not, perhaps, quite so accurate as they are in this country. At any rate, these hundreds of millions of people were looked after, as regards their civil service, by 800 British people, and the Indians working with them.

It is a wonderful tribute to think that 800 people could have done what they did in building up this great system of law and order which has done so much for India. I think that those who are sitting in retirement now, when they hear of the congratulations of the Under-Secretary of State and others of us in this House, may feel a little less depressed than they might otherwise have done. Let us tell them that their work was not in vain and that they performed a notable service for India.

I would say, in conclusion, that there are now other territories of Her Majesty, which may be gradually passing into freedom, which have their civil service—their colonial civil service. I hope that the work being done there will be appreciated, as the work of the Indian Civil Service has been appreciated. I am glad that it has been appreciated not only by Englishmen but also by Indians and Pakistanis. I had occasion two or three years ago to go to the Civil Service School in Lahore, where I saw Pakistanis being taught by British civil servants so that the work might be carried on as it had been in the past. That I think, is the best form of appreciation that can be given to them. I hope that when other territories become self-governing they will show the same appreciation by carrying on the best traditions of the Colonial Service in the way that the people of India are carrying on the best traditions of the Indian Civil Service.

4.19 p.m.

Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)

I want briefly to add my congratulations to those which have been extended to the Parliamentary Secretary and to right hon. Gentlemen opposite for the part which they have taken in bringing this Bill before the House. I am quite sure that it is a most useful contribution to the feeling of security of the pensioners concerned. I am sure that Her Majesty's Government and the Governments of India and Pakistan all want to see added security for those people.

I should like, however, to make a few points concerning the Bill. I understand that the proposals are purely a paper transaction. For myself, I should rather like to see a fund set up whereby it would not be impossible to foresee some added material advantage to the pensioners. I know that my hon. Friend will not be able to reply to the point tonight, but I hope that it will receive the careful attention of the Treasury. Even if that is not possible, I should like to see an estimate made now of the amounts expected to be paid out year by year, and, in so far as those amounts actually paid out fall short of such an estimate, the pensioners themselves be given the advantage of the balance in hand.

We in this House have to face the admittedly very difficult circumstances of 1947. One of the legacies left was a considerable feeling of bitter disappointment among those people that their claim, which was based upon a magnificent and a quite unchallenged record of service, had been overlooked. I instance particularly the case of the Indian Government service—I am not referring for the moment to the Indian Civil Service itself, but to those allied services, forestry, railways, agriculture, education, and the rest.

The pension was fixed as long ago as 1855 at the rate of £500 a year. It is really true to say that that rate, which was for twenty-five years' service, has not been materially altered or increased in a hundred years. That fact alone gives rise to a feeling of very considerable dissatisfaction among the 23,000 or so who are affected. They feel that they are paying the penalty for their loyalty and restraint in that, before the outbreak of war, they did not, for fear of embarrassing the Government, press what they nevertheless felt to be a most reasonable demand.

We must bear in mind that they are a small and dwindling body of people who will never be added to. They are men who undertook to serve their country and India in an alien climate, facing many severe and personal problems as a result. They were necessarily exposed to the rigours of a climate much less kind than our own. They suffered a good deal from enforced separation from their families. The burden of educating children was often a very much heavier one than for those who were at home. Finally, there was the fact that, when they came to retire, they were faced with the very considerable expense of setting up home in this country for the first time.

I think that these and other considerations should lead all of us, and particularly Her Majesty's Government, to a fresh and most considerate re-examination of the problem of these people. Paying tribute, as we do, to their amazing record, which is so willingly acknowledged by all those most competent to speak in India and Pakistan, I think that this is an astonishing record of service by a comparatively small body of men to this subcontinent, a record of immense achievement both in development and in administration, absolutely untarnished by any corruption, and which had as its main characteristic the absence of selfishness and a desire to serve.

It is with these few words that I very strongly urge upon Her Majesty's Government the real need to look again at the case of this small number of people whose record in service has won immense laurels throughout the world for the name and reputation of their country.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

With the permission of the House, I will answer very briefly the one or two points which have been made. I thank right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who have welcomed the Bill, including the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), who spoke for the Opposition, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens), who raised this point about the future responsibility for these pensions.

As I said in the course of my earlier remarks, the award of all those benefits which have already been granted, and the future payment of the pensions, will, of course, become the full statutory responsibility of the United Kingdom Government, and, therefore, will not remain in any way the obligation of the Government of India. On the other hand, the saving of £88 million will be offset against it.

Another point was raised by the right hon. Member for Smethwick. He implied that it might now be easier to pay increases. I would not like to give to the House a feeling that there was any suggestion in the Bill which would commit any future Government to give increases in pensions. We cannot, of course, commit successive Governments, either from the other side of the House or this. This is, as it were, a piece of machinery to improve the existing arrangements, the responsibility for which will be handed over on 1st April from the Government of India to Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Gordon Walker

I was only referring to increases paid to similar sorts of pensioners in this country—the extension of such increases to these people. I did not mean special increases which would be their own exclusive privilege. I take it that that is what the hon. Gentleman also means.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

I think so, but we should like to look at that when it is raised, probably in Committee.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South raised the question of who are covered by the Bill. The only persons excluded are the pensioners of the former princely States who may be some of the individuals of whom he is thinking. Also, of course, the employees of municipalities, and so on. The Bill covers pensioners of Central and Provincial Governments, including State railway employees.

I have here a list of the people: there are about five pages covering the various categories of pensioners included. It makes fascinating reading, although some categories, I understand, have only one pensioner remaining. These of course, have been included, and the Bill itself sets out those included. If there are any cases which my right hon. and learned Friend has in mind, I hope that he will raise them with me.

I also welcome what the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dug-dale) said about this great service, and I am sure that his remarks, as well as those of other hon. Gentlemen, will be welcomed by those in India and by these pensioners.

My hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) has taken a particular interest in these pension cases and these pensioners, as have a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House. We sympathise with the remarks he made about their retired years. I tried to pay a tribute to what they have done, and I hope that they will find a little consolation in the fact and the knowledge that their work, and how it has been carried on, have been so well appreciated.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith.]

Committee upon Monday next.