HC Deb 29 March 1955 vol 539 cc263-5

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

6.42 p.m.

Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)

May I ask a couple of questions? In line 40 we have the word " may." I take it that this is one of the terms of art which in fact means " shall." I never understand why we have to say " may " on a number of occasions when we mean " shall," and I should like an assurance that this means that in fact it will be done.

More important than that, in each of the paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) occur the rather formidable words: with such adaptations and modifications as may be specified in the rules … In other words, as the Bill stands the Treasury has complete licence to alter or modify the rights of pensioners under these paragraphs in any way it wishes. I do not doubt that this is designed only to enable the Treasury to make minor changes which are necessary, but it seems to me that these are far reaching words, and I do not know whether the Government could find more limited words to give the Treasury power to do something which I am sure is intended shall be quite minor and limited. These are far-reaching powers, greater indeed than those which we have ourselves taken in the Bill.

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

The right hon. Gentleman has far longer experience of legislation than I have, and I think he will find that the Acts which he supported involved the use of the word " may."

Mr. Gordon Walker

Very reluctantly.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

It was used rather than the term " shall," which he would like to see in the Bill. I think that in any Bill of this type he will find that the word " may " is always used. The only consolation must be that those who put this word in the drafts will themselves enjoy the pensions and other rewards inasmuch as they are writing legislation which applies to themselves. In the same way I think that in the Civil Service leave is said to be a privilege and not a right, but few of this resolute body of men and women would carry on if they did not get their leave. Whatever the right hon. Member may feel about this, I think we can rest assured that these individuals will enjoy the benefit which we wish to give them under the Bill.

The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the use of the words with such adaptations and modifications as may be specified in the rules… When the Acts which are set forth in the Second Schedule were applied, they were Acts of universal application for this country. If under the Bill we applied them to all the individuals specified in other parts of the Acts, all would become entitled to all of the benefits, but it is specified earlier in the Bill that in fact the application is restricted to a group of individuals who are living in the United Kingdom or whose pensions are expressed in sterling. I refer the right hon. Gentleman to the Second Schedule, Part I (1).

This may be clearer if we refer to a similar Act, the Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1948, which the last Administration saw fit to apply to certain categories of Indian and Pakistan pensioners. Section 5 of that Act set out: This section shall apply to any pension payable in respect of service to His Majesty out of the revenues of India or Pakistan to any person resident in the United Kingdom, or, where the pension is expressed in sterling, in any other place… In other words, the Government of the day saw fit to apply these provisions only to those who were resident in the United Kingdom or where the pension was expressed in sterling and not universally to all those who enjoyed a pension payable in respect of service to His Majesty out of the revenues of India or Pakistan. Similarly, in this case, it has been seen fit to insert these words so that these Acts of Parliament, which will be applied to these individuals, will be applied to those who are set forth in other parts of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 4 and 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

First Schedule agreed to.