HC Deb 11 July 1956 vol 556 cc535-40

10.10 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 10, to leave out from "State" to "if" in line 12.

Those of us who are trying to improve the Bill have no wish to inflict injustice upon colonial Governors. But, while we recognise that the colonial Governors have performed their duties and deserve pensions from the Government, we think that this is not an opportune moment to select them for special attention to use a term already used this evening, for "feather-bedding". The last persons who would desire to be "feather-bedded" are the colonial Governors, and we do not see any need to give the very generous concessions contained in this Bill, and especially in Clause 1.

This is a time when everyone is seeking better pension conditions. I do not wish to elaborate upon the number of people who are doing that. I should not for a moment venture on such forbidden territory, but I do not think that a case has been made out for giving priority to colonial Governors such as is given in this Bill. By this Amendment we seek to delete the words: … notwithstanding that he has not completed three years' service as a Governor (the period required by section one of the Pensions (Governors of Dominions, etc.) Act, 1936 We think it reasonable that some explanation should be given about why it is necessary to insert these special conditions for this privileged class of people.

We do not think, for example, that it is necessary to have special pension terms to attract colonial Governors. There is no difficulty about attracting them, and the conditions, pay, general prestige and honour should be taken into consideration. We should like a further explanation of why such exceptionally generous treatment is meted out to a very small class of civil servants, especially when we read in the Clause … if the other conditions for the grant of such a pension are satisfied, and, in particular, the period of his service as a Governor and the period of his service in the permanent Civil Service of the State together amount to not less than ten years. I am in favour of the most generous and considerate terms for all kinds of civil servants, but I think that we should have a fuller explanation of why our commonsense, reasonable and moderate Amendment should not be accepted.

The Minister of State for Colonial Affairs (Mr. John Hare)

I accept that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) wishes to improve the Bill, and I am concerned that that object would be defeated were this Amendment accepted. It would defeat the whole purpose of the Bill, which is, by allowing the period of service of the Governor to be considered in conjunction with his normal service as a member of the Oversea Civil Service, to give him the same treatment as if he were serving in the Home or Oversea Civil Service.

10.15 p.m.

The effect of this Amendment would be to restore the rule that a Governor who immediately before his appointment was in the Home Civil Service must serve at least three years as a Governor to qualify for a Governor's pension. The Committee knows that the majority of Governors are appointed from the Home or Oversea Civil Service. It is definitely the view of the Government that it is reasonable to take account of their careers as a whole in determining their eligibility for pension. The Clause preserves the ten-year rule, which is applicable in the Home and Oversea Civil Service. I do not want in any way to offend the hon. Gentleman, but I can assure him that the Amendment would defeat the very purpose for which the Bill is designed.

Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

I did my best to follow the Minister's explanation. I appreciate that it is desirable that pensions should be given for the whole period of service, but I find it difficult to understand that the Government contemplate appointing reputable and desirable people to the important post of Governor, knowing that the person is not likely to occupy that position for as long as three years. Because that person may have had eight years or nine years in the permanent Civil Service in another capacity he qualifies for pension as ex-Governor even though he has occupied that position for only six months. It is not unreasonable to suggest that he should have served for some mimimum period as Governor before he retired.

The effect of the Clause is that a man who has served in the Home Civil Service for nine years and ten months can be appointed as Governor for two months and then be entitled to pension. It is rather strange that no minimum period of any kind is contemplated.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) that the Clause seems to go rather far, particularly when we consider Clause 9. It would be out of order to refer to the Clause at any length, but it says Section eight of the principal Act (which enables the Secretary of State to declare a person's claim to a pension under that Act forfeited for his failure to accept or perform the duties of a Governor) shall cease to have effect. So far as I can understand it, it means that if a man, after a period of a month, ceases to perform his duties as Governor, he can draw his pension. That seems to go a considerable distance, and I should have thought that it would be undesirable. Can we not have a better explanation?

Amendment negatived.

Miss Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 16, at the end, to insert: (2) A pension may, subject to the provisions of the principal Act, be granted under that Act to a person who has completed not less than three years' service as a Governor notwithstanding that before his appointment as a Governor he was not employed in service in the permanent Civil Service of the State. The Amendment covers the political Governors, Governors appointed for one or more particular jobs. Many of the people both in the home or overseas service may be desirable as Governors. Now that countries are becoming independent, most of the posts of a junior calibre and those up to that of Governor will be taken by the people of the territory but it may be found necessary for the newly independent countries to have an "outside" Governor. Particularly in countries where there are mixed races it may be desirable for a considerable period to have a Governor-General or Governor from this country, in the same way as there have been Governors-General from this country in Australia and New Zealand. The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) may remember that during his term of office such appointments were made in Cyprus and Malta.

"Political Governors" do extremely good service. After a busy and active life in this country they are called upon to take over difficult jobs, expensive jobs where there is a great deal of entertaining to be done, and they should get some form of pension should they need to retire after three years. I have stated the period as three years, but I should be willing to accept a longer period than that if my right hon. Friend considered it necessary. These Governors might serve in one territory for three years or more and then be transferred to another territory. We have a Governor in the Central African Federation in that position. As I understand the Clause, if such a Governor had not been a civil servant he would not be entitled to receive any type of pension for that service.

If a man, or a woman—I hope that in the not too distant future we may have women Governors—has given excellent service to a territory I am sure we should like to reward such a person in some way. When a Governor retires it may be extremely difficult to find a job for him in this country, and he may have little or nothing to live on. As the Clause stands, only people with private means would be able to take a political appointment as a Governor. I think that such positions should be open to the persons best qualified to do the job. For that reason I ask my right hon. Friend to consider this Amendment.

Mr. R. E. Winterbottom (Sheffield, Brightside)

I agree with most of the speech of the hon. Member for Devonport (Miss Vickers). Apart from the fact that she was talking about Governors overseas, every argument she has used might very well be used tomorrow in relation to Members of Parliament in the same way as she used those arguments tonight.

Mr. Hare

I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Miss Vickers) on the very sympathetic way in which she put her case. I feel all the more sorry that I am not able to accept her very convincing and sincere suggestion. As she said, the pur- pose of the Amendment is to provide pensions to Governors who have not been civil servants and who have served for not less than three years. I should make it clear that the requirement of ten years' qualifying service for a pension is universal in the public superannuation schemes of the United Kingdom and also of the overseas territories. It is difficult to think of any ground which would really justify a modification of that rule.

Hon. Members will be aware that pensions are normally awarded in the public service to officials who have completed a period of service which usually, although not always, is their whole career. There are flexible arrangements for aggregating service under different official employers in order to give a fair pension on final retirement, but it would be a new departure to introduce an arrangement which would give a man a pension after such a short period as suggested in this Amendment. My hon. Friend pointed out that those who might benefit would possibly include politicians who would be sent to take up positions for a short period because of their peculiar qualifications.

Mr. F. Blackburn (Stalybridge and Hyde)


Mr. Hare

Hon. Members can attach whatever meaning they wish to that word. I do not think that the Government could really insist on a career pension for officials while permitting a politician to receive a pension after as brief a period as three years' service. That would be unreasonable.

Miss Vickers

I did not speak of a politician; I spoke of political appointments. That is rather different.

Mr. Hare

A political appointment might perhaps be the appointment of a politician. Other persons who might come within this category would not be in either the Home or the Oversea Civil Service. There are the obvious examples of distinguished ex-Service people who are appointed Governors. Most of them are already provided for under the pension codes of the Services in which they have spent most of their life. Most of them are drawing pensions in respect of that service.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is it possible for anybody to draw two pensions as a result of this?

Mr. Hare

No. It has been an invariable rule, both in the Home and in the Oversea Civil Service, that officers of the Armed Forces who come into employment under United Kingdom superannuation Acts, or under the pension laws of overseas territories, must, if they have drawn their Service pension, start afresh before they qualify for a Civil Service pension.

Those are briefly the reasons why I am afraid that I cannot accept the Amendment. I can only hope that perhaps my hon. Friend will withdraw it.

Miss Vickers

In view of what my hon. Friend has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdraw.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.