HC Deb 28 July 1960 vol 627 cc1869-72
The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Iain Macleod)

I have had under consideration the position of Her Majesty's Overseas Civil Service. In Colonial No. 306, issued in 1954, Her Majesty's Government undertook that when a territory became self-governing pensions and conditions of service would be safeguarded, and compensation would be paid to officers suffering premature retirement.

These undertakings have been fully observed and have gone far to protect the existing interests of serving officers. But they do not take effect until self-government, and they afford inadequate inducement to officers to continue to serve.

It is a direct responsibility of Her Majesty's Government to maintain stable administration throughout the years of change preceding self-government while pressing forward with the recruitment and training of officers from the local population. We must also do what we can, fully consistent, of course, with the independence of the new States, to encourage the desire of officers to continue to serve overseas.

Subject to Parliamentary approval of the expenditure involved, Her Majesty's Government have decided to offer to take over where necessary in Colonial Territories—and, in fact, it is necessary in almost all of them—the inducement pay and allowances of overseas staff broadly on the lines of arrangements followed in most technical assistance schemes.

I should make it clear that, although financial agreements have been reached with Nigeria and Sierra Leone in the light of their coming independence, I should also propose to offer them agreements on these lines. Her Majesty's Government also intend these arrangements to apply to the High Commission Territories.

The effect of these proposals will be that, while the local Government would continue to bear the local rates of salary and other conditions of service, Her Majesty's Government would bear the cost of the supplementary pay and allowances which prove to be necessary for overseas officers.

The details of such a scheme, which will be radical and costly, can only be finalised after consultation with Colonial Governments. This consultation will be pursued during the Recess and I hope, when Parliament reassembles, to present a White Paper containing full details of the scheme and of the expenditure involved.

These new arrangements—which will not cease with independence—are evidence that Her Majesty's Government continue to attach primary importance to the maintenance of an efficient Overseas Civil Service and to the necessity of ensuring stable government in the Colonial Territories during these difficult years.

Mr. Marquand

May I say that we on this side of the House welcome heartily the right hon. Gentleman's prompt response to the many representations that have been made on this matter. We consider the proposals that he has put forward to be entirely right. They will be one of the most valuable contributions to emergent countries and under-developed countries that this country has ever made. I particularly welcome the right hon. Gentleman's reference to the High Commission Territories.

Mr. Tilney

Is my right hon. Friend aware that what he has said is the most exciting, sensible and forward-looking policy statement that has come from a Secretary of State for the Colonies for many a year and will be welcomed on both sides, particularly in the Overseas Civil Service? I believe that many of those circles who believe in the future of the Commonwealth, not least in Nigeria and Sierra Leone owing to their comparative poverty, will regard this as the best form of aid.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether what he intends to do will apply to those on contract as well as those who are permanent members of the Overseas Civil Service?

Mr. Macleod

Yes, it will. There are about 15,000 members of Her Majesty's Overseas Civil Service in the ordinary way and about 10,000 on contract, and it will apply to them all.

Mr. Wade

I welcome this Statement, but would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the compensation, even though adequate, does not necessarily ensure continuity of service, which is of the utmost importance? There are two points which I should like to raise. First, the Minister referred to Nigeria. Would he agree that some of the overseas civil servants in Nigeria have not been entirely satisfied with the arrangement made? Secondly, in introducing this scheme, will there be any new inducements to encourage persons from the Commonwealth countries, other than this country, to join the Overseas Civil Service.

Mr. Macleod

I have never thought that a Commonwealth service in the sense that it is commonly understood is really a practical proposition, because the Secretary of State cannot be the employer of people in independent territories. The whole object of the scheme is, of course, to enable people to continue to serve. I think that it will switch the whole emphasis.

So far, because the British civil servants are an inevitable expense, the urge has been for them to go, so that the money can be used for development, or other purposes. Now, as we have taken over the difference between their salaries and allowances and the local rates, I hope very much that the experience, knowledge and "know-how" of the British people will be available to those territories over the years. That seems to me to be of the first importance.

Sir H. Oakshott

Can my right hon. Friend say how long he visualises that these arrangements should last, and also say what will be the cost? I am sure that he is aware of the anxiety and uncertainty which has been felt in the Service, for example, in places like Kenya. In joining my hon. Friends in congratulating him most heartily on the very wise and timely steps that he has taken, I ask him to accept this view which, I believe, will be very widely held. By taking this stop now he may well have averted chaos and a vacuum in administration which would have been disastrous to all the people in such countries as Kenya.

Mr. Macleod

I am very grateful for the welcome which the whole House has given to this scheme. It is my intention to offer agreements for ten years to all the countries and that the agreements will not be affected by any change in the political status of the countries. It is difficult to be precise about cost, but it will probably run to between £10 million and £20 million a year, and over ten years that is a formidable sum.

Mr. Slater

Can the right hon. Gentleman say, after giving serious consideration to the standing of the Overseas Civil Service, what accommodation is to be granted or afforded to those people responsible for the build-up of local authority administration, particularly in a country like Kenya? There is at present great anxiety, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, among local authority people who have done a remarkably good job in Kenya alongside the Overseas Civil Service.

Mr. Macleod

I recognise that, but the scheme cannot go beyond the bounds of Overseas Civil Service. It is already both a radical and costly scheme. As I said in answer to a recent Question, the question of the local officers can be considered only in the light of a general constitutional settlement.

Mr. B. Harrison

I welcome this as a first-rate scheme. I understand that the High Commission Territories are included. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that territories like the Aden Protectorate are included?

Mr. Macleod

Yes, they are. All those that come under my administration at present, and the three High Commission Territories.

Mr. Iremonger

As these officers will be serving in territories which may in time be independent, and as they will be to some extent supported by United Kingdom taxpayers' funds, can my right hon. Friend say to what extent the Government will be answerable for them in this House, and which Minister will be answerable?

Mr. Macleod

In the ordinary way, whoever is the appropriate Minister will be answerable for his Vote to the House.

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