HC Deb 02 February 1961 vol 633 cc1276-305

7.39 p.m.

Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 16, at the end to insert: but only in respect of those governments who have brought the pensions of their expatriate pensioners up to the level of the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1959". I spoke at length on Second Reading and do not wish, therefore, to detain the Committee very long. I could have wished that the Money Resolution had allowed me to put down another Amendment, because I do not understand the argument that under-developed countries should be responsible for the results of whatever may be the inflation in the United Kingdom.

It seems to me that we are responsible for the management of our currency, and if the value of that goes down it is up to us to see that the pensions of those who have served Her Majesty overseas are put up accordingly. In fact, it is the overseas territories' responsibility to pay, say, a preference dividend as part of the group, and we are responsible for looking 1after the equity. As far as I can see, all the Commonwealth countries and Colonial Governments have so far done what they should have done. They have no control over the management of finance in the United Kingdom, and I do not see why they should pay anything extra.

However, I have to be content with the Amendment which restricts the powers that my right hon. Friend wants to take. I regret this, because I think that he is quite the most dynamic Secretary of State that we have had for a long time. He has seen how important the Overseas Civil Service is to the Commonwealth, and he has taken action to restore the morale of that Service. I would like to take this opportunity of thanking him for the table he sent me yesterday which shows how many territories failed to increase their pensions to those of the United Kingdom Act of 1959. If territories that were the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations were added, the picture would look much worse.

I would like to quote one or two cases in case the Committee is still unaware of the bad position of some of the pensioners. I have here the case of a fitter in the Public Works Department in the then Gold Coast. He was born in 1881 and retired in 1932. His pension is £158 17s. 6d. to which, if he were married, he would have had £80 added and, if unmarried, only £60.

I have details of another case of an accountant from the Public Works Department in Nigeria. He was born in 1887 and retired in November, 1931, with a pension of £144, to which £75 has been added. Another case is that of a senior foreman platelayer on the railways in Nigeria. He was born in 1877 and retired in 1931. He has a pension of £178 16s. 8d. to which has been added £80.

I understand that the Nigerian Government have announced substantial increases. I have been unable to discover what those increases are, but perhaps my hon. Friend will be able to give us some idea of the scope of those increases. As the Nigerian Government are progressive and liberal, it would not surprise me if those increases are substantial.

The last case of which I have details is that of a resident, a very senior civil servant. He was born in 1898 and retired at the age of 50. He has a pension of £535 with a supplement of £180. I mention that because my view is that those who retired before salaries were uplifted after the war should receive priority of treatment over those who had the benefit of bigger salaries. A resident of recent years would have had a salary of £3,000 and a pension of £2,000, or £1,500 if some of it had been commuted. How different from the resident who retired very much earlier and who had to suffer from conditions far more onerous than those of today.

I have two letters about which I would like to tell the Committee. They deal with the position of widows. The first concerns the widow of a man who worked in the Public Works Department in Uganda, and died more than thirty years ago. The widow is now 86 and has applied to the National Assistance Board for help as she has no adequate means of support. Her pension is far too minute.

7.45 p.m.

The second letter is dated 28th November, 1960. In this case the deceased was a member of the Overseas Service Pensioners' Association and a contributor to the Malayan Widows and Orphans Fund until 2nd February, 1939, when, after thirty-five years of payment, he was told by the Crown Agents that he need not pay any more. His widow now has a pension of £56 14s. 6d. which has been lifted to £79 8s. 4d. All that he left was a small house, £127 in National Savings, and £112 in a joint account in Lloyds Bank. My hon. Friend may say that it was up to the civil servant to look after his widow, but this was a contributory fund. If it had been run by private industry, I am sure that steps would have been taken to ensure that the fund was put into a proper state.

Can my hon. Friend say how many pensioners there are? I asked him this question during the Second Reading debate, but he did not tell me how many pensioners there were or how much it would cost to bring pensions by the overseas Governments up to the standard in the United Kingdom Act.

During the Second Reading debate, I asked my hon. Friend: What happens when an independent territory, possibly Ghana or one of the other territories, just does not do this? Are we to abandon our ex-servants?

My hon. Friend replied No. We obviously would not abandon them, but that case has not arisen.

I suggested that it had. He went on to say: I said we would not abandon them, but the principle still remains that the responsibility for their pensions must be up to the overseas Government. If the overseas Government fail in discharge of their responsibility a new situation arises, which we should have to consider."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th January, 1961, Vol. 633, c. 102.]

I then asked how long they would be allowed to fail.

May I remind my hon. Friend that the last increase by the Government of Singapore was on 1st January, 1955, and that the last increase given by the Government of Ghana was as long ago as 1st April, 1952. I wonder how many pensioners who have served Her Majesty so well in the past have since died without any increase in their pensions.

I cannot believe that the bill would amount to very much. I believe that it would be negligible compared with the £3 million that we are apparently prepared to spend in the Cameroons. even though they leave the Commonwealth.

Having said all that, I wish to pay my tribute once again to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies because, by bringing in the Bill, he has gone at least seven-eighths of the way towards helping the Overseas Civil Service. I only hope that its members will not take too much notice of the way in which Her Majesty's Government have treated their predecessors so far.

Mr. Michael Clark Hutchison (Edinburgh, South)

I should make it clear at the outset that I was a colonial civil servant, but I do not draw a colonial pension, so I have no financial interest in the points that I shall make. My hon. Friend will know that pensions drawn by Colonial Service officers vary greatly, although the officers may have served for the same number of years. That is because Colonies are usually responsible for paying pensions and they vary greatly in their wealth, living conditions and standards of life.

A pension is normally calculated on the pensionable emoluments to which an officer receives during the last three years of his career. An officer who served in Malaya or Hong Kong therefore did rather well, because salaries in those territories were high. On the other hand, an officer who served in the West Indies, East Africa, or Aden, did not do so well. In those territories costs were lower; they were not wealthy countries, and they could not pay such high salaries. If officers ended their careers in those areas they received lower pensions.

That always seemed to me to be an unsatisfactory arrangement, and it has been recognised as such. If my hon. Friend will look up some of the old Colonial Office papers from before the war he will find that there was then an idea that a fund should be established to which all Colonial Territories should contribute and which could be used to even out pensions. Right hon. Members opposite may know something about that. The question is whether, under the new arrangements provided by the Bill, my right hon. Friend will be prepared to use the moneys to be voted to even out pensions in future. I hope that he will give very close attention to this matter.

I very much welcome the steps that are being taken to improve conditions for officers overseas, but we shall not get very far until we have a proper Commonwealth Service, to which all the Dominions are asked to contribute and in which people in all the Colonies and our great Dominions can serve.

Mrs. Evelyn Emmet (East Grinstead)

I want to say a few words on the subject of widows and orphans, in support of the Amendment. Provision is made by the father or husband for his wife and children with the definite intention that they should not become dependants, or a charge upon the State, should he, unfortunately, leave them bereft. Pensions schemes are managed by Crown Agents on behalf of the Colonial Governments, and the names are registered with those Crown Agents.

I am told that, unfortunately, the only accurate figures which can be obtained are those for East Africa. In the summer of 1959 there were about 20,000 contributions; about £8,197,000 had been contributed and about £2,399,000 paid out. These calculations are as near accurate as may be. They give a general idea of the position The Overseas Service Pensioners' Association has reckoned that total contributions for all Colonies in this respect might amount to £20 million.

In most Colonies, in return for the guarantee of a pension—and this is always done with the consent of the Secretary of State, so it has official recognition—the pension money is paid into general revenue, and often helps to balance the budget of the country concerned. Only in one overseas Government—Northern Rhodesia—have these pensions been funded. It seems a pity that that practice is not more universal.

Some territories have been very good and have increased their pensions, and also raised the pensions of widows and orphans, but some of the newly independent countries have not fulfilled their obligations. Ghana, Sierra Leone, Malaya and Singapore have left their widows—especially the older ones—in a desperate state. I am told that in Singapore and Malaya no increase is paid to a widow without dependants if she has £350 a year, and that if she has dependants nothing is paid to her if she has £450 a year. Ghana is slightly better, but not much.

I want to underline the point made by my hon. Friend that delay in payments in cases like this, where people live on the borderline of poverty, is a tremendous hardship. We are told that in the case of default the Government can step in, but to these people a long delay is almost as bad as default, and if the default took as long to remedy as the Egyptian compensation scale a widow would be dead and her children starving before anything was done.

I therefore stress that this class of pensioner—the aged widow and the widow with children—needs our sympathetic support and help in every respect. The Association has stressed various points, of which I want to underline three. It has asked whether Her Majesty's Government will effectively secure adequate increases, especially in the territories named, that is, Malaya, Singapore and Ghana. It has also asked the Government to remove the means test and other restrictions, in the case of widows' pensions. Secondly, it has asked whether safeguards have been inserted in the documents granting independence, in all cases, and whether they will be so inserted in the future. It also wants to know the terms of those safeguards. Thirdly, it asks what means are contemplated to ensure observance.

These new countries will probably continue to come to us for a great deal of financial help, which we are only too willing to give them in such measure as we can afford. In those circumstances we must not overlook our own people, especially the class that I have mentioned, which cannot be very vocal and certainly is in the greatest need. If we give these territories help we are entitled to expect that they will give this class of pensioner special attention

8.0 p.m.

Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)

. We on this side of the Committee are concerned about this matter. We cannot support the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Waver-tree (Mr. Tilney), because he referred to the expediency of this Amendment being necessary in order to discuss the matter during the Committee stage. He realises as well as any of us that to impose this condition on agreements reached under Clause 1 would be very undesirable indeed.

The whole Committee is concerned at the way in which this country treats its public service pensioners, and in this House from time to time we consider pensions increase Bills to give to home civil servant pensioners some additional share in the prosperity of the country, or to raise the purchasing power of their pensions; to give them a square deal in relation to the rest of the community and to fulfil, if only partially, the expectation they have had throughout their period of service that when they retired they would have a share of a reasonable standard of life.

Now we are considering the position of colonial civil servants who are not covered by pensions increase legislation passed for the home Civil Service, and for whom we look to the territorial Governments for a remedy for their position. I had some sympathy with the Under-Secretary during the Second Reading of the debate when there were those exchanges, which are reported in column 102 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of 24th January, about what Her Majesty's Government would do if faced with a default by the territorial Government on the payment of pensions to colonial civil servants.

Naturally, the Under-Secretary recoiled from coming out boldly to say the Government were stepping in to make up the default. That would be too much of a temptation to Governments who may perhaps feel that these responsibilities bore hardly on them in their difficulties as they move to the full manhood of self-Government. But Her Majesty' Government have a responsibility which I think none of us wishes the Government to avoid in any way. I think the Under-Secretary went as far as he could on the general question in saying that Her Majesty's Government would not abandon these pensioners, and, if there was a default, a new situation would arise; and I have no doubt the Government would consider what should be done in the light of the circumstances which had arisen.

As I understand it, we are not dealing with that in this Amendment. Nor, for the moment, is there any question behind this Amendment of asking the Government at this stage to assume full responsibility for paying the whole of the pensions of colonial civil servants. The hon. Member is asking the Government to take some responsibility for seeing that the pensions increase element is added to the basic pensions and if it is not added by the territorial Government concerned steps should be taken to see that it is. His Amendment would withhold from territorial Governments the whole of the benefits under the White Paper, unless they first accepted the condition that they must raise the pensions of their civil servants to the equivalent level of pensions increases for the home civil servants.

I think that Her Majesty's Government ought to assume this responsibility, which would be the cleanest and the fairest way to do it. I know it is asking the Government to assume a greater financial responsibility, but we should consider the sort of complaint which could be made by a territorial Government at being asked to add to a pen- sion already determined. There might be such comments as, "Why should we subsidise inflation in Great Britain?" or, "Why should we make an additional contribution to the pensions paid to our civil servants because your civil servants may have been given a share in your greater prosperity—a prosperity in which we do not yet share?"

One can see the point of view behind such comments. But, since Her Majesty's Government, under the terms of the White Paper, are willing to assume a pretty heavy additional financial burden in order to facilitate the emerging territories to come to independence under the most favourable conditions, it would seem an occasion for the Government to make a clean job of this grievance about pension increases to colonial civil servants who must necessarily come back to this country to live. It is not suggested that they should retain their residence in the Colonial Territory to enjoy their pension. Most of them belong to this country, and this is where they wish to retire and where they are entitled to live under reasonable conditions.

We have the strongest sympathy with the underlying purpose of the Amendment and associate ourselves with the general sentiments expressed by hon. Members opposite. So it is now up to the Under-Secretary to meet the united wishes of the Committee.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Hugh Fraser)

First, I should like to say how welcome it is to see a proper regard for our ex-colonial civil servants voiced from all parts of the Committee. If taken literally, this Amendment, which I will deal with later, would be most dangerous.

I think it appropriate that I should say something about what has been done and what we propose by this Bill, and what should be our attitude to this extremely difficult question. The problem was put both by the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) about where final responsibility in these matters should lie. Specific points regarding individual pensions were raised by my hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Mrs. Emmet). As she knows, my right hon.

Friend is in touch with the Overseas Service Pensioners' Association, and some of the points she raised have already been taken up by him in an interview last week.

I should like to make the general position more clear. As was said by my right hon. Friend last Tuesday, as a result of his efforts action has already been taken in twelve of the eighteen territories which have not yet accepted the 1959 Act. My hon. Friend asked about Nigeria. There the increase is 15 per cent. as from October, 1959; I have not the full details. The details vary as we are dealing with forty territories, and between Territories, as my hon. Friend said, there are variations. I think that there must continue to be variations.

I should like to spell out in detail what this means. Of all the territories for which my Office is responsible, in nine of them the rates of pensions increases are in all respects better than those paid to pensioners of the United Kingdom Government. In seven others the rates are better except in respect of smaller pensions. In four territories, further increases are under consideration, and in another increases in respect of smaller pensions are, by a recent change, better than those payable here. In three more territories a salary revision is in progress, and in yet another my right hon. Friend is in close touch with the Governor about a possible increase. There remain six territories, five of which are only small employers of overseas officers, where increased rates are generally worse than those accorded here.

My hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead said that certain of these territories are backward, as is well known, but the general position is by no means unsatisfactory and, for the great majority of pensioners—and I stress the great majority—in sixteen territories, which include many of the larger ones, pension increases are better than those accorded under the United Kingdom Government. This must be borne in mind when individual cases are raised.

Mr. Tilney

Does my hon. Friend mean the majority of the population or the majority in the number of territories? There is no doubt from the Answer he sent to me yesterday: that in the majority of cases the increase is less than in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Fraser

There may be a difference, but what I have said is. I think, correct. This is a real problem and, as hon, Members have pointed out, it does not apply merely to the scale for 1959 but to the future as a whole.

This is peripheral to the main point of the Bill, but in this matter I believe the Bill makes a real contribution. As hon. Members will have noticed, in this Bill the United Kingdom Government will pay that part of pensions in future which derive from the inducement allowance. If hon. Members have studied various reports, they will have seen that the inducement allowance is a very considerable factor in salary and, therefore, in pension. This is a large step forward. Any attempt to wreck the Bill by this sort of Amendment would be the greatest possible disadvantage to those in the Service and those who have left it.

I am indeed glad that my hon. Friends do not propose to push this matter to a Division. I am sure that to do so would hamper us in our work for overseas officers as a whole. We are just about to engage in the most elaborate series of negotiations, which are bound to be of a most delicate nature, with a large number of territorial Governments. In emerging territories there is naturally a fear of any strings being attached to technical assistance. It is as technical assistance that we must regard the Bill. We must do nothing which would disturb the harmony which still exists—and I hope will continue to exist—over financial matters between the great bulk of territorial Governments and ourselves. The figures I have given show that except in five cases the actual position is better, or about to become better than it has been. There remain six. Six out of forty is not so bad, and sixteen are being better paid than in this country. It would be the height of folly to use the bludgeon, which this Amendment would be, against a specific problem. It would be very much better handled by the normal process of negotiation.

It is not as though it were a process which halted or occurred only at infrequent intervals. There is a permanent process of negotiation between the office I have the honour to represent and the territories. In this way we can achieve the desired result. My right hon. Friend has expressed himself at this Box and to the pensioners as most desirous that their position should be improved. He is going to report to them in the next few months, and, of course, we shall keep the House informed. The way to proceed in this matter is to negotiate and by producing a great and good Bill like this without strings attached to it. Everyone who is a retired pensioner can feel assured of the warmth of interest shown in his case by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee and that this Government will never let them down.

Mr. Tilney

If the Under-Secretary will make use of the arguments provided in this short statement to make the remaining six see their obligation, and provided my right hon. Friend goes on with the negotiations—as I know he will, and we wish him luck—I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 17, to leave out subsections (2) and (3).

This Amendment is moved in no captious spirit. I think it unlikely that at the end of the debate we shall take it to a Division. Perhaps one defeat of the Government in Committee in one day is enough; we do not want to add to it.

The point we are dealing with is very narrow. Subsections (2) and (3) read as follows: No such agreement shall be entered into, and no person shall be designated under such an agreement, except with the consent of the Treasury. The consent of the Treasury to the designation of any person under such an agreement may be given generally in respect of persons of such descriptions, and subject to such limitations (if any), as may be specified in the consent. I move the deletion of those two subsections in order to ask the Under-Secretary to be good enough to explain to the Committee why they are in this Bill.

Parliament in its wisdom is about to pass this Bill, which is an excellent one and one which we all want to see on the Statute Book at the earliest possible moment. These agreements will be made by the Colonial Office and the territories concerned. They will have to get together and form agreements under the Act. No one can tell me that either the Colonial Office or the territory concerned is going to do anything silly or rash. They will make an agreement which is just in every particular and the best possible agreement in the circumstances.

If Parliament gives the Colonial Office this power, as it is about to do, why should the Treasury have power to override Parliament? That is what this provision means. The Treasury can step in and say to the Colonial Office, "It is true that Parliament has given you these powers and we know that you know more about it than we do because you are constantly dealing with these territories. It is true that you have representatives from these territories coming to talk to you and you have discussed this matter over and over again, but, in spite of that, we are going to say no if we feel like doing so." I think that is quite wrong.

I do not know whether when this Bill was under discussion the Colonial Office put up any fight against the Treasury in order to have these subsections deleted. I hope that is so. It takes from the dignity of Parliament that in matters of this kind some official at the Treasury should step in and say, "You are not to make this agreement. If you do, you will make it with such limitations as we insist upon." Parliament is giving the Colonial Office these powers. That should be enough, and the Treasury should keep out of it.

One or two of my hon. Friends raised this subject on Second Reading. We have had experience of the Treasury in another connection. When the new Constitution for India came into existence, a number of very valuable officers there found themselves without a career. They were, very properly, given compensation. To the amazement of many of us, although it was then agreed that the compensation should be repaid only if they received a permanent and pensionable post within two years, to my knowledge at least one individual who has recently been offered a permanent and pensionable post has been asked to refund £5,000 which he was given ten or twelve years ago. That is wrong, but the Treasury is insisting on it. I am in correspondence with the Financial Secretary about it. He has been very courteous throughout. This is the kind of thing which startles me and makes me wonder whether in so many Bills we should give the Treasury the powers it often decides to take and which we allow it to take.

I cannot raise this case now. It was raised on Second Reading. It has nothing to do with the Colonial Office as such. However, it should put us on inquiry and make us think twice before in a Bill of this kind, with this knowledge fresh in our minds, we give the Treasury power to do the same thing to individuals affected by any agreement which may be made.

Without saying any more, I ask hon. Members to consider if they want with their eyes open to give these powers to the Treasury. I should like to think that without a vote the feeling in the Committee now is such that the Under-Secretary will give an undertaking that he will look at this matter so that when the Bill reaches another place these obnoxious subsections will be deleted.

Mr. H. Fraser

The Amendment comes very strangely from the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) and the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand), especially from the right hon. Member for Colne Valley, who was such a distinguished Financial Secretary for so long some years ago. I imagine that it is a peg on which they wish to hang points which I promised on Second Reading that I would answer.

I must address myself to the argument advanced by a former Financial Secretary. First, I must echo the words of my right hon. Friend in paying tribute to the co-operation which the Treasury has shown in preparing this very complex scheme. Far from regarding subsections (2) and (3) as impediments, we regard them as proper safeguards for the taxpayer and a direct acknowledgment of our co-operation with the Treasury. The right hon. Gentleman knows full well that even if these provisions were not in the Bill there would still be complete Treasury control. This is merely to acknowledge an accomplished fact and to acknowledge the co-operation we receive.

I am amazed by the right hon. Gentleman's attitude. This is a great step forward in Treasury control. In the 1929 Act, which covered all C.D. and W. operations until 1940, the Treasury itself was responsible for framing schemes of expenditure within the Colonies. We have at least reversed that situation. This is a perfectly proper part of the Bill and one which we must readily accept.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the former member of the Indian Civil Service who is now with the Colonial Office. I will not say that he is a prisoner there, because we are very happy to employ him. There is a special point here which is being dealt with between the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary.

On Second Reading, hon. Members asked questions about the refund of compensation by persons who took jobs again after they came out. This is an important point and I hope that I am in order in referring to it. Here again, Treasury help has been of great assistance to us in framing our scheme.

Where the fresh employment is not pensionable employment but employment under a limited contract of service no problem arises and there is no question of officers making a refund of compensation. Officers who have retired from a service overseas under compensation schemes administered by Colonial Governments with earned pension and compensation for loss of career have not been required to refund their compensation if they have subsequently obtained other Government employment in a pensionable capacity. I am referring to colonial civil servants and not to Indian civil servants. This is the situation, and I trust that I have made it absolutely clear.

Various other points were raised to which I think it is only proper to refer. It this stage, again hanging them on the peg of Treasury assistance as in subsections (2) and (3). I think that it would be proper if I gave some assurance to hon. Members who raised specific points on Second Reading. There were questions about the East Africa High Commission. The right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East also raised the question of compensation for the Cocoa Research Institute and other bodies.

Mr. H. A. Marquand (Middlesbrough, East)

I do not see how this is relevant to the Amendment. I intend to speak to one of these matters on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill", which will, no doubt, be moved.

The Temporary Chairman (Sir Herbert Butcher)

I, too, have a feeling that this discussion might take place with more propriety on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill".

Mr. Fraser

I am very happy to proceed in that way. I thought that I might not be in order in trying to carry out my promise to the right hon. Gentleman and others to answer their arguments. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will now withdraw his rather weird Amendment.

8.30 p.m.

Mr. Marquand

I quite understand that there may have been some surprise in the mind of the Under-Secretary when he heard my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall), a former Financial Secretary to the Treasury, moving this Amendment, but it was still more surprising to us, having seen my right hon. Friend in the character of Satan rebuking sin, to see the Under-Secretary in the character of the victim defending the oppressor. The oppressor sat on the Front Bench, not far from the hon. Gentleman, but he never sought to defend the Treasury at all. We thought that that task would have been entrusted to the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury.

We were, however, relieved to find, and delighted to hear, that in recent years some progress has been made in these matters, and that the relations are now at least somewhat improved, even if they are not ideal. It appears that the Treasury itself now no longer enters negotiations and makes agreements; the Secretary of State for the Colonies has that responsibility. He makes the best agreement he can, and has then to obtain the consent of the Treasury.

Some hon. Members seem at times to think that the Treasury consists of a lot of officials in Downing Street. That is not the case. It consists of the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and sundry hon. Gentlemen who are Lords Commissioners of the Treasury—who sometimes appear, but never take part in our deliberations. These august personages will have to review the agreements that are made by the Colonial Secretary. As my right hon. Friend has already said, we do not, of course, intend to press this Amendment to a Division, and no doubt in a moment or two he will wish to withdraw it. We certainly hope that in exercising that final and ultimate authority which will lie in the hands of the Treasury, and will, no doubt, be carried out for the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer by some of their nominees, that the new spirit evidenced in the Bill will prevail throughout.

It is quite clear that there has been a change of heart and a change of mind, but we are still not entirely satisfied with the frame of mind of the Treasury. We certainly feel that, even as now administered, the Treasury is not sufficiently favourable to the cause of developing the underdeveloped nations; is still too much inclined to look at all public expenditure as though it was almost certain to be evil, and try to cut it down. We trust that the Financial Secretary, having listened to this instructive little debate, will say to his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, "When these agreements come up, we must be reasonable and generous. The whole House is in favour of them, so do not let us be awkward, and get in their way".

Mr. Glenvil Hall

It seems that the case that caused us to move the Amendment cannot be dealt with by the Under-Secretary, but that it is a matter, not for him but for the Treasury, with which Department we must pursue the matter. That being so, and in the sure and certain hope that the Colonial Office—judging from what the Under-Secretary has said—will see that in future its own staff, and other personnel coming to it, are dealt with properly, and not in the niggardly way in which the Treasury is dealing with some of the Indian officials who served the country well, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

Mr. Marquand

In our Second Reading debate, it was generally agreed that this Question might present the opportunity to go into a little more detail than we thought we had time for at that time. Indeed, the Under-Secretary then said, and has now repeated, that this would be the opportunity for a somewhat longer explanation than he gave of some of the difficulties that we brought to his notice on that occasion.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse), in particular, referred to the obvious fact that, facilitated by the provisions of the Bill, large numbers of Her Majesty's overseas civil servants in many territories will opt to take the compensation to be provided, leave the service of the territories in which they are now employed, and either come back home or take some other form of work in another country. At the same time, as my hon. Friend said, while there will undoubtedly be some substantial number—we hope not too large—of overseas civil servants who will leave their present employment, in many of these territories there is a very grave shortage of local people able to take those vacancies.

That is particularly true in some of the East African territories. When I was last in Kenya—only two years ago, or not much more—I very well remember the Governor himself giving me the numbers of the young Africans whom he had in administrative posts in his own local service. It is no secret that he was alarmed by the smallness of the number available in reasonably responsible posts in that Administration.

Similar circumstances undoubtedly exist in Tanganyika. Perhaps—and I deliberately say "perhaps", because I am not sure—the situation in Tanganyika may be even more difficult than it is in Kenya. My hon. Friend laid emphasis upon this problem and suggested that some measures should be taken to provide for a rapid increase in the numbers of Africans qualified to take over. The hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State, in replying to that part of the debate, gave us some figures about East African territories. He said between 1954 and 1960 in Uganda the number of people in the public service has gone up from 16,000 to 22,000. He said that in Zanzibar the similar increase had been from 4.000 to 4,700.

At first sight, this may be reassuring but I would like to ask at what level these new entrants have come in. There may be substantial increases in clerical posts or very junior executive posts in the Civil Service. That does not necessarily take care of the difficulty which may arise if, when independence is achieved, numbers of persons in higher administrative posts give up, take the compensation and go in for other work.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson), when speaking in the debate on the Estimates Committee's Report on the Colonial Office, made what I thought was a useful suggestion. For a few years after the attainment of independence he suggested some of the senior people now working for Colonial Governments in East Africa and elsewhere should take on the special task of training local inhabitants and natives of these territories to take on the higher responsibilities, even though they probably will still be very young men.

I take it that the Bill is not confined to those remaining in the service of the independent country who take on some other occupation than the one in which they find themselves when independence comes about. All these provisions, I assume—and I feel sure I must be right—of inducements, payments and the like, will apply even though they change their occupation within the employment of that emergent country. Is it practicable? Has thought been given to this idea of my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East, that some of that might be used for a special—if I may use a colloquialism—crash programme on training? I know it may be said the best place to train young people is in the job—as they say in industry, "Training within industry"—and that the way to learn to be an administrator in the Civil Service is to begin at a low level and to go through the various grades and, on the way up, to learn how to take the final and ultimate responsibility.

That is a fairly long process. I want to know whether there is anything in mind in the way of suggesting to the African leaders in these territories in East Africa in particular that, perhaps, special programmes of training, with lectures and courses, designed to hurry up the process of becoming qualified to take senior administrative posts should go on.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will deal more fully than he did last time with the inter-territorial services. I raised this matter myself on Second Reading with special reference to the East Africa High Commission. The hon. Gentleman will admit that he said very little about that in his reply to me. He said: We have to review the whole of East Africa as a totality, and I think the tendency will be for us to decide that the time when the members of the East Africa High Commission will he free to opt for compensation terms will be when the Commission itself is subject to constitutional change. That is to express simply a very complicated series of events."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th Jan., 1961; Vol. 633. c. 102–3.] I really cannot agree with his adjective "simply". I do not think that it was very simple. I did not follow it very well when it was said and, having read it again, I still feel that it could be expanded with advantage for the understanding of simple persons like myself.

The hon. Gentleman said, quite rightly, that this will be a very complicated series of events. I recognise that. Inasmuch as these three territories comprising the East Africa High Commission may attain independence at different dates, and there may be different opinions among them as to the value and purpose of the East Africa High Commission, and so on, it will be quite a difficult problem to emerge on the right side. I hope that the Government will emerge on the right side.

I hope that the East Africa High Commission will continue. I regard it as a very valuable institution indeed. I had the privilege of visiting the High Commission's offices and talking to its head—I forget for the moment what his title is—and the officials and hearing a great deal about the work that it does. It has developed a great deal from its origins, which I happened to see when I myself was there in 1948 and the Commission began as a meeting of three Governments.

It is now a highly organised central administration of a valuable common market with a series of common services. It is working well. I hope—if my words receive any attention whatever in East Africa—that the leaders there whom I know and have met personally will agree with me that it is a valuable institution which ought to be preserved if possible.

It is one of the major benefits of the sharp change in the Government's colonial policy which we have witnessed during the last two years, and, of course. of the wide leadership of Mr. Julius Nyerere, in Tanganyika, that there is now a possibility of the continuance of this association of East African States in this common market with their High Commission. We value it very highly. My purpose in talking about it tonight is not, of course, to expound my views on the East Africa High Commission, but to give an opportunity which, I hope, the Under-Secretary will take with both hands, to minimise the uncertainty which exists in the minds of its present officers.

It will, perhaps, be difficult for the hon. Gentleman to go very far, because negotiations have to take place. I know that, but I hope that he will expatiate about it and tell us a good deal more about the future of these members of the Overseas Civil Service who are employed by that particular High Commission.

8.45 p.m.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) has received a further letter about the distinction made in paragraph 17 of the White Paper between those who are free to continue to serve a former Colonial Government and those who are required to retire. I explained this difficulty at some length on Second Reading, and I need not go into it again. However, on this occasion, it is the Association of Public Health Inspectors which has asked for clarification of this distinction.

I think that it is worth while to mention it again. Evidently, what the Under-Secretary of State said on Second Reading cannot have been read by the Association, and it might be as well to repeat it again. He said: There are clearly two principles which should be observed in the negotiations. One is to ensure that the compensation is such as not to induce people to desert the service. The other is to see that it is fair to all parties"—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 24th January, 1961; Vol. 633, c. 100.]

We entirely agree with that. In fact. I used words not dissimilar when I spoke on Second Reading. I realise that agreements must be negotiated and that it is impossible to say in advance, concerning a large number of agreements still to be negotiated, precisely what conditions they will contain about those who are free to leave and those who are required to retire.

I am glad that, as I understand from what we were told on Second Reading, the staff associations are to play an active part in those negotiations. That is a valuable safeguard for the public health inspectors, administrative civil servants and all those who are interested. I also realise that the Under-Secretary of State cannot easily forecast precisely what will be in every one of the agreements which he is able to negotiate. He has already told us the spirit in which his right hon. Friend will negotiate the agreements and the major objectives which he has in mind. But as we have had the further letter to which I have referred, to the effect that there is evidently still uncertainty in the minds of Civil Service associations on this question, if the hon. Gentleman tonight could be more emphatic than he was in the undertaking which he gave on Second Reading, and can give a rather longer explanation of how he hopes to achieve the two principles which will guide him, the Committee will be very grateful.

Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)

I want to raise two points which were raised on Second Reading and to which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State did not fully reply when he wound up. The first has been referred to by the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand). I am glad that he mentioned it. The crux of the problem of those in the East Africa High Commission is the uncertainty to which he referred. It is this feeling of uncertainty which creates an unhealthy atmosphere in many respects.

When, in a few months' time, Tanganyika becomes independent, what will be the position of those employed by the High Commission? It is no good pretending that their position will be the same as it was originally, nor that their prospects will be as wide or secure as they were when they first entered the service. There will be some who will seek and find employment in the new Government of Tanganyika. In one sense, they will become Tanganyika civil servants. There are others who will remain in the High Commission.

In both cases they are people who were probably recruited by the Secretary of State. I should have thought that the time had come when those who are now serving in the East Africa High Commission, with the uncertainty in front of them, should be given some advice about whether they should go or stay and an opportunity of opting out.

The only other point that I would ask my hon. Friend to deal with is this. If the Bill is to be the success that we hope, and if it is to attract the type of man we hope it will attract, I think that the Government have to give some reasonable guarantee—I know that they cannot give an absolute guarantee—that there will not be long periods in an overseas service officer's career when he will be, so to speak, left on ice.

Suppose a youngish man in his late twenties accepts a contract of employment with a newly independent country, say, Ghana, and he works for the Ghanaian Government for ten years under his contract and at the end of that time, when his contract is up, he finds himself at the age of, say, 38. The Government must give some guarantee that they will look after him and his family in the intervening period after his employment with the Ghanaian Government has terminated and some fresh employment with some other newly independent territory is found for him.

Unless there is some reasonable guarantee of that sort, I do not see how the service under the Bill will be attractive to the kind of young man that we hope it will attract. That is a fundamental point and I ask my hon. Friend to deal with it.

Mr. H. Fraser

I will first attempt to deal with the wide point raised by the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand) about the training of Africans, which the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) and others raised on Second Reading. It is absolutely of prime importance for the localisation of the public services that there should be training of people of all races, whatever their colour or creed, and whatever the point of constitutional advance which the territory has reached.

As I said on Second Reading—and I hope that the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East does not get my point about the numbers employed wrong—I was trying to illustrate, not whether the numbers were good or bad or where the officers stood in the service, but the weight which a modern administration imposes on the Exchequer of an emergent country to provide for the numbers and pay required. That was the only point I was making, and that is why I believe that this Bill is so important and why this injection of skill is vital—possibly that is where the hon. Member for Wednesbury and I misunderstood each other—when we were speaking about bringing forward the required local officers.

A point was raised by the right hon. Gentleman about the use of experts. That is going on on a large scale in East Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika. Hon. Members may have seen a report in The Times this morning of what is happening now in Kenya. We have already had questions about the training of people in Nyasaland.

I know that the hour is getting late, so I do not want to go into this in great detail. This is a matter of such importance that I believe it should be debated at proper length as a subject on its own. It is only just relevant to the Bill before us, and I have matters well within the Bill with which I should like to deal.

As hon. Members know, one of our great problems is the educational pyramid in some of these territories: at its base, the comparatively small number of school certificates, and at its summit the small amount of higher education emerging. That is why we believe that we should, as the right hon. Gentleman said, use the existing skilled people and also train people on the job. It is vitally important to train people within the existing framework, and we are trying to do that in East Africa as fast as we may with proper respect to the possible pace at which we can move.

In addition, a large number of people are being trained in this country. It is interesting to note the difference between the figures in 1950 and today—that is to say the difference in numbers of expatriates and local officers coming for training to this country. In 1960, for example, public service training in the United Kingdom was arranged by the Colonial Office for 1,200 locally-domiciled officers and 900 expatriate officers on more than 140 different courses.

It is interesting to note the difference in the figures for 1950, ten years previously, when locally-domiciled officers trained in this country numbered 275 and expatriates 1,100. There has been a great reversal in the proportion of locally-recruited and locally-domiciled officers coming to this country to be trained in the higher skills.

Many hon. Members would say that we could do more, but on the whole, when one considers the problems of education, of finding the buildings and people to give the training, and of absorbing these people into the service, what we are doing is commendable. I agree that at certain points we could wish for a faster pace, but the danger of too great a pace, which has been stressed again and again, is that it will weaken the service as a whole if the service becomes inefficient. I shall always be happy to answer questions, and I am pleased that the localisation or, in some instances, the Africanisation, of the local services should be regarded as of such importance by the House.

I turn now to some of the more specific points which have been raised. As hon. Members have pointed out, this is essentially an enabling Bill to permit my right hon. Friend to negotiate with between 30 and 40 overseas Governments. I must, therefore, remain somewhat vague. I am sorry if I confused the hon. Member for Wednesbury with words which I attempted to choose carefully, but if I surrounded the situation with an even greater fog than is natural to it, the negotiations should take place more easily because at least both parties will approach them with comparatively open minds. I will come to the question of the East African High Commission. Each of these territories has special problems and each of the negotiations is bound to be different.

The question of employment by statutory corporations has been raised. As I have explained, the designation of persons who will receive the full benefit of the Bill from payments made to local governments will be worked out in each agreement. That is inevitable. One general principle which I should like to lay down on this point is that essentially this is a Government-to-Government operation. The terms of the Bill can be applied only to people for whose selection and terms of service the Secretary of State has been responsible. The terms cannot and do not apply to employees of statutory corporations which are not administered by the territorial Government. This can give rise to anomalies, one of which is the anomaly mentioned of the Nigerian railways.

9.0 p.m.

In East Africa the railways are run by the High Commission centrally, but in Nigeria where a statutory corporation took them over in 1955 people employed by the Nigerian railways were given the option of either remaining with railways or accepting the abolition of office terms at that time. There is also a similar type of anomaly in Singapore where statutory corporations have been set up to administer railways and the electricity supply. I am trying to point out to the Committee some of the complexities involved in drawing up general rules for the implementation of this series of negotiations which will be very complicated in each territory.

Mr. John Stonehouse (Wednesbury)

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's problem in dealing with specific cases, but has he any information about the position of the Uganda Development Corporation? Would its officials come into the category that he has in mind?

Mr. Fraser

I should hate to say anything until I have looked at the individual cases. There have been transfers of people, who may have been appointed by the Secretary of State across to a corporation. The hon. Member and others will remember the designations which were read out by my right hon. Friend in the case of the Kenya Civil Service. To hear them listed alone, without seeing the text, was confusing and difficult to understand. I will write to the hon. Member on that point.

The matter depends on whether the individual has been transferred across, as in Kenya, where it will be found that a man appointed by the Secretary of State may have been transferred from one Department to another and moved into a situation where he comes under the purview of the Bill.

Mr. Stonehouse

Does this also apply to the officials of the co-operative farms, who originally could have been appointed by the Secretary of State but who in the course of the readjustment of responsibility within an independent territory may now be employed by a non-official organisation? Would is apply to them as well?

Mr. Fraser

That again would have have to be a negotiation carried out locally between ourselves and the local Government.

Mr. Stonehouse

But they could be?

Mr. Fraser

It is conceivable, but I could not go any further than that now.

A point has been raised about the West African research institutes. This again is a complex question and one for local negotiation. As hon. Members know, these institutes are financed jointly by Her Majesty's Government and the three West African Governments. What we should like to do is to see employees of the research institutes come within the scheme, but it is a matter for negotiation, especially as one of the Governments concerned acquired its independence prior to September 1960.

It was also asked in a previous debate whether the High Commission territories would come in. It is our intention and hope that they will, but again this is a matter for negotiation. Although I may seem to be doing nothing but mentioning exceptions, it should be remembered that on our minimum calculation the numbers involved are nearly 22,000.

I turn now to the East African High Commission. The White Paper scheme—and I hope that I will answer the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney)—is intended to apply to all East African High Commission staff, including research officers, who are eligible for the benefits of the scheme. My right hon. Friend is in touch with the Administrator about the detailed application of the scheme to these officers, and the arrangements made will, as elsewhere in East Africa, be largely based on the pattern recommended by the Flemming Commission.

Discussions have taken place both in London and in East Africa, and staff associations have been consulted. There is no reason to suppose that there will difficulty in reaching early agreement on the details of the application of the scheme to the staff.

The main concern of the staff is not with the content of the scheme as described in the White Paper, but with a matter outside the scope of the scheme and of this Bill—namely, their situation in the event of any of the East African Governments becoming independent. Some of the staff consider that they should become eligible for compensation as soon as the first East African territory achieves independence, on the grounds that they are all liable for service anywhere in East Africa, and that to serve in an independent territory would involve a change in their conditions of service.

They are also concerned about the future of the High Commission itself as an administrative entity when one of its constituent territories becomes independent. All these matters must be carefully studied, and I am sure that hon. Members will welcome the news that a delegation comprising High Commission representatives and representatives of the High Commission staff associations in each territory is expected to arrive in London shortly to discuss all these matters with my right hon. Friend.

I can assure hon. Members that my right hon. Friend is well aware of and sympathetic to these problems. But it would be better if I did not go further than that and that I should leave these delicate and difficult negotiations to the arrival of these people in London.

I think that what I have said has covered most of the points raised by right hon. and hon. Members. If I have failed to answer any specific points, I will try to meet them by correspondence. This question of pensions is a complicated matter, and the implementation of this important Bill throughout the 30 or more territories which fall to my office to look after is also complicated. I thank the Committee for the welcome and co-operative way in which it has proceeded with this Bill. I believe that it will be of great value to scores of millions of people throughout the world.

Mr. Marquand

The Under-Secretary of State said, quite naturally—and we ex- pected it and cannot complain in general—that this and that would be a matter for negotiation. We rest satisfied that, in the generality of the territories that he mentioned, he will pay attention to what was said in this Committee, draw the attention of his right hon. Friend to it, and that it will all be borne in mind when negotiations take place.

However, there was one set of territories in connection with which I was disappointed with what he said—the High Commission territories of South Africa. With whom is he to negotiate there? Her Majesty the Queen is protector of these territories and will be so for a very long time. They are still very poor territories, and their rate of development has not been very rapid. The hon. Gentleman cannot mean that he is to negotiate with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations.

There are, we know, emerging Governments there. In one of the territories in particular, there has been a substantial advance towards constitutional democratic government. He may have been a little more reassuring when he told us, quite independently, that the Falkland Islands, or the Solomons or British Honduras could look forward to great improvements by the application of this scheme in their territories. but he should have made it clear that it would apply to the High Commission Territories in particular, and that he expected no difficulty in negotiating an admirable scheme for those territories.

Mr. H. Fraser

I am sorry that I did not make myself clear. We hope that a representative of Her Majesty's Government will visit these territories in the course of the next month to conduct negotiations with civil servants and administrators in those territories. Of course, we shall be going ahead very shortly in negotiations with our own representatives in those territories.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported, without Amendment; read the Third time and passed.