HC Deb 02 April 1962 vol 657 cc117-40
Mr. G. M. Thomson

I beg to move, in page 3, line 36, at the end to add: (3) No Order in Council providing for the making of contributions by the Government of any such Colony as aforesaid shall be laid before Her Majesty until the Legislative Council of such Colony has been afforded an opportunity of considering the proposed contribution and of making representations to the Secretary of State for the Colonies.

This Amendment is very closely in line in the terms of its content with the Amendment that we have just been discussing. The Clause deals with the provisions of compensation for officers of the Federal Public Service who are facing loss of their jobs because of the dissolution of the Federation. We are proposing to add to the Clause a provision which will compel the Government to consult the legislative council of each Colony before it is asked to make a contribution to the compensation of the federal civil servants.

The subsection which we are proposing would allow legislative councils to make representations to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. As the Under-Secretary stated, in replying to the last Amendment, this compensation provision involves very much larger sums of money than were involved in consideration of the previous Clause. According to my calculations, the amount involved may be £1½ million. I may well be underestimating, so perhaps we may have some information on that from the Minister.

We are getting into an astonishing situation on this Bill. We have a Bill which gives very arbitrary powers indeed to the Government or to the authority which it appoints. The Government state that they are glad to give assurances that these powers will be exercised only in very limited ways and that there will be consultation, and so on, but there is nothing in the Bill to oblige the Government to have consultations. This Amendment deals with an aspect of the Bill where there is bound to be the most serious misunderstanding.

It is all very well for the Minister to say, as no doubt he will say, that no steps will be taken to impose charges on the unit Governments to pay for compensation without adequate consultation and discussion with the Governments of the territories concerned. I suspect that the politicians of the West Indies will not read the eloquent words which the Minister is about to deliver to the Committee. The politicians of the West Indies will never see the HANSARD which contains our proceedings. What the politicians of the West Indies have seen is the Bill and its utter lack of provision for consultation. Here we have an obligation which may amount to a very large sum of money—no one knows the charge to be made on individual Governments to meet this—and there is no provision at all for consultation with the Governments or legislative councils in regard to the impositions which may be made on them.

I spent this morning taking a group of about 40 civil servants from various under-developed countries, including a large number of Commonwealth countries, around the House of Commons. I gave them the usual lecture that every hon. Member gives, as he goes round the House of Commons—all about our great traditions of Black Rod, King Charles I, and no taxation without representation. What is being done by this Bill is, in fact, to impose taxation without any sort of representation.

The Government are proposing to send part of the bill, presumably for compensation of civil servants, to the unit Governments of the Federation, and in the context of this Clause there is no provision for consultation. This is taxation without representation. It is an astonishing proposal from the Government, and I hope that this time the Minister will not, because of the kind of charges that may be involved here, content himself with verbal assurances to the Committee, but will seek to find a form of words to write into the context of the Clause which will ensure that none of the individual territories of the West Indies will have to pay or share in compensation chargeable without first having consultation and the opportunity to make the fullest representations to the interim authority or the British Government.

Mr. H. Fraser

This, as the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) says, is much the same type of political variety as we have seen in the previous Clause. There are various reasons why I should say that the Amendment offers to us considerable difficulties. First, as the hon. Gentleman knows, we have not yet fully established the number of civil servants who will be surplus to the establishment—that is, surplus to the established interim organisation. We do not know the number who can be absorbed into the services of the individual territories; and one hopes that some will be absorbed. There is a considerable matter of urgency in deciding this issue of compensation.

The hon. Gentleman was kind enough to show me a telegram from the Federal Civil Service organisation in the West Indies stating that it regarded as a matter of great urgency that before the dissolution came about—and the dissolution we hope will come about shortly, in May—these men should be certain of what their terms of compensation would be.

As the Committee is aware, there are three main sources from which this money will be available: first, assets of the Federation; secondly, contributions which it may be deemed, after negotiation, proper for the individual Government to make: and, thirdly, the consideration, which I have had adumbrated in the House before, that if the assets and the liabilities of the Federation show a great disparity, Her Majesty's Government will consider whether, if the need be truly shown, they should make a contribution. This is slightly different from the other Clause in the sense that there is a great urgency about settling the compensation and the fate of the civil servants.

I believe that to have these matters referred to the legislative assemblies of the individual islands might cause delay. One must remember that the legislative assemblies of these islands are not in session as often as this House of Commons is in session; they are frequently out of session for several months in the year. This would, apart from anything else, bring upon us difficulties and delay in that it would be almost impossible for us to conclude our negotiations if the new Ministers had to return to their island legislatures to discuss these matters. I believe that they have sufficient powers. If they wish to enter into consultation with their island legislatures it is proper for them to do so, but it is not for this House to demand that this consultation should be carried out by island Ministers. It is for them to decide, if they wish, to carry out that consultation.

I cannot accept the Amendment for two main reasons. First, there is the great urgency to carry through the negotiations which are at the moment being conducted between Her Majesty's Government and the Governments of the various islands. Secondly, it would be wrong for us to impose on the Ministers responsible for the conduct of affairs in these islands the need to have consultations with the legislative assemblies which they may or may not think it necessary to carry out. I ask the Committee to reject the Amendment.

8.0 p.m.

Mr. Dingle Foot (Ipswich)

It seems to me that the hon. Member has entirely failed to address himself to the purpose of the Amendment. Everyone appreciates that it is necessary to settle as soon as possible the terms of compensation to be offered to displaced civil servants, but this problem is constantly arising not only in the West Indies but in East Africa, too. We are not here concerned with the terms of compensation to be offered to them. We are concerned with how the amount will be paid, whatever it is. The hon. Member told us, in effect, that the amount will be provided from three sources—expropriation of the assets of the Government of the Federation; contributions by each or any of the individual Governments and Colonies concerned; and Her Majesty's Government in this country—that is, out of funds voted by this Parliament.

The terms of compensation are quite separate from this distribution of the burden. The hon. Member dealt in no way with the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) that the Government are doing something which I believe is without precedent—taking power to levy a contribution from people who will have no voice in the matter. After all, the money does not have to be found in the Colonies by the Ministers alone. There has to fee the authority of the legislative council to raise the money in one way or another.

In each case, they will be faced with this requisition. They may have the most powerful reasons that urge against it. They may say that it is quite excessive and that it will be an intolerable burden on their budgets. We do not know, because we do not know the proportion in which the burden will be divided between the three sources from which the money is to come. They are to be left with no voice in the matter at all. I do not recollect any other occasion on which a Government have brought such a proposal to the House, and I hope that my hon. Friends will take the Amendment to a Division.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

In the absence of a reply to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. D. Foot), may I again take up this matter with the Minister? We appreciate that there is an urgency about deciding the terms of compensation for the civil servants, but we are growing a little tired of being told constantly during the proceedings on the Bill that it is impossible to have adequate consultation on anything because of this timetable to which the Government have tied themselves. This is a timetable of their own making to which they ought never to have agreed in the first instance, and there ought to have been more time for the kind of consultations Which are necessary if there is to be general agreement in the West Indies as well as in the House on what are the best arrangements which we can reach out of a disaster of the dissolution of the Federation. I make that comment in passing.

I intended to talk about the need for the proper treatment of the federal civil servants on the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill, and on the Amendment to concentrate on the question of consultation with the legislatures of the individual islands which may have a levy made on them. The Minister has not answered my point of the Parliamentary principle which is involved here and which my hon. and learned Friend has underlined. Surely it is possible for the present discussions on compensation to these civil servants to reach agreement on the sums of money which are to be paid to them and for there still to be provision for consultation by the individual Governments with their own legislative councils on the amounts which they are to be asked to pay.

If we cannot have that, we shall do a grave injury, on the one hand, to the civil servants or, on the other hand, to the normal basic democratic processes in those islands. We shall have a difficult enough task building up harmonious democratic Governments in this area, and if it is to be done in a mood of resentment about an imposition laid without any opportunity to discuss these things among the island legislators, the Governments will get off to the very worst start. I hope that the Minister will tell us that he will at least take this back and offer to consider it further.

Mr. H. Fraser

The hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Mr. D. Foot) repeated the three sources of compensation—the assets of the Federation, the levy on the islands concerned and the contribution by Her Majesty's Government. When we are clear about what the liabilities are, largely for compensation, and when we have worked out the assets of the federation, it is not inconceivable that the liabilities will be met by the assets. The Bill makes only an enabling arrangement should this not prove to be the case.

The Governments of the three larger islands have full powers to negotiate. I refer to Dr. Eric Williams, Mr. Manley or whoever his successor is at the next election, and Mr. Barrow. It will remain with them to make up their minds whether they will consult their legislatures. The same comment applies to the smaller islands, which are grant-aided. If a need can be shown, the Government will be in a position, as they are grant-aided, to be of some assistance to the islands concerned.

I give the House the fullest assurance that even now consultation and negotiation are going on with the people concerned, but we should be going beyond the bounds of reason if we compelled Dr. Eric Williams, for example, to consult his legislature if he had no wish to consult it. I have given assurances that we shall fully consult the Governments concerned. I believe that in this way we can obtain the greatest success with the greatest speed. To go beyond that with three almost independent, and shortly to be independent, territories would be to compel them to do things which they might not necessarily feel the need to do. If they feel the need to do it, they are entitled to consult their legislatures.

Question put, That those words be there added:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 109, Noes 152.

Division No. 140.] AYES [8.9 p.m.
Beaney, Alan Brown, Thomas (Ince) Darling, George
Blackburn, F. Callaghan, James Deer, George
Bottomley, A. Castle, Mrs. Barbara Delargy, Hugh
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S. W.) Chapman, Donald Dempsey, James
Bowles, Frank Cliffe, Michael Diamond, John
Boyden, James Corbet, Mrs. Freda Dodds, Norman
Brockway, A. Fenner Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Cronin, John Ede, Rt. Hon. C.
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Beiper) Cullen, Mrs. Alice Edelman, Maurice
Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Ledger, Ron Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Evans, Albert Lee, Frederick (Newton) Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)
Fletcher, Eric Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.) Ross, William
Foot, Dingle (Ipswich) Loughlin, Charles Short, Edward
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) MacColl, James Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh McKay, John (Wallsend) Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Gourlay, Harry Mackie, John (Enfield, East) Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Greenwood, Anthony MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Small, William
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Grimond, Rt. Hon. J. Manuel, Archie Spriggs, Leslie
Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Mapp, Charles Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Hamilton, William (West Fife) Mason, Roy Strachey, Rt. Hon, John
Harper, J. Mellish, R. J. Taverne, Dick
Hayman, F. H. Mendelson, J. J. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Healey, Denis Millan, Bruce Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)
Herbison, Miss Margaret Mitchison, G. R. Wade, Donald
Hilton, A. V. Monslow, Walter Wainwright, Edwin
Holman, Percy Moyle, Arthur Weitzman, David
Holt, Arthur Mulley, Frederick Whitlock, William
Houghton, Douglas Oswald, Thomas Wilkins, W. A,
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Owen, Will Willey, Frederick
Hynd, John (Attercliffe) Pargiter, C. A. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Irving, Sydney (Dartforrt) Pavitt, Laurence Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Janner, Sir Barnett Pentland, Norman Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield) Prentice, R. E.
Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Kelley, Richard Randall, Harry Mr. Charles A. Howell and
Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Rankin, John Mr. Grey.
Lawson, George Redhead, E. C.
Agnew, Sir Peter Gurden, Harold Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)
Aitken, W. T. Hall, John (Wycombe) Peel, John
Allason, James Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Percival, Ian
Atkins, Humphrey Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Peyton, John
Barber Anthony Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Pike, Miss Mervyn
Barlow, Sir John Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Pilkington, Sir Richard
Batsford, Brian Hastings, Stephen Pitman, Sir James
Bell, Ronald Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Pitt, Miss Edith
Berkeley, Humphry Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Pott, Percivall
Biffen, John Hocking, Philip N. Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch
Bossom, Clive Holland, Philip Prior, J. M. L.
Bourne-Arton, A. Hopkins, Alan Prior-Palmer, Brig, Sir Otho
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. Hornby, R. P. Quennell, Miss J. M.
Braine, Bernard Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P. Rawlinson, Peter
Brewis, John Hutchison, Michael Clark Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) James, David Renton, David
Browne, Percy (Torrington) Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Bullard, Denys Jennings, J. C. Robinson, Rt Hn Sir R. (B'pool, S.)
Bullus, Wing Commander Eric Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Roots, William
Butcher, Sir Herbert Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Cary, Sir Robert Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Seymour, Leslie
Chichester-Clark, R. Kerans, Cdr. J. S. Shaw, M.
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Kerby, Capt. Henry Shepherd, William
Clarke, Brig, Terence (Portsmth, W.) Kerr, Sir Hamilton Skeet, T. H. H.
Collard, Richard Kimball, Marcus Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Corfield, F. V. Kitson, Timothy Smithers, Peter
Costain, A. P. Leburn, Gilmour Stevens, Geoffrey
Coulson, Michael Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Stodart, J. A.
Courtney, Cdr. Anthony Lindsay, Sir Martin Storey, Sir Samuel
Critchley, Julian Linstead, Sir Hugh Studholme, Sir Henry
Dance, James Litchfield, Capt. John Tapsell, Peter
Digby, Simon Wingfield Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)
Doughty Charles McMaster, Stanley R. Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Drayson, G. B. Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
du Cann, Edward Maddan, Martin Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Mathew, Robert (Honiton) Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon
Fell, Anthony Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Finlay, Graeme Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald Walder, David
Fisher, Nigel Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Walker, Peter
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Mills, Stratton Ward, Dame Irene
Foster, John Miscampbell, N. Wells, John (Maidstone)
Fraser, Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone) Morgan, William Whitelaw, William
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Nabarro, Gerald Wills, Sir Cerald (Bridgwater)
Freeth, Denzil Neave, Airey Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
George, J. C. (Pollok) Nicholson, Sir Godfrey Woodnutt, Mark
Gilmour, Sir John Noble, Michael Woollam, John
Gower, Raymond Oakshott, Sir Hendrie Worsley, Marcus
Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R. Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Green, Alan Orr-Ewing, C. Ian TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Gresham Cooke, R. Page, Graham (Crosby) Mr. Gordon Campbell and
Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Page, John (Harrow, West) Mr. McLaren.
Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
Mr. Chapman

I wish to ask one or two questions and to request a fairly clear answer. First, I am a little puzzled to know why this power is needed in the Bill. To establish my point, I want briefly to refer to what has been going on in the West Indies during the last two weeks. I understand that on 14th March, in Port of Spain, an Order in Council was published giving the Governor-General a free hand to act in his individual judgment if he considers it necessary and expedient so to do in the public interest without consulting the Federal Cabinet and also empowering him with responsibility for finance in certain provisions dealing with the authorisation and the meeting of expenditure.

This had already been published on 14th March. As I understand it, the position in the West Indies at the moment is that Her Majesty's Government, by the Order in Council of 14th March, are already in full possession of all the powers they need to control the rump of the Federation's financial assets, and to pay them out in any form they wish. If that is so, I am puzzled to know why the Clause is needed.

The second question that I want to raise in connection with this Order in Council, following on the events of mid-March, concerns the way action is being taken. On 18th March, the Federal Finance Minister, Mr. Robert Bradshaw, made a statement containing the most damning allegations against Her Majesty's Government concerning the way in which the Governor-General of the West Indies is acting in the use of his financial powers. Mr. Bradshaw is a man of the highest integrity among West Indian leaders. He is a man of restraint, and not one who is likely to make wild statements or unnecessary allegations.

But what goes to the heart of the question whether we shall ever get the sympathy of the Ministers and Federal members in carrying out the provisions of the Clause is the way in which the powers to issue Orders in Council are being used. Mr. Bradshaw has made a considered statement to the newspapers that this Order was printed behind his back on the instructions of the Governor-General, Lord Hailes, in the Federal printery, on the ground floor of Federal House. He said that it was printed without the knowledge of the Federal Cabinet.

Is it a fact that sweeping powers to control the finance of the Federation, such as are contained in the Clause, were first taken by a summary Order in Council, and that all this was done behind the backs of the Federal Cabinet? That would be nothing but a sheer insult to a man of high integrity like Mr. Bradshaw, who says, further, that he fetched the Assistant Attorney-General, who confessed that he knew about it and that it had all been done behind the backs of the Federal Government.

The third question that arises is that further allegations were made by Mr. Bradshaw, and which are relevant to the Clause. He said: We are aware that the British Government are not anxious to pay out compensation money to West Indian civil servants, and that one particular West Indian territorial Government is not enthusiastic about the question at all. The crucial part of that statement is the first part.

Will the Under-Secretary of State deny immediately Mr. Bradshaw's statement about all this action being taken behind his back because the Government are unwilling to meet the sort of compensation which the Federal Government would have given if they had been left in control of their own finances? That is the direct allegation contained in Mr. Bradshaw's statement. Can the Minister confirm or deny it?

8.15 p.m.

The fourth point concerns not only the treatment of Mr. Bradshaw, which was scandalous in the extreme, but also the treatment of Sir Grantley Adams. We have had two apologies to Sir Grantley from the Dispatch Box recently. The first one concerned the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill and the second the failure to meet him at London Airport. Sir Grantley has said that he had never seen the Order in Council, and had never been informed of it. The first he heard about it was when a newspaper man woke him up and told him of its contents. Is it really the case that not only Mr. Bradshaw but also Sir Grantley Adams never knew about it?

As the Under-Secretary must know, this has led to a very difficult situation in Port of Spain, where Sir Grantley Adams and his Cabinet threatened to resign and walk out, leaving the rump for us to sort out. It leaves a bad impression on everybody. Have human and personal relationships between Her Majesty's Government and West Indian leaders so far broken down that really important actions, concerned with pensions and the use of the remnants of the Federation's funds, are being carried out without the Federal Cabinet being told in advance that an Order in Council is being made and the purposes for which it is being made?

The news reaching us from the West Indies during the last fortnight has been distressing in the extreme. This unwillingness to consult the Federal Government has embittered personal relationships, especially in the case of a man of great restraint, like Mr. Bradshaw. The Committee will note that I pass no judgment as to the purpose which the Federal Government may have had in mind for their own finance. That is not a matter for me. But if it be true that whatever proposals the Federal Government may have had in mind for the use of their funds were not acceptable to Her Majesty's Government, they should have come out into the open and told the Federal Finance Minister, in advance, "It is for this reason that we shall give the Governor-General sweeping powers to control the whole of your financial affairs for the remaining days of the Federation."

I pass no judgment on the matters involved in the use of finance, whether for pensions, the compensation of Ministers, or journeys abroad. The question I ask is this: are we having another sorry chapter written now by the failure of Her Majesty's Government to take these gentlemen into consultation on matters which vitally concern them?

Mr. G. M. Thomson

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman), who follows Caribbean affairs very closely, has made some very serious charges about the way in which the Federal Government have been treated on the question of the Order in Council taking over responsibility for the Federal finances. I hope that we shall have an adequate answer from the Minister on this point.

Whatever the reasons, we have had growing up around the whole problem of the West Indies a most unsatisfactory, sad and, in some ways, rather unsavoury situation. We have had apologies from the Government—which we welcome—about the way in which Sir Grantley Adams was treated. My hon. Friend was right in saying that, however much the Government may have disagreed with the Federal Parliament's proposals to pay itself compensation for loss of office, the right way to have gone about this was by discussions with the Federal Government, and by informing them fully in advance of what we intended to do.

8.30 p.m.

So far as I understand the timing, such discussions would have been singularly easy to achieve because Sir Grantley Adams and his Federal colleagues were in London at the time when this Order in Council was published; certainly at the time when the Government must have been taking the decision to publish it. That would have been the right way to go about the matter. To put it frankly, Sir Grantley Adams and his Federal colleagues have been put in a most invidious position, not only with regard to the Government, but in relation to their own political colleagues in the West Indies. This is an unfortunate phase through which West Indian politics are passing. In due course the West Indies, to say nothing of Her Majesty's Government, will have great need of men of the character and calibre of Sir Grantley Adams and of Mr. Robert Bradshaw, who is a young man as politcians go and a man of immense integrity and ability.

Whatever may be the political developments in the West Indies, it is beyond doubt that a man like Mr. Bradshaw has a notable rô1e to play. The existence of a degree of good will between him and the Government is very important. If what my hon. Friend says is true, it seems astonishing that Mr. Bradshaw, as Finance Minister of the Federation, should have found that this was done behind his back; that he should have found the actual printing process carried out in a somewhat shabby and hole-in-the-corner manner without his being informed. It is a humiliating position, and we await the explanation of the Government of how it arose.

I wish to raise the question of the payment of compensation to the Federal civil servants. One of the very unfortunate aspects of the situation in the West Indies—we have already heard one aspect on the political side—is that on the side of the public service there is great uncertainty and apparent complete lack of knowledge about what is going on regarding the decision as to their future. Earlier this evening we discussed a Bill concerned with overseas aid to be provided by this country, and there was general agreement that one of the vital aspects of the relationship of the wealthier countries to the poorer countries was the need to maintain an adequate public service, with high standards of integrity, of skill and of expertise. We discussed some territories where there was great poverty in the civil service. The West Indies has been singularly fortunate in the public servants it has commanded. Many gave up careers in the island services in order to commit themselves to a Federation which at that time they had every reason to believe would survive and offer them careers for the rest of their lives. That it has not turned out to be so is a tragedy.

Even more sad is the evidence which we get that these civil servants have not been taken into the confidence of those who are negotiating their future. The Minister referred to the fact that earlier this evening I passed on to him information contained in a telegram which I received from the Federal Public Service Association only this afternoon. I should like to read the telegram to get it on the record, because I think that it reveals the mood of the Federal civil servants and a situation where misunderstanding is rife which it is the duty of the Government to clear up. The telegram reads: Federal Public Service Association most anxious that you seek an assurance that there will be no dissolution and retrenchment of staff before territories agree with Her Majesty's Government a just scheme for compensation and the Secretary of State is satisfied that complete provision is made for payment of pensions and compensation to all officers who become entitled under the scheme. Stress that if dissolution takes place before agreement is reached on the financing of the scheme the staff will fall between two stools: its employing Government will have gone and if territories and Her Majesty's Government disown responsibility for meeting the inevitable deficit after federal assets are exhausted officers will not be paid. These are the kind of fears being expressed. I have no doubt that if these Federal civil servants fear that Her Majesty's Government may disown responsibility, they are quite wrong. But that does not make the fear less deeply felt. If there is not to be a demoralisation of this body of people, who may be of service in the future somewhere in the West Indies, it is vitally necessary that the Government tell us what is the position, and take the opportunity to tell people in the West Indies.

I understand from the figures which I have that there are about 350 Federal civil servants involved. They have put forward a scheme for compensation which, if accepted by every one of the 350, would cost under £1½ million. But nothing like all of them will seek compensation. Already many are taking other jobs in public service in the individual territories or outside public service altogether. Certainly the cost of compensation will be a great deal less than £1½ million.

There are a number of people involved who will find difficulty in getting suitable alternative employment. Sixty-four of the 350 are over forty. One hundred and eighty-two of them come from Trinidad and, with the best will in the world, it is unlikely that the Trinidad Government can absorb anything like this number. One hundred and sixty-nine of these civil servants gave up careers in their own island Civil Service to commit themselves to the Federation. It will be very difficult for all these to be reabsorbed, and there will be many problems of restored status for people who have removed themselves from the normal processes of promotion in their own islands.

There is a very real human problem to be solved here. The Federal civil servants are asking not only that there should be a fair scheme of compensation, but that because of the difficulties of alternative jobs they should have a reasonably free choice between being offered an alternative job and being offered compensation. I do not wish to espouse the details of any plan. I do not have the knowledge or the competence to do so. However, I underline to the Government the need to let the civil servants know exactly what the position is and reassure them that their future will be properly safeguarded by Her Majesty's Government.

I should like the Government to take the opportunity at the Dispatch Box tonight to make a statement which will clear the air on this. In particular, I should like them to give an assurance that there will be no dissolution of the West Indies Federation until the terms of compensation have been agreed with the Federal Civil Service. This is only sensible. We have been rushing along into this at a headlong pace because of the timetable to which the Government unwisely committed themselves at an earlier stage in the negotiations.

Although I have earlier emphasised the need for consultations with the local legislatures, I hope that at the same time the Government will ensure justice to the Federal civil servants. I do not believe that the two things are inconsistent, but we argued that on an earlier Clause. It is vitally important that the Government should reassure these civil servants that their future will be properly and fairly looked after. I hope that the Minister will take the opportunity of giving them that assurance.

Mr. H. Fraser

As the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) says, he is in some difficulty in demanding that these complex details should be discussed by legislative assemblies and also demanding that negotiations should continue at the same time. I do not want to raise a debating point, because the committee has divided—I think rashly—on this point. I want to meet hon. Members as much as I can on this complicated issue.

In answer to the hon. Member from Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman), we advised the Federal Government through the Governor-General that we could not regard it as in the best interests of the West Indies that Ministers should pay themselves a year's salary in advance and Members of Parliament so many months in advance. In view of the effect this would have had on Federal assets, we were perfectly correct, this notice having been served, to disallow certain legislation. I know that the hon. Member for Northfield is extremely well-informed about the West Indies. I do not want to contradict him, except to say that I was there at the time and I know that the welcome the Press gave this action was extraordinary. The action was welcomed most warmly by the mass of people in the West Indies, certainly in the Press. There was full agreement with the peculiar act having been stopped by the action of Her Majesty's Government.

The serious point made by the hon. Member for Northfield was why Clause 3 is necessary in view of the powers which have been taken by the Governor-General to disallow. Clause 3 is necessary because it is not a question of the Federal Government acting now. It is a question of the island Governments, acting in conjunction with Her Majesty's Government. This is not a question of the Federation as such but of the component parts of the Federation. I do not think that the point about the powers taken to disallow federal legislation by the Governor-General has any special application to Clause 3.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

The main point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) was not so much the point that the Under-Secretary has dealt with but the lack of consultation with the Federal Government. Allowing that the Federal Parliament's action was unwise, why was not the Federal Government properly consulted about it?

Mr. Fraser

The Governor-General informed Sir Grantley Adams that this was a rash move and that he could not advise it. The constitutional position was that the Act had been passed by the Federal Parliament—or by the rump of the Federal Parliament. This advice was, of course, tendered unofficially by the Governor-General.

I must advise the House that in the West Indies the Governor-General is in the position of a constitutional monarch, who can only advise on very rare occasions when he feels that he must. That advice having been disregarded, the law had been brought in, but as the hon. Member for Northfield is aware, there was something like a tumult of protest throughout the West Indies against that action. Therefore, the Governor-General's advice having been disregarded, the only thing that Her Majesty's Government could do was to bring in an Order in Council disallowing that legislation—

Mr. Chapman

The point is not quite as simple as that. The Government wished to disallow one item of voted expenditure. I deliberately said that I passed no comment on the purposes for which the money was voted. I am commenting on the way in which this was done. The Federal Finance Minister found that an Order in Council had been secretly printed in the basement of Government House. Is that the way to run Her Majesty's Administration in our Colonial Territories?

I will go even further. The acting Attorney-General, in reply to a question, admitted knowledge of what had been going on; in other words, he had never told his Cabinet colleagues. He left the office and returned shortly after with two copies of the offending paper and, handing them over to Mr. Bradshaw for the first time, in the presence of Senator Charles, said, "We had these printed here last night." Is that the way to deal with a responsible man like Mr. Bradshaw, or the way to deal with a responsible Minister of the Federal Government?

Mr. Fraser

My only answer is that the action taken by the persons concerned was regarded in the West Indies, and by the politicians of the smaller islands, as totally irresponsible, and that is why Her Majesty's Government acted. It is as simple as that.

This question of the disallowing of the action of the Federal Government does not affect the provisions of this Clause. It is a question of consultation with the smaller islands and with the larger islands, and this, as I have promised, we will do in order to make a success of this compensation scheme.

8.45 p.m.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East asked whether I could give certain assurances about the officers. We hope to be able to meet them on most of the problems that lie ahead. As I have said, we have these three sources, the first of which is the Federal assets which, I believe, will prove quite considerable as against Federal liabilities. Then, we have the power here, if we get agreement, as I think we shall, of the islands, to make contributions. Thirdly, if the total disparity between assets and liabilities is great, and if read need As shown, as could, I think be shown, without any great difficulty by the islands, Her Majesty's Government will come to their assistance. That being so, I hope that the Committee will accept the Clause.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

The hon. Gentleman cannot expect to get away like that from the statements made by my hon. Friend the Member for North-field (Mr. Chapman). After all, one sees laid out in the Library of the House of Lords the Petition of Right, with a rough edge along the bottom where the King had refused it. He was then advised that it was wrong to refuse it, so from the bottom of the Petition they cut his signature and he put it on again at the top. He said that action should be taken as was asked.

I gather from what the hon. Gentleman says that a sudden Act was passed by the Federal Parliament Which this Government did not like. I am not quite sure what he said after that. Was the Royal Assent refused by the Governor-General?

Mr. H. Fraser

That is correct.

Mr. Ede

It was refused by the Governor-General as the representative of the Monarch on the spot, a thing which has not been done in this country since the reign of Queen Anne, who certainly, so far as the West Indies are concerned, does not appear to be dead, in spite of what is commonly believed in this country.

I am not questioning the constitutional right of the Governor-General to do that, but what happened after that? When we get on to the further actions taken by the Governor-General, let me say that I have seen the Governor-General in action in the West Indies and I know what a position he occupies, and I am a great admirer of him—

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Arbuthnot)

I must ask the right hon. Gentleman to come back to the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill, and compensation schemes for officers in the Federal Public Service.

Mr. Ede

Of course, the Under-Secretary of State should have been ruled out of order for also alluding to the matter.

Let us be quite clear on this. This is a very great constitutional issue which has been raised. On what authority were these documents printed to which my hon. Friend the Member for Northfield alludes? As I understand it, at the moment the Federal Parliament is still in existence and will remain in existence till such time as an Order in Council is made under Clause 1 of the Bill. Here is an Order in Council promoted—by whom? Was it promoted by the Government here, or was it an action of the Governor-General—perhaps thinking he was once again the Patronage Secretary? After all, this is the kind of thing which brought one Monarch in this country to the block. We had no sufficient reply from the hon. Gentleman. Under what authority were these Orders in Council promoted which were printed in the way described by my hon. Friend? Nothing was said by the Under-Secretary of State to indicate Chat what my hon. Friend gave in his recital of the string of circumstances was incorrect. I have to assume, therefore, that what my hon. Friend said was correct. Was the instruction given by this Government?

Mr. H. Fraser

Of course it was.

Hon. Members

He says, "Of course it was".

Mr. Ede

I heard. He said it in a very low tone of voice, but I am not quite as deaf as that yet.

The Federation is still in existence so far as the law is concerned. What right has anyone, till action is taken under Clause 1, to carry out such a highhanded proceeding as has been indicated?

I hope we shall get some further explanation from the Government. They can rest assured that, for the sake of every Government in the Commonwealth, it is essential that it should be made quite clear that while Acts granting self-government remain on the Statute Book, the Governments to whom powers have been granted under such Acts must be recognised, and that, certainly, high-handed action like this cannot be taken without some consultation between Her Majesty's Government here and Her Majesty's Government in the Federation. They are both Her Majesty's Governments, and Her Majesty cannot carry on contradictory policies.

Mr. Chapman

I was very dissatisfied with what the Under-Secretary said. I personally agree with him in disliking the voting of money in these quantities for compensation to Federal Members of Parliament and Federal Ministers. I agree with him, and I am sure that the protests throughout the West Indies are quite justified, but what is the point of taking such a dislike to the point of never even having the courage to summon Sir Grantley Adams and the Federal Minister of Finance and saying to them, "We dislike it so much that we are about to issue an Order in Council"?

Why is it that the Government have to insult them, so far as one is concerned, by letting him have to find it out from the newspapers, and, in the case of the other one, finding it out when he was presented with it as Federal Finance Minister the next morning? This is an abominable way of treating Her Majesty's Ministers in the Federation, and that is what I have been complaining about.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Reginald Maudling)

If it is a question of the Order in Council, the Order was made on the Wednesday. On the Friday, I invited Sir Grantley to come to see me, but he could not do so at the last minute, because he was indisposed. I invited him twice more on Monday and Tuesday, and I finally saw him on Wednesday before the Order in Council was made. I told him what was being done. He was not dissatisfied. He quite understood. I could not show him the text, and it would have been quite unconstitutional to do so. I gave every possible warning I could to Sir Grantley, and he made no complaint about the procedure which was adopted.

Mr. Chapman

I am grateful for that. That is some help. Now, it is a contest of words, and I am not entering into it. Sir Grantley says he was not consulted and did not know, and the Minister says he was. We can leave the matter there with that explanation by the right hon. Gentleman, but it still does not answer my point about the treatment which Lord Hailes—I am not complaining about it—accorded to Mr. Bradshaw. Surely, after this position was put to them, it was up to the Governor-General or Her Majesty's Government to tell them, or at least to summon the Finance Minister and to tell him the extent to which his powers had been taken away from him.

Mr. Fraser

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is weighing so heavily on this. I happened to be in Port of Spain on the day in question, and I asked if Mr. Bradshaw would meet me twenty-four hours before the Order was published so that I could explain why we had to do this. If I could explain to the House now what I explained then to Mr. Bradshaw, it was simply this. The Government had been advised by the Governor-General that this was an Act which could not find favour. In view of the impending dissolution of the Federation, there could not be any further dissipation of the Federal assets, and, because of this, Her Majesty's Government felt that they had to act. Therefore, I explained to him—and I have great respect for Mr. Bradshaw—that Her Majesty's Government were bound to act in this fashion. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman should have dragged this further into the open, because it does not enhance the good sense of the Ministers concerned nor the fame of that Government.

Mr. Chapman

I am grateful for that intervention by the Under-Secretary. It has cleared up the matter. The impression should not be left in the West Indies that Mr. Bradshaw's statement is not countermanded. He said that he knew nothing about this in advance, but the hon. Gentleman now says that he told him in advance. Now the matter is cleared up. I felt bound to raise it in order that we could get an answer, and I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman did not tell us this in the first place. I raised this matter half-an-hour ago and he could have told us that this was the case. I regret that we have reached a stage when there is a real breakdown in personal relations in the West Indies, which augurs badly for the future. I hope that the Government will make every possible gesture to try to prevent this happening again, so that the new Federation will get off to a good start. Mr. Bradshaw made another point in his statement and the hon. Gentleman forgot to reply to it, though I have raised it. Mr. Bradshaw said that the Government's reason for this Order in Council was that they wanted to countermand the proposals of the Federation for compensation to the Civil Service. I take it that this is totally denied, but it would be as well to have that stated.

Mr. Fraser

That statement is perfectly untrue.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

Coming back to the question of the Federal Civil Service, against the unhappy background which we have just been discussing, may I have the information and an assurance as to when the Federal Civil Service will be able to meet round the table with those with whom they are negotiating for the final terms of settlement? It would be helpful to know this and it might remove a great deal of dissatisfaction.

Mr. Fraser

I am sure that the hon. Member is right. I will look at that. We are still negotiating with the Governments concerned. As soon as we have settled the terms which we shall propose, it will be time to discuss them with the representatives of the Federal Government.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.