HC Deb 26 January 1962 vol 652 cc662-72

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. McLaren.]

4.2 p.m.

Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)

Tribute to the civil servants serving in our overseas dependencies and the need for trained administrators to serve those countries as they move towards independence within the Commonwealth have been stressed year after year in this Chamber. But if we expect these officers to carry on serving during the critical period just before and after independence, it is clear that they must require certain assurances both as regards their salaries and pensions and possible discrimination against them because of their race and similar matters. It is because it was believed that these assurances were given that more than 75 per cent. of the expatriate civil servants in Tanganyika decided to stay on in that country after independence. I am sorry to say that since December last year, when Tanganyika became independent, the situation has deteriorated. It is now clear that the assurances given to certain categories of these civil servants have not been implemented. Anxiety is therefore spreading to both Kenya and Uganda, which still come under the control of the Colonial Office.

Broadly speaking, there are three categories of civil servants. There are those who belong to Her Majesty's Overseas Civil Service and who are called designated officers, the non-designated expatriate officers, and the local officers. I want to explain to the House why members of the last two of those categories believe that Her Majesty's Government have broken their pledges to them. Before I do so, I should like just to mention the agreements reached for members of Her Majesty's Overseas Civil Service. The House will recall that in 1954 the Colonial Service was reorganised. The details are contained in a White Paper, Colonial No. 306. Later, further amplification to this reorganisation was given in Command 1193 of October, 1960. The second paper introduced the principle of inducement pay by which Her Majesty's Government in this country would pay the difference in salary required by the expatriate civil servant compared to the local, indigenous civil servant and thus make it easier for expatriates to continue to serve.

The subsequent negotiations about the future of members of Her Majesty's Overseas Civil Service were satisfactorily concluded. It is fair to say that members of the Service who wish to retire upon independence being attained will receive adequate compensation and that there are good terms for those who intend to stay on. I am sure that the House will agree with me when I say that we hope that as many as possible of these officers will decide to stay on in all the countries of East Africa as and when they reach independence.

It is, however, about the latter two categories that I want to speak in a little more detail. Taking first the non-designated expatriates, there are about 8,000 of these officers in East Africa, of whom some 500 are European. These officers are permanently employed and are pensionable, and have their leave home to India, Pakistan or the United Kingdom paid.

This category of officer received an assurance in the White Paper, Colonial No. 306, in 1954, of which paragraph 12 says: Her Majesty's Government recognise that there are certain other categories of overseas pensionable officers who have been appointed to the service of territorial governments other than by selection by the Secretary of State. This is the key sentence: These officers may be assured that their interests will not be overlooked when the agreements referred to in paragraph 7 are being negotiated. Paragraph 7 refers to the agreements made between Her Majesty's Government and these States as they reach independence. It says: …and when the territory obtains self-government, to ensure the observance of those conditions by securing their embodiment in a formal agreement… I have already referred to the second White Paper published in October, 1960, which repeats this promise. Just over a year after that, in December last year, these promises appear to have been broken. Tanganyika reached its independence without officers of this category having received any assurance about their future. The same applies to the officers serving in the East African High Commission which was wound up, the officers being transferred to the new Common Service Organisation at about the same date.

I want briefly to examine the course of negotiations. In December, 1960, talks took place in London, and there was an understanding, given by the Colonial Office, that soon after there would be a statement: on compensation rights and security of conditions and pensions of these non-designated officers". That statement was expected about February or March, 1961. However, no statement was issued.

Further negotiations then proceeded on a scheme for retirement benefits. This reached a deadlock on the question of whether or not this category of officer should have the option to leave on the independence of the territory in question. A further round of talks took place in London in October and November last year, and I am glad to say that on 6th November a satisfactory compromise agreement was reached one month before the independence of Tanganyika and the establishment of the East African Common Service Organisation. At that time an undertaking was given to reconvene this conference in the event of any major changes in the agreement.

The agreement was sent for ratification to the East African Governments concerned. I understand that quite recently it has been rejected by the Government of Tanganyika as being too expensive and that the staff association concerned—that is the staff side of the Whitley Council—in Nairobi has been informed by the Kenya Government—I quote a Press release issued in Nairobi a few days ago—that it was not possible to commit itself to the principle that pensionable non-designated officers should be permitted to give notice of retirement on pension earned to date when full voluntary retirement pensions scheme for designated officers comes into operation in Kenya. I take it to mean that these non-designated expatriate officers are required to stay on, and perhaps be discriminated against and jettisoned when they are no longer required.

The staff association representing them has been put in a completely impossible situation. First, it started negotiations locally in East Africa but came to deadlock, and then it came over to London and reached a compromise agreement, but that agreement has now been rejected locally. I hope that my hon. Friend may be able to give me an assurance that the Secretary of State will reconvene this conference as soon as possible, which I understand was the undertaking given in November should things go wrong.

There is one other category of officers about which I want to speak, namely those officers who were recruited locally. Here I think there is a considerable difference between European and non-European. The non-European, generally speaking, is an indigenous inhabitant of the country and he intends to stay on there. That does not always follow, but quite a number do wish to stay. In terms of numbers, there are very few Europeans. These Europeans fall under four main categories. There are those recruited from or in the United Kingdom and who have their passage paid to East Africa. There are ex-Service men who left the Army in East Africa and then entered the Civil Service. There are those recruited from civilian firms in East Africa and there are those who were born in the country and are therefore citizens of East Africa.

I claim that Her Majesty's Government have some—I emphasise "some"—responsibility for the first two of these categories. There are 362 Europeans in Kenya who are permanent and pensionable and known as local officers. Those who were recruited before the Lidbury Committee were treated as members of H.M.O.C.S., but those recruited after the Lidbury Committee reported were treated as local civil servants. It is true that when they signed on they knew the terms, but when the Lidbury Committee reported it was expected that the status quo would be retained for at least ten years.

I will quote an example. An officer serving in the Army in East Africa dis cussed the possibility of entering the police force in Kenya. He returned to the United Kingdom on demobilisation and was then offered a job in the police force in Kenya while in England. He had his passage back to Mombassa paid, yet he was treated as a locally-recruited officer.

In Tanganyika there are about 120 European local officers, mostly ex-Service men. Of these some sixty want to return to the United Kingdom. They are now employed in training local Africans to relieve them. In some cases, their leave has been stopped in order to speed up the training of these reliefs. Surely they should at least be assisted with their passage and finding a job in the United Kingdom.

These men received no increases of pay under the Flemming Report and are very hard up, but they want to return home and have not the wherewithal to do so and to establish themselves in some sort of business on arrival. The Parliamentary Secretary will know that I have raised this case with him and his predecessor for the past eighteen months. I have been told that negotiations are proceeding but now that Tanganyika is independent it is going to be very difficult for the Colonial Office to bring pressure to bear.

In all these categories of officers when they joined there was no expectation of independence coming in so short a period. There is discrimination against them even today. In Tanganyika a senior Minister has said: As between an African and a non-African of similar qualifications, I shall always choose the African. In Kenya a Minister said: It is the Government's intention to reflect the population ratios in the Civil Service. Discrimination, therefore, is certain and careers are bound to be damaged. We have paid many tributes to the value of the Civil Service. I think most hon. Members will agree that the retention of qualified administrators is one of the prerequisites of satisfactory transfer of power in East Africa. I believe that the Government have failed to live up to their promises especially in Tanganyika and in the East African High Commission. This has caused great dismay in Kenya and Uganda which could result in positive action which could only cause a further deterioration of the present unstable conditions in those countries.

I hope that when he replies to the debate my hon. Friend will be able to tell me what Her Majesty's Government are to do to redeem the categorical promises made in 1954 and 1960. To put it bluntly, I call upon the Government to make an agreement with the East African Governments concerned and a very early statement on the safeguards for non-designated officers in East Africa in accordance with the agreement negotiated freely with the staff associations in London last year. I hope that statement will include a scheme for assisting local officers who desire to be repatriated to the United Kingdom.

4.15 p.m.

Mr. Dingle Foot (Ipswich)

I wish to add only a very few words to the extremely clear exposition which we have had from the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), but I should like to refer to the position of the Asian civil servants in East Africa.

We have already had experience of what has happened in Tanganyika. There, there were about 1,000 Asian civil servants, of whom approximately 750 were Indian nationals. When independence drew near, they were offered terms Which were very substantially worse than those offered to European officers. The Europeans, or at least the designated officers, were given the option of retiring on compensation, but the position of the Asians was very different. It was made clear that in future the Asian officer would be by-passed in promotion if there was an African who was capable of taking his job, irrespective of comparative merit. Secondly, it was made clear that the Asian would be bound to go if the Government required him to do so.

That meant two things. First, the Asian officer had no alternative. He did not have the option of retiring. Secondly, when he came to leave, either at his own request because somebody else was promoted over his head, or because he was required to leave, he would receive only the pension appropriate to his years of service, without any compensation at all. I think that the House will agree that, by any standards, those were very harsh and unjust terms.

We have seen what has happened in Tanganyika, and I hope that the Government will pursue this matter, as I understand they have undertaken to do, with the Government of Tanganyika. Last year, I had a meeting in Nairobi with representatives of the Asian civil servants in the service of the Kenya Government. They were looking into the future with great apprehension, and I am quite certain that the same thing must be true of Uganda.

All of us in this House understand and fully sympathise with the desire of newly-independent African States to Africanise their public services with all convenient speed. Nevertheless, I think that we should also have sympathy for the Asian civil servants who have carried out a vital public service in all these territories. They are not indigenous, and they have very little to look forward to. I hope that we shall hear something from the Minister today about the provision to be made for them.

4.18 p.m.

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

I should like to thank, as I am sure the whole House would, my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) and the hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Mr. D. Foot) who have raised this vital matter, which is of such great importance to us and to East Africa. It would probably be best if I looked over the whole field, so far as I can, and subject as I am to the negotiations, which are necessarily not yet complete, with the two East African Governments of Uganda and Kenya. Therefore, I hope that the hon. Members will bear with me if I do not touch on the possibilities of further consultation beyond what I propose to say.

It is important that we should look at the three categories which have made these vital contributions to the welfare of these three States and the Inter-Territorial Commission. As my hon. Friend said, the case of the designated officer is infinitely easier than that of the other two, and the reason is that Her Majesty's Government and this country have to them a special obligation. The special status of these officers is recognised, and it was recognised in 1954, as my hon. Friend said, when there was this reorganisation.

It was recognised in Colonial Paper 306, and undertakings were given there to those members of Her Majesty's Overseas Civil Service. My hon. Friend referred to paragraph 12 of that Paper, in which the key words are that "the interest of these others"—that is, the non-designated officers—would not be overlooked. As I shall show in the course of my speech, we have attempted to do what we can in their interests, but our obligation is not the same here as it is to those who are members of Her Majesty's Civil Service.

Broadly speaking, arrangements have been reached with the Governments of East Africa to the effect that once the Public Service Commission comes into effect the full weight of our Public Officers Agreement with those countries and their membership of our Overseas Aid Scheme takes effect. Full weight has been given to these undertakings, which were reaffirmed in 1960, and they are having a considerable effect in East Africa.

The latest figures which I have received—they are some months out-of-date—are that in Tanganyika, out of a total of 1,650 officers under this scheme, 416 have decided to move because of the change in the conditions of employment. This is very much smaller than the loss to the Tanganyika Government which at one time was expected. I believe that the scheme which we have put forward has had a very considerable effect. We are also able to report that it seems to be working satisfactorily in the East African Inter-Territorial Commission.

Unfortunately, we are left with those two other categories who present the real problem to us. It must be remembered that it is also a problem to the local Governments, which are faced, on the one hand, with their belief that there is a need for Africanisation and, on the other, with their duty to see that these individuals are looked after. This is one of the problems which always occurs when a country obtains independence and when thousands of people are involved. It is easy to carry my hon. Friend's argument in respect of local service even further, when not just thousands but tens of thousands would be involved, and the danger could emerge of attempting discrimination in favour of the purely local officer because he was European, taking him out of the category to which he must be regarded as belonging—the category which includes all these people.

I will, therefore, address the bulk of my remarks to the question of the so-called non-designated officers. In East Africa, unlike a number of other territories which have achieved self-government in recent years, there is a considerable number of officers with overseas connections who are not the direct responsibility of the British Government, who were not recruited by or on behalf of the Secretary of State for the Colonies and who are therefore not members of Her Majesty's Overseas Civil Service. The majority of these officers are Asian in origin, although there are several hundred European officers serving mainly in Kenya and with the Common Services' Organisation.

These officers are recruited direct by the East African Governments and administrations, some from overseas and some locally, but their overseas origin is recognised by the fact that while their salaries are the same as those of local officers their terms of service include overseas leave privileges. By definition, they do not come within the undertakings given by the British Government in Colonial Paper 306 to members of Her Majesty's Overseas Civil Service.

The question whether the transfer of power which is proceeding should entitle them to special retirement benefits has to be considered on its merits and in the light of the fact that no undertakings have been given by either the British or the local Governments. This is precisely the point of their complaint, the point of the local Governments' difficulty, and to some extent our embarrassment because of the great service these men have rendered.

The facts of the situation are these. As the East African territories advance towards independence, there is, naturally, an increasing pressure to associate local officers with the senior posts of responsibility or, to use the jargon of the times, to "localise." This is inevitable and is perfectly proper. In principle, it is desirable, and, indeed, essential, that this localisation should proceed as quickly as possible. However, if good government is to be maintained the process must be subject to two checks. First, the Civil Services must throughout retain the experience and the quality to enable them to maintain the fabric of administration and, secondly, overseas officers who suffer through this process of localisation must receive appropriate retirement terms.

For the designated officer this second problem has been met, or to a large extent has been met. However, for the second category—that is, the overseas non-designated officer with no direct link with the British Government—the question of appropriate retirement terms is a very real one which has exercised the Government, my hon. Friend and many of these people over the past year. The problem is, and must remain, a problem for the East African Governments, since they both recruited and employed these officers, who have never had any prospect of a career outside the territory of their immediate employment.

Because of our obligation to do what we could for these people, after a series of exchanges with the East African Governments the Secretary of State for the Colonies invited these Governments and representatives of the officers to discuss these matters here in London last autumn. The purpose of these discussions was not to reach decisions, since these must be for the East African Governments, but was to bring all the parties together to see whether common recommendations could be made to the East African Governments.

Following these discussions the Secretary of State for the Colonies invited the East African Government to consider retirement terms for these officers, and these Governments are in the process of reaching decisions. The Government of Tanganyika did not at that time feel able to associate themselves with the London talks, but I understand—I speak as one who is no longer responsible for Tanganyika affairs—that very shortly before independence they reached the conclusion that officers required to retire in favour of local officers, or superseded for promotion out of turn by local officers, should be entitled to retire with pensions earned to date and, in addition, a payment in a form which has yet to be settled and on which I gather that negotiations are still proceeding.

I turn to Kenya and Uganda. No final solution is needed in Kenya until the stage of self-government is reached. Meanwhile, the staff there have asked the Secretary of State to receive another deputation in London, and he will give this request urgent consideration on his return from the West Indies. But whether or not he considers it opportune to receive a further delegation, the basic position—I again stress this—still remains that these officers are the direct responsibility of the East African Governments.

What we do, and what we shall continue to do, is to ensure that as these countries achieve independence appointments, promotions and discipline are put in the hands of public service commissions which are as independent of the influence of the executive Government as constitutional provisions can make them. I believe that this is our key approach to these matters. There is the question of the interests of the local people employed. We must bear this in mind, also, because I believe that it is in the overwhelming interests of the local Governments to ensure that a high level of Government administration is maintained. To this end, I believe that it is absolutely vital that those who have served them so well over the last decade and more should continue to serve them over the next few years.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at twenty-nine minutes to Five o'clock.