HC Deb 01 March 1962 vol 654 cc1535-7
Q5. Dame Irene Ward

asked the Prime Minister whether he will arrange a meeting, under his chairmanship, of ex-Colonial Secretaries no longer holding Cabinet appointments, ex-Ministers of Service Departments, representatives of senior retired Service personnel and representative Members of Parliament to discuss the pension position of retired Regular service pensioners and retired Colonial Service pensioners.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I am always interested to know the views of those who have had experience of the matters to which my hon. Friend refers, but these questions must remain the responsibility of Governments.

Dame Irene Ward

Why is it, when my right hon. Friend always speaks so movingly about his survival in the First World Wax and when he is talking to the rail way men he refers to the slaughter at Passchendaele, which he and I both remember, that he finds it so impossible to do anything for the people who made his survival, which was most important, certain? Has he read the speech of Lord Boyd in the House of Lords on the colonial pensioners, and does he intend to accept the view of a Cabinet Minister who obviously was "sat on" by the Cabinet in the views he genuinely felt about his own people? Can the Prime Minister take any action?

The Prime Minister

I have and will consider all these matters, but, of course, this has always been a problem, and no Government which has so far studied this problem, however sympathetically, has ever been able to apply current pension improvements retrospectively.

Dame Irene Ward

Will any Government ever do so?

Mr. Bellenger

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that unaided he is able to decide who representative hon. Members of Parliament are?

The Prime Minister

No, but I might, perhaps, ask for Mr. Speaker's assistance.

Mr. Tilney

Is the Prime Minister aware that from time to time large sums of the British taxpayers' money are either given or loaned to colonial or ex-colonial Governments, some of whom have paid no attention to the possibility of lifting the pensions of their ex-servants to the level or those who stayed at home in the United Kingdom? Does he not think that this is hardly a good advertisement in the future for servants of the Crown overseas?

The Prime Minister

Of course, all these matters have been going on and axe matters of negotiation, but it is very important that we should firmly, when negotiations for independence are taking place, put the burden and the responsibility on the successor Government.

Mr. Wade

Since in an earlier reply the Prime Minister said that this is the responsibility of the Government, can he say what the Government are proposing to do?

The Prime Minister

That is another question. If the hon. Gentleman will put it down, then, of course, I will answer it.

Sir H. Oakshott

In retrospect, can the Prime Minister recall that not long ago this House passed the Overseas Service Act which made generous provision for a great many overseas civil servants? I think I am right in saying that that will cost this country about£160 millions over ten years. Therefore, a great deal has been done about which we may be proud.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. It would be a great mistake if it were to go outside this House that the Houses of Parliament have not been willing to accept very heavy responsibilities.

Mr. Woodburn

Would the right hon. Gentleman look into the whole question as to whether pensioners axe the proper people to pay for inflation, because, after all, inflation is making a reduction in the real pensions? Why should they suffer for something for which they have no responsibility?

The Prime Minister

It would be equally dangerous to create a situation in this country when, instead of us all trying to get together to stop inflation, it was generally regarded that it did not matter and we just paid ourselves out in paper money.