HC Deb 06 February 1963 vol 671 cc441-3
31. Mr. Paget

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will make a statement on the negotiations with regard to redundancy amongst civilian employees, both established and unestablished, of the Army in Singapore; and if he has had any proposals for reference of disputed points to arbitration.

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. John Profumo)

The Army authorities told the Singapore Army Civil Service Union in May, 1961, that redeployment of the Army would make many locally engaged civilians redundant. The discharges began last month and will be completed by March, 1964. The redundancies amount to about 1,600 posts.

We have been negotiating with the Army Civil Service Union over the last 18 months on many matters, and the main point in dispute is the amount of gratuity to be paid to those who are discharged. The gratuity which we are paying is generous, but the union wants greater compensation and it is on this point that it wishes to go to arbitration.

Mr. Paget

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will realise that at least one of the functions of our base in Singapore is to provide good will and support for the Government there. Do these redeployments involve downgrading and less pay for a number of established civil servants as well as the discharge of a number of unestablished civil servants? Is that a very wise thing to do? Is this not a situation which creates a tremendous amount of bad will? If there is a request for arbitration, in these circumstances, is it not desirable to comply with it?

Mr. Profumo

We follow the practice of local good employers. I am satisfied, having recently reviewed our arrangements, that they are well in line with what local good employers do. Established employees are being dealt with under the provisions of the United Kingdom Superannuation Act. I am satisfied that we are giving generous treatment, and in view of what we are doing I cannot agree with arbitration.

Mr. Paget

If the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied, why should not an arbitrator be satisfied? If he feels that his case is such a good one, why should he fear arbitration?

Mr. Profumo

It is not a question of fearing arbitration. There is no cause for arbitration in this case. I am absolutely satisfied, as I am sure the hon. and learned Member would be if he looked into the terms we give, that we are doing everything in line with local good employment.

Mr. Gordon Walker

Surely the whole point of arbitration is to use it when one side is not satisfied.

Mr. Profumo

I do not follow the right hon. Gentleman's point. Some people are professing themselves to be dissatisfied by particular sections of the gratuities and arrangements we are making. We have been doing this over a long period, and have just reviewed our practice and brought it into line with the practice of local good employers. I can see no reason for departing from established custom and having arbitration.

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