HC Deb 05 July 1968 vol 767 cc1961-6


Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Braine

I rise briefly to seek clarification of the Clause. We sought this on Second Reading, but we were not altogether satisfied with the Parliamentary Secretary's reply. He said that the Clause simply includes people from the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man as people who are qualified to serve in this way."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st July, 1968; Vol. 767, c. 1264–65.] Surely the hon. Gentleman was wrong? If I am wrong, this again provides the Minister with an opportunity to put me right. The Explanatory and Financial Memorandum makes it clear that, as well as extending participation to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man The Clause also permits a prescribed period after leaving overseas service to count as qualifying service, whether or not the person concerned enters other employment approved by Minister. Any dispassionate examination of those words will show that these have nothing to do with the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. If a man takes a job after leaving the Overseas Service, a period will count as qualifying service for a pension, which it would not do if the Bill was not passed.

Therefore, surely, additional money will have to be found by the Government. Yet the last sentence of the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum says this: No additional sums will be required consequent upon clause 4. If additional money has to be found, this seems wholly reasonable to us but it is absurd for the Government to pretend that it is not so. I invite the right hon. Gentleman to explain the matter. If additional money is to be spent for this purpose, Parliament should be told. I cannot see how it can be argued that No additional sums will be required consequent upon the Clause.

Mr. Henry Clark

The question of Overseas Service pensions and their transferability is always rather close to my heart. Unfortunately, I came to the House of Commons at a time when it was impossible to transfer an Overseas Service pension as a contribution towards one's pension earned from service in the House of Commons. I do not think I can foresee an Amendment to the Clause which would put me in funds, even if the Committee were prepared to vote for it.

In our rather extensive discussions on Clause 1, we had a discussion on the question of the payment of pensions by this country rather than by the ex-Colonial Territories. The Minister presented an argument which, for aught I know, may be an excellent one. He said that if we took over about 15 million Colonial pensions it would distort the pattern of aid, in that some relatively rich countries would get more than they were entitled to and some relatively poor countries would not do so well. For aught I know, careful examination will show that argument to be sound.

If I table a Question to the Minister asking him to publish a table showing the average annual aid to all the ex-Colonial countries and the bill for pensions, which we think the Treasury rather than the country itself should meet, will he publish this so that we can see just how valid the argument is and just how great the distortion would be if the Treasury or his Ministry took over these pensions rather than the ex-Colonial Territories?

Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)

I want to raise again a point which I raised on Second Reading. I was not altogether clear about the meaning of my right hon. Friend's reply. Subsection (3)(b)says: where any such participant leaves any employment so mentioned before reaching the age at which a pension may become payable under the scheme and without entering other employment which is approved employment … What is meant by "which is approved employment"?

Mr. Tilney

I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Mr. Henry Clark) has said. I suspect that the Minister will say that, because the pensions are paid by overseas Governments, he will not have all the information available immediately both of those who are pensioners and also of their widows. However, he must have had quite a lot of information about Tanzania. We on this side have given him warning for many months about what was likely to happen in Tanzania. The Tanzanian Government themselves wrote to the British Government as long as ago as 12th June of last year about this very matter. They did not receive any answer from the British Government until 5th February of this year. Even those of us who are used to Ministerial delays think that that is a bit long.

I hope that the Minister will consider this carefully again because, as every public service officer's agreement is a bilateral one, there is no reason why he should not exclude the rich territories and deal only with the developing countries.

Mr. Goodhart

I support the plea made by my hon. Friends the Members for Antrim, North (Mr. Henry Clark) and for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney), and, at the same time, I welcome the Clause. Even in a small fashion, the Clause increases the help given to technical assistance, and at this time of financial stringency for the country as a whole, it makes good sense to devote more effort to technical assistance than to put it into soft loans.

Mr. Prentice

To deal, first, with the point raised by the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine), I confirm that no extra cost results from the Clause. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary was correct in one of the reasons which he gave on Second Reading, namely, that the fact that cover is extended to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man does not itself increase the number of people in the corps of specialists or technical assistance appointments. It means merely that we can take such people from those areas as well as from other parts of the United Kingdom.

The hon. Gentleman then asked whether the other provision of the Clause gave rise to extra cost in that we shall be taking into account employment after the officer concerned had left his assignment overseas. The answer is that, under the original scheme provided for in the 1966 Act, I have no power to use Government funds to make payments into the scheme for any period except when the officer concerned is in the employment of the British Government. Therefore, all we are providing here is that, if the officer concerned decides that it would suit him, a period after he has left the British Government's employment could be reckoned for pension purposes, but in such period he would have to make the payment himself, and those payments which he would make into the scheme would have to be sufficient actuarially to cover the extra burden on the scheme resulting from the higher pension. Thus, the part that the British Government would play would still be the same as originally. I must insist, therefore, that there is no extra cost to public funds resulting from the Clause.

I am sorry that I cannot elucidate the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy). I was trying to do so, but I have not in mind the answer to his question. I shall, if I may, write to him about it. I am sorry that I cannot respond more fully now.

The hon. Members for Antrim, North, Wavertree and Beckenham (Mr. Good-hart) all mentioned the wider question which goes outside the scope of the Clause, which deals only with a comparatively small scheme, the Overseas Service Pensions Scheme relating to people employed by the British Government. I think, therefore, that I had better not pursue the wider matters which hon. Gentlemen have raised, though I shall do my best to give as much information as I can to any Questions which they put down.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended, considered.

Motion made, and Question, That the Bill be now read the Third time, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 55 (Third Reading) and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.


As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

3.45 p.m.

Mr. Speaker

I have posted the Amendments which are to be considered. The first one is new Clause No. 1 and the Amendment thereto.

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