HC Deb 19 March 1970 vol 798 cc591-3
18. Mr. Judd

asked the Minister of Overseas Development whether she will make a statement on the future size of the aid programme, in the light of her future policy towards payment of pensions of former colonial officers.

Mrs. Hart

No, Sir.

Mr. Judd

Will my right hon. Friend recognise that, while many of us are full of admiration for her success in persuading the Treasury to rationalise its procedure on pensions, we are not convinced by her argument that these payments should come under the present aid ceiling, especially as they will not affect payments across the exchanges and will have a minimal effect on the balance of payments?

Mrs. Hart

My hon. Friend is wrong about the latter point. We shall be paying for the pensions by grants which will materially assist the foreign exchange problems of the countries to whom we are making the grants. I have stressed before that, in my view, the pensioners who will benefit from this are people who, in the main, did an essentially developmental job in pre-independence days—[Interruption.] If Mr. Speaker will bear with me, I will give a figure. Between 1946 and 1950, which was a period of rapid expansion of the Colonial Service in pre-independence days, some 90 per cent. of Colonial Service appointments were in education, law, medicine, agriculture, forestry, and other branches. Those were developmental jobs.

Mr. David Steel

Will the right hon. Lady recognise that none of us disputes that these civil servants did work towards development in decades gone by? We are concerned that their pensions should not be paid out of the current overseas aid programme.

Mrs. Hart

There will be no question of a £ for £ adjustment in terms of the aid programme for the countries concerned. However, since aid is concerned with development, past development is a logical consideration to take into account in present aid programmes.

23. Mr. Fortescue

asked the Minister of Overseas Development whether she will give an assurance that the Colonial Service pensioners, for whose pensions her Department will shortly take responsibility, will not thereby be worse off by reason of the incidence of income tax, devaluation or any other factor.

25. Mr. Tilney

asked the Minister of Overseas Development whether she will ensure that overseas service pensioners living in countries which did not devalue their currencies when the £ sterling was devalued, and those now living abroad and not subject to British income tax, will not be made worse off by Her Majesty's Government's decision to take over the payment of certain expatriate pensions; and whether widow's pensions will also be covered by her decision.

Mr. Whitaker

No pensioner would be worse off as a result of the arrangements proposed in my right hon. Friend's statement of 11th March, under which Her Majesty's Government are ready to consider reimbursing overseas governments for the cost of expatriate pensions. Legislation will be necessary before the Government can begin to pay individual pensioners, and I can assure the House that we shall have full regard to pensioners' interests. Responsibility for widows' and orphans' pensions is a subject which we would hope to discuss with the Governments concerned.

Mr. Fortescue

Since the Question contained a double negative and has been answered by a partial affirmative, could the hon. Gentleman be a little more categorical? Can he assure us that, the month after this arrangement comes into force, no pensioner concerned will receive less money than he received the month before?

Mr. Whitaker

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the assurance which my right hon. Friend gave when she made the statement.

Mr. Tilney

Since this decision is very welcome to many of us on this side who have been pressing the Government for a long time to take this action, will the hon. Gentleman confirm—I am not clear from his reply that he has done so—that the widows, too, will not suffer?

Mr. Whitaker

That is prefectly correct. It would, of course, be logical for the British Government to assume responsibility for the widows as and when we assume responsibility for the officers' pensions. Some of the schemes are, of course, already funded, and that matter will also have to be looked into.

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