HL Deb 14 May 1946 vol 141 cc196-9

4.53 p.m.

LORD ALTRINCHAM rose to ask whether His Majesty's Government can now inform the House of any steps taken to improve the pay and allowances of Government servants in Palestine, which are described by the Anglo-American Committee of Enquiry as "generally and sometimes pitifully inadequate." The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to ask the question which stands in my name. Your Lordships may remember that I spoke upon this subject in the debate on Palestine not long before the Christmas recess. The Lord Chancellor, who replied to that debate, was good enough to give me some information on this subject and he referred in particular to two improvements in the lot of the Government servants in Palestine which had been made in the course of the war. He then said that the last of these improvements might not prove adequate and he gave me an assurance in these words: I know my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies has continuously in mind the special difficulties of the Palestine Service and the question of salary scales. Some months have passed since then, and the conditions of payment and allowances for Government servants in Palestine have elicited a rather remarkable comment from the members of the Anglo-American Palestine Committee. They, after all, are quite impartial and responsible judges. I am bound to say I find it wounding to this country's reputation for fairness to its public servants that it should have been possible for such a comment to be made, but the Committee actually said that the salaries and allowances paid to civil servants in Palestine were generally, and sometimes pitifully, inadequate. Those are strong words, but from what I saw of the conditions there—not entirely alleviated by the action previously taken—those words are in no way exaggerated.

There is going to be an increasing strain upon Government servants in Palestine. Let there be no mistake about it; their period of trial is not at an end. The prices there are not, I think, at all likely to fall in the near future. We have, I believe, to take heed of the warning which has been given by a recent strike amongst the Government servants in Palestine. This complaint is the one thing which has entirely united British, Arabs and Jews, who acted together without any difficulty to establish their rights in this respect. This question was very close to the heart of the late Lord Gort, who knew far more about it than I did, because he was living with the problem all the time. He spoke to me about it constantly and when I was in Palestine I was able to satisfy myself that what he had said was in no way inconsistent with the facts. I hope, therefore, that I may this time have an answer from the Government which shows that the claims of Government servants in Palestine have been further considered and that more is going to be done for them.

4.56 p.m.


My Lords, I am very glad that my noble friend has raised this question in the House. The phenomenon of the inadequacies of the salaries of the Colonial servants in Palestine is to some extent a recent phenomenon in view of the rise in prices which have taken place over there, but the strain under which they have been suffering must in many cases stretch back for at least ten or a dozen years. I had the privilege of visiting Palestine in 1938, at the time when the attacks of the Arabs upon our civilians and upon our troops were almost at their height and I realised the intense burden of anxiety borne not only by the Colonial servants themselves but by their wives and their families. Their work, too, was singularly heart-breaking in that the turbulence of Palestine at that time prevented them from carrying out those social improvements which they were most anxious to see.

It should perhaps be remembered, when criticisms are made in this Report of the lack of educational facilities for the Arabs, that the possibility of making those reforms was very keenly in the minds of the civil servants, who were most anxious to proceed with social amelioration but who were debarred from it by the turbulence of the times and later by war-time conditions. I suggest that we should take warning from this particular incident where British policy has been criticised, and rightly criticised, in an international document, and should ask the Minister for the Colonies to give very careful consideration—more careful consideration in the future than in the past—to the remedying of any financial grievances which may be adding unnecessarily to the burden and impeding the efficiency of Colonial servants in other parts of the Empire.

4.59 p.m.


My Lords, I have been asked to reply on behalf of my noble friend the Leader of the House and I hope the reply will in some way relieve the anxiety that is felt in the quarter mentioned. Approval has recently been given for increases in the rates of pay of officers in the higher ranks of the Civil Service in Palestine with effect from January 1, 1946, and at the same time increases have been sanctioned in the expatriation allowances payable to officers whose place of domicile at the time of appointment was outside Palestine. With effect from April 1, 1946, a substantial upwards revision of basic rates in the grades applicable to the second division of Civil Service has also been approved. The compensatory high cost of living allowances payable to all officers have also been increased with effect from April I. The maximum allowance payable to a bachelor in receipt of£15 a month or over, for example, is now nearly£16 a month as against rather more than£9 a month previously, while the allowance to a married man with four children in receipt of the same salary of£15 a month or over, is now roughly£22 a month as against£19 previously.

In addition to these increases, a lump sum payment equivalent to two months' basic pay and basic allowance with a ceiling of£120 will also be paid shortly to all civil servants in Palestine, in recognition of the fact that the existing rates approved in May, 1945, have been found inadequate in certain respects, and more particularly, in that cost of living conditions prior to that time were not taken sufficiently into consideration. The total cost of all the above increases in pay and allowances will be in the region of£1,500,000 a year, while the cost of the lump sum payments is estimated to be£1,000,000. The total sum involved is£2,500,000.


I am very much obliged to the noble Lord for that most satisfactory reply.

5.2 p.m.