HL Deb 16 December 1947 vol 153 cc287-91

5.3 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this Bill was welcomed by all Parties in another place, and when it becomes law it will be of great assistance to present and future Secretaries of State of the Colonies. While it deals with only a limited number of cases, it will relieve the Secretary of State for the Colonies of much anxiety when it falls to him to decide whether in the public interest the tenure of a Governor can be prolonged and when, at the same time, he is conscious that retirement before the age of sixty occasionally results in a loss of pension which is unfair to those who have given long and faithful service to His Majesty under very trying and difficult conditions. The Bill will also properly adjust the conditions of retirement of Governors who have reached retiring age and have given many years of valuable service, so that when the time comes for them to retire it is hoped they will be adequately provided for.

The present system under which pensions are granted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to Colonial and other Governors is laid down in the Act of 1911 as amended by the Acts of 1929 and 1936. Briefly, those Acts provide that to qualify for a Governor's pension a Governor must, except in certain circumstances, serve until he has reached the age of sixty, and that he must have served as a Governor for ten years or more unless he has previously served in the permanent Civil Service of the State. In the latter case three years' service as Governor would suffice to qualify him for pension provided that his combined service as a pensionable and permanent civil servant was not less than ten years. The amount of pension granted is determined by the class of governorship and the period of service. Colonial Governorships are divided into four classes, about twenty being in Classes I and II, and fourteen in Classes III and IV. The annual rate of pension is at present fixed at £6, £5, £4, and £3 respectively for each month of service in Classes I, II, III and IV. I referred to retirement in special circum- stances before the age of sixty. Such a case would arise where further appropriate employment is not available. When retirement takes place in such circumstances, the pension allowed based on length of service is reduced by one two-hundred-and-fortieth part for each complete month between the date of pension and the attainment by the Governor in question of the age of sixty. There is an over-riding limit of £2,000 per annum to the amount of pension or pensions from all sources which a Governor may receive.

The Bill, for the Second Reading of which I am asking this afternoon, proposes to amend these conditions. It changes the retirement age from sixty to fifty-five; it increases the pension rates; it removes the provision for a reduction of pension on premature retirement and increases the maximum limit of pension.

May I turn first to the question of retirement age? Most Colonial Governors are appointed from the Colonial Service. Indeed, of the thirty-four Colonial Governors now serving, twenty-nine were in fact appointed in this way. The normal retiring age in the Colonial service is fifty-five, and is based on long experience of the effects of tropical service. The duties of a Governor to-day are undoubtedly strenuous, much more so than they were a few years ago, and it would be wrong to require a Governor to serve to a greater age than we require his subordinates to do. More than ever today do we need young and active men in these positions. The reduction in retiring age which this Bill seeks to effect is, however, not mandatory, and the Bill will not prevent a Governor from continuing in service after fifty-five if it is in accordance with his own wishes and in the public interest that he should do so. But he will no longer have to serve to the age of sixty to qualify for a Governor's pension. This is the main proposal of Clause 1 of the Bill.

As regards the rate of pension, the present rates were fixed in 1929. Increases in the general level of salaries in the Colonial Civil Service have since taken place, and as Colonial civil servants receive a pension based upon salary, and not on flat rates as in the case of Governors, the rates of pension earned by the Governors have ceased to be in scale with those of civil servants junior to them. I can quote the example of a Governor shortly to retire after thirty-four years' tropical service, whose total pensions as a Colonial official and Governor will be less than the pension which his chief secretary, who is also shortly to retire, will receive. Another Governor, about to retire after a very long service, the last six years of which he has spent as Governor, would have received exactly the same pension as that to which he is now entitled if he had been appointed Colonial Secretary instead of Governor.

This Bill proposes to increase the monthly rates by £1 in each class, so that the amounts will in future be £7, £6, £5, and £4 for each month of service in Classes I, II, III and IV respectively. These increases will bring the pension rate for Colonial Governors into line with the new level of salaries in the Colonies. The Bill also, by Clause 3, increases the maximum amount a Governor may receive by way of pension or pensions from £2,000 to £2,300 per annum. Another point to which I have referred is the reduction imposed in the case of Governors who retire before the qualifying age. This reduction, in a case of retirement five years before the qualifying age, amounts to no less that 25 per cent. of the pension earned by service as a Governor. The provision is an unusual one, and there is no longer justification for retaining it, or for requiring pensioner governors, who now suffer a reduction on this account, to continue to do so. Clause 4 seeks to remove the provision, and to provide for the restoration of reductions which have been made in pensions still in payment. There are, in fact, four such pensions. The immediate extra cost of the Bill will be very small, while the ultimate extra expenditure will not exceed some £7,000 to £8,000 per annum. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a—(Viscount Hall).

5.13 p.m.


My Lords, I am glad to see the noble Viscount the First Lord of the Admiralty back in his place, and I hope he is fully restored to health again. I should like to wish this Bill a rapid and successful passage. The noble Viscount has explained it very clearly to the House. The sum involved in very small, but the need for the Bill is really great. It is a desirable Bill, and a fair Bill. As the noble Viscount explained, in the first place it reduces the normal retiring age from sixty to fifty-five. I think that is quite right. I like Governors to be appointed young. When I was Colonial Secretary I introduced the practice of not giving old men about to retire a small governorship as a sort of consolation prize. It seemed to be rather unfair on the smaller Colonies. Very often a small Colony in not very good circumstances is just the place that needs a really good, keen young man as Governor, and it is an excellent way of trying a man out—giving him, so to speak, a brigade.

I had the honour of recommending quite a number of men in their early forties—I was not so very old myself at the time—and they have all done extremely well—bar me. If there is a special case where the Secretary of State wants to keep on a Governor who is doing well, and who is in the prime of life at fifty-five, he should be allowed to do so. It is a pretty awful thought for some of us to think that fifty-five is the age at which we must be got rid of. I see in the House a number of anxious faces. Still, the atmosphere of the tropics is a little more trying than the atmosphere of this Chamber. In special cases it will be possible to keep on the man who ought to stay on; and with others, it cannot be expected that they will go unless they get a fair pension.

It is a good thing, too, that the avenue of promotion in this great service should be open to talent, and open at a reasonable age. The First Lord of the Admiralty, when he was the Secretary of State, will have heard of what was called "the long scale." There were a large number of people on that scale, and it took a very long time to climb the ladder; indeed, the long, long scale became the long, long trail, and there did not seem any end to it. Now there will be the chance of promotion. I hope the Secretary of State will not hesitate to appoint the best men, irrespective of seniority. It is in order on this Bill to say that. I am sure it is a mistake to suppose that you create jealousies and prejudices by appointing the best men, irrespective of age. You may disgruntle certain people whom it is quite right to pass over, but it will give a tremendous stimulus to all others in the service.

Then there is the increase in the pensions scale. Really it is not fair to call it an increase, because all it does is to bring the Governor's pension into line with what for some years now has automatically been the rate of pension for civil servants below the rank of Governor. For some reason or another, the pension of the unfortunate Governor has not gone up with those of the others. It would obviously be very unfair if we were to continue a system such as the noble Viscount has outlined to us and to ask men serving in the post of Governor (though many of them are ornamental, they are also very hardworking; it is the hardest job) to continue with the prospect of no larger a pension than that of their chiefs of staff. I have actually known cases where it would have paid a Governor to refuse the more important post, for which he was highly qualified, in order to remain in the subordinate post. That obviously is very wrong. It says a great deal for the public spirit of the Service that, though that state of affairs did exist, men have been willing to go on being Governors at a loss. That is not a handicap or a deterrent which we ought to continue.

I am glad, too, that the noble Viscount has made the increase a flat rate increase of £1. When the Bill was originally introduced there was, I think, a distinction between Class I and Class II Governors, and Class III and Class IV Governors. The original proposal, I think, was that a man would get 1os. if in the third or fourth class, and £1 if in the first or second class. This would have been a mistake because the difficulties and diversities are more likely to occur with inadequate pensions in the smaller governorships, the classes III and IV. I think it is quite right to make it clear. This Bill is a sound Bill and I am very glad it has been introduced. This is a proper thing for us to do for men who have deserved well of the State, and I wish the Bill a very expeditious passage.

On Question, Bill read 2a; Committee negatived.