HL Deb 20 December 1955 vol 195 cc333-4

2.35 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are aware that the statement made in this House on the 8th of November with regard to retired pay was apt to be misleading for the following reasons—

  1. (1) The extract quoted referred to the R.A.F. alone, and in 1919 there were no officers of the R.A.F. entitled to pensions except those who had started in the Army or the Navy;
  2. (2) The corresponding clause in the Army Warrant commences "Subject to Articles 2 to 4," and Article 2 provides that the rates of pay or pensions laid down "shall be subject to revision on account of variation in the cost of living…";
  3. (3) No such clause or provision exists in the corresponding Admiralty Order for the Navy:
and to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they de not consider that the unilateral cancellation of the clause providing for revision as quoted constitutes a breach of faith.]


My Lords. I am afraid that Her Majesty's Government could not accept the suggestion in the noble Lord's Question that the statement referred to was in any way misleading. The new pay and pensions codes introduced in 1919 in all three Services were based on the same principles, and the rather more explicit phraseology of the Royal Air Force Order is, in the view of Her Majesty's Government, a proper interpretation of such phrases as, "to be subject to review," "will be subject after five years to revision" and "revision may take place," which appear in the corresponding Orders of the Royal Navy and the Army. I am afraid that it is also incorrect to state that no such clause exists in the corresponding Order for the Navy. The Admiralty's Order in Council of the 22nd January, 1920, includes a statement that the rates then introduced would be subject to review on or after the 1st July, 1924. As the noble Lord will know, successive Governments have all maintained the view that the provisions in the pension code for all three Services did not constitute an undertaking to the officers concerned, and that the decision to abandon the system of variation with the cost of living was one which the Government of the day were entitled to take.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the undertaking in question was universally accepted in the Services as a promise? Further, is he aware that in the opinion of distinguished Queen's Counsel the action of the Government has amounted to a breach of contract in this matter, and, moreover, that the late Lord Simon, a former Lord Chancellor, was of that opinion?


My Lords, I can only reply that this appears to be one of those questions where, even in the highest legal circles, there may be differences of view.


My Lords, is the noble Marquess aware of the grave dissatisfaction which exists among Regular Service pensioners of all ranks with this policy? Is he aware, also, that officers feel that they have been deceived by what they regard as a breach of faith on the part of the Government, and that this is having a bad effect on the recruitment of Regular officers for the Services?


My Lords, of course, I will report to my right honourable friend what the noble Lord has said, with all his authority, but I do not think I can add to what has already been said on the subject. I need hardly say that, as the noble Lord knows, we all view this question with the utmost sympathy.

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