HL Deb 23 July 1956 vol 199 cc39-50

4.15 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I seem to be having rather an innings to-day! I apologise to your Lordships, although I have already mentioned it to the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore; and he, at any rate, cannot complain. I now have to detain your Lordships in moving the Second Reading of this Bill. There never was a Bill the Second Reading of which I moved with greater pleasure. The purpose of the Bill is to provide a new method of calculating the amount of a Governor's pension which will normally bring a Governor into line with the pension arrangements which apply to an oversea civil servant. The number of persons to be covered by the Bill is not large. Only forty-nine Governors have retired on pension in the last ten years, and four died while still serving.

The situation under the existing Acts is really an extremely unsatisfactory one. A Governor's pension is calculated by reference to his length of service according to the class of Governorship—from £4 a month in Class IV, to £7 a month in Class I. This system, unlike that in the Home Civil Service and the Oversea Civil Service, bears no relation to the salary earned by a Governor. As your Lordships know, in both these Services there have been very considerable increases of salary since the war and such increases, of course, enhance the pensions of the officers concerned. Very different is the present position of a Governor. An increase in his salary makes no difference to the pension he may expect, and, as a result, in a number of cases the pension of a Governor in respect of his civil service and his Governor's service combined is less than he would have received had he remained in the Oversea Civil Service and retired from one of the senior posts in it.

That is a most ludicrous situation. If I may, I will give your Lordships one example of the kind of anomaly which can take place. A few years ago a high-ranking oversea civil servant was appointed to a second-class Governorship. His combined Civil Service and Governor's pensions, calculated under the existing Acts amount to just over £1,500, whereas had he remained in the Civil Service post until the same date of retirement, his colonial pension would have exceeded £2,300.

This Bill proposes to remedy this anomalous position by providing that the pension of a Governor who was previously in the Oversea Civil Service—and the majority of Governors are in this category—shall be based on his final salary and on his total period of public service. His pension will be calculated at the rate applicable generally throughout the Oversea Civil Service, namely 1/600th of the average yearly salary during the three years before final retirement for every month of service. The oversea Governments concerned will, as at present, pay the pensions awarded in respect of the civil service under their respective pension laws—that is to say, for their bit of their Governor's service— and the balance will be paid by Her Majesty's Government. That deals with the Governors who also have oversea civil service. In the other case, a Governor who has had no previous oversea civil service, provided that his total Government service is not less than ten years, will be eligible for a pension at the rate of 1/600th of his average salary for each month he has served as a Governor.

Clause 4 of the Bill limits the pension which a Governor may receive from all sources to £3.000, or to two-thirds of his highest salary, whichever is the less. The amount of £3,000 may be varied by Treasury order, but the two-thirds of salary limit will remain. It is the intention to relate the maximum pension to the maximum which a Permanent Secretary in the Home Civil Service may earn after forty years' service. Similarly, the amount of a gratuity which may be paid to the personal representative of a Governor who dies in office and who was previously a home or oversea civil servant will, it is proposed, be the average yearly amount of his final salary, subject to a maximum of £4,500—and that also incidentally, is alterable by Treasury order.

There are certain other points which I think perhaps I ought to draw to your Lordships' attention. Clause 2 of the Bill seeks to reduce from 55 to 50 the age at which a pension may be granted to a Governor. Cases arise in which it is desirable that a Governor should be able to retire at an earlier age than 55 in which it is not appropriate to apply the provisions for ill-health or abolition of office, or the provision in Section 9 of the 1911 Act, under which a pension may be awarded if it is impracticable to find a Governor further appropriate employment. I can assure your Lordships, however, that the cases in which pensions will be awarded at an earlier age than 55 will be rare. In the great majority of cases there is no reason why a Governor should not serve until the age of 55 or even beyond.

Clause 5 introduces an arrangement which is common throughout the Oversea Civil Service—namely, to allow a Governor to commute not more than one-quarter of his pension for a lump sum, whilst Clause 6 seeks to give a Governor the same privilege as a Home Civil Servant, that of allocating, if he so wishes, not more than one-third of his pension for the benefit of his wife or other dependants. Clause 14 applies the provisions of the Bill to pensions and gratuities granted after 31st August, 1955, but safeguards the rights of a Governor serving on 1st September, 1955, to the provisions of the existing Acts if these are more favourable to him.

My Lords, I do not think there is anything more that I need say in explanation of the Bill. I am quite sure that all your Lordships will agree with me that it is wrong that Governors should be at a disadvantage in comparison with civil servants, and particularly with over-sea civil servants. In these changing and difficult times they carry a great weight of responsibility upon their shoulders, and the country owes a very great deal to their devoted service. It is only right, therefore, that this worthy and distinguished body of public servants should receive treatment similar to that which the civil servant has long enjoyed. I therefore commend this Bill with confidence to your Lordships, and I beg to move that it be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(Lord Lloyd.)

4.22 p.m.


My Lords, if I may take up one remark of the noble Lord, I, for one, do not complain at all at his speaking again this afternoon, and at some length. He has not, to my mind, spoken longer than he should have done. We always welcome the noble Lord and these two Bills relate to important matters. If the Government put them on the Order Paper, they have to be fully discussed—we cannot slide over them. I should like to point out one feature which I am sure is in your Lordships' minds: the Government are responsible for 70 million people overseas, as compared with 52 million people in this country. and the amount of Parliamentary time given to the affairs of the 70 million overseas people is minute compared with the time given to our own problems in this country. So if we do spend a few minutes on these matters on a Monday afternoon for one, consider the time well spent.

The test of this Bill, it seems to me, is first, whether it is of benefit to the public service and, secondly, whether it is of benefit to the Governors. I think the noble Lord opposite has set out clearly the benefits to the Governors, but he did not set out quite so fully the benefit to the public service, and perhaps I may say a word on that aspect. It seems to me that the answer to the question, is the Bill of benefit to the public service? is Yes—for two reasons. First of all, it will enable the Governor to count his previous service in the Home or Oversea Civil Service towards the ten years' service which qualifies him for a pension, however short his service as a Governor may be; and secondly, it lowers, from 55 to 50, the age at which a Governor may retire. It seems to me that these provisions widen the field of choice of suitable people for Governors, and they also enable the weary, and perhaps the "misfits," to be removed earlier than is now possible. Although it does not often happen, sometimes a Governor becomes weary. I have known one or two who were obviously not quite up to their job towards the end of their period of service, and I have also known others who were "misfits" in their particular territory.

That brings me to another point. I think that in the Colonial Office the choice of Governors is still actuated too much by: "It is Buggins's turn". It is a question of seniority; and in my view, not enough care is taken always to ensure that the right man is selected for the right spot. Very rarely is a person selected as Governor who is not able to be a Governor—I am quite sure that there are very few, if any, cases where that happens—but I have known several cases where a man has been sent to some place for which he was not suitable. A Governor who is sent, we will say, to Sierra Leone may be quite suitable for that place but not for British Somaliland; or a man suitable for Fiji may not be suitable for Hong Kong. It seems to me that sometimes the Colonial Office hardly seems to be aware of this fact; they appoint a man, by seniority or for some other reason, to an office for which he is not suitable and in which he does not make a success, whereas in another territory he may have done quite well.

The position is made more difficult by the rather absurd classification of territories into first, second and third class Governorships, carrying different salaries and allowances. A Class 3 territory may have greater need of an experienced Civil Service Governor than, say, a Class 2 or a Class 1 territory; such a post may be a much harder one to hold down than one in a Class 1 or a Class 2 territory, because the problems involved may be extremely intricate and may entail a great many "headaches." A case in point is British Somaliland. I cannot think of any territory which promises such potential "headaches" as British Somaliland, yet it is a Class 3 territory, and a man who is just starting out may be sent there, whereas, in fact the job requires a very experienced man. Owing to salary and status, of course, as a rule the new men are funnelled into Class 3, and they then work upwards.

I think the test in relation to people who are appointed as Governors should be, what are the needs of the individual territory, and not, what is the seniority of the individual Governor. Generally speaking, I would say that the needs of the smaller and of less advanced. territories require Civil Service Governors. I imagine that it would be rare that it would be suitable to send a political Governor to a territory of that kind. If they can be found from the Oversea Civil Service, so much the better: but, failing that, it would be better to take them from the Home Civil Service. The task that confronts such a territory needs experienced administrators and usually the necessary resources are not available there to provide experienced administrators in addition to the Governor, and perhaps the Chief Secretary. But territories, whether Class 1 or Class 2, where there is a lively political element, especially territories where there is a multi-racial population, would often be better served by someone from outside the Civil Service—someone with political experience, unless in the Oversea Civil Service there is a man with exceptional qualifications in that respect.

Of course, it may be that a man with political experience and flair can be found in the Civil Service; but we cannot count upon that—in fact, we cannot expect it, because, as we know, the whole training of a civil servant is different from that of a politician, and we cannot expect him to be able to grapple with the sort of problems that a territory like Kenya, for example, poses, for which he has an inadequate training. A number of the oversea civil servants spend many years of their life administering territories which have not a particularly inflammable political situation and, therefore, are often out of touch with the conditions which they are likely to meet in the sort of territory I have mentioned. For all these reasons, I think that this Bill is obviously going to help the situation. I welcome it, and I congratulate the Government on introducing it to the House.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, in rising to welcome the introduction of this Bill, I should like to make one or two comments on it. I most heartily welcome it, and I am relieved of what would normally be the necessity of declaring a personal interest because I understand that it is to apply only to the future. In spite of Lord Lloyd's statement in introducing the Bill, and the eulogy he pronounced upon Governors, one gathers that the responsibilities of Governors started only in the year 1955. I am not at all sure whether he said that there were forty-nine Governors who had retired in the last ten years and four who had died in office. Those, or most of them, have no relation whatever to this Bill because they will not benefit at all under it. I make that remark to show that I may speak with the same freedom as anybody else without a personal interest in the Bill; for that is my position

This Bill is an act of belated justice. I do not think it is a subject for congratulation to this Government or any other Government, because for the past thirty years the treatment of these officers has been something in the nature of a public disgrace. On looking at the Bill, I think there are one or two things about it which call for a little comment. There is still what perhaps I ought to call the "Treasury attitude of mind" running through even this Bill. The British Government apparently finds it difficult to be generous to its servants when they retire. I do not know why there should be a maximum of £3,000 in the pension for the Governors of the future. I do not see why the death gratuity maximum should be £4,500. Those matters are referred to in Clauses 4 and 7 of the Bill.

In particular, I should like to refer to Clause 5, which deals with widows' pensions and makes it possible for a Governor to provide for his wife, in case he predeceases her, by surrendering a portion of his pension by which she may benefit. In passing. I should like to join issue with the noble Lord who introduced this Bill when he drew the analogy of the Whitehall civil servant. There is no analogy whatever in regard to the widows' pensions. Everyone with any knowledge of the Colonial Service knows that no successful Governor can be successful without owing at least 50 per cent, of his success to his wife: the wife renders as great a public service as the Governor himself. I remember a Secretary of State, a Member of your Lordships' House to-day, who said to me in days gone by: "I never make a recommendation for an appointment of a Governor until I have seen his wife." We all know that the wife may make or mar the man's work.

I think the treatment accorded under this Bill is far less than generous. I know that the British Government, which I suppose means the Treasury, is accustomed to deal with domestic bereavement in vulgar fractions, but I suggest it does not become the Government of this country not to make adequate provision. In the days before this Bill (and the position is only slightly improved now) if within three days of his retirement a Governor were to die, although he might have served for any number of years, even the whole of his working life, the pension died with him and his wife received exactly nothing. The much maligned business man would never dream of treating his responsible servants in that manner, and I suggest that it is not right that the British Government should do it either. There is the kind of unnecessary parsimony which runs through this Bill, and I suggest it still needs revision.

I should like also to take up the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, in his remark about political appointments. It is true that a civil servant may have a lack of the knowledge of politics which a person who has lived a political life at home may possess, but an even greater danger to the Colony would be that a politician appointed as Governor from this country—who necessarily would rarely be a politician of the first rank, because if he were he would not accept a Colonial Governorship; he would have a bigger career open to him in this country—while he might have familiarity with politics and politicians would have no knowledge whatever of colonial administration. That, in itself, would contain considerable danger. I do not wish to detain your Lordships over this Bill beyond making those comments, but I suggest that it is still lacking in the generosity which would become the British Government.

4.36 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to say only a few words in this debate. I should like to add my support to the Bill and to say how sorry I am to learn from the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, something which I had suspected on reading the Bill: that these increased pensions do not apply to those distinguished Governors whose services terminated before 1955. That is a matter of great regret to me. There is one other point I should like to raise with regard to colonial pensions generally, and it is this. The present system is not satisfactory because colonial civil servants who have had the fortune, or misfortune, to serve in the poorer Colonies are much less well off with regard to pensions compared with those who have served in the richer Colonies. I do not think that that is right, because it is not the colonial civil servant himself who determines where he is to do his service; he goes where he is told. If he happens to have served in the poorer Colonies it is quite unjust, in my opinion, that he should be prejudiced by it. I daresay it is not appropriate to this Bill, but it seemed to me an opportunity for saying something which I have wanted to say for a long time.

4.38 p.m.


My Lords, I find myself in a slightly schizophrenic condition in this matter. As the son of a Governor, I cannot help having sympathy with what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, and also my noble friend Lord Clitheroe. I am sure I should be better off to-day if what the noble Lords have suggested had been practised a long time ago. But whether or not this Bill is perfect, whether or not it gives everything the Governor ought to have, I think your Lordships will agree that it is at any rate a considerable advance on the previous set-up. I hope that to that extent your Lordships will still welcome this Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Milverton, suggested various ways in which he thinks the Bill could be improved. If he feels that, perhaps he will put down some Amendments on the Committee stage, though I want to get it through as soon as possible for the benefit of the Governors concerned, and I cannot promise to accept the Amendments when he puts them down. I should like to correct one or two things he said. First of all, he did not see why the amounts should be limited to £3,000 in one case or £4,500 in the other. The answer to the noble Lord is that they are not; they can be varied by Treasury order. The whole idea is that the Governor should be equated, qua pension, with the Permanent Under-Secretary in a home Department. The noble Lord says he thinks that is a wrong basis, but I am not entirely sure that it is unreasonable. At any rate, that is the idea, and therefore these sums can be varied by Order in Council, so that any changes that are made in the status of a Permanent Under-Secretary in a home Department may be made equally for a Governor.


My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord for one moment, may I suggest that any Treasury revision of an Order aimed upwards would be something in the nature of a miracle?


I am afraid that I am hardly in a position to comment upon that. Let me now attempt to deal with the other point raised by the noble Lord. He referred to what he considered was the meanness of the Bill with regard to the wives of Governors. Again, I am sorry that the Bill does not go as far as the noble Lord would like it to do. He must remember, however, that in so far as Governors have been overseas civil servants, in most cases they are already beneficiaries under contributory schemes which most Governments have for this purpose. Therefore, they have what most people in industry have, or something similar, over and above what is provided in the Bill.


May I interrupt the noble Lord again to say that the maximum pension which a widow can receive under that colonial scheme is about £500 a year.


I can see that I am unlikely to satisfy the noble Lord. I am doing my best, but I do not seem to be very successful so far as he is concerned. However, as I say, if the noble Lord cares to put down Amendments we shall be ready to consider them.

I should like now to deal with the point raised by my noble friend Lord Clitheroe—that is the question of the difference that arises in pensions and, indeed, in other emoluments, between territories. I must confess that I have a good deal of sympathy with what the noble Lord has said, because it is a matter which is not confined to pensions; it extends to all emoluments. And let me say that I am afraid that, despite what has been said, the West Indian Governments are probably the worst payers in the territories. Certainly a man who serves a West Indian Government gets less than someone who serves in Africa. This is a real problem and a very difficult one. Noble Lords who have sat in the Colonial Office will probably agree when I say that it is a problem which has interested all of us for many years.


Is not that one of the objectives of the Oversea Civil Service: that these pensions and salaries shall be the responsibility of the Home Government? A contribution will be made to them. A man, I take it, will be salaried and pensioned on a proper basis, irrespective of the territory in which he serves.


I do not think we can enter into a debate on the Oversea Civil Service. But the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, is wrong in what he says. That scheme is confined at the moment to Nigeria.


Others can come in.


I do not think we can debate the Oversea Civil Service now. As I have said, it is a very complicated matter and it would not apply in this case. I certainly agree about the difficulty. It has always been the principle that officers should be employed by the colonial Governrnent, and there are strong arguments still why that should be so. To change the whole system at this stage would lead us into great difficulties. It has been considered by Colonial Secretary after Colonial Secretary and I am afraid that they have all ultimately come to the view that, on balance and despite the difficulties, the present system is probably the best we can get. I am conscious of what the noble Lord has said. I am conscious of it in relation to this Bill. I will certainly look at the matter again and see whether we can do anything to meet the noble Lord's point. But I should not like him to think that it is very probable that we shall be able to do so. However, it is a valid point and I will certainly look at it again. I hope that your Lordships will now give the Bill a Second Reading.

My Lords, may I, with leave of the House, make one further observation? I invited the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, to put down Amendments for the Committee stage. I am now reminded of the position and I realise that that was a very foolish suggestion, because as this is a certified Money Bill it will be impossible to have Amendments. I must therefore correct what I said and merely say that I will take note of the noble Lord's objection.

On Question, Bill read 2a; Committee negatived.