HL Deb 28 July 1960 vol 225 cc919-24

4.5 p.m.


My Lords, it may be convenient if I now make this statement about Her Majesty's Overseas Civil Service. My right honourable friend the Colonial Secretary has had under consideration the position of Her Majesty's Oversea Civil Service. In Colonial No. 306, issued in 1954, Her Majesty's Government undertook that when a territory becomes self-governing pensions and conditions of service would be safeguarded, and compensation would be paid to officers suffering premature retirement. These undertakings have been fully observed and have gone far to protect the existing interests of serving officers. But they do not take effect until self-government, and they afford inadequate inducement to officers to continue to serve.

It is a direct responsibility of Her Majesty's Government to maintain stable administration throughout the years of change preceding self-government while pressing forward with the recruitment and training of officers from the local population. We must also do what we can, fully consistent of course with the independence of the new States, to encourage the desire of officers to continue to serve overseas.

Subject to Parliamentary approval of the expenditure involved, Her Majesty's Government have decided to offer to take over, where necessary, in Colonial Territories—and in fact it is necessary in almost all of them—the inducement pay and allowances of overseas staff broadly on the lines of the arrangements followed in most technical assistance schemes. I should make it clear that, although financial agreements have been reached with Nigeria and Sierra Leone in the light of their coming independence, I should also propose to offer them agreements on these lines. Her Majesty's Government also intend these arrangements to apply to the High Commission Territories.

The effect of these proposals will be that, while the local Government would continue to bear the local rates of salary and other conditions of service, Her Majesty's Government would bear the cost of the supplementary pay and allowances which prove to be necessary for overseas officers. The details of such a scheme, which will be radical and costly, can be finalised only after consultation with Colonial Governments. This consultation will be pursued during the Recess and when Parliament reassembles it is hoped to present a White Paper containing full details of the scheme and of the expenditure involved.

These new arrangements (which would not cease with independence) are evidence that Her Majesty's Government continue to attach primary importance to the maintenance of an efficient Oversea Service and to the necessity of ensuring stable government in the Colonial Territories during these difficult years.

4.9 p.m.


My Lords, it is not possible, of course, having just heard this statement, to make any final pronouncement with regard to it from these Benches. But it would appear to me, and I think to my colleagues, that what the Government are proposing to do in this case is sound and desirable. This problem has arisen in a very large number of cases in the past, and is likely to arise in many more in the future. My knowledge of it is derived, to a certain extent, from our somewhat similar experience in India and Pakistan.

The position, broadly, is this: the rate of pay that it is necessary to give to civil servants in an overseas territory in order to attract someone from this country, who has a great number of additional expenses to bear, is very much greater than that necessary to attract a local person, who would be serving in his own country. Therefore the point arises that when there is a change from colonial status, or from the status of a member of the Empire, and we hand over to a country which is obtaining independence, there arise two different standards of payment which have to be taken into account. There is the standard which is suitable and adequate for local persons who are giving, inside their own country, service which is patriotic and, at the same time, adequately remunerated. That standard is not high enough for persons who are patriotically working outside the confines of their native land to help guide the Ship of State in a Colonial Territory now become independent.

That is the problem, as I understand it—and I think the noble Earl will agree that I have stated the matter correctly. That is the problem with which Her Majesty's Government have been seeking to deal in this general regulation, and it is now going to be applied to this country of Nigeria. I think it is a thoroughly sound plan. Broadly, it amounts to this: that the newly independent territory will pay to our civil servants (when I say "our" civil servants, I mean their civil servants who come from this country) the local; and Her Majesty's Government, very generously, I think, have agreed on behalf of the British taxpayers to pay the additional sum necessary to attract persons from this country to assist in the government of that new country, provided they are wanted and provided they are willing to stay.

It involves a generous contribution. It is one of those things which the noble Viscount and I were discussing yesterday with regard to the payments that we in this country have to make because of our position in the world as a mother of the newly independent States. As it works out in this case, I am afraid that we may have to face quite a considerable sum, but that it is eminently worth it I think your Lordships will agree. It is worth it because we want to avoid entirely the kind of thing which is happening in the Congo at the present time. We in this country have prided ourselves on introducing these different, undeveloped countries to a civilised and fully responsible democracy. We have prided ourselves on training them carefully for the job; and in order that that training may be completed it is necessary for some of our principal administrators to stay in the country after independence, if the new independent State and the individuals concerned concur in such a position. It is because I feel the importance of that, and because I recognise the importance of it in other places, that I, for my part—and I think those behind me on these Benches would endorse what I say—support the proposals, costly as they may prove to the Exchequer of this country.


My Lords, I should like to welcome this statement and the plan which it envisages, in general terms, of course; the details we shall see later in the White Paper. May I ask the noble Earl not to weary in well doing? I hope that he will carry on with other forms of technical assistance which they will also need.

4.15 p.m.


My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, as one who has been a great nuisance to the noble Earl lately on this subject, I should like briefly to thank him for a most promising statement; and also to congratulate him, because I know, as I think we all do, that he himself has had to put a great deal of thought and consideration into the matter. We must all hope that it will do much to restore confidence to a splendid and, above all, dedicated service, and we thank the noble Earl very much for his statement. Not only does it promise justice to individuals, which is important enough, but also, by encouraging officers to remain on in service, doing their magnificent work, it promises to help the continuance of sound government and security in territories that are now assuming their own responsibilities.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl whether this covers scientific, medical and technical civil servants in the territories concerned?


My Lords, may I add my voice to the congratulations offered to the noble Earl himself, and also to his right honourable friend the Colonial Secretary, because, as your Lordships know, I have been interested in this subject for some time. At the same time, I should also like to congratulate those Back Benchers in another place, and also here, who have been pressing the Government for a matter of years on this subject. I think that the statement we have heard is very satisfactory, but there are one or two questions arising from it which I should like to ask the noble Earl now. He has said that Her Majesty's Government will find the difference between the local rates and the necessary inducement pay and allowances. I wonder whether that includes the increased rate of pension which must obviously arise from the inducement rates and allowances; or is the higher pension payable to these civil servants on retirement going to be borne by the independent territories?

Another question is this. He has said, to our great satisfaction, that this will apply to Sierra Leone, which is about to receive a new Constitution. I wonder whether there is any going back on the present arrangements made with Nigeria, for example. And what about Somaliland? I know that Somaliland is no longer a member of the Commonwealth, but does that preclude us from making a similar arrangement with her? She has just as much need of our beneficial advice and technical and administrative assistance as any other country which has been previously under our administration.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl if he can say whether this scheme is retrospective, in the sense that it will apply to people who have not waited for the extra inducement but have gone out and are serving in the capacity which the noble Earl has in mind? I may say that I have a personal interest in this. My son has actually gone out in such a capacity, and if this applies to people like him, as I think it should, it would be welcome indeed and would be a proper reward for those people who did not wait for the inducement.


My Lords, not long ago a Committee of Conservative Peers and Members of the Commons, under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, produced a pamphlet about the Commonwealth called, The Wind of Change. I was a humble member of that Committee, and this was one of our strongest demands. I am glad to see that Her Majesty's Government feel it possible to implement it, although it will be very costly. I only wish that the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, were here to-day to see the fruits of his labours.


My Lords, may I also thank the noble Earl for his statement? As an ex-member of Her Majesty's Oversea Civil Service, I always keep a jealous eye on the interest of the Service, and I very much welcome this statement before Parliament rises. I should like to reserve my judgment on whether the statement is as good as it sounds until we have been able to study the White Paper, but I feel sure that it will give new heart to members of the Service, where the morale has been falling during the last few months. I thank the noble Earl.

4.20 p.m.


My Lords, I am not surprised, but it is very welcome to hear the pleasure which this statement has given to the House in general. While it is good of my noble friend Lord De La Warr to say something kind about me, this is no credit to me but to everybody who has been working on this highly important subject. I should like to point out to the noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, that this will apply not only to countries which will be independent in the near future but also to all territories which are colonial territories at the present time. That means that the burden of overseas additions that have to be found to ensure that it is an attractive service for those coming in from overseas will be the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government rather than of the colonial territories themselves.

In regard to the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, I think that the answer is, Yes; but I shall have to check that. In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, clearly in regard to some pants we must wait for the White Paper and consultations with various colonial territories, but I would stress that this applies to Nigeria, if they want it, and to Sierra Leone as well. I do not think it applies to British Somaliland, the reason being that we made a settlement with them on a generous financial basis to cover all these matters. I have noted what the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said about this scheme being retrospective. That may raise difficulties, but I will look into this, as well as into the other points raised. I would finish by saying that perhaps the noble Lords, Lord Pethick-Lawrence and Lord Twining, showed proper caution, but I am quite confident that their second thoughts will confirm their first—that this is a thoroughly sound and important scheme