§ 3.1 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE rose to call attention to the plight in which many elderly former Colonial Service officers or their widows find themselves, due to increase in the cost of living and to the fact that their pensions are based on pre-war salaries with no adequate adjustments; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I crave the sympathy of the House and of the Government for a most deserving body of pensioners or their dependants, many of whom are in poor straits. The people of whom I am speaking this afternoon are not a large body of voters; they have no pressure group; they have not a powerful producer or consumer interest; they have not a mighty trade union to represent them—indeed, no trade union at all. Thus, they are in the unfortunate position referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, a week or two ago. In their case there is no new pay pause, because their pay pause began a long time ago. This is the same sort of problem, in fact, as your Lordships will remember having before this House some years ago, when many noble Lords put up powerful arguments to the Government, which eventually were accepted, in regard to the pensions of retired officers and their dependants in the Armed Forces.
These are colonial servants. What I am asking for to-day is that Her Majesty's Government should accept responsibility for bringing these old pensioners, where this is not already the case, into line with the Government's own policy of pension increases in respect of the home Civil Service pensioners, as enacted in the United Kingdom Pensions (Increase) Act, 1959. I do not ask that Her Majesty's Government should take over responsibility for the basic pensions of these pensioners or their widows, that is to say, for approximately 15,000 pensions amounting to £5,500,000 per annum. In short, the claim to-day is merely to bring them up, as it were, to the level which the Government have thought necessary in the case of United Kingdom pensioners. The Government have for years past extended this privilege to cover overseas 660 pensioners of the Crown whose service was in India, Pakistan, Burma, Palestine and elsewhere, but it has been denied to the types of pensioners for whom I am speaking to-day.
The remedy that is sought is estimated by the Government, so far as figures are concerned, to cost approximately £286,400 per annum, and it will go mainly to older men on moderate pensions who never enjoyed enhanced post-war salaries, and to their widows. The remedy should be seen as a demand, not for large sums from Her Majesty's Government's Treasury, but for the removal, at a comparatively small cost, of great discrimination by Her Majesty's Government in their failure to accept their ultimate responsibility as set out in the Colonial White Paper No. 306 of 1954. The average basic pension for one of the pensioners of whom I am speaking is only £480 per annum, but of course many pensions are substantially less than this figure. This figure includes a number of pensioners who have retired in recent years at much more substantial salary levels, so that the older pensioners who are mainly on pre-war salaries are those most desperately in need of assistance. The average basic figure for the older men, which I have not got and which is difficult to get, is very low indeed.
As I have said, the majority of the pensioners falling below United Kingdom levels are elderly men who retired on pre-war salaries before the first postwar salary increase. The pensions being a fraction, according to the level of service, of their retiring salary are very small, and many of the pensioners are in straitened circumstances. Salaries have risen approximately 250 per cent., but pensions by only a limited amount, usually well under 50 per cent. Some pensioners are known to be drawing National Assistance, and some of the widows, of whom I shall speak in a moment, have had to sell their houses in order to live. Two thousand seven hundred and ninety Overseas Service pensioners with very small basic pensions would, under this proposal, have an average of 24s. per week added to their pension. Your Lordships can see that this is not a vast sum.
Widows, of course, are generally much worse treated, if that is possible, than 661 Service pensioners. There are about 4,000 of these widow pensioners, of whom 2,300, or more than half, are not receiving increases up to the United Kingdom level. They are pensioners under schemes to which their husbands contributed compulsorily, which contributions in most cases were never paid out of a fund, but were taken as part of Government revenue and spent at the time by the Government.
I do not want to go too much into which of the territories are concerned, because it may affect any negotiations that Her Majesty's Government may have, but most of Clem are now independent territories. There are certain territories in East Africa which still come under the United Kingdom Government, at any rate in respect of pensions under £400 a year. These independent territories have, almost universally, refused to increase the pensions after independence. Some of the remaining territories equate their pension increases to the United Kingdom rates, and in others where the rates are better than United Kingdom rates, these have been approved by Her Majesty's Government.
The Government's case, as it has been put in correspondence and also in another place, is that they deny responsibility and they state that the Colonial Service, or, as it is now called, the Over-sea Service, and its officers, were the employees of territorial Governments—that is, Colonial Governments of the various territories—and these Governments are responsible for the payment of basic pensions and of increases to offset rises in the cost of living and inflation. In other words, they say, "It is nothing to do with us. It is purely a matter of the Colonies in which you were engaged prior to their becoming independent, and you must deal with them." In effect, this was the statement by Sir Edward Boyle in another place as recently as December 21 last. It is a little difficult to know why the Government are taking up this attitude, because throughout the whole history of the Colonial Service the constitutional responsibility of Her Majesty's Government was clear and was admitted for every aspect of selection, appointment and conditions of service of these particular officers. It was clearly reiterated from time to time, and eventually in a Colonial Office Paper in 1954 called Reorganisation of the Colonial
Service, paragraph 3 of which reads as follows:
that is, the officers—
are servants of the Crown and the conditions of their employment are embodied in Colonial Regulations. These regulations constitute the Secretary of State as the ultimate authority for appointment, discipline, promotions and general conditions of employment.
In view of that statement, made as recently as 1954, how can anyone say that these unfortunate people are not the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government but must go to countries, which are in most cases independent, to try to make a bargain with them? In fact, these pensioners never had any contractual responsibility or relationship at all with the present independent Governments, but were always servants of the Crown and were paid out of budgets approved by Her Majesty's Government. It is to Her Majesty's Government that they look, and have always looked, for redress; and up to now I regret to say, on this particular issue, in vain. Regretfully, many territories, both dependent and independent, have clearly failed over a period of years to award pension increases to those retired Colonial Service officers at rates which Her Majesty's Government consider necessary for pensioners in this country. Obviously, for political reasons, it would be most difficult in most of these cases, particularly in independent countries, to get them to alter that point of view, and I, for one, should not care to accept the responsibility for trying to do so.
My Lords, in certain cases, as I mentioned before—India, Pakistan, Burma and Palestine—increases of basic pensions up to United Kingdom rates have for several years been paid out of United Kingdom funds to pensioners who have served in those countries, so obviously there is a precedent for the course that I am suggesting to-day. In another place the Financial Secretary, in objecting to this argument about precedents, said that there was a sterling settlement in these various countries, but he did not tell the other place that, subsequent to the sterling settlement with India, increases have been paid by Her Majesty's Government on Indian pensions. So the precedent still holds good.
I come now, very shortly, to a few cases. These are the people for whom
I am appealing. As I mentioned before, widows are particularly affected by this state of affairs, because their pensions are much less than those of the ex-Service officers themselves. Here is a case of a lady whose brother wrote to the society which had been dealing with this particular problem, and the brother said this:
The deceased was a member of your Association and a contributor to the Widows' and Orphans' Fund, until he was informed by the Crown Agents on the 2nd February, 1939 that the payment of 35 years to the said fund had been completed, and that no further deductions from his pension would be made. At the time of the pensioner's death, his pension was £452 18s. 9d. and for a long number of years, when the matter of dependants' allowances cropped up, the pensioner always stated that in the event of his death his widow would receive about 50 per cent. of his pension. After his death I duly notified the Crown Agents, and they, in the end, awarded a pension of £56 14s. 6d. per annum for this poor woman. Her solicitors took the matter up with the Crown Agents and later, on completion of a special declaration sent by the Crown Agents regarding the circumstances the pension was increased to £79 8s. 4d. per annum on 4th October, 1960. The widow's position means that she could not afford to keep her home and has been compelled to sell it in order to live.
The second pensioner wrote and said:
I would like to know if I have the smallest pension granted to me by the Crown Agents."—
As a matter of fact, she has not. The one I have just mentioned was smaller.—
My husband went to the Colonies in 1901 and started on the pensionable list about 1910. My pension has never been increased since. I think it is terrible when you hear about the large pensions people at home get, also the old-age pension as well, which I do not seem to be entitled to, although I am 71 years of age. My husband retired in 1928 and the Crown Agents increased his pension as the cost of living went up, but, when he died in 1958, I only got this small pension.
Then there is another letter, the writer of which says:
My pension is only £2 per week, so my capital is rapidly disappearing as week by week prices go up.
My Lords, to-day I am not asking for charity; I am asking for justice. And may I say that I am very pleased to see, from the list of those noble Lords who have indicated their intention to speak, that I am to be followed by three noble Lords who have very great experience
in this field: the noble Earl, Lord Listowel; the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, and the noble Lord, Lord Milverton. We are all, I am sure, particularly happy to have the opportunity of hearing the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, this afternoon. This will be the first speech he has made in this House, though he has made an interjection on one occasion, and we are looking forward with great pleasure to hearing him. It is particularly important that he is to speak, because he will remember very well the circumstances in which the White Paper of 1954 was published. For years during the period of which I was speaking he was Secretary of State, and, although many of us did not always agree with everything he did as Secretary of State, we always regarded him as a very great friend of the Colonies, and of the colonial people. We always felt he had a great interest in their welfare and that his heart was in the right place.
Then we have the noble Lord, Lord Milverton. I do not know whether he himself is a pensioner; but he certainly served for many years in the Colonial Service, and he speaks with great authority on that score. The debate is to be wound up by Lord Hastings, who, before he was elevated to his present position, always joined us in recommending courses to the Government on these matters, which they were not always very happy to follow. I hope that to-day he has been able to persuade them that his erstwhile friends are not necessarily wrong, and are as right as he thought they were when he was speaking from the freedom of the Back Benches.
My Lords, I have little more to say. I think the case that I have made is quite clear. I am asking for justice for long and faithful service. These are elderly people, living in poverty, in many cases, and, in others, on the borderline of want. I will not reiterate the fact that these people helped to build our colonial territories, and enabled them to be brought to the position in which we could hand them over as going concerns. Their work set these territories on the road to independence. I may say from my own experience 30 years ago, when working in the colonial territories, not as a Government 665 servant, but as a private lawyer, both in the criminal courts and in the civil courts, that I never, on any single occasion, had the slightest intimation from any of my clients that the magistrate or civil servant was other than perfectly just and perfectly incorruptible. If there had been the slightest indication to the contrary your Lordships may take it for granted that I should have heard it. In fact, even a little seed would have been blown up into a sort of banyan tree in no time. But there was no suggestion at all.
The value of that incorruptibility of the Judicial and the Civil Service alone is something of which I think we can very justly be proud. Unfortunately, of course, it is this question of corruptibility that is such a problem to many of these new countries to-day. They have not yet overcome that problem. I am sure that it is not present in the Judicial Service, but it certainly is in other parts of Government service, and it presents them with one of their greatest problems.
These old colonial servants were devoted to their task. They served on low pre-war salaries which are to-day made derisory by inflation. They served in times when there were very few amenities. There was a great deal of loneliness, of sickness (modern methods of preventing things like malaria had not been developed then); and there was, what to my mind was one of the worst things of all in those days, the separation for years at a time of a man from his wife and family. These are the people for whom I am asking justice.
There is just one further point that I should like to make. What is the test of civilisation? A year or two ago in Paris, on one of the international conferences, I was talking to a distinguished statesman, a man who is now in a high position in his country, which is one of the smaller countries in Western Europe. He said to me: "Do you know, when we were occupied during the war by the Germans, in 1941 I heard that Britain, with her back to the wall, in a desperate situation, had allowed people who had a strong or forcefully-put case to be regarded as conscientious objectors, to be absolved from service in the Armed Forces". He went on: "I could not 666 believe my eyes when I read that. When I realised that it was true I thought this "—he was speaking of Great Britain—" is truly a civilised country. This is the very hallmark of civilisation, to allow people to claim conscientious objection when you were in such desperate straits. I have never forgotten it from that day to this." Well, my Lords, I would suggest that another test of civilisation is the way a country treats its old and faithful colonial servants and their dependants. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.23 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, I should like to say how very grateful I am to the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, for raising in his extremely eloquent and well-informed speech—a speech which one would expect from him, and from a former Minister at the Colonial Office—this important human problem, affecting as it does so many people who have rendered really outstanding service to this country in time past in our dependencies overseas. I am also as delighted as he is to see that the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, a former Secretary of State, is in his place to take up the cudgels on behalf of those for whom he was responsible when at the Colonial Office. I hope very much, indeed, that the Government will give extremely serious and sympathetic consideration to the case that has been made out by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore; that they will furnish the House with the fullest possible account of the position, give us all the facts; and will show that they mean to make every effort, and an even greater effort than I am sure has been made already, to put this matter right. Because there can be no doubt at all that many of the retired Colonial Service officers and their dependants, who are now living on a pension which has not been adjusted to meet the increased cost of living in this country since the war, are suffering very great hardship.
As the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, pointed out, some of them have applied for help from National Assistance, but I have no doubt that others have been, or are, in the same position and have been too proud to apply for help. Apart from that, their position is really inequitable. I was glad that the noble 667 Lord also made his case on grounds of equity and justice, because, of course, the great majority of retired civil servants, whether they have retired from home Civil Service, or whether they have retired from service overseas, have in fact received increases on their basic pension, which have taken fully into account the inflationary rise in prices since the war.
My Lords, the principle upheld by the Government—and no doubt it will be repeated by the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, when he replies—is that the overseas Governments themselves have a duty to top up "or increase the basic pension of these retired officers, and that this is therefore not a responsibility which falls upon Her Majesty's Government. I have no doubt that the noble Lord will go on to say that, if Her Majesty's Government assumed this responsibility, it would mean that the overseas countries would be encouraged not to make these payments. But there is one question which I should like to ask the noble Lord. If this is the case, why have the Government already paid these post-war increases in the case of civil servants who have retired from service in Burma and Pakistan? I think that the position in India was different because, if I remember rightly, we agreed to pay the whole pension, the basic pension as well as any increases that might have to be paid later on. But I think the position of Burma, Pakistan and possibly Palestine, which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, mentioned, should be explained very thoroughly to the House, because it seems to be an exception to the rule which the Government themselves have established, of putting the whole of the responsibility on overseas Governments.
In any event, I feel (and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, about this) that there is a moral duty on the part of Her Majesty's Government to see that these pensioners receive, from whatever quarter it may be, what is due to them and what they are not receiving, through no fault of their own—and nobody has for a moment suggested that it is any fault of theirs that these payments are not being made. I should like the noble Lord to tell us what in fact Her Majesty's Government are now doing to urge these overseas Govern- 668 ments to make up the additional payments in the case of officers who were in their service and who are not receiving their post-war bonuses.
My Lords, I think we should recognise the peculiarly difficult position of the Governments of new Commonwealth countries in this regard. In the first place, for the most part they are poor and, in the second place, they are independent. They are responsible to their own electorate, and their own electorate is bound to view with a certain amount of doubt any proposal to pay retired expatriate civil servants from taxes that have to be raised locally. I hope that these are difficulties which the Government are taking fully into account.
Could the Government supply us with a White Paper which would set out ail the facts of the situation? We want to know the number of people affected; we want to know the Governments by which they were employed overseas; we want to know the amount of money which would be required if their pensions were to be made up to the level of other pensions of retired Government officers. I think a White Paper would be extremely useful. It would also give the Government an opportunity of showing what they have done up until now to secure these payments and to look after these officers, and of giving us some idea of what they intend to do in the near future to put the situation right. But, my Lords, I am sure that the whole House will be most anxious to secure from the Government some statement which will show that every possible effort is being made to put an end to this hardship and to do justice to people who have done great service for the State.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BOYD OF MERTON
My Lords, I am sure that all your Lordships are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, for raising a matter that touches the national honour and the livelihood of people for whom we are all responsible. I am very glad indeed to intervene in this debate—the first occasion, apart from a rather lengthy question during the discussion last year on the Northern Rhodesian Constitution, that I have addressed your Lordships. I will try to do so briefly; but I am particularly glad to do so after the introductory speech of the noble Lord and 669 also after the observations made by the noble Earl who has just sat down. I succeeded him as Minister of State in the Colonial Office. Then, after a period elsewhere, I came back as Secretary of State, and I know from first-hand experience, both in England and overseas, of the respect and affection in which he is held by members of the Colonial Service.
Now, my Lords, the question we are discussing to-day concerns, as I have said, people for 'whom we are responsible; and on this matter I have no doubt whatever in my own mind. I know that from time to time contrary suggestions are made, but to me—and I believe that the same goes for all with whom I had the privilege of serving in the Colonial Office—the ultimate responsibility of the Secretary of State remains absolutely clear and cannot be diminished. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, quoted from the White Paper of 1954. That was issued six weeks before I became Secretary of State, and in the five and a quarter years that followed that White Paper was my own guide as to the relationships between myself, as Secretary of State, and those Crown servants for whom, for that long period, I was responsible. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I quote again a statement which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has already quoted, but it cannot be emphasised too often. In the remote corners of our colonial territories, this statement was taken at its face value, and I, for one, believe that it represents a pledge from which we cannot honourably depart:Constitutionally, all officers of the Colonial Service are servants of the Crown, and the conditions of their employment are embodied in Colonial Regulations. These Regulations constitute the Secretary of State as the ultimate authority for appointments, discipline, promotions and general conditions of employment.Thereafter we had a number of Pensions Increase Acts in the United Kingdom, and in 1959—actually one week before I left the Colonial Office—I put my name to a Dispatch on which a great deal of discussion, and inter-Governmental discussion, had taken place. It was a Dispatch inviting all former colonial territories and all existing colonial territories to give to pensioners of the Oversea Service the same increases as were about to be enjoyed by pensioners of the Home Civil Service.
670 This Dispatch of October 2, 1959, remains very clearly in my mind, because of the long discussion preceding its issue and the tremendous importance which I personally, the Governors who received it, and the Service as a whole, attached to it.
As the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has said, in a number of territories the response was immediate and generous. But there were points in regard to the scale of pensions in which a large number of Colonies failed to follow the lead given by the United Kingdom or the requests that I made on behalf of Her Majesty's Government; and in some cases, I regret to say, no increases whatever were given to the pensioners. In these circumstances I venture to think that the whole question of the attitude of Her Majesty's Government towards what is called "topping up" the pensions paid by colonial territories to the level these people would have received had they been home civil servants needs reconsideration.
As the two noble Lords who have already addressed your Lordships have made clear, there are, of course, arguments in a contrary sense, and I have no doubt that some of these arguments may be adduced later this afternoon, but I would earnestly urge the noble Lord who will be replying to this debate and whose interest in the welfare of the colonial territories is second to none, to consult again with his colleagues unless he is able to-day to give us a cheerful answer and to look at this problem once more in the light of the wholly new situation which now exists. For, after all, almost every week we are obliged to review some colonial problem in the light of a situation which did not exist a year or two before. Why, then, should those who have carried the difficult task of guiding people to self-government—and, incidentally, doing themselves out of a job—not also have the benefit of a review in the light of new circumstances?
I understand that the arguments hitherto advanced are three-fold. The first is that overseas pensions and pension increases are the responsibility solely of the colonial territory or former colonial territory concerned. With a longer responsibility to Parliament and to Her Majesty than anybody else in the 671 Colonial Office since the days of Joseph Chamberlain, I can only say that this is simply not true. The overall responsibility of the Secretary of State was clearly stated in 1954; and, over that long period of five years, I know that almost every issue affecting the welfare, happiness and movements of an officer was the ultimate responsibility of the Secretary of State. That was never disputed. The selection of an officer, his allocation to a particular Colony—and on that allocation now turns, very often, whether he is getting justice now or whether his widow will get justice when he dies—his promotion, his leave, his transfer, his salary, his pension conditions and the compulsory levy on his salary for widows' and orphans' pensions and his ultimate retirement, were for five years my responsibility. Before that, they were the responsibility of predecessors of mine such as the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, and they remain the responsibility of the present Secretary of State for the remaining dependent territories.
My Lords, quite apart from this, as has been pointed out, Her Majesty's Government have already accepted responsibility for "topping up" what, to the ordinary overseas servant, are the strictly parallel cases in India, Pakistan, Burma and Palestine. I know, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has already said, that it can be argued that special circumstances apply to India, where there was what was called a "once-for-all" solution of the sterling problem, and where Her Majesty's Government took over the payment of the basic pensions. But, so far as I know, this settlement of basic pensions did not extend to increases in pensions; and I think that one of the very important things that should emerge from this debate, from the point of view of justice to these people, is whether, in the view of Her Majesty's Government, this agreement as to India also extended to the payment of increased pensions. If it did not so extend, then it is very difficult to argue that the" topping up "by Her Majesty's Government of Indian pensions in order to make them level with the United Kingdom pensions can possibly be cited as a consequence of the particular arrangements arrived at in India.
672 But, even if it could be so argued, there was no similar agreement so far as I know with either Burma or Pakistan. In both these countries, quite rightly, Her Majesty's Government took the responsibility of "topping up" the pensions of former overseas officers. In the case of Palestine, where particular circumstances prevailed, in that there was no successor Government, both the basic and the increased pensions are, of course, borne, and quite rightly borne, by Her Majesty's Government.
Secondly, it is argued against "topping up" that it would be unfair to those territories that have already generously, but properly, given increases. Now, glad as we all are at the territories' immediate and generous response to the Dispatch that it was my privilege to send them on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, I am sure they would never argue otherwise than that what they were asked to do was in fact in response to a perfectly proper request. I cannot believe that those now in authority in these countries, who, by their own quick response to the Government's Dispatch, showed their regard for the Overseas Territories Service and their recognition of their responsibilities, would regard it as unfair if Her Majesty's Government now took steps to rectify omissions made elsewhere.
As I have hinted already, the choice whether an officer wanted to serve in one particular territory or another was one that, by and large, was made by the Secretary of State. And I am particularly conscious of this; it weighs very much on my own mind. As the noble Earl, Lord Perth (whose presence here, despite the Kenya Conference, I greatly value for some kind remarks he made to me), knows very well, when we had a particularly difficult assignment to make, the temptation and the tendency, both of which we felt, was to send a particularly good officer to a particularly difficult territory. That particular territory may be one that has not responded, or did not respond, to the Dispatch I sent on behalf of my colleagues in 1959. I think it would be extremely wrong if that should now count against such an officer who went somewhere where conditions were difficult, and if he is now penalised because the local Government to which he was sent has not responded as others did.
673 The third argument which is made is that "topping up" might encourage ideas of default on pensions in the Colonies, as my honourable friend the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury said in another place, calling needlessly into question the security of the basic pensions themselves. If I try to describe that argument in language which would normally be used in the Colonial Service, I should be out of order in your Lordships' House. May I just say that I do not think very much of that particular argument? When on very many occasions over five years, on the eve of independence in colonial territories, with the natural enthusiasm of the people for their new-found independence, I had to argue about the growing anxieties among such members of our own Colonial Service as to the security of their own future pensions, I, in good faith and on behalf of my colleagues in Her Majesty's Government, always pointed to the existence of the Public Services Agreement negotiated with the leaders who were shortly to take charge, as a vital prerequisite to the independence that was about to come. I called these arguments in aid to give security to the Overseas Service.
I should be very sorry to see it now argued that the possibility that these Agreements might be repudiated should now be called in aid as a reason for treating these people less well than United Kingdom pensioners, who would themselves be the first to argue that their lives have run on rather easier lines and been subject to rather less precarious outside conditions. My Lords, I do not think—and I hope the House and Her Majesty's Government will agree—that officers should be penalised because these solemn Agreements, to which I constantly drew their attention, might one day be broken. Indeed, Her Majesty's Government, who have other weapons in their armoury should these Agreements be broken, have all the time taken the view, quite rightly, that it would be wrong to impugn the good faith of the territories concerned.
My Lords, there are two other points that I should like briefly to mention. One relates to the question of widows' and orphans' pensions, to which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, referred. As he quite rightly said, this also is a matter of keen anxiety to many people who 674 deserve well of your Lordships' House and of the gratitude of Britain as a whole. This question perhaps differs from that of the husband's or father's pension in that the pension is paid, in most cases, under schemes to which all officers were compelled, by Statutes to which I, my predecessors and successors were parties, to contribute. In most cases these contributions were taken into the colony's general revenue, and no funds were set up to confirm this trust. I, and many others in your Lordships' House, have responsibility for such pension funds to-day. I venture to think that the responsibility of the Government in this matter is no less without the pension trust than is the responsibility of great industries that have their pensions trust. Their trust was in the word of Great Britain, and in the unwritten assumption that they would be treated properly when the time came.
I believe that there are now some 2,300 widows who are not receiving increases of their pensions at United Kingdom rates. There are many cases of great hardship among these people, most of them elderly people. They have to compete for houses, and everything else, with the people of the United Kingdom who are far better provided for, and I venture to urge once more that they represent a debt that our national honour should demand that we repay.
My Lords, one word more, if I may, in conclusion, as to the cost, which obviously has to be borne in mind. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury in another place challenged last December an estimate given as to the cost; but since then we have had the advantage of some figures from the Crown Agents to the Colonies, whose integrity and accuracy all who have had dealings with them can take for granted. They say that in the United Kingdom at the moment pensions are being paid to 10,825 pensioners. Of these, 2,830 are getting less than the United Kingdom rates of pension increases; and the actual cost of supplementary pensions to these 2,830 people, to bring them up to the level of their fellow citizens in the United Kingdom, would be £176,400 a year. Added to this, the cost of giving the same increases to the 2,300 widows, to whom the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, 675 referred, would be another £110,000, making a total annual recurrent cost of £286,400. And, my Lords, this sum is bound to diminish steadily as the years go by.
These, my Lords, are people who steadfastly and selfishly, and usually under very arduous conditions, served their country and the Commonwealth, never, as Lord Curzon said when saying goodbye to the Indian Civil Service, letting their enthusiasm be soured or their courage grow dim, but remembering all the time that the Almighty had placed their hands to the greatest of His ploughs, in whose furrow the nations of the future were germinating and taking shape. I, like many other noble Lords here, have been very fortunate in seeing at first hand in the field the work of some of these people, and of rejoicing when, in Lagos, a year or so ago, I, with others, was able to hear the Prime Minister of Nigeria refer to them as men and women who came to Nigeria—and the same is true elsewhere—first as masters, then as leaders, finally as partners, but always as friends. I was very glad when our own Prime Minister told Her Majesty's Overseas Service two years ago that the Government were happy and proud to remember their service in the past, and were mindful of their welfare now and in the future.
I hope that one result of this debate will be to ensure that justice is done; and if, as the noble Earl quite rightly said, it is sometimes difficult for even the best of colonial leaders now in the new independent countries to see that justice is done, this is then all the more reason why Her Majesty's Government should do justice to people for whom we shall always remain responsible.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ LORD MILVERTON
My Lords, it is a difficult honour to follow the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, especially in a debate like this, in which he has spoken with such magnificent understanding and perception not only of the feelings of the Colonial Service but also of the proper relation between them and the Government they served for so long. I appreciate that this is not technically a maiden speech by the noble Viscount, and I hope that, particularly Whenever there is a debate on Colonial 676 Affairs, we shall not lack the pleasure, the honour and the advantage of a contribution from him. During his period of office as Secretary of State he won the affection and respect of the whole Colonial Service all over the world, and I am sure that they will all be grateful to him for what he has said this afternoon.
In rising to make a contribution to this debate, which contribution will be very small because all the things I would have wished to say have already been said so much better by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, I have to declare an interest. I am myself a Malayan pensioner. I served in all the Malayan states during my 21 years of service, and also in Singapore and after that, over the next eighteen years. I had some experience as a Governor in five different Colonies, and I have some idea of how the Colonial Service looks upon these matters and of the position the colonial servant occupies.
Over the past few years I have spoken on this question several times in your Lordships' House. My interventions have generally been treated with a very definite non possumus from the Front Bench. Indeed, on the last occasion, a year ago, when I asked a number of questions, some of which have been asked again to-day, I was completely ignored. No reference whatever was made to them. However, hope springs eternal in the human breast, even in the breast of a Colonial servant, and perhaps the cogent speech with which this debate was opened from the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, to whom I am sure the Service will be deeply grateful, will move the brain of Her Majesty's Government, even if its heart has been petrified beyond resurrection. I am sure that the men and women of the Service will be grateful for this effective and, to my mind, unanswerable advocacy of their cause.
I do not propose to detain your Lordships with a needless reiteration of the points, but they do follow a definite sequence. First of all, there is the substance of the complaint, or the request, which is made by these pensioners for an improvement of their conditions, which I need not go into now in any detail. Secondly, there is the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government, 677 which has surely been made clear beyond any possibility of doubt by the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, I appreciate the principle that the territorial Governments are technically responsible for the payment of these pensions. But do not let us forget that none of the colonial and ex-colonial Governments has failed to pay the basic pension. The question to-day does not deal with the basic pension. We are not asking the British Government to undertake that responsibility. We are merely asking them to "top up" the pensions in order to meet modern conditions and the depression of the value of currency and to bring colonial servants who were fortunate to serve overseas into the same position as their fellows in the home Civil Service.
It is not possible, surely, for any Government to adopt this Gallio-like attitude and say that it is the responsibility of the various colonial and ex-colonial Governments, because that is manifestly an attitude unworthy of a good employer and the Government are supposed to be a model employer. The need for some detail has been mentioned during the debate. Some of the answer to that was supplied by the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton. It is not necessary to trouble about a White Paper, because the facts and details are already known. At the present moment there are 10,825 pensioners, of whom 2,790 or thereabouts are receiving rates which are less than United Kingdom rates. There is also a total, which has not been mentioned, of 4,000 widow and orphan pensioners, of whom 2,300—more than half—are receiving rates considerably less than the United Kingdom rates.
In that relation, I can quote from my own experience of long ago in Malaya. In our early days in the Malayan service, we had our own widows' and orphans' pension fund, which we ran ourselves and to Which we contributed. The time came when the Government, acting on an instruction from the Secretary of State, decided to take over this fund. We received this instruction without any enthusiasm but, of course, in the end we have to obey the Secretary of State. It was taken over and funds were paid into Government revenue, as the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, said, and the contributions were paid into public revenue. We asked 678 what security we would have and were told, the honour of the British Government. Surely that is exactly what is fundamentally at stake in this question which has arisen to-day. I do not wish to press that point any further.
In conclusion, I should like to draw attention to a curious anomaly, as it seems to me. Her Majesty's Government hand out millions annually, by the goodness of their hearts, in grants in aid to other races, but they seem reluctant to give assistance to the pensioned men and women of their own race, about whose past service to this country and to mankind such beautiful speeches are so often made. As I have said before in your Lordships' House, laudatory sentences form a very unsubstantial diet, and I sincerely hope that when the time comes for the noble Lord to make his reply, he will supplement his eulogies with the prospect of some more material aid.
§ 3.59 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
My Lords, I apologise to the House and to my noble friend Lord Ogmore because it was impossible for me to be in the House when he was speaking, 'but as an old Secretary of State of a much earlier period I should like to endorse what was said by my noble friend Lord Boyd of Merton in a model maiden speech. Beyond any possibility of doubt, as was said by my noble friend Lord Ogmore and re-echoed by my noble friend Lord Boyd of Merton, the responsibility is that of the Secretary of State. I was Secretary of State for the Colonies in the very early 'thirties, when, I suppose, a number of the people who are now drawing these pensions, some of them inadequate because they have not been "topped up", joined the Service. Certainly in those days it was the Secretary of State, after consultation with local Governments—for, after all, except for one or two places, there was nothing approaching the self-government in those days—who laid down what were the terms on which colonial servants were recruited; and it was he, as the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, said, who sent them wherever they had to go and who transferred them (it was one of the obligations of their service). Frequently they were transferred from an agreeable post to a much less agreeable one, because that 679 was where they were most needed. Moreover, it was successive Secretaries of State who laid down and offered the terms and who recruited these men into the Service.
It is said (I do not follow the argument) that the Treasury should not carry the obligation. I do not know whether that is based on financial grounds. I was Secretary of State in 1930 and 1931 when many of the Colonies were in a very precarious position. Those which had accumulated large reserves were able to live on them, but there were ten or eleven Colonies actually "on the dole" who had to be kept by the Treasury. But I do not recall (I shall be corrected if I am wrong) that even in those times, and when we were reducing our own salaries, we reduced pensions. That is important to remember. I was a member of the Cabinet of ten in the National Government when we decided that we had to make very big cuts, and we cut our own salaries more than anybody else's; there was a 20 per cent. cut in the salaries of all Cabinet Ministers. I see, incidentally, that in Nigeria something of the same sort is happening; it seems to be a fine moral gesture. But the one thing we did not cut was pensions; we went on paying them. That is unquestionably our obligation.
There must be great anxiety among those civil servants who are now serving, and who we are most anxious should stay as long as it is necessary. I think we all realise that we have an obligation to them when their employment in the self-governing State comes to an end. I should like to put this point to the Government. Suppose—and I will not re-argue the case that has been so well argued—that if a little help is given (and it is not very much) other Colonies which are already paying cease to pay. I do not think that is in the least likely to happen; but it is not a very good argument for doing something dishonourable, even if it did. Suppose self-government, independence, is given to a territory to-morrow and a number of civil servants are got rid of: do not the Government accept responsibility for those civil servants? I think they do, and they have clearly said so. Some may be on the verge of getting 680 their pensions. Do not the Government accept the responsibility for their pensions? And would not those pensions be paid at whatever is considered, on the analogy of the pensions increase in this country, the appropriate rate for that territory?
Certainly I remember this happening in Palestine. It is said that when Palestine was split up into two countries there was no successor Government. But that is not an argument which the Government can pray in aid. The Government had recruited the civil servants who were in Palestine. They served under me when I was carrying out the Mandate, and we had no doubt at all that those men who were serving there were our responsibility. When there ceased to be jobs in Palestine, those of them who had to go were pensioned off at the full rate; and to this day, I think, the full rate is being paid in Palestine. Surely, it must be right that the responsibility is that of the Secretary of State; and, if that is so, then the Government must authorise the Secretary of State to act in relation to these men, whose job has been at least as arduous as and often more dangerous than have been the jobs of any home civil servants. Ought not the Government to treat them at least as well?
§ 4.7 p.m.
LORD SAYE AND SELE
My Lords, I know but little of the Oversea Civil Service, except what I have heard from the extremely interesting speeches today—and I must acknowledge to your Lordships that they have left me with a feeling of disgust—but I have some experience of a pension, having drawn an Army pension now for 22 years. After all, pensions are the same in their actions throughout. I would suggest to your Lordships that in putting right this disgrace in the Civil Service you should base your ideas not upon so much extra cash as on keeping up the standard of living that a pensioner—or a pensioner's widow, for that matter—is enjoying at the time when he is suddenly cut off, by age or whatever it may be, from the position he has occupied. Pushing up their pension by so many pounds is not a true standard. To my mind, one must consider what their standard of living was originally when they left the Service, and then attempt to keep up that 681 standard within some reasonable distance. That would give a young man entering a Service a much better outlook than he has now.
When I joined the Service I think I received £120 a year to start with. I forget how much pension I was looking forward to, but it was a pension which would provide a certain standard of living. If anybody joining a Service knew he could expect a standard of living when he left, rather than so much cash which he would find out in due course would provide a standard of living far below that which he was used to, that would mean a happier Service, with more to look forward to. I hope that the Government may take that idea into consideration when putting right this very sad condition which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has brought to your Lordships' notice to-day.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, many of your Lordships may have wondered, when you saw my name at the bottom of the list of speakers this afternoon, why it fell to me to reply to this debate instead of to my noble friend Lord Perth, here sitting beside me, who hitherto has always been accustomed to answer on behalf of the Colonial Office on all matters concerning the Oversea Civil Service. I feared that I should have to apologise for the noble Earl's absence, but I noticed that he arrived comparatively early in the debate. I am certainly most grateful for his support, though possibly not altogether glad that he is not replying in my place.
I do not think it has been mentioned in the course of the debate that in fact I am replying on behalf of the Department of Technical Co-operation, and I think I owe it to the House to explain why that should be so. In the first place, I should like to say that it is a great privilege to be responsible for any questions in your Lordships' House concerning this new Department of Technical Co-operation. I should like to express my personal pleasure that I have this duty, because, as all noble Lords know, I have always taken a very close interest in all matters affecting our Commonwealth and Colonies, and particularly in matters of aid to the under-developed territories of our Commonwealth and Colonies.
682 The Department of Technical Cooperation is concerned mainly, or at least very largely, with the recruitment of technical and specialist officers for service overseas under the Overseas Service Aid Schemes in the Commonwealth, in foreign countries, and also in our dependent Colonies. For those reasons, at the time the Department was set up it was considered quite logical that the Department of Technical Co-operation should in future administer the Overseas Service Acts. In this way, it has also come about that the pensions of those Colonial Service officers who had already retired are the concern of my right honourable friend the Secretary for Technical Cooperation.
When this new Department was created last summer (I think it was) I remember how warmly it was welcomed in all parts of the House, among all Parties, and no doubt your Lordships are waiting anxiously to have some account of the progress it is making, and are hoping to hear that that progress is considerable. Alas! my Lords, the time is not yet; for it is a very young Department, and it may be somewhat disappointing to your Lordships to find that, on the first occasion on which the Department is called upon to answer in this House, it is in connection with a matter which looks to the past rather than to the future. But I should like to emphasise that my right honourable friend is no less proud of the heritage of the past than of the prospects for the future and he is just as interested in it.
I want very much to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, upon initiating this debate, and I congratulate him on the way in which he developed his case. I am quite safe in saying that noble Lords, wherever they may sit, are in his debt for introducing this subject; and I may say also that those thanks come equally from my right honourable friend and from myself, for it is a subject which is very important and cannot be ignored. Although it concerns only about 5,000 people—5,000 out of a total population of some 50 million—it is surely a healthy sign of the integrity and vigour of Parliament that both Houses should have been able to find time in the last two or three months to discuss the fate of these individuals, at a moment when the tendency is for all 683 organisations, whether industrial, commercial, or even bureaucratic, to grow ever larger, with the result that the personality of the individual is apt to be submerged and his identity lost. The very fact that your Lordships are discussing 5,000 overseas civil servants who have served their Government faithfully and well in the past must be a source of encouragement to them and to all who believe in justice for the individual.
Furthermore, this is not, of course, the first occasion on which this subject has attracted the attention of your Lordships. It was only a year ago, on the Second Reading of the Overseas Service Bill, that attention was drawn to the question of pensions, and just three years before that, on a similar occasion in February, 1958, when the subject was again mentioned.
On reading through those debates, I found that the two noble Lords on this side of the House who were most forward in talking about this subject were the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, and the noble Lord, Lord Hastings. I thought possibly some of your Lordships might smile, but I have mentioned this fact deliberately (and it has in fact been mentioned very kindly by at least two noble Lords who have taken part in this debate) because I wanted to remind your Lordships that there is nobody who has a greater admiration for, or sympathy with, all the members of the Oversea Civil Service—and I know a good many of them very well—than myself. Therefore the House will no doubt expect a sympathetic attitude from me towards the predicament of the people whom we are discussing this afternoon; and I can assure your Lordships that, within the limits of my brief, that is the attitude I propose to adopt.
The House has been given some overall figures, but I should like to repeat the overall situation, just to refresh your Lordships' memories. I am given to understand that there are altogether some 11,000 Service pensioners paid through the Crown Agents, and another 2,000 who are paid through the Governments of East Africa. Of these, as your Lordships have heard, 2,900 are receiving less than the equivalent pension rates in the United Kingdom; that is, about one quarter of the whole. In addition 684 to these, as your Lordships have heard, there are nearly 4,000 widows' and orphans' service pensions paid, and over half of these, 2,300, now fall below the equivalent rates, including, of course, increases granted since the war, which obtain in the United Kingdom. So, taking the figures as a whole, we see that over two-thirds of all pensioners are as well off as, or better off than, they would be if they were drawing United Kingdom pensions, including increases granted since the war.
Now one can look at this matter in two ways. First, by considering that only 5,000 people is not a very large number, and that therefore the problem is not so serious as it is made out to be. On the other hand, one can look at this again, and say that 30 per cent. of the whole who are below the accepted level of pensions is a very high and far too high proportion. This is a very human problem, and I take the latter attitude: that there are no grounds for complacency. I can assure the House, too, that this is the view of my right honourable friend, who is very far from being complacent in this matter. I have said that this is a very human problem, and it is true that we are dealing with individual lives. Nevertheless, we cannot treat this matter in isolation, and I think it is absolutely necessary that I should give your Lordships the general background of this subject so that we can see our particular problem in perspective.
It is of course true, as has been said, that it was laid down in the White Paper Colonial No. 306 of 1954 that the officers of the Oversea Civil Service are servants of the Crown, and that the Secretary of State for the Colonies is the ultimate authority for appointments, disciplines, promotions and general conditions of employment. It is precisely because those are the first responsibilities of the Colonial Secretary that undertakings were given that conditions of service and pensions would be safeguarded by making firm agreements with colonial territories before they attained self-government. Those promises have, in fact, been kept. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, I think said that Her Majesty's Government had not kept their word according to the meaning of the Colonial Office Paper No. 306, and in this respect, 685 at least, whatever he may argue in others, their word to safeguard the Service on pensions in independent territories has, by making firm agreements, been kept.
It is also true, however, and this has, of course, come out very clearly in the debate, that the officers of the Oversea Civil Service have been appointed for employment in particular territories although, as has been mentioned, they have at times been transferred from one territory to another—the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, was very eloquent in that respect and I shall come to his speech a little later on. Therefore, it was deemed that it was perfectly right and proper and, indeed, inevitable that they should be paid by the territories for whom they were working. It is surely a moral obligation upon the employer who actually pays the employee to be responsible also for his pension after he has retired, and this is the first basic principle from which Her Majesty's Government think it would be quite illogical and, in practice, impossible to depart.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord: who was the employer? Surely Her Majesty's Government was the employer, and we are asking them to do justice to these people.
§ LORD HASTINGS
That, of course, is really the nub of the argument and I shall be coming to it later on; I am not going to avoid it altogether. I am also putting forward the view of Her Majesty's Government that the overseas Governments are in fact the employers who have benefited from the work of these Oversea Civil Service people.
§ LORD CITRINE
My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord, when he is referring here to the obligation, whether the obligation taken on by these territories is one for the future, with the past excluded. Does the responsibility still not lie—as we have been told on two occasions by experienced ex-Colonial Secretaries in this House—with Her Majesty's Government?
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, is still sitting down, and before he replies, I should like to put this question. Is not the position of the British Government 686 exactly the same as that of a parent company with a wholly-owned subsidiary? Could they imagine that a parent company, if the wholly-owned subsidiary were not paying pensions, would not pay the pensions?
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, I do not know whether I should like to compare Her Majesty's Government with a commercial undertaking. With regard to the previous question by the noble Lord, Lord Citrine, I think he was referring to the future obligations of independent territories towards civil servants of the past. That really is the point of the debate. I was going on to say that Her Majesty's Government do assume certain obligations, and that Her Majesty's Government have always recognised the difficulties that have arisen as the result of increases in the cost of living. Far from forgetting the retired members of the Oversea Civil Service, they have been most anxious to see the pensions of these people increased in accordance with the level of general increases granted in the United Kingdom itself. Therefore, while maintaining that overseas Governments who have been the employers are logically responsible for both the pensions and any such increases, Her Majesty's Government have recognised their moral obligation to do all in their power to persuade these overseas Governments to accept what we believe to be their responsibilities in this regard.
I have already given your Lordships some overall figures showing the results of the efforts of Her Majesty's Government in this respect, but I should like to give the House further details which will help to illuminate the subject. Let me take the independent territories first. There are 35 in all, counting the 8 West Indian Islands of the Leewards and Windwards as two groups. Of these 35, 29 have granted pension increases at least as generous as, and in some cases more generous than, those under the United Kingdom Pensions Increases Acts to date; and the other six have granted pension increases generally inferior to the United Kingdom level. There are, however, interesting exceptions, even within these two categories, for of the 29, six have granted pension increases inferior to the United Kingdom level for those receiving pensions under £400 a 687 year, whereas in the second group of generally inferior pensions there is one territory, namely, Singapore, which has, in fact, granted pensions equal to the United Kingdom level for those receiving pensions up to £350 per annum.
As to the independent Governments concerned in this matter, there are eight in all, four of whom have granted pension increases as generous as those existing in this country and four of whom have granted increases at a level lower than those we have over here. In this connection the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, was not quite correct, because he said that independent territories had universally rejected any increases in pensions. No doubt he meant that that was so only since they became independent. In point of fact, three of them have increased pensions since they became independent and the others have had increased rates of pension given, but that was before independence came to those countries.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I should like to say that I did not want to earmark, as it were, particular countries. I realise that what the noble Lord is saying is perfectly true, but I did not want to bring out in public the names of these countries, as I thought it might affect, perhaps, any future negotiations Her Majesty's Government might have. That is the reason. I could have specified independent countries which have not given increases.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I agree with the noble Lord and I am glad I followed the same rule as he did in not actually naming the countries. I should like for a moment to refer to the request of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for a White Paper on figures. I am giving more figures now, my Lords, and you have had a good many figures mentioned by various noble Lords who have come equipped with them, but certainly it is a possibility, and I will put it up to my right honourable friend to see whether he thinks it would be a good idea. I have some very detailed figures in my brief which would be far too long and complicated to give to your Lordships now. Therefore, I will make the suggestion and perhaps he will agree.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord, because 688 I think the course of this debate has shown a very great interest in all quarters of the House in this problem and all the facts are not known? The noble Lord himself has said he would want to be able to give all the facts in the case and I think it would be a very great advantage to the House generally if the Government would give whatever information it can in a White Paper.
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, I am sure my right honourable friend will take note of what the noble Earl has said. Perhaps this is the right time to say to the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, as we are talking about figures, that in the statistics themselves, naturally, individual cases are concealed and perhaps some of these are the hardship cases which he has mentioned. There may be special circumstances and if he would like to refer them to me or direct to my right honourable friend I am sure we should be very glad to look into them.
Before going on any further to consider this problem, there is just one point which I think is worth making and it is that all Overseas Service pensioners are eligible to receive increases in their pensions at a much earlier age than is the case for those employed with the home Civil Service. Here, for instance, increases can be received only after the age of 60, whereas there is no such age limit in the case of the Oversea Civil Service, whose members are eligible for their increases when granted, at whatever age. And, of course, that has in many cases proved to be a very considerable advantage.
I must now tell your Lordships what Her Majesty's Government are doing, or propose to do, about this problem of the elderly former Colonial Service officers or their widows, who are the subject of this Motion, and also at the same time I must consider the proposals put forward by the noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. Here if I may make an aside for a moment and get down to the precise problem, we are dealing in the terms of the Motion with those people I mentioned. We have heard that there are 2,900 retired Colonial Service pensioners who are receiving pensions below the general level pertaining to the United Kingdom. But among the older ones who obviously have retired on a basic pension rate of 689 pre-war salary there are not 2,900; it would appear that their number is 1,750. I thought the noble Lord might like to know that. That is about 60 per cent. of the total who are receiving pensions below the general United Kingdom level, but of course others may be receiving, as a result of retiring later, a very much higher pension than these 1,750.
I have already said that the Government's policy is to persuade overseas Governments to increase pensions to a level commensurate with those in the United Kingdom, and I wish to emphasise that this is a continuous and continuing process. At this moment, for instance, negotiations are proceeding with five of those eleven dependent territories whose levels of pensions for those receiving £400 a year or less fall below the level in the United Kingdom, and I feel that this must be the very large bulk of the people we are discussing to-day. It is hoped that, as a result of the negotiations now in process, when they are completed another 400 of these pensioners will have been brought up to United Kingdom standards. In point of fact, I think that altogether 1,500 pensioners are concerned in the negotiations, but only 400 of them at the moment fall below the level of similar pensions in the United Kingdom.
Now let me examine some of the proposals that have been put forward this afternoon. First, however, I will mention one proposal which I think has not been put forward this afternoon; and that is the idea that all pensions should be levelled off, wherever the individual officer may have served overseas. Perhaps in a way that was suggested indirectly when the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, was talking about transfer of officers from one territory to another, and their pension, the rates they would ultimately receive thereby being affected. The possibility of evening off pensions would be an attractive idea; as a matter of fact, it is one which I myself put forward in debate in this House four years ago. But now I have had to examine its implications, and I find that it would, in effect, mean undermining the moral and legal responsibilities of overseas Governments to provide adequate basic rates of pension.
For instance, if one officer retiring from one territory were to receive £1,500 690 per annum, and another officer of similar grade retiring from another territory were to receive only £1,200 per annum, the supposition is that Her Majesty's Government, would be required to find the other £300 per annum to bring the pension of the second man up to that of his colleague. But if all overseas Governments knew that Her Majesty's Government were going to make up the pension to the highest level there would be no inducement to them at any time in the future to increase their basic level of pension—we are not talking now about increases in pension but about the basic level; indeed, the temptation to reduce those basic levels would be very considerable.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
My Lords, both my noble friend and I raised this point. Of course I cannot speak for my noble friend Lord Boyd of Merton, but my argument was this. We might tell a man to go from one territory to another territory. I thought that it would be very hard on him if, when he went to the second territory, he found that the Government of the first territory was paying the full rates of pension but that in the second territory to which he had been transferred he was getting a lower rate—I do not mean a lower scale, but that the pension to which he would be entitled in this second territory had not been "topped up", whereas it had been "topped up" in the territory from which he was transferred. That, I thought, might be extraordinarily hard upon him and be an added obligation on Her Majesty's Government. I was not suggesting that all pensions should be the same, wherever the colonial servant had served; and I did not think my noble friend was suggesting that either.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord to take another point into consideration? Why is it that, Her Majesty's Government having made these payments in the case of Burma, Palestine and Pakistan, other countries have not refused to make increased pension payments? I thought his line of argument was that if Her Majesty's Government did this other countries would not do it.
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, I should like to come later to the question of Burma, Pakistan, India, and so on, 691 which has been brought up many times this afternoon. I have not forgotten it. In reply to the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, I see exactly the point he is getting at. He is not talking about the general level of pensions overall but about specific cases where officers had been transferred from one territory to another. I think I can only say, in reply to him, that it is a thing which I am sure Her Majesty's Government have had in mind. And I am sure my right honourable friend will be quite willing to take into account the words of the noble Earl, speaking with his great authority, and to go into that particular problem; and if there is any answer we can give straight away, I will write to him and tell him what the situation is.
Then we come to the two ideas implicit in the noble Lord's Motion: first, that Her Majesty's Government should make themselves responsible for the increases in pensions due to the cost of living in this country; and, secondly, that the pensions based on pre-war salaries should be brought up to standards more in keeping with modern salaries. Let me deal with the second point first. It was not the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, who asked for pensions based on prewar salaries to be brought up to modern standards, but I thought it was rather implicit in the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and it was absolutely clear in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Saye and Sele.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord, but I certainly did not mean to convey that impression. I assure him that that was not my intention, even if my words did not correspond to what I wished to say.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I am glad to accept that assurance from the noble Earl. But it was quite definitely clear in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Saye and Sele, who said that it would be a very good thing if those people retiring could be assured, in later years, even twenty years later, as the case may be, of the same standard of living as they had enjoyed at the time of retirement; and of course that leads to the conclusion that pre-war salaries should be brought up to standards more in keeping with modern salaries.
692 This point came up in another place in a recent debate. The discrepancies between the pensions of those oversea civil servants who have retired since the war and those who retired sixteen or more years ago were pointed out. Those discrepancies are, of course, very real, and there is no denying the fact. But, my Lords, the same discrepancies exist between the pensions paid to those who retired from the home Civil Service before and since the war. What, therefore, the noble Lord, Lord Saye and Sele, is asking is that oversea civil servants drawing pensions based on pre-war salaries should be treated more favourably than home civil servants whose pensions are also based on pre-war salaries. This is a thing which would be clearly impossible without reviewing the whole basis of pensions throughout the nation, and I am sure that it is neither the intention nor the wish of the older oversea civil servants to claim an advantage to which their friends in the home Civil Service are not entitled.
That leaves me with the proposal that Her Majesty's Government should pay increases in pension commensurate with the rise in the cost of living in this country, or, rather, commensurate with the increases given in pensions in this country since the war. This is indeed the most difficult problem of all, and it is the problem which we have spent most of this afternoon discussing. It is in this field that noble Lords have made their strongest case.
Here, I think I should like to turn aside and give a special word of welcome to my noble friend Lord Boyd of Merton, who made if not exactly a maiden speech, at least officially a maiden speech, and this was the first occasion on which we have had the opportunity of congratulating him for that reason. Before coming to his speech, which is going to cause me a good deal of thought when I reply to it, I should like to say what an enormous pleasure it is that I happen to find myself at this Dispatch Box when, on behalf of the Front Bench, it comes to congratulating the noble Viscount on his maiden speech
The noble Viscount kindly referred to my interest in the Colonies. We often came across each other in Africa when he was Colonial Secretary—I always 693 thought, one of the greatest Colonial Secretaries we have ever had—to such an extent that on one occasion I remember, when we met each other successively in Central, East and West Africa, he said, "Are you following me, or am I following you?" The noble Viscount was always most kind to me in those days, and when I wanted to bring something to his attention when he was at the Colonial Office I was always most welcome there. Therefore, I want to give him a special word of welcome and of thanks for his contribution to the debate this afternoon. I am sure all your Lordships will agree that it was one of the most powerful and telling speeches that perhaps has ever been made on any subject in your Lordships' House. Whether or not it is for me to agree with what he said is an entirely different matter, but there is no doubt that the content of it impressed your Lordships greatly, and I have little doubt that it will impress my right honourable friend who will pay special attention to it.
To continue with my argument, if I may, of course in respect of an increase in pensions it can be, and has been, argued by noble Lords and by some overseas Governments that they cannot be expected to take account of rises in the cost of living in this country to which they themselves may not have been subject; and, therefore, it will not always be easy for Her Majesty's Government to persuade overseas Governments to increase pensions to the level obtaining in this country. On the other hand, were the British Government to assume responsibility for some of these pension increases, the same objection that I have made to the general evening out of all pensions wherever they are earned might also apply, because we could hardly expect any other countries who have oversea pensioners on their books to grant further increases in future.
There are also other difficulties, and I think I can do no better than quote from the speech of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury in a debate on this subject last December. This is what the Financial Secretary said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 651 (No. 38), col. 1602]:Not only would it be a matter of the United Kingdom giving pensions increase in the place of Governments which, for one reason or another, had for the time being felt 694 unable to do so but, what is more important it would be very likely that the overseas Governments which have so far cheerfully accepted their responsibilities in full would consider themselves unfairly treated when increases due to be paid by other Governments were made by the United Kingdom.And the Financial Secretary went on a little later to say [ibid. col. 1603]:It seems to me that there is a very real chance that the end result would be that no other overseas Government would, in future, be ready to give a pensions increase and, without appearing alarmist, I cannot help feeling that this assumption of liability might even be regarded as betokening a lack of confidence in the good faith of the overseas Governments concerned to go on paying, not only the pensions increase but the basic pensions themselves, and the effect might well be to call needlessly into question the security of the basic pensions themselves.My Lords, I think I should turn aside for a moment to say something, but only a little I am afraid, about this pensions question in relation to India, Pakistan, Burma and Palestine, which was brought up first of all by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and then again at considerable length and in some detail by the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, and I think it has been mentioned since then. I think it is going to be extremely difficult for me to give the detailed answers which the noble Lords have asked for. This is a most complex subject; there were complicated and detailed arrangements with India where they capitalised, so to speak, the sums which they were due to pay in pensions. In the case of Pakistan no formal agreement, as I understand, has yet been signed and Pakistan continues to pay its own pensioners, as in fact does Burma. As has been mentioned, Palestine was an entirely separate case, where the mandatory Government gave up in 1948, I believe, and there was virtually no Government for two years after that, and Her Majesty's Government assumed responsibilities of a special nature. But in regard to the specific question which was asked by the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, as to precedents being established in India for the payment of increases in pension, really this is a subject which is so technical that I am not fully qualified to answer it. I would rather, if I may, go into it and write to the noble Viscount as to exactly what has happened and what the arguments are in that regard. I am sorry I cannot do more than that today.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord could include that in a White Paper. Perhaps he could suggest to his right honourable friend that that matter, the parallel with India, Pakistan and Burma, should be brought out in greater detail in a White Paper.
§ LORD MILVERTON
My Lords, is the noble Lord not able to answer about Burma and Pakistan, which have an exact parallel with the Colonial Service? If I may say so, with due respect, it is no good for the Government to do as they have in another place—namely, to draw the red herring of India across this question. Let us leave India out. Is there no answer about Burma and Pakistan?
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, I will not only also include that in the request of the noble Earl for a White Paper on this subject, but I will also write to the noble Lord in regard to the details on Burma and Pakistan, which are used by way of reference to the Motion under debate, without actually coming into the terms of the Motion under debate itself. That is why I am not fully equipped with all the details the noble Lord would like to have; but I will see that he has them.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, could the noble Lord answer this simple question, namely: is it not the case that Burma and Pakistan are paying the basic pension, but that Her Majesty's Government are paying the increase? Is that not the parallel?
§ LORD HASTINGS
I think the noble Earl is quite right in that respect. I hope I have explained sufficiently to your Lordships the obstacles in the way of Her Majesty's Government assuming responsibility for pensions increases over a limited part of the field. In fact, it would be most difficult to limit the liability of Her Majesty's Government in this way, and the risks attendant upon assuming such liability might result in a diminution of the responsibilities willingly assumed by overseas Governments, which might in the end affect all overseas civil servants adversely. If this were to happen, either those pensioners would suffer severely, and most unfairly, or the financial burden upon the British taxpayer would become very heavy indeed.
696 My Lords, I do not want to end upon this gloomy note. I have tried to explain to your Lordships the very real difficulties in meeting the objections which have been raised in the debate this afternoon. I do not want to give the impression that Her Majesty's Government have set their face against consideration of this human problem—in fact, as I have tried to show, they are considering it all the time. The noble Lord, Lord Milverton, quoted something he had said before, that fine speeches, or something to that effect, made a very insubstantial diet. But I should like to quote something the noble Lord said in that debate a year ago, and I would assure him I have not forgotten it. Of all of the arguments which have been put forward in both Houses, I think this perhaps summarises the feeling of your Lordships, whether I like it or not. This is what the noble Lord said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Volume 228, col. 745]:Yet they "—he was referring to the Government—grudge assistance to the pensioned men and women about whose services to this country and to mankind such beautiful and inexpensive tributes are constantly paid in speeches.I do not intend to pay any further tributes to the members of the Oversea Civil Service; that has been done by all speakers this afternoon. Your Lordships know that I myself have often paid such tributes, and I should be ready at any time to do so again. I do not think this is an occasion when I need spend time in that way, but I do want to say that I have tried to give the impression that Her Majesty's Government are not so grudging as the noble Lord would have us believe, and that they are not hard-hearted. In fact, this subject is always under consideration.
I can only say, by way of conclusion, that my right honourable friend the Secretary for Technical Co-operation had a meeting with representatives of the Overseas Service Pensioners' Association, together with Ministers from the Colonial Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office, last autumn, and that another meeting has been promised with the Overseas Service Pensioners' Association later this spring. My Lords, I am quite certain that the speeches which have been made this afternoon have been of such a nature, and carry with them so much experience, knowledge and 697 authority, that they will not only be read with the greatest care by my right honourable friend and all those concerned in this matter, but they will receive most special attention. The authority with witch the views of your Lordships have been expressed cannot be denied or ignored. Therefore, I can assure your Lordships that all that has been said this afternoon will receive the earnest and most sincere consideration of my right honourable friend, and that the arguments put forward will not fall upon deaf ears.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ LORD CITRINE
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, replies, may I make a short intervention? I am a trade unionist, and in my trade union life I have been used to plain, straightforward argument, whether put from the platforms of the trade union movement or whether put by the employers. I have not been used to the subtleties of politics, and it is from the point of view of one who understands plain language, but not subtle language, I now want to speak. The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, said he would approach this subject sympathetically; then he added the significant words, "within the limits of my brief". So we all understand that the noble Lord was not expressing his own personal views; he was kept, as it were, confined within the straitjacket of his brief.
It seems to me, speaking quite straightforwardly, that the noble Lord's brief gradually frittered away, point by point, the case that was put so strongly and eloquently by those who supported this Motion. I thought we were losing sight of the point mentioned in the Motion—namely, that we are dealing with pensions based on pre-war salaries. That implies to me that the services rendered upon which those pensions are based were services rendered to Her Majesty's Government, and, if that was the case, although naturally I see that the overseas territories would benefit by those services and would inherit the advantages that those services brought them, it seems to me that the noble Lord did not deal with the basic assertions, or, as I took them to be, statements of fact by the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, and by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton. They said, on more than one occasion, that the obligation in respect of 698 these pensions rested upon the Secretary of State. If that obligation was subsequently transferred to the overseas territories in the course of their development, it seems to me to be grossly inequitable that the pensioners themselves should suffer as a consequence of that.
If some of those territories are not prepared to bring the pensions into some sort of conformity with the increased cost of living in this country, as has been done in the case of other pensions, then the default falls, not upon Her Majesty's Government, except as a point of honour, but upon the individual pensioner. I think that to be utterly inequitable. I am not clear in my mind now, after hearing the noble Lord reply, whether Her Majesty's Government regard themselves as liberated from any obligation towards these pensioners. If the territories will not make up the pensions for some reason or other (for the pre-war services; let us keep that in mind), if the overseas territories do default, are we to believe then that Her Majesty's Government rest secure in the belief that, having transferred the obligations, they have discharged their duty towards these people?
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I should like to express my gratitude to all the noble Lords who have spoken. They have made, I think, a very powerful case. In particular, I should like to congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton. This is, in fact, his maiden speech, and was a speech that I am sure impressed all of us, not only as to its matter, but as to the manner in which he addressed your Lordships. I feel sure that I am expressing the views of your Lordships when I say it is our hope that we shall hear the noble Viscount often in the future. We should all take it as a great pleasure and privilege to be able to hear him again.
I feel sorry for the noble Lord, Lord Hastings. As he has said, and it is perfectly true, he has been one of those in this House who for many years past have spoken on colonial matters, and we all know that his heart is in absolutely the right place so far as this subject is concerned. But to-day he has been speaking for the Government, and, as he said, he has had to speak within the 699 limits of his brief—in my view a most inadequate brief. This is the first occasion on which the new Department of Technical Co-operation has appeared in this House, and I must say that its baptism of fire has left it, so far as I am concerned, in a very unmilitary situation. It has not stood up to the fire; it has dug itself in. It may be said that that is a perfectly good military thing to do, as, indeed, it may be; but at all events we have had little response to the ammunition that came from this side of the House.
I will put this matter very shortly, because I think it was a most inadequate reply. It seems to me that the case was put very powerfully indeed by the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, and the case which I also ventured to put has not been answered. Here we have the Colonial White Paper of 1954, a part of which I will quote that has not been quoted before, in which this very point of new political developments was raised. Paragraph 3 begins:The political developments now taking place or likely to take place in many of the territories, in pursuance of the declared policy of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to further their advance towards self-government, make it necessary to review the situation of the Colonial Service.In other words, in order to deal with this problem that was obviously facing the Colonial Service at that time, and of which they had some apprehension, this particular Paper was produced.
It went on to say, as the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, and the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, have also said, that colonial servants are servants of the Crown. We have heard to-day, from two distinguished former Secretaries of State for the Colonies how the system works. These colonial servants cannot say where they are going; they are told the territories to which they must go, and the better the man the more likely he is to go to the most difficult territory. I will say this to the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, if I may: that he can take back this impression to his right honourable friend, as he has kindly agreed to do—namely, that every single speaker has spoken in support of the Motion, that it is not a Party Motion, that it has been subscribed to by noble Lords in every part of this House, and 700 that I think I am right in assessing that the general feeling of your Lordships is also strongly in favour of the Motion—
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: Hear, hear!
§ LORD OGMORE
—as can be seen from that acclamation. Her Majesty's Government need a bit of prodding—we had to prod a good deal in the case of similar pensions for the Armed Services—but if prodded a little, in my view they always come down on the right side of these matters in the end. So may I suggest that the noble Lord takes it back and gives a full impression of the debate to his right honourable friend? I am perfectly certain that if he aids us in prodding, as we shall continue to do, Her Majesty's Government will do the right thing. My Lords, in view of that hope and expression of opinion, I now beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.