HL Deb 02 July 1968 vol 294 cc157-9

2.45 p.m.


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

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government on what grounds aid programmes in Tanzania have been cancelled.]


My Lords, the Government of Tanzania have decided to make no budgetary provision after July 1 this year for most of their pension liabilities towards expatriate, mainly British, officers formerly in the service of the Tanganyika and Zanzibar Governments. The pensions in question were earned before independence and are covered by the Public Officers' Agreements between the Tanganyika and Zanzibar Governments and the British Government. The Tanzania Government have also stated that they will not repay about £6.5 million of loans amounting to £9 million provided by Her Majesty's Government towards Tanzania's liabilities for compensating British officials for loss of career and for capitalising part of their pensions.

We informed the Tanzania Government that we did not agree that Tanzania should cease to be responsible for these obligations and we made certain suggestions to help Tanzania meet the cost. I regret to say the Tanzanian Government were unable to accept our suggestions.

We have had to take immediate steps to protect the pensioners from hardship arising from these decisions and the cost to Britain will be about £800,000 for the current financial year. Payments will be made on an ex gratia, basis and, in making these arrangements, Her Majesty's Government do not regard themselves as relieving the Tanzanian Government of their liability in this matter. It was for these reasons teat we felt bound to bring our aid programme to an end.


My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that very full Answer. May I ask him, first, whether it is not the case that the Tanzania Government are prepared to pay the pensions of all civil servants who were in Tanganyika after independence was declared? Secondly, is it not the case that other Colonialist Government; have accepted that principle and the responsibility of meeting the cost of pensions of civil servants before independence was declared? Thirdly, is it right fiat aid, which is for the purpose of social and economic development, should be used as an instrument of coercion for political purposes?


My Lords. I could not accept the last part of my noble friend's supplementary question. The pensions which are in dispute are those of civil servants and officers who were in these countries prior to independence. There was a contract—an understanding, an agreement—and it was in the light of that agreement that the financial arrangements were made with Tanzania and Zanzibar when they obtained independence. We made an offer to help the Tanzanian Government in this matter, but unfortunately they were not able to accept it. I personally very much regret the action that we had to take, but I feel that we were right to take it.


My Lords, is it not the case that the Oversea Service Pensioner's Association, representing these men, takes the view that in the case of civil servants before independence, the responsibility is with the colonial Government?



Is it not the case that that Association had a letter published in The Times this week? I assure my noble friend—and I have a copy of the letter with me—that the Association indicated that view.


My Lords, I do not accept everything that appears in the newspapers. There was an agreement, to which referred, and that agreement was between Her Majesty's Government and the Governments of Tanganyika and Zanzibar in relation to the civil servants in question.


My Lords, can we be assured that Her Majesty's Government are taking every possible step to secure that the agreement freely entered into by the Tanzanian Government will be fulfilled by them?


My Lords, all steps that are open to us will be taken.


My Lords, in view of my noble friend's statement that he does not believe everything that appears in the newspapers, is he aware that the letter to which I referred was signed by Mr. S. A. Walden, the Secretary of the Oversea Service Pensioners' Association?


I have not seen the letter. If my noble friend will show it to me later, I will gladly read it.


My Lords, would the Minister take it from me, as one who had great responsibility for the Colonial Service, that the action which he has taken in insisting on withdrawing this aid because of a gross breach of undertakings by the Government of Tanzania will have the full support of the great majority of people in this country, including all ex-civil servants?


My Lords, can the noble Lord say on what scale the ex gratia payments will be made to pensioners? Will it be 50 per cent., 70 per cent. or 80 per cent., remembering that many of these men have heavy family commitments and would like to be assured that the scale of payments which the Government will be giving will be adequate to meet their needs?


My Lords, I note the noble Lord's question. It is a supplementary question that I had not anticipated, and I will write to him about it.


My Lords, would the noble Lord consider, for the assistance of the House, making available in the Library the amounts paid to Tanzania in all forms of aid in the three years prior to the breaking off of relations and the amounts, if any, paid since relations were broken off?


My Lords, I will consider that point, but it might be more convenient if the noble Lord tabled a Question.