HL Deb 18 November 1969 vol 305 cc837-8

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

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have now further examined the question of responsibility for the pensions of indigenous civil servants formerly working in the Colony of Aden and the Protectorate of South Arabia, and what decision they have reached.]


My Lords, on July 22 I told the House that Her Majesty's Government's consistent policy over many years is to regard overseas Governments as responsible for the payment of all public service pensions, including, in the case of independent Governments, the obligations of their predecessors. Consequently, responsibility for the payment of these pensions rests with the Southern Yemen Government. This Question remains under examination and I regret that I cannot say when a decision is likely to be reached. Both I and my right honourable friend the Minister of Overseas Development are well aware of the strength of the noble Lord's feelings, but the difficulties in relation to other pensioners to which I referred on July 22 remain very real.


My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether he is aware of the many hard cases which there are as a result of the Government's not taking any decision in favour of these pensioners two years after the independence of South Arabia; for instance, that of one man who, having served the British for 15 years in South Arabia in the Protectorate service and having retired before independence, was given an M.B.E. and a Certificate of Honour, and left without any pension, or even the payment of his whole gratuity?


My Lords, I am well aware of the numbers and I have already expressed great sympathy for them, particularly those who have been unjustly deprived of their pensions by their own Government. As I have already said, this matter is still under close examination and I hope that in the not-too-far distant future a reply can be given.


My Lords, if this Government is in receipt of financial assistance from the British Government, would it not be appropriate to deduct from that financial assistance sufficient funds to meet the legitimate claims of pensions for civil servants?


My Lords, that may be, but I believe (I speak subject to correction) that the aid and assistance to the Southern Yemen Government to which we had committed ourselves has now been given.


My Lords, since this problem is one which covers a number of ex-British Colonies, may I ask my noble friend whether he can say what consultation has taken place with Commonwealth Governments about this issue; and whether it is intended to discuss it at the next Commonwealth Ministers' Conference to try to find a solution?


My Lords, this is not, I suspect, a matter on which Her Majesty's Government would consult Commonwealth Governments, since the Southern Yemen is not part of the Commonwealth. But in answer to a previous Question, I have already indicated the great difficulties that arise in this particular case; and that is one of the reasons, I fear, why undue delay has taken place.

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