§ 3.57 p.m.
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The EARL OF LTSTOWEL in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2 [Superannuation schemes as respects certain overseas service and service with the Central Office of the Overseas Audit Department]:
§ LORD SHACKLETON moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 3, line 6, at end insert:
(e) persons who have served in—
§ The noble Lord said: I rise to move Amendment No. 1, which is tabled in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, the noble Lord, Lord Gridley, my noble friend Lord Beswick and myself. All of us have had something to do with the position of those who have served our country in former colonial territories and we have joined together to table an Amendment which bears on a particular area in which there is a special concern, and in my view a special moral obligation on Her Majesty's Government; and once again when I say, "Her Majesty's Government" I mean us, the British. It was as much a responsibility of the Government of which I was a member, and which I freely admit did not deal with this problem, as it is of the present Government. I should like to explain the purpose of this Amendment and of No. 3, which in the event I may not need to move, though in my opinion it was advisable to put it on the Marshalled List.
§ The Amendment to Clause 2 specifically sets out the names of those for whom, in very simple terms, I want to see the British Government take the responsibility of paying pensions. Amendment No. 3 is essentially to ensure that there is no bar on the Government in paying pensions to people such as those mentioned in Amendment No. 1 on the grounds that they are indigenous to their country and are not expatriate servants of the Crown. We discussed on Second Reading this problem of our treatment of those who served us in South Arabia, and on that occasion I sensed a good deal of sympathy among your Lordships in regard to those for whom people like the noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, who was High Commissioner right up to the end of our withdrawal, and myself, who was involved in South Arabia, are concerned—a group of people who served the British Crown and who served the country but who to-day, so far as we know, receive no pensions at all.
§ The noble Baroness, in her usual sympathetic way, explained on Second 990 Reading that there were powers in the Bill to give pensions to those whom I have mentioned. I should be grateful if, when she replies, she would confirm that. She went on to say that consideration was being given to this problem but that she could not prejudge what might emerge. Our purpose to-day is to strengthen any feelings the noble Baroness may have in this matter by getting the feeling of your Lordships on the subject and by deploying the case as we see it. It is not at the moment my intention to recommend the Committee to divide on this series of Amendments. We shall see how we get on. If we have a particularly inept reply from the noble Baroness we may wish to divide, but as I have never yet heard an inept reply from her it is unlikely that that will happen.
§ I wish briefly—on this subject the noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, may wish to expand—to recapitulate the position when we withdrew from South Arabia. This uniquely, if one excludes Palestine, was a situation in which we went without any agreement with the successor Government other than to go. The negotiations, in which I participated, were conducted very late in the day in difficult circumstances and there was no agreement on the part of the successor Government to pay pensions, except a tacit agreement in relation to certain initial aid which we gave for, I think, the first six months after we left. Subsequently it became apparent that a number of indigenous civil servants had received no pensions from the successor Government. Again, I stress that that Government was one of a very different nature from those which normally succeeded British rule in former Colonies. These local civil servants were not receiving their pensions while expatriate civil servants—British, Indian and others—were. The Government finally came to the view that they should pick up the responsibility and they decided in general principle that they would apply this on a much wider level throughout the former colonial territories. This meant a major readjustment and it has led, and will continue to lead, to complicated negotiations.
I do not wish to raise the position of civil servants; I want to sneak briefly about those who served in particular armed forces, and I will, for the benefit
of the Committee, read the names mentioned in Amendment No. 1:
… persons who have served in … the Aden Protectorate Government Guards, the Federal National Guard and the South Arabian Police Force … the Aden Protectorate Levies, the Federal Regular Army and the South Arabian Army … the Hadhrami Beduin Legion … the Aden Police Force (including that part of the Force known as the Armed Police).
§ I do this because a number of these forces are in different categories. Some were in a different relationship to the British authorities and some served in territories under different constitutional arrangements; but all of them served British policy over a number of years and, with very rare and rather special exceptions, served with great loyalty and at great cost to themselves. Indeed, the figures which I have suggest that between 1964 and 1967—the period of the emergency only, and there were other casualties before—there were no fewer than 81 killed in Aden State and the Protectorates, and 368 injured. There were of course a number of widows and dependent children. Thus a question which I ask immediately is how far pensions are being paid to these widows, because I believe that a number were transferred back to Aden and are a charge on Aden funds. If the noble Baroness does not have this information now, perhaps she will let me know the answer later.
§ I also wish to speak briefly about the position of those who served us, and I will illustrate my point by referring to two officers, both of whom I know and both of whom were in senior positions. The noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, will have known them a great deal better than I did. To-day both are virtually penniless. One is Nasir Buraik Awlaoi, who has recently written to an expatriate officer. I emphasise that for those who served during the emergency, some of whom were wounded and carried great personal risk, we are deeply concerned and there are feelings of guilt, which I share, about our failure to look after these people. This particular officer had to flee and take refuge in Saudi Arabia. From the day of his retirement in October, 1967, up to now he has not received a single payment, not one installment of a pension, relative to this service under the British Crown.992
Another officer, Sharif Haider, who at one time commanded the Federal National Guard, played a crucial part at a time when there was a very unfortunate mutiny. I think the noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, can confirm that it arose more from nerves and confusion than from anything else; it occurred just after the six-day war when some British soldiers were killed. Sharif Haider himself played a major part at personal risk in restoring order, despite some hostility. He also had to flee from Aden and he has written saying:
…I lost a homeland, a career, much property and life-long friends.
He has submitted
…that…the decision (to pay pensions to South Arabian civil servants) … is … discriminatory …
in regard to those who served the Crown in the Armed Forces. I regretfully agree, though I supported that decision. It is worth pointing out that some officers were formerly officials and that there was some movement between the Civil Service and the Armed Forces.
§ I will not go into detail on each of these particular categories, but I should like to mention the fact that the Aden Police Force are, I believe, already covered as civil servants, but the Armed Police are not because of their part in the panic mutiny—if I understand the position correctly. If so, I shall be interested to know the particular arguments used for this discrimination. It is important to realise that it is exceedingly difficult to expect complete loyalty in a situation when everybody knows that the protecting Power is going, whatever happens, and that there may or may not be a Government formed by a former terrorist body. The amazing thing is the amount of loyalty that was shown.
§ In this connection, I should like to make a special reference to the Hadhrami Beduin Legion, a force which was commanded by a retired British officer, Colonel Johnson, whom I know and who is deeply concerned with regard to the promises he was authorised to make to the officers who served under him. All the senior officers and the majority of the junior officers in the Hadhrami Beduin Legion were dismissed from the force because there was little in the way of jobs of work and because many of them were not acceptable to the new régime.993
§ Few, if any, have been able to get work at all. It is difficult to get information as to what happens to them, but there are some who are making a bare living, either in exile or by tending goats in the desert, and some are completely penniless. The hardship and suffering which these ex-officers are experiencing is something that I would ask your Lordships to recognise. They have suffered indignities and shame which affect them even more, as a result of their loyalty to us.
§ A particular point I would make with regard to the Hadhrami Beduin Legion—although my Amendment relates to all the forces—is that it was a Foreign Office private Army. It was financed, controlled and administered completely by us. It remained a Foreign Office force until the day we were withdrawn. It was never part of the Federal forces and the officers swore allegiance to our Sovereign. Their loyalty in all cases, until the end, was complete, in spite of provocation, severe pressure and outside influences. The forces in the former Aden Protectorates were in a rather privileged position because they were part of the British Forces under the command of the R.A.F.
§ I believe that we have a moral obligation to these people. They have served us and, furthermore, we made promises to them. There is one point which the former Commanding Officer of the Hadhrami Beduin Legion has said will ever be on his conscience, and that is that before the British withdrew he assured all the Hadhrami Beduin Legion officers that their pension rights under the terms of their contract would he respected. He did so with full authority from Aden. I believe that it is up to us, to the British Government, but also to us here to ensure that we fulfil our obligations. I have already said that I do not believe that the British record in regard to the withdrawal from Empire has been good in relation to consideration and generosity to those who served us. In many ways we have had not only a fine record in Empire but also a fine record in the way that we withdrew. But there are black spots, and this is a particularly mean and unworthy one. I would urge the Government, in the light of the support which I hope we may get in the course of this debate, despite the many difficulties and despite the arguments that I know the noble Baroness may find it necessary to have with her 994 colleagues in the Treasury and in other Departments, to seek to rectify a wrong which should give us all a feeling of guilt. I beg to move.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ LORD TREVELYAN
I rise to support as strongly as possible what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has said and at the same time also to try to work upon the noble Baroness's feelings. I need not go into anything in great detail because the noble Lord has given a very full and completely accurate account of the facts, all of which 1 know to be entirely justified. It was realised at the time that the civil pensions were sanctioned that it was impossible in 1967 to expect an agreement from the South Arabians on the payment of pensions. There is no doubt at all that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, made the best possible agreement that anybody could have made in those circumstances.
One must remember that before independence we were paying two-thirds of the South Arabian budget from British funds. We promised aid for only six months. The money just was not there to pay the pensions. I am glad to say that two or three years ago the Government agreed to pay the pensions of the civil servants and the question arises: "Why were the military officers not included at that time?" I had assumed that the question of past loyalty was not under consideration. The great majority of the military officers and civil servants in Aden were astonishingly loyal right to the end. If your Lordships had been there during those last six months and had been in that disintegrating situation with the British pulling out, you would have expected a considerable degree of reinsurance, because the people had to safeguard their future. But in fact there was remarkably little of it. As I have said, the loyalty we had right to the end from all classes of officers, civil and military was astonishing.
The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, referred to the one case—the mutiny of the Armed Police—which he suggests may have had some bearing on the Government's decision not to give the military pensions. I can confirm that that was caused by panic. The Armed Police in Crater had their wives and families there, and they got it into their heads that the British were going to attack them. 995 That was just one instance of the very peculiar circumstances. Now, at this distance of time, it is something which should be excused and we should not forget the loyalty in very unfavourable circumstances of all those who served us. Whatever the differences in the terms of employment, there is no question that the pensions of the officers of the Armed Forces came under the same enactments and were fixed on the same principles—if not exactly at the same rates—as for the civil officers.
Then comes the question of why, if it was not a question of loyalty, the Government were prepared to pay the civil but not the military pensions. I have not been able to find out the reason for that decision. Perhaps it was because it was thought at the time that many of our officers were being employed by the independent Government, and that that Government were paying military pensions. My understanding now is that no pensions, or practically no pensions, are being paid, and that those that are being paid are only at very reduced rates. None of those concerned, I gather, is now serving in the South Arabian Forces—the South Yemeni Forces, as they now are. Many have retired, and many have suffered for political reasons. Some of them, as your Lordships have heard to-day, have had to go outside the country. This certainly is a new fact which may not have been understood at the time when this matter was formally considered by the Government.
I should like, finally, to emphasise very strongly what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has said. I feel that we have a very serious obligation in this matter, to pay the pensions of our old servants, and it is a disgrace that those old servants, through no fault of their own, are now in many cases being left penniless. I therefore hope that the Government will seriously reconsider this matter and will do what surely is plain justice.
§ LORD GRIDLEY
It is with the greatest pleasure that I associate myself with this Amendment on which my name is coupled with that of the noble Lords, Lord Shackleton, Lord Trevelyan and Lord Beswick. I would rather speak this evening in your Lordships' House as a former overseas officer of the Colonial Service. I went through a certain amount 996 of nostalgia this week-end down in Somerset reading an account from the Director of Establishments, Aden and South Arabia, of the circumstances in connection with the British withdrawal. He gave me a most moving account of what occurred at that time, and he of course, like myself, would be most concerned, being an overseas officer, that justice should be done to our indigenous Government servants.
I never served in Aden, but I used to pass down the Red Sea on my journeys to Malaya, and at the southern extremity there we had Aden, which seemed to guard all the vicinity of that area, allowing our ships to pass to the Far East and to Australia and New Zealand. Our association with that territory seems to have extended to something like 129 years. From my experience, and also from the experience of this Director of Establishments, Aden and South Arabia, I know that as a result of the long association between Britain and its indigenous peoples overseas a great deal of affection has grown up between us. It is remarkable that even to-day we former officers receive letters from indigenous people overseas, showing great interest in this country and what it is doing and putting to some of us the problems which exist in the countries that are now independent.
In the case of the Aden Protectorate, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has made a speech in the most moving terms this evening in support of this Amendment, and I think it is of great significance that noble Lords in all parts of the House, I am sure, have complete sympathy with the terms of the Amendment. If I may for a moment try to draw a parallel from handing over to people who might have been terrorist in organisation, I cannot conceive of anything worse to be endured by those people who were left behind to carry out the responsibility of maintaining law and order—and those are people mentioned in this Amendment—than the onerous duties which were forced upon them. I cannot conceive that they acted in any other manner than out of exceptional bravery and loyalty to the Crown. I think the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, would admit the evacuation of Aden was an absolute success.
As I know so well, when indigenous people support the British they are the 997 targets subsequently to be—I will not say, "bumped off", but to be dealt with; and it is the people who gave of their loyalty to the Crown in such circumstances who are mentioned in the Amendment. It is not for us here to question why it was not possible to have an orderly withdrawal, to have a public officer's agreement. Circumstances dictate our actions, and I am quite sure that this must have been one of the most difficult decisions that faced the British Government who were in control at the time. I feel, in supporting this Amendment, that if we can get justice to-day for these men who have served us so well we shall have discharged our obligations with honour, and I therefore commend this Amendment to your Lordships.
§ LORD SEGAL
I should like to add a few words from these Benches in support of the Amendment so movingly put forward by the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition. As one who served in Aden during the early clays of the war, I had many opportunities of close contact with the Aden Protectorate Levies. Their loyalty was absolutely unquestioned. They were a magnificent body of men. They served in the Hadhrami, often under conditions of extreme hardship. I cannot help feeling that a heavy moral obligation rests on the Government to recognise the loyalty of these troops, often under conditions of extreme distress. Many of these loyal servants of the Crown would appear to have been made victims of retaliatory action, if not of actual vindictiveness, by the successor Government. One cannot use words strong enough to say that the Government stand on a very weak footing indeed if they attempt to shuffle out of this obligation, this heavy obligation, as mentioned in this particular Amendment. I have no hesitation whatever in giving my fullest support to the admirable case made out by the noble Lord, Leader of the Opposition.
§ LORD MILVERTON
I should have been content to say very briefly indeed how strongly I support the Amendment and everything that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and others have said, but I had a letter from a former Director of Establishments, Aden and South Arabia, asking me particularly to take part ill this 998 debate. He said that with my wide experience of colonial territories, and so forth, I must assedly—and he was right—be deeply sympathetic to this kind of proposal which has been made. There are one or two things that I should like to say incidentally, to which he especially drew my attention. He told me that this matter had first of all been raised by a group of British officers who felt that it was an indignity to our good name that these sections of local forces should have been so treated, apparently without realisation of the debt that we owed them.
All South Arabian Government pensions ceased when British financial aid to Southern Yemen stopped in mid-1968. The British Government immediately started to pay the pensions of expatriate pensioners. A long campaign was then started by former colleagues of the indigenous pensioners to urge the British Government to assume responsibility for other pensions earned by service in South Arabia. This campaign met with some success in 1970, but the success was severely partial; only Civil Service and civil police pensioners benefited. When this became clear, it was considered that it would not be right to rest content with a situation in which many who had loyally served in the security forces were deprived of the retirement benefits to which they were morally and otherwise entitled. As we know, senior British officers of the Federal and Protectorate forces, and of the civil administration in South Arabia, wrote to the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary some months ago urging that the unfair discrimination between pensioners of the Civil Service and of the security forces should be ended. I need not go into any further detail. With one's experience it would be possible to speak for some time of what we owe to these people and to such forces as those. I can only say that I am in complete agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in his Amendment, and I do not believe that anybody in this House would dream of disagreeing.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
The Committee and the noble Baroness will not wish me, nor need me, to underline the fact that there is very strong feeling on all sides. I am bound to tell the noble Baroness that she will have to argue very persuasively indeed, if she is unable to accept 999 the Amendment, for us not to press this Amendment this afternoon. For my part, I cannot sec that we can do other than accept it, or get the most serious assurances from the noble Baroness. I have not heard, and I doubt whether the noble Baroness can tell us, any point affecting the principle of what we are asking. I have not heard any suggestion of an argument affecting the principle—except the factor that at one time there was this difficulty in the Crater, but that was not pressed when we discussed it last time. Therefore, there seems to be no question of principle involved.
I cannot think that it is a matter of the sum of money involved. My understanding is that some two or three hundred individuals will be vitally concerned. Therefore, I cannot think that it will be a matter of finance. If it is not finance and not principle, I cannot see how the British Government can do other than accept the Amendment. We shall certainly listen carefully and eagerly to what the noble Baroness has to tell us. I hope that she realises that unless she can give us very satisfactory assurances, there will be—and I hope that I can speak for all sides of the Committee—a very strong feeling that we should press this Amendment to a Division.
§ LORD BOURNE
I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and others in their Amendment. I knew these people who are specified in Amendment No. 1. I have met them all, including the Hadhrami Beduin Legion, which is a very small force indeed, and incidentally is hundreds of miles from Aden. I have no more to say about that except that I wonder whether the parallel cases are dealt with under this Amendment. It seems to me that Amendment No. 3 might cover the situation more widely. I am thinking, for example, of the police officers who were in Zanzibar shortly after the British evacuation and, so far as I know, were drawing, or were eligible to draw, British service pensions. I wonder, for example, whether we dealt with them, or parallel cases all over Africa. I should like to ask the noble Baroness whether that Amendment covers the position slightly better. In any case, I support Amendment No. 1.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
We have certainly had a unanimous debate on the main Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. He said that he would also like at the same time to discuss Amendment No. 3. Perhaps I could give him the assurance that there is nothing in this Bill, or in any Act, which would preclude the payment of benefits to citizens of the overseas countries in which they served provided that the policy decision is taken, and in that case the third Amendment is not necessary.
I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, or any other noble Lords who spoke, needed to convince me of the great concern with which they view this difference of treatment between those who were civilian officers and those who were security or military officers. I again read very carefully the Second Reading debate, because at that time the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, spoke with considerable emotion and, I may say, with great fairness. He said himself that at the time, in 1970, he felt a mistake had been made when the decision was taken to pay only the civilian officers and not the South Arabian security forces. I said at that time that of course we would look at the whole matter again in every possible respect, because, as the noble Lord and many others said, the South Yemen Government has never accepted that it is a successor to the Government of the Federation of South Arabia, and they have, we feel wrongly, never accepted full responsibility for South Arabian expatriates and local pensions. Therefore, we tried to consider why it was that there was this distinction between the civilians and the South Arabian Armed Forces and the Aden Armed Police.
I have listened very carefully to every speech that has been made. However, I must say to the Committee that while we have given this matter enormous consideration and thought, we do not feel, after studying the papers, that it would be wise to take the decision in the way suggested this afternoon; and I should like to say why. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, will no doubt recall that this question was under consideration for some 18 months before, in March, 1970, the previous Government announced that, in view of the exceptional nature of the 1001 South Arabia situation, loan advances should be paid to the indigenous former civil servants. He would know better than anyone else—and I was sorry that he did not tell us this, or perhaps he did not feel able to tell us—the considerations behind the decision to make that distinction at that time, because I suspect it was very much a question of principle. This particular course having been taken then of course it is obvious that repercussions would follow. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, it is perfectly true that indeed some of the Zanzibar civil servants are also being paid as a corollary of what is being done here.
I should like to say that if the concession suggested here were now extended to cover the former local security forces, the Government would be taking an action which has not been taken in the case of any other former dependancy. It is important to stress this aspect, and I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, when he said that he would like to hear whether a point of principle is involved in this matter. To extend the loan advance scheme in the case of South Yemen would inevitably create a precedent for other public service agreements, however different the circumstances. The Bill which we are to-day discussing provides for the Government to assume responsibility for the payment of pensions to former expatriate civil servants who served in certain Dependencies before their independence. The Government are assuming responsibility neither for the pensions of indigenous ex-civil servants nor for those of indigenous members of the local security forces of former Dependencies, although these gave loyal and devoted service and in some cases fought beside British troops during the Second World War.
The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and other noble Lords, raised the question of loyalty. While it may be true that there were some who were not loyal, perhaps owing—in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton—to nerves and confusion, and that there was what he called a "panic mutiny", and while I quite accept that, for instance, the Hadhrami Beduin Legion, who were not even there at the time, were very loyal indeed, one cannot make any distinction at all. If such payments were made they would have to be to all or to none, and I do not 1002 think that after three years' passage of time—or even that it would have been so at the time of these events—it would be possible to prove that some were loyal and some were not.
The real reason for not accepting the Amendment is that neither the Overseas Development Administration nor the Ministry of Defence have any evidence—and we have sought everywhere to find it—of Her Majesty's Government's paying pensions to indigenous officers of local security forces who were not affiliated to the British Army after independence, and no such pensions have ever at any time been carried on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Vote. Therefore I feel, in essence, that it would be wrong to grant one former Colony concessions which have been withheld from other territories, and I should have thought it was that reason which really caused the Government of which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, was a distinguished member to make a distinction in terms of these payments. It is because of the very close study that we have made of the issues involved that I believe the former Government were right. Therefore, in spite of the strong pleas that have been made, I think it only right to tell the Committee that we have gone into the matter with the greatest care, but I feel justified in asking the noble Lord to withdraw his Amendment.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
It goes without saying that I am extremely disappointed in the noble Baroness's reply. Indeed, the only merit that I can find in it—and it is a merit which I would expect of her—is that she has been frank in just saying, "No". In one respect, I detected some slight confusion in her argument. It appeared as if she thought we were seeking to differentiate between those who were involved in the mutiny. I do not want the Committee to be distracted by this point, because it was an extremely small mutiny and, in fact, so far as the Federal Guard were concerned, was stopped by the officer who is now penniless. It happened in circumstances which I think we can largely discount. What bothered me most in the noble Baroness's speech was the fact that she said that the reason for not granting what we are asking for is that there is no precedent. That is precisely the situation in which we have found ourselves all along.
1003 I am not sure that there was not an implication in the noble Baroness's speech that I had been less than frank with the Committee in not giving a reason for the distinction. Honestly, I cannot remember the details, and furthermore I was only too thankful that we had been able to get pensions for the civil servants. I shall be equally frank and say—and although the noble Baroness may say that I was less than frank earlier, I shall be very frank now—that I did not propose to endanger getting pensions for civil servants by pressing the case for the armed forces. Also, I did not know how officers in the armed forces had been treated. I assumed that the Federal Army had in fact continued to serve the new Government. It is only lately that I have heard the extent of the mistreatment from which they suffered.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.1004
§ It was not my intention to divide the Committee, partly because I should not have been surprised if the Amendment were defective in certain respects, and secondly, because I do not necessarily regard this Bill as an appropriate medium for such an Amendment. But this is the only opportunity that is open to us. So, in the light of what I believe to be the feeling of the Committee, I shall not beg leave to withdraw the Amendment but shall press it to a Division, in order to get an expression of that feeling. Thereafter it will be possible for the Government to decide how they are to deal with this matter in legislation.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 74; Not-Contents, 39.1003
|Allerton, L.||Garnsworthy, L.||Phillips, B.|
|Archibald, L.||Greenway, L.||Popplewell, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Arwyn, L.||Grenfell, L.||Rusholme, L.|
|Beswick, L. [Teller.]||Gridley, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Blyton, L.||Haig, E.||Segal, L.|
|Bourne, L.||Hale, L.||Serota, B.|
|Brockway, L.||Hall, V.||Shackleton, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Hankey, L.||Shinwell, L.|
|Burntwood, L.||Harvey of Prestbury, L.||Slater, L.|
|Caccia, L.||Hoy, L.||Stow Hill, L.|
|Chalfont, L.||Jacques, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Champion, L.||Kindersley, L.||Strang, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Kinloss, Ly.||Strange of Knokin, B.|
|Clwyd, L.||Leatherland, L.||Summerskill, B.|
|Colyton, L.||Listowel, E.||Tangley, L.|
|Courtown, E.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.||Tayfor of Mansfield, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Maelor, L.||Trevelyn, L. [Teller.]|
|Douglas of Barloch, L.||Merrivale, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Evans of Hunaershall, L.||Milverton, L.||Wahton, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Molson, L.||White, B.|
|Faringdon, L.||Monson, L.||Williamson, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Moyle, L.||Willis, L.|
|Fulton, L.||Napier and Ettrick, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Gardiner, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Exeter, M.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Ferrers, E. [Teller.]||O'Neill of the Maine, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Goschen, V.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Gowrie, E.||Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.|
|Brecon, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||St. Helens, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, B.||Semphill, Ly.|
|Camoys, L.||Inglewood, L.||Stamp, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Long, V.||Stuart of Findhorn, V.|
|Denham, L.||Lothian, M.||Tanlaw, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Luke, L.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Ebbisham, L.||Margadale, L.||Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, B.|
|Elles, B.||Meston, L.||Wakefield of Kendal, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]||Wolverton, L.|
|Emmet of Amberley, B.||Young, B.|
§ Clause 3 [Provisions supplementary to sections 1 and 2]:
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ LORD GRIDLEY moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 4, line 32, at end insert—
( ) Nothing in subsection (4) of this section shall affect pensions which have been, or which may be, granted to any persons who have been, and have ceased to be, in the public service of any overseas territory as defined in subsection (3) of section 1 above before the appointed day, or to the widows, children or dependants of such persons, which arc paid in accordance with the law under which they were granted, or if granted after the appointed day, in accordance with the law in force immediately before that day, or in either case in accordance with any law made thereafter which is not less favourable.
The noble Lord said: In moving this Amendment may I draw attention to the fact that the powers of overseas Governments to amend pensions legislation are qualified by what are known as public officers' agreements. As your Lordships know, public officers' agreements were undertakings entered into between overseas territories and Her Majesty's Government, and guaranteed certain conditions respecting the payment of pensions when those territories assumed independence. In the case of the Amendment we were considering previously, it was not possible to enter into a public officers' agreement with the Colony of Aden. In the debate on the Second Reading of this Bill on December 21 last, the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, stated:
Subsection (4) of the clause allows schemes to be introduced with retrospective effect. Such provisions are already a feature of every overseas pensions scheme for which we propose to assume liability and to administer under Clause 1".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21/12/72, col. 1215.]
The object of the Amendment that I am moving is to secure that no scheme introduced by Her Majesty's Government under subsection (4) contains any feature which would contravene public officers' agreements. I beg to move.
§ LORD BESWICK
I rise simply to say that I hope the noble Baroness will be able to give a rather more forthcoming reply on this Amendment than she did on the last occasion. I think we are only asking that the "i's" should be dotted and the "t's" crossed, and no money will follow from this. I hope very much that the assurances will be forthcoming.
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Gridley, for moving this Amendment and for quoting what I said on Second Reading on the question of retrospection. But, alas!, he stopped at the words "Clause 1". If he reads on he will see that I said:I should like to assure the House that we shall consult pensioners' representatives on all major issues; indeed my right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development has already consulted them… and they were assured that retrospection will he used only when it will be of advantage to those concerned—for example, to cover the gap between agreement on changes and the actual introduction of a scheme".I am glad to have this opportunity to reaffirm what I said then.
As to this Amendment itself, because we have accepted the "no detriment" principle which is contained in the overseas provision and as advocated by the House of Commons Select Committee on Overseas Aid, we do not consider it is necessary to have an Amendment exactly of this kind. We cannot have an exact equivalent because the existing overseas laws provide for the pensions which Britain will be seeking to take over to be paid initially in the currency of the overseas country concerned; and of course this arrangement cannot continue once Britain has assumed responsibility for the pensions. They will then be paid in sterling; and I am advised that the proposed Amendment to Clause 3 would possibly impede the necessary modifications in this respect. I once more confirm the fact that we are sure there will he no "worse off" provisions in the future. I should have liked to accept the Amendment, and I looked at it carefully; but I would ask the noble Lord, on the assurance I have given, to withdraw the Amendment. May I at the same time, although it is out of order, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, on a famous victory?
§ LORD GRIDLEY
I tabled this Amendment purely as an exploratory and probing one and to make quite sure that the conditions of overseas service pensioners would not be prejudiced in any way by what we have always understood to be the public officers' agreements. Just before I give the noble Baroness some pleasure by saying that I intend to withdraw the Amendment, I would say, in 1007 connection with these public officers' agreements, that before we handed over these territories we did come into contact with our local government and with the Heads of our Government in the territories in which we were serving. There were many negotiations with the Government, of whatever political colour it was, in power in Britain. These public officers' agreements are of value to us since they are the basis on which pensions were created. In view of the noble Baroness's assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 3 agreed to.
§ 5.3 p.m.
LORD SHACKLETON moved Amendment No. 3.
After Clause 3, insert the following new clause—
§ Saving in respect of citizenship
§ "( ) Nothing in this or any other Act shall prevent the Secretary of State from making schemes under this Act whereby provision is made with respect to pensions, allowances or gratuities which may be paid to persons who were citizens of the overseas territory in which they served and in right of which service the pension, allowance or gratuity is paid."
§ The noble Lord said: I rise to move Amendment No. 3 standing in my name. I do so partly to establish that in relation to this particular Amendment the assurance given by the noble Baroness was as I understood it to be; namely, that there is nothing in this Bill to prevent payment of pensions to citizens of overseas territories. I understood her to say that. At the same time I should like to take the opportunity of thanking her for her congratulations on the last Amendment. Since this Amendment bears on it, perhaps I may say that it was quite clear there was an overwhelming expression of opinion in the Committee on this particular subject. I expect the Government will wish to have a closer look at the Amendment to see whether it is satisfactorily drafted, but I hope that there will be no question of reversing the decision in principle.
§ Perhaps it is worth while pointing out that there are two aspects—and this is where the present Amendment applies. There is the wider aspect, to which the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, referred, and also the particular aspect that South 1008 Arabia is sui generis. I believe that some noble Lords sitting in certain parts of the House either abstained or voted against the last Amendment because it was feared that it was creating too wide a precedent. We argue that South Arabia is a very special case, with only Palestine similar to it. As this Amendment makes clear, one is concerned with our moral responsibility. As the noble Lord, Lord Gridley, said, the Bill does not prevent a certain amount of additional justice from being done to people to whom, for some reason or another, in the past we have not done justice. They include a number who carried out quasi-Government activities and with whom, again, we have been concerned and to whom, as we face the realities of our responsibility, we are now to be a little more generous. I do not wish to pursue this point further. If I get an assurance from the noble Baroness confirming that I understood her aright in her remarks on an earlier Amendment, I shall ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
I should like to confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that this Amendment is unnecessary. If he refers to Clause 1 he will see that it already gives Her Majesty's Government adequate power to assume responsibility for any overseas pension by agreement with the overseas Government concerned. The noble Lord referred again to the first Amendment which was carried in a Vote by this House. He is right in saying that it is not correctly drafted. I did not myself refer to this point because what really mattered was the question of principle; but I understand that it may need to be drafted differently.
I will convey what was the sense of this Committee to my right honourable friend and explain the circumstances; but I should not like to leave this point—and the noble Lord. Lord Shackleton, referred to it—without saying that I think it important to consider the repercussions of any decision such as this. It is not always possible to point out at a particular time what repercussions there are likely to be—and quite soon. But I would say to noble Lords that in considering this afterwards I hope it will be borne in mind that one cannot isolate a territory in this way. Once the question of principle has been decided, there 1009 can be repercussions all over the world. One must remember those territories to which this particular benefit has not been given in the past. I would only say again to the noble Lord that the Amendment is not necessary because the powers are in the Bill.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I feel that one of the advantages of the debate is that perhaps we have been able to do a little educating. I reiterate the unique circumstances that applied in South Arabia—possibly paralleled only in Palestine. I hope that the Government will not simply ride along on the precedent. It may be that they will have to face wider consequences. I hope that they will look at the special circumstances in South Arabia in the light of (and the noble Baroness did not refer to this) the definite promises made. This is a matter in which our honour is at stake. I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 4 agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ Schedules agreed to.
§ House resumed: Bill reported, with the Amendment.