HC Deb 14 October 1996 vol 282 cc644-5W
Sir Anthony Durant

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received from former officers of the Southern Rhodesia public service recruited and now living in the United Kingdom about the payment of their pensions; what response he has given; and if he will make a statement. [39588]

Dr. Liam Fox

In recent years, representations have been received from many former members of the public service in Southern Rhodesia about the decline in the sterling value of their pensions. Southern Rhodesia was an independent self-governing colony from 1923; recruitment to its public service was made directly by that Government, and staff served on local as opposed to expatriate terms of service.

The Government of Zimbabwe is responsible for the payment of pensions to former Southern Rhodesia civil servants. Our responsibility is limited to those who were recruited by, or on behalf of, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and who were employed on expatriate terms in the central Government of a colony. There are large numbers of overseas pensioners whose pensions are being eroded by falling exchange rates and, indeed, many who receive no payment at all.

The Government could not justify helping Zimbabwe pensioners in isolation; the financial consequences of assisting all overseas pensioners who find themselves in this position would be prohibitive.

Sir Anthony Durant

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what would be the cost, including the saving in state benefits, of honouring the undertaking by the Minister of State in 1979 in respect of safeguards under the Zimbabwean constitution for the pensions of former officers of the Southern Rhodesia public service; and if he will bring their pensions within the aegis of the Overseas Pension Act 1973. [39587]

Dr. Fox

The Government of Zimbabwe have honoured their obligation under the constitution by continuing to pay the pensions of those former officers who were employed in the public service in Southern Rhodesia, although the sterling value of these pensions has been eroded through the effects of inflation and adverse exchange rates.

The Government have no plans to bring Southern Rhodesian public service pensions within the scope of the Overseas Pensions Act 1973. The cost of doing so would necessarily be very substantial and would expose Her Majesty's Government to similar pressures from pensioners who served on local terms elsewhere.