§ 2.35 p.m.
§ EARL WAVELL rose to call attention to the failure of His Majesty's Government to secure for Europeans of British parentage and domicile, serving in the Central or Provincial governments of India on August 15, 1947, the right to retire on proportionate pension; and to bring forward the claim of a particular group of ex-Service clerks to similar terms of proportionate pension and compensation as have been already announced for members of the I.C.S. and British personnel of the Indian Army; and to move for Papers. The noble and gallant Earl said: My Lords, I rise to move the Motion standing in my name calling attention to the position of certain classes of persons of British birth and domicile serving in India or Pakistan, who, because they do not technically belong to the Secretary of State's services, have been refused the just and generous terms which have been granted by the Government to those services—that is, to the officials of the Indian Civil Service, the officers of the Indian police, and the British personnel serving with the Indian Army. All those classes have been compensated. Those for whom I speak include men serving in subordinate positions in the provincial police forces, men in the secretariats of the Central Provinces, in the forestry branch, on the railways and in similar positions. These men are, so to speak, the rank-and-file of the British services in India, of which the former Secretary of State's services represent the officer class. The officer class have been fully and generously compensated, whilst the rank-and-file are left to shift for themselves. That, I submit, is not in accordance with British tradition.
§ There is a special class of men—namely ex-Service clerks serving in the Central Government—who, by reason of the 1160 manner in which they were recruited and the inducements then held out to them, have, I consider, as good a claim as any of the Secretary of State's services to proportionate pension and compensation for loss of career. I will deal with their case in some detail later on. The main claim of all the men for whom I speak—and I know, from correspondence I have received, that I speak on behalf of men who are suffering from a deep sense of injustice and resentment—is that the Government should agree to underwrite their claim for proportionate pension for the service they have already rendered, should they be compelled or wish to leave the service of India or Pakistan before completing the statutory period for pension. For some of them there is also a claim to be compensated for loss of career, and in regard to all of them there is obviously an obligation on the Government to try and find further employment for them when they return home.
§ I will not take up your Lordships' time by expatiating on the work these men have done or the services they have rendered to India and to the Commonwealth. I am confident that your Lordships recognise that these people (many of whom are ex-soldiers and, therefore, have a double claim on their country) have worthily upheld the traditions of their race, and have done great service to the Commonwealth. They are the best type of men, without whom we should never have reached our position as a nation or been able to maintain our independence and freedom—men with a spirit of adventure and boldness, who accept service in distant lands in conditions of difficulty and often danger. I am sure that it will be repugnant to your Lordships that they should receive less than fair treatment from the Government of their country. It is only because strong and urgent representations, oft repeated by those in the best position to know what these men have done and to judge of their worth and claims, have met with no response from His Majesty's Minister, that I felt compelled to bring the matter to the attention of this House.
§ I will not trouble your Lordships with any details of the representations that have been made in official and unofficial correspondence, and by question and answer both in this House and in another 1161 place. I will try to summarise as briefly as possible, and I hope not unfairly, the position which the Government have adopted. They say, in effect, "We recognise the good service given by these men, and we admit their claim to proportionate pension for the service they have done, but their contracts were with the Government of India as it then was, or with the Provincial Governments as they then were, and not with the Secretary of State as he then was. We therefore admit no responsibility for them. They must press their claim with the new Governments of India and Pakistan, and, in due course, when we negotiate a general settlement with those Governments, we will do what we can to support their claims."
§ My Lords, it is now over a year since the claims of these people were first urged on the Government, and it is nearly a year since terms were granted to the Secretary of State's services, yet nothing appears to have been done on behalf of these men. I submit that the attitude of the Government, though it may be legally correct—and I am not even sure of that—is not a human attitude, it is not a generous attitude, and it is not a worthy attitude for a British Government. Here I would refer to rather an odd thing. When this matter was last raised in another place, the only reaction of the Government was to give terms to another class of highly paid officials—Judges—while continuing to neglect the claims of the lower classes for whom I now speak. These men are our own people, for whom we are responsible. They are the life-blood of a healthy nation, the men who are the living representatives of the rank-and-file of that great body of adventurous, self-sacrificing, eager men who made and kept British peace and British justice in India for 150 years. Surely it will be a blot on our record if they are allowed any longer to continue in a state of uncertainty, in anxiety for the future of themselves and their families and smarting under a sense of deep injustice.
I put a question in this House some weeks ago with regard to these men, and the Government's reply was that they agreed that the men had a right to proportionate pension if their conditions of service changed. Two questions arise out of that. First, will the Government undertake to underwrite their pension—which the Government admit is their due
—in the same way as they have done in the case of the more fortunate classes ill the Secretary of State's services? In that case the Government went beyond their legal contract with the services—and quite rightly. But, having done so, how can they take up a purely legal attitude towards these other men? Secondly, who are to be the judges of whether the conditions have altered to the disadvantage of these people? I say, and I think the majority of your Lordships will agree with me, that the conditions have already altered and that they are changing rapidly. I would like to call your Lordships' attention to a statement made by the Government on April 30, 1947, to justify the grant of terms to the Secretary of State's services. This is what was said:
that is His Majesty's Government—
feel that there is a radical difference in the effect which the transfer of power will have upon the position of European and Indian officers respectively. The former will no longer be serving under the ultimate control of the Parliament of their own country and it cannot be maintained that their prospects will be the same as in the past.
Surely that applies to the lower class of officials as well as to the higher; surely it is wrong that the officer class should be compensated and that the rank and file should be neglected.
§ I will give your Lordships a few examples of how those conditions have changed and are changing. I would make it clear that I do not for a moment question the good faith of the present Governments of India and Pakistan, who have offered to continue the services of these men under the same conditions as regards pay, leave and the eventual right to a pension on competing the statutory term of service. I am quite sure that those Governments will carry out their obligations, so far as lies in their power. But there are matters which have obviously changed—and quite inevitably. There is the question of promotion. It is the openly avowed intention of the new Governments to nationalise all their services as rapidly as possible, and they have said that when one of their nationals is qualified and available for a post they will give him preference over a European, however highly qualified the latter may be. That is quite natural, especially in a country with newly won nationhood. But it will press hardly on some of these 1163 British officials who were hoping for promotion for which they were well qualified.
§ Then there is the matter of language. I understand that one Provincial Government have already decreed that all official business, in the law courts or elsewhere, shall be conducted in one of the vernaculars of that Province. Again, that is a quite natural development, but one which will press hardly on the British officials, since that business was formerly conducted in English. In another Province, the Government have laid down that officials posted to any district in that Province are required within a given period to qualify in the vernacular—and there are many districts and many vernaculars in India. Again, there are the questions of amenities and safety. Formerly, when these men or members of their families were ill, they received treatment from British doctors and British nurses. There will soon be no such doctors and nurses left in India. These men knew that in the event of civil disturbance they could rely, in the last resort, on the protection of British troops. Those troops have all gone from India.
§ His Majesty's Government may argue that these men entered into their contracts with their eyes open since, at the time when they accepted service, it was already the policy of His Majesty's Government to transfer power into Indian hands. Moreover, in many of the Provinces there were already Indian Ministers and in others they were only temporarily suspended. I ask you, could these men, from their humbler standpoint, have foreseen what the very few placed in high positions could foresee? Could they foresee that the withdrawal of British power would be so speedy and so complete, that all the British Governors on whom lay official responsibility for preventing any injustice to them would be withdrawn, or that all the British troops, on whom in the last resort the safety of their wives and families depended, would disappear? Could they have foreseen that the land was going to be divided into two countries? I do not think that any argument on what I believe is the legal principle of caveat emptor could be upheld for these men. It may be argued by the Government that the cost of underwriting pensions and doing justice to these men would entail putting a prohibitive burden on the taxpayer.1164
§ I admit that I have no detailed knowledge of what the cost would be, but I do know that it can only be small, in comparison with that which the Government have already undertaken for the Secretary of State's services. I do not believe that there are more than 700 or 800 men in the categories of which I speak—200 to 300 in the police, 200 to 300 on the railways and another 200 or so in the defence services or elsewhere. The Government have already agreed to compensate and underwrite the pensions of 800 highly-paid Indian Civil Service officials and over 2,000 of the defence services. The Government, in fact, have swallowed the camel, hump and all, but are not even straining at the gnat. Surely it is wrong that the officer class should be compensated and that the rank-and-file should I not, and that these men, who have borne the burden and heat of the day in India—and often the burden of the night—should not also receive their reward.
§ I would ask your Lordships' indulgence for a short time further, to deal with the special case of ex-Service clerks. These are men serving in the Central Government, who were induced by promises of eventual better pensions and prospects to give up their military status and become civilians. There are only some seventy to eighty of them, and the history of their case is briefly this. Right up to the outbreak of the war in 1939, the orders of the Government of India laid down that 25 per cent. of the personnel in the secretarial branch of the Defence Department should be Service or ex-Service British personnel. Up till 1920 those posts were filled by soldiers serving away from their regiments. In 1920 it was decided, for some reason, that those Service clerks should give up their Service status and become civilians. That decision received the approval of the Secretary of State, who thereby accepted moral, if not legal, responsibility for the future of those men. They were given a choice of either giving up their military status and becoming civilians or losing their appointments and reverting to their units. They were promised that, by becoming civilians, they would eventually have much better prospects, higher posts and better pensions. The great majority of them became civilians. In 1928 the same policy was applied to the Royal Air Force headquarters in India, and again it had the approval of the Secretary of State.1165
§ In 1933, for some reason, the policy was changed, and future recruits were not required to give up their military status but remained as soldiers or airmen. That decision again was referred to the Secretary of State and had his approval. When that decision was made, the men who had already given up their military service petitioned that they should be allowed to resume it and come under the same terms as new entrants. They were refused, but were again promised that they would eventually benefit when they had completed the statutory period for pension and by the higher posts they would eventually attain. But that was only in the last years of their service. There are very few of those men who have reached the higher grades, except as a temporary war measure, or who have yet qualified for a pension.
§ I submit that these men are fully qualified to receive the terms granted to the Secretary of State's services. The later entrants who were not compelled to become civilians have received those terms. The other men, however, have fallen between two stools. They are refused the compensation granted to British soldiers serving in the Indian Army, because they had been compelled to give up their military status, and they are refused compensation as civilians because they do not technically belong to the Secretary of State's services, though, as your Lordships have seen, the Secretary of State approved, if he did not actually father, the steps by which they reached their present position. He may not be their legal parent, but I think an application for an affiliation order against him would have a good chance of success.
§ As Commander-in-Chief and Viceroy, I have been in close personal contact with these men. I have seen their work and can testify to the value of what they have done. The great and orderly expansion of the Indian Army would not have been possible without their effort. Secretarial work in an office is not exciting or dangerous during a war, but it is of vital importance. It was especially so in the great and unparalleled expansion of the Indian Army which took place during the war and which was made possible only by the work of these men. I know that without that expansion of the Indian Army our affairs would have gone ill in the Middle East and the Far East, to say 1166 nothing of Italy and other places. I may add that one of these men, at his own wish, put on uniform again and accompanied me to Java during the short-lived period when I was Supreme Commander of the South-West Pacific Command. He certainly had his share of excitement and danger in one of the last ships to leave Java. Others of these men also put on uniform again and took service. I hope your Lordships will agree that these people have the same rights as those in the Secretary of State's services.
The sum of the arguments I have put before your Lordships is generally this. The whole body of British services in India, at the centre or in the Provinces, high or low, covenanted or uncovenanted, have done a magnificent job of work, to which your Lordships paid tribute in this House in your Motion of August 7 last year. I should like to read you a few sentences from the concluding speech on that Motion, made by a noble Lord who had served India nearly all his life:
But on behalf of all he Civil Service, alike of men who have held positions of high responsibility and those who have served in lower grades, I would like to say this. We have had a great and, I think, legitimate pride in our past, and it is not a pride that is founded wholly on past performance. We believe, and I think we rightly believe, that we shall have left behind as a tradition of disinterested service, of integrity and devotion to duty, which will be one of the great assets of the new India in her new career.
These men to whom your Lordships paid tribute include all classes, but it is only for a proportion of them that the Government have so far provided terms which have removed their anxiety for the future.
§ To the humbler classes, who have not the protection of the all-powerful Secretary of State, the Government say that they have no legal obligation, and they recognise no moral obligation towards them. I do not believe that this can possibly be maintained. I ask the Government most earnestly to reconsider their decision, and to say here and now that they recognise and will underwrite the right of these men to proportionate pension for the services which they have already rendered; that they will consider whether some of them are not also entitled to compensation for loss of career—or, at least, to some sum for resettlement such as has been granted to officials in Burma or the Palestine Police. In the 1167 particular case of the ex-Service class I ask the Government to say that they will recognise their right to receive the same terms as the Secretary of State's services, to which I consider they virtually and morally belong, either as civilians or as soldiers.
§ Lastly, I ask that any terms which are granted shall be retrospective from the date of our handing over power on August 15, 1947. I know from correspondence that I have received that there are a number of men who have already been compelled to give up their service and who have received no pension for all the work they have done. There are some very hard cases among them. It may be argued that by giving these men the right to retire on proportionate pension the new Governments of India and Pakistan will be deprived at a critical period of the services of British officials whom they wish to keep. But that sort of argument did not deter the Government from giving terms to the Secretary of State's services; and I believe that many of these men will wish to continue to serve, provided that they can do so with a quiet mind as to the future. I hope that I have persuaded your Lordships of the fairness of the case which I have set before you, and I hope that His Majesty's Government will also recognise this, and will at once give an assurance which will ease the minds of these men to whom we all owe so much. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.5 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (THE EARL OF LISTOWEL)
My Lords, I think it will probably be convenient for the House if I speak now. That will enable me to show noble Lords how far it is possible for the Government to go in meeting the plea that has been made by the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Wavell. It will also enable subsequent speakers to show their approval or disapproval of what the Government are in a position to offer. It leads to one embarrassment, from my point of view, and that is that I may have to ask permission to inflict upon your Lordships a second speech. That will, of course, depend on whether other noble Lords who intend to follow me raise points which I have not been able to anticipate, and which will not be covered in this speech.
1168 I think we are all, and not least the Government, greatly indebted to the noble Earl for the chivalrous way in which he has championed the cause of the subordinate officers of the Government Service in India who have served so patiently and over such a considerable period of time. I should like to assure him, whatever interpretation may be placed upon the actions of the Government, that it would be unfair to say we do not appreciate as keenly as he himself, or anyone else, the great service which these subordinate officers have rendered in India both to India and to the British Government so long as they were responsible in past years. I believe it is generally accepted that in the matter of proportionate pensions there is an essential difference between the position of members of the Secretary of State's services and the military services, on the one hand, and, on the other, the members of the non-Secretary of State's services, who have at no time entered into a contract with the Secretary of State. It is the latter category of persons with whom the noble Earl is concerned in his Motion.
I shall not labour this difference in the legal position of the two classes, because I think it is common ground that such a difference exists, and that we have statutory obligations towards a certain class of officials and soldiers which we do not owe to other Government employees in India or Pakistan. I am not labouring this, because I do not intend to stand upon a legal technicality. It can be said broadly (and I think the legal position ought to be made quite clear) that the former class of persons have for many years past enjoyed the right to retire on proportionate pension, whereas the latter have never had this right, because they have been and are servants of the Central Government of India or Pakistan, or of one or other of the Provincial Governments. Let me say, in parenthesis, that although I shall be talking about pensions and proportionate pensions, I Want to be understood as including provident funds, since a good many of those people with whom the noble Earl is concerned have, in fact, rights only to provident funds and not to pensions.
Although, as I have already mentioned, in time past members of non-Secretary of State's services never enjoyed a right to retire on proportionate pension, the 1169 need for the grant of such a pension would nevertheless clearly arise in either of two sets of circumstances. The first is where the authorities in India or Pakistan decide that they wish to terminate an officer's service prematurely, before he has qualified for his final pension, through no fault of his own; and the second is where a fundamental change in the conditions of service of an officer takes place. We hold the view—and we have always held the view—that in either of those sets of circumstances a proportionate pension ought to be granted. So far as I am aware, it is unlikely that any serious objections or difficulties would arise if either of these two eventualities were to happen and the men concerned decided to claim a proportionate pension. But I should like to emphasise and, as the noble Earl has given me this opportunity, to repeat, that it remains the considered view of His Majesty's Government that proportionate pension ought to be granted to officers whose conditions of service are materially and substantially changed to their disadvantage, or who are discharged from Government service on some ground other than their own unsuitability and shortcomings.
The most difficult position that may arise is one which has undoubtedly already arisen. It is where, without any fundamental change in conditions of service, circumstances have supervened which in fact have led to the employees of one or other Government in India or Pakistan being themselves anxious to terminate their services. Those are the conditions which I think the noble Earl has in mind, and those are the people of whom he has been thinking in the course of his speech this afternoon.
Since the transfer of power on August 15 of last year, we have not had occasion to discuss with the Dominion authorities the question of proportionate pension for the class of officers to whom the noble Earl has referred, but we expect that a suitable opportunity will arise in the near future. It is hoped that during the course of this summer there will be discussions with representatives of the Government of India and the Government of Pakistan on the general question of the capitalisation of pensions, both for the members of the Secretary of State's services and for the non-Secretary of State's services. One of the questions which will obviously need 1170 careful examination is the precise scope of any capitalisation scheme which may be devised. I can say now that a suitable opportunity will be found at that time to discuss the provision of proportionate pensions for members of the non-Secretary of State's services. I shall therefore be much obliged to the noble Earl and to other noble Lords if they will not press me further this afternoon in regard to the attitude of the Government on this subject, without, of course, prejudicing their own future action after these talks have taken place.
The noble Earl who moved this Motion has for a long time shown a keen and sympathetic interest in the difficulties of the small and special class of ex-British soldiers employed as clerks. I can assure him that this is a problem which has caused much heart-searching and received extremely careful scrutiny in the Commonwealth Relations Office. I agree entirely with him that these people deserve a good deal of sympathy, because their civilian status has deprived them of certain rights they would have enjoyed if they had remained soldiers. They have been working side by side with men in uniform who have had more favourable treatment than themselves, and their expectations as civilians have been disappointed. I agree, of course, with the natural grievance which they feel as the result of these unfortunate circumstances. At the same time, I think it should be remembered that it was at their own choice that they originally left the Army for Government service.
§ EARL WAVELL
A choice which was practically forced upon them. They had either to become civilians or to return as private soldiers to their units and give up lucrative employment.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
Of course, their position in the Army might not have been so satisfactory as it had been before, but they were given the choice at the time of one Service or the other. As a result of the exercise of this option they decided to become civilians, and whether in the long run they may have regretted this choice is, of course, a question for them to decide. They have been treated as civilians new for more than twenty years. To single them out at this moment, as the noble Earl asks, for more favourable treatment than other civilian members of the non-Secretary of State's 1171 services, would surely be an act of injustice to the rest. As they have been regarded as civilians for so long, I fear it is impossible for His Majesty's Government to offer them any special treatment. I cannot see that any facts which the noble Earl has adduced to support his case this afternoon point to any distinction which can be drawn between these civilians and other civilian members of the non-Secretary of State's services.
§ EARL WAVELL
Surely they are in an entirely different position; they are a very special case. They were induced to give up their civilian status, and when they wanted to come back and become soldiers again they were refused.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
The fact is that when they originally gave up their civilian status it was a choice they made themselves, whether wisely or unwisely. But may I add this concluding sentence, which I hope may be a little reassuring to the noble Earl? What I have already said in regard to the talks which will take place this summer applies equally, of course, to this small category of persons, and the question of affording them an opportunity to retire on proportionate pension will arise when the general question of making such provision for the members of these services is discussed.
The noble and gallant Earl addressed two questions to me which I will endeavour to answer. The first question was: Will the Government underwrite proportionate pensions for members of the non-Secretary of State's services? Well, I do not think it is altogether fair to expect His Majesty's Government to accept liability for the payment of pensions to, people whose services have been rendered and carried out in India. I do not think that the British taxpayer should be saddled with that liability. The noble Earl will remember that the Governments of India and Pakistan have already accepted liability for the payment of proportionate pensions to members of the Secretary of State's services, so that, wherever the liability may go, I do not feel it is altogether reasonable to expect us to accept it.
The second question the noble Earl asked was: Who is to judge whether conditions have altered to the detriment of these men? I think we must be the judge of whether conditions have altered. I do 1172 not think the noble Earl suggested that anybody else should determine that question. It is really a matter of fact. We have excellent sources of information in India and Pakistan. We have the High Commissioners and their staffs, and I can assure the noble Earl that we have done our utmost to ascertain the facts and to arrive at a perfectly objective judgment about the conditions under which these people are working.
§ 3.20 p.m.
THE MARQUESS OF LINLITHGOW
My Lords, I desire to thank the noble Earl the Minister of State for the sympathetic tone of the speech which he has just made. I am not perfectly certain—though I confess that I should like to examine what he has said in detail and at leisure—that the substance of his utterance is quite as satisfying as its tone. Your Lordships will easily understand with what profound concern I, amongst others who have held responsible office in India, awaited the announcement of the terms granted by His Majesty's Government to the Members of the Secretary of State's services, which I had the honour of leading and which gave me such loyal and devoted service through seven and a half years of what was perhaps the heaviest and most difficult Viceroyalty in history. I thought those terms generous. I had for long foreseen that the case of those for whom the noble and gallant Field-Marshal has pleaded so eloquently to-day might raise difficulties.
Up to the last moment I had hoped that His Majesty's Government might rise to the height of a magnanimous decision and place those persons in the same position as the members of the Secretary of State's services in their original announcement, in so far as that announcement included a clear statement that their rights would be supported by His Majesty's Government and in the ultimate resort, if necessary, by the taxpayers of this country. I very much wish they had been able to do that—though having been on both sides of the table in this matter I fully realise the difficulties. I do not think the cost would have been excessive and I do not think it will be excessive now, if we can persuade His Majesty's Government to take this course. These persons have been left out and I can testify to the fact that they feel aggrieved. I can assure the noble Earl, with great respect and a full understanding of his difficulties, that those of us who are perhaps best qualified to testify 1173 to the high quality and the essential nature of these services, are genuinely and profoundly unhappy on their behalf. All of us realise well that to end a long and honourable association, such as that which has existed between this country and India, without poignant regrets and much sadness is impossible. I hope we shall do our utmost to see to it that at any rate we do not fail in proper support to faithful servants. And I beseech His Majesty's Government, so far as they are able, to take a sympathetic and generous view of this matter and to do what is right and fair for these persons.
Like the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Wavell, I have not the least reason to suppose that either the Government of India or the Government of Pakistan will fail in their honourable obligations in this matter. On the other hand, it is no use pretending that for these men the future does not hold many hazards and uncertainties, the greater number of which no one could have foreseen when these men undertook service on the terms offered. That is the force of our case. These men have been very faithful and they deserve from us the peace of mind that can be afforded them—and which can be afforded them in no other way—by their country's guarantee that in no circumstances will they be left in penury. I listened with the greatest attention to the speech of the Minister of State, and I was not clear whether he wished to convey to your Lordships that His Majesty's Government would be behind the terms offered. If that were so, it would make a great difference and I should be grateful if the noble Earl could make that plain when he speaks a second time.
I do not desire to detain the House for a moment longer than is necessary. I thank the noble and gallant Earl for the admirable speech which we heard a little while ago, couched in terms which were forceful, clear and moderate, and in which he put forward a case which in my respectful submission to your Lordships and to His Majesty's Government is, in its force and humanity, unanswerable.
§ 3.28 p.m.
§ LORD CLYDESMUIR
My Lords, I crave the indulgence of your Lordships for a maiden speech—and not only a maiden speech but one early in time. I confess 1174 that I had intended to preserve a modest silence in your Lordships' House for some time yet, but when my noble and gallant friend told me he was raising this point I felt that I wished to support him. It is a matter on which I feel strongly and one of which I have had recent personal experience, both at Bombay, where the police were in a very special sense my charge, and also, for a shorter period, at New Delhi. The noble Earl who spoke for the Government was sympathetic and understanding, and yet he has left some anxiety in my mind. And I think he will find that he has left anxiety in the minds of these men whose case we are discussing. In effect what he has promised is that in the course of months—
§ LORD CLYDESMUIR
—there will be discussion of their claims. It is not to be wondered at, in an immense operation such as the transfer of power in India, that some relatively minor matters should not immediately be satisfactorily dealt with. We have been thinking in terms of hundreds of millions in India. To-day we think in terms of a few hundreds. But to those concerned this is not a minor matter; it is a matter of very great personal import.
The noble Earl who raised the Motion dealt with the case of Army clerks. I do not propose to enlarge upon that, and I shall speak mainly on the subject of the subordinate police officers, with whose work and case I am closely familiar. First of all, who are these men and what is their special claim? For the most part they are British soldiers, recruited as sergeants into the provincial police forces. They were recruited in the years betwen the two wars, right up to 1939, and they were employed in the great cities where their ability to handle crowds and traffic, and to deal with any emergency which called for liaison with European residents, made them extremely useful. As an example, in the Presidency of Bombay almost all the men were located in Bombay City, a few only being employed in the cities of Ahmedabad and Poona. That was true also of other Provinces. Originally, they formed a closed cadre of their own, with internal promotion; but this was later changed, and they became part of a general list of sub-inspectors, 1175 including Indian sub-inspectors. The old term "sergeant" was abolished.
The men received pensions at the age of fifty-five. If they retired voluntarily before that age, they received no pension. The Minister of State was quite clear on that. In another place, recently (I think it was on February 23 in the debate on the Civil Estimates) the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, speaking of these officers, said:It must be remembered that these officers have always been subject to the control of the Governments by whom they were appointed. It must be remembered that they never had the right to retire on proportionate pensions. Therefore, so long as there is the guarantee that their conditions are not to change, the case for granting proportionate pensions to those whom the Governments wish to keep is clearly not very strong.It must also be remembered that under Section 56 of the Government of India Act, all regulations relating to the police were made by the Governor in his individual judgment. When exercising his individual judgment, the Governor was under the superintendence of the Secretary of State, through the Governor-General. I know that one of the most important parts of my duties as Governor during five years was the superintendence of the police, and in that I was ultimately under the control of the Secretary of State. Therefore, it is clear that the Provincial Police Service, though not recruited directly by the Secretary of State, has always been recruited under his authority. Similarly, their conditions of service have always been regulated under his ultimate control. Therefore I submit that the position of these men is not, in fact, different from that of the members of the Secretary of State's services who have been, as we are all agreed, fairly and properly dealt with.
The Secretary of State's services, as the noble and gallant Field-Marshal has said, received a proportionate pension, a right which they already held; but, in addition, they received compensation for loss of employment for which there never was any statutory guarantee. Your Lordships will also recollect that a differentiation was made between British and Indian officers in the matter of compensation because, to use the words employed by the Secretary of State in another place:The former will no longer be serving under the ultimate control of the Parliament of their 1176 own country, and it cannot be maintained that their prospects will be the same as in the past. On the other hand, Indian officers will continue to serve their own country on the same terms as before.I hold the view that these European subordinate officers are, in fact, in the same position as their more highly placed colleagues, but, to paraphrase the Scriptures: "One has been taken and the other left." The Minister of State felt that it would be necessary before the case for a proportionate pension could be made out, to say that there had been a fundamental change in the conditions of service. I think that the transfer of power is a fundamental circumstance here. Surely the transfer of power to a great sub-Continent like India is a fundamental change and operation.
I come now to the attitude of the Governments of India and Pakistan. As the noble and gallant Field-Marshal said, their attitude is understandable. It is most important that we should preserve the good will which undoubtedly exists in those two Dominions towards this country at the present time. Therefore, we must understand their attitude in this question. I hope that anything which is said here to-day will reflect India in a true and understanding spirit. These Governments have held the view that they cannot give more favourable terms to British officers than to Indian officers of comparable rank. I explained that the sergeants have now been merged into a general cadre of sub-inspectors and rank equally with a large number of Indian officers. The Dominion and Provincial Governments have offered a continuation of employment and a pension at fifty-five, but they do not feel able to continue certain provisions (I might almost call them prerequisites) which were made specially for the benefit of these European sub-inspectors, as they consider that it would be unfair to the much larger number of Indian subordinate officers of the same rank. For example, in a large Province there may be 50 Europeans and 500 Indians serving in the same cadre. The Government feel unable to continue for the European officers certain provisions which mattered a great deal to them. The attitude of the Government that employs these men is understandable.
The special provisions of which I speak are these. The English sergeants were always allowed European quarters—they 1177 were mainly employed in the great cities where such accommodation was more readily to be found. Facilities existed for the education of their children. These also were to be found in the large cities. There were places of worship which they could attend. Also they were not compelled to pass examinations in the regional languages of their Province. In future they will be liable, as part of the general cadre of sub-inspectors, to be posted to any part of the Province in which they serve. They will not have special quarters provided, but will be subject to the same rules as regards residential accommodation as Indian sub-inspectors.
They will no longer be exempt from passing examinations in languages. I cannot say how far that examination rule is being enforced, but I think it likely that the Provincial Governments are being rather light in the enforcement of that rule. Nevertheless, they will be bound to say, "You are all in this cadre, and you are all liable to the examination test." That may be a serious matter for these men. There are three regional languages in the Province of Bombay alone. They are Mahratti, Gujeratti, and Kanerese—three distinct and separate languages. I can imagine many a good ex-Army sergeant who would know exactly what to do with a large crowd, or how to put out a fire or deal with an emergency of that sort, but who would be confounded if confronted by a paper on any one of those languages. It is beyond the ability of many of these men, whose educational attainments (although some of them are extremely good in a general way) do not qualify them for such subjects.
I hope I have made out a case to show that the prospect of these men remaining till the age of 55 in order to qualify for their pensions is extremely poor. Therefore, I consider that the fundamental change of which the Minister of State himself spoke is now evident and must be faced. I rejoice that the Secretary of State's services and the Judges have been adequately compensated. In my view, His Majesty's Government have dealt justly and properly with them. If, as I imagine, the Treasury is the watchdog in this case, I would repeat what 1178 the noble Earl said: that the Treasury are apparently straining at a gnat but have very creditably swallowed a camel. Possibly the digestion process is not yet complete, and that may be one of His Majesty's Government's preoccupations. It would be just that these men should receive proportionate pension rights and passages home, and that, if they are to be treated alike with the Secretary of State's services, there should be a measure of compensation for loss of employment.
Another matter which I regard as important is the provision of machinery to help them find employment in the future. Some of these men have many years of useful service before them, and I hope that machinery for advising on suitable employment may be devised; possibly that has already been done, but I have not heard of it. If that should result in the majority of these men retiring, I do not think that the Dominion Governments should object to it, as the number involved is relatively very small compared with the total number in the police forces of the Dominions. But, as the noble and gallant Field Marshal has pointed out, it may not have that result. It may give them a sense of security and peace of mind, and a number may elect to continue in their present posts. Nevertheless—and I think this is important, because we mast understand the point of view of the Dominion Governments at the present time—I do not think that the removal of the majority of these men would substantially effect the police problem in India just now.
I know these men; I have seen them at work. They are steady, brave and courageous. They have served their country well, and to-day they are attempting loyally to serve the two new Dominions that have come into being and whose welfare is much in our hearts. But they are sorely perplexed because they feel they have been forgotten by the country of their birth and, when they see their more fortunate and more highly-placed colleagues compensated and dealt with fairly and adequately, a sense of bitterness creeps in. If the Government will look into this case, not purely from the aspect of contractual obligation but from the point of view of justice and equity, it will, I believe, greatly redound to their credit.
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ LORD PETHICK-LAWRENCE
My Lords, it falls to my very pleasant lot to follow a maiden speech in your Lordships' House. The noble Lord, Lord Clydesmuir, is one whom many of us have known as a prominent person in another place. Both he and I were members of the House of Commons for many years, and his courtesy and consideration, and the reasonableness of the case he put forward, were always noticeably admired in the other place. Since then I have had the great pleasure of being associated with him in regard to the Government of India. I think I may say, and he will agree, that we never had the smallest difference of opinion, and if we had I am quite sure we should have settled it in the most amicable manner. We have listened today to the first, but only the first, of his speeches, and I hope we shall have many more, from which your Lordships will be able to sample the fruit of his judgment, his wisdom and his capacity to put his case clearly and succinctly before your Lordships' House.
Now I come to the substance of this debate, and I hope your Lordships will pardon me if, for the sake of those who are not so well acquainted with the situation in India as some noble Lords, I try to answer one or two elementary questions. In the first place, who are the people about whom this question has been raised? They belong mainly to these classes: first of all, there are the technicians on the railways, which are a central service of India; secondly, there are the police, a provincial service, of whom the noble Lord, Lord Clydesmuir, has principally been speaking; thirdly, there are certain servants of the Post Office; and finally there are the particular clerks to whom the noble Earl, who moved this Motion in such eloquent and pressing terms, devoted the last part of his speech.
In the second place, what are the approximate numbers with which we have to deal? I do not think it is possible to find that out with any precision, because these people have never been servants of the Secretary of State; they have always been servants either of the Government of India or of the Provincial Governments, in regard to whom particulars are not sent home to this country. I believe, however, that some years ago, before I 1180 became Secretary of State, an enumeration was attempted and I think at that time the number was something like 2,000. Since then it has been steadily reduced, and I should hazard a guess that the number of men affected can be measured by hundreds, certainly not by thousands, although it is just possible that they reach four figures. The next question I want to put and to endeavour to answer is, What precisely is meant by a "proportionate pension," and how are these people affected by the question? With the exception of a certain number of persons of whom the noble Earl, the member of the Government, spoke, all these people are entitled to pension at the recognised end of their term of service; and in their case, up to recent times, there has been no suggestion that they would be entitled to retire before the end of their term and get a pension proportionate to the number of years that they had already served.
It is proposed now that, owing to the change of circumstances in India, they should be accorded a right which they have not had before to retire earlier than the full term and to get a proportionate pension. Your Lordships are probably aware that this question has arisen in the case of the home Civil Service. I believe it is still true that an ordinary civil servant is, theoretically, not entitled to retire and get such a pension, but in fact he is generally accorded one. I am not in the least suggesting that the number being a little smaller than some of your Lordships may have imagined is any reason why justice should not be done; on the contrary. The fact that the number is not very great, and the sum in question therefore will not be very large, is, in my opinion, an added reason for not passing them over. The question really is not whether we should like to see these people getting a proportionate pension, but what is the best attitude His Majesty's Government can take at the present time to secure the desired end.
When I was the Secretary of State we had more than one debate in this House regarding the cost of the Secretary of State's services, and, because we had not been able to arrive at any definite decision, your Lordships often felt somewhat disappointed in the answers I was able to give. But I was working at the matter the whole time. Shortly after I retired from office a decision was announced, and the noble Marquess, with 1181 whose distinguished career as Viceroy we are all familiar, has said that in his opinion the decision ultimately, so far as those persons were concerned, was a generous one. With that I think we shall all agree.
He suggested to-day that, had it been possible, he would have liked the decision, when taken, to cover all these people. I myself think it was better to take the cases one at a time, because, whatever we may say about the moral obligation—and I am not in the least going back on that—so far as the legal obligation is concerned I think everyone must admit that the cases are on an entirely different footing. It was much better, therefore, to get a decision taken where that other matter did not arise and where there was a definite legal obligation on the Secretary of State. It was better to get that decision in favour of the employees. When that had been obtained, the case of the other people would not be prejudiced but would be advanced by that decision.
Two suggestions made by those who attack the present Government in this matter are, I venture to think, wrong. It is said that the Government and the British people are being asked to make differentiation between those in high places and those in low places; that whereas officers and people of some importance have already been given terms, other people of less importance are being neglected and passed over. I think that that is not quite the right way of putting it. There is a distinction between these people. In one case there is a definite legal obligation and a promise made and repeated on a number of occasions. The other people are in a different position on many grounds, because they have not been servants of the Secretary of State, as such. They have been servants of the Government of India or of the Provincial Governments. That is not the only difference that I see between them, but I think it is a vital one. The Secretary of State's servants were persons in very high position indeed in India. They were regarded by the Indians as rulers of the country. Under the new régime, these people who had been regarded, and who regarded themselves, to some extent, as rulers of the country, were going to be put in subordination to Indian people and would have to take their orders from Indians.
1182 I do not think you can say that that is quite the case with regard to the people whom we are considering to-day. They have always been in the position of having to obey orders given by their Indian superiors. They are not, therefore, being asked to change their fundamental position. The only difference (and I am not going to understate it) is as Lord Wavell has stated: that whereas they had a sort of big brother behind them in the old days, that big brother has now packed up and left. It is not a question of what we are going to do about the matter, or how we are going to approach, it, but of who is, in the first instance, responsible for seeing that justice is done and what we are going to do in case justice is not done. There seems to me to be no doubt whatever that the first characters who come into the picture are not His Majesty's Government but the Government of India, the Government of Pakistan and the Provincial Governments. Those are the people who come directly into the picture. His Majesty's Government would come in only if, in fact, it were to be the case that justice was not done between the parties directly concerned.
When I was Secretary of State, I always went on the principle of believing not only in the integrity and good faith of the Indian authorities but also in their sense of justice and fair play. I believe that that attitude, which I always insisted upon taking up, was of great value, not only in keeping our relationships with the Indian statesmen on a happy and pleasant footing, but, in the long run, in getting justice and proper terms and conditions for European persons living in India. I adhere to that position to-day. Whatever may be said—as it has been said in the debate to-day—to the effect that we are not distrusting the Indians, not, in fact, assuming that they are going to do the wrong tiling, not, in fact, feeling it necessary to try to use some extraneous method of dealing with them, I believe that the first and most important thing is to say: "I believe that the Indians will do the right thing with regard to these people." And the right thing is not simply the just thing—it is to the Indians' own interest. If you want good service you have to treat the men who serve you well. I believe that Indians are just as capable of understanding the larger ground for being 1183 not only just and generous but also fair and reasonable, as we are in this country. Therefore I agree with His Majesty's Government in saying that this matter is primarily the concern of the Indian Governments, and that, in the first instance, at any rate, we are going to assume that they will do the right thing with regard to these people.
That being so, I think it would be most foolish of His Majesty's Government, at this stage, to suggest that they might give a kind of bilateral guarantee. I cannot imagine anything of that sort being done in private life. I do not believe that noble Lords sitting opposite would attempt anything of that kind in connection with their own affairs. Let me suggest a simple case to your Lordships. A man has a servant on his estate, and, for some reason or other, on the estate passing into the hands of someone else, this servant ceases to be the servant of the original master and goes into the service of the newcomer in the tenancy. The new employer, so far as you are aware, is a man whose moral attitude, whose sense of justice, whose intelligence and whose generosity are just as great as those of his predecessor. And yet, before the new tenant has a chance to say whether or not he will deal with the servant whom he has taken over in a reasonable way the first employer steps in and says, "In case your new master does not treat you fairly, I am going to make an arrangement that I will foot the bill if he will not do so." I think that for the old master to do anything of that kind would be most foolish. And, mark you, that goes a great deal further in the opposite direction from the case in point, because these particular people never were the servants of the British Government. They were always servants of the authorities in India, who are, in fact, more or less the same people who are carrying on to-day.
Therefore it seems to me that the promise which the Secretary of State has given is eminently reasonable. He says, in effect, that up till now the time had not arrived when this could be talked over with the members of the Indian Governments who would ultimately be responsible. He says, "We, the Government, are not prepared to make any statement in advance, but we do promise that when the time comes to discuss a great 1184 number of matters regarding pensions and the like, we will certainly have talks with the Indian authorities on those matters. We are confident that they will do the sensible and the just thing. That seems to me an entirely reasonable attitude to take up. I am certain that noble Lords opposite, if dealing with a matter of this sort in relation to their private affairs, would not be so foolish as to follow any different course. So, although I feel that there is no difference in this House as to our attitude, as to our admiration and gratitude for the splendid way in which these people have performed their duties, I do not think that what the Government have promised is anything which should cause anxiety to your Lordships.
There is one further point I would like to put which I think may have escaped the attention of your Lordships. The people of whom we are speaking have, as I have already said, the right to a pension when the normal term of their employment comes to an end. In a great number of cases these men are long-established servants, and the termination of their employment is not so far distant. Therefore it is not a case of asking young men of thirty-five to stay on for twenty years more in order to get the normal pension. Many are closely approaching, and some have already passed, the date on which they are entitled to a pension. That is a point worth bearing in mind.
There is one final matter which I would like to mention. Here I propose to follow the noble Lord, Lord Clydesmuir, and put a specific question to the member of the Government who has promised to make a further reply if necessary at the end of this debate—namely, whether the Government will take steps to help such of these men as do come out to find other employment. I think they will. I cannot believe they will not do it, because that was the principle we adopted all through; and probably the Government are doing the same thing in this case. I trust the noble Earl, when he comes to reply, will answer that point. To sum up the position as I see it: We are all agreed that these men are worthy of the friendly respect and sympathy of the people of this country, and particularly of members of His Majesty's Government. We are most anxious that that sympathy shall not exist merely as an emotion but that the Government shall do the best thing for 1185 the protection of these men. Until I am otherwise convinced, I feel that the course the Government are pursuing is the right one—in deciding, when the occasion arises, to press the claims of these people on those who are directly responsible for their service at the present time. I think that your Lordships may have confidence, bearing in mind the decisions that the Government took in days gone by with regard to other servants in India, that they will not be behindhand in doing their duty in that matter. When those questions have been decided, and if there should be members of your Lordships' House not satisfied with these decisions, the time will have come when we should go again to the Government to see what further action they are prepared to take in the matter.
§ 4.3 p.m.
THE EARL OF SCARBROUGH
My Lords, the noble Earl who spoke for the Government made it clear that the door was not closed on this matter. The noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, in the speech which he has just made, elaborated that, and made out the case why more perhaps cannot be expected at this moment. Nevertheless, there are many of us who still have great anxiety on this point, and that is my excuse for saying a few more words to your Lordships on this topic. I speak as one who received such loyal service from those subordinate police officers to whom my noble friend Lord Clydesmuir referred that I should regard it as a matter of shame for this country if, because of the great change in policy which has been made, they are in any way adversely affected. There are still, I think, some obstacles in the mind of the Government to doing the right thing, and if I may I would like to deal with some of them.
It is said there is a distinction between the Secretary of State's servants and the others. The noble Earl suggested that we are all agreed that the distinction was to be made. I do not think I do agree—certainly not when it comes to the point of what shall be done in the matter of compensation as the result of this change in policy. In any case, I would point out that if that is the distinction which is to be made, it creates one indefensible anomaly—that is, in the case of European employees of the railways. If my 1186 information is right, employees on railways which were taken over by the Government of India before 1935 became Secretary of State's servants, but those employees of railways which were taken over by the Government of India since 1935—and they are, in fact, the majority—did not become Secretary of State's servants. They became servants of the Government of India. By sticking to this distinction we have this anomaly, that over 300 of these employees are not treated as Secretary of State's servants and do not get compensation, while there are some seventy or eighty who do. That is a pure accident. There may be other anomalies.
I would point out, moreover, that a breach has been made in the argument that this distinction must be maintained—namely, in the case of the High Court Judges. The Government have already come to the conclusion that although they had (again assuming that my information is correct) no contract with the Secretary of State, but served under the Provincial Governments of India, their case was considered to be sufficiently strong to enable them to be treated in exactly the same way as Secretary of State's servants. I say that for these two reasons alone this distinction cannot be maintained. But there is another suggestion underlying this plea that there is a distinction between these two classes of Government officers, supported to some extent, I was sorry to find, by the noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence. It is suggested that the character of the service of the two classes was different. I would utterly deny that. The service of the Secretary of State's officers and others can be described simply as service to India during the British period. I do not believe there was any real distinction in the character of the service which they rendered.
Take, again, the subordinate police officers, about whom my noble friend Lord Clydesmuir spoke. They have rendered exceptional service in past years. I can recall no communal riot of any dimensions in which both sides did not clamour for the service of these European officers; and there were other occasions when only these European officers were able to do the job. I do not see why I should not mention, either, that it was on these officers, to a considerable extent, that the Government 1187 relied when there were subversive movements. These men about whom we are talking have rendered magnificent service, not only to India but to the British rulers of India when they were there. It seems to me that it is up to Parliament, who, as my noble friend pointed out, were responsible for their recruitment, to make sure that they are not let down.
Another obstacle (I do not think it has been mentioned in this debate, but on occasions it has been mentioned elsewhere) is that it is said that these men knew what the situation would be when they took up their employment. As the noble Marquess has already pointed out, that is not a fair argument. I left India about five years ago. I never expected that the situation could be what it is at this moment, without there being in office a Governor with special responsibilities, and with not a single British soldier left in India. I never expected that it would move so quickly, so how could these men expect anything different? If I might try and interpret the feelings of these men, it would be that they did not bother over much about matters of higher policy; but when they did think of them, they thought that if their job were ever affected by changes in higher policy they would not be let down. That is what we want to ensure.
A further obstacle—I admit that it is a difficult one—is to make sure whether it really is the case that their conditions of service have altered. I think enough has been said upon that by other noble Lords. I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Clydesmuir that the transfer of power has made a fundamental difference in innumerable ways to their conditions of service. If that is not enough, I would point to a statement made by the Minister of Transport in the Dominion of India. It was quoted in another place, and I think it is worth while reminding your Lordships of it. If I may say so, I think it is an entirely proper statement, from the point of view of the Indian Dominion, but it has an important bearing on the subject which we are discussing. He said this about the railways:In the public interest it is necessary now to build up as quickly as possible a reserve 1188 of Indian officers with the training and experience required for holding key positions on the railways. This cannot be done overnight. Therefore, a beginning in this direction must be made immediately.I would particularly direct your Lordships' attention to the next passage:We propose, therefore, that, when vacancies arise hereafter in key positions, preference should be given definitely to Indian officers of proved ability, irrespective of considerations of seniority. This would necessarily imply that individual claims of senior non-Indian officers would in some cases be overlooked.I think we can all understand the desire of Indian Ministers to pursue that policy. From their point of view, it seems to me to be a very right and proper policy for them to pursue. But, as they admit themselves, it will have an effect on European employees.
The other obstacle is one which has already been brought out, and which I think we must recognise. The Government feel that, in the first place at any rate, this is a matter which ought to be dealt with by the Governments of India and Pakistan. I must say that I am bound to agree with that. I shall be very surprised if, when it comes to the point (I hope it will very soon), the Governments of India and Pakistan do not do the right and generous thing in this matter. I think I am right in saying that it has already been done by the Government of Burma. It would be unthinkable, at least to me, that India—noted as Indians are for their generous characteristics—should be niggardly where Burma has been generous. So one hopes very much that the conversations which are to take place before long with those two Dominion Governments will be fruitful. If they are not, I am quite sure that the noble Earl who moved this Motion will return to this House, and we shall all support him in pressing His Majesty's Government to see that these men are not let down. These men, who have done splendid service in India during the period of British rule, are very definitely affected by the transfer of power which has been made as a matter of high policy; therefore, they ought not to be let down.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ LORD ISMAY
My Lords, I rise to speak on this Motion because as recently as four months ago some of the men 1189 whose cause has been pleaded so powerfully to-day were my friends and colleagues in India. Before I left the country, two or three of them came and spoke to me privately, and in great distress, about their unhappy plight. Although I have little to add to the arguments which have been deployed to-day, my silence on this occasion would be misunderstood by my friends, and therefore I must for the first time crave your Lordships' indulgence. Let me say at once that, so far as I can understand the case, these men have a very doubtful legal claim upon His Majesty's Government. But let me also say at once that the men themselves consider that, whatever the legal merits of the case, their moral claim is overwhelming and unchallengeable. They say that, through no fault of their own, they are now in a most unhappy position.
I will, if I may (probably it is the most useful contribution I can make), try to portray the frame of mind of those men. In the first place, there is the gnawing uncertainty as to what the future holds for themselves and for their families. Everything is fluid in India at the moment, and one cannot get away from that uncertainty. Uncertainty, as your Lordships know well, breeds hopelessness. And I felt that some of these men were in fact becoming hopeless. Secondly, they have a feeling that they have been forgotten, deserted, and indeed almost betrayed by their own countrymen. When a man is crying to do his duty far from home, the one thing that he needs above all else is the feeling that he has the good will, the support and the sympathy of his own people. If he does not have that, it is heartbreaking and demoralising. Thirdly, these men cannot but be anxious about their physical safety and still more about the physical safety of their women and children.
Many of them were eye-witnesses of the horrors which took place in the Punjab and Delhi last autumn. It is quite true that on that occasion there was no sort of threat to British lives, but I do not think it is generally realised how nearly all semblance of law and order disappeared throughout India's capital. It was a close thing, and if matters had got much worse, I believe that all foreign nationals would have been in the gravest jeopardy. In 1190 the event the Government of India, led by their Prime Minister Pandit Nehru, gripped the situation with immense courage and immense energy; and the danger passed. But the memory of those days will not easily be forgotten by those who were there, and more particularly by those who are still there.
Fourthly, these men are now lonely. When they volunteered for their present employment there were any number of their kith and kin alongside them. The position is now very different, and they tend to feel more and more like strangers in a strange land. I believe that all their worries would be lightened a great deal if only something were done for them—and done quickly—and if they could see some evidence that they had the sympathy of the people at home. I do not believe there is any noble Lord in this House but who will agree that it is no imaginary grievance which these men have. If they are not suffering a real downright injustice, they are at least in a very miserable position I do not believe there is a single one of your Lordships who would not wish that a helping hand should be held out to them.
What form that help should take is not, I think, a matter that can usefully be discussed at this moment. It need not follow stereotyped lines. His Majesty's Government have already shown, in the attitude they have taken up towards the Secretary of State's services, that they have the fullest sympathy with all those whose careers have been so fundamentally affected by the political decisions of last year. I am absolutely confident that if they hesitate to take the same step in regard to the non-Secretary of State's services, it is certainly not due to any lack of sympathy on their part, or to any pedantic insistence upon the strict letter of the law: there must be wider considerations which are outside the scope of this Motion. It would probably be difficult for His Majesty's Government to say precisely, here and now, what they will do or what they will not do for these men. But I beg them, for the sake of my friends in India, to reconsider this matter in the light of all that has been said in your Lordships' House to-day, and to do their utmost to bring a sense of security and peace of mind to men who have deserved well of their country.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, I am sure your Lordships would wish me, before I reply to this debate, to express your congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Ismay, on a maiden speech which was both admirable in substance and admirable in length. As many of your Lordships will remember, the noble Lord played a most important part as political adviser to the Viceroy in the concluding stages of British rule in India. From my personal experience I can speak of the immense benefit derived by Ministers here from his advice, and I know that his guidance was no less appreciated in India. I need not mention here the noble Lord's unique rôle during the war, but I am sure we all feel that the House is exceedingly fortunate to have secured the services of one who has so long and distinguished a record of public service in many different capacities. The account of the noble Lord, based on his own experience, of the state of mind of men with whom he has been so recently and so closely associated, is indeed a piece of first-hand evidence which will not be ignored by His Majesty's Government, and we are extremely grateful to him for giving it to us.
I am in a rather embarrassing position, because I promised the House that I would reply to points that were raised since I spoke last. If I do so, however, I shall be delaying another and extremely important debate. It is difficult for me to know what the House desires. Perhaps the best thing is to try to compromise and to reply rather briefly, omitting, I am afraid, some of the points raised by speakers in this debate which I would otherwise have answered. Let me say this to the noble Marquess, Lord Linlithgow. I am afraid that I cannot satisfy him on his suggestion with regard to a financial guarantee. On the other hand, of course, any view expressed by the noble Marquess about the members of a service which he led and looked after with such exemplary care in India, will carry special weight with His Majesty's Government, and will not be forgotten when the discussions to which I have referred take place.
I should like to associate myself with what my noble friend Lord Pethick-Lawrence said by way of congratulation to the noble Lord, Lord Clydesmuir, on 1192 his maiden speech. This is the first time I have met the noble Lord in person, for he was in India while I was at the India Office, but I feel that I have known him for quite a long time. When I went to the India Office in 1944 it was the practice for the Secretary of State and some of the Provincial Governors to exchange letters at regular intervals. I remember distinctly the extremely detailed picture which we used to receive from Lord Clydesmuir about events in the Province of Bombay. One of the outstanding impressions that I had was the immense activity and industry of the noble Lord himself, at his headquarters in Bombay or on tour in the Province. In recent years the Viceroy was often invited home for consultation with the Cabinet—more often, I think, than used to happen before the war. On several occasions the noble Lord deputised for him with conspicuous success, and he left India with a high reputation and universal popularity, both as a Provincial Governor and as Acting Viceroy. I very much hope that we shall continue to have the benefit of his advice in time to come on all the questions of which he has special knowledge.
I have some particulars about the conditions of service in the Bombay police and I propose to let the noble Lord have them without giving them orally in your Lordships' House. There are several points which the noble Lord raised which I shall be obliged to omit. I should like to reply to a question asked both by the noble Lord, Lord Clydesmuir, and by the noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, about what we are doing to find employment for men who retire from Government service in India and want to find further employment in this country. We are doing and have done our best for both classes, members of the Secretary of State's services and other Government services who have returned or who will return from India. There is an India and Burma Services Section in the London Appointments Office of the Ministry of Labour which will give any assistance possible to European officers of the non-Secretary of State's services if and when they come to this country and seek its help in securing further employment.
The noble Earl, Lord Scarbrough, made a number of interesting points based on his own intimate knowledge, but again I feel that, in deference to the wishes of 1193 your Lordships' House, I shall have to disappoint him by not giving a full reply. I have a fairly reliable and interesting statement saying that the view expressed by Dr. Matthai, the Indian Minister of Transport, may have been misinterpreted. The noble Lord quotes the views expressed and, with his compliance, I intend to submit the evidence we have since collected to show that the Minister was misinterpreted by those who thought that he was intending to discriminate between European and Indian servants on the Indian Railways. This has been a particularly interesting and valuable debate from the point of view of the Government, because every speaker has spoken from first-hand experience of the men whose welfare has been under consideration. I can assure all the noble Lords who have taken part in the debate that their views will be carefully considered and weighed; and I should like to thank them on behalf of the Government for raising this important matter in such a moderate and constructive spirit.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ EARL WAVELL
My Lords, I wish to make just a few points in reply to this debate. I thank the noble Earl who has spoken for the Government for the sympathy he has expressed towards these men. May I, in return, offer my fullest sympathy to him in his having been put up to make such a weak and unconvincing case? The Government have again ridden off on a purely legal argument.
§ EARL WAVELL
Yet they went beyond their legal liabilities to the Secretary of State's services in guaranteeing their proportionate pensions. Therefore I cannot see why they should stand on purely legal conditions as regards these people. The feeling among these men has been ably described by the noble Lord, Lord Ismay, in his admirable maiden speech; and there can be no doubt of how they view the matter. As regards the ex-Service clerks, the argument of the Government is that they accepted their position voluntarily—that it was of their own choice. But the choice was practically forced on them. The Government later on changed their policy and did not require people to become civilians. It was not a matter in which they had any 1194 sort of choice at all. I regret very much that the Government have not been able to see the justice of these men's claim. The argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, practically amounted to a plea for festina lente—with any amount of lente and practically no festina. When the question of the Secretary of State's services was under consideration in February, 1947, the Government sent out the Under-Secretary of State to India. They regarded the matter of such urgency and importance that they sent a member of the Government to India to consult the Government in India. Why cannot they do the same on behalf of the subordinate men? It is just as urgent for them as it was for the Secretary of State's services. It is, in a way even more urgent, because there is but a short time left before all vestiges of British control and influence will be removed, and there are numbers of men who have already retired or are retiring.
If I press this matter no further to-day it is not because I feel satisfied, but because I hope that as a result of what has been said in your Lordships' House the Government will reconsider the question. Surely it is for a Labour Government, which claims to represent the rights of the common man, to see that justice is done to the humbler men in the same way as it has been done to the more highly-paid ones. In asking leave to withdraw my motion for Papers, I reserve the right to raise the matter again unless some action is taken by the Government very soon.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.