§ 2.45 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, I, am sorry to have to interpose this Bill before your Lordships plunge into the economic situation, but this is a Bill which has considerable economic consequences for a perhaps small but extremely deserving body of people in this country. It has already passed through another place and, as a result of the Motion which has just been accepted by the House, I shall, in turn, ask your Lordships to pass it through all its stages to-day. Fortunately, it is a short Bill with two objects, both of which will, I believe, thoroughly commend themselves to the general opinion of your Lordships' House. The first of these two purposes is to provide for certain ex gratia payments to former pensionable officials of the Sudan Service; and to those who are described as pensionable officials there has to be added a category which is rather bleakly described, in the language used in connection with this Bill, as "female annuitants," who are a group of competent and devoted ladies who in the past have done most valuable work in the Sudan.
The second object of the Bill is to increase the pension and allowance which Sir Robert Howe, the former Governor-General, who retired at the beginning of this year, would be entitled to receive under the Superannuation Act operative in this country. The House will recall that it is now something over two and a half years since an Agreement was arrived at with Egypt which provided for self-government and, eventually, self-determination by the Sudan. The change contemplated by that Agreement raised the whole question of the future of the not inconsiderable number of British officials who at that time were employed in various branches of the governmental machine in the Sudan. I think your Lordships will unanimously agree that the men and women who occupied their lives in that Service did a most admirable piece of work in the interests of the peoples of the Sudan.
The Anglo-Egyptian Agreement to which I have referred provided for (I will 115 try to avoid a word which I greatly dislike, by saying "provided for"—thereby, I hope, dodging the word "Sudanisation") the replacement of British personnel by Sudan personnel. But it provided that no British or Egyptian official was to retain a post in the Sudan Service which, in the opinion of (and this word is officially used in this connection) the Sudanisation Committee established under the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement, might be prejudicial to the free and neutral atmosphere which is essential to the proper consideration of all the problems arising at the time of self-determination. That time of self-determination is now obviously rapidly approaching. The posts to be considered, formerly occupied by British men and women, include all appointments in the Sudan Defence Force, in the police and in the Administration.
In considering the contents of this Bill it must be borne in mind that the Agreement between the Government of this country and the Government of Egypt was not an Agreement to which the Sudan Government was a party; but the Governor-General at that time, Sir Robert Howe, had laid upon him by certain articles, 87 and 88 (i) of the Sudan Statute, discretionary powers to ensure proper maintenance of public service, and he was, further, under the direct and express obligation to see that all officials received fair and equitable treatment. And it was clearly right that that safeguard for officials should have found a place in the relevant document. On the strength of that provision, Sir Robert Howe, quite rightly, started negotiations with the new Sudan Government. The situation in the Sudan in March, 1954, was, if I may use a neutral term, very uncertain, and the officials were under grave anxieties as to their own future. In those circumstances, Sir Robert Howe gave the British officials an assurance that they would receive fait and equitable compensation for loss of career. These men, after all, had left their own country and established themselves in the Sudan with the prospect and the purpose of contributing to the good government and prosperity of the Sudan, but also of earning their own livelihood in the process of so doing. The provisions in regard to compensation which this Bill contains have—and I think it is important to bear this in mind—nothing to do with pensions. Pensions are paid by the Sudan 116 Government to those who are qualified to receive them, and this Bill is concerned not with pensions but with an additional gratuity by way of compensation for loss of career.
On the representations and approaches of Sir Robert Howe to the new Sudan Government, that Government agreed to make provision for the British men and women in their service who might be replaced by Sudanese. They accepted it as a proper burden upon their own exchequer, and in so doing, I think, took a fair and creditable view of the position. But the scale which the Governor-General agreed with them—a scale which is set out in the Sudan Expatria Officials Compensation Ordinance, which came into force in July, 1954—while not ungenerous in the circumstances, at the same time, in Sir Robert Howe's opinion, did not amount to an entire fulfilment of the assurances which he had given. He felt that there was still a gap between the sum agreed with the Sudan Government and what he regarded as fair and equitable compensation, and the question was how that gap was to be bridged.
In order to bridge that gap Her Majesty's Government—I think the House will accept, quite rightly—felt in honour bound to step in to back the Governor's stand and to make up the difference between the two sums. The sum of £160,000 was set aside which would be divided up between some 270 officials, being those amongst a larger number—something over 1,000—who were serving towards a pension and who would, in other circumstances, have expected to complete their full period of service. The balance between the 270 and the larger figure is made up either of officials who were serving there on short-term contracts and not on a pensionable basis or of officials who on entering into their contracts had included a term which entitled them to receive adequate compensation in the event of Sudanisation taking place during the period or the currency of the contract. The increase which is contemplated represents a maximum increase at its highest point from £ Egyptian 8,000 to Egyptian 8,500.
Subsections (2) and (3) of Clause 1 of the Bill set out the conditions and circumstances which have to be fulfilled before a former employee of the Sudan Government can 117 establish a claim to this additional gratuity. If those conditions are fulfilled and the individual is entitled to compensation from the Sudan Government, then, automatically, the additional gratuity contemplated by this Bill follows in its train. The exact calculations involved are extremely intricate, and I do not propose to enter into details of them to-day but rather to ask your Lordships to confirm the principle of the Bill. The basis of the method of calculation is laid down in the Sudan Expatria Officials Compensation Ordinance, to which I have already referred.
So much for the officials now for the second part of the Bill, which I can deal with very briefly, and which relates to the position of the Governor-General. Sir Robert Howe, the then Governor-General, was in a very special position. He was a Foreign Service officer who, at the time of his resignation for purely personal reasons early in January of this year, had held the position of Governor-General for the unaccustomedly lengthy period of eight years. The fact that he had held the post for so unusually long a time meant, obviously, this: that by permitting himself to be retained in the position of Governor-General of the Sudan, and not at the end of three or four years being promoted to a more lucrative if not more responsible appointment, he had forfeited the opportunity to retire at the age of sixty, not with the pension to which he would be entitled as Governor-General of the Sudan but with the higher rate of pension to which he would have been entitled had he been promoted—as he had every right to expect that he would be—to a more highly-paid office. When he did retire he was just on the verge of sixty and therefore of reaching what is, in the Foreign Service, pensionable age.
It will be in the recollection of the House that Sir Robert Howe during the arduous period of his Governor-General-ship rendered most admirable service in extremely difficult circumstances. The fact that that is so is best evidenced by the general confidence which was extended to him by those in the Sudan, and in particular perhaps by the real depths of affection and trust which were exhibited at the time of his farewell. What is proposed is not a very sensational increase it is merely that he shall receive an additional pension of £250 a year and 118 an additional lump sum of £750. I cannot think that your Lordships will regard those as excessive recommendations and I trust that they will receive general assent.
I have only one more word to say. In London, there is a Sudan Agency which, as its none describes, looks after the affairs of Sudan in this country. There are those in the employ of that agency who have made, at some length and perhaps not always with complete accuracy, complaints about their exclusion from this Bill. By the terms of the Bill, its provisions are limited to those whose last post of service was in Sudan or in Cairo. It must be borne in mind that the conditions of service between London and Cairo vary infinitely. A man is not called upon to make the same sacrifices, or undergo the same difficulties and personal hardships, if he serves in London as he would be if serving in the Sudan. In any case, Sir Robert Howe went fully into the position and came to the conclusion that he was satisfied that these persons have not been unfairly treated, and he told them in precise terms, I think, that his assurance to the Sudan Service did not include them. They receive separate scales of pension under the Sudan Ordinance to which I have referred. Indeed, in London there has been no case of a person on pensionable service being replaced by a Sudanese. I thought it right that I should mention that matter, but I do so only to point out that the grievances, if grievances there be, have been fully considered, that there has been an advance under the Sudanese Ordinance upon what was originally contemplated, and that in the view of Her Majesty's Government these people have in no way been unfairly treated. With that, I hope not excessively lengthy, explanation, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That this Bill be now read 2a.—(The Marquess of Reading.)
§ 3.2 p.m.
§ LORD HENDERSON
My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, for the exposition of this simple but important Bill to which we have just listened. Let me say right away that we on these Benches view with favour the Bill which is now before the House. I think it is right to say that the reasons for the Bill are part of the consequences of the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement. to 119 which the noble Marquess referred, which provided for Sudan self-government, leading up to Sudan self-determination. We on these Benches approved that Agreement and we welcome the progress that is being made towards Sudanese self-determination. We hope that the final stage which lies ahead will be reached in the quite near future, and passed successfully, and that the aspirations of the Sudanese people, which we have done a great deal to further, will be fully and smoothly realised.
British policy, British guidance and British officials serving the Sudan have played a notable part in these important developments. I do not believe that any country has been better or more devotedly served by British officials than has the Sudan during a long period of years. We owe a debt of gratitude to those officials, and so do the Sudanese. It is our duty, therefore, to see that these officials affected (and here I will use the word which the noble Marquess eschewed) by the Sudanisation of the Administration have fair and equitable compensation. I am sure that Sir Robert Howe, in fulfilment of the pledge to which the noble Marquess referred, did his best to get an agreement for compensation at levels which he considered fair and equitable, but this Bill seems to indicate that he was only about 94 per cent. successful. I regret that the Sudan Government could not be persuaded to go just a little further in the provision of compensation.
In the circumstances, we on these Benches welcome the decision of the Government to provide, as additional compensation, payments up to the maximum of £500 for officials at the top level of £8,000. If I understand the position rightly, all officials who come within the scope of the Sudan Expatria Officials Compensation Ordinance, and women officers who come within the scope of the Sudan Government's financial circular, and who meet the appropriate conditions set out in Clause 1 (2), come within the scope of this Bill. The noble Marquess has stated that the number of people affected is 207. It has been stated in another place that those who come within the provisions of the Bill are satisfied with the provision that is being made, and we are very glad to hear that that is so.
As was indicated by the noble Marquess, there are also another 700 to 120 800 officials, most of whom were on short-term contracts which included a clause that, in the event of the Sudanisation of their posts, they would be paid a gratuity.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, may I try to help the noble Lord? There are two classes: those who are on short contract which does not carry pension and others in whose contract there appears a clause giving them compensation in the event of Sudanisation. They are not all in one class.
§ LORD HENDERSON
That I understand. I am not quite clear on one point and I should like to ask the noble Marquess this question. I understand the position in respect of the Sudan Agency in London, but are there any other expatriate Sudan officials not covered by the various provisions to which I have made reference and about whom representations have been made to the Government, or is it the case that, generally speaking, the whole position will be reasonably satisfactory when this Bill becomes law and is implemented?
Finally, we on these Benches also welcome the proposals which relate to Sir Robert Howe. The late Governor-General served through a long and delicate period with great distinction, and we are all indebted to him for his devoted service. I think we must all agree that it would be wrong if he were to be prejudiced, both in respect of his pension and of his additional allowance, because of his absence from the country and because of the fact that during those difficult years he was representing two Governments. I feel that this must be a unique case; certainly it is exceptional, and it is hardly likely to arise again. We therefore support the provisions which relate to Sir Robert Howe, and we welcome the proposals of the Government in respect of both parts of the Bill. Having said that, I would only add that, as we have indicated, we shall facilitate the Government in getting this Bill through all its stages to-day.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, with the leave of the House, perhaps I might answer the point the noble Lord made. As I understand the position, those who are affected by this Bill have accepted the provisions contained in it as satisfactory to their requirements. The second point is that those who have 121 accepted the provisions of this Bill are all the persons likely to be affected by the Sudanisation arrangements in the Sudan.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a; Committee negatived.
§ Then, Standing Order No. 41 having been dispensed with (pursuant to Resolution), Bill read 3a, and passed.