SIR TREVOR LAWRENCE
asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether, prior to the approval of the Indian Government in England being given to the proposed change of Law relating to the trial of Europeans in India, any steps were taken to ascertain the opinion of the non-official European public on the 1024 subject; and, whether it is the case, as reported in the telegrams from India, that public meetings have been, or are about to be, held in the chief towns, and in the centres of European business, to protest in the strongest terms against the proposed changes?
§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
also asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether, in view of the widespread indignation which the alteration in the Criminal Law of India is arousing among the European population, and of the danger of arousing race antagonism, Her Majesty's Government will give opportunity to this House for discussing that measure before it becomes Law?
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Before the Government of India proposed any change in the law on this subject, the opinion of every local Government was asked for and obtained. It is impossible to believe that those Governments are ignorant of the opinions or feelings of the non-official European public, although the advice which they would give to the Government of India would be given on their own responsibility, and on their own sense of justice and expediency in the case. I have no information with respect to the latter part of the Question beyond what I have seen in the newspapers. I may take this opportunity of answering the Question of the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Ash-mead-Bartlett) on the same subject. The Secretary of State for India in Council is responsible to Parliament for the instructions which he gives to the Government of India, in legislative as well as executive matters; and he cannot divest himself of that responsibility by inviting the House of Commons to discuss questions of legislation which are pending in India. It is open to any Member to call in question at any time the advice which the Secretary of State for India has given, or may give, to Her Majesty; but I cannot undertake that he will refrain from exercising the power with which he is charged, pending any discussion which may take place in Parliament. I may add that the Correspondence on the subject will be presented, and is now being printed; and also that it is not the intention of the Government of India to pass the Bill finally till they return to Calcutta in November, so that the public may have full time for consideration.
§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, he wished to explain that he put the Question down that day, because he had understood, from a reply given to a similar Question the other day, that it was not the intention of the Government to give an opportunity for discussing the matter in the House. He wished, also, to repeat the Question in order to ask the noble Marquess whether, in view of the fact that discussion on Indian questions generally could only take place at the close of the Session, and in view of the great importance of the question, he would give some assurance that the House should have a suitable opportunity of discussing those changes before they were passed into law, and before the mischief which some apprehended was done?