HC Deb 07 August 1912 vol 41 cc3311-4
Captain MURRAY

At Question Time to-day I asked the Under-Secretary for India whether the Imperial Legislative Council of India would be provided in the new city of Delhi with a building of its own, and the hon. Gentleman, in reply to my question, said:— It is proposed that the Legislative Council should meet in a hall which will be situated in one wing of the building which also contains the Governor-General's official residence and the Durbar hull. In my opinion the Imperial Legislative Council should be provided with a separate building, detached altogether from the Viceroy's residence. This may appear to be a small matter, but it is not really so. The building of a new capital for a country or an empire is a project which must at all times stir the imagination and receive the most careful and serious attention, but the creation of the new Delhi as the new capital for India goes still further, because it comes at the commencement of a new epoch in the history of our Indian Empire. I do not think that proposition can be denied even by those who most strenuously resist the claim of certain Indians to constitutional government. It cannot be gainsaid that in India the old order is changing and giving place to the new. The reforms which were brought into being by the Indian Council of 1909 constituted a step in advance, the importance of which from the point of view of a springing-off ground for further developments no one who knows India well can possibly underestimate, and I submit that there is a new spirit abroad in India to-day. Whatever the aspirations of certain Indians may be, I consider that Parliamentary or constitutional government in India is now impossible, but that to my mind is no reason why we should blindly refuse to recognise that further political developments in India must take place. In my humble opinion no more fitting monument for the commencement of this new era could be devised than the erection in the new city of Delhi of a council chamber in which the meetings of the reformed Imperial Council would take place. I submit to the Under-Secretary for India that a very serious mistake will be made if the present designs of the Government of India, as conveyed in his answer to me to-day, are allowed to mature. The present, in my opinion, affords an opportunity which from every consideration of practical and political expediency should not be neglected. There must be, I assume, some very good reason why it is proposed that the council chamber should form part of the Viceroy's dwelling, but for my part I am quite unable to see what that reason is. If there was no objection, as I believe there was no objection, on the part of the Government of India to a separate council house in Simla—I regret that that scheme was abandoned—for the meetings of the Imperial Legislative Council, then for my part I am quite unable to see what objection there can be to a council house in Delhi detached from the Governor-General's residence. I hope the Undersecretary when he replies will explain fully the reasons why the Government are taking this step. With very great respect, I submit that in this matter those responsible are not moving with the times. I very much regret the decision that has been taken, and I hope it will still be possible to reverse the decision. A council chamber worthy of the dignity of the new city of Delhi would, while not necessarily hastening political changes for which India is still unripe, be an outward and visible sign of the new era of political development in which the peoples of India must be wisely guided to take an increasingly larger share.


Although I am afraid I cannot give a very satisfactory reply to my hon. and gallant Friend, I can promise the House, at any rate, to be very brief. The decision of the Government, although the plan has not been finally decided upon, is practically the one which I gave my hon. Friend at Question Time to-day.

Captain MURRAY

Will the hon. Gentleman state what he means by "practically." Is there still a hope that a separate council chamber may be erected?


No; I am going to explain. Roughly speaking, the design of the central building in the city of Delhi is that there shall be a separate Durbar Hall, on one side of which will be the official residence of the Viceroy, and on the other side, in the other wing, there shall be a hall for the meetings of the council, and the various apartments which are associated with a council chamber— library, reading room, and writing room. There will be a separate entrance, so that Members going up to that part of the building would not go through the Governor's house. Therefore the two sets of rooms are all under one roof. The rooms dedicated to the use of the Imperial Legislative Council are completely separate from the official residence of the Viceroy, and there is no foundation for the fear expressed in some journals that Members going into the Council Chamber will meet the servants of the Viceroy on the stairs, no more than there is any chance in this House of meeting Mr. Speaker's own establishment when we are walking into this House which like this Council Chamber is under the same roof as an official residence. The hon. and gallant Member ought to remember what the Imperial Legislative Council is. As I understand the Governor-General-in-Council consists first; of the Executive Council, and to members of the Executive Council are added other members for the purpose of making laws and regulations; so that the Imperial Council is really an addition to the Executive Council, and in fulfilling its functions no more proper site can be chosen than the site adjacent to the residence of the Governor-General. The hon. and gallant Member sketches a picture of future development of Council Government in India. At the inception of a new city it is impossible to build for all time or even for the distant future. We have there a very small Council meeting for a short time in every year as an addition to the Governor-General's Council. We are building a residence adequate for the present need of the capital of India. We have an area of something like eighty square miles of land. I submit to the hon. and gallant Member that the arrangements which we are making are quite sufficient for the needs of the moment, and that he will find in Delhi ample room for expansion should any of his prophecy in future be realised.