HC Deb 04 December 1919 vol 122 cc700-4

Subject to the provisions of this Act, the Indian legislature shall consist of the Governor-General and two chambers, namely, the Council of State and the Legislative Assembly.

Except as otherwise provided by or under this Act, a Bill shall not be deemed to have been passed by the Indian legislature unless it has been agreed to by boil chambers, either without Amendment or with such Amendments only as may be agreed to by both chambers.


I beg to move, to leave out the words, "two Chambers, namely, the Council of State and."

I do not think the Labour party would be doing its duty if it allowed this Clause to pass without a protest. We do not see the necessity even for a double-Chamber system in this country, still less in India, more especially when the Second Chamber and the Council of State is, according to the Report of the Joint Committee, going to be elected in the same way as the Indian Legislative Assembly itself. The Joint Committee have done their best in this matter, and they have tried in every sort of way. Their Report is absolutely non-committal. This is to be an elected Council of State, the sole difference between that and the Legislative Assembly being that the Government have a few more members on the Council of State than on the Legislative Assembly. Before our passionate devotion for a Second Chamber leads us to graft it on an Indian Government, I think we ought to have some idea as to the distinction which is going to be made between these two Houses, because it appears to me that you are simply duplicating the other Chamber. This will add to the trouble of legislation without the slightest improvement in the legislation that is passed.

Under the Montagu-Chelmsford Report the duties of the Council of State were quite different, and the Committee came to the conclusion that it was not only false tactics but bad policy to rely upon the official block overruling the elected representatives. In the Provincial Assemblies they had the Grand Committee system, which was to overrule any legislation contrary to the wishes of the Government. The same conclusion was arrived at in connection with the local Legislatures. In the Second Chamber you have this check Chamber maintained, although any possibility of it acting as a check has gone. You have got the unnecessary Second Chamber pushed into this Bill simply because there are so many politicians in this country who love the House of Lords. [HON. MEMBERS: "No"] That is what it is done for. On this side we object to importing a sham House of Lords into India to do nothing but register the decisions of the Second Chamber or overrule them, and they may be even more ultra-nationalist than the Legislative Assembly. You are only adding to your difficulties and detracting from what we believe to be the most important thing in an Indian Legislative Assembly, which is to be an Assembly of all India and the home of future progress in India, and a repetition in India of this House of Commons. You are detracting from its power by putting in a proposal such as this, and it will be no advantage to the Bill or the British control during the whole transition period.


I desire to suggest to my hon. and gallant Friend that there is in India a very large body of opinion in favour of this Clause. This Second Chamber is not intended to act in opposition to the Legislative Assembly. It is elected for a different term of years by a different electorate to act as a revising body, and will be able to compose its differences with the Lower Chamber by means of a joint session. I cannot believe that a body of that kind in a country like India is a bad Parliamentary body.


If the hon. and gallant Member opposite had read all the evidence, he would find that not merely from England, but from India, there was a general recognition that this council might be a body of the greatest: possible value to India, and it received a considerable measure of Indian support. There are many able native politicians in India who might not be prepared to stand the racket of an election, and they might be very suitable persons for indirect election either by the Provincial Legislature or under some special franchise, and they would be very valuable persons to include in the Council of State. Many of these men have had valuable experience in the public life of India, and this proposal enables their services to be utilised. For that reason we came to the conclusion that a Second Chamber—calf it what yon will—will be a most valuable institution to the Indian people in working out and developing their future political institutions in their own way. This proposal is only for ten years, and we thought that for the first ten years we should see if they could get a useful body in this way.


It is quite true that I have not read all the evidence, because I was excluded from that Committee. At the same time, I do not think we ought to take all the evidence which comes from India as being the representative voice of all Indians. They mostly represent the people who can afford to spend money upon looking after the interests of India, and the new capitalists in India are not the people whom I would absolutely trust with the government of India. In the Second Chamber you are going to have this special capitalistic interest represented. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who said so?"] If not, what do special electorates mean? I deprecate the introduction of a Second Chamber which may have the approval of the rich people only, and which may tend to strengthen a hold upon the future government of India which this House would universally deplore. We want to see India democratically governed, and not governed by vested interests.


I should like to call the attention of the hon. and gallant Gentleman to the fact that he has done a good deal of harm in the Debate by again showing the utter inconsistency of his attitude, which is typical of the attitude he takes on every Bill. There is not a person who comes to this country from abroad whom the hon. and gallant Gentleman does not metaphorically embrace if he has any grievance against this country. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has indulged in what I may describe as a very badly argued speech, and he has stated that you cannot always agree with the views of the people who come to this country from India. I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will bear that in mind, because we wish to hear less of the views of the hon. Member's friends in India and more of the people of India.




I want to ask the hon. and gallant Member to let us get on with the business.


We have heaps of time before five o'clock in the morning. The Noble Lord opposite has referred to people from the Dominions who come to me with their grievances. All I can say is that when people come to me with grievances I sift them. I do not take everything they say as being true, but I apply a proper test, and when I find their grievances are genuine, well-founded and justified I bring them forward, and I shall continue to do so. The Secretary of State knows that in this Debate I have more the confidence of the whole of India than any other hon. Member speaking in this House. Let anybody who doubts that apply his mind to the Indian Press—


Is Mrs. Besant India?


The whole people of India have the same feelings as ourselves. They, too, hate injustice, and they, too, have some faith in a country which has one or two people who will speak up against injustice.

Amendment negatived.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 18 (Council of State) ordered to stand part of the Bill.