HC Deb 04 December 1919 vol 122 cc761-4

(1) The provision in Section thirty-six of the principal Act, imposing a limit on the number of members of the Governor-General's Executive Council, shall cease to have effect.


Does the hon. and gallant Member for Melton propose to move to leave out Sub-section (1)? Does he lay any stress on it?

Colonel YATE

I do not propose to move it.


I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to insert the words but of this total number of such Members at least half shall be Indians chosen from among the elected members of the Legislative Assembly. The Executive Council at the present time contains three Indian members, and this Amendment proposes to raise the number to four. But the more important part of my proposal is that these members shall he chosen from among the elected members of the Legislative Chamber. That of course is a considerable change, as at the present time they are chosen by the Viceroy, and are generally held to represent the best brains in India. We are seeking to educate Indian legislators for the future, and it is surely desirable, therefore, that they should be chosen from among the members of the Legislative Assembly.

The choice will be a wide one. The Governor-General will be able to select his Executive Committee from among all members of the Legislative Assembly. They will have no responsibility to the Legislative Assembly. It will be for a term of years, and in spite of the fact that they will have no responsibility yet you will get that educational advantage that is so desirable for the success of this scheme. At the end of ten years, the Indian members of the Executive will be Ministers, responsible to the Legislative Assembly. It will be a great thing if, when that state comes about, the same people can be continued in office—men again coming from the Legislative Assembly. Although this Amendment may be impracticable at the present moment, it is extremely desirable that before the period of revision comes the Viceroy should take steps to select his three or four members of the executive council from among those who are doing the work of legislation and not broadcast from among all the population of India. A man who has to face his electors at the poll has a certain commencement of that responsibility which devolves upon a Minister, who represents not only his electors but the majority party in the House of Commons. In that direction a good step might be taken along the road we all desire to travel.


This is a very far-reaching proposal. It means that if the number of members of the Governor-General's executive council is an odd number, the hon. and gallant Member desires that there shall be more than half of them Indian members.




You cannot have a half if the number is odd. The next effect would be that for the first time in this Statute you introduce a statutory racial qualification at a time when, according to a new Clause which has been put down by one of the hon. and gallant Member's friends, he wants to sweep away all existing racial qualifications. It would be most unfortunate to put in a statutory racial qualification. It would be an infringement of Section 96 of the original Act, which says: No native of British India, nor any subject of Ms Majesty resident therein, shall, by reason only of his religion, place of birth, descent, colour, or any of them, be disabled from holding any office under the Crown in India. That Section is inconsistent with my hon. and gallant Friend's Amendment. My third objection is this: My hon. and gallant Friend has made many powerful speeches in the course of the last two days. Perhaps the most powerful speech of all, if I may say so—it may be because I was in cordial agreement with it—was the speech in which, in answer to the hon. and gallant Member for Melton (Colonel Yate), he pulverised the, alternative scheme of local government which is associated with the majority of heads of local Governments. If my hon. and gallant Friend considers this Amendment with the Amendment he urged the Committee to reject, he will find he is going perilously near to asking us to accept for the central Government the very constitution he felt it necessary to ask us to reject for the local Governments. There would be the same principle of real diarchy linked in a false union. What we all desire is this: That we should appoint to the Viceroy's Executive Council Indian representatives, and we hope we shall find these Indians more and more in the Legislative Assembly taking part in political life. But that is a very different thing from accepting this Amendment.

Colonel YATE

I entirely disagree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the choice of these members of the Executive Council shall be limited to members of the Legislative Council. It would be the greatest mistake to limit the choice of the Viceroy to any Council whatsoever. He should have the widest choice of the best men he can find. As regards what the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Montagu) said about racial distinctions, I would refer him to the Report of the Joint Committee on the proposition that three members of the Council should be Indians. There is the concrete proposal that we have before us. I have put down an Amendment to provide that at least one-half of the Council should be European British subjects, and, despite what the right hon. Gentleman has said, I think, as it is agreed on all hands that the central Government must remain powerful and strong, and the Viceroy must have full power, my Amendment ought to be accepted, and I trust the right hon. Gentleman will consider that question. It seems to me essential that if we are to have seven members, four, as proposed in the Report of the Joint Committeé, should be European British subjects. We cannot afford at present to weaken the strength of the Viceroy's Executive Council. I perfectly welcome the proposal in the Report of the Joint Committee that, instead of the two Indian members now on the Council there should be three, provided it is put in that the remaining four are European British subjects.

Sir J. D. REES

I cannot help suggesting what a tribute to the moderation of the Bill and the Report is contained in these two Amendments placed one after the other. It is an extraordinarily eloquent tribute to the skill, the moderation, justice, and the success with which the Committee has steered a course between two opposing Camps. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) knows that under his Amendment it would be quite possible for a pure-born European, born and bred in India, and of the most unadulterated European parentage, to be eligible for election to one of these Legislative Assemblies.

Amendment negatived.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 29 (Appointment of Council Secretaries) ordered to stand part of the Bill.