HC Deb 05 May 1920 vol 128 cc2113-5

Motion made, and Question proposed, That it is expedient that a Select Committee of Seven Members be appointed to join with a Committee to be appointed by the Lords to revise the Draft Rules made under the Government of India Act."—[Mr. Montagu.]

Lieut.-Colonel MALONE

The Committee which is going to re-draft these rules is considering one of the most important measures concerning the Government of India. Those draft rules are, in my opinion, as important, if not more so, as the Government of India Bill, which we are to discuss next week, and I consider that seven members on this Committee is totally inadequate. We presume that one of the seven will be a Liberal and one a Labour member, and in case these two members are absent there will only be five members left representing the supporters of the Government to consider these very important questions. If the number of members of the Committee cannot be increased, what opportunity, if any, will be given to this House to consider the draft regulations when they have finally been re-drafted? Will they be placed upon the Table of the House, and will an opportunity be given to hon. Members to discuss these Orders, and will they be given full opportunities to examine all the evidence and all the particulars which have been put before this Committee when it discussed these Orders? I shall be much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman if he will give us some information on those points before we pass this Motion.

The SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Montagu)

I quite agree that the duty of this Committee is very important. This is being done in conformity with the Act passed last year, and it seems to be advisable that the same men should deal with the rules. Most of the rules will have to be laid on the Table of the House, and some of them will have to receive the consent of both Houses of Parliament. I can promise my hon. and gallant Friend that there will be ample opportunity for consideration by this House, and all the evidence taken by the Joint Committee will be laid before them in the Report of that Committee.

Colonel YATE

Do I understand that the intention of the Government is to appoint the same Committee as was appointed last year? If so, the right hon. Gentleman seems to me to be departing from the Regulations which have been laid down in Clause 295 of the Montagu-Chelmsford Report. In that Report it is distinctly stated that a Select Committee on Indian Affairs shall be appointed at the beginning of each Session. Last year the right hon. Gentleman appointed a Committee and put himself on it with six other members who had all signified, on the Second Reading, their approval of his scheme. I do not want, however, to enter into that question now. I spoke on it last year. The Bill then under discussion has now become an Act of Parliament and I shall, as I am sure all men serving in India will, loyally do my best to make it a success. But the right hon. Gentleman has not followed the proposal laid down in the Montagu-Chelmsford Report, which distinctly says that a new Committee shall be appointed at the commencement of each Session. I know the joint Committee last year suggested that they should be continued in office, but I do not think a Select Committee should have power to make any such suggestion, and, at any rate, it should not be carried into effect. It is further laid down that the Secretary of State shall appear before the Committee to answer questions about Acts of Administration over which he and, therefore, Parliament, exercises control. There is nothing said in the Report about the Secretary of State being himself a member of the Committee, and I think it is entirely wrong he should be so. I therefore ask him to consider the propriety of his present action, and whether it is not right that a fresh Committee should be appointed to deal with this question in accordance with the Montagu-Chelmsford Report.


The Committee to which my hon. and gallant Friend referred will only come into existence when the Act is working. This is not that Committee at all. When the Act comes into operation another Committee will be appointed by the House. The Committee, the appointment of which I am now moving, will complete the work of bringing the Act into force, and it was for that purpose that it was considered by the Joint Committee desirable to make the recommendations referred to. The names of this Committee will be submitted to the House for approval in a subsequent Motion, and my hon. and gallant Friend can then use his discretion as to whether he will ask the House to take other names than those recommended by the Government. The Committee was appointed last year by the vote of the House, and I was not upon it.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That it is expedient that a Select Committee of seven Members be appointed to join with a Committee to be appointed by the Lords to revise the Draft Rules made under the Government of India Act.

Message to the Lords to acquaint them therewith.