HC Deb 26 March 1923 vol 162 cc6-8

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he has received information that the Legislative Assembly in India has rejected a proposal to double the Salt Tax; if it is proposed that the Viceroy shall certify this proposal in order that the tax shall he imposed: and will he say whether this House will have an opportunity of discussing this matter before any action that may be taken by the Viceroy becomes operative?


asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether the Viceroy- of India. has decided to certify the Finance Bill with the Clauses imposing an increased salt duty which were rejected by the Legislative Assembly?


I would ask for the indulgence of the House in giving a somewhat detailed answer to this important subject.

On the 20th instant the Legislative Assembly rejected the Clause in the Finance Bill proposing that the salt tax should be increased from Rupee 1 Annas 4 to Rupee 2 Annas 8 per maund of 82 lbs. The Bill was considered by the Council of State on the 23rd instant, with a recommendation from the Governor-General under Section 67 13 of the Government of India Act that the Clause enhancing the salt duty should be reinserted. This was carried by 28 votes to 10. A similar recommendation is today before the Legislative Assembly, who thus have the opportunity of reconsidering their vote of the 20th. In the event of their passing the Bill in the form recommended no question of certification will arise. In the event of the Assembly not accepting the Bill as passed in the Council of State, the question of certification by the Governor-General may arise. Ordinarily a Bill certified under the procedure laid down by Statute does not have effect until it has received His Majesty's assent, and may not. be presented for His Majesty's assent until copies have been laid before each House of Parliament for not less than eight days on which that House has sat. But provision exists under which in special cases the Governor-General may direct that a Bill dealt with under certificate procedure shall come into operation forthwith. The decision on this point is vested in the Governor-General and, seeing that the Bill is actually to-day under consideration of the Legislative Assembly, I am not prepared to anticipate the decision that the Governor-General may feel called upon to take in the event of the Assembly rejecting the Clause enhancing the salt duty.


What increase in price will this amount to per lb of salt?


That is a matter which will require consideration. I cannot say offhand, but I do not believe that it. will be a large amount.


In case the Government of India adopt the very exceptional procedure of certifying the increase without the Act coming before this House prior to its becoming law, should we have at some time or other an opportunity of discussing the action of the Governor-General?


That is a hypothetical Question.


The Question is on the Paper. The Noble Lord referred particularly to this special action which might be taken. Will the House be consulted or not?


I can give no such promise. For one thing, the decision for or against certification may be taken to-day. It is clearly impossible to hold up the Finance Bill, in whatever -form it passes the Assembly, pending a discussion in this House.


Does the Noble Lord think that the proposed action of the Viceroy in certifying legislation without. any reference to this House, and in defiance of the Legislative Assembly, will tend to pacify the people of India?


That. is a matter for debate.


Is there any reason for describing as an exceptional course a procedure which is sanctioned by the Reform Act of India and is provided for in the rules drawn up by the Committee on Indian affairs?


This particular course is provided for under the rules and in the Government of India Act which has come into operation.