§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Richards)
I beg to move, in page 2, line 28, to leave out the wordsexcept where in the case of a person granted leave for urgent reasons of public interest.and to insert, instead thereof, the word "unless."
Sub-section (5) will then read:if he does not resume his duties upon the termination of the period of the leave, he shall, unless the Secretary of State in Council otherwise directs, repay, in such manner as may be so prescribed as aforesaid, any leave-allowances received under this Sub-section.''I move this Amendment in deference to the general wish of the Committee upstairs, that the right of the Secretary of State to waive repayments should be extended, not only to those individuals who may be called home for urgent reasons of public interest, but also to individuals who may come home because of illness, and fail to return at the end of the period for the same reason.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I am not quite sure that I agree with the Amendment. 1623 I am sorry the hon. Gentleman did not explain a little more clearly the whole Clause before moving the Amendment. There was a considerable change, as I understand, made in this Clause by the Committee. Originally, there was no distinction drawn in the Clause between a high official who came home on matters of public interest, and one who came home for reasons of health and private affairs. The Committee inserted two Amendments in the Clause, one of which is to be found in Sub-section (4), where a distinction is made between the official who comes home on public business, and the official who comes home on private business, by granting to the official who comes home on public business certain advantages that the official who conies home on private business, or for reasons of health, does not enjoy. The other distinction was made in this Subsection (5), which is the subject of the Amendment now before the House. The Committee left the Clause as it originally stood in the case of the official who came borne for reasons of health or private affairs, so that he could not in any case obtain repayment of his leave-allowances if he, at the end of his period of leave, did not return to India. I think I am correct in saying that.
§ Mr. RICHARDS
I think the Noble Lord is somewhat under a misapprehension. As the Bill was originally drafted in the House of Lords, I believe there was no proposal for repayment at all. Then there was a proposal that there should be a provision in the Bill for repayment, except in the case of an individual called home for urgent reasons of public interest. It was felt rather a hardship if a public official in India—either the Viceroy or the Commander-in-Chief, who were the two persons concerned—was called home on a matter of urgent public interest, and was unable, for reasons of health, to return at the end of the period—four months—that he should be asked to repay the allowances paid during the period he was here. The views of the Committee, which were expressed very strongly by Members on both sides, was that that same hardship might occur in the case of an individual who came home for reasons of health, and was unable to return for the same reasons, and the view of the Committee 1624 was that the Secretary of State should exempt that individual as well from making repayment of the allowances.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I was quite familiar with the change made. I apologise if I put my point clumsily. They drew a distinction in this Subsection, as in the previous Sub-section, between the official who came home for reasons of health and private affairs, and the official who came home on public affairs. What I understand the hon. Gentleman now seeks to do—I do not understand why this Amendment was not put on the Order Paper in the ordinary way; it is usual, when the Minister has decided to move an Amendment, to put it on the Order Paper—what the hon. Gentleman now seeks to do is to extend the advantage, which the Committee had already given to those officials who come home on questions of public interest, to those who come home for private reasons. On that point there is no difference of opinion between us, but I wish to make a further point in connection with the same matter. In the first place, I do not know why the hon. Gentleman ever laid down in the Clause that these officials should be required to repay these leave-allowances. I should have thought it was not necessary. If he assures me that, in the interests of good administration, it is necessary, I say nothing further on that point, but when he made the distinction between the two sets of officials, he qualified that distinction very materially by inserting the wordshe shall, except where in the case of a person granted leave for urgent reasons of public interest, the Secretary of State in Council otherwise directs.In other words, the Secretary of State in Council is the deciding authority as to whether this official shall or shall not have to repay his leave-allowances, and in extending the Amendment so as to provide for the other type of official, he equally leaves it to the Secretary of State to decide whether or not the repayment shall be allowed. While I think, in the case of an officer or an official who is in England for reasons of health or private affairs, that, perhaps, on the 1625 whole it is better that the Secretary of State should be the deciding authority as to whether or not this official is to repay his allowances, I must say I think in the case of an officer or official who is home on public affairs, it is a mistake to give to the Minister the right of deciding whether or not that officer or official shall have to repay his leave-allowances. I will give my reasons. The Under-Secretary may feel that they are not strong reasons, because the circumstances are not likely to arise. But, say the Commander-in-Chief or the Viceroy in India comes home to England, summoned by the Secretary of State, to discuss some great question of policy on which he and the Secretary of State do not see eye to eye. After prolonged discussion, it may be the Secretary of State decides he cannot alter his view, and is still against the view of the Commander-in-Chief or Viceroy. The Commander-in-Chief or Viceroy says. "I am no longer able to go on; I must resign." Then the onus would rest—and it would be rather an invidious responsibility—upon the Secretary of State in Council to decide whether or not in this case the leave-allowances should be repaid by the official in question. It is a responsibility which should not be put upon the Secretary of State in Council. I admit I hardly can see it would often arise, but there might be the ease of serious dispute where the Secretary of State believed the Viceroy or Commander-in-Chief had not carried out his duties as he should have done, that the Secretary of State in Council might have a very unpleasant decision to take, and I should have thought it was far better to say in a case of an official home on duty, he should not in any case have to repay these allowances, but if home on private affairs, or for reasons of health, it should rest with the Secretary of State to decide whether the allowances should be paid.
§ It being Quarter-past Eight of the Clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction, of the Chairman, of Ways and Means under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.