HC Deb 19 April 1926 vol 194 cc822-4

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he will cause an inquiry to be made into the conditions of brothels in the great cities of India; and if he is aware that in Calcutta many hundreds of young girls from 9 to 13 years of age are at present in brothels?


The Bengal Legislative Council passed in 1923 a special measure to deal in general with the control of brothels, and, in particular, with the removal of minor girls from them. I should hope, therefore, that the statement made in the last part of the question is no longer accurate, though I have no definite information. My Noble Friend thinks it would be inconsistent with the present Indian Constitution if he were to direct an all-India inquiry into the question of prostitution, the control of which is primarily the responsibility of the provinces. Moreover he has no reason to think that the local Governments and their Legislatures are not fully alive to the necessity of vigilance.


On a point of Order. Is not this question one which ought to be dealt with primarily by the Government of India, and, therefore, one which ought not to be put down in the first instance for answer in this House?


I have said more than once that it is difficult for me always to understand the distinctions between reserved and non-reserved subjects, and there are some questions which I have to leave for the Minister to deal with. I think that his answer shows that this is a local question.


Does the fact of a subject being reserved or not make any difference, seeing that reserved and unreserved questions are equally under the supervision of the Government of India? Under the peculiar administration of the Government of India, the fact of a subject being reserved or non-reserved does not permit of interference by this House with the details of the Government of India.


I must remind the right hon. Baronet that, by the Government of India Act, the salary of the Sec- retary of State was put on the Estimates, in order that this House might have, in proper cases, an opportunity of discussing the affairs of India. So that I cannot accept a wholesale suggestion of that kind.


Of course, I accept that fully, and even, if I may presume to say so, cordially agree with it. At the same time, it does not alter theprima facie question whether a matter of detail is a matter primarily for this House. That is a most important political question.


I cannot pretend to the intimate knowledge of India which the right hon. Baronet possesses; all I can say is that I do my best to steer the right course.


In view of the fact that India is not yet a self-governing country, have not the Members of this House the right to put down questions with regard to the Government of India?


I think that may be taken from the answer I have just given.