HC Deb 08 November 1927 vol 210 cc19-22



asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he has any information to give to the House with regard to the appointment of the Statutory Commission?

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Earl Winterton)

Perhaps the hon. Member will await the statement that will be made at the end of Questions.


In assenting to that course, may I take it from you, Mr. Speaker, that I shall not lose any opportunity to put a Supplementary Question?


(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether he has any announcement to make with regard to the appointment of the Indian Statutory Commission?


Yes; and I apologise to the House for the rather long answer. As the House will remember, one of the provisions contained in the Indian Reforms Act of 1919 required "at the expiration of 10 years after the passing" of that Act, the appointment, with the concurrence of both Houses of Parliament, of persons to be a Commission to inquire into the working of the Indian constitution and to consider the desirability of establishing, extending, modifying or restricting the degree of responsible government then existing there. The Government have decided, for various reasons which I need not now specify, that it is desirable to anticipate the date (December, 1929) contemplated by the Act and to appoint this most important Royal Commission forthwith.

Balancing the various considerations and endeavouring to give due weight to each, His Majesty's Government have decided upon the following procedure:

(a) They propose to recommend to His Majesty that the Statutory Commission should be composed as follows:

The right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir John Simon) (Chairman);

Lord Burnham;

Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal;

The hon. Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan);

The right hon. Member for Ince (Mr. Stephen Walsh);

The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Mines (Colonel Lane Fox);

The hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee).

These names will be submitted to both Houses in Resolutions.

(b) His Majesty's Government cannot, of course, dictate to the Commission what procedure it shall follow, but they are of opinion that its task in taking evidence would be greatly facilitated if it were to invite the Central Indian Legislature to appoint a Joint Select Committee, chosen from its elected and nominated unofficial members, which would draw up its views and proposals in writing and lay them before the Commission for examination in such manner as the latter may decide. This Committee might remain in being for any consultation which the Commission might desire at subsequent stages of the inquiry. It should be clearly understood that the purpose of this suggestion is not to limit the discretion of the Commission in hearing other witnesses.

(c) His Majesty's Government suggest that a similar procedure should be adopted with the provincial legislatures.

(d) The vast area to be covered may make it desirable that the task of taking evidence on the more purely administrative questions involved should be undertaken by some other authority which would be in the closest touch with the Commission. His Majesty's Government suggest that the Commission on arrival in India should consider and decide by what machinery this work may most appropriately be discharged. This will not, of course, debar the Commission from the advantage of taking evidence itself upon these subjects to whatever extent it may think desirable.

(e) When the Commission has reported and its Report has been examined by the Government of India and His Majesty's Government it will be the duty of the latter to present proposals to Parliament. But it is not the intention of His Majesty's Government to ask Parliament to adopt these proposals without first giving a full opportunity for Indian opinion of different schools to contribute its view upon them. And to this end it is intended to invite Parliament to refer these proposals to consideration by a Joint Committee of both Houses and to facilitate the presentation to that Committee both of the views of the Indian Central Legislature by delegations, who will be invited to attend and confer with the Joint Committee, and also of the views of any other bodies whom the Joint Parliamentary Committee may desire to consult.

The ante-dating of the Commission involves an amendment of the Act and a Bill to this end will be introduced at once.


I am sure the whole House will recognise the grave importance of the statement that has just been made. May I ask the Prime Minister when he proposes to take these Resolutions recommending His Majesty's Government to make these appointments, and when we may expect to have the Bill before us? The sooner the better.


I agree. I cannot give the actual date, but it will be our endeavour to have it as soon as possible. We will keep in touch through the usual channels. I understand that the Bill amending the law has to come first; it will be a Bill merely altering the date. It may be for the convenience of the House to say that I think the main discussion will take place better on the Resolutions in which the names are concerned. That will give us a wider scope.


Does the Prime Minister propose to introduce the Bill here or in another place?


I understand the Bill is being introduced in another place to-day.


Is it the intention to fix any date for the termination of the labours of the Commission, or can the Prime Minister give us any indication when he anticipates the Commission will finish its labours?


No, Sir. With regard to questions on details of that kind they can be answered much better when the discussion takes place in this House, and Members have not had time yet to study the answer, which is rather a long one.


May I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the personnel of the Commission he has just announced was apparently known in Calcutta, four days ago and was announced by the entire Press of Great Britain three days ago?


Yes, Sir. I have no information as to how that leakage has occurred. To the best of our belief, it occurred in India.


May I ask whether the cost of the Statutory Commission will fall on the British Budget or the Indian Budget?


I am afraid I cannot answer that question now. Obviously, all these questions can be replied to in the course of the discussion.


Is it too late to include an Indian on the Royal Commission?


That is a broad question of principle which, if the hon. Member feels strongly about, he will be able to raise during the Debate when it takes place.