HC Deb 20 March 1933 vol 276 cc1-4

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he can now indicate what action is proposed for dealing with the constitutional problem of Burma?


asked the Secretary of State for India whether, in view of the fact that Burma has not decided at the polls in favour of separation from India, His Majesty's Government will reconsider their decision and secure the representation of Burma on the Joint Parliamentary Committee to consider Indian reforms?

The SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Sir Samuel Hoare)

As the answer involves a very long statement, I will, if the House permits, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

The first of the two alternatives still open for choice by the people of Burma and their representatives in the Legislative Council is separation from India; and, in the event of that choice being made, His Majesty's Government are prepared to ask Parliament to approve the grant of a Constitution on the general lines indicated at the end of the Burma Round Table Conference and published in Command Paper 4004 of 1932. If hon. Members will compare the contents of the Government's statement in that paper with the proposals for a Constitution for India contained in the White Paper presented last Friday, they will see that, if allowance is made for the fact that the Indian proposals are for a Federal Constitution, whereas a separated Burma would require a unitary form of government, the two sets of proposals correspond very closely. To put it summarily: the same range of opportunity and function that it is proposed to devolve in India either upon the Federal Legislature or the Provincial Legislatures is in the case of Burma to be devolved upon the Burma Legislature; the same subjects that in India are proposed to be reserved to the Governor-General would in Burma be reserved to the Governor; and the same special responsibilities that in India are to be imposed on the Governor-General or the Provincial Governors, as the case may be, will, in Burma, be im- posed on the Governor. That is a statement in general terms and inevitably there will be some modifications and differences in detail due to the differing circumstances of the two cases; but, broadly speaking, the two sets of proposals do correspond closely enough to comply fully with the statement made by my predecessor in this House on the 20th January, 1931, that the prospects of constitutional advance held out to Burma as part of British India will not be prejudiced by a decision to separate, and they correspond so closely as to satisfy also, I should have thought, the stipulation made by the Burma Legislative Council in its Resolution of 22nd December for the immediate transfer to popular control of at least the same measure of responsibility, and the same subjects and powers as will be transferred to popular control in the Indian Federation both at the Centre and in the Provinces.

In the event of Burma electing for separation from India, His Majesty's Government hope that it will be possible for the Joint Select Committee to examine their proposals for a Constitution for a separated Burma, and to do so in consultation with representatives of Burma, in the same way as it is proposed that representatives of India should be taken into consultation on the Indian proposals.

The second of the two alternatives open to Burma is to remain a province of British India and be included as a Governor's Province in the Indian Federation. It has been explained more than once in this House and also in the Legislative Council in Burma that no differentiation in favour of any one Province in respect of conditions of inclusion in the Federation is possible. The constitutional proposals for each and every Governor's Province are now shown in detail in the White Paper that has just been laid.

If Burma chooses to remain a Province of India in the Indian Federation, the proposals contained in this White Paper for the structure of the Provincial Constitutions, for the relations between Provinces and the Federal authority, and for the allocation of revenue between Provincial and Federal Exchequers, will be applicable to her as to all other Provinces; and the inclusion of Burma will necessitate no modification of these pro- posals. Her inclusion would, however, involve some revision of the Federal proposals, in respect, particularly, of the composition of the Federal Legislature. His Majesty's Government contemplate that, if Burma elects for inclusion in the Federation while the present proposals are under consideration by the Joint Select Committee, the adjustments involved by her inclusion might be made at the Committee stage; but it is evident that the longer that Burma delays a choice between the only two alternatives that are open, the greater will be the delay to the prospects of her own constitutional development.

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