HC Deb 08 April 1935 vol 300 cc843-6

5.4 p.m.

The SOLICITOR - GENERAL (Sir Donald Somervell)

I beg to move, in page 139, line 10, after the first "the," to insert "maintenance or."

These two drafting Amendments, very small as the Committee will see, deal with the question of joint services when two or more Provinces, or Provinces in the Federation, by agreement wish to have a joint service. The Clause, as drafted, merely covers Services to be created in the future. As there are such services already in existence it is necessary that the Clause should also deal with maintenance as well as creation.

Amendment agreed to.

Consequential Amendment made.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

5.8 p.m.

Duchess of ATHOLL

Before we pass from this Clause, I would like to draw attention to what it seeks to do. It is a Clause in which the Government seek to provide for the continuation of a service, wider than a provincial service, in those cases in which the Secretary of State no longer retains power of recruitment. This combination and co-operation between Provinces is no doubt desired to give more opportunities for transfers and promotion than are to be found in the services limited to one Province, and no doubt it is hoped in that way to attract a better type of man, particularly, perhaps, of Englishman, than the provincial service alone can hope to attract. I suppose that there might arise under this Clause the possibility, if an inter-provincial service were formed, of there being some supervising posts such as inspector-general of forests or inspector-general of police. The fact that the Government have included a Clause providing for inter-provincial co-operation seems an admission that they recognise how ineffectual isolated provincial services may be in securing the right type ')f man, and how necessary it may be to have supervisory posts extending over more than one Province. It is not surprising if they recognise that some machinery of this kind is necessary, because the need for recruiting on a basis wider than that of one Province only was very strongly stressed to the Joint Select Committee by both the officers with whom they had consultations with regard to Irrigation and Forests. Both are services which until now have been recruited by the Secretary of State. I do not forget that he is holding out some hope that he may be able to save recruitment for the irrigation service, but the Bill, as originally drafted, provided for the cessation of his recruitment to both these services.

The need for a wider basis than a provincial one was very strongly stressed before the Joint Select Committee by an ex-inspector-general of forests, and by police witnesses. The first pointed out the need for a common policy with regard to forests, and the need for recruitment by a central authority. The police witnesses stressed the need for Federal supervision and for an inspector-general of police. It is possible that under this Clause we might have something of that sort with regard to the police if the Provinces could be got to agree. Then the need for some guidance in education was strongly stressed to the Simon Commission, and if the Provinces can be got to act together, it is possible that out of this Clause might be saved the post of commissioner of education, a post which exists to-day but which will go by the board when this Bill becomes law. Because this Clause makes it conceivable that there will be some central supervision if the Provinces can agree on this, we so far welcome it. It is an improvement on the White Paper, as I do not think the White Paper provided for anything of this kind. But we have to ask ourselves whether it is probable that the Provinces will agree on inter-provincial co-operation in this matter. In particular, will the Governments of those Provinces where there is most need of supervision from the outside be willing or ready to ask for inter-provincial co-operation and the appointment of some supervisory officer? Or will they ask for it soon enough? May it not be that much time will be allowed to elapse before any action of this kind is taken? In that case, is it not certain that the inefficiency which exists now is bound to become much worse; and even if the Provinces are ready to co-operate may it not be difficult to get them to give a supervisory officer adequate power really effectively to supervise provincial work?

I have been told by a retired inspector-general of public health that he spent much time in trying, through his Government, to get the Government of India to get various Provincial. Governments into line in a common policy with regard to public health—a matter of tremendous importance to India in regard to which the Provincial Government concerned had shown great interest. After months of correspondence, insufficient agreement had been reached between the Provinces and nothing could be done. The whole project had to be pigeon-holed. Therefore, I cannot feel optimistic about this Clause. I recognise that it is an endeavour on the part of the Government to remedy what I feel to be a very great harm that the Bill proposes to do in stopping recruitment by the Secretary of State for forests and possibly of his recruitment for irrigation. But with all the strong provincial feeling we hear of, the probability is that in those Provinces where things most need supervision the Provinces will be least ready to co-operate in setting up a supervising authority. The Clause, although a step in the right direction, does therefore serve to bring before us all that my right hon. Friend has refused to put in an earlier Clause in refusing to retain the right of recruitment in education, agriculture and forests, and I cannot help feeling misgivings as to whether this Clause will really do what we wish it to do in attracting the right type of men, and so help to ensure efficiency in the various provincial departments.

Clause 253 ordered to stand part of the Bill.