§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Mr. BANFIELD
I beg to move, in page 140, line 17, to leave out "Secretary of State" and to insert "Governor-General in his discretion."
This Clause sets up the Public Service Commission, and it states that the chairman and other members shall be appointed in the case of the Federal Commission by the Secretary of State. In this Amendment, we wish to substitute for the "Secretary of State" the "Governor-General in his discretion." I am not sure from what I have heard this afternoon what precise method it is that enables the Secretary of State to accept Amendments from back benchers, but I suggest to him that our Amendment is not calculated in any very great degree to weaken the effect of the Clause as it stands. What it does, however, is to remove from Whitehall this question of the appointment of members of the Commission. This seems a comparatively small matter, but it is one of those matters 847 in which the question of prestige from the point of view of the politically-minded Indian is involved. In spite of all that has been said to the effect that the politically-minded Indian is against the Bill, I believe that he will help to work it when it becomes law. That being so, it seems to me that in a matter like this, which leads up to an important point in connection with Indian administration, namely the question of the services, it would be a wise step and one which would not run counter to the idea of the promoters of the Bill, to leave this power to the Governor-General in his discretion.
The Governor-General in his discretion would, almost of necessity, consult the Secretary of State. The Governor-General, I take it, is representing His Majesty's Government and the India Office and he would take steps to see that these appointments were made in accordance with the views of the Government and the India Office. Indeed, I am at a loss to understand why the Secretary of State should be brought into it at all in connection with the Federal Commission, when the Provincial Governors are to have the power in their discretion of appointing the Provincial Commissions. I fail to see the reason for this distinction. If this Bill is to be a success and if it is to be worked by the politically-minded Indians they should not be led to suffer from an inferiority complex. They should be made to realise that they are taking an actual part in the government of India, and that the administration of Whitehall has been removed as far as possible. I think the Secretary of State might very well meet us upon what is, as I have said, a comparatively small point but one involving a question of prestige.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Butler)
When this matter was considered by the Joint Select Committee they made no observations upon this point, and as it was passed in silence we may take it that the proposal now in the Bill had their approval. I appreciate the arguments of the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield). He will remember that on Thursday evening the Committee discussed the question of the actual recruiting authority for the major services, 848 and on the question of whether the services should be recruited by the Secretary of State or by the Governor-General in his discretion, I used the words of the Joint Select Committee in which they referred to that question as being one of form rather than substance. The arguments used by the hon. Member seem to show that he regards this question also as one of form rather than substance, or, in his own words, as a question of prestige rather than a question involving any real difference in the nature of the appointments which will be made.
We have considered the Amendment sympathetically but we consider it best to adhere to the terms of the Bill. We have taken the advice and opinion of the Services and the Government of India and, as far as we can ascertain their views, they consider that there would be more confidence if the existing practice were continued. Under the existing practice appointments to the Public Service Commission in the Centre are made in the manner which the Bill proposes for the future. A Governor in his discretion, in the case of a Public Service Commission in one of the Provinces of India, has that function. In view of the fact that the system has the confidence of the Services which will come under the Commissions to be set up and which will have important work to do in connection with the Constitution, and in view of the fact that, if we were to make the appointing authority the Governor-General in his discretion, he would really represent the Secretary of State and there would be no real difference, we would ask the hon. Member not to press this Amendment. At the same time we do not want to be unsympathetic to his point of view and we realise that if any new arguments were brought forward there might be a great deal to be said on the question of prestige to which he attaches so much importance.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The hon. Gentleman always seems to think that it is necessary to make every kind of concession to the feelings of almost everybody except the elected members in India. We have to consider the smallest susceptibility of the Princes or the least flutter of apprehension in the breast of a, civil servant who may possibly be affected, but we never seem to consider the feelings of 849 the elected representatives. Here is a case in which, once again, the Government are emphasising Whitehall. I do not think it is necessary to emphasise Whitehall in this connection. We want, as far as we can, to make India mistress in her own house. It is obvious that the Public Service Commissions will have to be appointed by someone who is impartial and above political controversy, and I am sure that the Ministers in India would agree with that view. Already in the case of the Provinces this matter has been put into the hands of the Governors. I cannot see why the same power cannot be put in the hands of the Governor-General at the Centre without lugging in the Secretary of State at every point. If it is necessary to have some kind of power here, different from the powers of the Ministers, it is surely much better for the people in India that the matter should be taken out of the hands of Whitehall. Hon. Members ought to realise the feeling which exists in India against always having to bow down to an authority situated miles away from India. We should try to get rid of that feeling. It will make no serious difference in the long run in this case, and surely it is about time that we made some concession to the feelings of Indian politicians.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I feel myself that it does not make any substantial difference whether we accept or reject this Amendment. In practice, no doubt, the 'appointments will be made upon the recommendation of the Governor-General. I cannot conceive of a case in which the Secretary of State would appoint a chairman of this Commission who had not been nominated by the Governor-General. As there is so little difference between the one course and the other, I wish to say that, provided it is clear that it is to be "the Governor-General in his discretion," I am prepared to accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. BUTLER
I beg to move, in page 140, line 15, at the end, to insert:Provided that at least one-half of the members of every Public Service Commission shall be persons who at the dates of their respective appointments have held office for at least ten years under the Crown in India.850 The composition of the Public Service Commission is in the Clause left entirely to the appointing 'authority, and we have just been considering the constitution of the 'appointing authority at the Centre and in the Provinces.. It is now proposed to add this proviso which in the main covers the Amendment in the name of the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer)—in page 140, line 15, at the end, to insert:Provided that not less than one-half of the members of any such Commission shall be persons who, at the time of their appointment, have been for not less than fifteen years members of a service of the Crown in India.On the question of the number of years of service, we have taken ten years, because that is the period required in the case of appointments of judges, and there seems no particular reason for adopting the period of 15 years suggested in the Noble Lord's Amendment. Apart from that, on the question of wording we prefer the wider terms of our Amendment and the words "under the Crown in India" rather than "members of a service of the Crown in India." The latter wording would limit it to those actually in the services, whereas under our wording an ex-judge who was not a member of the Indian Civil Service but who might be very suitable for an appointment of this kind would be eligible.
Before the discussion proceeds any further I wish to say that I did not propose to call the Amendment which is on the Paper in the name of the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) because I thought it could quite properly be discussed on this Amendment.
§ 5.27 p.m.
Duchess of ATHOLL
This Amendment seeks to remedy an omission in the Bill and what I believe also to have been an omission in the report of the Joint Select Committee, namely the absence of any indication that it was desirable that the Public Service Commissions, in view of the technical work which they have to do, affecting the services, should consist of a certain proportion of persons with knowledge of service questions. I ant afraid, however, that the Government Amendment does not attempt to meet the point in a wholly satisfactory manner. On the question of the period of service 851 under the Crown required to qualify one-half of the membership of a Commission, it is true that ten years is the period mentioned in other Clauses of the Bill, in different connections. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, however, in defending the ten-year period omitted to mention the very strong recommendation in favour of a longer period of 15 or even 20 years made to the Secretary of State in the memorial officially presented by the Bengal Association and backed up by all the Civil Service Associations. That memorial stated:The Public Service Commissions require members with local knowledge which can hardly be obtained by persons with less than 15 or 20 years service under the Crown.That is why the longer period has been adopted in the other Amendment. I should like to add on the question of the period of service, that it was very strongly put to me by a man with 40 years experience in India that one required to have at least 25 years in India before gaining a proper understanding of the people. One cannot feel that the services are asking for anything exceptional when they ask that these appointments should be confined to people with not less than from 15 to 20 years' experience. I think, in view of the weight that attaches to the memorial on this matter, signed by practically all the service associations in India, my hon. Friend might have referred to that memorial and told us why he differed from it. They go on. to say that they consider that at least half the members of a Public Service Commission should be public servants, but the words used in the Government's Amendment are:persons who … have held office … under the Crown in India.I understand that that phrase would not only cover members of the public services and ex-judges, as my hon. Friend said, but also might include persons who have held ministerial office. There would therefore be a great risk of bringing in a political element, which everyone is anxious to avoid. The idea of the Public Service Commissions is to try to get bodies which will give advice in regard to appointments, postings, and the other matters mentioned in Clause 255, as far as possible removed from the question of appointments of ministers on communal or other undesirable grounds. That is what we 852 fear in the Amendment of the Government, that it would allow the appointment of persons who have held ministerial office in that one half, and, of course, there would be nothing to prevent the appointment of political persons in the other half, so that you might get either the whole or the great majority of a Public Service Commission consisting of persons appointed for political antecedents instead of for service antecedents. In that case it would be impossible to hope that the Commission would be free of political influence. Therefore, I should like my right hon. Friend very seriously to consider whether he would not adopt the wording of my Noble Friend's Amendment, namely:members of a service of the Crown in India.That wording would give effect to the expressed wishes of the Civil Service Associations, and I do not think my right hon. Friend can deny the force of the memorials that have come to him in the name of all the Civil Service Associations in India. They ask that at least half the members of the Public Service Commissions should be members of services in India, not people who have held office under the Crown, but members of Government services. The Government's Amendment opens the possibility that the majority or even the whole of the Public Service Commissions might be staffed by men of political antecedents, and that seems to me very undesirable and directly contrary to the expressed wish of the Civil Service.
§ Sir B. PETO
On a point of Order. In view of your Ruling, Sir Dennis, in regard to the Amendment standing in the name of the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer), that we can only discuss the Government's Amendment—
The hon. Member is in error. I said that it would be in order to discuss the Noble Lord's Amendment on this Amendment.
§ Sir B. PETO
My point is that if this Amendment is inserted in the Clause, the Noble Lord's Amendment will fall, and, in view of that possibility, I ask whether you will accept a manuscript Amendment to the Government's Amendment, to substitute "fifteen" for "ten," and before the words "the 853 Crown in India" to leave out the words "of a service of."
That would be two Amendments to the proposed Amendment. I would accept the first one, certainly.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I think I can dispose of the discussion, in which I do not think there is any substantial disagreement between us. First, as to the period of years, I have no strong views as between 10 or 15. I am, however, advised that 10 has this great advantage, that a, judge gets his pension at the end of 11½ years, and a judge is very often just the type of man that we want to retain for this service in India before he returns to England. I therefore suggest to my Noble Friend that, unless she has strong reasons to the contrary, 10 is better than 15. As to the other point she made, let me make it clear to her that it is not our intention that ex-ministers should be eligible for these posts. I think the words of my Noble Friend's Amendment go too far and would cut out a judge, whereas in our Amendment we have words that, on the one hand, would keep out politicians and, on the other hand, would allow judges to be in. I therefore suggest that the Committee should accept our words now, and I will see that those two points are met.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I wish to say a few words on this matter. I am getting a little bit tired of this continual girding against politicians in India. Who are we, I would like to know, to be girding against them, that they may make political appointments? Only the other day we appointed an ex-Minister to a very important post in this country, and almost every Governor-General or Viceroy in India has served in one or other of the political parties in this country. This continual setting up of one standard of political honesty for an Indian and another for us makes me sick, absolutely sick, when I know, as we all know, if we are honest people, that Members come to this House and obtain, as I did, a position on the Treasury Bench; and might have obtained a position outside the House at a permanent salary, and nobody would have called that in question in this 854 country, so why should you call it in question in India and look at all Indian politicians as worse people than ourselves?
I do not believe there is any corruption, in the sense that the word "corruption" conveys, in the administration nad government of our country, but I want to believe, and I am sure it is true, that when the Indians have the same responsibility put upon them as is put upon us, they will be as honest and as straightforward as hon. Members here. When we remember the corruption that used to exist in this House, and when we know that that has been overcome because of the extension of political power, I believe the same thing will happen in India, but in any case I do not think it lies with us to be continually girding against the Indian politicians as if politics in India were some unworthy thing that no one ought to touch except an Englishman from this country, who very often has served a good political apprenticeship here.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Sir S. HOARE
It is a much narrower issue. May I assure the right hon. Gentleman that it is not the wide issue to which he refers. It is simply this question, that in setting up a Public Service Commission, is it not better to put on it people who are out of politics?
§ Sir S. HOARE
That has always been our practice here, so far as I know, and that is all we are discussing now. I hope the Committee will accept our Amendment.
§ 5.41 p.m.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I am extremely glad to hear my right hon. Friend's statement, and we will leave it to him, to find a better form of words before the Report stage. But as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has referred to me and to what I said just now, I feel bound to point out that I said nothing except to refer to what was a well established fact before the Joint Select Committee and the Simon Commission, namely, that Ministers will be subject to a great deal of pressure from members of their own community.
Duchess of ATHOLL
The right hon. Gentleman has held ministerial office. When he was a. Member of the Government, did he have any pressure from members of the Church to which he belongs to make appointments in the civil service? The right hon. Gentleman misrepresented what I said. It is a well-known fact that it is a difficulty that exists in India, and that is all that I referred to in my speech.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
As a local administrator, I have been pestered by all kinds of people about contracts, about jobs, and about patronage generally, and when I was at the Office of Works not a day passed without someone wanting either a job of a contract.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendment made:
§ In page 140, line 17, leave out "Secretary of State," and insert "Governor-General in his discretion."— [Mr. Attlee.]
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.