HC Deb 28 February 1935 vol 298 cc1363-88

6.10 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 7, line 17, to leave out Subsection (2).

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill may be able to see his way to accept this very harmless proposal, and in that event it will not be necessary for any person who is chosen to be a minister to secure for himself a place in one of the Houses of the Legislature. A person who is in every way qualified to be a minister and who has been selected by the Viceroy might well be a member of a minority, religious or otherwise, and might, therefore, find it impossible, within the short time given to him by this provision, to obtain a seat in either Chamber. Therefore, I wish to delete the Sub-section in order that such a minister may continue to serve the Viceroy in the capacity in which be has been chosen to serve on account of his particular usefulness, without having to get a seat in either Chamber.

This is not an unprecedented proposal. In a great many countries it is not necessary for ministers to sit in the House, though they may be called to the House to be questioned and make explanations and generally to take more or less a part in the work of the House. The best non-British precedent, of course, is that of the United States of America, where the ministers whom the President chooses do not sit either in the State or in the House of Representatives, and yet manage the ministerial business of that vast federation as well as it is managed. I move the Amendment in the hope that my right hon. Friend may look upon it with a kindly eye.

6.12 p.m.


I have risen only to correct one misapprehension which perhaps the Committee might have gathered from the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Sir C. Oman). It is true that, in the United States, ministers in charge of departments not only do not have to be members of either House of Congress, but they are not able to appear before it. The result is most unsatisfactory in many ways. They are at a very great disadvantage. Everyone, I think, who has seen the system working at close quarters knows that it would be an advantage if they were at any rate allowed to address either House, and I think it would be a very great boon to them also to be members either of the Senate or of the House of Representatives. Therefore, I venture to say, with all due deference to my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University, that in this particular respect I believe his constitutional knowledge has gone wrong, and that it is a great disadvantage, and not an advantage, that in the United States ministers are not members of one House or the other.

I can see some advantages that might follow from leaving out this Sub-section One would be that the man who might be chosen as a minister would not necessarily have to be nominated by some particular little group or other But at the same time I imagine that the almost universal opinion in India would be that they would regard the Subsection as a guarantee that they are really going to get responsible self-government at the centre. There may be some other advantages in omitting the Sub-section on which I am sure my hon. Friend afterwards will give his opinion. But I am convinced from what I have heard that the fact that ministers are members of one of the chambers will give some guarantee to those in India that they are to have really responsible self-government at the centre. It is, of course, open to those members who do not approve of responsible government at the centre, to support the omission of this Sub-section, but those who believe that responsible government at the centre should be given, must agree that it is essential that, at any rate in the early stages, even if the whole system is amended later, all the ministers should be members of one or other of the chambers in the Central Government.

6.16 p.m.


I am delighted at last to find myself able to take the same side in this argument as my old tutor in history, my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Sir C. Oman). I do not think that the case which he put up has been met by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland). In the first place, under this Constitution by a later Clause—I think Clause 21—ministers whether members of a chamber or not, can in any case address either chamber, so that the American, parallel does not apply. When he went on to say that this is the only form in which responsible government can be worked out in India, he is ignoring an argument, forcibly put forward by the Statutory Commission, who pointed out: It appears to us that there is a serious danger of development at the Centre, proceeding on wrong lines if the assumption is made that the only form of responsible government which can ultimately emerge is one which closely imitates the British Parliamentary system. I do not think that that case stated by the Simon Commission and argued by them has been argued by the Joint-Select Committee. The only argument advanced in the Joint Select Committee was that the original form of the report as presented to the Select Committee would have been unpopular in India, and that we must bow in this matter to Indian opinion. That, I agree, is a strong argument, but it does not seem to meet all the other arguments which may be advanced in this case. If Indian opinion is so strong, there is nothing to prevent the Viceroy, if this Amendment is carried, from selecting all his ministers from the legislature. All we suggest is that his hands should be left free now and in the future and that we ought not to deprive him of the freedom which a Prime Minister in this country still retains. In an emergency in this country the Prime Minister is able to have ministers who are not members of either chamber. That proved a great convenience and indeed a necessity during the War. Who knows that similar emergencies may not arise in India?

Not only that, but under our system the Prime Minister really has a greater freedom in the fact that he can choose ministers from the House of Lords, and in case of need he can ask the Sovereign to raise to the Peerage a person whom he desires to make a minister. Under this provision the Viceroy's hands would be tied in that respect. It is true that he has at the outset six nominations to the Council of State but I think his nominees retire in rotation, and that after the appointment of the first six, be will only have the power of appointing two every three years. I do not think that that power will meet the case. This is a matter on which the division in the Joint Select Committee was not a division between those in favour of the majority recommendations and those in favour of what is now called the Salisbury Report. I think the Chairman and the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy)—I am sorry he is not in his place—also voted against the provision which is inserted in the Bill.


indicated dissent.


I will not insist upon that. At any rate the chairman brought in the original report the proposal in which was not the proposal in the Bill but was the proposal that has been put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University. I believe we shall be making a grave mistake if we incorporate this provision in the Bill. I am speaking as a friend of the Bill, us a profound believer in the Bill and as one who does not want to see a provision introduced which is likely to hamper and perhaps prejudice the successful working of the Constitution. I believe that the insertion of this provision might in the future gravely aggravate what are bound to be the two great difficulties of this Constitution in regard to the Central Government. One of these—it has been insisted upon by the Joint Select Committee—will he the struggle of the Provinces for their share of the central revenue. That is bound to be the central struggle when the estimates come up for consideration. In the form in which the central legislature, the Assembly, is being constituted, under a system of indirect election, a member must be either the nominee of a State ruler or the nominee of a comparatively small communal or provincial group, and he will depend for his political life—and all members of this Committee know what that means—he will depend for re-election on the satisfaction which he is able to give to the group which has nominated him in the provincial Chamber or in his own State.

Of necessity, under indirect election, you are going to have a body of men absolutely dependent on comparatively small groups in the Provinces and the States for their political lives. That is going to make the struggle for what can be spared from the central revenue, much graver and more acute. The Viceroy will be compelled to choose ministers who are members of one or other group of this kind, and it seems to me that to tie his hands in this way will militate greatly against his discharging the instruction given to him in the Instrument of Instructions to produce a Ministry, if he can, which has a real sense of joint responsibility.


Would the hon. Gentleman be inclined to change his posi- tion if we could get our Amendment carried later, to substitute direct for indirect election?


Very much. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has made that interruption. I think that this situation is gravely affected by the fact that indirect election has been introduced. The struggle between the nominees of the Provinces is bound to be much greater as a result of that system. I am not sure that I agree with the hon. Gentleman that direct election would be better than indirect—


We must be very careful to avoid discussing that question yet.


I am sorry that I was led away by the interruption. When I was interrupted I was about to say that it is idle to appeal to one's own personal experiences in connection with a matter of this kind but it may be of some value to the Committee to recall what happened in the early years of the working of the Australian Constitution. I was there as a traveller, on and off, a good deal at that time, and if the Federal Ministry at that time had been constituted from men all representative of groups in the State Parliaments I do not believe that that Federation could possibly have worked. If hon Members look at the early history of the Canadian Federation and the struggle between the Federation and the Provinces in those early years, they will realise the intense danger of exacerbating or exaggerating or intensifying in any way this struggle between the Provinces for what they may claim of the crumbs from the Federal table.

That is, however, only part of the ground on which I support the Amendment. I support it also because it seems to me that this provision, if adopted, is bound to increase what everybody knows are going to be the difficulties of working a system of dyarchy. Dyarchy is inevitable but that subject was discussed on the last Clause and I do not wish to return to it. It presents difficulties, and my contention is that this provision, if insisted upon, is going to increase its difficulties. The Governor-General has to find, if he can, a team of Indian Ministers who will work with him and his counsellors in preserving intact the essential services and powers which are reserved. If he has always to draw his Indian Ministers from a chamber constituted largely of nominees of provincial groups, he is going to find it much harder to prevent the creation of a ministry which will be identified with the legislature in challenging the reserved services and the reserved powers under the dyarchical system. In fact that system seems bound to identify the ministry with the Legislature, rather than with the Viceroy, whatever the issue may be, and clearly in this matter we want to give the Viceroy Indian ministers who will take a broad view of Indian necessities, and will be prepared to support the Viceroy in the exercise of essential powers. I think, as the Constitution develops, it is much more likely that they may be drawn—if his hands are left free to choose—from men with real authority in India as a whole and respected by India as a whole, and not from men who have merely commended themselves to this or that group in this or that Province.

Further, I would ask why we should, in this way, by laying down this provision, commit India finally to our own line of Parliamentary development? It may not suit India at all. Many of us feel that it is not likely to suit India. The Simon Commission argued, I think powerfully, and the case has not been met by the Joint Select Committee, that responsible government might welt develop on rather different lines in India from those on which it has developed here. We always assume that you can only have responsible government on our own lines. We always, in reply to any argument on this subject, produce the dilemma between the irremovable executive and the irresponsible legislature. Our experience on that matter is really not conclusive. It is based almost entirely on cases in which an imported and alien executive has had to deal with a native legislature. Of course the difficulties are much greater in cases of that kind but those difficulties have not arisen in other cases in which the executive has been just as indigenous as the legislature. The difficulties are never so great in such cases.

When you say that a system of responsible government, in which Indians have a full share, cannot be built up under any system which does not compel the Viceroy to draw his ministers from the legislature, are you not forgetting the ex perience of nearly every other country in Europe? The German Empire was built up to its greatness between 1871 and 1914 on a system under which ministers had to get the approval of the legislature for all the main branches of their policy but under which they were not themselves members of the legislature or responsible to it, although they were able to speak in it. The conditions of Germany resemble conditions in India more closely than ours do. The parallel is not exact but the resemblance is great and it is worth remembering that when Germany adopted the system laid down in this provision of the Bill, in the Weimar Constitution, the Parliamentary system collapsed altogether. I think by committing India to this line of Parliamentary development prematurely we are taking a great risk which we ought not to take. I have referred to Germany. The same experience has been felt in Italy. Parliamentary government collapsed in Italy, largely because ministries were never able to deal with the legislature. The same difficulty is now apparent in France. The trouble in France is that the legislature has so much encroached on the responsibilities of the executive that it is doubtful whether effective government can be carried on.

With these examples before us, why do we insist that there cannot be effective responsible government except on the lines which are being pursued in these Islands, where, after all, our conditions are exceptional and our political experience exceptional, too? The system of an executive not responsible to a legislature may, I think, accord more closely with Indian experience than any system of ours. In India the traditional method is the Durbar. The traditional method is for the ruler to hear everything his subjects may have to say and then to give his decision, but that method of conducting a government would be modified under this Bill by insisting that the legislature must actually vote the measures which a government wishes to pass. The traditional Durbar method in India is a very strong argument for allowing them, at any rate, freedom to develop on their own lines, and not necessarily on the same lines as ourselves. I go further and say—and this is my last point, and I would, say this to the right hon. Gentleman—we are not asking that the Viceroy should be in any way compelled to choose ministers from outside the legislature. We are only asking that his hands should not be tied and that he should be left the same freedom in the future as, in fact, the Prime Minister in this country possesses.

It is true that this Clause of the Bill follows the recent constitutions of Australia and South Africa, but it is not in the Canadian constitution, it is not in the British North America Act, and it is no part of our constitution, and it has been disregarded when necessary. I believe that if you gave the Viceroy this freedom, in spite of Indian opinion at the present moment, he might not need to exercise it, but the fact that he possessed it would make it very much easier for him to bring his ministers together and secure that joint responsibility which everybody knows to be so greatly desired. I am an absolutely convinced supporter of this Bill, but I regard this provision as a dangerous flaw in it, and as a thing which makes the success of the Bill far more doubtful than it would otherwise be. For that reason I would appeal to my right hon. Friend to consider whether freedom and discretion on this point cannot be left to the Viceroy.

6.33 p.m.


We pride ourselves on this occasion upon being in disagreement with the Conservative opposition to the Bill. We shall be able on this occasion to demonstrate our impartiality in considering this matter. I have seldom heard a speech with which I more thoroughly disagree than that delivered by the hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir H. Grigg). He may have had a much greater experience of other parts of the world than I have had, but I do not know that he has of India. Still his experience carries a great deal of weight. The argument in favour of this Amendment is brought down to this, that elected persons are those who cannot be trusted. I listened very carefully to the hon. Member for Altrincham, and his argument appeared to be that the Governor-General should have the right to select persons from outside Parliament who would be looked up to and respected by everybody in the country. I have seen something like that operated in this country, and the persons so selected have never had my respect or the respect of a good many of my friends. But let us apply the principle to this House. Would anyone there say in normal circumstances—I am not discussing now the question of war time or some great national emergency, but the ordinary days in which we are now living—that the Government of the country would better be chosen from persons outside Parliament than from inside Parliament? I cannot understand the reason for all this argument against elected persons in India. It is said by the hon. Gentleman that they are persons who are put forward by different groups of people. We are all put forward by different groups of people, and I know it is said that it is not quite the same. I have beard of people being selected because they supported total abstinence and prohibition.


The right hon. Gentleman is really arguing that there is no difference between a system of direct and indirect election, and I am sure that be will not be able to sustain that argument when he comes to that point.


The persons who are elected, even through indirect election, will be elected by people in the Provinces, and the argument is that the elected persons in the Provinces, because of differences of view, will not be fit to be trusted.


indicated dissent.


The whole argument was that 'they would not be looked up to with so much respect as if the Viceroy or Governor-General selected them. I do not agree with that point of view at all; nor do my hon. Friends. I think that the persons who are indirectly elected will be more representative of public opinion than those selected simply by the Governor-General. The argument that there is some analogy between the choice by the Prime Minister in this country does not hold. In normal conditions Parliament would not tolerate Ministers who were not members of this assembly or the other place. There is no analogy at all about that. The other point I should like to put about this Clause is, will there be anyone in the position of a Prime Minister in this Cabinet; will there be one man who can, as it were, speak for them and—

The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)

I think that the right hon. Gentleman had better raise that ques- tion on the Motion, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." We are rather severely restricted as to whether Ministers shall be or shall not be members of the Legislature. That is the rather narrow point of the Amendment.


Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to ask him one other question? Can he inform me whether the Solicitor-General in the first Labour Government was at any time a member of this House or the other House?


I am not sure whether, in the first Labour Government, it was not the Lord Advocate. Our Government was turned out too soon to get him a seat. I believe he was a Conservative, so we were very glad that he did not get one. It is certain that if the Labour Government had remained in office the Lord Advocate would have had to find a seat, because there were continual questions put by hon. Gentlemen opposite who were then on this side of the House, showing that it was considered quite wrong, and it is quite wrong. The Attorney-General, I am sure, will agree that Ministers must, under normal conditions, be Members of this House or the other place, and that is all I am asking in regard to this question.

I cannot raise the other point. I think that persons elected by the provincial bodies are likely to be much more representative of public opinion than persons selected by the Governor-General. I agree with the hon. Member that this arrangement of imposing a cast-iron constitution is wrong. If the Indian people had been consulted, I believe they would very likely have given an entirely different opinion. But the Government and the majority of the House have decided otherwise, and I think that the hon. Gentleman voted with them, so that he must not complain about what India might have done, or what it might have been better for us to have done rather than imposing this European or British system of Government upon the Indian peoples.

6.41 p.m.

Viscount WOLMER

I want to make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, because I do not believe that his object is really any different from that of my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg), who made such an interesting speech. I think that we all in this House agree that the intention of the Bill is that Ministers should normally be members of both British legislatures. We are confronted with two difficulties. In the first place, the right hon. Gentleman is imposing a written constitution, and therefore there is not that elasticity that an unwritten constitution would have. Secondly, you are up against the very practical difficulties which my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham pointed out. It is not a question here of saying that non-elected Members are more fitted to be ministers than elected members. It is the practical difficulties which may occur in forming a Government. It has already been pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman that his own first Government had a Lord Advocate who was never a member of this House, although that Government held office for more than six months. I think that I am right in saying that the same thing was true of the Conservative Government in the Parliament of 1923. The Lord Advocate never had a seat in this House during the whole of that Parliament. That is my recollection, but in any case I am sure that If you searched the history of this country for the last hundred years you would probably find half a dozen or a dozen cases where Ministers, for one reason or another, were outside the House, owing to exceptional circumstances, no doubt. All that we want to do in the Amendment is to give the Indian Constitution that sort of elasticity that the British Constitution has got.

I want to make a practical suggestion to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, whether we cannot agree to accept the Amendment and put it in the Instrument of Instructions to the Viceroy and to the Governors that their ministers shall normally be Members of either Chamber, but that, if in exceptional circumstances it is the opinion of the Viceroy that a suitable Ministry cannot be formed without the breaking of the normal rule, he shall have power to do it. I think that that would meet the point of my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham perfectly well. There should be no departure from the normal rule, but if you put it in the Instrument of Instructions instead of the Act of Parliament, you would give that elasticity which, in times of difficulty and crisis, might be very important indeed.

6.45 p.m.


Perhaps it will be for the convenience of the Committee if I give briefly the history of this question. It is a question which has been considered time after time. First of all there was the Statutory Commission. They considered a variety of alternatives for a non-Parliamentary Minister. They considered the possibility of having a Minister of this kind for the Police and then considered the more general proposition and made a very tentative suggestion that where the other Ministers wished for a Minister of this kind such a Minister might be appointed, leaving it optional and dependent upon the desire of the other Ministers.


The actual proposals of the Simon Commission in this respect were directed to a system at the Centre, which was extremely difficult to work. There was a tentative effort to arrive at some system of collaboration with the Indian States, but more important than the actual proposals that they put forward is the argument which they advanced on this subject.


That does not really affect the matter, but let me come back to the history of the case. There was this very tentative and very conditional suggestion made by the Statutory Commission. Then followed discussions with the Indians at the Round Table Conference and we found that, rightly or wrongly, every Indian—I do not think there was a single Indian of a contrary opinion—was violently against this proposition. They were violently against it because they thought that it was the thin end of the wedge for reintroducing the official block. That may be a good reason or it may be a bad reason, but it certainly was a very strong reason in the minds of the Indian delegates. Then came the Joint Select Committee. They considered this question. We considered all the kind of issues that have been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg). It is disclosing no confidence when I say that a good many members of the Committee at one time were attracted towards the proposal, and I was instructed to make inquiries from the Government of India and from the Provincial Governments as to their views on the question. Every one of those Governments, the Government of India and every single one of the Provincial Governments were against it.


Against what?


Against the proposition urged by the hon. Member for Altrincham. They said, "It will not work unless it has the approval of the Ministry. You will never have the approval of the Ministry because we, the Government of India, and we, the Provincial Governments, do not contemplate any possibility of an Indian Ministry ever agreeing to a Minister of that kind." Having regard to these very strong views, the Joint Select Committee came to the conclusion that it was not worth while press-a proposition that certainly was not going to be accepted and that was not going to work. More so, because I believe that under the provisions of the Bill and under the Joint Select Committee we seek to meet almost all the contingencies to which allusion has been made in the course of this Debate, and we meet them in the Federal Centre. It is with the Federal Centre that we are now dealing.

In the Federal Centre there is a Second Chamber. In that Chamber there are a number of nominated members. It is possible for the Governor-General, if need be, to use one of his nominations for an appointment of this kind. I suggest that to the Committee as much the best way to meet a case in which the Governor-General and the Ministers require the services of someone who is not already a member of the Federal Assembly. By that method you will be achieving the end which I believe is in the minds of a good many hon. Members this afternoon, and you will not be raising an unnecessary issue that will set against you, quite needlessly, large bodies of political opinion in India. For these reasons I suggest to the Committee that this is not a great question with issues of principle at stake. A Minister has a period of six months before he need become a member of one or other of the Chambers. In the case of the Federal Legislature if he fails to obtain a seat in the Assembly or if he does not wish to stand for the Assembly he can obtain a nomination for a nominated seat in the Second Chamber. That being so, it is better to follow the advice, reached after a long period of investigation, of the Joint Select Committee and not to adopt a proposal, however attractive it may be at first sight, which certainly would not work but would undoubtedly raise up against it great bodies of Indian political opinion.

6.52 p.m.


I found myself very much in agreement with the hon. Member for Altrincham, and if I had not served on the Joint Select Committee I might have been swayed by his argument. There can be no doubt that at the beginning a good many members of the Joint Select Committee held the view that there should be complete freedom of opportunity to the Governor-General and the Provincial Governors, but that view was gradually overborne by the tremendously strong opinion held by the Indian delegates. I would ask hon. Members to recall that we already had to defend these proposals against criticism in India. The suggestion has been made that we have moved more and more to the right, that we have moved more and more away from their requests and their position and, although I do not think that this is a very important matter, I am sure that if a concession is now made it will be regarded as an important matter in India. The alteration would be taken as one made to meet white opinion, or the opinion of the right in this country, and I think that it would render the Bill less acceptable in India. It may be said that there is already objection in India, and I admit that. Whatever may be the existing objection, I do not want to strengthen it. The fundamental consideration in all our discussions is Indian consent. That has been set out in terms in the White Paper and in terms in the report of the Joint Select Committee, and I want us to secure it now, but I think that the carrying of this Amendment would put that consent further off.


What about opinion in this country?


I attach great importance to the opinion of this House and of this country, but the ultimate argument and the ultimate decision surely rests with the people who have to live under the Constitution that we are seeking to set up.

Viscount WOLMER

Does the hon. Gentleman now suggest that? He voted against us when we proposed that Federation should not come into force until the Indian Legislature had approved it.


When I spoke before I clearly stated that in the end unless you have the consent of the people of India and their will to work it, your scheme can never work. That is the final test. If you can get a sufficient number of people in that country to say that they will work the scheme, that is the final test. If you cannot get that, all your work will come to nothing in the end It is because I want that consent that I should not like to see an Amendment carried which would be seized upon at once, especially by those who are out to defeat the scheme in India, and who would say that we had made a concession and opened the door again to the official block. The official block has come in for a good deal of criticism in recent years. In spite of the arguments advanced by those who support the Amendment I would ask the Committee not to pass an Amendment which would tend to alienate the sympathy and the consent upon which we must rely if this Measure is ultimately to succeed.


I would remind the Committee that we are working under an agreement and I would ask hon. Members not to continue the Debate unnecessarily.

6.57 p.m.

Duchess of ATHOLL

I do not want to detain the Committee. I only rise because I thought that I heard the Secretary of State say that the Statutory Commission only made a tentative suggestion that there might be a nominated Minister, with the consent of the other Ministers. I should like to quote to the Committee what the Statutory Commission said: We are unanimous in presenting the view that Provincial dyarchy should now come to an end in the sense that a unitary government should be established, composed of members appointed by the Governor, and that the Statute should be in such form as to make it possible for such a government to include an element drawn from official or other non-elected sources. If my right hon. Friend says that the Provincial Governments did not want that, I would point out that four Provincial Governments were in favour of a government composed in that sort of way.

6.58 p.m.


My excuse for asking the Committee to bear with me for a short time is that my name appears second on the Amendment. The Secretary of State in his remarks, if he will pardon my saying so, seems to have neglected one very glaringly obvious fact, namely, that the whole condition that we seek to set up is permissive and not obligatory. We ask that in very special circumstances some Minister could be chosen who is not a member of the Legislature. Perhaps I might refresh the memory of the Leader of the Opposition as to what happened in the first Socialist Government of 1923, and I think the Committee will then realise that there are times when such an appointment is of the utmost value. May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that when the first Socialist Government was set up there was no Member of the Socialist party in this House, or in the country, capable of becoming Lord Advocate for Scotland. The result was that the Socialist Government had to accept the offer of Mr. Macmillan, K.C., now Lord Macmillan, who became a strictly non-political Lord Advocate for Scotland. The result was that during the brief period of office of that Socialist Government legal administration in Scotland was satisfactory. It was very different in England.


We cannot on this Amendment go into what happened in the Socialist Government. The Noble Lord may state facts as an illustration why the Amendment should be accepted, but he must not go beyond that.


I bow to your Ruling. I only want to say that the provision in our Constitution which enables a Minister to be outside the legislature was of the utmost value to the Socialist Government on that occasion, and if the same thing had been done in regard to the English Law Officers their Government would not have fallen so soon. In these circumstances, and because all we seek is to make this permissive and not obligatory, I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman and the Government will reconsider their decision


In regard to the six members whom the Viceroy is entitled to nominate to the Council of State, I presume that one-third of those would have to retire every three years? Suppose one of them was a minister during that period—


We had better deal with that point when we reach it in the Bill.

7.2 p.m.


I should like to make one point which has not yet been raised. In the first place the Secretary of State pointed out that the Governor-General always has the power of nominating members and it seems to me quite obvious that this meets the whole of the object of the Amendment we are discussing, as far as I understand it. Certainly the right hon. Gentleman's speech was very clear on that point. When we are setting up a Constitution and creating ministers of this kind it seems clear that the very best thing for all ministers is to have to meet an Assembly every now and then. That does bring them into direct contact with affairs. In bringing them into the Federal Legislature we bring them into direct contact with other people who are in touch with the country. Nothing deteriorates ministers more than to have a weak Opposition; and nothing improves a Ministry more than a strong Opposition. I say quite frankly that for the British Parliament to set up a Constitution in any part of the world without subjecting the largest part of the Ministry to official Opposition in some form or another would be a perfect travesty of any sort of democratic government, as I understand it. I hope most sincerely that the Government will stand by this part of their Bill.

Amendment negatived.

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

7.5 p.m.


Before we part with the Clause I should like to ask one or two questions of the Secretary of State. We had an Amendment on the Order Paper in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) which was not moved and what we are concerned with is in substance the point I made on a previous Clause. We are rather anxious that when the Governor-General proceeds to nominate his ministers or to choose his ministers, he should first proceed as we proceed here, that is, that he should proceed to select the person who is most likely to carry a majority of the Assembly with him. In other words, we are anxious at the very beginning to start something on the lines of what we in this country call Cabinet responsibility. In order to establish it we want to know, in connection with this Clause, whether the Governor-General in making his inquiries as to how he will form his Ministry, will consult, in the first place, the person most likely to be able to meet the House with a majority at his back.

Assuming that the answer to that question is in the affirmative, is it open to that person, whom I shall call for the purpose of the argument the prospective Prime Minister, to choose his Ministers as may seem to him best and to fill the various offices so that he may have a sort of homogeneous Ministry, drawn together because they are in accord in relation to common policy? If that is not the proposal, I very much fear we shall perhaps secure a Ministry not welded together by any common purpose or policy but drawn together in a more haphazard way and seeking to placate, not political groups as such, but seeking rather to placate members of religious groups as such. If we get that kind of communal division in such a Ministry, then, obviously, we are far from embarking on the sort of corporate responsibility we are accustomed to have in this country. I wonder if the Secretary of State would be good enough to give us a little further light as to the object the Government have in mind in submitting this Clause to the Committee.

7.7 p.m.


It is impossible to dogmatise about the future. Nobody can say exactly how these things will develop. Nobody can say, for instance, how collective responsibility is going to develop. Collective responsibility is not something that you can achieve by Statute. It is something that has got to grow up in actual practice. It is no good denying the fact that there are peculiar difficulties in India in the way of collective responsibility. For instance, there are communal differences, and so on. Our general view is, first of all, to leave the development as open as we can, and in that respect we are following in this Clause almost verbatim the wording of the Clauses in several of the other Constitution Acts of the Empire. I think this Clause follows almost exactly the wording of the British North America Act, and some of the other Constitution Acts. At the same time we state in Paragraph 8 of the Instrument of Instructions the kind of way in which we hope things will develop, and I cannot do better than read Paragraph 8 to the Committee: In making appointments to his Council of Ministers Our Governor-General shall use his best endeavours to select his Ministers in the following manner, that is to say, in consultation with the person who, in his judgment, is most likely to command a stable majority in the Legislature.… That answers one of the hon. Member's points. The latter part of the paragraph answers a second. It runs: … to appoint those persons (including so far as practicable representatives of the Federated States and members of important minority communities) who will best be in a position collectively "— I emphasise the word "collectively"— to command the confidence of the Legislature. But, in so acting, he shall bear constantly in mind the need for fostering a sense of joint responsibilitiy among his Ministers. I think that paragraph answers substantially the questions put to me by the hon. Member.

7.12 p.m.


Before passing from this Clause I should like to say a word on that aspect of it which many of us who support the Bill consider to be of first-rate importance. It is proposed to give the Indians working the Federal system the opportunity of enjoying the advantages of ministerial responsibility as we understand it in this country. There has been a certain amount of scorn poured on that suggestion here this afternoon. Hon. Members ask why we should be so pleased with our own particular system. I cannot say that I am impressed by the alternatives they put before us. The hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir C. Oman) quoted the system of ministerial appointments in America. The right hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) pointed out that in the view of instructed opinion in America our own method is considerably to be preferred. The hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) gave us some examples of experience in other countries, and spoke of effective responsible government. After all, we want to give India a system which will last. When you compare the way our system endures with the way in which those systems to which the hon. Member for Altrincham referred have passed away, there is much to say for our system. I take it that the hon. Member for Altrincham would not suggest that the present system of Government either in Germany or Italy was effective responsible government.


I made the point that the system in Germany collapsed only when they amended it so as to conform with our Parliamentary methods here.


Yes, but the hon. Gentleman does not deny that they amended it, and that they were dissatisfied with it. We do not want to set up in India a system which will require amendment. I think we are wise in seeking to give India an opportunity of enjoying the same methods that we follow here. There is, of course, this difficulty. We are producing a Bill, and the constitution will be within the covers of that Bill, whereas we in our own practical day-to-day experience are working under a system which cannot he found within the covers of any Bill. It is government partly by Statute and partly by convention. The very point we discussed a little while ago as to whether Ministers should be members of either House was a good illustration. There is no law in this country which makes it necessary for a Minister of the Crown to be a Member of either House. Despite examples given to us this afternoon of the appointments of Law Officers who were not Members of either House, it is well known to us all that it is a strong and effective convention of the Constitution that Ministers appointed who have not already got a seat in either House must get one. The reason is, of course, that in our view the advantage of the interplay between the Executive and the Legislature which we enjoy by that system outweighs the disadvantage of limited choice.

It has been asked why we should not insist upon the Governor-General having a wider choice. I, for one, am not impressed by that argument. The same thing is true in this country. No one suggests that it would not be possible in this country to find men as capable as, and in some cases more capable than, some Ministers in the Government. We have forgone that width of choice in exchange for the benefit of the interaction of the Executive and the Legislature. I am very glad the Government have had the courage in this Clause to endeavour to reproduce that system so far as it can be applied to the Federal system.

7.15 p.m.


I had hoped to have made a few observations on the last Amendment, but when you, Mr. Chairman, appealed to the Committee to come to an early conclusion I did not persist in my endeavours to catch your eye. In my judgment, it is a pity that the Government should insist on the retention of Sub-section (2) because in so doing they have limited the scope of the Governor-General in the choice of ministers. I recognise that, whether that Sub-section is ill the Bill or not, the common practice in the future in India, as it is the case here, must be that ministers should be members of one house or the other. But it is a pity that at the beginning of this new constitution it should be so stereotyped and fettered. It would be much better to leave it more elastic. It may be that when the constitution has been in operation for some years the custom will be to make it incumbent on every minister to be a member of one house or the other, but for the present it would have been wiser to have left the matter undecided, and find out which procedure is most suitable after some years of experience.

The Secretary of State has told us that it is quite possible for the Governor-General to nominate as one of his six nominees any one whom he chooses to be a minister and he suggested that this was frequently done under our own constitution and that when a minister was elected who was not a member of this house he was sent to the other house. The appointments to our upper house are unlimited in number. The appointments to the upper house under this federal constitution will be strictly limited, and I can well imagine a case arising of the Governor-General having already appointed his six nominees wanting to appoint as a minister someone who was not a member of either house. There would be no vacancy, and it might be that this was a person who in the opinion of the Governor-General was just the right man for the job. He would find himself unable to get a seat in either house. I regret that the Government have seen fit to retain the Sub-section. In my opinion, it is a blemish on an otherwise excellent provision.


The question I desire to put is whether when one-third of the six members to be nominated by the Governor-General retire, as they will have to do, they are available for re-nomination by the Viceroy. If they are, then the question as to whether the Viceroy has power to nominate a minister outside the assembly is completely answered.


I can answer that question in a single sentence. They can be nominated.

7.18 p.m.


I am not going to disregard the Chairman's appeal to the Committee to get on with the Bill, but I should like to make one or two observations on the speech of the Secretary of State. He began his reply by saying that no one can dogmatise on the future of India. That is precisely what we are asking him not to do by leaving out Sub-section (2). In retaining it he is dogmatising about the future of India. He is insisting that India shall follow a particular line of development, whether it suits India or not. I should have thought that this might have been left to the Instrument of Instructions, as it seems to me that Article 8 completely answers the point put by the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Oswald Lewis). It lays down that the ministers shall be such as to command a stable majority of the Assembly, whether they are members of it or not. I hope the Secretary of State will show some readiness to reconsider this matter, especially in view of the fact that nominees of the Viceroy in the Council of State will not in my opinion carry the same authority in the legislature as those who are elected or who have become ministers because of their general authority and position in India. I hope this Sub-section will be reconsidered before the Bill becomes law.

7.19 p.m.


We have two strong objections to the Clause. During the short time that I spent in India one statement was constantly reiterated to me, and that was that Indians had the strongest possible objection to government from Whitehall. This Clause is a striking instance of how in the future the Government still intend to govern India from Whitehall. One has only to look at Sub-section (5) of the Clause, relating to the functions of the Governor-General, to notice that they are to be exercised at his discretion, but if you turn to Clause 14 it is clear that where the expression "in his discretion" appears in the Bill the Governor-General is then under the general control of the Secretary of State and has to comply with any directions which may be given him by the Secretary of State. That is government from Whitehall in excelsis, and it is the one thing to which the Indian population take strong exception. Further, the Clause is also a striking instance of the autocratic powers which are being conferred on the Governor-General. There is no approach in any way to responsibility or democracy. Take Sub-section (1). Ministers are to be appointed by the Governor-General.


The wording of this Clause follows almost exactly the wording of the British North America Act and other constitutions. It is a constitutional phrase which appears in all of them.


The Secretary of State will agree that that does not affect the validity of my argument. If these provisions appear in any other constitution they are equally repugnant to my friends and myself. Ministers are, first, to be chosen by the Governor-General, then summoned by him, sworn by him, and they are to hold office during his sole pleasure. The whole thing is completely autocratic from start to finish, and there is no approach to democracy or responsibility in any shape or form.


Does not the same thing happen in this country in the case of the monarch?


I do not propose to be drawn away on that argument, but everyone knows that in this country the King acts on the advice of his Ministers.

In this case the Governor-General acts at his own discretion, which means that he acts under the orders of the Secretary of State. We take strong objections to the Clause.