HC Deb 22 March 1935 vol 299 cc1497-501

I beg to move, in page 37, line 18, to leave out, "and secretaries to Government."

11.43 a.m.


This Amendment really goes with another Amendment in line 25, to leave out, "and of the Governor." The point involved is the responsibility of ministers. This clause was devised in the Joint Select Committee in order that the Governor should be fully informed of everything so that he might be able to exercise his special responsibilities. In this Clause the responsibility of keeping the Governor informed is laid on both ministers and secretaries. The effect of that is that the secretaries are turned, as it were, into the watch-dogs of the ministers. It is an example of lack of confidence in the ministers. We consider that where there is a matter involving a special responsibility of the Governor and the secretary sees it occurring, he ought to bring it to the notice of the minister, and that it is the minister's business to bring it before the Governor. It is a. dangerous thing to put the officials in the position of being, as it were, reporters to the Governor when the minister is doing something which may call for the intervention of the Governor.

11.50 a.m.


It is easy to appreciate the point of the hon. Gentleman, but the difficulty is that at present under the Constitution the secretaries to Government have a definitely recognised position, and, in transacting business, it is the custom for secretaries to Government to forward matters in this way. It would be importing into our intentions under this Clause new implications if we were to consider that we were going behind the minister's back in this provision. It is following upon the present practice to lay a duty upon the secretaries to Government to bring matters to the attention of the Governor. It will be no different from the ordinary way of business within a Government department when, for instance, a secretary responsible for a particular branch of the administration marks the name of the Governor on a particular file to which the Governor should pay attention. We consider that by giving the secretaries as well as the ministers this duty we are doing something which is perfectly reasonable and which will be understood by those in India who are accustomed to conducting the business of government. We have no intention of going behind the Minister's back in this matter.

Amendment negatived.

11.52 a.m.


I beg to move, in page 37, line 18, after "Government," to insert: and the Inspector-General or Commissioner of Police.

This amendment goes with another in my name, in line 22, after "minister," to insert, "or the Inspector-General or Commissioner of Police." I move it in order to raise the question whether it is not possible to give the Inspector-General or Commissioner of Police direct access to the Governor. At present, as far as I understand, the position is that the Inspector-General or Commissioner who desires to make a report has to do so through the responsible minister. I move the Amendment with a view to ascertaining whether that view of the present position is correct, and, if it be correct, whether it is not desirable in the circumstances that the Inspector-General and Commissioner should have the opportunity of going direct and making their own reports to the Governor of the Province where they consider it to be necessary.

11.54 a.m.


The Inspector-General of Police is the head of a department, and there are many other persons in the same category, although, owing to his functions, he occupies a position which demands special consideration. The normal channel between the head of a department and the Governor would be the secretary to the department, because, as the Under-Secretary explained, secretaries to departments occupy a special position in India and that special position has in some sense arisen out of the position of the Governor and the Governor-General. The Inspector-General, like the head of any other department, would have access to the Governor, if the Governor so desired. There is the further point that if these words were inserted it might be difficult to resist the suggestion that all other heads of departments should similarly have this statutory position. For these reasons we think that the Committee would be wrong to insert these words. Naturally, the most careful consideration has been given to the whole question of the Governor receiving proper information as to the matters with which the Inspector-General of police would have to deal, and we are satisfied that the position is completely safeguarded by the Bill as it stands. Having regard to what my hon. and learned Friend may not have appreciated, the liaison through the Secretary, and the fact that the Governor can always see the Inspector-General if he wishes to do so, I hope my hon. Friend will see his way not to press this Amendment.

11.56. a.m.


That, of course, is all right in the majority' of Provinces, but I submit that in the case of Sind it is vitally important that there should be direct access. Where a new Province is being set up, and where the risks of communal rioting and communal oppression are extremely grave, there ought to be a special provision for access. Our difficulties arise through treating the Provinces as if they were all alike. There is the greatest possible diversity of civilisation and difficulties in the Provinces. We are making regulations in this Bill which will cover the majority of cases, but what provision is the Government making for meeting the difficulties in special cases?

11.57 a.m.


I regard this Amendment as essential, and I do not think the Solicitor-General has met the case which was put up by my hon. and learned Friend. The Solicitor-General is afraid that if this privilege were granted to the Inspector-General of Police it would be difficult to resist granting a similar privilege to the heads of other Departments, but the Inspector-General of Police and the police question generally are in a different category from the other Departments, as the Bill throughout recognises. Therefore, this privilege seems to me to be a necessary one, and it would not in the least entail the grant of such a privilege to the heads of other Departments.

11.58 a.m.


My advice to the Committee would be to leave the Bill as it is, and for two reasons. First of all, I think the position is quite safe. The Governor, under his rules of business, can give the Inspector-General what instructions he desires, can tell the Inspector-General that he wishes to see him on such and such a day of the week or at specified intervals, and that he wishes to have sent to him a whole category of particular papers. By that means he can ensure that the Inspector-General has the necessary access to him. If there were particular dangers in a particular Province, obviously the Governor would have to take those into account in settling his rules of business and his relations with the Inspector-General. I suggest that that is a very much better way of doing it than to make a differentiation between one Province and another. That would create the maximum of difficulty.

Secondly, I suggest to my hon. Friends behind me that it is much wiser not to mention the Inspector-General or the Commissioner of Police by name. As soon as you isolate him from the other heads of Departments we run the risks that are so well described in the Report of the Statutory Commission. We immediately make the Inspector-General and the Commissioner of Police the targets of criticism from all the discontented elements in a Province. In view of the fact that the Governor can make what arrangements he likes between the Inspector-General and himself, and that it is the duty of the Secretary of that Department to bring to his attention questions that may affect his special responsibilities, I suggest that on the whole it is much better to leave the Bill as it is.


In view of that statement, for which I am very much obliged to the Secretary of State, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: In page 37, line 28, after "under," insert" subsections (2), (3) and (4) of"—[Sir S. Hoare.]

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.