HC Deb 22 March 1935 vol 299 cc1529-34

On a point of Order. I wanted to raise a point on Clause 86.


The Committee have already agreed to Clause 86 standing part of the Bill.


I rose in my place.

1.35 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 53, line 40, to leave out "powers of the Governor-General and ", and to insert "power".

This corrects a mistake in the Bill. There is no power provided for the Governor-General to disallow Acts. This is a power which is confined to His Majesty, and the Amendment will make the paragraph read, therefore: shall be subject to the provisions of this Act relating to the power of His Majesty to disallow Acts, and so on.

Amendment agreed to.

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

1.36 p.m.


I hope I shall carry the whole Committee with me when I say that we all object to this power of making ordinances, in India or anywhere else, where there is a legislative body in existence, but, as I understand it, this particular power is that of the Governor and only applies when the Legislature of the Province is not in session. Perhaps the Secretary of State would enlighten us as to whether there is any power on the part of the Governor to make such ordinances apart altogether from the Legislature being in session. Notwithstanding that we on this side do not at all care for this power of making ordinances, particularly having regard to experience in the past, it seems to me that there is a saving feature in this case, in that if an ordinance is promulgated by the Governor, it has to be laid before the Provincial Legislature and shall cease to operate at the expiration of six weeks from the reassembly of the Legislature or if a resolution disapproving it is passed by the Legislature. That would appear to be some semblance of the Legislature having some control over this matter.

There is one other consideration. I do not know if the right hon. Gentleman can tell us—the Bill is so long and complicated that it is very difficult to keep all its Clauses in mind—with whom lies the power to call together the Provincial Legislature. Is it with the Governor alone, or has the Legislature itself power, as we have here, I imagine, to direct Mr. Speaker or the appropriate authority to call the House together in a case of emergency? I am directing my mind to making it impossible for the Governor, having made an ordinance, not to call together the Legislature for a long period of time so that the Legislature might not have the opportunity of passing a resolution disapproving of his ordinance. My own feeling is that, while we disapprove entirely of the right of making ordinances, we must appreciate that when the Legislature is not in session this power in special circumstances might be necessary, and having regard to the safeguard I have mentioned, if the right hon. Gentleman can satisfy us on the two or three points I have raised, my hon. Friends and I may not feel compelled to go to a division against the Clause. It is, however, a very important matter to India and one which in the past has had a very serious effect on the Indian question, on the relations between the Indians and ourselves, and, as far as I can see, on the general question of transferring responsibility to the Indian people.

1.40 p.m.


I quite appreciate the point of the hon. and gallant Member for South East Leeds (Major Milner) in raising this discussion. The power to call the Legislature together depends, under Clause 62, upon the Governor. Clause 88 gives the Governor power to make an ordinance in the case of some very important occasion arising when the Legislature is not in session, and I cannot see that such an emergency power as this can be particularly obnoxious. I am sure the hon. and gallant Member realises the object of including this provision in the Bill. The ordinance, as he will have realised, will lapse on the expiration of six weeks after the calling together of the Legislature, unless some other decision has been taken on it by the Legislature itself. The calling together of the Legislature, as I have said, will depend upon the provisions contained in Clause 62, and those powers cannot be unduly extended. We had a short discussion about the Sessions of the Legislature just now. There is no intention under this Clause to give any power to the Governor to gain rule without any reference to the Legislature. There is no intention of giving him, under this Clause, any sort of dictatorial power to dispense with the sessions of the Legislature. It is designed for the purposes I have described, and I therefore hope the hon. Members opposite will withdraw their objection to the Clause.

1.42 p.m.


I think we might have a little more enlightenment on this point. The Under-Secretary of State has told the Committee that the Governor will issue an ordinance and that the same Governor will have the power to call or not to call the Legislature together. We are back on the same point that we raised some time ago on the power of the Governor-General to issue a proclamation. The position here is very much akin to that, and I should like the hon. Gentleman to give us some indication as to how long it would be possible for an ordinance to remain in force without the Legislature being called together to ratify or to cancel it. It would relieve our minds if we knew how long this gentleman would be able to be in the position of a Hitler, a Mussolini, or a Stalin. We must safeguard that point at any rate, and it seems to me that if we have here a gentleman who can issue an ordinance and then decide when he can call together the authority to cancel it or otherwise, we are indeed right in asking the Minister to explain the point a little further.


Has an Acting-Governor the same power to promulgate an ordinance as the Governor? In the Third Schedule to the Bill special provisions are made with regard to the salary and allowances of an Acting-Governor, but there is nothing to show that the Acting-Governor will have the same powers as the Governor.

1.44 p.m.


There is not any difference between the power of the Governor and that of the Acting-Governor in this respect. His powers are the powers of the Governor. The point raised by the hon. Members opposite is an interesting one. They realise, I feel sure, that we are dealing with ordinances made upon the advice of Ministers. They are ordinances not made in the field of special responsibility by the Governor, which are the kind of ordinances that would be made here by the Government in a time of emergency, as to which the Government of the day has to obtain Parliamentary approval within a given time. I think the real check is the check of ministerial responsibility to the Provincial Council. These ordinances are made upon the advice of Ministers who are themselves responsible to the Provincial Council.


Will the Minister who advises the Governor to issue an ordinance be able also to advise him when he shall call the Legislature together to cancel out the ordinance?


No. Technically, at any rate, the Governor calls the Council at his discretion. The argument I was making was that it would be very unlikely that the Governor, with a Ministry responsible to the Legislature and its life dependent on the Legislature, would be anxious to keep the Legislature out of any action in the matter. The position is exactly the same as the position in this country when, within the knowledge of hon. Members, the Government of the day has taken action under the Emergency Powers Act. The Government in their own defence have called together Parliament at an early date in order to get sanction for their action. If hon. Members think that, in spite of my answer, there is a risk that the Council would not be summoned in due time, I am prepared to look into the matter again.


May I suggest that there might conceivably be a time limit for an ordinance, say, of six months, and that it should expire if it has not been confirmed in that time.


That is a point into which I am prepared to look. I am certain that the position is safe, but I am prepared to look into it to see if we can make it safer.


Will the right hon. Gentleman look into the advisability of adding after "Governor" in the second line, the words, "acting under the advice of his Ministers."?


The hon. Member has forgotten that these are terms of art, and that where nothing is said it means that the Governor acts on the advice of his Ministers. There is an Interpretation Clause in the Instrument of Instructions.


On the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman we will not divide against this Clause.