HC Deb 28 March 1935 vol 299 cc2157-60

Again considered in Committee.

[Captain BOURNE in the Chair.]

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

7.20 p.m.


I want to say a few words in support of this Amendment from the point of view of the needs and claims of the health services of India. That has been very much on the consciences of a large number of us who are keen on general questions of Indian welfare. It seemed to us that at one time the matter was liable to be neglected. It has been much in the background in recent administration, and has been curtailed most unwisely, owing to economy campaigns, in the last two or three years. There was a chance in this Bill, we hoped of getting things improved. Various representations have been made to the India Office, and the India Office has done a great deal in trying to show practical sympathy with the requirements. I would add my own tribute of thanks to the Secretary of State and the Parliamentary Secretary for having to a large extent met us in this Bill. I want to explain for those who have been concerned in the matter that it is on this proposal for an inter-provincial council that we relied a great deal for getting the advance that has been demanded by successive Directors-General of the Indian Medical Service and by the Public Health Commissioners as being essential, if we are to secure an improvement of the position of the Indian masses. Their position has been going back in recent years owing to the apalling increase of population and the diminution of the amount of food available for them. Reports have been made to the Government by one official after another for several years past as to the need for a strong central health board to deal with these things and to help the provincial government in their administration.

In this Clause the proposal is to establish an inter-provincial council on an Address from any Legislature. That, I am afraid, does not meet the case. You would get a few legislatures more enlightened than the rest. That would not provide the central co-ordinating advisory power that is required in the shape of a central health board. This Amendment does give that opportunity. One thing on which native administration is keener than anything else is the health problem. The last sentence of the Clause states that: An order establishing any such council may make provision for representatives of Indian States to participate in the work of the council. As a matter of fact the present Public Health Commissioner in representing the central advisory institution on health in India, has had a very large number of applications from some of the more enlightened States for his assistance in. such matters. Therefore one hopes that the health question will now be seen as a whole as applying not only to the province but also by degrees to the whole of Federal India, and that there will be an opportunity for the improvement of the health services and the welfare of the people in the broadest possible sense. It is an opportunity which has never been open hitherto. We believe that with Indian responsibility we may get various measures introduced which it has been powerless for the Administration to introduce hitherto because such measures dealt with the intimate details of Indian life. We can now see really great hope for an improvement of the welfare of the masses of India.

Amendment agreed to.

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

7.27 p.m.


When I read this Clause I felt some surprise and a good deal of satisfaction. The Clause provides that an inter-provincial council shall be set up on a very wide basis. It is to have very wide powers; it is to inquire into and advise upon disputes between Provinces; to investigate and discuss subjects in which some or all of the Provinces, or the Federation and one or more of the Provinces, have a common interest; and to make recommendations for the better co-ordination of policy and action with respect to any such subjects. The personnel is wide. It consists of the representatives of the Provincial Legislatures and the States. I asked myself, Is it possible that the Government have adopted the proposal of the Statutory Commission and the Minority Report of the Joint Select Committee?

My Noble Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) has had an Amendment to the Clause accepted. When the Council recommended by the Statutory Commission and the Minority Report of the Joint Select Committee was pressed upon the Government, the Noble Lord laughed it to scorn, and the question was raised, "What was to be the relation of the proposed council to the existing central Legislature?" If I ask what is going to be the relation of the Council set up under the Clause to the Federal Legislature I might be told that this refers only to small councils to deal with particular subjects. But under the Clause it is possible to set up just such a council as was recommended by the Statutory Commission and the Minority Report of the Joint Select Committee. I would that that Council were to be constituted. It would be the right and safe step, the interim step towards the final Federation of India. If that were adopted, Part II of the Bill could be dropped to the infinite relief of—

The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)

We cannot discuss that matter now as we have already decided it.


I am sorry to have gone outside the Rules of Order, but that is a very attractive subject. I only say that I wish it had been found possible to adopt the course I have indicated, and I would ask if such a council as this is set up, what will be its relation to the Federal Legislature?

7.31 p.m.


I should have thought that the answer was obvious. There is all the difference in the world between a Council of Greater India, and Council in connexion with a responsible Legislature and a responsible Executive, and councils such as are contemplated in this Clause, namely voluntary organisations set up by the Ministers in the various Provinces or by the responsible legislatures in the Provinces. It should be evident that there is the greatest possible difference between the two kinds of councils. These are councils within the framework of responsible government, both at the Centre and in the Provinces, whereas the Council for which my hon. Friend has so great an affection, would be a Council with no responsibility at all, set apart from the responsible Governments either at the Centre or in the Provinces.

Clause 134 ordered to stand part of the Bill.