HC Deb 27 May 1935 vol 302 cc864-6

I beg to move, in page line 14, to leave out "similar," and to insert "like."

This is merely a drafting Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

7.58 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 68, line 17, at the end, to insert: (2) if the Governor-General or, as the case may be, a Governor shall consider that any provision of any Bill imposing any restriction, condition, or liability mentioned in the preceding Sub-section is harsh, oppressive, or unfairly discriminatory it shall be his duty to withhold his assent from such Bill. The object of the Amendment is to prevent, if possible, laws being passed of a discriminatory nature which might drive people afterwards to challenge them in litigation. Disputes may arise, with regard to property laws, for instance, whether similar restrictions are imposed in the United Kingdom on Indians as are imposed in India on domiciles in this country. It would seem best to emphasise that where such cases occur the Governor-General should have power to veto a Bill instead of allowing all these doubts and difficulties to be the subject of litigation in the courts. Where you have to decide as to the exact meaning of a. practice in this country which is supposed to constitute a form of discrimination, it is difficult for the courts to find out what exact discrimination or restriction is enforced in the United Kingdom and to interpret the exact extent of it with a view to deciding whether or not the discrimination is reciprocal. It seems very much better to make it clear that the Governor-General shall be able to refuse his assent to any such Bill, and so prevent litigation which might involve a large number of cases and appeals possibly right up to the Privy Council.


I beg to second the Amendment.

8.1 p.m.


It would obviously be extremely desirable that if a Bill of this kind were passed by a legislature the Governor-General or Governor should be allowed to prevent it, but if my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock) will refer to page 9 of the Instruments of Instructions, he will find that in paragraph XXVII (d) (Matters affecting the Legislature) it is already provided that the Governor-General shall not assent to any Bill regarding which he feels doubt whether it does, or does not, offend against the purposes of Chapter III, Part V, of the said Act.

8.2 p.m.


When I saw this Amendment on the Order Paper I was not quite clear what my hon. Friend had in mind. The Amendment deals only with Bills the provisions of which impose the restrictions set out in the preceding Sub-section. The preceding Sub-section lays down that provisions of that kind shall have no application to any British subject. It therefore seems to me that that matter was as watertight as could be and had been provided for in the most satisfactory way. But I rather gathered from my hon. Friend's speech that he had a rather different question in mind. He was not contemplating that an Indian Legislature would be so foolish as to pass a law with a discriminatory intention which quite plainly would not effect its purposes because its provisions would not apply to British subjects. I rather gathered that his idea was that under the Clause as drafted possibly difficult questions might arise which might involve litigation, and therefore it would be better that the Governor-General should veto Bills under which such questions might arise. With all respect, I suggest to the House that on examination that really will not stand. It is unfortunately inevitable that questions may arise in this connection, or indeed on other Clauses of the Bill, which are difficult and demand recourse to the courts for decision. But surely it would not be right in the first place to say that the Governor-General is to decide these questions in advance. It might work against British subjects; it might work the other way round. Surely it would not be right, Parliament having laid down this very important Clause, safeguarding on the one hand British subjects and on the other the powers of Indian Legislatures, that the Governor-General or the Governor should decide such questions himself. It would also be placing an intolerable burden on him.

My hon. Friend referred to a case of such difficulty, where the arguments were very evenly balanced, that it, might come up to the Privy Council here. Within the intention of the words which Parliament has used it would be an intolerable burden to throw the matter on the Governor-General to decide himself. We feel also—I think my hon. Friend may agree with this—that it would be very undesirable to put into this Bill any express instruction as to a particular matter in which the Governor-General or the Governor was to exercise his veto under Clauses 32 or 75 respectively. As the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson) has pointed out, this matter is already covered by an express paragraph in the Instruments of Instructions. But it could not be right to insert in the Bill one particular Clause suggesting possibly that here is a matter which is to be dealt with by veto. For these reasons while appreciating as I do, as I think I appreciate more than when I first saw the Amendment on the Paper, the kind of difficulties my hon. Friend wished to meet, I think there would be great objections to meeting them in this way. I therefore cannot accept this Amendment.

Amendment negatived.