HC Deb 27 May 1935 vol 302 cc801-5

4.33 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 32, line 11, to leave out from "by," to the end of the sub-section, and to insert: .the Governor-General by a Commission with the approval of His Majesty. As the Bill stands, the position is that the Governor of a Province is appointed by His Majesty by a Commission under the Royal Sign Manual. It appears that H a Governor is so appointed there can be no real control or advice from the Centre in regard to his appointment. In fact it means that Parliament is directly appointing the Governor in the Province. We suggest this Amendment in order to bring in the Governor-General and in order that there may still be a measure of advice and control from the Centre. It proposes that the appointment in each case should be made by the Governor-General, thereby bringing in the Centre, instead of having the appointment made directly from Parliament.

4.34 p.m.


I beg to second the Amendment.

It seems to be in exact accord with the underlying idea of Federation. The Governor of a Province will be part of the Federation as will be the Governor-General who will be appointed by His Majesty to represent him in India. It seems essential therefore that the duty of appointing Governors should be performed through the Governor-General, so that all the parts of the Federation should be welded together.

4.35 p.m.

Duchess of ATHOLL

I support the Amendment because, if the appointments of Governors were made formally through the Governor-General, it would allow the Central Government to retain some power of supervision and guidance in regard to the Provinces. If original powers are granted to the Provinces from the Crown, there can be no effective power in the Central Government unless it is specially put into the Bill. This brings out one of the differences which exist between the conception of provincial autonomy held by myself and my friends, and the conception embodied in the Bill. Already, in connection with inquiries into the transferred departments, we have had forcibly stressed the need for more guidance and direction from the Centre than is being given now. The trend of the many representations made by the Linlithgow Commission on Agriculture was to that effect, namely, that there was need for the Central Government to do more in the way of guidance of the Provinces in regard to research and many other matters. That is also the trend of the report of the Committee on Education set up by the Statutory Commission—that more guidance and more information from the Centre was desirable for the various provincial education departments which were meeting with great difficulties and rapidly deteriorating in their work.

The Statutory Commission showed its sense of the importance of those recommendations by itself recommending, in the middle of the second volume of its report, that the Central Government should have more powers, constitutionally, in the transferred sphere than they have at present. When I raised this subject some weeks ago the Secretary of State referred me to some other statement in the Statutory Commission's Report which were, he said, to a different effect, but he did not give us the exact reference in the Report and I have not been able to find it. I have found nothing in the chapter of recommendations at the end of the second volume that conflicts with the recommendation made in the middle of the second volume that the Central Government should have greater powers constitutionally in the transferred sphere than they have at present. I feel that the restoration of efficiency in these transferred departments largely depends on the Central Government baying more power of direction and guidance, or rather, exercising more power of direction and guidance than it exercises at present. At present it has powers but, as far as I can see, does not exercise them. It is because I feel, as I say, that the restoration of efficiency largely depends on the exercise of more power by the Central Government than they have been exercising recently; because I feel that there is so much inefficiency in these transferred departments and because, if original powers are given to Provincial Governments, it will obviously be very difficult for the Central Government to exercise its powers effectively that I support the Amendment.

4.39 p.m.


I am glad to note the reorientation in the views of the Noble Lady since she has decided to cease supporting the present Government. She is now, I understand, supporting a proposition that Governors of Provinces should be appointed by the Governor-General acting on the advice of his ministers. There are no words here to say that it shall be in his discretion. I welcome the Noble Lady's new view of the question of increased responsibility at the Centre. I know the importance which she attaches to efficiency and I understand she thinks that efficiency will be secured by having Provincial Governors appointed on the advice of Indian Ministers rather than by the Crown on the advice of Ministers here. That is a distinct advance. The Amendment may raise certain difficulties in the Federation, but in so far as it gives more responsibility to Indian Ministers I should be glad to support it.

4.40 p.m.


I must resist the temptation to follow the Noble Lady into a general discussion on the relationship between the Centre and the Provinces, a subject in which I know she is deeply interested but I maintain that the case would have been better put by her had she followed up this apparently simple Amendment, 'by a statement on the scores of consequential Amendments which would be necessary to make it operative. To take even Clause 49, I notice that in connection with it there is no consequential Amendment down which would make this Amendment properly operative. Clause 49 says that the executive authority of the Province shall be exercised on behalf of His Majesty by the Governor. There is no reference to the Governor being appointed by the Governor-General. The Amendment on the Order Paper, in the first place, does not achieve the very vast and far-reaching effect which the Noble Lady intends and in the second place it would mean that her conception of provincial autonomy would be simply non-existent. Our conception of Federation is based upon the idea of autonomous units and as we have frequently explained during these Debates our conception of provincial autonomy is that the Governors should be appointed directly by His Majesty.

This matter has been before the House for some time. The original Explanatory Memorandum set out that the purpose of the present Bill was to resume into the hands of His Majesty all powers hitherto exercisable in or in relation to India by any authority and then to redistribute them to the various authorities set up by the Bill. The consequence of that is seen in the drafting of the Bill. It is regarded as essential that the Governors should be appointed directly by His Majesty. Therefore, without going into all the problems of the relations between the Centre and the Provinces which would arise, in the sense desired by the Noble Lady, from the passage of this Amendment, I can only say that in accordance with our conception of provincial autonomy, which is the genuine autonomy of genuine units, we are unable to accept the Amendment.

4.43 p.m.


There is a great deal of substance in what the Under-Secretary has said and a certain amount of mischievous irony in the remarks which were made from the Front Opposition Bench. I think my hon. Friend the Mover of the Amendment was somewhat oppressed by the fear that the authority of the Governor-General, in day-to-day work, over the Governors of the Provinces in matters in which it will be proper for his authority to be exercised, might be diminished or impaired unless, as it were, their commissions flowed from or through the Governor-General instead of being held directly from the Crown. I am bound to say I do not feel that the proposal in the Bill would have that effect. At present the Governor-General exercises immense influence, apart from legal authority, over the Governors of the Provinces although those Governors are appointed like the Governor-General himself, originally from the central power of the Crown acting on the advice of Ministers responsible to Parliament. Now that an explanation has been given by the Under-Secretary and in view of the many complicated consequential Amendments which would have to he made in the Bill if we were successful in the Lobby in carrying this change, I feel that my hon. Friend, after the illuminating discussion which has just taken place, should be content to withdraw his Amendment.


In view of what has been said by the Government, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.