HC Deb 27 May 1935 vol 302 cc808-26

4.57 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 36, line 3.5, after "section," to insert: or with respect to the operations of persons preparing or attempting to take any action likely to hamper or paralyse the exercise of the executive authority. My hon. Friends and I consider this Amendment to be one of some importance, because Clause 58, as it stands at present, does not appear to be wide enough to deal with the situation envisaged. The Clause reads: The Governor in his discretion shall make rules for securing that no records or information relating to the sources from which information has been or may be obtained with respect to the operations of persons committing, or conspiring, preparing, or attempting to commit, such crimes as are mentioned in the last preceding section, shall be disclosed or given. These crimes which are covered by the Governor's discretion are merely crimes of violence intended to overthrow the Government. It is quite possible that you may have crimes which are not intended actually to overthrow the Government, but which at the same time may seriously hamper or paralyse the Government in a number of ways. You may very well have persons engaged in some form of crime who do not propose to overthrow the Government, but merely to hamper it until they have got done the things which they are determined to have done. At the present time the Governor-General has no power to prevent the sources of information in regard to such crimes being disclosed. He has been given power with regard to crimes of violence, which presumably the Government fear, and I think rightly fear, that unless that information can be kept secret, no one will ever dare give information to the Governor which will enable him to deal with serious crime. In just the same way persons will never dare deliberately to disclose efforts that are being made by a number of people to stir up trouble if they think their names will come out and they will in consequence get into trouble with those people. We take the view that the present Clause is too narrow, and we ask the Government to consider making it rather wider, in order that all persons who desire to give information to the Governor for the prevention of crime can do so in the sure and certain knowledge that the records will not be disclosed.

5.2 p.m.


I beg to second the Amendment.

I do so with the greatest pleasure, because my hon. Friend below me has made what I think is an unanswerable case. It is clear that one of the objects of these two Clauses, and they are two of the most important in the Bill, is to ensure, generally speaking, the smooth working of the new Constitution and that it shall not be upset by persons trying, for whatever reason, to make the new form of Government unworkable. There is nothing which would make these two Clauses, operating together, wider than by providing that they would still be designed to protect persons who will be assisting the Government in giving information from having that information disclosed and from getting themselves penalised by people who would object to their plan for wrecking the Government being given away. It seems to me an obvious advantage and, as my hon. Friend has said, the Clause is very limited in its operation. It is limited to information given in the cases contemplated in Clause 57, namely, information as to committing, or conspiring, preparing or attempting to commit, crimes of violence. … There are more ways than that of making Government impossible and of wrecking a Government, and it seems to me to be equally important whether it is proposed to upset the Government by bomb and pistol and things of that sort or by other, perhaps less bloodthirsty but equally effective, action. If the Government feel sure of getting information from well-disposed persons who know of any such plans or conspiracies against the Government, and if they are to he protected, it is essential that this should be put in the Bill.

5.4 p.m.


An Amendment was moved on the Committee stage to omit the words "of violence" in order to extend the protection given to sources of information to crimes which do not fall in the special category of crimes of terrorism. I felt, when I heard the Government reply that they had an extremely good debating answer to the argument we were then putting forward, but, on thinking it over further, I cannot quite see why they should refuse some concessions upon the general lines that have been asked for by my hon. Friend who moved this Amendment. As I understand the position, the Governor has unrestricted powers to do whatever is necessary to discharge his special responsibilities, and I think the Government reply to an Amendment such as that moved by my hon. Friend is that that is an unlimited and unrestricted power to take all such measures as are necessary to maintain peace and tranquility in the Province, and that that is 411 it is necessary to do. Because of the recommendation of the Joint Select Committee with regard to crimes of terrorism, they have introduced an additional Clause which gives, so to speak, a special procedure by which the Governor may deal with crimes of the kind contained in Clause 57. Clause 58 follows from that, and gives special protection to the sources of information which are dealing with crimes of that kind.

It may be that in the vast majority of cases there would be no need for the source of information to be kept secret, except in cases of crimes of terrorism. For example, in the case of crimes of terrorism, those who are believed to be guilty are frequently not tried in open court, because of the danger of the assassination of witnesses. The Government may say that if the person who is suspected has to be tried in open court the sources of information will come out when the evidence is given. In the second place, they may say that even in the case of the civil disobedience campaign such as those which have on two occasions been launched by Mr. Gandhi, there is not the danger of assassination and therefore there is not the need for keeping the source of information secret. That may be a good argument as far as it goes, but I do not quite understand why a greater discretion should not be given to the Governor-General to maintain the secrecy of sources of information in all cases where he has thought it necessary to exercise his special responsibilities. I see no reason why Clause 58 should not be made coextensive with the exercise of his special powers. I do not see why it should be restricted to those very narrow and limited kinds of crimes which fall under Section 57. I can think of two kinds of crimes in which it might be important that there should be secrecy. In the first place, a crime may not be, nominally at any rate, a crime of violence. My hon. Friend has referred to cases of civil disobedience. There was no intention, we know, that they should lead to violence, but some of the most Appalling tragedies that have happened in India, as the Chauri-Chaura murders, arose directly out of civil disobedience, when there was no intention on the part of Mr. Gandhi, who launched them, that anything of the kind should follow. I can imagine cases of civil disobedience where social boycot might be employed and where, in order to deal with that, it might be of the utmost importance that it should not be known whence sources of information were derived.

Taking another case, crimes of violence under Clause 57 have to be crimes of violence which, in the opinion of the Governor, are intended to overthrow the Government as by law established. There have been several cases of attempted assassination, as in the case of Mr. Villiers, then president of the European Association, where it would be difficult for the Governor to hold that an Attempt to assassinate the president of the European Association, or, indeed, of anyone who had taken an active part in politics but was not in any way connected with the Government, could be intended to overthrow the Government. I hope that the Government will be prepared to consider the suggestion that has been put forward. I see no logical reason at all why Clause 58 should be narrowly limited to the crimes that fall under Clause 57. We have been told that the safeguarding of law and order depends very largely upon the special responsibilities which are imposed on the Governor, and I should have thought that it would be better for him to be left to act in his discretion in all cases where he thought there was Adequate and sufficient reason; that in all those cases he might exercise the powers contained in this Clause.

5.10 p.m.


The remarks by the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson) show very clearly what our difficulties are on this Clause. He has spoken of enlarging the Governor's discretion to make rules in respect of all sorts of crimes in so far as they fall within his special responsibilities. That is not what this Clause does. The whole emphasis of this Clause is on the words "The Governor … shall make rules …" No discretion is left to the Governor at all. The rules he is obliged to make are specifically laid down. That is quite apart from the Governor's power, both under his special responsibilities and, as the hon. Member for Doncaster did not mention, his general powers to make rules. I can see that the Governor ought to have full discretion, even beyond the limits of his special responsibilities, to make rules of business requiring the maintenance of secrecy about certain kinds of police information. The question of paralysing or hampering the executive Government does not itself in the least exhaust the cases in which the Government ought properly to make rules of business of that kind. You can hardly say that the activity of anti-prohibition gangsters in America a few years ago were designed to hamper or paralyse the executive Government. They were designed to get liquor in with facility. There are many branches of organised crime where it is very important to maintain the secrecy of your informants.

What I want to suggest to the Secretary of State is this It is obvious from the speeches we have heard that there is a general assumption in this House that this Clause, contrary to all the intentions of the Government and of the Joint Select Committee, is being interpreted as limiting the Governor's power to make rules for the secrecy of police information to the particular case where he is statutorily obliged to make such rules. It seems to me that the confusion will only be increased by adding further categories, as is proposed in the Amendment. But if this House has gained that impression, people outside, and the interpreters of this Constitution, may have gained the same impression, and it might be well to preface this Clause with some such words as "Without prejudice to the Governor's powers under his special responsibilities and under his powers to make rules of business." I believe that would cover the case better than would this particular Amendment.

5.14 p.m.


Throughout the discussions which preceded the discussions in this House—particularly in the Joint Select Committee—these Clauses were thought to be sufficient for achieving the general purpose which, for example, the hon. Member for Doncaster had in mind, that in cases covered by these two Clauses, 57 and 58, the Governor would be able to make definite rules in his discretion—or rather he should make deinite rules in his discretion—for the purpose of safeguarding the sources of information. I gather that the hon. Member for Doncaster requires to be quite sure that the Governor has adequate powers for taking this step when it is absolutely necessary. We considered this matter in Committee and the hon. Member thought that we had a good debating case. I think we have more than a good debating case. Let us just examine for a moment the operation of the Criminal Intelligence Department which will operate in a normal Indian Province. Information will come in. It is not as if this very important and secret information will be published from the housetops. It will be used for the purposes of the police and of the executive Government, and in normal cases—in every case, one might say—it will be secret information upon which the executive Government will act. It was thought necessary on the Select Committee to insert the special powers which are given by Clause 58 to safeguard the sources of information and to safeguard the lives of the informers. When we came to the drafting, we used these words: any persons committing, or conspiring, preparing or attempting to commit, crimes of violence which, in the opinion of the Governor, are intended to overthrow the government as by law established. Those are the types of crime upon which Clause 58, dealing with certain sources of information not to be disclosed, operates. If we examine those words and the criterion of the hon. Member for Doncaster, which is that the Governor should take this special action when he considers it vitally necessary, we consider that the Governor has sufficient power, when he considers it vitally necessary, to take this action of making these rules in his discretion, particularly with regard to the crimes described. The hon. Member for Doncaster referred to certain regrettable attempts made on gentlemen in India and to the danger of the early stages of crime which are not regarded as sufficiently serious to result in the overthrow of the Government by law established, and to the difficulty of not having words which would enable the Governor to use this power in those circumstances. We have looked sympathetically into the point of view which the hon. Member and the hon. Members who moved the Amendment have put forward. We have examined the matter since the Committee stage, and we consider that the words "preparing or attempting to commit" cover the preliminaries of any actions which are likely in the end to result in the overthrow of the Government by law established. The overthrow of the Government is very often the object of anybody who starts in the early days to conspire, and if the Governor considers that the earliest forms of insurrection, whatever they may be, would result in the undesirable effect of overthrowing the Government by law established—


Overthrowing by unconstitutional means.


—yes, by crimes of violence—he will be entitled to take the steps suggested in Clause 58.


The words in Clause 57 are limiting. That Clause says, conspiring, preparing or attempting to commit crimes of violence calculated to upset the Government. The Under-Secretary argued as if those words were not there, and as if Clause 58 would apply to cases of persons committing or conspiring, preparing or attempting to commit, crimes of any sort or do anything which in the opinion of the Governor was liable to upset the Government.


The hon. Baronet may rest assured that I had no intention of giving the impression that the meaning of the Bill is any different from that which appears on the face of it, because I know, from my long experience of the hon. Baronet, that he would have pointed it out if I had attempted to deceive him. If in the early stages of the preparation of these types of crime of violence the Governor can destroy an ultimate danger to the Government through such crimes, it will be possible for him to take the steps which are mentioned in Clause 58. We consider, therefore, that, if the Governor considers there is any danger or if any particular activity is likely to result in this undesirable end, he has power to take the necessary action. We therefore think that the interpretation of the wording of Clause 57 and the operation upon it of Clause 58 give the Governor in his discretion the powers necessary, provided he interprets them in the way in which we confidently expect he will.

5.20 p.m.


I am impressed by the argument which the Under-Secretary has put forward, but he has not said whether he accepts the argument put forward by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy). The Noble Lord said that in the case of crime which fell under Clause 57 it is mandatory upon the Governor to keep the sources of information secret, and that he has discretionary power to make rules of business.

Mr. DEPUTY - SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)

I would remind the hon. Member that we are not in Committee and that he can only ask a question and not make a speech.


May I ask whether the Governor has the discretionary power to make rules preserving secrecy with regard to other crimes not included in Clause 57?

Mr. BUTLER indicated assent.

5.21 p.m.


On this Clause we are proceeding upon a very broad basis of general agreement. Everyone in all parties is agreed, I think, however they may differ in other respects, that we could not possibly trust the responsible Indian Ministers, who are to have so much power under this Bill, with the knowledge of the names of the secret agents who furnish the executive Government with the means of protecting themselves against terroristic and other activities. The fact that we have this agreement is a very remarkable commentary upon the whole structure and character of this legislation. It is not my purpose to emphasise that now, for if we are agreed there is no need to batter in an open door. The only question is whether the words suggested by the Government may not in some way obstruct their own purpose. From that point of view the misgivings of the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson), reinforced as they have been by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy)—I do not know whether there is any hope of a death bed repentance on the part of these two faithful supporters of the Government—their misgivings certainly appear to fall in with the views of my hon. Friends that the words that have been chosen by the Government have a narrowing effect. If they have, surely it would be appropriate to insert here or there the necessary Amendments to give effect to the purpose of the Government and the House, whether it be by the preambulatory words of my Noble Friend or by the actual Amendment that has been moved, or by both, for they both seem to have a valid purpose. I trust that the Government will have this matter considered if it is raised in another place.

The object of Clause 58 is to protect the Agents who discharge an enormously important duty. These agents, whose fathers sometimes were agents, and who hold an office which is almost hereditary, are buried in the depths of the vast population of India, and give the timely information without which the lives of the white inhabitants would very soon be reduced to a lamentable state of danger. It is dangerous to disclose the names of the agents. That is what the Clause seeks to provide, and that is why it seems to me that to limit the application of the Clause to crimes of violence, or to seem to do so, may lead to an agent's name being revealed to a responsible Indian provincial minister in connection with some crime of a menial character of which he has given information. Then, owing to the fact that for the first time it is known that this man is a police spy, owing to the fact being known that he is a secret service agent of the Government, it will be easy for the responsible Indian minister to draw deductions. The mere fact that such a man was in contact with the police and was giving information to the police, even only on a most innocent form of conduct—and very often information will come into their possession covering small crimes—the mere fact that he is known to be on the list may be fatal to his life and to the entire system of police government which we are still endeavouring to preserve when so much has been cast away, and which is the main security against terroristic violence. Therefore, I hope the Government will, in a matter on which we all agree, take the necessary steps to make clear that the Governor of a Province will be expected to protect the secret agents of the State from the disclosure of their names to the responsible minister. I am certain that that should not depend on whether the crime in question is a crime of violence or actually levying war on the King Emperor, or whether it is only a smaller offence. It would only be prudent and would only give effect to what the Government have in mind, if the wording of this Clause were made so that no one could fall into the impression, which has been so general in the House this afternoon, that the words exercise a narrowing and limiting effect.

5.27 p.m.


I hope that those who read the right hon. Gentleman's speech, in which he indicated his belief that there was general agreement in all parties in regard to what he has said, will not deduce that he spoke for the Labour party. For myself, I repeat what I have often ventured to say, even before this Bill came before the House. I have the utmost repulsion and repugnance against the whole system of police spying. I am not going to argue whether the system is fair, but it is obvious that it plays a big part in connection with the Government of India. The point raised in this Clause is the measure of protection that should be given to informers. A system such as this is capable of the most wicked abuse, for it is possible, so long as you give this complete protection to the informer, for innocent people to be landed in the most dire penalties. Under a police system of this sort, once you guarantee to the informer that under no consideration will the source of his information be disclosed, the person denounced has his chance of adequate defence largely taken away from him. He does not know who accuses him. All he knows is that a statement has been made by someone against him.

I am not at all concerned to defend people who seek to overthrow the Government by violence. That is not my intention because on that we would all obviously be agreed; but I do say that when a person is accused of an offence he is entitled to be judged as innocent until he is proved guilty, and he cannot prove himself innocent or cannot prepare his defence adequately unless he is able to know the source of the information against him. If he has the source of the information, he may know something of the impulses that led to the information being deposited against him. The argument is not entirely one-sided. A person accused of a serious offence is surely entitled to access to all the information regarding who it is that accuses him. I leave that one one side, and come to the phraseology of the Amendment itself. It is framed in the most general terms. It is enough only to prove that someone is "preparing." What is the definition of preparation? It is a wide term to use. Then there is the word "attempting "and also the phrase "likely to hamper." I suppose it could be said that the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and his friends have been hampering the work of the Government in the last six months or so.


We have been acting constitutionally.


But the word "constitutional" is not in this Amendment, and "hampering" is capable of a pretty broad interpretation. I submit to the right hon. Gentleman that, however much he may desire safeguards against the kind of crime he has in mind, the phraseology of the Amendment is much too wide for the purpose, and is capable of being applied in a way that would be frightfully unjust and unfair and would, indeed, hamper—if I may use the word myself—the legitimate rights of people as citizens. After all, we are not unacquainted with the way in which such words, whatever the intentions of those who propose them, can be most grossly abused once they have become portions of an Act of Parliament by the illegitimate extension of them to cover offences which are really nothing more, perhaps, than an unwise exercise of citizen rights. I hope, therefore, that those who propose this Amendment will not press it, because it is much too wide to justify it being incorporated in an Act of Parliament.

5.33 p.m.


It is well that the House should take into account both sides of this question. On the one hand, we all have a natural prejudice against arrests or preventive action being taken without the accused knowing the sources of the charge. That kind of practice we have condemned, and rightly condemned, in not a few countries of the world at the present time. I have every sympathy with that point of view, but we must remember that in India for many years past—I wish it were not so—we have been faced with the insidious attacks of terrorists. That being so, it is essential that there should exist an efficient secret service if we are to protect the lives not only of British officials and British public men but Indian officials and Indian public men, and it is essential that the sources of information that the Governments in India receive should remain intact. I think there was general agreement in the Joint Select Committee that it is essential that we should safeguard the sources of this very secret information, but the Joint Select Committee did not take the view expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) that you cannot trust Indian Ministers. I dissociate myself entirely from that view. I believe that in course of time we shall see Indian Ministers as resolute as anyone, British or Indian, to suppress terrorism. The Joint Select Committee made their recommendations, not because they distrusted Indian Ministers, but because they wished to see carried out in India the convention that actually exists in this country. H it is a sign that Indian Ministers are not to be trusted that they are not given the sources of secret information, it is also a sign that British Ministers are not to be trusted, for that is the actual practice here. I challenge my right hon. Friend to contradict me. Ministers do not ask for the sources of secret information. They take it from their expert advisers.


Does my right hon. Friend suggest that if the Home Secretary, His Majesty's principal Secretary of State, desired to know any fact connected with the working of the Criminal Investigation Department, or anything connected with the agents employed, he would not, under his authority, immediately be informed?


My right hon. Friend did not listen to what I said. I was speaking of the convention that exists under which Ministers do not ask for this information. It is a question of convention. The Joint Select Committee made this recommendation because they wished to see carried out in India the convention that exists here. They did not make this recommendation because they distrusted Indian Ministers.


Surely my right hon. Friend is aware that the Home Secretary, for instance, is responsible to the Crown and Parliament for all the duties of his office, and although in the great majority of cases no need arises for him to look into the agents below the chief of the police, if he had reason to think there was any such need, his powers are ample, and no convention that the need had not till then arisen would prevent him from exercising that power.


I am not denying that his constitutional power is ample, but I am pointing out that the convention exists here, and the Joint Select Committee wished to see that convention set up in India. In this case, as in many cases, we have had to give in the case of India statutory form to what has grown up as a convention in this country. That is the main recommendation of the Joint Select Committee. Let me refer to the suggestion made by my Noble Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy). Not for the first time—and not for the last time—his interpretation of the Bill is the correct interpretation. This Clause makes certain actions mandatory in the case of crimes likely to lead to the overturning of the Government, but does not in. any way impinge on the Governor-General's other powers or the Governor's other powers either in the field of his special responsibilities or under the other provisions of the Bill under which he can make rules of business. I will, certainly, therefore, look into the question raised by my Noble Friend as to whether it would be wise to make that point clear at the beginning of the Clause. As I say, it makes no difference to the substance of the Bill at all, and if there is no drafting difficulty that cannot be overcome, I will certainly see whether a change of that kind cannot be made in another place.

5.39 p.m.

Duchess of ATHOLL

My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) has assured the House out of his experience as Home Secretary that a Home Secretary has the constitutional right to ask for the sources of any secret information that has been supplied to his office, but I would point out that over and above that the Clause requires the whole records of information—not merely the source of the information, but the whole of the information—to be withheld from any person except those authorised by the Governor or, within the police force, by the Inspector-General of Police. The Clause says: The Governor in his discretion shall make rules for securing that no records or information relating to the sources from which information has been or may may be obtained … shall be disclosed or given. That seems to go further than the mere withholding of the source. In any case, we have the assurance of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping, out of his experience, that that is not a convention which necessarily obtains in this country. The Under-Secretary spoke as if it would be quite easy for a Governor to know when preparations were being made for crimes of violence. I think that point was very well answered by the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson), who pointed out that though the non co-operation movement started by Mr. Gandhi in 1921 was at the outset a perfectly peaceful movement, it ended in a terrible tragedy at Chauri-chaura. Or if anyone had believed that Gandhi's march to the coast, in the early months of 1930, would have ended in the tragedy of Sholapur, no Governor-General could possibly have allowed the march. We should be crediting Governors with a good deal more foresight than they usually possess if we suppose that they would know that a movement, which apparently starts in a non-violent manner, may even in a country such as India, where violent passions can be easily aroused, end in violence. Out of the very small experience I have had in this matter I have been very much impressed with how easily an Indian may be intimidated or prevented in some way or other from saying what he really thinks. The fetters of community, caste and social customs make it infinitely more difficult for people to speak freely in that country than here, and something much less than the fear of assassination which arises in connection with crimes of revolutionary violence may make it difficult for people to give information which it is desirable that the Government should have in the case of civil disobedience or riots or cases of that kind which appear to stop short of revolutionary crimes of violence. In the civil disobedience movement a 'very common form of attempting to intimidate the police was to have a mock funeral outside a policeman's house. That was found to have so great an effect on the nerves of some policemen that an ordinance had to be passed making mock funerals illegal. If we realised how some persons in India can be intimidated in a way that is not possible here, we should feel it necessary to give all the protection possible in connection with this matter, and I think it is desirable that the terms of the Clause should be widened.

5.45 p.m.


One listened with a good deal of interest to the arguments of the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones).He suggested that, as the Clause is constituted, it would be a threat to the liberty of the subject, and he was fearful of the difficult position in which persons would be placed who were accused of crimes of violence. The Minister, although he did not go to that extent, seemed to say that the question was one of drawing a balance between the rights of the subject on the one hand and the necessities of the situation on the other. With great respect, I am bound to say that, unless I misunderstand the Clause, the question of the liberty of the subject is not involved in it. Even in this country, persons accused of offences are not informed, as far as I know, who has laid the charge against them. When a man is accused in this country the police officer makes a charge and says "Whatever you say will be taken down in writing and may be used in evidence against you," but he certainly would not answer a question such as "Who has told you about this?" It is only when the accused person gets to court that the evidence is heard, and the man has a right to cross-examine upon whatever evidence is put in in open court. He has no right to the prior investigation of the evidence against him. The Clause does not deal with the question of the evidence which is brought against the person before he is convicted, but only with the secret source of the information which has come to the knowledge of the Governor. Before a man could be convicted upon such information, his offence would have to be proved to the court.


The hon. Member is now getting very far away from the question.


I will not pursue the point, after your Ruling, but the question of a threat to the liberty of the subject formed the whole burden of the speech of the hon. Member for Caerphilly against our Amendment, and I was trying to show that his fears of the effect upon the liberty of the subject were not wellgrounded. I will not further follow the hon. Member's argument. The extension which we propose to the Clause seems necessary. The difficulty was stated very clearly by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), and it is that the system of espionage will be useless if offenders know who has spied upon them. One might not like to contemplate the necessity for a system of espionage, but there it is; it is obviously necessary at the present time. If it were known upon whom the police relied for information in regard to minor offences, the value of such persons would be very slight. It is essential that their identity should not be disclosed.

That is one of the main reasons why the Clause seems not to go far enough. It is difficult to see how far it does go. What do the words "preparing, or attempting to commit" mean? Suppose some action were taken which was not intended to lead to violence, but which might incite other people to violence; would that come within the Clause or within our Amendment? It is difficult to say. In his very lucid observations, the Under-Secretary of State said that if the Governor-General dealt with the matter, he confidently anticipated that everything would be all right. Ought we to leave the matter in that way, dependent upon the interpretation of the Governor-General? Ought not a point of this importance be absolutely covered, so that it would not need the exercise of the art of interpretation? There is a great deal of difficulty in this matter. One hon. Member may say that it seems clear, but obviously my Noble Friend the right hon. Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) felt there was a difficulty, and the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson) felt anxious about the position. Their minds were not satisfied. Neither of them is anxious to cast doubts upon the wisdom of the Clause, but if there are doubts in their minds as well as in ours, that may constitute a prima facie case that the doubts are valid. It may well be that this discussion will therefore not be the last word on this subject before the Bill passes into law. Would it not be wise to redraft the Clause in such a form that no possible mistake could be made as to the meaning of the law?

The Minister has made a concession. He said that he would consider the question, without prejudice to the other rights of the Governor-General. That is a very valuable concession, for which we are very grateful, but I do not think it goes to the root of the problem. One of the difficulties is that, under his special powers, the type of information the disclosure of which the Governor-General will have the right to prevent is just that which is dealt with in Clause 57, and minor things, the disclosure of which it might also be very important to prevent, might not come under his special responsibilities. It might be very important that a certain piece of information should not be disclosed lest a particular spy should cease to have any value, and that the case was not covered by the special responsibility in regard to a threat to tranquillity, because that would be straining the law too far. At the same time it might be the sort of case where the Governor-General should have power to act. To put the major rules and regulations, dealing with crimes of violence into a special Clause and leave all minor crimes to come in under a special responsibility, where they ought not to come in seems a most unsatisfactory method of dealing with the problem. It is straining the meaning of the Bill to put them in there, because the special responsibilities are intended to deal with an emergency, or something likely to threaten a great emergency. It would be a complete travesty to force the interpretation to mean that the Governor-General could prevent a particular piece of information being disclosed, because to act otherwise might lead to something which in turn might lead to something, and in 20 years a secret might be known. The special responsibilities are clearly intended to deal with present emergencies to the Constitution, and not with minor matters.

The hon. Gentleman said something about our showing a lack of trust in Indian Ministers, but if the Government have complete confidence in Indian Ministers, why have they put in this Clause? Lack of confidence in Indian Ministers applies just as much to refusing to disclose minor matters as it does to major matters. The Government show confidence in one direction but not in the other. It may be difficult to say, until the Indian Ministers have been tried, to what extent they may be trusted, but one hopes that they will rise to their responsibility. The Clause has been put into the Bill to guard against the danger of their failing to rise to that responsibility. It is no use putting forward the argument about trusting the Ministers. If the Government had faith in them they would not have put in this Clause. The Clause is far from sufficient to provide an adequate safeguard.

It is very regrettable that spying is needed in any country, but whether we rule India, whether the Indians take over, or whether there be something between the two, it cannot be denied that terrorism will exist to an extent which is entirely unknown in this country or in any other Western country, and it will be necessary to have some system of espionage to track terrorism to its source. Otherwise, lawful government will become completely undermined. We have to accept a system of espionage in order to deal with the greater evil of terrorism. Is it not our duty to see that the persons who are to be placed in the extremely difficult position of dealing with terrorism are provided with the maximum of security, rather than the minimum provided by the Clause? I would appeal to my right hon. Friend to go further into this matter than he has already done. It would be so much more convenient for the Governor-General to have discretion in these matters and for the whole subject to be dealt with in one Clause, rather than major rights and the exercise of responsibilities in one place and a further Clause dealing with minor matters somewhere else. The Clause raises very grave and important questions which may at any time assume a greater gravity than at present. I would, therefore, ask my right hon. Friend to examine the position afresh, between now and when we shall have the last opportunity of making any amendment on the lines that we suggest.


Might I ask the Under-Secretary of State a question which perhaps he will find time to answer? It is whether the Government might be prepared to omit the words "of violence" in line 5 of the Clause, because that would go far to meet many of our objections?

Amendment negatived.