HC Deb 27 May 1935 vol 302 cc827-31

Amendment made In page 37, line 9, leave out "the making thereof was not duly authorised," and insert: it is not an order or instrument made or executed by the Governor."—[The Solicitor-General.]

5.58 p.m.

Major General Sir ALFRED KNOX

I beg to move, in page 37, line 30, at the end, to insert: (6) The Governor General may in his discretion direct that any rules made under this Section shall not be altered without his previous consent given by him in his discretion. All the safeguards in the Bill depend upon the character and personality of the Governor-General and of the Governors. The rules in the Clause providing, in certain contingencies, for direct access to the Governor, are so important that we think it possible that some Governors, not so strong in character as others, might be induced, under pressure and in order to get a quiet life during their governorship, to give way and to let the rules lapse. We think, therefore, that the rules would be safer if the Governor-General had an over-riding power to see that they were carried into effect. When the Bill is passed into law, the Secretary of State will have to select supermen to go out as Governors, and a super-superman to go out as Governor-General. We cannot always control what is taking place in each Province, and if we, in the Imperial Parliament, have some say in what is happening at the Centre in India, we may in this way control it. We think that in the public interest it would be better that the Governor-General should have a certain power of discretion to control the acts of the Governor in this respect.

6.0 p.m.


I beg to second the Amendment.

I think that the Government, in view of the discretion which they are now displaying, should accept this Amendment. Since the Clause deals with the making of rules, it would be childish if, when rules had been made, they could just be allowed to lapse, and in these circumstances, and in view of the argument of my hon. and gallant Friend, I feel sure it is not necessary for me to try at any length to persuade the Government to accept the Amendment. Clearly you cannot have rules made by someone in a position of great responsibility and then just allow them to lapse. Such a provision as is proposed in the Amendment would meet the case, so that, when any such rules were no longer wanted, they could be decently interred in such a way as would meet the very respectable wishes of my right hon. Friend opposite.

6.2 p.m.


I have no doubt that my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) will withdraw his appeal when I point out to him that I do not think he has read either the Clause or the Amendment.


That is a very unjust accusation to make. I have read the Clause very carefully two or three times, and also the Amendment. The Clause appeared to me to be fairly good, but it was quite clear that it needed something more.


I think that, if my hon. Friend would read it a fourth time, he would understand it better. The Amendment would be quite unworkable. The rules of business cover a mass of details. They differ as between one Province and another, and it would be a waste of time and effort to make it necessay for the Governor-General to give his approval in every case. Why, indeed, should we not trust the provincial Governors in this matter? I see no reason to draw a distinction between them and the Governor-General. If, however, the Governor-General has doubts about any particular rule, or about any particular clause of a rule, he could have it referred to him by the Governor of the Province, and I suppose he could in the last resort give directions to the Governor to have the rule altered. The chain of responsibility is quite clear. There are the Imperial Parliament and the Secretary of State here; there is the Governor-General, and then there is the Governor. It is quite unnecessary to repose in the first instance a power of this kind in the Governor-General, when in practice it would scarcely ever be necessary, and when, in the last resort, he really has it already.

6.5 p.m.

Duchess of ATHOLL

I assure the Secretary of State that I have read the Clause, and because I have done so I realise that Sub-section (4), to which the right hon. Gentleman did not refer, deals with an altogether different matter from mere rules of business, to which he limited himself in his reply. Under Subsection (4) Ministers and Secretaries to Government are required to transmit to the Governor all such information with respect to the business of the provincial government as may involve, or may appear to them likely to involve, any special responsibility of the Governor. That raises a very much more important question than the mere question of business, to which the Secretary of State referred. The special responsibilities of the Governor, as we know, deal in the first instance with the maintenance of the peace and tranquillity of the Province. What matter could be more serious than that? But, although this provision may be in the Bill, it may be very difficult to put it into effect, because a Minister might well feel that, if he reported to the Governor that something connected with the conduct of his Department would involve a special responsibility of the Governor, the Governor might regard it as reflecting on the administration of the Department.


I cannot see how that question is affected by the Amendment which is now before the House.

Duchess of ATHOLL

I was going to say that, if pressure has been put upon the Governor so to amend or weaken a rule that it is no longer effective, there should be a power in the Govern or-General in his discretion to see that the rule is not weakened. That seems to me to be a very important matter. In the first place, a Minister might very well hesitate to give to the Governor the necessary information, and a Secretary to Government also may hesitate, because he may feel that, if he takes information to the Governor, it reflects on the administration of the Minister, or the Minister may regard it in that light. Therefore, it seems to me quite possible that pressure might be put upon the Governor to amend a rule in such a way as to make it not so binding on the Minister or Secretary as is really necessary for the faithful discharge by the Governor of his special responsibility. This Amendment would place behind the Governor the Governor-General, with power to see that the rule is kept effective. I realise that the wording of the Amendment is perhaps rather too wide, and that it would not be necessary to give this power with regard to mere rules of business, but I would ask the Secretary of State if he would consider accepting some Amendment of that kind if it were limited to Sub-section (4).

6.9 p.m.


This Amendment has been put down largely because we have to contemplate the possibility in the future of Governors being appointed who have only recently arrived in India, who are very inexperienced, having been only for a short time in public life, and are suddenly given very great responsibilities and find themselves in conflict with their ministers. The Governor-General is usually chosen on account of a very long record of public life, but recently we have seen Governors appointed who were of but short experience—who, although we believe them to have great qualities, have been merely private secretaries in this House for a year or two. If they are suddenly called upon to take up the position of a Governor and find themselves in conflict with their ministers soon after their arrival in India, it will be very difficult for them to take that firm line which is anticipated. Would it not be wise, therefore, that in such a case the Governor should have the Governor-General behind him? Again, the Secretary of State is contemplating the possibility of Indian Governors, who may find themselves subjected to very strong pressure from their ministers. Would it not be a protection to them to have the Governor-General standing behind them? We want to strengthen the position as far as we can. Should we not take this opportunity of making it stronger than it appears to be at present?

6.11 p.m.


This is a matter which occupied a good deal of the attention of the Joint Select Committee, and I think the words as they now stand in the Bill meet exactly the recommendation which, after full discussion, the Joint Select Committee made. Hon. Members who have looked at Sub- section (4) of Clause 59 will have observed that it is a mandatory Sub-section. It says: The rules shall include provisions requiring ministers and secretaries to Government to transmit to the Governor all such information with respect to the business of the Provincial Government as may be specified in the rules or as the. Governor may otherwise require to be so transmitted, and in particular requiring a minister to bring to the notice of the Governor, and the appropriate secretary to bring to the notice of the minister concerned and of the Governor, any matter under consideration by him which involves, or appears to him likely to involve, any special responsibility of the Governor. I think it would be a great mistake to introduce the Governor-General into this matter. The Bill provides that the rules shall secure to the inexperienced Governor a warning of any proposed action or legislation which may affect his responsibility. If we had contemplated that every Governor would always be a man of long Indian experience, such a provision might perhaps have been unnecessary. This provision was put in precisely to meet the case of the Governor whose experience of India might be small, and whose attention it might escape, unless the matter were specially brought to his notice, that something which was contemplated might affect his responsibility. Sub-section (4) explicitly places on the Minister the obligation to bring that matter to his notice, and on the Secretary to Government in the appropriate Department to bring it to the notice of the Minister and of the Governor. I venture to think that to interpose the Governor-General as suggested in the Amendment would not strengthen the operation of the Bill, because no Governor can by his action whittle away the statutory obligation which is placed upon him by this Subsection.

Amendment negatived.