HC Deb 27 May 1935 vol 302 cc849-52

Amendment made in page 51, line 15, leave out "or the ruler thereof."—[Sir S. Hoare.]

7, 10 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 51, line 27, at the end, to insert: (ii) the discussion of, or the asking of questions on, any action taken in his discretion by the Governor-General in relation to the affairs of a Governor's Province or a Chief Commissioner's Province. I hope the Secretary of State will agree to this Amendment, which relates to what seems to me to be an unintentional omission. Clause 38 already prohibits discussion in the Federal chambers of the Governor-General's action in regard to a Province—and the affairs of a, Chief Commissioner's Province will probably not be of as much interest to a Provincial Legislature—but as these affairs are undoubtedly the Governor-General's concern, I suggest that it would be right to prohibit discussion of them also. I think it may have been an omission that was not intentional, and I shall be glad to hear any reason why these words should not be included.

7.12 p.m.


I beg to second the Amendment.

Substantially, the principle behind the Amendment seems to be the right one. In this House, as I understand it, we cannot raise issues which do not come within the purview of some Minister or another. Here is a question which does not come within the control of any Minister responsible to the Assembly. Quite apart from other considerations, as a matter of good order it seems undesirable that we should have Debates on issues for which there can be no Minister on the Government Bench who is responsible. Apart from other aspects such Debates will probably introduce an element of strain if relationships with the Governor-General should be discussed in any way.

7.13 p.m.


I think that this Amendment is founded on a misinterpretation of what is intended under the Bill. It has never been intended that we should exclude actions taken by the Governor-General or actions taken by the Provincial Governors under their special responsibilities from discussion either in the Central or in the Provincial chambers. We feel—and, I think, quite rightly —that the field of the special responsibilities of the Governor-General and the Governor is so wide—it is not restricted to a few departments, but invades the whole field of government—that we could not possibly make so wide an exclusion of that kind. The provision to which my hon. and gallant Friend alluded in Clause 38 is not in any way intended to stop the Federal Legislature discussing actions of this kind. The object of Clause 38 is to prevent the Federal Legislature discussing actions taken in the Provincial field. That is a very different matter. It would obviously be improper for the Federal Legislature to discuss Provincial questions when the Governor-General had taken action, in his discretion, in the Provincial field. That being so, we could not accept my hon. and gallant Friend's Amendment, which is founded on the assumption that it is desirable to exclude from discussion altogether in the Provincial field any action taken in the discretion of the Governor-General in this way. I hope I have made the point clear. What we do intend to exclude is discussion in the wrong Chamber.


As to this bringing in the question Clause 12, in regard to special responsibility, that is where the Governor-General exercises his individual judgment. Therefore, this cannot apply to cases arising under Clause 12.


In any case my argument would be the same, that if there is discussion it should take place in the right Chamber.

Amendment negatived.


I beg to move, in page 51, line 32, at the end, to insert: or (iii) the discussion of, or the asking of questions on, the personal conduct of the Ruler of any Indian State or of a member of the ruling family thereof..

7.17 p.m.


I do not see why there is any need to repeat this Clause with regard to the Provinces. The Amendment refers to "a member of the ruling family." There might be an enormous family. There might be the second or third cousins of a ruler. There may be cases where it is thought desirable to ask questions with regard to law and order in a State. Why a member of a ruling family should be allowed to go into a Province and run riot or be seditious or anything else, and no questions are to be asked, I do not know.

7.18 p.m.

Brigadier-General CLIFTON ROWN

I wish to support what has been said by the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee). I would like a definition of what "ruling family" means. I do not know about the Maharajas' families, but other Rulers have blood brothers and they look on many hundreds of their relatives as their family. I believe that the Government is even to-day paying pensions to descendants of Tipoo Tib. "A ruling family" ought to be defined more clearly.

7.19 p.m.


I am informed that the term "ruling family," in India at any rate, is a term of art, and the family is restricted to the ruling Prince and the one or two members of his actual family, obviously legitimate members. There is, therefore, no danger that the definition would cover too wide a field. My answer to the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) is very much the answer that I gave to a similar question on the Federal Chapter the other day. This is not an additional embargo upon discussion. It merely brings this question into the category upon which the Governor's previous consent is got before discussion takes place. I suggest that it is just as necessary to have this safeguard in the case of the Provinces as in the case of the Federal Legislature, and that the arguments that prompted the House to agree to safeguards in the case of the Federation apply equally to this provision in the case of the Provinces.

Amendment agreed to.