HC Deb 26 April 1937 vol 323 cc1-4
1 and 2. Mr. T. Williams

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India (1) what is the attitude of His Majesty's Government on the proposal that, in view of the desirability that the new Act should be operated under the most favourable conditions, the Viceroy should take the initiative in arranging a conference with Mr. Gandhi, or other Congress representatives;

(2) what is the attitude of His Majesty's Government to Mr. Gandhi's proposal that they should appoint an arbitral tribunal of three judges, of whom one will be chosen by Congress and one by His Majesty's Government, with power to the two to appoint a third to decide whether provincial governors are competent to give the assurance as regards their special responsibility as desired by the Congress party?

The Under-Secretary of State for India (Mr. Butler)

The proposal for an arbitral tribunal has been considered by His Majesty's Government. They are unable to accept the suggestion that it is for such a tribunal to decide whether a Governor can or cannot, consistently with the Act and his Instructions, divest himself of duties imposed upon him in terms by Parliament through those documents. If, on the other hand, the Congress Resolution was not intended to necessitate their so doing, the only authority in a position to establish this fact is the author of the Resolution himself. The attitude of His Majesty's Government towards a conference has already been indicated. I observe from a recent statement made as to the intention of the Congress Resolution that the main apprehension appears to be lest the Governors should use their special powers for detailed interference in the administration. Let me make, it plain that His Majesty's Government have no intention of countenancing a use of the special powers for other than the purposes for which Parliament intended them. It is certainly not the intention that Governors, by narrow or legalistic interpretation of their own responsibilities, should trench upon the wide powers which it was the purpose of Parliament to place; in: the hands of Ministries and which it is our desire that they should use, in furtherance of the programmes which they have advocated.

Mr. Williams

As there seems to be a feeling much more of misunderstanding than of legal practice, would it not be in the interests of the people of India and of good government if such misunderstandings could be removed on the Spot, and in the circumstances does not the hon. Gentleman think that an atom of that spirit of compromise which predominates in this country might also be exercised in India?

Duchess of Atholl

Will my hon. Friend not make it clear that there is some misunderstanding on Gandhi's own part, on his own admission, because he has not read the Government of India Act?

Mr. Butler

I think the latter statement is perfectly true. As regards the coming together in India, I have already indicated the general opinion of the Government that if Mr. Gandhi or any other leader makes a request to approach the Viceroy, the Viceroy would give it consideration.

Mr. Pethick-Lawrence

Would the hon. Gentleman not go a little beyond that? We all know the value of approach, and does he not think that in this case an opportunity for approach might be taken, apart from formalities, which would very much ease the situation?

Mr. Butler

I have already indicated the attitude of the Government.

Mr. Graham White

Is it not the case that after Gandhi's latest pronouncement on this subject there is very little difference between him and the Government?

Mr. Butler

As I said in my original answer, only the authority of the author of the Resolution himself can the fact.

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