HC Deb 16 June 1937 vol 325 cc370-1

The following question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Mr. CHURCHILL:

45. To ask the Prime Minister, whether he is in a position to define more exactly for the guidance of the House the limits within which he is prepared to answer questions relating to events in India; for instance, will information be given to Parliament in respect of any matter concerning which the Governors or the Governor-General are responsible to Parliament, either acting in respect of their statutory duty or in their individual judgment within the ambit of the India Constitution Act; whether in these respects information will be given as asked about facts and events in India in order that the House may judge the situation, and whether the special responsibilities of Governors are rightly exercised or not exercised; whether, for instance, any summoning of Indian provincial Legislatures or any refusal to summon them is justified; secondly, whether information will be given on facts and events which lead or are likely to lead to the use of British or Indian troops, or concerning the protection of minorities. or to loss of life either to the troops or the civil population; further, whether provincial autonomy is deemed to be in operation for the restriction of Parliamentary Questions in provinces where no Ministry has been formed which possesses the confidence of the Legislature; and whether provincial autonomy will still be deemed to be in operation notwithstanding executive power being resumed in any province by the Governor in accordance with the statute; lastly, in view of the ultimate responsibility of' Parliament, as provided for in Section 93 of the Government of India Act, for the issue of any proclamation by a Governor of a province assuming to himself emergency powers in the case of a failure of the constitutional machinery of a province, and of the further responsibility of Parliament, as provided for by the said Section of the Act, for the continuance of such emergency powers, whether he can assure the House that it shall be able to obtain regularly whatever information it may require for the discharge of its duty?

Mr. Thurtle

May I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the length of this question, and ask you whether there is any limit to the length of a question which may be put down for Oral Answer?

Mr. Sorensen

In view of the importance of this question, and also in view of the fact that I, too, addressed a question on this matter, but with much greater brevity, but which still was refused at the Table, may I ask whether it is not possible for me to accept this question in place of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill)?

Mr. Speaker

With regard to the length of the question, I told the right hon. Gentleman that it was far too long. It is a very important question as under the changed constitution for India we should know exactly what are the responsibilities of Ministers in this House before questions are put down. I think when the answer is given the hon. Member will see that it almost justifies the length of the question.

Mr. McEntee

Should not this be called an essay, not a question?

Mr. Speaker

I have said that it is too long, and that is enough.

Mr. Sorensen

Do I understand that if the question had been brief, with one sentence such as I put down, it would have been more acceptable?

Mr. Speaker

It would have been to me.