HC Deb 01 May 1939 vol 346 cc1503-4
1. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Undersecretary of State for India whether he is aware of the expressions of strong resentment and resistance in India respecting the intention of the Government to amend the India Act; and what steps he proposes to take to meet this fact?

The Under-Secretary of State for India (Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead)

I am aware that a clause in the Amending Bill now before Parliament is being criticised in India as an invasion of provincial authority; but the powers of co-ordination and control which the clause would confer on the Central Government can be used only in time of war and would then be essential. They are, moreover, supplementary to the powers already conferred by Section 102 of the Government of India Act and do not constitute the introduction of a new principle. It is the intention of the Government to proceed with the Bill as drafted.

Mr. Sorensen

Does not the hon. and gallant Gentleman realise that directly that particular clause is put into operation there will be considerable resentment in India, and that, therefore, the amending Bill will be more trouble than it is worth? In these circumstances will he see that the offending Clause is eliminated?

Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead

I cannot agree with the hon. Member that the amending Bill will in these circumstances be more trouble than it is worth. The Central Government in India attach great importance to this particular Clause, and that is the reason the amending Bill is being proceeded with.

Mr. Sorensen

Will not this Clause cancel out the fundamental provisions of the existing Act?

Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead

No, I do not think that is so. The existing Act, Section 102, allows the Central Government to legislate on provincial matters in these particular circumstances, and this amending Bill merely gives power for the making of rules and helping officers to put the Act into force.

Mr. Sorensen

Surely the existing legislation covers the situation without this unnecessary clause?

Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead

That is not so. The existing legislation allows the Central Government to legislate on provincial matters, and by what I cannot help feeling was an oversight, the actual provision for making rules in connection with the legislation was omitted from the Government of India Act. This is one of the things which this amending clause deals with.

Mr. Wedgwood Benn

May I ask the Patronage Secretary when this Bill will reach us, and whether we shall have ample time to discuss it?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Captain Margesson)

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will address that question to the Prime Minister.