HC Deb 13 July 1944 vol 401 cc1865-6
13. Mr. Dobbie

asked the Secretary of State for India the names of the personnel of a Commission of Inquiry into the food shortage and subsequent epidemic in India, announced by the Government of India on 23rd June, 1944; and whether the Commission will have the power to investigate the charges of corruption, graft and hoarding, which have been made by responsible leaders in Bengal, which proved so disastrous to the people of the Province.

16. Mr. Clement Davies

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he is now in a position to announce the name of the personnel of the Indian Famine Commission and its terms of reference; whether he will take steps to see that the chairman of the Commission is an Indian who commands the confidence of the Indian people and that the composition of the Commission is also such as will command the confidence of Indian and world opinion.

Mr. Amery

I hope that the names of the Famine Inquiry Commission will be announced very soon. The terms of reference of the Commission already published required the Commission to investigate and report on the causes of food shortage in India in 1943, in particular in Bengal. It will be for the Commission itself to decide what matters are relevant to this inquiry.

Mr. C. Davies

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider appointing as chairman of this Commission an Indian— someone who carries the full respect of everybody? Further, will the Commission inquire not only into the causes of the famine, but into the steps taken to relieve the suffering which followed the famine?

Mr. Amery

The appointment of the chairman is a matter for the Government of India. The terms of reference of the Commission are very wide, and cover all the points which my hon. and learned Friend has in mind.

Mr. Shinwell

Meanwhile, pending appointment of the personnel of this Commission, can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that everything is being done by His Majesty's Government, so far as they have any power to undertake the task, to prevent a recurrence of famine?

Mr. Amery

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Does my right hon. Friend anticipate that the Commission will consider that no limits are to be set for the scope of their inquiry because there have been alleged, as causes of the famine, ulterior factors such as inflation and failure to suspend certain Provincial Governments, and things of that sort? Surely there must be a more definite limit set to their inquiry.

Mr. Amery

Yes, Sir, those are in the terms of reference which were given to the House.

Mr. Nicholson

But the terms of reference refer merely to the causes of food shortage?

Mr. Sorensen

Cannot the Government influence the Government of India so that an Indian may be appointed as chairman of the Commission?

Mr. Amery

That might raise communal questions.