HC Deb 13 December 1945 vol 417 cc636-9
Mr. H. Morrison

With permission, I desire to make a statement on the proposed Parliamentary delegation to India.

The Government have considered further the character of the proposed Parliamentary delegation to India to which I referred on 4th December. They had originally felt that it would be appropriate for this delegation to go under the auspices of the Empire Parliamentary Association which does most valuable work in bringing into contact parliamentary representatives of different parts of the Commonwealth. Having regard to the views expressed in the House on the use of this particular method in this case and in view of the fact that the Indian branches of the Association are in partial suspense during the dissolution of the legislatures, the Government have now decided to make different arrangements. The delegation will contain representatives from another place, nominated by the Lord Chancellor, and you, Sir, have kindly agreed, if the House so desires, to nominate the Members from this House. The question of the status and functions of this delegation was raised on my earlier statement. I wish to make it clear that the members will go out as representatives of Parliament to make personal contacts to ascertain individual views and to convey to leading Indians the broad general attitude of the chief political parties in this country. The delegation will not be in any sense charged with making an official inquiry, nor will they be asked to make any formal report.

Mr. Eden

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for this modification of the original proposal. Although we are grateful for the valuable work done by the Empire Parliamentary Association, it does seem that this particular mission will proceed better under these auspices.

Mr. Tom Smith

May I take it this change of policy in no way reflects on the policy of the Empire Parliamentary Association to promote unity within the British Commonwealth, both by personal contacts, and the exchange of important information?

Mr. Morrison

I cordially associate myself with what the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member have said about the Empire Parliamentary Association. It is a most admirable association, but in the case of this delegation, it was thought, on balance, better to handle the visit in another way.

Mr. John Lewis

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any idea of the duration of the mission?

Mr. Morrison

We hope it will take place during the Recess, but whether the Members will be able to get back for the date when the House resumes is doubtful.

Earl Winterton

In view of the unfortunate precedent in the case of the Mission to Newfoundland, which afterwards found itself unable to make a report, will the right hon. Gentleman state more clearly whether we are to have a report to the House from this mission? If not, what is the sense of sending it?

Mr. Morrison

I have explained the sense of sending it, and I think that the position is clear. I think it would be wrong to turn this Parliamentary delegation into something like a commission. I think it would be wrong to fetter them, and wrong to require them to make a report to the House on their return. I should hope that on the delegation's return, they would be agreeable, as the Government would wish, to make their views and opinions known, and if it were the desire of the House, I feel certain they would be happy to attend an all-party meeting upstairs in order that they might give information. But I think it would be wrong if we were to convert this Parliamentary delegation into something like a Royal Commission.

Earl Winterton

May I respectfully protest against the proposal of an all-party meeting upstairs? The proper place to report to the House of Commons is in the House.

Mr. Evelyn Walkden

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is not aware that a previous delegation which went to China reported to an all-party meeting? This mission, I assume, will go out for fact finding and good will and not fault finding.

Sir Ralph Glyn

May I ask who will make arrangements for this party when it gets to India and will it be able to move about India? Will it be under the Government of India, and is it thought that, in a fortnight, the mission can learn very much about the whole of India?

Mr. Morrison

The services of the Government of India will be at the disposal of the delegation in the matter of an itinerary and transport and so on, but the delegation will be free to go wherever they like, and we trust will exercise that freedom.

Mr. Driberg

Further to the point referred to by the Noble Lord, may we take it that, although the delegation may not be required to present a written report, if they should unanimously desire to do so, they would not be prevented from doing so, as in the case of the Newfoundland mission?

Mr. Morrison

That is a matter we can consider when the delegation return, and, if they wished, they could confer with the Government on the point. I am bound to say that I do not recall a previous delegation of this kind having, as the Noble Lord seemed to imply, made a verbal report to Parliament in full Session,

Earl Winterton

Will there be any opportunity of discussing this matter?

Mr. Morrison

No, I do not think so.

Mr. Pickthorn

I apologise for not getting in sooner, but, if I heard the right hon. Gentleman aright, he referred to this Parliamentary delegation as representative of the Government. I feel sure that that is not correct, and this intervention will give him the opportunity to correct his statement.

Mr. Morrison

With great respect, the hon. Gentleman is, I feel sure, quite wrong. Certainly, it would not be a true statement of the position.

Captain Crookshank

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman upon whom the expenses are to fall?

Mr. Morrison

They will fall upon the Government, and presumably will be taken on the Vote of the India Office.

Captain Crookshank

Then there will have to be a Supplementary Estimate?

Mr. Morrison

I do not know. It depends, but, whether it is on a Supplementary Estimate or the ordinary Vote, if the House wants to discuss it on Supply, it is free to do so. That, however, is not what the Noble Lord meant. He went quite wrong on the precedents.

Mr. Nicholson

Surely, Parliament has benefited considerably from the fact that both Houses have had their contacts with Indian personalities. Surely, it is not necessary to make such heavy weather of it, as some hon. Members do.