HC Deb 07 December 1949 vol 470 cc1907-10

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

4.38 p.m.

Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)

As this Clause is the only substantial Clause in the Bill, I want to raise certain points on it. When he introduced the Bill, the Minister gave an assurance about the type of Order in Council which he would introduce. He said, for example, that he would not use the Order in Council method for matters which involved vital alteration of the law, and as there may be, as I warned the House in the Second Reading Debate, various points in the law which may need altering in a very important manner, I should like the right hon. Gentleman, if possible, to give us a further assurance on this matter. I should also like him to give us an illustration of the type of alteration of the law which might follow but which would, of course, normally depend upon the Indian legislature itself altering its own law. That would particularly be the case in the matter of citizenship.

Apart from that, the only other matter I want to raise on this Clause is on the Orders in Council. Under subsection 3 (b) we read that An Order in Council under this Section … shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a Resolution of either House of Parliament. Could the right hon. Gentleman give a little further indication of the type of Order in Council he has in mind and how Members of the House can take action upon it—whether by affirmative or negative Resolution?

The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker)

This Bill makes provision only for annulment by a negative Resolution of either House of any Order which may be presented under this Bill. I do not know that I can add very much to what I said in the Second Reading Debate about the nature of the Orders which we shall bring forward. As an illustration of the kind of subject on which we should not bring forward an Order in Council I gave any change in the law of citizenship under the British Nationality Act, 1948, which might result from new Indian legislation. That is the only subject which I have considered because it is the only one on which I think there is at present a foreseeable probability that the Indian Legislature will introduce legislation themselves, which will require a substantial or important Amendment of our law here.

We adopted this method of the negative resolution partly because it had been introduced into similar Acts which were passed by Parliament in 1947 and 1948, and partly because the object we had in view was really quite different from that which was envisaged when, in the Government of India Act, 1935, provision for affirmative resolution was made. It was then anticipated that changes might be made, for example, in the provinces—in the constitution of new provinces, the alteration of the size or boundaries of provinces; and that they might be made by Orders in Council. That was obviously a matter of major importance, and it seemed to Parliament then—and I still think it was right—it seemed to Parliament then that it was only right that such orders should be subject to affirmative resolution.

However, we do not mean to do anything like that here. We think a considerable number of small matters—almost matters of detail—may arise, in which the House would not desire to be troubled with new legislation, and that they can be done by an Order in Council; but if any objection is taken, then, of course, the Order can be annulled. I hope that that explanation will satisfy the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. R. A. Butler

May I then take it, as the right hon. Gentleman's speech on Second Reading of this Bill indicates, and as he said, that the reason that there is no affirmative Resolution is that it is not expected that this particular procedure will be used for any major matter?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Yes. I give that pledge without hesitation.

Mr. Butler

In that case we have no reason to be dissatisfied with the manner in which this is drafted.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Preamble agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment.

4.42 p.m.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

I wish only to say that we have been extremely gratified by the reception which this Bill has had, and that I think it will have a most beneficial effect that the Bill has had the unanimous support of the House.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I should like to say from this side of the House that we have had no hesitation in giving this Bill our support. I do not think I need add on this occasion to the observations we made on Second Reading.

Mr. Viant (Willesden, West)

I hope I shall be pardoned for intervening at this juncture, but I have sat in the House quite a number of years now and witnessed many occasions when the interests of India have been discussed, and I am delighted to be here tonight to offer my congratulations to the people of India and to the Government who have brought this matter to such a satisfactory end. All we can hope now is that India may be blessed with the statesmen who are necessary to bring this Measure successfully to fruition, and the Indian nation to a successful future.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.