HL Deb 13 March 1890 vol 342 cc669-79

Moved, "That the Bill be now considered in Committee."


My Lords, there is a matter to which I desire to call the attention of the noble Viscount opposite in going into Committee on this Bill, because it appears to me to be a matter of very considerable importance, and one which will interfere with the object of the legislation with which the noble Viscount is now concerned, the design of which is to improve the condition of the Provincial Councils in India and to give them further activity and vitality. It will, I think, very much interfere with that end and object unless it receives the attention of your Lordships' House. It will be observed that in the Bill, as originally drafted, and which received the approval of the Government of India, there was a provision contained in the 3rd clause of the Bill that the Local Legislature of any Province in India might, by Acts passed under and subject to the provisions of the Indian Councils Act of 1861, repeal or amend as to that Province any legislation made with regard to that Province, prior to the passing of the Act or to the formation of any Councils subsequently established. In order to explain the point, I should like to call attention to the provisions contained in the Indian Councils Act of 1861. That Act deals with the Councils. Let me take the Council of Bombay as an illustration. It enabled the Council of Bombay to act in regard to what I may call local legislation, but it provided that it was not by its legislation in any way to repeal or amend or interfere with any law passed by the Council of the Governor General subsequent to the Indian Councils Act of 1861—the object, of course, being that, the Local Legislature should not interfere with subsequent legislation of the Governor General in Council dealing with matters with which it thought fit to deal, notwithstanding the existence of the Provincial Council; but it left the Provincial Council free to deal with all the legislation prior to 1861, and of course with all legislation on matters which were in no way dealt with for Bombay by the subsequent action of the Governor General in Council. It enabled other Provincial Councils to be formed, but they could only be formed subject to the same conditions as to legislation as were applicable to Bombay. The consequence was that any Provincial Councils formed, however many years afterwards, could not deal with any subject of legislation practically between 1861 and the time it was formed, which had been dealt with for that Province by the Governor General in Council. Before that time there had been comparatively little legislation of that kind, and, therefore, to preclude a Council formed in 1861 or about that time from dealing with any legislation subsequent to 1861 was to limit their legislation to a very small area. But after 1861 there was a great deal of legislation necessary by the Governor General in Council affecting other parts of India, affecting them as to purely local details, as to which the Government had never before thought fit to interfere. Therefore, when the Local Council was constituted for the North West Provinces it was in this position: that it could not deal with any subject of legislation that had been dealt with in any way whatever, so that purely local matters which had been dealt with by the Governor General in Council between 1861 and, say, 1880, could not be dealt with by the Provincial Council. For example, if the Governor General in Council had dealt with such matters as the straying of cattle, or trespassing of cattle, which are of course purely local concerns, then because they had been dealt with in some way by the Governor General before the North-West Provinces Council was constituted, the North West Provinces Council was powerless to deal with them. The consequence is, that though the North-West Provinces Council has been created, its hands are tied, and it is prevented from dealing with a vast range of purely local subjects which the other Councils, such as the Council of Bombay, have been dealing with for years. If there is a Council constituted for the Punjaub, which will probably soon be the case, that will be subject to the same fetters. The consequence is, that there will be little advantage gained by increasing the importance or strengthening the powers of the Provincial Councils if you only strengthen them in importance, but leave them in such a position that they are prevented from dealing with a vast range of purely local matters, which it is in the highest degree expedient the Councils should be induced to take up as much as possible. To meet that difficulty the 3rd clause was introduced into the draft Bill which is before your Lordships' House, and it was approved by the Governor General in Council. I need not read it; but that clause practically gets rid of the difficulty to which I have called your attention, and enables these Councils, notwithstanding the prior legislation before they were constituted by the Governor General in Council, to deal with these important local matters. I do not know why tins clause has dropped out of the Bill, but I desire to call your Lordships' attention to it because it is really of little use to strengthen these Provincial Councils, as I hold it is in the highest degree necessary to strengthen them, and which will lead to most valuable work being done in India, if their hands are tied so that they cannot deal with these important subjects of every-day interest, and regarding purely local concerns, which it is necessary for them to deal with and legislate upon. I hope, therefore, that we shall have some explanation from the noble Viscount as to why this clause has been omitted.


My Lords, what has fallen from the noble and learned Lord opposite is perfectly true. This clause was in the original Bill, and had received practically the sanction of the Government of India. It was only left out in order to lighten the Kill, which we are anxious your Lordships' House should pass. Thinking, however, that it would be wise not to leave that point alone, I have been in consultation with some of those who are most intimately acquainted with the North-Western Provinces, and I am prepared, if it should be considered necessary for this clause to be inserted, to at once assent to that re-insertion. But I am further strengthened in that opinion by the consideration that the more one looks into the matter the more one is convinced that the extension of these Councils will be a great advantage to India. I am in correspondence privately with the Viceroy as to whether it would not be well in other parts of India to set up Councils like these in order, as far as possible, to bring about decentralisation. If, therefore, in Committee the noble Earl will move the re-insertion of that clause in the Bill, I shall at once assent to it.


I am exceedingly glad that my noble and learned Friend has called attention to this matter. I am sorry I overlooked it, because the point was raised at the time I was at the India Office, and extreme inconvenience was experienced by the absence of such a clause as this which has been left out of the Bill. I believe it would be a great practical remedy for that inconvenience. I have heard with great pleasure the opinion, which the noble Viscount has expressed that it is desirable to extend the Councils to other parts of India. At the time I was in the India Office it was determined to extend the system of Councils to the North-Western Provinces, and I certainly from what I heard at that time, speaking from my own examination of the subject, am fully persuaded that from time to time as the Provinces are found to be in a fit condition to receive Councils, they should be extended to those Provinces.

On Question, agreed to.

House in Committee (according to order).

Clause 1.


It will be perhaps in the recollection of your Lordships that on the Second Reading of this Bill my noble Friends the Marquess of Ripon and the Earl of Kimberley and I myself expressed our cordial support of the Bill, but our desire that the door should not be shut to some system of election or selection in respect of the nomination of members, certainly of the Local Legislatures and possibly also of the Supreme Legislature. My Lords, in expressing that opinion we took care, and my noble Friends will correct me if I am not giving an accurate account of their views as well as my own, to express our o pinion that India was at the present time entirely unsuited to the introduction of any general system of popular representation. In the discussion my noble Friend the Marquess of Ripon gave an illustration of the manner in which, when lie was Viceroy, he made one or two appointments to the Legislative Council of the Viceroy; that is to say, by requesting a Public Body of some importance in Calcutta to recommend a gentleman for appointment as a member of that Council, in view of a very important project of law which was then being discussed. In reply to our observations, the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India referred to that illustration, and expressed his opinion that some such practice as that was likely to be carried out under the Bill, and he said it might be very desirable that Public Bodies of differ nit kinds in India should make recommendations to the Viceroy and to the heads of Local Governments for appointments to the different Legislative Councils, the Viceroy and the heads of the Local Governments nominating, if they thought fit, the persons so recommended to them. I think the noble Viscount added that he believed that could be done under the provisions of the Bill. I was a little doubtful whether that suggestion could be carried out without possibly a legal difficulty arising, unless an extension were made of the words contained in the Bill; and for the purpose of making that quite clear I venture to propose the Amendment which I have placed upon your Lordships' Table, namely, to insert the following words at the end of Clause 1:— Provided that the Governor General in Council may from time to time, with the approval of the Secretary of State in Council make regulations as to the conditions under which such nomiations or any of them shall be made by the Governor General, Governors, and Lieutenant Governors respectively, and prescribe the manner in which such regulations should be carried into effect. I apprehend those words will make it quite clear that some such system as was indicated by my noble Friend the Marquess of Ripon, and which appeared to receive the a sent of the Secretary of State for India could be carried into effect. I have only to add one word more, end that is to express my own opinion that while it is desirable that a certain number of nominations to the Legislative Councils in India may be made in this manner, yet I am far from thinking that it would be wise at the present time to enact that all the non-official members of the Council should be nominated after such consultation; and I will give your Lordships an illustration showing how difficult it would be to create such a rule with fairness to the people of India. I take it that in the Lower Province of Bengal the representation of the ryots, the cultivators of the soil—that is, the great mass of the people must be provided for by the selection of some person by the Lieutenant Governor, for instance, some member of the Civil Service who has paid great attention to the wants of the ryots, and who can represent those wants in the Legislative Council, Taking any system that could be applied to Bengal at the present time for the purpose of selecting a representative by the recommendation of Public Bodies, it would be exceedingly unlikely that anyone really representing the great mass of the cultivators of the soil would be recommended. Therefore, I think, there should always be some power reserved to the Governors and Lieutenant Governors of Provinces, in order to provide for the representation of different classes of people—people of different races and different religions—a representation which could not be adequately provided for by any system of election which I have yet seen advocated by anyone who has taken the subject into consideration. I venture, therefore, to move the insertion of the words which I have read.

Amendment moved, at the end of Clause 1, to add— Provided that the Governor General in Council may from time to time, with the approval of the Secretary of State in Council, make regulations as to the conditions under which such nominations, or any of them, shall he made by the Governor General, Governors, and Lieutenant Governors respectively, and prescribe the manner in which such regulations shall be carried into effect."—[The Marl of Northbrook.)


The noble Lord who has just sat down has most accurately described wit at I had the honour of stating to your Lordships when I intro- duced this Bill, and therefore it is unnecessary for me to repeat anything I then said, because it has been so plainly put before your Lordships by the noble Lord. It had always been my intention when this Bill became law, which I hope will soon be the case, to follow the example of Sir Charles Wood, and in sending out a copy of the Act to send with it a despatch pointing out how these members of Council might very well be nominated, so as not only to give the Governor General, the Governors, and Lieutenant Governors, sufficient additional assistance, as they might require, but that they might get the best representatives of the people of the country. But the noble Lord has said that there might be some possible legal difficulty experienced in carrying that out, unless there was something in the Act of Parliament showing how that might be done. Nothing was, or is, further from my mind than to leave a legal difficulty open for further dispute; and therefore I have not the smallest objection to insert such words in order to make quite clear the intention of the Legislature in passing this Act of Parliament. There is one further advantage in inserting words of this kind, and that is that their insertion will satisfy the people of India that this matter has been thought of and considered, when they find that this particular point is referred to in the Act itself which practically increases the number of persons who are to be nominated. I do not think, therefore, that I should be justified now in taking up more of your Lordships' time upon the matter than I have already done, because I should only be repeating what I said on the Second Reading of the Bill. I have no objection to the insertion of those words.


My Lords, I am extremely glad to heal that the noble Viscount will accept the words proposed by the noble Lord behind me. I am bound to say that I can express my own satisfaction, because I regard this as to a certain extent admitting the elective principle. I understand that this will enable the Governor General, Governors, and Lieutenant Governors to put into the hands of certain public bodies the selection of the persons who are to be nominated by him to the Council. That may not not be, strictly speaking, what we should call election; but I welcome this clause as opening the door—because I should wish to leave an open door—to the Government to practically leave the selection to bodies who will, in fact, elect the representatives. I entirely agree with my noble Friend behind me that it is not desirable that this system, whatever it may be which is adopted, should be extended to the whole of the non-official members; in other words, it is most essential in India that the interests of minorities should be protected. It has been found in this country not very easy to protect the interests of minorities by any contrivance that can be devised; but there must be found some mode in India of seeing that minorities such as the important body of Mahomedans, who are frequently in a minority in parts of that country, are fully represented. There are several reasons, as my noble Friend stated, for adopting that course. It is not, of course, really possible that the ryots should be represented otherwise than by such persons as may be selected by the Governors. These, my Lords, are the reasons why I thoroughly agree with the noble Lord that this will be an improvement to the Bill, and I can only hope that, under a judicious use of those powers by the Governor General, with all such safeguards as would be necessary in carrying out a very important experiment such as this, this enactment will be found to be a very valuable addition to the constitution of the Councils in India.

On question, "That the proposed words stand part of the Bill," agreed to.

Clause 2 agreed to.


Your Lordships may have observed that when questions have been put either in this or in the other House of Parliament with regard to grievances or complaints in India, one of two answers is generally given, either that the Secretary of State for India has not had the matter referred to him, and he knows nothing about it, or that the matter has been decided by the Indian Government, and ho cannot go back from what they have done. On one of the occasions last Session when I put a question to the noble Viscount I was making no complaint against individual officials, but rather against the system that was going on—I called attention to cases of men and women who had been fined and imprisoned for trifling infractions of the Revenue Laws in regard to the manufacture of salt. I am glad of this opportunity of thanking the noble Viscount for saying that he would inquire into the matter, for he inquired to such good purpose that a very short time afterwards it was announced that resolutions had been passed prohibiting prosecutions in future for trivial infractions of the Revenue Laws in regard to salt. But it is not only natives who have to suffer from injustice, but also Englishmen. There was the case of a Mr. Crole who obtained justice from my noble Friend, and before that from Earl Kimberley. Mr. Crole having been suspended through the action of a Member of the Madras Council, came home to England and laid his case before the Secretary for India. He was ordered to be, and was, re-instated as far as he could be re-instated; but as his place had been taken in the meantime by somebody else, he had to be placed in an inferior position, and he lost besides a year's salary-. I believe the noble Viscount afterwards gave him that year's salary; but I do not know whether it came out of the pockets of the taxpayers or had to be made good by those who had suspended him. There can be no reason for any obstacle being placed in the way of the Government knowing in time what has been done by its subordinates; therefore, my Lords, I beg leave to move the Amendment of which I have given notice. Perhaps the noble Viscount will be able also to tell me whether the four restrictions contained in Clause 19 of the Act of 1861 will still be in force, and if that which is not forbidden by those restrictions will be permitted?

Amendment moved, on Page 2, at end of Clause 2, to add— Provided also that rules made under this Act shall not prohibit questions being asked relating to complaints respecting alleged acts of maladministration within British territory." (The Lord Stanley of Alderley.)


In reply to the last observation of the noble Lord, the four restrictions he refers to will undoubtedly be in force. I know of no others. As to my noble Friend's Amendment, I think the words he proposes would be dangerous, and they would certainly be superfluous. In the first place, the rules are to be drawn up by the Governor General, and if we permit questions to be asked I think it should be for him to consider the matter. I think the Viceroy should have the power of putting a stop to any question if he thinks it advisable, because it might be entirely against the public interest for certain questions to be answered. That liberty you must leave to the Viceroy, Governors, and Lieutenant Governors. Therefore I should say that those words would be utterly useless, because no such rule would ever be made as to prevent any general inquiry into cases of maladministration. In fact the object of giving this right of asking questions is for the purpose of interrogating the Government upon their acts. At the same time, it is necessary to preserve the power of the Viceroy, Governors, and Lieutenant Governors, to prevent any question being asked, or at all events to refuse an answer in case it should be in his opinion injurious to the public interest. I hope, therefore, your Lordships will not desire that that Amendment should be adopted.

On Question, "That the proposed words stand part of the Bill," resolved in the negative.

Clause 3 and Clause 4 agreed to.


After Clause 4, I have to move a new clause in reference to the powers of Indian Provincial Legislatures. I need not say anything further about it on the present occasion, because I stated all I had to say about it upon going into Committee.

Moved, on page 3, after clause, to insert the following new clause:— The local legislature of any province in India may from time to time, by Acts passed under and subject to the provisions of the Indian Councils Act, 1861, and with the previous sanction of the Governor General, hut not otherwise, repeal or amend as to that province any law or regulation made either before or after the passing of this Act by any authority in India other than that local legislature: Provided that an Act or a provision of an Act made by a local legislature, and subsequently assented to by the Governor General in pursuance of the Indian Councils Act, 1861, shall not be deemed invalid by reason only of its requiring the previous sanction of the Governor General under this section."—(The Lord Herschell,)

On question, "That the proposed words stand part of the Bill," agreed to.

Bill to be read 3a on Monday next; and to be printed as amended. (No. 40.)