HL Deb 09 March 1909 vol 1 cc336-59

Amendments reported (according to order).


My Lords, I have now to move an Amendment. It is, in effect, the full restitution of what was the third clause, which your Lordships rejected on Thursday last. I hope your Lordships will believe that in moving what is in effect the restoration of this third clause I am not animated by any particular pertinacity. Of course, I regretted the rejection of the clause, and I regret it still, and I have a particular reason for regretting it, because I understand from authorities in India that the effect there is unfortunate—that is the word—that the effect of the rejection of this clause is unfortunate, very unfortunate. I am sure every noble Lord in the House is keenly alive to the cardinal importance of the way in which the people of India—all the various communities which make up what we call India—watch what we are doing at home here in the India Office and in Parliament, and it is above all things desirable that we should allow no impression to get abroad in India that we are negligent in looking at the real effect of what we are doing. Feeling this, and observing that both the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition and the noble Lord opposite, Lord Curzon, were careful to say—and Lord Curzon has repeated it in a letter which appeared in The Times on Saturday—that they had no rooted objection to the principle of the clause, that their resistance to the clause was not meant to be of a permanent kind, and the noble Marquess even suggested that we should by-and-bye, in the course of the present session I think he said, bring up that clause in the form of a Parliamentary Bill, I telegraphed to the Government of India and to the Viceroy as to their views. I thought it was just to Parliament and to your Lordships to find out what their view was, because, as I understood, the objection of the noble Lords opposite, of Lord Lansdowne and Lord Curzon, and of my noble friend on the Cross Bench, was founded upon this, that the opinion of the Government and authorities in India had not been effectively ascertained.

I have now received a reply to that inquiry of mine. With your Lordships' permission I am not going to argue as to the merits of the clause. That was argued adequately and sufficiently in Committee. I am not going to say a word about the arguments for or against the clause. I have to communicate to your Lordships the views of the Government of India. These are not the exact words of the telegram, for reasons which the noble Marquess will understand, but it is as good as a textual reproduction.

"The Government of India in 1905"—that was before the present Government took office—"discussed the question of Provincial Executive Councils. At that time their opinion was adverse to the introduction of councils in provinces administered by Lieutenant-Governors; but since then conditions have changed and they are still changing. Our opinion now is that the arguments then used against government by Executive Councils are not any longer of the same force. When the constitutional changes now proposed"—in the Bill which your Lordships read the second time a few days ago—"come into operation the situation will be different, and that is our reason for modifying our views. There must then, under the new conditions, be a large increase in the work of Lieutenant-Governors, and we anticipate it will be necessary to give them some kind of further assistance, not only in respect of the actual work of these Legislative Councils, but also with a view to relieving the Lieutenant-Governors of minor executive matters. We refer to this point in paragraph 76 of our Despatch of October 1, as it came under consideration when the general question of reform was being examined. There are already very great calls made upon the time of Lieutenant-Governors in the matter of tours, receptions, and so forth, and there can be no doubt that indirectly the enlargement of Legislative Councils proposed in this Bill will multiply the occasions requiring the Lieutenant-Governors to deal with questions of public importance. We consider that in all probability the best means of giving the required assistance will prove to be the creation of Executive Councils. The members of such a Council would be responsible Ministers who could speak in the matter of government in a way that no secretaries or other officials could do. For the reason we have given we are in favour of having the power proposed by Clause 3 in the Bill, and we should regret if the opportunity which now presents itself of obtaining that power for us were to be lost. We are altogether opposed to the proposal which we understand has been put forward to create forthwith Councils in all the larger Provinces, and we desire to make that point clear. We see no present necessity for a general change of this character, and it should be made, if it is to be made, only in the light of experience. That Clause 3 would give us. We should exercise the power given under Clause 3 gradually and cautiously and only after the fullest consideration of the effect of the new conditions in each Province."

Now, my Lords, that is the position taken up by the Government of India. That is the request, if I may so call it, that they address to Parliament—namely, that we should take this opportunity of giving them those powers, of caution in exercising which they give an assurance that I know every noble Lord in the House will thoroughly trust. I submit that it would be prudent for this House not to postpone this. The noble Marquess opposite says, Postpone it. Why? We all know what happens in a session of Parliament. Supposing towards July the noble Marquess will say, Now the time has come when we could give the Indian Government the powers which we refused them in March. I cannot think that is a businesslike or politic course. I cannot think on what substantial grounds he will resist my proposal to reinsert the clause giving the Government of India powers which the noble Marquess does not deny might, with a little more experience, be useful, and which, as I say, they undertake to use cautiously and carefully.

Amendment moved— After Clause 2 to insert the following clause: 3—(1) It shall be lawful for the Governor-General in Council, with the approval of the Secretary of State in Council, by proclamation, to create a Council in any Province under a Lieutenant-Governor for the purpose of assisting the Lieutenant-Governor in the executive government of the Province, and by such proclamation— (a) to determine what powers and duties of the Lieutenant-Governor shall be exercised and performed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, and what shall be the number (not exceeding four), qualifications, powers, and duties of the members of any such Council; and (b) to make provision for the appointment of temporary or acting members of the council during the absence of any member from illness or otherwise, and for the procedure to be adopted in case of a difference of opinion between a Lieutenant-Governor and his Council, and in the case of equality of votes, and in the case of a Lieutenant- Governor being obliged to absent himself from his Council from indisposition or any other cause. (2) Every member of any such Council shall be appointed by the Governor-General with the approval of His Majesty, and shall, as such, be a member of the Legislative Council of the Lieutenant-Governor in addition to the members nominated by the Lieutenant-Governor and elected under the provisions of this Act."—(Viscount Morley of Blackburn.)


My Lords, I have in the first place to tender my thanks to the noble Viscount opposite for his courtesy in having allowed me during the course of the morning to see the important telegram, the substance of which he has just communicated to the House. Let me say at once that the fact of that telegram having reached the noble Viscount affords sufficient explanation for the otherwise extremely unusual course which he has taken in regard to this Amendment. The clause which the noble Viscount desires to restore to the Bill was thrown out the other evening. I think only eighteen of the supporters of His Majesty's Government were found to go into the Lobby in support of it, and naturally the House concluded that, so far as it was concerned, the clause was disposed of. I cannot recall any instance in which a clause taken out of a Bill in the Committee stage has been reinstated within a very few days except by the general concurrence of both sides of the House. The question is, has the noble Viscount, in the remarks he has addressed to us, made out a case for that general concurrence?

May I be allowed to summarise what I conceive to be the contents of the telegram which the noble Viscount has read to the House? In the first place, the Government of India admit very frankly that they have entirely changed their minds on this subject since the year 1903. I make no complaint about that; there may be sufficient reason for that change of mind. But they go on to state the reasons which have induced them so to change their mind. They point, in the first place, to the probability of these new and enlarged Legislative Councils imposing a very heavy strain upon Lieutenant-Governors of Provinces. They call attention to the fact that there will be ample discussions on the Provincial Budgets, that we may expect criticism of all branches of administration, and they also touch on the possibility of attack in the guise of supplementary questions. And they suggest that these additional burdens which are to be thrown upon the heads of Provincial Governments can be best alleviated by placing alongside them Executive Councils somewhat as we know them in the two Presidencies of Madras and Bombay. But, in spite of the weight which the Government of India attach to these considerations, they make it perfectly clear that they have no idea whatever of making a general change in this direction at present. That is, I understand, categorically stated. They say, and say with great propriety, that further experience is desirable before such a change is resorted to, and they desire that the effect of the new councils which we are about to create in the different Provinces should receive full consideration. To that they add, unless I am mistaken, a very important observation to the effect that they have not yet been able to make full inquiries into the needs of the different Provinces, and they limit themselves to this substantive proposal, that, for the present, an Executive Council should be created in the Province of Bengal, and in the Province of Bengal alone, after the Legislative Council has been called into existence.


Will the noble Marquess permit me to interrupt him? I think he misplaces the point of the argument. I think the Government of India are dealing with the proposal that they should set up these Councils in all the larger Provinces, and it is to guard themselves against that supposition that they express the intentions the noble Marquess is dealing with.


I do not think my interpretation differs materially from the noble Viscount's. They limit their proposal to the Province of Bengal, where they think an Executive Council might be created after the Legislative Council has come into existence. I desire to call the attention of the House to what seem to be three very noteworthy admissions contained in the telegram which the noble Viscount has communicated to the House. In the first place, I think your Lordships should observe that the argument founded upon the necessity of alleviating the burden of the Lieutenant-Governors rests entirely upon anticipation. It is not a case of anything the Government of India know, but it is because they antici- pate certain results from the enlargement of the Legislative Councils that the addition of this clause to the Bill is suggested. And it is remarkable—and I really think I am entitled to dwell on the fact—that the anticipation of the Government of India on this point is very much the same as the anticipation which was made on this side of the House by several noble Lords who spoke on the occasion of the Second Reading. They anticipate, just as we anticipate, that the result of this legislation will be to set up in the different provinces little Parliaments on the Western model—Parliaments which will create an immense amount of new business which will weigh down the heads of the local Governments and their secretaries, and, therefore, necessitate the creation of what been described as responsible Ministers, who are to bear a part of their burden.

The second admission which I find in the telegram is this. It is frankly stated that the Government of India have not yet been able to make full inquiry into the circumstances of the different Provinces. That was our main argument the other evening—that you were going to do this in anticipation of the full inquiry that we thought necessary into the needs of the different Provinces, and I trust the House will not forget that, in the often-quoted Despatch of October last year, the Government of India dwelt emphatically on the fact that it was, I think the expression was, "even premature" to discuss the expediency of making this great change until we had had, in the first place, experience of the new condition of things, and, in the next place, full consultation with the provincial authorities. What has happened? We have, obviously, had no experience of the new order of things, and we now learn that such consultation as there was has been limited to a purely domestic consultation between the Secretary of State and the Governor-General of India in Council, the latter of whom, we have been told again to-night, are very recent converts on this particular subject.

I come to the third admission which I discover in the telegram. It is that there is no question whatever of introducing these new Executive Councils except in the one Province of Bengal, and after the new Legislative Council his been created. I venture to say that the telegram, so far as it proves any thing, proves, not the case of the noble Viscount, but the case of those who argued against him on this side of the House. The need for these Councils has not yet arisen; consultation has not yet taken place, and there is only one Province out of the whole of India in which the Government of India are prepared to apply the clause should it pass into law.

What I venture to say to the House is this. What good purpose shall we serve by announcing to the whole of the Provinces of India that they may get Executive Councils if the Government of India and the Secretary of State shall be so minded, when we know perfectly well that neither the Government of India nor the Secretary of State has any intention whatever of giving Executive Councils except in this one Province? Is it not perfectly certain that the result will be agitation of a very inconvenient kind? I saw in the paper this morning that there has already been a large meeting in Eastern Bengal in the important town of Dacca, where a distinguished concourse were unanimous, apparently, in proclaiming that the time had come when they should have an Executive Council. And so it will be in all the other Provinces if we put this clause on the Statute-book.

Only one word more. I must say I resent the argument that a clause of this kind may be heedlessly admitted into a Bill of this importance because it is merely an enabling clause. The argument in favour of an enabling clause is that, supposing hereafter there is a desire to introduce this change, there would, unless we have taken these powers, have to be fresh legislation with all its troubles and uncertainties. I say we have no right, in order to save ourselves the trouble of further legislation, to put into a Bill of this kind, prematurely, a clause of this immense importance. Therefore, I venture, with all deference, to say that, in my view, the announcement made by the noble Viscount really does not alter the case as it presented itself to us the other evening, and that we should do well, and that common prudence, indeed, requires us for the moment at any rate, not to consent to the addition of a clause which is opposed by a great deal of very high authority, and in support of which the noble Viscount has not been able to produce arguments of a kind sufficient to modify the decision we came to the other evening.


My Lords, I do not propose to enter into discussion of the merits of this question. My noble friend behind me refrained from entering into the general arguments, and I, of course, am far less competent to do so. But I must express the deep regret which we on this side of the House feel that the noble Marquess, on behalf of those who act with him, has arrived at the conclusion that this clause ought not to be reinserted. We have heard a great deal at different times about the opinion of the man on the spot, but, for this purpose, I am afraid that this House is the spot and that nothing that can be said by the Government of India will, as we gather from the noble Marquess, alter the opinion on this subject of noble Lords opposite. In these circumstances we are, of course, obliged to submit to the force majevre of the Benches opposite, and we shall not put your Lordships to the trouble of once more walking through the Lobbies on this subject. I confess that some of the concluding sentences of the noble Marquess' speech struck me as strange. He objects to this clause on the ground that it is an enabling clause, and the conclusion that we reach from that statement is that in this important matter no discretion ought to be left to the Government of India, and that every time the Government of India desires to exercise the powers conferred by this clause it is to come to your Lordships' House for leave. That seems to me a strange departure in the Government of India. I can recall nothing like it in my recollection, and I very much doubt if noble Lords who have been concerned with Indian Government can either. I should have thought that the desire to proceed cautiously expressed in the telegram which my noble friend read would have appealed to noble Lords opposite, and would have offered a fair reason for giving this power to the Supreme Indian Government. The noble Marquess said that, if given, it would lead to agitation all over India in each province where these powers are desired. Surely the Indian Government must be better judges of that even than the noble Marquess himself, with all his experience of India. The Indian Government are willing to take that responsibility; they desire to exercise these powers when it seems good to them, after an inquiry which in each case they can conduct at the time and in the manner that appears best to them. I confess their demand seems to me to be thoroughly reasonable. But, as the noble Marquess has intimated the course that he and his friends propose to take, it is really of not much use to discuss the question further.


My Lords, I am not sure that the noble Earl has been altogether fair, either to the position taken up by the majority of noble Lords on this side of the House or to that taken up by the noble Marquess. I did not understand the noble Marquess to take the line as to the necessity or the possibility of future legislation which has been attributed to him by the noble Earl. What was the object that actuated the majority of noble Lords the other night in temporarily, at any rate, deleting this clause? We felt, in view of the expressed opinion of the Government of India as recently as October last, that it was not unreasonable to ask that there should be presented to this House the opinion not merely of the Government of India as at present constituted, but of all those classes of people whom this proposed reform will most immediately and directly affect. Now the noble Viscount says to us, "I have given you to-night the opinions of the men on the spot." With all submission, he has done nothing of the sort. What he has given to us is the opinion of the Government of India.

I would not presume for one moment to throw in the face of the Government of India that they have changed their opinions since 1905. Their composition is entirely different, and even if it were not so they would be quite at liberty to change their views. But what we are concerned is to know what has occurred to change their opinions between October 1, 1908, the date of their Despatch, and March 9, 1909, the date on which we are discussing this matter in your Lordships' House. Surely the situation is exactly the same now as it was the other evening, with the exception that we have had the important telegram from the Government of India which the Secretary of State has read. I do not think that we here are so much concerned to ascertain the present judgment of the Government of India, although, of course, I am not wishing to minimise the significance to be attached to it. I think what we want to ascertain is the opinion of rulers of the provinces to which these Councils are to be attached, and of the important classes of the community in those parts of India. We shall make no greater mistake in introducing this legislation than if we shape and mould it exclusively to meet the needs or the demands of one class in India. We have to consider all those great classes in the community—the moderate, sensible, loyal—very often rather speechless—men who are the backbone and support of our administration in India. My own belief, from such knowledge as I have of those classes in India, is that in the bulk of the provinces to which we are referring they would be unanimously opposed to these proposals. Is it unreasonable to ask, therefore, that before we proceed further in the matter, we should have placed before us the views, if possible, of the Lieutenant-Governors; or if, as the noble Viscount said the other day it is rather an invidious thing to ask a Lieutenant-Governor to state his objections in public, should he feel objections, is it unreasonable to ask that some steps should be taken to ascertain what is the public opinion in the provinces concerned?

The noble Earl who spoke last talked as if the noble Marquess was inviting the House permanently and finally to expunge this clause from the Bill and only to deal with the matter as necessity arose by special legislation at a later date. Is that the case? Is it not the fact that this Bill will go down to the other House of Parliament, and that after discussion there it will come back to this House? I am sure, speaking for myself and other noble Lords connected with India, nothing would please us more than if, in the interval, the noble Viscount was able to put before us a consensus of opinion sufficiently strong to induce us to give that assent to this clause of the Bill which we have so readily given to its main principles. One other point. The argument in the telegram which was read to us is an argument for Executive Councils for Lieutenant-Governors, on the ground of the great addition to their labours that is to be imposed by the new scheme of Legislative Councils adumbrated by the Secretary of State. Incidentally, I suppose I might say that that justifies a good deal of the criticisms passed by myself and other noble Lords in this House upon the scheme of enlarged Legislative Councils. But I pass that by. I put to your Lordships this question—If the argument is a valid argument, why is it to apply to Bengal alone? Is it not certain that, if your Lieutenant-Governor is to be so overwhelmed with his duties on these enlarged Legislative Councils, that he will have to spend hours of his time sitting in Council, making speeches, answering questions, and so on, and if for that reason he requires the executive assistance which the noble Viscount contemplates—is it not certain that that argument applies equally to Eastern Bengal with Western Bengal, to the United Provinces with Bengal, and to the Punjab with the United Provinces? Even if it does not follow in logic, I venture to say that it will follow in practice. Already meetings have been held and an agitation raised in India on this subject. The noble Marquess alluded to the meeting held yesterday to press for a Council for Eastern Bengal. Once you give Executive Councils to the two Bengals you cannot withhold them from the United Provinces and the Punjab; and thus from this only half-considered beginning you will really be taking steps to revolutionise the government of India.

All we say is before your Lordships take this step let us have some authority in its favour—some authority in addition to that of the Government of India. Up to the present moment every Lieutenant-Governor, so far as we know, who has spoken has spoken against this change. Is it not possible for the noble Viscount to recruit some Lieutenant-Governor who can speak in its favour? But, putting on one side the Lieutenant-Governors, whom the noble Viscount dismissed the other day as bureaucrats, do let us have the opinions of the leading classes in the Provinces concerned. If in the interval between now and the return of this Bill from the House of Commons the noble Viscount is able to give us the information which we desire, I do not think he will find at all a recalcitrant attitude on the part of noble Lords on this side of the House.

On Question, Amendment negatived.


My Lords, I now have to move, in conformity with an undertaking I gave the other night, that the following new clause be inserted after Clause 4— All regulations and rules made under this Act shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament as soon as may be after they are made. The opinion of Lord Ampthill, who moved an Amendment on the point in Committee but subsequently withdrew it, I daresay is that the regulations under the Act ought to be laid before the two Houses of Parliament before they become effective and operative. I submit that this is an untenable and impossible Position to take. I think the passage I quoted when we first went into Committee from the late Lord Salisbury was quite definite upon that, and I do not believe the principle laid down by Lord Salisbury is one that anybody who has thought at all carefully about the relations of the Houses of Parliament to the Executive Government would wish to differ from. The only effective way of pulling up the Executive Government which has made regulations or taken some other action that is disapproved of is by a vote of censure on the responsible Ministers. You cannot with proper regard to the Constitution or to effective government, allow either House of Parliament to be constantly overhauling, meddling with, and directing the Executive Government, and I am surprised that that is not accepted by the Front Bench opposite as a very strong Conservative doctrine whatever else it may be.

Supposing we allow these regulations to lie on the Table of the two Houses of Parliament before coming into operation; suppose one House approves and the other disapproves of them, what happens to the Government of India during that time? You are, first of all, having friction between the two Houses upon a matter which neither House, if your Lordships will permit me to say so, is particularly competent to decide. This House has a superiority in the way of ex-Indian rulers, but it will be admitted, and was admitted by Lord Curzon when he was in the House of Commons, that India is the scene where these regulations and rules ought to be settled and that Parliament is not a competent body to take that operation out of the hands of those on the ground. And while this friction exists the regulations are hung up, though they may be of an emergency character. Then see how cumbersome it might be. The other House is constantly congested and overwhelmed with work. Is it commonsense to add to that congested state of things the duty of supervising all these regulations that may be made by the Government of India under this Act? I cannot think that is a very sensible proposal. I am sure Lord Curzon, who has written and spoken on this matter, will agree that the system of administration in India to-day founded on the old Act of 1858 is capable of improvement, and if we were to start a new system of government we should not enact afresh the Act of 1858. It is a cumbrous system.

The relations between the Viceroy and the Secretary of State are themselves not always very easy to adjust, but to require the assent of both Houses to the regulations under this Bill would render the system more cumbersome. On those grounds I deprecate the view taken with great sincerity and argued with great force by Lord Ampthill. At the same time, I agree that the rules and regulations cannot be withdrawn from the cognisance of Parliament, and by the Amendment I propose the opportunity will be given, as soon after the rules are made as is possible, for Parliament to consider them and, should Parliament think fit, to pass censure upon the Government in respect to any of the rules. The possibility of a vote of censure would be in the mind of the Government of India and of the Secretary of State and act as a check upon any hasty or misguided regulation. All the regulations being laid on the Tables of both Houses as soon as possible after their passing in India, Parliament in either House could demand modifications and cause alterations to be made. That I consider the sensible, businesslike, constitutional method of proceeding, and I therefore move the Amendment.

Amendment moved— After Clause 4 to insert the following new clause:— 'All regulations and rules made under this Act shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament as soon as may be after they are made.'"—(Viscount Morley of Blackburn.)


My Lords, the words which the noble Viscount has put down hardly show that he has had much regard to the plea which we made on the last occasion for a little more generous treatment in regard to these regulations. I do not question the spirit in which the noble Viscount has made this proposal, but I must point out to your Lordships that the words will really have no effect whatever in modifying the condition of affairs created by the Bill. Suppose these regulations and rules to be laid before Parliament, they are to be laid after they have come into effect, after the whole work is done, and after the time when your Lordships or the House of Commons could possibly interfere to produce, not compulsion on the Secretary of State or the Government of India, but even to use persuasion and to bring the force of argument to bear upon them. The noble Viscount says the proper way to proceed is to move a vote of censure on the Secretary of State. A vote of censure if carried, at all events in the other House, must lead to the resignation of the Government. It is possible to argue that a Judge cannot be interfered with by any resolution of Parliament except by an Address to the Crown for his removal; but the principle on which a Judge proceeds and the sentences which he has it in his power to give are laid down by Act of Parliament.

I would point out to the noble Viscount that the Bill which he has laid before us is a skeleton Bill. It is the filling in of this Bill which is the whole importance. It is unlike any Bill we have ever seen laid before Parliament in regard to this country, and, therefore, the same rules are not applicable. Take, for instance, the question of these Legislative Councils. The constituencies which are to be created, the method of using the franchise, the collection of votes, whether by electoral colleges or otherwise, all are left, not in the language of the statute, but to regulations which may be issued by the Government of India under the authority of the Secretary of State. Compare that with any English Bill. A Bill for changing the franchise in England requires schedules, in which you have the franchise properly laid down and the constituencies demarcated to the last village and the last field. I really think the noble Viscount, in proffering us the words he has done, has not realised how very small a concession he has made to what is a very strong and genuine feeling that Parliament ought to know something more of what is to be done before passing the Bill and leaving it entirely in the hands of the Secretary of State. The Executive Councils, as the Bill stood, were left entirely in the hands of the Government of India and the Secretary of State. The time at which they were to be nominated, whether they should be nominated or not, whether the huge expense involved in them should be incurred, were all left to regulations which we could not have touched. It is exactly the same in regard to the whole of the Legislative Councils.

The words on the Paper form one of four different courses by which Parliament in various Acts has preserved some hold on regulations or action taken in accordance with statute. The noble Viscount lays them on the Table so that it may be possible for us some day, if we like, to discuss the regulations, but we cannot influence their being called into effect. It is possible to go a step further—to place them on the Table, but not to put them into effect during the period for which they lay on the Table. That is the second course. The third and stronger course is to enable Parliament within those days to express dissent to any particular regulation. To that course the noble Viscount has suggested various objections, one of which has been the friction which might be occasioned if one House approved and the other House disapproved of a particular regulation. The fourth and still stronger course is one which was forced upon the late Government in 1897 by the vigorous efforts of the party opposite. We were forced to put into a Bill the provision that a particular set of regulations should lie on the Table for forty days, and should not merely not become operative if either House dissented, but that in both Houses a resolution of assent must be moved and carried. And when I remind your Lordships that so strong a provision as that was found necessary in a mere question of whether or not manœuvres should be held over certain parts of the country, I think it will be felt that in a Bill of this magnitude it is not unreasonable to ask that Parliament should have some power of expressing its opinion. After what the noble Viscount has said, I will not ask either for the assent of Parliament or even what my noble friend Lord Ampthill contended for, the power of Parliament to dissent from the regulations; but I would ask that, in cases not of unimportant rules which are made every day by the Government of India and which do not require the consent of the Secretary of State, but in the case of really important rules and regulations under this Bill which require the assent of the Secretary of State, we may have them laid for forty days before both Houses before being set in operation. I therefore venture to move, as an Amendment to the Amendment, that all regulations and rules made under the Bill shall, in so far as they require the approval of the Secretary of State in Council, be laid before both Houses of Parliament, and shall not receive the approval of the Secretary of State in Council until they have lain for forty days on the Table of both Houses.

Amendment moved to the Amendment— To leave out all words after the word 'shall,' in order to insert these words 'in so far as they require the approval of the Secretary of State in Council be laid before both Houses of Parliament, and shall not receive the approval of the Secretary of State in Council until they have lain for forty days on the Table of both Houses'"—(Viscount Midleton.)


My Lords, I recollect the case which the noble Viscount who has just sat down quoted, and I do not think the present Bill offers any analogy whatever to the Military Manœuvres Bill. Under that Bill the noble Viscount, who was then Secretary of State for War, asked for very strong powers enabling the War Office to appropriate land for the purpose of manœuvres. That proposal was exceedingly unpopular in the House of Commons, and I think if it had been pressed to a Division the noble Viscount would have found himself in a minority. Therefore, he saved the position by agreeing that the powers should be exercised only in the event of both Houses consenting. Moreover, that was an English Act, and I venture to say there is no analogy whatever between that Act and the present Bill. I myself have been the subject of the very procedure which my noble friend the Secretary of State has informed the House is the proper way for dealing with a Minister who is supposed to make an executive mistake. On a memorable occasion a proposal was made to censure me for my conduct in an Indian question—namely, the cotton duties. A vote of censure was moved upon me in respect of that administrative act done by the Secretary of State in Council. That was the question argued, and I remember quite well candidly admitting to the House of Commons that I knew what the Motion meant if carried. It was upon that that the House divided, and that procedure, according the late Lord Salisbury, has the authority of our constitutional system. The late Lord Salisbury put the point tersely. He said:— I apprehend that the constitutional doctrine is this. The House of Commons has the absolute right of selecting a group of statesmen from whom an Executive is chosen, and it has the absolute right of dismissing those statesmen from office when it ceases to trust them; but it has not the right to take the management and conduct of the Executive into its own hands. The Executive Government so selected has, according to our constitution, the right and the duty of discharging the office of Executive and the prerogatives of the Crown. If the Secretary of State sanctions regulations he ought not to have sanctioned, the proper course of procedure is to censure the Minister. That is the strongest Parliamentary control that you can exercise upon a Minister. The idea of having the various minutiæ of legislation in India—the settling of boundaries, constituencies, mode in which persons should be elected and so forth—submitted for the approval of the Imperial Parliament is, I think, almost ludicrous. I venture to ask that the noble Viscount's Amendment to the Secretary of State's Amendment should not be pressed, as it is one to which we could not possibly assent.


I trust your Lordships will allow me to say a few words, seeing that the Secretary of State referred to me several times during the course of his speech. The noble Viscount reiterated, but in a less unpleasant manner, the attack made upon me on the last occasion by the noble Earl the Leader of the House, an attack of which the purport was that in my proposed Amendment I was making an extremely ridiculous suggestion. Both the noble Viscount and the noble Earl suggest, for the purposes of their argument, that the issue of these proclamations, regulations, and rules will be part of the every-day administrative and executive business of the Government of India. Unless I have totally misunderstood the whole object and effect of the noble Viscount's scheme of reform and everything that he has said upon it, they are nothing of the kind. If this scheme of reform were more matured, the substance of these proclamations, regulations, and rules would be embodied in clauses of the Bill or in schedules to the Bill, and would thus come before Parliament. It is only because delay is inadvisable and because the circumstances in India render a certain amount of variety and elasticity indispensable, that changes which would otherwise be brought about by clauses of the Bill have been reserved for future consideration and for eventual execution by means of proclamations and regulations. The noble Earl suggested that these proclamations were acts of the Government which might be constantly modified or reversed. Is it really seriously contended that when the Government of India issue a proclamation changing the constitution of the government of one of the great Provinces of India, it is a matter of ordinary every-day administration in which the decision might be reversed, say, in the following year? The whole object of the Amendment which I proposed was to prevent the withdrawal from Parliament of the consideration of constitutional changes. It is just because all these new changes contemplated in the proclamations and regulations are actual constitutional changes and not ordinary every-day executive acts of the Government, that I suggested that Parliament should have an opportunity of criticising. Both noble Lords have quoted a saying of the late Lord Salisbury, but I submit that it is not at all appropriate to this case. If I am not misinformed, that saying was made in connection with a very different and very minor matter. It had regard to the question of simultaneous examinations for the Civil Service. That is more of an administrative act; it certainly is not a question of constitutional change. But in regard to these proclamations and regulations it is a question of constitutional change. No one can dispute that when you alter the whole from of government, when you establish what have been called quasi-Parliamentary institutions, those are more than administrative and executive acts; they are acts of constitutional change. Hitherto the practice of the Imperial Government has been that such changes should be made only with the assent of Parliament. It is really, therefore, astounding that the bureaucratic theory should be put forward in its extreme form from the Benches opposite while here on this side we are defending the principle of the democratic government of the Empire.


My Lords, I think the Government of India would find it extremely difficult to work the Act if great freedom were not allowed to it in making rules and regulations and from time to time altering and varying them in accordance with the circumstances of the case. It is not as if we were dealing with a new business. We have already, under the existing Act of 1892, had occasion to make regulations and rules, and under the various Acts regulating the Legislative Councils rules have also been made. They have worked well for a time, then afterwards they became inadequate or inappropriate. It was easy to alter them with reference to the circumstances of the case and subject to the control of the Secretary of State. No complaint whatever has been made of that, and I trust that the same procedure will, with your Lordships' permission, be continued under this Bill.


My Lords, I am very anxious that the House should not suppose that my noble friend who moved this Amendment or those who agree with him are really unreasonable in the demands which they desire to put forward. Let me say at once that nothing is further from our intention than to ask for any arrangement under which ordinary details, such as the rules of business which govern procedure in these Councils, should be constantly subject to Parliamentary review. Those are minor matters with which we have no desire to concern ourselves. Nor do we wish, as has been suggested, to be continually interfering in what was described just now as matters of executive administration. But what some of us do desire is that before new measures of really cardinal importance, measures such as those dealing with the introduction of popular election and things of that sort, are finally dealt with, there should be an opportunity, before it is too late, for Parliament to express its opinion upon what is proposed.

May I again refer to something contained in the Report of the Decentralisation Commission? That Commission has a very interesting chapter upon the organisation of the Government of India. After describing the constitution of the Indian hierarchy and the way in which everything is eventually subject to the Secretary of State, they go on to say— The Secretary of State is in his turn responsible to Parliament. Parliamentary legislation has at one time or another created the Government of India, authorised the establishment of the large Provinces ruled by Lieutenant-Governors, and brought the Presidency Governors of Madras and Bombay into subordination to the central Government. From Parliament, too, are derived the constitution and functions of the Indian Provincial Legislatures, the High Courts, and the method of recruitment of the Indian Civil Service, and any material change in these would, as a consequence, involve Parliamentary sanction. Our contention is that under the rules and regulations which this Bill authorises you to make you do propose to introduce material changes in these matters, and we desire that these changes should not be entirely withdrawn from the consideration of Parliament. The noble Viscount says they are not entirely withdrawn from the consent of Parliament, because Parliament has only to censure the Secretary of State and has its remedy in that form. But we do not desire to have continual votes of censure upon the Secretary of State. What we do desire is that the Secretary of State should have an opportunity of considering, while there is yet time, any useful suggestions which may be made to him in either House of Parliament. That is the effect of the Amendment of my noble friend.

What the noble Viscount offers us, I am afraid, gives us but very little indeed. I was in hopes the other evening when he produced his Amendment that he was going to attempt to meet us. But really will the noble Viscount tell us that his Amendment gives us anything at all? I am quite anxious to be converted if the noble Viscount can convert me. Will it not, without the noble Viscount's Amendment, be perfectly competent to any member in either House to call attention to any proclamations, rules, or regulations which are from time to time issued by the Government of India? I take it that it would, and therefore I do not think the noble Viscount's Amendment helps us much. My noble friend, on the contrary, says he does not want to interfere with ordinary matters of detail, but that when there is a measure of first-rate importance, a measure which has to come home for the approval of the Secretary of State, then, says my noble friend, let Parliament have a look at it before the Secretary of State finally burns his boats. There is no malevolence in that suggestion. It is, on the contrary, intended to secure for Parliament an opportunity to which I humbly think it is entitled.

I have, however, no desire to press our views upon a point of this kind unduly, and I am bound to say that I think the case has been somewhat altered by the omission of Clause 3 from the Bill, because with that clause the only portion of the Bill in which I find any reference to proclamations disappears. If Clause 3 goes there will be no proclamations, and we need have no anxiety as to the reference of proclamations to Parliament. May I say, in passing, that in his speech the other evening the noble Viscount said that in his contemplation proclamations might be resorted to in two or three cases, but I have been unable to find any case except the one to which I have referred—namely, in Clause 3 of the Bill. Therefore, it stands in this way. We need no longer have any anxiety with regard to proclamations, because they for the moment have disappeared. We do not want to interfere with regard to minor rules, and therefore all that is left are the regulations which are issued under Clause 6 of the Bill. If, then, His Majesty's Government press us hard upon this point—and the noble Viscount, Lord Wolverhampton, made a very earnest appeal to us not to insist upon it—I should respectfully advise my noble friend who has moved this Amendment not to carry it to a Division. But I am bound to say I recommend that concession rather in deference to that strong wish which has been expressed by noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite, than because I am at all convinced that my noble friend behind me is really unreasonable in his Amendment.


By your Lordships' indulgence, perhaps I may be allowed to make a single observation. The noble Marquess implies that by this Amendment I really give nothing, or very little. I do not agree. He pictured an inquisitive member of either House desiring to examine and criticise the regulations. Well, he will not know what the regulations are unless, in the terms of my Amendment, it is the business and the duty of the Secretary of State to lay all the regulations and rules immediately before Parliament. Members of both Houses thus have the whole panorama of regulations and rules before them, and will be able to take what course they may think fit. I gladly recognise the spirit of the noble Viscount who was my predecessor at the India Office, but I do not believe that his proposal is within the lines of the constitution. It was rather a surprise to me to find myself here, of all places in the world, vindicating the wisdom of our ancestors; and I would only recall to those two noble Lords that under their own Act of 1892 no regulations at all were laid before Parliament until a private member—Mr. Caine—moved for their production, so little did noble Lords opposite then think it requisite that the regulations should be laid on the Table. That Act was also spoken of as a very great and remarkable step in advance; yet none of the regulations were to be laid until a private member made the demand.


I rather expected the challenge to which we have just listened, and in that anticipation I refreshed my memory regarding the debates to which the noble Viscount alluded. I did not find in them any reference to the measure of 1892 couched in quite the strong language that the noble Viscount has used. But, even if that were so, there surely is a very great difference between the situation in 1892 and now. I remember very well being called upon to carry that Bill through the House of Commons, and I recollect the speech of Mr. Gladstone to which the Secretary of State alluded the other evening. The regulations which it had been proposed by some members of the House of Commons should be submitted to Parliament were regulations only by which the nominated members of the Viceroy's Council were increased from twelve to sixteen and by which the nominated members of the Councils of the Governors of Madras and Bombay were increased from eight to twenty. I took up the position then, under instruction from my chief, and I hold the position now, that those were regulations entirely within the scope and authority of the Governor-General of India, and that they were not matters which legitimately ought to be brought within the purview of Parliament. But surely the position is very different now. Nobody will contend that there was any analogy between the limited concessions of 1892 and the very advanced steps about to be taken now. However, I do not desire to pursue that point. The position has changed. As the noble Marquess has pointed out, proclamations have gone out of the Bill. With rules of business we do not want to interfere. As regards regulations, the noble Viscount the Secretary of State gave us an assurance that the regulations which are framed by the Governor-General in Council in India will be laid on the Table of this House immediately they arrive in this country. We shall then have an opportunity of discussing them, and with that opportunity I, at any rate, and I hope I speak for noble Lords on these Benches, will be satisfied.


After the conversation which has taken place I will not press my Amendment at this stage.

Amendment to the Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On question, original Amendment agreed to.

Consequential Amendments agreed to.


The noble Viscount has, I understand, suggested that the next stage of the Bill should be taken to-morrow. We would very much prefer a later date. The Bill, as the noble Viscount sees, has been amended at the last moment. Will the noble Viscount tell the House why this great urgency exists? I have endeavoured to make inquiries with regard to the position of affairs in the other House, and I am assured that, from that point of view, it will make no difference to the noble Viscount at all whether we read the Bill a third time to-morrow or early next week.


I must remind the noble Marquess that, for various reasons, the progress of the Bill has been twice or thrice retarded, quite willingly on our part, in order to meet the convenience of the noble Marquess and one or two of his friends. Otherwise we should have had the Bill finished some time ago. I desire, naturally, that the Bill should get to the other House as soon as may be. But there is another argument. I think any appearance of slackness, if I may use the word without offence, on the part of either House would have an undesirable effect in India. It is well that they should see us doing the best we can, without rash celerity, to get the Bill forward, and therefore I should deprecate delay unless anything is gained by it.


With regard to the House of Commons argument, I remain under the impression that there is not much in that, and that it will not make very much difference to the fate of the Bill in the House of Commons whether we read it a third time to-morrow or at a later day. With regard to the Indian argument, I cannot help thinking that, whatever other criticism this House has been open to with regard to its dealings with this Bill, we are not open to the criticism of having indulged in dilatory tactics. I therefore trust the noble Viscount will not ask us to take the Third Reading to-morrow.


Will the noble Viscount lay on the Table the various telegrams from the Government of India which he has quoted?


I will look at the telegrams and see how far that can be done with fairness and convenience. Business in the House of Commons is precarious and fluctuates. I have made it my business with my colleagues to get a first place for this Bill, and if, by any one of those Parliamentary accidents which happen even in the best of Parliaments, there should come an evening or a day in which this Bill might be introduced, it would be heartbreaking if that opportunity were to be lost and the Bill had to wait for a fortnight or three weeks.


What day does the noble Marquess suggest?



Bill to be read 3a on Thursday next, and to be printed as amended. (No. 12.)