§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, in the absence of EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India the Questions of which my noble friend has given notice—namely:
When he proposes to introduce the Government of India Bill, dealing with the transfer of the capital of India to Delhi, and cognate matters.
Whether it was the case, as announced in The Times of 7th February, that the Law Officers of the Crown had come to the conclusion that for the creation of a Governorship for the Presidency of Bengal it is inadvisable to rely upon the Charter Act of 1853; and, further, that under the entirely altered circumstances of to-day it is inexpedient to base this important change upon an Act passed sixty years ago when the East India Company was still in power.
Whether, as announced in The Times of 20th March, it has now been determined to proceed to the Bengal changes by means of Executive notification; and, if so, what is the reason for the change of attitude, and whether the Law Officers of the Crown have changed their opinion.
By what means it is proposed to provide for the creation of Executive Councils for Bengal and for Behar and Orissa; and
With what subject the Government of India Bill may be expected to deal.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I must first express my regret at the absence of the noble Earl who put these Questions on the Paper, and at its cause. I trust that it will not be long before he is here in his usual activity again. I will answer the Questions in the order in which they stand. I think, in view of various circumstances, it will not be convenient to the House that the Government of India Bill dealing with the transfer of the capital and other matters should be introduced before Easter, but I propose to introduce it as soon after Easter as possible.
In the second and third Questions the noble Earl asks, on the authority of The Times, whether the Law Officers of the Crown had come to a certain conclusion in regard to the creation of a Governorship, 642 and whether the Law Officers of the Crown had changed their opinion later, with a resulting change of attitude on the part of His Majesty's Government. In reply, I have to say that I know nothing whatever of the circumstances alleged in the Questions to have occurred. So far as I know there is no foundation for the statement that there has been any change of attitude on the part of His Majesty's Government. We always intended to proceed with the changes by way of declaration so far as they could properly be so proceeded with. As a matter of fact, the declaration of the Secretary of State in Council and the proclamation setting up the new Provinces were published in India on the 23rd inst., although, for some reason which I do not exactly understand, the announcement of that publication does not appear to have been made in the London Press.
Then the noble Earl asks by what means we propose to provide for the creation of Executive Councils for Bengal and for Behar and Orissa, The Bengal Council exists already under the two Acts of 1833 and 1853, and the members of the Council have already been appointed. The Council for Behar and Orissa will be brought into being by a clause in the Bill about to be introduced.
In his last Question the noble Earl asks with what subject the Bill may be expected to deal. One clause vests the new Governor of Bengal with the same rights, duties, functions and immunities as are now enjoyed by the Governors of Bombay and Madras. For instance, without statutory sanction such as this Bill will give the new Governor of Bengal would not be able to act as Governor-General in the absence or incapacity of the Viceroy. It is obviously right that he should be placed in a similar position in that respect and in certain other minor respects as the Governors of the two other Presidencies. Another clause of the Bill enables Legislative Councils to be established in Provinces administered by Chief Commissioners, the effect of that being, as regards Assam, that this new Province, which has already enjoyed the benefit as part of Eastern Bengal and Assam of a Legislative Council, will not lose that privilege, but will retain it. Then there are a certain number of consequential repeals and certain savings which have to be made, and this, I think, exhausts the list of subjects with which the Bill will deal.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
Will the noble Marquess in introducing the Bill make any statement as to the probable cost of these administrative changes, and will he be able to give any estimate as to the expense of changing the site of the capital to Delhi?
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I greatly doubt whether at this period it is possible to arrive at anything like a close estimate of the probable cost of the creation of the new headquarters at Delhi. The matter, I know, has been mentioned by the Viceroy in addressing his Legislative Council; but I fear that I shall not be able to give the House any figures, even of an approximate character, as to the probable cost of setting up the new buildings.
§ House adjourned during pleasure.
§ House resumed by the Lord COLEBROOKE at a quarter to three o'clock (Wednesday morning).