HL Deb 17 April 1916 vol 21 cc747-52

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Islington.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]

Clauses agreed to.


1.The Executive Council shall consist of twenty-five members, appointed as follows:—

By the Board of Trade Two.
By the Secretary or State for India Two.
By the President of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries One.
By the Government of India One.
By the Government of the Dominion of Canada One.
By the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia One.
By the Government of the Union of South Africa One.
By the Government of the Dominion of New Zealand One.
By the Government of New-foundland One.
By the Secretary of State for the Colonies Fourteen.

2.The term of office of a member of the Executive Council shall be three years.

3.The members of the Executive Council shall retire on the expiration of their term of office, and their offices shall be filled by fresh appointments in accordance with the foregoing provisions of this Schedule.

4.A casual vacancy occurring in the office of any member of the Executive Council by death, resignation, or otherwise, shall be filled by appointment in manner directed by the foregoing provisions of this Schedule as respects the member whose office is vacant; but the member so appointed shall hold office only so long as the member whose office is vacant would have held office.

5. A retiring member may be re-appointed.

6. The Executive Council may act notwithstanding any vacancy in their number.


I move, at the end of paragraph 1 of the Schedule, to add a proviso that, in addition to the twenty-five appointed members, Ministers of Dominion Governments, Governors of Crown Colonies and Protectorates, members of the Governor-General's Council in India, Governors of Indian Presidencies, and Lieutenant-Governors of Indian Provinces when in England shall be ex officio members of the Executive Council without the power of voting.

There can be no doubt that if the plan which I suggest were carried out and these representatives were brought into intimate relationship with the Imperial Institute it would be of the greatest benefit. The natural result would be that when in their various Dominions these Ministers would think a great deal about the Institute and would devise various ways in which its research work could be promoted, and when they were coming on a visit to the Mother Country they would look about them to see what information they could bring home, knowing that they would have a seat on the Executive Council, In this way the authorities would be helped in the solution of many great problems. It is stated that after the war there will be a great many Imperial Conferences and that many Ministers of Oversea Dominions will be coming to England. Surely it would be of great advantage that these gentlemen should have the privilege of sitting on the Executive Council of the Imperial Institute. Even though they may not have the right to vote, they would be able to give a great deal of information and would go away knowing exactly what the Institute was doing. It must be remembered that unless it has proper financial support, the Imperial Institute cannot do much. But if these great officials know what is being clone they will appreciate it, and when they appreciate it they will, on their return to their Dominions, co-operate and do everything they can to promote the research work of the Institute and the gradual development of the vast resources of the Empire.

As a brilliant example of what I wish to see carried out, I would refer to the case of the noble Lord who is in charge of this Bill. Here you have an instance of a high official who has been Governor of a great Colony. On returning to England he at once recognised the enormous value of the work of the Imperial Institute, and in a very short time he became chairman of the Advisory Committee; and now you see him, in his capacity as Under-Secretary of State for India, introducing this Bill, and making, as he did last Thursday, a most eloquent speech in moving the Second Reading. That is an example of the enormous advantage of Colonial Governors and Ministers coming into touch with the work of the Imperial Institute. If we could get other Colonial representatives of similar capacity to take an interest in the Institute, the work of developing the resources of this great Empire would be carried out in a much more satisfactory way. The Imperial Institute has had a chequered career from its inception, due to its having had very little support. We now have in this Bill an arrangement for a new management and a different constitution; and I hope that the Government will take steps to boom the work which the institute is doing, so that we shall not have again in a few years to look back upon a time when little has been done.

Amendment moved— In the Schedule, page 3, after line 16, insert ("Provided always that, in addition to the twenty-five appointed members, Ministers of Dominion Governments, Governors of Crown Colonies and Protectorates, members of the Governor-General's Council in India, Governors of Indian Presidencies, and Lieutenant Governors of Indian Provinces when in England shall be ex officio members of the Executive Council without the power of voting").—(Lord Sudeley.)


My Lords, the Amendment which my noble friend has moved deals with an object which I am sure all members of this House would desire to see attained. Certainly it is one with which I have the strongest sympathy myself, and I am authorised to say that the Secretary of State for the Colonies, on whose behalf I ant speaking, shares the same sentiment. The arguments which the noble Lord has advanced go to show that his main desire is to bring into closer contact with the Imperial Institute those in responsible positions in the Colonies and Dominions and in India. If I am unable to accept the Amendment in the form in which it is moved, I can assure the noble Lord that it is not due to any reluctance or indifference on my part to affording every possible opportunity to those representatives to become intimately acquainted with the Imperial Institute. The proposal, however, in the precise form in which it is placed on the Paper is hardly in accordance with our ordinary procedure in regard to Bills of this character. The matter is rather one which should be left to executive action on the part of the statutory constitution when it is set up.

I would remind noble Lords that the Executive Council which is proposed is already a large one, twenty-five in number. In another place it was argued by some hon. Members that this number was too great, but, as I attempted to point out in moving the Second Reading of this Bill last week, the number decided upon is inevitable owing to the numerous interests which have to be represented on this body; and prominent among those interests will be the very representatives whom the noble Lord, by his Amendment, seeks to admit in duplicate. If this Amendment were accepted, it would at certain periods of the year greatly increase the number of the Executive Council; whilst the extra members who would thus be eligible to attend would in the very nature of the case attend somewhat intermittently, and would not be in the same position to be fully acquainted with the routine work as the regular members of the Council. I think noble Lords will agree that if the Institute is to be efficiently conducted in the years to come the same body of people should work to a definite and considered objective, and that any sudden infusion of new members, even if they did not have votes, might to some extent prejudice the smooth working of the administrative machine.

Although I am unable on behalf of the Colonial Office to accept the Amendment proposed, I hope that for all practical purposes I shall be able to meet the object which the noble Lord seeks to attain when I inform him that I am authorised by His Majesty's Government to say that, whilst these representatives, whether they are from the Dominions or from the Colonies or Protectorates or from India, cannot actually be admitted as members of the Executive Council by Statute during their sojourn in England, steps will be taken to secure that every opportunity shall be afforded to them not only to visit the Institute whenever they desire to do so, but also they may be invited to attend the sittings of the Executive Council during the time that they are in England. I would go further and say that I have no doubt that the Executive Council—it will be a matter for them to decide—when they are in working order, will also give facilities to any responsible representative from any part of the Empire who happens to be here at the time to attend, and he might possibly also be co-opted as a member of any of the sub-committees that might be sitting at the time dealing with parts of the Empire or with groups of products with which that particular representative might be especially concerned. I hope my noble friend will realise that I have approached his Amendment with every sympathy in regard to its object, and I trust that what I have said will satisfy him that every opportunity is to be taken to bring responsible oversea representatives, when they are in this country, into the closest possible contact with the Imperial Institute, so that the Institute may have full advantage of their advice and counsel. In these circumstances I hope that the noble Lord will not press his Amendment.


I thank the noble Lord for the way in which he has received my suggestion. But the whole question is, Will the action which he has described be carried out by the Colonial Office? If a provision to this effect were inserted in the Bill, it would be bound to be given effect to. But Colonial Office officials come and go, and the great difficulty is in being certain that the promise which has been given will be fully carried out. I am confident that so long as the noble Lord has anything to do with the matter, it will be. If I am correct in understanding that an official invitation from the Colonial Office will be given to these gentlemen to attend the meetings of the Executive Council I am satisfied, and I beg to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment: Then (Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended) Bill read 3a, and passed.