§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (LORD SINHA) rose to move—
§ That this House agrees to the modifications, subject to which the Draft Rules under Sections 7, 11, 23, and 24 of the Government of India Act, 1919, 543 relating to elections to Provincial Legislative Councils and to the Indian Legislature, and Draft Rules of business for Provincial Legislative Councils and the Indian Legislature, which were presented on the 7th July, have been approved by the House of Commons, and approves the said Draft Rules as so modified.
§ The noble Lord said: Your Lordships will remember that three sets of Rules under the Government of India Act of last year received your Lordships' assent on the 15th of this month. Those Rules, as accepted by your Lordships, were considered in the House of Commons on July 23, and accepted in that House with live modifications or Amendments, four of them formal and unsubstantial, and one of a substantial nature. The last was in relation to the Electoral Rules for Provincial Legislative Councils. The four formal Amendments related to the Draft Rules of business for Provincial Councils as well as for the Indian Legislature. Two of them were moved by the Secretary of State for India himself. One was to correct a printing mistake, and the other was a pure matter of drafting. The two others relate merely to a provision, as it existed, that supplementary Questions when disallowed, shall not appear on the record of the proceedings of the Chamber. That was taken out in the other House on the ground that it would be more consistent with the practice and procedure of legislative assemblies to allow such Questions, though over-ruled, to appear on the record, especially as they would appear in the public Press, even if they did not appear on the records. I submit, therefore, that with regard to these four amendments your Lordships will feel no difficulty in assenting to them.
§ With regard to the last one, which relates to the Draft Rules for Elections to Provincial Legislative Councils, that also I am certain will receive your Lordships' cordial assent, inasmuch as it gives the vote in the Provinces of Punjab and elsewhere to discharged soldiers, in addition to officers who had the vote under the Rules as previously made. I am indebted to Lord Sydenham's courtesy for having given me notice of an Amendment which is not on the Paper, but of which I have a copy, and when the noble Lord moves it I think I shall be able to satisfy him that it need not and should not be pressed 544 at this stage. I now move the Motion standing in my name.
§ Moved, That this House agrees to the modifications, subject to which the Draft Rules under Sections 7, 11, 23, and 24 of the Government of India Act, 1919, relating to elections to Provincial Legislative Councils and to the Indian Legislature, and Draft Rules of business for Provincial Legislative Councils and the Indian Legislature, which were presented on the 7th July, have been approved by the House of Commons, and approves the said Draft Rules as so modified.—(Lord Sinha.)
§ LORD SYDENHAM
My Lords, it is quite impossible to follow the break-neck speed at which this Indian legislation has been pressed through this House. There was no opportunity on the 15th of this month for moving Amendments, because nobody had any time to master the Rules themselves. I only knew this morning that the final stage of these Rules was to be taken to-day. There is one Amendment which I should very much like to lay before your Lordships. It is a very small matter. and I hope that I am not out of order in moving it. In another place, as the noble and learned Lord has said, an Amendment was put, and accepted by the Secretary of State, conferring the franchise for the Provincial Councils upon retired officers, non-commissioned officers, and men of the Regular Indian Army; and another Amendment was proposed, but was defeated on a Division, conferring the franchise for the Indian Legislature on officers and commissioned officers.
All I wish to propose is that this privilege should be conferred upon retired officers. It is a very small matter when about six million voters, most of them, or a very large number of them illiterate, are being placed upon the register. It will confer no real political power beyond a very trifling increase in the rural vote for the Indian Legislature, which, I think, is a step in the right direction, and it will add very much to the izzat of these most gallant men in their village homes. I do not think there is any practical difficulty about the matter, because their residences are well known. I never went into a district without asking these men to meet me. I hope that this small concession may be made to a very fine body of veterans, to whom the whole Empire is 545 indebted. I know it would be very greatly valued by them, and it would be a very small tribute to the services of men who have been really the backbone of the Indian Army, and most of whom have rendered most gallant service in the late war.
After the word "Commons" in the last line but one insert "subject, however, to the following additional modifications in the Draft Electoral Rules for the Indian Legislature, namely, to insert. 'is a retired, pensioned, or discharged commissioned officer of His Majesty's Regular Forces in India' in Schedule II., Part I., Rules 6 and 7, Part II., Rule 6, Part III., Rules 4 and 5, Part IV., Rules 6 and 7, Part V., Rule 5, Part VI., Rule 4, Part VII., Rule 6, Part VIII., Rule 3, Part IX., Rule 2, Part X., Rule 5."—(Lord Sydenham.)
§ LORD SINHA
I do not suppose any one in this House has anything but sympathy with the object with which the noble Lord has moved this Amendment, and, therefore, although I could take the objection that it really is not in order because it is not an Amendment to any of the Amendments made in the other House, I do not wish to urge that. While having every sympathy with the object of the proposed Amendment, however, I beg to point out that when, on July 15,I moved for the acceptance of the Rules as laid before the House, I pointed out that the last day on which the Government of India expected the sanction of Parliament to these Rules was the 27th—that is, to-morrow—and that, unless the Rules were sanctioned by to-morrow, they could not possibly ar- 546 range to have the Elections in November. If, therefore, any Amendment of the kind now proposed by my noble friend was accepted, it would necessitate these Rules going back to the House of Commons. We do not know when we may be able to get another day there, and whether there might not be other Amendments proposed if a day were given. In those circumstances, I regret that it is not possible for me to accept this Amendment at the present stage. I think, however, I can assure my noble friend that when the next revision of the Rules takes place—of course, under the recommendations of the Joint Committee it will be some time hence—this proposed Amendment of his will be one of the first to receive sympathetic and favourable consideration.
§ LORD SYDENHAM
I thank the noble and learned Lord for what he has said. It would be quite impossible for me to press my Amendment in the present state of the House, but I strongly protest against the hurry with which these Rules have been passed through this House, which gave no time for amendment. I beg to thank the noble Lord for the promise he has made, and I am perfectly certain it will be fulfilled.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned at twenty minutes past seven o'clock.