HL Deb 05 March 1924 vol 56 cc568-70

My Lords, I desire to ask His Majesty's Government whether it is their intention to submit a Motion to both Houses of Parliament this Session for the appointment of the Standing Joint Committee on Indian affairs? It is not necessary for me to take up the time of your Lordships' House in explaining the position in regard to this Committee. Your Lordships will remember that the setting up of this Standing Joint Committee was recommended by the Joint Select Committee which sat under the Chairmanship of the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, in the year 1919, and made a unanimous recommendation in favour of the appointment of a Standing Joint Committee for the purpose of bringing Parliament, into closer touch with Indian Affairs. The Standing Joint Committee was appointed in the Session of 1921, and in the Session of 1922. It was also appointed last Session. When the Motion for the appointment of this Standing Joint Committee was made last year by the then Secretary of State for India, Lord Peel, your Lordships will remember that terms of reference were agreed upon which defined the functions of the Committee by making it clear that the Committee would deal in the future, first, with Bills or matters referred to it by either House of Parliament, and, secondly, with matters brought to its notice by the Secretary of State for India.

I fully recognise that in connection with the initial stages of a Parliamentary experiment of this kind, certain difficulties are bound to be encountered. I realise also that very great and rapid changes in India have their bearing, possibly, upon the future development of the work of this Committee. But I do not think that either of those considerations justifies the immediate abandonment of this attempt to bring Parliament into closer touch with Indian affairs. For this reason, and because I think that the Committee can and will answer a useful purpose under existing conditions, I beg to put my Question to the noble Lord in the hope that he, on behalf of the Government, may be able to give an affirmative reply.


My Lords, I am very much indebted to the noble Lord for his courtesy in twice postponing his Question until I should have had an opportunity of consulting my colleagues in His Majesty's Government. That I was able to do this morning, with the result that they accept the principle contained in the Question which is before your Lordships, and will submit a Motion to both Houses of Parliament for the setting up of the Standing Joint Committee on Indian Affairs. The terms of the Motion will follow exactly those of the Motion proposed last year in both Houses of Parliament.


My Lords, having served upon that Committee, I was exceedingly glad to hear the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for India, state that the Motion would follow the terms of that proposed last year. I served on the Committee in the year previous to the adoption of the Motion last year, and I was aghast at the attempt of many well-meaning members of the Committee to bring up a variety of questions of such a magnitude and depth that no Committee could possibly have dealt with them in the course of a year. The members of the Committee are very busy men, and it is extremely difficult to find days upon which the Committee as a whole are able to serve. If we can put in two full days a week that is as much, so far as my experience goes, as we are able to do. The noble Lord knows already, from the complexity of Indian questions, that by giving only two days a week during the Session of Parliament it is quite impossible for the Committee to examine carefully many of the questions that could be referred to them in Bills or by himself. Therefore I am glad to hear that the Motion will follow the terms of that of the previous year.