§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (LORD OLIVIER)
My Lords, the purpose of this Bill is to mitigate the very severe rule that now prevails with regard to the tenure of office of a Governor, or Governor-General, in India by which he is compelled to remain for seven years continuously in India, and can receive no leave either on account of his own health or in order to consult with the Secretary of State in England if it should be necessary or desirable for him to do so. The principle of the Bill was accepted by the noble Viscount, my predecessor in the India Office, who, not very long ago, raised the whole question in this House and put before your Lordships very fully and eloquently the reasons why he was convinced that such a Bill was desirable. And in regard to the principle of the Bill he was supported by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition and by one or more other members of this House familiar with Indian affairs. Consequently, as to the, principle of the Bill, I think I shall have no difficulty in assuming that your Lordships are prepared to agree to it.
With regard to the contents of the Bill I have to make certain observations. The Bill, as drafted, may he subject to certain 338 verbal Amendments which I shall propose in Committee. The only points I need notice in regard to those Amendments are these. In Clause 1, subsection (3), it is proposed thatWhere the Governor-General, or the Commander-in-Chief, or a governor or a member of an executive council obtains leave of absence in pursuance of this section, he shall retain his office during his absence, but if his absence exceeds the period for which leave is granted his office shall become vacant.The question was raised on the First Reading of the Bill as to whether any limitation should be placed on the length of time for which a Governor should be granted leave and also whether he should be allowed leave more than once during his term of office. We are disposed to limit the period of a leave of absence which may be granted to a Governor to six months and to limit his leave altogether to one period of leave. We propose to do that by means of Rules under the Act as provided for in the earlier part of Clause 1:Subject to such conditions and limitations as may be prescribed by Rules.In the substituted Section 87 (1), there was a slight omission in the drafting of the Bill, because it does not provide for the appointment of a Governor to act in place of any Governor who may have been appointed to act as Governor-General and we propose, therefore, to insert, after the word "Governor," the words.or when a Governor is appointed in pursuance of this section in place of the Governor-General,so that the same condition may apply to the Governor acting for the Governor-General as applies if he is going on leave himself or as applies to the Governor-General when he if going on leave.
With regard to the filling of all these vacancies while the officers are on leave we propose to insert in the instructions to the Governor-General that if the Governor-General or any Governor desires to go on leave the Governor-General is to submit to the Secretary of State a recommendation for filling the vacancy. The Secretary of State will consider the recommendation and will in most eases, obviously, act upon it. The Governor-General was consulted on the subject, and we propose to provide for that by instructions to the Governor-General. We did not think it necessary to put them in the Bill.
339 Another Clause to which I might call attention is Clause 3 which provides that the Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty's Forces in India is appointed by His Majesty by Warrant under the Royal Sign Manual. At the present time there is no statutory provision for the appointment of the Commander-in-Chief, but, as we propose to make this Bill apply to the granting of leave to the Commander-in-Chief, it seems reasonable to make statutory the method of appointing the permanent incumbent of the office of Commander-in-Chief. It is the actual method, and we simply place in the Bill what has hitherto been omitted—namely, the statement that the Commander-in-Chief in India is appointed by His Majesty under the Royal Sign Manual. Clause 4 simply enables this Act to be incorporated with the Government of India Act in general when that Act is reprinted. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Olivier.)
My Lords, I am very glad that His Majesty's Government have at last taken this matter in hand. More than twenty years ago I called the attention of the House to the anachronism of the then four high Indian officials—there are more now—being debarred by Act of Parliament from taking leave even when it was very necessary upon a medical certificate. To show how ridiculous it was I pointed out that Lord Milner, who was then High Commissioner in South Africa—an appointment certainly as important as that of the Governor of a Presidency in India—was at that very moment in England, and that the Governor-General of Canada could at that time take leave, while these four unfortunate persons were prevented from doing so.
On March 31, 1895, the Presidential Commanders-in-Chief were debarred from taking leave. On the very next day they were doing precisely the same work, but because they were no longer entitled Commanders-in-Chief, but were known as General Officers Commanding the Western or the Southern Army, as the case might be, they could go on leave. A life which was very valuable at that time—that of Sir William Lockhart—might have been saved had it been possible to give him 340 leave; but it was not possible. My noble friend Lord Elgin was very ill indeed and was sent out to the Bay of Bengal for quite a considerable time in order to give him a change. He was not vacating his post, because he was not going west of Cape Town which, I believe, was the limit to which a Viceroy might go under the Act.
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My noble friend will pardon me, but the Viceroy could go anywhere he liked except to Europe.
I am obliged to the noble Marquess, but that was my impression twenty years ago. The Governor of Bombay could in those days spend six months on the Somali coast and enjoy a very nice holiday with plenty of shooting The Governor of Madras could spend what time he pleased in the Lacadive Islands without offending against the Act. The Government of the day, however, were indisposed to deal with the matter, although in 1887 a special Act was passed in order to enable the illustrious Duke of Connaught to return home to attend Her Majesty's Jubilee, and a Bill was brought in about 1891 by the then Marquess of Salisbury and passed through several stages in your Lordships' House but did not get any further. I think your Lordships will agree that it is an anachronism in these times, when the facilities for travel are so very much better than they were twenty years ago, that these unfortunate officials should not be allowed to take leave. I do not imagine that there are many of them who will want to take leave. I should think it is likely that they will be disposed to do so only when their health is such that there is danger of its being seriously affected otherwise. I can see no possible disadvantage in putting these officials upon the same basis as the other high officials who are at the head of affairs in His Majesty's Dominions. Therefore I heartily support the Bill.
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, I think this Bill is one of sufficient importance to justify serious 341 attention being devoted to it by your Lordships' House and that an unfavourable impression would be produced if, owing to the reticence or modesty of any of our members who are qualified to speak upon it, your Lordships gave, as I have no doubt you will give, your assent to the Second "Reading without understanding the implications which that will involve and without considering very seriously the manner in which it is proposed to make the contemplated change. The noble Lord, the Secretary of State for India, said that we had had something; in the nature of a Second Reading discussion upon the Question raised by my noble friend Lord Peel a few weeks ago. That is true; but for my own part I was glad to hear my noble friend Lord Harris, in the observations which he has just made, treat the matter de novo and from the resources of his own experience state to us how essential he thought it was in the public interest that these modifications in the existing law should be made.
I do not know that it is necessary to go at any length into a recapitulation of the causes which justify this change in the law, but I think I could sum them up in a single sentence for those who have not had an opportunity of following our former discussion, if I say this. In the first place, it is, as Lord Harris has pointed out, a strange anomaly and, indeed, an anachronism, to use his own expression, that these high officials in India are the only high officials of Government in the Empire (and the same applies, mutatis mutandis, to the. Governments of foreign States) who are denied the opportunity for any reasons, however urgent, of coming home during their tenure of office except at the price of having to resign the appointments which they hold.
In the second place, there is the absurdity, to which my noble friend Lord Harris referred, that under the existing law any one of these high officials—I am speaking more particularly of the Viceroy, or the Commander-in-Chief—may go as far afield as he likes (far further afield than the Cape of Good Hope, I can assure my noble friend) provided only that this excursion, for whatever object it be undertaken, is not intended to culminate in a visit to Europe. That is an absurd and indefensible provision. Then remember that this anomaly which I have described is all the more anomalous 342 because under the law you refuse to these high officials of the Government of India the opportunities which are enjoyed by all the lower grades in the same Service.
That is the extent of the anomaly. But now observe its operation, I ask your Lordships to bear in mind that this restriction has exercised in the past, and, if unmodified, will continue to exercise, in the future a most unfortunate limitation on the choice of the persons you send. It is within my knowledge that both in the case of the Viceroy of India, and in the case of Governors of Presidencies, men of the highest position and repute, well fitted for such an office, have been compelled to refuse it because of the rigour of the existing law which would deprive them, for a period of five years, of any opportunity of returning to this country. Again I think it might be said that it is hard upon the man himself. You place upon your Viceroy, or your Commander-in-Chief, or Governors, no mean burden. You send them away to a distant, and in some respects rather a trying climate, for a period of five years, and you say: "You are, for no reason whatever, however pressing, during that time to lie at liberty to return and have a vacation," except at the price which I have stated.
But stronger even than that is the case of what I describe as the public interest. I do emphatically lay it down that it is an absurdity that in this particular Service, alone of all the great Services of the State, no means exist, as the matter at present stands, for personal conference or consultation between the heads of the Government here, and the corresponding heads in India. When I was at the Foreign Office and was confronted with a serious situation of affairs in Europe, or beyond Europe, I sent for His Majesty's Ambassador, and he came at once to confer with me at home. Lord Harris very justly pointed out that in the case of the South African War, the Government, who were in a very anxious position here, sent for Lord Milner, the High Commissioner, to come all the way from South Africa. The same considerations apply to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. The noble Lord himself has been a Colonial Governor. I do not know whether lie was summoned home during his tenure of office, but it is not by any means an uncommon thing. There is 343 nothing to prevent my noble friend who is First Lord of the Admiralty now, if he saw the necessity, summoning the Commander-in-Chief from the China Station or any other station, however remote, to come and consult with him. The only persons in the wide ambit of the British Empire in regard to whom you lay it down that you will only communicate with them by telegram or letter are these high Indian officials.
I remember Lord Salisbury saying to me once—he had been Secretary of State for India and Prime Minister—that the course of history might have been changed if he had had the opportunity, or if the Government of which he was the head had had the opportunity, of bringing themselves into personal consultation with the head of the Government of India. If I may for a moment quote my own experience, it was chequered, and in some respects tragic. I can well conceive that the situation might have been materially altered had the opportunity been accorded to me which it is proposed by this change in the law to afford in the future. I think I need not labour that, because on that general aspect of the case I take it we are all agreed. I think we shall also all be agreed on this: that it is a privilege, if it be granted (and I do not deny that it is a privilege) that must not be abused, and that it is a privilege that must not be lightly or frivolously used in the future. The last thing that any of us want, and the main point against which we must safeguard in this Bill, is lest the privilege, once accorded, should gradually slip into being a general practice, and be regarded as a right to which every Viceroy, or every Governor for the matter of that, would think that he had a claim, and which he would proceed, in the ordinary course of events, to exercise.
The remarks which I shall pass upon the Bill are—assuming that we are agreed upon the principle—directed to ensuring that these risks shall not occur. I come, therefore, to the conditions and securities which it is desirable to obtain, and I observe that none of these are stated—with one exception, to which I will come in a moment—in the text of the Bill which is under our examination. On the contrary, the Government, while clearly contemplating that such conditions are required, propose to provide for them by Rules in accordance with 344 the terms of the Government of India Act. I shall state presently the reasons why I think that is a thoroughly undesirable method of procedure, and that instead of entrusting them to Rules, which may be little known, which may even be subject to alteration from time to time, it is much better that we should be above board and state plainly to the knowledge of the public both in England and in India what are the conditions under which we propose that this privilege shall be available.
The first conditions that it is our duty to discuss are those of time. The noble Lord just now gave us an indication that what the Government have in view is this. They propose to put in the Rules a limitation of the period of absence to six months. I think that is too much. The conditions have radically changed in proportion as your means of communication with India have themselves improved both in quality and in rapidity. You now get to India, or from India, in a little over a fortnight. Therefore, the double journey to and fro need not occupy more than four or five weeks at the most. Assuming, as I am going to do, that the objects for which the returning Governor, or Viceroy, or Commander-in-Chief is to be allowed to come are only those of urgent importance, I think that it would be ample to provide that the total absence from date of departure from India to date of return to India should be four months. Four months is one-third of a year, and amounts to seventeen and a half weeks. If you deduct from that the five weeks for the journey to and fro you will get some twelve to thirteen weeks—close upon three months—which the returned official would be able to spend in this country.
Allusion has been made by the noble Lord to the proposal which was made by the Government of India when I was its head in 1902. At that time we proposed a limitation of three months. I do not know what period my noble friend Lord Chelmsford put in his Despatch of 1921, because I have not seen it.
THE MARQUESS CURZOX OF KEDLESTON
We recommended three months, although that was, perhaps, too short. I should be disposed myself to urge upon 345 your Lordships, if you put into the Bill a limiting period, that it should be four months.
The Secretary of State mentioned just now that this privilege of leave should be accorded to the official who receives it only once during his term of office. That it seems to me, is exceedingly wise, and in the event of a ease occurring in which a man might want, for the second time, for any of the reasons to which I will presently refer, to come home, I think, ii it occurs twice in his term of office, he ought to resign. Once would be quite enough to give him this privilege, and in the event of his being compelled to resign under circumstances of any hardship there is nothing whatever to prevent His Majesty's Government from re appointing him, as, indeed, they re-appointed me some twenty or so years ago.
I come next to the other restrictions which we ought carefully to lay down as securities against abuse. The noble Lord has provided some in the Bill, and very good they are. He lays down, for instance, that in the case of the Viceroy coming home the consent of the Secretary of State in Council is required; that in the case of the Commander-in-Chief or a Presidential Governor coming home, the consent of the Secretary of State in Council shall be required on application from the Governor-General in Council, and that in the case of members of the Executive Council the consent of the Governor-General in Council or of the Governor in Council or of the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, shall be required. That seems to be to be entirely to the good.
But I now come to the main point of my remarks. Let us consider very carefully the conditions under which, and under which alone, leave ought to be given. I take it that they are three in number. There is, first, the condition of a man coming home, or being sent for to come home, for urgent affairs of State. There is, secondly, the condition under which he may require to come home on grounds of ill-health, and there is, thirdly, the condition under which urgent matters of private interest, may compel his return. Let me deal with each of these for a moment.
I have already indicated that, in the opinion of all those who have been con 346 nected with the Government of India it may be desirable to provide an opportunity in the public interest for such conferences as I have referred to. Let me give your Lordships the kind of cases in which, either in the case of the Viceroy or Commander-in-Chief, or both, such power of personal conversation might be of the highest importance. Let us imagine cases in which a was threatened on the frontiers of India, or in which serious trouble arose with Afghanistan. Let us, again, imagine cases arising out of the Army and military affairs, in which there might be proposals of a very serious character either for the diminution or the augmentation of the Indian Army; or cases in which the question of co-operation between the military forces of the Home Government and the Indian Government might be involved. On all such cases, and they are matters of urgent public importance, I can conceive it very likely indeed that the Government at-home might think it desirable to summon the Viceroy or Commander-in-Chief. And do not let us regard it only from the point of view of the Government at home; it might equally be in the interests of the Government of India.
With the ocean lying between, and with the difficulty we have all experienced of making our case understood by telegraph or on paper, many cases might occur over 7,000 miles of ocean of misunderstanding which a few hours' conversation might dispose of. You cannot do it under the present system. The whole history of India might have been different and many Governor-Generals in the past whose careers have ended in trouble and disaster might have been saved if they had had an opportunity for a few words with the Secretary of State and with the Government at home. I could easily establish my contention by references, but I refrain from doing so, because I do not think anybody will dispute the general validity of what I am venturing to urge.
Next take the case of health. My noble friend Lord Harris alluded to one case with which I happen to be personally familiar—Sir William Lockhart. When I went out to India he was Commander-in-Chief, a man who had risen to that position by his unaided abilities and merits: a man of great strength of character, universally popular and with an assured future of public usefulness 347 before him. He was stricken down by illness, and I was told by his physician that his life would have been saved had it been possible for him to return to England. He could not afford to do so. He had no security that he would be reappointed to his position, someone would have stepped into his shoes. That valuable life was lost to the State, his services were lost to the Empire, because of this cruel, unfeeling and, I think, unnecessary rule.
Take the case of private affairs. None of us likes to talk about these matters in public, but the whole history of the Viceroys and Governor-General of India is seamed with streaks of personal tragedy, sorrow and suffering. Men out there have lost their wives at home, have lost their children at home, and could not come back either to see or make arrangements for the loved one who died. It is not only cruel, it is almost monstrous, to say that in these circumstances a man should not be allowed the common privileges which humanity would concede to every one. Unless the law is changed he must resign his office in order to do so. One of the conditions under which this change in the law will have to be applied must therefore be that of domestic concern. In the Bills to which Lord Harris has referred, introduced in your Lordships' House and passed here—it was only in the other place that they were not taken up—in 1891 and 1892 (I was Under-Secretary at the time), a provision was introduced that the leave which was contemplated should be, granted either on public grounds or by reason of illness attested by a medical certificate. I do not approve of either of those words because they are too loose and too vague. "Public grounds" may cover almost anything, and as for a "medical certificate"-in India there is not one of us who cannot get a medical certificate any morning, evening or night, saying that we should be all the better for a change of air in this country. Therefore, I think we want to be a good deal less loose and more precise in our terms.
I shall be disposed at a later date to recommend for the consideration of your Lordships that the conditions under which leave may be given should be stated more precisely; perhaps somewhat as follows. I think you will find it wise, in order to prevent abuse, to make a 348 distinction, which in my view can be entirely justified when you are speaking of public interest, between the case of the Viceroy and Commander-in-Chief on the one hand and a Governor and other high officials on the other. I do not think any one contemplates it as desirable that these officials, eminent as they are, would require to be summoned home on grounds of public interest in order to consult with the Government at home. I think it would be desirable to lay down in the case of the Viceroy and Commander-in-Chief that should the situation arise leave should be given for urgent reasons of public interest, or of health, or of private affairs. My words, you will see, demand that the reasons in each case should be urgent, and I think that will save you from the kind of abuse which I have hinted at as possible. Those three conditions should, I think, apply to the case of the Viceroy and Commander-in-Chief, and the conditions as regards health and private affairs would properly apply to the remaining high officials who are concerned.
I come now to another question of minor importance but not insignificant, and that is the question of the salary paid while the official is away. In all the previous legislation upon this matter definite proposals have been made. For instance, in the Bills of 1891 and 1892, as originally introduced, power was given to the Secretary of State in Council to determine what part, if any, of the salary of the Viceroy, or Commander-in-Chief, or Governor, not exceeding one-half, should be paid to him, provided he returned to India. That provision was a little altered in Committee in your Lordships' House, and it finally emerged in this form:Any such officer shall receive for the period of his absence from India such part of his salary and, when his presence in England is required on public grounds, such expenses of his voyage from and to India, as the Secretary of State in Council shall direct.We must consider this matter very carefully because, although it is quite true that the Secretary of State contemplates doing a number of things by Rules in the future, and although he may very likely say to me that he proposes to deal with this question by Rules, yet at the same time, if you look at the Bill in its present form, you will see a definite statement on 349 page 2 which implies, if it does not actually state, that the incumbent will receive, the full emoluments of the office which he is temporarily holding.
Is that quite just? In the first place, are you to deny to your Viceroy, or your Governor, or your Commander-in-Chief, when he comes home, any share or portion of his emolument? That does not happen in any other service in the world. If a Colonial Governor, or an Ambassador, comes home, he receives a certain portion of his salary while he is away. Supposing you send for the Viceroy, supposing he does not want to come, but you say: "You must come, because we want to discuss Afghan affairs with you," is it to be contemplated, in the first place, that the Viceroy should have to pay for his journey to and fro? I am sure it is not. In the second place, even if that be provided for by Rules, is it contemplated that he is to receive nothing during his compulsory residence in this country? I think that would be unfair, I am not suggesting for a moment that my noble friend Lord Olivier has that in mind, but I am suggesting that this House and the public ought to be clearly informed of the views of the Government, and to know exactly what is going to happen.
Let me give an illustration of the kind of way in which it would operate. Ordinarily speaking, a Viceroy, or a Governor, coming home would come at what I may call the slack season, in the hot weather. Let us suppose his period of absence is four months, as I suggest, or six months, as the Secretary of State suggests. Is it right that the temporary incumbent who succeeds him should take one-third, or one-half, as the case might be, of the total emolument of the officer in question for the year, when he would be receiving that pay at a time of year when in all probability the social obligations laid upon him would be very small indeed? I think that would be an injustice. What we proposed, I think, in 1902, when I was Viceroy, was this: we definitely proposed that the expenses incurred by the Viceroy, the Commander-in-Chief and the Governors in going to and fro should be paid by the State, and we also proposed that the acting officer who filled their places should, in accordance with the Rule that applies to Members of the 350 Council both of the Governor-General and of Madras and Bombay, draw half the pay of their substantive office and half the pay of the office in which they were acting. That was carefully thought out in the Departments of the Government at that time, and I think there were good reasons for it. I mention the matter now only because, when we come to the Committee stage, it is one of the points about which, no doubt, the noble Lord will be ready with an explanation, and upon which I think we ought to be very precise in order to prevent injustice being done cither one way or the other.
I now come to the concluding part of the Bill, which is really, in my view, of more importance than any other. The noble Lord, the Secretary of State, indicated in his speech, and, indeed, it is laid down in the Bill as drafted, that all of those matters, or at any rate the bulk of them, to which I have been referring shall be prescribed by Rules made under Section 94 of the Act. I very much object to that provision, and I do so for this reason. It was not found necessary in the Bills of 1891 and 1892. There we stated quite clearly and explicitly the conditions as regards time, as regards reasons, as regards salary, which we were prepared to introduce into the law. This practice of legislating by Rules is one which is not only capable of great abuse but has been greatly abused for many years past. During the war we carried it, for reasons with which everybody is familiar, to lengths which, even if they were undue, had at any rate a great deal of justification. But now that we have reverted to more normal times, I think the more we legislate by Rules the nature of which is unknown, which remain to be disclosed in the future, which are to be laid upon the Table of the House, where nobody sees them, and which, if they are laid upon the Table and seen, will provoke renewed discussion in your Lordships' House about a matter which ought not to be made the theme of constant debate here—the more we legislate in these conditions by Rules the worse, as a general principle, is the result.
Observe another feature. We are going to make a great change in the law. Some people will be very suspicious and say that we are trying to provide a good excuse for these people to slip away home whenever they desire, It is not true, but 351 that idea will prevail, and therefore it is surely incumbent upon us to make it perfectly clear, not by unknown Rules, which very likely we shall not see here for a long time, but in the body of the Act, exactly what we propose and what are the conditions that we intend to enforce. One other point as regards Rules. Supposing all these matters are to be settled by Rules, what is to prevent the noble Lord, Lord Olivier, from drawing up a set of Rules which respond to his feelings and to those of the India Office at the present time? Then, in the course of time, another Secretary of State will come in, and he will have a different idea and will draw up another body of Rules. It may be said that this method will be safeguarded by laying it down that the Rules shall lie upon the Table of the House, and either that they shall become operative if nobody raises an objection, or that they shall become operative only if the definite assent of both Houses of Parliament is given to them. But in that case you are exposed to the risk that the matter may slip through unobserved—because how few of us know what is laid upon the Table!—and, in the second place, if our confirmative assent is required, you may, with changes of Secretaries of State, have opportunities, as I hinted just now, of recurrent discussion on these matters which it is profoundly undesirable to make the theme of public debate either in this country or in India. I venture, therefore, respectfully to suggest that instead of proceeding by Rules we should insert in the body of the Bill the exact conditions which we desire to enforce.
I have been, I know, rather long about this matter, but I trust that the observations I have made may have led your Lordships' House to realise that this subject is of greater importance than might otherwise be imagined, that we ought not to proceed hastily, and that the more care we devote to it now the more chance there is of having legislation which will be accepted by public opinion and be successful in practice. In conclusion, I would only add that I have no means of knowing the attitude of the Secretary of State and his advisers towards the views that I have put forward. The last thing which I would desire would be any conflict, on a matter of this sort, between the two sides of the House, or between any elements 352 in the House. This change, if there is to be a change, should be carried out by common consent, and I offer my own co-operation in any degree that may be required, at any future stage, to the noble Lord, the Secretary of State, with a view, before the Committee stage, of arriving at solutions which may be acceptable to both sides.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
My Lords, this is already the second discussion this Session, and the third discussion in the last few years, in this House on this subject, and as I have had the misfortune to take part in all of them, I shall not venture to detain your Lordships at any great length. It is not necessary that I should follow the noble Marquess who has just sat down in all the matters of detail to which he quite rightly has called the attention of the House. Your Lordships' House has agreed generally to the principle of the Bill, and I am happy to think that on this occasion I find myself wholly in accord with what has been said by the noble Marquess. I confess that when I came to read the Bill I did it with feelings of considerable dismay, because on the last occasion when we discussed the subject we all agreed that the leave to be given to the various high officials should be subject to very careful safeguards, and I could not find in the whole of this Bill any sort or kind of safeguard. Therefore, I am glad to think that the noble Marquess has called your Lordships' attention to the matter, and has also insisted, as it seems to me rightly, that these safeguards should be made part and parcel of the measure itself.
It was Lord Banbury of Southam, I think, who called attention only yesterday to the anxiety of various Departments to substitute themselves for both Houses of Parliament—their readiness to legislate instead of allowing the two Houses of Parliament to legislate. This seems to me to be another example of the same tendency, proceeding from yet another Department. If I may say so, I think that with a Labour Government of a Socialist character in office, we should be very careful to see that the various Departments do not arrogate to themselves too much power. And I confess that another criticism which was made on the last occasion seems to have been thoroughly justified by events. The noble Lord, the Secretary of State, on 353 that occasion was anxious to take the Second Reading of this Bill on the very day after that on which he had taken the First Reading, at a moment when we should certainly not have had the time in which to devote to the measure that consideration which it deserves. The delay which has taken place at the request of the noble Marquess has been, fully justified by the speech to which we have just listened. It has shown how many important matters there are which need consideration.
The special circumstances always introduced into a measure of this kind have naturally a tendency to become more matters of routine. You may say that this leave is only to be given on special occasions, but unless you guard it very carefully indeed, and especially by Act of Parliament, human nature being what it is, it is almost certain to become a matter of ordinary routine for every Viceroy to take a period of leave without the existence of special circumstances. For that reason I am anxious to see in the Bill Amendments which will safeguard us in this respect.
There is one other matter to which I propose to refer. It is that I feel some little hesitation in giving to (he Viceroy the power to negative any request for leave addressed to him by the Commander-in-Chief. The noble Marquess, Lord Curzon, will, I am sure, appreciate the point of my remark if I imagine the possibility of a controversy arising between the Viceroy and the Commander-in-Chief, and the Viceroy coming home to discuss the matter with the Secretary of State. It would be in the power of the Viceroy to forbid the Commander-in-Chief to come home in order that he might place his version of the affair before the Secretary of State.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
Yes, but of course we all recognise the fact that there are Viceroys, or Governors-General in Council, able to impose their will upon their Council, and I regard with some hesitation the power of veto given by the Bill to the Governor in Council to prevent the Commander-in-Chief from coming home and putting his side of the controversy before the Secretary of State.
354 There is one other question which I will venture to address to the noble Lord, the Secretary of State, and it is in regard to the Executive Council. I understand that at the present moment the Members of the Executive Council have power to come home, and therefore I am not quite clear why in subsection (2) of Clause 1 reference is made to Members of the Executive Council, to whom the Governor in Council or Lieutenant-Governor in Council may grant leave of absence. Since these Members of the Executive Council can come home on leave it is not quite clear why it is necessary to introduce this particular provision. I venture to hope that the criticisms which have been made may appeal to the Secretary of State and that he may see his way, when we come to the Committee stage, to move Amendments which will meet the various objections that have been raised in the course of this Second Beading discussion.
My Lords, I desire to put an administrative point arising from this Bill before your Lordships, and it is in no way a criticism of the Bill itself. I observe that in the Bill the appointment of the Acting Governor is to be made by Warrant under the Royal Sign Manual. Your Lordships are, no doubt, aware that if that course is adopted there will be, a difference in principle between the method of appointment as regards India, on the one hand, and as regard the Dominions and the Crown Colonies, on the other. It is possible that that must be so, but, it appears to me that before going into Committee on the Bill your Lordships ought to be aware of the fact.
The Dominion and Crown Colony practice is this: The dormant Commission, as it is called, which controls the appointment of the Acting Governor, contains in most cases the names of offices and not of persons; that is, in the dormant Commission, which is the creature of the Letters Patent, appointing the Governor, there is a provision which says that where the Governor takes leave and his place is filled during his temporary absence it shall be filled by the holder of an office-it may be the Chief Justice, or it may be the officer commanding the troops, or the Lieutenant-Governor, if there is such a person in the Dominion or Colony. The effect of that procedure is, that from the time when the Governor 355 takes office it has been decided in writing—namely, in the Letters Patent—who is really going to represent the Governor when he goes on leave. It is true that in some cases the Letters Patent contain, not the name of the office which is to produce the Lieutenant-Governor, but a name itself; some person is named in the Letters Patent. The disadvantage of that hours is that, as time goes on, the person named in the document may have retired, or he may be dead. But, in any event, the practice adopted as regards the Dominions and the Crown Colonies ensures that, from the start, everybody knows who is going to succeed the Governor when he goes on leave.
There will be no difficulty at all with regard to the Governor-General in India, because it will be settled as a matter of course. He will be succeeded, no doubt, by the senior Governor, or by the Commander-in-Chief. But in the Provinces I can see some difficulty in making an ad hoc appointment at the moment when the leave is given. It will be an invidious task in many cases. I can well understand that when the Governor of a Province has applied for leave there may be at the head of the Provincial Government a British official, a distinguished man, but a man whom, for various reasons, perhaps personal, the Secretary of State would not desire to put temporarily into the seat of Government. Of it may be that the head of the Government at the moment is a distinguished Indian—a gentleman prominent in every way, but holding opinions upon Indian affairs which, at such a time as this, would make him unacceptable on political grounds to the Secretary of State. I am afraid that if the appointments are made ad hoc, instead of being made in advance, at the time of the appointment of the Governors, it may give cause for a great deal of personal jealousy, and also for political criticism.
Perhaps I am laying too much stress upon experience of the Dominions and Crown Colonies, but I point out to your Lordships and to my noble friend the Secretary of State for India, who is very familiar with the procedure on the other side of the Empire, that this point ought to be considered—namely, whether the person who is to succeed in each Government as temporary Governor 356 should be settled at the time when the Governor is appointed, or whether it should be left to the time when leave is granted.
§ LORD OLIVIER
My Lords, I am most indebted to the noble Marquess opposite and to my noble friend Lord South-borough for the observations they have made upon the Bill. One principal point has been raised throughout the whole of the discussion—namely, whether we should fill up this Bill with details, which we should establish by legislation, or whether we should leave those details to the Rules. Being an old Colonial servant, and also an old civil servant, I asked myself why matters which, in regard to the British Civil Service and in regard to the Colonial Service are not dealt with by Acts of Parliament, but are dealt with by rescripts of the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, or by Royal instructions, or Letters Patent, should, in regard to the Government of India, be dealt with by a Bill at a time when we are rather tending to advance towards the recognition that the Government of India has a certain claim towards autonomy under the guidance of the Secretary of State. Why should we fill up the Bill with provisions of that sort—provisions with regard to the length of time for which leave should be granted, the allowances to be granted on leave, and so on, all of which matters under the Colonial Office are settled by the Secretary of State, or by the Treasury?
I quite admit that the habit of legislation by Order in Council, or by Rules, is a vice of all public Departments. They think that it is better that Parliament should give them large powers to do these things by Rules which may be laid quietly on the Table of the House. It is more convenient, because, if you want to alter your Rules, you can do so when good reason is shown for altering them, whereas it is inconvenient to be continually altering your Act of Parliament. With regard to some matters, for example, the restriction as to the number of times of absence, or the length of the period of absence, I am quite willing that those should be put into the Bill, if the noble Marquess presses it; but, really, is it necessary as a matter of principle that the question of salaries, and so on, should be put into a Bill of this sort?
§ LORD OLIVIER
Yes, but you also wanted to have put in the provision for the salary of the officer going on leave.
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON
It has been in all the previous Bills. It was in the Bills of 1891 and 1892, and none of the suspicions of the noble Lord were raised at that time, or shared by anybody.
§ LORD OLIVIER
This is a survival from those Bills. One of the points to which Attention was called was that the grounds for which leave should be granted should be put into the Bill, and, with regard to those grounds, I am in agreement with the noble Marquess that the grounds should be either reasons of public interest, or ill health, or private affairs. Those are the conditions under which leave of absence is granted to Governors in Colonies; and I agree that all those three grounds should apply to a Governor-General, but only the two latter—urgent reasons of ill health or of private affairs—should apply to other officials. Those principles, I think, we may well agree to, and I should be willing to put that restriction into the Bill.. As regards the other questions, as to what should go into the Bill or should not, I should be very glad to accept the offer of the noble Marquess to confer on the points which he thinks it essential, with his great experience, should go into the Bill.
The noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, asked why Executive Councillors are put into the Bill. As a matter of fact the conditions under which leave can be granted to Executive Councillors are, I understand, at the present time rather restricted. They can only be granted leave on special duty, that is, when they come home in the execution of their duty, or on sick leave. This would place the privilege of granting leave to Executive Councillors on the same lines as those which it is suggested should apply to the grant of leave to Governors and Lieutenant-Governors; that is to say, that they might be allowed to come home on the ground of urgent private affairs.
With regard to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Southborough, that under the system of Colonial government the acting officer is provided for either by Letters Patent or by the dormant Commission, 358 that has not been adopted in this Bill because, after correspondence with the Viceroy, the Viceroy certainly preferred that the system of acting appointments should not be automatic, but that acting appointments should be made, as he specially desires, after consultation with the Governor-General. In order to enable an acting appointment to be made after consultation with the Governor-General so that his opinion might be taken as to the suitable way of filling a vacancy, we propose to put into the instructions that the Secretary of State shall approve the appointment after receiving a recommendation from the Governor-General. That is deliberately done in view of what is considered, in the circumstances, to be more suitable to India. As we know, in the Colonies sometimes the automatic operation of Letters Patent naming an office has been superseded by issuing special dormant Commissions in certain circumstances. The Governor-General is perfectly qualified to advise the Secretary of State and would not exercise the power arbitrarily or injudiciously, and that does give him the prestige and responsibility of making a recommendation, which he will do, and which the Secretary of State, almost invariably of course, would accept.
I have spoken generally, as the criticisms of the noble Marquess were general, as to the principle of putting these things into the Bill. I gather that he wishes to put as much into the Bill, and to put it as precisely, as possible. In accordance with his offer to confer with me upon the Amendments which I propose and which I gather he would like to propose, I should very much like to pursue that course, and at the present moment not to give notice of any specific date for the Committee Stage.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.