§ House in Committee (according to Order) on re-commitment of the Bill.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
The first question which I have to put on this Bill is that the Amendments made in the Standing Committee be now considered.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD)
My Lords, I am extremely sorry that, having afforded myself the assistance of the very experienced Joint Committee of both Houses, my first and mast ungrateful task is to invite your Lordships to leave out a riot unimportant paragraph and a very important subsection which the Joint Committee has advised me to accept Your Lordships will remember the general object of this Bill. It is to carry out in the interests of the Indian Civil Services the recommendations of the Lee Commission's Report. The object of the Joint Committee is to add—and, I am bound to say, outside the scope of the Bill—to the number of those who would be in a position to avail themselves of its beneficial provisions. It is always undesirable to depart from the scope of a Bill when that Bill is founded upon the report of a Commission, and the real truth is that the difference of opinion which has arisen between the Government of India and my Office and noble Lords who have taken a different view is that they, reasonably enough if it were really practicable in the method they propose, wish to extend somewhat the number and range of the beneficiaries.
Now, my Lords, the plain truth is that the moral case goes far beyond the recommendations made by the Commis- 1161 sion. The moral case is this, that there is a claim to be alleged by everyone, whoever he may be, whether he be a member of what is called the Superior Civil Services or not, who was affected by the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms. It is, of course, notorious that these reforms involved the transfer of many important spheres of government work to the newly-elected Governments. The number of those so affected is very considerable indeed, and it was not the policy of Parliament so transferring them that all of them should receive the same benefits which are the subject-matter of the recommendations of the Lee Commission's Report. The Amendments that are actually proposed by the Joint Committee do not receive the support of the Government of India. They do not receive the support of the India Office, and I am bound to take the responsibility of telling your Lordships that in my judgment they are quite unworkable.
The Committee, not, I believe, if I may be allowed to say so, without a considerable difference of opinion, reached the conclusion which I am now trying to alter. Unfortunately, some two months' expenditure of time has been involved in these discussions. It has been found impossible now to do what I had originally hoped—to put the Bill upon the Statute Book in the earlier part of this Session, and if this controversy were very consideraby protracted it might be at least open to anxiety as to whether, with the congestion of Parliamentary business which awaits us in the autumn, this very valuable reform, on which the whole Indian Civil Service has set its heart, and which that Service had been promised this autumn, might not he exposed, at any rate to some slight risk of even further postponement.
Let me shortly explain the measure. Clause 1 of the Bill, as I presented it to the House, removed from the Votes the salaries and pensions of persons appointed before April 1, 1924, by the Governor-General in Council or by a Local Government to services or posts classified by rules under this Bill as superior services or posts. That was at least intelligible. The persons who were so defined were known to everybody who was familiar with the constitution of the hierarchy of the Indian Civil Services. To this paragraph the Joint Committee 1162 have added the following paragraph which, with great respect to them, I am advising your Lordships to withdraw:—Certain named persons appointed before the first day of April, nineteen hundred and twenty-four, by the Governor-General in Council or by a Local Government, or by the High Court or Chief Court of a Province in respect of whom the Secretary of State in Council shall have certified that exemption is justified by the circumstances of their original appointment.The general effect of the change is to extend the protection far beyond the classes contemplated by the original Bill. I contemplated in the original Bill, as the Lee Commissioners had contemplated, officers of the class for whom they had, in terms very readily recognisable, proposed concessions.
The addition male by the Joint Committee, if I may say so with the deepest respect for the members of that body, is extremely objectionable to me of all people, because it leaves a discretion to certify officers by name to the Secretary of State, without the slightest indication of the grounds on which he is to certify, except that they are to be grounds connected with the circumstances of the officer's original appointment. I say quite plainly that such a duty is wholly unacceptable to me. It is not a duty which in any circumstances ought to be imposed upon the Secretary of State. Indeed, I can illustrate it in this way. There is absolutely nothing in the Amendment to prevent me from certifying anyone I like and, what is more important, it makes it possible—I do not say it invidiously, but I may perhaps say it—for Members of Parliament and others to bring pressure to bear for the certification of particular persons on the ground that the power is, as it is, absolutely unrestricted. Moreover, there is the practical difficulty that it is very unlikely that the Government records will ever show anything exceptional in the circumstances of appointment, even where there were special reasons. When I appoint an officer to a position I might have a special reason for appointing him to that position. But I do not leave a note in the Department saying, "I appointed him for a special reason, and here is that special reason." The only Minute, as everybody who has had administrative responsibility knows, that in the ordinary case is preserved in 1163 a Department is: "We recommend that A or B shall be appointed to this particular position."
Apart from the administrative difficulty of working, and the invidious responsibility in which this proposed new paragraph would involve the Secretary of State, the clause of the Joint Committee is open to very considerable objections of substance. It is true that it purports to be non-racial. But, if we are to speak candidly to one another in this House, I imagine there can be no doubt that the officers whom the Joint Committee desire to protect are European officers, who are supposed to have been recruited for services admittedly not superior, in the technical phrase, but because European qualifications were held to be necessary. This ingenuous—I must use the word quite plainly—legislation in the form proposed would become apparent when the list of persons certified by name was published. I doubt if any single member of the Joint Committee had in mind a specific Indian case. Indeed, I do not think I am, speaking from memory, doing any injustice to the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, on an earlier occasion in our debates when I say that I think he made it plain that the cases he had in mind were English cases. If that is so, if it be true, as I believe it to be true, and as I am advised it is true, that no Indian in the Provincial Service has ever moved a finger to obtain protection on the ground of the circumstances of his original appointment, then I am invited by name to publish lists of English members of the services as to whose position, unless we admit a racial discrimination, which I certainly will not admit in this matter, it will be made perfectly plain that the advantage of these proposals is to enure exclusively or almost exclusively in favour of Europeans.
If the argument is put forward that European qualifications have nothing to do with the matter, but that the discrimination is to be meritorious, then I must ask leave to point out that special circumstances of appointment will be proportionately at least as numerous among Indians as among Europeans. I would like to ask whether that is contemplated. Upon this view what it means is that the number of officers, most of them Indians, who would be withdrawn from the financial control of the Councils 1164 would be so large as quite evidently to constitute a substantial reduction of the powers given to them in 1919; and that it would be gravely resented, and I think reasonably resented, I entertain not the slightest doubt.
It ought to be remembered in this connection that the good will of the Councils will be valuable and, indeed, indispensable in carrying into effect some of the Lee Commission's proposals, and I regard it as of the highest importance that they should be given no reasonable ground for complaint. I am advised that the acceptance of this Amendment will make the task of the Government in the Councils very much more difficult, and even if Englishmen alone are considered the Joint Committee, according to my advisers both in India and in this country, are certainly wrong in thinking that the number of claims to certification under that clause is small. I doubt, and I am founding myself here largely upon the speech made earlier in the Session by the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, if they have in mind more than a few officers in two or three Bombay and Madras services, but if the real criterion is appointment on account of European qualifications it would be impossible to certify a junior officer, for instance, in the Bombay Salt Department, and to refuse certification to a British sergeant-major of police. In Bihar alone there are over 50 British sergeants and sergeant-majors, and the number in Provinces with large towns is indisputably very much greater. The problem before us is not, therefore, of a score of officers, but hundreds, and if the Joint Committee wish to controvert this they will have to define much more precisely the class they have in mind. I doubt if they can do this. If this view is correct, and the Secretary of State nevertheless limits his certification to a very few officials, he will no doubt remove their sense of grievance, but at the cost of giving a new grievance, and one quite unanswerable logically, to the large number of equally meritorious officials who have, morally at least, as strong a claim.
If I may sum up the objections which have led me most reluctantly, but very clearly in my own mind, to ask your Lordships to take this course in regard to this clause, they will be these. In the first part, beyond all question, it 1165 goes beyond the general and express purpose of the Bill. Its intention is not clear, its drafting is painfully obscure, and it will be most difficult and most embarrassing to administer. In the third place, it either involves racial discrimination, or the withdrawal of officers from the control of the Councils to an extent that cannot be justified; and in the fourth place, in my expectation and the expectation of those of great experience who have advised me, it will create more grievances than it removes. On all these grounds I move the Motion which stands in my name.
§ Moved, That the Amendments made in the Standing Committee be now considered.—(The Earl of Birkenhead.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Amendment of ss. 67A and 72D of Government of India Act.
§ 1. Sections sixty-seven A and seventy-two D of the Government of India Act shall as from and after the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and twenty-four, have effect as though the following amendments were made therein:—
(1) In subsection (3) of the said Section sixty-seven A (which relates to proposals for the appropriation of money which are not to be submitted to the vote of the Legislative Assembly) there shall be substituted for paragraphs (iii) and (iv) the following paragraphs:—
(iii) Salaries and pensions payable to or to the dependants of—
(2) In subsection (3) of the said Section seventy-two D (which relates to proposals for the appropriation of money which are not to be submitted to governor's legislative councils) there shall be substituted for paragraphs (iv) and (v) the following paragraphs:
(iv) Salaries and pensions payable to or to the dependants of—