HL Deb 04 March 1925 vol 60 cc405-7

My Lords, I beg 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. May I be allowed, as this is, I think, the first time that the noble Earl, Lord Birkenhead, as Secretary of State for India, has answered a Question in this House, to voice my sense of the importance of his acceptance of that high office. There are, and there must be, differences of opinion with regard to the angle from which we view the problem of the Government of India, but I feel that there cannot be any difference of opinion as to the value of the high gifts and largo experience in public affairs which are thus placed at the disposal of India at such a very difficult and perplexing stage in the history of our relations with that country.

With reference to the Question that I have placed upon the Paper, it is only necessary that I should remind the House that I asked a similar Question at the beginning of the last Session of Parliament. I assume that the terms of reference which will govern the proceedings of the Committee will be the same as those which governed their proceedings then. I do not wish to detain the House by expressing in any detail my view of the necessity or usefulness of this Committee, but I feel that upon many grounds it is desirable that the machinery of this Standing Joint Committee on Indian Affairs should be available for the consideration of questions which can usefully be referred to it.


My Lords, I should like to associate myself with the noble Lord in regard to the great advantage it is to the Empire in having the noble Earl with his very high qualifications in charge of the affairs of India at the present time, and I should like to add my hope to that of the noble Lord that the Question will be answered in the affirmative. I think in the present Session there will come before Parliament for consideration, as we have been informed, the amendment of certain Rules to give effect to the recommendations of this Committee, and also some possible question of amendment of the Government of India Act. Therefore, on that account and also on the contingent account, I think it would be an advantage if the Committee were set up.


My Lords. I am very much indebted to the noble Lord who asked this Question for the kind language in which he spoke of myself in relation to the office which I now hold; and I am equally indebted to the noble Lord who spoke last, and who was my immediate predecessor in that office, for the not less kind language in which he has spoken of the same matter. I inherited from the noble Lord who spoke last an office very highly organised on its domestic side, and it is a pleasure to me to think that I succeed also to no small measure of good feeling from the Minister who preceded me. My answer to the Question is in the sense desired by both noble Lords. The information before me leads me to the conclusion that this Joint Committee is capable of much useful work, and that it ought to be kept in existence; and I propose shortly to submit a Motion in order to constitute it, which Motion will not differ in form or in substance from the Motions of previous years.