§ LORD CLWYDrose to ask His Majesty's Government whether it is their intention to submit a Motion to both 381 Houses of Parliament this Session for the appointment of the Standing Joint Committee on Indian Affairs. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in putting the Question which stands in my name on the Paper I can explain my reasons for doing so in one or two sentences. It will be within the memory of the House that in the year 1919 a Joint Select Committee presided over by Lord Selborne recommended that a Standing Joint Committee should he set up to be appointed by both Houses of Parliament for the purpose of keeping Parliament in closer touch with Indian affairs. As a matter of fact that Standing Joint Committee has been appointed every Session since that time. Your Lordships will remember that in 1923 the terms of reference were more precisely defined "to examine and report on any Bill or matter referred to them by either House of Parliament and to consider, with a view to reporting if necessary thereon, any matter relating to Indian affairs brought to their notice by the Secretary of State for India. "I assume, of course, that if the Secretary of State for India, on behalf of the Government, is able to agree to the setting up of this Standing Joint Committee again this Session, the same terms of reference will govern the procedure of the Committee.
It is not necessary for me to state again the ground upon which I have often urged that this Standing Joint Committee on India should be set up. I think the fact that the Joint Select Committee to which I have referred recommended that it should be a Standing Committee is sufficient evidence of their intention that it should be set up each Session, and as a matter of fact the Committee has been set up every Session up to the present time. The view may possibly be taken in certain quarters that recent changes and political developments in India may have rendered the consideration by such a 'Committee of Indian matters less urgent and perhaps less useful than it would have been under different conditions; but I do not think that view can be widely entertained. It seems to me, on the other hand, that recent political and other developments in India, whatever may be our interpretation of the causes that underlie these changes, rather strengthen the necessity and do not weaken the, desirability of setting up this Committee every Session 382 for this purpose. I would only venture, in addition, to express my view that the advantage of the deliberations of such a Committee as this cannot really be decided in one or two Sessions. Experience is required for a longer time.
As I have already said, I will not detain the House by setting forth in detail the many reasons I could urge in favour of this Committee being set up. I will merely, in conclusion, say again that I hold a strong opinion as to the necessity of providing every Session machinery by which, if necessary, questions can be referred to such a Committee which can usefully be considered and reported upon. Speaking for myself, as I have more than once previously ventured to urge in this House, I should like this principle of Standing Joint Committees to be extended to other spheres of our Imperial responsibility. I cannot see how Parliament can make the best use of its knowledge and experience of Imperial affairs solely through the accidental medium of a chance debate upon Imperial matters. Accordingly, because I believe that it is important that this machinery in regard to the consideration of Indian affairs by a Standing Joint Committee should not be broken but that there should be a continuous policy with regard to it, and also because I desire that nothing should take place which should hinder at all events the possibility of a further extension of the principle, I do venture to hope that the Secretary of State for India will be able to give an affirmative reply.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD)
My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord for having postponed his Question until an occasion when I am able to answer it myself. It is my purpose once again to invite the services of the Standing Joint Committee and with that object I shall shortly place upon the Notice Paper a Motion in the terms of the Motion which I employed last year for the same purpose. It is my hope, having regard to the present situation in India, that I may be able to avail myself of the good will and experience of this Joint Committee without at the same time imposing upon them duties too arduous.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, I think the House will have heard with satisfaction the proposal of the Secretary 383 of State for India to set up this Committee again. It is a Committee which Government after Government has appointed and which belongs to the history of the evolution of the Constitution of India. I think the House is very much indebted to my noble friend Lord Clwyd for his diligence in looking after these matters and not permitting us to forget their importance.