§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (LORD THOMSON)
My Lords, this Bill may be described as at once an amending and an enabling Bill. It amends Section 33 of the Government of India Act, and, in point of fact, it regularises a state of affairs which has existed for some two years and which came to a head as the result of a Cabinet decision in 1926. It first came into effect on April 1, 1927. The necessity for this Bill is that the Cabinet decision which was reached in 1926 should have been preceded by a measure of this sort. Apparently that necessity was overlooked at the time, and the Bill is now brought in to regularise that position. The decision of the Cabinet was threefold. It transferred the political responsibility for Aden to the Colonial Office; it transferred military control of Aden to the Air Ministry; and it left the civil administration of the Settlement as before under the Government of India.
The scope of the Bill is entirely restricted to military considerations; in other words, to the military control. It has been decided that military includes air, just as military includes certain naval services in India and in the Indian Ocean. The object of the Bill is to remove certain anomalies which exist at the present time. As things stand to-day, such questions of administrative detail as the confirmation of Courts-Martial and other minor matters have to be referred to the Viceroy in India for approval and confirmation. That leads to a great deal of administrative inconvenience and delay. Those are, in broad outlines, the reasons why this measure is being brought forward, and why your Lordships are being asked, as a matter of urgency, to suspend Standing Order No. XXXIX in order to get the Bill through all its stages this afternoon. In subsection (2) of Clause 1 you will find the result of an Amendment 141 moved in another place which it was hoped would remove the objections felt by certain members there and which probably will be felt by some of your Lordships with regard to Orders in Council. Subsection (2) of Clause 1 now lays down that any Order in Council must be laid for thirty days in both Houses of Parliament, and that a Petition from either House may lead to its cancellation. The Printing Clause—that is to say, Clause 2—of the Bill, will have this result, that there will always be available within a few weeks of any amending Bill being passed a complete and accurate text of the Government of India Act as at the moment in force.
There are one or two other questions which may occur to your Lordships who are interested in these matters. With a view to forestalling those observations, I will, with permission, refer to them now. One may be in connection with the attitude of the Government of Bombay. The question may be put, has that Government been consulted? The Government of Bombay has not been explicitly consulted, but its agreement is presumed because, ever since April 1, 1927, that Government has assisted in carrying out the decision the Cabinet reached at the end of 1926. Another question may concern the attitude of the Bombay Legislative Council. As this Bill concerns exclusively military matters, and as military matters are a central subject, this Bill does not affect the Legislative Council of Bombay at all. There is no finance in the Bill, but I can assure your Lordships that as a result of this Bill this country will not be called upon to pay one penny more than it would have been called upon to pay if the Bill had not been presented to Parliament. I think that is all I need say at the moment on the subject, and I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Thomson.)
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
My Lords, the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Air has stated very fully and clearly the reasons necessitating the introduction of this Bill. It is a technical matter. I do not know why it is but all subjects connected with Aden seem to be extremely complicated, and I have had some experience of their complication. I rise really for the purpose of saying that I hope your 142 Lordships will pass the Second Reading of this Bill. As the noble Lord said it is of importance that the anomaly now existing should be put an end to and regularised by Act of Parliament. I am, as he knows, not unfamiliar with some of the details of the Bill, and indeed I had hoped that it would have been possible to have passed a Bill, not necessarily in exactly this form, during the last Parliament, but we were very busy people then and we had a great deal to do. In those more leisured and spacious times I am glad to know that there is ample opportunity for dealing with some of the matters of minor importance to which we could not, owing to other preoccupations, give attention.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
§ Then (Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended), it was moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Thomson.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly:
§ [The EAEL OR DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]
LORD THOMSON moved to add to the clause:—
(3) In this section the expression 'Aden' includes any dependencies of Aden whereof the military government is under the superintendence, direction or control of the Governor-General in Council.
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment has been put down on the suggestion of the Government of India. It was felt necessary to remove any obscurity as to what is meant by the expression "Aden." Apparently, Aden means not only the Settlement of Aden but the villages of Sheikh Othman, Imad and Hiswa, the Island of Perim and Little Aden. The Government of India were consulted before this matter was taken up, and they replied advising that reference should be made to the fact that Aden covers other places than the Settlement itself. The draft of their Amendment has been modified by Parliamentary counsel, and in its present form is considered adequate. I beg to move.143
Clause 1, page 2, line 10, at the end insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Thomson.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
§ Remaining clause agreed to.
§ Amendment reported (according to Order).
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Thomson.)
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
My Lords, on a point of order may I ask how it is that an Amendment to this Bill was circulated before the Bill had been read a second time? I always thought you could not put down an Amendment before a Bill had been read a second time; yet here we have a printed Amendment before that stage was reached. Perhaps I might have an explanation?
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to answer that question. It is quite contrary to order, but it has often been done.
§ On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendment, and passed, and returned to the Commons.