HL Deb 20 November 1929 vol 75 cc598-601

LORD CLWYD rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they are in a position to make a statement in regard to the appointment this Session of the Standing Joint Committee on Indian Affairs. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in putting the Question that stands in my name on the Paper very few words are required in explanation of my object in doing so. I hold a strong view as to the importance and usefulness of the Standing Joint Committee on Indian Affairs. As a matter of fact I have put a Question in relation to the appointment of this Committee at the beginning of every Parliamentary Session since this procedure was adopted. I put a Question in the usual course on the Paper at the beginning of the Session, but at the request of the Secretary of State for India I postponed it, as conditions at that time were such that it was considered desirable that postponement should take place.

Since the beginning of these sittings, however, important developments have taken place in regard to the Statutory Commission and its Report. A new situation has emerged, and to meet this new situation a new procedure has been adopted. It is not my intention to-day to make any comment upon the new proposals, beyond expressing, if I may, my full concurrence with their adoption as wise and proper decisions in the interests of reaching a solution of the very difficult and grave Indian problem now before Parliament upon a basis satisfactory, as I hope, to all parties concerned. But the adoption of these new proposals may, it seems to me, have the effect of postponing the ultimate decision of Parliament upon these matters. After all, the stages of conference and consultation have gone beyond the possible limits of the present Parliamentary Session, and this brings me to the real concern that I feel for the continuance without prejudice of the appointment of the Standing Joint Committee on Indian Affairs from Session to Session. At a later stage, when the proposals of the Government have been laid before Parliament, I gather that it is intended that these proposals should form the subject of examination by a Joint Parliamentary Committee. I am not sure whether it is intended that this examination should be undertaken by the Standing Joint Committee on Indian Affairs or by a special Joint Committee appointed for this particular purpose. However that may be, my desire is to obtain, if I can, an assurance from the noble and learned Lord who leads the House that, whatever decision may be adopted with regard to this matter, there may be no break in the continuity of the appointment of the Standing Joint Committee on Indian Affairs this Session.

I need not dwell any further upon the matter to-day; but I may perhaps be allowed to remind the House that on more that one occasion I have ventured to express a strong view with regard to the usefulness of developing this system of Joint Parliamentary Committees, not only in relation to Indian affairs but also, as I believe, in regard to Colonial affairs—subject, of course, to well-defined conditions—and particularly in the case of our Crown Colonies and Dependencies. These important Imperial interests are, or ought to be, completely outside Party politics, and I cannot help thinking, as the result of a somewhat long Parliamentary experience, that the adoption or development of this system of inquiry and examination by Joint Parliamentary Committees would contribute usefully to the solution of Imperial problems. It is for these reasons that I have addressed my Question to the Government to-day. I am most anxious that this experiment of dealing in a preliminary way with Indian questions through the medium of a Joint Parliamentary Committee shall have a fair trial. If it has a fair trial, I believe that it will in time lead the way to further developments in the same direction. I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name.


My Lords, I have been asked to reply to the noble Lord, and I wish at the outset to express the thanks of the Government to the noble Lord for so readily agreeing last July to postpone his Question in view of the position as it then stood. At that time there was some uncertainty as to the probable course of events with regard to the Statutory Commission's Report. We did not know the dates, and it seemed better that no risk should be run of confusion between this Standing Committee and a possible further new Committee. This has now been cleared up, and the intention of the Government is certainly to set up the Standing Joint Committee once again. A Motion shall be put down promptly in the ordinary form for the appointment of the Standing Joint Committee. But the noble Lord will not expect mo to express any opinion as to the possible procedure that may have to be adopted in connection with the Statutory Commission, from which we expect a Report at no distant date. That may be another story altogether, but, as far as the Standing Joint Committee is concerned, the Government will be glad to set down the Motion promptly for its appointment as heretofore.


I thank the noble Lord for his assurance on the point which I mainly had in mind—namely, the setting up of the Commission. I fully understand the difficulty of making a precise statement as to detailed procedure in the immediate future.