HL Deb 05 December 1935 vol 99 cc81-3

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, not many words will be required from me to commend the Second Reading of this Bill to your Lordships. The Bill, as explained on the First Reading, is designed to divide into two parts the Government of India Act of 1935, in order that both India and Burma may have statutory authority for the constitutional changes which are taking place in those two countries. The Bill itself is short and, I hope, not controversial. It consists of one operative clause and two Schedules. The operative clause instructs the Clerk of the Parliaments and the King's Printer upon the steps which they are required to take to give effect to the purpose of the Bill. It also provides that the two new Acts, the Government of India Act and the Government of Burma Act, shall be numbered consecutively after the Chapter number of this Bill, if it becomes law, and it further provides that the date of the two new Acts shall be August 2, 1935, and that from the time when these two new Acts reach the Statute Book the earlier Government of India Act, 1935, shall cease to have effect.

The two Schedules set forth the verbal changes which are necessary when the Act is divided into two Acts, those in the First Schedule referring to the Government of India Act, and those in Schedule 2 referring to the Government of Burma Act. Not all these Amendments, however, are due to the actual dividing of the Act. A meticulous examination of the text of the Government of India Act, 1935, has brought to light a few small printing errors, and also a few cases in which some slight change is desirable in the interest of grammatical propriety, and opportunity has been taken, now that it has been provided by this Bill, to give effect to those changes. The changes under these two heads—namely, correction of printers' errors and the improvement of the grammar of the Act—are altogether eleven in number. Five of them correct purely printers' errors. Those five are the first, third and fourth paragraphs and the sixth paragraph of Part II of the First Schedule, and the paragraph beginning with line 37 on page 4 of the Bill. I do not think I need trouble your Lordships with examples of these. They a-merely alter the punctuation where that is necessary to make the sense quite clear, and make other changes of a similar kind.

Of the other six proposed Amendments one only might be said to have the effect of making a possible change in the Statute. That one is the one set forth in the second paragraph of Part II of the First Schedule on page 3, and I would briefly explain to your Lordships what that change is. In Section 94 of the Government of India Act, subsection (3), you will find the following provision: A Chief Commissioner's Province shall be administered by the Governor-General acting to such extent as he thinks fit through a Chief Commissioner to be appointed by him in his discretion. Section 95 states that: in directing and controlling through the Chief Commissioner the administration of British Baluchistan the Governor-General shall act in his discretion. It has been pointed out to me that if that clause remains as drafted it might suggest that it was only when he was acting through a Chief Commissioner that the Governor-General should act in his discretion. That, of course, was by no means the intention of the Act, the intention being that whether he was acting through a Chief Commissioner or acting directly himself he should be acting in his discretion. It has been therefore thought desirable that the opportunity should now be taken of omitting the words in Section subsection (1) of the Government of India Act—namely, "through the Chief Commissioner." That is the only alteration of any substance, and I hope your Lordships will agree that it is desirable, in order that the intention of that section may be made perfectly clear, that the Amendment should remain. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Marquess of Zetland.)


My Lords, I had intended to put a question to my noble friend in reference to this Bill, but in truth all that he has said has really anticipated my question. I was going to ask him whether there was really in effect any change of substance in the Bill as compared with the Act which we passed last Session, but he has assured your Lordships that, except in one particular, there is no change whatever. I am no judge of the reasons why it is important that this Act should be divided into two. I am sure that my noble friend has been well advised, for some obscure reason no doubt, but still a good reason, to make that change, but sonic of us were a little bit alarmed lest there might be changes of substance in the course of the drafting. He has, however, explained that there is no change of substance except in one particular, and that the object was merely to make clear what had evidently been, as I understand from him, the intention when the particular clause was passed. In these circumstances of course there is no reason why we should delay the House for a moment in discussing the Bill.

On Question Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.