HL Deb 02 March 1939 vol 111 cc1069-71

My Lords, I beg to ask the noble Marquess, the Secretary of State for India, the Question which stands on the Paper in my name.

[The Question was as follows: To ask whether it is the case that His Majesty's Government contemplate early legislation with the object of amending the Government of India and Government of Burma Acts, 1935, and, if so, whether they can give any indication of the scope and purpose of the contemplated Bill.]


My Lords, the reply to the noble Lord's Question is as follows: It is the case that His Majesty's Government contemplate the introducetion at an early date of a Bill to amend the Government of India Act, and they hope to secure its passage before Parliament rises for the summer recess. The object of the Bill is to remedy certain defects which practical experience has disclosed in the working of the Act, the remedying of which is a matter of some urgency. It is not surprising that an enactment of the length and complication of the Government of India Act should, when put to the practical test of administration, be found capable of improvement in a number of respects. But the contents of the proposed Bill have been intentionally confined to cases in which the Act, if unchanged, will lead to serious practical inconvenience. The amendments proposed in no case raise any new question of principle, or will alter in any material respect what are believed to have been the intentions of Parliament when the Act was passed, but I should perhaps add that the proposed amendments include one which is designed to remove, in the event of war, serious deficiencies which the preparation of drafts of the emergency legislation which might then be required has disclosed in the powers intended to be made available by Section 102 of the Act to the Central Government.

In two instances the amendments proposed affect provisions which appear in the same terms in the Government of Burma Act, and in those instances proposals for amendment of that Act will also be made.


My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Marquess two questions. I gather from what he has said that the Bill will not touch in any important particular the question of the establishment of a Federal Constitution in India, but perhaps in order to prevent misapprehension in India the noble Marquess will say a word on that. The second question I should like to ask is whether we are to understand that the Bill will be introduced in your Lordships' House.


My Lords, I think I can assure the noble Viscount that it will not in any way affect the Federal provisions of the Act. With regard to the House in which the Bill will be introduced, I am not at the moment in a position to give the noble Viscount the information for which he asks.