HL Deb 22 May 1946 vol 141 cc397-9

2.46 p.m.


My Lords, I ask leave to put a question to the Leader of the House, of which I have given him private notice. The question is whether His Majesty's Government are publishing in a White Paper the correspondence between the Cabinet Mission in India and leaders of Indian Parties which is understood to have been made public in India.


My Lords, the correspondence to which the noble Viscount refers is somewhat voluminous and a copy was only received in the India Office yesterday. It has already been made public in India and arrangements are being made to issue it as a White Paper as soon as possible.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Viscount, may I in this connexion call attention to two statements in The Times of to-day in a despatch from its correspondent at Delhi, which seem to indicate that there are other letters which should be included in a White Paper. I do not want to delay the one that is promised. One statement is: The Cabinet Mission is preparing a reply to the various points which Mr. Gandhi and the Congress Party have raised with them about their scheme for giving India a Constituent Assembly and an Interim Government. The same correspondent says that the reply may not be ready for a day or two and refers to the indisposition of Sir Stafford Cripps, about which we are all very sorry to hear.

The other statement seems to be even more important. The correspondent refers to "communications of Congress to the Mission" in which Congress want it made plain that the Constituent Assembly, when convened, will be the sovereign authority in India, and as such free to do what it likes. The House will, I think, agree that so important a claim, and the Mission's answer to it, ought to be made known to Parliament without delay.


My Lords, the noble Viscount will understand that without notice of this Question I am not able to make any reply. All I can say is that I will inquire into the matter and communicate with him as soon as I have any information.


My Lords, I hope your Lordships will allow me to suggest to the Government that, from the point of view of the Imperial Parliament, it is very important that they should be made aware at the earliest possible moment of the replies which are made by the Cabinet Mission to the questions put by Mr. Gandhi. What I think your Lordships would like to know is whether the answers which are going to be made by the Mission to Mr. Gandhi will have the approval of His Majesty's Government in England before they are made.


I can only assure the noble Marquess that the Government are most anxious that Parliament should be as fully informed as possible and as quickly as possible. I cannot say anything more than that. It is quite sincere and genuine. I will make enquiries into the points he raises.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that we have never before had day-to-day communications of this nature laid before Parliament when important negotiations were going on? This is entirely without precedent


My Lords, I should not have intervened at all but for that last observation. I am sure the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, thoroughly appreciates the spirit in which these questions are put. There is no question of any desire to embarrass these negotiations, but at the same time Parliament was informed immediately of the statement made by the Ministers, and if the Ministers are now going to issue a further statement in elucidation or amplification of the statement already made, then, as the Leader of the House himself has said, it is obviously right that Parliament should be informed.