Situation.

Oral Answers to Questions — India. – in the House of Commons at on 23 November 1931.

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Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

13.

asked the Secretary of State for India whether there is an improvement in the maintenance of law and order in India, such as will enable the Viceroy to repeal any or all of the Special Ordinances for the enforcement of law and order now in operation; and will he also state when the Meerut prisoners were first arrested and when it is expected the trial of these prisoners will end

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

Special Ordinances are in force in Burma and the Punjab, both of which are designed to deal with local situations of gravity, arising out of the Burma Rebellion and the Kashmir disturbances respectively. In neither case does the situation yet warrant the abandonment of special powers. Two further Ordinances, one in Bengal and one in Delhi, give special powers for dealing with the terrorist movement, with regard to which there has, I regret to say, been no improvement. With regard to the second part of the question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I have just given to the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood). The Meerut prisoners were arrested on the 25th March, 1929.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

Is it the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to make reports to the House from time to time of the condition of affairs in India, as was done by his predecessor?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

Yes; as far as I know, I am following exactly the course that has been adopted. I am issuing periodical reports.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

I understand that the question of the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, has not been answered. Is it possible to give the answer now?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

If the right hon. Gentleman referred to an answer that has not been given, he had better give it now.

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

If I may give it in answer to a supplementary question, I will inform the right hon. Gentleman that the trial in the Sessions Court began on the 31st January, 1930, and the prosecution case was closed in March, 1931. The date at which the trial is likely to end depends mainly upon the time taken by the accused in presenting their defence, and I am therefore unable to give any estimate of its probable duration.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider consulting the Viceroy as to whether it would not be an act of grace to discharge these prisoners now and allow the Englishmen to go home, seeing the length of time that they have been in prison awaiting trial and the hardships which certainly sonic of them have undergone during that long period?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

My predecessor and I have been in constant communication with the Government of India on the subject. The delay in the trial is not in any way due to the Government. It is due entirely to the protracted course of events undertaken by the prisoners themselves. It is quite impassible for me at this stage of the trial, I am afraid, to intervene.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

In view of the very long period—the right hon. Gentleman will agree that it is a long period—will he not consult the Viceroy as to whether something cannot be done to end this very protracted imprisonment of men who have not yet been brought to trial really effectively?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

I should very much like to see this trial brought to an end at once, but I cannot intervene in the course of justice at this period of it. The delay is not due to us at all.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

Is not a trial lasting for the best part of three years sufficient punishment for any crime that may have been committed?

Photo of Mr Samuel Hoare Mr Samuel Hoare , Chelsea

I am afraid that I cannot add anything to the several answers that I have given on this subject. I should like to see the trial ended as quickly as possible.