Orders of the Day — INDIA (MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS) BILL [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th September 1944.

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Photo of Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence , Edinburgh East 12:00 am, 27th September 1944

After listening to the remarks of the Secretary of State, I am bound to say that there does not appear to be any terrible significance in this Bill. I notice that in another place, where the Bill was debated, no opposition was put forward to it. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether in India there has been any substantial expression of opinion adverse in any way to any of the provisions of the Bill. There is such a black-out of information at the present time that ordinary Members of the House do not always know what is going on. In default of any such expression of opinion, the provisions of the Bill appear quite innocuous and seem to be rendered necessary by the peculiar facts of the times.

The matter relating to the Upper Houses and the Provincial Governments in India naturally had to be dealt with in accordance with the practices which are going on as a consequence of the war. The proposal which the Government make is simply a sort of standstill arrangement, which would seem to me quite reasonable in the circumstances. With regard to the judges, I understand the proposal is merely intended to put beyond question what was certainly the intention in regard to them. That is, I understand, the only part of the Bill which is retrospective. It is simply to clear up doubts. I under- stand that the matter of the number of advisers is only intended in case the statutory number should not be reached and that it is not the intention of the Secretary of State to reduce the numbers unless that should be actually necessary. If that be so, I do not think we should take any exception to it.

Finally, with regard to this matter of the leave of the Viceroy and the Commander-in-Chief, the Secretary of State himself said that conditions of leave today are totally different from what they were a few years ago. I do not know whether we all realise that fact, but it was brought home to us here when the Foreign Secretary left this country not long ago. He went out, and was back again within a week. Apparently he completed the business and came back, and if there had been no announcement that he was away, very few people would have known that he had gone. In reality, he went something like 3,000 miles from this country. Before the war it would have been several weeks before we could have had him home again. Conditions have changed so greatly that new provisions have to be made. A commander-in-chief can fly here, there and everywhere and still carry on his duties. It was essential that some provision should be made by which, in the absence of the Viceroy, someone could act, perhaps in a case of emergency. The provisions of the Bill in that respect should be enacted. Perhaps before we actually carry the Bill through its Second Reading I may be informed on the point which I have put to the right hon. Gentleman. The position may seem perfectly reasonable, but when one comes to examine it there may be some conceivable objection.