HC Deb 01 December 1908 vol 197 cc1248-50
DR. RUTHERFORD (Middlesex, Brentford)

I beg to ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that the Secretary of State for India will make a statement in the House of Lords, on or about 14th December, regarding Indian reforms, he will give this House a portion of a day after the above statement has been made in order that this House may discharge its duty in this grave crisis of the history of our Indian Empire.

The following Questions were answered at the same time—

MR. O'GRADY (Leeds, E.)

To ask the Prime Minister whether facilities will be afforded for the discussion of Indian reforms during this session.

MR. G. A. HARDY (Suffolk, Stowmarket)

To ask the Prime Minister whether, in justice to this House, he will afford an opportunity to consider the proposals regarding reform in India during this session.

MR. MACKARNESS (Berkshire, Newbury)

To ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the interest aroused by the existing condition of affairs in India, he will allow a statement to be made at the earliest practicable date to this House as to the remedial measures which are contemplated by the Government of India.


I understand that in consequence of the necessity of preliminary communication to the Government of India, my noble friend will not be able to make his statement before the 14th. As soon as the statement is made, Papers giving full information in regard to the matters concerned will be presented and circulated to Members of both Houses. These Papers, which, as I understand are considerable, will deserve and will doubtless receive from Members interested in India, careful and deliberate examination. A short Bill will be needed, but it will probably not be introduced during the present session. I quite agree with my hon. friends as to the necessity of this House being put in possession at the earliest possible moment of the fullest information, as in fact it will be, by the immediate presentation of the Papers; but in all the circumstances, it appears to me that discussion may be advantageously postponed until there has Been time for full consideration of the Papers, and until the Bill comes before us, as I hope it may in the early part of next session.


May I ask whether there is any precedent for a statement of the gravity of that which is to be made by the Secretary of State being made elsewhere than in this House, without a simultaneous statement being made at the same time to the House of Commons?


I should not like to say at the moment whether there is any precedent, but I think it is natural for the Minister in charge of the Department to make a statement in whatever House he happens to sit in. But whatever inconvenience might otherwise be caused will, I think, be obviated by the circulation of the Papers, giving the fullest possible information.


Will the Bill be introduced in the other House or in this House?


I will not give any definite pledge as regards that. It will not be proceeded with till next session.


May I ask whether the East India Loan Bill will be introduced this session, and whether we shall then have an opportunity of discussing the Papers?


It is on the Paper. I do not know whether, or how far, these matters will be relevant to the discussion of that Bill.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether his Answer means that there will be no opportunity during this session for the discussion of. the Papers in this House?


So far as I can at present foresee, I do not think there will, nor do I think that it is at present in the public interest that there should be.

MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)

May I ask whether the last reply of the Prime Minister means that this House is less capable of discussing Indian affairs than the other House?


I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows I do not mean that. On the contrary, I think this House is a proper and natural place for the discussion of all affairs. I can assure the hon. Gentleman—and I think the House will agree with me—that I am most jealous that this House should not be in a prejudicial position as compared with the other branch of the Legislature in regard to this or any other question.


Then translate that into action.