India (Failure Of Constitutional Machinery)-Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935-UK Prliment Debate-23/10/1945

Debated on Thursday 23 August 1945

House of Commons

9.13 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for India

(Mr. Arthur Henderson)

I beg to move,

“That this House approves the continuance in force of the Proclamation issued under Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935, by the Governor of Bengal on 31st March, 1945, a copy of which was presented on 17th April.”

Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935, provides that, if at any time the Governor of a Province is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the Province cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Act, he may, by proclamation declare that his functions shall, to such extent as may be declared in the proclamation, be exercised by him in his discretion, that is, not acting on the advice of his Ministers, and he may assume to himself all or any powers vested in or exercisable by any provincial body or Toggle showing location ofColumn 951authority, for example, the Provincial Legislature. A Proclamation issued under Section 93 expires at the end of six months unless its continuance in force has previously been authorised by Resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament. The Bengal Proclamation will, therefore, in the absence of Parliamentary approval, expire on 30th September, and as the House will go into Recess from to-morrow until the second week of October, it is essential to pass the Resolution before the House adjourns if it is to remain in operation.

Perhaps I might inform the House why the Proclamation was issued by the Governor at the end of last March. The Moslem League Ministry, in effect a coalition which included non-Congress, Hindus and representatives of the Scheduled castes which had held office under Khwaja Sir Nazimuddin since April, 1943, was defeated by a snap vote on 28th March. On the following day the Speaker adjourned the assembly sine die on the ground that the. Government, having been defeated, was functus officio. The Governor had no option but to issue the Proclamation under Section 93 and take over the powers of the Ministry and Legislature.

The Budget, which must be got through before 31st March, the end of the current financial year, had not passed the Legislature, and it was, therefore, necessary for the Governor to ensure that supply should be legally provided for the year beginning on 1st April. The Governor, having tided over the immediate crisis of the Budget, found it impossible to revert to the normal constitutional arrangement of a Ministry that would enjoy a reasonable measure of stability. I regret to say that there is still no immediate prospect of the situation changing in this respect. The House will no doubt recollect that the Instrument of Instructions issued to every Governor contains a provision requiring him to appoint, in consultation with the person who, in his judgment, is most likely to command a stable majority of the Legislature, those persons who will best be in a position collectively to command the confidence of the Legislature. Hon. Members are no doubt aware that none of the political parties in the present Bengal Legislature is able to command a clear working majority and the Governor takes Toggle showing location ofColumn 952the view that, in the present state of the Legislature, he cannot depend on any leader maintaining a stable Government. His Majesty’s Government are most desirous of seeing a stable Ministry re established in Bengal and they confidently hope that as a result of the forthcoming elections it will be possible to form such a Ministry.

I must say that, if at any time between now and the elections the Governor were to find that a coalition between the principal parties, giving promise of a stable caretaker Government, could in fact be formed—contrary to present expectations—he could at once revoke the Proclamation and resume Ministerial Government. The passage of this Motion by the House to-night would not in any way interfere with the freedom of action in this respect. I should like, therefore, to emphasise that the Resolution is permissive, not mandatory, and merely provides for the possibility—in the Government’s present view a probability—that it will not, by 30th September, have been found possible to form a stable Government by Ministers in Bengal. I hope, therefore, that the House will agree to approve the Resolution without delay.

9.20 p.m.

Mr. R. A. Butler
(Saffron Walden)

We, on this side of the House, think it inevitable that the hon. and learned Gentleman should have come down to the House this evening and asked us to pass this Motion as he has done. We realise that it is the desire, no doubt, on the Government Benches, as it is here, that we should revert to self-government in the Indian Provinces as soon as possible. That is obviously the desire of everybody who has the interests of India at heart, but all the information reaching us—and, indeed, we have been in possession of the most expert opinion until very recently—was to the effect that this course is inevitable, and all information reaching us since that unhappy date is to the same effect. Therefore, we have no alternative but to support the Government in this course. I should like to say, however, that I trust that in any matter concerning India with which the Government may concern themselves in the immediate future, every step will be taken to bring into force the operation of the provisions of the Act of 1935 in the Indian Provinces. That is, clearly, our aim, and it would be Toggle showing location ofColumn 953a most healthy development in the Indian scene. With those few words, I would simply say that we on this side of the House see no alternative but to agree, regretfully, with the course which the Government think it necessary to adopt.

Question put, and agreed to.


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