§ Order for Committee read.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Montagu)
I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
We are within a few hours of the end of this part of the Session, and we are getting on in the month of August, and therefore it is in accordance with Parliamentary 1140 tradition that a tired House of Commons should spare a few hours at this season of the year, if it spares them at all, for an Indian Debate. I say if it spares them at all, for I regret that it is five years since we had a debate upon the Indian Budget, and I am only too painfully aware that it was I, as Under-Secretary of State for India, who delivered the last four Budget statements. On this fifth occasion, when I ask leave to move that you should now leave the Chair, Mr. Speaker, I do not propose to review the financial and other situation in India in the ordinary way, for I gather that this Debate has been set down on this occasion, just as a similar occasion is being offered in another place, for the discussion of a particular set of problems. The financial statement has, as usual, been furnished to the House. I would only like to remind hon. Members of the one outstanding feature of the last year's finance, namely, the contribution of £100,000,000 towards the cost of the War. The intention was to raise as much as possible of this by loan in India and to liquidate the balance by the Government of India taking over the required amount of British War Debt, meeting the interest thereupon and gradually discharging the principal. The response to the loan raised in India far exceeded any anticipation. I think the sort of estimate of a loan under previous circumstances was something like £4,000,000. The loan last year realised £35,000,000, which was in due course transferred to the Imperial Government, and at a later date in the same year the Government of India succeeded in raising for its own needs £30,000,000 in the form of Treasury Bills for the purpose of financing war expenditure in India. The applications for War Loan from all classes were most satisfactory, and large subscriptions were obtained not only in British India, but in the native States. I realise to the full that figures of this kind are not comparable with the enormous results of War Loans in this country, but it is hardly necessary for me to remind the House of the poverty of the people of India, of the undeveloped condition of its natural resources, and that contributions to loans of this kind can only be made, not by denying luxuries, but by severely restricting expenditure on such vital necessities as education, sanitation, and the development of industries.
This year a new War Loan has been issued, the proceeds of which will also be 1141 paid to the Imperial Government. The estimated yield of it was to be £20,000,000. Already £16,500,000 has been realised, and therefore it is obvious that of the £100,000,000 promised well over £50,000,000 has already been raised in India itself. That, I think, everybody will agree is a very remarkable result. Particularly in view of the Motion which stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. C. Roberts), I should like to say a word or two about Indian war effort. First of all, as regards supplies, in 1917 1,383,000 tons of wheat were exported by the Government of India for the relief of Great Britain and her Allies. Special measures were taken last autumn to increase the wheat area, and 34,688,000 acres of wheat were planted, but I am afraid that the estimated exportable surplus will not be reached, because the monsoon, for the first time for many years, is not progressing altogether favourably. Two hundred million pounds of tea were exported last year, and arrangements have been made to export 250,000,000 this season. Thirty one million pounds' worth of jute and jute goods were exported last year for war purposes, and £2,250,000 worth of wool. Large quantities of Army blankets are also made in India, and 60 per cent. of the boots manufactured in this country are provided—with the tanned hides necessary for their uppers—from India. I will not go into details of saltpetre, manganese and wolfram, but I will turn to the men.
It is well known that Indian troops have played their part, and are playing by far the larger part in Mesopotamia and Palestine, and, at the beginning of the War, played a very large part in France. This has solely been possible by the increase in the number of recruits. Before 1914 the annual intake of recruits for combatant purposes was about 15,000. Last year the figure exceeded 285,000, and, reckoning non-combatants, 440,000. This year it is proposed to raise 500,000 combatants, besides a large number of non-combatants, and I am informed that those responsible for recruiting have no doubt that India will obtain the men necessary to complete the new establishments which have been sanctioned by the War Office. The recruiting figures for June reached the record of 50,000, and the remarkable fact is that provinces from which recruits seldom came before—races which have never yet shown martial 1142 instincts, or only to a small degree—are providing their contribution to these numbers. I will instance in particular Burmah. Then, too, these new recruits are not being asked to come to the War only as privates. They are to have the opportunity comparable to the opportunity which is given, I think, to every other soldier raised for combatant purposes for the British Empire, of acquiring His Majesty's commission. It was stated in the House the other day that the military members of the Army Council differed from the policy of the Government of India and of the Cabinet on the subject of commissions in the Army. I will respectfully say, without entering into controversy, that if you ask a man to fight in this War—in this War above all other wars—then surely he should be given every opportunity of winning by gallantry any position in the Army, whatever his race. It is said sometimes that it is an intolerable thing to risk British soldiers being commanded by Indian officers. Those racial considerations are, I hope, wholly out of date. When different principles have long since been established for the civilian population, when Indians are eligible for the highest positions in their own country in civilian life, when Indian officers command large hospitals in Mesopotamia at this moment, it is idle to say that racial considerations should continue to debar Indians from obtaining, His Majesty's commission and becoming officers in His Majesty's Army. That controversy—a long controversy, a controversy extending through many years—is now, I hope, at last settled with the approval of the overwhelming majority of people of this country.
But I should like to say one word more of Indian effort in Mesopotamia. The railways which convey our troops both in Mesopotamia and in Palestine have been largely constructed from materials supplied by the Indian railways, and in Mesopotamia they are worked mainly by Indian labour. Seventeen hundred miles of tract, 200 engines, and nearly 6,000 vehicles have been provided by India for the various theatres of war. The river flotilla on the Tigris and the Euphrates is mainly composed of vessels drawn from Indian rivers. The plant which now lights Basra and Baghdad was nearly all drawn from India, and is worked by Indians. With the help of expert advice, by modern irrigation, and up-to-date agricultural machinery, a very large proportion of 1143 which comes from India, we are gradually reviving the former fertility of Mesopotamia. These resources are provided by India, and are gradually changing the appearance of the country and eradicating the blight of Turkish misrule. It is rather interesting to compare the results of British occupation in Mesopotamia with German occupation in Belgium. I have nothing to say about frontier affairs, which have been quiet, or about those grave occurrences in the Middle East which necessitate taking every precaution for the security of Indian frontiers, as those would be more fittingly dealt with by some other representative of the Government. They are not wholly Indian concerns; they are mainly military and Foreign Office concerns, but vitally, it is true, affecting India. I do not think any useful purpose would result from discussing them now.
I would occupy the rest of the short draft I propose to make upon the patience of the House with a short discussion of this book. It has been published as a Parliamentary Paper. It is called a "Report on Indian Constitutional Reforms." I cannot pretend in the short time I propose to occupy the attention of the House or in any length of time short of reading the Report out and out—which I hasten to assure hon. Members that I have no intention of doing—that I can hope to provide a substitute for reading it, and, though I have no intention of advertising the goods of which I am part author, I cannot attempt to provide a substitute for the necessary task sooner or later of reading this document. I say that with very great respect, for no speaker, no summary, no newspaper article, no newspaper letters, can provide real, genuine students with a fair view of the case unless such students are good enough, and I know how appallingly long it is, sooner or later to read the volume itself I am going to assume this morning that nearly everybody has read it. If it has been read it will be seen that we claim to prove in this document, and I claim it with confidence, that the principles of reform which we have recommended throughout are not principles which arise now, but are the logical, inevitable outcome of over 100 years' of Indian rule. We have tried to show how we have steadily inculcated into some, at least, of the Indian people love of liberty and self-government, education on Western lines, ideas of local 1144 government comparable to our own. The whole development of legislative example has stretched from the time when one or two Indians sought to help to register our laws, right through to the day of those reforms with which the names of Lord Morley and Lord Minto will be for ever associated. The developments have lead irretrievably, inevitably and infallibly to the conditions which have arisen today, when those people whom we taught and trained to this extent come to us and say, "You have taught us the value of self-government; set us on the road to obtain it." I do not say that that demand was not quickened by the War, but the statements of our own ideals from our own Ministers and from Allied Ministers, the hatred of the Prussian ideal, the share of India in this War of liberty, the natural searchings of men's hopes and aspirations for something better, have added their impulse to this development and made an irresistible appeal to the Government of India for some further steps in the development of self-government. It started with the determination of the Government of India to do something more. In the time of Lord Hardinge it was pursued while he collected the opinions of local Governments, and at the end of his Viceroyalty it was taken up immediately by Lord Chelmsford, who concentrated upon getting an authoritative declaration from the Home Government as to what we sought to do with the India which we had created. His demand and the demand of his Government for a statement of the aims of British policy were under consideration by the Home Government and by the War Cabinet when I assumed office. The announcement was almost ready. I inherited the situation from my right hon. Friend beside me (Mr. Chamberlain). I was proud to be the spokesman of the Government, and I wish to give the history of that declaration as it started in India, and as it was pursued by my right hon. Friend, because it has been stated publicly that this whole movement is a conspiracy which I hatched, and along the tortuous paths of which I have led an unwilling and unfortunate Viceroy. Of course, this is a travesty of the facts, but when I pointed this out a fortnight ago to its authors in public I was then accused of sheltering myself behind my predecessor and the Viceroy. Nothing will satisfy them. It is either my 1145 work alone, in which case it is to be damned because it is mine, or it is my work with somebody else, in which case I ought to have the courage to say that it is wholly mine. As a matter of fact, for six months Lord Chelmsford and I worked together in close association as colleagues, working this thing out together, listening together to all kinds of representations, and I should not be doing my duty to a friend and colleague if I did not on this, the first occasion on which I have had an opportunity in this House, pay a tribute to his earnestness, to the sincerity of his judgment, and to the steadfastness of the purpose which he displayed in pursuing what he thought to be right, as well as to the complete lack of prejudice which accompanied his almost unexampled public patience. We are together responsible for our proposal. I could not drag him along if I tried; we both walked together, side by side, and we were neither of us unwillingly harnessed to the other. May I read again to the House the announcement which I made on behalf of His Majesty's Government on the 20th of August last year:The policy of His Majesty's Government, with which the Government of India are in complete accord, is that of the increasing association of Indians in every branch of the administration and the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realisation of responsible Government in India as an integral part of the British Empire. They have decided that substantial steps in this direction should be taken as soon as possible.Then follows the statement that I was to go to India, and it concludes with these words:I would add that progress in this policy can only be achieved by successive stages. The British Government and the Government of India, on whom the responsibility lies for the welfare and advancement of the Indian peoples, must be the judges of the time and measure of each advance and they must be guided by the co-operation received from those upon whom new opportunities of service will thus be conferred, and by the extent to which it is found that confidence can be reposed in their sense of responsibility. Ample opportunity will be afforded for public discussion of the proposals which will be submitted in due course to Parliament.Those were our terms of reference. That is the principle to which the Government of this country stands committed; that is the principle which has remained unchallenged by Parliament now for nearly a year, and I say with great respect and with all the emphasis I can command 1146 that you can, if you will, tear up the specific proposals contained in this Report, in order to find better; you cannot, without perpetrating the grossest breach of faith in the history of the world, depart from that announcement of the 20th August last.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
If hon. Members are going to remove the discussion from India to Ireland, perhaps it would be better for the Chief Secretary to be here, but I would respectfully suggest that India is big enough for a few hours' discussion without that. Therefore, I would ask first and foremost everybody who is going to take part in this Debate, and everybody outside this House who is good enough to read the account of our Debate here—do you or do you not accept the principle embodied in the announcement on the 20th August last? If you do, we are all working for the same end. We are all desirous of carrying out the same thing. But there are two parts of that announcement, one is the statement that what we want is the realisation of responsible Government, and the other is the declaration and admission that it cannot be done yet, that it has got to be done by stages, and that this House and the other House, on the recommendations of the Governments which are responsible to it be the judges when the steps are to be taken. There are, therefore, I say, two parts to it. If you criticise this scheme because you are not willing to give responsible Government to India, then you are denying the principle embodied in the announcement of August last. If you criticise it because you want to do it at once, or because you want a stereotyped time-table taking it out of the hands of the Government responsible for the welfare and well-being of India to decide the time when steps are to be taken, then, again, you are denying the principle of this announcement. Therefore, I say to both sides, to those whom I may be allowed to call extremists on both sides, we cannot pursue this object or discuss the Report which resulted from the announcement of the 20th of August, unless you come within the four corners 1147 of that announcement. I want to say just this about it. I think it was inevitable, I cannot conceive that there could have been any other answer consistent with the history of the day. The moment you were asked: "What are you going to do in future," the moment you decided to announce your policy, it must have been, it could only have been, a policy of determination to give complete self-government. To do otherwise would be to depart from your traditional belief in free institutions. Could you say that in every other part of the British Empire self-government was right, but that in India you were going to deny opportunities for or access to self-government. What was the use of the existence of those very legislative councils? How could you train men and educate men as educated Indians had been trained and educated if you were to say to them that the political life, the opportunity of moulding and creating the destinies of their own country, is to be withheld from them for ever, and that our purpose in India differs from our purpose in every other country. There is something peculiar in the Indian Ocean which makes it possible to glory in freedom in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
Could you then deny it to India? I would submit most respectfully that if the idea of Indian Government was persistently to be subordination and subjection, then Lord Morley's reforms, the reforms which preceded those and the grant of high office to Indians, and the actual inclusion of Indians in the Imperial War Cabinet itself, are and were all out of harmony, and the Indian Empire would be a curiously truncated affair. This could have been only the substitute for the announcement of 20th August! We cannot devote more than a century to the tilling of the soil and then refuse to plant the seed. If you are going to institute responsible government in India, the first thing to do is to give the people the vote and to exercise them in the use of the vote. I would suggest that you cannot 1148 instil the customs, habits, restraints, and conventions upon which representative institutions depend until you give people the vote, and they use it. It does not seem to me that you can keep people voteless until you think that the chances are that they will vote wisely and well. You can only teach the people to vote by giving them the vote to use. You cannot, I would submit, teach people to use the vote wisely if the vote is to achieve nothing. You must give to the person voted for something to do, so that he can be trained in administration, and so that the person who exercises the vote thinks it worth while to give it. Therefore, since you want responsible institutions in India, I submit you ought to give the vote to the people on as broad a franchise as possible, and at the same time you must give the representative elected by these votes real and responsible work to do.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
Let me just—if the House will bear with me—and if Irish envy of the good things in India is not too acute to listen to me—suggest for a few minutes a rough outline of the scheme which we suggest to carry out these things. Let us begin here at home. We have suggested that the salary of the Secretary of State should be borne on the Estimates of the House of Commons. There is nothing very novel in that, as Members older than myself will allow, and nothing very revolutionary! It is proposed simply for the reason that we desire that the control over Indian affairs exercised by the Secretary of State, which can only be exercised in the name of this House, should be brought into proper relation to the House itself. I am not now talking of the financial unfairness which saddles the cost of my salary on the Indian taxpayer, while every other Minister's salary, with the sole exception of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, is borne upon the Votes of this House and paid by the British taxpayer. I cannot help thinking—I hope I shall not be considered lacking in respect to the House when I say it—that Indian Debates in this House suffer from their unreality. We are now discussing things of the 1149 greatest possible importance to India on a Motion that you, Mr. Speaker, do now leave the Chair. I hesitate to think what constitutionally would happen if that Motion was lost. If we are successful in our desire that you do leave the Chair, then another Motion will be moved in Committee which will say that "it does appear from the accounts presented to Parliament that there is a certain balance due to the Government of India," or words to that effect, as we shall hear them read from the Chair. Can you impart a reality to an Indian Debate on a Motion so meaningless? Can you convince the Indians that we are, as a House, really discharging our responsibility to them if we do not have before us some Motion on which something really hangs? Therefore, I would suggest that there is nothing very revolutionary about that change.
It is coupled with another—that there should be appointed at the beginning of every Session a Select Committee of the House of Commons which, shall report to the House of Commons on Indian affairs for the past year, and before the Debate takes place on the salary of the Secretary of State for India. I cannot help pleading for the acceptance of that reform. The experience, always available in great quantity, of those who have lived in India in the past is invaluable, particularly when they remember that it is possible that conditions may have changed since they lived in the country. There is something equally valuable to experience in the past; that is experience in the present. If we had here, in this House, a body of Members who were willing to devote themselves from Session to Session to the affairs of India, thus becoming acquainted with the broad outlines of its administration and its problems. I cannot help thinking that India would gain by that real, sustained, and up-to-date Parliamentary interest, and Parliament would be able with less effort to devote itself to its great Indian responsibilities-It has been said in answer to this suggestion that it would bring India into party affairs. I cannot in the least understand that argument. It seems to me that nothing is more likely to keep India out of party affairs than to have a Select Committee drawn from all parties in the House considering Indian matters.
I go from the House of Commons to the relations between the Secretary of State in Council, the Government of India, and local governments. It has often been 1150 complained that the Secretary of State interferes too much in Indian affairs. On the other hand, it has often been complained that he does not interfere enough. I would again submit that the Secretary of State interferes in the name of Parliament, that Parliament and he are trustees for the Indian people, and that as responsible government in India grows it follows that the control from here must be relaxed. I have been criticised for saying that, but is there any reason to fear it? Has not the history of our Empire throughout shown that when control from Home has gradually—or even suddenly in some cases—been replaced by control on the spot, by the people of the country themselves, it has ever weakened the British connection? Has it not been a source of its strength? Is not that the way in which our Empire has been builded? You cannot leave the Government in India squeezed, as it were, between two forces. As I think I said on the last Indian Budget, the totality of control of India and here should be constant. When you increase control in India you should decrease it here. Therefore our next suggestion is that the amount of control which should be relaxed should be considered by the Committee sitting in this House.
Then as to the Government of India itself. We have suggested that the Government of India is not a suitable sphere in which to start the first step towards responsible government, and that, for the present, until we see how responsible institutions are growing in India, it is desirable to keep the Government of India responsible to Parliament, and to Parliament alone. So we propose to maintain the powers of the Government of India to obtain its will through the legislature in India. But you cannot, I venture to submit, leave things as they are in the Government of India. You cannot call a legislative council which contains only twenty-seven elected members a sufficiently representative body to constitute a legislative council for India suitable to the present day. Twenty-seven Members is not enough. You must enlarge it in order to make it more representative. Since you have suggested that the council shall be enlarged, and since you have suggested that the Government is to be able to enforce its will when it wishes, it seems to me that you are inevitably led to the consideration of a Second Chamber. That is the proposal contained in our 1151 Report. We propose that there should be a legislative council of 100 members, with a large elective majority, and an Upper Chamber, half official and half non-official, working normally by means of joint Sessions, but that, where the Government of India desires to enforce its will it should certify that the legislation is, in its opinion, essential, and that then the Upper Chamber should have the last, or the only word. The advantage of this machinery seems to me to be that it does make your legislative council far more representative than at the present time, and it does ensure representative criticism in Delhi and Simla. It can easily from time to time, and when we are ready, be developed into the ordinary bi-camereral legislative machinery, as soon as you are ready to part with your control of the Indian legislature. It has another advantage. If you proceed in the devolution which we have suggested from the Government of India to the provinces, the functions left to the Government of India will be largely things which do not only concern British-India, such as Customs, defence, foreign policy, etc. Now we have proposed as one of our suggestions that there should be another body, composed of the princes who rule the native States. It seems to me that if you have this germ of a Second Chamber you also indicate the road along which in due course, and when they wish to share in these great Imperial purposes, the princes, now rather isolated in the Constitution, may join for joint deliberation of common affairs, and only for common affairs, with the Upper House.
I now leave the Government of India, and come to the provinces. This is the part of the reform which it is most difficult to explain. It is in the provinces that we have suggested that the first steps towards responsible government should be taken. This will enable us to differentiate between province and province according to their conditions and according to their readiness for responsibility. When you are dealing with a province it seems to me that you have only three choices. Firstly, you can go on as you are with an executive government, wholly irresponsible to the electorate, and that is not a step towards responsibility or towards the progressive realisation of responsible government; secondly, you can have complete responsible government 1152 in the provinces. I believe you will not find a single instance of a province which is ready for complete responsible government to-day. Thirdly, there is only one other alternative left, and that is responsibility in some subjects and reservation in others, and that is the system which we have ventured to submit to public opinion for criticism. If you can transfer more subjects in one province than you can in another, you can as time goes on increase the number of transferred subjects—and I have little doubt it will go faster than many people suppose—until you get to the time when there are no subjects to transfer, and all have been transferred. Then you get full responsible government in the provinces. That is the principle of our provincial proposals. I need not bother the House today by going into detail as to the form of government.
There are to be Ministers responsible and in charge of the transferred departments, and executive councillors responsible to Parliament here in charge of the reserved departments. We had to decide as to whether we should have two Governments in this transitional stage or keep to one, and we came to the conclusion that we would recommend one Government, because we did not see how the Civil servant could possibly be placed in a position to take orders from two rival authorities, and you have, therefore, the system under which the Ministers and the executive councillors will sit together, each in charge of their respective departments. The legislative council in the province will have a very large elected majority, but since it is our principle to reserve certain subjects, you must give those responsible for them power to obtain the necessary legislation, and therefore we have the system of a grand committee elected ad hoc which can take certificated reserve subjects and legislate upon them without reference to the whole legislature. I need not dwell upon local self-government, which we suggest should be made completely independent of official control, but I do want to draw the attention of the House to a provision to which Lord Chelmsford and I attach great importance, and which I would respectfully commend to the attention of this House, and that is the periodical review of the working of the whole scheme by a tribunal appointed by this House every ten or twelve years.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
It will be the authority working in the name of Parliament which will decide upon the increase in the number of transferred subjects and the moment at which you can begin responsibility in the Government of India, and the knowledge that this review is destined to come at stated intervals will make for the smooth working of the machine. Each side will know—the official side and the unofficial side, Englishmen and Indians in co-operation—and all will realise that they can take their grievances for remedy to the High Court of Parliament itself at stated intervals, and I believe this necessarily transitional machinery can only work if you have this periodical review. That, in very rough outline, is the scheme. It was arrived at in this way: We devoted the whole of the winter to it, subordinating it only to the necessary and paramount consideration of improving India's contribution to the War. It will be remembered that I went to India, accompanied by my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Charles Roberts), the Earl of Donoughmore, Sir William Duke (a member of the Council of India), and there was associated with me when I got to India a new member of the Council, Mr Bhupendranath Basu, whom I asked to await my arrival in India. My colleagues have signed and published a letter expressing approval of our recommendations, but I hope I shall not be unfair to them, to whom both Lord Chelmsford and I owe so much, when I say to this House that at every stage of the whole proceedings we had almost daily discussions together on all the recommendations that were made to us by public bodies and private individuals. Not only that, but at each stage we, who came from England, sat in informal discussion with the whole Government of India, and there were constant Sub-committees of the two sets of people to consider the details of our proposals. Besides that, we saw innumerable deputations and we had innumerable and long interviews, from early morn till late at night, with anyone who had anything to contribute.
I labour this because there has been a suggestion that this work should be done all over again by another Committee, but I do not think that that is possible. I do not believe you would ever be able 1154 to convince the Indian that you were in earnest if you adopted such a proposal as that, but I do say that both Lord Chelmsford and I are absolutely sincere when we asked that the Government should publish this Report for criticism. It is not here as a finished document which we seek to translate unaltered into an Act of Parliament. It must be sifted and tested. Does it carry out the principles which it professes? Let me take an example. We have stated our objections to communal representation, and I do not go back one single hair's-breadth from what has been said on that point. If you want to build up community of interests, if you want to get over racial antagonism and antipathies, surely the worst way to begin is to send the voters to different polling booths, making them into different constituencies for returning their representatives! We have also been accused of trying to divide the people of India in order to rule them. If we established communal representation on a large scale there would be some justice in that remark, but there is a paramount necessity and something which overrides all that, because the whole success of our scheme depends upon the getting of an electorate thoroughly representative of all the peoples of India. That is what we must have. The Report itself says that it is not our aim, and it ought not to be our aim, to hand over the government of India, or any part of the government of India, to the representatives of any particular section. We want an electorate as representative as we can possibly get, and, for that reason, although we have recognised right through that it is upon the development of a successful electorate that the whole thing depends, the scheme will not be complete until that electorate has been devised.
We recommend that two Committees should be appointed at once to consider the electorate and the differentiation between the reserved and transferred subjects, and also what shall be the Government of India's concern and what shall be provincial. Until those Committees have reported the scheme is not complete, and therefore, in order to complete the scheme, His Majesty's Government has assented to the immediate appointment of those Committees, as the Report recommends, with a chairman from England, two Indian officials, and two English officials, to recommend to 1155 us what electorate is possible. Those who think that communal representation is the only way to obtain a representation of all the peoples of India will have an opportunity of arguing that as an open question before the Committee which will sit in India. I shall regret very much if it is proved that that is the only way. I feel convinced that the way to beat your enemy at the poll is to fight him and not to ask for special representation of this sort. I will take another point upon which criticism may be made. It seems to me that if you transfer responsibility for certain subjects to Indian Ministers you must ensure that you have given them the machinery which will enable them to discharge their responsibility. Similarly, if you reserve responsibility for other subjects to the existing Executive Council, you must ensure that you have given them the necessary machinery to discharge their responsibility. I think that the Report does this by the machinery of Council of States and Grand Committees, but, if it does not, that is a matter to which criticism ought to be directed. In fact, it is in no sense a mere expression; it is a real invitation that I make now for the assistance of everyone who will accept the announcement of 20th August, and who will give us not destructive but constructive criticism. I am perfectly certain that it is not necessary for me in this House to ask that the criticism should also avoid, if possible, stigmatising the defects of any section of the Indian people. It is not necessary to argue that the Indians who are anxious to embark upon this experiment are imbued with a patriotism and a love of their country which I do not think has ever been equalled in the history of the world, a patriotism which is almost, if not entirely, a religion, and a patriotism which is becoming slowly a national patriotism. India, the defence of India, the working for India, pride in India—these are all emotions which animate those who accept the announcement of the 20th August. There are some who do not accept it, not because they do not believe in eventual responsible government, but because they do not like the progressive stages proposed. You cannot expect people who want everything at once to be very enthusiastic when you plant them on the road which they have to travel, but do not plant them where they want to get, 1156 somewhat impatiently. I would say to them that all the limitations which are to be found in this scheme are limitations not of distrust or fear, but of fact and of time.
It is useless to expect that Parliament, equally proud of India, equally proud of the India that Englishmen have done so much to make, is going to give up the control of Indian affairs to an Indian electorate which does not exist. It is impossible to pretend that all the disabilities and obstacles to democratic progress which are presented by illiteracy, by caste distinction, by communal antagonism, do not exist. They do. They are only pointed out by the true friends of India because we hope and believe that with the development of free institutions they will tend to disappear. I do not mean for one moment that caste will disappear, but the features of caste which make it impossible to regard India as a democratic nation may, with the flow of time, disappear, and, as these antagonisms between communities disappear, and as education spreads, the reasons for the limitations will disappear with them, and India will have a right to claim from this House, through these periodical reviews, that the limitations imposed by these conditions shall be swept away. You must create your electorate and train your electorate and exercise your electorate before these things can happen. Therefore, it seems to me that you have no right to reject this proposal because it does not give you to-day what you want to-day and things which you can only get to-morrow. You have no right to reject this proposal because it does not give you in the first, second, third, or fourth legislative councils what you would like to get in the first. What you are entitled to ask is that you should be placed upon the road, and that you should have access to Parliament at stated intervals for the hearing of your case. It seems to me that there is no other course. Agitation can produce chaos and revolution, and that is one way of proceeding. The history of many countries shows the path which revolution, chaos, and rebellion can play in their development. It seems to me that it is just worth while pausing to reflect that they have always imperilled liberty and retarded progress, and that they have always caused misery untold and hardship unfathomed to those who have lived through epochs of this kind. They have also often, if not always, been 1157 caused by obstinacy, short-sightedness, arrogance, and unwillingness to yield to the legitimate demands of a growing and living people.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
If we do not depart from our traditional faith in the power of free institutions to call forth and develop national character, if we are to set out to build a free, self-governing, responsible India under the ægis of the British flag and as an integral part of the British Empire with fixity of purpose and determination, it seems to me that we shall do well to start now. There are many people who suggest that we should start after the War. "For heaven's sake do not let us have this complication during the War." I have often noticed that the people who say that are the people who do not want it done at all. But if you really mean it, if you mean that you want to do it after the War, is it not just worth while to reflect for one moment what work we are reserving for ourselves and piling up for ourselves after the War, work to be crowded into one Parliament that in normal times would be quite enough for the lifetime of many a parliamentarian. Ought not you to do what you can to-day rather than add another liability that will not wait for ever until after the War? Is there a better time time for doing it than now, when we are face to face with this record of India's share in the War, when we are able to profit on the one hand by looking at those ideals or lack of ideals that have made Germany the enemy of mankind, and when, on the other hand, we can look on those unhappy events which have made Russia the object of all men's compassion.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
I beg to move to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the question, and to insert instead thereof the words "this House welcomes the Report on Indian constitutional reform and asks for further opportunities for discussion at the earliest possible moment."
I do not know how many hon. Members can honestly say that they have justified the flattering imagination of my right hon. Friend and read his Report. I can claim to be one of those. I have read every word of the Report, and it is because I have read it that I am profoundly impressed with the inadequacy of this Debate. We started the discussion at 1158 one o'clock, and we have been informed that it must be finished by seven o'clock. That gives us six hours to discuss a Report which, if epoch-making is justified as applied to any Report, certainly calls for that adjective. Whilst it is very tempting to go into some of the detailed proposals which one finds in this Report, it is far better to-day to have a preliminary survey of the field. The right hon. Gentleman has told us both in the Report itself and to-day that he is not finally committed to details. For myself, I think that they are too complicated. I think he can devise a much simpler, or at any rate a considerably simpler, scheme. The important thing for him and for the Indian Government and for this House now is to make sure that we understand the general intention of the Report, and that we have clearly defined in our own minds the goal to which the Report invites us to reach out. The Report lays down something as its goal, and it was immediately met by a series of critics in the newspapers and elsewhere who assumed that something had been manufactured by my right hon. Friend as a sort of war measure. As a matter of fact, this is a natural growth in our administration of India. It is a very bad complaint to this Empire that those who profess to be specially Imperialists should assume that a population such as we have in India, with such a rich civilisation of a social, of an intellectual, and of a political character behind it, should remain inside the Empire for centuries and never conceive as a legitimate ideal to put before themselves this goal of national self-government. At any rate, I am a better Imperialist in that respect than they are. The British Empire has a very providential method of suggesting to all its component parts that sooner or later they should find self-government within the Empire to develop themselves and to strengthen the Empire by the exercise of their own national individuality.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Donegal (Mr. Swift MacNeill) reminds me of Ireland. I hope that the Debate to-day will be of such a nature as to strengthen the Irish case. Some of those sentiments to which my right hon. Friend gave expression earlier on are mere verbiage if they are applied to India alone. They must also be applied to Ireland. Consequently, I hope that one of the fruits of the Debate will be not merely to cheer the heart of Calcutta, but 1159 also to cheer the heart of Dublin. There is not only that. The whole of our Indian education has been tending to this goal. Who can go out to India without meeting the students there, with Burke in their hands as a text-book, with Macaulay in their hands, with Morley, with every book that expresses classical liberal political philosophy appearing at some stage or other in the college curriculum of India, and, in these circumstances, how can any reasonable man, whatever his political party or political principles may be, assume that sooner or later this country is not to be up against the problem of the self-government of India, demanded by the Indian people themselves. It is natural; it is inevitable; it is good. It is the fruit of our own rule. If we cannot stretch out our hands to pluck the fruit and enjoy it, if we should imagine that the fruit is poisoned or is something to which we should give an unwelcome greeting, then it is the bankruptcy of our statesmanship and not its pride. Personal administration in India is bound to be temporary. It may last for generations, but it is bound to go. The law of its own being is that it should be superseded by something totally different from itself, and my right hon. Friend has announced to the world and more particularly to the Empire and India that the time has come for making a beginning of change.
I went out some years ago on a Commission to inquire into the position of the Administration of India. One of the main objects of the Commission was to open the door wider for the admission of Indian candidates. That Commission had a very curious history. We left this country when the question of simultaneous examinations was the great question interesting the educated Indian. He did not think of legislatures, but of administration, of executives and of the Civil Service. Lord Morley, writing in 1906, put the position very well. He saidI half suspect that what they—that is the Indians—really want a million times beyond political reform is access to the higher administrative posts of all sorts, though they are alive to the connection between the two.That was quite true of 1906. That was quite true when the Commission of which I was a member went out to India. The truth to-day is exactly the reverse, and it might be stated in this way— 1160I half suspect that what they really want a million times beyond access to the higher administrative posts of all sorts is political reform, though they are alive to the connection between the two.That is the position, that is the change that has taken place within the life of this Parliament itself, and this Parliament has got to face it. The War has not made the demand for self-government. The War has hastened the effectiveness of the demand that has been made. The Morley reforms were rather the last chapter in an old order. This Report is the first chapter in a new order. The Morley reforms were based on the old traditions of British Government in India, and they were meant to apply those old traditions to a somewhat widening liberalising of the Indian mind. They have done their work, they have proved that we cannot go any further on that way, they have brought us to a cul de sac. That chapter is done. In fact it is not a chapter, it is a whole volume. We have to close it, put it on our bookshelves, and open a new one, and the Report we are discussing this afternoon is the first chapter in that new volume. When we take all these things into consideration and treat this not as a superficial yielding to some necessity, but as really the ripening of the life of a nation, and consider this demand, this new advance as the fulfilment of the past administration and Government of this country in India, then it is all the more necessary that we should go ahead generously and boldly. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is going to enter the transition stage quite boldly. I dare say he will have to accommodate opposition, but I hope he will not accommodate it too much.
I am bound, therefore, at this point to express my profound disappointment at what seems to me to be the most stupid judgment of the Indian Government in withdrawing the passports granted to Mr. Tilak and his friends. We want them here. This is the place for them. They are the representatives of the other side. If the problems in this Report are to be hammered out, this is the place where that is to be done. If we have to speak to India thousands of miles away from Indian representatives—they may be the representatives of what you may call the Left Wing, but we have to try to get the Left Wing to work it as well as the Right Wing—if the only communications with these people are the telegraphs and cables that stretch from this 1161 country to India, if there is to be no personal contact and no immediate and personal exchange of views, if Mr. Tilak and his friends are to be left away over in India to do their work there, to preach their gospel there, to understand or misunderstand us, and also for us to understand or misunderstand them, then one of the greatest opportunities which would otherwise present itself for the proper acceptance and settlement of this reform has been thrown away by the folly of the Indian Government.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
May I remind my hon. Friend that it was not the Government of India that was responsible for that?
§ Mr. MACDONALD
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for correcting me; I knew that quite well. It was the home Government who withdrew the passports. The Indian Government granted the passports, but the home Government withdrew them after the mission has started upon its way; therefore, it is exclusively the home Government's responsibility. It is also worth remembering that telegrams are now going over from certain sections criticising the Report. I had one handed to me this morning. I do not think they quite understand this. If I may say so, they approach it with an unreasonable amount of hostility, but there they are. They are in Bombay and in Calcutta, and we are here. There is to be a special session of the Congress summoned. I understand that the Indian National Congress is meeting either this month or next month and that the exclusive purpose of the meeting is to discuss this Report, and undoubtedly to pass resolutions upon it. Again, I am perfectly appalled at the decision of the home Government against the far better judgment of the Indian Government—the Government on the spot—in saying that the leaders of this Indian National Congress, upon which so much depends at the present moment, both for us and for India, are to be excluded from Great Britain, and are to be confined in India to understand or misunderstand the Report, and that, above all, at a time when a wise statesman would take these people into his counsel, when, instead of inviting them, first of all, to discuss this as hostile persons who are not allowed to come to this country, they have an opportunity of taking them here, of explaining to them 1162 all their intentions, hearing what they have to say, modifying their proposals in so far as the suggestions made by these people are reasonable, and persuading them, as undoubtedly they would, that the suggestions could not be accepted at the moment, but might be accepted later on. I must say that the way the home Government has behaved to this deputation, and the way they have cut off Indians from ourselves in this consultation which ought to take place, is perfectly amazing to me, and I am afraid it will give my right hon. Friend difficulties which he should not have had presented to him, and which he would never have had presented to him if greater wisdom and more liberality had been shown about the matter with which I am now dealing. So much for that. What is to be the position? India wants no more declarations. India is surfeited with declarations.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
India has had declarations for generations, and India has not been satisfied that the declarations were fulfilled. Therefore, I thoroughly welcome the definite statement made in this Report, first of all, that self-government is to be the goal; secondly, that there is to be a real beginning made, a beginning which is meant to be real—we can discuss details later on, but I think I am doing my right hon. Friend no injustice when I say that his intention is that it shall not merely be a beginning, but shall be a really substantial beginning; and, thirdly, that an organisation and a machinery will be created which will go by its own momentum from stage to stage, and at each stage it reaches will carry to a fuller extent the complete ideal of self-government for India within the Empire. If my right hon. Friend can only persuade India that that is in the Report, he will have no difficulty so far as India is concerned. His difficulty is to persuade India that that is so, and any assistance that anyone can give to him in order to do that I am sure will be gladly given in view of the tremendous issues which the Report raises and the difficulties with which he will be faced. I want to make one suggestion to him on this point. It is necessary, if this momentum is to go from stage to stage, each stage being wider than the preceding one, that the Government of 1163 India, either at home or in India, should not have an absolute voice in deciding those stages. I rather gather from the Report that he is giving it that power, but it is necessary that as the end of each stage is reached the experienced men of India, the Indian Legislature, should have something to say upon the amount of progress the next stage is going to bring. He must take India into consultation straight away, and he will discover that the problem of responsible representative government in India, whilst periodically presenting all the problems of similar government here, will at the same time just solve itself in the same way as it does here.
I should, therefore, begin with a series of propositions which ought to be the foundation of everything. I think they are all in this Report, and I will not take up the time of the House in discussing them. First, I think that local government, as we use the expression here, should no longer be sufficient; secondly, that he should build up his system of self-government from the provinces; thirdly, that his conception of Imperial India should be the conception of a federated provincial system; fourthly, that the power of the provincial legislators should be delegated to them from the Central Government. That scheme of federation, I think, is the only scheme that can possibly work in India, and upon that I have nothing to say, except to pass it by with approval as it is expressed in his Report. I should like to say a word with reference to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State here, and, in fact, the whole of the Indian Government, still retains the features of the East India Company. It has been modified from time to time, but the parentage of our system is the East India Company. I would suggest to my right hon. Friend that he should inquire as to whether the Secretary of State and the Council here ought to be maintained. It is a pure anachronism, a survival of the trading company with the court of directors and so on, and not at all suited to a Government Department. If my right hon. Friend has any intention of making him a responsible Parliamentary Minister, then I hope this House will not tolerate the existence of a council of non-representative and largely personally interested people. I do not mean financially interested. I mean that I myself and any hon. Friend of mine here would grind our 1164 own axes on a matter on which we had special views, and our only justification for being in a Government or an Executive Committee is that we represent something or somebody, and not merely our own personal merits. That is what I mean by being personally interested. The idea that distinguished servants coming over from India should sit here to advise and instruct and control is absolutely contrary to the whole theory of Parliamentary control, which is not a control of experts, not the control of men who have been working the machine, and, having been superannuated as workers of the machine, come over here to assist in the control. It is not at all the theory of Parliamentary control, and if it is advanced as a sound theory, then a great many of us here will violently oppose it.
The Secretary of State for India should be in the same position as the Secretary of State for the Colonies. He is responsible to this House, he is advised by the responsible authorities on the spot, and however curious it may appear on paper, as a matter of fact it provides a most admirable practical working political machine. Moreover, if the Committee which my right hon. Friend, I think very wisely, proposes to set up representing this House is set up, then the anomaly will be still greater. It is absolutely impossible to conceive a Secretary of State in touch with India with a Secretary's council of ex-officials and officials, and at the same time this House, again functioning through a Committee, elected according to the present suggestion, at the beginning of each Session. You are introducing into Indian government and administration a confusion of power by bodies which are bound sooner or later to come into very considerable and serious conflict the one with the other. Therefore, the suggestion I make on this point is that he will seriously consider whether part of his reform scheme must not be the abolition of the Secretary and the Secretary's council. Passing from that we come to lay down another proposition. You must discover some means of representation for India which is Indian. I think that is essential. The problem of the Indian constituency is not the problem of the English constituency—the problem of Indian grouping is not the problem of Lancashire, it is the problem of the province of Bengal. And therefore he ought not to be afraid at all of producing to us, when it is produced to him by this Committee, 1165 a scheme of Indian representation which is not on all fours with the schemes of representation which we have accepted on account of our own historical and political conditions. I think he will have to turn his attention to education first of all. That, of course, is a slow process, but no one can look forward to an efficient system of representation in India under the present system of education that we find there.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
Yes; but I mention it because nine-tenths of my right hon. Friend's difficulties and of the difficulties of any Indian administrator like my hon. Friend is that, in order to suit our old parties, we started education at the top instead of beginning at the bottom and building up to the top. It has enabled us to take a short cut, but I am afraid we will have to go back and go over it all again, beginning with the elementary school and building your college and university system on the foundations laid in elementary education. However, that is all in the nature of an aside, but the first thing that we have to consider about representation is the possibility of the diversity of representation in India. We have been listening to an argument which has been thundered at us for many years, that there is no such thing as India, that you have got a tremendous complexity of races, creeds, castes, communities, all historical products, and these all mix up in this Peninsula mechanically and not organically. It is perfectly true that the diversities in India are tremendous, but we have governed India—there is no doubt about that—we have got an Indian Government, we have unified that Peninsula, and I would demur a little to an expression which my right hon. Friend used when he said that the sense of Indian nationalism was beginning. No; the sense of Indian nationalism is very, very ancient. It may have been ineffective, it may have been broken up by accidents and force of circumstances, but it is there, and always has been there; in fact, it is so fundamental that it might almost be regarded as a mythical thing. There is this idea in the mind of the educated and religious Indian—not educated in our sense, but the religious Indian—that India is his mother; this political and national entity enters to intimately and closely into his personality as for him to 1166 conceive India as his mother. That is not only a political but a religious conception, and does not belong to current phrasing and arguments.
While we admit diversity, we must keep our mind upon unity. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend has considered how far he can adapt and adopt proportional representation for getting him out of that difficulty. Proportional representation, to my mind, is a somewhat primitive way of solving problems of representation, but undoubtedly where you get differences of race, differences of creed that are very difficult to mix together, difficulties of getting any national unity, proportional representation does give opportunities that no other form of election possibly could. Moreover, if he is compelled to recognise political difficulties between Mahomedanism and Hinduism, I hope he will rigidly confine himself to those and not extend community representation beyond that. I know he does make an exception of the Sikhs—that is done in the Report. Community representation is a bad thing, but there may be certain circumstances for the moment which will compel him to accept it in India. But I would only do it if the circumstances were so great as to make it clear without a shadow of doubt that the only way to get representation established is in this way. I venture to say that if he will start in that way and stick to it there is not so much to be made in favour of the argument of community representation. Certainly in our own experience the distinction between Mahomedan and Hindu has enormously diminished. When I went to India, first of all, one heard of nothing else. The Mahomedans were sending deputations to the Viceroy and the Hindus were sending deputations saying that the Mahomedans were only to be used for illegitimate political purposes, and the quarrel between them was very great. There was a Moslem union on the one side and the National Congress on the other, and one required to be something of a prophet to have the courage to say that sooner or later these two, bodies would come together. That was only a few years ago, but to-day the two bodies are very largely together; they have agreed upon common suggestions for reform, they are constantly in co-operation, and on all the legislative councils the Mahomedan representative co-operates with the Hindu representative, while you find common 1167 representatives of a common party working for a common end and carrying out common ideals. The Sikhs present certain difficulties, but let us decide on the principle, and if any exception is to be made to it it should be made on the clearest and most unmistakable evidence.
Then we must not pass over lightly the problem of the villager. No system of representation will be satisfactory unless the agricultural population has, at any rate, some part and share in it. There are various ways in which it could be done, some of them indirect—local organisations of various kinds. I am perfectly certain that a Committee such as the right hon. Gentleman has been referring to to-day must face this village problem, and if it goes there and explores the possibilities of getting representative village opinion, it will discover several ways of carrying that instruction of ours into effect. Another class of the community which ought to be, and must be, represented is that of the workmen. Anyone who goes to Bombay and Calcutta and sees that extraordinary weltering mass of abandoned men living in insanitary filth, swarming upstairs and along corridors just like bees in a hive, must wonder how on earth they can live at all. No system of self-government can be satisfactory unless people in those conditions find somewhow or other an access into the various governing assemblies and provincial and Imperial legislatures. I believe it is possible. I believe, for instance, that organisations like the Servants of India can make suggestions as to how that population is to be represented. In any event, hand them over to the lawyer, to the landowner, and to the big capitalists of Calcutta and Bombay and the condition of those people will be worsened rather than improved. We must, in weakening the sort of fatherly control that has been exercised up to now, put some weapons in the hands of the wage-earning masses of the industrial centres in India which will mean that they will be represented on the legislative councils, both local and Imperial.
I think we ought to make our minds perfectly clear that the elected sections of both provincial and Imperial legislatures will be in the majority. To that extent we support the Report. But I think there is much that we shall have to 1168 discuss in the suggestions made in the Report in consequence of this. For instance, this is a very simple dilemma into which such legislatures can get. You get a majority of the legislatures elected. You get the executive official and nominated. That means that at once you invite conflict. You cannot run a legislature, the majority of which is elected, with an executive consisting of nominated or official members. Therefore, we ought candidly to admit that the elected majorities in the legislature must have, at any rate, a substantial representation of the legislature on the executive. There can be no half-way house in that, and the Government should openly accept it. It is a risk. You may get into difficulties. It is possible, though not likely, that you may have to modify your Budget. We will take the case presented in the Report. It may mean that some piece of legislation which either a local or an Imperial Government is very anxious to get may be defeated. If the alternative is that the elected body decides one thing and the Government decides another thing upon a matter of legislation, it is far better that the elected body should have the full responsibility placed upon its shoulders, and the Government do its best under the circumstances, than that the Government should say, "No; we are going to do what we want because we think it necessary, and we are able to pass this legislation over your head." The right hon. Gentleman's proposal is to give the Governments in some way or other the power to pass legislation over the heads of the councils. I think he would be well advised if he would reconsider that. Take the risks. Show the Indians straight away that we are trusting them, and do not put them in the position of being free and irresponsible critics. If the Government is to take that attitude its executive must be the representative of the legislatures, and the representatives of the legislatures must have the same responsibilities placed upon them as members of the Cabinet or a Ministry have in this country, and by putting the responsibility upon them in this way I feel perfectly certain there will be no special problem presented by the free decision of legislatures, a majority of whose members are elected directly by the people.
The Indian Civil servant at present is getting an absolutely impossible task assigned to him. The service comes from 1169 an old historical tradition, which is bad. You ask a man here to go to India and face him with a public opinion in India which we ourselves have created—the acute lawyer, the newspaper writer and proprietor, the politician, the landlord—and expect him to govern as his great grandfathers did at the same distance. You are asking an absolute impossibility of the best and most devoted servants of the State. The Indian Civil Service has broken down because the political conditions of India has completely changed during the last generation.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
I will explain what I mean by that. At present you get your young men going out with dreams of authority, dreams of power, and dreams of that paternal rule which has been associated with the Indian Civil Service. Follow him in his history and you see this poor man worried by a thousand and one petty details. You see him, as I have seen him and lived with him in his tent, coming in morning after morning with enormous piles of papers. He gives you the privilege of looking at them. The details are maddening in their intricacy, giving no large scope for the man's mind, taking the whole of the morning, and he comes to you in the afternoon or evening jaded and tired. The overwhelming mass of detail, very often clerical detail, the reports which are required, the things he has to initial—all that is crushing the spirit out of your men, and you are not taking advantage of the fine intellectual capacity which they are only too anxious to put at your disposal. That is what I mean when I say the Indian Civil Service has broken down. I would call these men to a wider state. Instead of turning them out, I would give them something to do which was commensurate with their tremendous capacity for big things. Let the pettifogging detail, the checking of this, and the checking of that, the writing of this file, and the writing of that file, be dealt with by people whose minds are in accordance with that kind of thing. Let us put these men who have much wider views, great political capacities, and large grasp of national problems, who have India in their minds, and who understand the great, vital palpitating problems of India, to their proper task, and I am certain that when we do put them to it they will do it with treasure to themselves and with 1170 credit to us. I think some further consideration, from that point of view, should be given to the position of the Indian Civil Service, and the part we have to play in the reconstruction of the Indian Government.
I have trespassed on the patience of the House, but the subject is so great, the field is so tremendous, and at every point there are so many interesting items to be picked up and examined and dealt with, that one can only end with an apology that a very rapid survey has taken such an unconscionably long period of time. I hope those who propose to oppose this Report and the spirit of it will think twice about it, whether they belong to the right wing or to the left. I hope they will consider the tremendous difficulties which are facing us now, and which will become ripe for settlement immediately after the War, and that those who lightly say, "Let us postpone it till after the War" will consider whether this line that they are always drawing after the War has any existence at all If we do not prepare for it now it will be too late after the War. As it is, there must be delay. The months which go by will not be wasted. They will be required for building up this scheme, for thinking out its details, for rejecting that which will not stand further examination and accepting that which will stand further examination. I hope the publication of this Report and the Debate to-day will mark the closing up of all ranks, will be a call to all men of good will to come together to help India to a better and freer state of self-existence, and to add to the honour and the dignity of the race to which we belong.
§ 3.0 P.M.
§ Sir J. D. REES
Being the only representative of the service which has broken down—I am sure it was said in no unkindly spirit, but in the very kindest spirit—I may say that I agree in the main with the views which the hon. Member has placed before the House. It is commonly said that the British Empire and its Allies are just now fighting to make the world safe for democracy. Whether that really is the ease or not I have no idea, but I take it as being so from my superiors who announce the policy of the Government. However that may be, I do feel sure that it is quite impossible for the leaders of our nation to be laying it down that this country is fighting to make the world safe for democracy and at the same time for this House to be acting in respect of the 1171 Indian Empire as if its object was to make it safe from democracy. These are two totally incompatible positions. I do not want to go over any ground that has been far better covered than I can cover it, but it is perfectly obvious, as the Secretary of State has said, that the present position, whether the individual Member welcomes it or not, is an absolutely inevitable position. It arises from the method of education we have given in India since the days of Lord Macaulay, and existing conditions were anticipated by men like Sir Thomas Munro, at whose feet Madras Civil servants, like myself, were proud to sit.
The present position dates from the 20th August last year, when the announcement was made by the Secretary of State for India, to which not only he and the Viceroy are parties, but also the whole of the British Government. It is the policy of the Prime Minister, of Lord Milner, Lord Curzon, and everybody else in the Cabinet, whether Imperialistic or not in character. It is as much their policy as it is the policy of the Secretary of State for India, to whom for some extraordinary reasons, and with the utmost injustice—well, there is really no injustice, because anybody might be proud to be connected with it—the whole Report has been ascribed. The only position for any Member of this House to take up is not to act in accordance with his own personal predilections, whatever they may be, but as a member of a businesslike legislative assembly, to deal with the position which arises from 20th August, 1917. We have created this Indian Intelligencia and it is impossible for us to say to the Indians, "Democracy is the only form of government, and we worship at its shrine, but directly you want a little yourselves we tell you it is not for you. Our principles are camouflage. You must not take us seriously." That is an impossible position, quite apart from what may be the feelings of any particular Member. I have not spent my life in promoting popular causes either on the platform, in the Press, or in the public service, but it is perfectly clear to me that one course only is open to any sensible, responsible man now, and that is to help the Government to carry out pledges which it has given with the consent of this House. There was no opposition raised when the policy was announced. That policy was commenced 1172 by my right hon. Friend below (Mr. Chamberlain), and continued by the present Secretary of State (Mr Montagu), who succeeded him, and time is lost in going behind that position. Of those who criticise this Report—I refer chiefly to those outside the House—very few have, I think, read it carefully. There are 300 pages packed with material. It is a Report which to be read with any care requires a week, and to master it is more than anybody can hope without prolonged study.
One criticism that is made very constantly is that to carry out the recommendations of the Report will be to transfer the Government of India from a bureaucracy to an oligarchy. I think that is one of the untenable criticisms made. No doubt our Government is a bureaucracy; that needs no proving. An oligarchy meant originally government by a few, and it connotes government by a few rich at the expense of the many poor. There is no doubt that that is the meaning which this word has acquired, and to such an extent that its original signification has almost been lost. What is likely to happen after transferring the Government of India to an oligarchy? The oligarchy they have in mind are the Brahmins; but they are not a rich class. They are an aristocracy. They are an aristocracy of intellect and birth combined. Are those bad credentials—an aristocracy equally of birth and intellect? I should have thought they were tremendous qualifications for power. The Brahmins have ruled to a great extent in India ever since we have known anything about its government. The ministers of the great Moguls were Brahmins. The revenue minister who planned the system that we are practically carrying out in India now was a Brahmin. Our chief agents have been Brahmins. Whoever really governs India for a long time to come will inevitably be a Government immensely influenced by this and by the like castes. I do not know that that is particularly a matter for regret, but if it be wrong it will no doubt in time correct itself. In England, government by oligarchy succeeded that of aristocracy. I do not know that the latter was a bad government, that of the Whig oligarchy. At any rate, it is a great historical feature of our political development.
If the march of events leads to a period of oligarchical government by Brahmins, it would be a natural development, and I 1173 do not think it would be one that we need greatly deplore. The evil will correct itself in time if there is anything wrong. I am told that already all over India, and particularly in the province to which I originally belonged, there is a strong revolt against it by rich non-Brahmin classes, not by poor, but by rich non-Brahmin classes. The rich who are not Brahmins are acting on their own behalf, and I dare say quite sincerely on behalf of the poor of the lower castes, and they are preparing to contest the Brahmin supremacy, which they think will be the result of the acceptance of this Report. We need not be greatly concerned about that. It is quite impossible to take more than fair and necessary steps which are dictated by the policy which has been deliberately adopted by Parliament and the Government. We cannot at the same time provide against certain developments which naturally flow from that policy, and which, although I do not particularly object to them, are very strongly objected to in many quarters. The natural leaders of the people in India are Brahmins. They are the aristocracy of birth and intellect, and I do not believe that any steps you can take will prevent those who are fittest for rule by universal consent and experience from exercising the greatest share of Indian government, in so far as you transfer it to the natives of India. If these reforms result in 5 per cent. ruling over 95 per cent. how would that be different from what happened here up to recent times, when a very small body of governing families, a fraction of 1 per cent. practically governed this country? We do not expect India to become in civilisation and development like these Western islands for a long time to come.
Whether these reforms will secure better government I do not know. I think the autocratic Government of India has been exceedingly efficient. The authors of the Report freely admit the fact. It has been an admirable Government, but it is not the same thing as self-government when you are dealing with the feeling that now pervades the Intelligencia. As Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman declared, good government is no substitute for self-government. I do not think we can cavil at that. If the carrying out of this policy leads to some lack of efficiency I believe the Indians are prepared to accept that decline. I do not think they make a fetish of efficiency. We must let them have the reforms and let them profit by 1174 such mistakes as they make. If they want a great increase in education, if they want large sums of money spent on social reforms and education it may be that when they come to make the collection and levy taxes for that purpose those measures of social reform and education will cease to be the very popular projects which they appear to be at the present time in India. These are developments which we must face without fear. The fact that these reforms are not likely in themselves to give away British power in India will be very evident when we see the reception they have met with in India. The extremists renounce them all. Mr. Tilak and that storm petrel in petticoats (Mrs. Besant) with whom he is associated and who is absurdly enough President of the Congress, will have nothing to do with them. This gentleman and this lady, with their associates, denounce these proposals because they are too moderate. Similarly there is a class in this country who denounce them because they are too advanced. I am sorry to see the leader of that class describes the Brahmins as the most intolerant and oppressive of sacerdotalists. That is an absurd statement. They are only sacerdotalists by caste and not by profession and practice. I do not believe they are any more religious than the rest of us. I do not mean for the moment that religion is to be regarded as a fault in any one of us.
The extremists in India object that the Government of India's power is maintained. I regard that as one of the best features in the whole report and one, among others, that induces me to give it most hearty support. They object that it remains wholly responsible to Parliament. Surely Parliament will rejoice that the Government of India is wholly responsible to it. They also complain about the new Second Chamber. When the Second Chamber was more or less abolished in this country, or, at any rate, its wings were clipped, many of us thought that it was an unfortunate thing, and I do not think that we should object to the present proposals to provide a Second Chamber in the Government of India on the conditions stated. I was a member of the Viceroy's Legislative Council for four years, and, for what that is worth, my opinion is that the Second Chamber is a very good proposal. It will ensure to the Government of India power of enforcing its own decisions in 1175 everything connected with the defences of the country, foreign relations, commerce, and other great subjects. I have observed that many of the leaders of the people in India, men whose names are household words, have strongly expressed approval of these proposals regarding the Legislative Council, and when we are told that the Public Service of India is prepared to accept them and do its best to carry them out, that is no more than the Public Service of India always does, even When it disapproves of instructions which it has received. In Bengal, where they are hot reformers, a fair welcome has been given to these proposals, and it has been generally conceded that the Indian moderates are highly pleased and the Indian extremists equally displeased. I think that the bringing of the salary of the Secretary of State on the Estimate was absolutely inevitable. It has been pressed for the last twelve years, ever since I have been in Parliament, and I think that everybody will regard it as a matter of course. The Select Committee on Indian Affairs will have an excellent effect, more particularly if it is not made a lair in which men will lurk in search of subjects to take up in Parliament. The whole theory is that the Government of India should retain complete authority, as it does at present. I think in some respects the Report is almost stricter in regard to all matters which touch our supremacy in India than existing practice.
When once an Indian gentleman was admitted to the Council of India, as was done by Lord Morley and Lord Minto, it was absolutely inevitable that more than one would soon be admitted. Is it likely, once the principle is conceded, that the inhabitants of the country would be content with this very partial application? Nobody is likely to disapprove of the increase in the numbers of the Legislative Council of the Governor-General. One hundred members is not a great increase, seeing that they represent some 245,000,000, and I rejoice that special representation is provided for Chambers of Commerce. My hon. Friend who last spoke disagrees with the principle of communal representation. The Mahomedans, however, will stick to that which they have, and I think that the Europeans in India, commerce, mining and planting interests, and all such must have special representation, and whether you call it communal or what not, 1176 I am content so long as the principle is conceded. One small point in regard to the changes made in the Legislative Council of the Governor-General, and on the position of the nominated official members. It is a very honest statement, but is rather bald, and I think might be the subject of some little criticism, as stated. It is provided that the nominated official members "shall have freedom of speech and vote except when the Government otherwise directs." This shows the honesty of the Report in the matter, but I really would recommend that the position should be a little more wrapped up or toned down. Although we all know what nominated members are—I was one myself, and know-something about it—I do not think anyone ever went so far as to state it in those extremely bald terms, when I had the honour of a seat on the Council.
§ Sir J. D. REES
As the Secretary of State has gone right through the headings of reform, it is unnecessary for anybody else to go over the same ground, but he did not mention, I think, that power is retained to the Governor-General to dissolve his legislative councils and to the provincial governors. Another important reservation this, in reference to the maintenance of the British power in India, for the present, at any rate—I must confess I hope for all time. Now that the Government of India is making over to the local governments the land revenue, which is the chief part of the Government of India's resources, each provisional government is to contribute 87 per cent. of the difference between its gross expenditure and its gross revenue to the Central Government. This will work out very hardly for certain governments. Some, particularly Madras, will pay very much more relatively than others. I hope that when the periodical Commission comes to report it will take that into consideration. As to the provincial legislative councils, after what the Secretary of State said, it is quite unnecessary to say more, except this, that a right of re-entry and a right of putting through their own measures is reserved to the Executive Government in respect of the defence of the country, foreign relations, tariffs, inter-provincial matters, law and order, race and religion, and the interests of the public services. The system, moreover, by which the Government both on the Viceroy's 1177 Council and the provincial councils can, by certifying Bills, either pass them through the legislative councils, or put them through otherwise I think provides as fully as any, what shall I say, old Indian Tory would require for the preservation of that which I, though like all of us here I am a democrat, think well worthy to be preserved. The periodical Commissions, too, can move backwards as well as forwards. Practically if a subject which is transferred to the new branch of the Government is not properly administered the periodical Commissions can recommend, and Parliament can arrange, that the particular subject which is mal-administered by the new Indian administrators can be retransferred to the Governor and the Executive Council.
I say nothing of local self-government except this, that it could not be regarded as serious so long as it was in such official leading strings as it has been up to the present moment, and it cannot be denied that the time was overdue, when what Lord Ripon's Government intended, should be carried out. In any event, the proposals have my approval for what it is worth. Coming to the native States, I wish to congratulate the authors of this Report for recommending that all the chief native states which are independent in their internal administration shall come into direct relations with the Government of India. I was myself a Resilient in two native States. The relations of those States were with the provincial Government of Madras instead of with the Government of India. I felt very much, and I do to this day, that the Residents representing the Government of Madras, who were accredited to these prosperous and well-governed principalities of Travancore and Cochin, generally tried to introduce into those native States the official customs and class of administration to which during a long life they had been accustomed in British India. That is exactly the wrong thing to do. The individuality of these native States, and the susceptibilities of their rulers, should be regarded as the last thing to be interfered with. We do not want to place all India on one uniform plane, and the transfer of these States, these highly important States, the third political change in India in revenue and population, to direct relationship with the Government of India will give them a wider outlook, with less interference on the part of the Residents, and will altogether very 1178 much improve their position, and be very acceptable to their rulers. How it will be possible or desirable to provide machinery in the event of disputes between the native States, or anticipated misconduct by any of their rulers, I confess I do not know, and I would leave this matter to be dealt with when the occasion requires.
As regards simultaneous recruitment in India and England for the public service, it was absolutely inevitable that a change should be made, and it has surprised me that the Resolution of this House in favour of such an arrangement has remained a dead letter so long. Few will be found to object to its now, at the eleventh hour, being carried into effect. As regards the Indian Civil Service, to which full credit is given in the Report and was also given by my right hon. Friend, it is provided that 33 per cent. of its superior posts, and an extra percentage every year, shall be reserved for natives of India. Recruitment will be better regulated, and the pay of the European officers will be restored to something like the standard at which it was twenty years before the rupee fell off in value. These are extremely satisfactory provisions, and they show that Lord Chelmsford and the Secretary of State had the interests of the European servants at heart. I do not know whether it was meant to bring in the Indian Civil servants under the same pensions rule as other Indian services, but if, as I read the proposals, the total of money which they will draw in one way or another remains unaffected, I do not know that it is necessary to make any further remark about what is proposed. The greatest objection raised in this country—and I have read most of what has been said about these proposals, and have studied them with great care—is that they give away a good deal of the power of our Government in India, I find exactly the contrary at every stage. In the changes which have been made in the provincial councils ample power is safeguarded to the Governor to carry through any legislation that he wishes. In the Viceroy's legislative equipment complete power is given to carry out what he and his colleagues think necessary for the good of the country. So far from the Report having the opposite tendency, I think it confirms and consolidates our position, while providing for real responsible advance in the provincial administration, and elsewhere. I find towards the end the Report says that so far ahead as the 1179 authors can foresee a substantial English element will be necessary in the administration, and the continued presence of the English Civil servants is vital to making India a self-governing entity. The authors of the Report, in their almost last words, write that the presence of the British Civil servants will be as necessary as ever for the public service in India. As an old Civil servant, and as one who has been actively concerned with the affairs of India all my life, as actively since I left as when I was there, I can deliberately say I think the assurances which have been given are of the most satisfactory kind. I congratulate the authors of the Report. I believe that the criticisms to which I have referred will prove to be ill-founded, and that this project, when it goes forward, will be fraught in the end with great advantage to our Indian Empire, and to the British Empire, in which it is by no means the least important factor.
§ Mr. COTTON
I cannot claim the same weight of authority as the hon. Member who has just sat down. I have never been a member of the Civil Service, I have never been Resident at a native Court, and I have never been a member of any legislative council. But I would ask the House to extend to me its usual indulgence this afternoon. For a considerable period of my life I resided in India, in an unofficial and professional capacity, which brought me into close contact with Indian opinion. Since my return to this country I have endeavoured to keep myself in the closest association with that opinion, and I must offer this as my justification for intervening this afternoon in the Debate. I can promise the House that my speech shall not weary by being very long. I am bound to make the confession that in the past I have been a pretty strong, and perhaps at times an acid, critic of the existing system of governing India. I am bound also to say that I never thought I should live to see the day when the Secretary of State for India would rise in his place and make a speech, on an occasion of this kind, with which I was able both whole heartedly and thoroughly to agree from beginning to end. I do not want to enlarge unduly upon that, but it must be evident to all those who try to put themselves into the position of the educated Indian, that an attitude, I had almost said of hostility, is inevitable when one 1180 comes to discuss the existing system of administration in India. Happily all that promises to come to an end. We are on the eve of most momentous changes, and it behoves all of us, whether in this House or out of it, to support the right hon. Gentleman in the proposals that he has embodied in his Report. Critics of that Report may conveniently be divided into three classes—first of all, those who do not want anything to be done at all; secondly, those who want everything to be done at once; and thirdly, those who think they have much better schemes than the scheme embodied in the Report. I have heard it seriously proposed—and the right hon. Gentleman referred to it this afternoon—that the whole of the work that was done in India during the past year should be set aside, that a Committee should be set up of Members of both Houses, who would discuss all the schemes that were offered to the Secretary of State for consideration when be was in India, amounting, I think, to some 300, and that in every case the proposer should come forward and be publicly cross-examined on the merits of his scheme. If we once embark upon a suggestion of that kind we shall never get to the real substantial question which is at issue, namely, that the time has come—I venture to think the time is overdue—when the legitimate aspirations of the people of India should be gratified.
With regard to those who claim that the whole of their demands should be conceded at once, I would suggest consideration of the course of English constitutional history. We have not won our liberties in the twinkling of an eye. They have not, so to say, been handed to us over the counter, but we have had to win them by degrees, to proceed from one development to another, and that is precisely what we are now inviting the people of India to do. To those who regard these proposals as a plunge into unknown depths I would suggest that in this case, as so often in the past, they should apply the principle of trusting the men on the spot. In previous Debates in this House on the Indian Budget a great deal has been heard about trusting the men on the spot. Now we have got a situation in which the Viceroy is a signatory of this Report on Indian Constitutional reform, while all the members of the Viceroy's Executive Council, including every one of them who are members of the Civil Service, and all the members of the Secretary of State's 1181 Council, including all the Civil servants on that body, have signified their approval of the Report. So that we start at once with a large body of approval from the men on the spot—the men on the spot who have always been invoked in the past as being the only people who know anything whatever with regard to the affairs of India. There are just one or two observations that I would like to make with regard to the question of communal representation. I am very glad that this question has been left an open question to be considered by the Committee which is to be appointed almost immediately, and which is to go out to India, there to go into the question of a franchise and of possible constituencies. I am firmly convinced that the more the question is discussed the more impossible it will be found to put it into operation in India, because it is so hard to know where you are going to stop.
What do you mean by communal representation? The whole principle is based upon the theory that everybody in India who belongs to the highest caste tries to tyrannise over those who belong to the lower castes. That is the basis of the whole thing. You cannot trust the members of the highest caste to look after the interests of the lower castes, and you are obliged, therefore, to put them into cast-iron compartments, and arrange that they should form electorates of their own for the purpose of appointing their own representatives. As the hon. Member for East Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees) very properly pointed out, the Brahmins are an aristocracy of intellect and birth, and it stands to reason that, being possessed of special opportunities they have availed themselves of those opportunities and secured certain advantages. But I suggest, with all respect, that the anti-Brahmin agitation is being very much overdone. Let us look at the facts. If you take up any book of reference and examine the names of those Indians who have attained to positions of influence and authority under the existing conditions you will find that Sir Sankaran Nair, education member of the Viceroy's Executive Council, is no Brahmin; you will find that Sir S. P. Sinha, Indian member of the Imperial War Cabinet, is no Brahmin; and that Mr. Bhupendranath Basu, lately appointed a member of the Secretary of State's Council, and his predecessor on that body, Sir Krishna Gupta, are not Brahmins. You might go on to any extent 1182 and indefinitely, and the only conclusion to which you can carry that question is that la carriére est ouverte aux talents. I am confident that if the non-Brahmin castes, which are in a large majority everywhere, use the opportunities open to them under the proposals embodied in the Report they will find an end of the evils of which they complain. But how are you going to secure your communal or non-Brahmin representation? In order to be consistent you must have a special electorate for every one of the thousands of castes in India, on the principle that one caste cannot be allowed to legislate or look after the interests of another. There will be no end to the perplexities in which you find yourselves.
Self-government must fail if in any way it encourages or attempts to develop discordant elements in the community. The only chance of success is by teaching the people that they belong to one great community, and that the sole interest to have at heart is the common well-being. You cannot attain to that, however, by simply establishing cast-iron compartments for this, that, or the other caste. I have heard it said that there is no popular demand for these changes. Surely that is an argument which is rather outworn. When the question of votes for women was being discussed by this House it was granted as a matter of right and of justice, and not in response to an overwhelming public demand. So in the same way the claim of the Indians for responsible government is based on considerations of right and of justice; based, also, on the innumerable pledges that we had given to them, and it is our duty—whether it is 5 per cent. or 10 per cent. who make the demand is immaterial—to sea that we do that which is right in regard to this demand.
It does appear to me that this House should regard it as a matter of the utmost importance to present a united front with regard to the changes which are suggested in this Report. It is important, because there is in India a large, influential, substantial body of opinion, known commonly as moderate opinion, which is the very backbone of British rule in India and which needs every possible support and encouragement at the present moment. It would be a calamity if that great body of opinion were to feel that there were discordant voices in the House of Commons, or in another place, and it would be calamitous if they were to feel that as a 1183 result of that want of accord this golden opportunity were to slip from their grasp, or, in the alternative, if the proposals that are embodied in that Report were to be whittled down and deprived of their value and their substance. I agree that the proposals are susceptible of modification in detail. I do not propose to go into any of those details this afternoon, but I do say to those hon. Members who are hesitating to take the plunge; remember that this House is committed by the declaration of 20th August last; remember that on the fulfilment of that pledge is waiting this great body of opinion in India, that they have been disappointed in the past, that reforms given to them in the past have not proved to have been possessed of that substance which they ought to have possessed, that here at last there is an honest and well thought out endeavour to carry into affect the principles for which we are fighting in this present War, and that India has every right and every claim to be considered. To suggest that these proposals should be postponed till after the War is equivalent to suggesting that nothing shall be done at all. What has to be done should be done now. Let it be done with a good grace, let it be done with unanimity, and let those who are inclined to take up an attitude of hostile criticism remember how deep is the responsibility that will rest upon them.
Captain C. LLOYD
I do not intend to follow the hon. Member who has just made such an eloquent and able speech into the details of criticism of this Report, but I am in agreement with a very great amount of what he says, and in any case I am perfectly certain that the attitude of those of us in this House who urged the Government not to let the Recess pass without having some discussion on this Report of the Secretary of State for India has been amply justified. We have had a speech from the right hon. Gentleman which has done a great deal to explain the general drift of the Report, which is extremely interesting in itself, but takes a lot of understanding and a very great deal of study. Furthermore, there was the great risk that if we let too long a period pass before we came and gave any consideration to this subject to the House of Commons it would give some colour, perhaps, to the statements which have been made by mischief-makers—a few only, perhaps—in India, who are trying 1184 to pretend that the proposals for wider self-government have only got to be mentioned in England for them to be trampled upon and disowned. I believe it is already to be seen from the attitude of hon. Members in this House, although there are not too many of them here to-day, that this is exactly opposite to the truth and that there is a genuine desire in England to afford India a wider measure of self-government and that that desire will only be qualified by a prudence and caution which must be exercised in the interests of the people of India themselves. He would be a bold man indeed who went into the details of this Report very closely to-day. The main thing we desire to be clear about in our own minds is how far we honestly desire self-government in India. There are a large number of people in this House who have been prepared, reluctantly, to go so far as the Morley-Minto reforms. There have been others who have thought there was nothing to be improved in the general scheme of Britannic Government in India, and so surely as there can be no turning back once we decide in the next few weeks whether we are going to accept the main principles and outlines of the Secretary of State's and the Viceroy's Report, we had better be very clear to-day in our minds whether we mean the full thing some day or whether we mean only to modify to a certain extent the existing system of government in India. We should have had to decide this, I believe, if there had been no war, but the huge effervescence of thought and action which the War has produced throughout the whole world has made it certain that we have got to decide that now, and not at the time when we should perhaps have chosen.
I, like almost every hon. Member who has spoken, am unhesitatingly of the opinion that our decision must be in favour of self-government. I do not think there can be any two questions about it, with all its difficulties for us, and with all its dangers, dangers even more for India than for ourselves, and however much there is to be said—and there is a great deal to be said—for a benevolent autocracy in the East, it is no longer any use, once the leaders of opinion have turned from it and once the continuance of that system makes the peoples of India feel something less than the peoples in the rest of the Empire. Both these have happened to-day, and therefore the time for it must be over, and that chapter must be 1185 closed. I am not much impressed by the very constant objections which one meets with in some quarters that there are only a handful of people to-day who speak in the name of India, while the millions are content to remain as they are. Of course, that is true, but, whilst it is true, it will always be true so long as we continue with our present system, and the responsibility is all the greater for us, it seems to me, to choose out a part, ahead of the big demand, so that when they come to greater intellectual maturity the people of India will be able to look back and to see that what we did was in order to guide them to greater freedom and liberty. But in deciding whether we are going to give self-government to India in due course, we have to remember that the moment we begin to discuss this Report there will be plenty of tests of our good faith. There will be pretty severe economic tests, and there will be other tests, and therefore I think, at the risk of wearisomeness, we must be very clear in our own minds whether we are going down that road, because we may have to abandon a great many things we have grown up to think essential, both in economics and in political ideas, and that caution will not be enough. We have got definitely to put aside one phase of thought and adopt another if we are really going to pursue the goal of self-government in India, as I believe we shall do in future.
I think the most valuable portion almost of the Report, from the reader's point of view, is the expository portion in Part I., which constitutes the first authoritative review, that I know of, of the whole situation in India since the Mutiny. The chapters on the growth of the administrative system, the clear examination of the existing structure of government in India, and the analysis of the conditions of the people, more especially those paragraphs with regard to small landholders and ryots and the labouring agricultural classes in India, are of the most intense interest and need reading and rereading over and over again before they can be understood or criticised properly; and I believe further that those early passages, which describe the growth of political aspirations and which culminate in the simple declaration, on the part of the authors of the Report, that India's position in the Empire is clearly becoming a matter of increasing concern to the leaders of Indian opinion, is the exact truth and no less than the truth. You cannot discount India's 1186 loyalty to us in the War by the simple expedient of saying it is merely a faithful and an old obedience on the part of the people of India. Any officer commanding any Indian battalion will tell you a very different story. Anyone who has been alongside Indian troops in Mesopotamia or in Gallipoli will tell you a very different story, and will tell you that when they saw the admixture and the cheerful service of Indian troops alongside Australian troops, as they were seen in Gallipoli and elsewhere, that the Indian soldier served cheerfully and happily alongside British troops, that a very large number of them took up arms, not only against our foe, but against a nation with whom they had considerable political sympathy and the closest religious affinities, and that they took up arms unhesitatingly and have carried on war against Turkey for the past four years. To anybody who has a spark of understanding or a gleam of imagination that is an immensely remarkable fact, and it should reveal that there are qualities and ideals in the Indian people which are not based only upon obedience, but are based upon some sympathy with the ideals for which we are fighting and which it remains for us to discover and put to better use. That is not a dreamy sympathy or idealism. It is statesmanship and political instinct to discover that, and, when discovered, to put it into force at the supreme moment is political success, and that is what I believe, on the whole, the Report of the Secretary of State for India and of the Viceroy has achieved at this moment.
But we have got to proceed, as the Secretary for State said just now, with very great care and very slowly, and that is most easily to be seen in looking at the proposals affecting the provincial government. As far as I understand these proposals, the principles that underlie them and the general line of advance teem entirely good and to be commended. The question a little bit in my mind is whether the proposals may really safeguard some of the principles that are laid down, namely, the ultimate power and responsibility of the Provincial Government and Council and the Government of India, but no final judgment can be passed, as has just been admitted, until the questions of the constitution of the electorates and of the separation of the reserved and the transferred powers are decided, and I was very glad indeed to hear from the 1187 Secretary of State to-day that he was going immediately to set up Committees to deal with the matter. It is to put the cart before the horse, obviously, to ask us to decide upon any of these proposals until we know what the electorates are going to be. To provide popular assemblies and to map out their powers before we know who are going to make those powers is obviously absurd, and I think it is impossible even to criticise, with any intelligence, any of the proposals regarding provincial government, although we may have an interesting conversation on them. We cannot give intelligent criticism until we have the Report of these Committees before us, and know how they are going to solve the difficulties of the electorates. A great deal was said in the Report against the communal system of representation. I do not think anybody so far in this House has said a word in their favour, but at least let us observe the difficulty. I quite agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said as to the unwisdom of keeping alive that sectionalism which a system of communal representation obviously tends to do. It is pretty hard to conceive any general franchise that would secure a fair representation to non-Brahmins in Madras or for the general agricultural communities elsewhere, but in the Report of the Viceroy and Secretary of State they make it clear, and hon. Members recognise, that it is of the deepest importance that if we are to have representative institutions in India on a proper basis they should not be run entirely by the Western educated members of urban councils. Until I had read the Report I myself was very doubtful how to devise a general franchise for India which would meet all these difficulties. Therefore, I do suggest that, however repugnant the idea of communal representation may he to a great many hon. Members, the difficulty has to be faced, and we cannot put it aside until we have heard a great deal more on the subject.
I would ask the Secretary of State, in conclusion, how he is going to deal with this Report in the future as regards the Parliament of this country. It is obvious we must not give any ground for Indian opinion to suspect our intentions. It is essential the whole subject should be thrashed out in public. We want to induce the nation to take an interest in 1188 Indian affairs. It is difficult to do so, especially when our attentions are absorbed in the War. I suggest you can get no real sanction to your Bill, and that your reforms will eventually be delayed still more if you do not take means to interest the public, through the House of Commons, in the huge change you are going to make. You will be able to introduce your Bill in the House of Commons, and all will go well for a time, but you will suddenly find, when the glamour has passed away, after you have got a sympathetic Second Reading, that the sympathy will stop short, because it will occur to the people of this country that, without understanding it in the least, they are parting with a system of government in which they have had a great, just, and legitimate pride, and are giving complete sanction and authority to an entirely new form of government which they have been taught to believe is dangerous in the East, and which is also recognised as dangerous in any country in which the people have not learned to govern themselves. Unless the people understand more than they do now, I believe you will find, before much time elapses, that your Bill will not progress very rapidly. You have to provide for this difficulty. In my opinion the weakness of the Report is that it presents the case, but withholds the evidence on which that case is based. I understand that that was inevitable, and that volume after volume might have had to be presented to Parliament in order to avoid that difficulty. The fact remains that even those consultations which took place between the Viceroy and the Secretary of State, and the scores of different bodies, communities, and authorities in India can hardly, from our point of view, be held as sufficient evidence. They are evidence which we can appreciate, but something more is necessary to explain to us the evidence on which this Report—written so that the people of the country may have som ebasis to go upon. What we want to see is that these views are brought forward publicly, and in such a way that they can be tested by examination and cross-examination—to see whether they be the views of the European community, or of Mrs. Annie Besant, or of non-Brahminism. We want to be able to test the views, to examine them thoroughly, and give them full consideration. That is the only manner in which the right hon. Gentleman can fulfil the 1189 pledges he made when he said there would be ample opportunity for discussion in Parliament. I take him to mean that in its fullest sense, not merely that there should be discussions across the floor of the House, but that the country shall also have an opportunity of judging. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not think I say this with any wish to burke or delay the reforms to which in their general principles I give a very unqualified assent, but I think unless we can get the proper amount of examination of the question, in the end your path will be more thorny and more difficult.
I would ask, as the right hon. Gentleman is setting up a Committee on the excellent system which prevailed in the time when the East India Company's Charter used to be discussed every twenty years, would it not be possible for him to set up a special Committee to examine the subject, a Committee which will have all its time free, and which will be able to create a greater body of public opinion in this House, and will be able to explain in Debate and in the country the proposals which are put forward in this Report. Would it not be possible for him to set up such a body to examine all the points raised, and to get a full understanding of them? Otherwise what will be the position? The Secretary of State comes down to this House. We may not have an opportunity of discussing this matter again although I hope we shall. There are very few of us here who are in the least bit competent to form a really sane judgment on these very difficult questions, whereas if the right hon. Gentleman gave an opportunity to a Committee that would be willing to give a good deal of time to the matter, a Committee composed of Members of both Houses, I think he would find it of immense value to himself and to the reforms which we all desire to see carried through.
This Committee might possibly become a permanent Committee. I am perfectly certain great advantage would accrue from such a Committee, and if one such had existed after 1850, I doubt very much if any of that educational muddle which has done so much damage in India would have been allowed to go on unexamined and neglected for so many years. I throw out that suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman merely because I am anxious there should not be unnecessary delay. If we have delay we shall get Indian 1190 opinion chilled, exacerbated, exasperated, and suspicious, and that is not an atmosphere in which you can carry through a reform scheme like this. When it was suggested just now by an hon. Member that we must take up this question at once, I felt strongly in agreement with him. This is the one moment—much better than after the War—when we can discuss this question. The whole attitude in India, so far as I can learn, the whole attitude of the people of India, is turned sympathetically towards us during this War. There have been obviously sectional differences and possibly acts of lawlessness in India, but you will never get a more favourable opportunity when the people of India press more and more to be associated with you before the world. Therefore, if we are going to inaugurate this reform now, I think it would be well for Parliament to set up a special Committee to deal with the matter and to carry this through before the good feeling now existing in India is worsened in any degree. If the right hon. Gentleman can give us some information as to how he proposes to proceed, it would be very much welcomed in this House. There are great difficulties obviously in proceeding by way of a Government Bill at once. But if there was such a Select Committee appointed as I have suggested it might be possible for the Secretary of State to put before that Committee an unofficial Bill in draft form, so that they could see the kind of proposal he was making to the Legislature. If that is done, and in any case on general lines, I think the right hon. Gentleman will be able to count on the support of a vast majority of the Members of this House, at any rate, in moving towards this goal of self-government, and also for a large number of the provisions outlined in this volume.
§ Mr. CHARLES ROBERTS
I think the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State has no reason to complain of the course which the discussion has taken today. I feel we ought to be grateful to the Government for having given us this opportunity of a preliminary discussion. I am sure it was necessary to have it in order to clear away the misstatements and misconceptions which there have been in this country, and any postponement of the Debate would, I feel convinced, have led to misconceptions and misunderstandings in India. The Debate has revealed 1191 so far a singular unanimity. There may be reservations, and there may be slight criticisms, but one has the satisfaction of seeing that the hon. Member for East Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees) agrees with my hon. Friend the Member for East Finsbury (Mr. Cotton), who in a very interesting maiden speech has shown that he has not merely a personal but an hereditary right to speak on this question. And yet the amount of unanimity which has prevailed might, perhaps, give a wrong impression, for I cannot but remember that my right hon. Friend has not at the present time his Government behind his proposal. He has set us a very distinct holiday task to read his Report. I have read it. I hope he extends that invitation to his colleagues in the Government. Today he made a very welcome announcement. He said he was prepared to take a very notable step in setting up two Committees. I do not want to press that unduly, but it clearly does commit not only himself, but the Government of which he is a member to further steps along this road. I do not suppose it would be fair to assume that they have done more than accept the Report in its general principle. I hope that may be so. At all events, they have not rejected it as being inconsistent with their declaration in August last, and the fact that they wish to see it worked out and proceeded with is, I think, an omen of their intentions of which we should take note.
I do not wish at this present stage to put inconvenient questions. We were told by the Leader of the House that the pressure of business had been too great for them yet to make up their minds. One understands their preoccupation, but at the present moment they remain, of course, bound by their declaration of August last year, and after the holidays I think it will be our duty to press them a little further about that declaration, for, as my right hon. Friend made it clear, that declaration did commit them to taking substantial steps as soon as possible, and if those substantial steps are not an acceptance of my right hon. Friend's Report, then we shall have to ask what are the substantial steps which they are going to take? The words "as soon as possible" are also words we cannot forget. They certainly do not mean the latest possible date, and, although they give a reasonable time, yet this is one of those matters to which the 1192 story of the Books of Sibyl is applicable. I admit the scheme is difficult to grasp as a whole. It is not merely that the details are somewhat complicated. They are novel expedients in the art of government perhaps, but it is a balanced scheme and different speakers have already laid stress upon different parts of it. The hon. Member for East Nottingham is satisfied with the safeguards. He finds that there are satisfactory assurances for the maintenance of British power, and I think there are safeguards in the scheme. But the existence of those safeguards does not prevent this measure in reality from marking a great transition from a bureaucratic and autocratic system of government to the popular government on which, I believe, the Government of India will have to rest in the future.
It begins the first stages of the responsibility of Indian Ministers to an enlarged Indian electorate, and it provides statutory machinery for extending that measure of responsibility at recurring intervals. It does give to the Indians a place consistent with their own self-respect in an ultimately self-governing India which will form an integral part of the Empire. They will be in the future no longer mere passive subjects of Imperial rule, but conscious partners in an Empire which, in spite of differences of race, creed and language, exists for ideals of freedom and civilisation which appeal to Englishmen just as much as to Indians. I think my right hon. Friend was fully entitled to lay stress upon the backing with which the scheme comes to this House. Request has been made that the evidence on which it was built up should be produced. I think the Report says that that evidence really cannot be produced, so much of it rests on private opinions and on personal communications. It did not proceed by formal dispatch and official document. My right hon. Friend, I think, of all those who have previously held this high office, is certainly in the best position to have formed his own individual judgment. I think there were 109 formal deputations, and there must have been hundreds of interviews with officials and non-officials from all the different provinces of India. I think it only fair to my right hon. Friend to bear my testimony to his tenacity of purpose, his grasp of his subject, his flexibility of mind, and his very 1193 genuine belief in the principles of popular government, which, I think, expressed itself in his Report.
There has been a great deal of agreement as to principles expressed in the discussion up to date. And yet the reluctance of the Government to commit itself to the principles of the Report at the present time, joined with hostile voices that have not found expression in this House, but have found expression in the Press are, I think, a real danger signal to impatient idealists who, whether in this country or in India, are not content with the rate of progress which is being proposed. I think it is always a mistake, in judging of reforms, to measure them by a standard of theoretic but unattainable perfection. It is rather wiser to consider whether in practice they do represent substantial improvements on the existing state of things, and I defy anyone of honest purpose, who will take the trouble to grasp the scheme in its general principles and in its details, to fail to see that, in spite of the safeguards which are provided, it does give a very substantial and marked advance in self-government in India. I say this because I noticed a letter in a leading journal within the last few days which, on behalf of unofficial Indians in this country, complained that, though they did not wish the Report rejected, yet it gave little or nothing of real value to them. It is very difficult to summarise. I admit it does provide—and rightly provides—during a great transition, during the evolution of popular government, power to maintain law and order. It leaves the Government free with full powers to discharge its Imperial responsibilities. But if you take—I will not say changes in relation to the Secretary of State, to Parliament, or to the Indian Parliament—but, taking the actual changes in India, it is impossible to say that these are not substantial improvements from the standpoint of anyone who wishes to see self-government carried into effect or to see India marching upon the road to self-government.
Let me summarise the stages in the scheme towards self-government in India. There are: popular control over local government (in districts and towns); the extension, or rather creation of, electorates, mainly on a direct territorial basis; a largely increased measure of autonomy for the provinces, as distinct from the 1194 Government of India; the institution of Executive Councils in four additional provinces, the placing of an Indian member on those Councils in all the eight provinces concerned; the enlargement of provincial councils, the increase of the elective majority, and their control of certain departments to be transferred to them; the establishment of Indian Ministers, who could, together with the Executive Council, form part of the provincial government, and will have to administer the transferred departments; the accountability of these Indian Ministers primarily for the first five years to their constituents, and thereafter their full responsibility to the provincial councils; the separation of all India and provincial finance, and a much freer hand to the Indian Ministers and to the Provincial Council to propose and carry new taxation and to raise loans; in the sphere of the Government of India the addition of a second Indian member of the Viceroy's Executive Council of six, and the enlargement of the Viceroy's Legislative Council, with a view to making it more representative of Indian opinion; and the institution of a statutory machinery for the enlargement of this measure of self-government at recurring intervals. I cannot understand anyone, who wishes to take an honest view of this subject, not realising that it does mark a very substantial advance. But my right hon. Friend says that he is prepared to vary details. I am not quite clear whether that may not open a somewhat dangerous prospect. Certainly none of these details is regarded as having any special sacrosanctity. The hon. Member for Leicester, for instance, thought there was too great complexity. I do not think he would find it, if he gave his mind to it, that it would be very easy to frame a simple system to carry out the declaration of August last. Full responsible government, we know, is not a very simple form of government if you try to set out on paper all the unwritten conventions and understandings on which it rests. Bureaucratic government we know, but the hybrid between the two—a transitional form of government, which is to be neither the one nor the other, but to lead from one to the other—cannot, I think, be very simple, and I think my hon. Friend tried to solve his riddle by arguing that would be very much more simple to have the Cabinet system with which we are familiar in this country. 1195 That, of course, is going far beyond the limits that were laid down for us, and far beyond the limits, I think, to which this House is prepared to proceed.
I am one of those who have a very honest and sincere desire to see this great adventure of instituting self-government in India succeed. I believe it is possible. I do not see any reason why the Indians should not succeed in this task, on one condition—that they will give themselves the necessary training time to master what is involved in learning the practical art of self-government. Given that, I see no reason why they should not succeed, just as our Allies the Japanese, who also had no historical basis for the Western institutions, which they have been able to blend with their own traditional principles of government in a way which has produced marked success and led to the greatness of their country. I should like those who may be impatient, who may wish to see a greater rate of progress than my right hon. Friend is prepared to admit, to be warned that there may be dangers which they would have to face in carrying their point, and that unanimity in this House to-day, at the present stage, does not get them over their difficulties. I think they will find that this scheme—or something like it—my right hon. Friend is under present conditions, here and now, really the limit of what is attainable. I do not myself see conditions in the immediate future which will enable them to obtain a greater measure of reform. I am, of course, not forgetting the recurring intervals at which the present proposals for reform may be increased by means of the Statutory Commission. I do, however, think it would be wise for those who have the difficult task of judging how much it is well for them to ask to remember that if they want reforms they can only get those reforms by prudent and energetic concentration upon them, and that those who have not the statesmanship to accept a good offer when it is made generally pay the penalty by many weary years of waiting in an arid and possibly storm-swept wilderness.
I think there is only one preliminary point at this stage, when we are not dealing with details but general considerations, upon which I should like to say a few more words. The hon. Member for East Nottingham has spoken of Brahmin ascendancy as something which 1196 must immediately and necessarily follow throughout India from the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman, and he said that he did not contemplate that result with much favour. In the Press that supposed result of this scheme is being set before us as a formidable obstacle. Our mentors in the Press emphasise the fact, as they say, that a visit to India disqualifies you from forming an opinion upon Indian subjects. I do not think a visit goes quite so far as that. It does give something of real value: not to put it too high, it perhaps illumines the depths of one's ignorance. These critics are always saying that India is a country very diversified, not a single nation, but a great congeries of nations, sects, and so on, and they tell us that Brahmin ascendancy is going to be the result of these proposals. When they do so, they forget the lesson of their own teaching. So far as the representations made can furnish materials for judgment. I do not think that that point is dwelt upon practically throughout the whole of the North. I think the existence of the caste feeling, or at least the worst abuses of the caste spirit, do not so much exist in the North of India as in the South. It may be that in the North it has been checked, or kept under control, by Mahomedanism—for, of course, amongst 70,000,000 of Mussulmans there is in theory—though I am afraid theory does not always work out in practice—no possibility of caste in the brotherhood of that religion. It is then, really, more prominent in the south, and the acute stage of feeling between Brahmin and non-Brahmin is really a local problem of Madras. I do not say that has got to be ignored. I think the existence of these 60,000,000 of the depressed classes, the "untouchables," the "unapproachables," and the inheritors of unknown sins is a fact which cannot be lost sight of, nor is improperly to be borne in mind by this House in considering the problems which we have to meet. I think it is worth while, however, knowing that the representatives of all these depressed classes, when they came before my right hon. Friend did not by any means decline the idea of going forward towards representative institutions.
I have here a handbook, which is to be found on the various bookstalls, which is entitled, "Indian Opposition to Home Rule: What the British Public Ought to Know." This consists very largely of extracts from the addresses made by my right hon. Friend. May I give two illustrations? 1197 The extracts are, I think, quite relevant to the point that there is a considerable amount of feeling against complete Colonial Home Rule in India; there is a fear amongst some representatives or spokesmen of these depressed classes that if complete power is given to the higher castes they will suffer. Take the first extract, given as an illustration, of the Deccan Ryots. That does lay great stress upon the dangers of the caste spirit. But the extract given in the book omits a portion of the address which welcomes the declaration of His Majesty's Government as to responsible government being the right goal for India. They say that it is a welcome ideal. It then proceeds to ask in a passage, which is also omitted in the book, for provincial councils with a substantial elective majority, complete control of the purse, with power to pass any laws and to make resolutions binding upon the executive, subject certainly to the veto of the Governor. That is to say, these representatives of the depressed classes asked for more, in fact, than my right hon. Friend is prepared to give. Take the same thing in Madras. There was a South Indian Liberal Federation, recently organised by an Indian gentleman, to plead the cause of the depressed classes in Madras—who have a real hardship and a real grievance. Here, again, the practical proposals which that Federation wished to lay before my right hon. Friend are omitted in the extract given in the book from their memorial, and if you look at the practical proposals both in the changes they wished to make in the Executive, and in the transfer of particular Departments to the control of the provincial councils, and my right hon. Friend's financial proposals, you will find—I will not trouble the House with the details—that they are really almost on the lines of the proposals that my right hon. Friend is now making in his Report. This omission of material passages in this book is something which the British public ought to know. They ought to know that the spokesmen of these depressed classes came to ask for representative institutions either on the same lines as are proposed by my right hon. Friend, or even in advance of those proposals—on condition that they had special protection by means of communal representation—
§ Mr. ROBERTS
You may lay stress if you like on this condition, but it all 1198 comes back to the question of safeguards. When we are told, as we are told in the Press, that it is quite impossible to devise a system of popular government without creating Brahmin ascendancy which may act unfairly towards other castes, then I think one may find in the census statistics, which I think have already been quoted, something to calm one's apprehension. The Brahmin caste, men, women, and children throughout India is 4½ per cent. of the population. In Madras, where the question is acute, the Brahmins are divided into separate groups and there are economic interests which in some degree connect them with other classes. They are landowners and cultivators, and some are in trade, and so on, as well as in the learned professions. This caste then is only 3 per cent. of the population. We are asked to believe that it is impossible to devise a scheme under which all power will not be put into the hands of 3 per cent., and that 3 per cent. will be able to ride rough-shod over the other 97 per cent.! If you went perversely about it, I think it might be difficult to succeed, but if these committees are going to be set up, and instructed to devise a franchise on as broad a basis as, the conditions admit, if they try to make an honest scheme of representation, I cannot think it will pass the wit of man to arrange that you will get fair representation of all classes. The suggestion that you must put all power into the hands of this single limited class appears to me to be rather imaginary.
Questions have been put to my right hon. Friends as to how he means to proceed; what further progress is he going to make? I know quite well that the hon. and gallant Gentleman for Staffordshire who preceded me when he suggested a Parliamentary Committee had not in his mind a mere expedient of delay. He wished for some machinery of consideration and information. I think before any question of that kind arises there is one prior question: When are we going to get the Government proposals? That is the first essential. I would submit that the first thing we have to do is to ask the Government to prepare their measure, to settle on their measure, to make up their minds on the subject. I hope in the breathing space of the holidays that consummation can be effected. It would be inexpedient and a cause of delay if the Parliamentary Committee which has been referred to should be charged with the duty of going 1199 all over the ground again which was gone over last winter. What we want is a definite Government proposal, and it should be placed before this House. Before that can be done I presume opinion in India, as well as in this country, will have had opportunities for expressing itself more definitely. I hope that the unanimity which has prevailed in this House will also prevail in the country at large on this question. I think we may ask the impatient extremists not to throw away recklessly the chance of the great substantial good which is offered at the present moment and the large vista of future prospects which are contained in these immediate proposals. I think we can ask all moderate minded men in this country or in India to accept this scheme, and I must again repeat my request to the Government that they should without undue haste make up their collective mind, and be prepared to march forward on the principles of this Report, which I am convinced, as far as my own opinion is worth anything, will be of benefit both to the material welfare of India and the character of Indian manhood, and will at the same time, I honestly believe, strengthen and consolidate the Empire.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN (War Cabinet)
My hon. Friend opposite said at the beginning of his speech that the Secretary of State for India and the Viceroy had no reason to complain of the reception which has been given to their Report. That is so conclusive that I am almost inclined to ask myself whether there is any need for another member of the Government to intervene, and whether, when intervening, there are any criticisms uttered in the course of the discussion which I ought to answer. The House has discussed this question, as these great problems ought to be discussed, without any party spirit or party feeling, and with an obvious recognition of the magnitude and the difficulty of the problems with which we are confronted, and with a determination to confront them in a spirit of confident understanding and sympathy in the hope that by so doing we may march steadily forward in the path of progress and liberty. My hon. Friend opposite (Mr. C. Roberts), I think, of all the speakers who have intervened in this Debate, came nearest to a criticism of the Government, but he did not formulate his criticism 1200 definitely, although he seemed to suggest that in his mind the Government had been too slow about making up their mind. It is very natural for my hon. Friend to hold that view, because his interest in India is of long standing, and it is pro found. He was good enough to give me his assistance when I was Secretary of State for India, and I know how closely he follows all Indian questions. He also accompanied my right hon. Friend to India, and for six months he had nothing else to do but devote his whole mind to these great problems.
As a result of those deliberations, this Report was framed by the Viceroy and the Secretary of State, and it was laid before their colleagues at home. Under present conditions the Cabinet has not been able to give six months, six weeks, or even one week's uninterrupted attention to this question, and it is evident that if hon. Members will recall what has been the history of the War during the past month or two, it will be evident to them that the time at the disposal of the Cabinet for the consideration of this Report has been wholly insufficient for them to arrive at the conclusion which my hon. Friend desires to see, or to arrive at anything like detailed conclusions upon the Report itself. I do not think, however, that any time has been lost. One thing is quite obvious, that carefully as this Report has been framed, manifold as is the evidence within it that those who wrote it had given sustained and detailed attention to the problems with which they were dealing, it is not on the face of it a complete solution of the problems with which we have to deal. My right hon. Friend felt that there were many parts of this question which it was impossible to solve with the Viceroy within the space of the cold weather during the seasonal visit which he could pay to India, and it was left for Committees to take up in detail that part of the field which he had been unable to cover, and His Majesty's Government have decided, in pursuance of the recommendation of my right hon. Friend and the Viceroy, that these Committees should be appointed as early as possible, and proceed to India as early as possible, and that they should deal with these questions for which they are specially appointed, such as the franchise, the division between transfers and reserved subjects, and the division of authority between the Government of India and the provincial governments, 1201 which are essential to the presentation, or even to the drafting, of any Bill on the general lines of this Report or in pursuance of the declaration of the Government in August.
My hon. Friend need have no apprehension in his mind that the Government mean to go back in the letter or even in the spirit on that declaration. As my right hon. Friend has said, it was not a hasty declaration, for no responsible Government would offer a hasty declaration on a subject of such importance. It was a matter which had been discussed between the Government of India and myself as Secretary of State and between myself and my colleagues before my right hon. Friend became responsible. He took up the story where? was obliged to leave it. He found the declaration in existence in substance if not in the exact words in which he subsequently read it to this House. He found the visit of the Secretary of State for India already arranged for by the Viceroy, and practically approved by the Government, and he thus entered upon an inheritance which I think he was not reluctant to take up, because he was wholly in sympathy with the movement. At any rate, he took up a movement which was already in progress, and he did not start the revolution which some hasty or careless observers have been inclined to suggest.
Do not let us underrate the difficulties of the path which we are pursuing. I am as profoundly convinced as anybody can be that the declaration of 20th August was right, and that the time has come for something more than a move forward towards a new orientation of our policy. I agree with my right hon. Friend that from the moment you seek to find the goal of British policy in India there is but one advance you can make, and that is the gradual development of free institutions with a view to the ultimate realisation of responsible government. Nothing else is compatible with our traditions, feelings or practice. Many people might have preferred, and I admit when I first considered the problem I should have preferred not to have defined the goal which must necessarily be far distant, but set to work on the immediate steps which could be taken at once in the direction of reform. There was, a necessity for a declaration of policy which was desired and demanded by reformers, and it was urgently pressed for by those responsible for the government of India who desired 1202 to have from His Majesty's Government a clear definition of the objects to which they were to direct their efforts, and a clear indication of the path which the Government wished them to pursue. That being so, it was right to make a declaration, and if any declaration was to be made it could be put in none other than the spirit in which it was made on the 20th August last.
The Government of that day did not make that declaration lightly, and did not conceal from themselves the large appeal to confidence on the one hand and patience on the other which it would be necessary to make to public opinion in order to realise the profundity of the change which was involved or the perils of the paths upon which they were entering. I think it is an encouraging matter that amidst so many difficulties we should see signs of so great a community of opinion, and above all that we should find in the great Service to whom India owes, above all other things, its advancement to its present position and its fitness to a further advance, such a spirit of readiness to enter on this new policy and to lend aid to make it a success. I am glad to think that in the course of the Debate, so far as I have heard it, there has not been one word of criticism of that great Service. A certain section of Indian reformers, in pressing forward claims which I think are extravagant and harmful to India, as well as injurious to the Empire as a whole, seek to promote their object by attacks upon some of the members of the British Government and the men responsible for it, but I think in so doing they injure their own cause and do a great wrong to the public service, which is one of the glories of our Empire, and without which neither India nor the House of Commons would ever have seen such a scheme of reform as we have before us to-day. Yet those who view these suggestions of reform with apprehension remember that we—I do not mean the Government of the day, but the British Governments of the past—have been the creators of the aspirations which have given rise to the demand for these reforms.
We have created feelings which but for the existence of British rule in India and for the ideas and the education which we have introduced might have remained alien to India for centuries to come as they have been alien to her past. But having created and implanted those ideas and 1203 having spread those ideas, not merely within the corners of our Kingdom, but throughout the world wherever our flag flies, we must have faith in the institutions that we have created and encourage the realisation of the ideals which we have held before them. It is not possible in a Debate like that of to-day—and I think every speaker has felt it—to deal in elaboration or in detail with such a vast mass of material as is contained within this volume; but I would venture to commend one or two general features of it for the consideration of hon. Members. I take, for instance, the chapter called "The conditions of the problem," and I invite hon. Members to study them, whether they belong to the conservative view of the situation or whether they belong to the more advanced reformers. I attach importance to it, because it shows that the framers of this Report were fully conscious what they were doing and that they were not moving among circumstances and conditions of which they were unaware, with eyes blind to the truth, but, seeing their difficulties and recognising them, they yet thought that they could offer a sure and certain method of progress through them. If hon. Members will turn to the early pages of Part II. they will find that the authors of the Report lay down four propositions for their guidance. I submit those propositions with confidence for the acceptance of the House. In pursuance of the declaration of the 20th August they state, in the first place, thatThere should be, as far as possible, complete popular control in local bodies and the largest possible independence for them of outside control.I do not believe that is anywhere disputed. If there be a criticism of our Indian reform in the past it is that we have built from the top instead of from the bottom. It presents us with difficulties from which we cannot now get away. The answer of our predecessors might be that the same difficulties confronted them that the material with which you could build was found at the top and not at the bottom, and that was the reason for this anomalous style of building. I am sure that all who know anything of India will agree that it is of the utmost importance that forthwith you should proceed to widen and extend your popular Government and to give real control and responsibility to the popular bodies which you create, because it is there in the things of 1204 narrow localities that you find the best means of educating the elector in his rights and in his duties and of providing him with power and influence in matters in regard to which he is well informed and can express a really practical judgment. The second proposition which the authors of the Report lay down is:The provinces are the domain in which the earlier steps towards the progressive realisation of responsible government should be taken. Some measure of responsibility should be given at once, and our aim is to give complete responsibility as soon as conditions permit.There, again, I think the Report will carry general concurrence. It is clearly in the provinces that the first and largest advances can be made, and it follows, as the authors of the Report point out, that, in order to do that, you must devolve authority upon the provinces and you must decentralise some of the functions of government and leave to the new provincial authorities which you create, or to the provincial authorities in their new form, a larger measure of independence than anything that has been accorded to them hitherto. That, in my opinion, is necessary for another purpose. India is a country of immense geographical area and immensely varying local conditions. If you try to make all India move entire, some parts will move too fast and some parts will move too slow. You must allow for elasticity of government in proportion to the diversity of local conditions and local capacity. I venture to call attention to the fact that the reforms proposed by the authors of the Report do not apply to the whole of India, but, for reasons which will be readily understood, certain provinces—the frontier provinces and Burma—are especially marked out for treatment different from others on account of the peculiarity of the problems or of the conditions existing in them. The third of these propositions is thatThe Government of India must remain wholly responsible to Parliament, and, saving such responsibility, its authority in essential matters must remain indisputable, pending experience of the effect of the changes now to be introduced into the provinces.I venture again to hope that is a proposition which will meet with general acceptance, and I would add that not scarcely less important is the provision that in those matters which are reserved subjects in the provinces the authority of the provincial governor and government should be clear, easily enforceable, and able to be sustained. Nobody will want to 1205 reserve more questions than are necessary, but where questions have to be reserved and where the safety of India as a whole or the good government and peace and order of the community are concerned, the Government cannot divest itself of its responsibility at this time, and, having the responsibility, it must have the authority necessary to give effect to its decisions. I am not reading quite the whole of these propositions printed in italics in the Report and therefore easy to find. One more proposition is laid down, namely, thatIn proportion as the foregoing changes take effect, the control of Parliament and the Secretary of State over the Government of India and the Provincial Governments must be relaxed.That led to an observation made by the hon. and gallant Member for West Staffordshire (Captain Lloyd) which is very just and which demands our attention and our acceptance. My hon. and gallant Friend said that we were taking a momentous step to which he himself was ready and anxious to be a party, but he thought it behoved us to realise what we were doing. I observed in the short time that I was Secretary of State that it was just those sections of opinion in this House and out of it who were most inclined towards the development of self-government in India who were also most inclined to call upon the Secretary of State to interfere with and override the Government of India. The House of Commons, if it desires to pursue the path indicated by the decision of the Government of 20th August, must be quite clear that, for the future, it is going to part with some portion of the power which it has hitherto exercised in India. We shall have to abandon, to use the words of my hon. and gallant Friend, some of the claims, economic and other, which we have hitherto asserted in dealing with India. Just as we invite the officials of India to surrender powers which they have hitherto exercised under the guidance of the Secretary of State, and just as we call upon them to employ methods of pursuasion where hitherto they have been able to employ methods of command, so we ourselves shall have to be prepared to give up something of our authority, to see things done which we do not like done, and to see mistakes made which under the present form of government could and would be prevented, for the sake of enabling Indians to gain by their own 1206 experience and in time to realise the self-government which is our goal. I do not pretend, and I think it would be a great mistake to pretend, that the immediate result of such changes as are contemplated will be an increase of efficiency in government. I suppose there has been no Government which for the purpose for which it existed was more efficient or more free from corruption than the Government of India as we have known it. It will not improve in either respect in the first stages of this popularisation. If we think it will we shall be doomed to disappointment. If we expect more we may regret the step we are taking, but if we realise that just as we ourselves have had to learn and have learned through the centuries and have only in very recent times come to the measure of efficiency, of incorruption, and of democracy which we enjoy to-day, so the progress in India must be through mistakes and must be gradual and spread, I will not say over as long, but still over along period of years, then we shall go on with confidence, without disappointment through ignorance of the conditions, and we may rest assured that in time we shall reach our goal.
I have ventured to utter these words of caution, but I hope that it will not be supposed that in so doing I am throwing cold water upon the scheme of reform or upon reform in general. I say again, as I said at the beginning, that I am profoundly convinced that on such lines of progress and on them alone lie safety for us. It is true that only a small proportion of the vast population of India take any active interest at the present time in political reform, but the numbers who do so, though small in proportion to the whole, are considerable. We have planted those ideas in their minds, and their whole association with us encourages them. Though small to-day, they are still a rapidly growing number, and though underneath that surface current, for perhaps it is little more than that, there lie great depths hitherto undisturbed by any of these political aspirations, yet the influence and the effect of the moving current on the top penetrate more deeply every year, and some of those who left India twenty or thirty years ago or even less would be surprised if they went back to find what new ideas are discussed in village circles, what thoughts are penetrating into places where comparatively a few years ago no political idea ever entered. You cannot neglect that. It 1207 does not make the problem easier that there is so great a disparity between this active and alert but small political section of the population and the great masses outside it. It makes the problem infinitely more difficult. But if we do not seek to deal with it as we go along, and to move as it moves, we shall be confronted sooner or later with a situation in which hope deferred, aspirations disappointed, pledges or expectations unfulfilled, have created a bitterness and a discontent which we may find it difficult to undo.
After all, in setting our minds seriously to the problem of internal Indian development we are at this moment only following the path which India has already trodden in regard to its position in the Empire. I am not sure that Indians themselves always realise how profound has been the change in the position of India in and towards the Empire in the course of the last few years. Last year, for the first time in history, India was admitted formally, and by Indian representatives as well as by the Secretary of State, to the Imperial War Conference. Her delegates were welcomed there by the representatives of the self-governing Dominions, and, with the consent of those Governments—with their consent alone could it be done—India was made a member of the Imperial Conference henceforth. Last year India was represented in the Imperial War Cabinet by the Secretary of State. It is true—that in itself was a great advance—that the Secretary of State was accompanied by a representative of the Indian princes, an Indian representative of the Indian Government, and another gentleman, but they came there as advisers and to assist the Secretary of State, who, alone of the four, was technically a member of the Cabinet, although these gentlemen were present at every discussion, heard every secret, and saw every paper that was submitted to the Imperial War Cabinet. This year, apart from the Secretary of State, who sits in the Imperial War Cabinet as one of the British Ministers dealing with Imperial affairs, India sits there in her own right, represented by an Indian prince and an Indian gentleman whose distinguished career is familiar to this House. More than that, in the light of the discussions which took place last year and this year in the Imperial War Conference, a new recognition has been given to the 1208 equality of status of India and to a right of reciprocal treatment as between the Dominions and India, or Great Britain and India, of their respective citizens. In these matters, within the last few years, India has leaped suddenly into a place of equality with the other great portions of His Majesty's Dominions, and her representatives sit with them in great Imperial Councils, just as and, perhaps, partly because, as my right hon. Friend has said, in every theatre of this War her troops have fought beside our own and those of the rest of the Empire in defence of our common cause.
Is it not right that that great progress in Imperial status and position, that admission to partnership in the Empire for India, should be accompanied or followed, as soon as may be, by a revision of the share which Indians take in their own government and by an effort to set them upon a road which will lead them steadily forward in the paths of progress and reform? I believe the time has come when that can be done. I believe it would be equally foolish to refuse to do it or to move too fast. I venture to say to those who would stand still, that that way lies destruction. I venture also to say to those who make extravagant claims, that that way also lies destruction. It is more important that each step that is made should be firmly planted on sure ground than that you should take two steps at once. It is more important that each new sphere of activity and responsibility which Indians acquire for themselves should be firmly held, and that such new powers should be wisely wielded, that vital mistakes should be avoided which would compromise all future progress, than that the progress should be a little more rapid or a little slower at first. I was profoundly impressed in the short time I was Secretary of State for India by the fact that no Englishman could hope to serve India without a real sympathy, bred of understanding, for her peoples and their aspirations. I venture also to say that the same is true of our Indian fellow subjects, and that, as they have a right to demand that sympathy and understanding of us as they have a right to call for our good will and our assistance in the progress which they desire to make, so they should extend sympathy and understanding to us, with our great inherited responsibility to millions of people who are not yet fit to protect themselves, and to the interests which India, as a whole, cannot yet defend 1209 without our assistance, and that they should examine the proposals of my right hon. Friend and the Viceroy, or the proposals of the Government when those proposals come to be laid before Parliament, and the acts of this Parliament, with a generous appreciation of the spirit in which they are framed and not with impatient, hasty, or ignorant criticism of the British Government either of the past or of the present.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
It is exactly 100 years ago that a predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down was elected as representative of the City of Birmingham. Sir Charles Wolseley, at the time of the passage of the Reform Bill, made this remark:Thank God the Reform Bill is in the hands of the people. Now they can save or ruin themselves.That is the true spirit of Liberalism, and though I do realise the very genuine Liberalism of the right hon. Gentleman, I could wish there was a little more of that spirit and a little less of the cautious statesman. No doubt caution is essential, but at the same time what I value this Report for is that we have combined in it not only the caution of a statesman, but also the fine ideals of Liberalism throughout the ages. The Report which we have had put in our hands recently, and which some of us have read, is an historical document of the first importance. It is Lord Durham's Report upon the Government of Canada combined with the constitution of the Abbé Sieyés. It has embodied in its pages, particularly in that section to which the right hon. Gentleman has just referred, the true doctrine of historic Liberalism. If this Debate does nothing else but bring to the notice of the people of this country this document and induce them to study and read it, it will have served a very useful purpose. I am exceptionally grateful to the Secretary of State for India for having produced this historical document. It is a great credit to this country. I have a telegram to-day from a desperate, dangerous, Indian agitator—Lajpat Rai. His telegram beginsThe general spirit of the Montagu Report is admirable.That is the unbiassed opinion of the everybody who reads this Report. The tone of it is so excellent. Hitherto, English people have been rightly suspected of hypocrisy in dealing with India. Too often they have made professions with 1210 their tongues in their cheeks, and have used those professions purely for platform purposes, while executive action has been very different. Take the case of education. There has been, very rightly, a suspicion on the part of Indian people that we have deliberately prevented them from getting education in order that they might not claim self-government. Another very well-founded suspicion of our rule is that we have deliberately divided the people in order that they might be better controlled, and that we have used the excuse of Mahomedan and Hindu in order to prevent self-government. When I point to the tone of this Report, I should like to refer specifically to those passages dealing with the question of the electorate and the question of the representation of minorities. It would have been so easy for the old stereotyped official to have produced a Report calculated to persuade all save the ignorant reader that the British Government, in the true interest of the minorities in India, and not at all considering the advantages of British control, felt it to be essential to provide separate representation for all the different castes and communities of that country. I suspected that would be done, that we should have class representation in order that the British Government, playing the Machiavellian game, might play off one caste and one religion against the other, one interest against the other. The genuineness and the honesty of this Report is shown by the very fact that the whole arguments of the Report are directed against separate representations, and that the Report is based on the genuine desire to see India become a nation where all classes would pull together, and where the natural distinctions in politics would be between Liberals and Conservatives, and not between two religions or two castes. That to my mind is proof positive that this Report is in earnest. I am glad I have lived to see the day when a fellow countryman of mine in an official position, not only puts these views forward, but has been able to get them received unanimously by the House of Commons as the right thing to do. I regret, if it is a regret, that he is a Jew and not an Englishman. In doing the right thing by the world the Englishman has been left behind, and the Jew has come first. It is an additional satisfaction to the Indians to see that we who welcome the assistance and the co-operation of all races, provided they are 1211 Liberals, now give an earnest of the fact that we shall welcome their assistance in the years to come, and that the traditions Britain has made will be carried on as well when India has Home Rule by the Indians, who will be as Liberal as ourselves.
The struggle for this Report has yet to come. We have seen a certain amount of opposition in India—I do not attach very much importance to that. After all, as an agitator myself, I know what the business and duty of an agitator are. You never dare accept what any Government offers you, because you know they will be pressed from the other side, and unless you are more extreme than the Government, the other people will manage to get the proposal whittled away and destroyed in the process of passing it into law. It is the duty of an agitator to say that this Report does not go far enough, because they have seen the opposition of Lord Sydenham in another place and of other important Anglo-Indians to certain portions of this Report. It is of the utmost importance we should have no whittling away of this Report. This should be the Magna Charta of the Indian people. The attack which will be made upon it by the Anglo-Indian bureaucracy will be on the representation question, and now, whilst there is a chance, before these forces come into play, I want to give the House the real advantage of having a uniform electorate. We have in the British Empire already two different systems. In South Africa we have the system of the black man having a vote for the ordinary election. In nearly every constituency in Cape Colony the black men have votes, and, consequently, the white members elected for those constituencies have to look after the native interest. They dare not oppress the blacks, because the blacks have votes for them, and you get fair treatment of the blacks in Cape Colony in consequence. The black minority, because it is only a small minority, has voting power, gets its rights and receives decent treatment. But if you go to New Zealand you see exactly the opposite arrangement. The Maoris are represented by Maoris; they do not vote for the white members of Parliament; they have three or four Maori representatives to look after their interests. They are easily corrupted; they are bought over; they are helpless in a white system, with the result that the position of the Maoris 1212 where they have separate representation is infinitely worse than the blacks in South Africa where they vote for white men.
The moral of that is that if you give your minority, a Sikh or a Mahomedan, a vote in the ordinary run of affairs for representation on these representative councils—one in a hundred, or it may be one in a thousand—the elected man has to attend to these because they are his electorate. Directly you take them away and give them separate representation they may influence their own separate representatives, but they cannot influence the large body of the members of the legislative council. Therefore, I hope that if separate representation is provided for the Mahomedans and for the Sikhs, that still the Mahomedans and the Sikhs would be left on the general electorate lists so that they may have an equal power with any Hindoo in voting for the ordinary Members of Parliament. In that way we shall ensure that the separate representation is only temporary, and that both religions will finally coalesce in ordinary political relations. I think it necessary to point that out now, because it is in favour of more and more of this sectional representation that the Conservative efforts will be made in dealing with this Report. The proper Liberal attitude towards this reform Bill is, first of all, to secure the widest possible franchise in India for the legislative council. If you have a wide franchise everything else will follow in due course. What one is afraid of is the narrowing down of the franchise before everything else. Once you have got your elected majority on the legislative council everything else must follow as naturally as night follows day or day follows night.
With regard to the scheme put forward here for referred and transferred powers, it is obvious that all these are merely temporary. It is impossible to carry on permanently with an irremovable Executive and a legislative assembly elected by a popular electorate to which they are not responsible; you can only manage it temporarily on such a basis. Still, it is an extraordinarily clever way of dealing with the matter by means of transferred subjects and the gradual reduction in the amount of the reserved subjects. The Government was not prepared, as I should have been, to do away with the irremovable Executive at once, and to say that they would have Cabinet responsibility 1213 and that the legislative council should choose the Ministry who should be the executive authority. Rather they said they would have a certain number of Ministers who should come from the legislative council and be responsible for the transferred subjects. That may do for a time. Gradually, as the transferred subjects increase and the reserved subjects are reduced, you will get an executive which will be responsible to the elective legislative council. That will be self-government. The steps towards it will be taken partly by your Committee in this House, partly by the ten-yearly revision of the Constitution, but the important tiling is that, first of all, you should get your electorate on a broad and uniform basis. Unfortunately, the Report does not go into details about that; it is to be settled by the Committee. I only hope that there will be the same liberal element on that Committee as has been engaged in drawing up this Report. There are many obstacles in the way of the right hon. Gentleman if he puts on the Committee those elements which, we fear, will take care to ramp the electoral part of the Constitution in such a way as to nullify the liberal defects of the scheme as a whole.
Another point I would like to deal with is the transfer of the power of taxation from the Central Government of India to these provincial councils. At first sight, it seemed to me that the Committee had decided admirably. The transfer of the Land Revenue to the provincial councils is not only natural, but gives them a large source of revenue which can be dealt with in future as the Land Revenue increases. The retention by the Central Government of Income Tax also seems to me to be obvious, but I do rather criticise the way in which they have made up the revenue of the Government of India. By this transfer of Land Revenue to the provincial councils, a large hole has been made in the revenue of the Government of India, and they have proposed that each presidency or governorship should hand back to the Government a certain sum of money. They admit this system has been difficult to decide, but the system they have adopted seems most unfair. One-third of the whole amount to be handed back by the local government to the Central Government comes from Madras, because in the Madras Presidency—I am not certain about this, but the right hon. Gentleman will correct me—a far larger proportion of the revenue for Land Tax is collected, 1214 because the land in Madras is owned by the State, and the accounts are paid to the State Government. But if you go to Bengal, that only contributes one fourth of what Madras contributes, although Bengal is far richer. The reason is that there you have the land held under the settlement by which a landlord takes the benefit and the State gets next to nothing. The Madras Government has to hand over to the Government of India three or four times as much as is handed over by the great province of Bengal. That does not seem fair in the long run. Some adjustment will have to be made there so that Madras and the Central Provinces will come off rather better and not suffer for the benefit of others because they have a more intelligent system of land tenure in that part of the country. The other question connected with finance is that of loans. I am not quite satisfied that my right hon. Friend is right in preventing the provincial governments from applying for loans upon the markets like other provincial governments. Why should I not be entitled to invest my money in the Saskatchewan and not in the United Provinces Loan or the Madras Loan?
The reasons given are that there would be competition in borrowing and the market would be dislocated. Those reasons are very poor, and they apply to all other provinces and towns in the British Empire just as much as to India, and I cannot help thinking, with my suspicious mind, this has been done in order to leave a certain amount of administrative control in the hands of the Central Government. The Central Government has no right to say what money provincial governments shall borrow, whether for irrigation, sanitation, or public works of any kind, and if you think the Central Government ought to have power to interfere in these things, provide it openly in your charter, and do not do it surreptitiously by leaving it to the Central Government to say what moneys the provincial governments shall be allowed to borrow. It is just these little things, showing lack of confidence, which are likely to do harm to the working of this scheme. I hope the House and my right hon. Friend will not be disappointed if the scheme does not work admirably. Human nature being what it is, it is inconceivable that when this scheme is in operation in India you should not have agitation in all the legislative councils to extend it till they get really responsible 1215 government. Do not let us start by making the mistake of thinking that anyone who agitates for an extension of the scheme is thereby an enemy of the State, a fit subject for deportation, hostile to British rule, and all the rest of it. If once we allow legitimate agitation for the extension of self-government to be made a ground for charges of disloyalty, we shall set up, in the happy relations which there ought to be between England and India, all the bitterness which we have in Ireland and which we would do anything to avoid now that we are all struggling together in the common cause of liberty. I hope the people of India will realise that this charter is the foundation upon which their liberties can be based. I hope also that they will not imagine that I am actuated by the desire to be kind to India or to give them anything. I support this scheme, not in the interests of India in the least—it is immaterial to me how they govern themselves—but in the interests of England, in the interests of her good name and her good traditions.
§ Sir EDWARD PARROTT
I do not propose to indulge myself in the language of criticism, but in that of sincere congratulation. We are here ostensibly welcoming a very wonderful visitant, and surely it is early days in which to "hesitate faults and hint dislikes" against his personal appearance! That, no doubt, will come later on. I most heartily concur in the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chamberlain), who is perfectly right when he says that these proposals are entirely consonant with the time spirit, and, at the same time, are absolutely essential, if we are to keep faith with India. Eighteen years ago, in the Proclamation of Edward VII., we promised India, by the mouth of our King, "prudently to extend the principle of representative institutions in India." We are bound in honour to implement that promise. We shall be shamed and disgraced before the bar of history if we draw back now and if we dash to the ground those aspirations towards self-government which we ourselves have so largely engendered and fostered. I know the problems are of unexampled complexity, and I know what very powerful forces are arrayed against any advance towards constitutionalism in India. It says much for the clarity of vision and 1216 the fixity of purpose of the Secretary of State that he has managed to return from the Peninsula with his reforming zeal unimpaired and his Liberalism unabated. He has been sojourning in a land where the tree of liberty has never put forward more than sickly and frail blooms. Most of the Britons whom he met in India are impregnated with an intense Conservatism and a most violent aversion from any courses which may invade their status of racial and administrative supremacy.
I well remember that in 1911, at the time when the Morley-Minto reforms were coming into play, I was in India, and I was fiercely assailed because I approved those reforms and assumed that they were the first tentative steps in progressive legislation which would ultimately lead to Home Rule. "Padgett, M.P.," and "Globe Trotter" were some of the mildest epithets which were hurled at me, and I was assured it was sheer impertinence for any person who had not spent the greater part of his life in India to have any views about Indian concerns at all. I misquoted their own poet and asked, "What do they know of India who only India know?" But all in vain. I pointed out that they were too near the mountain to appreciate its true proportions and its full relation to the surrounding landscape, but I might have kept my breath to cool my porridge. I was assured again and again in the most emphatic manner possible that the Morley-Minto reforms, small and hesitating as we now know them to be, were the first steps on that downward path which led to an irrevocable and bottomless abyss. My right hon. Friend, I have no doubt, has met many Cassandras of this type during his journey, and has been subjected to the very same deterrent influences; but he has emerged, because I think he has apparently had the very good fortune to meet some of those rare fine intelligences in the Peninsula who do not believe that the last word has been said in Indian government, who look back on what has been achieved in the past with very great pride, but nevertheless regard that progress as a stepping-stone to higher things. After this War many of us hope that the nations will have to justify their dealings with subject races before the tribunal of the world's civilisation. In regard to India, I could well go before any tribunal with this Report in my hand. I could rely upon the world's approval if I were 1217 assured that there would be a genuine and vigorous attempt to translate its principles into practice.
To many Indians and to many ardent reformers in this country the reforms will seem timid and niggardly. To those who stand upon the old ways and who hate and fear reform of any character they will be anathema. But to those of us who know and realise how slow is constitutional development and who understand how recently a full measure of enfranchisement has been given to the people of this country, they will seem to be based upon the profoundest wisdom. We must never forget that the bulk of the working classes in this country have only possessed the vote for thirty-four years, and they only received it then after fourteen years of compulsory education. But one thing we must have inviolable and inviolate from the very beginning, and that is the Parliamentary pronouncement of 20th August, 1917. I wish I could see that pronouncement set up in letters of gold on the gates of every town and village in British-India as the solemn undertaking of a great and honourable nation which did not shrink from Armageddon to maintain its plighted word. I do not expect for a single moment that progress will be by leaps and bounds. I think it will rather resemble the slow and steady but irresistible progress of one of those great rivers of the Northern plain, or, if I may change my figure, we do not aim at a jerry-built system, but we want one which is put together, stone by stone, like the massive walls of Akbar around the Fort of Agra. The War has revolutionised our views with regard to India just as it has revolutionised our views with regard to the enfranchisement of women in this country. The War has made us a grateful debtor to India, and it has given birth to aims and objects which we can only disregard at the risk of eventual chaos. We must begin our building at once—prudence and gratitude alike demand it—and we must never pause in that building until we have a structure complete and established for all time.
I propose to confine the remainder of my remarks to what I regard as the very key-note of this Report—education. There are critics, I know, who ascribe all demand for reform to that system of Western education which Macaulay gave to India. I have heard Anglo-Indians again and again assure me that it was the fountain and origin of all unrest. 1218 Whether Macaulay was the culprit or not does not much matter to-day. We cannot go back on the past, and there are many of us who would not if we could. Had we denied India a measure of that culture which we then possessed we should have sunk lower than the level of the Empire builders of ancient Rome. Macaulay gave to India what he had to give—that literary education which alone obtained in the universities of his time. It is not the least use to complain that it was too literary. Macaulay lived in pre-scientific days, in the days when the don of a university could declare without shame, "We know nothing about science here; we do not even teach it." Probably most people agree that Indian aspirations towards self-government are very largely due to the study by Indians of English literature. How could it be otherwise? On almost every page of our great writers you have the doctrine set forward that men cannot rise to their highest destiny unless they are lords of themselves. The reading of English history has always been most popular in the Indian schools. I remember in 1911 that I was walking through a little town in the United Provinces and a small boy in an exiguous dhoti came up to me carrying in his hand a well-known school manual of English history, and asked me to explain the meaning of a particular word. I did so, and I took the opportunity of glancing through the book. There were all the landmarks of English liberty set forward in the clearest and most unmistakable language—the Great Rebellion, the execution of Charles I., the Commonwealth, and Revolution, and the Reform Bill. As I handed the book back I said to myself, how can this boy escape being dissatisfied with the despotic Government under which he lives? How is it possible for him, if he thinks clearly and feels strongly, to be anything but an agitator. Indian unrest has always appeared to me to be more a sign of grace than an evidence of original sin. The educated classes in India amount to about 6 per cent. of the people, a deplorable figure, and it is from that 6 per cent. that the demand for a larger share of self-government proceeds. I understand that the most formidable argument which my right hon. Friend has had to meet is based upon the fact that only 6 per cent. of the Indian people may be by any stretch of the imagination called educated. Those who oppose his reforms have expressed 1219 either a real or a simulated fear that the great unlettered masses, the Indian peasantry, will be subjected to the tyranny of an educated oligarchy. I should have a great deal more respect for that argument if it did not emanate from those who all along have shown themselves opposed at all times and in all countries and in all circumstances to self-government in any form. They express a very great solicitude for the ryots, the untutored peasantry of India, but I am afraid that to these critics any time would be too soon for establishing the first steps towards self-government. They resemble the mother who refused to allow her boy to go into the water until he had learned to swim. We must have beginnings, and everybody knows that the beginnings of all things are shapeless, but they are essential if we are to have progress.
The right hon. Gentleman will agree that the enfranchisement of the ryots is the greatest difficulty of all. He will also agree that the essential accompaniment of political reform is educational reform. While he is making a beginning of this representative system, he must fling wide the gates of the school to every child throughout India. I remember that that great Indian, Mr. Gokhale, whom I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting in India, and whose death is a great blow to my right hon. Friend, for he would have been a tower of strength to him in times like these, constantly and eloquently pleaded for compulsory elementary education from one end of the land to the other. I am sure that elementary education is an absolutely necessary concomitant to every social or political reform. I remember being asked to attend a meeting of certain directors of education who were charged with the duty of producing a scheme to bring about a wider extension of elementary education throughout India, and I was privileged to see some of the reports which were presented to that body by commissioners and deputy-commissioners. They resembled precisely in their language the kind of thing we used to have from Tory squires and half-pay colonels in regard to education in this country before 1870. Precisely the same arguments were used. We were told that the ryot did not want education, that it would unsettle him and drive him off the land to seek soft-handed employment in the towns. Thanks to a certain very enlightened official, I was able to 1220 make a small test with regard to these very over-confident statements. On tour we were able to summon the villagers in certain places and to put to them this question, "Do you want a school here; and, if so, what are you prepared to do to get it" I remember the evening before we made the first test I strolled through the village and at the door of the Zamindar's house I saw his son receiving instruction in the open air. The lad was writing on his wooden slate with a reed pen, and around him were gathered some of the villagers watching the mystery with eager curiosity. I was, therefore, not surprised at the result next day. The Zamindar freely offered to give the land for the site of the school. The craftsmen volunteered to erect it, and the rest of the men, of all castes, from the Brahmin right down to the shoemaker, agreed that they would pay a small annual tax for the upkeep of the school. I commend to my right hon. Friend that experiment. I believe that if he had a meeting, carried out by sympathetic people in every school-less village in India, he would be amazed to find the large number of villagers who would declare for a school.
I know that very great strides have been made in elementary education since I was in India in 1911, but I know that a very great deal has to be done before there is a school within the reach of every child. Perhaps I might detain the House in order to say something about the kind of education which is proposed in these village schools. It should be conducted entirely in the vernacular and should be confined to the three R's, wood working, or some other form of hand training, and a little nature knowledge. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree that it is essential to political progress that this modicum of instruction should be given to every Indian child, and while he is doing that there is another task that awaits him. It is a deplorable fact that many Indian children who have learned to read before they grow up find that they have no opportunity afterwards of utilising the art which they have acquired. In very many of the vernaculars there is no literature worth reading, and so reading becomes to them very much of a wasted art. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that while extending the education system as widely as possible, he should make some provision for reading matter in the various vernaculars. It is of cardinal importance, and I am not ashamed to 1221 press it again and again, that along with the first steps in representative government there should go the widest extension of elementary education and the provision of reading matter in the various vernaculars. If he thinks that compulsory elementary education throughout India is a distant dream, may I assure him that he can use the schools and adopt them for political purposes in order to explain to the proletariat the value of the vote and the meaning of representative institutions? I agree cordially with Sir Valentine Chirol that "the surest and quickest way to bring home to the elector the meaning of the vote is through his pocket," and "even an illiterate electorate, so long as it has some stake in the land, will probably learn, sooner than many people expect, to hold its representatives responsible for the effects of legislation and administration." The right hon. Gentleman can fortify and enlighten that economic tendency—and this is a practical point which I hope my right hon. Friend will think of some value—by authorising the issue to the schools of simply written pamphlets in the various vernaculars, expressing quite clearly and in an elementary fashion the elements of representative government. The children would read them and understand them in the schools and they would take them home and discuss them with their fathers at night. In that way you would gat a good deal of elementary political information disseminated throughout the land.
I am sure that no supporters of the reforms outlined in the Report minimise the magnitude and the intensity both of the inertia and the active opposition which has to be met. We have to take sides in a conflict which goes down to the very fundamental conceptions of the State. We shall have to take sides either with those who believe that the be-all and the end-all of national effort is good government, or with those who hold that the highest and best boon of civilisation is self-government. We shall have to take sides with those who idealise the material, or with those who aim at the spiritual—in a word, between those who uphold the German system, or with those who stand for that which, at least in theory, obtains in these Islands. We have given good government to India, we have given her roads and railways, we have irrigated her deserts, bridged her rivers, increased the yield of her fields, opened up her mines, explored 1222 her resources, and, above all, we have endowed her with a peace such as she never knew before our advent. These are great things, but they are not the greatest things. There still remains for us to call from the deep philosophic souls of Indians those higher and nobler virtues which can only come from individual participation and responsibility in the work of national government. To me these proposals are the harbinger of India's true greatness, and I earnestly hope that we who are here to-day will live to see India a shining orb in that planetary system of self-governing States which distinguishes the British Empire from every other Empire known to the history of mankind.
§ Mr. DENMAN
As one who pressed the Government to give facilities for this Debate, I think it is only courteous to thank them very much for the interesting discussion which we have listened to this afternoon, and I am sure the Government will not regret the result. The Debate has not been filled with high excitement, but, on the other hand, I have seldom listened to a Debate which is likely to have more profound importance throughout the world. We have had from the Government, from a member of the War Cabinet responsible for this subject, a definite reaffirmation of the statement of the 20th of August last. We have had from him a definite acceptance of the principles laid down in the Secretary of State's Report as the basis of his scheme. That will constitute a message to India which will not be forgotten. It may be considered unfair and unreasonable to look a gift-horse too closely in the mouth, but I would like to ask a question as to the procedure the Government propose to adopt. We recognise that they cannot act in a hurry and everybody will understand that the consideration they have given to this subject must have been strictly limited. I confess to some disappointment with the idea that no progress is possible until we have the Report of the Committees to be set up to examine certain details. I had hoped that it would be possible to introduce legislation setting up the main structure of the Government's scheme, leaving the small details to be filled in by means of Orders in Council. I would ask the Government to consider carefully whether they can adopt some procedure of the kind rather than postpone any beginning of the legislative fabric until some time next year.
1223 I believe that almost every one of the speakers in this Debate has had either close personal connection with India or else the opportunity of residence in it. I feel that a few remarks ought to made by one of the many millions in this country who have not approached that Empire nearer than Asia Minor and who are, therefore, numbered among the impartial onlookers who will ultimately have to decide the problems that are raised. The ordinary critic, on reading the Report, would come at once to the simple conclusion that either of two arguments is easily tenable. You can either hold the view that the whole scheme is a delusion and a sham, and the powers given are so circumscribed and limited as to be valueless, or you can hold the other view that this scheme is the beginning of the downfall of British rule in India and is a prelude to the loss of that portion of the Empire. This view has been expressed outside these walls. I confess to considerable astonishment that no one has ventured to advance that point of view in this House in this Debate. I hope that the British public will notice that those who take that view, that is working with considerable wealth behind it in the country, have not had the courage to have it put forward in the open in the House of Commons Debates. Those two views are equally tenable, and so long as we regard these proposals from the point of view mainly of the technique of constitution-making, so long shall we get no reconciliation of those opposite points of view.
Any amateur on this subject can riddle the proposals of this Report with destructive criticism, if not with ridicule. I think you could prove, with very little of that diseased imagination that constitution-making so often calls forth, that disaster must follow from the pursuit of many of the courses proposed in that Report. But I want to suggest another avenue of approach to this subject—that we ought not really to regard it from the point of view of the technique of constitution-making. The Report enunciates not a constitution so much as a system of education. The end is not a method of good government. That has been emphasised in more than one speech this afternoon, more especially by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. Any German could beat that Report hollow if it were simply a matter 1224 of devising good machinery of government. That is not the object. Its object is to provide a way by which, while the government is conducted with safety, and security of person and property, there should also be a steady education in self-government. If one might compare great with small things, this is, of course, the principle on which we specially pride ourselves in the conduct of our great public schools. Quite deliberately, and with the express purpose of the formation of character, we give to immature youths a degree of control over the affairs of their own community. Transfer that principle to the vast plane of national development, and you find in this Report that we are inviting our Indian fellow-subjects, while still politically adolescent, to assist in the formation of their own political destiny, and the method we use is that of our public schools, the method of trial and error, experience and growth, which we know to be the richest form of political education.
There is something immensely fascinating in the almost Quixotic courage of this proposal. If we look at it with the eye of history we shall realise that this is the first attempt in the world at an enterprise of that character. It is a wonderful political adventure, and on its success or failure depends the future of the leading races on the globe. And I suspect that this adventure will be one of the most notable enterprises that the British people have ever undertaken. Just for this reason I cannot regard the problem from any narrow consideration of the balance of constitutional forces, the poise of institutions, and the problem of mutual checks. We are putting new-wine into a new bottle, and I am very much more interested in the wine than in the bottle. Of course, the shape of the bottle is important, but it is the spirit that is put into it, the spirit which we put into the form with which this Report deals, that will fundamentally matter. The scheme will work if you bring to its operation men of wide sympathy, educative minds, and a deep sense of our trusteeship to India. It will certainly fail if the selected instruments are domineering or narrow in spirit, timed in action, and uninspired by the glories of this adventure. We know from the history of the Indian Civil Service, and of all those organisations that have drawn men from this country to India, that the people are to be found, and I have no doubt that, because it will 1225 be worked in that spirit of sympathy and enterprise which is so characteristic of the men in India, that it will succeed rather than fail. But anyone who attempts to secure this success by slight alterations or hissings about small points of the constitution to be set up will be deeply disappointed if he thinks that he is doing much good.
There is one point of criticism I should like to outline. This Report contains the suggestion that there should be a more effective control of Indian affairs by this House. It is true that the ultimate idea is that this House should lose more and more of its authority while India gains more and more into its own hands. But meanwhile a Select Committee is to be appointed in order that there may be a more informed exercise of some of the powers that this House nominally wields. While the representative of the War Cabinet was speaking there were in this House between thirty and forty Members, and that, I suppose, represents the degree of interest in Indian affairs that the House of Commons feels. When you have a Select Committee actively intervening and advising as to the government of India, I am afraid that you will make the Rule of the House of Commons a little more of a reality, and I confess that there there is considerable danger. Of all forms of government that I detest, I think that an absentee democracy is just the very worst. Democracy is too big a subject to argue about at this moment, but I think that an autocracy or an aristocracy that is absentee has probably more intimate sympathies with the people it governs than a democracy can have, because the feature of democracy which has been growing year by year under our very eyes is the increased intensity of its interest in its own affairs, and it is quite clear that we shall have cases in which the economic interests of India and this country are not quite identical. The organised forces of capital and labour may so present the economic issues that may arise in relation to India as to lead democracy to a decision which will neglect the true interests of that country.
Of all the parts of the reform, that which I should most like to see carried out rapidly—though one knows in this connection that rapidity must be a matter of many years—is the transference of authority from this House to India and the giving to India of a dominion status. That seems to me a reform that might 1226 come earlier than the democratic form of government within India itself. I conclude by one more plea—that this matter should be dealt with with what speed is possible. If we allow the hopes that have been raised to grow weary, or perhaps, what is even more dangerous, if we allow the fears to become organised, the difficulties of our task are immeasurably increased. A pledge such as has been given becomes a seed-bed of political weeds unless it is quickly planted with a good crop. The foundation of our success in India has lain in the fact that India has confidence in our national honour. We do not want to suffer errors arising out of undue haste, though I venture to suggest that any errors that might so arise would bring less evil in their train than would the growing conviction in India that we are dilatory or half-hearted in carrying out our word. I trust the Secretary of State will press on with his Bill as quickly as he can, and I am sure he will have the backing of a large portion of this House.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India will not demur if I venture to suggest, in regard to the concluding remarks of my hon. Friend who has just eat down, that there may be some lack of faith in the Government's absolute determination to proceed with this measure, but my right hon. Friend will know that I have no such lack of faith in him, and that I have not the slightest doubt of his desire to get on with this great experiment or of his most sincere purpose, as a member of the administration, to carry out his object. But his sincerity may be to some extent thwarted by the difficulties inherent in the situation. I could not but be struck, in listening to the many interesting and able speeches we have heard, by the very remarkable transformation that has taken place in the tone and feeling of a large part of this House in regard to India. I can carry my mind back to the Debates of 1906, and the years following that time, when the interest in Indian reform found no such unanimity as the House has shown to-day, even with regard to proposals very moderate compared with the important or revolutionary proposals to which my right hon. Friend has put his name. In those days a large part of the House represented a body of solid resistance to any reform in Indian administration, and it was then common in the Press for Indian reformers to be branded as seditious. What has 1227 brought about the changed? We have been told that we in this country do not like advertising ourselves and proclaiming our own merits and achievements. I do not know that there has been any deficiency on that score to-day. My hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham, in his very able and interesting speech, said that it is we who have aroused in the Indian people the very aspirations that they press upon us. That seems to suggest that our Government in India had stirred in the minds of the Indian population a desire for self-government for which we are now beginning to make real and substantial concessions. I think his claim is not justified. It is English literature that has developed that spirit in India. John Stuart Mill has done more than the whole Indian Civil Service to evoke those aspirations. It was Mill who did the work of stimulating the mind of the Indian people, a work which the Indian Government cannot lay claim to have done. However, I only wish to suggest that there is an element of illusion in our attitude towards ourselves in this matter when we compliment ourselves on having as a nation raised aspirations in India, through our Government and Civil Service, to which we are, in a cautious and duly accredited manner, now seeking to give some effect.
I have a lively recollection of the tone and feeling in this House towards Indian aspirations in the past seven years. What has brought about this transformation of feeling in this House and in the Press, and the British public? I suppose I shall have general assent if I say that the War has a great deal to do with it. Undoubtedly the recognition of the loyal and generous part played by India in her co-operation with us in carrying on the War has had an effect. It has softened many hearts that were formerly hard. It may have had something to do with the transformation of the sentiments of the hon. Member for Nottingham. But the War has had this effect, it has roused the national conscience. All the discussions which take place with regard to the inalienable right of self-determination among nations have had their effect in altering the temper of the British public and a section, a large section, of this House. My hon. Friend (Mr. Swift MacNeill) is, of course, rather satirical, and he thinks our conscience is not duly active towards his own unhappy country, 1228 but a good number of us should still be given credit for having an active conscience on that subject, which touches in some of its aspects the Indian problem. It is now proposed to give to India a measure of self-government that this House would not have dreamt of giving ten years ago, and this is attributable, to a great extent, to the state of mind caused by the War, and, conceivably, there is a risk after the War that a change in the present resolve of the Government may take place in regard to carrying out this measure, but I am sure my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State does desire to carry it out. My right hon. Friend has done all that a man can, having regard to the sacred and binding character of the pledge given in August of last year.
I want to concentrate the attention of the House on the situation. My hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle has made some very weighty remarks upon the subject, though I cannot pretend to support his suggestion that the Indian measure should be taken by some process of backing the measure and leaving the details to be carried out by something like Orders in Council. I think such a method would be unsuited to the situation in India. It is for my right hon. Friend to see how it can be carried forward. The unanimity of the House to-day depends a good deal on certain special circumstances, and it is in a very high and serious degree the duty of every one of us to see that this feeling does not weaken and that nothing will be allowed to thwart the purpose of my right hon. Friend in going on with his measure, and events in Ireland should strengthen us in that regard. My right hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle said we should at once call upon this House to attempt more control in Indian affairs, but the House as at present constituted is not able to attend to Indian affairs. The fact is that it is overburdened by its own affairs, and until the House is radically reconstructed Members would not be able to give careful and competent attention to Indian affairs. Therefore, that point does not greatly concern us; what does concern us is the frame of mind in which the House has received my right hon. Friend's proposal. That frame of mind should be very fully realised indeed, and there should be no retardation of the plans and purposes propounded in regard to India—no such retardation as has taken place in the case of Ireland, where it has already 1229 been disastrous In the case of India a similar retardation would be disastrous to an overwhelming degree, but I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to carry his measure to a successful issue.
§ Mr. SWIFT MacNEILL
I have no intention of dragging the Irish question into Indian matters simply in the interests of Ireland. If I introduce the Irish question, it will be in the interest of India herself. The Secretary of State for India and I have always been on the best Parliamentary and personal terms. The right hon. Gentleman made use of some admirable phrases in the course of his speech, to which I listened with the utmost attention, and any observations that may have been thrown out by way of criticism were not made with the slightest idea of making any imputation of his zeal for reform or on his determination to carry out that reform. What I and other members of my party were thinking about was not the good faith of the right hon. Gentleman, as to which there is no doubt, but the good faith of the English Government, which has repeatedly broken its pledges, given in somewhat similar circumstances. When I first went to Oxford, Professor Sidney Owen, a very distinguished man, asked me to specialise on the subject of Irish and Indian history, but I regret that I did not follow that advice. It was not, perhaps, germane to the constitutional reforms which the right hon. Gentleman adumbrated, but at the very beginning he made a very remarkable statement in reference to the Indian Army and in reference to giving commissions in the Army to Indian natives. He said he was perfectly willing to do so, and that he was determined that he could carry it out, but that the military authorities were against him. May I ask him, in the interest of India, not to allow what the Prime Minister has called the malignities and the stupidities of the War Office, which destroyed recruiting in Ireland, to prevail in India in the same way? I saw how difficult that position was for the right hon. Gentleman, and I will ask him to stick to his guns and, according to the new watchword which we have been given, to hold fast. My right hon. Friend who preceded me referred very mildly and gently to the fact that the present Government were not completely the Messiahs of Indian reform. He spoke almost apologetically of the work in that way of John Stuart Mill. He could also have 1230 spoken of the work of James Mill. Now let hon. Gentlemen laugh in the right place at what I am going to say. I expect a guffaw, but I wish to say this with the utmost seriousness, and I do not care for the guffaw. It is the Irish representation in this House, and the Irish representation alone, which has compelled the reforms for India. I am sorry to see there is not the laugh that I expected. Now let us see bow that is true.
When India was sunk in the lowest abyss, when she was the victim of Clive and of Warren Hastings and their crew, when men came over to this House of Commons laden with the spoils of India, and known as nabobs, and tried to imitate in this House the principles of slavery which they had practised in India, who stood up against it and who prevailed in the end? It was my illustrious countryman, Edmund Burke, with whom there was Sheridan. Burke and Sheridan opened the eyes of England to what was going on abroad and stimulated her conscience, and from that day to this, whenever there was a sorrow in which the Indians were affected, there was always an Irish Member to plead for them. O'Connell never hesitated to speak in favour of the freedom of India. Neither did Parnell, and neither did Butt. Of course, we ought not to mention ancient history, and I must curtail my remarks because a more important Bill is coming on than this question which affects some 300,000,000 of British subjects in India. I refer to Lord Lansdowne's Charity Lotteries Bill. But let me remind the House that so far back as the year 1889 the Indian National Congress, which was not then so favoured as it is now, asked to preside over them as their President an Irish Nationalist Member, Mr. Alfred Webb, who went over to India and made the opening speech of the Congress and presided over it with dignity and with éclat. Mr. Alfred Webb was a gentleman of whom Mr. Gladstone once said that his presence in the House of Commons was calculated to elevate and to purify it. Again may I refer to Irish history and to Anglo-Indian history? What the right hon. Gentleman, with a flourish of trumpets, is promising and what he has pledged the good faith of England to do, we Irish Members asked the House of Commons to do twenty-one years and one day ago. On 5th August, 1897, I got, through the fortunes of the ballot—that makes me rather approve of 1231 lottery systems—the opportunity of moving a Resolution to the ordinary Motion that Mr. Speaker should leave the Chair. This is the Resolution that I moved, and I can declare to the House conscientiously that that Resolution represented beyond all question the state of India as it was at that time, as far as I could get it from first hand authority. It is interesting in this way. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham said, most properly, a man going back, after twenty years' absence, to India would scarcely recognise its condition to-day. Every word of that Resolution, I can assure the House, I was perfectly well able to substantiate at the time, and the Resolution which I moved was as follows:That this House views with grave disapproval the fact that famine, plague, and pestilence in India have been seized by the Indian Government for an attack on the freedom of the Press in India, and for the revival of the system of arrest of British subjects in India under the law of lettre de cachet, and the indefinite imprisonment without trial of persons thus arrested; and desires to place on record its conviction that the only safe foundation for Government in India is to be sought in the extension to British subjects in India of the full privileges of the British Constitution.My right hon. Friend and I are not now so much in disagreement, though I was twenty-one years and one day before him. During that Debate it was stated that we had given India her form of government and her ideas and our education. All these things are true, and the reasons for them were all given in anticipation by my poor self twenty-one years and one day ago. This is what I said:England had destroyed in India every form of government but her own. She had cast the thrones and government of native princes down to the ground. She was bound at least to extend justice and mercy to the millions thus brought under her sway.Every speaker with a knowledge of India either official or personal, referred to the terrible mistake, as was supposed, of beginning education from above. It is now coming from below. The reason for that is that they could not do otherwise, when we recollect what the average income of an Indian per diem was—about 1½d., I believe—and that they were suffering such poverty that it was utterly impossible to bring down education to the humblest orders of the community. That, I believe, has been done now, and I really feel great appreciation of it. May I now come to something about the pledge of the 20th August, 1917, a day which, we 1232 must remember, is as great a day as St. Patrick's Day, or St. George's Day, or Commemoration Day. There have been other great days in India. There was the great day on which was celebrated the accession of Queen Victoria, when India was promised that equal rights should be given to everybody, regardless of black and white, in India. That promise has not been fulfilled. There was another great day after the Indian Mutiny, when similar promises were made but not fulfilled. There was a promise made by the House of Commons in reference to India which has not been fulfilled. In 1893 Mr. Herbert Paul brought forward a Resolution in the House of Commons, which was carried, to the effect that the Indian competitive examinations should be held equally and simultaneously in India, so as to give the natives a chance, as well as in England. That resolution was carried by the House of Commons, Twenty-five years have elapsed, and it has not been touched on since. Now let me say what an Indian Viceroy said about the pledges we have made to India. Lord Lytton said, in 1888, that we had our choice of either bullying or cheating India, and that we had preferred the less honourable alternative. Of course, those were days when public opinion was not thoroughly formed, when a gentleman in the position of the late Lord Salisbury, as Prime Minister and as an ex-Secretary of State for India, was able to refer to the first Indian Gentleman who had come to this Parliament, Mr. Naoroji, as "that black man."
The Irish Members have always remained in the same position, and it is due to them, and to them only, that we were interested in India when nobody else took the trouble of touching it. I will say one word more, which is an absolute precursor of what my right hon. Friend has said. I said in that same Debate in August, 1897:He wished hon. Members to have no misconception of his meaning; he wished those privileges to be gradually extended, and first, that personal liberty should be secured. He wished, in the words of Edmund Burke, that freedom should be as much the privilege of the poorest British subject in India as the British subject in London.7.0 P.M.
How can we believe that these sentences will be translated into action? Whoever got more solemn promises than we that self-government should be granted to us? The promises given to India are merely tentative good wishes in comparison. How 1233 can you go to India, and how can these people but draw a parallel or a precedent from your action towards us? That is the reason that I wish the right hon. Gentleman, at least in this case, to make the English Government keep to their promises. Of all subjects in India, the land subject is the most pressing. Everyone knows that. The audience here to-day is small, but everyone who speaks here today will be heard by millions in India, and I am speaking with a knowledge of that responsibility. Mr. Davitt, the apostle of the liberation of the people and of the freedom of land in Ireland, extended his comprehensive sympathies to India too, and Mr. Davitt made a speech in this House on that very day in seconding my Motion. This is what he said—I wish it could be written in letters of gold in India:He felt very strongly in sympathy with the Indian people. He felt the deepest sympathy with every people who were subject to another nation. He was one of those who believed that England had no right whatever to rule in any country outside her own borders,He was a member, before the time, of the League of Nations—and he sincerely hoped and trusted that, unless the British Government would extend to British subjects in India the full right of protection of the British constitution, the Indian people would undertake by means fair and honourable to win their own independence.He drew a comparison between his own people and the Indian people. He said:Let the House picture the difficulties which would confront them if, instead of having to deal with 250,000,000 of Indians, they had to deal with 250,000,000 of Irishmen.I hope 250,000,000 Indians will not have the same sad fate as has befallen us. I will read one passage more, and that is from my hon. Friend the Leader of the Irish party, who spoke likewise on that occasion:It was right for Irish Members—if no one else would do it—to rise in the House of Commons and speak on behalf of these principles, and protest against these high-handed acts. In this particular matter he believed that Irishmen expressed the views of a large section of the people of both countries. If the British Government in India could not win the assent and approval of the people it had no right to exist. The Motion of his hon. Friend meant that the future stability of the British Government in India was to be sought in the extension to the people of India, not the whole machinery of the House of Commons, but those principles of even-handed justice, individual liberty, fair play to the poor, and responsible government in some shape, which were recognised as the principles of constitutional government in this country.1234 I felt it was incumbent upon me to say this, and that the warning my right hon. Friend gave should be endorsed by one who has had personal sufferings from that cause. I give to the right hon. Gentleman all credit for straightmindedness and perseverance, and I hope he or his successor will not appear at that Table and try to edge out of honourable promises given by an honourable man and received by an honourable people in good faith.
Let me say one word more. The Indians know that in all administration in India—and I speak rather sympathetically on account of the close relationship of myself—Irishmen have been pre-eminently successful. The best Irish administrators, both as governors and lieutenant-governors, have been Irishmen, and the next best administrators have been Scotsmen. The Debate has been remarkable, of course, by its dullness, which is characteristic of Indian Debates, but it has likewise been remarkable for a more pleasing reason, and that is the appearance, for the first time, in a speech on an Indian subject, in which he and his family before him have taken a great interest, of my hon. Friend the Member for East Fins-bury. Again, I thank the House for the kindness and attention with which they have listened to me, and hope I have not, except by way of close analogy, dragged the Irish question into the Indian question, and, if so, I have only tried to maintain the honour of Parliament, and tried to keep recalcitrant statesmen in good faith. And now I am longing for the Lotteries Bill.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I have only two or three sentences to offer. One is that I think the speeches that have been delivered this afternoon will have a most valuable result in India. The wholehearted acceptance by everybody who has spoken of the principles of self-government for India is a very remarkable fact in the history of this House and of India. I am not going now to answer any of the helpful suggestions that have been made from all quarters, but I should like to mention two things brought to notice by my right hon. Friend opposite. I do not see any inconsistency in asking the House at one and the same time to relax its control of certain aspects of Indian administration, and, secondly, to improve its method of obtaining information about those branches of Indian administration over which it does not relax its control. 1235 I do not suggest that a Select Committee of the House of Commons should actually administer or take part in the administration of the Government of India, but that it should inform itself and report to the House A much better analogy, but which, like that between Ireland and India may be imperfect, is that of the Public Accounts Committee, which reports to the House of Commons.
The second point to which I wish to allude was the solemn grave warning, as to the dangers of not acting on the announcements of the 20th August and this Report. No one can appreciate that more than I can. No pronouncements have any value to the people of India until they are translated into Acts of Parliament, and those Acts of Parliament are set working. But it is not an easy thing to translate. If my right hon. Friend will turn his attention to the Report he will see it requires the preparation of a very complicated Statute, which will have to be settled in consultation with the Government at home and the Government in India The very pledge of the 20th August promises ample time for discussion before proposals are put through the House of Commons. The Report has only been published six weeks, and I do not see how it would be possible to produce legislation this year—I mean practical legislation—either in pursuance of that pledge, or because of the difficulty of drafting a Bill and benefiting by all criticism. I think we are taking the right course in appointing the two Committees that are necessary to complete the scheme. At the same time we hope to collect for the instruction and information of the House of Commons all available criticism and advice and the opinions of the heads of the local governments I am going to put in the Library of the House of Commons a complete copy of the addresses sent to me. I am also going to publish a summary, carefully prepared, of those Reports which can be supplied to Members, what each deputation said and, then, what all the deputations said on each particular subject—a sort of cross reference. All this material will take time to collect. If we set these Committees going so that we can hopefully look forward to their Reports early next year, we shall have lost no time, because the Statute will be no use without the Reports; and, speaking for myself, what I prophesy 1236 would be is that when the Bill was introduced into the House of Commons the House would naturally want to study it with great care, presumably with Select Committee procedure, so that evidence might be available at that stage.
I intervened just to say that, because I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to think that, although we cannot hurry, we are going to pause. Everything will go on with a view to carrying out the pronouncement of the 20th August, and founding Government legislation upon the recommendations that have been made. May I now move the Adjournment of this Debate, because it seems to me that by that course we can best ensure the further discussion which the Motion asks us? It is an Amendment to the Motion, "That Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair." It would be the best way in which to ensure that further discussion of the Report, on which we have only touched to-night, to adjourn the Debate until we resume in October, and I beg to move accordingly.
§ Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.