§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ Mr. ADAMSON
The political consciousness of India has been awakening within recent years, and her people have been pressing for reforms. All the evidence goes to confirm the idea that that pressure will continue until her people are able to obtain complete self-government. That is a very legitimate aspiration on the part of the Indian people, and it embodies one of the principles which have been brought into great prominence in the course of the world conflict from which we are just emerging. The aim of the best type of British statesmen who have interested themselves in tile government of our great Indian Dependency has been to lead her people up by gradual stages to a position in which they would be able to exercise the full rights and responsibilities of citizenship within the Empire, a position in which they would be able to exercise all the duties and responsibilites of self-government. How this can best be accomplished is the problem which faces the House and the people of this country today, and I hope we are going to discharge that great responsibility in such a way as will assist the people of India to build up a strong united nation, well able to exercise all the duties of self-government. In "August, 1917, the present Government, in declaring its policy regarding the future government of India, indicated that they were in complete sympathy with the progressive realisation of this aim, and this Bill has been brought forward with that object in view. The Labour party are prepared to admit that the Bill is a definite move in the right direction, our principal criticism being that it does not go far enough, and -alai we are failing to take the fullest advantage of the help of the people of India themselves to assist us in the successful accomplishment of the great task we have in hand. The Bill gives to the people of India a measure of control in the various Provinces, but no real control in the Central Government. This is a mistake and will rob us of the sympathetic co-operation of some of the best elements of the population of India.
794 We also regret the very limited franchise which this Bill provides. There may be practical difficulties in the way of the full enfranchisement of the people of India at this juncture, but on the face of it it is absurd that only 5,000,000 out of a total population of 250,000,000 have been enfranchised by this Bill. Especially do we regret that the industrial workers are entirely excluded. There might have been something to have been said for the exceptional treatment of the industrial workers of India if there had been no industrial problems facing her people and demanding solution at their hands, but the industrial development of our great Indian Dependency has provided a considerable crop of industrial problems. While we are glad to note that the industrial workers of India are beginning to build up a trade union movement, whereby they will be able to protect their conditions of employment in the coming days, we are disappointed that in this Bill we have failed to provide the Indian working-class movement with that political safety valve which has been provided in our own and other industrial countries. We are fully aware of the great value that political freedom has been to our own nation. It has given the working classes an alternative to direct action, and an opportunity of working out their own destinies along constitutional lines, along the lines of evolution as against revolution, and the working classes of this country have taken full advantage of that opportunity. They have used that alternative to the greatest possible degree. To such an extent is that the case that there is a strong probability that Labour will assume the responsibilities of government in this country in the not distant future. That is an opportunity which you are denying to the industrial worker of India, and you force him back upon the alternative to that, namely, direct action. In our opinion that is a profound mistake, which may prove very costly to the Empire and to the people of India themselves. We regret also the exclusion of the women of India from the opportunity of standing on a political equality with the men. Our experience in this country, especially within the last five years, has taught us the great value of men and women facing the problems of national life together. Notwithstanding the defects, from our point of view, of this Bill, however, as a party we welcome the measure as a step in the right direction. We hope it will prove 795 a success, and so justify a further instalment of political power at no distant date. I hope the people of India themselves will accept the measure in the right spirit as a step towards the realisation of their ideals of self-government, and will do their best to make it a success, and so inspire the people of this country with the -necessary confidence to trust them with a much larger measure of self-government in the very near future.
Sir J. D. REES
My right hon. Friend (Mr. Adamson) may not be aware that in the Report of one of the Committees—Lord Southborough's Committees—a recommendation is made for the special representation of Labour as soon as it is so organised as to admit of such representation being arranged, and that has been adopted, so far as I am aware, by the Report of the Select Committee. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not press the analogy of trade unions and English labour too hard, because if he does the analogy will break to pieces in his hands. As a member of the Joint Select Committee, I listened all last night without taking any part, but I cannot to-day give a silent vote in favour of this Bill. The members of the Joint Committee were practically silent last night, except the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Spoor), who put in again the Amendments in respect of which he was in a minority of one before the Select Committee. It is a fortunate thing that we did not all do the same thing, or the Bill would never have got through. There is no use blinking the fact that my hon. Friend's Amendments were supplied by a syndicate, and they represent the maximum of extreme opposition to this measure.
Though my hon. Friend is so little influenced, or has so small an opinion of the views held by his colleagues on the Commitee, I was surprised that he was not impressed with the ripe wisdom of my right hon. Friend (Sir H. Craik). We all seem to have made very little impression upon him. I am astonished that Lord Crewe, with his reforming mind, and that the sagacious Lord Midleton, both of whom have been Secretaries of State for India, have had no effect upon him. I would remind the House that the recommendations of the Select Committee were those of seven representative and eminent Members of the other House, while as regards the Members of this House on 796 the Committee, it becomes me to say as little as possible. We had as Chairman Lord Selborne, a man with an eminent record, who conducted the proceedings of the Committee with exceeding great skill. We had Lord Midleton, an ex-Secretary of State, and Lord Islington, a man who has had valuable experience in and out, of India. We had the Duke of Northumberland, who does not pass for a very ardent Liberal in Labour circles; and we had my Noble Friend Lord Sinha, a man of such eminence that he has come right from the ranks of the Bar in India to the benches of the Government and into the House of Lords. I am sorry that all this has had such little effect upon my hon. Friend, that he should have thought it necessary to have put forward again all the Amendments which he moved in vain before the Committee.
This Bill is, of course, a great experiment, but there is danger in it. There is far greater danger, however, in not passing the Bill. This measure, or something like it, has been the declared policy of the Government for two years, and it has been generally accepted that something like it must be done. Delay is dangerous, and for my part I am glad that we have arrived at the last stage of the measure. I am at a loss to understand the levity that was displayed last night. Here you have an experiment dealing with no small fraction of the inhabitants of this world, people of a different race, colour, religion and complexion, and yet it was treated to some extent as a sort of poker game—"the Government will go so far, and we will raise the Government; we will double the Government. The Government will make 5,000,000 electors; we will double that. To make more complex the difficulty we will make half of the new 5,000,000 electors women." How any Member of Parliament could have the extraordinary confidence at a time like this to suggest that we can safely enfranchise as many women as men in India absolutely passes my comprehension. I should be satisfied with the recommendations of the Southborough Committee, but I fully accept the collective wisdom of my colleagues, being more impressed thereby than my hon. Friend opposite, and I would leave this matter to the decision of the Legislative Councils in India.
This is not a case in which any experience in Egypt is any guide. The women of Egypt are nearly all Mahomedans, with negligible exceptions, while the women of 797 India are nearly all Hindus, in the proportion of five or six to one. The. Hindu women are not, with rare exceptions, purdah women. That is an important matter to remember in connection with this Bill, and it is a fact which seems to be entirely unknown to some hon. Members. The impression that most women in India are behind the veil shows how little knowledge there is, and dangerous it is to go beyond the very liberal recommendations of the Select Committee. Nor should the House be over impressed by the eloquence, charm, and general capacity of the ladies who have come over here to advise in these matters, nor can they safely take their line of action from the great progressive, cosmopolitan, but, except from a geographical point of view hardly Indian, city of Bombay. If they want experience in this matter they must go to the least industrial and most rural, therefore the most representative, Provinces of India, first, Madras, and then the United Provinces. I could dwell upon this subject at very great length. It was my good fortune to have known Indian women who were the most progressive women in the world, who enjoy the great privilege of choosing their own husbands and dismissing them at will. I may say in their favour, however, that so reasonably do they exercise this tremendous privilege, that if the husband behaves himself at all decently he has an extremely good chance of being kept on. That only applies to one class of women—the Nairs of the Malabar Coast.
As one connected with business as well as with India, I should like to refer to the protest against the local Government being concerned with the development and management of Indian industries. It is not the Government of India that has been the greatest factor in the development of those industries in India which were so necessary in addition to that of agriculture. It is British enterprise fostered by the local Governments. The Government of India has never been conspicuously successful in forwarding industry, and if it did not do that when it was in touch with the virile British mercantile community of Calcutta, still less will it be able to do so when it is in hiding amongst the tombs and the memorials of dead Empires at Delhi. I do not fear that the local Government will neglect the interests of the British mercantile man in India. I read in the papers articles "Why Lose India," and 798 may I repeat how utterly unreasonable are such fears when the House is now occupied with a Bill drafted on the best and most moderate lines in the beginning, and altered all in favour of moderation to such air, extent, and holding the balance so carefully between both sides that last night we had hon. Members separated only by a narrow gangway moving to the same Clause Amendments of exactly opposite signification.
The statement is often made that all Lieutenant Governors of India are opposed to the distribution of work which is called by the terrible name of diarchy by some scholars who might have been far better occupied than in inventing such a bad name. Only two or three days ago I was shooting between two ex-Lieutenant Governors, who, I am happy to say, as became them, shot very well. I consulted them about this matter. They said, "It is by no means the case that Lieutenant-Governors are all of one mind on this matter. While as old Civil servants it is possible that we should prefer the existing system, we do realise that the time has come when India cannot stand still. She must have some share of the democratic advance for which, rightly or wrongly, we protest we fought in the War. We do not join in the strong opposition to the arrangements made for the distribution of the work, and we do not join in the whole-hearted way, in which we are often as a class represented, in condemning this proposal." For the life of me I cannot understand, now when Persia—the laws of which proverbially never change—the laws of the Modes and the Persians—has obtained Parliamentary Government, and China which was the symbol of unchanging conservatism has become a Republic, and every autocratic throne in the world is in the dust—not that I am rejoicing about it at all—but when these things have happened what absolute folly it is to talk about personal predilections and to pretend that there is any way of avoiding, even if we do not want it, a reasonably moderate and thoroughly safeguarded advance such as is provided by this Bill.
Among all the denunciations of this Bill I observe the Noble Lord, for whom I have the utmost respect, Lord Sydenham, is strongly opposed to it. We have to accept that fact, but when he is described as the greatest Indian expert I must enter a protest. He has lived five 799 years in the cosmopolitan city of Bombay. My hon. Friend the Member for Kent (Mr. Bennett) has lived twenty-five years in that city, and therefore, on the record, my hon. Friend is five times the expert Lord Sydenham is, and he has given the Bill a support as strong as is the opposition of the Noble Lord, who is not displaying in this respect the great quality of adapting himself to the new world. The House would naturally suppose that a man like myself would—and I should like extremely on this occasion to—spread myself, but I am going to keep my eye on the clock for the few minutes during which the House will indulge me with its attention. In this Bill there are everywhere the most complete safeguards for the maintenance of British supremacy. The power of the Central Legislature is maintained intact. The Committee has recommended more seats for the rural population and greater representation for the depressed classes, whichever they are, and reserved seats for non-Brahmins.
Here I must express extreme regret that a man of the eminence of Sir West Ridgeway should have described the Brahmins —those natural leaders of the Hindu community—as "bitter enemies" of the rest of the community. Without dwelling on the subject of which I have had a particularly intimate knowledge throughout my life, I must say that that is a gross and scandalous injustice to the class who are an aristocracy of industry and intellect quite as much as of birth and breeding, and whose position is due far more to their own habits than to any hereditary connection which they have with the priestly caste, for they are no more priests now than other people. Then there is representation for the great mercantile community of Bengal. Is it possible to overrate the advantages that that community has conferred upon India in introducing amongst other things the great tea industry? It is provided in this measure that the powers of re-entry, beyond the veto and restorations and reservations which are given to Governors, are not to be regarded as special and unusual, but as part of the normal machinery of government. Special provision is made for the protection of the Civil Service. I think that everything that can be done on their behalf should be done, and that the wholesale resignations of which we hear are not likely to 800 occur, and I believe that the great service to which it is the pride of my life to belong will continue in the future as it has in the past, to carry out the policy of its superiors without regard to its own personal feelings.
Nor can I retrain from mentioning one representation of the Committee which may possibly escape notice. That is that increases of the land revenue, that all-important subject to the Indian cultivator, who is really the Indian working man—the petty landowner—should be as far as possible the act of the Legislature in future and not the executive act of the Government. That is a far-reaching proposal which will commend itself to the more Radical section of the House. We are all Radicals now—the whole of us. Much has been said about the Secretary of State who carried through the measure last night with such conspicuous ability. He has been condemned in various directions, and last night it actually happened that he was accused by the Radicals of being too conservative, and by the Conservatives, of being too radical, which is one of the greatest compliments that could possibly be paid to a man in his position. When I came into this House in 1906, my right hon. Friend, like myself, was a member of a small body, of which I was the Whip, of Liberal Imperialists. Not finding any Imperialism in their Liberalism I left the Liberals. I have followed my right hon. Friend's career with the utmost interest, and, though no doubt he would to-day deny it indignantly, I have always found a strain of Imperialsm in his Radicalism. I have never found that the protection of British interests was far from his heart, however interested he may be—and I know he is —in all the wants of the people of India. His sagacity in dealing with the native races has increased my admiration of his conduct right through, and I think the Indian people are fortunate that at a time like this he is in charge of a Bill like this, which cannot but form the beginning of a new era in Indian Government.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
The House will have been not only interested in the speech which has been made by my hon. Friend (Sir J. D. Rees), but also grateful for those bits of political autobiography with which he has favoured us. He says that he left the Liberal party because he failed to find enough Imperialism to satisfy his political soul. I regard this as a great 801 Liberal measure. I do not know that we may not find my hon. Friend once again on this side of the House.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I think much criticism of this Bill is not required. This is a matter which has passed through very remarkable phases. I suppose that no measure affecting the great Dominion of India has ever received snore careful consideration. We had, first, the visit of the Secretary of State for India, who conducted a careful investigation, at a time of great internal trouble in India, into this very vexed problem. Following that we had one of the most remarkable State documents ever issued—what is commonly known as the Montagu-Chelmsford Report. Then came the Second Reading and committal to a Joint Committee of both Houses. I was a member of that Committee in its early stages, but I speedily found that owing to the claims on my time it was quite impossible for me to give the necessary attention to the Bill. I saw quite enough, however, to justify me in complete confidence that that Committee, in its majority, at any rate, would come to sound, fair, and statesmanlike conclusions, and I think, on the whole, the country will agree that that has been so. Then the Bill came here for its Committee, stage and Third Reading. The progress of the measure in the Committee stage was remarkable. There was much difference of opinion, honestly, and, I think my right hon. Friends will agree, competently expressed, but there were only two Divisions, and it has gone through without any of the accustomed Parliamentary pressure, without any Amendment at all. There has been no Report stage. I think that is a very remarkable event. It is symptomatic of a substantial measure of agreement with a proposal which in itself is one of the most difficult ever presented to this House, and I think the Parliament of this country is entitled to congratulate itself. There has been no attempt to stifle discussion, and no obstruction. There has been a measure of agreement in all parties, in the Joint Committee and here, and, I believe, in another place, which must satisfy those who are still very distrustful of the future of India, and give them seine consolation that this measure has been fairly, fully, and competently discussed.
I should like to say at once, for my part and for those for whom I speak, how much 802 we appreciate the work which has fallen on the shoulders of the Secretary of State. He has shown a measure of devotion and of knowledge and of industry which we desire to thank him for and to congratulate him upon. Much has been said about the risks of this new experiment. As far as I can see, the strongest criticisms have come from those who think it does not go far enough. That may be so, but in dealing with so vast a problem as India I am convinced that the right way is to proceed with sufficient boldness to justify the confidence of those sincere reformers in India, accompanied by the necessary measure of precaution which has been dictated to us by experiences in the past, What is the problem, after all? It is all very well for hon. Members in this House, and persons who speak at large, outside, occasionally to treat India as if it were like Yorkshire, or Scotland, or Wales—a place where everybody spoke the same language, had substantially the same religion, and was a homogeneous whole. We know that India is not only of vast extent, but, as an hon. Member has said, contains a very large proportion of the total population of the globe. People there belong to different races and different creeds, and they speak totally different tongues. Vast portions of India are under the direct control of the British Crown, but vast portions are in all their internal matters totally independent of any outside interference. A question like that cannot be dealt with in any light-hearted way which may excite the cheers of unthinking meetings. If we are to be true to our trust it must be dealt with on broad, statesmanlike, and steady lines.
We must be thankful that the true leaders of opinion in India are developing so rapidly amongst themselves men of the governing class, who will, I hope and believe, at no distant date as history goes, or their descendants, be qualified to table on their own shoulders the broad principles of direct self-government for that great country within the ambit of the British Crown. The step which has been taken by Parliament here, and which will shortly, no doubt, be confirmed in another place, is a long step forward. I only wish for my own part that my right hon. Friend had seen his way in some respects to go further, and those points have been brought out in Debate. I think he might safely have gone further, but, after all, events move swiftly, and I think we shall find in the course of the next few years that this 803 experiment has so fully justified itself that we shall have probably another Secretary of State issuing, with the representatives of the Birtish Crown in India, another Report. I can only hope that when that comes to this country it will be received and considered by as authoritative and as fair-minded a Committee as the one which has sat on this Bill, and by a House of Commons as receptive of true ideals and as eager to give practical expression to them, and that that will result in another great forward step in the self-government of India.
I close with one other point. I would say to those hon. Friends of mine who are afraid of the future of India within the circle of the British Dominions across the seas this one thing: If we wish to retain India within the British Empire we must not be afraid of development and of change. We shall never keep her unless we thoroughly grasp that fact. What has been, after all, the great fundamental differentiation between the British Empire and other empires? It is this, that we have not, with all our faults—and they are many, as the pages of history very clearly disclose—really sought to govern great tracts of the earth's surface for the selfish purposes of this country. The other policy was the policy which brought down to dust all the empires in the past. I believe what I have stated is the sole reason why we find the British Empire still strong and, as I believe, going from strength to strength. Of all the parties in the State, I think the party to which I belong has seized more clearly and pressed that idea more progressively and forcibly than others, but still it has been at the foundation of both parties that we have a trusteeship for those great parts of the earth's surface and those huge masses of the earth's population over which for the time being we hold more or less benevolent sway. In dealing with India we realise that that principle has to be swiftly developed. The annihilation of space and almost of time and communication makes a vast difference in the development and in the making of history. What would have taken months and years in the early days in India is now compassed within the space of weeks. Education has gone on in India slowly I agree, but still the pace is constantly increasing, and we must recognise those facts. I believe there is no fear of India leaving 804 the ambit of the British Empire so long as we fully and adequately and in time recognise that we must give to India, growing as she is in knowledge and intelligence and self-consciousness, that self-government by which alone we can keep her along with us marching on the road of the world's progress. The Indian Empire has often been described as the finest jewel in the British Crown. It will flash more brightly and be increasingly resplendent in exact accordance with our application of that great principle to which. I referred a little while ago. If we do that then I am certain that India with all those internal troubles and differences which I mentioned, will join with us in the reconstruction of the world, as she so splendidly joined with us in these recent years in fighting against autocracy, militarism, and tyranny.
§ Mr. OMAN
I rise to protest on behalf of those who moved Amendments from this part of the House that we never opposed the Bill; we only endeavoured to add to it Clauses which we thought would protect enlightened and wise government in India. Every Amendment that we brought forward was rejected. We cannot help it. We have merely done our duty. The constituency which I have the honour to represent is sometimes called the supporter of lost causes. To that list no more honourable cause can be added than that of the old Indian Civil Service, to which Oxford has given scores and hundreds of the best of her men, and whose activities are impaired for ever by this Bill. This measure seems to me to indicate a desire to disturb the placid content of the masses of India spoken of in that famous paragraph 144 of the Montagu-Chelmsford Report. That idea appears to have prevailed over everything, and the desire to disturb disguised as idealism and high policy has brought as into a condition which I can only view with much doubt and fear for the future. My voice has been heard in this House far too often for the last few days, and for the first time the day before yesterday, and I would now ask pardon for having taken up ten minutes more of your time.
§ 1.0 P.M.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
I regret that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir D. Maclean) confined his confidence to a majority of the Joint Committee. I think may right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will agree that on the whole we did what we could to meet his conciliatory views We are indebted 805 to him most entirely for the satisfactory way in which the proceedings were conducted. Beginning with doubts, I have learned to place great and added confidence in the statesmanship of the right hon. Gentleman. I am not going to follow the right hon. Baronet who spoke before me in self-congratulations on the work of the Committee, nor will I follow him in his personal remarks. I think that our duty now is not to discuss the details of the Bill, but to look forward. We all recognise that this is probably the most hazardous and the most daring step that has ever been taken by the British Parliament. The vast mass that are affected, the duties that lie upon us towards that mass, makes this a very hazardous experiment. Some of us, perhaps, feel it more strongly than the right hon. Gentleman and his friends, but I am glad to join my right hon. Friend in saying that not for a moment do we feel it merely on the ground of the selfish interests of this country. We feel that the government of India is a mandate and a divine duty, the responsibility for which we cannot throw aside, and we will not throw aside, but we never have been deterred in the pastfrom making bold steps of this kind, and we are not now deterred, although it may be that some of us were rather pessimistic in our views. We recognise, now, however, that the Bill is almost through, that there must be that unity of purpose and of spirit which has been the spirit of our Constitution, and the right hon. Gentleman may be certain that it will not be one party only, but the whole of this House, which will do all it can, however hazardous it may think it, to make this advance successful and prosperous for the country concerned. We must remember, and it must be known to our fellow citizens in India, what is the attitude of this House towards India. It is expressed in grave and solemn words in the Preamble of the Bill, every word of which was weighed, and which repeated the words of the famous Declaration of the 20th August, 1917, to the effect that themanner of each advance can be determined only by Parliament, upon whom responsibility lies for the welfare and advancement of the Indian peoples.It is our bounden duty to judge, and we alone can judge, and we will judge, I am certain, in a bold and liberal spirit. India will understand that this departure, once decided upon, is not confined to one party, but is shared by all 806 parties, The spirit of our Constitution will be obeyed and loyally obeyed in doing what we can in making it successful. In only one word, in conclusion, let me refer to that great Indian Civil Service, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Mr. Oman) has used words not one whit too strong. I have for many years been in the closest connection with that Service, and I am convinced that in their doubts and in their difficulties they were, whether you can call it mistaken or not, deeply and sincerely convinced both morally and intellectually of the dangers. The right hon. Gentleman admits that the central machinery of this Bill is at best a very difficult and unprecedented contrivance, and no one denies that. The Civil Service felt it more deeply perhaps than others, but I am convinced, from all I have heard—and I am hearing weekly in large numbers from that service—that they are not looking solely to their own interests, but are anxious for what will operate best for India, and that we have not used too strong words in our Report when we say that weare convinced that the Services will accept the changing conditions and the inevitable alteration in their own position, and devote themselves in all loyalty to making a success, so far as in them lies, of the new Constitution.
§ Mr. SPOOR
I agree with one previous speaker in the Debate, that the time for criticism is now past. We have had full opportunity for that criticism, and I believe that opportunity has been fully exercised, at all events, by all the members who had the privilege of sitting on the Joint Committee. My hon. Friend opposite the Member for Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees) in that characteristically witty speech that he gave us, expressed a certain measure of surprise that I should have had the temerity to introduce in the Committee of the House Amendments that had been defeated before the Select Committee. It is quite true, as he pointed out, that again and again I found myself in a minority of one. I want to say, however, that my action in supporting Amendments in the Committee of the House that had been defeated in the Joint Committee was certainly not due to any lack of recognition on my part of the collective wisdom of my colleagues. The simple fact was that whilst I recognised that collective wisdom, I did not entirely agree with it. The very first day we met under the presidency of Lord Selborne and I wish to associate, myself with the remarks of my hon. 807 Friends regarding the strict impartiality and the absolute fairness that characterised our Chairman's attitude throughout the whole of our sittings—when we met on that first occasion I remember Lord Selborne used words like this. He said, "This is probably the most important Committee of this character that has ever been set up in the political history of our country." He went on to indicate that, upon the findings of that Committee, and upon the subsequent decision of both Houses of Parliament, depended not merely the peace and tranquillity of India, but in very great measure the stability of the Empire and the peace of the world. I am sure that every Member who sat upon that Committee agreed with Lord Selborne, and whilst we may not have agreed regarding the merits or the demerits of this Bill, I am quite sure that every Member of the Committee did act always with the utmost sincerity, and with a very, very real desire to achieve a satisfactory result.
The time, I say, for criticism has now gone by, but I would like just to say a word with reference to a phrase that was used by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik) when he said that we wanted now to look forward. I believe that that is the attitude which every Member of this House wants to take at this point. What is going to be the result of this measure? It has been criticised from both sides. It is suggested here by some Members that, because it has been criticised from both sides, the probability is that the measure strikes a happy medium. Time only will show how far that hope will be realised. Personally, I do most sincerely hope that all sections of political opinion in that country will use this measure to the fullest possible advantage, and if I might be permitted to say something I said last night, but which I am afraid was rather misunderstood, I hope the people of India will continue to agitate along strictly constitutional lines, in order to secure that wider and larger measures of self-government towards which this present proposal is only a step. In the course of the last few days' debate reference was made—I think it was by the hon. and gallant Member for Melton (Colonel Yate)—to the fact that I, as a member of the Committee, have not been to India, and he, in the kindest way possible I am sure, suggested 808 that I had perhaps been misinformed, because I had associated with certain Indian gentlemen who had come over to this country, who had apparently cut themselves adrift from the main current of national life in their own country, who, in some curious manner, had become Europeanised, and, therefore, did not represent the body of Indian opinion. I can only say that when I was seeking for knowledge of matters Indian, I was quite prepared to accept it from any quarter from which it might be likely to come. If I prefer to take it from men born in India, from men of Indian blood, in preference to taking it from Britishers, however distinguished they might be, who have simply visited India owing to the mere accident of being in a military career—they may have spent months there; they may have spent years there—I submit that, in trying to ascertain all that I possibly could regarding the real inwardness of the situation by getting that information from Indians themselves, I was acting upon perfectly wise, same, and reasonable lines.
Seeing that in the opinion of the Secretary of State, I believe, I have been unreasonable on some points, I would like to take this opportunity of saying that I do most fully appreciate the extraordinary skill, the extraordinary persistence with which he has carried this Bill through the stages to which it has advanced. I believe the Secretary of State for India, when he openly consults his own personal judgment and personal feelings, will in all probability go a great deal further than the Bill. But, be that as it may, I do feel he is making history. I have criticised this Bill because I have said it is inadequate; it does not go far enough. At the same time, I do recognise in it a distinct break with the past. I do actually believe it is the opening of a door, and it depends in great measure upon the attitude, upon the solidarity, upon the unity of the Indian people, how much further that door shall be opened in the years that lie ahead. I therefore, wish to join, as I have already said, in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India upon having taken this very historical step, for I believe that when this Bill goes from this House—and I sincerely hope when it reaches another place it will not be in any way weakened or interfered with—when it has passed through both Houses of Parliament, and 809 actually becomes law, we shall be beginning a state of affairs within the British Empire and in our relations with India that are full of promise for the future. There have been some rather black pages in the past. There have been misunderstandings, there has been coercion, there has been resentment, natural and quite understandable. I would like to use the expression that was used, I believe, by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India last night. I would like to see the hatchet buried and the past forgotten; but, in order to do this, do let it be clearly understood in this House, and in this country, that the day has gone for ever when the people of India can be regarded as a subject people. Let us say now—and I submit that the principle of the Bill does say it—we regard the people of India as in every essential respect our equals, and if we can induce that sense of equality, that sense of real comradeship between the Indian people and the British people, I believe that the future relations of the two countries will be much happier than the past has been.
One or two speeches this morning have suggested that in passing this measure we are conferring a boon upon the people of India. Personally I do not look upon it in that light at all. We are merely discharging, as I have already said, not quite adequately, obligations that have been pressed upon this country for a long time. We are seeking to fulfil some of the obligations of a trusteeship that was assumed many, many years ago. But if from now we can convince the people of India that this period when we have unfortunately regarded them as a subject race is past and gone, that they are really our equals, I believe that the people of India, working side by side with the people of Britain, will be able to make a much bigger contribution to the real peace and progress of the world than would have been possible under any other conditions.
§ Captain ORMSBY-GORE
I do not propose to detain the House for more than a few minutes in offering a few remarks on this all-important Bill. I think I am right in saying that this is the eleventh Government of India Bill. They have hitherto really been, one after the other, improvements upon the existing edifice. Here, for the first time, we are passing a Bill which starts a new foundation and on a new foundation, namely, upon an Indian electorate. That is really the great thing which this Bill is doing. It is 810 going to establish what some hon. Members think is a too small electorate, but which is, in fact, the first really great electorate which India as one great nation ever had. You may say that 8½ per cent. of the adult males is a small number to enfranchise, but remember that that 8½ per cent. is something far more numerous than anything that has ever existed in the history of India. We are building our new edifice, the Indian constitution, as it were, upon a foundation of 5,000,000 Indian electors, with the prospect that those electors will increase in number as the machinery and practical exercise of the franchise grows from election to election. That is a direction where development must take place before the final coping stone can be placed.
Till you have got the great mass of the Indian people using political power through the vote, knowing what the power of the vote means, and what its political use means, I am perfectly certain we cannot complete the edifice of responsible self government in India. The really important thing we are doing to-day is that we are establishing, for the first time, the broad foundations of an Indian electorate. Just as we are building in stone at Delhi the new buildings of the new capital, so we are giving a new constitution, on a new foundation, in the Provinces, and to a less extent in the Government of India. In the Provinces we are, for the first time, giving a mea. sure of responsible self-government—real Parliamentary institutions. Admittedly it is in a limited field, but it is an important field. All well-wishers of India will look with the greatest possible interest during the next few years to the use which is made by Indians of these powers they are going to possess, in regard to education, local self-government, agriculture, and other transferred subjects—and we look to that with hope.
In regard to the top of the edifice—the Government of lndia—little has been done, and I think rightly, but a beginning has been made to make the All-India Legislative Assembly an assembly of which India may be proud. Hitherto the Legislative Assembly of India has been correctly described as a small debating society. For the first time we are giving her an Assembly which has some really representative character. Although the powers are few, the influence of that Assembly will grow. I do not wish to go into ally controversial matters on this occasion, but I 811 do wish to say something as a result of the remark made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University. He talked of the Indian. Civil Service as a lost cause. I do not think that statement ought to pass without challenge. The Indian Civil Service will be every bit of as great a value to India in the future as it has been in the past. More and more Indians will go into it. But I am perfectly certain that the same quality of Englishmen will continue to enter, realising that under this Bill, and the working of this Bill, there is this new and added interest in assisting Indians to prepare for their part in responsible self-government in an ever-widening sense. We have sent in the past of our very best to India. I believe that the vast mass of people in India realise that. I hope we shall go on sending of our best, because on the qualities of understanding, sympathy and service, which England can continue to give India, very largely depends the successful issue of this experiment. I say that not in any way wishing to suggest, that there are not thousands of capable Indians in India.
India has got a great page in history, owing to being part of the British Commonwealth. India is taking this step to-day very largely because of the English ideas and English traditions which have been taken to India by Englishmen. I refer to English education and the like. This Bill is being passed because we have taught India to love our institutions, our political ideas, to admire them, and to endeavour to copy them. India is doing so. In the future, I believe, on the basis of this Bill and of progressive development, there will be an increase of mutual sympathy and understanding between Indians and Englishmen. That is what we want. Unless we get good will and mutual sympathy and understanding India will not realise the hopes that some of us have. It is that sympathy we want. In saying this, I do hope that the rather too-ready criticism which some Indians have adopted, especially in recent years, of the Indian Civil Service and of Englishmen themselves will cease, just as in the same way I am confident that all this talk of subject-races and people being unfitted to do this and do that will also cease on the other side. It is perfectly certain that only by mutual sympathy and understanding on the part of all the races which acknowledge the same allegiance to 812 the one King-Emperor—that is the important thing—will the real stability of the British Empire remain.
The British Empire, it has always been said, is held together by gossamer threads. It is the indefinable loyalty to the same Sovereign and the same ideals that keeps the British Empire, not merely together, but in co-operation along the same lines towards the same great goal. I am confident that in this new edifice which to-day we are building—and there is no truer analogy in the world than the analogy between the architect and the statesman—on this new foundation we are doing something which is going to redound throughout history, no matter who writes that history in future generations, to the honour and glory both of the Indian and the British Empire.
§ Captain ELLIOT
It is with the greatest timidity that I intervene in this Debate as one with no experience whatever of Indian affairs, having taken only the interest of the humble back benches in these reports, and the enormous mass of literature and correspondence with which we have been bombarded. On the Third Reading of a Bill of this importance there are one or two remarks which I think might usefully be made, and I believe there is an aspect of this Bill which I have not heard discussed with any sincerity on the floor of this House. It seems to me to be a most extraordinary thing that on an occasion like this, when we have a Bill brought in by Whiggism triumphant, that no mention of the other great party in the State should be made. After all, the extraordinary thing is, when one reads in the Report that an electorate is about to be increased from 05 to 5, that this should be treated in this way, everybody knows it is another move in the great parties. It is a change from bureaucracy to the oligarchy, and the oligarchs have caught the Labour party, and they are lining up behind them and cheering and saying, "Here we have a great democratic advance." It seems to me an extraordinary thing that "time cannot stale or custom wither" the interminable gullability of the Labour party, and when anybody cries eat liberty and waves a flag they will get their applause. [An HON. MEMBER: "Where is the Labour party?"]
Nobody can deny that the change from a British bureaucracy to an Indian oligarchy is not necessarily the order of a tremendous uplift in the life of the 813 Indian people. The Labour party has had experience of this sort of thing before. Whenever the Whigs have won and put the oligarchs into power, the people have been ground down and trampled upon. They have done this time and again. This is another step in the struggle over the ages, and it is the effect of the powerful local people on the strong central authorities. They have won all over the world, and the end is not yet. It is coming. We see in Russia what happens eventually and where you get to when the big nobles and the Duma and the so-called representative Assembly succeed in smashing up central government, for it all comes back, and instead of the whips of the old central Government you only have the scorpions of the new Bolshevik Government. It seems to me that the fact that there is no security, and that here we have a great constitutional advance in India has not sufficiently been brought out. The hon. Member for Stafford (Captain Ormsby-Gore) made a speech which did not seem to me to square with the speech he made on the Committee stage, when he pointed out that we had to keep in the hands of the Central Government the power to protect labour in India against the inevitable assault of the Indian oligarchs. The upper classes in India may be all the good things that have been said about them. The Brahmins may be the natural leaders of the people by intellect and not by inheritance, but I have not seen in this country such a tremendous respect paid by the Labour party to these natural leaders. On the contrary they show the greatest distrust of them, and in many ways a very right distrust of them. I think it was William Morris who said, "No man is good enough to be another man's master."
The Labour party greets with delight this handing over of 300,000,000 people to the sway of 5,000,000 of the upper classes. If India had been entrusted to us by the League of Nations, and if Britain had been handed over a mandate, would we consider that we were fulfilling this mandate by transferring them to 5,000,000 of the Indian upper classes. After all the record of the upper classes in India is not such an instained record that you can cheerfully entrust to them the ordinary millions of "hewers of wood and drawers of water." No Englishman has ever enslaved Indians as Indians have. We know there has been cruelty and tyranny, and we never said to the subject races that 814 they were not to drink water from the running streams, but only from the stagnant pools. I agree with other speakers who have said that we must look forward, and undoubtedly we have to remember that our responsibilities towards India will be very greatly increased by the passing of this measure. The supervision of Parliament over Indian affairs in the future will need to be much keener than it has been in the past, and I despair of our ever being able to accomplish that task in the congested state in which the British. Parliament finds itself at the present time. Such a supervision as will inevitably need to be carried out seems to me to be utterly beyond the power of any Standing Committee or the members of an overworked and congested assembly such as the British Parliament finds itself to-day. That is a point by the way.
There is no doubt that this is a tremendous experiment, for it is handing over the Indian toiling masses to the rule of the Indian wealthy classes, and that is an experiment which this democratic Parliament of Great Britain will need to supervise with very great closeness. One of the dangers that has been shown so, clearly in the recent agitations over this Bill is the great danger to a country like Britain, with its 40,000,000 people, of governing an Empire of 300,000,000. When you have to deal with 300,000,000 people, I think it is time to begin to see that the dog is not wagged by the tail. When we see the pressure that has been brought to bear upon every individual Member of this House we must realise that there is a driving power behind this agitation which does not come solely from the political aspirations of the people of India. They are all very well, but I have never heard a word from the Labour party or the triumphant Whigs in this House about the economic driving power behind all this. What about the great factories of India, and the great men who fear the expense to be put upon them by sanitary and health legislation, which will inevitably be demanded in the near future by a democratic Parliament? We have erected a barrier against that, and it will need the most careful supervision. Indian sanitation is bad. The Indian may be a great philosopher or architect, and he may excel in ninny arts, but his achievements in the science of health are not such as would gain any approbation from any congress of scientific men.
815 I only want to point out that the strength of this agitation comes not entirely from the political aspirations of the Indian toiling masses, but also from the economic force of the Indian employing classes. The supervision that we shall have to exercise over the Indian electorate will need to be very close and very persistent. We have given over the poor men of India to the rich men of India. It may be a great step in advance, but it is a step on which the Whigs of this House have every reason to congratulate themselves. It has been the age-long aspiration of Whiggism to destroy the Central Government and run the poor in the interests of the rich, but it has not been the aspiration of the Conservative party, and, as far as I understand, it is very different from the aspirations of the Labour party.
It seems to me like old times and the old constitutional struggle in this country when I see one Whig getting up on the Treasury Bench to move this Bill and another Whig on the Opposition Bench getting up to congratulate him. The only opposition we hear comes from a young aristocrat like the hon. Member for Stafford (Captain Ormsby-Gore), who raises a minor point in Committee, following the traditions of tie great Conservative, as his great political ancestor, Lord Shaftesbury, might have done. I apologise to the House for having broken in and wasted their time. Nothing that I have said will make any difference to the passing of this Bill. It is simply a danger signal, simply a warning that the great constitutional experiment, on supporting which the Labour party so much prides itself, is a very dangerous thing and is against the traditional policy of toe proletariat in all ages, which has been to strengthen the Central Executive as against the local people, to support the colonel as against the sergeant. What happens in a regiment? The colonel is the natural protector as against the sergeant, and in politics the analogy holds true. The man at the bottom does not look to the man in the middle, but to the man at the top for his remedy. Here we have the Whigs, the natural sergeant-majors of society, smashing up the control of the Central Executive and shaking hands with each other on the floor of the House on having accomplished it. The colonel's influence however, is a salutary and necessary and the private will be the first man to feel the 816 draught when the colonel's protecting influence is removed from the orderly room. The Labour party will yet live to regret the day when they weakened the authority of the Central Executive in favour of the wealthy people who will hold for many years to come the local power in India.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
—Is typical of those who were opposed to the great Reform Bill of 1832 on the ground that it did not give votes to the workers in the town, who opposed the Reform Bill of 1868 because it did not give votes to the agricultural labourers, who opposed the Reform Bill of 1883 on the ground that it did not give votes to women, and who opposed women's suffrage on the ground that their interests were much better looked after by their lords and masters. It is a type that we know well. It is against all sorts of reforms because they do not go far enough. When he appeals to the Labour Benches not to support this Whig measure, I can only regret that he did not see his way to support us in having the franchise extended to precisely those workers about whose interests he is so much perturbed. Many years ago, when the right hon. Gentleman and I were budding geniuses in that overflowing Parliament of 1906, he and I used to walk down to this House together every morning across Kensington Gardens, discussing everything in the universe. I remember on one occasion that he summed up the argument in this way, "You see, Wedgwood, you can divide all mankind into those who are politicians and those who are agitators. I am a politician; you are an agitator. "It is perfectly true, and in those rôles that have been cast for us we have each gone on ever since. I have watched, without regretting the rôles to which I was consigned, the progress of the right hon. Gentleman from office to office, doing good work in every office. I have watched him during this War helping to beat Germany by organnising one of the most important offices of the State, and I have never regretted that my line has been in other directions. When I see this Act upon the Statute Book, however, I begin to have doubts as to whether my rôles is the best. After all, I have been fourteen years in 817 this House and I have done nothing—nothing for which I came into Parliament; but he has put this Act upon the Statute Book. There is something to show to the account of a politician. I may have put heart into a few rebels here and there, but this is something upon which history is based and the happiness and the freedom of nations depends. It is true that all of us on these benches have sought to get Amendments into this Bill, making it a Bill of which we might be more proud and a Bill which India might he more ready to accept as the goal of their ambitions; but I know, and we all know, that this Bill is the utmost that can ever be got through Lord Curzon, and that it is really a triumph for the right hon. Gentleman that he has gone as far as he has gone.
This Bill does not go very far, but it lays that foundation which we all like to treasure in our hearts as representing a true and glorious Britain. Other rulers of India in the past have left their monuments in India—Ali Musjid and the Taj Mahal and the great Portuguese cathedrals —but, so far as our architecture goes, all that represents Britain is a few tin cantonments. We are going to leave something more lasting in India than any architectural feature. We are going to show that though we conquered India we alone of the great nations of the world sought through the people whom we conquered to give them back their inheritance—give it back freely. It seems to be the genius of the Anglo-Saxon race that they can do things like this. America has done the same in the Philippines; we are starting to do it here, as we did in South Africa, and the result will be the same. We shall build up one fresh Anglo-Indian Dominion which will be one of the new governing countries of the world. I hope that this may be an example to the other Allied nations who have taken over mandates to administer other countries, and that the success of this experiment will be carried further in our own British Commonwealth—that what has been done in South Africa, and what will be done and is beginning to be done under this Bill in India, will also be extended to Egypt, to Turkey, to Mesopotamia, and even, possibly, for aught we know, to Persia. [An HON. MEMBER: "Ireland!"] Ireland can look after herself.
We are laying the foundation, but this Bill is not enough. It would not have been enough if we had carried all those Amendments giving complete responsibility in 818 the Provincial Legislatures and giving the beginning of diarchy in the Central Government—giving that wider franchise for which in particular I should have asked. This Bill is not enough. India is not vitally interested in this Bill. India is infinitely more vitally interested in the repeal of the Press Act, of the Seditious Meetings Act, the Rowlatt Acts, and all the un-English Acts with which we have had to hold down India. India is much more interested in an amnesty for political offenders, for those hundreds of men who still lie in gaol in India or who are banished all over the world. If this Bill is to be a success, if it is to be worked, remember that it must have the right atmosphere in which to work. Unless it has that right atmosphere, no amount of Amendments, even if we carried them from the Labour benches, would put the matter right. No amount of Amendments would reunite the English and Indian peoples as they ought to be reunited. They have been severed—I will not go into the reason of it now—by people who did not know what England stood for. We have to bind them together. This Bill is not enough. Start on that, but for goodness' sake, when this Act comes into force, when the new constitution is granted to India, see that it is accompanied by a full amnesty for political offenders, and see, above all, that it is accompanied by a declaration of rights which will put the humblest Indian subject of the British Crown on the same footing as any of us here, and establish all those principles for which the English fought in the past when they conquered their rulers. Give us throughout the whole British Commonwealth a people divided neither by colour bars nor by any differentiation in the rights of man.
§ Major Earl WINTERTON
No one can have failed to be affected by the obvious sincerity of the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend who has just sat down. I should like to say that I hope that, however much the majority of this House usually differs from the views that he takes, he will not suppose that he exercises no influence upon our political life. I consider that one who represents, as he always endeavours to represent, entirely sincerely and with the utmost eloquence, the views of those who, we believe, are not in the majority in the part of the world from which they come—I think it would be a very bad thing if one who did that regarded himself, or 819 was regarded, as not doing most useful work in this House. I think he is too modest when he says that he does not exercise an influence on our deliberations, and I, personally, hope the day will be far distant when those who hold the views that he holds—much as I disagree with them—are not able to get a hearing for them in this House.
I only heard the latter part of the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Lanark (Captain Elliot) but I was rather surprised at the line he took. He showed an attitude of mind quite different from that which I should have attributed to him, but as I only heard the latter part of his speech I make but a passing reference to that. As regards the relationship between those at the top and those at the bottom, my experience is broadly that those at the bottom are much more inclined to go to those at the top than to those in the middle. I think that is a fact which is certainly true of the Army. But I do not think that the colonel and sergeant-major argument would entirely apply to this Bill and I do not think it is a reason for not passing the Third Reading. The great knowledge of constitutional law possessed by the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Oman) appears to have somewhat biased him, and to have impressed him with the view that anything you may do is necessarily dangerous. In regard to that, I cannot help quoting sonic words spoken in this House in 1858 by one who was a great statesman in his day—Lord Lytton—on a Bill handing over the government of India from the East India Company to the Crown:With regard. and to the Bill itself, which I am not disposed to discuss at this moment at any length, I must say that I think it is at once audacious, incomplete, and unconsidered.Those are the sort of words which might have fallen front the hon. Member for Oxford University or the hon. and gallant Member for Melton:It is audacious, inasmuch as it effects the conversion of an administrative body, through which, whatever may have been its faults, every hasty or unwise proposal on the part of Her Majesty's Government was sure to be carefully sifted, into a. set of irresponsible nominees of the Ministers of the day. It is incomplete, because it does not afford us a single guarantee for that wholesome restraint on a. precipitate or a despotic policy that is effected by the system which it is proposed to remove.That is exactly the argument which has been used in relation to this present Bill. 820 Lord Lytton could not conceive that anything better could be put in the place of the officials of the East India Company. He went on to say:And it is unconsidered because, even on so simple a point as the niece number of the Council which it would establish, every hon. Gentleman who has any practical acquaintance with the affairs of India tells you that it is preposterously inadequate for the discharge of the amount of business which the Council undertakes to perform.I do not often find myself in agreement with my hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken (Colonel Wedgwood), but it is perfectly true that such words have been used in regard to every reform that has been brought forward of that kind. It is equally true that the fears thus expressed will prove in the long run to be unfounded. I thought that those words, which I happened accidentally to find, of Lord Lytton's speech, were a good answer to the fears which have been expressed in the course of this Debate about this Bill. No one will deny that the views of the hon. Members for Melton and for Oxford University are entitled to consideration, but I am bound, at the risk of putting a personal argument, to observe that I think that, in these present days, neither the views of people who have spent most of their life in India and end it as a Member of this House, nor views of the hon. Member for Oxford University, will necessarily influence opinion in that country. The War has made a difference. The whole world has changed, and the attitude of people's minds has changed; the psychology of everything has changed. We ought, while paying every deference to the views of experts like my hon. and gallant Friend opposite, to remember that the views of the younger men who have been in the Indian Service—either in the military service or in the Indian Civil Service—are very often in direct conflict with the views of the older members of those services. I have seen that myself in the Indian Army. Those at the top of the Indian Army and those who have joined only recently, just prior to the War, are often entirely different in their views. I think we ought to approach this problem to some extent with a fresh mind. We must always remember, of course, that the problems are largely unchanged; but, while the problems are unchanged, the attitude of men's mind's does change vastly in twenty or even in ten years.
I should like to make reference to the way in which the Bill has been passed 821 through this House. In the circumstances, the haste with which the Bill has had to be passed has been abundantly justified, but I am bound to enter once again a protest, if I may do so without impertinence, because the view I hold is one held by many other hon. Members in all parts of the House. We are passing through a period of great danger in regard to the position of this House. On almost every measure brought forward we are told by the Government that there is great urgency to pass it, and there is a subtle hint of revolution at home or abroad if we do not. We were told on the Profiteering Bill that something was going to happen if we did not pass it. We are told that if we do not pass this Bill there will be serious unrest in India. It is not to our advantage to have these Bills rushed through. The necessity for adequate discussion in this House is a matter which is as important for every group in the House as it is for any one group. The Secretary of State has shown himself in connection with this Bill to be a Parliamentarian in the best sense of the word. That is a position in which it is extremely rare for a Cabinet Minister in these days to find himself. My right hon. Friend's conduct of this Bill has been in refreshing contrast with the conduct of some of his colleagues, who have seemed to think that Parliamentary experience can be learned in a day, and who consider that the greatness of the cause enables them to treat the House of Commons in quite a different way from that in which it is accustomed to be treated. I hope that my. right hon. Friend, in view of the support the House has given him, largely because of his own admirable attitude, will represent to the Government that, while we are willing to pass this Bill in the haste in which it has been passed through, there is a vast body of opinion in all parts of the House which believes that we are injuring the whole position of Parliament by the way in which measures are forced through under the suggestion that, if we do not pass them, there will be revolution or something else.
Tribute has been paid, which I do not think was at all excessive, to the conduct of this Bill by the Joint Committee. All of us who are interested in India who were not members of that Committee must be grateful to them for the help they have given to the House and also for the self-denying attitude many of them have taken up during the Committee stage by not 822 taking part in deliberations in which they were much more competent to take part than some of us who did. It will be admitted by everybody that in India we cannot stand still and have to advance. The issue is, whether we shall advance along what is the broad and safe road proposed by the Secretary of State and the Government, that is along the path of progress, or whether we shall follow the long old-fashioned road of the hon. and gallant Member for Melton (Colonel Yate) and his associates—a road which reminds me of some old-fashioned tortuous street in a, sixteenth-century town—or whether we shall advance with the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme and the hon. Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) along a path which reminds me of a man proceeding along a mountain path, jumping from crag to crag, with a chance of breaking his neck at the bottom. This House has never shown better sense than when it decided, as it has done all through by an overwhelming majority of opinion, to follow the right hon. Gentleman along what I believe to be an absolutely safe and sure path.
§ 2.0 P.M.
§ Mr. STEWART
I should like to associate myself with what the Noble Lord (Earl Winterton) has said with regard to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme. I remember hearing the hon. and gallant Gentleman some years ago, in his unregenerate days, speak about India, and I said to, myself that if he had charge of India he would lose it in two months. I have rather changed my opinion since then. My hon. and gallant Friend has shown by his gallant actions that he does value the British Empire, and I hope he will not be so downhearted as from his speech he appeared to be, because I believe that his views are listened to with interest and received with respect by those who are entirely opposed to them. As one of those whom the Noble Lord (Earl Winterton) described as pursing the tortuous paths of the hon. and gallant Member for Melton I should like to say a few words as to the conditions under which the Bill is being passed. It has beers rushed at every turn. I do not think that is a sound way to treat a Bill of this sort. I almost hesitate to add to the many testimonies paid to the Secretary of State, because it might appear fulsome. I gladly admit his extreme courtesy and 823 his most extraordinary parliamentary ability, but I do not think he was quite fair to the House when he rejected every single Amendment last night. I do not suppose that he did that with a view to cutting out the Report stage, but I fear he rather treated those who put down Amendments as being hostile to the measure, whereas, as a matter of fact, they were in no sense hostile to the Bill. They simply put into the pool whatever ideas occurred to them as being prudent. I am not sure that it is a very wise process for a reformer to turn his back on those who do not agree entirely with him but who in the main do so. The right hon. Gentleman evidently thinks he has a perfect Bill. From the bottom of my heart I earnestly hope he has. He might have given us yesterday a little more enlightenment on certain points. when he was asked how far the financial policy of India was ruled by India or London, we received no answer. When he was asked for an explanation as to whether, by Clause 33, he was going under certain conditions to divest himself of his entire authority, we were left still in doubt as to the reasons why such a peculiar proceeding is enacted in this Bill. I do not claim to have any particular knowledge about India. Although I have been there a good many times, I do not speak with the same confidence as many Gentlemen who have never been there at all. I am one of those who have read the Chelmsford and Montagu Report from beginning to end. The first thing that struck me was that they spelled the word "Koran" with a "Q." I thought that might be literary superiority. However, I read the book right through—it was a somewhat dry treatise—until I came to the very last sentence, which runs:We cannot close this document more fittingly than with the prayer which we know all India offers, that the principles of justice and freedom may be saved to the world by the splendid endurance and self-sacrifice of His Majesty's and the Allied Armies.There is not a single word there of thanks or appreciation of the sea power of this great Empire, without which we should have been perfectly helpless in the War. I wondered who wrote that? Was it come Indian barrister who had never been to sea? The concluding paragraph makes one really feel that it is written from an entirely local point of view. The dryness of the book is relieved by a dispatch from 824 Lord Dufferin, which is like an oasis in the wilderness. On page 147, Sir Thomas Monro said:We should look on India not as a temporary possession, but as one which is to be maintained permanently until the natives shall in some future age have abandoned most of their superstitions and prejudices and become sufficiently enlightened to form a regular Government for themselves.That was written 120 years ago. It is rather hard on our predecessors in India that the whole claim for progress should be dated by the present Government from 20th August, 1917. Sir Thomas Monro's anticipations were further put forward by Lord Dufferin and further improved upon by Lord Minto and Lord Morley. It must have occurred to many people that the Minto-Morley reforms have had very short shrift indeed. If you admit that, how long will the present reforms carry on? No one can say that these are the best proposals possible. I should like to illustrate from this Report the kind of responsibility we, accept in passing this Bill. On page 29 is the following remark:There are few more unobtrusive provisions on the Statute-Book than the once famous "Kimberley Clause," due really to Lord Northbrook, which is Section 74 of the Government of India Act of 1918. That Clause, while purporting merely to empower the Governor-General in Council to make regulations as to the conditions of nomination of the additional members, in reality effected a revolution in the Constitution.Can any man in this House say how many revolutions will be effected in the constitution of India by this Bill? I thoroughly agree that we must go forward, but I am somewhat in accord with the hon. Member for Lanark in what he said about sanitation. Under our rule, doing the best we could, we lost about 6,000,000 people by the plague about twelve months ago, and if sanitation falls under the management of the native population sack losses might very possibly occur again, and in a much greater degree. I think we might have asked more advice from our missionaries, who know the conditions in India probably better than most men. I should be interested to know whether the Indian Government ever censored any of the reports of the German missionaries, and are aware of the reports which they provided for their Government as to our administration.
The Bill is inconsiderate to the Indian Civil Service. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Montagu) said last night that most of the objections came; from ex-Civil servants, and not from those now in the 825 service. That is quite possible because the ex-Civil servant is an independent man, and the man working in India is a younger man with a wife and children to support, and naturally is not able to exercise the same independence. The letter which was read by the hon. Member for Oxford University from the Indian Government yesterday really gives the Indian Civil Service cause for apprehension. The right hon. Gentleman says it has been withdrawn, but the men who wrote that letter are still in power, and that spirit of repression may very easily arise again under certain circumstances. I know it is the fashion to pooh-pooh any objections to this Bill. But here you are disintegrating India and handing it over to the unwarlike races at the very moment when you have lost control over the Amir of Afghanistan's foreign policy. What does that lay you open to? You must probably increase your Indian Army, and your expenses in regard to the Army of India will be greater. Your quarrels with the provinces over the central fund may become acute, and yet we go gaily into this thing without making new provision for a thing of that sort. You have violated one of the leading principles which has carried this great Empire to success. You have neglected the man on the spot. The whole British Empire has been successfully founded and carried on by trusting the man on the spot. Ninety-eight per cent. of Englishmen in India do not like this Bill. I speak of men I know—men engaged in business, young men, with their future before them. I do not think their opinion has been perhaps properly considered. At the same time we have to pass the Bill. I do not speak as a non-reformer, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman does not mind a little criticism. Even a perfect Minister may possibly find usefulness in it. We earnestly hope the Bill will turn out as well as he expects. Hon. Members with whom I have been associated earnestly hope and trust that his optimism will be borne out by the working of the measure, and that India will become as cheerful, happy, and prosperous as we should all wish her to be.
Mr. B. DENNISS
It is necessary that one almost supremely important matter, which has scarcely been mentioned or thought of in the course of the Debate in Committee and here, should be brought to the right hon. Gentleman's attention so that he may tell us how far the fiscal policy of 826 India will be controlled by the new Legislature. That is a matter of profound importance to all in this country who trade with India, many of our principal industries, many of our great commercial men and traders. As far as I can see, the Bill is intended to remove every check upon the fiscal policy or fiscal control of the new Legislature. As far as possible we entrust it entirely to a body of men, who in the Legislative Chamber will consist, to a great extent, of the rich men, the manufacturers and merchants of India. I believe this Bill is intended, as far as possible to tie the hands of the Secretary of State and prevent him from placing any check upon any of the fiscal measures which may be passed, which may impose fetters upon our trade with India. The importance of that to our industries cannot be overestimated, and it would not become me, as one of the representatives of the centre of the great cotton industry, to let it pass without a warning of` what may, and is more than likely, to happen in the immediate future. Our cotton industry is our greatest exporter, and India is our best market. Under the present law the Secretary of State for India has absolute control over the fiscal policy of India. So far as the Executive is concerned, he has the powers of superintendence, direction, and control of all acts, matters, and concerns relating to the revenues of India. That power will be swept. away by Clause 33 when Rules are made under that Clause. There is a certain protection in that these Rules have to be laid on the Table of this House and Resolutions of both Houses have to be passed before the Rules become part of the Statute; but the intention is that immediately on the passing of this Act these Rules shall be made, and the Secretary of State will then be deprived of his powers of superintendence, direction, and control of all acts, matters, and concerns relating to the revenues of India.
A further power which the Secretary of State has at the present time is that of disallowing the Acts of the Indian Legislature. He can intervene and advise His Majesty to disallow them, although passed by the Legislature and assented to by the Governor-General. Up to the present time he has had control of the import duties into India on English goods. Some time ago we had a Debate in this House on the Indian Cotton Duties. When India gave us her great contribution of £100,000,090 towards the cost of the War we agreed to the duties being raised, in consideration of a promise 827 that there would be some day at the end of the War a system of Imperial Preference throughout the Empire, in which the discrimination against English goods in regard to any of our Dominions and India would be done away with. It is the intention of the Bill that the Secretary of State shall no longer exercise his power of disallowing any Act imposing prohibitive restrictions upon the trade of this country with India. On this point the Report of the Select Committee, referring to Section 33, says:Nothing is more likely to endanger the good relations between India and Great Britain than a belief that India's fiscal policy is dictated from Whitehall in the interests of the trade of Great Britain… India's position in the Imperial Conference opened the door to negotiation between India and the rest of the Empire, but negotiation without power to legislate is likely to remain ineffective. A satisfactory solution of the question can only be guaranteed by the grant of liberty to the Government of India to devise those tariff arrangements which seem best fitted to India's needs as an integral portion of the British Empire…. Whatever be the right fiscal policy for India, for the needs of her consumers as well as for her manufactures, it is quite clear that she should have the same liberty to consider her interests as Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa.That means that the policy, apparently, is that the fiscal policy of the Indian Legislature is to be based on the same lines as that of Canada and South Africa. That means complete fiscal autonomy. Our manufacturres and traders should know that that is the intention of the Bill.
In the opinion of the Committee, therefore, the Secretary of State should as far as possible avoid interference on this subject—That is to say, he is not to exercise his power of disallowing any such tariffs—when the Government of India and its legislature are in agreement.If the new Legislature is to have a free hand in fiscal policy let us remember that India is a Protectionist country, and that all the ruling classes and her manufacturers and merchants are absolute Protectionists, and we must anticipate that the first Budget of the new Indian Legislature will be one which will not only continue to impose duties upon English imports, but may increase them to such an extent as to seriously cripple this country. It may be, with a powerful neighbour like Japan so close at hand, that in time she may even discriminate against us in favour of Japan, compelled by diplomatic circumstances. Trade between Japan and India is increasing by leaps and bounds. Before 828 the War Japan carried to India in her own ships only 30,000 tons, and now it is over 500,000 tons. Her imports have increased many times over during the War, and that state of things is likely to continue, and, astute diplomatists as they are, I very much fear that if the Indian Legislature is left to have control of fiscal policy we may not only suffer in regard to restrictions being imposed on the importation of our goods, but we may even have our great rival in the cotton industry receiving a preference. We have done a great deal for India. War, pestilence, and famine have, to a great extent, been banished by us, and peace and order reigns. The last sentence of the Report of the Committee referred to that subject. There can be no reproach that "in form" in the past the Government of India has been autocratic and has acted apparently in the interests of this country. "Whatever the form, the spirit of its being everywhere and always has been effort for the welfare of the masses of the people of India." You have brought that happy state of things to pass—peace, prosperity, law and order, and protection from war, pestilence and famine. Is the Indian Legislature going to repay us now by crippling our industries, when they have the power to do it, some of which are vital to this country, by a system of unrestricted duties? If the Secretary of State for India is to abandon, as this Report says he is, his check upon legislation of this kind and to leave it absolutely in the hands of the new Legislature of native representatives, then I rather tremble for the future of many of our industries in this country. I know the views of the right hon. Gentleman to a great extent and perhaps this will give him an opportunity of making some statement on the matter.
§ Colonel YATE
I listened with interest to the speeches this afternoon. I would like to thank the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) for the way in which he was kind enough to refer to me. I have no doubt that in the eyes of the Noble Lord I am a most antiquated fossil, but still, with all humility, I would like to point out that the views which I have been expressing on this Bill are not entirely my own, but those of the Governors and a great many members of the Civil Service of India, men of the greatest experience in India whose views I have been trying to voice, though it is some years now since I left India. I would like also to refer to what was 829 described by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Spoor) as the characteristically witty speech of the hon. Member for East Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees) which was also subscribed to by the leader of the Wee Frees (Sir D. MacLean). I heard with astonishment the eulogy by the hon. Member for East Nottingham of the Brahmins in India. I could not help thinking of the difference between the opinions expressed to-day and those to which he referred in a book written only a few years ago entitled "Real India," from which I would like to quote a few sentences. In this book, written before the War, he says:at the present moment agitation is proceeding in India, Inch is entirely caused by and restricted to Brahmins and other high castes in sympathy with them who even now have an immensely preponderating influence on the government of the country, but would fain be rid of the impartial supervision of British officers who refuse to let them plant their heels upon the necks of the lower castes and classes.That was his opinion only a few years ago and is in striking contrast with the eulogy contained in his speech this afternoon. The hon. Member, in this book, also went on to talk of the relations of the Brahmins and the Labour Members in this House. He says,The interests of India on the part of labour Members or labourites, as they are called in the Indian Press, is a new development, and it is not a little extraordinary to see an hon. Member of Parliament with the utmost sincerity and purity of purpose dancing to the tune set by the Congrees as representative of the Indian upper and aristocratic classes… against whom the British Government has had by repeated enactments to protect their tenants.We have seen the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland dancing to the tune of, these Brahmins and politically minded men. We have seen him attending with these Indians the Red Flag meetings got up by the Labour party in the Albert Hall and all over the country, but this dancing to the tune of Indians has been described in a way that is hardly complimentary in letters written to India on the subject. Mr. Srinivassa Sastri, a witness before the Committee, who has often been quoted by the Secretary of State, writing to his paper, the "Servant of India," published in Poona, describes the proceedings of the Joint Committee, and says, "The Labour Member (Mr. Ben Spoor) may show more sustained interest than he does.' I think that that is very hard on him. That is all the thanks he gets for dancing to their tune. Then Mr. Sastri goes on to describe the hon. Member for East Nottingham. 830 Sir John Rees, he says, is very active on the side of the promoters of the Bill. He tries to bring out our side of the case." That is the Brahmin side—He is strong on the Brahmin versus the non-Brahmin question, and takes the view that the Brahmin in Madras is intellectually the leader of the community, and his superiority is legitimate and beneficial.That is also absolutely opposed to what the hon. Member said only a few years ago.
§ Colonel YATE
I may quote another few words from this very interesting letter, Mr. Sastri's:Major Ormsby-Gore and Mr. Bennett take an important part in the proceedings, and though they may not favour drastic views, are very firm on the side of reform.Then he goes on to say,Mr. Montagu and Lord Sinha are without doubt the leading members of the Committee, and it is only when they examine the witnesses that one sees the real scope of the Bill.That is a testimony to the Secretary of State. The right hon. Gentleman, as counsel for the plaintiff, who is himself, in this case as between himself and the Governors of the Provinces, examines the witnesses and then resolves himself into judge and jury to decide the case.
I think all will acknowledge that there has never been a Bill of this importance passed through the House of Commons in so hurried a manner. We saw it pass the Second Reading in a few hours on a Thursday, on the day before the Adjournment for Whitsuntide. We saw it committed to a Joint Select Committee, of which, as we know, five out of the six members were already pledged to support the Secretary of State. Then we came here to the Committee of the Whole House, and we found the Bill hurried through in two nights, and on one night our discussions were continued after twelve o'clock. Almost all our Amendments were ruled out by the Chairman of Committees. We had no time, at that late hour, to emphasise any of the points we wished to bring forward. Here we are to-day at the Third Reading stage, in a House in which there are hardly forty Members present. I do not believe the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House have the faintest knowledge as to how far this Bill is going to take us. They cannot possibly have had time to study the Bill—neither of them. The more we 831 look into the Bill the more we realise how far it goes. I do not wish to touch on any of the points, such as the Rules, the diarchy, and things of that sort. We have made our protest, and that is all we can do. We have stated our opinions, and we have to leave it at that. I want to recall what the Secretary of State told us yesterday in reference to the Indian Civil servants. The Indian Civil servants, as we know, are highly disturbed over this Bill. They are all anxious as to the, result of its operations. I was very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say yesterday that all the Indian Civil servants who desire to retire will be allowed to do so, on a proportionate pension, before this Bill comes into force. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has yet told us, but I take it that the covenant under which the Indian Civil servants are now serving is certainly broken, in depriving them of the Governorships of Provinces and in other ways. At all events, if it is not legally broken, it is certainly broken in the spirit.
There is one very serious point in this Bill to which I wish to draw special attenton. The Secretary of State appears to me by this Bill, and by the Amendments he has introduced into the principal Act, to attach to himself all the powers of his Council and to leave himself in perfect autocratic power without any restraining influence whatsoever from his Council. First of all he has abolished the quorum of five on his Council. What is the reason for. that I cannot say. If the quorum is abolished and three members happen to be present, the Secretary of State can do what he likes by the use of a casting vote, for if one man votes with him the other two are helpless. I think that is very dangerous. If there is to be a Council at all, there ought to be a quorum of five. Then, again, he has abolished the weekly meetings of the Council. Why? They have carried on for all these years without any inconvenience to anyone. The Secretary of State in future need never hold meetings of the Council at all, except when it pleases him to do so. He can go for months without meetings. These two Rules taken together absolutely stultify the use and influence of the Council, and I think that that ought to be thoroughly understood. Then, again, every member of the Viceroy's Council may be a native of India. We all think 832 that that Council ought to be a strong Council, but under this arrangement how can British and Imperial interests be properly represented?
§ Colonel YATE
It may be. The only thing is that a man must have been ten years in India. Every native, of course, has been ten years in India.
§ Colonel YATE
The Maharajah of Patiala said that British rule is essential to the welfare of India. We ought to have in the Viceroy's Council at least half the members British-born subjects. All these things are dangerous to our future rule in India. We are weakening the government of India, not only in the Provinces but also at the centre. There is another very important question, and that relates to the various races and nationalities in India. The Secretary of State, as we know, went on a four months' tour to India, and he came back with a new franchise and Constitution for a country which is the saute size as the whole of Europe minus Russia. Look at the anomalies before us now. We have in existence a Committee sitting under the Chairmanship of Mr. Speaker considering the question of devolution. We are thinking of making four different nations in the country—English, Scottish, Irish, and Welsh. As against that, we have the Secretary of State for India on a Committee which is trying to form into one nation the whole of the 315,000,000 people of different colours and creeds in India. If we cannot form one nation of the 45,000,000 Christian people in this country, how on earth are we to make the 315,000.000 of India into one nation? It is impossible and it is perfectly anomalous. In the reports of the Joint Committee it is proposed to send out a Commisson of Inquiry. Just consider that there are sixty-nine absolutely different languages, without mentioning dialects, spoken in the Plains of India with which we are dealing, and people of many different races, and the House will, I think, agree that the Commission that we send out should consist of the most 833 experienced men we can find, such as is the case in the Milner Commission, which is going to Egypt. I think we ought to have a Commission of the most thoroughly experienced men, and men of the most recent knowledge of India, to go out before this Bill comes into force and inquire into the different nationalities with their separate castes and distinctions. In the Province of Bombay, for instance, you have 20,000,000 of people, consisting of many different races. In Bengal you have 47,000,000 of people. All these things require the most careful investigation, and I do urge the sending out of a special Commission to inquire into all the various nationalities and distinctions, linguistic and racial. We are trying to overthrow the Indians' own ideals of living and general content, and to bring to them a wholly Western idea. I do say that that is a matter which requires the most careful consideration.
Throughout this Bill there has been no proper recognition of the King as Emperor of India. In India the people reverence their King-Emperor, and would, I feel certain, like to see him again. Instead of having all these Orders issued in the name of His Majesty, we propose to deal with everything Indian by means of a Standing Committee of Parliament. In the case of the Dominions there is no such thing as a Standing Committee of Parliament, and we must recollect that the position of India has been entirely changed of late years and since the Montagu-Chelmsford Report. Since that time India has been admitted as an equal partner with the Dominions in the War Cabinet and the War Conference, and signed the Peace Treaty as a separate entity at the Conference in Paris. All that makes a great difference. What the position now is requires, I think, a statement from the Law Officers of the Crown. Whatever the case may be, all the Orders issued under this measure should be issued in the name of His Majesty the King-Emperor in Council. I had given notice of some Amendments making that point, but they were passed over at a late hour. India reveres her Emperor, and everything that has to be done for India under this Act should be done in the name of the King-Emperor and not in the name of the Secretary of State. Everything should be done to increase the reverence of the people of India for their Emperor, and if this Commission were to go out and inquire into the 834 boundaries, racial and linguistic, of the different peoples, there is nothing I should like better to see than that, Commission placed under the presidency of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. I believe if that were done it would be one of the most welcome things that could possibly happen to India. There is nothing the people of India would welcome noose than to see the Royal Family taking an interest in that way in their welfare. I was always very sorry that the announcement of August, 1917, was not made in the name of the King-Emperor, instead of being given out simply as an answer to a private question by the Secretary of State. That cannot be helped now. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but he arrogated to himself the position of King-Emperor.
§ Colonel YATE
The right hon. Gentleman made that announcement, which, I think, ought to have been made in the, name of the King-Emperor. I do hope that we are going to send out a Commission under the presidency of the Prince of Wales, and if we do I think we will be doing something which will be of great benefit to India.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I do not propose to detain the House very long as I have made so many speeches on this Bill, but I should like to close with one or two observations. I do not think there is any use in following my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Yate) into the history of the matter, but he raised one or two new points. I venture to think he would have been the first to criticise if the announcement of the 20th of August had been made on the advice of the Government by the King-Emperor, and he would have told us that we had jockeyed the House into accepting a statement that they would not have been able to criticise because it came from His Majesty. For another reason I wanted to make it in the way that it was made because His Majesty the King-Emperor, who as my hon. and gallant Friend truly said, is personally venerated throughout India, could not be associated with the announcement until I was sure that Parliament was going to carry it out. It is no use making announcements. What you have got to make is effective application.
But all those things are past. Whatever may be said against the methods by which this Bill has been presented, a Bill 835 which has taken from its inception something over three and a half years, and whatever may be said as to the time for discussion in this House, I gladly acknowledge that this seems to me to be the most responsible and, at the same time, the proudest moment of my life. I have been associated with the Government of India not as my hon and gallant Friend said, four four months, but for six years, for four years as an Under-Secretary and for two years as Secretary of State. I have kept before me one ambition, and that was to have the privilege of commending to Parliament what I believe to be the only justification of Empire, a step of self-government for India. It is quite true that my hon. Friend behind me said, by way of a taunt, that I once belonged to a party or the section of a party called the Liberal Imperialists, but I never had more than one conception of Imperialism in my mind, and that was that there could be no pride or pleasure in a Crown Colony, no pride or pleasure in domination or subordination, no pride or pleasure in flying the British flag for the benefit of British trade, but that the only Imperialism that was worth having was a trusteeship which was intended to develop the country under the British flag into a partnership in the Commonwealth, and it is for that reason that I commend with confidence this Bill to the House and feel proud to think that in a few minutes it will no longer be the Bill of the Government but the Bill of the House of Commons, for which all Members of it will be responsible.
I think it is a great thing for the history of India that the House of Commons has given this Bill up to this stage in a spirit of almost complete, if not complete, unanimity, neither snatching a little more here nor saving a little more there, but giving it generously and with a set purpose that this shall be a transitional Constitution on a road which the House of Commons will to-day determine to follow. Therefore, if the Bill is to be accepted both in its provisions and in what it intends to be, a transitional stage in the development of self-government, a great responsibility rests on the Parliaments of the future. No Constitution of the kind seems to me to be of any use unless it is carried out by those who will be responsible for the government of India on behalf of Parliament—the Secretary of State in Council and the Government there—in the letter and in the spirit. The powers that are reserved to the 836 Government and are not to be controlled by the representatives of the Indian electors must be exercised as though they were applicable to a country of growing national consciousness on the road to self-government, and not as if we were administering a great estate. Secondly, Parliament, I think, must see that you do not at one and the same moment withhold things for a particular reason and then refuse the opportunity of procuring them. Do not at one and the same time say it is only a minority that wants these things and then complain when that minority tries hard to convert the majority. You must expect to see political life develop throughout India. Do not deny to India self-government because she cannot take her proper share in her own defence, and then deny to her people the opportunity of learning to defend themselves. These are problems of which Parliament takes upon itself the responsibility by the passage of this Bill. Then I would say alto that I think the passage of this Bill entails the end of the old era. Let us forget the sores of the past, let us cease to abuse whole sections, whole castes, whole races of the Indian people, and on the other hand, is it too much to ask that the Indian representatives of India will cease to abuse the Indian Civil Service, who, whatever differences of view there may be, are after all largely responsible for bringing India to this stage in her history? Let us forget the past and start afresh. I object to the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Oman) saying that he is the representative of the Indian Civil Service in this Horse. I am; it is my business, and my privilege, and my pride to be that. I have never been asked by a Civil servant yet to ask Parliament to warp the history of India for the benefit of the Civil Service, and I think it is upon me to ask every section of Parliament to see that these Indian Civil servants, who work so unselfishly in India, and who will be our help and mainstay in carrying out this policy, do their work unhampered by often cruel criticism, particularly in circumstances when they have not the opportunity of any Parliament in which they can defend themselves. Let us wipe all that out, and let us start afresh. Let us begin on both sides with a desire to carry out the policy of Parliament, because it will be the policy of Parliament when this Bill finally goes through.
One word more. I welcome the appearance of the Labour party in an organised capacity in the great part which it has 837 taken in the discussion of this Bill. I can only hope that some of my hon. and right hon. Friends opposite will take an early opportunity of visiting that country. I cannot help thinking, as I listened to my right hon. Friend who sits on the Front Opposition Bench, in talking about the representation now, at this moment, of industrial labour in India, that he had not yet got—how could he?—a real conception of what industrial labour is in India to-day, and how small is its development. I share with him the welcome which he gave to trade unionism in India, and I hope that it will be, as it has been here, a great power for achieving a better standard of life and conditions of labour in India. But it is no use trying to get a franchise to-day and now for which you have not got the material. I would beg those who have made themselves particularly the spokesmen of Labour on this question—my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Wedgwood), one of the most popular men in the House, who has shown himself so close a student and so well informed of all the intricacies of this Bill, and my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Spoor)—to lend their help in shaping the new era which I have ventured to predict.
§ [At the point a male occupant of the Members' Gallery shouted, "Give Complete Home Rule to India and remove oppression." He then withdrew.]
§ Mr. MONTAGU (continuing)
Do not merely support a particular view because it is held by people who are in a hurry, without feeling quite sure that they understand the situation. I have read a letter this morning written on behalf of the Congress Committee. It is one thing to ask for more than this Bill does; it is another thing to fail completely to understand what it does. It is not necessary to belittle what it does do in order to ask what it has done, and it seems to me there are people speaking on behalf of organisations in India who understand some of the provisions, some of our Parliamentary safeguards and constitutional usage, and—I say it without offence—understand some others as little as my hon. and gallant Friend who spoke last understands them. If Labour will act not only as the spokesman of what I may call the extremist party in India, but also as the restrainers of some of the misapprehensions among them, I think that they will find that they will help in the develop- 838 ment of political life in India among those who are now looking to them for leadership and guidance, and although I try to realise there are great dangers and anxieties about this Bill, although I would not minimise for one moment the responsibility which I feel, and which I ought to feel, and which I think the House ought to feel, yet I am perfectly certain that there is no better way of consolidating the British Empire than by a measure of this kind, and steps in this direction. I need only conclude with one word of thanks to those who have not been mentioned. I do not refer now to members of the Committee who have sat on this Bill, but I refer to the witnesses whose evidence helped them to arrive at their conclusions.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the third time, and. passed.