§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.0 P.M
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Montagu)
I beg to move,That the Bill be now read a second time."The House having now somewhat approximated, but by no means reached its ordinary aspect on Indian Debates, I rise to discharge the highly important task, a task of which I fully realise the responsibility, of asking this House, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, to read a second time the Bill which has been printed and circulated. I desire to avoid going into details upon this necessarily complicated and technical measure. I have flooded the House, in response to requests, and in order to give information to it as far as I possibly could, with a series of elaborate documents, and these will obviate, because I will assume that the House has mastered those documents, a large amount of technical disquisition. But in view of certain criticisms I want once again to repeat the origin of this Bill. When I took office two years ago much work leading up to the preparation of a Bill of this kind had already been done. Dispatches containing schemes for reform had passed between the Government of India and my predecessor, and out of their proposals and his criticism of them had emerged this principle, that to ray predecessor no reform of the Government of India would be acceptable which did not involve the transfer of responsibility from these Houses to the people of India. I took up the work where the Chancellor of the Exchequer left it, and the pronouncement of the 20th August followed, a part of which was that my acceptance of the Viceroy's invitation to proceed to India had been authorised by His Majesty's Government. No sooner was that pronouncement made than I appointed a very important India Office Committee, presided over by Sir William Duke, an ex-Lieut.-Governor of Bengal, a member of my Council and an Indian Civil servant— I repeat all his qualifications because it is suggested in some quarters that this Bill arose spontaneously in the minds of the Viceroy 2296 and myself without previous inquiry or consideration, under the influence of Mr. Lionel Curtis. I have never yet been able to understand that you approach the merits of any discussion by vain efforts to approximate to its authorship. I do not even now understand that India or the Empire owes anything mote or anything less than a great debt of gratitude to the patriotic and devoted services Mr. Curtis has given to the consideration of this problem. But this Committee, presided over by Sir Wm. Duke, sat at the India Office from the 20th August until I left for India, accompanied by Sir William Duke, Lord Donoughmore, and Mr. Charles Roberts, on the 20th of October. We hold repeated conferences in the enforced leisure of a long sea voyage, and discussed the problem almost daily on board ship up to the time when we reached India, where we were joined by Mr. Bhupendra Nath Basu and Sir Wm. Vincent, a member of the Viceroy's Executive Council. Spontaneously, as a necessary consequence of all these deliberations, as a necessary consequence of the terms of the pronouncement of the 20th August, and as a necessary and inevitable consequence of an unprejudiced study of the question, we reached the conclusion upon which this Bill is based, a conclusion reacted after listening to innumerable deputations, after six months of conference with non-officials and officials, after continuous discussion with the Government in the provinces and at Delhi with the heads of all the local Governments. From the time I returned to London, a new India Office Committee, presided over by Mr. Charles Roberts, and containing a large number of those Civil servants who have taken part in this discussion, and whose services I have had the privilege to command, have sat upon and discussed all the criticisms that have reached us on the Bill. Sir Wm. Duke, Sir James Brunyate, and Sir Thomas Holderness were members. Sir James Meston, the present Finance Member of the Government of India, was home last year and helped in the deliberations of this Committee. In recent months it has been assisted by Sir Frank Sly, Mr. Feetham, Mr. Stephenson, and Mr. Muddiman.
This Committee has been concerned in drafting the Bill, and in considering all dispatches and telegrams and criticisms upon the scheme originally proposed.
2297 After this prolonged discussion and deliberation of almost exactly two years in extent, I now ask with some confidence for the Second Reading of the Bill, which I do not hesitate to say has been as carefully prepared and considered in all its aspects as it is possible to consider a measure of this kind.
I ask for the Second Reading of the Hill to-day for two reasons. First of all, there is so much general agreement on all sides in India and here as to its provisions, so much general agreement and such important points of difference on methods side by side, that I do not believe there is any way of getting on until we examine the details of the measure in a. Committee representing Parliament. Second Reading points, as I think I shall show, are points on which there is general agreement, both in India and here. There arts very important differences—differences which I do not wish to minimise—as to methods, and you will never get to a discussion of those methods infinitely technical, until you have a small body constituted which will take evidence and consider the alternative merits or demerits of the different plans. It is our intention, if the House gives a Second Beading to this measure to-day, to ask that it should be referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses, and that that Joint Committee should consider all the questions that are involved. I cannot emphasise too strongly that it is the Government's wish that that Committee should discuss the matter not only from the point of view of detailed examination, but from the point of view of the examination of alternative methods. Let it have free scope. Let the House appoint a Committee to go into the whole question, and, as I have said before, so recently as a fortnight ago, although I believe from the bottom of my heart that you dare not and ought not to do less than we propose in this Bill, I shall be glad, and the Government will be glad, to take the advice of the Committee on any alternative method which really and actually promises at least as much.
I would only add one thing. We have so many responsibilities in this House, so many important questions needing consideration, that perhaps India looms quite smally to many Members; but this problem to 315,000,000 of people eagerly awaiting, so far as they are politically educated, the decision of this House—to India this subject is all-1mportant. Let no man join in 2298 this Debate, let no man accept the incalculably responsible task of helping—and we want help, it is a difficult enough problem to require help—of helping on the: Committee unless he is prepared to go there constructively, and not destructively, to help on as perfect a plan as can be devised, and not with the intention to delay or thwart legislation,, which in my mind, and in the minds of the House I hope, it is absolutely essential to carry out.
The second reason why I would urge the assistance of the House in the passage of the Second Reading to-day is the impatience—I think the legitimate impatience—with which India is waiting a start upon the policy enunciated now two years ago. That policy was announced, and this Bill was drawn up with a view to meeting existing conditions in India. Believe me, my experience of India, my experience of the Government of India now extending over something like six years' of office, make me confident that there is no more fallacious platitude, no more obvious fallacy than that which is on the lips of so many critics of Indian affairs—that it is a country which never changes, a country which undergoes none of the emotions which other countries experience. One old Indian friend of mine, who has been engaged upon public affairs in this country, who has been absent from his own fourteen months only, and who returned to it the other day, told me when last I saw him that he thought politically it was a different place to fourteen months ago. The War; the causes of the War, the objects of the War, the speeches of those who conducted the political aspects of the War have had their effect from one end of India to the other, and have even reached, as the-documents which I published themselves show, the Government of Madras.
The pronouncement of the 20th August promised that substantial steps in the-direction of responsible government should, be taken as soon as possible. There is no-use for pronouncements that are not fulfilled; there is no use for pronouncements which take geological epochs to fulfil. Doubts are already beginning to appear. It is suggested already—unworthily suggested, wickedly suggested, but still suggested—that we made the announcement and declared the intention of His Majesty's Government in order to secure loyalty from the Indian peoples during the War, and that now we have achieved victory we are not going on with our 2299 purpose. I only mention that to show that, in my opinion, as in the opinion of the Governor of Bombay, delay, inexcusable delay, unnecessary delay, would be fatal to our purpose. For that reason, after two years' consideration of this problem, I venture to suggest to the House that I have shown no undue haste in bringing this Bill before the House of Commons. First it used to be said, "Oh, you must not introduce the Bill until the opinions of the local Governments have been published and we have had an opportunity of reading them." I promised the opinions of the local Governments, and the opinions of the local Governments have been published in accordance with that promise. To a very large extent they are irrelevant, because, despite the letters which have been published and the arguments they have used in them, they have produced, at a subsequent date, an alternative plan, about which I shall have something to say later on. But they are published. Now, when they are published, comes the new argument, "You are hurrying on the Second Reading of the Bill, when we have not had time to read the papers." So, first you say, "Do not take the Bill, be-cause we want the papers." Then, when the papers do appear, you say, "Give us time to read the papers." In other words, for the man who does not want to do something, the day on which you ask him to do something is always the wrong day.
I have published also, in order to avoid discussion to-day, two White Papers. One White Paper explains, as clearly and as concisely as I could do it, the actual effect of the Clauses of the Bill. The other White Paper shows what the existing Government of India Act, passed in 1915, will look like if these Amendments are made in it, for this Bill has been drafted with a view to automatic consolidation and the Government of India Act, 1915, embraces a very large number of Statutes. It is suggested that when this Bill has been passed by the Houses of Parliament it shall be automatically included in the existing Act, and will itself disappear as a separate Act. In order to see the effect of that process—the best form of legislation, I venture to think, when you have a previous Statute—I have published and circulated a copy. That, I hope, will avoid the necessity at this stage of going into details. A few more words I must say as to the form of the Bill. In the first 2300 place, it may be said—it has been said— that we propose to rely so much on rules and regulations under the Bill that the Bill itself is only a skeleton. I need not remind the House that there are many precedents for that procedure, in fact, in almost every Statute referring to the Government of India I think that procedure has been adopted. But I would also remind the House that deliberately, of intention, in accordance with the terms of the pronouncement of the 20th August, this Bill does not pretend to give to India a Constitution that will endure. It is transitional; it is a bridge between governmen by the agents of Parliament and government by the representatives of the peoples of India. It must be in such a form that it shall be not static, but fluid— that alterations can be made in it from time to time, and that you should not form a rigid Constitution by Statute which could not he altered except by trespassing at intervals upon the over-burdened and over-mortgaged time of this House. Therefore we have resorted to the plan of precedent, of asking that details shall be accomplished by rules. Let me hasten to add that this is one of the points upon which I approach this problem with an open mind. If there is anything in which it is suggested should be done by rule which the House would prefer to be done by Statute, let us by all means, in the Committee stage, incorporate it in the Statute, although, let us try at the same time to avoid rigidity, which I, believe, would be fatal to our purpose. I would add also that it is not our intention to prevent the control by Parliament of these rules and regulations. The Bill provides that they shall be submitted to both Houses. The principle which it is intended to embody in these rules it is intended should be submitted to the Joint. Committee which it is proposed to set up, and the policy of the rules, if not the actual wording of the rules, will therefore be carefully considered at the same time as the Bill itself. I regard that as essential. It has always been said that the Morley-Minto reforms were largely spoiled by the rules made under it. I am not at the moment prepared to argue whether or not that is so, but I want on this occasion to avoid any possibility of that charge being level led. Therefore I hope that Parliament will not lose control of the Bill until the policy which is to be embodied in the rules has also been laid down by Parliament.
2301 1 come now to the Bill itself. What I would like to do, if I may, is to start afresh and try to take the House with me, if I can and if it is not too ambitious a project, in realising that if you start from the place where the authors of this Bill started, the form of the Bill and the recommendations of the Bill are inevitable. Where did we start? We started with the pronouncement of the 20th August, 1917. I propose to ask: Is there anybody who questions to-day the policy of that pronouncement? It is no use accepting it unless you mean it; it is no use meaning it unless you act upon it; and sit is no use acting upon it unless your actions are in conformity with it. There- fore I take it that Parliament, or at any rate this House, will agree that the policy of the pronouncement of the 20th August must be the basis of our discussion—tho progressive realisation of responsible government, progressive realisation, realisation by degrees, by stages, by steps—and those steps must at the outset be substantial. That pronouncement was made in order to achieve what I believe is the only logical, the only possible, the only acceptable meaning of Empire and Democracy, namely, an opportunity to all nations flying the Imperial flag to control their own destinies. [An Hon. Member: "Nations !"] I will come to nations in a moment. I will beg no question. The lion. Member raises the question of nations. Whether it be a nation or not, we have promised to India the progressive realisation of responsible government. We have promised to India and given to India a representation like that of the Dominions on our Imperial Conference. India is to be an original member of the League of Nations. Therefore I say, whatever difficulties there may be in your path, your Imperial task is to overcome those difficulties and to help India on the path of nationality, however much you may recognise—and I propose to ask the House to consider them—the difficulties which lie in the path.
Supposing for a moment there are those who consider that Empire has justified itself when you give to a country satisfactory law and order, adequate peace, decent institutions, and a certain measure of prosperity under the defence that you have provided; supposing, in other words, there are people who believe that you have fulfilled your mission when you have run the country as an estate, and not as a country at all; even then, approaching it 2302 from the other point, there are large proposals in this Bill which command assent from them. There are the proposals for devolution, the proposals for decentralisation. I have heard no critic in these two years who has not told me that it is absolutely essential to get greater freedom for the Government of India from the India Office. I have hardly met a critic who has not told me that it is absolutely essential for the local Governments to get more freedom from the Government of India. I think that is agreed. I do not think that anybody questions that, from the point of view of administrative convenience, if on no higher grounds, government by dispatch, with all its cumbrous machinery, all its necessarily delaying methods, all the difficulties attending upon considering and reconsidering plans and projects over thousands of miles of land and thousands of miles of sea, all that ought to be got rid of. I ask Parliament to assent to this proposition, that you cannot get rid of it unless you substitute something else for it. Now and to-day you cannot have a Government more bureaucratic and less dependent upon Parliament, without being dependent upon anything else, than you have at present. The only possible substitute for government by dispatch is government by vote. The only possible way of really achieving devolution and making the unit, when you have chosen the unit, responsible for the management of its own affairs, is to make the Government of that unit responsible to the representatives of the people. If you simply say, "Let us have an irresponsible Government in a province, and let the Government of India not interfere and the Secretary of State not interfere, and Parliament not interfere," you have a policy which is merely the enthronement of bureaucracy and the very negation of the progressive realisation of responsible government.
Therefore I go a step further. In order to realise responsible government, and in order to get devolution, upon which there is general agreement, you must gradually get rid of government by the agents of Parliament and replace it by government by the agents of the representatives of the peoples of India. In other words, you have to choose your unit of government, and you have got in that unit to create an electorate which will control the Government. What is the unit that you are choosing to be? Some people would say, Let us be content with the unit of the 2303 local government area—the parish council (I am not using terms of art, but terms which have significance for this country), the county council, the rural districtcouncil, the municipalities— in other words, that you should give responsible self-government in the area of local government. That is already being done under the terms of the Joint Report, but that is not enough, for two reasons. The first is this: The policy of complete local self-government was adopted by Lord Ripon in 1883, and we are now proceeding to carry it out, after a delay of something like thirty-five years. It is not enough to answer the new conditions arising out of the world war by fulfilling a promise made thirty-five years ago, and therefore that is one reason why you must give something more than local self-government. But there is another reason. You are not writing on a clear, clean slate. You are writing, and rightly, in continuation of chapters which have been written before. You are building on foundations that already exist. It is in the province that you must look for your unit, because it is in the provinces that the great educational results of Lord Morley's Reform Bill have been achieved. He made the Legislative Councils representative to some extent of the people, with a very small electorate and practically no powers beyond powers of criticism. But it is the existence of those councils which has awakened the appetite for self-government, and have added to the appreciation of self-government in India, and it is therefore, to my mind, absolutely inevitable that we should proceed to devote ourselves to taking the Morley-Minto councils a stage further in their development. Therefore it is to the provinces that we go, and the provinces are beginning to be the units of local patriotism in India. I do not say that as time goes on you will not substantially modify the size and boundaries of your provinces. Some of them are very artificial. But when you do, it should be in conformity with the wishes of the inhabitants of the provinces, and not by executive action.
If I have carried the House with me in the suggestion that the province is the unit in which we shall start a progressive realisation of responsible government, what are the difficulties that we have to face? They were suggested in the Joint Report. I will emphasise them again. It does India no good purpose to attempt to 2304 avoid them, but they are not arguments against our purpose. They are arguments-which we must overcome. The difficulties are these. Under the system of education which has been given to India by British rulers, education has not been spread wide. You have a very small fraction of the population highly educated and a very large proportion of the population not educated at all. You have, secondly, great differences of race and religion and great difficulties arising out of the harsh customs and precepts of caste. I cannot help believing that there is no better way of getting over these difficulties than by representative institutions. There is no greater stimulus to education, there is no better way of promoting community of action or of overcoming the acerbities of caste than by setting to the population a common task to do together, to work out the prosperity of their country. Many of those who write on India assure us of the-insuperable obstacles presented by caste. It can, only be a gradual process to get rid of these harshnesses and acerbities to which I refer. But every step you take in. this direction brings you nearer to the day when the population will not suffer as a consequence of differences of caste. It. has begun. It is idle to say there is no difference of recent years in the conditions. When you realise the fact that men of all castes find themselves in the-same third-class railway carriage, the way in which soldiers write to me that men of all castes mess together, the work which is being done by the members of the higher caste in helping the conditions and devoting themselves to the social problems afforded by the lower castes, you will realise that those problems are on the-way to being solved. The other day I came across a case of a co-operative society run by a committee consisting of Brahmins, non-Brahmins, caste Hindus, and Panchamas. They met to discuss this movement of co-operation, which as grown enormously in India, under a tree of three levels—the Brahmins on one terrace, the non-Brahmins a little lower down, and the Panchamas a little lower still. They discussed the business of the co-operative society in that way. Do you imagine that that is going to endure? Someone will have a difference with someone else in discussing the management of affairs and will talk to him. There is no better way of promoting democratic customs than by working them through democratic institutions.
2305 Despite all these difficulties, I therefore say the essence of the problem is to train the electors. I desire to express, on behalf of the Government of India and the India Office, and, I hope, of this House, our appreciation of the excellent work done by Lord Southborough's Committee. An electorate has been formed; that is to say, proposals have been made to put 5,000,000 voters on the register. But you do not form an electorate by that mere process. You have to get them to vote and you have to get them to understand what a vote means. You have to get them to appreciate the results of a vote. There is only one way of doing that, and that is to make the vote of some value. If a man is asked to vote, and then nothing happens as the result of it, nothing that he can see, nothing that he can appreciate, nothing that he can either reward or punish by the transference or maintenance of his vote, you will never train an electorate. Therefore it is a necessary step for the training of an electorate that you must give it power through its representative. If the result of a vote is that a certain person is elected, if he cannot only criticise but get things done, if he can do things, if he can be held responsible for the things he does, then the man who wants to turn him out will soon undertake the task of training the electorate to a realisation of the importance of a vote. And therefore in order to train your electorate, which is the only way in which you can transfer the power from this House and its agents to the people of India, you have to give the electorate which you create men responsible to it to carry out its demands.
If I have carried the House thus far, the next step must be that you have to choose a part of the provincial functions which at the outset you will entrust to the representatives of the people. Anyone who has followed me in what I have said about education, about caste, and about religious differences, will realise that it is not right to entrust them with everything at the same moment. There are some things, such as the maintenance of peace and order—I will take the definition which Lord Chelmsford and I suggested in the Report—things in which mistakes are irretrievable, things in which the electorate at the outset should not be able to enforce its demands, things like Land Revenue, which you should keep from the control 2306 of the representatives of the people. Immediately you say that, if there is anyone in the House who has gone so far with me, I do not know whether they realise it, but they have swallowed the awful, terrible, much criticised principle of dyarchy.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
Duality. I have endeavoured to lead them, as I was led myself, to realise that the only way to achieve our purpose was to reserve for the present, and for the present only, certain functions of government under the control of the agents of this House, and to transfer other functions to the representatives of the people. That is what Mr. Feetham's Committee proposes to do. That is what the India Office Committee, and that is what the Government of India and ourselves in discussion in India came to the conclusion was inevitable—to separate the functions of government, to transfer some, to reserve others, and to proceed by gradual taking the functions that are at present reserved and transferring them. Having decided that certain functions are to be transferred and that other functions are to be reserved, the question next to be decided is, What is the form of Ministry that you will set up to conduct them Is it to be one or is it to be two? I submit with great confidence to the House that immediately you try and preserve one Ministry, always acting together and sharing responsibility for all acts, you obscure the lesson of responsibility. Let us take a particular reserved function—say police— and a particular transferred function—sayeducation. You say, "It is our intention that the people shall have their way at once in education. It is our intention that, as far as police is concerned, for the moment those who administer it shall carry out the wishes of the Houses of Parliament as the trustees of the Indian people." If the man in charge of education and them an in charge of police are both equally members of the same Government, each sharing responsibility for the acts of the other, both equally responsible for police and education, the one or the other may at any moment have to carry out a policy of which he does not approve. The man responsible for this House may have to carry out an educational policy of which he does not approve. The man responsible to the Indian electorate may have to carry out a police policy of which he does not approve. If 2307 you separate the two functions, if you separate the Government into two parts, when a man who is responsible for education goes to his constituency, ho says, "It is quite true that I have carried out a certain education policy. That is quite right. I am answerable for that, and I am prepared to defend it. With regard to police policy I am not responsible. I am there only in a consultative capacity, with no direct responsibility at all. Your only way of modifying the police policy is so to show the House of Commons the excellence of the way in which you have used your educational policy, so that in ten years' time they will transfer to you the police policy too, but at present my responsibility ceases with the transferred subject." By that means, it seems to me, you can make clear, both to the electorate and to the individual who exercises power on behalf of the electorate, the extent of his responsibility, and in no other way. The logical sequence to that form of argument would be that you would have two Governments completely separate in the same area, with separate funds, separate finances, separate Legislatures, separate executive staffs. I would suggest most respectfully to the House that that is impossible, and for this reason. I cannot reiterate too often that the basis of this whole policy is its transitional nature. You want to lead on to something else at the earliest possible moment. If you have two Houses, with two staffs, two purses, the net result would be that the people concerning themselves with transferred subjects would never have anything to say on reserved subjects. But if reserved subjects are to become transferred subjects one day, it is absolutely essential that, during the transitional period, although there is no direct responsibility for them, there should be opportunities of influence and consultation. Therefore, although it seems necessary to separate the responsibility, there ought to be every room that you can possibly have for consultation and joint deliberation on the same policy, and for acting together for the purposes of consultation and deliberation, as the Bill provides, in one Government.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
And criticism. This procedure would be absolutely indefensible if it were not for the fact that it was transitional, and if it were not for the fact that at stated periods it is proposed to 2308 hold a Parliamentary inquiry into its working, with a view to further stages. By that means there is a certain method of progress. By that means everything that happens will come under review, and the attitude adopted by each part of the Government to the affairs of the other part will be one of the prime factors in the decision of the Commission that reviews.
I have dealt now with the local governments, and the way in which the scheme is evolved. I know it is a very hard thing, I know that it is more than difficult to explain so complicated a procedure, particularly for one who has been saturated for two years past with this sort of argument and discussion. But I have endeavoured as shortly as I possibly could to portray the arguments once again. They are portrayed in the memorandum which I have issued, and the Government of India's dispatch, which have led up to this Bill. I do not think the time has yet come for a similar movement in the Government of India. I think that there we must take the step of one stage only, namely, to make the Legislative Assembly more representative, to give it greater power of influencing and criticising, but not, at this moment, of responsibility; and we must make the Government of India itself more elastic in its composition, less stereotyped, by altering certain of the statutory provisions which govern its executive formation. We must also add to its power of dealing with its own work, because we relieve it of the necessity of controlling a large number of provincial functions. In so far as the provincial Government has got to defer to its Legislature by Statute, that is to say in transferred subjects, you have a Government which is responsible to the electorate. Therefore there is no necessity to control it by the Government of India, and you get the devolution which the men who want to perfect administration desire. Therefore the Government of India will not be concerned, generally speaking, with transferred subjects, and the Secretary of State will not be concerned with transferred subjects. Therefore, this House will not be concerned with transferred subjects. Therefore, so far as transferred subjects are concerned, we shall have parted with our trusteeship and surrendered it to the representatives of the people of India. There is much more to be done with the Government of India. We have to release 2309 it from unnecessary administrative control by the India Office, and for that purpose, incidentally to this Bill, I am awaiting the details of Lord Crewe's Committee's Report, but so far as that is concerned, most of its recommendations, except as regards the composition of the Council, will be administrative and not statutory. At the same time, as was mentioned in the Joint Report, there is very much reason to believe that the secretariat system wants reconsideration and overhauling. I think it is understaffed, and I do not think it is modelled for the transaction of the complicated business which falls to the office at the present moment. The House will be glad to learn that Sir Hubert Llewellyn Smith, one of the most experienced British Civil servants, has been good enough to accept my invitation, given to him on behalf of the Government of India, to visit India to consider the secretariat arrangements in the Government of India, and Sir George Lloyd has also invited him to consider those of Bombay.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Does that include the staffs of Ministers who deal with transferred subjects, or will they arrange their own staffs?
§ 5.0 P.M
§ Mr. MONTAGU
Ultimately, of course, the Ministers will arrange their own staffs, but I want them at the moment to take over their Departments, as going concerns. This question of the secretariat, however, is for the Government of India primarily, and nothing else.
Before I sit down, there are some very important matters with which. I must deal. The first is that of the alternative schemes -which have been presented and which have been rejected in this Bill. There is the Congress and Moslem-League scheme. I will not detain the House with the details of that. It was prepared before the pronouncement of the 20th August, 1917. It does not attempt to realise responsible government, but it leaves an irremovable executive at the mercy of a legislature which can paralyse it but not direct it. I do not believe that this House will ever agree to set up a constitution in India which will leave an executive, that is not removable, at the mercy of a legislature which cannot control it. Much more formidable is another alternative proposal, which comes from the heads of the majority of the local governments. Although I cordially agree with the Government of India in rejecting this proposal, I hops the House will believe that I do 2310 not underestimate its importance. It is the work of no armchair critics. It is the work of the most experienced administrators in India. It is the work of men who are entitled above all others to have their opinions carefully weighed, and, although I believe them to be wrong, and desire to show why I believe them to be, wrong, and that we shall have to argue this in Committee, yet it is with no sense of disrespect to them that I challenge their conclusions. It is a powerful array. The Government of Madras had no part or share in the elaboration of this alternative proposal, nor had the Government of Bombay, but the heads of five local governments, approved the alternative proposal. Yet the Governor of Bengal, Lord Ronaldshay, and the Lieutenant-Governor of Bihar and Orissa, Sir Edward Gait, preferred the scheme of the Bill and the joint Report. That is the position. But although I do not want to discredit them, I want to suggest that really their views are accidental in this sense, that it must not be assumed that whatever the composition of those Governments, and whoever had been their heads, the same results would have ensured. For instance, the Chief Commissioner of Assam prefers the scheme of the majority of local governments. But the late Chief Commissioner of Assam, who left only a few months previously— he came home about a year ago—would have preferred, I know, the scheme of the Joint Report and this Bill. The present Lieutenant-Governor of the United Provinces prefers the alternative scheme of the local governments, but his predecessor would have preferred the scheme of the Joint Report. A great deal depends upon personality.
But although these gentlemen are entitled to give a very weighty opinion, they are not unprejudiced. Where men have grown up under a system they do not like to see it altered. Their proposal is the existing system with another man added to the Executive Council. Nothing much worse than the Morley-Minto scheme—an alleged unity of government, but no real unity of government, because one-half of the Government is in their own words "necessarily influenced by the opinions of the Legislative Council," and the other half not. And there is no certainty of control by the legislature because on all subjects, if the Governor certifies it is in the interests of his province, he can override it. It is the same system with just another Indian member added to the 2311 Executive Council. Let me put it to this House. After all, the Civil servant in India is not very different from the Civil servant in this country. Whoever heard of a political reform in any office in this country coming out of the Civil Service. This House is the place for political reform. You will never get it carried out by the Civil Service. As time goes on, that service must carry out the wishes of those who dictate the policy. It must be first in this House, and ultimately in India, that that policy which the Civil Service is to carry out must be dictated to it.
§ Colonel YATE
Why did you send Sir Llewellyn Smith to make reforms in India? Is he not a Civil servant?
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I am very much obliged to my hon. and gallant Friend. His intervention in Debate is always valuable. He has given me the opportunity of pointing my argument. I am using a Civil servant to advise me on administrative changes as to how the secretariat can carry out most efficiently the orders and wishes of its political superiors. That is exactly the function of a Civil servant. And this is what ultimately, when India is a self-governing country, I hope to see the position of the Civil Service. It is quite true that in what I have said about the local governments' alternative plan I have included Lord Willing don, because, although he is not a Civil servant, and although he has a plan of his own, he would, I am certain, have preferred the plan of the majority of local governments to the plan of the Bill. But then Lord Willing don prefers to rely upon those qualities which he possesses, which made him an astonishing success in the Government of Bombay. He brings all the qualities that ensure for him great popularity and all the qualities which made him in this House a successful Whip. He says, in effect, under a Governor such as Lord Willingdon a more elastic arrangement would be far preferable to the arrangement of dyarchy, of the Bill.
Under the scheme as we propose it to this House, if in any province a governor can so influence his advisers—and there are governors and governors, and lieutenant-governors and lieutenant-governors—if the circumstances of a particular province make it possible, there is nothing in the Bill which would prevent a governor trying to discharge all the reserved. functions as if they were transferred. He 2312 can call his Government together and say, "I do not believe much in this dual form of government. Let us see if we cannot get on together. Unless I am driven to it I will use none of the powers given to me under this Bill. We will always consult together. I will do my best to work the scheme in deference to the wishes of the Legislature on all subjects, and I will only use my exceptional powers on reserved subjects if I am compelled to." Perhaps if he is lucky he will get through his term of office without being called upon to use them. Therefore, under my scheme Lord Willingdon would get all he proposes in his letter. But suppose there is another Governor, who says, "I am not going to consult you. I like the good. old way. I believe that good government, or what I think is good government, is far better than self-government, than the scheme under the Bill. I know what is good for you (better than you know yourselves." Under the scheme of the Bill, whatever the personality of the Governor, the transferred subjects are guaranteed to be representatives of the people. Under the alternative scheme, under the wide use of certification and of the local government majority, nothing is guaranteed to them at all. The time, I submit, is not one in which you can be content that certain members of your alleged united government should be "necessarily influenced by the opinions of the Legislative Council." What you want, if you are to launch India upon this road, is that the Government on certain subjects must respond to the wishes of the people. In other words, unless you have that, and more than the local governments suggest, then there is no progressive realisation of responsible government.
Lastly, I come to the scheme of the Indo-British Association. This is a body which gets very angry when I suggest that it does not intend to carry out the pronouncement of the 20th August in any adequate way, and it has done great harm in India by leading people to suppose that it has more influence on the decisions of Parliament than I hope it is ever likely to have. What are its proposals? "Financial delegation as between the Secretary of State and the Government of India." As a matter of administration, they are in agreement with the Bill and with the Joint Report. But that does not lead to any progressive realisation of responsible government. "The reorganisation of the India Office intended not only 2313 to remedy obsolete procedure, but to obtain more recent knowledge of India. "They are in agreement with the Joint Report on a matter of administration. They are suggesting the work on which Lord Crewe's Committee is now engaged. But that does not lead to the progressive realisation of responsible government. "Decentralisation, in India as between the Government of India and the Provinces in domestic matters and the transformation into a federal system." Once again they are in agreement with the Bill and with the Joint Report. But that in itself does not lead the many nearer to the progressive realisation of responsible government. Then there are two points about municipal and local government and elementary education. These are not constitutional points at all. And then there comes their one controversial and constructive programme. "In every Province place one or two districts in charge of a wholly Indian official staff and extend that, if it proves satisfactory, into a division and finally into a whole Province." That scheme is a scheme of bureaucrats for the consumption of bureaucrats, in tended for the enthronement of bureaucracy, "Let me, if I am in charge of a Province, be not controlled in any sense by my legislative councils." I have got somewhere—I will refer to it if I am challenged—their qualifying statement "that the powers of the provincial Government are to remain unimpaired." They are not to be interfered with by the legislative council or by the Government of India or by the India Office. In other words, the Lord Sydenhams of the future can remain upon their throne, untrammelled by control from above and undismayed by criticism from below. How is that to lead to the progressive realisation of responsible government?
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I do not want to ex-press an opinion on that. His record is available. I am not concerned with the authorship. It does not matter who is the author. I am only concerned to test the programme and see whether it fulfils the policy of the progressive realisation of responsible government. And when I find that the association puts forward a policy which pretends to carry out the pronouncement but which more or less involves bureaucracy, I am entitled to criticise with all the strength in my power. What is the 2314 use of ousting a British Civil servant and replacing him by an Indian Civil servant? The district officer is the very backbone of the administrative machine. I venture to predict that the Indians themselves would be last to wish to see the complete disappearance of the district officer, but we do no good by establishing an Indian bureaucrat instead of an English bureaucrat. Of the two bureaucrats, having regard to his training, I infinitely prefer at the present moment the English bureaucrat. If that is the best alternative scheme addressed to this House, and if we really desire to carry out the pledges made to India, then it is far better to carry the Bill as it stands than to pay any attention to this scheme. We shall never get on with all the work that we have got to do in India unless we have settled, as this Bill will settle, the constitutional question and its interminable discussion. I say it "will settle." What I mean is that I hope we shall receive from the Joint Committee an agreed Bill, that all these alternative schemes will be considered in far more detail than is possible this afternoon, and that somehow or other a Statute will pass, as a consequence of the Second Reading this afternoon, which will launch India on the road to complete self-government. There is so much other work to do in India that if we can once get a growing Constitution for it to win for itself that goal which we have pronounced, we can turn our attention to the spread of education—to the perfection or at least to the improvement of education—we can turn our attention to the development of her great resourses and her great industries, we can consider the reorganisation of her defences. But before we can do anything and in order to make these things possible it seems to the to be essential to start her on this road of self-government.
I implore this House to show to India to-day that Parliament is receptive of the case for self-government and only seeks an opportunity of completing it by the demonstrable realisation of the success of its stages. There is too much race prejudice in India at the present time. It is beyond this House to correct it. It does not exist only in India; it exists in South Africa too. But Parliament can help to correct it in the Constitution. If we hold on to power in India and stand fast to the policy of subordination, race friction will continue and ought to continue. If we surrender our trusteeship to 2315 the great provinces of India as speedily as they are ready to take it over, then Indians will have something better and more worth doing than fiercely and impotently to criticise those who are at present the agents of Parliament.
Perorations on Indian affairs have a tendency to great similarity; at least the perorations of my speeches on Indian affairs always seem so. I cannot, however—and I say it once again—believe that Parliament is going to afford any obstacle to the partnership of India in the British Empire. We have recently been so sympathetic to the national aspirations of Arabs, of Czecho-Slovaks, of Serbs, of Croats, and of Slovenes. Here is a country desirous of achieving nationality once again, I repeat, an original member of the League of Nations, developed under our protecting care, imbued to a greater and greater degree with our political thought. Let us pass this Bill and start it, under the ages of the British flag, on the road which we ourselves have travelled, despite all the acknowledged difficulties of area, of caste, of religion, of race and of education. If you do that, if you pass this Bill and modify it until it becomes a great Statute, I can say—we can say—as I should like to say with the authority of the House to the peoples of India, "The future and the date upon which you realise the future goal of self-government are with you. You are being given great responsibility to-day, and opportunities of consultation and influence on other matters in which for the present we keep responsibility. You will find in Parliament every desire to help and to complete the task which this Bill attempts, if you devote yourselves to use with wisdom, with self-restraint, with respect for minorities, the great opportunities with which Parliament is entrusting you." That is the message which it seems to me—I say with all deference—this House should send to the Indian peoples to-day, when you are starting to fulfil the pronouncement of the 20th of August. That message cannot be sent unless the House is determined to pass without delay, and with every desire that it should be improved before it is passed, a Statute which means the beginning of self-government, responsible government, in the Indian Empire.
§ Sir DONALD MACLEAN
The Debate to-day is an eloquent comment on the Debate which occupied the House for a day 2316 and a half of its time. Tired and weary Members have listened to a speech which is worthy of the theme, and delivered by a Minister who has not only competent knowledge, but has brought to a very heavy task a zeal and an industry which fully fit him for the work which he has so well discharged to-day. But what about us? What a range of subjects we have tried to grapple with this week, and here what a speech this afternoon ! It is not only the question of the British Empire and of India which is at stake, but the whole question of the East and its relation to the West, because on the decision which this House will ultimately give with regard to this great measure— and that of another place—will turn the fate of Europe in its relations to those vast nations which populate the East. Railways, electricity and the swiftly developing means of transport and communication have largely abolished those physical difficulties which made it so easy and apparently true to say thatEast is East, and West is West,And never the twain shall meet.That is gone. The world, if it is going to be a world worth living in, must be a world in which all developed communities can join in a common League of Nations. Lest anybody here should think for one moment that this measure is a reckless leap into the political dark, may I just remind them and myself of what our relations have been stated by authority to be to India, certainly ever since 1858. Many Members of this House, and undoubtedly a very large number of people in this country, are alarmed at the prospect of the development of even the very limited scheme which has been adumbrated here to-day, but the whole test of British government, of Dominions far beyond these Islands, has been this: In times of difficulty and of stress are you going to adopt coercion or attempt conciliation? No one doubts for a moment that the conditions in India are difficult to-day. There is the great Magna Charta, as the Indians regard it, in the statement issued in the name of Queen Victoria in 1858, when it was said that, "Neither race nor religion shall be a bar to the holding of any office under the Crown." When was that issued? Within a few months of the close of the Indian Mutiny. What was the state of India then? There are piping days of peace in India to-day compared with what followed for a long time the close of that terrible chapter in the history of India 2317 known as the Indian Mutiny. And yet that was the policy laid down by our rulers then as to our future relations to India. Sixty years have gone by and to what extent have "we fulfilled the promise, the Undertaking, which lay beneath those noble words? Something has been done certainly. In 1861 certain steps were taken. In 1883 there was a further march towards the fulfilment of some part of our promise, and in 1892; and in 1907 there came the Morley-Minto reforms, wherein at last the elective principle was accepted definitely and power to discuss the Budget and to interpolate, and also to pass Resolutions, was given. That is little more than ten years ago. Here once more we find a perfectly regular and far too long delayed additional step in bringing to the people of India the year-long promises given by this country to that Dominion.
The point I want to make and urge again is this: It is no new thing that we are attempting to-day—nothing of the kind. It is a step, and a very safe step as I believe, safeguarded in all sorts of directions, which I think this country may take with confidence, notwithstanding the disturbed state of portions of India. We shall hear a great deal, no doubt, about the Rowlatt Act, and the condition of things which it was proposed to remedy. The South-borough Commission went out a few months after the Rowlatt Committee finished its investigations. They heard evidence and came unanimously to their respective conclusions. I have very much faith in the conviction that if the state of India was such as to entirely unfit it to be granted this moderate step forward, Lord South-borough and his colleagues would never have felt justified in submitting as they did the two Reports which are now on the Table of this House. If anything is to be done, and something must be done, time is of the essence of the usefulness of the step. My right hon. Friend referred to a remark of 'Sir George Lloyd on that point and I would rather like to elaborate that, and to inform the House a little more fully of exactly what he did say. Sir Georga Lloyd was one of us here for a number of years. He sat on a different side of the House from that on which I sat, and held different opinions. After stating some facts he remarked in the communication to which I refer,'' Under those circumstances I am only concerned to express my profound conviction,, held before I arrived in India and deepened still further in the few months I have been in India, 2318 that time is a factor of vital importance in the whole question of reform. I am convinced that delay is a, greater danger even than an imperfect scheme, and those of us on whom must fall the heavy responsibility of putting a reform scheme into actual operation would be better able to work an imperfect scheme with the good will and confidence of all concerned than to operate a more perfect scheme, if one could be devised, if confidence and good will have been broken and alienated by disappointments and by delays.If there were one other argument needed as to the impossibility of leaving these reforms where they are, I would emphasise what the right hon. Gentleman has said by the one word "Paris." How few of us realise, and certainly it has taken me some little time to do so, what that means. India has been represented in the great council of nations in Paris, shaping not only the future of the belligerents but unquestionably of the world. Is it to be suggested, when those things have happened, and when India has borne a noble and worthy share in the great world-conflict, that we are to approach this question in a niggardly, distrustful, alienating, spirit? Such an attitude as that would be frankly contrary to the whole tradition of the rule of the British race, and I am certain the majority of both Houses of Parliament will, after careful consideration—which, of course, ought to be given—come to the conclusion that some such measure as this is necessary. I hope with the right hon. Gentleman, after such study as I have been able to give the proposals, that such alterations as will be made will not be made in the limiting sense, but rather on the lines of indicating trust rather than distrust of our fellow-citizens under the Imperial Crown. My right hon. Friend has used the word "diarchy." If for every new project we are to have a Greek term, then, while there is a movement for the abolition of compulsory Greek in the universities, possibly we may have to introduce compulsory Greek for Members of Parliament. I do not know why they do not use a good Saxon word, or a word with a good old fashioned Latin root. Why call it "diarchy," which almost seems to suggest something connected with dacoity. The question is whether you are going to set up a dual system, and instead of a Governor and Executive Council not elected but selected, you are going to have reserved services and other services transferred to an elective Chamber under this system of dual working. We know the difficulty of attempting anything new. I am quite certain hon. Members who wish to do so 2319 could get up here and theoretically demonstrate the complete impossibility of working the scheme. That is not the way the British Government have carried on. The British people have never, thank Heaven, been debarred from attempting to do justice by theoretical difficulty, and that is why we have had such success. We have made legislative attempts when specialists and experts have demonstrated to the full satisfaction of themselves that nothing could be done.
The measures which are suggested in the Bill are, I think we will all agree, more fit subjects for careful consideration by a. Joint Committee than for the very slightly informed criticism of the majority of Members of this House, amongst whom I certainly include myself. What we have to do here in the course of debate, so far as we can grasp the facts which are cognate, is to show our agreement with the fundamentals of this measure so that the Committee when it gets to work will have behind it the authority at any rate of this House in the arduous task on which it sets out. As far as I can gather the proposals in general terms may be described thus. We here in the House of Commons representing the supreme power are going to have a good deal less to do through our representatives than we had before. The Secretary of State hopes to have less to do with the Indian Government and the Indian Government hopes to have less to do with the provinces, and the Governor of the province hopes to have less to do with the domestic problems of his immediate area. I see that an hon. Member opposite disagrees with that, but that is how it strikes me. I think that is a thoroughly sensible idea. What are the safeguards? As far as. I understand the subject, you are not really going to touch the central Government. The only thing you are going to do m that respect is to add one more Indian member. All the great controlling power will be left alone, all the questions of law and order are to be under the complete control of the central Government in India. Furthermore, as far as I can see, the Civil Service is going to be left alone and is going to remain entirely under the control of the Government of India. I am sure we will all join, and certainly so far as any tribute from me is worth anything, I desire to pay a heartfelt tribute to the splendid services which the Indian Civil Service during all these generations has rendered to India.
2320 They have performed marvellous work. I do not think the world as a whole has ever seen anything like it. For the present, at any rate, that is going to remain untouched. The real change comes in the provinces, and on all questions which are not transferred such as law and order, and I suppose education—[An Hon. Member: "No, no !"]—the Governor maintains almost despotic power, I hope I am not going too far in saying so, or at all events a very powerful position over his Ministers under the new elective system. He has the power of veto, and what that power is we will see when the rules appear. My right hon. Friend, when he referred to the question of legislation by rule, did not know how sore a subject he was touching so far as we were concerned.
The new elected chambers are to be on a limited franchise of 5,000,000 votes out of 300,000,000 [An Hon. Member: "Two hundred millions !"] It does not make any difference really to the argument. Even there very great safeguards are being introduced, and if you go through the scheme you will find it safeguarded at every step. The only point is whether you have not got too many of them. In rough outlines there is the scheme which is put before the House of Commons to-day. Is it supposed that we shall give any grudging assent to the request which my right hon. Friend makes, on behalf of His Majesty's Government—and that is the point—a Government which represents parties in the State who have been hitherto associated with strong opposition, as far as I can see, to any development upon what I would consider sound democratic progress in regard to India and our Crown Dominions beyond the seas? They joined in that historic declaration of 20th August, 1917. It comes to us with that tremendous force, and I do say this in conclusion, that we seek to maintain India as an integral part of the British Empire. There may be in India, as there are in this country and in every country, bodies of men who seek something far other than that, but as far as I have been able to judge the responsible men of India, their ambition is to be a self-governing dominion within the ambit of the British Empire. That is an ambition which we can to some extent facilitate by the generous passage of such a measure as this, and the success of Acts of Parliament of this kind does not depend so much upon the mere words that constitute the Bills as on the spirit in which they are not only put upon the Statute Book, but are administered. If that spirit 2321 is a broad-minded and generous spirit, even an imperfect measure like this can go a long way to reach the goal which I am sure we all wish to attain.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
I hope my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will not think it is merely conventional, and on the other hand, that it is not presumptuous on my part if I offer to him my most sincere congratulations on the statement of the Bill which he has presented to us this afternoon. These may perhaps be more acceptable to him, because they come from one who has generally differed from him, and who is perhaps disposed to look with greater caution and with somewhat more of fear on the somewhat more advanced steps which he may be disposed to take in this Bill. I cordially echo the words which were said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) in regard to the acceptance that we should give to this Bill. Of the generous spirit which animates it I have not the least doubt, and I hope we may be able perhaps to come to some common understanding about it. But I think my right hon. Friend has perhaps not devoted himself so closely as he might have done to the very abundant documents which have been thrown at us by the Secretary of State. I do not think he would have said, had he read them, that the question was altogether about how far you might extend the Bill. He would have seen that a great part of the discussions about this Bill must be methods of adjustment and of balance of opinion between experts equally anxious to attain the end which he generally desires, and not mere vague aspirations as to extension of its scope. He quoted a letter from Sir George Lloyd, as indicating a certain view. But in the first two paragraphs of that letter Sir George says:Owing to industrial disturbances I was unable to state my view with regard to the scheme of constitutional reforms under discussion. I have arrived in India too recently, and since my arrival have been too preoccupied with the local condition of affairs in Bombay, to form any mature judgment upon the rival merits of the scheme put forward by my predecessor's Government and that proposed by the Secretary of State and the Viceroy.It leaves the main question unjudged. But we would all agree that time is the essence of this matter and that it brooks of no considerable delay. I am a fairly old Member of the House, but I never rose to address the House with a greater sense of responsibility than on this 2322 occasion. I know the difficulties of this matter. It is not because I attach any importance to views of mine, which must be largely second-hand, but because I feel that any words used here may carry far beyond what their real worth may be, and may, by some want of tact, or misplaced emphasis, cause ill-feeling between ourselves and our fellow-subjects in India. I am sure everyone of us will desire to speak with the greatest caution in this matter. My right hon. Friend need not fear that I shall plead for delay. I am only anxious that you should get on as fast as possible. I am not, of course, going to make the absurd and wicked suggestion that you made your declaration on the 20th August, 1917, with any idea of capturing loyalty—loyalty that could not have been captured except by the affection of our fellow citizens. I am afraid that for once, in regard to the form of this Bill, although I cordially agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles in objecting to legislation by Regulation in ordinary matters, I think if he will study the whole circumstances he will agree with me that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State has no other alternative but to carry these measures into effect very largely by Regulations to be issued hereafter.
My right to speak on this is because for a quarter of a century I have been in weekly correspondence with Civil servants in India over very various districts scattered all over. I have visited India, but I do not attach, and I do not think any sensible man will attach, very much weight to these cold-weather visits to India. But they do have a certain value to all of us if we take them in the proper way; if we take them, not as a means of forming judgments for ourselves, but only as a key to understand what we read, and as giving that tincture of reality which is necessary wholly to perceive the force of what we are told. I do not think any man can move through India without finding that whatever he has read or heard or known about India is strengthened by such a visit. One mixes, perhaps, first of all with the wealthy Parsee merchants of Bombay. One may come next to the smoother elements of Bengali society, where dangers at least do not appear so much on the surface. You pass, perhaps, into the more sentimental atmosphere, still guided by those wise guides who know its movements down to the very bottom, of the 2323 sacred City of Benares. Afterwards, perhaps, you can compare the more fighting element of Sikh society in Amritsar. Nothing teaches us more the work that has been done by our brothers in India than to go up to the frontier provinces. I remember passing up to Peshawur, being received by the Governor there, the late Sir Harold Dean. Naturally, these Governors are rather afraid of the type of Paget, M.P., and he perhaps suspected that I was coming to teach him instead of trying to learn from him. That suspicion was soon broken down, and we became the closest and most confidential of friends. I rode with him into the market every morning, where he well knew that he was an easy object of murderous attack. I was sent by him up the Khyber Pass, that strangest of all scenes, where you pass through mountains occupied by the British pickets on certain days of the week, in order to assure the passage of the great caravans from Central Asia. I drove up in the sole company of two files of Khyber Rifles, and I passed through the middle of a caravan stretching for a mile and a half on the road, and at last reached Lundi Kotal, and found three of my fellow Englishmen holding that fort within sight of Jellalabad, where they were surrounded by hostile tribes, and where their life was passed in solitary wardenship. I understood then something of the responsibility and something of the hardship, and something of the strain and stress of Anglo-Indian life. I apologise to the House for occupying so much time with these perhaps senile recollections.
What is the situation in which we stand in passing judgment upon the Bill which my right hon. Friend has brought forward I Let me say at once that I accept with no grudging and without reserve the declaration of the 20th of August, 1917. I think it carried out what was the spirit of previous declarations. It might be objected, of course, that that was no Resolution of Parliament. It was made on the eve of an Adjournment, and was merely a declaration of a Minister confirmed by no Resolution of the House. But we need not argue about that. I do not think anyone will object to acquiescence in the spirit—if you like in the words—of the declaration of 20th August. We must, by assenting to that, carry forward the political education of our fellow-citizens of 2324 India. That will be our duty. It becomes our duty because we believe profoundly in the advantage of constitutional Government. Our faith in constitutional Government, in spite of all our doubts, difficulties, and hesitations, makes it our duty to do all we can to develop that education. But is it unduly cautious, if, perhaps from the habit of a lifetime, I say we would have been on stronger grounds if we had been able to find that the mass of the population, and not merely a small handful, were pressing us on to this movement? I do not say that because merely a handful are doing it we must hold back, but we must remember that the educated and literary part of India forms a very, very small part of the population compared with the whole people. I am sorely tempted to quote a sentence from Burke, which appears in one of these Blue Books:If half-a-dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their cries, while largs cattle in thousands lie under the shelter of the British oak, chewing the cud in silence, do not suppose that the noise comes from the only living creatures in the field.I would rather some of those silent masses had really been educated up to the stage of making this demand, and making it with greater force than can be made by what is, after all, a very, very small minority of the nation. We must remember, also, that we have in India what the right hon. Gentleman has referred to as vast differences of nationality, of lauguage, of religion, of caste. It is no use saying that we must treat India as a nation. India, with her fifty or more languages, with her differences of caste, her varieties of religion—those things cannot be got over lightly by saying that we must treat India as a nation and grant her independence. I remember during my visit to India discussing at a station with a commander of one of the Imperial forces of one of the native States, the probable future of the Government of India. One of us said to the native officer, "In the days of our grandchildren, will we still be here, or will you do without us" The native officer, pointing to the inscription which is at every station in India— "Water for the Hindu gentlemen"; "Water for the Mahomedan gentlemen "—said, "So long as that remains necessary, we must keep you here." We have to settle secular differences, deep-rooted differences, that divide the great masses of Indians, and we cannot lightly throw over our trusteeship, wipe out the whole 2325 past and leave the struggle to be fought out by those for whom we have made ourselves responsible.
We have also this to consider. We have to look to the fact that there have been recent experiments, and I am certain that ray right hon. Friend would agree with me that those recent experiments have not always been completely successful. We had the experiments of Lord Ripon in 1883. They never led to any great results, and even now, as the right hon. Gentleman says, after thirty-four years, they are only beginning to take some sort of shape. We have the Morley-Minto reforms: I have looked through these various reports. All the different authorities on every side pronounce the Morley-Minto reforms an almost absolute failure. They have established a system of constant criticism without power and without responsibility, and, besides that, they have established a system of representation which is really a sham. Criticism is never so likely to foster discontent or to be so captious as when it is entirely devoid of responsibility. Those experiments, at all events, have not proved great successes. Further than this, we have to remember that we have to look back upon three years of very great and serious disturbance in India. The Secretary of State did not, in his speech tonight, refer to. all those disturbances that occurred in the year 1916, nor to the results of the Rowlatt Commission and the consequent Acts restraining disturbances, but there is no doubt we have the right—and it is not any grudging spirit which makes us assume that right—of looking carefully at your proposals, when those proposals are made after three years of very dangerous disturbances in India, and while those responsible for the government of India fear at any moment the outbreak of new disturbances. These are not things that can be lightly passed over. I do not say that these dangers either justify us in refusing reforms, or justify us even in delaying reforms, but they do justify us—nay, they make it our duty—to look with caution, and with critical eye, on the reforms that are proposed.
We start all these experiments with the consciousness that with all the successes that have been achieved, in one sphere of Indian administration we have nothing but failure, and that is in our Indian education. We have built from the top instead of building from the foundation.
2326 We have attempted to found universities, and to found universities on the very worst possible type, by competitive examination-and by curricula and degrees, and all the paraphernalia of universities, instead of the living spirit, which would have brought them closer, made an alliance with the Indian spirit, arid developed the real genius of the Indian nation through the university. No one who goes through the village schools or the little technical schools can say that in regard to popular education we have done anything but achieve a failure. The village schools are really beneath contempt. They touch merely a handful. They are imperfect in their methods. I am not talking of reading and writing—that is only a small part of education. What I regard as the-main part of education is getting hold of the younger generation, forming and shaping their character and making them useful citizens, teaching them to be clean and fully developed, physically and intellectually, and, above all things, long ago we ought to have made education far more practical. Unfortunately, the system was established just at our worst period, when we thought about nothing but competitive examinations and degrees, and payment by results, and all the rest of it, when we never sought, even at home, to form character, to develop aptitude or to make our younger generation into really good citizens. That is one of the great difficulties we have in starting a new system of reform, that we have never laid the real foundation by education that would have created popular interest in politics. That is the one great failure in our Indian administration, and we have paid a very heavy penalty for it.
Now we come to the suggestions as to the shape which reforms should take. We all agree, as I have said, that some reform is necessary, that that reform must be generous, that it must carry out, not only the words but the spirit of the declaration of 20th August, and, further, it must be prompt, for the matter brooks no delay. My right hon. Friend referred to one very interesting and very able precursor of this system of reform, and I am glad to join in the compliments paid to our mutual friend, Mr. Lionel Curtis, who belongs to a very active, and a very important body of young men, whom I should be the last to criticise. I am proud to know him, and to pay that respect to him due from age to youth. He and others of the company 2327 of the Round Table have been, doing good work, and part of that good work has been done in India. But we must remember, much as we owe to the proposals made by Mr. Lionel Curtis, yet they have been set aside. I do not think my right hon. Friend found it possible to adopt these proposals in their integrity. He found certain great difficulties. These proposals—to describe them in a single word—were to the effect that independent government to a certain extent should be assigned to the small States within the provinces under the tutelage of the British Government. The difficulty was in the tutelage, for it was anticipated that very soon there might be a collision between these small States, independent in certain -aspects, and the wider Government. That plan, then, was set aside.
Now we come to the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman. In regard to certain things he is perfectly right in saying there is common agreement. We are all agreed as to the need for decentralisation. We are all agreed that the present system of representation is absurd, and that if you give representation at all it must be a reasonable representation. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles Sir D. Maclean) said that 5,000,000 was a very small number out of all the millions of India. Yet 5,000,000 is a very considerable advance upon a very few thousands. We all agree in the matter of decentralisation. The difficulty arises when you come to the detailed proposals for diarchic Government, or by whatever name you choose to call it, by which there are to be reserved and transferred subjects, and under which these transferred subjects are to be handed over to be administered by Ministers chosen from and responsible to the legislative councils, and very much independent of the Governor and his executive. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman must, as well as anyone, admit that there are very serious difficulties in this. I am not giving here a final opinion, and this, after all, may the most feasible, workable, and practicable scheme of all those suggested. But my right hon. Friend, I am certain, will agree that there are certain self-evident difficulties about it. That is admitted in more than one statement that has appeared above his own name. It may be perfectly true, that of the competing schemes this is the better, because its advantages outweigh its manifest disadvantages. There is the alterna- 2328 tive scheme put forward by the four Provincial Governments, but this my right hon. Friend criticised very severely and with great skill. Under the alternative scheme there would be no division between transferred and reserved subjects, but there would be an increase in the native elements in the Executive Council, and that increase would bring with it responsibilities and perhaps open the door here after to still further increase. I am quite aware of the difficulties. They might create discontent amongst these Ministers and those whom they represent, and perhaps upset the Government. On the other hand the thing might incidentally, under such strain, develop into greater power. It is quite true that this alternative scheme may be open to objection. The right hon. Gentleman has so stated. On the other hand, he must remember that his own scheme has been very severely criticised. Lord Ronaldshay and the Government of Bengal have refused to join in that of the Provincial Governments. My right hon. Friend will agree that -although Lord Ronaldshay and the Government of Bengal did not agree with the alternative system proposed, yet it would rather strain the words of the dispatch of Lord Ronaldshay to say that they evinced entire agreement with the proposals of the Report. My right hon. Friend will agree that the dispatch, does not necessarily argue support on the part of Lord Ronaldshay.
I feel sure the House will reserve its judgment. We are quite ready to go further on the road of Reform. It is our duty in conjunction and collaboration with the right hon. Gentleman to try to find out what is best to devise, what will best do that which we ought to do. I say very humbly that I see some danger. I distrust, and very strongly distrust, some of the recent experiments. I have doubts as to the practicability of some of the proposals. I cordially agree that settlement, and some quick settlement, is desirable, and that we must not always be guided by mere abstract constitutional principle. I am very glad the right hon. Gentleman has—and he will correct me if I am wrong—adopted as a practical measure—though I think really it is capable of no constitutional defence—a system of communal representation. Anyone who knows cannot but feel that communal representation is really not consistent with any broad prin- 2329 ciple of constitutional government. All the same, the right hon. Gentleman would say that, in the circumstances, and as things stand now, it is necessary in India.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I think it may be necessary to let the Mahomedans and Hidus arrange the matter themselves.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
I think the words of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State take a more practical form.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
No; I accept it as practically necessary. I want to put forward, as one essential element in your procedure, that you must keep a fair and just attitude towards the Civil Service. Trust its members. Do not despise their opinions. My right hon. Friend himself has experienced something of the spirit in which they are ready to approach this question. I think he has received— in fact, I need not make any mystery of it, because I myself have passed them on to him, documents from the Civil servants. I think he will agree that these show the same spirit of loyalty in their views on the proposals now made that have been traditional in their profession. The right hon. Gentleman compared the position of the Civil servants with that of the English service. The analogy is not complete. The Indian Civil Service is a service that has far more responsibility, far more initiative, and I as a man of the home service am proud to acknowledge it. It has been the duty of the Indian Civil Service to form opinions upon the larger questions and to give those opinions. They are in this respect completely different from the home service, who merely administer and whose business it is not to express opinions upon great political questions. I trust my right hon. Friend will remember that the position, even financially, of the Civil Service is very serious. It has been brought before successive Governments since 1911. In 1912 a Commission was appointed. It reported in 1915, but not the slightest action has been taken towards improving the position of the Civil servants. Their leave has diminished. Their work has enormously increased. Their liberty is curtailed. The expense of' the journey home has enormously increased, and made it almost impossible for the Civil servants with reduced pay and increased expenses to come home, except at long intervals.
2330 Their wives and children are separated from them. The least that can be done is to give some attention to the needs and just claims of that profession.
Let me, in conclusion, read only a few words from the paper which I placed in the hands of my right hon. Friend.We have examined—say the Civil servants—these proposed constitutional reforms from the standpoint of men who will be asked to put them into execution. We desire to lay emphasis on this point, for throughout this Report its authors-presume, and rightly, that the members of all services will do their loyal utmost to make this or any other similar scheme a complete success: the tradition of giving their best to the country under all and any circumstances will, so far as present members of the services are concerned, be maintained to the end of their service, to the exclusion of the wishes and opinions of the individual. Our attitude, therefore, is not that of the destructive critic, it is that of the man who desires to perfect and improve details only, and we would ask that the opinions given be-interpreted strictly in the spirit in which they are offered.We are strongly convinced that the success, of this scheme, or of any other, depends entirely, not on our efforts, but on the attitude-adopted, and the part played by the responsible educated Indian. In past years such men have not accepted to the full their duty in connection with the political progress of their country; many have, it is true, asked, and occasionally agitated openly, for reform and advance, but others—we believe the great majority—have been content with our own guidance, that is either with things as they were, or with any reforms which their rulers (for there is no-escaping the word) thought fit to introduce. On our part, speaking as officials, we feel, and for years have felt, that our own official policy has been too slow and circumspect: Government has hesitated, deliberated—and then pigeon-holed— when it should have gone boldly forward.That is a spirit different from that which has-sometimes 'been attributed to the Civil servant in India. I am certain that the right hon. Gentleman will carry out his reforms best if in a generous spirit he listens to and accepts the co-operation of that Service in the future.
§ Mr. BENNETT
The hon. Member for the Scottish Universities who has just sat down has spoken with a diffidence unusual amongst cold weather visitors to India. There is much in his statement with which I agree, but perhaps he will allow me to say that on one or two points I differ from his conclusions. In the first place, I think that the Morley-Minto reforms have not been the entire failure he has taken them to be. I think he somewhat underestimates the progress of local self-government in India. I do not think that the educational system has been the entire failure it has 2331 been represented to be. No one will claim that it has been a success, but anyone who has had any large acquaintance with the Indian members of the various local administrations, or with the subordinate members of the judiciary and members of the legal and medical profession in India who have had their training and their teaching entirely in Indian universities will say that they have been a complete failure. I do not pretend that they have been a success. We have had a very searching and critical account given by the hon. Member who went out to India as a member of the Industrial Commission. We are aware of the defects of that system, and there is no doubt it will in time undergo the reform that it needs.
I think most of us will follow the example of the Secretary of State for India in refraining from criticisms, or attempting to deal with the details of the great measure he has laid before the House to-day. We shall find our best criterion of them by asking two questions. (1) Are the political concessions made in the Bill honest and genuine, and (2) are the executive safeguards which it offers sufficient? I think that the Bill will pass safely through an examination in the light of those two principles. The right hon. Gentleman admits that under the scheme referred to a great deal of the good which would have resulted has been nullified by Regulations. It is, however, reassuring to see how fully alive he is to the danger of that policy if repeated, and it will be a satisfaction for the House to know that under the new scheme the Regulations which will be prepared will have somewhat of a statutory nature, that is to say, they will be subject to the approval of the House and to any criticisms which may be offered in this House.
We have also a great and valuable innovation in the instrument of Instructions to the Governors. No one can read over the Bill itself without seeing how much of the operation of that Bill will depend upon the Instructions, and I hope the House will give the most careful consideration to these Instructions, because very much will depend upon them. We have been told, because five of the provincial Governments in India differ from the principle of dualism, that we ought to postpone the consideration of this Bill. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in the arguments which he puts forward in defence of the scheme of the Government 2332 of India against that of the provincial Governments, because I cannot see in the scheme put forward by the provincial Governments anything like an open way to the development of popular responsibility. Although it takes some courage to stand up against the advice of five provincial Administrations in India, at the same time I think the right hon. Gentleman is justified in the scheme he has chosen as against that of the five provincial Governments.
This House and the opinion of this country, in looking at this scheme, will have to abandon certain conventional ideas in regard to India, and especially those "club smoking-room" ideas of which the Secretary of State has spoken. For instance, there is the old saying that in the East you must be either the hammer or the anvil. We ought to look at this great problem without thinking which is the hammer and which is the anvil. We are not going to hammer the disaffected of India into loyalty to us and our government, and we must find some other method of doing it. Again, there is the old convention that we won India by the sword and we can only keep it by the sword. That is rather defective history and worse politics. I should take no pride in India and in my position as a citizen of this Empire if I felt that India was to be kept only by the sword, and I believe that view prevails in all parts of the House.
There are difficulties which have been put forward, and which, in my opinion, have been made more of than they are entitled to. You hear of lions in the path, and you can always see them if your imagination tends that way. One lion in the path is the religious difficulty in India. We all know that there is such a difficulty, but it is possible to exaggerate it even in India, and those who press that difficulty upon the notice of the people in England forget to tell us how many States there arc in India in which Mahomedan rulers peacefully exercise sway over the Hindu populations. Many of us who have been in India must have had some experience of those political conditions. I know in one State of a very influential Mahomedan Nawab who governs through a Hindu Minister, and one never hears of any differences between that ruler and his people because of the difference of religion. Then, again, we hear of insuperable caste obstacles to the establishment of anything like modern constitu- 2333 tional government in India. Here, again, one does not underestimate the obstinacy of certain sections of the community, but we are conscious that that problem is to some extent solving itself, and that at all events the predominance of caste is not as uncompromising and absolute as it used to be.
In regard to that matter there are signs which I regard as most encouraging. We have the attitude of the Brahmins. The Brahmin has been held up as a somewhat dangerous, grasping, and unsatisfactory person, but I do not think he has been quite fairly treated. The Brahmin is to some extent by prescription a privileged person, but in the practical affairs of life one does not see much exercise of that privilege, and, at any rate, the Brahmins are taking their part in a way most creditable to them in the uplifting of the oppressed classes in India. We hear of the many millions of oppressed people, but we do not hear so often of the measures that are being taken for raising them. To whom we should give credit for originating these I am not quite sure, but I think the Christian missionaries have had something to do with it. The point I want to make is that the most efficient measures that have been taken in India for the social amelioration and the education of the oppressed classes have been taken by the educated Brahmins. They are a class of people who are held up to prejudice and distrust as a privileged oligarchy; but they have done more than any others in India to raise the depressed classes. Only the other day I heard of an organisation which deserves to be known and to be respected wherever it is known, called the Servants of India Society. This society organised, in connection with one of the great religious fairs in the United Provinces, a medical and nursing service for the benefit of all who might be taken sick or who might be in need of help amongst the hundreds of thousands of worshippers who assembled at that religious fair. Cholera broke out, and the Servants of India Society took the lead in organising measures for dealing with the outbreak. I am speaking of these people because the Brahmins have been held up as obstacles to the setting up of anything like democratic institutions in India. I plead for a fair judgment even upon them.
We are told that it is hopeless and dangerous to put more power into the hands of the people of India, because the certain result of doing that would be to decrease 2334 the efficiency of the administration. There have been times in recent years in which thoughtful Indians have had some reason for asking whether British administration at all points was any more efficient than it ought to be. Let us at all events realise this, that we may pay a little too dearly for absolute efficiency, and it may pay us in certain circumstances to be content with something short of perfection. Lord Cromer, whom I can scarcely regard as a dangerous adviser in matters of this kind, always acted upon the principle that ho would employ the natives of India where it was at all possible, in spite of the fact that the native was comparatively inefficient. "This is a point," he said, "on which the Government of India have always gone wrong. You lose more by the effect upon popular content than you gain by having the work better done." At a congress I attended two and a half years ago I was struck by the fact that all over the huge building there were mottoes, and I think the most predominant motto there was, "Efficient government no substitute for self-government." I think the idea was Mazzini's. It was used by the Italian population of Lombardy under Austrian domination. They fully recognised that the Austrians were efficient governors, but they did not love them any the more for that, and were very glad to get rid of them. You may pay too much for your efficiency. We frankly recognise that there will be a danger of a certain falling off in the efficiency of the administration while the new methods and the new régime is acquiring strength and getting into operation, but we ought to be prepared for that if, on the other hand, we get an increasing contentment amongst the people of India, and a satisfaction with the rule which England has imposed upon them.
When an attempt is made to put the situation in India before us, it is sometimes put in a way which cannot fail to alarm. Most of us have had a pamphlet sent to us which was intended to prepare us, I suppose, for the decision that we are to come to to-day. That pamphlet, I think, is the product of the Indo-British Association to which the Secretary of State has referred. I do not want to answer that pamphlet, but I think it might very fairly be described as a caricature of recent events and movements in India. It puts everything out of perspective, and everything out of proportion, and presents India to the English public merely as a hotbed of sedition, in the political pheno- 2335 mena of which there is nothing worth attention beyond the ravings of an hysterical woman and the plottings of a disloyal minority. That is not the India with which we have to deal. We have to deal with a very different India, so long as we are sure that the Executive are armed with sufficient powers to control it, and we can find in the difficulties and even the dangers which confront the Administration in India no reason for denying the opportunities of progress and self-development. I think the attitude of mind of men who, on the eve of a decision being taken on a question fraught with the greatest importance to the development of the Empire, can do nothing better to enlighten us than to send round a scarecrow pamphlet, for it is nothing better, show a deplorable want of statesmanship and of good faith.
The hon. Baronet (Sir H. Craik) spoke of the grave and serious occurrences in India during the last three years, and I do not think I am misrepresenting or exaggerating his argument when I say that he looks upon recent occurrences as a reason why we should be very careful and very cautious in the measures that we adopt in India. That is a very fair and reasonable argument, but it is not a reason for timidity. Timidity may produce greater dangers than a bold and resolute policy.
§ Mr. BENNETT
We are glad to have those two points put by the hon. Baronet. We have two good examples which we can follow. We have the example of Canning, who had to deal with far more serious troubles and problems than even the Government of India has had to deal with in recent years, and yet he did not regard that as a reason why he should withhold from the people of India the benefits of university education. It was the crowning point of Canning's policy of clemency to give to India those university institutions of which we have heard to-night. The other example is that of a recent Viceroy who, notwithstanding the attempts upon his life, and notwithstanding all that he suffered, said that it would not deter him from going on with the liberal policy which he contemplated. I am sure those are examples which should help and encourage us. We have to go forward. I might quote a passage from a contemporary historian 2336 whose work has already become classic, when speaking of the measures adopted by the Emperor Theodosius. He speaks of Theodosius as "The far-seeing statesman who, seeing the tide of democracy setting in, goes boldly forth to meet it, and with liberal hand extends the privileges of citizenship to the worthiest of those who have been outside the pale, and from the enemies of the constitution turns them into its staunchest defenders." That is the policy which the Secretary of State for India has taken in hand. He courageously goes forward to meet the rising tide of democracy in India, and he may count upon converting a good many of those who at this time are hostile to British rule or, at all events, are not helping us as they ought to do. He may, and we hope he will, convert them into helpers and loyal subjects of the Crown. We or others may spend a good deal of time upon the details and machinery of this Bill, and in regard to that may I remind the House of what Lord Morley has written regarding the second-rate importance of the machinery of political institutions? He recommends us to engrave in letters of gold on the portals of the great offices of State at Whitehall Matthew Arnold's words: "When shall we learn that what attaches people to us is the spirit we are of, and not the machinery we employ? "We may have doubts and difficulties as to the machinery, and as to matters of detail, but if we are right "in the spirit we are of," I have no fear of the consequences.
§ Colonel YATE
I think the House may congratulate the hon. Member who has just spoken on his interesting address, and I am sure we all join with him in hoping that the Bill we are now considering will have the result that he hopes for in converting the present agitators into our good and useful colleagues in the government of India in the future. One word in regard to the Indian Civil Service, which was dealt with by the hon. Baronet (Sir H. Craik). I confess I was disappointed at the expressions used by the Secretary of State regarding the Civil Service of India. If I remember aright he said he was sending out a representative from this country to bring the Indian Civil Service down to its proper position; to put it into its proper position, and to put it more into the position of the Civil Service at home than of the Indian 2337 Civil Service in India. We must all remember that the Indian Civil Service was the greatest ambition of many people in this country, and one of the greatest examinations in our universities was that for the Indian Civil Service. It is also the greatest ambition of Indians when they come here to be trained to pass for the Indian Civil Service. The Indian Civil Service occupies a very unique position in the world, and I do not want to see it brought down to any lower level than it occupies at the present time. Therefore, I hope my right hon. Friend will not maintain the position he took up when he spoke about it.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
Sir Llewellyn Smith is going out to India for no other purpose than to collaborate with the Indian Civil Service in advising the Viceroy and the Government as to the reorganisation of the secretariat of the Indian Government Departments. I agree with every word the hon. and gallant Gentleman says as to the Indian Civil Service. My only argument was that when the time comes they would lose their responsibility for the initiation of policy but would carry out the policy which was dictated to them when it was transferred from this House to the people of India.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Colonel YATE
I hope the Indian Civil Service will never lose its initiative. It is to its initiative that we owe a great deal. It has maintained our Government in India for a century. I do not want to touch on any details of the Bill under discussion. We acknowledge that nobody understands it, for nobody has had time to study it. The right hon. Gentleman told us that he had flooded the House with literature. Look at the quantity we have had within the last week or two. It has been impossible for anyone to study it. I do not know why these voluminous Blue Books were kept back. I do not know why these Reports were not published at the time they were received. I must leave it to the Secretary of State to explain the reason for the delay. It is a great pity we did not have them months ago. The only really important question at this stage of the Bill is whether self-government in India is to be founded on unity of administration, or whether what the right hon. Gentleman calls the principle of diarchy is to obtain. Diarchy is a system of dual Government. The right hon. Gentleman is responsible for the 2338 word. There is no word in any language in any part of the world for such Government, and the very fact that no word exists anywhere for such a system of government is proof that there has been no one irresponsible enough to suggest such a system before this. It is an absolutely unknown system.
What is the proposal? It is that in each Province in India—we ought rather to say in each country in India, for if you compare the Continent of India with the Continent of Europe without Russia, you will see they very nearly coincide; the population of India is 315,000,000, and that of Europe without Russia is 312,000,000; India represents, like Europe, many countries with divergent conditions, but those divergent conditions are far greater in India than in Europe. The difference between the Bengali on the East of India and the Baluchi on the West is far greater than the difference between the Bulgarian on the East and the Britisher on the West of Europe. When one thinks how absolutely impossible it is to introduce one franchise and one system of government for the whole of Europe and for the various countries constituting Europe without Russia, we can easily understand the difficulty of introducing one franchise and one system of government for all the varieties of race, language, and creed that exist in India. It may be asked, What is the meaning of this system of diarchy? It is that in every province of India, however different the creeds and languages may be, you are to have two executive councils, one composed of British official members and the other of Indian unofficial members. These two executive councils are to be opposed to each other and to fight each other on questions affecting the Budget, the allotment of funds, and everything else.
The danger is this, that these questions will be fought out under the pressure of the Indian Press. The virulence of criticism and gross misrepresentation indulged in lately by the Indian Press has been so marked that I recently put a question to the Secretary of State as to what was being done to stop it. The right hon. Gentleman, wrongly as I think, put the onus of protecting the servants of the Government of India not on the shoulders of the Government of India or himself but on the Provincial Governments. I think he is wrong. It is the duty of the Government of India and of the Secretary of State to defend their own servants from the 2339 gross attacks made upon them of late months by the Indian Press. Under the system of diarchy this abuse of the British side of the Government will be increased and will tend to make the Government of India impossible, as it is trying to do now. That is the danger we must think of. Re-member that under this system of diarchy accusations will be levelled day after day against the British side of the Government for allotting too much money for the preservation of law and order, too much money for the reserve services, and not enough money for the transferred services and such like things. There will be continually increasing friction. The Viceroy claims that the Bill will prevent that. But we must remember that the fame and notoriety of the unofficial members of India will depend on the manner in which they oppose the official members.
The alternative scheme which is proposed by the great majority of the Provincial Governments of India, by men who really know what government in India is, would give us a unified system of government. I know well the value of the Indian mind to the British mind and of the British mind to the Indian mind. I know there could be no better thing for India that to have British and Indians all sitting together round the table in equal numbers, acting together and sending their decrees forth as from one unified whole—one united Government which you cannot divide. We have got a Coalition Ministry in this country. Could we not have the same in India?
§ Colonel YATE
What should we do if we had two Cabinets in this country, one on the Government side and the other on the Opposition side, both under the same Prime Minister. Would it work? Would they not fight against each other? The thing is impossible. The Government could not go on for a day. Yet that is what the Secretary of State is trying to impose upon India. The real point before us now is whether self-government in India is to be founded on unity or on disunity. We are to have a Joint Committee of both Houses set up to inquire into that. I confess I was afraid when this Bill was first brought forward that it might be said that if the Bill were read a second time it would establish the principle of diarchy and no amendment could be moved. I 2340 put a question to the Leader of the House yesterday, and he assured me that that was not the case. The question I put was as to whether it would be within our power, after the Second Reading of the Bill, to introduce amendments to give effect to the alternative proposals submitted by the majority of the Provincial Governments in India to the system of diarchy embodied in the Bill. The Leader of the House replied that it was certainly the intention that it should be within the competence of the Committee to submit such amendments, and the Bill had been drafted accordingly.
We all wish that this Bill should now go forward as quickly as possible. But one very important point is as to the composition of this Committee. Yesterday I asked the Leader of the House if he could tell us who was to be on this Committee, and he replied that it would not be appointed until after the Second Reading of the Bill. I am sorry for that. I believe there are precedents in existence in which Committees have been appointed before the Second Reading and the names given to the House for approval. I wish that had been done in the present case. There are many Members of this House who have no knowledge whatever of the technicalities of the Government of India. To them the details of this Bill must be absolutely unintelligible, as they are no doubt to the majority of the people in this country. But on the results of the findings of the Joint Committee you must remember the peace and welfare of India for generations to come will depend. The Committee has the most serious inquiry before it. We do not know what their report may be. It may throw India back into chaos, into the state of trouble which existed sixty years ago. We know about the riots and risings in India during the last few months. We have seen agitations carried on there in support of anarchy which have shown how easily the whole population of India may be led, and it proves more than ever how extremely careful we must be before making any great changes in the Government of India. The Joint Committee of both Houses might be the cause of endless trouble in India, and I would therefore appeal to the Leader of the House to see that on this Joint Committee all views are impartially represented, and that all parties may have an equal chance of giving evidence before it, especially those Members of Provincial 2341 Governments of India who have experience and knowledge of Government in India, and whose representations will be of such great value.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
If the hon. and gallant Member for Melton (Colonel Yate) had read these Blue Books with which he has been overwhelmed, and which came out three weeks ago——
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Yes, the Blue Books came out about three weeks ago, before the last Indian Debate.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
That was the subsequent ones published since the Blue Books. The Blue Books were out before the last Indian Debate, because I read them before it.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
There have been two others since then, but they have been White Papers. It would be difficult to take part in this Debate unless one had studied those Reports.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
The letter from the Government of India dated 5th March, 1919, was only issued about five days ago.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
But the Feetham Report on the diarchical system of government proposed by the Secretary of State has been in our hands for three weeks. That, apparently, was not read by the hon. and gallant Member for Melton before he made his speech to-day. If he had read it, he would have appreciated the difficulties of the situation, if you try to give responsible government to India and at the same time try to safeguard the present bureaucratic government in that country. It is a wonderful experiment that is being made at the present time. This is, perhaps, the most important Bill that has been introduced into this House since the days of the great Reform Bill of 1832. Indeed, when we consider that it affects 315,000,000 people, against the 31,000,000 affected by the great Reform Bill, it might 2342 be said to be the most important Bill ever adopted in the House of Commons. It is a constitutional measure of the very first importance, quite incomparable with the Morley-Minto reforms or the. reforms of earlier date. This is the birth of India as one of the self-governing Dominions of the British Empire. We are only shown in this measure the outline of the first stage of that great development, but every one who votes for this Bill to-day is voting definitely for the placing of India in years to come in exactly the same position as Canada, Australia, or South Africa inside the British Empire. That amounts to a complete change in the present system of government in India. You cannot have bureaucracy and democracy running side by side. All that can be done is to make the change from pure bureaucracy to democracy gradual. That is what the right hon. Gentleman has attempted to do, both in his Report and in this Bill.
I am in rather a difficult position as regards this Bill, because I think it would have been wiser to have been more courageous. This Bill, if passed, will not end agitation in India. Directly this Bill is passed I hope that agitation will transfer itself from outside, from violent methods and from passive resistance to those councils when they are formed, but I hope that agitation will continue, because, unless it continues on sound constitutional lines in these new Parliaments, just us agitation continued in our Parliament after the Reform Bill of 1832, we shall not see India achieve a reasonable and satisfactory form of government, inasmuch as this Bill is not proposing a satisfactory form of government. The diarchy can be excused or justified as a transition measure, but only as a transition measure. We might have started India further ahead in the stream of time. All Governments everywhere depend upon the command of the power of the purse. It has taken us 700 years in this Parliament to acquire the command of the power of the purse. During those 700 years kings have lost their crowns and their heads, Parliaments have been smashed up, and civil war after civil war has rent the country.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I want to avoid starting India in the thirteenth century when we might start her in the twentieth century. I want to prevent in that country all the agitation which the command of the purse involves, and all the 2343 bitter feeling which must arise between Indians and ourselves until we do relax the power of the purse by a generous measure of reform immediately, and trusting to the innate sense that every civilised people has, and which I think the Indians have from what I know of them, that the safest way of conducting your country is to look to and carry on internal reforms, progressively developing the industries, sanitation, health, education, and what I might call the mental development of the country. We should rely upon the natural tendency to use the weapons which we put into their hands for progressive development rather than confine them, as we do during the next ten years, to a perpetual constitutional struggle between the grantors of the constitution and those to whom it is granted, which will mean bad blood rather than good blood between us and India. That is particularly to be deplored just now, when we owe such a deep debt of gratitude to that country for so loyally supporting us in the War.
The power of the purse is the keynote. In this Bill that power is practically retained entirely in the hands of the bureaucracy. If you take the Indian Legislative Assembly—may I thank the right hon. Gentleman, or whoever drafted this Bill, for calling it the Indian Legislative Assembly and not the Imperial Legislative Assembly, because this is the first realisation in an Act of Parliament of that nationhood of India which we want to stimulate and encourage, so long as there is true national spirit and not a factious national spirit—in that Indian Legislative Assembly that there is going to be an elective majority. But that elective majority has, in fact, no control over finance, because the Council of State, which is above it, has power to override it, as I read the Bill, on matters of finance. I would draw the attention of the House to Clasue 20, Sub-section (4), which says:Where the Governor-General in Council certifies that it is essential for the safety, tranquility, or interests of British India, or any part thereof … that any law shall be passed the Council of State shall have power to pass that law without the assent of the Legislative Assembly."So that the Budget Resolutions, as I read the Bill, can be passed over the head of the Legislative Assembly by the Council of State. Therefore, so far as control over the power of the purse is concerned, in 2344 that Legislative Assembly it does not exist at the present time, but is reserved entirely for the bureaucracy. That is one of the safeguards which my right hon. Friend opposite (Sir H. Craik) may think necessary. It may be necessary, but it is regrettable, and it should be changed at the earliest possible moment in order to avoid friction. Then take the Local Legislative Councils, which, as I read the Bill, will grow in importance and strength and gradually sap the strength of the Central Council in Delhi. In the Local Legislative Council there is, again, a majority of elected members, but again a second substitute for our House of Lords has been invented, with powers far wider than those of our House of Lords, the substitute in this case being an extremely new invention called the Grand Committee. That presents itself to the minds of hon. Members here as a place where we write our letters while other Members are debating. That is not a Grand Committee intended by this Bill. It is a very carefully picked body selected from the local Legislative Council. It is picked by the Governor, and will consist of men who can be trusted to vote as he wants them to vote. These men are set up in Grand Committees whenever the Legislative Council proves refractory, and. as in the Council of State at Delhi, its legislation supersedes the legislation passed by the merely local Legislative Council. There again, the power of the purse is hamstrung by the decision of the Grand Committees. More than that, in regard to the subjects reserved to be dealt with by the bureaucracy as opposed to the transferred subjects like education and sanitation, which are transferred to Indian self-government, all the finance required for the reserved subjects is specially excluded from the purview of the elected Legislative Council. Worse than that, if the demands for these reserved subjects, for instance, if the demand of money for the police force increases—that is to say, if the bureaucracy thinks the wages of the police are too low or the force is too small in number they can increase the pay and number of the force, they can double the annual item for the police, and they may make a demand upon the elected Legislative Council to make good the deficit.
If the local Legislative Council tap new sources of revenue for education, as they undoubtedly will do, under this Bill they have no sort of security, if once they find a new source of taxation, that that money 2345 will not be filched from them by the demands of the reserved services. For instance, if they raise £1,000,000 in Bombay for education the demands for money for police or public works will come along, which will swallow that increase, and they will get all the unpopularity of having raised the new tax without the satisfaction of being able of seeing it spent according to their own wishes. Therefore the control of the purse is very small indeed. They have the right to raise money as they like for the transferred subjects and to increase taxation for them, but they are always subject to a first charge on their revenues for the central Government at Delhi, and also to a second charge on their revenue for the reserved subjects. That puts the power of the purse very low indeed and gives you a representative Government which is almost devoid of any responsibility for finance, while, as we know, finance is the keystone of the whole thing. The power of the purse is one point of view from which I look at this new constitutional proposal, but even more important than that— after all, almost automatically, and indeed certainly when the ten-year provision comes along, the powers over finance will have to go—is the basis upon which your representation has to stand. The character of your Legislature will depend almost entirely upon the franchise which fixes the voters for that Legislature—the franchise and also the system under which members are elected to that Legislature.
As a basis upon which to build in future years, I think the franchise suggested in this Bill and in the Report of Lord Southborough is indeed a very poor one. For the Indian Legislative Assembly the franchise is indirect. I think it is 631 electors who elect the seventy members of that Council. Indirect election is unknown in English history. It was resorted to in Russia for the Duma, and it was resorted to, I think, in Germany in certain cases, but in English history we have never had indirect election at all, and certainly any Legislature which is based upon indirect election will carry very little weight and will not have that firm root that we are accustomed to see in all the Legislatures in. the. British Empire. [An HON. MEMBER: "America !"] That is not for electing the House of Representatives or anything of that sort. It is merely a question of the primaries, and even in America they are working round to the direct primaries for the nomination of the President. I am 2346 more surprised at this indirect election for the Indian Legislative Assembly because in the Montagu-Chelmsford Report direct election was recommended. Why has it not been adopted? The reason given to me, and it seems to me to be probably a reason which will carry much weight in this House, is that the constituencies will be too large, that if the franchise had been a, very high property franchise for the Indian Legislative Assembly it would have been possible to have direct election, but directly you have 5,000,000 electors, as is proposed, for the local Legislative Councils it becomes unwieldy if there are only going to be seventy elected members in the Indian Legislative Assembly at Delhi. The constituencies would be too enormous—7,000,000 of population to a constituency and perhaps 100,000 voters, because out of seventy elected members of the Indian Legislative Council some thirty or forty are communal members representing districts, so that the proper members of that Parliament would be perhaps only forty, and the constituencies would be enormous and the electorate very large.
That criticism is quite true, but the cure for it, of course, is to make the Indian Legislative Assembly a respectable size. Instead of having seventy elected members there ought to be many times that number. There is no country the size of France or England which has not got a House far larger in proportion to population than you are proposing to give to this great central Assembly at Delhi. We have 700 Members of this House and it is not easy even here to pick men of brains and character and ability sufficient to fill the Front Government Bench. When you are dealing with an absolutely new country like India you should surely provide a sufficient field for political education in your central Assembly rather than restrict it to this narrow number, and thereby provide an excuse for having indirect election. Although I have never been in India I have seen so many Indians of the extremer political sort that I think I can speak for them perhaps as well as any other Member of the House. The Indians look upon this indirect election for the Indian Legislative Assembly, and the small number of the members of it, as an insidious attack upon Indian nationalism. They want to see the central Legislative Assembly develop its functions and become a Parliament such as ours. They do not want to see India split up into seven provinces, 2347 with the possibility under Clause 12 of those provinces being increased in number indefinitely. They do not want to see India divided up. They want to see a national consciousness, which we all know at bottom is an extremely good thing. They may differ between the North and South of India as much as the Norwegian differs from the Greek. But given united institutions and united aspirations and loyalty to the same throne, there you have bonds which in time will weld that people together. We want them welded together. We do not want to go on any longer with that absurd idea of devide at impera. We do not want to rule by trickery or division. We want to rule by the love of the people in their hearts for the country which has been the mother and father of all free self-governing institutions.
I said the chief blot is the indirect election for the central assembly. When you get even to the local provincial councils you find there, too, that evil forces have been at work to spoil the scheme as originally proposed. There, too, you find a franchise based on property. That franchise rules out about 5,000,000 people classed as literate in the census. It also rules out all the soldiers who have fought for us in the War. Only the officers and non-commissioned officers get votes under this Bill. Many of these people are literate because the Army in itself is an education in many ways. It rules out all women. It rules out, in fact, some five or six million people classed as literates. I do not say their status as literate is a very high one, but people who do not read and write often have a very acute perception as to their rights and wrongs and interests which people who spend their money and time on reading magazines do not always possess. These people are ruled out owing to the property qualification. They are ruled out particularly in the towns. The ryot is not excluded from the franchise to anything like the same degree as the populations of Cawnpore and Calcutta—who are in the same stage that industrial people were in a hundred years ago or more in this country. They are crowded together, with scandalous wages, under conditions in which we do not keep cattle in this country. These people are all deprived of the vote owing to this property qualification. It might be possible, when the Bill is going through without really injuring those safeguards about which so many hon. Members are 2348 so anxious, to extend the franchise by giving the option to any one who is literate to claim a vote. Then you would be certain you were not forcing votes upon people who did not want them. To make a claim for a vote in writing would be proof not only that a man was sufficiently literate to have a vote, but that he had a desire for a vote and a desire to take part in the government of his own country. I beg that something of that sort be done for those who have fought for us and that they be not excluded from the gift of the franchise to the people of India.
But there is more than that about this Indian franchise. The real complaint I have to make against this Bill, as whittled down from the Montagu-Chelmsford Report is the enormous increase in communal and interest representation. Communal representation means that if in a mixed population of Mahomedans and Hindus the Hindus outnumber the Mahomedans by ten to one there should be special representation given to the Mahomedan minority.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
It may be necessary, but it cannot be quite right if you really want to get responsible and representative government. Any people who are elected by a special class confine themselves to looking after the interests of that class and do not look after the interests of the country as a whole. We often complain about Labour Members of Parliament. We say they represent the narrow point of view of their own trade unions, and it is exactly the same with communal representation. What we want is that every Member elected, whether for this House or for any Indian Legislature, should try to look at all subjects from the point of view first of the country, and not merely from the point of view of one class. That is a fundamental doctrine when you are considering the setting up of a constitution. You do not want to have sectional interests, you want to have people who will look at all sides of a question, and try to make up their mind what is in the interest of the whole community. There is another real objection to communal representation, even from the point of view of the special community represented, whether it be Mahomedan or Sikh, or Christian Indian, or Eurasian, or whatever it is. Directly your Christian Indians have their own representatives they 2349 no longer have votes for the general representation, so that the ordinary Indian representative, having not a single Christian Indian voting for him, takes no account whatever of the interests of that particular section of the electorate. Their interests are looked after by one or two Members in the House who can easily be got round. But for the 98 per cent. of the members of the Council, the Christian Indians, or it may be the Sikhs or Mahomedans, are a matter of no interest whatever. They have no votes. We are discussing this Bill now, and we are more influenced by the retired Anglo-Indians who have votes in our constituencies than we are by the interests of the whole of India. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no !"] Human nature being what it is it must be so. [HON. MEMBERS: "No !"] You cannot look at things entirely from an impersonal point of view. I defy you in any Parliament to find people who look after the interests of those who have not got votes in the same way that they look after the interests of people who have got votes. I can give you two examples which are most apposite from the British Empire itself. In Cape Colony the blacks have votes on a property qualification. There are, generally speaking, not more than a hundred such black votes in any constituency, but whether the representative of that constituency is a Nationalist or a Unionist or a Bothaite, whatever his qualifications may be, he considers the interests of the blacks because those hundred men may hold the casting votes between him and the partisan of the other side. So in Cape Colony you have the interests of the blacks looked after because, although they have no special representation, the very fact that they have votes makes their members look after their interests. If you go to New Zealand you see exactly the other thing. You see the communal representation that I deplore. The Maoris have no votes for any white representatives in that country at all.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Exactly. They cannot vote for a white man, but they have three or four Maori representatives who are supposed to look after their interests. The whites do not care in the least about the interests of a few Maoris.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
They do not look after their interests as they would if the Maoris had votes in their constituencies. On the other hand, the Maori representatives are of very little use in the Legislative Council because they are few and they can easily be got round easily corrupted. There you have two examples of communal and general representation, in both cases looking after the interests of small minorities. It is obvious that where you have general representation the interests of the minority are far better looked after than with communal representation. That is the broad ground upon which, in the interests both of the general legislation of the country and of the small community desiring special representation, it is advisable to have the firm foundation of a universal franchise, rather than these fancy franchises giving representation to small minorities. There are also special members given to the chambers of commerce, special members to the European community, special members to the universities. In this Bill there are stacks of special representation, which is entirely undesirable.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Does my hon. and gallant Friend think that a member of the University of Bengal, for instance, has a better title to representation than the ordinary ryot? It is perfectly obvious that educated people in India have very good chances of being on the local councils and in the Indian Legislative Assembly. They have a far better chance than the educated classes in this country get at the present time. There are plenty of opportunities for your Tilaks, Ghandis, and so forth, to sit on the councils in India, because they would be elected by the people. I may point out that they would sooner be elected by 10,000 than by 1,000 people. In this House one feels much more satisfied at being returned by a large electorate, rather than for one of the small rotten boroughs we used to have in the old days. One's position is enormously strengthened by the strong electorate behind one. I am quite aware that there is a large anti-Indian feeling which seeks to decry the beginnings of responsible government in India, but that is not the way to look at this scheme. We should encourage it forward and not hamper its efforts to get responsible Government in that country. The franchise upon which 2351 the whole of this scheme depends is bad, and I hope it will be amended as the Bill goes through. In any case, I hope that the people of India, when they see this Bill before them, will direct their attention and attacks particularly against the franchise, and deal with the higher question of the relation of reserved and transferred subjects as of less importance than getting a fair and universal franchise in India, which shall give votes, not only to property, but to those who can read and write, to women and to soldiers who have returned from the War. Although we talk about the Montagu-Chelmsford Report and the Southborough Report, we can from the Bill itself get no idea as to what the representation is to be, what the constituencies are to be, what the transferred or reserved subjects are to be. We have only be told that one of the transferred subjects is to be education. I do not know what the others to be certainly transferred will be. We do not know exactly what the reserved subjects are to be, though we have been told that police is to be one. The whole of the "guts" of the measure is reserved for rules and regulations over which this House has practically no control. It is as though we had passed the great Reform Bill of 1832 without the famous Schedules as to who should be disfranchised, what places were to lose one Member, and what places should be enfranchised. It is as though we had passed it without any reference to the forty-shilling freeholder, but had left it to the Government to decide when the Bill had passed into law. Everything is left to rule and regulation, and these are to be made by the local Governments. The local Governments in India have already shown clearly enough, by the Paper they have issued to us within the last two or three days, what their views on these reforms are. They, and they alone, as is obvious on reading Lord Southborough's Report, have whittled down the Montagu-Chelmsford Report till we get the Southborough Report. They, and they alone, have now issued this new declaration as to what they regard as carrying out the promise of the 20th August, 1917.A more fraudulent carrying out of that promise could never have been put before any intelligent community. These people are to have the framing of the rules and regulations. I do not think the House need be surprised if Indians themselves have not the slightest faith in any rules 2352 and regulations which may be framed in that way. Fortunately, it is obvious in the Bill that these rules and regulations have to be approved of by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman's speech to-day, and his whole conduct in connection with India, leaves one confident that the rules and regulations of which ho of his own initiative would approve would be liberal and sound enough. But we know how strong the permanent officials are, we know how strong is the bureaucracy in India, we know how well supported they are even in the Indian Council and even among the intimates of the right hon. Gentleman; and I cannot but be afraid of what will happen when these rules and regulations come to be part of the Act of Parliament, rules defining what the qualifications shall be for a man to be elected, what the procedure in the various Chambers shall be, what subjects shall be reserved, what subjects shall be transferred, what powers the Governor shall have in overruling his Legislature, what powers the Government shall have in nominating and fixing the responsibility of Ministers. When all these powers are left to the people who have to suffer by the change, to the Anglo-Indian bureaucracy, who naturally regard any change as deplorable from their point of view, I think the people of India are rightly suspicious of this gift horse, and will look it anxiously in the mouth.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but I would point out that the rules and regulations, or at least the policy to be embodied, will, according to the pledge made on the part of the Government to-night, be considered by the same Joint Committee that considers the Bill. The hon. and gallant Member or anybody else will have the opportunity of putting evidence before them and of suggesting Amendments cither in the Southborough Report or in the Feetham Report. The policy of the rules is to come before this House through the medium of the Joint Committee.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. That is what I wanted. I was afraid that these rules and regulations would not be ready in time to be considered by that Joint Committee. If they consider them, I think we shall be able, I will not say to give satisfaction to opinion in India, but at any rate to let people in India see that these rules and regulations are not the ipse dixit of the bureaucracy, but are 2353 indeed the work of this House and of the House of Lords. The position of the Anglo-Indian bureaucracy will indeed be very difficult when this Bill becomes law. The position of the bureaucrat has got to be changed insensibly somehow into the position of the constitutional sovereign. The Governor of a province is, under this Bill, partly constitutional King and partly Prime Minister. He has got, before these reforms come to an end, to be a wholly constitutional King, whose Ministers are responsible to him and whose Ministers are supported by the Chamber. He has got to drop the idea that he is the Prime Minister, responsible for initiating the actions of the Government. That is what my right hon. Friend meant when he said that initiation would cease. The initiation must in future come from the Ministers responsible to elective assemblies, and the greatest difficulty will be to make that quite clear to the bureaucracy. The position of the Governor in future is to be that of a man who acts on the advice of his Ministers. It is an entirely different position from that which he at present enjoys, and the change which has to come during the next ten years will be very difficult. I think we might get some guidance from the success of men like Lord Ronaldshay and others who have been trained in constitutional positions, and have not been bureaucrats, and have gone out to India in responsible positions as Governors. They have got on much better than bureaucrats who have simply passed to the position of Governor on promotion. Their outlook on life is different; their sense of responsibility is different. The rôle of Governor of India in future is going to be, perhaps, the one requiring the most tact, the most scrupulous attention to constitutional practice and the widest interests of any post in the service of the British Empire. It will be much more difficult than the position of Governor of one of the Australian States, or even of the Governor-General of one of our great Dominions, because the Governor will have to tide over the interval between British rule and self-rule. Do not let us rely solely upon a bureaucracy which is surrendering its privileges to carry out that work. I would ask the House not to imagine or to hope that this Bill, when it passes into law, will be received with gratitude in India. It will rot, and we have no right to expect that it should be received with gratitude. We are not giving something to India. I am 2354 not speaking now for the Indians; I am speaking for English tradition. We are passing this Bill to-day, not for the good of India, but for our own good name and our own convenience, because we want India to become a self-governing part of the Empire. It is not to stop agitation or to appease demands. We are passing it as an English Bill, as part of our tradition. We have no right to expect gratitude from India which we certainly shall not get. All that we can hope is that when the scheme comes to fruition we shall have a fellow-feeling and an understanding on equal terms with perhaps the brightest jewel of the British Crown.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ The PRESIDENT Of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Fisher)
No one can rise from this bench to discuss the far-reaching proposals contained in the Bill which has been introduced this afternoon in so powerful a manner by my right hon. Friend without a grave sense of personal insufficiency. The problem of Indian government is so vast and complex, so remote from the ordinary day to day occupations of a Member of Parliament, and the human factor is so difficult to assess, that however careful may be our plans, and however confident we may be that those plans are the best which we can devise we cannot help having a feeling that, perhaps, in some respects, results may ensue which we cannot foresee and which will be undesirable. But I think that my right hon. Friend may be satisfied with the course which the Debate has taken. From all sides of the House we see general agreement that it is no longer possible for the Government of India to adopt a perfectly negative non possumus attitude towards the great intellectual movements which are sweeping the continent from end to end. We see general recognition of the fact that speed is half the battle, and that, accordingly, as the old Latin proverb goes, "He who gives swiftly gives twice," and in that position we have, I think, added the statesmanlike quality which has always characterised Englishmen.
The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik) expressed some hesitation with respect to the Bill on the ground that it was advocated by so small a fraction of the vast Indian population. I think that we are apt to underestimate the power actually exercised by the intellectual classes in. 2355 India. It may be, indeed it is, true that the politically-minded class in India is a small class when we compare it with the great mass of the Indian people, but every day it is gaining power and influence. I will give the House a few illustrations which came to my personal knowledge. I was in India when I was a member of the Public Service Commission for two years preceding the War, and I remember being advised to consult a young Englishman who was teaching in a missionary college in the Punjub as to the state of feeling of the students in his charge. I asked him were the students interested in politics. He answered me, "They talk of nothing else." Then I asked him, "Of what particular issue are they talking now?" and he said, "Daily and nightly they are occupied with the career of the right hon. and learned Member of a Division of Belfast." The other day I was speaking to a friend who had recently arrived from India, and he told me that he was visiting a girls' school in Madras, and he found them holding a debate. He was asked to act as chairman. The subject of the debate was whether it was expedient that Indian education should remain under Western control. A third instance is: a young Indian, who had received an education at Oxford, told me that when he returned to his little village in the United Provinces, after three years' absence, he found himself plunged in a different world. He had left a village belonging, go far as its ideas and civilisation went to the time of Abraham—a village of peasants "with no cares except the ordinary humdrum cares of ordinary rural Indian life—and he came back to find a flaming political people listening with avidity to the vernacular newspapers that were read out to them, talking about politics, thinking about politics, and aspiring to take their own part in political life.
These are circumstances which must emphatically affect our view of Indian life. The old image of India as being silent, stationary, unperplexed, and unvexed by all the agitations of political life if it was ever true, has now long ceased to correspond with the realities of to day. The Indian population, it is true, is a population of dreamers and visionaries, occupied far more than we Englishmen ever realise with the problems of the other world. Nevertheless, politics are coming to India, and they are coming to India to stay. Ought we to be sorry, to be ashamed, to 2356 attribute this growth of political spirit in India to any mismanagement on our part? I notice that the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities passed a very severe censure upon Indian education. He thought that it had been mismanaged, and he described it in no unmeasured terms as a disaster. I do not share that view. I think that if we Englishmen were to render ourselves responsible for conducting the government of India we were bound in honour to give the Indians all that was best in our civilisation. I think that Lord Morley was perfectly right when he took the momentous decision to educate the Indian minds upon Western lines. After all, how can you give an honest education to a race if you do not believe it? And it is greatly to our credit that we have succeeded, through our system of education being introduced into India, in bringing about those aspirations, those hopes, and those sentiments which we now as statesmen, have seriously to consider.
I remember, a long time ago, having a conversation with a great historian, Sir William Hunter. He was speaking of the influence of the English missionary in India and he said to me he thought that English missionary enterprise in India was of special value, because it brought before the Indian mind the disinterested element in English life. Our system of education also has brought before the Indian mind the disinterested element in English life, and so far from bringing about disaster. I think that it has conferred conspicuous practical services upon India. When I was examining into the conditions of the Indian public service I found everywhere most remarkable testimony to the loyal, devoted, intelligent services rendered by the provincial service in India, a body of men over a million in number serving the British Government, using the English language, educated in cur schools, and co-operating with our officials in England in carrying out our great civilising work. Where would that great body of officials be but for the system of education in India? I was struck also with the universal testimony as to the admirable work rendered by the judicial service in India. Some years ago the lowest judge in the judicial hierarchy of India was thy subject of general criticism. It was said that ho was dishonest, corrupt, and that his judgments could not be relied on. There is nothing of that kind now. We find now in every province of India testimony to the fact that the 2357 Indian Judiciary from top to bottom is absolutely pure and absolutely to be relied on to give an honest judgment. That is a great triumph of English education. It is, I take it, because of our system of education. It is the result of our system of education that we have now to satisfy a political demand in India and this great measure which is being introduced to-day by my right hon. Friend, so far from being in any way revolutionary, is a natural consequence of the system to which history has committed us.
I notice that some little criticism was passed upon my right hon. Friend for having, as it were, deluged the House at the last moment before the introduction of this Bill with Blue Books which hon. Members had not time to sift. It was, I think, an inference that my right hon. Friend was censured as having desired to rush this Bill through before it had time to receive adequate consideration. The fact Is that this Bill is drawn to implement the policy contained in the Montagu-Chelmsford Report. That Report has been in the hands; of hon. Members for something like a year. There is nothing in this Bill which is not contained in that Report. That Report is not only a very able and eloquent State Paper, but it is also one of the greatest State Papers which have been produced in Anglo-Indian history, and it is an open-minded candid State Paper, a State Paper which does not ignore or gloss over the points of criticism which have since been elaborated in the voluminous documents which have been submitted to us since then. And my right hon. Friend not only has given us this great State Paper which we have had ample time to digest, but he has also published every document which has come from India as soon as he possibly could. There has been no intention on his part, or on the part of the Government, to withhold any information from the purview of the House. The hon. and gallant Member for Melton (Colonel Yate) passed some criticisms upon one of the salient features of this measure. He was very severe upon my right hon. Friend's proposal for dual government in the provinces. That, of course, is only a part of a large scheme of reform, but since criticism has been chiefly centred upon this kind of dual government I should like to say a few words upon it. The hon. and gallant Member's criticism was upon this thesis: He maintained that if you divided the portfolios 2358 in the provinces into two Departments you would inevitably get a great increase of hostile criticism directed against the allocation of finance. But we have this criticism already; we have had it for many years. One of the cardinal points of criticism in India is the allocation of finance between what may be called the security services on the one hand and the educational and social services on the other. My Lamented friend, Mr. Gokhale, one of the greatest and purest character I have known, and a great statesman and parliamentarian, was constantly insisting upon this point. When I was in India the papers were full of criticisms, pointed, bitter, severe, upon the assumed extravagance of the Indian Government upon the Army and the police. I do not think there is anything at all in my hon. Friend's criticism upon this point.
As to the system generally, the diarchical system, I confess that when I first came to study it I was very sceptical, but the more I thought over the problem, the more I went into the difficulties, the more I have studied the alternative plans proposed, the more clear I am that it is the only solution which will really be found practicable. After all what is it that we intend? We intend gradually to introduce the Indian people to responsible government. We wish the stages by which that introduction is to be effected to be gradual, to be tested. We wish to know whether in effect our experiment is succeeding. How are we to know that, unless we adopt some such plan as that suggested in the Bill? Let us suppose that we take the alternative which has been offered to us with the authority and weight of the experienced heads of the local Governments. You would have a portfolio of education going now to an Indian, then to an Englishman, and then again to an Indian. When the time for review comes who will be able to say whether the Department of Education, the Administration of Education, is or is not, has or has not furnished adequate evidence of Indian administrative faculty. Your test is obscure, your test. is made of no worth whatever unless you make your Indian Ministers carry out a concerted policy over a number of years— a policy capable of being tested, something in the nature of a political experiment. Apart from that, if you adopt the unity system will you really help your Government? Will you really be making an easier form of government? Will you be simplifying, as is imagined, the 2359 problems as presented to the Government? The more I think upon these problems the more I am convinced that the answer to all those questions will be in the negative, that it will be far easier to have harmony in your Government if your Indian Ministers are allowed a pretty free hand in the management of their own Department, if they are recognised and clearly recognised to be responsible to their Legislatures.
This Bill not only proposes gradually to introduce a system of responsible government into India. It has another object. It proposes to increase decentralisation in India. That is a very old problem. Some years ago there was an important Royal Commission on Decentralisation which made a number of fruitful and useful suggestions, some of which have been carried into effect. Proposals are contained in the Bill for devolving authority from the Secretary of State to the Government of India, and from the Government of India to the provincial Governments. That can be accomplished in two ways. My right hon. Friend in his lucid speech referred in detail to this matter. At the present moment over- centralisation in India is due to the fact that in the last resort this Parliament has the right to criticise the administration. Therefore, the Secretary of State cannot relax his authority and the Viceroy of India cannot relax his authority. In the first Clause of the Bill provision is taken for the allocation of powers as between the central authority and the provincial authority, and that is to be done under rules. This Bill does not propose to define what functions are provincial and what are central in any way comparable to what was done in the Dominion of Canada Act, when the functions of the federal and provincial authorities were accurately and, as was thought then, exhaustively defined. We are leaving this allocation of functions to be determined by rules in the light of experience, and that I think is a thoroughly wise decision. Furthermore, whereas in federal constitutions disputes with respect to the functions of provincial and central Governments would be brought into the Law Courts it is expressly provided by Clause 13 of the Bill that the Law Courts shall have no cognisance of such questions. That, again, appears to me to be a singularly wise decision. The time undoubtedly will come when the pressure of public opinion will demand a more accurate allocation of 2360 powers, and the time will probably come when the pressure of public opinion will require that all disputes in respect to the functions of central and provincial Governments shall go to the Law Courts. I am profoundly of opinion that the framers of this Bill have been wisely inspired in the course which they have chosen to take with respect to this very important matter. We cannot at the present moment make up our minds once and for all as to what parts of our highly-centralised system it would be safe to devolve, and we must leave that to careful experiment. Reference has been made to caste distinctions, and in the peculiar circumstances of Indian civilisation that is a matter which calls for caution.
The hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) criticised this Bill on the ground of its insufficiency, but I think that he was doing something less than justice to its authors in that criticism. This is a great Bill. The hon. and gallant Member did not exaggerate when he described it as one of the most important measures that has ever been brought before the "consideration of this House. It is a measure, the effects of which, if it is passed, as I trust it will be, will be felt for generations and generations to come. It opens a new era in Indian public life, and it offers new hope to Indian political aspirations. It promises to add to the cause of good and progressive and enlightened government all those moderate forces of Indian political opinion which might be alienated by procrastination. It is a most important Bill, and for that very reason it is necessary that it should be accompanied, in the interests of Indians themselves, by safeguards which will enable the experiment to be tried with the greatest prospect of brilliant success. I know that the measure of my right hon. Friend has attracted some criticism on the ground that it does not go far enough. Criticism has been passed upon the restrictions of Ministers in provincial Governments in the discharge of the functions entrusted to them, and it is said why could you not give the Minister in a provincial Parliament a perfectly free hand with respect to the government there? The answer is surely simple. Let us suppose he is dealing with Excise and with the liquor trade of his province. Can he take a step which does not have some effect upon that which belongs to the reserved functions? The 2361 same applies with regard to estimates and finance, and obviously there must be some correspondence between the two offices of government or otherwise the machine would not work. It is, in other words, an essential condition of the mixed form of government, of the transition form of government, which is being set up, and which I believe will be carefully worked, that there should be checks and safeguards
I think we are sometimes inclined, when we are examining measures for the development of popular liberties in India, to be guided by a standard which perhaps may be sometimes over austere. Much has been said, but none too much, in praise of the incomparable work of the India Civil Service in India, that great service which has conferred shining benefits upon the civilisation of India, that great service which works under conditions which exist, so far as I know, nowhere else in the world, a body of men living in a country where they have no family interests to serve, where they are under no temptations to do jobs for their friends and their relations, a body of men animated by the pure spirit of disinterested endeavour for the good of the populations entrusted to their charge. Where is there such a Government as this anywhere else on the face of the globe? Our Government here sometimes falls under the suspicion of being guided by motives less austere. We had the other day a Debate upon party funds and party honours, and it was said that the pure stream of Ministerial patronage was sometimes polluted. I am not concerned to argue that question, but in India you have a body of men dedicated to the public service, freed from all embarrassing ties, and holding up a standard of efficiency and austere virtue which cannot be matched in any country in the world. Is it not natural that when an Indian civilian comes to criticise a scheme which will have the effect of transferring, perhaps at some distant day, large blocks of administrative work and administrative responsibility to Indians, he should fear that the standard of austere efficiency will be probably relaxed? That may be so. I am not prepared to say that this experiment may not be attended by some relaxation of efficiency. But after all, let us remember that our system in India is an English system, and that an English system is difficult to work by those who are not bred up in the English tradition. I think there may be some relaxation of efficiency, but I say that that relaxation in efficiency, 2362 if such there be, will be purchased over and over again by the confidence and support which the Government will receive from the co-operation of these electoral classes in India.
I have only one word more to add. Almost every speaker who has addressed the House on this subject has emphasised the necessity of swift progress. We are all conscious that if we do not carry this Bill through we may miss an opportunity such as will never recur. I believe that from the bottom of my heart. I believe that, unless we seize this opportunity, unless we pass this Bill, unless we see to it that this Bill is not whittled away in any serious particular, we shall be confronted with a grave situation in India. I cannot forget the fate which befel the Report of the Indian Public Service Commission, which I had a humble share in framing. There was a Commission which travelled over India, working for three years upon the problem of the Indian public administration. Indian public opinion was greatly excited, discussions were held from end to end of India, the public Press was full of the proceedings of the Commission, violent antagonisms were excited, political opinion was worked up to a high pitch of excitement, and the Commission produced a Report. I have every reason to believe that that Report, if it could have been acted on at once, would have satisfied reasonable opinion, or the great bulk of reasonable opinion, in India. But what happened? The War came, and the Government found it impossible to act upon the Report. The Report was shelved. Nothing has been done, and I believe there is hardly any recommendation in the Report which has yet, been carried into effect. The result is that concessions which would have been satisfactory three or four years ago are flouted now as utterly insufficient to meet the political demands of the people. Do not let us repeat that. It may be said that we have many excuses for delay. I know, indeed, that the political landscape in India is troubled and stormy. There is the deep-seated anxiety of the Moslem population with respect to the fate of the Turkish Empire; there is the reaction after the strain of war; there are the high prices; there is general distress; there is agitation on the Rowlatt Bills; there are sedition mongers going about the villages saying that the Sirkar proposes to take half the dowry of the women, half the earnings of the men, and half the sum which is set aside for marriage settlements. These 2363 flying rumours among the villages in India may give cause for legitimate anxiety, quite apart from the clouds on the Afghan frontier. My right hon. Friend has been wisely advised in going on with this great measure. He knows, and the Government know, that to recede at this moment from the solemn pledge which has been given to the people of India by the Declaration of 20th August would fatally and justly undermine our character for fair dealing and justice and would alienate, and justly alienate, the good will and the patriotism of the loyal population of India.
§ Mr. SPOOR
In rising to take part in this Debate, on behalf of the Labour party, I would like to say that we do, at all events, give a qualified approval to the Bill that has been introduced this afternoon. I believe that every member of the party realises what has been urged already to-night, that this is one of the most important measures that have ever been submitted to the British Parliament. We feel with regard to it that it is a partial measure of justice, and we support it because of that, and because we believe that, as has been indicated here to-night, it is possible that the weak points in the Bill may be considerably strengthened when the Bill is thoroughly gone into in Committee. It is a Bill which, although unsatisfactory in itself, does seem to contain immense possibilities, and it does point, we believe, in the right direction. If I may be permitted, I would like to congratulate the eight hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State upon having at last broken from the traditions, and the policy, or want of policy, that have characterised our rule in that country for far too long. The whole problem of India is a gigantic one. Apart from the many vast religious and racial problems that exist, there are very serious economic complexities, and it is to that side of the question, which, so far, has been hardly touched upon in the course of the Debate to-night, that I would for a moment or two like to address myself. We have to remember that Britain is responsible in India for one-fifth of the total population of the world—a population that has at present no effective voice in the direction of its own destiny. We have to remember that the difficulties, to which I have already referred, that concern our government of the country are complicated at the present moment, because we have just emerged from the very terrible struggle of the last four and a half years.
2364 We are glad that the Government have declared their policy. We are glad that that policy, summed up in two words, is Home Rule for India. What one feels, to be quite fair about the whole question, is that we owe to that great country a debt of reparation. Though India may be, as has been said again and again, the brightest jewel in Britain's crown, we have got to remember that there are certain aspects of our misgovernment in that country, certain aspects of our commercial exploitation of that country, that will be perhaps the blackest pages in British history. We have to remember, too, that we went to India for commercial purposes, we have remained there for commercial purposes, and we have persistently exploited the Indian people from the earliest days by our control in that country. Reference has been made to-day in the course of the Debate to the Litter days of the 18th century and the early days of the 19th century, when India was looked upon as a veritable El Dorado for the British investor, and the whole record going through the whole of the last century tells the same story. Methods were adopted which can only be characterised as ruthless in order to prevent or limit Indian competition with British manufacturers, and there has been for a fairly long period a very considerable decline in Indian industries with all the consequent suffering that that decline involves. The first quarter of the last century, from 1800 to 1825, there were five famines in India; in the next quarter there were two; in the third quarter six; and, in the last quarter, 1875 to 1900, there were eighteen famines. I know it is very difficult to interpret these cold figures in human terms, but the Labour party always endeavours to do that, and we try to realise what this enormous loss of millions of lives really meant to that country, and how far the unrest that exists at this moment in India is due to the ruthless, and sometimes reckless, commercial exploitation of that land.
We cannot escape the truth that the people of Britain have grown rich out of the slaves of India, and, judging by our present position, judging by what is happening there at this moment, it does look as though we have not profited by our experience or gained much in our humanity. Indeed, a day or two ago a question was asked in this House with regard to the wages in the textile mills of Bombay at the present time, and the answer given is 2365 one that should really give pause to all who have any feelings of humanity left in them, and who take in India a self-righteous pride regarding our capacity to govern millions of subject-people. Men are working twelve hours a day, women eleven, and children six, and adults are working for eight rupees a month, which is equal to about 3s. a week. Reference has been made to-night by one who spoke in the Debate to the insanitary hovels, to the congested areas, to those awful housing conditions that intensify plague, and make the ravages of disease still more terrible. When we remember that, in the great city of Bombay, there were, according to the last returns, nearly 750,000 people living in one-room tenements, when we remember, according to the last returns, the infantile death-rate in the great city of Calcutta in 1915 was 540 per 1,000, and in 1916 it was 675, we cannot but feel there has been something seriously wrong with the method of government. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education tried to paint a rather brighter picture of educational activity in India. I was very glad to hear him say some of the things he did, but one cannot forget that the teachers in the Government schools of India are receiving something like 5s. 6d. a week for salary, and when one remembers that, side by side with that, rent and living have enormously advanced during the last thirty years, we are able, I think, to visualise the terrible economic problem that faces the great majority of the Indian people.
Let us turn to the other side of the picture. I have here returns taken from newspapers of recent date, showing the dividends that British-controlled companies are paying, and have been paying recently over there. Dividends ran up to 300 per cent. and 400 per cent., while India's teeming millions are still working under conditions of slave labour. Only a week or two ago in this House, in the last Debate, reference was made to the Bengal Iron Company, whose shares be-fore the War stood at something like 5s. and which to-day stand at £9 10s. What can one expect when the Indians see that glaring disparity? Can we anticipate or hope for anything else but very, very serious disaffection and trouble? There is industrial conflict going on in India similar to that in almost every other country in the world. It is more intensified there because the conditions are even 2366 more extreme and severe. There are many elements of a very complex character which enter into the situation, but one cannot but feel that that situation is enormously aggravated on its economic side in the fact that work is done by slave labour to-day, in this twentieth century, under the British flag, which is a disgrace to civilisation. I feel quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman who has introduced this Bill with a sincere desire to achieve real improvement and real reform will agree with me when I say that. For far too long some of the unimaginative profiteers of this country have run India, and have run it badly. I submit we are under a debt to India that we need to pay back at the very earliest possible moment.
The Bill that has been introduced this afternoon and the speech that accompanies its introduction shows that the Secretary of State fully recognises the difficulties of the case. The measure is one that shows imagination. It realises that the protest which for long has been inarticulate in India has at last found expression, and political expression, and that public opinion has so increased in volume there and in direction and intensity that action is being compelled. The passing of the Rowlatt Acts that we debated a week ago is in itself a sufficient indication of the extremely grave character of the existing situation. What is it the Indian people ask for? Really, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I must confess to a certain amount of amazement to-night when I heard an hon. Gentleman on the opposite side of the House urging a more conservative policy, and urging that whatever we did we should be careful not to move too rapidly. We had, he said, to go very, very cautiously. What does India ask for? India does not ask to be separated from the British Empire. She desires to remain within the British Empire. But India wants what we ourselves have always said we believed in for all parts of our possessions—responsible self-government. It is a very significant thing that the only country where religious differences have cut so deeply—it is, I say, a remarkable thing that these gulfs have been bridged in a way that would have been thought altogether impossible a few years ago.
The intensity of that wave of nationalism, the reality of it, is perhaps better seen in the fact that Moslem and Hindu have come together than in anything else. What is it this Bill gives? It certainly 2367 does give, as has been claimed by the Secretary for India, a certain limited measure of responsible government in the provinces, but the central government there retains complete autocratic power. The vast majority of the people of India remain voteless. All the women remain voteless. I am rather surprised, seeing that we in Britain have definitely admitted the right of women to vote on equal terms with men, that the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to carry that particular principle into operation in the Bill that he has introduced. I hope it will be possible even in Committee to effect that reform. The limited scope of the Bill, the fact that it gives so little in comparison with what the people have asked and are asking, of course means that the people of India will be very, very disappointed. I was much interested in the speech that was made by the Education Minister. It does appear to me that it is just there one comes right up against the real solution, not only of the Indian difficulty, but of most of the difficulties existing at present in the different countries of the world.
The Labour party regrets that in this measure education is only given a secondary place instead of a primary place. We say that if you will give to India compulsory education the day is not far distant—it may be very, very much nearer than people sometimes imagine— when India will be fully competent to govern herself. When one thinks that education in India costs to-day, I believe, about three-halfpence a head, one realises the immense amount of arrears that have to be overtaken before anything like a satisfactory system can be secured. In thinking of India one cannot but think of her great past. As I said a week or two ago, it is a surprising thing that so many British people seem to be blind to the fact that we are dealing with one of the greatest civilisations so far as age is concerned, so far as its contribution to the world's common stock of ideas is concerned, of which we have recordin human history. People talk about India and India's illiteracy. That is an appalling comment upon our Government during the last two generations; for, after all, it was India who gave to the world one of the most wonderful religions that the world has ever had, a religion that, to quote the words of Sir Edwin Arnoldkept Asia sweet and clean for twenty centuries.2368 It may be that that religion has largely left India now. It has travelled North and East, but it still exerts enormous influence over countless millions of the people who inhabit this globe. I have been thinking as I have been sitting here to-night of one well-known figure of the Labour movement, well-known a few years ago, and unhappily not with us now. I have been thinking how the man who was much misunderstood, much misrepresented, much undervalued by the people who did not know him, James Keir Hardie, of how Hardie again and again raised his voice and used his pen in the interests of India. I know there are those, perhaps in this House, and certainly among Anglo-Indians, who looked upon Keir Hardie as nothing else but a seditious malcontent. Well, if to stand for humanity against injustice and tyranny, to stand for the rights of the people against the power of the oppressor, to stand for truth and cleanness and honour against untruth and dishonour— if this be the mark of the seditious malcontent, then I imagine—and I hope !— that there are many such in this House to-night, and that not the least of these is the right hon. Gentleman whose measure we are discussing. I quote Keir Hardie's words because it has some bearing upon the speech we have just heard from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education. Speaking of the Indian people he said:Their ability is not open to question. A great intellectual awakening is shaking this ancient Empire to its foundation. A sympathetic interpretation of the facts will bind the people more closely to us and lead to their becoming a loyal self-governing part of the Umpire. Repression will only intensify their determination to secure self-government and may lead finally to the loss of what has been described as the brightest jewel in the British crown. It is for statesmen to choose which path they will follow."We are glad to believe that the Secretary for India has chosen the right path by this Bill, although we also believe that he travels along it with undue caution. At all events, this Bill must not either now or in Committee be weakened in any essential particular or else it may mean that we shall have trouble of a much more serious character than we have had in India as yet. Only a few hours ago, I heard one of the most distinguished Indians living in this country say, in reference to this measure, that it is the irreducible minimum. If it is in any way lessened in its effective- 2369 ness and power the Indian people will not accept a continuance of the existing state of affairs. He said to me:You may bring your machine guns; you may bring your aeroplanes, and you may bomb us from the skies, but you will have to exterminate the whole of the Indian people rather than we will submit to conditions which are tyrannical, cruel and unfair."Everybody who thinks of the immense seriousness of the situation now, when the whole world is in a state of uncertainty and the whole of Europe is involved in a conflict of ideas that many of us cannot see our way through, and one realises if ever the time is ripe for certain action with regard to India that time is the present. If we fail now, we may have a revolution there, and if we do, God only knows what the result will be. If, on the other hand, we succeed, and if this Bill becomes a Statute much strengthened and improved and in a much more democratic form, if we succeed in this we shall establish the beginnings of a partnership on terms of mutual confidence and good will between India and the rest of the Empire, a partnership that will not only benefit those who at present live under the British flag, but one which, we believe, will hasten the cause of liberty, of right, and of human progress throughout the entire world.
Sir J. D. REES
The tributes which have been paid in the House to the merits of the Indian Civil Service are pleasant hearing to the only member of that Service in this House, and I wish to thank the Secretary of State, whose speech I did not misunderstand, because he made a most handsome acknowledgment of the position of the Civil Service, and I should like, on behalf of the Indian. Civil Service, to thank him and the President of the Board of Education, and the others who have testified to the work which that Service has done in India. This Debate is now taking a certain character. It seems to me that all the criticisms that have been levied against the Bill were based upon two misunderstandings. In the first place, hon. Members criticised the Bill adversely, because they wanted to go faster.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) complained that universal suffrage was not admitted at once, and the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down complained that female suffrage had not been given to India. May I point out that those reforms were never recommended, and they certainly seemed to me to totally 2370 overlook the portion of the policy with which we are dealing, and to which I have just called attention, the insistence on the fact that the pace of the advance towards responsibility was to be set by Government.
Another error which vitiates all the criticisms I have heard to-night is this: I do not think any of those I have heard speak to-night, and I do not think even officers serving in India, realise to what extent the Government of India is the Government of all India. It has been spoken of to-night as if it was a separate organisation unconnected, or only loosely connected, with the local Governments, and upon that was founded the objection that there was no real advance towards responsibility in regard to the central Government, and that what was done was only done for the local Governments. If the House once realises that the central Government is the Government of all India, and that local Governments are only its agents, with very restricted powers, they will realise that once a great advance has been made with local administration it is also an advance in the central administration, and that all the democratic advances which are made in this measure are advances in the Government of the whole of India, and not solely in the Governments of the provinces.
Why, Sir, the Governments of the provinces have exceedingly restricted powers. They cannot create an appointment at the most paltry salary. They have sitting amongst them, but not of them, an officer of the central Government called the Accountant-General, who is not only not under their orders, but whose business it is to see that they do not spend a single rupee without sanction, and he keeps them down under the Government of India all the time. That is what it is now proposed to alter. If it is realised that the central Government is the Government of all India it will be realised that the advances made in the local Governments are advances in all India, and that Government is immensely democratised by the measures before the House, and that the features of this Bill in that respect are not open to the criticisms which have been made. The hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme repeated, with variations, a speech he made the other day, and I much regret it. Somebody has said that there were fifty languages in India, but I have had to do duty as inter- 2371 preter in five of these languages in the South of India, where it was part of my duty to report and examine the native Press and the Indian newspapers, and report to the Government what was in them. I learned this, that anything that is said in the House of Commons travels about India to an extent which is by no means realised, and a special responsibility attaches to every utterance of a Member of Parliament concerning Indian affairs. The people in India who read extracts from speeches made by my hon. and gallant Friend Colonel Wedgwood, such as the one ho has made to-night, do not know that since ho took the Bolsheviks under his comprehensive umbrella he is in the habit of running amok down the floor of the House and assaulting all and sundry who come in his way. They will say, "He is a Member of Parliament. He must be a serious man. What he says must be entitled to attention." Therefore, it is a deplorable thing that the hon. and gallant Member—of whom I am a personal friend, and whose eccentricities I bore until he took up the Bolsheviks— should have spoken as he did to-night. It is a deplorable exhibition he has given to-night, and it is most regrettable that he should have allowed himself to say what he did. Amongst other things, he complained of the indirect franchise for election to the Central Government. Lord Southborough's Committee admitted that they would have liked a direct franchise, and the Secretary of State has said that he would like a direct franchise; but they are not ready on the spot with a direct franchise. They are not ready, like the hon. and gallant Member, and like the hon. Member who has just sat down, to demand the immediate introduction, by order, into an Asiatic country of a complete democratic system which has taken us hundreds of years to develop in our own country.
The hon. and gallant Member also complained that there was no franchise for the literate. Therefore, he said that the franchise was a bad franchise. I am heartily glad that literature or literateness, or whatever may be the right expression, forms no basis of this franchise. Nothing more illiberal or more unfortunate from a democratic point of view could be imagined than that suggestion, made in good faith but in complete ignorance. The masses of the people of India are small cultivators. They pay most of the revenue.
2372 They are not literate but they are the backbone of India. They are the chief taxpayers. They are remarkably sensible, courteous, polite, highly-civilised, gentleman-like people in all their ways and habits. They are perfectly capable of understanding what they want, and of giving a vote for the member they want, and to think that they should be excluded from the new franchise because they cannot read and write is an absolutely absurd thing and shows how prejudice, when it seizes a man or a Member of Parliament, deprives him of the power of understanding the beggarly elements of the issues which he is attempting to debate. I do not apologise, since it is in order, for dealing with this matter, because it is an exceedingly serious thing that on the Second Reading of the most important Bill regarding India that has ever come before this House, the word "fraudulent" should be used, the words "evasion of pledges" should be used, other charges totally un-supportable should be made, and the intentions of the Government and of this House should be misrepresented. The hon. Member repeated to-night a great many things he said the other day. He scoffed at an electorate of 5,000,000. Is it not a very big thing to make an electorate of 5,000,000 by way of a beginning. It is more than the population of this country when it began to have responsible government.
He complained that members are to be elected not upon an education but on a property franchise. A property franchise is extremely useful. The property franchise only died here the day before yesterday, so to speak. Certainly the property franchise is extremely useful in India. It enables you, by giving you the names of people who are taxpayers, to form some sort of electorate. The hon. and gallant Member also spoke about the working classes in Bombay, Cawnpore, Calcutta, and their franchise. I do not know what he means by the working classes in India. I object to that phrase, in this country or elsewhere. What does he mean by the working classes? The people I have described are the working classes. The small cultivator works very hard, and he certainly belongs to the working classes. Cannot we get this cant out of the discussion, and really deal with the vital issues. Then he complained of the representation of the Chambers of Commerce. Would he leave out of account commerce in India? If Lord Southborough's Com- 2373 mittee had not recommended, and if the Secretary of State had not adopted the suggestion that Chambers of Commerce should be represented, what then? Commerce in India represents in imports and exports hundreds of millions to this country. Are they to have no representation in the new Parliament in India? It is not only the Chambers of Commerce representing European commerce—though I think that is a noble thing and worthy of all representation, and I deeply deplore the remarks which my hon. Friends male on that subject.—but the Chambers of Commerce of the Indian merchants are equally represented in this new system.
The hon. and gallant Member went on to talk about giving votes to the plutocracy. Does the House realise that the inhabitants of the East are poorer than the inhabitants of the West. Their income is very much less, their wages are very much lower, and if we did not need very much in the way of housing, hardly anything in the way of clothes, and if our food cost next to nothing we should be very much better off than we are to-day on one-tenth of the wages we get. It is despairing to hear an hon. Member like the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Spoor) complaining about the wages in India, evidently comparing them with British trade union rates. His complaint really is not against the British in India but against the Almighty, Who made the East quite different from the West in climate and population and in all its other conditions. I suppose it is the popular thing to say, "Let us double the wages in the East, like we have doubled them in the West." We have doubled them in the East since we went to India. Wages all round have doubled. But if you want to double them again, are you going to tax these people who you say are so bitterly poor in order to pay these higher wages to the working classes. Heaven knows who are the working classes. Are you going to put taxes on them for the purpose of giving trade union rate of wages to some people who have never heard of trade unionism, and would not understand what you meant. The hon. Member referred to the franchise recommended by Lord Southborough's Committee. That is plutocracy; putting the vote into the hands of the landlord class ! These cultivators of a few acres are landlords, with an emphasis on the lord ! ! I have been a Member of this House for 2374 thirteen or fourteen years, and when a subject comes to be discussed one's ears are often offended by the arrant nonsense which is talked.
The hon. Gentleman who has just addressed us said some things with which I heartily agree. He spoke of the high civilisation of the people of the East. There I am with him. Indeed, I am not sure it is not a higher civilisation than our own. Ours is a high standard of wants and theirs is a lower standard of needs, and that kind of tranquil civilisation which obtains there may be of a higher class than our own. But when the hon. Member went on to talk about our exploiting India, I came to the conclusion to ask him before he next speaks to read the Report on the Moral and Material Progress of India. He will then see how much better off are all the inhabitants of India than they were before we went there, and only because there has been peace and prosperity and that British trade for which the hon. Member expressed such profound contempt, but which is the real basis of the whole British Empire. He talked about exploitation and the need for reparation. But it is known to anyone who, like myself, has lived in India for a quarter of a century that what has really happened there has not been the production of famine, but its prevention, for since we made the railways we have been able to correct the deficiency of grain in one area by bringing it from another. The only famine in India is the famine of money, and not having enough money to pay prices when they rise above a certain level, and to meet this we have introduced a system of gratuitous relief on which the people live until prices fall again. This magnificent achievement has practically abolished those famines from which people died in their millions before our time, and to describe that as a black feature in the history of our country is totally at variance with the real facts of the case. I am, indeed, glad to leave the speech of the hon. Member, and I would only add, in regard to the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, that I really think he must know better; therefore it is perfectly inexcusable for him to repeat statements totally unworthy of him and of the British Parliament.
I do not pretend to have completely studied the Blue Books which have been presented to us of late. If any man told me that he had mastered 2375 those books since we have received them, I should think he was either a superman or that he was qualified to be placed in a very select category along with Ananias and Sapphira. The mass of material in these books is enormous. It covers the whole field of the British Indian administration, and it is with a feeling of despair that one gets up in this House and endeavours to pick out the eyes of such a mass of material. When a Bill of this importance comes before The House of Commons there is always some compelling cause behind. During the years I have been here I have seen extraordinary changes take place. I remember the Prime Minister, who is now, I think, the greatest bulwark we have against Bolshevism—and I follow him heart and soul on that account—I remember when he was regarded as a rash reformer, to put it very mildly. I have seen that great change. But there has been such a development of democratic feeling since I have been in this House—and its rapid rush has been accelerated by the War into an absolute cyclone of progress—that such have been the changes that if there is any man here who is so much a compound of privilege and prejudice that he cannot realise what has occurred, then I say such a man is perfectly incapable of understanding the situation or of offering criticism on this Bill. The underlying fact is this, that the House of Commons is determined that it will not stand in future the application of widely differing or, indeed, different principles of government to the Asiatic parts of the Empire from those which it is demanding for itself at home. I believe that to be the case. I believe this Bill give expression to that decision. One may like it or not—that has really nothing to do with it—but the point is this: Will the House of Commons suffer a Government to govern autocratically, for instance, to deport those who are obnoxious to the Government? Will it stand a pure bureaucracy or autocracy any more? I do not think it will. Therefore I say we have to consider this Bill and do the best we can to carry out its principles. I believe it does carry this out. I am glad its reception in this House has been uniformly favourable, the opposition only having come from quarters which I may say are distinguished more for eccentricity than for sanity of judgment.
2376 I saw the other day there was published a manifesto by certain distinguished Gentlemen of the Indo-British Association. There seems to be some magic virtue in the number "seven." The Government of India consists of seven. Seven senior statesmen of the Indo-British Association signed their Manifesto to the "Times." They remind me of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus. They commit themselves to this extraordinary transparently self-destructive proposition. They say, "We are opposing this Bill because we receive touching and frantic appeals from the oppressed classes in India, and, therefore, we are impelled to oppose the passage of the Bill. "But their whole case is this, that these classes are not capable of formulating complaints or of giving expression to them. It is no wonder that the printer when he was faced with a communication of this sort said, "This is too much for me, "and struck out the word "communal," substituting for it "commercial." It was not, perhaps, appropriate to the context, but it was really not so absolutely transparently self-destructive as the word these gentlemen had themselves put in. I really feel, as an Indian Civil servant—more, as a member of the Madras Civil Service which has rather distinguished itself by its obscurantism—that I started life with a double dose of original sin, and nothing has saved me but a daily bath in the democratic waters of the House of Commons. Had these seven gentlemen of the Indo-British Association, who are opposing this measure, been exposed to the same influences as I have been, they would be supporting this measure to-day instead of wondering at me as a man who is not standing up for the Civil Service to which he belonged. Why are none of these gentlemen who are opposing the Bill, why are not each of the seven sleepers members of this House? It is because they cannot get in on that ticket. Not even if they accompanied their Oriental ticket, as I suppose they would, with an English ticket, professing great love for democratic institutions, do I think they would face the electors of the present day. Therefore they are constrained to stay outside and complain of what they cannot get here to oppose.
I have read great portions of these Reports. I think I have read all of them, and have only broken down when at the end of each Report I found a dissenting minute, a merciless minute of equal length 2377 to the Report, by Sir Sankaran Nair. If it were in order on the Second Reading, I should like to move an Amendment providing that anybody who writes a minute equal in length to the Report made by the whole of his colleagues, should be rendered incapable of ever holding office again. I have tried, out of respect to the House, to pick out, if not all the eyes of these Reports, some few of the points on which, as an old Indian Civil servant—I suppose this is a kind of a swan song of the Civil servant—perhaps I may be allowed to make a few remarks. One very extraordinary feature of these Reports is the increased influence and importance of the Governors of our Indian Provinces. There is no harm in that. The intelligentsia of India do not object to a Governor qua. Governor; they dislike the Governor qua Civil servant. The Civil servant knows too much, and is probably a fine old crusted specimen of what used to be called in my time the Anglo-Indian. However that may be, I should like to point out to the House how successful the Secretary of State has been in the appointments he has made to Governorships since he has been in office. For him to have been able to induce Lord Willingdon, a most admirable Governor, to remove from Bombay to Madras—where I know, although I was there myself, they want a little waking up and a little new blood—and to enter upon another term of office, is extremely satisfactory. The right hon. Gentleman recommended to His Majesty the appointment of Sir George Lloyd, whom we here all knew well. Sir George has proved a signal success since he arrived in Bombay. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Bennett) pointed out the other day, he arrived in circumstances of the extremest difficulty. He deported a person who most richly deserved it very soon after his arrival. I sincerely hope that the House in all quarters will support the Governor of Bombay in the action he has taken. He was right not to prosecute this man, who showed the most malignant hatred of his fellow countrymen, and who, I know, does not retain the confidence of those who formerly backed him. I hope that Sir George Lloyd's action in deporting him will be supported as a courageous act. The office of Governor in an Indian province now is going to be one of extreme difficulty. Up till now the Governor in Council has had to do this and do that, and was always in the picture. Now along comes the Gov- 2378 ernor with the Ministers, and there will be no close time for the Governor in this preserve. I hope the House of Commons will realise the exceedingly great difficulty in which these high officers will be placed, and will give them strong support in all their acts. The Secretary of State, I understand, has arrived at the conclusion that for these offices men in the flower of their mental and physical vigour alone should be appointed. I applaud that decision on his part, although, as one who is on the threshold of middle age himself, it might condemn me and the like of myself to complete inactivity for the remainder of our lives.
The Secretary of State made one remark which I did not quite follow. In referring to the transferred subjects I understood him to say that these would be made over to Ministers, and that we should have no more to do with them. I understand that the Governor will in certain contingencies have to come in, and will become practically responsible for the transferred subjects being properly carried on. If that is the case, that will bring in the Government of India and the Secretary of State himself. At any rate, whether or not I am right in this, the position of the Governor will be a very different one from what it was when I used to be private secretary to several of them. I do not mean to say that they did not work hard then. They did. I have the profoundest regard and respect for those who were my chiefs. There was a very humorous writer about forty or fifty years ago who drew pictures of all the chief characters in India, which were none the worse for being humorous. He said that a Governor might be a decayed nobleman, but he must be plump for white waistcoats and the Ribbon of the Star of India. A Governor requires a much greater equipment than that now. I was private secretary to three Governors and in the secretariat I have served with many more Governors and Viceroys, and on their Councils. I know how great their future difficulties will be, and I hope that this House, when the Bill comes into force, will give the most generous and complete support to these officers.
I am glad that this Bill has been introduced, and I hope it will be put through without waiting for it to be made perfect. We prefer a speedy peace to a perfect peace; indeed, we know nothing about perfect peace; except by hearsay in the marriage ceremony. Just as we prefer it at once to having it perfect, 2379 so we want to have these reforms brought in at once, rather than wait until they can be made absolutely perfect and watertight in every direction. My own advices from India confirm me in the opinion that among moderate-thinking men in that country there is, if not a consensus of opinion, at any rate a very largely held opinion, that the democratic advance is real though safeguarded, that to the electorate real responsibility is conceded, while, above all, what is of the utmost importance, the supremacy of Parliament is not at all impaired.
I said just now that the Government of India has concurrent jurisdiction right through the Provinces, and anything that is done for the Provinces is practically done also for the Government of India. The House of Commons must deal with all the Governments of India as one, and it must acknowledge the advances made I remember once, when I was member myself for the Government of Madras on the Governor-General's Council, complaining about the amount of the revenues of Madras which were taken by the Government of India for the general purposes of the year, and I said, "You might really think the revenues belonged to them." The Finance Minister immediately took me up, and said, "They do; the whole of the revenues of India belong to the Government of India, and the Government of Madras, which would represent, perhaps, 40,000,000 inhabitants, has no right to one rupee." The whole of the revenues of India are the revenues of the central Government of India. I remember that at the moment, and I am not sorry I repeat it, because I think the want of knowledge on this point has vitiated every criticism I have heard against the Bill. I am sorry, though, that Madras continues to be a sort of milch cow, and I hope the arrangements calling for a more equitable contribution from the Provinces, which are contemplated, will be made. I describe Madras as the milch cow of India, and, as I say that, it reminds me of that celestial animal which, having supplied milk, butter, cream, and cheese to the whole Indian Pantheon, mildly asked when they were going to begin to milk it. That, however, is not the attitude at Madras. It does not willingly supply all these delicacies to the whole of India, and wonder when they are going to begin milking. It is milked freely, and I hope something will be done to equalise the drain.
2380 The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Wedgwood), who never shows his gallantry more than when he plunges deeply into things about which he knows absolutely nothing, and places himself in the most impossible and untenable position, said there was no power of the purse conceded by these reforms to the new popular half of the Government. That is not true. It is true that the reserved subjects— those which are absolutely necessary for carrying on government and maintaining the supremacy of the King, will have the first pull at the purse under the new Constitution, but the popular Ministers will have power to suggest taxation to fill their pockets in order that they may deal with their own subjects. Is that nothing? The Government of India recommended that there should be actually a separate purse for the Minister for dealing with the transferred subjects, and that has not been ruled out. It can be done under this Bill just as well as the other arrangements, and that is the beauty of working by rules. It leaves the matter quite open. I think I have really said enough to show that it is not the case at all that the popular half of the Government is to have no funds and that no control over money is conceded by this arrangement. If time allowed, I should show that the Councils would have considerable control over money; not, perhaps, ultimate and final control, but we do not propose to hand everything over to be dealt with by politicians who have not yet learned to walk. They must learn to walk before they can run.
A great deal has been said also about what has been called by the odious and absurd name of "diarchy." I cannot see what there is extraordinary in that. Why should not the Government, under the new Constitution, be compared with a man? A man has one head and two legs. Why should not one leg be the Executive leg and the other the Ministerial limb; and if they are both directed by one brain, as they will be, what is to prevent both legs walking in the same direction more or less, which, when the possessor is sober, they generally do? I think an extremely unnecessary amount of criticism and mystery has been imported into what is an extremely simple situation. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Montagu) pointed out that dualism exists already. The central Government has the power of legislating for the whole country. Side by side with it the provincial local Governments have 2381 the power of legislation in their provinces. That is dualism. I do not think this is a very wonderful discovery. The Government of India, in reporting upon it, say they not only think it a feasible, practicable arrangement, but they do not think any other arrangement could be made.
I must say a, word about the question of caste. I come from Madras, and it is the Madras Government which has raised the chief difficulties about the caste business. They say that the Brahmins—that means the Brahmins and the upper castes—are an intellectual aristocracy. They are an aristocracy of birth too, but they are even more an aristocracy of intellect. They are fit for government. I am sorry to say the Madras Government—I believe they are totally wrong—has given way to the outcry against the upper castes, which I feel convinced has been organised for the purpose of putting up opposition to these reforms. Suppose the right hon. Gentleman in charge had said, when the Reform Bill came in the other day, "Very well, you may have your reforms, but you must cut out anyone who has been to a university. He must not have a vote, or any man who has been to a public school, or anyone who belongs to the intellectual, educated classes, is not to have a vote or is not to have an appointment, and is to be cut out of the whole scheme." That is what is practically proposed by the Madras Government. They want to provide that half the seats which are provided are to be ticketed and docketed and earmarked and set aside for those who do not belong to the upper classes. Call them Brahmins if you like. It is a very good expression for the upper castes, but that is what it really means. That is really a moist extraordinary proposition to come from a Government, and it really surprises me that they do not see that it really is the result of an organisation that these so called lower castes— they are not low castes at all—are being put up by this sham fear of an oligarchy in order to fight my right hon. Friend and his reform proposals. Of course it may be that these high castes, the educated and intellectual men, hang together. Such things have happened in our democracy, which was not born yesterday. Is it very extraordinary if something which you may call an oligarchy if you like, though it is not an oligarchy, shows somewhat similar tendencies. But 2382 do not support action which would be very much like laying it down that, out of 700 candidates for Parliament, 350 must be persons of little or no education, lest the others should get the best of them on all occasions, which they probably would do. It would be very desirable to let a little fresh air into this subject and clear it of all cant. The fact is that, as the Chinaman is chiefly disliked for his industry, the Brahmin is envied and feared for his brains. The President of the Board of Education referred to education in India. Although my right hon. Friend behind me (Sir H. Craik) represents a university, I throw my lot in with him, he was not right in what ho said to-night about education, and as the President of the Board of Education also represents a university, I throw my lot in with him, and declare that our education in India has not been a complete failure, but on the contrary has raised the character of the public service and has conferred many other benefits in other directions. Of course we may not have reached that stage at which we are always told that everybody should aim, when education is run solely for its own sake without any regard to the material advantages resulting from it. Personally, that seems to use to be an unpardonable platitude. I believe that in this country education is chiefly valued for its material advantages, and I do not suppose that many students at universities or public schools go about singing to themselves "how charming is divine philosophy." The Indians in this respect are not very different from ourselves, and if we apply to them the standards that we apply to ourselves in this respect we shall have a, much nearer understanding of them. In regard to the franchise, Lord Southborough's Committee are blamed for making the franchise too rural, and not sufficiently urban. To save time, I may explain that an Indian town is nothing more than a large village. In the capital of the native State of Travancore, where I was a British Resident, a tiger from the jungle one day walked down the main street, just as some of the European inhabitants were on their way to church ! I do not suggest that this is a common occurrence in a town of over 50,000 inhabitants, but that it could or did happen illustrates my theme. India is rural and the vote should be rural.
2383 10.0 p.m
I had hoped that the instructions to the Governor would be of a private nature and concealed from the public, but perhaps he will have a good many instructions which the public will not see. The instructions suggested in the Blue Book, at any rate, are perfectly reasonable, and such as anybody could approve, and they are, I believe, modelled upon some Colonial pattern. I will not now refer to some more important points in the Bill itself, but will leave them for the Committee stage. I do not know exactly how that will be, but I am glad that this Bill is going to a Joint Committee of the Lords and Commons. I was a member of a similar Joint Committee which dealt with the Bill that it is now proposed to amend. It was a most satisfactory body, and I believe this new Select Committee will be an extremely satisfactory body also. I hope they will take up the work directly after the holidays, and I wish my right hon. Friend and his Bill god speed. My opinion is that it is, as the Government of India say, not only the best thing to do under existing circumstances, but really the only practicable and reasonable scheme which is in the field.
§ Captain ORMSBY-GORE
The House has been much amused by my hon. Friend who has just sat down, and I cannot help always feeling, when he is speaking, that he manages to support progressive measures with a certain amount of difficulty, sometimes, in disguising his regret at the progressive character of some of their features. He will forgive me for drawing attention to that fact. I could not resist it on this particular occasion. At the commencement of this Debate the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State drew attention to the emptiness of the benches of this House during the Debate. As one who sat through it pretty continuously, I do feel, with him, that it is very sad that the attendance has been so sparse this afternoon on what is in all probability the most important and far-reaching Bill that has been introduced into this House for several years. It is no use blaming Members of the House for not attending Debates of this important character on Imperial subjects, when the Treasury Bench is empty during the whole Debate, with the exception of the Minister in charge of the Bill, and another Minister who has a faithful and good re- 2384 cord in his interest in Indian affairs. Otherwise the whole of the Ministers have been away. The Leader of the House has not put in a single appearance during the whole Debate. That is a most lamentable thing to my mind, and I very much regret that in connection with this great project more Ministers have not been performing their first duty in attending in this House.
I am one of those who sincerely welcome this Bill, and do not share the views put forward by the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) when he said there will be no gratitude for this Bill in India. I think he absolutely misinterpreted the feelings of the great majority of His Majesty's loyal subjects in the Indian Empire. Of the men who fought in the War, and have taken part in public life in India, I believe the vast majority welcome this Bill, and are anxious to take this opportunity and realise that the work put in by the Secretary of State and his visiting Commission and later on by Lord Southborough and his Committee has been solid work, well thought out and wisely constructed, and that the scheme that is now brought forward is a generous scheme put forward by and on behalf of the British people, not as a result of agitation or demand, but as a measure which we feel to be just and right at this juncture in the history of the Empire. The important thing to go forward from this House to-night is that, whatever delegation of power we are now giving for the first time to the people of India, we give with a whole heart, and I believe that it will be received in a good spirit. That is what I hope will characterise the proceedings in both Houses of Parliament in the Joint Committee. After all, the British Cabinet in August, 1917, made a promise to the people of India, which was fully understood, and we must do nothing to whittle down or go back on that promise. It is perfectly futile, in dealing with anybody, to make promises and not to fulfil them, or, if we fulfil them, to fulfil them in a grudging spirit. I hope that this Bill will go on the Statute Book very much in the form in which it is to-day, and I hope that, when it comes to be worked in India, it will secure the co-operation, in the gigantic task of increasing the material, moral, and intellectual prosperity and progress of India, of large masses of the people of India who hitherto have not taken any share in its public life. I re- 2385 joice that the franchise is wide. It is no use pretending that it is not. It enfranchises 5,500,000 of people who have never exercised the vote before, and that is a big step when you are taking an initial step.
This Bill has two main features. In the first place, it proposes to devolve certain powers now exercised by the central government of India to provincial governments, and at the same time, though it has not been sufficiently mentioned in this Debate, it devolves powers which are exercised by Whitehall on to the government of India. I am certain that that is quite as important as the devolving of powers from the central government of India to the provincial governments. In regard to that devolution from the central government, I hope that hon. Members will not press for too wide a measure of devolution, because, to my mind, the one thing at which we must aim at securing in India, and which is of supreme importance to India, is the conception of India as one country from the snows of the Himalayas to the most southern end of that great country. That is the conception which we want to give to India— above all to weld all these races and languages into a single national consciousness. That is the great task before us, a task which it is going to take many years before it is accomplished. And I hope that the devolution from the central Governments to the provincial Governments will not create or foment local differences, but will insure that the best public men in India, whatever provinces they come from, may seek to serve in the provincial Governments of India and in the Legislative Assembly and the Council of State. Those are the classes whom we want to see there. We want to see the best products of public life in India taking up that part of national life which is concerned with government.
The other part of the Bill is the reform scheme, and the House may congratulate Lord Southborough and his colleagues on a well-reasoned practical scheme which does not do what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) is always longing to do—get hold of a doctrine and run it to its logical conclusion irrespective of realities. We want to get away from doctrinaire applications. One of the causes of what an hon. Member from the Labour Benches deplored this evening— the poverty of industry in India—has been 2386 the maintenance of Free Trade in India against the wishes of its people. Let us see henceforth that the people of India should determine their fiscal system and whether they want to adopt high Protection, moderate Protection, or even Free Trade, which I think would be folly in the case of India, let them adopt it. It is for them to work out their own salvation. We have forced this, to my mind, absolutely indefensible system on the people of India and they should be able to stop it. My sole idea in this Debate is to help forward this Bill, and to make it, if possible, a better Bill, and I hope that I shall not be deemed guilty of destructive criticism if I refer to what I consider the weak point of the scheme. The weak point seems to be in the system which I regard as quite inapplicable, of division of subjects. You have at the present moment too large a category of reserved subjects.
The functions of government in India are going to be divided by this Bill into three. There are all-India subjects which are administered by the Government as agents of the Central Government of India. In the second category are provincial reserved subjects, and in the third are provincial transferred subjects, which are handed over completely to Ministers responsible to the Indian electors. Everything, to my mind, is to be gained by making the middle category, the category of reserved provincial subjects, as small as possible. That is to say, the greater number of subjects, if you feel that you cannot transfer them to the Minister and the popular assembly, should be retained as all-India subjects. Very little advantage will be got out of devolution, except devolution of those subjects which you can transfer to popular control, and the main reason why I say that is because I think it absolutely essential that if those local electorates and legislatures and those provincial Ministers are to become really responsible and learn for the first time in the history of India the difficult tasks of Parliamentary government, control and responsibility, they should have responsibility in regard to finance. It is only when the action of a Minister touches the Indian taxpayer, only when the Indian Ministers have to bear the full responsibility for any mistakes they may make that benefit can result. Unless mistakes can be brought home to them by the people of India, and there is no effort—I hope there will be no effort—of British 2387 officials or of the British Governor to protect Ministers from the Legislative Assembly, or from the electors, the benefit will be lost.
The responsibility delegated, whatever it is, must be really delegated and must be made absolute, and the Governor must stand aside and see made what he knows to be mistakes, in order that the lessons of self-government, and the duties and difficulties of self-government, may be learned from the start. Democracy is the best form of government because, as Aristotle says, it soon proves its own corrective. If a lot of Ministers make a mess of things they are turned out of office very soon. That is why I hope that the category of reserved provincial subjects will be as small as possible. There are several of them in the list, as submitted by Mr. Feetham's Committee, which I feel perfectly confident ought to have been retained as all-India subjects, and several which I think might be transferred to popular control forthwith. That category, looking at it from an outside point of view as one who has studied these Blue Books, is the weak point of the scheme. The other thing is the position, the personal position, of your eight Governors. Your eight Governors have, indeed, a task which, as it stands now, only eight supermen can do. That task is going to be gigantic. They will require to be not only administrators, but also politicians of quick sympathy, untiring energy and perpetual tact. It is very hard to combine administrative experience with the political play which a Governor will have to perform in India in these days. I do hope it may be possible to devolve from the Governors to the provinces a vast amount of the administrative work they have to do now to some Deputy-Governor or subordinate who is an administrator— an experienced administrator working under a political chief. Your Governors in future, I maintain, will have to be political chiefs with a first-rate administrator always at their hands to carry on the administrative work. There is one other thing in regard to this devolutionary system that I feel I must say something about, although it may, perhaps, be anticipating the Report of Lord Crewe's Committee.
I feel it ought to go forth from this Debate to the Joint Committee that we cannot maintain, and ought not to maintain along with this reform scheme, the same 2388 meticulous control by the India Office over the central Government of India. Although it has been rather overlooked in the Debate, we are making big changes in the position of the Government of India in its relation to the Legislative Assembly of India. You are giving a big majority of non-official elected members in the Legislative Assembly. I do not care whether you leave to the Viceroy the right to withdraw members and safeguarding procedure of that kind, but once you have set up that Legislative Assembly with a large elected majority, the Government will have to pay attention to the Assembly. From the first day it meets and every day it continues to meet, that Assembly will grow in power and authority, just as when you give a Minister an Advisory Committee or Council, if it is there he has to consult it. It is the way constitutional government works out. By the fact that you are revolutionising the constitution and character of the Legislative Assembly and the Central Government of India, you are putting that Government into a position in which it is bound in practice to be more and more responsive to that Assembly and to the electors whom that Assembly represents. When you are doing that you cannot, unless you are going to put the Government of India into an impossible position, at the same time keep the control that has gone on through the Council of India in Whitehall in the past, on every little item of expenditure, and all the personal cases with all the elaborate machinery of the biggest office in Whitehall as regards the building. I am more and more convinced that the Secretary of State, while he remains responsible to Parliament for the peace and order and good government of India, will have to be prepared forthwith not merely to give fiscal autonomy, but also to delegate very largely the control of the work which is carried on by Whitehall over the Government of India. I want the Government of India to be strong in prestige and increasingly sensitive to the opinion of its Legislative Assemblies. I want to see a united and progressive India and I want to see the experience learned by Indian administrators from the Government in the local Legislatures applied at the earliest possible moment to the central Government. of India. That is what I wish.
Let me repeat what I have said about the attitude of this House. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not attempt to 2389 set up a Select Committee on Indian affairs in this House because I believe it will merely mean that only the Members of that Select Committee "will take an interest in Indian affairs. What I want to ensure is this: That his salary is placed on the Estimates so that it can be brought on in Committee of Supply any time, and, if possible, two or three times in the Session. We want to secure more interest from the great body of the Members of this House in Indian Imperial affairs and the Secretary of State and the Members to realise the gigantic responsibilty of the people of these islands who have acted for the last hundred years as trustees for the people of India now that we are starting the people on the course towards self-government to take a deeper interest and have a fuller realisation of what India is. That it is a vast Continent, one-sixth of the human race, stretching from the snows of the Himalayas across the Valley of the Jamna to the Ganges, rolling its waters down to the burning plains of Bengal. There in that vast continent with its vast aggregation of people who have become almost by accident of history mixed up in their destinies with the destinies of the people of this country and this Empire we have a great opportunity of leading them forward and assisting them to build up institutions of freedom such as we know and cherish in this country, and, above all, we have at this moment an idealistic movement, and let us give them what they gave our forefathers centuries ago, some of our ideals not only of current progress, but in raising the level of culture and knowledge of the vast masses of population, so that they may give forth to the world a similar contribution to civilisation such as they gave centuries ago. We know India chiefly for the work of the writers of the Vedas and of its early philosophers. We know her great literature of the past and the magnificent monuments of architecture she has given. We have given her good government for a century. I do not believe we have been the oppressors of India, as the hon. and gallant Member said. We came and found India oppressed by a declining dynasty. We have given and are now giving a signal proof of our good intentions and of the object which followed the linking up of British and Indian civilisation, and my profound hope is that this marriage of civilisation, this effort of this House today to send on its way with real good will 2390 and real godspeed the first measure of self-government to a new Dominion—I say that we look to that Dominion to rise once more to the heights of old and give us signal contributions to philosophy, literature, science, art, and progress, in order that humanity may be made the richer throughout the world.
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
I should like to associate myself with the first part of my hon. and gallant Friend's speech, where he deplored the apathy of this House, and especially of His Majesty's Government, on this occasion, which has been described by my hon. and gallant Friend who has just sat down and by the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), two Gentlemen of very different points of view, as probably the most important measure we have had for a long time before this House. It is, in my opinion, the most important measure, probably, of this character, that has ever been considered here. It is far more important than any franchise question of our own. What I desire to protest against this evening is what I can only describe as the method which the Government has employed of getting these reforms through almost by back-stair methods. [MR. MONTAGU: "Hear, hear !"] I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will be pleased to hear that, and I will address myself particularly to him this evening. Never before has this House been burdened with so great a stress of work. The House has been working double time, day and night, upstairs and downstairs. We have had a mass of most important and vital questions to consider, and I venture to think that introducing the Second Reading on the last day before the House rises for the Whitsuntide Recess was not the way to treat the subject. It ought to have been given a two-days' full-dress Debate, with every opportunity for every Member of this House to understand the problems before us. An hon. Member said this afternoon that we ought to read all the papers which have been put before us on this subject, but the mass of evidence we have got to digest has made it absolutely impossible, with the pressure of pensions and demobilisation work which we have had to carry on. The reply of the Government of India to the Southborough Report only arrived at my house two days ago, and the Bill itself, with all its gigantic changes, has only been in our hands for about forty-eight hours. Can the Prime Minister have really 2391 given his attention to this vast constitutional reform, which might imperil the whole fate of the Empire? Have His Majesty's Government really been able to give it all the attention which is its due? The attendance here to-day has not certainly been a credit to this House. The right hon. Gentleman has been almost alone with his colleague from the Board of Education sitting there all day most faithfully attending to his duties, but it is an extraordinary thing, when a great question like this is before the House, when we want the assistance of the Cabinet as a whole, that the Leader of the House, at any rate, is not here to represent the Prime Minister.
The right hon. Gentleman based the whole of his speech, I think I am right in saying, and the previous statement he made, upon the pronouncement of 20th August, 1917. He said that must be the basis. What was that basis? This House never sanctioned any great reform, never voted upon it, and I want to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that, so long as this House exists, it cannot be permissible for any right hon. Gentleman or the Cabinet as a whole, without having submitted any great reform to the people, to make a pledge to any part of the Empire. Where is this policy going to end? I do say this, that the pledge having been made alters my own attitude towards this question. I would have put down a Motion for the rejection of the measure, but I feel the honour of Parliament is involved, owing to the action of the Cabinet, and I hope, at any rate, the right hon. Gentleman will not attempt to complete the Debate to-night, but will carry it over to an early day after the holiday. He stated in his speech that, whatever the difficulties in the path, we must find a solution. But I venture to think the difficulties have been very largely created by the righthon. Gentleman himself. It is not very long ago when, in a speech in this House, he said he almost despaired of the political calm in India. He could not despair to-day, since he has started holding out immediate hopes in India. The pledge was the pledge of a dictator. It was not the pledge of this House of Commons, and I think, therefore, when this question goes to its further stages, we are at absolute liberty to do everything we can to make this Bill as good as possible, and, if great alterations have to be made, I think we ought to make them.
2392 Reference has been made two or three times this evening by the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. and gallant Friend who has just sat down to the fact that we all desire to see India a nation. That, obviously, is the thought which runs through everybody's mind. But, as my hon. and gallant Friend, who probably knows more about India than anyone else in this House, points out, you are dealing with a score of nations, and it is going to take centuries, and you will be very mistaken if you think you are going to fuse these people, who are almost as different from each other as we are from them, in so short a space of time. The right hon. Gentleman also told us this afternoon that it is not true that the East never changes, and he told us how an Indian friend of his had recently returned and said he had been amazed at the change of political opinion in the last fourteen months. I am not surprised, because that synchronises very much with the period of office of the right hon. Gentleman. This is a revolutionary measure. I am glad to say I am one of those who many years before this measure was introduced had always held out the dream of India holding Dominion powers in the Indian Empire. But I desire to see that approached in such a manner that you do not wreck the machine whilst you are trying to get there. We have had great revolutionary measures proposed in the past which have been a leap in the dark, as they have been described, but this is no leap in the dark, and it is no use covering our remarks in any language of politeness. We must face facts, and say exactly what we feel and believe. There was a deliberate proposal to place the Government of India in the hands of an electorate which, far from having any political knowledge, with the exception, perhaps, of five per cent. of the potential voters—perhaps a little more—is absolutely illiterate, and incapable of understanding political problems as they are understood in other countries further developed. In Lord Southborough's Report, page 5, there is this passage:We feel great doubt whether it is within the capacity of the ordinary district staff to hold elections every three years upon a total roll of 100,000 electors, most of whom are illiterate."What more damning indictment could you require against this great haste, and trying to get us to carry this at once, instead of proceeding by reasonable stages? This reckless plunge by an idealistic 2393 Secretary of State follows the experience of the right hon. Gentleman in India! He has had experience of the Indian National Congress—I venture to submit the only practical native assembly that he can really go by. May I point out that at one of the meetings of that Congress these resolutions, amongst others, were carried:
Here you have an assembly where the Moderates join with the Extremists, although they see the hope of these great reforms coining about, in advocating in what practically amounts to a defiance of law and order. I want to point out that these are the trained politicians who will inevitably control the assembly which you are about to set up. The very mention of such wide reforms has, in my opinion, let loose an agitation right through India, because in many directions, instead of gradually coming up to your point, it has been regarded as a sign of weakness. That does not pay in India any more than in Ireland. Again, take the Viceroy's Legislative Council. I believe I am right in saying that when this serious position came up, and the Bowlatt Bills were before the Council, not a single Indian voted in favour of the prevention of this wholesale robbery and murder going on. These are serious facts. They are facts that we in this House ought not to ignore. The endeavour of the Secretary of State to persuade us, as he has done on some previous occasion, that there was a very large and sagacious body of moderate opinion among Indian politicians, is, I think, exploded at the start. It has been said that these reforms are a great gift to India. The other day, at a meeting of the students in London, it was suggested that a message of congratulation should go to Lord Sinha on his being included in the Government. That was howled down. Unfortunately, we have to recognise the fact that political life in India will not be controlled by men like Lord Sinha, but by violent men who make political agitation a trade. Sneers were to-day heard at the class of men who dwell in clubs—elderly gentlemen, who therefore ought not to be able to compete with a young and bright Secretary of State in his views on the country. But 2394 these are the men who have given their life for India, and come back to a miserable pension. So far I have only found one or two who know India who are not frankly alarmed at the experiment that this Bill embodies. The right hon. Gentleman had something like six months in India, excluding the time he spent on board ship, and he may be forgiven if he cannot compete in these matters with the gentlemen I have mentioned. I received a letter from a gentleman fresh from this country five or six years ago, and he is intensely interested in the affairs of India. He says:
- "(C) All laws, regulations, and Ordinances in respect of seditious utterances and writings be at once repealed.
- (D) That all persons detained as dangerous under the Defence of India Act, and all political prisoners, be at once liberated.
- (F) That the recommendation of the Rowlatt Committee on Sedition be disregarded."For God's sake save India from the Montagu-Chelmsford proposals, because you may take it from me that no more wicked thing could be done to the 320,000,000 here."He points out that 94 per cent. of the people are illiterate, and ask for nothing but security of tenure, and that their land shall be left alone. How have these reforms to be proposed here? The Secretary of State for India came down here and made a most violent speech, doing what the Americans would call "jumping the claim." He has assailed British rule in India for a great many years past, and it appeared that here was the only really wise man who understood the Indian situation and all the experience of the men who had spent their lives in India was wiped out. The right hon. Gentleman's speech greatly impressed the Prime Minister with his oriental fervour, and so he was immediately put into the vacant position. There is a great tendency in the country, and it sometimes appears in the newspapers, to invariably criticise the British subject directly ho is carrying your burdens overseas. So long as he is here ho is merely a decent fellow, but if the right hon. Gentleman or any of his colleagues were to be sent to carry out administration in India we should have the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) talking about these tyrants, bureaucrats, and wicked soldiers.
Do the men of our race change their character just because there is a little water between us. I cannot believe that British citizens lose their human aspirations merely because they cross the seas. The Secretary of State went to India to ascertain Indian opinion and presumably to consult the officials, and as the Government had made up its mind one can realise that the officials would not speak emphatically against these proposals. The 2395 right hon. Gentleman consulted presumably the only competent Indian opinion on political questions and he consulted those who had made a good deal of political agitation. I submit that the right hon. Gentleman went largely to a packed jury and he did not get the opinions of Indians in a very few months. Did he consult the native officers in the Army? I am informed that he did not. Did he ascertain the views of the Ghurkas, the Punjab Mussulmen, the Rajpats, and others who have been fighting beside us in the distant theatres of the War? Their opinion is worth having. The opinion of the average fighting men in India is that they dread the hour when they are to come under the political rule, as they fear so largely will happen, of those they do not always look up to. The right hon. Gentleman probably did not come into very great touch with them, and did not meet many men who were of the non-official circle in India in trade and commerce. If he did he would find great opposition to this Bill. He met deputations. He met Home Rule deputations—people like Mrs. Besant and others of that point of view. Mrs. Besant whom the right hon. Gentleman let out of the prison.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
Mrs. Besant was not in prison. She was interned, and the Government of India suggested her release from internment to the good of Madras.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
The whole history of the release of Mrs. Besant from internment—a policy which has been completely justified by events—was told to this House at the time. If the hon. and gallant Member refers to the official Report he will find it. It is untrue to say that I let Mrs. Besant out of prison.
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
I was under that impression, and that he justified it in this House. Certainly I was under the im- 2396 pression that he had been consulted before Mrs. Besant was released. If he denies that of course I am quite satisfied. Since that time she had made extraordinary statements. She has been fanning agitation, and wrote in a, paper in which she is interested:There were four great autocracies at the beginning of the War—the Czar over Russia, the Austrian Emperor over Austria, the Kaiser over Germany, and the British Emperor over India. Two have fallen; one is falling. Is the fourth to remain to be the amazement of, and a menace to, a world set free?If it is a great advantage that she should have been let out by somebody other than the right hon. Gentleman, I cannot agree with him. I think the recent disturbances have been as largely due to Mrs. Besant as to anyone else in India. Here you have this vast population of 320,000,000 people, and the right hon. Gentleman will not deny that whatever symptoms of agitation there may be at the present moment in India, a very small proportion of that vast population has been really moved by political thought. It is not time to say that India is demanding this policy. It is time to say that the few who make politics a trade are demanding it very emphatically. The right hon. Gentleman should not allow the great population of India to be unnecessarily rushed into a policy which is merely demanded by, I think I might almost say, as few thousands as there are millions of inhabitants in India,
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
The passive resistance had nothing to do with franchise reform. It was a resistance merely got up on disloyal false description of the Rowlatt Bills. I am the last to suggest that when India is ripe for complete control of her affairs that that control should not pass into Indian hands I submit—and I believe the House will agree that the right hon. Gentleman is putting the cart before the horse. Educate India—yes. Extend local government to the villages and towns—yes. Let them graduate through the various phases of Government until they are able to undertake the responsibilities the right hon. Gentleman proposes to throw on them. But these proposals of the right hon. Gentleman, in my opinion, and in the opinion of a great many people, are an instance of Liberalism which has gone quite mad. The idealism of the right hon. 2397 Gentleman has carried him further than he really intended to go. You can hurry reform of this kind in such a manner as to be a greater danger even than going too slowly in the direction you desire.
You have the lesson of Russia before you. It is not an unfair comparison to say that the state of education in Russia is very similar—as far as politics are concerned— to the state of education in India. Yet you have found Russia—which I think can be described as an illiterate race—in the hands of extreme politicians with frightful and disastrous results to that country—plunder, strife, corruption, and murder. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has studied these facts and seen the grave danger of suddenly placing power in the hands of those who have not graduated up to the functions of Government. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman assent to the statement of my hon. and gallant Friend that the proposals in the Bill concerning diarchy may be changed completely in Committee. That makes a very great deal of difference. I hope that this question is not going to be in any way rushed. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take evidence from every section of the community—informed evidence from every section qualified to give it. We have been, as i think, wrongly pledged to a complete change, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman, recognising that fact, will do everything in his power to see that this is not hurried or rushed through, and that in Committee upstairs we may get something really good. Then I think we may say that something will have been done to prevent possible disaster. This is a great experiment, and, with regard to the way in which it has been rushed forward, everybody who knows the right hon. Gentleman realises that he has by ability won a great place among his countrymen, and I hope that in days to come it will not be said he was in such a hurry that possibly he did something to impair the unity of the Empire.
§ Mr. NEIL MACLEAN
I have listened with some surprise to the speech of the hon. and gallant gentleman—especially to that portion in which he referred to this Bill as a revolutionary measure. In the opinion of those who sit on these benches it is by no means revolutionary: it is not even an advanced measure; it is not even Liberalism gone mad, it is not even Liberalism at all.
2398 When the hon. and gallant Gentleman, tries to draw an analogy between India as an illiterate country and Russia as an illiterate country, pointing out that the disturbances in Russia exist because of her illiterate population having political rights and that the same thing is likely to happen in India because of the illiteracy of the great mass of the people there, he is going off at a tangent. There were corruption, murder and atrocities in Russia before the present Government took charge, and the people were just as illiterate then, therefore it is not the illiterate politicians who have control of Russia who are responsible, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman assumes, for those murders and atrocities, any more than it was the illiteracy of the people under the Czarist regime that was responsible for the atrocities committed then. There is something deeper, which I am afraid the hon. and gallant Gentleman has not yet realised because, I will not say of his inability to understand, but because he docs not study the conditions that led to these matters he has been quoting to the House to-night.
I agree with him in one respect, that is with regard to the education of the people of India. I feel, with him, that the education of the people of India, as of the people everywhere, is the one thing that is going to lift them out of the rut into which so many of the peoples have fallen. I would say to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the illiteracy of the people of India is not their fault. It is the fault of hon. Members sitting in this House, of those who have been in the Government of this country for ages past who have denied education to the people of India and consequently have left them in the illiterate state they are in to-day. It is no use our talking now of the illiteracy of the Indian people. We are responsible for that illiteracy. If we examine the figures we find how great is the responsibility that rests upon us and how we have failed to meet that responsibility in the past. We find that in 1882 the population of British India was 208,000,000,yet only £240,000 was spent on education, a sum equivalent to one farthing per head of the population. In 1910, almost a generation later, with the population increased to 237,000,000, we were spending only £620,000 on education, equivalent to three-farthings per head of the population. It is rather significant 2399 that in 1917 the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education suggested that the expenditure on education in this country should be increased by £3,829,000,while in the same year the sum proposed to be spent in the whole of India among all these hundreds of millions of people was £3,623,000, or less than was proposed as the increase for British schools. I studied political affairs for some time before I came into this House. The hon. and gallant Gentleman did not protest then against lack of education and illiterary, and it is no use protesting now that because Indians are illiterate we ought not to give them this Bill. The vocation which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has so gallantly followed takes away a considerable amount more money for its upkeep and maintenance than education. The increase of education amounted to £380,000, while the increase for military purposes amounted to £8,600,000. One is almost justified in assuming that instead of being a democratic country ruled by people who believe in democratic institutions, this is really a militarist country forcing India at the point of the bayonet. It was said in reply to a question in the Bombay Legislative Council in December, 1917, that there were in Bombay 21,556 villages with populations over 250, and 17,493 of them had no schools whatever. This left 8,763 villages which were supplied with schools. The whole of Bombay came under British rule in 1818, and some hon. Members think we are giving too much in these hundred years to India in the shape of this Bill. In Baroda, where they are not under the same control as in Bombay, we are told the enlightened ruler in 1893 began experimenting in the matter of introducing compulsory free education in ten villages. In 1906 primary education was made free and compulsory. In 1909 only 8.6 per cent. of the total population was at school, as against 1.9 per cent. in British India. At the end of 1914 –15 each town or village had at least one institution and 100 per cent. of the boys and 81.0 per cent. of the girls of school-going age are under instruction. In 1900 Baroda was spending 6d. per head of the population on education, whereas in the other parts of India we were only spending something like ¾d.
I have a fault to find with the Bill m so far as it is not going to give to responsible Ministers in the provincial Legislatures 2400 control over the financial aspects of education. So far as the allocation of the funds is concerned, all other things are to be of a secondary nature to what the Governor of the Council considers to be a primary or first charge upon the property. I am not altogether in favour of the Bill. I mean in its details. I welcome the measure as a skeleton, but I hope flesh and bipod is going to clothe the bones of the skeleton before the Bill leaves the Committee. I do not see that you are going to give Indians a very large measure of self-government where you allow a Governor to have the power of vetoing any measure which he considers, or which is considered under rules, to be something which ought not to be passed. That, to my mind, savours too much of autocracy. I do not consider that a Council in which the majority are to be nominated is really a democratic body. This Bill is packed from the first Clause to the last with what in this country the electors, and even the most conservative statesmen, would consider to be undemocratic proposals for the people of this country. With regard to the Grand Committees, if any measure comes before any of the provincial Councils, the Governor may pass it on to a Grand Committee, which has powers to pass or reject it, also without the assent of the Council. In another place we are told that the Governor himself has power to put certain questions or recommend certain measures which shall be discussed by those Councils. All those powers, so far as they affect the local Legislature, so far as they affect the government of the people in the provinces and do not affect the unity of India, ought to be taken out of the hands of a Governor or of a Grand Committee, and placed under the control of the elected representatives of the people of that particular place. The same with regard to finance. We have in this country a Minister who can state the amount of money he requires for his particular Department, and who knows that when that money has been raised by taxation it is going to be spent by his Department for the purposes for which his Department stands. But in these proposals we find that instead of a Department being allowed to budget for its needs, the tax comes into a central fund, and the Department receives an allocation according to the Governor's idea. If something arises which the Governor 2401 believes is imperilling the peacefulness of the particular province in question, he can take a larger measure of financial (support out of that common fund, and take a large sum of money from the educational or any of the other Departments which should be drawing that money.
Therefore I see in the measure as it stands faults which I hope will be removed in the Grand Committee, so that there will not be autocratic power left to one or two individuals who are Governors or to Committees which may be nominated by these Governors. The whole future of India is wrapped up in the amount of education you can give the people of India. Let us give the people of India a form of education that will enable them to be educated along lines of their own national spirit, with their own philosophy, their own art, with all their national ideals kept constantly before them. Give them that power and I am confident that if it permits all those possibilities for the Indian people you will have steadily growing up one of the strongest supports that can be given you by a people who will stand by you in any time of peril that may be before you.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
By leave of the House, I may say a word in reply to my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Wedgwood). Assuming that this House, as nearly every speaker has admitted, has accepted the announcement of 20th August, 1917—never mind if it was obtained in a way to which my hon. and gallant Friend objects—then every single point that has been raised in the Debate, to the whole of which I have listened, is a Committee point. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Melton (Colonel Yate) condemned in strong terms the plan which I prefer, which I think essential, just as he prefers that of the local Governments. That is a question which can only be settled by discussion before the Joint Committee, and I give the assurance that this Committee will not only be perfectly free, but I will do my best to supply all evidence that they can possibly want. There are deputations of Indians and Europeans in this country who have arrived specially for this purpose. Sir James Meston, the financial Member of the Government of India, is on his way home to express the views of the Government of India. We shall also have in this country very shortly Sir Michael O'Dwyer 2402 and others who represent the views of some of the local Governments who differ from us. We cannot really get on with these matters until this kind of evidence is before the Joint Committee. I never meant to question the great Indian experience of many Members of the Indo-British Association. They include among their number a man who stands out as the most eminent of Indian Civil servants of his time, Sir John Hewett. What I did say was that by their interpretation of the pronouncement of 20th August, 1917, in my opinion they had done great harm by putting before the world a policy which did not accord with that announcement. I do venture to say that I have as much right to rely for advice upon those devoted Civil servants still in the service who have helped the Governors up to this time as I have to rely on those whose chief claim is that they have ceased to be Civil servants. Lord Morley is reported to have said:It cannot be easy for any man to waken up to new times after a generation of good honest labour in old times.This is really what seems to me to be the matter with those to whom I have referred. It is not their experience exactly; it is that they have a natural prejudice for the institution under which they have won their spurs and the gratitude of. the whole Empire. As to what my non Friend (Mr. N. Maclean) said, he also raises Committee points. There is the question of transferred and reserved subjects. That is a Committee point.
I must add a few final words in replying to other criticisms. I can assure hon. Members—I am surprised that the hon. and gallant Member for Melton fathered the ridiculous story—that there has not been any attempt to prevent the presentation to this House at the earliest possible moment of Papers and documents. The dates on which these Papers appeared' were of vital interest because I wanted to get this Bill forward, and I was pledged not to proceed until I had got the Papers. As soon as I could get the Papers printed I placed them before the House.
Again I beseech the House to let us have the Second Reading. I should not, however, be doing my duty if I sat down without a word in reply to the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Spoor), who is a newcomer in Debates on Indian affairs. In the discharge of my duty as the representative of the Government of 2403 India and of those public-spirited Englishmen who are working to-day in India, I must enter the strongest possible protest against his description of the past and the present in India. We are not exchanging a regime of tyranny at all. We have given to India the best government for one hundred years past and more which devoted Englishmen in the most selfless task in the history of the world could give to that country. We are engaged now merely on the higher task of substituting for good government self-government. That does not mean any stigma on Government methods in the past in India.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MEYSEY-THOMPSON
I think we ought to have an opportunity of expressing our views on this subject, and I do not know if I should be in order in moving the Adjournment. This is a matter of vast importance to India and the British Empire, and I do not think it ought to be put without the very fullest discussion by all those who have any claim to any knowledge of the Government of India and its institutions. I will be guided by the right hon. Gentleman as to whether he prefers that I should say tonight what I have to say or to give another day for discussion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide !" and "Agreed !"]
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I am very grateful to the hon. and gallant Member. I am quite sure we shall get on better by proceeding with the Second Reading to-night, and, therefore, would beg of him to say what he wants to say on the Second Reading now, and let us have a decision on the Second Reading. I am very sorry that when I got up I did not notice the hon. and gallant Member rising. I waited before I did so, and I think he is very nearly the last hon. Member who wants to speak.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE
May I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to let us have the Adjournment to-night, because this is a matter which is of immense importance which concerns not only a new Constitution but really an Empire of 300,000,000 of people? There has never been any question of this sort.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE
On the point of Order. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to move the Adjournment?
§ Lieut.-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE
I beg to second the Motion.
We have had only one day for the Second Reading of this Bill, which is of the highest importance not only to India but to the whole British Empire. The Bill was only delivered within the last few days, and only yesterday did we receive the India Act with the Amendments proposed by this Bill. The House is going on Recess to-morrow, and a great many Members have left, while the House all the afternoon has been three-quarters empty. I think it would be an absolute scandal to have a measure of this kind allowed to go through without further discussion on the Second Reading, and surely the occasion demands that we should give it proper consideration and that Members should have proper time to study the enormous number of publications put before us as to this most important matter. Here is a Bill which affects the lives and the future of the whole of the British Empire, and we ought to have at least two days on the Second Reading.
§ Mr. FISHER
May I make an appeal to the two hon. Members who are anxious to adjourn? I quite appreciate the force of all they have said. It is a most important measure, the importance of which well deserves an extended Debate, but on the other hand there is one consideration which, perhaps, has not occurred to them. This Debate and our procedure are being watched by the whole of India, and I think it is possible that if the Adjournment were accepted and the consideration of the Second Reading were held over until after the Whitsuntide Recess, an. erroneous interpretation might be placed upon the action of this House. I think it might be thought that this measure was being obstructed in the House of Commons. We know that that is not so. We know that that is not the intention of the hon. Members, but I think that that construction might be placed upon the Adjournment if it were carried, and in these circumstances I do appeal to the two hon. Members to reconsider their Motion.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MEYSEY-THOMPSON
With all due respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I do not think that such a construction would be put upon the Adjournment. I think, on the contrary, that the whole of India would take it as a compliment if an additional day was given to the discussion. I suggest to the Secretary of State that, as certain gentlemen are coming home from India who are competent to advise on this, it would be all the better if the discussion were postponed over the Recess, so that we might get further information and study further this great question, which is of such vital importance to the Empire.
Mr. TYSON WILSON
May I join in the appeal which has been made to the two hon. Gentlemen to withdraw the Motion for the Adjournment? Almost every view and opinion held by Members of this House has been expressed, and I feel quite satisfied, so far as Labour in this country are concerned, that they would raise no objection to the Second Reading being taken to-night. I believe that if the Bill is postponed till after Whitsuntide it will have an extremely bad effect in India. I am almost certain of it. We are all getting letters appealing to this House to do something to improve the government of India. I am quite satisfied, in my own mind, that anyone who objects to the Second Reading of the Bill being taken to-night will be doing a bad service not only to this country but to India as well, and we wish to do what we can, under the special circumstances, to try to appease people.
§ Mr. G. THORNE
I rose a moment ago to join in the same appeal that was made by my right hon. Friend opposite. The objection raised by my hon. Friend below the Gangway that many Members are absent does not seem to me to be a good reason for the Adjournment. Those Members might have been present, surely, just as much as those of us who are here, and, as has already been stated, there has been a full evening's Debate, and everything that has been urged as to the importance of the measure seems to me to indicate the absolute and imperative necessity of carrying the Second Reading now, so that it may go immediately to this Joint Committee, and have that full and detailed consideration that is so earnestly required. I, therefore, urge my hon. Friends not to press the Motion.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE
May I say one word in explanation? Even if we pass the Second Reading to-night, the measure will not go to the Committee until after the Recess, and surely no time will be lost by giving another day after the Recess.
§ Captain ORMSBY-GORE
I do appeal to my two hon. Friends not to persist in this Motion; it really will have the worst possible effect. Here is a Bill to give effect to a promise made nearly two years ago. This Report has been published for months, and we have had people working on it for months. The Eleven o'Clock Rule has been suspended and if any hon. Member wants to say anything, let him say it now, and let us get the Second Reading, and show India that we are in earnest about this. The right hon. Gentleman has been all too patient in waiting for the publication of documents with which we have been inundated. This House and country want to go ahead, and do not want any obstruction.
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
May I point out that earlier in the evening some hon. Members felt strongly about this as they could not possibly be here this evening, having long ago made arrangements to go away—[HON. MEMBERS: "Holidays !"]— as is usually the case before an Adjournment, and no important measure is usually taken the day before an Adjournment. They drew up a signed request to the Leader of the House that he should give a second day, and it was only because he could not be found anywhere that the paper was not placed in his hands.
§ Colonel GRETTON
It is really the fault of the Government that they are driven into this corner. They always treat Indian questions as if they should come forward at the last moment before the Adjournment. It has been the practice for years to endeavour to keep Indian questions out of sight of this House by putting them down at the eleventh hour or before some Adjournment. I suggest that there is nothing to be lost if this Bill is thoroughly thrashed out before the Second Reading is given. The Government have nothing to lose by it, and if the measure is right they are going to get rid of opposition which might appear in a drastic form in the Committee stage. I must confess I am not impressed by the right hon. Gentleman's argument, which is used by any Minister who wants to get 2407 the Second Reading of a Bill. It is part of the trade. It may seem to the Minister, though not to those who take an independent view, that the matter is one of such vital importance that it ought not to be left to the Committee to decide. In spite of the enthusiasm of some hon. Members to get this Bill to-night, I hope the House will not be persuaded to hurry over the measure. We might easily lose the Empire by making a mistake now. The matter is one that requires further and thorough discussion.
§ Mr. STURROCK
I desire to repudiate with all the strength at my command the arguments put forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite in defence of the slackers. Every Member of the House knew perfectly well that this Bill was coming up for decision, and those who have gone off this afternoon to the country and have extended their holiday beyond what they were legitimately entitled to do, went away with an easy conscience, quite convinced that the Bill would get a Second Reading. I know something of India, though I have not taken part in the Debate, and I protest that this great measure has an interest, not only for this country, but that the decision of the House is awaited in India, and indeed, all over the Empire, with the utmost anxiety. That that decision should be held back for weeks to please certain obstructionists who do not like the measure, and who are simply out to delay its progress, I for one protest against.
§ Mr. STEWART
Only one hon. Member rose to continue the discussion, and I think if the Secretary of State had seen him he would have given way. But I think we have a right to protest against the Government of India Bill being put before the House in this way. We have had two days academic discussion on Home Rule and federation, which might have been deferred to the Adjournment. I think the Government are very much to blame, but, under the circumstances, my hon. Friends would be well advised to let the Government have the Second Reading.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MEYSEY-THOMPSON
I am rather surprised at the right hon. Gentleman, for I should have thought, 2408 with several speakers on hand, that at this late hour he would have agreed to postpone further discussion. My right hon. Friend appeals to me saying it might be misunderstood in India, but I do not agree. Under those circumstances I think I ought to give way, and I will content myself with making one or two remarks. I am sorry to see that the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) is not in his place, because he made a statement in which he said that in New Zealand the Maoris had been badly treated. I think that is an absolute misrepresentation of the facts, for I happen to know that the Maoris have been treated better than any other Colony with which we have to deal.
We protected them because we found that certain profiteers were buying up their land and stocks, and we gave them representation in both Houses of Parliament. We brought in legislation dealing with this subject, and they are now actually increasing instead of diminishing; therefore on this point the hon. and gallant Member's statement is absolutely reckless, as his statements generally are. The hon. Member who spoke from the Front Bench stated that England is responsible for the want of education in India, and that therefore we cannot blame the Indians for a want of education, and at the same time refuse to give them a large measure of representation. We have been doing our best to educate the Indians, and we very wisely began by educating those who were most fit to receive it. That is the correct method, and I think it should be done by degrees. I do not think the hon. Member opposite ought to say that we are responsible for the want of education in India when we have done our best to give education there. With regard to the charge that our policy in India is one of militarism, I think India is one of the least militarist countries in the world.
§ Mr. N. MACLEAN
I did not say they were militarist, but what I said was that the amount of money spent for maintaining the troops in India, as compared with the small increase we were spending on education, would lead one to assume that they were a militarist nation.
Lieut.-Colonel MEYSEY THOMPSON
I accept that explanation, and am sorry that I misunderstood the hon. Member. Of course, we are all anxious for the best government of India, and the whole question is how are we to get it. That is the only point on which we differ. We are 2409 as keen on this side for the best government of India as the right hon. Gentleman himself. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to sum up his point of view and that of the Government by the statement that we were more responsible for giving progressive government than good government. There I join issue with him. The most important thing is to get good government, and that applies to India as to everywhere else. I do not care a bit as to the form of the government in comparison with efficient government. A great deal has been said with regard to the Civil Service. I look upon our Civil Service in India as the finest service in the world. I know of no body of men more self-sacrificing, more conscientious, or more hard-working than the Civil servants in India. I have never heard from anyone, either English or Indian, who was a, responsible person—of course, there are irresponsible statements made by people from time to time—who did not agree as to the absolute integrity of the Indian Civil servants as a whole, and their anxiety to do their duties well. With regard to the question of devolution, I should like to see a large measure of devolution from the Central Government in India to the Governments of the Provinces, but not quite on the lines suggested by the right hon. Gentleman. I think the Department Commissioners and the local Governments have been hampered in the execution of their office by the Central Government at Calcutta, and also by the Secretary of State at home, and I do think that those who were there and knew the requirements of the Province should be given as free a hand as possible. I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that he is advocating a very different system, and that was to have a very large representation of the people in those Provinces, and to devolve power from the Central Government in India to the Councils. We must move cautiously, and be sure that we are not making a grave mistake which may have most serious consequences to the Government of India and the safety of the Empire.
We wish to progress and advance as much as anyone here, but we do say. "Be sure of each step before you make an irretrievable move.'' My right hon. Friend has referred to the pledges given in August, 1917, but let me point out that they were his own pledges. Before he went to India he announced that he was 2410 going out to inquire into the condition of things there and to formulate a policy. he also made a statement as to what he wished to do, and therefore his position was prejudiced before he arrived. He led the people of India to think that they were going to get certain reforms if they asked for them, and the consequence was that they did demand them. The danger is in taking any step which will disappoint the people. But there is another and a bigger danger, and that is to lead the people to suppose that they are getting those reforms because of their agitation. They must not be allowed to feel that. It is somewhat analogous to the position of a coach drawn by high-spirited horses. If you give the animals their own way they may smash up the coach and kill all the passengers, and if you give way with regard to the 350,000,000 inhabitants of India you may bring about consequences which cannot before seen. A great deal too little is said in criticism of the Indian Government with regard to the benefits we have conferred upon that country. We hear a great deal about the shortcomings of the Government; but cast your minds back for a short period and see what we have done. Thuggee and Dacoity, plague and famine, were rampant in the land. Millions of people perished there from until the British Raj came and made provision against famine each time it was threatened. We thereby prevented famine and all its horrors, and we also put down Dacoity and Thuggee, thus giving security to life, a security which India had never, in all the thousands of years of her history, enjoyed. She was never so prosperous as at the present time. Let us, therefore, pay a just tribute to the work which the British have done in India, and not waste so much time in criticising the details of government. With regard to this Bill it is admitted that we are taking a leap in the dark. We have been warned by the right hon. Gentleman of various results which might ensue and which might be more or less disastrous. I do therefore suggest we should exercise great caution in making this advance, and whatever we do do not let us sacrifice the cause of good government and of progress. This is far too serious a question to be played with. If we allow disorder to rule in India the consequences may be terrible not only to the white people, but to the natives themselves. It may be the beginning of the break-up of the British Empire, which will be bad for 2411 Indians, for us, and for the Empire as a whole. I should like to have had a further day for the discussion of the Bill because all these points require very careful consideration. I speak absolutely without any prejudice of party or of race, but in what I believe, from my knowledge of India, to be the interests of Indians themselves and of the British Raj.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a second time.
That it is expedient that the Bill be committed to a Joint Select Committee of Lords and Commons."—[Mr. Montagu.]
§ Message to the Lords to acquaint them therewith.