§ Resolution of the House of 29th March last relative to the appointment of a Joint Committee on Indian Constitutional Reform, which was ordered to be communicated to the Lords, and the Lords Message of 6th. April signifying their concurrence in the Resolution, read.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Select Committee of Sixteen Members be appointed to join with a Committee to be appointed by the Lords, with power to call into consultation representatives of the Indian States and of British India, to consider the future Government of India and, in particular, to examine and report on the proposals contained in Command Paper 4268."—[Captain Margesson.]
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Sir Samuel Hoare)
I am reminded by this Motion of a very wise observation of Dr. Johnson's, something to this effect:Make a man Prime Minister, and in 24 hours he will have lost all his friends.I would extend that observation to Secretaries of State for India, particularly when they are dealing with proposals for setting up Joint Select Committees of both Houses. I can assure the House that of all the difficult questions that have faced me during the last 18 months none has occasioned greater complexities than the proposal which I am here to make this afternoon. The communal decision to which the Government came last summer was child's play compared with the negotiations that led up to the proposals which appear on the Paper. Indeed, if I may make a further comparison, I would say that the selection committees for the Test Match or the Davis Cup had a task far easier and far more popular than that which has been imposed upon me and my colleagues.
To-day, in a very few minutes, I propose to explain to the House why we make the proposals on the Paper and the reasons which have led us to suggest a committee of this size and composition. I started innocently with the idea that much the best type of committee would be a small committee of five or six drawn from both Houses, distinguished people who were quite impartial, in fact a small committee of Aristides. My trouble there, as the Lord President of the Council has just observed to me, was that the people of that kind are very difficult to find and are often very unpopular when 2190 found. Step by step I was driven from the idea of this small committee of impartial people—I do not think anybody on Indian questions is entirely impartial—and I was driven to the conception of a bigger committee composed, first, of experts, and, secondly, of representatives of the main bodies of opinion in both Houses.
When one came to see how that conception could be carried out, inevitably one was driven from comparatively small numbers to larger numbers. Take, for instance, the number of Indian experts, men who have done great service to India and the Empire, men whose names we should all expect to find upon a Committee of this kind. There is a considerable number of them. Take again this House. It has always been difficult in chosing Members of Select Committees to balance the strength of the parties in the House of Commons. It is more than ever difficult in this House. In this House there are more groups and parties than there have ever been in any House that any of us remember. I suppose there are four or five parties in this House, and I see sitting over there my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) who is a party in himself, a kind of Athanasius contra mundum. When I come to my own party, I should be blinding myself to the very obvious facts if I said that the party was completely united upon Indian questions, and if I did not admit that there were definitely three groups, all of which ought to be represented on such a Committee as we are now proposing.
Let us remember that the Committee which we suggest is a Select Committee of both Houses. That means that we have to take both Houses as we find them. We have to take the representation that we actually see around us in this Chamber. We cannot go into abstruse and controversial questions as to what exactly is the balance of opinion in the country. No Select Committee has ever been formed on those lines. A Select Committee is formed on the basis of the representation of the parties and groups as they are actually found in the House of Commons. I have here an analysis of the membership of this House. I find that of the 615 Members who compose it 80.65 per cent, are Conservative, National' Labour and Independent—468 being Con- 2191 servatives—while 11.06 per cent, are Liberal—there are 68 Liberal Members —and 8.29 per cent. are Labour, representing 51 Members of the Labour Opposition. If you took the mathematical calculation as the exclusive test for a Committee of this kind, it would mean that in a Committee of from 15 to 17 Members—the actual number that we are proposing from the House of Commons is 16—but in the case of a committee of 15 the membership would be 12 Conservative, two Liberal, and one Labour. If it were a Committee of 17 the membership would be 13 Conservative, one Independent, two Liberal, one Labour. But the inquiries which I have made go to show that in actual practice, in the setting up of these Select Committees a "weightage"—an expression which is very common in Indian controversies about the communal question—is always given to minority parties. The result is, that the House to-day will find that we are proposing in the list of names which we have put before the House to give weightage, apart from their mathematical balance, first of all, to the Labour Opposition and, secondly, to the Liberal party.
I come now to the more difficult question of the representation of the Conservative party. I think I shall be right in describing the Conservative party as divided into three groups. First of all, there is the group that one may describe generally as in favour of the White Paper policy; secondly, there is the group definitely opposed to that policy; and, thirdly, there is the group, in undefined numbers, of my hon. Friends who have not made up their minds, or at any rate have not expressed them yet, as either in favour of or opposed to the Government proposals. We have taken into account all those three groups, and we have tried to see that they should be adequately represented on the committee as a whole. Let me say in passing, although it would obviously be out of order for me to make more than a passing allusion to the proposals for the House of Lords representation, that every hon. Member must take the proposals as a whole and must treat the committee as a single unit, and when he is considering what representation has been given to any group in this House, he must also take into account the representation that 2192 it is proposed to give to that group in another place.
Let me begin with the group of Conservatives who are definitely opposed, at any rate at present, to the Government proposals. On two occasions during this Parliament they have had the opportunity of declaring their views in the Division Lobby. In December, 1931, they voted against the Government after the discussion upon the White Paper that emerged from the Round Table Conference, and 43 of them went into the Division Lobby.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I do not know. In February of this year, when my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) moved a Resolution upon the Government of India, there again the issue was joined in the Division Lobby, and upon that occasion 42, of whom I think 41 were Conservatives, went into the Lobby against the Government.
§ Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT
Does my right hon. Friend suggest that those who went into the Lobby against my Motion were voting for the White Paper?
§ Sir S. HOARE
No, but I am coming to that. I think the House must take the evidence as we find it, namely, that upon the two occasions when the issue has been joined between the Government and one section of the Conservative party, upon one occasion 43 Members went into the Lobby against the Government and upon the second occasion 42. Then I come to the group—it may be a large group—of my hon. Friends who have either not made up their minds or at any rate have not yet declared their minds. We have taken their point of view very fully into account, and as I shall show in a moment, they have, taking both Houses together, able and adequate representatives to make known their point of view.
I was unfortunate in not being able to persuade all my hon. Friends whom we should have desired to see on this Committee to join the Committee. One or two of them refused to join because they disapproved either of the representation suggested on the Committee or of the 2193 whole basis. For instance, my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) felt it his duty to refuse, and I was very sorry that he did. I should have welcomed his presence on the Committee. I believe, if I may say so, that his views would have carried much more weight if he had been there to express them. I am always doubtful myself—perhaps I am wrong—but time after time I have had it borne in upon my mind that non-co-operation is really a bad plan. That is one of the reasons why I have never been able to agree with Mr. Gandhi, and indeed I have noticed in more respects than one that, although differing in every essential point of view, my right hon. Friend and Mr. Gandhi have been sometimes inclined to adopt the same kind of policy.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I trust my right hon. Friend will see that it is for a different object, and that non-co-operation to injure the British Empire is different from non-co-operation to assist it.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I am not to be drawn into an argument with my right hon. Friend, but I would only say that I do not think Mr. Gandhi would agree with the observation that he has just made. Anyhow, rightly or wrongly, wisely or unwisely, my right hon. Friend did not see his way to allow his name to be proposed as a Member of the House of Commons representatives on this Committee. There were other of my hon. Friends whom I should like to have seen on the Committee, but who were prevented from serving for other reasons. After all, it is asking a busy man a great deal to devote day after day, it may be month after month, to work of this kind and to cut himself adrift from his ordinary avocations; and, very much to my regret, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) was debarred on this ground from serving on the Committee; and there were my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Swindon (Sir R. Banks) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison). I say unreservedly that the Committee would have been the stronger for their presence, and I am extremely sorry that their business and legal avocations prevented them from giving their time to this work.
2194 The result of these negotiations and these deliberations, which have now been going on for many weeks, is that, so far as the Conservative representation on the Committee is concerned, we are proposing 22 Members of the Conservative party, taking into account the representation in both Houses, and of those I think I should be right in saying that 10 or 11 are generally in sympathy with the Government policy, and the rest have either expressed their disapproval of some material part of it or have maintained their complete impartiality. I maintain that a representation of that kind is a very fair mirror of opinion in the Conservative party as a whole—a representation divided, roughly speaking, between those in favour of the Government programme and those either opposed or doubtful about it. So much for the unofficial members of the Committee.
I come now to the Government representatives of the Committee, and I see that some of ray hon. Friends object to there being any Members of the Government on a Committee of this kind. How I should like to support the Amendment of my hon. Friend after months and months of committees and round table conferences and inquiries! If it were only a matter of personal convenience I would give up my chair to any other hon. Member in this House who desires it. But, quite apart from personal considerations, and apart from who may or may not be Secretary of State for India at the present time, I do not honestly believe that any committee of this kind can efficiently carry out its work without an effective representation of the Government upon it. My hon. Friends may say, "That is all very well for one or two Members of the Government, but why are six Members of the Government on a committee of this kind?" I hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping say, "Hear, hear" to that. I will give him the answer. These six Members of the Government are proposed to the Committee, not because the greater part are Members of the Government, but because the greater part, owing to their special claims in connection with India, and owing to their special fitness, ought to find a place on any committee of this kind.
2195 Take, for instance, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The House will see that we have taken special pains to see that members of the Simon Commission are well represented upon this Committee. What could be more foolish than to have two or three members of the Simon Commission and to exclude the Chairman? Take, again, the long list of great experts, men who served many years in India. What could be more foolish than to put on the Committee one or two ex-Viceroys and to leave off a third ex-Viceroy. Take, again, the work of the Round Table Conference. Some of my hon. Friends never liked the Round Table Conference, and they did not disguise their views, but I do not think any hon. Member will now say the deliberations of the Round Table Conference did not form an important stage in the discussions through, which we have passed. It is, therefore, essential that, if the Committee is really to be an effective and a representative body, to have the prominent members of the Round Table Conference represented upon it. Lastly, there were the committees that went out to India last year, I believe with the full approval of almost every Member of this House, one of them presided over by Lord Lothian, who, naturally, ought to find a place on the Committee, and another presided over by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), and I am sure we could find no better man and no more experienced judgment than his to have on a committee. You have the chairman of those two Committees. What rhyme or reason could there possibly be—and here I am not dealing with personal considerations at all—in leaving out the chairman of the third committee and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who made the very important inquiry connected with the Indian States.
These are the main reasons which justify the proposals that I am making this afternoon. I believe that I have justified them upon the details. I believe that I have justified them upon an analysis of the actual numbers of the various groups composed in this House. But I do not base my main argument at all upon the details, or upon an analytical, mathematical computation. I base it rather upon the general personnel of 2196 the Committee as a whole, and I ask any impartial hon. Member, wherever he may sit in the House, to look at this list of names, and to ask himself the question, "Are these the kind of people who are going into this inquiry with preconceived and rigid views upon a Government or party ticket?" I believe that the great majority of these gentlemen will go into this inquiry with a genuine desire to arrive at a wise and an impartial conclusion, and the suggestion that these men will be at the beck and call of the Government, the victims of party Whips, is really a complete travesty of the kind of Committee we are setting up. I have had some experience of these inquiries, and I do not for a moment believe that this Committee is going to be ranged into a series of camps with no bridge between them and everybody approaching everything with a preconceived view. I believe that, in actual practice, there will be very little voting at all, and I say here and now that the fact that a particular group may be small in numbers seems to me to enter very little into the case. The views of the Members will carry the weight that is due. The sections which represent those views will carry the weight that is due to them also, and I do not contemplate for a moment the work of this Committee as a series of party votes between one section and another. I hope that I have said enough to justify the proposal that I have made this afternoon, and I should like to end by hoping that the Committee will be of real value to this House and another place in enabling us to come to wise judgments to produce, in due course, a Bill that will be generally acceptable to Parliament.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I want to intervene only for a few minutes, because I feel that I am keeping Members of the Conservative party away from the joys of internecine strife. I sympathise very much with the Secretary of State in his extraordinarily difficult task. He told us that he had been looking out for a small committee of Aristides, but all his trouble has been with Alcibiades, and eventually he has been left out of the team. I want to state, briefly, our position in this matter. We are not concerned in the domestic question, which is between the various groups which support the Government. From our point 2197 of view, there is the Government and there is the Opposition. The Government consists of one party. It may be compared to a considerable building in which there are semi-detached portions, but with no party walls between them, and whether you put in a Liberal Member from one or the other groups, or a Conservative Member on this side of the Gangway or the other, from our point of view they are all Members supporting the Government. They have all been elected as supporters of the Government. They represent, or did represent 18 months ago, a very big majority of the electors of this country. We represented a smaller body at that time, but probably a very much bigger body to-day. Most people will be inclined to agree with that.
The difficulty of the right hon. Gentleman is in getting a just balance of the views of this House and of the people in the other place. He says, quite rightly, that Committees in this House are made up in proportion to the actual Members elected, but I do not know that it is absolutely wise in a matter of this sort to keep strictly to mathematical proportions. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman has not done so, and I believe he is perfectly right, because, after all, this Committee is not like a committee on some Private Bill, or even a committee on an ordinary party Bill. We are facing here a very, very big issue for the British Empire, and it is important when we discuss proposals which are going to affect not only the future of India but the future of this country and the future of the British Commonwealth of Nations, that we should endeavour to get on that Committee the experience of widely diverse opinion among the different sections of political thought in this country.
I frankly recognise that the right hon. Gentleman has given Members of this party more, than their actual mathematical proportion in this House, but we are always in a difficulty, because whatever we get, in this House we are bound to be a very small minority in another place, and the right hon. Gentleman said that in considering its numbers you must not think merely of the 16 representatives of the Commons, but you must think also of the 32 Members who form the whole Committee. We on these benches claim that we have been returned by one-third of the electors who voted at the election, 2198 and we say that in this business of Indian reform you have got to try to carry the whole country with you. You, therefore, want to have a number of people in all parties who will have had the experience of going into details on this matter, and I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it does make a very great deal of differ-once when one has had experience and the opportunity to grapple with these problems. We on this side of the House decided that we would take our share in the work of this Committee. We did not take the primrose path of irresponsible criticism and abstention. That is not very fruitful, though perhaps the action of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) might encourage Indian people to believe that the gulf between East and West was not as great as was thought if they saw non-co-operation on both sides. We have not taken that line.
We consider that, having been sent here to do the work of the House of Commons, it is our duty to take our share of that work. We shall take our line on that basis, and we shall hope to co-operate fruitfully with others wherever possible without departing from principle. We feel that essentially in this House we have Government and Opposition. While we are not standing out and saying that we will not play because we have not got all we want, we should like to register our protest, because we believe that the Opposition, although small in numbers in this House and the other place, represents a big body of opinion in the country, a body which may before long return a Government into power in this country. That Government will have to deal with the Indian question. Any Government that is in power will have to face that situation. We should have liked to have a greater representation. I acknowledge the right hon. Gentleman's difficulties and the courtesy with which he has always met us. We leave aside as a domestic matter for the other side the question whether there should be Conservatives, National Liberals or Liberal Nationals or National Labour, or any section that composes the majority party, and we merely register our protest on behalf of the official Opposition that we think we should be more fully represented.
§ 4.17 p.m.
I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out the word "Sixteen," and to insert instead thereof the word "Twelve."
After the very able piece of pleading —almost special pleading—of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State, it is rather difficult to intervene now because he did not refer so much to the Members of this House as to the general composition of the Committee. I do not think that it is seemly for us to discuss which Members should be on it, but I should like to take exception to the concluding part of the speech on behalf of some of my hon. Friends and myself who have put this Amendment down. We have not taken part at all in these Indian discussions, but we belong, I presume, to that little group to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, whose views are still locked up in the secret recesses of their own intellects.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
On a point of Order. May I ask whether, if the Amendment is moved now, any general discussion will be ruled out of order?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
There will be no difference between the discussion on the Motion and the discussion on the Amendment.
I was saying that those hon. Friends of mine and I who are moving to delete the names of the Government from the Committee have not been associated with any of the agitation which has been going on. I saw on the Order Paper on Saturday that a similar course struck the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), which showed me that there was something in the point which we wanted to bring before the House. Needless to say, I hope the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State, will acquit me in thinking that I am in any way at personal variance with him or of his friends on the Front Bench, or that we entertain any feelings of animosity with regard to them. I suggested at Question Time a few weeks ago what the Government's faithful ally the "Times" called a curious suggestion, of which the right hon. Gentleman did not think very much. I suggested that we might have gone back to the practice of selecting 2200 members of the committee by ballot. That was the old practice of the House. I dare say that the right hon. Gentleman did not know that, but it was a custom up to comparatively modern times considering the length of time that Parliament has existed. It has saved many difficulties and it would probably have produced a much better Committee. The value of my question, if any, was to extract from the right hon. Gentleman some answer, which he gave as a matter of fact, in regard to the kind of Committee which he had in mind on the 20th March. He said:I am most anxious that it should he impartial."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1933; col. 5, Vol. 276.]On that I was thoroughly satisfied, but is the right hon. Gentleman going to say that this Committee is impartial? Obviously not, as he does not reply. Whatever merits this particular Committee may have, no one in his wildest moments could accuse it of impartiality. He said that his first idea had been a small committee of impartial people and that he had found that very difficult to find. I do not know on what principle the original Simon Commission was selected, but my recollection serves me well when I recall that when the names were announced everybody was very struck at the skilful way in which the Government and the Opposition had managed to find certain Members of both Houses who had no known views on the subject which they were to investigate, but in the judgment of each one of whom the House as a whole had ample confidence. I find it hard to believe that the Parliament of 1931 is worse equipped than the 1924 Parliament in that respect. I cannot help thinking that a little more effort along those lines might have been tried with successful results. The other possibility which the right hon. Gentleman referred to was the Standing Committee procedure, but that is not really relevant to this issue.
When the right hon. Gentleman at the end of his speech told us that Members of both Houses were going to be on this Committee and were not going to vote on the Government or party ticket and were not going to be at the beck and call of Whips, had anyone in their wildest moments thought they would? That is not the way in which Select Committees 2201 work. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman has not been on one. Many hon. Members have been on Joint Select Committees. I have myself, and to suppose that Whips or Government or party tickets play any part is entirely wrong. What does come in is the question of preconceived notions in regard to the Measures which are being discussed. That is the point over which the right hon. Gentleman skated—if I may use such a word—rather lightly. The only reasonable way, if you cannot have a committee in which all the people are presumably impartial, is to try the principle of equal thirds where you have one-third of the members supporting what is to be proposed, one-third definitely against, and one-third neutral. It would then be up to the right and left of the Committee to try and persuade the Middle body to adopt their views.
In the particular Committee which the right hon. Gentleman is proposing there are four Members of the Government, and we suggest that they should withdraw their names. The right hon. Gentleman himself said that he would be pleased to withdraw, from which I gather that he has had more committee work in the last two or three years than has ever fallen to the lot of any man; and right well has he done it. I do not say that the result has been satisfactory, but, so far as attention to the work is concerned, it has been as assiduous and as correct as we should expect from him. But does he not remember that a great deal of the trouble in the minds of many people over the original Government of India Measure was the very fact that the Secretary of State and the Viceroy evolved the scheme before it came to Parliament? Are we to have a repetition of that? The late Lord Chelmsford and the late Mr. Montagu produced something and got it through Parliament with a very much smaller Committee, which included seven Members of this House and only one Member of the Government. It is suggested that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs must be on the Committee because all the members except one of the Simon Commission are members of the Committee. That is an argument as far as it goes, but how often is the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs ever likely to attend the Committee? I do not want to make any rude 2202 remarks about anyone, but we know that in the pressure of public business Disarmament and Geneva render it practically impossible for the right hon. Gentleman ever to come to the House. We have the most fleeting visions of him, and to think that he is going to spend morning after morning engaged in a committee of this kind is preposterous.
As a matter of fact, I could build up my own case on his name, because what I would like to see done, and what I am sure a lot of hon. Members would like to see done, is to remove the Members of the Government from the Committee and let them have exactly the same status as the Indian gentlemen who are coming over here. The right hon. Gentleman cannot object to that, because all along, in every speech lie has made, he has always told us of the value and importance of the co-operation of the Indians who are coming over. Some people were rather doubtful about that, but he is not, and he has stressed it time and time again. Indeed, in the Motion the Committee is to be given power to call people into consultation, and why should not they call into consultation Members of the Government as they desire? Then, at any rate, there would not be that huge block of opinion which must support the scheme in the White Paper. It is the Government's own scheme. You cannot imagine, if it ever came to a vote in the Committee, that the Secretary of State or the President of the Board of Education or any of the other Ministers would solemnly vote against it.
The Government are in the proportion of six to 32—an enormous proportion in the Committee, which will be the jury in this case; and then at the end the Government have got to judge on the merits of the report of the Committee. Quite apart from India or anything else, I cannot believe that it is right of Parliament to set up any committee on any subject in which there is that kind of weightage. I see the value of the experience and knowledge—I would be the last person to decry that—of the lady, the gentlemen and the Noble Lords who are being invited to serve on the Committee. But the trouble is that they have almost too much experience, if that is possible, because they do not represent, they cannot represent as a whole, the general opinion of this House. There is one thing about which I heard a lot when the House 2203 first met. It was about the splendid body of new young Members who were going to co-operate in the work of this Parliament. The Lord President was one of the most eloquent on that point, and quite rightly, but where are the young Members or even the new ones. There is only one new one on the Committee. I do her the courtesy of saying that she is a young Member, of course; common politeness would not have let me do anything else; and I acknowledge the charming way in which she has addressed us on many occasions. On the other hand, the House, and I am sure she would be the first to say that it was a pity that there are not some other new young Members on a body of this kind.
The right hon. Gentleman's case, based on those figures and statistics, rested largely on the proportions of political opinion, weightage to the Opposition, and so on; but we can look at the 16 Members of this House who are suggested for this committee from a different point of view, and get a very different weightage or different emphasis. First, there are the four Members of the Government. It is their scheme; they are for it. Then we get the three Members of the official Opposition who have, as we have been told, consented to do the work. We know that they will be for the scheme as far as it goes, only objecting to it because it does not go far enough, but they are sufficiently realist politically to take the little they can get instead of holding out for the great deal which they know they will not get out of this House. To that extent we now get seven Members committed to the scheme. The representative of the Liberal party was a member of one of the Round Table Conferences, and to that extent is personally interested in the scheme, which he helped to develop in its earlier stage. That makes eight out of the 16–50 per cent.—committed to the scheme. Next we have the Noble Lord who was a member of the last Round Table Conference. That makes nine. Then we have the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), who was chairman of one of the committees, and is not very likely to be very much against this scheme. That is 10. Then we have the hon. Lady, who was a signatory of the Franchise Committee. She said the other day in this House that the trouble 2204 about this scheme was that it did not go far enough in that direction. She, like the Labour party, would accept the less as she cannot get the greater.
We are getting on now, Mr. Speaker. The committee is not quite what the right hon. Gentleman suggested. I hope that in what I am saying I am not being personal. I am merely going on published statements and speeches made in this House; I have nothing to do with the private opinions of people. Then we have the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne), who supported the scheme in this House the other day in a very brilliant speech. We are left now with only four out of 16; 75 per cent. of the committee are what one might call definitely Government weightage. [Interruption.] I can take away the word "Government," and will say they are weightage for the scheme so far as it goes. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will agree to that. He does not. Well, I give him up. Of the four other Members with whom we are left, two of them frankly represent opposition to the scheme, that is admitted; another is my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan), who is there because he was a Simon Commissioner. I would not say he was very enthusiastic for the scheme judging by the speech he made the other day. We are left finally with the light hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), who is, so far as I can detect, the only impartial person. He has made no statement at all on this subject. Two hon. Gentlemen, one representing the English Universities and the other a division of Manchester, are frankly in opposition, they have made speeches in that sense. The only person who has not made a speech is my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham. Therefore, he is the "impartial neutral representative," as the Secretary of State said, of that great body of opinion in the Conservative party, and he is a very good representative of that opinion.
I would stress the point that we cannot discuss the Members of the Committee from the House of Lords in a matter like this, we really cannot. We are concerned only about our own nominations. The House of Lords may choose a very different committee after Debate than what is proposed, and we cannot discuss them. I hope I have not 2205 given any indication of the views of myself or of my hon. Friends on the Indian question, because I did not intend to, but if we look at this Committee impartially there is more or less of a weightage in favour of the Government scheme in the proportion of 75 to 25. If we take away the four Ministers we do reduce that proportion. At the same time the Committee would not be deprived of their advice; they could call them in consultation every day if they liked. Further, the Government would be less likely to be in a false position at the end of the proceedings supposing the Committee recommended something which the Government did hot like. What is to be the position of the six Ministers—six out of 32 who are on the Committee—in that case? It is going to be a very difficult task for them to have to persuade their colleagues back along the path on which they have advanced, or make them move further along the path which they have refused to follow. In either case, to ask four Ministers from this House, however able their work in this matter—and we all recognise and admire their steady devotion to this most difficult problem over a long period of time—to serve on this Committee is to ask too much. Therefore, I beg the House to be so good as to accept this Amendment to reduce the number in order that we may have an opportunity to move the consequential Amendments to leave out members of the Government.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ Sir JOHN GANZONI
I beg to second this Amendment.
At the outset I would like to say how very much I enjoyed the battle of flowers which we have seen just now. I could not help admiring the way in which the Secretary of State threw bouquets with unerring aim at all the Ministers and ex-Ministers who have been chosen to serve on this Committee. Never before have I had the privilege of witnessing a battle of flowers upon the ice, or even upon thin ice—an engaging and memorable spectacle. I feel emboldened to second this Amendment because I am quite certain that I am not by any means speaking for myself alone. Like the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, ever since I came into this House I have tried to steer clear of juntas, cabals 2206 and groups of all kinds, and I make a point, as far as possible, of refusing to sign proposals which are brought before me pleading for all sorts of innovations; but I do feel that the manner in which the personnel of this Committee has been chosen will be bad for the reputation of the Government in this country and in India.
The other day, when we had a Debate upon the setting up of a Committee on India, I voted in favour of it because it was recommended upon the ground that the Committee would make a thorough, a searching and an impartial examination of the proposal. I was by no means enamoured of the whole of the proposals. Like many others in the House and in the country I was certainly not prepared to condemn them, and I sincerely hope that after their examination I shall not be obliged to condemn them, but I do feel that the searching and impartial examination we were promised would be very much prejudiced by the presence of four Cabinet Ministers and other Ministers upon the body. It will naturally make things rather difficult for the other members of the Committee, for however much the Chairman endeavours to protect them, the weight carried by those Cabinet Ministers and ex-Cabinet Ministers is bound to make itself felt, and therefore it seems to me undesirable that they should serve. I take the words of the Secretary of State himself when he said, "After all, it is asking a great deal of a busy man." He went on to refer to the fact that the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), who is a very hard worker, is occupied in commerce, and that the hon. and learned Member for Swindon (Sir R. Banks) and the hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) are very hard-working members of the Bar.
I think we are learning to-day that Cabinet Ministers are an unorganised trade or profession, because if they had any union behind them that union would have had a word to say about all this overtime. It is going a little too far to expect a man like the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to be available for the continual sittings of a Committee of this kind while at the same time looking after the interests of his difficult office and going abroad to wrestle with beasts at Ephesus—well, not exactly that, perhaps, but argue with delegates from all parts 2207 of the world at Geneva and other European centres. I think I have said enough to show how very strongly I feel on this point. I am jealous of the reputation of the Government, and I think they should avoid every appearance of partiality, and I feel that what they propose would not be keeping faith with those in this House who still have open minds and want to see the proposal properly examined. It would certainly have a very much better effect throughout the country and the Empire and in India if this Amendment were accepted.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT
In rising to offer a few remarks to the House I would like to assure hon. Members that it was only after the very deepest searching of heart that I felt it impossible for me to serve on this Committee. I will briefly give my reasons for that attitude. I confess that I came here hoping to hear from the Secretary of State some really adequate reasons for the personnel which we are asked to vote upon this afternoon, and I think it will be very difficult for anyone to feel satisfied after the explanation we have heard. When he quoted a vote in the Division Lobby on a Private Member's Motion as representing a decision of this House, I must remind him that the Motion which I moved on that occasion was in favour of the Simon Commission's Report, with certain reservations as to law and order temporarily. The Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) invited the House, I thought with the co-operation of the Whips, to go into the Lobby with him not against my Motion but in order that there should be no decision at that time. That was perfectly clear, and I think that on reflection the right hon. Gentleman will agree that it was hardly fair to quote that as a vote by the House of Commons—with over 200 Members of the Conservative party absent—in endorsement of the White Paper.
It was only when I was convinced that the Committee must be overwhelmingly committed to the Government proposal, and that any Member of our very small and almost negligible minority thereon could have no opportunity of deflecting the Government from their main purpose, that I very reluctantly decided that 2208 it was impossible for me to accept the invitation to join the Committee. I regret this the more because for nearly 30 years during which I have followed a certain course I have in consequence found myself on repeated occasions in conflict with His Majesty's Government, and I did hope two years ago that all these strivings on my part had now come to an end and that I had come to a time when I could sing a political Nunc Dimittis. But this question is one which seems to me to be greater than any issue which has ever tested us, except perhaps that of August, 1914.
When I was invited—and I cordially admit the honour which the Secretary of State did me—to join this Committee, I felt that I was in a very similar position to one which I can recall very early in the War in 1914, when I was a young company-commander. I happened to be with two private soldiers carrying out the very ordinary duty of examining German wire. It was a very dark night, and we bumped into a working party of Germans numbering about 40. If I had been merely a brave man, I suppose I should have rushed and endeavoured to slay one of those Germans, with almost suicidal results to myself; in other words, I should have joined the German select committee. I should also have been imperilling the lives of my two comrades. Some hon. Members may say that it was cowardly, but very discreetly I decided that if I was going to fire another shot in the War the thing to do was to get away as quickly as possible to an entrenched position, and I took my comrades with me.
It seems perfectly obvious, that on a Committee where there is such an overwhelming majority against those who hold my views, I should no longer be able to fire a shot with any effect on a question of such great moment, and that I should be entirely muzzled from endeavouring to put the case before the people in the country, on account of the fact that one would naturally be precluded from doing so by joining a Committee of this character. When I learned what was to be the complexion of the Committee, I confess to being staggered. I saw at once that, with the exception of my right hon. Friend, the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), I should be absolutely alone, among 16 or 17 persons, in holding the 2209 view that you should not abdicate central government and should at the same time maintain the power of law and order in the provinces. I would remind the House that there was to be not one man representing the great business interests of this country in India, such as the industries of Lancashire and elsewhere.
I am rash enough to suggest that probably if hon. Members had been asked a fortnight ago how this Committee would be composed, nine out of 10 would have replied "Well, they contemplate a Committee of about 24 in all, with a majority, of course, of 10 supporting the Government policy of self-Government at the Centre, as against seven who believe in the continuance of British rule at the Centre in India and at least seven —who are not strongly committed to either policy." As has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank), the House expected to see some middle body of opinion from those who had not been committed one way or the other. Instead, there are only two, representing the view which is held not by a few but by a very large number of hon. Members in this House, and which I claim to represent, and one the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan), who is supporting the Simon Commission pure and simple, and who slightly varies his view from that of myself, and of some of my hon. Friends, with regard to law and order.
We have heard it suggested that possibly the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) also holds views against the policy of abandoning rule at the Centre. I could hardly believe that if the right hon. Gentleman, who is an ex-Secretary of State for India, had held any strong views on this subject, he would have kept silence all this time. He does not hesitate to express views, inconveniently sometimes, as was shown a week ago. I am convinced that had he had strong views on this subject he would have found an opportunity of warning the country, if he had thought that such a warning was necessary. What are the rest of the Committee? There are three right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen representing the Official Labour party. They go even further than the policy which they bequeathed to His Majesty's Government. Then there is the repre- 2210 sentative of the independent Liberals. That is four. Already my right hon. Friend and I would have been in a minority of two to one. I am not suggesting that this is going to be a question of votes all through, but I am trying to get the degree of opinion to which people are committed, if they are committed.
The calculation so far leaves nine others, every one of them pledged, in spite of what the Secretary of State said. If I understood him rightly, he said that there were only 10 Members of the whole Committee of both Houses who could really be described as pledged. I say that there are nine others, every one in this House, pledged either to the federal plan or to ultimate abdication of British Government at the Centre in India, two of whom also served on the Indian Committee—the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) who was a Round Tabler, and the chairman of the Indian Committee. If I understand his speech, he has come off the fence and is definitely committed to the Government proposals. Everyone knows that they are very estimable gentlemen of very high character, and nobody is questioning their desire to do their very best on the Committee from every point of view. We know that they will do so. Nevertheless, if a man has been devoting his time to a cause for two years and produces a White Paper which is brought before Parliament, it is almost too much to ask, unless he is an archangel, that he will not consistently and continually support those policies in the future. They are sincerely convinced, there is no doubt about that, but I think that a lot of people in the Conservative party would be inclined to say that they are rather among the intellectuals and the Kerenskies of the party who believe that in this post-War era one can settle so many questions by setting up committees or holding conferences, and by giving every imaginable type of person a vote.
Can we look to the House of Lords for any redress? I know that I am not allowed to discuss their personnel, but I have taken a little trouble to make inquiries, and I think that I know the views of most of the Noble Lords concerned. Nobody could claim that there are more than three, or possibly more than four, who hold the view that Britain should stay definitely governing India at the 2211 centre. If that is so, to bring the House of Lords into the picture does not help the situation, but it shows that in that House the position is very similar to the position in this House.
I attended the Blackpool Conference of the Conservative party last autumn. There I heard the admirable speech of my Noble Friend Lord Lloyd, and anyone who was there on that occasion will bear me out when I say that, while he was speaking, the whole conference shared his views. The right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State, got up and made an excellent speech, as he always does, and he pleaded for a Select Committee. The same thing happened at the Central Council which met in London, where there was a very close vote. I think the majority was only 24—I am not sure—and I think that there were 25 seats on the platform. The Secretary of State on both those occasions spoke very fairly to the assembly. He said: "Do not make my task more difficult." We had all been cheering him a minute or two before for his administration, and our good will was with him. He said words to this effect: We ate going to do an exceptional thing; we are going to set up a Joint Select Committee of the Lords and Commons, in order that this question may be referred to them. You could almost have heard the sigh of relief that went throughout that conference, when he uttered those words. Those innocent people did not know that he was going to set up a Joint Select Committee with a majority of five or six against the views about which they were so anxious. I would like to ask the Secretary of State for India whether he really thinks he could have carried the vote on either of those occasions if the people present had realised how heavily the scales were to be weighted against their views, and how very far from impartial this committee was to be.
I have only one or two words more to say to the Secretary of State. I think he misunderstood me, and I did not take the opportunity of replying to him in the Press, with regard to my letter and to my failure to join the committee. I said in my letter:I would remind you that the present House of Commons was elected for certain definite purposes and no single Member is elected with a mandate to abandon British 2212 rule in India, and this fact I should have thought would have caused His Majesty's Government to take special pains to see that at least 45 per cent. of the Select Committee should represent those who believe that India can be preserved for the Imperial Crown and that reforms should be instituted step by step as indicated in the Government of India Act.The Secretary of State replied:I could not for a moment accept your contention that you and your friends are entitled to 45 per cent. of the representation.The Secretary of State missed my point. I did not say for one moment that we represented 45 per cent. of the hon. Gentlemen of this House, but I ask him, how does he know that we do not represent the majority of the people in the country when the Government have taken no steps whatever to consult the electorate? Even by his own test, which he took this afternoon, his arithmetical test, what representation is he giving to those 200 Members of the Conservative party who, so far, have not expressed themselves definitely one way or the other? Are they not entitled to some representation? The right hon. Gentleman has from the first admitted, in regard to the group of which I am a Member, that we are entitled to some representation, small and inadequate in my humble submission, but surely 200 Members who have given no views on this subject have a greater right to be represented, and they ought to be represented by at least six Members of this House if the committee is to be truly representative in every direction.
Again, taking that test, may I ask him if the views of the Members of another place are in any way representative of the Members of that House on the same question. If we take the test proposed by himself, I think that it will be found that it is quite impossible to regard this committee as impartial. He further stated in his reply to me that he could not accept the viewthat it is only you and they who believe that India can be preserved for the Imperial Crown.Why did I deliberately insert those words? I can explain very briefly. In forming this committee we want to know what the Members' views are. The reason was that I had listened with dismay, and with the keenest distress, to that portion of the speech of the Lord President of 2213 the Council in which he used these words:I decided, after mature reflection, that if we went forward we might save India to the Empire, but, if we did not, that we should lose her."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th March, 1933; col. 1130, Vol. 276.]My hon. Friends and I are in absolute conflict with those views. I assumed that those views were shared by the Secretary of State and by those whom he has nominated from the Government. May I now assume, from the Secretary of State's answer, that he repudiates those views? If so, I rejoice. That is a policy of complete and utter defeatism, and there is no mandate for that. I take the opportunity to suggest to the Lord President of the Council that any question of losing India, or of leaving the Government of India at the Centre, because the British Government refuses to yield to agitators, no more represents the views of the Conservative party than the views of the few hon. gentlemen of the Oxford Union represent that great university of 4,000 persons.
These post-War ideas that we have paraded before us ignore the facts which are being realised by practically all other countries. Numerous countries, in their distress, are throwing up strong men to meet their emergencies in this post-War world. Some of them may be repugnant in their methods, ideas and measures to us in this country, but we should not forget that those strong men apparently have their nations behind them. They are being supported to the full, and we cannot base our whole policy in this country on declaring that we no longer have the strength to govern India, and that we must lose her anyhow unless we accept these reforms, though we may hold her if we introduce them. That is not the spirit of the country. Even if it were the spirit of the politicians of the country, there is one warning that I want to give. The ex-service men of this country do not believe that that is a right policy, and, when they remember all that they suffered to preserve the Empire, they will be no party to a policy of abdication. It seems to me that the whole of this policy is being forced through without any popular sanction whatsoever, and for this reason I would say, let us have a committee of reasonable proportions, and let us do what we can, even at this late hour, to see that 2214 it is more representative of the differences of opinion in this House.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ Viscount WOLMER
As one of those who declined the invitation to serve on the Committee, I would like to give the House very shortly my reasons for doing so. I do not share, and did not share, the surprise of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) that this was a packed Committee. To my mind it was inconceivable that the Government really intended to have an impartial Committee on this question, and I very much regret that the Secretary of State for India should have used words which undoubtedly led a great many people, in this House and outside it, to think that that was the Government's policy. When one realises the amount of labour that the Secretary of State, the Prime Minister, and other Members of the Government have bestowed on this subject, it must surely be obvious to everyone that they are absolutely convinced that this is the right policy in regard to India, and, therefore, they must feel it to be their duty to carry this policy through by every means in their power. After the Round Table Conferences and negotiations, and the steps which the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister have taken, it is impossible to regard their attitude from any other point of view. Therefore, personally, I do not wish to make any complaint at all that this is a packed committee. It appears to me to be perfectly consistent with the course that the Members of the Cabinet have pursued in regard to this matter, although I agree that it is at variance with some of the assurances that were given from time to time.
The only thing that I should like to say to the Secretary of State about it is that I think he is overdoing it a little bit, and I was amazed to hear him express the confident opinion that at least half the Conservative Members of this House are whole-heartedly in favour of the White Paper policy. I do not believe that that represents the facts at all. I also think he is entirely mistaken in regarding the declared opponents of the White Paper policy as numbering 42 or 43. If he studies the two Division lists, he will find that they contain by no means the same names. For instance, I voted 2215 against the Government in the first Division, because I felt that it was one of those Divisions which one was not morally justified in shirking; but, being a Member of the House who has no desire to divide against the Government more than I can possibly help, I did not support the second Motion, because I thought it was unnecessary to take a Division on the question; and there were a good many other Members in the same sort of position. But there were a great many more Members who abstained from both Divisions, simply through a desire not to vote against the Government, but who agreed in their whole-hearted condemnation of the White Paper policy. I should have thought that the Secretary of State for India was well aware of that fact. Therefore, when I was invited, after my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) declined, to serve on this committee, I felt that there was no hope of anyone who was entirely against the Government's policy doing any good on such a committee except in regard to detailed points, and in that connection I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock), who has infinitely greater knowledge of the details of Indian administration than I have, would do very much better work on the committee. It was simply for that reason that I declined.
Those of us who oppose the Government's White Paper policy are opposing it on a great principle. We do not wish to fight a ding-dong battle in a committee, to obstruct as the Irish obstructed the Measures of the Conservative Government, or as the Conservative party obstructed the Home Rule Bill. That would not be our plan. We wish to carry the issue to the country. We feel that all that this Select Committee is doing is to hammer out the policy of the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for India—that the personnel of the Committee is such that it can have no other function. It is composed primarily of the people who are responsible for that policy, and to ask them to look at the thing impartially at this stage is surely only an absurdity. It is simply a stage which the Government are taking quite properly from their point of view. I make no complaint; they are merely anxious to see that their plan, which they have carefully thought out, is polished 2216 up and perfected in its details, and improved as far as they can get it improved. I make no complaint of that at all, but I, for one, will have neither part nor lot in it.
I believe that the plan is a defeatist plan, a plan to give up responsibilities at the centre which it is not right for us to give up. I believe that they are responsibilities which the people of this country do not wish us to give up, and I am sure that the great majority of the Conservative party do not wish us to give them up. But the steam roller has started; the Select Committee is going forward with the same irresistible force; the sausage machine is at work, and in due time we shall be presented with the result of its labour. We all know now that the result of this Joint Committee can but be a perfecting and an elaboration of the White Paper policy, and, therefore, no Member of this House can now be in doubt that, unless those who think strongly on this question do what they can to defeat that policy, they will lose their opportunity before very long. The Government are irrevocably committed to this tremendous revolution in India. They believe it to be the right policy, and they will show that they are determined to carry it through by every means within their power. I shall support my hon. and gallant Friend in the Division Lobby, as a part of my general protest against the Government's policy, but I ask everyone in the House and outside it to realise the road down which we are now going. Let us all realise what are the issues that are at stake.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. G. BALFOUR
I wish to say a word or two in support of my hon. and gallant Friend. I endorse every word that he has uttered, and could, were it necessary, say a great deal in extension and support of what has fallen from him. I wish, however, to direct my short observations to that part of the Secretary of State's speech in which he laid down the principles upon which a Select Committee of both Houses of Parliament should be constituted. He detailed at some length the machinery which should be adopted so as to give proper and full representation, not only of the political parties in the House, but of the groups within those political parties. That proposal was in my judgment a sound one, 2217 but I will go so far as to say that, even if the committee were properly constituted on the principles laid down, and even if it were an impartial committee—which I totally and absolutely deny—it would not, even then, comply with the necessities of the case, nor would it meet the demands of the country. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) has truly said, the present House of Commons was not returned in order to deal with this matter, and no committee representing the political complexion of parties, or groups within parties, within this House, can in any sense represent the feeling of the British public outside. I deny entirely the right of the right hon. Gentleman to ask the support of the House for this Committee on the basis of the theory that the political parties in this House have a right, as the House is at present constituted, to determine this issue by means of any committee, even though it were an impartial committee. Of course, however, the case does not rest upon that; it rests upon the absolute condemnation which has been so effectively placed before the House by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gains-borough (Captain Crookshank), and on what has fallen from the lips of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth. As far as I am concerned, I regard the constitution of the Committee, as it has been submitted to the House, as an insult, not only to the intelligence of the Members of the House, but also to the intelligence of the people in the country outside.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The composition of this Committee is really of vital importance from a point of view that has not yet been mentioned in the Debate. Anyone who took part in the Morley-Minto reforms, or in the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, and who remembers the form in which those Bills were presented to the House, must realise that it is impossible, or, if not impossible, exceptionally difficult, to draft any sort of Amendment to Bills of that kind when once they are brought before the House. All the details as to the franchise, communal representation, the distribution of seats, reservation—all these details are inevitably reserved for rules and regulations which are enacted after the Bill 2218 has become law. They do not come before Parliament. Merely the general principle is put before Parliament, and the details rest with the Secretary of State. If, therefore, the House is to discuss the details, if it is to express its views on those details, it must be before this Joint Committee, and, therefore, the composition of the Joint Committee should he such as represents the House as a whole, and not the Government in particular. I differ from the view of the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) that it is not possible or practicable any more to fight this Bill in Committee—
§ Viscount WOLMER
I do not want the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to misrepresent me. I did not say that, and I did not mean that.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I understand that the Noble Lord's refusal to serve on the Committee was due to the fact that he thought that improvement was impossible.
§ Viscount WOLMER
May I make my position clear? I did not wish to obstruct in the Committee, or to take part in deliberations on a scheme with which I was fundamentally out of sympathy.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I agree with the Noble Lord as to the desirability of rejecting the White Paper, but I asked the Secretary of State to put me on the Committee. [A laugh.] Why should people laugh? It is such a misconception. Getting on to a Committee is not necessarily a favour.
§ Sir PATRICK FORD
Some of us laughed at the same view being arrived at in such diametrically opposed ways.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The views are absolutely identical, but it is a question of how they are put into operation. The Secretary of State, in his kindly reference to me, pointed out that I was Athanasius contra mundum and he could not make room for Athanasius. There would be something to be said for it if it were not for the fact that in the end Athanasius proved right. I cannot help thinking even now that you might have Athanasius not so entirely in a minority if the Government Whips were taken off, 2219 and if the House decided whom they would have on the Committee. I feel certain that, if we could vote freely today, we should get a better Committee.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I wish I had remembered that point. In that case, no doubt, I should have been one of the select and favoured few. The point of view that the ordinary Member of this House represents to-day is not, I believe, overwhelmingly represented on that Committee. You have put on the Committee people who have taken part in the past stages. They were on the Simon Commission or the Lothian Committee, or on the Round Table Conference. Those people have not merely made up their minds on the question. They have a vested interest in the particular point of view. Those people who are on the Committee are not subject to pressure from the Whips, but they are subject to the ordinary feelings of human nature. When you have an overwhelmingly strong Government, it is much easier to please that Government and it is much easier to anticipate the reward of ordinary political life. I can see in this Select Committee quite a number of prospective Viceroys and Governors and Secretaries and Under-Secretaries of State. This is the first step on the political ladder and, therefore, the Government not merely have on their side the fact that most of the people who have been appointed have already made up their minds and made them up for the Government scheme, but you also have the inevitable result of political life in driving Members to share in the Government point of, view. It would be much better if we had a Committee drawn by ballot or a Committee drawn, as Standing Committees are, by the Committee of Selection, which would make it less of a new Government Department and more of a representation of opinion in the country.
The real point at issue is this: The Secretary of State has said over and over again that there will be an opportunity before the committee of raising all points in detail, and that he will listen to every point of view and see that, if 2220 it is an improvement, it is embodied in the scheme. There is a chance of improvement in detail. Will he take evidence? Will Members of the House who have a point of view which they wish to put forward have an opportunity of putting it before the committee? Secondly, while it is possible, I hope, to improve the Bill in detail, will it be possible to make any modification in it on the real issue before us, whether there shall be this transfer of powers at the centre, which, to my mind is such a reactionary step at present? I do not think there will be much division of opinion in the House on the matter of provincial autonomy. On that side we all agree. The real issue is the transfer at the centre to what I maintain to be a most reactionary body, a permanently Conservative organisation. Shall we possibly be allowed to persuade the Government on that point and to fortify the views that I expressed the other day on the main issue, that the people in India itself do not want this transfer at the centre to this Conservative organisation?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I think the right hon. Gentleman is now getting on to the merits of the proposals in the White Paper. We cannot discuss those on this Motion.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
That is the real issue which the committee has to decide, the major issue of whether we are definitely committed to the whole scheme of transfer at the centre. It is on that point that the composition of the committee becomes vitally important. We read to-day in the "Times" the following interview with Mr. Gandhi. It is evidently curtailed very largely, but I wish the Secretary of State and the House to observe what Mr. Gandhi is reported as saying:If peaceful conditions for the evolution of independence were possible, I would use influence with my friends of the Congress to induce them to agree to a suspension of strife and to the operation, after examination, of Provincial Constitutions as, in my opinion, they may be a truer test of the real transference of power.That emphasises the point that there you have the best of liberally-minded opinion in India moving in the same direction as most people in this House, that whereas there will be unanimous agreement on provincial autonomy on the lines of the 2221 White Paper, you will have the most determined opposition both in this country and in India to the setting up of this new body involving Princes and millionaires.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is still transgressing my Ruling and dealing with the merits of the proposal.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
It is very difficult to distinguish. The real point of objection to the present composition of this joint committee is the fact that they are apparently prejudging that major issue, whereas the Secretary of State has repeatedly told us that there will be opportunities on the committee to put every point of view and to raise every issue, even the major issue, of whether change at the centre is inevitable and is part of their definite scheme or not. What I would press is that the committee be modernised so as to represent more fully the opinion of this House and possibly more the opinion of the country, and less the official view of those who have made up their minds.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. MOLSON
It is remarkable that we should have heard charges of bad faith against the Secretary of State being bandied about. He has been subjected to much criticism in India, but I do not think that particular accusation has ever been brought against him before. I cannot quite understand why so much resentment should be expressed by Members at the composition of this Select Committee. I have followed the question with some care, but I have never understood the Secretary of State to make a promise that the Government's considered policy was to be referred to some committee consisting of people who have not made up their minds upon it, and that the Government were to accept the decisions of that Committee as binding upon them. The hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) constantly refers to two domestic meetings of our own party, one at Blackpool and the other in London. It seems to me that he could hardly refer to them more frequently had he been successful in getting the majority of the people present on those two occasions to support his point of view. If I understood the 2222 speeches of the Secretary of State on those occasions rightly, it was that he undertook that the proposal of the Government should be referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses, which would carry confidence in the country, and when one sees the array of talent, of experienced administrators, ex-Secretaries of State and ex-Governors, I believe the vast bulk of the people in the country, at any rate, who ask for some reassurance from the Secretary of State will say that that is precisely the kind of Joint Select Committee that they had in mind. They will say there is only one defect in it. They would have desired that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Bournemouth, and possibly even my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox), who is interrupting me, should have been there in order to express their point of view. It is their failure to accept the invitation that was extended to them which will make a very large number of people in the country who, in the past, have had some sympathy with their point of view, ask whether the diehard section have all the courage to which they have laid claim in the past.
I never expected to hear the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth put forward such strange constitutional theories as that the Government were, in the first place, to invite the two Houses to appoint two Select Committees upon some estimate which they might form of the popularity of certain views in the country. I have always understood that Parliament was a Sovereign body, that it was to Parliament that the Government must look in order to ascertain what representation should be expresesd to various opinions. We are not only told that the Government should consider the alleged popularity of certain opinions in the country, but we are also told that the Government should be willing to set up a Joint Select Committee and submit its fully and carefully considered proposals to a body of that kind and then be prepared to have them amended in principle as well as in detail. I was interested to hear a reference made to the uprising of strong Governments in various countries of Europe. In 1931 the people of this country expressed their desire to have a strong Government. 2223 That is the Government that is in power at the present time, and I rejoice that the Secretary of State and the Government are prepared to carry through the considered proposals which they have put forward in the White Paper.
§ 5.30 p.m.
Duchess of ATHOLL
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India has told the House that in regard to this very grave question of India he divided the Conservatice party into three groups —those who favoured the policy indicated in the White Paper, those who were definitely opposed to it, and a third group which he described, rather superciliously it seemed to me, as indefinite in number who had not made up their minds or expressed them. Taking both Houses together, he claimed that all their groups, particularly the groups of his critics, were adequately represented. Before passing to speak particularly on the third of the groups of my hon. Friends, I should like to join with those Members who have deprecated considering that the representation given to the various groups here be amalgamated with the representation of similar groups in another place. It is impossible for hon. Members here to know exactly the position of Noble Lords in another place, and we are bound to consider whether the personnel proposed adequately represents the opinions expressed in all parts of this House. I always understood that that is the principle on which Committees in this House are set up, namely, that, as nearly as possible, the Members are nominated to adequately represent different points of view.
I wish to speak on behalf of the third group of Conservative Members. In the first place, I suggest to my right hon. Friend that the genesis of this group dates from further back than perhaps he realises. He spoke of the Division in this House on the White Paper in December, 1931, and mentioned that not more than 43 voted with my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) against that White Paper. He omitted to mention the fact that over 150 Conservative Members abstained from voting, and I venture to say that that was a portent which deserved to be taken into very serious consideration when we remember that my right hon. Friend the Lord Presi- 2224 dent of the Council had wound up the Debate with an appeal to a party which regarded him with great loyalty, respect and personal affection, to support the Government. It seems to me that the abstention of over 150 Conservative Members on such an occasion was a writing on the wall of which Members of the Government ought to have taken more account than they appear to have done. Then my right hon. Friend twits those Conservative Members with not having expressed their opinion. I would remind him how very little opportunity they have had to do so. In the course of 1932 three committees were sent out to India to examine and report upon matters connected with the Government's proposals. The House was not allowed any opportunity of discussing the reports of those Committees when they were presented. We had no opportunity of debating the proposals of the Government between December, 1931, and the 22nd February, 1933, when three hours were devoted to the subject on the Motion of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft).
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, who, I am sorry, is not in his place, because this is rather an important point, if he does not remember that, in February, before the Debate upon the Motion of my hon. and gallant Friend, representations were made to him by members of this group which not only consisted of questions to try to elucidate further information as to the intentions of the Government on matters connected with their proposals, but also contained expressions of grave anxiety with regard to several proposals which had been discussed at the Round Table Conference. Further, the representations included also definite recommendations with regard to several matters. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman is hardly in a position to say that this group of Conservative Members has not expressed any opinion upon this tremendous question. I also would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he was not informed at the time these representations were made, that those for whom the deputation spoke were considerably more numerous than those who had voted against the Government with my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping? Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman, from what he learned in February, was bound to have regard to the fact that, in addi- 2225 tion to those who had openly shown their views in the Division Lobby, there was a larger number of Conservative Members showing great anxiety and making definite recommendations to the Government in regard to this question.
But when it came to the Motion of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth, it is true that Members of this group did not go into the Lobby with the hon. and gallant Member. That is very easily explained by the fact that the deputation, as I have said, had not only made recommendations and expressed opinions, but had asked for more information, and they felt that it was, therefore, only right to get the full information for which they had asked, namely, to wait until the White Paper was published before definitely recording a vote against the Government, or in favour of other proposals. Therefore, the fact that there was only a small Division for the Motion of my hon. and gallant Friend is of little account. The appearance of the White Paper, with nothing in it to set at rest the anxieties which we had expressed, and nothing done to meet the recommendations which we had made, has in no wise diminished the number of Members who made those representations to my right hon. Friend before the 22nd February. But, again, those Members have had little opportunity to speak. We had, it is true, a three days' Debate when many Members of the group put down their names to speak, but in view of the great number of Members wishing to take part in this very important Debate, only three or four Members of this group were able to make their voices heard in the Debate. Certainly all four showed great anxiety, and three out of the four I think showed very little hesitation in the way in which they expressed their anxiety and their views in general. However, I would point out that, owing to the form in which the Government cast their Motion, there was, fortunately, no need for this group, or, for that matter, the group associated with my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping, to move any Amendment, or to suggest any addition to the Government Motion. Therefore, again, this group had no opportunity of showing, as a whole, their views.
When we come to examine the representation which this group is to be given on the Joint Select Committee from the 2226 House of Commons, we find that out of three definite critics of the White Paper only one of them represents this group. I think that I am right in saying that two of them, namely, my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall) are both Members of the Committee associated with my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping—the India Defence Committee. Only my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan) represents what has been indicated to the right hon. Gentleman as a very much larger group than those who are members of the India Defence Committee. The group, though mainly Conservative, includes some representation of Liberal and Labour opinion. My observations lead me to believe that this group, and the group associated with my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping, together account for considerably more than one-third of the Members of the whole House. I submit that the representation that should have been given to all the critics of the scheme of the Government taken together should at least be five out of the 16 members whom it is proposed to select. The group of which I have spoken should have not less than three members in addition to the two from the India Defence Committee. It is all the more extraordinary that my right hon. Friend has nominated only three critics from the House of Commons, when we are led to understand from the letter written by the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth to the right hon. Gentleman, declining the invitation sent to him, that originally four critics had been invited to serve. I understood from the letter of my hon. and gallant Friend that he objected to the fact that only four out of 17 Members altogether would hold the view which he holds.
§ Sir H. CROFT
Only two Members holding the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and myself were selected from the House of Commons as far as I remember.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I read from the letter of the hon. and gallant Gentleman—I gather that there will be four members out of 17 selected in the House of Commons who are presumed to be in opposition to the Government's proposals in regard to Indian reform.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I understood the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) might be presumed to be sympathetic to the views of those who were opposed to the proposals of the Government, and the four included the hon. Gentleman the Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan). There were only two absolutely opposed to law and order being transferred in the Provinces and abdication at the centre.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I have not been treating the subject in any detail but trying to keep within the ruling recently pronounced on the matter. I am referring broadly to those whose attitude is that of criticism towards the proposals of the Government. I certainly gathered from the letter of my hon. and gallant Friend—I may be wrong—that in the beginning my right hon. Friend had invited four who were definitely, or who were believed to be definitely, critics of the proposals to serve on the Committee. I do not know the views of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). Perhaps my right hon. Friend will inform the House if I am wrong in saying that, independently of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, he originally invited four Members whom he believed to be critical of his policy, whether associated with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping or not, to serve on the Committee. But now, independently of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, there are only three. Unless I am wrong in my reading of the letter of my hon. and gallant Friend, the right hon. Gentleman has made a very grave mistake and seems to have sinned against the light, when at the moment, when two representative Members who have shown themselves to be critics of his proposals refused to serve on his Committee because they considered that the representation was inadequate, he cuts down the representation of critics to three. It seems to be an extraordinary step to have taken, if that is the case, but no doubt if I am wrong, my hon. friend the Under-Secretary of State for India, or the right hon. Gentleman will tell the House. I think that the representation is extremely inadequate, more especially in regard to the large number of Members who are gravely anxious on this subject but who have not joined the Committee 2228 of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping. But I do not think that the Amendment moved by the hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) is practical politics. To reduce the Committee to 12 would leave the representatives of this House four fewer than the representatives from the other House.
The other place has not taken their decision yet. They might reduce their numbers.
Duchess of ATHOLL
We cannot be sure that the four that would be taken off the Committee in the other place would make the balance of opinion more fairly representative, and it is difficult to imagine that the other place would find it easy to put off four of the very distinguished gentlemen who have already been announced in the Press as nominated to the Committee. I think the more satisfactory way of proceeding would be to substitute, as is suggested in other Amendments, the names of two Members who are known to be critics of the Government policy for the two junior Ministers who have been nominated. I am sure that the two latter hon. Members would acquit me of any desire to be discourteous. I regard both of them as my personal friends. With one of them I did a good deal of work in the last Parliament. This is not a matter of personal views or feelings. We have to think of the fair balancing of the opinion that exists in the House. I feel that the Government's proposals are exceedingly inadequate, and that they will not add to the weight and the authority that the Committee should have.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Mr. MORRISON
There are many hon. Members, especially those belonging to the party to which I have the honour to adhere, who will feel a great deal of sympathy with some of the criticisms that have been made about the character of the Committee. I should like, if I may do so respectfully, to suggest to my hon. Friends that we are not discussing the merits or demerits of the Government's proposals but a question of procedure. And I should like to give reasons why we should not at this stage persist in the Amendment. If we are to have a Joint Select Committee, as has been already decided upon, it would be a great mis- 2229 take if we sent that Committee away to its labour with its authority diminished by any expression of lack of confidence in its composition. It is very hard for any Government in the present unknown state of public opinion on this question to set up any committee that would satisfy all sections of opinion in the House. The peculiar nature of the Motion on which the House has hitherto divided on this question makes it impossible to judge from an inspection of the Division Lists what is exactly the view of the House. When hon. Members suggest that the Committee ought to be more impartial, it appears to me to be very hard to know what is the feeling to which the Government ought to give expression in the composition of the Committee.
May I put my own point of view about the proposals, merely to show the angle from which I am approaching consideration of the question? As a private Member I am profoundly anxious about some of the proposals in the White Paper. My anxiety may arise from ignorance on my part, because I have not had the advantage of the personal knowledge of Indian questions that is enjoyed by some hon. Members. My difficulties may arise from that fact. When the Bill comes before the House, I think that will be the time when every hon. Member must express his opinion on the proposals, in the light of his duty to the country and the Empire. I propose to take all the time that is being offered to me to study this question. It is a question of such size and comprises issues of such great importance that I do not feel in the least apologetic at not being able to make up my mind in five minutes about it. I think, therefore, that we ought to take advantage of the opportunity that is given to us in the setting up of this Committee to inform ourselves more clearly in regard to the matter.
As regards the suggestion that the Committee is not impartial, it is very hard to know what is meant by being impartial, and what the Government's duty is in regard to setting up a Committee to secure impartiality. Impartiality may arise from a nicely balanced set of opinions in which the considerations pro and con are so evenly balanced that the mind is entirely ready to be swept one way or the other. You may also have impartiality from another cause, from blank, 2230 vacant ignorance of the whole question. Some of my hon. Friends who have to-day criticised the Government for weighting the Committee in a particular direction have themselves had the same experience that I have had of being invited to serve on the Committee 'and being compelled for reasons of one sort or another to decline the invitation. If that be so, and I think it is so, what is the Government to do if it cannot get those who oppose definitely these measures to serve on the Committee? If the Government have sent out invitations to those who have been prominent and distinguished in the controversy as critics of the Government, and if those hon. Members have felt it to be their duty to decline the invitation, I cannot see what the Government can do.
§ Mr. MORRISON
My hon. and gallant Friend suggests cutting down the numbers. That, to my mind, neglects the fact that this is a Joint Committee and that Noble Lords in another place have to appoint their quota to it.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Does the hon. Member suggest that if the Government suggested to the House of Lords a similar reduction in the numbers from that Assembly, to follow the decision of the House of Commons, they would not agree to that reduction?
§ Mr. MORRISON
My right hon. Friend mistakes the point that I was making. He has jumped ahead too quickly. My point was this: Suppose we reduce the numbers of the Committee by a Resolution of this House and the Government urge, as my right hon. Friend suggests, that in another place the same 'action be taken. By that reduction the character of the Committee in another place might be vitally altered. I do not know whether hon. Members have considered the personnel which it is proposed to nominate in the other place. If they have done so they will see that in that representation there is no lack of critics. There are those in that personnel who are profound critics, and who have declared themselves to be critics. Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that we in this House by altering the numbers should leave it open to the Government in another place, by reducing the numbers, 2231 to cut out some of those very important critics who are in the representation from the other place? As this is to be a Joint Select Committee, it would be ill-advised for us, in my humble view, at this stage to alter the numbers, because that action would bring in its train the great risk of deterioration in the proportion of critics on the Committee from the other place. I see nothing about which anyone occupying my viewpoint of scepticism and suspicion about the proposals can complain in the composition of the Joint Select Committee proposed from the other place, and I would rather have things as they are.
There is one further point to which I should like to draw attention. The Government having invited well-known and distinguished advocates in this House of views contrary to those of the Government on this question to join the ranks of the Committee, and those gentlemen having refused, what were the Government to do? What was their duty? If they could not get, for the reasons that I have indicated, true impartiality or balancing, they must go for knowledge of the question and experience. This Joint Select Committee is being set up for the purpose of informing this House as to its views upon the Government's proposals. Impartiality may be a sort of mathematical myth which in the circumstances it is impossible to get, and I think we can congratulate ourselves that if the Government have failed to secure impartiality, which is an impossible task, they have at least secured distinction, knowledge and information in the representation from this House on the Committee. In that case let us trust those Members of the Committee who are sent from this House, no matter what they have said in the past and no matter what expressions of opinion they have given.
Some of my hon. Friends say that some of these hon. Members have declared themselves. This India question is a very big question as it impresses me. I have changed my own views several times on it, and I am not by any means in possession of such information that I can now say that I can make a final decision. I think it is perfectly certain that if we approve the Committee as proposed and send them to their labours with the full authority of a unanimous 2232 House of Commons behind it, when they sit down to their labours they will not be deterred from carrying out their duty to the House and the country by any incidents in the past. For my part, I have sufficient faith in those whom it is proposed to put on the Joint Select Committee, because I feel that they will carry out their duties in the best possible way. As impartiality is so difficult to obtain, with the lack of knowledge of what the House is thinking, with the refusal of some of my hon. Friends to join the Committee, I submit that the Government have done the next best thing and have given us a Committee well informed and composed of those who will discharge their duty faithfully in this matter.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I shall detain the House only for a very few minutes, but I should like to say, in answer to the very excellent and clever speech just delivered by my hon. Friend, that we have heard this tale against voting very often. Time after time we have been been told that there is no real issue, and that this is only a Resolution which commits us to the spirit of the Prime Minister's speech at the farewell Round-Table Conference. Then we have been told: "Wait till you see the White Paper." We have also been told: "Wait till you see the Joint Select Committee." Now my hon. Friend says the real moment will come when the Bill is presented to the House. Meanwhile, things are not standing idle. The whole force of the Government here and in India is used to drive forward their policy. Meanwhile those who, in response to appeals for party loyalty and goodwill have abstained from voting, find themselves damnified when the Select Committee is to be set up, because we are told that only 45 voted and that the others who did not vote are a quantity about which indeed argument may be entertained but upon which no serious or solid assertion may be made. I believe it would have been far better if everyone who had doubts about this question had entered a caveat by their votes, and then they would have been in a position to acquire such representation as would have enabled this Parliament to deal adequately with so very grave a matter.
2233 My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India, has, in his gay and airy way, twitted me with imitating Mr. Gandhi in a policy of non-co-operation. I do not think the House will consider that that was altogether just, but, in so far as it is witty, it is not new wit, because I have seen it many times in the public prints that support the Administration. Is it true? Is it just? The co-operation which Mr. Gandhi refused was a co-operation in administering and working the law of the land; the co-operation which Members who have declined to serve on this Joint Select Committee have refused is a co-operation in making a new law about which they have great doubts, and which they are endeavouring to oppose. There is no sort of comparison between the two cases.
The hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr. Morrison) has told us that in view of the refusal of some of the pronounced opponents of the Government to sit on the Committee that, as the Government were not able to get impartiality, they have fallen back on knowledge. It was with the Committee before our eyes that we refused to serve upon it. There is no question of the Government saying: "We were going to be impartial, but as some hon. Members will not serve we must make a new Committee which will not aim at impartiality; we are relieved from our pledge of impartiality, and must set up a new committee," when the Committee was set up long before. That argument is not one which should weigh with hon. Members in the Division. I should like very much to have served on the Committee and should have regarded it as an honour to have taken part in the deliberations of a body which contains so many eminent and venerable figures. I would not have allowed any personal consideration or convenience to stand in the way. I do not even say that the representation which the Committee offers to the various groups and parties in the House is in itself unevenly balanced, provided that the Committee had not been swollen to inordinate proportions. Such figures as were discussed, and as have appeared, for the minority representation would not have been, in my opinion, unfair had the Committee been limited to 22; but even then the Government would have had an effective majority. The right hon. Gentleman is 2234 not satisfied with a little of the pudding. He wants the lot. He must overload; he must pile on.
There are four, shall I call them, paid officials of the Government on the Committee compared with two opponents of the Measure; and, in addition, how many more? They have been detailed by various hon. Members this afternoon, five or six, or seven or eight Members, who in one way or another have committed themselves to this policy, who have been brought into the general swim and movement of Government business because they have been openly associating themselves with this policy. The Committee will not give any fair chance of procuring a reasoned reconsideration of the question of principle. It may make improvements in details; and of the very able Members who at the desire of some of my friends are on the Committee one represents an hon. Member who has spent a lifetime in India and one represents, for the first time, the great commercial interests of Lancashire. They will be able to develop those points, but the Committee as constituted gives no Rope of altering the general decision of the Government to set up a Federal Government in India, or what we consider to be tantamount to an abdication of power at the Centre.
The hon. and gallant Member who moved the Amendment pointed out to the Government a very reasonable course which they could have adopted. They could have placed all the Members of the Government they have on their list associated with the Committee, on the same basis as the Indian Delegation which is to come over. That would have been more convenient in the practical working of Government business, and it would have had a further advantage. I do not know whether hon. Members have thought of the enormous difficulties which will arise in regard to the method of consultation with the Indian Delegation. Very dangerous questions of status may arise, questions as to whether they are placed in a derogatory position, and which might cause unnecessary ill-will. But if Ministers of the Crown took the same treatment and were placed in the same position, that danger and difficulty would be removed, and Ministers of the Crown would not be called upon to 2235 attend more than was required by the Committee or more than they desired themselves.
I have not often heard a Debate which has been so completely one-sided as this Debate. Apart from two speeches, no hon. Member except the Secretary of State has spoken in favour of this arrangement. I feel that we are being moved steadily nearer and nearer to the verge of an irrevocable decision. With extraordinary coolness and persistency the Government, month after month and year after year—I have been resisting this now for three years, since I severed myself from my right hon. Friend and his policy—have told us that this is not the time to vote. All of a sudden the time will come when the Government will say: "Here is the report of our impartial committee, a large majority are in favour of it. Look at the expectations which you have aroused in India. You cannot go back now. You have no other course but to go on." That is to deny the House the facilities of debate; it is to deny to the Select Committee the efficacious work which they could have done. I hope that even now the Government will indicate that efforts will be made to remodel the Committee more in accordance with the wishes of the House.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Vice-Admiral G. CAMPBELL
Twenty years ago, when a young lieutenant, I received the First Lord on board; the band played "Rule Britannia," but I did not then ever expect to see the day when I should disagree with the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). I am one of those Members of the House who has not yet opened his mouth on the subject of India, and I had not intended to do so now except for the fact that I have never before listened to such a succession of speeches with which I have been in entire disagreement. I have hardly heard a speech, except perhaps that of the Secretary of State and that of the hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr. Morrison) which, in my opinion, has been of any assistance to India or to this country. The right hon. Member for Epping says that the Debate this afternoon has been one-sided. Some of us have been brought up to deeds rather 2236 than words, and if we do not always speak it does not mean that we do not think. The Secretary of State has had a most difficult task to perform in selecting the Committee and, I think, he has done it in a most excellent fashion. It is a Committee which should meet with the approval of the whole country.
I share the regret that some hon. Members have not seen their way to join the Committee when invited to do so. It it not for me to question their reasons, but I should have thought that those hon. Members with great experience of India would have been doing better service if they had sat on the Committee. I should have thought that the only reason for declining the invitation to serve on one of the mast important committees ever set up in this country would have been lack of knowledge, but that does not apply to any of the right hon. and hon. Members who have been invited to sit on the Committee. It is said that hon. Members who object to the White Paper consider that they will be doing better service to their country by making speeches on platforms in this country and in warning the electors. Personally, I should have been much more convinced if I had seen these right hon. and hon. Members on the Committee, even if they thought it necessary to sign a minority report after having heard all the facts of the case and read all the documents, sonic of which, I presume, will be confidential and cannot be made public. I should have been much more convinced by such a minority report than by going to Queen's Hall and places of that sort and listening to the finest oratory in the world. A large majority of this House supported the Government in December, 1931, when we were all well aware of what was coming.
§ Vice-Admiral CAMPBELL
A vote was taken in this House on that occasion and a large majority supported the Government. Hon. Members knew perfectly well that as a result a White Paper would be forthcoming. Quite recently we again supported the Government in setting up this Joint Select Committee, and I do not think that we are doing a great service in trying to insinuate that the committee 2237 is not impartial. The hon. and gallant Memeber for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) asks me if I put it in my election address. Certainly not. The National Government were returned for one purpose. I do not think that India should be brought into our politics; it should be kept outside. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth referred to ex-service men, and asked what they would think of our giving up India. I do not know. The first thing ex-service men look for is for people who will inspire them with confidence, and I do not think the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth is inspiring them with confidence in this Select Committee which the House is being asked to set up. We should see that this committee has the support and confidence of this House. I have far more confidence in my fellow countrymen than some hon. Members, and I intend to maintain that confidence until I am deluded. I ask the House to give this committee their whole-hearted support so that they can have a fair start. We have men who will be impartial, who will be fair, and who will do their best in a difficult task, upon which the future credit of India and the British Empire depend.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Sir WILLIAM DAVISON
I cannot allow the slip which the hon. and gallant Member for Burnley (Vice-Admiral Campbell) has made to pass unnoticed. He was asked whether he referred to the question of India when addressing his constituents at the last General Election, and he said, "Certainly not." Immediately afterwards he said that the National Government were returned for one purpose, which had nothing to do with India. The first point which I desire to make is that the Government have no mandate to set up this committee or any other committee, on this matter. Apart from the speech of the Secretary of State there have been only three speeches to-day in favour of this Motion. I have dealt with the last speech. Of the other two, there was first the speech of the hon. Member for Cirencester (Mr. W. S. Morrison), who began by saying that it would be a mistake if we launched this committee with any suggestion of lack of confidence in its constitution. Other speakers have said, what is the good of criticising this committee when the right 2238 hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) have declined to serve on it? They seem entirely to have missed the whole point of the criticism.
The point is not with regard to any particular Member serving upon the Committee, but that the Committee as constituted is loaded from a particular point of view; that is to say, without imputing any kind of dishonesty, as none of us would think of doing, to the Secretary of State, whom we all respect, that the men who have for months past been developing a particular point of view cannot change in a few moments and bring up to this House a report on different lines. Without imputing any bad faith, as suggested by the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson), I say that the Secretary of State, rightly or wrongly, misled not only this House but the country, and especially the Conservative party—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Let me give my opinion, and I shall not be without a number who will agree with me. I say that, rightly or wrongly, the Secretary of State has undoubtedly misled not only this House but the country, and especially the Conservative party, as to what the constitution of this Joint Select Committee would be.
As the right hon. Member for Epping has said, we have again and again been told in this House that the time had not arrived to reach a decision, and Members were requested before they made up their minds or decided to vote for the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth, or other Motions, to wait until they had had the report of an impartial committee which had gone into the whole matter. Does the Secretary of State suggest that if, at the meetings of the National Union of Conservatives at Blackpool and in London, he had said that the Joint Select Committee to be set up would have a three to one majority in favour of the White Paper, those meetings would have carried the motion they did by a small majority? I ask anyone who was present at those meetings, certainly the last one held in London a few weeks ago, whether, if there had been any suggestion of that kind, the meeting would not have passed the resolution sent up from Epping? There is no question whatever 2239 that the general impression left on the mind of this House and of those meetings and of the country was that the inquiry by the Joint Select Committee would be an impartial one, and that it would be something on which the country could rely in making up its mind.
§ Mr. MOLSON
Does my hon. Friend suggest that the Conservative Secretary of State should take orders from the National Union in the same way as a Socialist Government takes orders from the Trades Union Congress?
§ Sir W. DAVISON
That is an irrelevant interruption. I was referring to what was the opinion of this great body of men who represented the Conservative party in the country? I did not say anything about the Secretary of State. As a matter of fact the Secretary of State was very anxious to secure their approval. The Select Committee that I would suggest is one which would meet the point of the Government and would be fair. I would nominate the Secretary of State—I see the difficulties of having all these busy men—at any rate three representatives of the Government representing the White Paper, three representing the Indian Defence Committee, and six representatives appointed, as we always appoint committees in this House, by the Committee of Selection. In that way we would have six men who were not committed to any view. We would have the three Government spokesmen urging one thing, three spokesmen of the Indian Defence Committee urging another point of view, and six men appointed by the Committee of Selection who had not expressed their views one way or the other. If we had a report from such a committee the country would have confidence in it, and it would be a report on which the country could rely.
Duchess of ATHOLL
On a point of Order. Before we go to a Division may I ask whether my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will give an answer to the question that I put to him?
§ Several HON. MEMBERS rose.2240
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. MAXTON
It is a matter of very great regret to me that the voice of Bridgeton should be heard in preference to that of the ancient university of Oxford. That, however, does not lie in my hands, but with Mr. Speaker. I merely rose to say that the hon. Knight who spoke last, the Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison), was mistaken when he said that there had been only three speeches in favour of the Government's position to-day. I came here with my mind fully made up to vote with those who are protesting against the composition of this committee. I think the committee is not fairly and justly composed. I think that the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) was perfectly right in staking a claim as representing a very distinct point of view that will not be represented on the Select Committee. But I must say that the speeches of the critics of the Select Committee have almost driven me to the extreme and opposite point of view. They have left in my mind the impression that the Government must at a, very early date give the House an opportunity of deciding, not on steps towards Indian reform, but on the big principle, because if the claims of the critics of the Government are well founded there is a majority in this House who do not want India to get any measure of increased self-government at all. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) went further in his concluding remarks. He talked about some strong man who was to walk into India, not thrown up by the Indian people but thrown up by this nation, and to rule India with dictatorial powers. If that be the majority view in this House the sooner we know about it the better.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I said no such thing. What I did say was that I hoped that in this country we should not take the slogan of defeatism which was uttered in the Debate the other day as representing the views of this country, and that strong leadership was required in this country. I never made any reference to any form of dictatorship in India.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I apologise to the hon. Baronet and accept his statement of what he said as the accurate one, but certainly that was not the impression that was left 2241 on my mind when I listened to him, nor was it the impression left on my mind generally by that point of view as expressed in this Debate. Right through the critics have said that genuine Conservative opinion, as distinct from the non-genuine variety that is represented on the Treasury Bench, is not adequately represented on the Select Committee, and they are afraid that India, will get some greater measure of self-government than they desire India should have or than they think India, is fit for. That is the view of the critics of the Select Committee. It is unfair for the hon. Member for South Kensington to make a point against the hon. and gallant Member for Burnley (Vice-Admiral Campbell) by saying that the hon. and gallant Member did not put this matter before his electors. That may be a point against a new Member of this House, but every senior Member, the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), the hon. Member for South Kensington, and the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth knew that unless the word of this nation to India. was to be broken, this House had to take steps; and as I see the whole Debate to-day this is an effort on the part of Conservative sections in this House to contract out of an honourable promise that was given to the Indian people, to withdraw from the decision taken by this nation in 1917, which they regret was ever given.
My criticism of the operation of the Government is from the extreme opposite pole. My criticism of the Select Committee is that it does not contain one representative of the point of view which says that India should be recognised as a free and independent nation, and that the constitution India has to live under in future should be laid down by the Indian people themselves. That point of view is not represented on the Select Committee and therefore the Committee is not a representative one.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Sir STAFFORD CRIPPS
So far as the Labour party are concerned, we shall support the Amendment. We do not do so because we agree with the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). As everyone knows we are worlds apart in our views on the Indian situation. But with the speeches made by the Mover and the Seconder of the Amendment we do 2242 agree to this extent—that this Committee is unduly weighted on behalf of the Government. We have throughout protested that the representation of the Opposition should be greater than it is, and one of the means of bringing that about, of course, is to remove the Government Members from the Committee so as to leave a larger percentage of the remaining Committee for the Opposition. I do not agree with what the last speaker has said as regards no representation on the Select Committee of those who believe in. Indian self-determination. We have always taken that view, and since the Select Committee is to consider not only the details of the White Paper but the fundamental principles which lie behind the White Paper, we feel that we are entitled to a larger representation than three out of 16. For those reasons we shall support the Amendment.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Sir S. HOARE
This Debate has run exactly the course that I expected it to run, even to the last stage. I felt quite sure that the more anxious some of my hon. Friends were to criticise the Government and our proposals, the more certain it was that they would be supported from the Opposition benches including the official Opposition. We have just seen one of the usual incidents of Parliamentary tactics. The Opposition—and I do not blame them, for we should have done exactly the same thing in their position—wait to see what course a Debate is going to take, and, if there is a cleavage in the Government ranks, then immediately they jump in, and announce that they will support the embarrassing element. None the less I am rather sorry that the Opposition have thrown in their lot in favour of the Amendment. I know that they wanted a larger representation on the Committee, but I thought I had convinced them that we could not do more than we had done in the conditions in which we were working. One of the troubles of this whole business has been this—that as soon as any additional Member is added to the Committee, every other group in the House, to say nothing of other places, immediately says, "Now that somebody else has been added from that side, we want an addition to the representation from our side." That has been one of my main difficulties all the way through these negotiations.
2243 I am inclined to think that, with the best will in the world, a good many of my hon. Friends have got away from the realities of the problem this afternoon. They seemed to think that all that was necessary was to accept the fact that on some of these issues the Conservative party is divided and to think of that and nothing else—in other words to have a Committee composed almost entirely of Members of the Conservative party. There may be a good deal to be said for a proposition of that kind, but I wonder what hon. Members opposite would have said if I had followed some of the advice given to me this afternoon. I was faced with the problem of advising the House, not as to the selection of an ideal committee—we should never get an ideal committee about anything—but the best kind of committee to represent the various bodies of opinion in the House as they are to-day. That meant to say that before I proceeded even to consider the Conservative representation I had to take into account the Opposition parties and give them their due representation. In this particular case, there has been added this great complexity that, perhaps for the first time in the history of these committees, some Members of the Opposition parties may—at any rate from time to time—support the Government proposals. At the same time, if I had accepted Members of any of the Oppositions as representative of the Conservative opinion that is in favour of the White Paper, I wonder what many of my hon. Friends would have said to me to-day. They would have said: "You and the Government are placing yourselves in the position of being dependent on Opposition votes."
I will be frank with the House. As long as I have any influence in any Government, I am not prepared to see that Government abdicating in any respect its duties. I would make no excuse for that at all. I claim that in a case of this kind it would have been a great injury to the body of Conservative opinion which is in favour of the White Paper, and in any case would have been directly contrary to the procedure of this House over many generations, if we had left that body of opinion which is, on the whole, in favour of the White Paper proposals at the mercy of the idiosyncrasies of any of the Oppositions. I can imagine what my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. 2244 Churchill) would have said had we been guilty of such a dereliction of duty. He would have said: "Look at these Conservatives in the Government who do not represent Conservative opinion at all." That is part of his case. He would have said "They are depending for very important decisions taken in this Committee, upon Socialist and Liberal votes."
§ Sir S. HOARE
Whether the right hon. Gentleman was likely to say anything of the sort or not, I was not going to place myself in that very dangerous position. The House should remember that we have proceeded exactly upon the lines upon which every Select Committee has been formed in the past. The Select Committee set up to deal with the Government of India Act of 1919 was set up by exactly the same method as that which we are proposing to-day. Then as now the main bodies of opinion were represented, and, then as now, the Government bad on the whole a majority. We depart by no jot or tittle on this occasion from the procedure always adopted. I am in some difficulty when I come to answer questions that have been raised by various hon. Members as to whether such and such an individual was invited and whether, if he had accepted, a particular body of opinion would have had a stronger representation in the Committee or not. I am in a difficulty for this reason. In a matter of this kind one must have innumerable conversations, many of them of a confidential character, and the last thing in the world I would wish to do, even though it greatly strengthened my own case, would be to disclose any information that emerged from a confidential conversation. But I think I am justified in saying that throughout all these weeks in which we have been considering the names of the Members of the Committee, we have been in the closest touch with the leading representatives and among the leading representatives I include the leaders of the Conservatives who do not agree with me upon this question of personnel.
Originally we hoped that the Committee would be constituted of 24 members, but we found there were so many claims that could not be resisted, that 2245 we had to increase the number. I was under the impression that, so long as the number remained at 24, there was, I will not say general agreement—perhaps that would be putting it too high—but there was a general acceptance of our proposals as not unreasonable. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping admitted as much in his speech this afternoon. He put the number as being 22 instead of 24, but I think I am not misrepresenting him in taking his statement to be that if the number had remained at 24, our proposals would not have been unfair to the minority. So there is not as much between us as would at first appear. It is merely a question as to how the additional eight members should represent various bodies of opinion in both Houses. I did my best to obtain another representative of the Right in this House. I approached more than one of my hon. Friends—and this I think answers the Noble Lady the Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl). For instance I did my best to persuade the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), who made one of the most acute criticisms of the Government proposals that was made in the course of our Debates, to come on to the Committee. If he had come on to the Committee, that would have been in addition to any representation which there is at present of that group or the groups of the Right.
I must not say anything about the other House. I will only, in a word, indicate that I did make an offer of further representation among, the additional eight, of the Right in the other place as well, but for reasons, good or bad, into which I need not go, it was found that that offer could not be accepted. I mention these facts to show that I did my utmost to see that those groups should be properly represented and I still claim that, whatever may be the numbers—and numbers are not all that count in an expert inquiry of this kind—every point of view will have adequate expression. If my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping is right and the Committee is not an impartial body, the House can judge of that when the Committee makes its report. The report will be a public document. The House will see it and will see the voting, if indeed there is any voting in the Com- 2246 mittee, and they can judge how far each of these various opinions has made itself felt or has failed to get itself felt.
I come to the specific questions asked by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). He asked would it be possible for evidence to be given from people who were not necessarily members of the Committee. He also asked if it was possible for any issues to be raised, even issues that ran counter to the White Paper proposals. My answer is perfectly clear. As to the first question, the Committee must settle what evidence it is going to take. As far as I am concerned, I would advise the Committee to give every opportunity for serious and responsible evidence to be taken and the more so when that evidence may conflict with the general proposals of the White Paper. As to the further question, whether points could be debated which run counter to the White Paper, my answer without doubt is "yes" The whole field is open. We have specifically said that the terms of reference to the Committee are the Government of India in general, and the White Paper proposals in particular. The Government and I stand by that statement and, just as hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite wish, I know, to raise issues that go outside the White Paper, so I am confident some of my hon. Friends wish to raise issues from the other angle. As far as I can see and as far as my advice counts both those sections of thought will have their opportunity.
Finally, I ask the House not to vote upon this issue as if it were a theoretical issue in which we could get some ideal arrangement that would please everybody. Let them dismiss any idea of that kind entirely from their minds. Any proposal that is made will be open to every kind of objection. Every proposal will have to take into account the difficulties that face us in making these proposals, and I say to the House to-night that after weeks of constant talks and negotiations, after considering these issues inside and out from every angle, I do not believe that we can make a better recommendation than we are making to-day. I am confident that, whatever views may have been expressed in. the House this afternoon, the great 2247 body of public opinion in the country, particularly the body of public opinion that is not very much interested in party battles, least of all in battles between one section of one party and another, will on the whole say that this is a body composed of weighty and expert opinion, that it gathers around it experience drawn both from India and this country, and, on the whole, is just the kind of body whose opinion it would desire when it comes to make up its mind in due course when the Bill is introduced into this House.
We have been discussing an Amendment for three hours. Does not the right hon. Gentleman intend to say a single word about it, or are we to take it that there is no possible reply from the Government?
§ Sir S. HOARE
I did not wish in any way to be discourteous to my hon. and gallant Friend. I thought I had included an answer to his Amendment in the general answer that I was making on the whole question. Moreover, I did deal with it—perhaps it was wrong—by anticipation in the speech that I made in opening the Debate. My answer to it must be this, that I do not believe that this work, which is essentially work for experts, can be carried out without representation of the Government on the Committee. I set aside entirely any personal criticism as to whether I or anybody else is suitable to be on the Committee, but
§ I say emphatically that I do not believe that a Committee of this kind can carry on its work without Government representation upon it, and I claim that the members of the Government whom we I propose to-day are in every case qualified, not because they are members of the Government, but because of their special experience in Indian affairs.
§ Sir CHARLES OMAN
As the right hon. Gentleman says that the Government must be represented, will he consent that two of the Government's proposed representatives should be taken off, as suggested by one of the Amendments?
§ Mr. BRACKEN
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer one question, namely, why the Committee of Selection was ignored in nominating the members of this Committee? The Committee of Selection of this House is the appropriate body to nominate members of Select Committees, yet the Government have decided to ignore them altogether.
§ Sir S. HOARE
The hon. Member is inaccurate in assuming that this is an unusual procedure. It is not. This procedure was adopted in the case of the Government of India Bill in 1919.
§ Question put, "That the word 'Sixteen' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 209; Noes, 118.2251
|Division No. 132.]||AYES.||[6.49 p.m.|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M.||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Fermoy, Lord|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Clarke, Frank||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Clayton, Dr. George C.||Gillett, Sir George Masterman|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Conant, R. J. E.||Glossop, C. W. H.|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Cooper, A. Duff||Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Goff, Sir Park|
|Bernays, Robert||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Goldie, Noel B.|
|Blrchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Cross, R. H.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas|
|Blindell, James||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)|
|Borodale, Viscount||Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W).|
|Boulton, W. W.||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Grimston, R. V.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Doran, Edward||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Duggan, Hubert John||Guy, J. C. Morrison|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Dunglass, Lord||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.|
|Burghley, Lord||Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Hanley, Dennis A.|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Harris, Sir Percy|
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Henderson, sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)|
|Castle Stewart, Earl||Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Hoars, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Horobin, Ian M.||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Selley, Harry R,|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Moreing, Adrian C.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Howard, Tom Forrest||Morgan, Robert H.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A.(C'thness)|
|Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Morrison, William Shephard||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Moss, Captain H. J.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Muirhead, Major A. J.||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L|
|Ker, J Campbell||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Spens, William Patrick|
|Kerr, Hamilton W.||Owen, Major Goronwy||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Knight, Holford||Patrick, Colin M.||Stanley Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Pearson, William G.||Stevenson, James|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Peters, Dr. Sidney John||Storey, Samuel|
|Leech, Dr. J. W.||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n,Bilst'n)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Lewis, Oswald||Potter, John||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Lindsay, Noel Ker||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Llewellin, Major John J.||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Thompson, Luke|
|Lloyd, Geoffrey||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd. G'n)||Pybus, Percy John||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Ramsden, Sir Eugene||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Mabane, William||Rathbone, Eleanor||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Rea, Walter Russell||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Wardlaw-Mllne, Sir John S.|
|McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Rentoul Sir Gervais S.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|McKie, John Hamilton||Rosbotham, Sir Samuel||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|McLean, Major Sir Alan||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Runge, Norah Cecil||Womersley, Walter James|
|Magnay, Thomas||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'oaks)|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)||Salmon, Sir Isidore||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)||Sir George Penny and Dr. Morris Jones.|
|Meller, Richard James||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Dobbie, William||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Donner, P. W.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Eastwood, John Francis||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh)||Edwards, Charles||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Marsden, Commander Arthur|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Maxton, James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)|
|Bailey, Eric Alfred George||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||North, Captain Edward T.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Greene, William P. C.||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Perkins, Walter R. D.|
|Blaker, Sir Reginald||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Boothby, Robert John Graham||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Purbrick, R.|
|Bracken, Brendan||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Groves, Thomas E.||Rankin, Robert|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Grundy, Thomas W.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks., Newb'y)||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Ray, Sir William|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Caine, G. R. Hall-||Hanbury, Cecil||Remer, John R.|
|Cape, Thomas||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Renwick, Major Gustav A.|
|Carver, Major William H.||Hartington, Marquess of||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Hirst, George Henry||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon, Winston Spencer||John, William||Scone, Lord|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Slater, John|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Kimball, Lawrence||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Kirkwood, David||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Cove, William G.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Craddock, sir Reginald Henry||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Lawson, John James||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Lees-Jones, John||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Daggar, George||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Thorne, William James|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Leonard, William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Levy, Thomas||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Logan, David Gilbert||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Lunn, William||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George||Captain Crookshank and Sir J. Ganzoni|
|Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Colonel GRETTON
May I ask a question on a point that has never been explained to the House? This paragraph introduces Indian representatives for consultation and so forth, but we have never been told what is to be the position of the Indian representatives who will come over to this country to take part in the proceedings of the Committee. Ordinarily, a Joint Select Committee consists of Members of both Houses, and those who attend to give evidence and for consultation and so forth take no part in the deliberations of the Committee. The point on which I expect information is: What is to be their position? We have been told by the Government that it will be for the Committee to decide. I am afraid that will not do. That is not an answer. These gentlemen from India are to come over for some purpose. They have received invitations. Are they to be present during the proceedings when these are held in camera? Will the Indian gentlemen take part in the final deliberations and assist in drawing up the Report of the Joint Select Committee? We are entering upon new procedure. This point is of great importance, and the House should be informed.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I gladly respond to my right hon. and gallant Friend's invitation. He is quite right in saying that this is a novel paragraph. It is novel to this extent that, in previous Resolutions of this kind, no such paragraph has been introduced. It is not novel so far as public considerations are concerned, and by that I mean that for something like 10 years a procedure of this kind has always been contemplated. It was announced in some detail in another place by Lord Birkenhead when he was Secretary of State for India, and successive Governments have always accepted this procedure, or something like it, at this stage. It is difficult for me to be very explicit, because I am not quite sure myself. I am not sure also what will be the wishes of the Committee on the subject. The last thing in the world I should wish to do is to attempt 2252 to dictate to the Committee how it should carry out this proviso, but my view would be something like this: First of all, I should start with the assumption that the Indians are there for the purpose of consultation, and not there as members of the Committee. That means that the Committee must be master of its own procedure, and it also means that the Indians cannot vote. It will probably mean that the Indians do not take part in the actual drawing up of the report. As to when they should be present, and when they should not be present, I believe it is much better to leave that to the Committee itself. The Committee will find it a great advantage, for all purposes of preliminary discussion, to have the Indians present. I hope they will be present. As to what happens at subsequent stages, I think we must leave the Committee to decide.
§ Miss RATHBONE
Have the co-operating Indians already been selected, and will the selection be made known to this House? Over and above the Indians chosen to co-operate with the Joint Select Committee, will evidence be received from other Indian witnesses, and what notice will be given so that Indians who wish to give evidence may know in reasonable time and make preparations for coming over?
§ Sir S. HOARE
The hon. Lady has asked two questions: First, what other invitations have been issued? No invitations of any kind have been issued. That would have been transgressing the prerogative of the Committee. The position is that I have been in close consultation with the Government of India, and Provincial Governments, and I have a list—a very provisional list—of representative Indians whose presence I think would be valuable to the Committee. I will certainly suggest some names to the Committee, but as to whom the Committee selects, and how the invitations will be sent out, I cannot say anything. The hon. Lady then asked me about evidence over and above that of the Indians there for the purposes of consultation. There, again, I can only say what I am going to advise the Committee to do. I am hoping that the Committee, being set up, 2253 will have an early meeting to settle its own procedure. At that meeting I propose to suggest to the Committee that it should make some public announcement inviting evidence, and the hon. Lady may rest assured that although, after all, it is a matter for the Committee a public announcement of that kind will be made, and opportunities will be given to Indian witnesses to come over here in due time.
§ 7.9 p.m.
That a Select Committee of 16 members be appointed to join with a Committee to be appointed by the Lords, with power to call into consultation representatives of the Indian States and of British India, to consider the future government of India and, in particular, to examine and report on the proposals contained in Command Paper 4268.
§ Mr. Attlee nominated a member of the Committee.—[Captain Margesson.]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Butler be another member of the Committee."—[Captain Margesson.]
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS
I beg to move to leave out the words "Mr. Butler" and to insert instead thereof the words "Mr. Munro."
I need hardly say that in moving this Amendment I shall endeavour to keep as clear as I can of personalities. I have kept absolutely clear of taking up any position regarding Indian topics. It was only when I saw the formation of this Committee that I was absolutely convinced in my own mind that, if this Committee went on with its present composition, it could not have the confidence of the country in any way whatever. I am, therefore, moving to omit several names from the Committee, and to substitute the names of people who, at any rate, are representative Members of Parliament and have some claim to take part in these discussions. I have naturally, no objection whatever to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for India. 2254 He certainly does not qualify for what my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) described earlier as the "ancient and venerable" category. He is not in that category, but he is none the worse for that. He represents the official point of view on this matter, and he must, from the very nature of things, represent the view of the Indian Civil Service. That is the finest Civil Service in the world. I will give way to no one in my opinion of that Service.
Frankly, I say that in matters of this kind, when the Government are passing legislation, it is not really necessary for the Government to have four members—a quarter of the members of this committee—taken from official quarters, and in actual Government service. It will not in any way handicap the Government if we take out one or two of the members I am proposing to omit. If I may be permitted to say so, my hon. and gallant Friend, others, and myself, in asking these people if we might put their names forward have endeavoured to get people of considerable experience. At the name of Mr. Munro the Government need not be frightened. He is not a diehard, or anything of that sort. There is nothing for the Secretary of State for India to get timid about in regard to this particular name. He need not fear having the committee overweighted against him. Mr. Munro, I believe, voted for the Government on this matter. He has had very considerable experience of affairs in the East. Is it necessary, when you are appointing people to deal with India, that you should adhere so closely to those who are the perpetual flowers of Indian debate. Might we not occasionally have someone with experience outside. We know that the circle of the Indian Debate is very narrow. Here you have an hon. Gentleman with great experience of service in the Sudan, which gives him qualifications for dealing with Eastern counties. I notice the Under-Secretary smiling at the idea of the Sudan.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Butler) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I made a slip and said "Eastern counties" instead of Eastern countries. I would like to see Members who have considerable connection with other parts of the East, as well 2255 as India, placed on these committees, because you will get a very much wider source of inspiration for drawing up whatever recommendations are contemplated. By placing executive members on this committee you are taking away from the committee as a whole the position which it really should have—the position of judging on these matters—and you are appointing as judges the people who really ought to be advising the committee. For that reason, I ask the House to support the Amendment.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must, before putting the Question, ask the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) if he has received the consent of the hon. Member whom he has nominated?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS indicated assent.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel WINDSOR-CLIVE
I beg to second the Amendment.
I desire to emphasise what has been said by the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), that we are not actuated by any hostility to the Under-Secretary of State for India, or any of the other hon. or right hon. Members whose names we are moving to leave out. We think, in view of all the circumstances of this case, that it would be better if they were not members of this Committee. The object of this Committee is to examine the proposals of the Government and to report on them to the House, and it seems to us if the Under-Secretary and the other Members of the Government are on the Committee it will be far too much overweighted with the official point of view. It is not a good thing that so many people who have been largely responsible for the preparation of these proposals should sit on a committee which has to pass judgment on them. I do not want to have the Committee over-weighted in either direction, but we must remember that those who are known as out and out opponents of the Government's proposals have a very small numerical representation.
I belong to the third category that was mentioned by the Secretary of State; I am not an out and out supporter or an out and out opponent of the Government's proposals. I am looking for guidance to the report of the Committee, and I do 2256 not think that the Committee as it is proposed is such as to command the confidence of the country in general. There is a great deal of disquiet all over the country about this question, and it is particularly important that the Committee shall be one that will carry confidence throughout the country. For that reason we are suggesting that the name of the Under-Secretary be omitted and that the name of the hon. Member for Llandaff and Barry (Mr. Munro) be substituted. In his case, and in the case of the other hon. Members whom we are moving to substitute, they are in no way responsible for their names being put forward, but each of them has consented to it. I think that the hon. Member for Llandaff and Barry is the right type of member for the Committee, for he has had long experience in the Orient and can be trusted to bring a well-balanced judgment on these proposals.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
The Opposition are not concerned to support this Amendment. They believe that the Government had better select their own representatives, and as long as we are satisfied with ours, we do not propose to support any Amendment altering the names put down by the Government.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
This Amendment raises a question of principle which ought to be examined by the House with a view perhaps to future occasions when a committee of this character is set up. I am also among those Members who have never expressed any view on the subject of India at any time, and I do not know what my final view will be. I think that the same can be said for a large number of Members, who perhaps are in a majority. I have never associated myself with my hon. Friends the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). I find myself, not for the first time, in complete agreement with what the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle - under - Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) said in the Debate at an earlier stage. Looking at it from an impartial point of view, nobody could say that this Committee was a completely impartial body. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State would really claim that he has set 2257 up an impartial Committee. It is not even a partial committee; it is a packed committee and it is overwhelmingly in favour of the principles underlying the White Paper. We cannot get away from that. Therefore, from the point of view of altering the principles of the policy which has been put forward by the Government, the Committee is absolutely valueless for no alterations will be accepted. Therefore, I fully sympathise with the attitude taken up by the right hon. Member for Epping in not joining the Committee, holding the views that he does, as I do not think that he could possibly persuade this sort of Committee under any circumstances to change the principles which underlie the White Paper.
The point I want to raise with regard to this question is this, and I think that it is a very serious one. Either the Secretary of State and the Government accept full responsibility for the proposals or they do not. In the former case I am not sure that it would not have been better for the Government to consult all those eminent persons, governors and ex-viceroys, and all the people whom the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson) mentioned in the India Office. Let the Government consult anybody with any experience they like in the India Office, and then produce their own Bill. There seems to me. something hypocritical in setting up this so-called impartial Committee of both Houses of Parliament with no fewer than four Members of the Government on it who are pledged completely to the policy of the White Paper, and have been pledged to it for two years past.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
There is some ground for the assumption that this Committee, as an impartial committee of both Houses to examine impartially the Indian question, is a farce. As an advisory body to the Secretary of State, it might prove invaluable, but as an impartial committee it is something of a farce. If an impartial committee is desired—and I think that there are grounds for supposing that it is desired—then I do not think that it can possibly, in the nature of things, be appointed by the Secretary of State for India, nor do I think that it ought to 2258 contain no fewer than four Members of the -Administration in a comparatively small personnel.
If it had been desired to set up an impartial committee to consider this question upon its merits, that committee, whatever the precedent of 1919 may have been, should really have been chosen not by the Secretary of State, but by the House in any manner that the Government might suggest. That, is the point I want to make, and it is a point on which I should be grateful for the considered opinion of the Secretary of State because it is a question of precedent and principle. If we are to have an impartial committee, the Government ought to take the Whips off and let the House select the members. That committee should have power to send for members of the Government, who could give the Committee the benefit of their advice and explain their proposals. If that is not considered desirable, I am still not convinced that it would not have been really a better procedure on the part of the Government to sweep away all this facade and take full responsibility for their proposals, taking every opportunity of consulting the best and most experienced opinion in the India Office in this country and in India.
§ 7.23 p.m.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I hope that the Under-Secretary will acquit me of any discourtesy if I say that I support the appointment of another Member. I have a happy recollection of the work I did with him in the last Parliament and I hope that he will not take my action as discourteous. I feel, however, that the representation of the critics of the Government's policy on the Joint Select Committee is very inadequate, and the only way it can be made more adequate is by removing the two Junior Ministers and by putting on two more critics. Personally I would have preferred to see the Under-Secretary's name replaced by that of the hon. Member for Inverness (Sir M. Macdonald). Although the hon. Member for Llandaff and Barry (Mr. Munro) has had great experience in the East, he made a speech the other day on the White Paper in which he supported its proposals. My only reason for asking for the change in the personnel is in order to increase the repre- 2259 sentation of the critics, and I do not think it carries us very much further to make the change proposed in the Amendment. On the other hand, my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness fully shares the anxiety that so many of us on these Benches feel. He has the additional claim that he is a representative of a Scottish constituency. It is rather a curious feature of the personnel of this Committee that there is not a Scottish Member among them, and not a large representation of the Liberal party.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I find myself neither in full agreement nor in full disagreement with the previous speakers on this Amendment. It seems to me to be perfectly true that this Committee is a packed Committee. I do not see how anyone can consider it otherwise in the sense that it is a Committee the opinion of nearly every one of whose members is known beforehand, not only on the main issue, but on nearly all the more important points. I feel also that it is inevitable that it should be a packed Committee, and I cannot understand why the Government could not have grasped the nettle a little more firmly, and why they are afraid of being accused of packing their Committee. We had an instance of much the same attitude on the part of the Government a week ago when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) was speaking. He made the point that the members of the high personnel in the Government of India of recent years had been chosen because of their general sympathy with the policy of the Government. That caused a pause of shocked surprise throughout the House, and then bursts of indignation both in the House and subsequently in the Press. It was treated as though that statement had been a slander on the Indian Civil Service. If it were a slander on anyone, it was a slander on the Secretary of State and on the Government of India, but as a mere outsider in these matters, for the life of me I cannot understand why it was regarded as a slander at all.
Is it not mere common sense, if it be true, that the Government, being committed to a particular policy for India, not of itself only but through its two 2260 predecessors having been committed to it, and all three parties in the House committed by a large majority to it, should want to have an administration in India that would be in general sympathy with that policy? The India of to-day must prepare for the India of to-morrow, and would the India of to-day prepare more effectively for the future if its high personnel were composed of people who were sharply in opposition to the changes that are to come?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The only issue before the House is the appointment of the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Butler).
§ Miss RATHBONE
I only wanted to make this point because of its analogy to the case of the present committee. It is inevitable that a committee formed to carry out the policy to which the Government have been committed for such a long period should in a sense be a packed committee. We have heard much of what the Conservative party will think, but what would India think if the Government put the reins on the back of the horse and appoint a committee from which the Ministers who have been working in the past at this particular policy were absent? I think that that would have been politically impossible. It would also have been scientifically impossible. It would have produced an extraordinarily inefficient committee because the subject is so difficult and the issues are so immensely complicated and detailed, that a committee of which the majority of Members were new to the subject and had impartial minds could not really be in a position to take a sufficient grasp of the subject and produce a finally satisfactory set of proposals. It had to be a packed committee. But I want to point out that there are disadvantages about the plan as well as inevitabilities. The Government have chosen a majority of Members who have worked together on one or other of the conferences, commissions and committees which have been sitting during the last four or five years, and whose opinions must be completely known to each other. Scarcely a single question can arise which has not been discussed over and over again, and I can imagine that the clever young men at the India Office might almost be able to write down, here and now, the arguments which will be used and the very words which will be employed by most of the members of the 2261 committee on most of the points which will come up for discussion.
I think it is regrettable that more new blood could not have been found for the committee, and I regret particularly that the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) is not a member of it. I do not by any means agree with all that he said in that speech which held the House breathless a week ago, but who can deny that it brought something of a fresh breath of ozone into the exhausted atmosphere of an India Debate in which nearly every other argument we heard had been used over and over again? Since that is not to be, and since the committee is composed of those who have made up their minds on nearly every point, I suggest that the only hope for a freshening of the atmosphere is to be found in the very free use of the method which I was glad to hear the Secretary of State say he hoped to induce the committee to use, and that is the plan of hearing evidence from outside, both from those in this country and from those in India, who have special experience or have made a special study of particular aspects of the question. I would remind the House that although evidence has been heard before the various travelling committees in India, there has been no opportunity given to those in this country who do not belong to that select and privileged panel from which is drawn the membership of the Government's various India committees to express their opinion, and I feel that some of the disadvantages of the method pursued will be offset if evidence can be taken from such persons both in this country and in India; but so far as the witnesses from India are concerned I feel there will be a very great difficulty.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I will not pursue that point any further, but the Secretary of State did say in his speech that he intended to recommend to the Committee that they should hear evidence, and I merely wanted to put forward a plea that the great difficulties of time and space in bringing witnesses from India unless adequate notice is given them should be taken into consideration.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Sir S. HOARE
The hon. Lady, true to the traditions of the independent Member, has been impartial in the blame she has showered on the heads of almost all of us.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I noted the blame rather than the praise, but I am delighted that she intended it should be fifty-fifty. I do not think I need detain the House at any length with my reply to this Amendment. I did attempt to deal with the general proposition underlying it both in my opening speech and in the speech with which I ended the principal discussion. I do not admit that this is a packed Committee. All my arguments show that it was not. Nor do I admit that any Committee of this kind can work without Government representatives as Members of it. There is no need for me to repeat the arguments I have already made on the subject, but I do not admit the justice of the contention on the other side at all. I believe that if no Members of the Government were on this Committee the first thing the Committee would demand would be that Members of the Government should be added to them. When it comes to this specific proposal to exclude my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for India, I say that it is my own convinced opinion that it is essential that anyone in the position I hold should have an assistant there to help him to explain the tremendous complexities of these constitutional proposals or any constitutional proposals to the Joint Select Committee. In view of these opinions I cannot accept the Amendment.
§ Major-General Sir ALFRED KNOX
Will the right hon. Gentleman say why, in the case of the last, Joint Select Committee, Mr. Secretary Montagu was there alone without any other Member of the Government?
§ Sir S. HOARE
We were then in the happy days when not many people were showing an interest in Indian questions, and the Committee was a much smaller Committee than we are now proposing.
§ Mr. BRACKEN
Does not the Minister regard the presence of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster as adequate?
§ Question put, "That the words' Mr. Butler,' stand part of the Question."2264
§ The House divided: Ayes, 226; Noes, 49.2265
|Division No. 133.]||AYES.||[7.37 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M.||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||O'Donovan, Dr. William James|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Hales, Harold K.||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Patrick, Colin M.|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Pearson, William G.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Hamilton, Sir R.W.(Orkney & Z'tl'nd)||Penny, Sir George|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Hanbury, Cecil||Peters, Dr. Sidney John|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Hanley, Dennis A.||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n,Bilston)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada|
|Bernays, Robert||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Potter, John|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsf'd)||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Blindell, James||Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)||Pybus, Percy John|
|Boulton, W. W.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Hirst, George Henry||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Ramsden, Sir Eugene|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Horobin, Ian M.||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Burghley, Lord||Howard, Tom Forrest||Renwick, Major Gustav A.|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Rosbotham, Sir Samuel|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Hunter Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Cape, Thomas||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)|
|Carver, Major William H.||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||John, William||Salmon, Sir Isidore|
|Castle Stewart. Earl||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Clayton, Dr-George C.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Ker, J. Campbell||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Kirkwood, David||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)|
|Cove, William G.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Lawson, John James||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-In-F.)|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Cross, R. H.||Leonard, William||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Lewis, Oswald||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Liddall, Walter S.||Spend, William Patrick|
|Dagger, George||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Stanley, Hon. O. F. C. (Westmorland)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Stevenson, James|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Storey, Samuel|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Logan, David Gilbert||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Dobbie, William||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Doran, Edward||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Lunn, William||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Dunglass, Lord||Mabane, William||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Edwards, Charles||McCorquodale, M. S.||Thomas, James p. L. (Hereford)|
|Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||McEntee, Valentine L.||Thompson, Luke|
|Elliston, Captain George Sampson||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||McKie, John Hamilton||Thorne, William James|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Magnay, Thomas||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Milner, Major James||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Goff, Sir Park||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chlsw'k)||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Moreing, Adrian C.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Morgan, Robert H.||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)|
|Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)||Morrison, William Shepherd||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Moss, Captain H. J.||Mr. Womersley and Commander Southby.|
|Grimston, R. V.||Muirhead, Major A. J.|
|Groves, Thomas E.||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Rankin, Robert|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh)||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Remer, John R.|
|Bailey, Eric Alfred George||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Kimball, Lawrence||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Beaumont, M. vv. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Knox, Sir Alfred||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Bracken, Brendan||Levy, Thomas||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||McGovern, John||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks., Newb'y)||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Maxton, James||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Clarke, Frank||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Mr. Charles Williams and Lieut.-|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Colonel Windsor-Clive.|
|Greene, William P. C.||Purbrick, R.|
Main Question but, and agreed to.
§ Mr. Butler accordingly nominated another Member of the Committee.
§ Mr. Cadogan, Sir Austen Chamberlain, Mr. Cocks, and Sir Reginald Craddock nominated other Members of the Committee.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Davidson be another Member of the Committee.—[Captain Margesson.]
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. C. WILLIAMS
I beg to move, to leave out the words "Mr. Davidson," and to insert instead thereof the words "Mr. Nunn."
I will not occupy the time of the House very long on this matter. I can assure hon. Members that I have nothing but friendship for the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I have always supported him, right through a very long political existence, and I very much regret that I should be asking the House to remove his name on this occasion. His connection with India is that he took part in a very able reform His ability on all these matters is marked, as is well-known to hon. Members, but it would be better not to have upon the Committee one who has necessarily been closely associated with party politics. I would rather have someone from outside, and I have chosen in this case one who has made his impression upon the House for his political ability. He has a very great knowledge of such matters as customs and excise. I would ask whether it would not be better, on the whole, if the Secretary of State for India would meet the point which we are raising. Just now, the Secretary of State for India said that he could not meet us on any of these matters. He has laid it down quite clearly and definitely that he 2266 is not going to meet the feeling of the House of Commons which this afternoon has been expressed more strongly against the Government than during the lifetime of this Parliament. Nothing has been done by the Secretary of State, and in the speech which I suppose we shall hear again, nothing will in any way meet the views of those of us who have done our best to stand by the Government on this difficult question. Many of us have been obliged to go and see people in difficult circumstances and to ask them to support the Government. Why in the world cannot we be met on one or two of the cases which we have put up this evening? Why cannot the Government give us one or two representative Members of the ordinary back benchers, men who have knowledge of the world and who have just as much the respect of the House of Commons as some Members of the Government. I simply ask the Government whether they cannot meet us on this occasion, or on one of the other Amendments that I have put down.
§ Lieut.-Colonel WINDSOR-CLIVE
The arguments in favour of this Amendment are the same as those in favour of the last Amendment. I do not wish to repeat what I then said, so I shall formally second the Amendment.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Sir W. DAVISON
I was not in favour of the last Amendment as I thought that the Secretary of State made a good case that it was desirable that he and his assistant should go to the Joint Select Committee. While I have every respect for the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in his proper place, I do not see why this Committee should be overloaded by another Member of the Cabinet when, apart from his special 2267 inquiry in India, there is no reason to appoint him to this Committee. His is a very different position from that of the Secretary of State or of the Under-Secretary of State for India. Having regard to the fact that this Committee is grossly overloaded on the side of the Government, I support the Amendment.
§ 7.51 p.m.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I support this Amendment. Again, I must ask hon. Members to acquit me of any desire to depreciate the value of the presence upon the Committee of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, but, for reasons which I have already explained to the House, in this case it is proposed to substitute for his name the name of an hon. Member who has had long experience in the East and who can adequately represent the views of back benchers of whom too little has been heard.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Sir S. HOARE
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) I must make the same speech again. I have nothing to add to my
§ answer to the last Amendment. It is of importance to have as a member of the Committee the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, not because he is a Member of the Government, but because he was Chairman of the very important inquiry that was made last year. It is particularly necessary in India to have him, for the reason that the basic question to be considered by the Joint Committee is that of Federation and the accession of the States. That is the fundamental basis of the proposals that we are making. I would certainly have said that the Committee will find it indispensable to have the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster there to answer questions about the position of the States, and particularly about the financial relations between the States who are coming into the Federation and British India. With great reluctance therefore, because I do not like to disagree with my hon. Friends, I cannot accept the Amendment.
§ Question put, "That the words Mr. Davidson' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 217: Noes, 49.2269
§ Mr. Davidson accordingly nominated another member of the Committee.
§ Mr. Isaac Foot nominated a member of the committee,
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Secretary Sir Samuel Hoare be another member of the Committee."—[Captain Margesson.]
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. C. WILLIAMS
I beg to move to leave out the words "Secretary Sir Samuel Hoare," and to insert instead thereof the words "Mr. Annesley Somerville."
It is a little difficult to find any flaw in the right hon. Gentleman the Secre- 2270 tary of State for India, and I can understand a certain amount a astonishment at an ordinary back-bench Member suggesting that anyone who is so very perfect should be taken off the Committee. I would like, however, to remind the right hon. Gentleman of some of his speeches. I have' a speech here in which somebody not long ago said some very unkind things about his speeches, and, in these circumstances, I am not sure that we ought to have the right hon. Gentleman on this particular Committee. This is what was said about one of his speeches:They go on during this Parliament making the same speech and maintaining the same course of policy.That, indeed, is what he said about his own speeches not very long ago in the 2271 House of Commons, and he said it again, I believe, a few minutes ago. The real reason, however, why some of us wish for this Amendment is that the right hon. Gentleman, after all, is, or should be, the person who is laying down and making this policy, and he should come before the Committee as the person who submits the policy which the Government desire carried out. It is putting the Committee in an utterly impossible position before the eyes of practically the whole country to assume that one right hon. Gentleman, however perfect he may be in this world, can vote, act as judge, and also be a, witness in a case of this kind.
I would like to see the Committee absolutely cleared of all these Ministers, so that its members should have a real chance of giving judgment, and I hope that perhaps the right hon. Gentleman's modesty may allow him, to withdraw on this particular occasion in favour of an hon. Member who does not suffer from some of his disabilities. After all, my hon. Friend whom I would rather see on this Committee has had a very distinguished career, and has not, I believe, had the misfortune to get connected with Harrow. Such disabilities are never got over unless it be by following the course which has been followed by some other people. I would venture to express the hope that the House will accept the name of my hon. Friend rather than that of one of the Government nominee, however able he may be and undoubtedly is. I give the right hon. Gentleman every credit for the fact that he has restored order in India. That is one of the finest things that has ever been done, when you consider the absolutely half-witted nature of the policy of his predecessor. On the other hand, however, that is no reason why we should overburden him in this matter; me must be careful of these extraordinary finds when we get them. I wish to relieve him of all unnecessary work in this matter; I do not wish to put too many burdens on his shoulders, when I know that there is someone who is perfectly capable of taking on the work. Therefore, I would ask the House to spare the right hon. Gentleman the work which he has told us is so very hard, and let him, go on keeping order in, India, which he is doing so successfully.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Mr. ANNESLEY SOMERVILLE
I rise for the purpose of asking my hon. Friends not to press this matter to a Division. May I say, in the first place, that, when I consented to allow my name to be put forward, I did so as a protest, not only on my own behalf, but on behalf of my constituency, which is opposed to the scheme of the Government. At a meeting in the constituency at the beginning of last week a unanimous resolution was passed. We are afraid that the Government are going too fast and too far. I had not the least desire to serve on the Committee, but I felt on Friday, when some of my hon. Friends were discussing the question of its appointment, and when no other name was available, that I could not resist putting mine forward. At the meeting to which I have referred, a constituent asked me: "Are the Government going to pack the Committee?" My answer was that the issues were too large and the Secretary of State too fair-minded to pack the Committee. Now I shall have some difficulty in replying when next I meet my constituents. I wish that the Secretary of State were not on the Committee. I only hope that he will not be remembered as the successor of the Morleys and the Montagus who went to India, took a bird's-eye view of that sub-continent, and came back and presented a scheme to this House involving the good government of 350,000,000 fellow-subjects of our King-Emperor, a scheme which, I devoutly hope, may not be a long step in the severance of India from the Empire.
§ 8.9 p.m.
§ Mr. BRACKEN
I hope that my hon. Friend will not press his Amendment to a Division. I think it would be rather peculiar if the Secretary of State were not a member of the Committee. His predecessor was a member of the Joint Committee of a similar character which considered the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, and I think that the presence of the Secretary of State on the Committee is necessary. I do not think that anyone else can understand the complexities of the question better than he does, and, although we are very much opposed to the scheme politically, I think he will at any rate have this advantage on the 2273 Committee that he has more or less handpicked it. He has made some very bad choices, and I feel that the presence of the Secretary of State may give some form to their deliberations. I hope, therefore, that the Amendment will not be pressed to a Division.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ Sir S. HOARE
Perhaps I ought to make observation, and that is that I have very great sympathy with this Amendment, because, in the first place, it would dispense me from a heavy task, and, secondly, because I have very great sympathy with those hon. Members who, although they have been polite enough not to say so, think that the Committee would be much better without me. My only hesitation in expressing agreement with the observations of the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) is that it might suggest a surrender on the part of the distinguished school from which I came to a much less distinguished place of education. I am grateful in any case to those hon. Members who, having made their views clear, have said that, out of deference to the position that I hold—not to myself—they are prepared not to press the issue to a Division.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
With the permission of the House, after the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville) I would like to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Secretary Sir Samuel Hoare accordingly nominated another member of the Committee.
§ Mr. Morgan Jones, Sir Joseph Nall, Lord Eustace Percy, Miss Pickford, Secretary Sir John Simon, Sir John Wardlaw-Milne, and Earl Winterton, nominated other members of the Committee.
That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records, and to sit notwithstanding any Adjournment of the House."—[Captain Margesson.]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That Five be the Quorum."—[Captain Margesson.]
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I beg to move, to leave out the word "Five," and to insert instead thereof the word "Eight."
2274 I trust that the Government will accept this Amendment. According to the precedent of the first Joint Committee, out of seven Members of the House of Commons, the quorum was four, or rather more than half—that is to say, eight out of 14 in the Joint Committee. Now the Government propose that the quorum should be five out of 16 Members of the House of Commons, or less than one-third, and a similar proportion in the case of the whole Committee; that is to say, 22 Members could be absent from the Committee at one time, and the work could be carried on by only 10. This question has to be considered in relation to the undoubted packing of the Committee, to which the House has testified so powerfully to-day. This is one of those cases in which the Government have so large a majority that they can afford to contend with the Opposition in relays. Something of this kind was done, I think, by the recent Conservative Government, which had so large a majority that only one-third of their Members need be on duty at the same time. This matter, however, is one of very great importance. We have been told that these gentlemen who have been selected have special knowledge, and are capable of giving expert attention to the subject. If only 10 out of 32 need be there at a time listening to the evidence and attending to the discussions, undoubtedly what would happen would be that, when a clash arose, the Government would send out their signals, down would march their troop of Ministers and immediate personal retainers, and the position would be reestablished. Meanwhile the Committee is to be left to chatter as long as it likes so long as no menace to the policy that the Government have in view is to be envisaged. My right hon. Friend has a chance to rid himself of such an imputation by accepting my Amendment. I am certain it is a perfectly reasonable principle to say that at least half the Members have to be there if the Committee is to do business. That is all that I am asking for this House, and the other House will probably imitate our procedure in the matter.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Sir W. DAVISON
I hope the Government will accept a matter of this vital importance. Considering, putting it at the lowest, that in the opinion of a very 2275 large number of their supporters this is a packed committee, the least we can expect is that there shall be half the members who have been appointed present.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I am greatly impressed by the appeals that have been made to me by some of my hon. Friends at any rate to give way somewhere. The hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) made a very eloquent appeal just now. I am glad to be able to inform him that, being a very reasonable person anxious to meet in every possible way my hon. and right hon. Friends, I am quite ready to accept the Amendment. The Government put down the number five, not because they contemplated the military and melodramatic incidents that my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) had in his mind, but simply because it is the invariable procedure.
§ Amendment agreed to.
That Eight be the Quorum.