Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [27th March.]
That, before Parliament is asked to take a decision upon the proposals contained in Command Paper 4268, it is expedient that a Joint Select Committee of Lords and Commons, with power to call into consultation representatives of the Indian States and of British India, be appointed to consider the future government of India and, in particular, to examine aid report upon the proposals in the said Command Paper."—[Sir S. Hoare.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Viscount WOLMER
When the House adjourned last night, I had already had the privilege of addressing it for a few minutes on this question. I do not propose to occupy more than a very few minutes on this occasion, but as I have been asked to put forward the point of view of a number of other Members besides myself, and as I had not quite finished my speech last night, I should like to make our position quite clear. I am not going to repeat what I ventured to say yesterday. I gave reasons why many of us think that the Constitution which the Government are proposing for India cannot possibly work smoothly and cannot lead to that spirit of partnership which, I am sure, we all desire. I pointed out that a Constitution of this kind could not have worked in Ireland, and never has worked in any part of the world where a similar balance of constitutional rights has been attempted.
The only point I desire to make this afternoon is that, in view of the extremely hazardous nature of this experiment, to put it at the lowest, in view of the fact that such constitutions as this one, though they have been tried, have never been successfully worked in history before, it seems to us that to try such an experiment on a population of 350,000,000 people is an act of folly, and worse than folly. The fortunes, the homes, the lives of these people are at stake. It is a responsibility greater, I suppose, than any ever cast upon this House before. There is another aspect of the question which I would not mention in the same breath, which I do not 850 think ought to be put in the same category with that to which I have just referred, but which is nevertheless of sufficiently grave importance to be taken into very weighty consideration by this House. It is the fact that hundreds of millions of pounds of British capital are invested in India. That is a consideration which the House cannot ignore, and have no right to ignore. They have no more right to gamble with the savings of the people of this country and other countries than they have to gamble with the lives and fortunes of the inhabitants of India.
I merely draw attention to these two facts in view of what I am now going to say. It seems to us that the issue is so grave that every Member of this House has to take action on his own responsibility in this matter, without regard to party ties, without regard to personal friendships, without regard to how his own personal fortunes may be affected. That is not only true of every Member of this House. It is true of the Cabinet as well, and the Under-Secretaries. I cannot believe that all my friends in the Cabinet are happy and satisfied that they are justified in making this momentous experiment. I appeal to them to consider their responsibilities in the matter. I appeal particularly to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider his responsibility in the matter. I cannot believe that he feels happy in the issues that may result from this gigantic experiment and the repercussions which it must inevitably have on the finance and credit of this country if that experiment ends in disaster. I appeal to my right hon. Friend to "go over the top," as many of us have to "go over the top" in this matter, and put an issue of this magnitude above all other considerations that would normally weigh with us.
My final word is this. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Leader of my party will not take it in an unfriendly way, but I think that the Conservative party has been put into an intolerable position in this matter. As I listened to the very eloquent speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India—received in icy silence by his own party— for an hour and a half, I felt that we had been let drift to the edge of a cataract, and that we were then being asked what was our alternative policy. It is not a fair position in which to place the party. 851 Looking back on the course of events during the last few years in this matter, I have come to the conclusion that the Leader of the Conservative party is really, at heart, a sentimental Liberal. With all the great qualities which have endeared him personally to us, I think he really does believe that a nation can be regenerated by being given the vote, that with the franchise comes an accession of grace and wisdom which cannot be obtained in any other way, just as he believed that giving votes to flappers would elevate the female sex of this country. Personally, although I respect all those sentiments, I profoundly distrust them, and I believe they are distrusted by the great majority of the party to which I belong.
Although it is our duty, and indeed we are bound, to lead India on in the path of constitutional progress, we have a far greater responsibility to the 350,000,000 people of India whose lives and interests are in our charge. Therefore, even at this eleventh hour, I would beg that we do not make the experiment on this gigantic scale, but that we make it on a much smaller scale. Give fuller powers if you like than to the diarchy which you are setting up at the centre; give real responsibility to one or two selected provinces; make your full experiment, but make it on as small a scale as you can. Do not be afraid to go slowly, because I believe that slow progress in this matter is much more likely to be true and lasting progress than a step too rapidly taken.
§ 3.28 p.m.
§ Sir ROBERT HORNE
At the end of the very lucid speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India, he desiderated comments upon his plan from moderate men of good will and good sense. I hope the House will not regard me as being officious in venturing to answer that appeal. I believe myself to be moderate. I know myself to be of good will towards everybody who sincerely tries to find the right solution of this great problem, and the only question that remains is the question of my good sense. I hope that I possess some of that invaluable quality, but, at any rate, the House will judge. Hitherto I have taken no part in these Debates in the House upon this great question, and I have not gone into the Lobby in any of the Divisions connected with it. I 852 have observed, I think, an attitude of comparative impartiality and of suspended judgment. But it is no longer possible for any Member of this House to remain in that position of quiescence.
I agree with what my Noble Friend said a few moments ago, that every Member of Parliament is bound by his very duty, after the Select Committee has reported, to take his place, if not in the discussion, at least in the Lobby, and he must have a reason for the faith which he then exhibits. It is true that there is a very great temptation to most of us to lean back upon the Government in this matter. We are inclined to take the view that this is a very complicated topic, which few of us have the opportunity to study, that the Government and their advisers are people upon whom great reliance may be put, that they can be trusted to weigh up all the considerations which should operate on one side or the other, and that we cannot do better than to trust them.
And let me make this avowal. If I had to surrender my judgment upon this question, there is no person in whose favour I would more readily yield it up than my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for India. His sincerity and his patriotism are beyond all question. He has, in my personal judgment, as great a political flair as any man with whom I have worked in connection with the Government and Parliament, and he adds to that quality a balance of mind and a coolness of judgment which are the admiration of all his friends. Moreover, we owe him—the; Conservative party owes him—a great debt of gratitude, because he has demonstrated, as I think beyond all question, that it only requires sufficient firmness and courage in your administration to make India an orderly State.
But the truth is, as my noble Friend said a moment ago, that none of us can devolve on any other person this burden, which is firmly planted upon the shoulders of each of us. This is no question of loyalty to the Ministry. It never was in issue in the course of the last election. Our opinions and our votes upon it will exhibit neither favour nor disfavour to the National Government. The fact is that everyone of us is confronted with the greatest issue which has ever come before this or any other Parliament, and 853 upon our own individual consciences it rests to meet the issue squarely and honestly. To do him credit, the Secretary of State has faithfully recognised the position of the private Members of the Conservative party in this regard. There were many what are called by that hideous word "tendencious" suggestions, both in speeches and in the Press, to the effect that we were going to be jockeyed by the Government in this matter, and indeed perhaps it is not surprising that some people thought that some such effort might be made, because one thing which has hurt many of us in the contemplation of this great problem has been, the way in which we have seemed to slither from position to position, and how at every stage at which it was attempted to apply a judgment to the question at issue we were always told, "You cannot go back; somebody has said this, some other person has said that; the Indians have put this interpretation upon it; your word as an Englishman is the thing that matters most; and, therefore, you must just accept the position as it is."
I, for one, am grateful to the Secretary of State that he has relieved us from all that trouble. He has not only given us the opportunity of discussing the White Paper freely, but he has thrown the whole question open. What the Select Committee is to investigate and report upon to this House is nothing less than the future Government of India, without qualification or trammel. To-day, and in the course of this Debate which goes on to-morrow, we are only approaching a very small fence, which is that of setting up the Select Committee. This is a fence which none of us would desire to avoid. The greater hurdle awaits us later. It is true that the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) last night seemed to show that he was anxious to ride his steed at the last fence six months before we come to it. I think perhaps he has taken the wrong form of quadruped for this event, and it might not be unjustiable if he got the reply that Balaam got in another adventure.
But we are now discussing something about which there is no difficulty. The question remains as to how we are to use this opportunity of discussion. Are we simply to wave a handkerchief of cheerful farewell to the Select Committee 854 which is to be set up, or are we to give some indication of the things that are troubling our minds, which, after all, if they take the trouble to read our discussions, may give some guidance to them as to the difficulties with which we are confronted? We may be very ignorant. I, although I have a considerable personal acquaintance with India, which is kept up through multifarious duties, feel myself aghast at the amount of ignorance which inhabits my breast upon this vast problem. Nevertheless, it is people like myself, ordinary Members like myself, who ultimately have to decide this question, and accordingly it is perhaps well that the Select Committee should be made aware of some of the difficulties which are perturbing us.
I do not propose to give anything more than some preliminary impressions. I am not going to attempt to lay down any view dogmatically. I have not the courage of my Noble Friend who has preceded me, and, no doubt, of others who will also take part in the Debate, but I would like this afternoon to indicate some of the troubles and difficulties which seem to me to lie in the way. There is a great temptation to go back into the history of this great problem, but I shall not ask the House to do so to-day. I shall not go further back than November of 1930, when the Round Table Conference met, to that which is admitted—it was stated by the Secretary of State yesterday afternoon—to have been a crucial point in the movement towards this self-government in India. Up till then the Simon Commission Report held the field. It was the only plan of which anybody was thinking, and discussion was revolving around the proposals contained in that report. Then there met the Conference, at which everything was altered, apparently, by a speech of one of the leading Princes which indicated the readiness of the Princes of India to come into a Federal scheme.
That changed the whole atmosphere and the whole course of the discussion. Let us keep in mind that up to that point, while the suggestion of Federation had been indicated in the Simon Report, it was something far off, which nobody could contemplate for a moment. Not only the Simon Commission, but those upon whom the Secretary of State now relies for indications as to the pre- 855 sent feeling of officials in India, that is the Government of India at that time, with at its head Lord Irwin, the great protagonist of this movement for greater responsibility in India, declared that any Federal system of government was a very remote event which need not occupy the time of practical men for a long time to come. But everything was changed almost in the twinkling of an eye. I am going to start from that moment, and I am going to assume, what the Secretary of State asked me to believe yesterday, that owing to attitudes adopted by Minister in the past something in the shape of representative government must be given to India. I am going to assume that, but I am also going to take into account the qualification which my right hon. Friend made when he said that we were still to be the judges of the time, of the degree, and of the opportunity.
If I were writing a memorandum for the Select Committee, I should make my first point that they have got to keep these circumstances clearly in view. What emerged from that particular conference? There emerged the Federal scheme, and along with it a series of safeguards. If the House will allow me, I should like to look first at the question of safeguards as a preface to the question which deals with the position of the Indian States in the proposed Federation.
As to safeguards, I should like to make one or two general observations. Safeguards in the setting up of a new constitution were never more necessary than in the present circumstances. You are giving a system of Parliamentary democracy to 350,000,000 people at a time when many countries in the world that have tried Parliamentary democracy are turning from that system in despair. Accordingly, it would seem to require a more meticulous examination than usual of this proposition before we decide the form the system is to take. If we look round Europe to-day we find a ring of dictatorships of various forms. There is one form in the Soviet in Russia; it takes another shape in Italy, and still another shape in Germany. Austria, Hungary, Jugoslavia, Poland and Turkey are all acting on parallel lines, each taking their own particular form of it, but all despairing of Parliamentary democracy and turning to some shade of dictatorship. A French friend of mine said to me some time ago, 856 "You English people think, and have always prided yourselves on the fact, that you gave a great boon to the world in representative government. Believe me, you gave most of us a curse, because you are the only race that knows how to work the system."
§ Sir R. HORNE
Reflect for a moment on the difficulties of democratic government in, for instance, France, which has had over 20 Governments since the War. I do not wonder that Frenchmen dislike the contemplation of party parliamentary democracy. Even we here, when we had more than two parties and a minority Government, know to what representative government tended to reduce us. There was a series of not very respectable bargains in order to keep the Government in power. Luckily in this country either we are too stupid to think of more than two propositions at a time, or we have usually the sublime political instinct which causes us to give at least one large party the majority in Parliament. We see from experience the terrible difficulties that are involved as soon as we have a series of groups in a representative assembly. What are we to say about making this vast experiment on a country of 350,000,000 people whose whole traditions are patriarchal in type and entirely contrary to those which we in the Western world have followed; where there are scores of races, castes and creeds and languages; and where the only cement is the British influence which, whatever you have to say for this particular scheme, must be weakened by what is done. I am not saying this as an argument for getting rid altogether of the theory that we are to give some form of representative government to India. I am not one of those much inclined to follow shibboleths. I do not believe in the kind of slogan that you cannot go back. I would always go back if it seemed the right course, unless the danger of not going back was greater than the danger of going forward.
With regard to this particular matter, it seems to me that we cannot entirely, even if we would at the present time, get rid of the obligations of the past, and that we are bound to consider a representative Government in some shape or 857 form and in some measure and degree. That is my first general observation about safeguards. My second is this. It would be far better to have no safeguards at all than to have ineffective safeguards. There is something to be said for granting a Constitution without any safeguards as a great gesture of confidence to the people to whom you have given it. You might expect to get some response. There is more to be said for granting a Constitution in our particular circumstances which is carefully and efficiently safeguarded, but there is nothing to be said for granting a constitution with safeguards, which irritate and are not effective. In that way you get the worst of both worlds. Accordingly, I propose for a moment or two to apply my mind to the discussion of some of the safeguards which are in this proposed Constitution. I think that we have to consider with reluctance what we are safe-guarding ourselves against in the Indian Constitution. I am not going to make a general attack on the kind of Indian Minister we will be likely to get. I believe that we will get very many good Ministers from the Indian community.
On the other hand, what we are safe-guarding India, our fellow-Indian subjects, against is the attitude of those who have not hesitated to make their position known. After all, the safeguard is against the type of people who wish to destroy the system, and I regret to think that many voices come from India which declare in the most explicit terms what their object is. Only the other day we had this announcement, which is not in itself more extravagant than many others, from a very famous man, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru. Although some people may think he has not now quite all the influence he used to have, none the less he is a very important person in the Indian community. He said:There may be men who may say that the Constitution is not worthy of our acceptance because it falls short of our expectations. To them I would hold up the example of men like De Valera in Ireland and Hitler in Germany. De Valera was not half the nuisance that he is to-day before he entered the Government. It is not only good law but ordinary common sense, I say with all respect that possession is nine points of the law. Either the progressive elements must capture the Constitution or they must be prepared to step aside.858 It is plain that those who are represented by Tej Bahadur Sapru and such men as he are only ready to accept this measure in the knowledge that they are going to make it impossible to work except in their own way. I wish to make it perfectly clear that I am not making such a reflection upon all the people who will possibly be brought into Government in India. All I say is that we must count upon having men of that line of thought in office at some time or another, and it is against men of that type that the safeguards must be strong enough to preserve the Constitution which is being set up.
What are those safeguards? Let me take, first of all, what is regarded as the ultimate safeguard, that is to say, when Government is brought to a standstill, and the Viceroy and all those whom he can gather round him come in and once more take over the machine. I should not myself be very much disposed to rely upon that ultimate safeguard if these men were clever enough, as indeed they are, to select their own time. I can very well imagine a point in history when we might find it very difficult to get the Government which might be in power in this country to take any action which would support the Viceroy in the course he has adopted. In fact, they might be inclined from their general principles to wish that those who were thus usurping authority might be successful. It seems to me that if we are going to rely upon safeguards we must depend upon those which should come into play long before we come to that breakdown.
In the next place, as was pointed out by Lord Zetland in a, letter to the "Times" in a far more complete way than I can do to-day, the burdens placed upon the Viceroy make it almost impossible that any one man could really give his attention to the situation and operate in time the safeguards which are supposed to be in his charge. I know that my right hon. Friend said yesterday, with a great deal more knowledge than I have, that under the new Constitution the Viceroy would not be more severely burdened than he is at the present time; but there is this great difference. At the present time the Viceroy has round him a set of Ministers upon whom he can absolutely rely, and information is always 859 at his disposal, but the very hypothesis of the position in which the safeguards are to be worked is that he has got a hostile Ministry who can stop the flow of information to the Viceroy, or can allow him to get it only at the last moment, when it is too late to act. Accordingly, I do not myself feel very great confidence in the Viceroy being able to use successfully the safeguards which are in his charge. I do not want to be dogmatic about this, but I would suggest that these are points which a Select Committee ought to investigate very thoroughly before they come to a conclusion.
I have no doubt the House will remember that I asked yesterday two questions of my right hon. Friend which are relevant to a point which I am now about to make. The Viceroy is to have control of the Army, by which it is supposed that he will be able to ensure peace and tranquillity in India. I do not think I am putting this proposition too strongly when I say that while the Army by itself is, no doubt, a powerful engine, I do not believe it can have one-hundredth part of its effect unless the Viceroy and the Governors of the provinces at the same time have control of the police. It was the liaison between the police and the Army which enabled my right hon. Friend to make so great a change in India during his term of office. We can easily see why this is so. The police go right down into the villages, they are the sources of information; they are also the guard, to some extent, of the means of transportation by which the Army moves, and I should not very much envy a Viceroy who sought to move some portion of the Army to a disaffected district if at the same time the police were against him and were unwilling to co-operate with the Army. At any rate, the effectiveness of the Army in such circumstances would be very greatly reduced.
My right hon. Friend sought to give me an assurance about the police. He said that for the next five years, at any rate, when the matter would be reviewed, the selection of the police would be in the hands of the Secretary of State. That goes a certain distance, undoubtedly, but let us look at it from a practical point of view. We are professing at least to transfer law and order to a Minister, and I cannot imagine that that Minister is 860 not to have ordinary ministerial functions. He must, as I take it, move the police about according to his judgment as to where they ought to be. He also will have a very great influence on the prospects of individual policemen. He will make the reports as to their conduct, he will give a decision as to which part of his Province any particular policeman will have to go to, and the man may be made very miserable or comfortable according as he has the good will of the Minister or not.
While it is perfectly true that the selection of the police is with the Secretary of State, in actual operation the man to whom the police will inevitably look for all their future prospects will be the Minister. When there is trouble these Indian police, who have behaved in he most admirable manner under the present régime, will very naturally be considering who is going to win out, and from whom they are most likely to get the most advantageous prospects. This affects, also, the question of information. Whatever instructions may be given about police reports going to the Governor, the Minister, in the ordinary executive discharge of his duties, is in a position to say about what class of offences reports are to be made, and if the Minister is disaffected—and that, after all, is the hypothesis upon which we are arguing—it seems to me to be perfectly simple for the Minister who is in charge of the police to make it impossible for the Governor to discover what is going on in the way of offences in the Provinces, or at any rate to see that information gets to him only when matters have gone too far.
I am putting forward these things for the consideration of the Select Committee. I am now going to venture a remark with very great diffidence. I see that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is present and is obviously going to speak. He knows very much more about this question than I could ever learn, however hard I studied or however long I lived. But I have never been able to understand the reasoning by which the Simon Commission came to the conclusion that you had to give control of law and order to the native ministries in the Provinces. It is said, roughly, that if you did not do that the whole thing would be a mockery—not in 861 language as strong as that, but there was a suggestion of that kind, that otherwise it was not really giving responsibility to them. At the same time it is obvious that the members of the Simon Commission had some doubt at the back of their minds upon this matter, because they provided for an extra Minister. They did not say he was to look after the police. It was always possible, we were told, for the Provincial Governor to use him for that purpose.
Of course that has disappeared in this plan, but I can well imagine your giving self-government in a very complete degree to a province, and even to the whole of India itself, without giving the popularly-elected body control of the police or the Army. Why should not one say, "Well now, we will give you a country in which to legislate "—I am taking this as mere assumption—"You will be able to carry out all the plans that you think are for the good of your people, and we will give you that country, guarded and looked after, so that you will not have to worry about keeping it in order." What is there detrimental to the pride of a people in that?
For my part I regard this question of the police as the linch-pin of the whole system of government of India. At least I so regard it until I am convinced to the contrary. I would hope, at any rate, that this whole question may be reviewed. I will put it like this: If I were the person responsible for the government of India I would rather be given the kind of Constitution at present proposed if you gave me control of the police, than have no responsible government at the centre with the control of the police in the provinces in the hands of native Ministers. I do not say that I approve of either of these alternatives, but I put it in that form to show how strong my view is about the necessity of keeping control of the police. These are the safeguards with regard to the orderly government of India and the preservation of the Constitution.
I wish to make a remark or two about two other items that arise in connection with the subject of safeguards. The first is in connection with the prevention of discrimination in trade. I would compliment the Secretary of State upon the way 862 in which he has devised the paragraph dealing with the question of discrimination. It is in a form which, I think, will be regarded, as suitable by most British traders. At the same time there is another paragraph which deals with subsidies, and I hope it will be kept clearly in mind that any Indian Government could entirely defeat your ideas with regard to discrimination in trade if they were allowed freely to grant subsidies to their own people who are in competition with your trade. I will give an example which will readily occur to everyone. Suppose that the Indian Government were to choose to give large subsidies to Indian ships on their coasting traffic—subsidies which are denied to ships which have been plying on the Indian coast for many years. It is obvious that they could ruin the chances of a profit being made from the running of British ships in those circumstances. Accordingly, I hope that this matter will be taken into account, and that some way will he devised by which this matter may be remedied.
There is another paragraph in connection with that which is worth a reference, namely, that the Governor-General may allow such discrimination if he regards it as necessary for the peace and tranquillity of India. I can imagine that provision being an incentive to making it a question of peace and tranquillity. These are smaller points, and I only mention them in order that consideration may be given to them. On the matter of finance, which is one of the questions of very grave importance, I do not propose-to say much. I shall not venture to give any view as to the effect upon Indian credit of the proposals which are made, nor as to the efficacy of the safeguard for Indian credit. Irresponsible words-dropped out in regard to such matters as these, which are of vast importance to many thousands of people, may create either pessimistic views or optimistic hopes which are unfounded, and I would prefer to say only that I hope that this is a matter which will be very carefully gone into by the Select Committee. I will only add, as another thing to which the Select Committee should give attention, the cost of this new government of India. We cannot exclude from our purview the fact that any form of government such as is now proposed will be 863 much more expensive than anything that exists at the present time.
I do not know whether the House is aware under our older system, before even the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms were made, India was run at a cheaper cost than practically any other country in the world, under the administration of the British officials who so admirably did their business. These costs have gone up very greatly during recent years, and since the reforms of the Montagu-Chelmsford time. You will find most harrowing stories in the reports of the effect of putting district boards into native hands, boards which have previously been controlled by the collector of the district. Many of those boards, which were previously not only solvent but prosperous, are now faced with bankruptcy.
It may be necessary to incur some expense in order that the Indian people may learn their business and methods of Government, but at any rate do not let us blind our eyes to the fact that this does mean more expense in India. You are setting up two new Provinces, which will themselves create new expense. I hope accordingly that the Select Committee, when dealing with the matter, will advert particularly to the amount of extra expense of administration and to the amount required in the way of new taxation. Taxation means a great deal to the people of India. I was talking to a native Price, who told me that at a representative gathering of his people he asked them if they wished to come into the Federation. They said they did not mind, provided it did not mean further taxation. In my belief out of the 350,000,000 of people in India there are at least 300,000,000 who would rather go on as they are with no higher costs, than have a Government of their own kind with higher taxation. All of the theory about people yearning to govern themselves, even at a higher cost, is entirely fallacious.
I have delayed the House too long, but if I may be forgiven I would like to turn to the second head of my remarks. That is the question of the participation of the Princes in this Confederation. We all remember the enthusiastic welcome which was given to the suggestion that 864 the Princes were prepared to join a Federal Government of India. It was supposed that you could bring a Conservative element into the Government and that it would be the first and best safeguard for good Government. That was the theory. The question is whether this is founded upon fact and realities. In this connection it matters a great deal as to what representation the Princes are to have. I find that in the Lower House the Government propose that they should have 125 votes out of 375, and that in the Upper House they are to have 100 votes out of 260. I should not say that that unduly exaggerates the Princes' influence in those chambers. I find that very fallacious ideas abound as to how the votes are likely to go. For example, it is said by some—I have seen it in print—that you can add the votes of the Princes to the votes of the Moslems. The fact is that the Princes themselves are seriously divided as between Hindus and Moslems, and if it comes to a question which depends upon the religion of the communities of India you will undoubtedly find the Princes not voting in a block, but in a very divided way.
This matter becomes very pertinent when you look at the proposals of the White Paper. We all thought, at the time when it was first mooted that the Princes were coming in, that we should have the whole or a great majority of the States in the Confederation; but what is provided in the White Paper is that you may set up your Confederation with only a half of the population of the States in the system, and there is no provision for weightage in either of the Assemblies to make up for the Princes who are not there. That would seem to show that you might start the Confederation with the Princes having only 65 Votes in a House of 310, and in the other case only 50 Votes in a House of 210. I do not know what other Members of this House feel, but I confess that if this is your first safeguard it seems to me a very weak one.
I do not know what the particular ideas were that moved a meeting of the Chamber of Princes in Delhi on Saturday, but at any rate we are now faced with a situation which I am sure that none of us could have contemplated. We have been supposing up to now that the Princes were all the time in the Government's pocket. They are nothing of the 865 kind. As we know, there was a somewhat awkward episode at the meeting of Princes on Saturday last, between the Viceroy and a Prince who is very well known to us all, the Jam Sahib of Nawanagar, known everywhere in Britain affectionately as Ranjit Singhi. From intimate personal knowledge of that great Prince I can say that his devotion to India is only equalled by his loyalty to the Empire. I know no better British citizen than the Jam Sahib. When you find him in this kind of controversy it reveals a position of some disquietude. There was a part of his speech which he was not allowed to make—I see that it was reported in one organ of the Press here on Monday. I suppose he must have given it to the Press afterwards—in which he says:I would appeal to those British statesmen who look upon the Indian States as the strongest link in the British connection, to put themselves in our position and to ask honestly whether my apprehensions are not justified, and Whether the Princes of India would not be upholding their traditional loyalty to the Crown more effectively by counselling caution than by involving themselves in entanglements which future generations may condemn as destructive of their power to assist either the Crown or themselves.I find that the Maharaja of Patiala, who is now the new Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes, moved a Motion, which was carried, in this shape:This Chamber places on record its strong opinion that the entry of the Princes into the federation depends upon the inclusion in the Constitution and the Treaties of Accession of the essential safeguards for which the States have consistently pressed.I am not aware what those particular safeguards are. I saw in the report that one of the questions that was raised, and upon which there was controversy, was the setting up of a tribunal to try to decide the justiciable issues as between the Crown and the Princes. The proposal was objected to by the Viceroy, on the ground that it would weaken his personal contact with the Princes. I do not presume to have any opinion upon such a question as that. All I say is that it is repugnant to my mind as a lawyer to think of even the Crown being a judge in its own cause when it is a matter of material interest. So far as contacts are concerned, there would be plenty of other questions as between the Viceroy and the Princes to keep them in frequent contact. I cannot see that the proposal would 866 weaken the position which has long existed between the Viceroy and the Princes. And here is a formidable consideration. Your Princes will only be of use to you as a stabilising element in the Constitution, if you bring them in with a feeling that they are being properly treated and that their interests are not being injuriously affected. If you get them in in a surly or reluctant mood, to what extent are you going to rely upon them as a cementing element in your constitution? Whatever attitude the Government is taking upon this matter, it is at least worth while bringing the Princes into the confederation in a position of strength, and under conditions in which they feel contented and happy in the situation in which they are being placed.
I put these considerations before the House, not, as I have said, in any dogmatic spirit, although I am afraid that, in stating them, perhaps I have gradually become more emphatic than a mere doubter should have been. I am not putting them forward in a spirit of dogmatism, and I am certainly not doing so in any spirit of hostility to those who are seeking to find a proper method of governing India in the future. There is much to be inquired into, and the doubts which I have expressed have been reinforced in my mind by the opinions that I get from India. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India said yesterday that while he valued the views of those who had served for years in India in the past, to some extent they were out of date and that the modern machinery of Government in India was represented by men who were taking a totally different view. That must be so, since he says it, as he is in daily touch with the subject, but it is an extraordinary thing to me that the doubts of people whose term of office has come to an end in India and who have only been back in England a few weeks or a few months—so far as I have had contact with them—are, in regard to the future in India, as great as those that I have expressed to-day.
At any rate, I make this speech in no carping spirit, and I hope that the House will be satisfied that my one desire is to reach a solution which will be best for the welfare of India and for this country. India is a great factor in the world. It represents a seventh of all 867 the population in the world. It matters greatly to the trade of the world at the present time as to what is to happen to India. We are now accustomed to think of trade being at the very core of all our interests. We used to hear a sneer sometimes when one mentioned that Britain was so interested in India's trade, as if it were some unworthy consideration. Why, it is the source of all well-being, not merely in India but here. We are entitled to think of the vast toiling mass of people in India, we are entitled to think of our unemployed people in this country, and it ought to be one of our great endeavours to make trade as thriving both there and here as our efforts can achieve, during the time that we influence affairs.
I have ventured to put these reflections before the House, and I hope that some of them may be considered by the Joint Select Committee. It is their argosy we are setting afloat to-morrow night. On them lies a more poignant burden of responsibility than has ever been committed to any body of men during the history of our country. May they be endowed with wisdom and with courage.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) has just made a very important contribution to our Debate. I am afraid that I shall have to confess to the House that my knowledge of the subject with which the House has been asked to deal is very slender indeed, and I almost feel inclined to apologise for any time that I may occupy in so important a Debate. Each hon. Member must accept personal responsibility, not only for what is said but for the action that is taken, when we are dealing with a matter of this importance. As a result of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead, I should like to submit a very specific question to the Government representative who is to reply. The right hon. Gentleman said in the earlier part of his speech that the proposals of the White Paper were perhaps the maximum that might be expected, and that any difference in the conformation would be merely in detail and not in principle. In view of the statement at the bottom of page 1 of the 868 White Paper, I want to ask this specific question: The country must now be informed definitely, precisely and accurately what latitude of action the Joint Select Committee will have. Can they make any alteration they like in the White Paper scheme, and will the Government accept their Recommendations, whatever they may be? Is it the intention of the Government that there must be no substantial change in the scheme, but only adjustments of detail I hope that we shall get a definite, specific reply to that question from a responsible Member of the Government.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead has not improved the situation by the speech that he has made this afternoon. I felt rather sorry, and I regretted a good deal, that so much emphasis was laid upon the commercial side, upon British interests in India, and too little upon the very natural desire on the part of educated and responsible Indians to govern themselves. That ought not to be the dominant thought in the minds of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in this House. One can appreciate the difficulties of the Secretary of State for India, just as one appreciates one's personal responsibility when dealing with questions in which 350,000,000 people are involved. The right hon. Gentleman made some reference to the possible cost of future new Governments in India, and he thought that those 350,000,000 people, if consulted, would prefer to carry on as they are at the moment rather than have expenses imposed upon them as the result of some new form of government. I wish I could think that the right hon. Gentleman really has the interests of those 350,000,000 people at heart, and I wish I could feel that that was the dominant thought in his mind. Rather, I fear that it was not so much about the 350,000,000 people, but the very small proportion of people in India who derive very large profits out of the 350,000,000. In any case, I think we are all called upon to weigh our words very carefully, if we hope to find a decent solution to the vast problem which is confronting this Parliament.
After 150 years of occupation of India and 75 years of promise, few hon. and right hon. Gentlemen will boast of our achievements in that great country. India is still one of the poorest nations on earth, and has approximately 96 per 869 cent. of illiteracy, and that is little to boast of. If I understand the Secretary of State for India aright, I understand his hesitation in making any progress at all. He largely based his hesitation upon the fact that the Indians are not yet fit to govern themselves, as we understand government in this country. I understand the Minister's hesitation. We, in our administration of India, have failed, to a large extent, to produce an educational system and an educational progress that would fit the 350,000,000 Indians to govern themselves in a responsible manner, as we govern ourselves in this country. Neither can I appreciate the attitude of the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer). He suggested quite frankly and honestly—and I always appreciate his frank statements—that we ought to do nothing, that we ought to remain just as we are; and I was interested to hear the right hon. Gentleman who followed him say that instinctively he should always go backwards unless it was less dangerous to go forward. Apparently, both the Noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman think alike in that particular.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I am sure that the hon. Member does not wish to misrepresent us. I argued for fuller experiment on a smaller scale, giving one or two provinces a very complete form of self-government, without some of these safeguards, as a real test of responsibility. I submit that that is not standing still.
Would the Noble Lord give women votes in those provinces? That is a very important question.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I would not wilfully misrepresent the Noble Lord in any way, but, according to my deduction from what he said, he appears to be an opponent root and branch of any real progress in India. While the problem may seem to be insurmountable, with all the racial, religious and other difficulties, I am not yet convinced that, if there were a genuine desire on the part of all hon. and right hon. Members of the House, and a, genuine desire on the part of Indians—who, after all, determine their attitude and their actions on the basis of what they conceive to be our point of view—this difficulty could not be solved. Nationalism may be very foolish indeed; I think it is; but it represents a not 870 unnatural desire on the part of educated and responsible Indians for some opportunity to help to govern themselves in a much more responsible fashion than has been their lot so far.
Seventy-five years ago, a very definite promise was made to India. Since then we have had 14 years of dyarchy, and recently three years of Round Table Conferences, with commissions, investigations, reports, White Papers, solemn promises and pledges; and the result of all this long travail has been the White Paper which we are discussing this afternoon. Before I forget it, I should like to bring to the notice of the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot a cartoon in to-day's "Evening Standard," showing himself, with one or two other Noble Lords and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), with all sorts of weapons, chasing the little mouse which has emerged after these 14 years of dyarchy and three years of Round Table Conferences. It is neither Home Rule, self-government, independence, Dominion status, nor national freedom. Indeed, the White Paper simply means that for an undefined period full, rigid power remains at Whitehall or with the Governor-General in India The exceptions are only very slight indeed.
There is no substantial promise in any part of this document that even the suggested new Constitution can move forward and develop according to the efforts of those who are placed in charge, either in the provinces or in the Federal Government in India. When the Noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman talk about democracy or abdication, it seems to me that, were this scheme to be embodied in any future Act, it would be the very negation of democracy, as the Noble Lord truly said, for you would have a Governor-General and Viceroy and Ministers who would not only have power to assent to or refuse their assent to any Measure that may be introduced, but would have power to cripple the Government as regards finance and so on. That, I submit, is the very antithesis of democracy, and, so far as abdication is concerned, I do not think that any hon. or right hon. Gentleman can sustain that claim.
The White Paper, however, does suggest one of the most complicated pieces of governmental machinery that has so far been devised to govern mankind. The 871 London "Times," referring to it a short time ago, said:This draft Constitution is one of the most complicated instruments that has ever been framed for the government of mankind.The very complexity of this proposal seems to indicate that the Minister in charge has never really intended that any real progress should be made. I rather suspect that fear—either genuine fear born of his comprehensive knowledge of India and Indians, or fear of back-benchers —has been responsible for the complexity of the scheme, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) said yesterday, will never be worked with success unless and until more self-government is permitted to the Indians. In every sort and kind of conversation and conference, and in every document that has been issued until the White Paper, Indians have always been led to believe that, whatever the next step might be, it could only be a transition stage from the new form of government to the ultimate self-government on Dominion lines which the Indians have been expecting.
It has always been recognised, not only by hon. Members on these benches, but by hon. Members who sit below the Gangway and by all responsible Indians, that the transition stage would bring with it such necessary safeguards with regard to finance, defence, and, perhaps, trade and commerce, as appeared to be necessary at the moment. But the transition idea has been completely lost by the way, and, whether this new Constitution is going to be good, bad or indifferent, certainly there is no indication that at any future time any progress is going to be made. The Prime Minister, when he issued the White Paper on the 1st December, 1931, said that the objective was responsible Government qualified during a period of transition by limitations in certain directions, and this was repeated at the second Round Table Conference; but we discover that the transition idea has been lost by the way. I do not think it is unfair to suggest that this is one more instance of breaking faith with that section of the Indian people who really are anxious to co-operate with this or any other Parliament in Great Britain for the purpose of making such progress as circumstances in India justify.
872 Again, there appears to be no possibility of any improvement in the new Constitution, should it be based upon the proposals embodied in this White Paper. In other words, assuming that the Select Committee, with very slight modifications, produced a Bill based upon the proposals contained in the White Paper, then, so far as the Indians are concerned, that is the last promise we are likely to make to them. There is no sign that with application, vigour and energy, the Indians will earn a greater measure of self-government and freedom than they would enjoy under the terms of the new Constitution. That seems to us to be one more repetition of the old mistake. We have already had two experiences in America and Ireland, but, apparently, some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen never learn any lessons, whatever there may be in history to teach them.
One observes that in this scheme, despite the fact that the provincial governments will have certain powers over and above those which they enjoy at the present time, and that there will be some phantom of self-government in the provinces, yet in the Central Legislature this Parliament remains absolutely supreme. I should like, in passing, to express amazement that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen are opposing the scheme, apparently, because the safeguards are insufficient, because the Secretary of State for India has not made doubly and trebly sure that in the last resort the power is always vested in the right hon. Gentleman himself and in the Governor-General and Viceroy, which means that the British Parliament have the final power in case of grave menace to the peace and tranquillity of India or any part thereof.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the police. It is perfectly true that the provincial Parliaments will have control of their own police, but, in the last analysis, the Governor-General, controlling the Army, as he will, will have control, not only over the provincial Parliament, but over the provincial police also. It seems to me that the Simon Commission were perfectly correct when they stated that to leave a provincial Parliament controlling 50,000,000 lives, controlling the industries and caring for the well-being of the people, without control of their own police, would be to 873 reduce self-government to a farce. Again, even in the Provinces, the Governor-General has the power in regard to financial stability, the credit of the Federation, the safeguarding of minorities, the safeguarding of members of the public service, the protection of the rights of any of the Indian States, and the prevention of commercial discrimination.
The right hon. Gentleman made some reference to subsidies, but, unless I am sadly mistaken—I hope I am—the prevention of commercial discrimination will involve a situation where even the Federal Government will have no control over infant industries, and no opportunity to develop them by the artificial means, which have been so frequently employed by this National Government. They will have no power to produce State monopolies, and I am not at all sure that they will have power to grant subsidies to this, that or the other industry or service. The Governor-General has power over any matter affecting the administration of reserved departments, he has the power to dissolve, prorogue or summon the Legislature, he can assent to a Bill or he can refuse to assent to a Bill, and in any case, even if a Bill passes the Central Legislature, the British Parliament will have power within 12 months to prevent the Measure from becoming law. Therefore, it seems to me that, so far as safeguards are concerned, full power is still reserved to the British Parliament, notwithstanding any pretence that we may make in regard to granting self-government to India.
Then there is reserved to the Governor-General the right to promulgate Ordinances such as those from which India, and, indeed this country, and the workpeople in both countries, have been suffering from during the past two or three years. Certainly the situation in that regard has affected our people in Lancashire, and to that extent has affected our people in many other parts of the country also. I want to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, when he fears that the safeguards are insufficient, that he might do well to invite the Select Committee to be less stringent with regard to safeguards if he wishes that Indians should develop, not only a desire to govern, but that social consciousness and civic pride which we in 874 this country have built up by a thousand and one institutions of our own which are more or less self-governing. It seems to me that if, as the right hon. Gentleman said, the linch-pin is the be-all and end-all of self-government, we cannot afford to contemplate a reemergence of the old order; for, whatever the right hon. Gentleman may think about the control of reserved subjects, it seems to me that the Home Secretary in this country would be a rather futile Minister, so far as the peace of this City is concerned, unless he had full control of the police under his hand.
Then there is no indication in the White Paper that Dominion status can ever be secured. I want to ask hon. Members who persist in stating that no promises have been made to bear in mind the many statements that have been made from time to time by responsible Ministers in the past and in the present Government. The Prime Minister, for instance, at the Commonwealth Conference not too long ago said:I hope that within a period of months rather than years there will be a new Dominion added to the Commonwealth of our nations, a Dominion of another race, a Dominion that will find self-respect of an equal within this Commonwealth. I refer to India.Was it unreasonable that Indians would expect that the Prime Minister, when he had the power, would give effect to that promise? But Dominion status, apparently, has vanished entirely from all the words embodied in this document, and the Indians have no alternative but to conclude that what the Prime Minister thought was right in 1928 is no longer right in 1933. I am not at all sure that many of the statements of responsible Indian statesmen are not justified as a result of the volte face that has taken place.
On the question of defence and finance, there is no indication in this document that, even if Indian statesmen applied themselves to the problem of governing efficiently, either finance or defence would ever be handed over to India and, after all, one would imagine that the one thing about which Indian politicians, charged first with the responsibility of governing their provinces, and secondly charged with governing in the federation unit, must be careful is controlling 875 effectively their own finance. There is no indication that at any time in the future they will have any control over that. With regard to defence, the Governor-General alone will take decisions, both as to recruitment and as to cost, and the very Parliament that is called upon to pay the price will never have the power to vote for any of these things. It has always been understood by those who have seriously studied Indian affairs that, when some new form of self-government was produced, Indianisation of the army, be it slowly or less slowly, would actually take place. No provision is made for Indianising the army, and it seems to me to be an absurdity that we should suggest, as some hon. Members fear, that we are giving to India self-government and yet there is no indication, either at present or at any future date, that any sort of Indianisation is to take place with regard to their means of defence.
With regard to the new Constitution, be it good, bad or indifferent, there is no indication in the White Paper when it is likely to come into existence. All sorts of curious qualifications are embodied herein. There must be a federal bank, and they must restore the export balance. I should like to know by what sort of miracle, when all the nations are developing nationalisation commercially, and 230,000,000 of India's people are employed exclusively on agriculture, and when agricultural prices are so low, they can secure that export surplus which is a prerequisite before even this new Constitution can be brought into existence. Then there are the Indian States which may or may not agree to come into this federal Constitution. Finally, the Lords and Commons must both pass a Resolution or the Constitution will not come into existence. In page 17 of this document, the Secretary of State expresses what I regard as very great doubt whether the new Constitution will come into existence at all.If a situation should arise in which all other requirements for the inauguration of the federation having been satisfied"—every word of that sentence rather suggesting that he never expects that all these other requirements will have been satisfied. I do not wonder at the doubt in the right hon. Gentleman's mind. The Federal Bank and the export balance, 876 the Indian States, 50 per cent. of the Princes, and 50 per cent. of the population, is rather a formidable proposition. The Lords and the Commons, after what we have witnessed in these two days, will always leave the position in doubt as to when, if ever, the new constitution is likely to come into existence. These questions of the Federal Bank and the control of Indian finance rather seem to savour of a position where the 300,000,000 of Indians, for whom the right hon. Gentleman was so pathetically considerate, are never likely to enjoy any social services. It seems to me that this question of control of finance and the all-important question of British interests in India creates a great deal of apprehension in my mind, for I rather fear that the workers will get small consideration should the Federal Government ever come into existence. I am not at all sure whether or not the point made by the right hon. Gentleman was or was not a sound one that the Indian States, having been used first as a means of securing a Parliament which would always be representative of the dominant class, may be used to prevent any new constitution coming into existence at all. They have the power in their hands by withholding their consent, and all that the Secretary of State has got to replace them, should the Indian States withdraw their support, would be to invite Indian representatives to a conference so that they could reconsider the whole question. That would put us back just where we were before the Round Table sittings commenced. The so-called extremists in India are not unjustified when attacking the British Parliament for their lack of understanding of the Indian people, to whom so many promises have been made and for whom so many have been fulfilled.
There is only one other question to which I want to refer, and that is with regard to the recruitment of the Civil Service. Imagine the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead at the head of a Government which was denied the power to appoint its own Civil Service! I am sure he would not be a member of such a Government.
Duchess of ATHOLL
No Government in this country recruits its Civil Service. It is the Civil Service Commissioners.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The Noble Lady is perfectly correct, as usual, but, while the Government in this country do not appoint the Civil Service, they determine through their agents who shall appoint them and the conditions of their appointment. In this White Paper the suggestion is that the recruitment of the Civil Service and the police shall continue to be made by the Governor-General or Viceroy, or his agents. If, however, at the end of five years—this is a burst of generosity on the part of the Secretary of State—certain circumstances have arisen, the right bon. Gentleman will not object to submitting this question to some form of inquiry, but he takes very good care not to undertake in advance to accept the recommendations of the Committee of inquiry, and, in the last analysis, the Government preserve the power to appoint not only the civil servants but the police, too. I think that the Select Committee which the right hon. Gentleman is going to appoint will be confronted with a tremendous problem. They are entitled to expect the sympathy, good will and support of every Member of the House; but it ought clearly to be understood, before they commence their sittings, that these words embodied in the White Paper are not sacrosanct and that if, during their deliberations, it can be proved that some of these safeguards are necessary and that some extension of real self-government, real freedom and real liberty for the Indians to govern themselves can be given, the Government ought not to hesitate to accept the logic of the situation.
The Indians are, indeed, entitled to some measure of justice, not because they have been unruly over a period of time, but because it is justice. I can quite conceive an educated Indian demanding for himself the right to help to govern his country, just as we insist upon the right to govern ourselves, and it will redound to our credit if we can preserve the good will of the Indians themselves, at the same time conceding to them what is their right, and it will make for commercial, social and spiritual harmony in the Empire to have granted to India what we conceive to be India's right.
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ Sir ADRIAN BAILLIE
I was not very surprised at the uncharitable criticism 878 which the hon. Member has levelled at the proposals in this White Paper and I was not very surprised, either, at the rather more uncharitable criticism which he levelled at the general trend of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Home) when he said, that the right hon. Gentleman was more concerned with vested interests than with the 350 teeming millions. In point of fact, in so far as the right hon. Gentleman was resisting the proposals contained in the White Paper, he was doing the very reverse. By so doing, he was, if anything, opposing the vested interests to whom, if this constitution is granted, we shall be handing over, to some extent, the Government of India. By the "vested interests," I mean the rich merchants of Bombay and Calcutta. The merchants of Bombay especially, we know, have gone very far in the past to subsidise Congress, which hon. Members of this House think will dominate the future policy of. India.
For the rest, I have always considered that much harm has been done to the cause of India and for India by the two extreme points of view which are taken in this country and this House—the extreme point of view taken on the one hand by those whom I may call the diehard Tories, and that taken on the other hand by the hon. Members of the Opposition. They seem to think that we have merely to hand over the blue-print of a, Western civilisation to India, and that Hindu politicians will then promptly put it into working order and that those 350,000,000 teeming, poorly-paid workers will be better off. Personally, I maintain considerable doubt in that respect. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead seemed to build up his entire speech on the assumption that the Indians are not prepared, and are not going to be prepared, to work this particular form of Constitution—or, in point of fact, any other form of Constitution—with the responsibility at the centre which we may have in mind. He based that assumption on the report of a speech which had been made by Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru. While I should cordially share his regret that such a speech should have been made, and disappointment at the reception which these proposals have received in India, I think that we ought 879 to discount these factors a little, bearing in mind the well-known bargaining power of the Oriental, who, until a deal is completed, will always ask ten when he may be prepared to accept two.
As a supporter of the Government's policy in its Indian constitutional reforms, I was also very grateful for the form of the Motion which we are discussing today. I feel that it is of vast importance to know that, if we are to vote on this occasion, our vote will not necessarily bind us 'as pledged to all the proposals contained in this White Paper, or to any particular one of them. Our liberty to criticise these proposals on this occasion or at a later date is, in fact, safeguarded. As it is, it seems to me that this Debate has afforded, and will afford, a valuable opportunity to hon. Members of this House to indicate to the Government—or, better still, to the Joint Select Committee which has been set up—their appreciation of these proposals in general and of the particular proposals in the White Paper which the House as a whole thinks should be further examined, modified or amended.
If I might be allowed to make a contribution in this direction, I should like to draw attention to a proposal connected with the Federal Franchise. I note the Local Chamber or House of Assembly will be composed of 125 members appointed by the Princes, and that 250 members will be directly elected to seats apportioned to the provinces and to the several communities and interests in those provinces. I should have thought that a system of direct election in this case was not only impracticable but also undesirable, in view of the immense area covered by particular constituencies. I have been informed that constituencies may even be as large as the Area of Monmouth and Wales put together, an area which in this country is represented by 30 Members or more. When the difficulties of transport in India are appreciated, and when the fact is appreciated that the great majority of the electors and the public are illiterate, and that the only way in which a member can put his policy before the electorate is by the spoken word, I cannot help wondering what made the Franchise Committee make this recommendation in regard to direct election. I feel that the House will possibly like a 880 little more information on this recommendation from one of the Government spokesmen.
To come to the Provincial Legislature: I observe that, with the exception of Bengal, Behar, and the United Provinces, the Legislature is to be unicameral. I know that the Simon Commission had much difficulty in coming to a decision on this point, on account of the great diversity of local opinion. I should have thought, however, from experience of autocracy in the past that the bi-cameral legislature was the sounder form of government. I do not entertain very great apprehension in this connection, because the Government clearly does not intend to be dogmatic about it, but proposes to give the Provincial Legislatures the right to change their minds.
It has frequently been suggested that the new Constitution will be too much for the Viceroy or Governor-General, and that he must be a super-man. That point was fairly satisfactorily dealt with by the Secretary of State for India in his opening speech yesterday, when he said that, according to his advice, the actual capacity of the Viceroy or Governor-General will not be taxed in the future to any greater extent than it already is to-day. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead is still in some doubt about that question, and I am sure that it should be a matter for further examination by the Joint Select Committee. It has also been said that, while the Governor-General is to be invested with powers that are nominally wide, nevertheless in practice he will in the long run have to yield to the will of his responsible Ministers unless he is to face a complete deadlock or a return to autocracy. Moreover, I have read in more than one leading article that it is useless to light the fire of responsible government and to block up the chimney. My own feeling is that, while the Government have every intention and hope of lighting the fire of responsible government, they do not intend in any way to block up the chimney. I believe this to be the case, and I do not believe that the framers of the proposals in this White Paper had any idea of the Governor-General having to be a super-man or that he should assume the role of a dictator. In paragraph 23 of the introduction to these proposals, I read: 88123. Although the Reserved Departments will be administered by the Governor-General on his sole responsibility, it would be impossible in practice for the Governor-General to conduct the affairs of those Departments in isolation from the other activities of his Government, and undesirable that he should attempt to do so, even if it were in fact possible. A prudent Governor-General would therefore keep his Ministers and the advisers whom he has selected to assist him in the Reserved Departments in the closest contact…I come now to the matter of financial responsibility, about which reasonable and legitimate fears have been expressed in this House. I know that the Government, when approaching this problem, was faced with one of "those awkward dilemmas," and this particular dilemma was given considerable prominence in the leading article of the "Evening Standard" of 21st March. That article was entitled "Indian Loans in Danger," and the writer put in a very justifiable plea for the British investors, who, he calculated, had invested in India—on a conservative estimate—up to £500,000,000. He claimed—and rightly—that the British investor should not suffer for his faith in the stability of India, and that the security should remain unimpaired. He went on, however, to show that the Governor-General would have, under his special responsibilities, the responsibility for the financial stability and credit of India. He said:In this particular responsibility the Governor-General will act without the advice of his Ministers.If the editor of the paper or the writer of the article would read the proposals of the White Paper again, he would see that he was wrong in suggesting to his readers that in this matter the Governor-General will—I emphasise the word "will"—act without consulting his responsible Ministers. It is perfectly clearly laid down in the paragraph I have just quoted that he is not desired to act without consultation, but he is desired to be in constant touch. I believe that the motive underlying all these proposals is that, while it has been considered necessary to include a formidable, bristling array of safeguards, it is the earnest hope of the Government that these safeguards will never have to be employed.
I should like to quote a few words of paragraph 26 of the Introduction, where it is said that the proposals proceed— 882on the basic assumption that every endeavour will be made by those responsible for working the Constitution to approach the administrative problems which will present themselves in the spirit of partners in a common enterprise.Is it possible that it is just this spirit of partnership in a common enterprise to which the opponents of these proposals object? Is it just possible that those who have formed the self-styled "Indian Defence Committee" fear and object to this spirit? I wonder! I might even be allowed to suspect that that is so from some of the utterances of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). We were told yesterday by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping is good at chaff, or, at least, that his chaff is good. I believe that on one occasion the right hon. Member was referred to in this House in terms something like "the Swashbuckler for Epping." I am still young enough to enjoy, if not to be carried away by, the irresponsible exuberances of a Cyrano de Bergerac. It seems to me that the right hon. Member is himself still young enough, in spirit at least, to relish the performance of that part. In fact, in some ways I do not think it would be uncharitable if I said that, so far as India is concerned, he still has the mentality of the Victorian subaltern. If all those who go to form the Indian Defence Committee may not be accused of having the mentality of the Victorian subaltern, nevertheless a large majority seem to have the outlook of the Kipling Commissioner.
The House would much appreciate, I think, a frank and fearless exposition of the real, fundamental objections of those who are opposed to the Government's policy on this occasion. I am sure that we shall get such a frank, fearless and courageous exposition from the right hon. Member for Epping when he addresses, the House, but I think we shall be disappointed if we expect from him or from any other member of this great Defence Committee any constructive alternative proposal. The exposition of such constructive alternative proposal has been requested for a long time, but so far nothing has been vouchsafed. If we are asked as an alternative to look at the recommendations of the Simon Commission, I would beg the Government not 883 to consider the recommendations of the Simon Commission as a satisfactory alternative, because in India, at least, such a step would be regarded as being just as retrograde as a purely negative policy, and a purely negative policy has never convinced anybody of its necessity.
I believe that the happiness of India depends upon the spirit of partnership, upon the willing co-operation of the intelligentsia of India, which we ourselves have created. Without such willing co-operation any administration in India in the years to come will be almost impossible to carry on without a very large measure of coercion. If it is a question of the danger of going back or the danger of going forward, I say that the danger of going back is far greater than the risk of going forward. If we go back at this moment and lose any possibility of gaining the willing cooperation of the intelligentsia of India, I think it will be good-bye to any hope of improved trade in India or improved trade relations between this country and India in the near future. A forward policy is the only policy which can bring about that state of affairs and introduce the proper elements in which an improvement in our personal and trade relationships with the Indians can be assured.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Colonel GOODMAN
I would not have intervened were it not that I have spent a considerable part of my life in India. As I held no official position but was engaged in earning my livelihood, I had plenty of opportunities of mixing with all classes, and the experience that I gained there has given me the opportunity of appreciating the complexities of the question which the House is now debating. While I am prepared to admit that those who are skilled in the arts of statesmanship are well qualified to speak on the questions of which they have a personal Knowledge and which come within the scope of their duties, I take exception to the attitude which has been adopted in some quarters of considering that because a man has some personal knowledge of India he has become so narrow-minded and so myopic in vision that his opinions are hardly worth consideration. I also take exception to the suggestions which have been made that Conservative Members of Par- 884 liament may be directed to vote for the White Paper and the Government scheme, and that no matter what their personal knowledge may have been they are not to hold any views of their own. Conservative Members of this House are not delegates who merely have to record votes according to their instructions. I was very relieved to find that the suggestions were entirely without foundation and that our allegiance to the Government is not to be strained by requiring us to vote for or give support to a scheme for the future government of India which has not yet been authoritatively examined.
I certainly shall be prepared to vote for the proposal to set up a Joint Committee to examine the White Paper, because that is very necessary. The attitude of those who will be intimately concerned with implementing the scheme of the Government requires clarification. At the present time the degree of dubiety is far too pronounced to enable anyone to say with certainty how the parties stand, and Members of Parliament who have to approve or disapprove of this scheme ought to know that. There is the only way in which they can conclude whether or not the scheme is workable. The only way that I know of in which we can ascertain the definite views of all the parties concerned is by the setting up of a Joint Committee. I heartily approve of the power given to the Committee to consider the question on a broader basis. I congratulate the Government on widening the scope of the Committee's investigations. The whole problem may be found in the very pregnant sentence which appears on page 15 of the White Paper:The present proposals, in general, necessarily proceed on the basic assumption that every endeavour will be made by those responsible for working the Constitution to approach the administrative problems which will present themselves in the spirit of partners in a common enterprise.So far as I am aware, there has been no evidence of the recognition of a spirit of partnership on the part of those who will be responsible for the working of the new Constitution. As far as I know, there has been no indication of any spirit of partnership on the part of Congress. We have been told, with authority, that Congress is the only active political institution or organisation in India, and that 885 their attitude is of primary importance. I have failed to observe any overwhelming anxiety on the part of Indian Liberals to accept the proposals of the Government in a spirit of partnership. With regard to the Princes, who are undoubtedly an essential factor in any partnership, we have no information from the White Paper regarding their attitude. In this respect the White Paper is deplorably vague. We do not know whether the Princes will come in in sufficient proportions to make Federation a practical policy. Until we do know that, it is impossible for us to say whether or not the scheme will work.
I have observed from the apologetics which have been appearing in the Conservative Press favourable to the White Paper, that great stress is laid on the safeguards. I hope that those advocates of the White Paper will not try to lull us into a sense of security by emphasising the value of the safeguards. Partnership implies complete trust and understanding. Safeguards are not compatible with partnership. I read in a Conservative newspaper, the "Sunday Times," that the safeguards were imposed against licence. I could not imagine any more maladroit advocacy of the scheme than that. I would not take anyone into partnership if I believed that he intended to abuse the conditions of that partnership, and what I would not do for myself, because I believe that it would be folly, I certainly would not consent to it being done for my own country. If there is real partnership there is no need for safeguards. If there is no real partnership then safeguards are elusive, because they cannot be enforced except by the destruction of the partnership itself, and in the case of the form of partnership that we are discussing to-day only by the use of force.
I trust that the Secretary of State for the Dominions will take part in the Debate and will tell us how complete were the safeguards in the Irish Free State Act. They were very complete, but he cannot get one of those safeguards respected to-day, and he dare not try to enforce them. All that he can do is to stand by and watch their destruction one by one, and when he is asked questions in this House he can only respond by a jest or some humorous sally. I hope the Ministers will not try to impose the White 886 Paper on the country by stressing the safeguards. The more they do that, the more certain we shall be that they are not happy about it themselves. Every safeguard implies a doubt. I observe from the White Paper that the last safeguards in the extremist emergency are to be the Houses of Parliament. That provision seems to me to be entirely incompatible with the principle of responsible Government in India. The supreme arbiter in the event of a breakdown of the new Constitution—there are many of us who think that that event is more than a probability—are to be the Houses of Parliament. That is to say, that a constitutional crisis in India is to be dealt with in this Parliament, probably with the Whips on and by the votes of the majority for the time being.
It seems to me most undesirable that an Indian constitutional crisis should become an issue of party controversy here. Both Houses of Parliament will be involved. It may happen that a Socialist Government may be in office when a dispute arises. Then it seems to me that another constitutional issue of the greatest importance will arise. I cannot see a Socialist Government in power supporting the Viceroy in any action which he might take against Congress, any more than I can see a majority in the other place supporting Congress in any action which it might wish to take against the Governor-General. We see from the Labour party's Amendment that they are dissatisfied with the White Paper and have ranged themselves alongside the dissentients.
In conclusion, I should like to quote a letter which appeared recently in the "Times." It was a letter sent to the Indian people by the Socialist party. It said:We took no part in the London conference which has recently finished its work.That was the third Round Table Conference.In our opinion such a conference could neither speak nor act as representative of all sections of the Indian people. In fact, the largest section, that is, the National Congress, could not be present because all its leaders and tens of thousands of its adherents were in prison. We are confident that no settlement will ever be reached without the consent and approval of this representative body of Indian opinion. We hope that 1933 will see the prison doors flung wide open and our good friend 887 Mahatma Gandhi and others seated round a table assisting the Viceroy to draft such a constitution as will enable the Indian people to take over the control and management of their own affairs.I ask hon. Members to picture the situation which would arise with Congress causing trouble in India and a Socialist Government in power at Westminster. Such a position would be absolutely impossible. For the reasons I have given I say that the White Paper, and the whole question itself, should be subjected to the acutest investigation before a Bill is brought in which will be regarded by this House as wholly acceptable to all parties. I am glad that the White Paper is to be submitted to a Joint Select Committee before a, vote is taken on the scheme in this House, and for that reason I give my hearty support to the proposal for setting up the Joint Committee with terms of reference based on the Motion.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir John Simon)
I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Islington, North (Colonel Goodman) that the task which will fall upon the Joint Select Committee, which it is now proposed to set up, will be one which will call for the most thorough and impartial examination of the scheme contained in the Government White Paper, and that the form of the Bill which ultimately will be presented to this House, and to another place, should not be finally settled until the result of that examination has been completely ascertained. The hon. and gallant Member pointed out that our actual duty in the present discussion is merely to decide whether we will set up such a Joint Select Committee, and I apprehend that there will be general agreement in the House that such a Committee should be set up. But it is perfectly natural, and quite inevitable, indeed I think very important, that we should ventilate at this present stage the views which are held in different parts of the House, and I venture to intervene because, having had the grave responsibility for a long period of time of presiding over the Statutory Commission, and taking a part in submitting its report, the whole subject is one of the most intense importance to me. Let me say to the right hon. Mem- 888 ber for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) that as far as I am concerned he may be quite confident that I shall not give my adhesion to any scheme which I think is not in the real interests of India and this country.
The Statutory Commission was appointed in November, 1927, and paid two long visits to India. We had the experience, which I think is very unusual, of making some acquaintance with every great capital in each Province and, at any rate, of a portion of the countryside. We were given full opportunities of making some investigation as to the views of the different sections of that vast population, and I am free to confess that at the end of it I am the last person to advance any dogmatic view on these tremendously difficult questions. The effect on me was to convince me more than ever that we in this country, in this little island, have a task upon our shoulders—and we must recognise it —of the gravest responsibility, and no considerations should be put into the scale against doing our best firmly, and with such judgment as we possess, to do the right thing. I would remind hon. Members of the task which was given to the Statutory Commission and the circumstances under which we had to carry out our duties. The Government of India Act contained a section, Section 84A which required that there should be such a Statutory Commission appointed within 10 years of the passing of the Act, and our terms of reference were:To report…to what extent it is desirable to establish the principle of responsible government, or to extend, modify or restrict the degree of responsible government existing in British India.I emphasise the last words because it is very necessary to remember that the Statutory Commission was concerned with the problem as it presented itself within the bounds of British India; a very material limitation of our duty, and one which should never be overlooked. I make this further point at once—I will not argue it because it is quite plain and is discussed elaborately in the Report of the Commission—that it is perfectly plain that the Preamble of the Act under which we were appointed deliberately concedes that we are, as a matter of policy, pledged to a fair pursuit of the policy submitted to this House by the late Mr. 889 Montagu. The circumstances in which that policy was adopted are within the knowledge of hon. Members. It was not some party decision taken by the Government of the day and acquiesced in grudgingly, it may be, by critics in another quarter. If ever there was a deliberate decision countersigned by the people of this country and by both Houses of Parliament it was the decision embodied in that Preamble, and it was for that reason that the Statutory Commission, after its preliminary work, begins the first volume of its Report by a sentence which I will read:We enter upon our task, therefore, upon the basis and assumption that the goal defined by Mr. Montagu represents the accepted policy to be pursued, and that the only proposals worthy to be considered are proposals conceived in the spirit of the announcement of the 20th August, 1917, and inspired with the honest purpose of giving to it its due effect. It is in this spirit and with this purpose that we frame our report, and we can do no other, for we are appointed under a Section of the very Act of Parliament which contains the Preamble.I submit to the House that in preparing ourselves to examine—and everyone must examine them by personal effort and according to his own judgment and conscience—these tremendously difficult problems, we really ought to begin on the basis there set out. It is quite impraticable and will be, I conceive, wholly improper for us to take any other course. The pace, the method, the condition, all these things are open to consideration; but there is no question at all that this country is pledged as clearly as we can be pledged, in honour and in policy; and that pledge is undoubtedly to pursue in the Indian Empire a road which will lead to responsible government. I well understand, perhaps better than many, how difficult it is. You need to have travelled all over India to have seen the differences there are between the circumstances of India and the circumstances in which Parliamentary government has been developed here. You need to have actual experience of it; it should enter into your very fibre; then you will realise what a tremendous pledge it is that we have given to India. But we have given it, and we are bound, within our discretion and judgment, in all honesty, to have the courage to do our best to fulfil it.
I shall best serve the interests of the House if I devote myself to two ques- 890 tions only, questions which very naturally may be put to anybody who has some responsibility for the Statutory Commission. One has to do with the subject of the change in Provincial government and the other has to do with the subject of change at the centre. The Provincial question is the treatment of law and order, to which the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) referred in his telling speech, all the more telling because he told the House that he was putting his difficulties rather than pronouncing his judgment. The other question is this, and I will put it to myself in order that the House may see that I am prepared to face the issue fairly. We in the Statutory Commission reached a unanimous conclusion—perhaps a rather remarkable agreement, but for its Chairman very satisfactory. I had the great pride of finding two colleague's of mine from the benches opposite, two Conservative Members of this House, and two other Members drawn from the House of Peers, prepared to agree with me; and we signed a report unanimous from beginning to end, without a single dissenting minute. In that report we declared for a solution which, at any rate in the first instance, would involve the establishment of what is called autonomy in the Provinces. We pronounced against the offer, at the same time and on analogous lines, to establish self-government at the centre. The question which I must face, and which I will do my best to face, is this: That being so, what is the relation between the view which the Statutory Commission held and the Government White Paper now?
I would remind the House of the quotation with which I began, that our terms of reference were strictly limited to British India. I believe that the conclusion which was forced upon my colleagues and myself was entirely right. Treating that as the subject-matter of our inquiry we came to the conclusion, and expressed it clearly, that it was not a wise development of the constitution of British India to seek to establish at the centre a government which some people had suggested of a responsible kind. But at the same time that we came to that conclusion we came to another conclusion, which I was authorised by my colleagues to embody in a letter which I wrote on their behalf, and my own, to the Prime Minister. I will read a passage 891 from that letter now. We wrote that letter after we had been over every Province of India in the course of two very long and detailed journeys, and we wrote it some six months before our actual Report appeared. We said this:As our investigation has proceeded, we have become more and more impressed in considering the direction which the future constitutional development of India is likely to take, with the importance of bearing in mind the relations which may develop between British India and the Indian States.The House will observe that the Indian States were outside our reference.We are not at present in the position to forecast the report which we shall in due course hope to present to Parliament. It is, however, already evident to us that, whatever may be the scheme which Parliament will ultimately approve for the future Constitution and governance of British India, it is essential that the methods by which the future relationship between these two constituent parts of Greater India will be adjusted should be fully examined.We then asked from the Head of the Government a direction to go outside the strict boundaries of our inquiry in order that we might inform ourselves as well as we could of what appeared to us to be the essential question as regards the central government of India, namely, what is the nature of the development which might take place if only you looked at all the necessary factors? Everybody who has looked at our report will see that there are chapters in which we have, to the best of our ability, presented to the House and the country a close analysis of the essential relations which exist between that part of India governed by the Indian Princes and the other part of India which is, in the fullest sense, called British India. Let me summarise in two or three sentences the essential facts. It is a common phrase that there are two Indias. There are not two Indias. There is one India, and it is the Greater India which includes the Indian States as well as the British Provinces. That is the true way in which anyone will look at it who has really studied the subject with any close care.
At Geneva, India is represented, and when we say that India is represented at Geneva we mean this Greater India. There is no difference between one part and the other. If you travel in India you will not find that the boundaries 892 between these Indian States and the Provinces are boundaries which you can detect by any of the ordinary natural indications of a frontier. You travel in the train in and out with as much ease as you pass from one English county to another. More and more the problems of India are the problems of this Greater India—the economic problems of India, the transport problems of India, the financial and currency problems of India, and the whole future of India. My colleagues and I were so convinced of this, although I count myself a man who can understand terms of reference and keep, I hope, reasonably within them, I was so convinced of it, that I broke every proper rule connected with a Chairman of a Royal Commission and asked leave from the Head of the Government to go outside the ambit of the main inquiry so that we might examine what I believed to be the real unity which had to be considered.
We went further. We said in our Report that it appeared to us, as indeed it appeared to others before us, that when you came to consider the reforms of the central government of India, it must take the form of a Federation in which the Indian States would be constituent elements, as well as the British provinces. It took a long time to write the Report, and it takes a long time to read it, but I can assure Members of the House that if they will go into the Library and look at the chapters in which that matter has been dealt with they will find a mass of reasons which really demonstrate that fact beyond all possibility of dispute.
Here is the point at which the Commission undoubtedly reached a different judgment from that which is involved in the White Paper. I have looked at the White Paper with very anxious care, and I am not at all disposed to depart from the deliberate position of this Report without good reason. We took the view when we wrote the Report—and it was based on the information then before us—that it was exceedingly improbable that for, at any rate, a considerable time to come, the Indian Princes and the Indian States would be prepared to come into the greater Indian Federation. It is proper, perhaps, to add that, of course, we have not taken evidence from any Indian States. No Indian Princes came before us. No 893 Minister from any one of these great countries, some of which are as big as some of the smaller countries of Europe, came and offered us his views. Our knowledge of the Indian States at close quarters was limited to visits of recreation—most fascinating experience—due to the courtesy of those great potentates. Frankly, I was perfectly confident that the development of a new form of government at the centre in India was dependent upon the Indian States coming in, and that consequently, as far as I could see, this was not likely to take place for a very considerable time. I am free to add—and I wish to serve the House with complete candour—that I took the view, and I think that it is the view entertained in many quarters to-day, that from the matter of simplicity there would be a great deal to be said for providing, in the first place, for provincial autonomy.
Standing here and speaking as a Member of the Government, and seeking to make the fullest acknowledgment of the views I hold, I can well believe that there are very large practical arguments in favour of that view, and among them is this—that if you are ever going to have, in the proper sense, the Federation of the constituent elements in greater India you must be assured that these great Provinces—the Province of Madras is as big as the country of Italy, and there are others on the same scale—should really get their identity established, and their self-consciousness well declared, and their policy and responsibility thoroughly appreciated by the population. For those reasons we came to the conclusion which I have stated, and I hope that I have stated it with complete fairness to the House. I have these things clearly in my memory, and nobody with the tremendous responsibility which rests upon the shoulders of my colleagues and myself can do other than remember every incident of this inquiry to the end of his days.
But there is a new fact, and I want to call the attention of the House to it. You may assume that the new fact is of less or of more importance according to your judgment. You may regard it as a certain fact, or only as a probability or only as a possibility; but there is a very relevant new fact which has entered the field of this problem since our report was 894 presented. When the first Round Table Conference was held and when—following precisely the suggestion we had made to the Prime Minister—the Indian Princes were invited to the conference as well as prominent Indian politicians from British India, a declaration was made—and I have it here—on behalf of the Princes of India, on 19th January, 1931, by the mouth of His Highness the Maharajah of Patiala, at that time the Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes, in which he was speaking, not for himself alone, but for a large body of Princes whom he had consulted. I will read the statement which he made. After declaring that he was of opinion that federation in the sense I have described was the true future of India, he said:The main principle of federation stands acceptable, and I echo the confident hope expressed the other day by His Highness the Maharajah of Bikaner that by far the larger proportion of the States will come into the federal structure at once and that the remainder will soon follow.That may be too sanguine a view, but I am only concerned with reminding the House of what was said. He went on to say, and I draw particular attention to these words:We have all made it clear, however, that we consider certain things to be essential. We can only federate with a British India which has self-government and not with a British India governed as it is at present.I think that every serious-minded man who has studied this immense problem must admit that that declaration and what it implies is an event of very great importance, and I am willing to admit here that I had not expected such a declaration to be made. I thought at the time that it was a sanguine view. There are indications, which I dare say hon. Gentlemen will have observed, in the newspapers to which reference has been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead. We must certainly not take this assurance made in January, 1931, as if it was the same thing as being an accomplished fact. At the same time I put to the House—I do not like to call it a dilemma—this alternative which presents itself to anyone who thinks on the subject. Either these anticipations are in a fair way to be fulfilled or they are not. Suppose they are not. Then I stand here and I say with the greatest firmness and 895 without any qualification at all that, as I understand the policy of the Government and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India the proposal in the White Paper that there should be a development of self-government at the centre of India depends entirely upon whether certain conditions can be fulfilled and are fulfilled in respect of the Indian Princes. On the other hand, let up suppose that they can be fulfilled. As to that we shall know in the course of the months which are now approaching. Then, in one of the most tremendous problems that ever faced a Parliament—it would be a grave responsibility if we allowed our previous impressions and our earlier convictions so to override the processes of judgment that we were not prepared to weigh that new possibility fairly in the scale and see whether or not, if that opportunity offered, it was one which we ought to be ready to take.
To my mind, that is the essential question which now faces us and about this issue, I have not changed my conviction in the very least and I do not understand that my colleagues in the Government take a different view. If you confine yourself to what is, after all, the wholly artificial and limited outline called British India, and attempt to develop what are ordinarily called responsible institutions on the Parliamentary model there, you will fail. I do not want to develop the argument but I feel that very strongly and we all have to ask ourselves: If it be true that we have an opportunity now of helping to develop this greater India, are the opportunities thus offered to be rejected because of the condition which the Princes clearly indicate, or are we on the other hand to face the risk, if you please, the risk that, no doubt, many sober-minded men think may be involved in so tremendous an experiment? I heard the Prime Minister at Geneva the other day, in a phrase which called forth a great response, say, in reference to the effort to reach a Convention on disarmament, that you bad to choose between a risk and a certainty. The risk, no doubt, exists in every attempt to arrange a limitation of armaments but it must be set against the certainty of what will happen if you do not agree on disarmament. I would respectfully say to the House that I think it has to do something of the same sort here.
896 For my part, I want to see the prospects of this new development of a Greater India most thoroughly investigated—and the opportunity of these great Indian Princes coming in and playing their part freely tested—before I am prepared to reject the whole scheme. My right hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Wedgwood) need make no mistake. It is not I think going to mean the imposition of a particular view of government from one side upon the other. I will not be as positive as my right hon. Friend opposite—I only say, I think not. The truth is that these conceptions of government permeate both ways and I am convinced that the things which tie India together, the things which make India one, are so intimate, the strands are so numerous—a common spirit of race, religion, and tradition as well as material things like communications, finance, and the wireless and the rest—that I do not think you had better assume that this is going to be a one-sided bargain, which is going to impose one system of government upon the rest of India at the expense of another. At this stage, having regard to the fact that the White Paper is going before this Joint Committee, for the purpose of an examination, in which as I hope we are going to get the service of the very best brains in the House and of those critics who have prepared themselves for that examination by the most careful scrutiny I. for my part, am anxious to see this White Paper presented to the Joint Committee for that very purpose. I repeat that the only condition upon which you can hope to develop what is called responsible government at the centre is the condition that you develop the Greater India of which I speak. If you do this, then I think, that amalgamation may very well have in it the seeds of satisfactory progress. Before you say that you are willing here and now to reject that proposal, think twice and think thrice of what the results may be in India, if we ourselves at this time promote a division between the Indian Princes and their great territories on the one hand, and the British India for which we have a special responsibility on the other.
I want to say a word now about a question which was put plainly to me by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead on the subject of provincial governments. Here again is a subject 897 on which the Statutory Commission had a view, expressed, I hope, in good clear English. We stated the arguments pro and con as well as we could. The question is this: What are you to do about what is called law and order? If the House will excuse me, I venture upon a very elementary exposition. The police service in India is a provincial service. Many people who have given some attention to this subject, but who have not closely studied its working, have suggested "why not centralise the police administration?" I at one time was attracted by the idea but I am convinced that it is wholly impracticable. India is much too big. Even if you could imagine an. organisation at the centre it would have to be represented in each of the great provinces by what would in effect be a separate department and you would only get back to where you were before, with additional complications which I need not explain. Therefore, the police, the business of keeping law and order, is a provincial service. The superior officers of the police, whether Indian or British, are recruited as the House probably knows on an all-India basis. They are officers for whom the Secretary of State has and will continue to have responsibility and their position is guaranteed by the fact that we in this House have a responsibility for them which has never been given up. [An HON. MEMBER: "Never?"] Those who are at present in the service shall certainly have that responsibility for them maintained. Those who are recruited under any provision which assures them of protection shall have protection to the end. The question of whether that system is ever changed is a question which will have to be decided when the time comes, but there is nothing in the Government proposals involving a change.
These superior officers are recruited on an all-India basis and will continue to be so recruited. They are posted to the various provinces, among other reasons for the practical reason that a man has to go to a particular province because he knows the language and things of that sort make that method essential. They have, let us acknowledge it here, one of the most difficult tasks which could possibly fall upon the shoulders of administrators anywhere. They are men who are doing their duty under the most 898 trying circumstances and if ever men deserved it, these men deserve our strongest support. At present the police service—it is not called "law and order" and it really covers several things—is a reserved service in the provinces and the question which we had to face on the Commission and the question which my right hon. Friend put to me was this: Ought the police service in the provinces to remain reserved, or ought it to pass into the hands of a. Minister responsible to the Provincial Legislature?
My right hon. Friend was good enough to say, and I know he has done me the kindness of reading the report, that he had not fully appreciated the reasons why the Commission after a very careful examination of the arguments on both sides came to the conclusion that the police service should not, remain a reserved subject, but should be transferred. Let me state to the, House what those reasons were and it will be for them and others to judge whether they were adequate or not. You need to examine closely the procedure, the actual method of the provincial legislatures in India, in order to understand how very unsatisfactory is the present position of the police service in India. The legislatures in these provincial assemblies, according to the present Constitution, feel no responsibility for the police service at all. They very frequently attack the police and I am bound to say that I have seen reports of attacks on the police made by members of the provincial legislatures which seemed in the highest degree ungenerous and unjust. They sometimes refuse to vote the necessary funds to maintain the police and it has happened again and again in the provincial legislatures that there has been a combination of parties, quite irresponsible as far as the police is concerned, who have followed up, it may be a popular outcry or some criticism which is easy to make, by depriving the police force of the money which is necessary if the force is to be maintained.
The result of all this undoubtedly is that, unless you change their position the police force in India and all the apparatus of law and order tend to be regarded as the agent of an alien bureaucracy. It is very unfair. It does not in the least correspond with the class of duty which these men are doing but it is the fact that a very large part of the Indian 899 population under present conditions is encouraged to take that view. These men are doing an essential work which is sometimes an unpopular work and sometimes a dangerous work. It is a work without which the neighbourhood which they survey would fall into utter anarchy. I invite the House to face this problem. What would you do if you found that that was the situation which in fact existed in India? The thing is all the more difficult because other departments of government will be in the hands of Indian Ministers. There seems to have been very little complaint, for instance, in these preliminary discussions, about transferring the administration of land revenue to the Indian Ministers but that is a very important transfer. The more you do that—the more you isolate the police and put them in a special position—the more you encourage this attitude towards them which is very ungenerous and very unfair and which I think if there is ever going to be a development of Indian Government with which we can be satisfied, must be changed.
We came to the conclusion on the Commission, after setting out the arguments on the other side with the greatest fullness—we came to a conclusion unanimously as to the right course to take. There was only one way to deal with that situation and it was to face the cause of this trouble and see how to remove the cause. And the only way to remove the cause was to make the Provincial Government, as a whole, responsible for the police, to make it their responsibility to see that the police should be provided with the necessary funds, and to make a Minister responsible to that legislature, a Minister who would have to answer for the working of the police and thus to fix responsibility on the shoulders of the critics. I believe there is no other way. It was for those reasons that we came to the conclusion, after minute examination, after inquiry of many of the most distinguished superior officials on the subject, after testing Indian opinion, that the right course was the bold course of putting responsibility on the shoulders of the critics.
There were two qualifications which we had in mind and which the Government White Paper at present has not found it 900 necessary to provide. I do not wish to omit to mention the fact. We thought that this provincial government though it would become a unitary government, though there would be no reserved service, none the less might be a government which included, in addition to Indian Ministers, who were elected politicians, also an official.
§ Sir J. SIMON
We did not prescribe that it should be so, we did not prescribe what portfolio he should hold, but we did think that that method might be one which, while we secured responsibility being put on the shoulders of the Legislature as a whole, we none the less limited the undoubted risk involved in this bold course. The matter requires very careful examination and would be exactly one of the things that could very properly be examined, ventilated, discussed and analysed at the meetings of the Joint Committee. But I ought to tell the House that while I am, just as alive to-day as I was when I wrote that passage in the report to the seriousness of this point, I think, from what I have since heard, there are in fact very considerable administrative difficulties in combining an official Minister, somebody sitting on this Bench who is of the official class, with a system which, apart from that, boldly, deliberately and thoroughly establishes what you would call responsible government in the Provinces. The other difference—and again this is a very important point—was that, of course, we were proceeding on the assumption that though there was this transfer in the Provinces, none the less there would lie behind that, and at the centre, a Government of the sort which we conceived, and unquestionably it would be a matter for very grave consideration in the Joint Select Committee how far these considerations will Alter the view which any of us might take, myself included, as to the practicability of this particular plan.
I have tried to state to the House, I hope with complete candour, the points on which there is a division between the views which we presented in our report and the outline in the White Paper. I should feel much more difficulty than I do if my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India was to-day or to-morrow asking the House to vote in favour of 901 the White Paper, but he is not doing that. He is saying: "We must set up now, without further delay, a Joint Committee, and in order that that Joint Committee may not wander at large over the field, we, who have worked for many months on this subject, present a detailed and 'articulated scheme in this White Paper which we do not say, indeed, is to be the Bill which we will introduce, but which will give everybody the present view which the Government put forward, with every opportunity for its being examined, criticised and improved."
In conclusion, may I be allowed to make this one observation I do not know whether we ought to be glad or sorry that this tremendous responsibility has fallen upon the shoulders of us who are Members of this present Parliament, but it is one of the most tremendous events in history, and I cannot conclude without saying that one of the thoughts which have always been at the back of my own mind is this: Holding as I do so firmly, with such complete conviction, that the British race has contributed great and good things to the order and development of the Indian sub-continent, I do ask the House of Commons to consider whether there is not a contribution still to come from us, the most difficult contribution of all. Why is it that the Indian politician is so obsessed with this idea of Parliamentary institutions? It is because of us. It is we who have told him that this is the way in which order can be maintained. We have told him that, and therefore we ought to approach—
§ Sir J. SIMON
I would ask my hon. and gallant Friend to use his imagination and to see how this strikes the Indian mind. He hears us claim, and I think rightly claim, that we have made a tremendous contribution to India, but he also feels in his heart that it is we of the West who have caused to rise in his mind these ideas that liberty can be reached along this road; and I would venture to read to the House what was the very last paragraph but one of the Indian Statutory Commission's Report, which carries with it, I must ask the House to believe, the very centre of my 902 thoughts during some very anxious and laborious years. This is what we wrote:No one of either race ought to be so foolish as to deny the greatness of the contribution which Britain has made to Indian progress. It is not racial prejudice, nor imperialistic ambition, nor commercial interest, which makes us say so plainly. It is a tremendous achievement to have brought to the Indian sub-continent and to have applied in practice the conceptions of impartial justice, of the rule of law, of respect for equal civic rights without reference to class or creed, and of a disinterested and incorruptible civil service. These are essential elements in any state which is advancing towards well-ordered self-government. In his heart, even the bitterest critic of British administration in India knows that India has owed these things mainly to Britain. But, when all this is said, it still leaves out of account the conditions essential to the peaceful advance of India, and Indian statesmanship has now a great part to play. Success can only be achieved by sustained goodwill and co-operation, both between the great religious communities of India which have so constantly been in conflict, and between India and Britain. For the future of India depends on the collaboration of East and West, and each has much to learn from the other.I would beg the House of Commons and Parliament now to ponder whether we ought not to show ourselves willing to discuss openly and freely this evolution of Indian government with good sense, with courage, but at the same time realising that the road upon which India has been set by the declaration of Parliament and by the policy of the country is the road which leads, in all good faith, by such stages, by such modes, as may be fair and just, to the ultimate realisation of Indian self-government.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I wish the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had not the terrible faculty of always convincing me, as well as the rest of his audience, that he is right, because I intend to-day to show that his policy as enunciated here to-day is wrong. I appeal from the Philip of to-day to the Philip of the Simon Commission. I am against this Constitution, and he knows the grounds on which I am against it. He knows that they are right, and before this Debate is over I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me instead of my agreeing with him. This Constitution is an abdication, the abdication of Parliament. In future, when this Constitution is once passed, we can ask no questions in this 903 House on Indian affairs—the Meerut sentences, hours of labour worked in mines, the use of British troops in holding down the peasants of Indian States. This Parliament ceases to act so far as India is concerned, just as much as we have ceased to act in connection with Canadian matters. We abdicate, this country abdicates, and the English traditions abdicate. I dislike abdicating in any circumstances. I dislike, above all, abdicating in favour of some power which will be worse than the power exercised by this House. We all have our Tories as well as our Liberals in every assembly, but the right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that there is not a Tory Member in this House who is not better than 10 Indian Princes. You surrender, you scrap this House, and you substitute the Princes of India.
We have done this once before. We have abdicated before. I ask hon. Members to cast their minds back to the year 1906, when we gave a Constitution to South Africa. There is now no part of the civilised globe where the coloured man is so miserable as he is in South Africa—no justice, no freedom, and, what is worse, no hope, and just sufficient education to know that there never will be any hope. I was over there recently, and I happened to call on Sir James Rose Innes; when I was leaving I said to my coloured chauffeur, "Sir James is a good friend of your people." He stopped the car and turned round, and his coloured face went nearly white with rage as he said, "Sir James is the only friend we have got in this country." I remember that I addressed a meeting of natives in Johannesburg, a few educated ones, a few school teachers, missionaries, journalists, doctors, and so on, and I gave them the usual pleasant Sunday afternoon address about hope, prospects of the future, organisation, education; and, of course, I absolved the English Members of Parliament from any responsibility for the injustices from which they suffered in Africa. At the end one old missionary got up and said, "You say that you are not responsible for our condition in South Africa, but who was it who signed the Constitution? Who was it who voted for the Constitution without providing any safeguard for the poorest here?"
Well, you did it, and I did it. We were all carried away with exactly the 904 same emotion as is carrying away this House now to give this self-government to India, to abdicate all power of this Parliament over people's lives, to substitute for it something which will be irremovable. Does the House realise what it is that we are giving to India? We are giving them so Conservative a Constitution that nothing can ever change it. There will be no more Government of India Acts after this. We are putting power for all time into the hands of one narrow class in India. The Princes are rather like the German Princes of the 18th century of the time of Jew Suss. They have absolute power in their hands and nothing can take it from them except the revolution of their own peoples. We are calling them in aid. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) has explained why. It is a good sound Conservative safeguard. It is far worse Conservatism than ever we have had in this country. They have the absolute power of life and death over their subjects. They are to federate with British India. What are they putting into it? Any laws that they make will not affect their subjects. Hon. Members need not fear the absence of these; they will all come in; it is merely a question of bargaining. When they are in do you think that they will alter a constitution which gives them all the power and no liabilities?
This Constitution has come to stay. Do hon. Members with any trace of Liberalism in them or any idea of British traditions realise how the elected part of the Assembly are to be chosen? The electorate is to be the richer 2 per cent. of the population for the Central Government. In this country the electorate is roughly 50 per cent. Will hon. Members put to themselves what would be their position in this House to-day if they were elected by an electorate of 2 per cent. on a property basis. Not one of my colleagues on these benches would be here at all, nor would any of the Liberals. As to the views of hon. Members on the Conservative Benches, some of the Members might be the same, but the views they expressed in the House would be very different. The ordinary Member of this House would be elected by 1,200 to 1,500 electors on a property basis. The working class would not be in it. The elected Members to the 905 Federal Assembly will be as Conservative, if not more Conservative, than the Indian Princes. I do not know whether anybody has studied page 90 of the White Paper showing how the Federal Assembly will really be constructed. Madras is to have 37 members all told, and 19 of them will be elected. Of those 19 seats four are reserved for the depressed classes. The result is that there will be four constituencies in Madras which we have been told is the size of Italy. One constituency will be as large as the six northern counties of England, and it will have roughly 200,000 electors. It will return four Members, one of them reserved.
How on earth is any poor man to be elected under such conditions? He will never even be able to pay for a motor car to get round the place. I expect the Foreign Secretary will agree with me that the election expenses for the Assembly that is now in existence are enormous measured by British standards. I am told that £10,000 is the ordinary charge of a successful candidate for the Indian Assembly. You are making it worse by this system so that the ordinary elected member cannot possibly be anything but a millionaire or a man with a millionaire party behind him. The depressed classes are not called that now; they keep changing their name, though they never change the condition; the depressed class used to be called the outcasts, and that was not thought quite decent, so they were called the depressed classes. Now, I understand, in order to make them quite respectable, they are called the scheduled castes. There are to be reserved seats for these so as to be sure that there shall be something to which you can point as representing labour. You are going to give seats to the depressed classes on the reserved system. I really must describe what that system is. It is a device to salve the conscience of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State. He knows as well as I do that communal representation is an un-English vice, so he invented the reserve seat. I will deal with communal representation presently.
Under the system of reserved seats there are four-member constituencies, and the working class—the depressed class, which is the same thing—are allowed to put up no less than four men. The working class have not votes themselves, 906 but the other people have got votes, and they have to vote for these reserved seats at the same time. They will select from among the four supposedly labour men the one who will be most amenable when elected. I do not say that he will be amenable to start with, but he will become so. He must do, because his chance of re-election depends upon it. A man is always responsible to the people who vote for him, and therefore whatever the energy of his radicalism may be at the start, the very fact of his re-election depends upon his words and votes. It will make that man the innocent instrument—it is merely human nature—of the elected propertied class who elect the others. There is no safeguard under this system—no safeguard for the poor. The main point I want to make clear is that we are abdicating our power and our responsibility for the whole future of the 350,000,000 people in India and handing the trust over to an organisation which from its very constitution cannot be trusted.
Who are the people in India who ask for this? I do not think that it is the steel frame which is asking for it. I do not think that it is the Viceroy. I do not think that the people are asking for it, and I am quite sure that Gandhi is not asking for it. This is being asked for by the people who are going to benefit. Who are these Indian politicians? One could go through the names of dozens of them. Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Chintamani, Kelkar, Jayakar, even Sastri himself. Let us see what their record is. For 13 years they have had charge of provincial government in India. How have they carried out their trusteeship to the Indian people? What have they done for women and the marriage laws? What have they done for the working class, for the poor strikers in Bombay? They have shoved up the price of everything by import duties—but then that is common form. What have they done for the ryots in the United Provinces? What have they done for the factory workers and the mine workers? What have they done even for education of which they have sole control? Everybody knows that the only hope of the improvement of the conditions of the Indian people lies in education—sole control for 13 years and done nothing! What have they done for the outcasts? If it had not been for Gandhi 907 they would never have looked at them. They have had the power and have done nothing.
The caste system has grown up in India to be so strong that it will take more than a generation of radical education to stop it. The only people who could have done it are two. One is Lala Lajpat Rai, who was killed, and the other is Gandhi, and he is in prison. On the whole, I think that I would not abdicate my power over India in order to substitute the power of the Indian Princes and of politicians elected on this system. The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary produced a valuable Report, which I would beg to see substituted for this thing which we have now. At any rate, it was a step forward, and this is a step back. At any rate, it was possible of amendment and under it this House would still have control, and could have taken the next step forward when the time was due. But this White Paper is—finish. Here you graft an unfair Constitution upon the people of India, excluding the whole of the working class and the ryots from any voice whatever in the government of their country. This is not self-government, but a Venetian oligarchy that you are imposing on India, preventing men for ever making any change however badly it works. Of course it will work badly.
The right hon. Gentleman knows what human nature is. He himself, if he were an Indian politician working a scheme like this—how would he secure power, how would be retain power? By black-guarding England and putting every blame for everything upon England. He could not help it. Does he really think that under this Constitution we are going to get a partnership which will work? This is worse than an abdication, I think this is a cowardly abdication, cowardly as well as futile. What are you trying to do I Was it not possible to govern India in accordance with English principles? Was it necessary to try to divide India between Moslem and Hindu; to see the British officials getting rid of the House of Commons in order to shelter behind the Princes of India? The right hon. Gentleman and several others have wondered whether all the Princes will come in. Of course they will come in. What do they sacrifice by coming in? Nothing. And what do they gain? The 908 power to dictate to the British Government in India. Bargaining is going on with H.H. the Nizam about I3erar. I suppose there are negotiations going on with the Maharajah of Alwar. I suppose there are negotiations going on with Sir Hari Sing, the Maharajah of Kashmir. I take it there are negotiations going on with every one of the Princes. And they have got the whip hand, they can dictate the terms on which they will come in; and, once in, they sacrifice nothing. Not one single constitution is to be given to any of those States, at least not in connection with the Indian Federation. Beside these great educated communities like Madras, Bombay and Bengal, great provinces which are at least of the 19th, if not of the 20th century, we have got these 18th century pocket-boroughs. Well, "pocket boroughs" is unfair. A pocket borough did get some money at election times. By putting itself in the power of these people the Government of India deprives itself of the power of taking up ordinary English standards in the ordinary day-to-day administration of the country.
I do not know whether we can defeat this federal solution, I am afraid it may be too late, but for goodness sake let us reduce the power, so far as the Joint Committee can, of the central organisation as against the Provinces. The central organisation under this scheme is hopeless for ever, but the Provinces are not. There is in them a wider franchise, thanks very largely to Lord Lothian's Committee. The only spark of Liberalism in the whole business has been Lord Lothian's Committee. The House will observe that the recommendations of Lord Lothian's Committee have not been carried out in the White Paper, and the franchise, which was high enough in all truth, even in the Lothian Report, has been made higher still. They talked about 15 per cent. of the population having votes for the Provincial Councils. I am not a gambling man, but bet it will be nearer 10 per cent. by the time we have got this thing through, because if there is one thing I have observed—and I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has observed it—it is that directly you get either officials or Indians or Burmese or the Singalese discussing any question of franchise, though they may have admirable views on self-govern- 909 ment they are determined that the working class shall have no voice.
The Ceylon Government very nearly threw out the Donoughmore Committee's report and the reforms passed by the Labour Government for the only reason that they gave adult suffrage. Does the right hon. Gentleman really want to have the explanation of the refusal of Burma to separate from India? I can give it to him. The Burmese priests, who are considerable in power and in numbers, thought that if we were going to give power to the democracy in Burma—mind you, in Burma you would have had adult franchise and women voters—there would be certain to be an end of the habit they have of one-third of the population living on the other two-thirds. I have never found in any of the Indian Provinces or in Ceylon or in Burma half so great a desire to protect the working class by giving them a vote as I find in the reports of Conservative Commissions sent out from this country to fix things up, and therefore I am afraid that the figure will be not 15 per cent. but nearer 10 per cent. by the time the provincial electorates have been worked out.
After all, when people in Assam, even, are managing their own affairs, as they will under this Constitution, or under the Simon Constitution, looking after their own troubles, dealing with their own roads, dealing with their own taxation, then, perhaps, we shall find a little less of the racial bitterness and a possibility of building up administrators who are thinking of something else besides the villainies of right hon. Gentlemen opposite and the treachery of right hon. Gentlemen on this side. I have always thought the hope for India was in building up the village punchayat and working upwards from that. I thought it was a great mistake when we threw the district boards open without leaving an Englishman in charge of those district boards to help to start them and guide them in the first years. In the same way, I think the best hope of ever getting central government and a Central Assembly in India which will be a working, practical partner for the British Empire is by building the Provinces first. I welcome—it is the only thing I do welcome—the fact that two new Provinces are set up. I wish there had been 50.
910 This is my last word. We can do something, even when this scheme goes to the Joint Select Committee, to enhance the power of the provinces and reduce the extraordinarily Conservative character—it is a mistake to call it Conservative, the Nazi character, of the central Government. We can do something which is actually suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, if I remember aright, in his report. We can see to it that the sham elected members mentioned on page 90 are replaced by indirectly elected members from the provinces. I never thought that in my life I should ever get up and recommend indirect election against direct election, but when I think how the directly elected people are going to get there I think I prefer the indirect form. In the first place, you will get people from the provincial councils who have learned their business in the provincial councils. You may leave it open to them to send people to the central Assembly who are not yet members of the provincial councils, but instinctively, naturally, they will elect members who are members of the council, just as this House of Commons, with the solidarity of the trade union spirit, which I always so much admire in it, prefers Members of Parliament to have governorships or other offices rather than they should go to mere outsiders.
In the first place, you get more experienced people, and in the second place get people who have not attained to the position solely by race hatred. You will not get Patels, and people of that sort, elected by the provincial councils. They will send people who will look after the interests of their provinces, such as business men, you will get a far more useful Assembly and at the same time not half such big head lines. Furthermore, the fact that these people are representing councils and are not directly elected by the great people of India in sham electorate for communal reasons will mean that the power and the importance of the. Assembly will be lessened in so much as. its people are indirectly elected and, pari passu, the position and importance of the provincial councils, in which is all our hope, will be increased. I despair, and have despaired for the last three years, of any hope for the future of India, because of this federation scheme, because we are handing over our trust to people. 911 we cannot trust; but something can still be saved if we save the provincial councils and miss no opportunity of reducing the importance of the All-Indian politician in an All-India Assembly.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Sir GEORGE GILLETT
The House will hardly expect me to follow too closely the arguments of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), for one thing because I am not certain that I understand the exact position which he takes up. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that he is opposed to the White Paper, but at the same time he has given us indications that he regrets the day when certain English civil servants will cease their administrations, and he also regrets the fact that the franchise set out in the White Paper does not cover a far larger number of people. Seeing that the right hon. Gentleman stated at the end of his speech that he was opposed to the idea of Federation, I do not know why it is that in the days of the Labour Government, when the Round Table Conference was sitting, and this fundamental principle was first adopted, the right hon. Gentleman never let us know, as far as I am aware, that he was fundamentally opposed to that principle.
§ Sir G. GILLETT
At any rate, I personally never had the privilege of hearing the right hon. Gentleman express those views with regard to Federation, and it seems to me that he comes here to-day to make a statement in opposition to the plans which were brought forward in the White Paper. I confess that I welcome the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, because it seems to me that he lifted the Debate on to the level which is essential if we really are to face up to the problem now being presented to the House. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke last referred with regret to the action he took with regard to South Africa. Many of us have seen the different stages in history by which the British Empire has been willing to recognise first Canada, then South Africa and, finally, Southern Ireland. In the 912 claims to self-government made by these, many of us have felt that we have seen developing an ideal in which we believe. If to-day we are faced by the greatest problem that this Empire has ever had—this problem of self-government in India—surely many of the principles we have found applicable to the smaller examples of Canada, South Africa, and Ireland apply, to some extent at any rate, to this new problem. I can understand Members of this House who say that they do not believe in the old-fashioned idea of self-government, for we have new ideals of Communism and Fascism in the world to-day.
There may also be numbers who say that they cannot believe in a Government for India, except an autocratic Government, and that they disapprove of the line of development suggested by the Government. At the same time, if we believe in the fundamental principle that the ultimate ideal is that the people of a country have a right to govern their country, and that those who may not agree with the Government should have the right to voice their views, we can, at any rate, commence with the plan now before Parliament and lay down a frame upon which a future edifice may be built. It is easy in the House of Commons to point out the various difficulties connected with this scheme. I would remind the House that when Lord Durham went to Canada and outlined the basis upon which the constitution of the Dominion of Canada is founded he, when he returned to this country, was received with criticism and died a broken-hearted man, although he had really laid the foundation of the Dominion of Canada as we see it to-day. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), a few years ago, stated in this House that the only vote he regretted was the vote against the formation of the Federation of South Africa. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke last, who voted on the opposite side, is now also regretting the vote he gave on that occasion.
We have seen, with regard to Ireland, certain problems and difficulties which have been criticised in the House in the course of the Debate yesterday and today. But we have first of all to decide—and here my right hon. Friend opposite has taken a quite consistent course— 913 whether we believe in this ideal of self-government, and whether we are going to attempt to put it into being in India. When we have adopted that view, there are certain fundamental principles we have to recognise. We have had criticism in certain quarters that the safeguards are not sufficient. We have now the criticism that the safeguards are perfectly useless. We have had criticism of the safeguards from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke last. What are the objects of these safeguards? It seems that the first great principle is that the people of India look to this country for the protection of their frontiers by the armed forces of Great Britain. The second principle, it seems to me, is also one of protection: it is the claim which certain sections of the populace have as minorities. In one province the minority may be Mohammedan, and in another Hindu. These people have a claim that before any scheme of self-government comes into being they should be assured that their interests are to be protected.
We have in India the problem of Ulster over and over again. We had the same problem in Canada—the racial question and also the religious question. There, however, it was fairly simple because they were divided. In Ireland a solution was found by cutting off Ulster. In India you cannot do that because in India you have an Ulster in almost every province. There are racial and religious differences, and the people affected are demanding from this country certain safeguards before any new system of government is brought into existence. In regard to the system of government that is going to be brought forward, my right hon. Friend who last spoke, complained, as I gather, that the new Government will probably he a conservative one. Surely in any scheme by which you are going to give self-government, even in a limited form to a country—and I would remind them that you are dealing with a great population, a large percentage of which is illiterate—it is practically impossible to give a universal franchise. What happened in this country? The right hon. Gentleman referred to a Member being elected by a small electorate that only a few years ago a Member was elected by the votes of 2,000 people.
§ Sir G. GILLETT
That is exactly what happened. You had your pocket boroughs, and then a small extension of the franchise to men only. In the lifetime of many of us these small constituencies still existed. Half of the borough I now represent had, about 20 years ago, only 5,000 electors, and they sent a Member to this House. There were no women voters in those days. Now we have India in the stage in which this country was, perhaps, 20 or 30 years ago. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman complained because it is not proposed to give universal suffrage to the whole of the people. It is also too readily assumed by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, that the Government of India he desires is necessarily going to be a Government that is going to carry out the kind of measures he thinks they should carry out. It does not necessarily follow that because you give universal, or any, suffrage that people, when they get that suffrage, are naturally going to have a policy which commends itself to my right hon. Friend. In fact, I can never follow what his beliefs really are, because he is the most independent Member of this House. He sits on the Front Opposition Bench, but we cannot label him in any way. He is seemingly elected by the Socialist party, but he is the greatest individualist in this House.
§ Sir G. GILLETT
I cannot say what his policy would be. We are always inclined to think a new Government will carry out the views we think they ought to do. The right hon. Gentleman says they have not attended to sundry matters with regard to education, public health and the treatment of women. But we often find, when self-government is given to a nation, that they probably use it in a way different from what we think is indicative of progress. If we take some of the views of Mr. Gandhi in regard to the Government of India, I ask to what section of the House they make appeal? Many of his views with regard to commerce, trade and Protection are most strongly akin to the extreme Right of the Conservative party. They have 915 nothing to do with the Free Trade views of the Labour party. If you ask what are Mr. Gandhi's views in regard to modern industry, it has to be said that it is quite true some of his supporters belong to the Communist party. The Communist party in Russia worships machinery, but Mr. Gandhi, as far as I can see, simply worships the spinning-wheel. What would be the policy of these future Governments if they came under Mr. Gandhi we cannot possibly say.
If you recognise any limited form of self-government for a nation, you have to leave it to make its decisions on these problems. It is the whole basic principle of self-government that you hand these powers over to them. On these grounds it seems quite impossible that, in the Debate to-day, we can go too fully into the questions of safeguards and how far they secure this or that position? I do feel that it is absolutely essential we should have these safeguards. I am speaking as one representing the man in the street and, in that respect, I rather regret that the White Paper has laid almost undue stress upon these safeguards. We hear so little of what the positive proposals are; we hear so much of what the restrictive proposals are. The Secretary of State, when he made his opening speech, gave a most interesting description of the effect of these proposals upon the life of the ordinary labourer in India. The matters to be dealt with by the council, in which he is to be represented, at least to a limited extent, include his land, his water and his life in almost every direction. I very much wish the White Paper had laid greater emphasis upon the powers to be conferred on these local councils, powers which, if I understood aright, even my right hon. Friend thought were to a certain extent to be commended. It was on this account that, looking back at the various stages in our history, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said that we have had to face up to demands from different parts of the Empire to be allowed the freedom of self-government. To-day we have once again to say, "Yes" or "No" to that demand.
I still unhesitatingly protest my belief in the principles of self-government. I recognise that there are stages through 916 which a nation has to pass. We cannot expect that the people of India, who have never had the educational advantages as ourselves, will proceed to exactly the same result as we in this country. There are many systems of government in the world to-day. Looking back to the history of France, we can say that the dictatorship of Napoleon had a very profound influence upon that country, and perhaps it served a great end in the time in which he lived; but we should not think it an ultimate ideal if France had always remained under the power of Napoleon. France has evolved into democratic government to-day. There may be other systems of government in, the world which may be helpful to the countries concerned, but the ultimate ideal, which we have set before ourselves, is self-government. Almost 100 years ago, Macaulay, speaking in this House in regard to India, said that one day Members of the House of Commons would be asked, by leave of the people, to give that self-government, and he used the words that when that day came it would be "a proud day for the House of Commons." Almost exactly 100 years after Macaulay used those words, the day has arrived, and the opportunity is given to us, the proud opportunity, as Macaulay said, of trying to solve this great problem. It is, as the Secretary of State has indicated, possibly the greatest question to come before the House of Commons, important as many of the other questions in world-settlement seem to be. It is quite possible that, looking back, the historian of the future, as he speaks of the problems that have come before this House, will lay his finger on the problem of Indian government as being the greatest that this House has had to confront.
There are many points upon which one could make criticisms and suggestions—for example, there is the position of women, and the franchise might have been extended rather wider here or there—but no doubt those points will be considered by the Joint Select Committee. To-day, the fundamental question that we have to ask is whether we still believe in the principle of self-government, and whether we believe that this is one step in Indian progress towards that ideal; and, if so, we should give our support to the Government.
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ Mr. MUNRO
The remark was made to me the other day that little or nothing fresh could be said about the great subject that we are discussing to-day, but to that I replied: "That may be true, but that little may be useful if somebody fresh says it." I welcome very greatly the opportunity to make a few brief comments on the subject of India), which has 'always interested me very deeply. I would like straight away to thank the Secretary of State for India, on behalf of many back benchers, for giving us such a lucid and dispassionate statement of the situation as he saw it. In his speech there was no shirking of the difficult issues which are bound to arise; they were all faced and dealt with categorically. For that I feel grateful to him. He put it that the Government's proposals were a comprehensive scheme and an outcome of facing hard facts. That is a very true and short description of the scheme which we are discussing. It was also said by the Secretary of State that the scheme was put, forward because there was no better one to be considered at the moment. I would have passed over the remarks made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee), who spoke immediately after the Secretary of State for India, and who gave a somewhat tepid disapproval of the proposals, but that there was one that I do not think should pass without comment. It was that any Constitution to be an advance must meet with the complete agreement of the people of India; by that he meant the politically-minded people in India. If that was his idea of a Constitution, I consider he was, in saying that, postponing the advance, if not permanently, for a very long time. It is quite obvious, and well-known to all of us, that no such agreement has yet taken place on the part of the politically-minded people of India.
I have listened to innumerable discussions, conversations, and Debates on the subject of India, and all the time there have appeared to be two strong and vocal sections of opinion. We have had those who seemed to despise and to disregard, as though of no account, the long experience that others have had in India. Their cry seemed to be, "What should they know of India who only India know?" I would state my profound dis- 918 agreement with that attitude, because would always pay the greatest respect to long-service experience in any country. On the other hand, we have had those, also very vocal, who seemed to think that unless people have been to India they are not competent, and should not, in fact, attempt to give judgments or make decisions about India. I deprecate that attitude, too. I am hopeful that both sections may give consideration to the views which I would like to put forward. Although I have never been to India, I have had a lifelong experience in the administration of Moslem Arabs and of Nilotic tribes in Africa. Therefore, I feel that both those sections, as well as what I might call the middle opinion, ought, and I hope will, consider the views that I express. I mention that because, on one of the points with which I would like to deal, namely, the transfer of law and order, 1 can fairly claim that in my experience I have had a full and vivid realisation of the apprehension and uneasiness which questions of the transfer of law and order are bound to cause in the hearts of those concerned in the problem of India.
I am glad that the Motion has been put forward in the way that it has. It is in complete accordance with the statements of the Government on previous occasions. The Secretary of State for India has constantly assured us that we were to be free to act unfettered in our final decision. Apropos of that, I would like, on behalf not only of myself but of many back benchers, to resent the implication and imputation that I have frequently seen expressed, that we are a set of nerveless, automatic vote-registering machines. I am perfectly competent, and I know that that is so in the case of others; however difficult and complex the problems are with which we are faced, we have made it our business to study them and to listen to everything possible, in order to find out about those problems. I am quite sure that any decision to which we shall eventually come will be based on the complete and sincere conviction that we are doing what we consider best for the peoples of Britain and of India. There is no time for me to refer to history, but I would say that, in my view, the proposals in the White Paper are the logical outcome of the train of events since 1917. I say, in parentheses, although it may be irrele- 919 vant, that at that time I considered that the Montagu-Chelmsford proposals were unnecessary and untimely. I am still of that opinion about them, but I believe that the present proposals are the inevitable outcome of the statements then made. I do not see how anyone can evade the pledges and the determined statements of our policy that were subscribed to by all parties. Any observations about our possibly abdicating our powers should have been made then, if they were to be made, and not now.
I want to mention two main points, which are closely inter-related in the proposals before us. The first is about Federation. Even our critics agree that Federation must be, and is, the ultimate goal. Those critics, as we know, have a very formidable leader in the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). I am sorry that he has just left the House, because I would have liked to say of him that I have always considered him, in his political life, as giving a perfect example of the conjugation of the verb "to criticise," active and passive. I always had that feeling in regard to the right hon. Gentleman, and I am sorry that he has had to go away just before I was going to say it. These critics claimed that the path to Federation lay through provincial autonomy and its being tried out in the provinces in the first instance. That is a very attractive theory, and one which sounds full of common sense. Of course, it received the strongest confirmation at the time of the publication of the Simon Report, and we have just heard from the chief author of that great report the reasons for the present alteration in their opinion.
Personally, I feel that the accession of the Indian Princes was, and is, essential to any scheme of federation. We have heard that the Princes said that, if they came in, there must be a change of Government at the Centre, and I feel that on that score, and with a view to gaining the accession of the Princes, it was a wise move to proceed towards a goal which we had declared to be the ultimate goal to aim at. Another point which certainly has force is as to how the Princes, or any of them, could be expected to accept a scheme of Federation unless they had at least before them the skeleton framework of what it meant. I am sure I am right in saying that no 920 Prince, either in India or elsewhere, would come into a scheme that was completely vague and indefinite, not knowing either the obligations or the duties that would be thrust upon him.
The other main point with which I want to deal is as to the question of law and order. As I have said, I have had a great deal of experience in another country. Admittedly I have had different races around me, but I have had a great deal of experience and complete responsibility for the maintenance of law and order in very large areas, as large, in fact, as those in India which are being discussed to-day. I am stressing that fact because I would like it to be quite clear that, in the decision to which I have come, I have the fullest realisation of the dangerous possibilities of the transfer of law and order. I feel that in such a transfer there must be the greatest dangers and difficulties. But, although we are not asked to come to any very definite decision on this occasion, I personally am convinced that, if any progress is to be made towards the realisation of the goal at which we are aiming, the transfer of law and order in the provinces must take place. It is, as I have said, with a deep sense of the difficulties and dangers of such a course that I say that, and I am very glad to think that the Select Committee which we are about to set up will have the fullest opportunity of going into all the various problems connected with this matter. I believe quite sincerely that it would have been impossible to leave that matter alone in the provinces. I am sure that the decision to transfer law and order is an essential decision in future progress.
I would like to make one or two remarks about the White Paper itself. I am not so impressed with the tremendous burdens put upon the Governor-General and Viceroy; or, rather, I might say that I think there is little to fear, in view of the Secretary of State's reply on that point. I am more particularly concerned with the position of the Governor in the Province. I believe it was suggested yesterday that the burden was so heavy that some help should be given to the Governor in the Province, and I should like the Select Committee, when they consider these matters, to consider carefully the appointment of a Deputy-Governor. I know, from personal ex- 921 perience in the Sudan, what a tremendous help in states of emergency, which did occur sometimes in that country, it was to have a Deputy-Governor in each Province. It is an incalculable help to the Governor himself. Moreover, I understand that at the present moment, if the Governor of a Province became ill or had to be absent, his duties would at once devolve on the senior official on the Executive Council. Under the White Paper proposals, however, as I understand them, the Executive Council will disappear, and, therefore, as things stand at present, there seems to be no provision for the Governor being either ill or absent. In addition to that, I feel, as I have said, that such an appointment would be of tremendous assistance to the Governor.
Another factor of the greatest importance, which was mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), is the question of furnishing information to the Governor. We must realise, looking at things from the worst point of view, that the Minister concerned with law and order may be hostile to the Administration, and I am convinced that there must be some arrangement, carefully investigated by the Select Committee, by which the Governor would have immediate access to whatever information he considers necessary. I quite realise the great difficulties of putting that in the Constitution, but, when I recollect what grave crises have often been saved by timely, secret and accurate information, I feel that it is a most essential point for the Select Committee to consider. In conclusion, I would like to express my sincere conviction that the proposals contained in the White Paper are an excellent basis for the consideration of the Select Committee, and, what is more, are in my opinion, an absolutely honest attempt to give to Indians the management of their own day-to-day affairs—an attempt which I hope and believe, after the modifications which it will undoubtedly undergo at the hands of the Select Committee, will ultimately be successful.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Viscount KNEBWORTH
I hope the House will excuse my taking part in this Debate, as one who has had some recent connection with India and who has a sin- 922 cere and very tender love and affection for India and the Indian people. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), were he here at the moment, would probably suspect me of trying to make a profit out of somebody, having regard to the views that I am expressing, but I do not approach this question, as do hon. Members opposite and hon. Members below the Gangway, with any particular admiration for the virtues of self-government. I am only concerned with the virtues of self-government in so far as they appertain to good government, and I thought it was an interesting philosophical reflection on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) that there is this wave of democratic opinion sweeping over Asia just at the moment when Europe was beginning to doubt the efficacy of democratic control. But, while one may notice with curiosity that state of affairs, one cannot ignore the facts, and I should not regard as a suitable definition of good government arty proposal which did not take into consideration the fact that there is in India to-day, to a growing extent, among informed and well-educated opinion, a demand for a degree of responsibility such as has not been known before in the history of India. That is a factor which must be taken into consideration when we come to examine the problem before us.
I fully accept the basis on which the Foreign Secretary to-day began his speech, and on which he ended it—the basis that Parliament is here to implement, in the long run, the declaration in the Preamble of the Act of 1919. We are concerned to do that, and the only thing that we are here to discuss is the method by which it can be done. I believe that it is possible both to secure the essential principle of good government and also to secure a measure of self-government in a newly awakened India; but I think that the whole approach to this question has been very unfortunate, and I hope I may be excused if I ask the House first to consider, not in great detail, but in some detail, the successive stages in the history of India during the past six or eight years, at the conclusion of each of which stages the issue has been so prejudiced that, when the Constitution Bill eventually comes to Parliament for consideration, we shall find our ultimate decision already tied, if not by 923 law, at least, to use the expression of the Secretary of State, by the court of conscience.
Personally, I should have liked to make dyarchy a success. I believe that, some two years before the Statutory Commission was appointed, the Muddiman Commission made certain recommendations which would have made it possible for dyarchy to work. But those recommendations were never acted upon, because it was said at the time that in two years the Statutory Commission would be appointed, and the whole subject would come up for review. Then came the Simon Report, recommending provincial autonomy; and, with the recommendation of provincial autonomy, it was impossible ever to go back to the recommendations of the Muddiman Commission. Then came the Round Table Conference and the idea of Federation. The conception of a United States of India was let loose into the political field, and from that moment it became impossible ever to go back to the recommendations of the Simon Commission. Then the Prime Minister, in his speech winding up the Third Round Table Conference, stated that it was intended to press on with the federal idea as soon as possible. He used words which suggested that it was the Government's intention to produce the full-fledged Federal Constitution and the local autonomous unit out of the same hat at the same moment; and, from the moment when that idea was put forward, it was impossible to go back to the consideration of a gradual development. Now we have the White Paper which we are considering to-day, setting out the deliberate views of the Government, and at every single stage in these proceedings it must be palpably evident that the eventual issue which we are to discuss, and which Parliament must decide, has been prejudiced to such a degree that, although in theory the decision will rest in our hands, yet in practice this Government, at any rate, will find it quite impossible to go back over the many stages which it has already covered.
I want to approach the question of the proposals contained in the White Paper not so much from the point of view as to whether the safeguards are adequate or inadequate, but as to whether the proposals present a proper method of dealing with the question at all. It is, 924 perhaps, rather impudent of me, with very little experience and few sources of information at my command, to criticise the Government proposals, but I was elected to do that if I thought fit, and I have to use my discretion in the matter as much as any other Member of the House. My objection to the proposals is that they are not such as, in my opinion, will give good government to India. My objection to them in principle is that they amount to very little more than a re-hash of the old principle of dyarchy, which was proved after 10 years of experience to be a ghastly failure. I should like to call attention to a passage in the speech of the Secretary of State which bears on this point. He met the criticism that responsibility with safeguards is a negation in terms in the following words:If the safeguards are effective responsibility is a sham; if responsibility is effective the safeguards are a sham. Fortunately, the world is not run on a rule-of-three of this kind.It seems to me that that is just the kind of thing that hon. Members opposite say when they want to raise a loan of £100,000,000 for purposes of their own. They say that fortunately the world is not run on a rule of three of this kind. [An HON. MEMBER: "Take one nought off, will you?"] They will put it on again, so it does not matter. This criticism that you cannot have responsibilities and safeguards is a criticism of principle which, to my mind, cannot be lightly brushed aside in that way. The Secretary of State went on to say that this criticism meanteither that there could never be responsibility in India, or it would mean that if there were responsibility it must be responsibility without safeguards."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 27th March, 1933; col. 708, Vol. 276.]In my opinion, responsibility without safeguards is the only form of responsibility and, as one who genuinely and sincerely is desirous of helping the people of India along the road to eventual responsible government and Dominion status, I believe the only proper approach to the problem is one that gives responsibility and, where it gives it, gives it absolutely, and gradually, as responsibility in a particular sphere has been exercised satisfactorily, the field of responsibility might be extended. But what we are asked to accept in these 925 proposals is a local autonomy in the Provinces with considerable overriding powers of government at the Centre, complete with the outworn paraphernalia of dyarchy, complete with the reserved and transferred subjects, complete with its power of certification, complete with the new special responsibility entrusted to the Governor-General. I fear that these proposals will meet with precisely the same difficulties and the same results as the whole conception of dyarchy has met with during the last 10 years.
The House is asked by the Secretary of State and others, if it does not like this White Paper, what alternative it has to offer? I want to ask why we have not been able to advance along this path by gradual but deliberate stages? Why could we not give absolute responsibility for the transferred subjects to the provinces and, if that proved a success, advance towards the recommendations of the Simon Report and give complete local autonomy, still retaining power at the centre, and why, if that had been a success, could we not in the end have considered responsibility at the centre also? The reason we are given for the policy contained in the 'White Paper is that a new factor entered into the picture when the Princes declared their willingness to be a party to a federation, but I cannot see what new factor that creates. The Princes did not make a demand that a federation should be created in which they could be parties. They merely said: If a federation can be formed, we shall be prepared to participate in it. No doubt, that was a very delightful revelation, which the Government were very glad to hear, but it does not make it necessary immediately to create that federation in order that the Princes may participate. It has usually been the practice in the past, when you are building a wall, to lay the bottom row of bricks first and subsequently to superimpose other bricks until the top is reached. The wall that we are building is of a peculiar nature, and it is proposed to lay the top row of bricks first and to fill in the space between it and the ground afterwards. The position does not arise in which we can talk of federation and talk of the Princes being prepared to come into a federation until we have created, at least in the provinces, those great autonomous units actually 926 governing themselves successfully and well.
It may be very difficult for the Government, after all the steps—to my mind, the unfortunate steps—which have been taken, at least since the appointment of the Statutory Commission, if not before, in any way now to modify the proposals that it has put forward, but I do not believe that it is yet too late for the House to pronounce definitely its opinion that it is prepared to assist India along the path towards self-government and Dominion status, that it is prepared to give responsibility and to give it absolutely, perhaps in the provinces, or perhaps in only part of the provinces, but, that until these autonomous units are created, until the working of that responsibility in the provinces has been found to be a success, the House is not prepared to abrogate any authority at the. centre of administration whatever. I believe that, if these proposals eventually take the form of an Act and become operative, because they are founded upon a wrong principle, because they are the result of an attempt to reconcile things which are irreconcilable, because they do not regard the fundamental principle that responsibility and safeguards are incompatible in themselves, they will merely water the seeds of strife, conflict and which have been the principal features of Indian history since the War. I believe they will produce precisely the same results of obstruction, of unhappiness and of distress which diarchy produced, and I believe they will bring trouble to the Indian people and embarrassment to the administration, but I hope I am wrong.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. BERNAYS
It is very pleasant to rise from these benches in wholehearted support of the Government, all the more because the opportunities for doing so are becoming increasingly rare. I should like to try to put up some answer to the very formidable attack made on the White Paper by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for New-castle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), all the more formidable when one remembers the quarter from which it came. Ft had a great many cheers from a. wing of the party with which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is not usually associated, but I was in- 927 terested to see that, while he has had the courage to put down an Amendment, for which presumably he is going to vote, those who cheered him are going to vote for the Government. He suggests in the Amendment that the people of India should indicate that they want these proposals to be enacted by this House. How are the people of India to indicate their views on this question other than the ways in which they have indicated them, by their Press—the whole of the Indian Press is Nationalist—by the representatives of Indian opinion who have come here at successive Round Table Conferences and through the meetings of Congress, which, after all, is the only popular party in India. When I paid, it is true, only a globe trotter's visit to India, I tried to find out how far there was an opinion there in favour of the present system of Government. Honestly, I could not find any support anywhere. There were differences in the degree with which the Indian people disliked the present system, but they all united in disliking it and wanting it to end.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman was rather unfair in the sneers that he uttered at the expense of the Indian politicians. After all, they have made great sacrifices of time and, in the case of men with great practice at the Bar and great businesses in India, great sacrifices of money in order to come here and help in the work of the Constitution. It would have been very easy for them to throw in their lot with Congress. That would certainly have been the popular thing to do, and we owe them a debt that they have stood by us when they had so many inducements to desert us. When the right hon. Gentleman says, "What have these Indian politicians done for social reform?", what exactly have we done for social reform? It is easy to sneer, but, after all, they have only been in even a limited degree of power for 10 years, and we have been there for 150. Though I fully agree that we have done a great deal, I think that anybody who goes there will agree that we could have done a great deal more. In any case, we are the last people who ought to sneer at the Indian politicians for the condition in which India is at the present moment. I agree entirely with what the right hon. Gentleman said 928 about the importance of safeguards for the Indian people, and it is very refreshing to hear the emphasis laid primarily on safeguards in the interests of the Indians, and not—as so often in this Debate—on safeguards in the interests of the commercial classes of this country. I entirely agree with the point that he made that we ought to have some guarantee that, if the Princes come into the Federation, they shall establish some type of constitution. Anyone who goes to India and visits some of these more backward native States must be horrified at the condition of their autocracy. I remember, in a remote Indian State, coming across a fort in the middle of the desert; I was told—and I have no reason to doubt it—that the Indian Prince would put in that fort, without any sort of trial, any man who happened to be inconvenient to him.
I also agree with the right hon. Gentleman on the necessity for an extension of the franchise. The opponents of the White Paper who cheered the right hon. Gentleman did not cheer that suggestion. There is no support among them for an extension of the franchise; in fact, they are always arguing that we are giving up India, delivering it over to the illiterate millions. I fully agree with the right hon. Gentleman; it is these illiterate millions who, if brought on to the electoral roll, might be a guarantee against oppression. In fact, there is one point in this White Paper which fills me with misgiving, and that is the narrowness of the women's franchise. These proposals, taken at their face value, only give one-seventh of the votes to women. There is also a requirement that women who are entitled to be on the register in respect of their husbands' property have to make an application to be put on the electoral roll. That means, I suggest, a considerable disfranchisement of the women of India. After all, if women even in this country had personally to apply to have their names on the Electoral Register, there would be a great many who would not take the trouble to do so. That is even truer of India where the inferiority of women is deeply engrained in the Asiatic mentality. When the first election comes, we may well find that only something like one-twentieth of the voters are women. That, I suggest, is most unfortunate. It is in the direction of the improved status of women 929 that India, for all the tremendous changes that are going on, has gone the shortest distance and is making the slowest progress. Over vast tracks of India woman is still regarded as a chattel. In millions of homes in India to-day she will not sit down to meat at all until she has served her lord and master. Even among the educated classes a woman frequently appears to Western eyes as more of a servant than a partner. I suggest that here, in this Constitution, is an opportunity of erecting a ladder up the rungs of which the women of India can climb to the heights of self-respect.
Moreover, what we call here the social services practically do not exist in India. The conditions of factory labour, as described in the Whitley Report, beggar imagination. They recall the most horrible period of our own industrial revolution. Everyone who has the most cursory acquaintance with India would agree that housing conditions are appalling. I have seen underground hovels in the bazaar in Bombay—[Laughter]. I do not see why it should he most frightfully funny.
§ Mr. BERNAYS
—Underground hovels, without floorboards, without window, without fireplace, without the elementary cooking utensils. Here men come to birth and grow to manhood.
§ Sir C. OMAN
If I might interrupt the hon. Member, who are the landlords and millowners who are responsible for the conditions of these people?
§ Mr. BERNAYS
If the hon. Member would allow me to develop my argument, my whole point is that I want to bring in the illiterate millions to curb the power of the landlords, to insist on better conditions. I do not say that it is the fault of the Government. The British Government might have done more to stimulate those services, but it is in great measure the fault of the landlord and the millowner. What I want is that the electorate should control them. Up to now there has been no driving force towards social reform. The British in India have been too busy in the necessary 930 tasks of policemen, and the Indians have been too busy agitating, to be social reformers. I hope that with the grant of this Constitution all that will end. I suggest that, in this attack on social conditions, we should give the women the fullest opportunity of playing their parts. We here know how the extension of the franchise to women has stimulated the social conscience.
I should like to direct another question to the Government on this White Paper. Would it be possible to arrange some kind of time limit for the deliberations of the Joint Committee? I suggest that it is most important that the committee should not interpret its mandate as an invitation to an eighteen-months' exploration of the Indian problem. We have had two commissions of inquiry to India, and three Round Table Conferences. Surely the time for inquiry is over and the time for action has arrived? I wish that it were possible for this committee to conclude its deliberations by, say, August, if only for the sake of these Indian visitors. After all, the Indian politicians—these distinguished gentlemen—have visited this country four times in the last three years, and we ought, if only out of consideration to them, to speed up the deliberations of this committee.
The delays which must take place before this Constitution is established are very formidable. There is the condition of the establishment of a Reserve Bank. I should like to interpolate a question to the Government here—whether a committee has yet been set up to inquire into the conditions of that Reserve Bank? I believe that the announcement that the Government were already getting such a committee to work on the establishment of a Reserve Bank would be regarded in India as a very important guarantee of their effectiveness. There is the further delaying clause that, even when the Bill is passed, it will not become law except by special Resolution of both Houses of Parliament. The unchanging East is changing so fast that there is a real danger that the India for which we are legislating in this Constitution may be quite different from the India that will have to work it. It is all the more important that there should be no shillyshallying or dilatoriness in the deliberations of this Joint Committee.
931 These, however, are minor points compared with the importance of getting the Constitution started. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) will exhaust to-morrow every wile to bring this Constitution to ridicule and contempt. One can only repeat the question which is becoming the dominant motive of every speech in this House: What is the right hon. Gentleman's alternative? That question has been asked so often that I cannot think that the right hon. Gentleman can shirk an answer. But it will certainly be the only time that he will have stated where he intends to go since he first started riding the tiger! If he says, like my Noble Friend the Member for Hitchin (Viscount Knebworth), that he stands by the Simon Commission, then he must answer some of the very formidable criticisms that have been brought against the Simon Commission. Our answer is, from that point of view, that the Simon Commission is unworkable. There is also the very cogent argument used last night by my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson), who pointed out that under the Simon Commission the Government in the Assembly would be deprived of the support of its 25 official members. If that support goes, there is complete deadlock, because the Government have relied on almost every important division upon the support of those 25 official members. We should see the irresistible force coming up against the immovable object. What is the answer to that? And who are to work the Constitution favoured by my Noble Friend? Who will be their friends? My Noble Friend and his supporters allege that nobody in India wants our scheme. Who wants theirs? At least, powerful representatives are coming over to this country next month to co-operate in working out the details of this Constitution, and not a voice has been raised in India in support of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping and his friends. Even the Moslems have revolted from them, and are clamouring for a greater measure of self-government than is provided in the White Paper.
There will be nothing but the Army left, and what will be the position of the Army in such circumstances? They could not remain. I was discussing the 932 situation with a distinguished general in Simla, who by temperament would naturally be attracted to my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping. I asked him whether he was in favour of that scheme being carried out in India, and he said that if it were carried out the Army could not be responsible for the defence of India with our present troops. That was an opinion which should carry some weight. It might be necessary to send out powerful reserves. Are the opponents of this White Paper prepared to face up to that? Are they prepared to face up to the necessity of telling the electorate that the reserves are necessary? We are accused of breaking up the Empire. I cannot imagine any policy that would break up the Empire more quickly than the policy of the right hon. Member for Epping and his friends, and I resent the suggestion, frequently made by him and his followers, that they are more jealous of the interests of the Empire than we are. They have no right to discuss Indian policy as if the lovers of Empire were exclusively on their side.
We on these benches have a peculiar right to talk about the Empire. Was it not a Liberal Government that gave self-government to South Africa? [Laughter.] Well, we did not laugh when the War came, and, instead of a stab in the back, we had the most generous gifts of manhood and resources. It is not in the existence of the Empire that we quarrel but as to its future. We think that we have come to the end of one great chapter in British politics. I agree that it is a chapter upon which we can look back with considerable pride and satisfaction. We believe that the end of one chapter is only the opening of another. The time of tutelage in India is over. The opportunity of leading India into association with the self-governing Dominions of the Empire has arrived, an Imperial adventure, difficult and dangerous if you like, but I believe in the highest sense of the word as right as any adventure that this Empire has undertaken.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Mr. EMMOTT
I hope that I shall have the House with me when I say that it is indebted to the hon. Member for North Bristol (Mr. Bernays) for the speech that he has just addressed to it. It was clear, pungent, and throughout inspired and in- 933 formed by strong feeling. I could not but think, however, that in certain parts of it the hon. Member failed entirely to appreciate the point of view of some hon. Members whose attitude he criticised. It has been brought against us more than once in the course of this Debate that our attitude is merely negative, and that the position of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) is unintelligible because he has no practicable alternative to set against the proposals of the Government. The right hon. Member for Epping can answer for himself, but those of us who hold certain opinions upon this topic can and ought to make plain exactly where we stand.
At this point it pray be convenient if, leaving to a later stage of my remarks any criticism of the speech of the hon. Member for North Bristol, I proceed at once to put before the House a few observations upon the speech of the Foreign Secretary. I am a little sorry that he is not in his place at this moment. I quite appreciate the reason for his absence, and I do not for a moment complain of it, but the speech which he addressed to the House was so interesting, so fascinating, and raised so many extremely important points that I have no need to apologise for referring briefly to it. I shall only claim a comparatively few minutes of the time of the House. The right hon. Gentleman put before us in a very fair way the position in which he finds himself. He made it plain that in the report of the Commission over which he presided with so much dignity and distinction a certain argument was used and a certain position was arrived at, but he made it clear that since the report had been issued a great change had come over the situation. I was, however, left with considerable doubt at the conclusion of his speech whether the right hon. Gentleman had really dealt with an essential difficulty in his argument. The hon. Member for Hitchin (Viscount Knebworth) has already touched upon this point, but in view of its importance I need not apologise for mentioning it again. It is necessary to put before the House certain passages in the right hon. Gentleman's own report upon the question of the nature of the central Government to be established in India,. In paragraph 165 of the report there appears the following: 934First, we lay down without hesitation the proposition that dyarchy at the Centre, or any system of divided responsibility resembling dyarchy, is quite impossible. Unity in the central executive must be preserved at all costs.I am going to add to that passage one or two others, but I pause to point out that there is in that passage no qualification of the position that the unity of the central executive must be preserved at all costs. In other paragraphs the report alludes to the same topic. In paragraph 177 the Commission say:While there can be no going back from the present degree of responsibility at the Centre, we are equally clear that it would be impracticable and undesirable to introduce the principles of dyarchy into the Central Executive. We consider that responsibility for the subjects which must necessarily be the province of a Central Government cannot be departmentalised.Again, there is no qualification of the position that the Commission take up. A little later in paragraph 177, the Commission say:We do not think that the evolution of the constitution at the Centre will necessarily follow this path,"—that is, the path of dyarchy. In paragraph 29 of the report this passage is found:We do not think that the British Parliamentary system, with an Executive representing a single party and depending from day to day on the vote of a majority of directly elected representatives, is likely to be the model according to which responsible government at the Centre for India will be evolved.The point that I am very much concerned to make is that in none of these passages is there any qualification of the position there maintained. It is not as if there were a single word to indicate that in the opinion of the Commission, if federation were established then a system of dyarchy at the centre might also be established. One could understand very well the position which a right hon. or an hon. Gentleman might take up to-day if the report had contained passages to another effect; if there had been some suggestion that the conditions precedent to the establishment of federation being satisfied, and federation then being contemplated as likely to come into existence, the system of dyarchy might be established at the centre. But there is no such suggestion, as far as I can remember, in the whole of the report. I may be wrong, and I stand to be corrected 935 on this point, but I think I am right in saying that in the whole of the second volume of the report there is no suggestion that it was in the minds of the Commission that, if the Princes expressed their willingness to come into federation, and if all the conditions precedent to the establishment of federation were satisfied, and federation were contemplated not merely as a possibility of the remote future but as a possibility of the near future—that in those conditions a system of dyarchy might be contemplated in the central Government.
The right hon. Gentleman faces the position with the utmost fairness, as indeed this House would expect him to do. He does not attempt to extricate himself from the difficulty in which he finds himself by any burking of the issue. He tells the House fully and fairly that a complete change has come over the political situation. That change, of course, is the declaration made on behalf of the Princes, or some of the Princes, at the first session of the Round Table Conference. That declaration amounted to this: that the Princes would be willing to come into a federation, but only upon the condition that the central Government was changed, only upon the condition that the central Government ceased to be what it is now, and became a Government containing at least an element of responsibility. I speak from memory, and am not certain of the exact phrase which was used, but I think it is the essence of their position that the Princes expressed themselves as being willing to come into federation if the central Government contained an element of responsibility. The right 'hon. Member now says: "Here is this position. Are we to accept federation upon this condition? Are we, in other words, to abandon the position we then took up, and to establish federation upon this condition; or are we to abandon the prospect of federation in order to avoid introducing a system of dyarchy into the central Government?" It is certainly a question of enormous difficulty, and I am most anxious to avoid any language which may savour of dogmatism. I deliberately use the language of suggestion, and say, may it not be that the method of approach that is contemplated by the Government in 936 the proposals of the White Paper is not really the right method of approach to the question of the establishment at the centre of a government which is suited to the conditions of India? If the arguments of the Commission are sound, and they seem to me to be completely sound, if the argument of the Commission that dyarchy is a system which must not be introduced into the central Government is sound, then must we not contemplate the possibility of a completely different system of government being established at the centre? It is not for me on this occasion to go into details in regard to the nature of any such central Government, but it may well be that the form of government which will prove to be best suited to the conditions of India and the form of government which will be established at the centre, is not the form of government of the nature envisaged by the proposals in the White Paper.
There is much evidence, and most weighty evidence, in support of the view that the form of government which is really suited to the culture, the traditions and the history of the Indian peoples is a form of government which consists in its essentials of an irremovable executive. I do not suggest that any particular executive should be irremovable over a long period of time, but I suggest that an executive which is not responsible to a popularly elected assembly and which is not removable over a certain period of years, may, in its essentials, whatever the particular form that government might take, prove to be the form best suited to the central Government of India.
May I refer to another part of the right hon. Gentleman's argument? He was concerned, as was the Secretary of State for India yesterday, with the all-important question of the transfer of what is known as Law and Order in the provinces to Ministers responsible to a popularly-elected Legislature. I use the phrase "Law and Order," although "courts and police" would perhaps he more accurate. It is not altogether fair to suggest that the position which some hon. Members take up is one which is lacking in clarity or distinctness. All we ask is that fair consideration should be given by the Select Committee to the proposals contained in the report of the right hon. 937 Gentleman himself. The point has already been referred to, but only briefly, by an hon. Member who spoke last night, and it may be worth while if I remind the House of a passage in one of the paragraphs of the report that is relevant in this connection. The right hon. Gentleman points out in that passage how vitally important the department of police is in regard to all relations of Indian life. It is far more than a mere department of police; it is something upon the proper operation of which the whole security of Indian life depends.
The Secretary of State yesterday was concerned to meet certain criticisms which, according to his statement, had been brought or might be brought against the position taken up by the Government on this matter. He dealt very fairly with two propositions, the first of which was, that the Services would blankly refuse to obey orders, and the second, that the Governor would not really be capable of carrying his powers into effect when his Government threatened to resign, and you might be left without a Government at all. I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India has not entirely appreciated the position of criticism which is assumed by some hon. Members of this House. That is not precisely the criticism which we urge against the proposals of the Government. It will be observed that the two propositions which the Secretary of State was concerned to meet and to rebut were concerned with the legislative position and a situation of crisis. I think that I may fairly put it in that way. What would happen in certain conditions? Would the Services blankly refuse to obey orders, and would the Governor be unable to carry his powers into effect when his Government threatened to resign? Both those positions are concerned with a situation which might accurately be described as a situation of crisis. The House will agree that in order to deal with a crisis or an emergency the system which the Government propose to establish is fully adequate.
But what we are really concerned with is not a position of crisis; and not legislation. We are concerned with a matter which is at least equally as important as the legislative power of the Governor and the possibility of crisis or emergency. 938 We are concerned with the administration which continues day by day, week by week, and month by month. The real danger, surely, under the plan of the transfer of law and order in the manner proposed by the Government, is one which, is concerned with administration The Minister in charge of law and order, to, put it at its lowest may possibly belong to one of the great religious communities of India. He may be a member of the Congress. In the eventuality of serious trouble arising, must we not imagine a situation in which there may be placed upon that man a burden which it is absolutely impossible for him to bear? Of course, as a Minister, he would not be immediately concerned with some action taken at a particular moment in certain circumstances; but the point surely is that every police officer must be satisfied that, whatever action he undertakes in the due performance of his duty, he will be upheld by his superior officer or officers. He must be certain of support at the top. At the same time the people of India, the security of whose life depends upon loyal police administration, must be satisfied that the duties of the police will be carried out with absolute fairness. Is there not very grave risk that in certain circumstances, where communal strife has risen to a high point, and where religious passions are deeply stirred and are exacerbated, it may be, by some hideous act of violence—is there not a real danger that a police officer may be afraid to take action because he fears that if he does so he will be taking action against members of his own community, and that it will not be upheld by those above him? When I speak of those above him I have in mind the whole scale of officers ascending to the highest point, to the Minister.
It cannot be said that these matters of administration do not really concern the Minister. They must concern him eventually. The ultimate responsibility being upon the Minister, surely it is obvious that any action taken by any police officer, of whatever rank in the Service, may come under the review of the Minister. It is therefore essential, in our submission, that there should be selected as the Minister to whom the control of law and order is to be entrusted a man upon whom the Governor can absolutely rely for the just and fair performance of 939 his duties. I am far from suggesting that such men are not to be found in the Provinces of India. Our position is not that such men are not be found, but that if a Governor has to find such a man in the ranks of the elected members of Provincial legislatures he may find himself in a very great difficulty. Our position is that we wish to ensure that the Governor should have the power to select a man who does not belong to the category of elected members. It may be that the Governor will find in the legislature the very man, whoever he may be, who is well suited to the performance of this work. But it may not be so.
Therefore, we strongly support the suggestion of the Statutory Commission that the Constitutional Statute should be in such a form as to make it possible for a Government to include an element drawn from official or other non-elected sources. The Commission in another paragraph in the report have already referred to the matter and have alluded to the possibility that the Governor, when he forms his Cabinet after a general election, will include in it one or more non-elected persons. That is our position. At least I can speak on this matter for myself. Certainly I do not dissent from the position assumed by the Statutory Commission. I am willing to rest upon the position assumed by the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues. So much for this point.
I should like to add a general word upon the topic about which I first addressed the House. I do not understand why the proposals contained in the White Paper in regard to the transfer of powers of government to Ministers responsible to popularly-elected legislatures should not be carried out; but why not leave the situation there? It seems to be generally assumed that if that change were carried into operation it would not be sufficient, that a far greater change ought to be made, and that nothing will satisfy the desires of Indian politicians but a change also in the central Government. Surely the change envisaged by Government in these proposals is a very great one indeed. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs this afternoon referred to the extent of that change and mentioned the transfer of the subject of Land Revenue to responsible Ministers as constituting in itself a very important 940 change. I cannot help feeling, although I only throw this out as a suggestion, that there has been evinced in certain parts of this Debate a failure to appreciate that the changes which it is sought to introduce in the provincial governments are, themselves, changes of real importance.
It may well be that in the future the central government may have a diminishing importance in India. It may appear in the course of time that the important organs of government in India are the provincial governments and not the central government. If we look ultimately towards federation, may it not he found that federation will be brought about not by the method envisaged in the White Paper but in quite another way? I am not sure that I did not catch a hint to this effect in the speech of the Secretary of State for India yesterday. I speak from memory, but the right hon. Gentleman referred, I think, to the possibility of regional arrangements, affecting, I presume, certain provinces and their neighbouring states. May it not be that if federation is to come into existence, it will come into existence through a process of regional arrangements? May not certain provinces and certain neighbouring States make arrangements among themselves to form political units; and may not those units themselves in time come together to form a federation? Federation may well come about in that way. We are very much concerned that there shall be real constitutional development in India, but we are very much concerned that that constitutional development shall take a safe and right course. What we are fearful of at this moment is that if the system of dyarchy is established in the Central Government, the possibility of sound and strong federation may be postponed to an almost infinitely remote future.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I do not think that any fair-minded person can envy the position of the Government or fail to admire the extraordinary ability and lucidity of the two chief exponents of their policy, the Secretary of State for Indian and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The Government are in a difficult position because they are being shot at from the right, the left and 941 the centre, and much of the criticism is more effective on the destructive than on the constructive side. Of all the speeches to which I have listened either to-day or yesterday, that which made most impression on my mind, among the critical speeches, was the speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). That the House too was impressed by it, was very manifest. As I listened to that speech, it seemed to me that it was just as though someone was lifting a great stone and showing underneath all the creeping life that had been hidden by it. In addressing the House on this occasion, I want, if I can, to raise another stone which covers another aspect of the Indian problem equally neglected with that to which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman referred.
I have a few words to say about the general question, but what I desire specially to speak about is the position of women under the new Constitution. My qualification for doing so is that for the last four years I have lived almost night and day with this question. There has been hardly a day, and certainly not a week, which I have not spent partly in pondering it. I wonder whether those who speak, as we so often hear people speaking, of minorities in connection with the Indian question, ever remember India's largest minority, its women. Yet women in India are not only a minority numerically—they are about 9,000,000 fewer than the men for reasons which are not irrelevant to my subject—but they are also a minority distinguished by the feature which alone justifies the safeguarding of a minority, namely, the possession of special needs and interests which are likely to be neglected unless special provision is made for them. That this is so of Indian women the Government do not deny. They attempt in the White Paper to make special provision for women, in special franchise qualifications and reserved seats on the legislatures. My point is that that provision is entirely inadequate.
But before I enlarge on that, may I remind the House of the special nature of its responsibility in this matter? Many speakers have referred to Great Britain's trusteeship for the millions of humble people in India who live out their lives 942 while politicians wrangle and fight for place and power. Does that responsibility not extend to the women? When Dr. Ambedkar was speaking of the untouchables at the Round Table Conference he said—I am quoting from memory: "You have been in India for a century and a half. You found us a depressed class. You leave us a depressed class. What have you done for us?" That question might be asked also about the women of India. In what condition did we find the women of India? In what condition are we leaving them? I can only touch briefly on a few of the indisputable facts. These facts do not relate to the educated and emancipated women, nor to all the rest, because conditions vary infinitely according to community, caste and province. I only touch on conditions widely extended which do affect, not thousands but millions of women in India.
First, there is the illiteracy of the great majority of the women. This is often advanced as a reason against their enfranchisement. But the majority of the proposed male voters are also illiterate and yet nearly every important commission and committee which has dealt with this question, has declared that, for the sake of their own self-protection, it is necessary to give a substantial measure of enfranchisement to the peasants, the untouchables and the women. Why are the women illiterate? The Hartog Committee of the Simon Commission gives the answer. It is because the provincial Governments grudge spending money on the education of girls and the fathers are generally indifferent to it. Yet that very educational authority has testified to the way in which the national progress of India is being held back by the illiteracy of the women. How are you to overcome these obstacles if women are deprived of political influence?
Secondly, there is the purdah seclusion of women. Many people who have never studied the subject find something rather mysterious and attractive about the idea of the zenana and the veil. Do they realise that strict purdah as practised among the lower middle classes—and it is among those that many people think the practice is extending rather than decreasing—often means that girls from the age of 12 onwards are shut up in two or three dark rooms into which 943 no ray of sunshine ever penetrates, which they practically never leave for years except to go into a dirty little walled court, with the result that there is a frightful death-rate from tuberculosis and other horrible diseases which are the direct result of the lack of sunlight. According to the most recent reports, the tuberculosis rate in India, a land of fierce sunshine, is rapidly spreading, especially among girls of from 10 to 20 years old, and for one boy who dies from tuberculosis, five girls die.
Thirdly, marriage customs and laws. Who can defend the abominable injustice which permits a mere child to be married to a man whom she has never seen and binds her to him indissolubly for life, while he is free to cast her aside merely because she is barren or because he prefers someone else. Then there is child marriage. Read that most terrible but very courageous document, the Joshi Report on Age of Consent and Marriage. I have not time for even the briefest account of its findings, but that weighty committee of Indian judges, lawyers, and doctors appointed by the Government, after a year's exhaustive examination of the subject, were evidently so overwhelmed with the horror of the evidence brought before them that they could hardly find words strong enough to express it, and they summed up their findings in a passage which deliberately compares child marriage leading to premature maternity, in its intense suffering and devastating effects on the vitality of the race, to the bygone practice of suttee or the burning of widows alive on their husbands' funeral pyres and pronounce that early maternity is the greater evil. They report that the custom is decreasing hardly at all, and that even to-day almost 50 per cent. of the girls of India are married before they are 15, and large numbers before they are five.
Lastly, maternal mortality. In this country we consider a death-rate of nearly four maternal deaths per thousand births as something shocking, and a recent report pronounced that more than half of those deaths are avoidable. In India by a very cautious and conservative estimate—most people with whom I have discussed this subject think it far too conservative, but I like to err on the safe side—there cannot be fewer than 126,000 deaths of mothers every year, or 14 every 944 hour. And such deaths, many of them of young girls in their very early teens, prolonged, agonising, deaths without any kind of anaesthetic or medical attendance of any kind, except that of a dirty, untrained, ignorant village midwife, for in all British India, with nearly 130,000,000 women and girls, and with 8,000,000 births every year, there are, according to a recent report, only about 400 full qualified medical women, although the great majority of the women are forbidden by their social customs to accept attendance from anybody but a woman. As for trained nursing, it is in its infancy, and except in the towns the number of nurses is negligible; and the same is true of trained midwives. No wonder that the Health Commissioner for India, in his latest report, begins this part of his subject as follows:The problems attending maternity work, and in particular maternal mortality, show a depressing tendency to remain completely unsolved—one is tempted to add insoluble.Again:Advance in this branch of health work is extremely slow, and it is only by looking back a considerable number of years that we can appreciate progress at all.How can progress be quickened? How can we stop this river of dreadful death? The Health Commissioner himself, in one of his unusual incursions into politics, gives the answer:Entry of women into public life. With the new Constitution many women will be enfranchised. Naturally their interests will focus on problems which specially concern them…This will be reflected in legislation concerning women and children.Every recent committee and commission has hinted at the same connection between cause and effect and suggested the same remedy. Let the women take a hand, they say, and bring about the social reforms which are so necessary for them.
Now let us turn to the White Paper, and see how the Government deal with the recommendations of their own responsible committees and commissions on this subject. The Simon Commission's Report, which the right-wing section of opinion has to-day elevated into a sort of Ark of the Covenant, deals at considerable length with this question, and after discussing all the difficulties, such as purdah, illiteracy, and all the rest, suggests that the present almost negligible women's franchise in India 945 might be augmented by enfranchising the wives of men voters, but at a higher age than men. On their own estimate this would have produced an electorate of something like one woman to two men, probably more. I will not trouble the House with quotations, but those hon. Members who are interested may turn to Volume II, page 93, of the Simon Report. The Government were apparently so impressed by that recommendation that in their own instructions to the Lothian Franchise Committee they state:His Majesty's Government attach special importance to the question of securing a more adequate enfranchisement of women than the existing system which…has produced a women's electorate numbering less than one-twentieth of the total male electorate.In obedience to that instruction, the Committee produced proposals which would have given women a voting ratio of about one woman to four and a-half men; that is, considerably less than under the Simon proposals. But in compensation they proposed reserving a certain number of seats for women in both the Federal Assembly and the Provincial Legislatures.
The White Paper accepts that proposal as to reserved seats, but as regards franchise it has thrown the great majority of women voters overboard. By the admission of the White Paper itself, the voting strength which it proposes to bestow on them for the Central Assembly is that "less than one-twentieth of the electorate" which the Government themselves, in their own instruction to the Lothian Committee, pronounced inadequate; and for the Provinces it proposes a voting ratio nominally of one woman to seven men, but by the device of requiring the wife voters who form the great majority to apply for their votes, it provides a check which I think most people who know anything about social conditions in India will agree is likely to cut down their voting strength to very little if any better than the original, "less than one-twentieth of the electorate."
I cannot help thinking that those who advised the Government to adopt that expedient for cutting down the numbers of women voters without seeming to do so must have winked at each other as they did it. Even in this country, if that condition were applied, supposing party 946 organisations were as rudimentary as in India and every voter was obliged to apply for his or her vote, not at the time of the election, but perhaps a year or several months before, how many would take the trouble to do so? It seems both harsh and illogical to apply that condition to women and not to men. First, one woman to two men; then, one woman to 4½ men; now, one woman to 20 men for the Assembly and in effect little if any better for the Provinces. Admirers of Jane Austen may remember a delightful passage at the beginning of "Sense and Sensibility," when John Dashwood cogitates how he can best fulfil the promise which he gave to his father on his death-bed to provide for his mother and sisters. Beginning with a proposal to give them £1,000 apiece, he arrives by several stages at the conclusion that an occasional basket of garden stuff is all that can reasonably be expected of him. It seems to me that the mind of the Government has followed very much the same course in dealing with Indian women.
I shall be told that that is unfair, and that there are reserved seats for women and that the actual number of women voters will be greatly increased. That is something, but let us be realists. The new administration in India will begin its work under great difficulties; it will be poor, very poor. It will be beset with claimants. Every candidate, every Government Department, will be expected to fulfil all the expectations that have been raised as to the millenium which is to come about when India has self-government. To whom will they listen? Will they listen to the claims of those who have nineteen-twentieths of the voting strength behind them or to the claims of those with one-twentieth? To whom do politicians usually listen? To their constituents, or to those who have nothing but the justice of their case and the greatness of their need to back them? I entreat the Government to think again on this subject. We are told that there are administrative difficulties. When the Lothian Committee travelled in India, did they not weigh those difficulties? If they are considered serious, I would beg the right hon. Gentleman to consider if he cannot give women something in exchange for what he is taking away. May I make a definite suggestion? Why should not he revert to the Simon Com- 947 mission proposal and enfranchise at a specified age the wives of all propertied male voters and not merely those holding exceptionally high property qualifications? In that way we should have a much larger women electorate on paper than is proposed by the Lothian Committee, but when the requirement for making application for their votes is taken into account, probably the resultant numbers would not be very much greater.
I ask the Government to consider what effect this whittling down of the hopes that have been held out is likely to have on the ardent excitable women of India. Many of them are halting between the path of co-operation and the path of revolutionary agitation. Into which of these paths are the Government pushing them? There is another consideration which should weigh even more with the Government. The figures which I gave just now concerning social conditions had to be so shortly given that they may not have conveyed much impression to the House, but they represent an enormous amount of death and suffering and disease. If it be true, as most responsible observers believe, that there is no way of changing those terrible conditions except through the political influence of women, may it not be the case that on this part of the White Paper, which seems to most hon. Members to be so relatively unimportant, may hang issues of life and death for literally hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of women in the years to come? We have not been able to do much for Indian women during the century and a-half of our rule. We have done something, but not much. Whenever measures were proposed to help the women, the argument—was it sometimes the excuse—has always been that we as alien rulers dare not interfere lightly with social customs based on religious traditions which we did not share.
A distinguished civil servant once told me that when he first went to India as a young man the one maxim which was repeatedly impressed on him was, "Keep your hands off religion and the women." Is not the truth of it that this maxim has been so faithfully obeyed by the administrators that they have kept not merely their hands but their minds off the women? The very thought of the 948 women, if it ever intruded, has been hastily dropped into that dark little oubliette which all of us keep in our minds for that most detested of intruders—a persistently neglected responsibility. Now that we are going to hand over practically unfettered control—for the famous safeguards do not affect such lesser matters as education, health and marriage laws—to whom are we going to hand over? To Indians, but to which Indians are we going to hand them over? To the men who have inflicted these terrible social customs, or also to the women who have suffered under them? It cannot be maintained that Indian opinion offers any real obstacle to the granting of a substantial measure of enfranchisement to women. Indian opinion on this subject has been always, if anything, somewhat in advance of British opinion. Most of the Indian members of the committees that have sat have been willing to go further than the British members.
The new Constitution is now being settled for many years unless it is broken down by revolution. Vested interests will grow up. The opportunity of doing something in this matter is now, and for us British men and women will probably never recur. Shall we not at least put into the hands of the women the constitutional means of securing for themselves those social reforms which affect them so vitally, not only in their own lives, health and happiness, but, through their children, the future welfare of the race? As what I have said shows, it was with no light heart and no great confidence that I approached these proposals. But what is the alternative? If even these moderate proposals which are contained in the White Paper are withheld from India, who can doubt that there will be an enormous surge into the ranks of Congress and into the most revolutionary part of Congress? What is our best safeguard against that? I would join my voice with those who have pleaded with the Government to bring about, if they can, a better atmosphere of good-will in India by releasing those leaders of Congress who are now under detention and who are looked up to by great sections of the Indian people as their spiritual leaders.
I believe that many of those who speak so strongly about the trusteeship of this 949 country for the people of India must have had some qualms when they listened to the speech of the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme. He foreshadowed all that might happen to the peasants who are the special care of many of the Members who have spoken against these White Paper proposals. He spoke of what might happen to them under the Brahminical oligarchy which we are setting up. What kind of check can we apply? I suggest that the best check would be to let those take a hand in the future negotiations who are likely to stand up for the peasants, for the depressed classes, and for the women. Whatever we may think of Mr. Gandhi as a politician—and I have no great admiration for him as that—I have a great admiration for him as a social reformer. I believe that if we could secure the co-operation of his section of Congress, we might indeed by an act of magnanimity be taking risks, but we might be averting the greatest risk of the Constitution breaking down because of the determined hostility of those men whom we cannot keep in prison for ever, and who have it in their power either to help to make the Constitution work or to obstruct it and gradually to lead the people of India into the path of revolution.
§ 9.14 p.m.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
When the Constitution for India first came to the front, I, and many more like me, who knew very little about India, thought that it was a matter which would be determined by the advice of experts, meaning by experts people who had spent their lives in Indian work as administrators or soldiers, and that they would be listened to. Gradually we have found that we have to make up our own minds. We have been told that we must ignore those people, because India has changed and their knowledge is out of date. I do not find it so easy to dismiss their opinions. They are always rather convincing people when you talk to them, and I cannot think that the changes in India are very material. To my mind, the success of this or any other scheme must depend very much upon the measure of the loyalty, the character and the reliability brought to its service, and I have not myself seen very much evidence of any great improvement in any of those 950 matters. But of this I am certain, that 90 per cent. of the people in India are still looking to us to protect them. They look to us to protect them from famine and crime and things of that sort, but mainly from the moneylender. The great bulk of the cultivators in India are in the toils of the moneylender or bunnia caste. Mr. Gandhi belongs to that caste.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
His caste is the bunnia or moneylending caste. The great bulk of these cultivators are in the toils of the moneylenders. There is only one thing which prevents the moneylenders foreclosing and becoming the owners of the great bulk of the land in India, and that is the Land Alienation Act, which, of course, is due to us, and which prevents the moneylender going to extremes. The cultivator asks himself, if we go, how long that Act will continue to exist. I would like to put that question myself, like to know whether it will be open to the Government of any province to repeal an Act which we have passed for the protection of the cultivators, because if there is a free hand to undo that legislation of ours it is perfectly certain that the cultivators' tenure will be of the slenderest, and that the land of India will gradually pass into the hands of the moneylender class.
I do not take extreme views against this White Paper. I know we have made promises, and I know that we have to do something, and something big. I do not say a word against provincial autonomy, and I think the more complete that is the better it will be, probably. I will not say a word against Federal Government, but what I do want to make quite clear is that this so-called federal suggestion is a complete misnomer. In a true federation we have a number of States standing together and each giving up a certain number of its sovereign powers, which are in future exercised by the Federal Government, but in this case the native States are giving up no sovereign powers. This so-called federation simply means that we are setting up an assembly in which the native Princes have a right 951 to speak by themselves or their representatives, but not that this Federal Government has a right to deal with any of the reserved matters inside those States, only inside British India. There is in this scheme a whole list of subjects reserved for the Federal Government, and one naturally thinks that relates not merely to British India but to the native States. No such thing.
The Federal Government is only to have power, in the native States, over such matters as the Princes choose to give up. Take copyright, which is one of the reserved matters, as an example. The Federal Government, which will be to a great extent controlled by the Princes, is to have a right to deal with the law of copyright in British India, but not in the native States. And so it is with many other subjects. That is not federation at all; it is quite inconsistent with federation. If there were real, true federation, so that there were joint interests in every matter reserved to the Federal Government, the scheme would appeal to me as strongly as the Foreign Secretary said it appealed to him; but to suggest that this scheme is anything like the scheme which he says that he dreamed is, of course, foolish, because the two things bear no resemblance. But I do not want to dwell longer upon that question.
The chief, indeed, the only point with which I rose to deal, is the question of the handing over of the control of law and order. Even there I do not want to suggest that that proposal ought to be ruled out, but I make the plea that the handing over of the control of law and order ought to wait until we know the kind of assembly and the kind of executive which this scheme is going to produce. I should not mind it being included in any Act which was passed if the putting into operation of that particular power were reserved until an Order in Council had been made, but it seems to me that to hand over control of law and order before there is some idea of what this scheme will produce is to run a wholly unnecessary risk. It has been made clear to-night that it is no answer to say, "The Simon report advocated the handing over of the control of law and order." It did so on two assumptions, first, that there was a, strong, undivided central Government, and, second, 952 that, in case competent and trustworthy Ministers should not be appointed, the Governor should have the power to nominate official Members of the Government who could control law and order.
Neither of the two conditions which the Simon Report stipulated finds a place in this White Paper. Therefore, we are free to consider afresh the question of handing over the control of law and order. It seems to me that the unbroken—and I emphasise the word "unbroken," because there must be a period of semi-chaos, one imagines, when this scheme is coming into operation—the unbroken maintenance of law and order transcends in importance every other feature in this White Paper. Legislative assemblies are, of course, very important, but I suggest that they never do all the harm we expect of them, and they certainly do not do all the good we hope of them. The administration of law and order on the contrary, is something of vital importance, because of the daily mistakes and the daily injustices that may be committed. It is a mistake to think that reverence for law and order is an instinct, or that the instinct for justice is ingrained in the human race. That is not so. As Dicey pointed opt, this is an attribute of the Anglo-Saxon race, and of the Anglo-Saxon race alone, and, indeed, it is our greatest gift to the world. I am not sure that it has not been our greatest gift to India. Let hon. Members look round and see whether they can find any evidence of it in other countries. Look at Russia. Turkey was referred to the other clay. There is no idea of justice in Turkey. Look at the treatment of the Armenians. Look at the treatment of the people there under the present Government. Read "The Grey Wolf" if you want to find out what is going on there. They have no idea whatever of justice. In Germany there is the treatment of the Jews, for example. You can look at almost every European country, and at some time or other you will find there has been a complete negation of any principle or idea of justice.
Therefore, to suppose that there is any actual instinct for justice in India is wholly without justification. It has been said that for a hundred rupees you can buy a complete murder case against an enemy—witnesses, lawyers and corpse, all complete. If anybody takes the trouble to read the appeal to the Privy Council 953 just before Christmas, in the case of a Medical Officer of Health and a Police Superintendent who had been convicted and sentenced to a long term of imprisonment, can get a very good idea of what the administration of justice may be. If it had not been that they had a right of appeal to the Privy Council—a right which, I see, is to be taken away in some cases in the White Paper—these men would have spent their lives in gaol. That throws an interesting light on what can be done by organised conspiracy and bribery in that country. I remember talking to a man who had been a district officer for many years, and I asked him for his views. He said, "You can only remain in India as long as the silent millions want you to remain. They will always want you so long as you secure them fair and impartial justice. The moment you fail in that they will cease to want you, and you will have to go." He said that that was the only thing which mattered.
The first qualm I have, after trying to make up my mind in this matter, is this: Have we any right to abandon this responsibility and to hand it over to an absolutely unknown quantity—because in ray humble opinion it will be nothing other than an unknown quantity? We abandoned the Loyalists in Ireland and we lost Ireland in consequence. I am certain that we ought not lightly to abandon this responsibility. What is the basis of the trouble about the administration of justice in India? It all arises out of the communal bias. The problem in India, as everybody knows, is rendered immeasurably more difficult by the domination of caste and religion, which has led from time to time to perfect orgies of murder. That is inevitable, and it is certain to go on, because unfortunately with Mohammedans on certain occasions there is a solemn duty to sacrifice cows. On the other hand, a cow is sacred to the Hindus, and whenever the Hindus see their sacred animal being led through the streets for slaughter it creates friction, and again and again this develops into conflict of the most bloody description, when thousands of people lose their lives. In Bombay in 1929 a thousand lives were lost, and in 1932 another thousand. We all remember the Cawnpore massacres of a few years ago. They read badly enough, but when one 954 heard the truth from people who 11 id been there it was still worse.
The question with which we are faced is this: Where is the minority in India that trusts to the majority? There is not one. I will just take an illustration of what I mean. Take the Punjab. There the Moslems will be in a slight majority over the Sikhs and Hindus. What did the representatives of these two sections say at the Round Table Conference? It was pointed out how susceptible the population was to religious emotions, in a country whose record of crime showed a complete disregard for the value of human life. The Sikh representative said they much preferred the present arrangement, and that this scheme was a practical impossibility, because if a Governor did his duty he could only discharge it properly by producing a state of continuous deadlock; in other words that the Government would always have to exercise its discretionary power. The Hindu representative urged again the necessity of protecting law and order, and he said that corruption and communal bias were terribly increasing and justice and fair play were becoming meaningless words. It was perfectly plain that both these representatives dreaded the administration of law and order being handed over to the Moslems. It seems on every side that the minority always mistrusts the majority. If you have a difficulty of that kind, why walk into this? At present law and order is administered impartially, but it is going to be handed over to a political administration which must inevitably always be controlled by one or the other, Mohammedan or Hindu. The minority in every case is completely mistrustful of the majority.
There are two things we ought to learn from our own administration of justice there in the last 20 or 30 years. There have been two very difficult movements to deal with—the civil disobedience movement and the terrorist movement. I want to point out, firstly, that the ordinary administration of law and order would have broken down—indeed it did break down again and again—if it had not had a sympathetic legislature and executive behind it. In other words the administration of the law there does require a thoroughly sympathetic legislature and executive behind it, giving it at any moment exceptional and most 955 drastic powers. The other thing is that the help of the Army is required when you declare martial law. A perfect liaison is necessary between two. At present they are under the same control and you get that liaison, but if you are going to sever the two you will not get that liaison and you will not get the Army and the police working in harmony together.
I had intended to say a little more about the police, but time is getting on. The civil disobedience movement is always buoyed up by extremists. There was some severe fighting at Sholapur in 1930 and that was only held in check by martial law, for the police were not able to do it. The terrorist movement, as everybody knows, the ordinary administration could not control. They made no headway with it until in 1915 they were given powers of the most special kind. Let me give one illustration of the kind of thing that does happen, is happening and will yet happen. It will be remembered that two ladies were killed by mistake for Mr. Kingsford, a magistrate, arrests were made and there was a trial. During the trial a witness who turned King's evidence was murdered in gaol, and a police inspector in charge of the case was shot dead in the street: the public prosecutor was murdered within the precincts of the court; and the deputy-superintendent of police in charge of the case was murdered immediately outside the court. That is what terrorism means, the making impossible of the administration of justice. Unless you have the Administration absolutely determined to back up the police force and to give them exceptional powers whenever they are wanted, you are not going to succeed in maintaining law and order.
Both those movements are just as rife to-day as ever. You do not suppose that this scheme is going to satisfy them. They act in sympathy. When the murderer Gopi Nath Saha was being executed, the Bengal Congress passed a resolution eulogising him. In 1930, when Gupta murdered Colonel Simpson, the Corporation of Calcutta passed a resolution of sympathy with the murderer. Thus encouraged, within 16 days, Mr. Garlick, president of the tribunal that convicted that man, was also murdered. That is the atmosphere, and it is a diffi- 956 cult one to deal with. In the same year they murdered two police officers. Again and again you have disturbances and murders of the most horrible description. In my humble opinion you need a very strong legislature and executive behind your police officers. I think that you can lay down these two propositions: A legislature and executive in sympathy with law and order is essential to the proper administration of justice; you must have an Army that you can trust and that is in complete liaison with your police.
As to the Army, very little has been said about the demand for the Indianisation of the Indian Army. I think that that is the most terrifying demand that has ever been put forward. There is an Army of 160,000 men, and if it is going to be Indianised I do not know whether, in those emergencies, you could rely upon them in the way that you can now. There are 187,000 police. Everybody knows that the police force takes its tone from those who are responsible for it. Here the tone will be settled by the Minister of Justice. The pressure brought to bear upon the police can be enormous during a civil-disobedience movement. The police, their wives, their families and their relatives were boycotted wherever they lived, throughout India. Supplies were denied to them and so were medical and health services. I am told that such tremendous pressure was brought to bear upon them that it was a surprise to their officers that they remained so completely loyal. Take a question like the boycott of British goods, backed up by picketing. Picketing is against the law. Whether picketing is stopped by the police will depend absolutely upon the organisation behind them, and upon what instruction the Minister gives. We know in this country what happened with the 20-miles speed limit. In some counties it was not enforced, and in others it was rigidly enforced. Police take their orders from above. Unless you know the sort of Legislature and the sort of executive you are going to get, to hand over the control of the police to Indian Ministers in 11 different provinces is asking for trouble.
Take the question of the possession of firearms, which is against the law. Whether that law is enforced will depend, in those different provinces, upon some unknown Minister. Have we any right 957 to suppose that in 11 different provinces we are going to have 11 different Governors who will all do their duty regardless of their inclination? I do not believe it. We have to run many risks in this scheme, whether we like that or not, but this is a risk which we need not run at the moment. My belief is that before we hand over law and order we should wait and see the kind of legislature that we are to get, and the kind of Ministers that are going to be produced. This will take place 11 times over in 11 provinces. It is folly to make a leap in the dark, and I do not think that we have a right to do it. It is so easy to avoid that risk. We, on our part, would know that we had not handed over this serious and terrible responsibility that rests upon us, to some unknown quantity, at a time when it had been so very easy to wait and see exactly the nature of the tribunal to which we were handing it.
§ 9.41 p.m.
§ Sir JOSEPH NALL
The House will be very grateful to the hon. and learned Member for Altrincham (Mr. Atkinson) for having so vividly brought to our notice the kind of abuse of authority which has already set in in India, under the reforms introduced in 1919. We may well have regard, in considering a fresh extension of those self-government proposals, to what may be the ultimate results of that kind of insidious growth of abuse in the legal and administrative spheres, if the proposals now before us for submission to the Joint Select Committee are put into operation in their present form. I would just refer in passing to three speeches which contained matters that I wish to mention. They were the speeches by the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone), the hon. Member for North Bristol (Mr. Bernays) and the hon. Member the Member for Hammersmith (Miss Pickford) yesterday. They referred to the enfranchisement of women. I will deal quite shortly with what the hon. Lady for the English Universities had to say, because she drew attention, with a little more detail, to matters which had been indicated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) who said that in the last 10 years leading members of the Legislative 958 Assembly had had every opportunity of bringing forward amending legislation for the amelioration of conditions in India, but they have not only taken no steps to do so.
According to the records of the proceedings of the Assembly, and many reports and documents which are available for the information of the House, they have in fact exerted their influence against progress, and against any kind of amelioration of the conditions of those unfortunate women and children who, in certain parts of India now suffer a moral thraldom of which the world seldom hears. What a travesty of all our ideals of social reform and of human amelioration, that, just when at long last some small seed of education is beginning to take root in the mind of India, and when there is some move towards bringing to an end those conditions, we should now be proposing to hand over to the very influences which, for the last 20 years or more, have worked against reform, the initiative in government, and the means whereby they can hold up even that small social progress which has taken place and can ensure, if they so wish, that no further progress will be made. It is to Mr. Gandhi's credit that he has railed against the obstructive methods of some of his own friends.
The depression of womenfolk in India is a sorry story, and I cannot understand those hon. Members of this House who seem to find, in the White Paper proposals for reform, some prospect of a relief from that condition of affairs. The hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities drew attention to what she described as the growing practice of purdah. How on earth are women who are subject to that system going to exercise the vote, or know anything about the vote Is it not obvious that, if the franchise for women under these conditions is unduly extended, it must inevitably lend itself to widespread personation and every kind of irregularity such as so easily creeps into the electoral system where there is a. tendency to abuse it?
I did not, however, intervene mainly for the purpose of dealing with that subject, but for the purpose of calling attention to the almost, complete absence from the White Paper of any provisions to preserve and safeguard our trade con- 959 nections with the Indian Empire, beyond the vague references to commercial discrimination. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, in his desire to be absolutely fair and, so far as he can be, impartial in the exposition of the schemes which he is putting before the House, would, I am sure, be the last to mislead the House in any way, but I must ask his attention to the situation which arises from what he said yesterday. It is a tragedy that, in a matter of this kind, there is no full reference to the future basis, the future platform, of the legal and fiscal system which is to govern our trade relations. My right hon. Friend dismissed this subject in a few words, but, after all, as has been said this afternoon, trade and commerce are the very mainspring of the whole prosperity, the whole body politic, the whole system of our existence. Without a continuance and expansion of trade and commerce in India, without an expansion of the industrial activities of her large agricultural population, India's future would be sorry indeed; and, without a revival of our own industrial activities in this country, our plight will be sorry indeed. It is extraordinary that the Government, who were elected primarily for the purpose of restoring our trade activities, should have proceeded to deal with a subject of this magnitude with hardly any reference to the one supreme topic on which they were elected. My right hon. Friend last night, although everyone knows that he is anxious to be fair and impartial in his exposition of his own case, dismissed this matter in a few words when he said:Let me now say a word about the commercial safeguard, namely, the safeguard designed to prevent commercial discrimination, a part of our proposals that I know excites, and rightly excites, the keenest interest in business and trading circles in this country. The House will see that we are proposing to deal with the question of commercial discrimination upon the simple basis of reciprocity. Put into a single sentence, our proposals are that anything that we do for Indian traders or for Indian professional men in Great Britain, Indians should do for British traders and British professional men in India. That is the basis of our proposals for the prevention of commercial discrimination."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th March, 1933; col. 713, Vol. 276.]I venture to suggest that that is not quite a full explanation to the wide circle of people engaged in trade and commerce 960 and industry in this country who are wondering what may emerge from these proposals so far as that vital activity is concerned. The fact is that the reciprocity to which my right hon. Friend refers has nothing whatever to do with that subject of reciprocity with which one usually associates the word. It has nothing to do with Customs, Excise and so on; it relates only to paragraph 29 of the Introduction, on page 16 of the White Paper, and to the proposals in paragraphs 122, 123 and 124 on pages 70 and 71 of the proposals in the White Paper. Those paragraphs deal entirely with matters of common law, company law and professional qualifications, and the ordinary liberty of the subject to move about in whatever locality he may find himself. They have nothing to do whatever with these far more important questions which affect the interchange of trade. When we turn to paragraph 111 of the White Paper, on page 67, we read:The Federal Legislature will, to the exclusion of any provincial legislature, have power to make laws for the peace and good government of the Federation or any part thereof with respect to the matters set out in Appendix VI, List I.In that List I, Item 34 is:The regulation of the import and export of commodities across the Customs frontiers of the Federation, including the imposition and administration of duties thereon.That is handing over completely and in, tote to the Federal Government the whole fiscal authority of India, without any kind of reservation or any "special responsibility," with the single exception of the reference to discrimination which is contained in other paragraphs of the White Paper. It not only affects the imports of British goods into whatever realm may be covered by the Federation—and the limits of that realm cannot be known until the number of States which may enter it is known—but the passage of goods through the Federation to any State which does not seek to come into it, and the entrepot trade which may make use of any Indian port. These are all to be subject to this unfettered control, through Customs, Excise or regulations, which the Federal Government may see fit to impose upon them. Therefore, I think it is very extraordinary that to a matter of this kind no further reference should be made in the White Paper. All that we have is this very vague and 961 possibly quite unreal reference to discrimination.
§ Mr. MOLSON
May I interrupt my hon. Friend for a moment, because this is a matter of very great importance? Are we to understand that he and the friends for whom he speaks are suggesting that the Government at this point should go back upon the Fiscal Convention which was the recommendation of a Joint Committee of both Houses in 1919?
§ Sir J. NALL
No, I am not; I am basing my comments on that. If my hon. Friend wishes to go into detail, let me refer him to paragraph 268 of Volume 1 of the Simon Report, where he will see an extract from the Joint Select Committee on the Government of India in 1919. The last words of the extract say, relating to the intervention of the Secretary of State or the Viceroy:When it does take place, should be limited to safeguarding the international obligations of the Empire or any fiscal arrangements within the Empire to which His Majesty's Government is a party.The Simon Report referred to the matter again in paragraph 352, Volume 2. I do not want in this Debate to enter into any controversy as to what that fiscal convention means. I will only put it in this form, which I think the Secretary of State will not dispute, that in certain circumstances, which may or may not be remote, according to the interpretation which the Secretary of State of the day might put upon the words of the so-called convention, he might intervene if the Government of India, whose policy he can dictate, fails to agree with the Assembly, a somewhat anomalous position because, obviously, he could direct the Government of India at present deliberately to disagree with the Assembly. I only put it so high that in certain circumstances which may or may not be remote, as things are at present, the Secretary of State might intervene. That is entirely, for what it is worth, swept away in the White Paper proposals with no safeguard of any kind. It entirely ignores that recommendation of 1919 that at least the preservation of inter-Empire obligations to which our Government may be a party must be preserved. It is an extraordinary thing that the future legal and fiscal platform of the important trade relations between this country and the Indian Empire have been left out of this 962 White Paper and are summarily dismissed by my right hon. Friend in a very short sentence in his speech. The policy in the document, which ignores the very fundamentals of our existence as a nation, is a negation of statesmanship. I commend this matter to the further consideration of the Cabinet. I would remind my right hon. Friends of the party to which I belong of the ugly gibe once uttered to our party in Sir William Harcourt's warning to Lord Carson when he said: "The Conservative party never took up a cause without betraying it."
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken expressed his concern over the prospects of future generations in India, but he left off quoting the Secretary of State at a point where we thought his explanations and assurances were perfectly satisfactory. If he will pursue his reading of column 713, he will find that the Secretary of State said:That is the basis of our proposals for the prevention of commercial discrimination. Obviously, they make no change in what has come to be known as the Fiscal Autonomy Convention. I am one of those who believe that the commercial relations between India and Great Britain are much better settled by agreement, if they can be settled by agreement, and it is indeed a satisfactory augury that the Indian delegates at Ottawa were able to make a satisfactory agreement, at any rate on a part of the subject, with the representatives of Great Britain and the rest of the Empire, and that that agreement has been ratified by a huge majority in the Indian Assembly. To-day I say no more about commercial discrimination—not that I do not regard it as quite one of the most important questions that we have to consider."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th March, 1933; col. 713, Vol. 276.]Then he goes on to other safeguards. Does the hon. Gentleman who spoke last protest against the power now being enjoyed by the Indian Government to impose tariffs in her own interest? Does he oppose the continuation of those powers? If he does, he should say so. The whole point of his speech is that he thinks that, if India is to embark on a new system, she should be granted less fiscal authority than she possesses at present.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) raised several very important points. He thanked the Secretary of State for assenting to the proposition that the Select 963 Committee may be asked to discuss, not a cut-and-dried scheme but the whole question of the future government of India. The Foreign Secretary confirmed that statement in words in which he said that the House was not asked to vote for or against the White Paper. We should like to know on this side of the House how these proposals are really to be put and how far they may be modified from their present form with the approval of Parliament if the form in the White Paper is not to be the basis of the legislation that is to follow Y The Secretary of State has not been explicit enough in that regard. We are anxious to know, because we can foresee, without a fairly close adherence to the White Paper, the possibility of the Select Committee being driven here or there by opponents of the scheme, by those who wish to delay and destroy it.
As I listened to the right hon. Gentleman, I wondered what kind of amendments he would like to make to the scheme. He said he disliked the White Paper because he doubts the efficacy of Parliamentary democracy as a system, and he dealt almost tearfully with the decay of Parliamentary institutions in Europe and deduced from that that, while Europe was unable to sustain her faith in the practice of Parliamentary democracy, it was an inappropriate time to experiment with this great system in India. The right hon. Gentleman, indeed, went very much farther than that in some of his criticisms of the proposals, and dwelt frequently and long upon the lack of adequate safeguards in the scheme. While he inferred that his main intention was to provide safeguards against abuses in India and against people in India who were seeking and who were anxious to make trouble, he suggested—in a somewhat doubtful interpretation of part of the White Paper—that there might be a necessity for safeguards against a sympathetic Government in this House that would help people in India to defeat the interests of this country. We ought to know whether those people who support the Government are opposed to these proposals root and branch, and whether they are determined to destroy any settlement with India on this occasion. We have put our criticisms forward and shall continue to put them forward, but we are 964 not prepared to assist those which simply speak, in this House and outside with the intention of repudiating the pledges and promises which we have given for many years to that great country in the East.
The right hon. Gentleman described the control of the police as the linch-pin of the Government of India. That reflection is not very comforting. If, after so many years' connection with the people of India, after their devoted allegiance to this country, and after the fellowship, the mutuality and the co-operation which a large number of Indians have shown towards the rulers and the people of this country, we are now to be told in this House that unless we control the police the whole cart is upset and there is no possibility of stable conditions in India—that is a disturbing thought. Then the right hon. Gentleman threw a side-light on economic conditions which was still less comforting. I thought, when he expressed his opinion that there are 300,000,000 people in India who do not care what kind of Government they have so long as they are not called upon to pay more taxes, that he uttered a very disturbing thought indeed. If there are 300,000,000 people in India who cannot take an interest in anything but their poverty, we think that that is the very strongest possible argument in favour of India being allowed to try some other form of Government which will meet her economic needs as well as her political condition.
The right hon. Gentleman has been asked whether he is prepared to consider any proposals on behalf of the Indian people sympathetically. I was not in the House yesterday, but I read this morning the conclusion of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel). In his concluding sentences he was reported to have said that this White Paper represents—I forget his exact words—the consumation and the crown of our efforts in India. In the OFFICIAL REPORT I find that the word "crown" is missing and the word "triumph" takes its place. When I compare that opinion of the right hon. Gentleman with the sentiments which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead expressed upon safeguards this afternoon, I try to imagine what kind of Constitution the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead would like to 965 confer upon India. I have read the White Paper and I see safeguards of all kinds joined up and intertwined, and it occurred to me that if these safeguards are not adequate, not close enough drawn on India, the right hon. Gentleman would like to put the Indian people into a kind of cage, where the Indian would be allowed to spread his wings but not to fly, to go up and down upon his perches but not to leave his cage, to chirp and to whistle, but not to sing the song of joy and perfect freedom. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman does not really want to give the very smallest measure of freedom to the people of India, but to keep them in confinement and isolation for perpetuity. There was no indication in his speech from beginning to end that he wanted any freedom given to or any responsibility placed upon the people of India.
The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary gave the House some very useful information this afternoon. It helped me very much indeed, and I feel that it must give much help to the House and to those outside, in this country and in India, who are watching the progress of this Debate. He explained to the House how the idea of federation to include the Princes of the States with the provinces of British India had come to be. We are pleased that the right hon. Gentleman expressed his views so frankly. We are not quite satisfied that his conclusion is a right one, but he certainly conferred a favour on the House in taking us into his confidence and allowing us to see so plainly what he and his colleagues in the Government think on the matters which he discussed. He surprised every one of us by stating that in his view self-government in British India alone—self-government in British India independent of the provinces—must fail. We should like to know the advantages of federation and the inclusion of the States. In that regard the right hon. Gentleman gave us a picture of the geography and topography of India. He said that India was a large sub-continent with no barriers, no boundaries; that it was one in extent, and there was no ordinary evidence of boundaries such as we see, for example, in Western Europe.
The right hon. Gentleman may be quite right. Indeed, we agree with him that on the geographical statement the case 966 for the inclusion of the States in an All-India Federation is complete and unanswerable. But, to our view this White Paper and the proposed lines of the Constitution, the federation does not come quite as naturally when one considers the prospect of the joining of a number of Provinces where certain forms of government are in existence and are well known and in daily practice, with the Indian States, which are governed differently, being subject to autocracy and to the complete and despotic power of the Princes themselves. While the advantage of bringing all these States together to make a compact geographical whole is apparent, there must be in a corresponding disadvantage in trying to bring the entirely dissimilar Provinces together in a Federation where they have to work certain things in common, despite the great disparity in the forms and practice of government on the lower plane, where these people exist separately.
It has occurred to me that there is one thing missing in the White Paper. I have seen no indication anywhere that there is going to be at any time an attempt to assimilate the conditions in the natice States with the conditions in the Provinces. As far as one can judge, there is no intention, at this stage, or at any future date, to bring about any assimilation of governmental and administrative conditions between the native States and the Provinces. I should like to know—and I think the information will assist the House very much—whether that is in the mind of the Government. I should be grateful if at some time during this Debate the spokesmen of the Government would say whether it is proposed to establish, with the concurrence, the consent and the co-operation of the Princes, a form of democracy. The form may be tentative and modified, if you like, but I should like to know whether there is at some time any intention of building up in the Provinces a progressive form of democracy, allowing the Native States to retain their present form of autocracy. We must acknowledge that there is no amalgamation. I think that was the term used by the Foreign Secretary. He said that we must be patient; that there will be a good deal of permeation. There will be one State enjoying one form of Government and it will be contiguous to a Province which will have another form 967 of Government. He said that there will flow ideas and examples one from the other and that the tendency will be to assimilate by mere contiguity, with no effort on the part of ourselves and with no direction from any outside authority. That sounds all right, but it is not very convincing when one looks at it, because it is not a case of permeation and not a case of amalgamation but the survival of one of two forms. It may reduce the measure of freedom in the Provinces, where we expect freedom and liberty to expand more readily, with the possibility that the example of the State may be taken, and freedom will become more and more restricted in the Provinces. I am only putting that view forward as an opinion which I have formed by reading the White Paper, and not because of any prejudice against the proposals set out therein. I should like the Minister to tell us whether there is that possibility or whether the Joint Committee will be able, with the consent of the Princes, to introduce into the native States constitutions working like our limited monarchies in the Western world, and to allow India to be free to become a country where practically the same political conditions will obtain throughout.
Much has been said about the maintenance of law and order. We have heard a great deal about law and order in this country. There are some people who are obsessed with the idea of law and order. They talk of it without any indication of the effect of the words. The question of law and order for India always suggests a measure of suppression, the keeping down of the Indian people. If there is no respect for law and order you cannot keep law and order except by coercion and compulsion. We prefer to approach the question from an entirely different direction. One would conclude from what has been said in this House that the Indian people have not learned the value of the police, well conducted, and that they are incapable of maintaining a police force and of conferring upon it the necessary authority for the performance of its duties. We do not take that view. We believe that the Indian people must recognise from experience the value of a well-disciplined police force and that the Provinces will 968 find it an advantage to control their own police and to see that they are given due respect and assistance in the performance of their duties.
We are apt to view these matters from the standpoint of the Englishman. Those who, like myself, have never been to India and have no real idea of the conditions in that great country look at matters from the Englishman's standpoint, and I am afraid that our judgment is not always as sympathetic as it might be. Here is an attempt to build up a comprehensive machine, but I doubt whether many can follow its intricacies or can have a clear idea as to how it will work in practice. It is largely experimental, and may be changed before the day comes. It would be an advantage if we could put ourselves in the position of Indians who desire self-government and recognition as a people and as a sovereign state. It was promised them; and they have every right to expect it on the definite pledges made by this country. But when Indians look at this proposal and find all these safeguards and checks, I feel sure that it must damp the ardour and confidence as well as the anticipations of those Indians who are politically-minded.
Much has been said against the politically-minded Indians. When did it become a crime to be politically-minded? We make a claim that we are the most politically-minded people in the world. It is true; and it has given us political qualities, attributes and gifts, which have been denied to many other people. It cannot be wrong for Indians to be politically-minded. It is said that it is only a few Indians who are politically-minded. If that is the case, it is no credit to us. If we have maintained our police and our standing armies in India for so many years and now find that out of 350,000,000 people only 1,000,000 or 2,000,000 are sufficiently alive and interested to take a hand in the politics of their own country it is the strongest condemnation that can be brought against us as the responsible power in that land. It is not an offence, and Englishmen should be the last to denounce anyone for having political aspirations and desires.
Let me say one word about economic conditions. The hon. Member for Bristol, North (Mr. Bernays) referred to the shocking housing and social conditions which he witnessed in India. I have 969 read something of the great poverty of the Indian people, and my interest is mainly one of sympathy with the poverty which exists. Anyone who takes an interest in India cannot fail to be interested in the great problem of providing the people of that country with a better standard of living and better conditions generally. To dead with these economic conditions requires not only the interests of one or two millions of the people but the interest and active co-operation of all classes of the Indian people. No Government in this country, no Governor-General in India, can remove poverty in India without the active co-operation of the Indian people themselves, and in the interests of better economic conditions we ought to create and stimulate the widest possible interest in political matters.
That cannot be done on the franchise proposed in the White Paper. There should be a much wider franchise. If you compare it with the franchise in this country there are 20 British voters for every one Indian voter for the lower Chamber of the Federal Legislature; 17 British voters for every one Indian voter for the Provincial Legislatures, and 15 British women votes for every one Indian woman voter. You cannot do the best for India unless you get the largest possible number of Indians not only alive to their interests but actively participating in the task of Government. That may not be achieved by these proposals, indeed, the measure of interest and freedom of the Indian people may be reduced, diminished, if we hand over India to a small governing class consisting of a few elected and nominated people. If India is handed over under those conditions, we may retard the progress of political development in India and delay indefinitely the improvement in her economic conditions.
There is another point. Self-government requires the co-operation of all Indians. It cannot be done from outside. We cannot give India self-government from outside. It is something which has to be done by Indians themselves. We can lay down conditions under the White Paper which will enable Indians to get a firm foothold and to go forward in the task of building up self-government in the course of time for themselves. What does Dominion status exactly mean in the 970 terms of the White Paper? I have no time to read the definition of Dominion status by people whose names are revered in this House. The Prime Minister himself has defined Dominion status, but we do not find it in the White Paper. If it can be shown in the White Paper we should like to see it. There are so many safeguards, reserved subjects and special responsibilities to which Indians are denied access, and we do not find real Dominion status. The Secretary of State has said that we have pledged ourselves. It is very important that we should not betray our pledge, but there is an appeal which stands much higher than that. We have been in India for a long time. In India our pledges, and our written and spoken words should mean that our example counts for something. If it does not we have been remiss in our duties and responsibilities to that country.
If India wants democracy, political freedom and Parliamentary government, it is the very Ingest compliment that can be paid to us. We have lived with them, and they have come over here, and if they want to fashion their governmental institutions on our pattern we should take it as a compliment and value it very much indeed. It shows that the Indian people have learned something from us and would like to emulate and to imitate our example. We should try to assist India. We on this side of the House believe that the Indian people are capable of very much more rapid progress than could be imagined from hearing the speeches of hon. Members on the opposite side of the House. One would imagine that the Indian is an inferior creature doomed everlastingly to a position of inferiority compared with ourselves; condemned to economic subjection and to an inferior position in world politics. We do not believe that to be the case. No one knows the capacity of the Indian for self-government and for economic improvement until he has been allowed a chance. India is reaching out for the cup of freedom. Do not let us remove it from her grasp. Rather let us bring it nearer so that she may drink deeply from the cup of freedom and liberty, and then we shall all share in the benefit of the greater freedom which we extend to her. Our freedom will grow in comparison and our honour will stand higher in the world.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Sir JOHN WARDLAW-MILNE
I think I may claim that although I have not spoken on Indian matters in this Parliament, it has been my lot and my privilege to listen to more speeches about India in the last few years than possibly most Members of the House, and I have listened to many speeches since the first Round Table Conference was set up in which the word "abdication" has been continually used. I have heard it said that we were abdicating our position in India altogether. It would appear that those who hold the view that no further progress should be made can be divided into two categories. First there are those who, although they would refuse to admit it, really wish to go back to the position prior to 1919. Secondly, there are those who take up the attitude that the reforms of 1919 not having proved a success, we should stay where we are and no further progress or concession should be made. It is perfectly clear that Parliament in due course may make a decision on the lines that the reforms of 1919 have not been a success. I admit that Parliament has a perfect right to go back on what it did in 1919, but I think that those who complain about the position which has arisen since 1919, and who object to our making any forward progress, are apt to forget that it is not this Parliament, it is not even recent Parliaments, which are to blame for the responsibilities now upon us, if there is any blame at all, but those who decided to pass the Act of 1919.
Duchess of ATHOLL
Would the hon. Gentleman kindly indicate what hon. Members in this Debate have suggested that they wish to retreat from the position of the Government of India Act of 1919 or that no further progress should be made?
§ Sir J. WARDLAW-MILNE
The Noble Lady has misunderstood me. I have not said that any hon. Members in this Debate made any such statement. What I said was that those were opinions which had been expressed and I think she knows as well as I do that such opinions have been expressed, not only in Committee Rooms of this House but also in the country. There are, as I say, certain people who no doubt would deny entirely that they hold that view but who put forward arguments of which it is the only 972 logical conclusion. I am not at the moment endeavouring to find fault with anybody who holds that view. It is a perfectly logical conclusion for those who argue that the reforms have been a complete failure. I agree, as I have said, that Parliament is not bound, but the point which I make is this. Those who passed the Act of 1919 are only to a small extent represented in this House now, and, if a mistake was made at that time, it was made in that Act, and, although Parliament was never finally committed to go further, unless we are prepared to go back, the process which we started in 1919 must go forward.
I come now to the curious fact that part of the strongest opposition to the kind of proposals which have been under consideration during the Round Table Conferences has come from people who were parties to the 1919 Act. Among them—I am sorry he is not in his place—is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). Before I deal with the White Paper, I want to refer to one other point. It will be in the recollection of some hon. Members that a year or two ago, after the statement of the Viceroy of that day regarding what was in the minds of the Government as to the ultimate aim of reform in India, namely, Dominion status, the Debate in this House was curtailed at the request of the present Prime Minister. I do not in the least quarrel with that. It was a very difficult time in India, and it was possibly best that the Debate should not be continued then. But I have never held that Dominion status has ever been promised to India. I have here a collection of nearly every statement in this connection made by prominent statesmen in the last 10 or 15 years, and although it could be said that Dominion status, directly or indirectly, is implied—you can imply anything you like from some statements made—those actual words were never definitely used. On one occasion only, curiously enough, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping was the promise of Dominion status referred to. It is only fair to say, especially as he is not in his place at this moment, that at a subsequent date he explained that his reference to Dominion status was to a kind of condition in which Dominion status was only to be used in a ceremonial manner. I do not understand 973 what that means, but I leave it at that. I hold very strongly the view, and I want to take this opportunity, which I did not have at the time of making it clear, that Parliament has never been committed in my opinion to Dominion status being conferred upon India. What it may do in the future is another matter.
The second category of those who object to the propositions in the White Paper is of those who think that we ought to proceed entirely on the lines laid down in the Statutory Commission's Report. The main objection, in the Debates yesterday and to-day, to the proposals in the White Paper appears to be in connection with the eventual scheme of Federation suggested, but Federation was not only suggested in the Simon Report; it occupied a whole chapter in it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Two chapters."] Again, Federation goes farther back than that report, because it was referred to as the ultimate goal in the Act of 1919. I fail to understand therefore the position of those who oppose on this ground the proposals in the White Paper going to the Joint Select Committee for discussion, because that is as far as we are asked to go at present. I find it difficult to understand what difference they expect to find between the Simon Report proposition, the ultimate aim being Federation, and the proposals which the White Paper sets out to-day. I suppose the real difference would be that they would say, in the first place, that the Federation suggested by the Simon Commission was a Federation in the future, that it was not a matter likely to come into being in any time that they could foresee, and therefore they did not go into it very fully.
Alternatively, they may say it was a Federation which was to have the services of a large number of British officials, and that the real objection to any handing over at the Centre comes from the fact that you will not have to depend upon a steel frame of the kind that existed a few years ago. It is, I think, worthy of consideration as to what has been happening with regard to the European element in the services in the past few years. For example, 10 years ago, in 1922, there were 1,179 Europeans in the Indian Civil Service; to-day there are 843. In 1922 there were 208 Indians; there are now 465. In the police there 974 were, in 1932, 627 European officers; today there are 528. In 1922 there were 66 Indian police officers; there are now 152. And in the same way through the other services, the process of Indianisation has been going on for many years.
It may well be a matter for careful consideration of the Joint Committee as to whether some minimum, comprising the British element in the great services of India, of British officers should be laid down. We are entitled to lay that down, and it may be desirable to do so, but I do not think it is any use pressing the argument that we are not able to depend in future upon the services being loyal and reliable because they will largely be Indian, in view of the fact that they are largely Indian to-day, and many of those Indians have been as loyal and dependable as any British officer. Another argument which I heard very often expressed before the White Paper was issued was that it was quite certain we should find that there were no real safeguards. I wish to pay my tribute to the Secretary of State, and I think that the least we can say to him is that he has fulfilled in the letter and in the spirit every pledge he ever gave with regard to safeguards, for there is no doubt whatever that every safeguard which has ever been suggested exists in the White Paper. At the same time, it will be said that they are only paper safeguards. That is perfectly true. Of course they are paper safeguards, but what safeguards have we in India to-day that are not paper safeguards? The only eventual safeguard against complete breakdown was referred to by the Secretary of State yesterday. A complete breakdown of the Constitution means that the Viceroy will have to govern, as in fact Governors have had to govern in various provinces during the past few years where the Provincial Government has failed to function during the days of dyarchy.
I do not look for a period of perfect peace in India or expect that everything will work smoothly, nor do I agree that everything in the White Paper is as I should like it to be. I could refer to several things that will require consideration, but that does not alter the fact that there is no real difference to my mind between the safeguards in existence in India now and the safeguards which will exist if and when some such proposals 975 as those in the White Paper are 'adopted, except that those safeguards will then have been more clearly defined than they are to-day.
§ Major-General Sir ALFRED KNOX
Surely the fact that we have the police and the executive power in our hands is not a safeguard which is merely on paper?
§ Sir J. WARDLAW-MILNE
I am coming to that point. I said a moment ago that too much stress is laid on the fact that we are to-day supposed to have a British executive to carry out the authority of the Government, but I am pointing out that it is not entirely British, but is rapidly becoming Indianised, and that it may be possible and desirable to consider limiting the extent to which that Indianisation is to be carried out. The main point with those who hold the view that safety will consist in giving autonomy to the provinces while maintaining our hold on the Central Government is that they consider that if there is any breakdown, the Central Government at any rate can function. I very much doubt if that is so. I very much doubt whether the Central Government could function—except in the case of a complete breakdown, when they would function in any case—any better in that case than they would be able to do wader the present proposals. The fact that the provinces are independent would, to my mind, make it almost impossible for the Central Government in such an event to take over all the authority which was exercised by the provincial Governments.
There is, however, as my hon. Friend says, an important point in connection with the police. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made it perfectly clear why the Simon Commission came to the decision they did in regard to law and order. I frankly have never held the view that they were right in making that decision. At the same time, I think it would be impossible completely to control the police from the centre. I had the privilege only a few months ago of sitting on a committee which considered the question of a number of small police forces in this country. We know to what an extent local feeling is aroused over a matter of that kind here 976 and how jealous local authorities are of any transfer of their powers. Think of the difficulty, in a country the size of Europe, of controlling the whole of the police from one centre. I am very doubtful whether that is practicable, but I am going to suggest that there is possibly a middle course to take in this connection. It is well known that there are certain police forces in India which must remain central. I will not go into details, because we all know of them. After all, there are only some 200,000 police—thana—in India, and while village police and local town police might well be handed over to the Provincial Governments, I see no particular reason why there should not be a central police force—a federal police force, if you like—and particularly why the terms of recruitment of the whole police force of India should not be settled from one centre on one basis.
I think it is extremely important, whoever is going to carry out the local government of the police, that pay and pensions should be laid down for the whole of the force by a central authority. The Foreign Secretary said that he had found a grave objection on the part of local legislatures to passing the necessary grants for police forces which they did not control. I can entirely support that view. I know myself, from experience in the Bombay Legislative Council, before the days when there was an Assembly, how hitter and unjustified were some of the attacks upon the police, largely because they were looked upon as outside local control, and not in any way under the authority of an elected legislature. Against any possible danger, at any rate so far as the local police is concerned, there has to be set the advantage to come from making those who are likely to be critical take the responsibility for the administration of the service.
It is perfectly clear that before any federal scheme can come into operation two vitally important financial matters will have to be considered. Both are mentioned in the White Paper, but I venture to say that their importance is perhaps not over-emphasised. One is the financial stability of the different units that are to form the Federation. That alone is a matter which must give many of us room for considerable doubt as to 977 the time when Federation will be possible. It is clear that we have a good long way to go in India before we can be satisfied on this point. The setting up of the Federation, supposing for the moment that these particular proposals were approved by the Joint Standing Committee, does not come about automatically, but only comes about at the request of both Houses of Parliament. Therefore, when that day comes Parliament will have to be entirely satisfied regarding the financial condition of the federated units. It also means, of course, the satisfactory setting up of a Federal Reserve bank and that cannot come about in a moment.
I turn now to the attitude of the Indian States. I cannot myself see, and I have never taken the view, that Indian States are necessarily going to be a purely Conservative element in the administration. I do not think we are entitled to assume that. We have to consider the fact that if the States are going to hand over any of their authority at all—probably very little—to a Federation, they are certainly going to get a good deal in return. I do not think we are entitled to say they are bound to look at every matter which goes before them from the point of view of what we might consider would be the normal attitude of a British Government in India. It may be we shall find the States are by no means necessarily a Conservative element, but their presence in any Federation is essential and their help, assistance and impartial outlook will be invaluable. On another point, may I say that I think the difficulties between the Governor-General and Ministers who may be in charge of the Government of the day are not likely to be so acute as some hon. Members seem to think. Conditions in India are rather different from conditions anywhere else, and a good deal of influence can be brought to bear by governor-generals and governors to secure that there will be an alternative party to take up a term of office. If the Prime Minister or Minister in charge of a Government decided that he would have to resign, I am not so afraid as some hon. Members appear to be, that we shall immediately be faced with a complete breakdown of the Constitution on that account. After all, I think it is the general experience that other parties are willing to form governments and that 978 desire for the sweets of office is not a characteristic confined to the West alone. I think it will be found that others will offer to come forward to take the place of those who retire. At the same time I do wish to make it quite clear that in the great experiment we are making, a breakdown of the Constitution is by no means impossible. That is a situation we have to face, and because of it we must examine our safeguards with the greatest care.
That brings me at once to a point which I have always bad very much in mind, but which is not mentioned in the White Paper at all, though it is well worthy of consideration. That is, whether this scheme, or anything that may evolve from it, does not bring about the desirability of separating the functions of the Viceroy from those of the Governor-General? I think it is perfectly possible that it will be found that the two offices should not necessarily be held by one person and it may well be a proposal worthy of serious consideration if a Federation comes into being. Further, I would like to say one word about what has been said already tonight regarding trade and industry. There is no doubt whatever that those who are interested in trade between this country and India and in British trade in India will rightly require that their views regarding the future under these proposals get a little more consideration than perhaps so far appears to have been given them. There is no doubt that action other than that which constitutes actual commercial discrimination could be taken by a Government that was not favourable to British interests to an extent to make it almost impossible for Britishers to trade at all. I hope when the time comes the Joint Select Committee will take this matter into very careful consideration.
There is clearly going to be, under these proposals, a definite period before federation can operate. Apart from the fact that it must be set up on a request from Parliament, it is clear, for reasons which have been given regarding the necessity for financial stability and the setting up of a reserve bank and other matters, that a period of some years must elapse. The first real question, however, which will have to be faced by the Joint Select Committee—that is the 979 first place where it will be faced—is whether it is desirable to put federation into the scheme, if and when these various parts are ready to function, or whether we are to begin with provincial autonomy and leave the question of federation for the future. My own belief is that there is no harm whatever in setting out, not merely what is the goal at which we are aiming, but the basis on which it can be operated. At the same time, it should be very clearly stated what the minimum conditions are that this country will accept before Parliament asks the Crown to act.
The rate of progress in these reforms cannot be set in this country; it can only be set in India. One of the most important features of the White Paper is comprised in the words which say—I speak from memory—that the basis of the whole of these proposals is that there should be evidence of a partnership in a common enterprise. It is perfectly clear that if there is no spirit of co-operation, if that co-operation does not exist, the whole scheme breaks down. It is India that will have to decide. If the proposals that come from the Joint Standing Committee put a stop to politically-minded Indians endeavouring to get something out of the British people and to wrest some further concession from Great Britain, and set them to grapple with India's problems and to consider the real difficulties which beset her, a great deal will have been achieved. My hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock) spoke yesterday of the Government of the past. I entirely agree with what he said as to the integrity and the uprightness of those Governments. I also know what a bureaucratic kind of government it was and how extremely difficult it was to influence it. We have nothing to be ashamed of; very much to the contrary, in the great record of what we have done for India; but it is not an unnatural attitude for India. to-day to ask for some further share in the Government.
980 We have to make up our minds quite clearly. Can we go back? I maintain that even dyarchy, bad system as it has been, has, curiously enough, worked better than we had any reason to expect. It is surprising to me that it did not fail. Dyarchy has not entirely failed. The mere fact that a great many people of good will have endeavoured to work the system of dyarchy is an argument for considering whether we can advance further. I did not entirely agree with the recommendations of the Simon Commission on the transference of law and order. In this White Paper, the Government has certainly put forward every possible safeguard, and it is for the Joint Select Committee to see to what extent those safeguards can be made real and effective. The responsibility before us is a very serious one, and, as this House cannot, in my view, go back, it will have to consider very carefully upon what lines it is to go forward in the joint interests both of India and of this country.
§ Ordered, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—[Captain argesson,.]
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.