Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [10th December].
That this House accepts the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Indian Constitutional Reform as the basis for the revision of the Indian Constitution and considers it expedient that a Bill should be introduced on the general lines of the report."—[Sir S. Hoare.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
Yesterday the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India invited the House to approve the recommendations made by the majority of the Joint Select Committee. We continue this afternoon the discussion initiated by him, but before I do so I wish to associate myself and my colleagues on this side of the House with the tribute which was paid yesterday, both by the Secretary of State for India and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot), to Lord Linlithgow the Chairman of the Committee. I speak as one who belonged to a minority in the Joint Select Committee, and I can say honestly and earnestly that the Lord Chairman's courtesy and tact were unfailing. His patience was inexhaustible, and his willingness to listen and to assure to all points of view a fair, full, frank and free expression of opinion was such that more than that none of us could expect of a chairman, and less than that the Lord Chairman did not give. He has earned from us all our abiding gratitude and our respect.
The report of the majority of the Joint Select Committee deals with a vast range of subjects and, naturally, it strikes different people in different ways. While that is natural, I might add that it would have been equally natural to anticipate that those who are in the habit of collaborating together might have arrived at some common judgment on the matter. However, that is not the case. For instance, Lord Rothermere, speaking of the White Paper and the report, has come to the conclusion that the emblem of those who support the report should be a white flag. The right hon. Member 222 for Epping (Mr. Churchill) thinks that it ought to be a red flag. I very much doubt whether either of these gentlemen is accurate in his judgment. Perhaps they are both colour blind. Pleasantries apart, we are all keenly interested in this question.
There are strong differences of opinion, and in these various currents of opinion we can discern three schools of thought. There is the school associated with the right hon. Member for Epping, who say: "Thus far and no further," meaning by "thus far," Provincial Autonomy, with certain limitations. The second school is represented by the Government, whose views are contained in the Majority Report of the Joint Select Committee. The third school is represented by those of us who belong to the Labour movement, and who joined in the minority report. There is a fourth school represented by our anarchist Friend the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), who has been able on this occasion once more to provide a school of one, constisting of himself. I want to discuss these three approaches to the problem without any asperity. I entirely agree with a letter which appeared in the "Times" some weeks ago from Sir Francis Young-husband, who begged us to discuss this matter with as little feeling as we possibly can.
There is a considerable measure of hesitancy in the minds of a good number of people. Some are wondering whether there ought to be any change. For those who object to any change there is no consolation in the discussion taking place in the House this week, for it is a very significant fact attaching to the Debate that so far that everybody advocates some change. Everybody is convinced that we cannot remain as we are. Everybody says that we must register some advance on the present situation. Therefore, I take it we are all agreed as to the inevitability of change, even though it may mean in the minds of some people the inevitability of gradualness. The hesitancy that some people show arises from a feeling of apprehension regarding the fitness of the Indian people to govern. I am going to be very frank with the House. If that proposition is to be advanced, may I respectfully ask whose fault it is? Who is to blame if the Indians are unfit for government? 223 The late Lord Birkenhead, in recommending that the Simon Commission should be sent to India, said that they would be going as a jury. Who would be judged by the jury? Who would be in the dock?
It is appropriate to recall some simple historical facts. To begin with, before this country formally undertook the government of India as part of the British Empire, the East India Company had been there pushing, by methods of penetration, its business interests in India for something like 250 years. Hon. Members will not question the statement that there were events, incidents and manoeuvres in connection with that period of 250 years which were so disgraceful in character as to bring a blush of shame to the cheek of every decent Englishman. Since that regime came to an end we have had four score years of responsibility for British Government in India. What has happened in that period? I lay down this proposition strongly, and I make no apology for it. It is one of the concepts of the critics of the report and the White Paper that the Indians cannot undertake the responsibility of government, because they are unfit for it. Since the Indian Mutiny a portion of the Indian people have been definitely shut out from the possibility of accepting military responsibility in India. Even now I think we mainly draw our resources in men from certain sections of the Indian population. It is also argued that the Indian people are not literate. After four score years of British Government in India even at this moment not 10 per cent. of the Indian population can be said to be literate. Who, therefore, is to blame if the Indian people on these two grounds are not able to accept responsibility for their own well-being?
I do not deny, it would be foolish to deny, that much has been done for India by the British during our occupation of India. I cordially and freely confess that. [An HON. MEMBER: "Thank you!"] No one need thank me for that. I make that statement categorically and freely. Hon. Members opposite ask the Indian people to be grateful for what we have done. Are they to be grateful for illiteracy? If not, is that to be a ground of complaint against the Indian people? Let us grant that we have built bridges, 224 made roads and effected all sorts of modern improvements during our occupation of India. I would recall what I have said before on this point. I remember a late leader of the Labour party saying this rather striking thing, that the bird does not sing more sweetly because you gild the bars of its cage. Are you to expect the Indian people to be grateful for these things and to be satisfied? Grateful certainly, but satisfied, no, because it is an essential part of freedom as we understand it that people should be adequately equipped for the business of self-government in all its manifestations. We have done great things, but, as the old English adage says, "You cannot turn the mill with the water that has passed."
We have to approach the future with the consciousness that we must equip the Indian people afresh in order that they may discharge the duties of citizenship. As we have kept the Indian people in a state of defencelessness and illiteracy it is unjust to use that as an argument, as a reason, against their being called upon to discharge a further measure of self-government. While it is impossible to deny the proposition that there are not 10 per cent. of the people who are literate, let alone educated, you cannot use that argument as a reason for denying them the opportunity of a measure of self-government. Let me put this proposition to hon. Members. I admit that ignorance is a terrible bar in the exercise of self-government, or in the discharge of any government, but what is our position in this country? Will any hon. Member deny that on the average there are not 100 people in any constituency in this country who could give more than six simple propositions concerning Indian life? They know that there is a Viceroy, a Governor-General, but so far as the details of Indian life are concerned I assert that there are not 100 people in any constituency who could give a connected account of Indian life and customs.
§ Mr. JONES
I think it is true, at any rate, that is my opinion. We, in the main, an uninformed people, declare that Indians shall not have self-government. Let me carry my challenge a little further. Take this House. I wish to speak with every respect of hon. Mem- 225 bers, I do not desire to be impertinent, but hon. Members know that in private they are telling each other that they do not know anything about this problem at all, that they have never studied it. As a consequence this House, knowing nothing of the Indian problem, declares to the Indian people who know much more about it that they are not fit to govern themselves. Of course, I acquit our own people generally of any culpability in the matter. We are 6,000 miles away from India—a very serious bar to an intimate knowledge of the country. It comes to this, we are literate, they are illiterate, but we are literate without knowledge while they are illiterate with knowledge. I would much prefer to allow people without any claim to academic distinctions to work out self-government for themselves so long as they have a knowledge of the practical life and problems of their country.
§ Mr. JONES
Let me turn now to another side of the argument. There are in this House, I grant it freely and readily, hon. Members who have a close, detailed and intimate knowledge of India. What of it? There are Indians equally endowed intellectually who have passed through English universities as triumphantly as any one of them, who can maintain their argument in debate, and did so in the Joint Select Committee, and who in India, where they have been called upon to perform tasks of government, have done it as well as any white people.
§ Mr. JONES
It was not denied in the Joint Select Committee that the men who staff the Services in the States are for the most part Indian people, and they have performed their services just as efficiently as any white man in British India. Therefore, I say that we are not entitled to argue that these people are unfit for self government. How in the main is the Civil Service in India staffed? There are some few thousands of Britishers at the head at the centres of government, but all over India the people who staff the Civil Service are not white men but native Indians, and they 226 are discharging the functions of administrative government as efficiently as white men. There is a further point. Hon. Members on public platforms are a little prone to accuse the Indian people of all sorts of vices in connection with government. I followed up this point rather closely when the charge was formally made before the Joint Select Committee. I challenged the gentleman who made the accusation to prove his point, and in the course of the discussion three ex-Viceroys, one after the other, responded to the appeal made to them by Sir Tej Badahur Sapru, and declared that as far as they were concerned they had been efficiently served by all the officers under their immediate command.
§ Sir A. KNOX
Surely they are at the top of the tree. The people who come under the Executive Council of the Viceroy do not take bribes.
§ Mr. JONES
Let me tell the hon. and gallant Member that the charge of bribery was definitely made and that all we could get in reply was that it was sheer rumour, some one's aunt told some one else's cousin. There was no evidence given which we could challenge in any way. The point of my argument is that if a lack of knowledge is a bar to Indian self government it is equally a bar to our continuing the government of India, for our people do not know much about it. If knowledge is a qualification, then Indians possess it. If experience is essential they have acquired it, and the universities in India and in this country, year after year, are turning out thousands of young Indians who are intellectually as well equipped as the most efficient white men that we can send out to India. Now what is it they lack? It is not fitness. What they lack is opportunity, and I want to quote, not from a supporter of mine, but from a passage in a book written by Sir Walter Lawrence entitled, "The India We Served." He says:I know from experience what Indians can achieve when they have the real chance. Side by side of the British the Indian seems to shrink from initiative. He is very different in the Indian States, and there is hardly an Indian State in which there have not been men of outstanding ability, great thinkers and men of initiative and action; men of the same race, caste and religion as those working in British India, but worlds apart, solely by reason of opportunity.227 It is because we want to emphasise this point of the provision of opportunity for self-government that we take such objection to the main spirit of the Majority Report. If we are agreed that opportunity is the point at issue, the question arises, To what degree shall this opportunity be afforded? Our colleagues who composed the majority of the committee took their stand upon the declaration in the Preamble of the 1919 Act, and they used these words, which appear on Page 6, Volume 1 (Part 1) of the report:But, above all, in the Preamble to the Act of 1919, Parliament has set out, finally and definitely, the ultimate aims of British rule in India.And this is the important point:Subsequent statements of policy have added nothing to the substance of this declaration, and we think it well to quote it here in full.Frankly, I controvert that proposition. I do not accept it; it is not true. The hon. baronet the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) seemed to cheer that passage, presumably because he adopts it. Surely he will agree with me that the most specific pledges—not indefinite pledges—have been given in pronouncements by Ministers at all periods since the War concerning India's future status. I am not going to discuss this matter at great length. The right hon. Member for Epping was a member of the Ministry in 1921. He was in that Ministry as Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Dominions, and in that dual function he made a speech, to which his attention was directed at a meeting of the Joint Select Committee. It was a speech given at the time of the Imperial Conference, in 1921, and in the presence, therefore, I should add, of representatives of the Dominions and of India. That is most important, because language used to those people there would be used in accordance with the understood interpretation of the phrases presented to them. The right hon. Gentleman used this phrase—I quote from page 1,792 of the Minutes of Evidence taken before the Joint Select Committee in reply to a question put by Lord Irwin (now Lord Halifax):You then went on: India was now coming into our affairs and councils as a partner, a powerful partner. We well knew how tremendous was the contribution 228 which India made in the War in 1914, how, when there was no other means of filling a portion of the Front by men from any other part of the whole world, there came the two splendid Indian corps, who were almost annihilated in the mud and the shell fire of that terrible winter in Flanders.He went on to say—and this is the vital part—We owed India that deep debt, and we looked forward confidently to the days when the Indian Government and people would have assumed fully and completely their Dominion status.Now that phrase was used, and the right hon. Gentleman has never troubled to deny it. But in the meantime the right hon. Gentleman has been denouncing the whole process of moving in the direction of granting Dominion status to India. One day, the right hon. Gentleman will recollect, from his place in this House he accused Ministers of using language somewhat lightly and loosely, whereupon I reminded him that he himself was guilty of the same fault, if fault it be, since he had used the phrase "Dominion status" in 1921. Then the right hon. Gentleman sent in a memorandum to us in the Committee and for the first time, as far as I know—I speak subject to correction—the right hon. Gentleman came forward with a distinction between Dominion status and Dominion constitution.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
My hon. Friend is wrong. I made a very full statement on this subject in December, 1931, in debate.
§ Mr. JONES
Yes. I know on that occasion the right hon. Gentleman explained that he used the words "Dominion status" in a ceremonial sense, but he gave us a fuller explanation of the distinction in a Memorandum which he presented to us. He said that he thought Dominion status to be rather different from Dominion function. I accept the right hon. Gentleman's statement of his view. I am not arguing that. All I say is, what is the difference between status and function? What is the good of a status at all unless it expresses function? What is the point of it? Let me put it in a homely way. The right hon. Gentleman will have heard the story of the duke and the dustman twitting each other, one with being over-dressed and the other with being under-dressed, and the duke called attention to the excessive dress of the dustman who said: "My lord, the difference 229 between you and me is this. You have the pocket of a duke and the tastes of a dustman, and I have the pocket of a dustman and the tastes of a duke." The point is this. What is the good of a rich man having the status, of a duke, shall we say, unless he can function, unless he can express it in some way? So with these people. It is no use the right hon. Gentleman presuming that he can satisfy the Indian people with mere status, or formularies and ceremonials. He must give it reality, and the only way to give it reality is by giving them Dominion self-government.
The right hon. Gentleman is not alone in this matter, for whatever he implied by the word "status" when he made his speech in 1921, as far as I know it was never repudiated by any one of his colleagues in the 1921 Government. There are many of them here; some were Cabinet Ministers, some were junior Ministers. Never once, so far as I know, was the right hon. Gentleman's statement about Dominion status challenged in 1921, and therefore it was fair for the Indians to assume that when he used that language he meant something specific by it. It is no good recanting or explaining it away. It was apparent that Dominion status implied Dominion function in 1921. It is now too late to go back upon that declaration. May I make one other observation upon this point? Hon. Members must not forget that over and over again in the last 80 years have phrases, has language, been used in respect of India by responsible statesmen here and in India. If not specific pledges, pledges were implied, and no one can complain of the Indian people if they feel a little sore when there seems to be a going back on pledges made by responsible Ministers since the War.
I now wish to say a word upon the first point which the right hon. Gentleman said was raised by the proposals, namely, the question of Provincial Autonomy. I am not going over the whole ground. I merely take the ground which is controversial. The great objection is to the transfer of law and order—the police—to the Provincial Governments. We take the view that much of the lawlessness—shall we call it for lack of a better term at the moment—in those areas arises not from viciousness or from the operation of any anti-social spirit. It 230 really is there because of the existence of a sense of political grievance. We contend that if you would only remove this sense of political grievance, much of the lawlessness would speedily pass away. Therefore, if you give self-government, much of the grievance is thereby removed. There will remain, undoubtedly, a residuum of terrorism, as it is called. In regard to this, let me say quite frankly I believe that the best instrument or authority for dealing even with terrorism is the Provincial Government itself, and not the Governor, for if the Governor keeps on interfering I suggest that it will in time do an injury to the Governor's office. He will inevitably come within the realm of party conflict, and be held responsible, and the consequence will be that the acting Ministers in the Provinces will be able to absolve themselves from responsibility by pushing it entirely on to the shoulders of the Governor, which would be a bad step.
Similarly, I take objection myself, and I believe my colleagues also, to the provision that the Governor should preside at the meetings of the Ministers. There, again, I think that is a very bad step. I think that we should start right away with imposing upon these people complete responsibility for the acts of government within the borders of their own Province. If you keep the Governor presiding over a Minister's meeting, you will foist upon him the responsibility for what the Ministry itself should bear. There is another observation I should like to make. I am very sorry—and in this I associate myself with my hon. Friend who said so yesterday—that we have persisted in this imposition of second chambers all over the place. That is perhaps an exaggerated expression. I should have said in respect of five of the Provinces. I think it a pity that we should be giving to these people the feeling that we are erecting barrier upon barrier against democratic progress, against the exercise of the democratic will through the medium of the Provincial Lower Chamber.
Thirdly, I deplore very much the decision to disfranchise those who have been imprisoned in the previous 12 months. They are not anti-social people; they are not people who are vicious in intention. They are people who, like the people in Ulster some time ago, were 231 impelled by a deep sense of political grievance, and in this case perhaps of exaggerated nationalism. I do not say it is, but in any event it was a sense of political grievance that sent them to gaol. But who will deny that the idiosyncrasies of yesterday become the commonplaces of to-day, and the follies of to-day the merest wisdom of to-morrow? These people at the moment are driven into destructive activity. Why not bring some of them into constructive effort by giving them a chance to make a contribution inside these organisations of Government?
I turn from that point to say a word about the Centre. I am not going to pretend that I like this central organisation excessively. Everyone can see that it is a somewhat anomalous organisation. From the States you have delegates, not representatives. From British India you get representatives. The one set of people represent individuals, that is the Princes; others represent vast bodies of people, the electors. One is highly conservative in its outlook, and the other, perhaps obliged to be, a little more democratic in its outlook. It seems to me like mixing two entirely contradictory principles, as it were. Moreover, the coming of the Princes into the Centre will necessarily add an enormous weightage on the side of privilege and wealth. No one can deny that.
Those factors make me feel, I must confess, that I do not heartily like the Federation as it is built up. But I ask, what is the alternative? Men may argue that the coming of the Princes into the Federation will bring in a conservative element. I do not deny it. But in respect of the acceded subjects, the subjects which the Princes have acceded in respect of Federation, the territory of the Princes will be brought for the first time under the aegis of this new Parliament. That is a step in advance. Moreover, I cannot believe that the Princes, or the States of the Princes, will remain like rocks in the middle of this vast ocean all round without some erosion taking place in the course of the years. It is bound to follow that in some degree some will be influenced one way and some the other. But the main argument for the Federation is this: It does provide an opportunity for India to begin thinking as one, 232 as an entity, for the first time. I do not like the conservative outlook, I confess. But in the absence of it Provinces will be apt to go their respective ways, in the absence of it there might be a tendency to another Federation, even less desirable perhaps than this form, on a purely communal basis, and that is something we ought to avoid if we can.
Let me turn to the great ground of difference between us and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State. First there are the reserved powers. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) spoke of foreign affairs yesterday. I will therefore pass on to defence. No one can deny the proposition I made earlier, that the Indian people have been very largely kept out of access to officerships in the Army. General Rawlinson, who was then Commander-in-Chief in India, set up a committee in 1922 to discuss this question. That committee reported that it would be possible to Indianise the Indian Army in 42 years. It subsequently reviewed that proposition and its final conclusion was that it could be done in 30 years. That conclusion was unanimously endorsed by the Vice-regal Council, at which there were-present the Commander-in-Chief and Lord Reading, then Viceroy. In our view you are bound to take steps for the Indianisation of the Army much more rapidly than a period of 30 years represents, so that Indians can man the Army themselves and officer it too.
But there is another side. Hon. Gentlemen must not forget that Sir Walter Layton declared that something like 62 per cent. of the total revenues of the Centre are expended upon the Army, not one penny of it under the review of the Legislative Assembly as it now is. Their only order is "Pay, pay, pay." They cannot criticise expenditure, nor are they allowed to criticise it under this proposal. If you are going to take 12s. out of every pound for the Army there is only 8s. left for social services, and everyone will admit that in India neglect of the social services has been one of the greatest blots on administration in the last half-century. They cannot tackle their social problems when so much money is mortgaged for the Army. Consequently it cannot be long before you will find the keenest resentment against a proposal whereby they 233 might not even discuss how much money shall be reserved for the Army at the Centre.
The third point is this: The hon. Member for Bodmin yesterday discussed at some lengths—I do not complain of it—the method of electing the Indian Lower Chamber. I still stand where I stood in Committee. It is quite true that there he and I voted together in favour of direct election and against indirect election. I was happy to find myself, as it were, in the same Division Lobby as the hon. Member. But that was one of the very rare occasions when I had that privilege. I have looked up the hon. Member's record, and I am referring to it now because I understand we are to have a campaign in the country, in which my hon. Friend the Member for Limehouse is to be held up as the one person who let down the barriers against reaction. Let me consider the record of the hon. Member for Bodmin, since we are to discuss records. The hon. Member voted against the abolition of second chambers. He voted against the abolition of special representation for landlords, chambers of commerce and industry. He voted against an increase of labour representation. He voted against definite provision for adult franchise after 10 years. He voted against our proposal whereby the wife of a qualified elector would be entitled to the vote. He voted against us when we desired to limit the special responsibility of the Governor-General. So I could go on. It does not lie in the mouth of the hon. Member for Bodmin, therefore, to accuse my hon. Friend the Member for Limehouse of failure to be democratic. When the hon. Member sets out on his campaign and when he delivers his speech I shall join issue with him and give some small share of his record in holding up the progress of democracy.
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
Seeing that my hon. Friend is so anxious to come on the same platform, would he prefer to discuss the question of indirect and direct election upon public platforms in the country?
§ Mr. JONES
Certainly, provided the whole area of differences is open to discussion the happier I shall be. All I am saying now is that if we are to have examination of each other's records, I 234 shall be glad to be there to show how much more in favour of progress the hon. Member for Limehouse was than the hon. Member for Bodmin. I, like other people, deplore—that is scarcely an adequate word—the necessity for this communal award. I dislike the division of people on religious lines in this way. With the passing of the years the people of India will be compelled to find some other and better way. But I take a consistent line in this matter. I have always declared that if the Indian people could settle this thing I am-prepared to accept what they can agree upon. The Prime Minister made an offer that if they could agree he would accept the agreement. This agreement was come to, and the Prime Minister made his award. Later on there came the Poona pact. I feel that, having got the Poona pact, it is impossible to go back upon it without creating a whole set of new controversies and difficulties. That does not make me love it any the more. I dislike it as thoroughly as ever. But I think that it is inevitable in the circumstances, and therefore I voted for it, though, reluctantly I admit.
One other word on the subject. Here again, I differ from the Secretary of State and his friends. I believe that we must Indianise more rapidly the public services in India, for it is only a fiction of self-government if these people are not themselves able to look forward to the time when they can man the services from top to bottom. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State yesterday, it seemed to me, betrayed little realisation of the fact that the most interested parties in this matter are the Indian people. He spoke, I thought, as a Conservative to Conservatives. After all, the right hon. Gentleman is not Secretary of State for India for nothing. As I conceive it, it is his business to represent the point of view of India to this House as well as to represent the point of view of this House to India. I do not feel that the right hon. Gentleman presented adequately the reactions of the Indian people to this whole problem since the beginning.
I said two years ago when we discussed the White Paper that it was like a barbed wire fence round the Indian people. The only change I have seen has been the addition of a few extra strands to make the 235 fence higher. I am sure that we cannot carry this scheme through successfully, even though we put it on the Statute Book, unless we rid ourselves once and for all of the sentiment of suspicion, of the lack of trust which runs like a sinister vein through the whole business. Do not, I beg of the House, give with one hand and take back with the other. I invite the House to give heartily and give with both hands. When Queen Victoria issued her proclamation on the occasion on the formal coming of India into the Empire she used these words:It is our further will that as far as may be our subjects of whatever race or creed be freely and impartially admitted to the offices in our service the duties of which they are qualified by education, ability and integrity, duly to discharge. In their prosperity will be our strength, in their contentment our security and in their gratitude our best reward.I myself, if I may say so, would accept those final words as an adequate guide to us in our present task. We are about to build a new constitutional edifice in India. It must weather the storms. It must withstand the rains of adversity. Though the biting winds of fierce criticism beat upon it, that edifice must stand. Its foundations must be well and truly laid. My colleagues and I have tried to fashion, crudely and incompletely it may be, an adequate foundation stone. That stone which we have sought to fashion is to be rejected, I doubt not, by the House to-morrow night, but I venture upon this prophecy—that the stone which the present builders will reject to-morrow, shall yet become the head of the corner.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Butler)
I am sure the House has appreciated the great sincerity with which the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) has spoken, but I must ask him and the House to excuse me from following in detail the many interesting points which he raised. I propose this afternoon to take the House to a new country, that of Burma, and to consider the problems of the future in that country. There was one matter, in which I could not follow the hon. Member for Caerphilly and that was in his illustrations of what he regarded as the dire consequences of British rule. I almost thought that after his fulmina- 236 tions some natural phenomenon might be observed in the sky. I was reminded of an extract from to-day's "Manchester Guardian" in which we are informed that in Burma they have experienced the coldest week ever recorded in the annals of the country and, it is said:The superstitious declare that this unprecedented weather is the result of the proposed separation of Burma from India.That is the sort of natural phenomenon which I should have expected to result from the great warmth of the hon. Member's speech. We are told on both sides in this problem of the red ruin and anarchy which may result from our plans. In the short speech which I propose to make, I shall attempt to show that the same guiding principles which were indicated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in his speech yesterday, animate us in considering the future of Burma. Burma received a great deal of consideration, as my hon. Friends will be able to testify, in the discussions at the Joint Select Committee. Those who wish to study the recommendations of the Committee will find them set out at length in the latter part of the Committee's Report. Like every one else who has had the privilege of visiting Burma I have had the experience of being entranced by her stately pagodas, her colour and her lively atmosphere, and I hope that those of us who are considering her problems will attempt to bring some of those qualities into the constitutional discussions on the subject.
It is right at the outset to consider briefly the association of Burma with this country. It is just over 100 years ago since the first portion of Lower Burma was added to the possessions of the Crown in 1826. In 1852 a further portion was added, and the longest and most comprehensive debates in the House on the subject of Burma took place in connection with the annexation of Upper Burma in 1886. In 1923 my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), who was then Under-Secretary of State for India, moved that regulations under the Government of India Act should be applied to Burma and from that date Burma has had a constitution equivalent to that of an Indian Province. During the whole of this time Burma has had close association with the Indian Empire of which she has formed a part.
237 During this period, however, her individuality has been becoming more and more marked. She has grown in wealth, in trade and in status. Great trading corporations have identified themselves with Burma's future and have invested large sums of money in the country. The rich mineral deposits particularly in the Shan States are extracted by the Burma Corporation. These are lead, spelter, silver and precious metals. Rubies and jade are among Burma's gems, and large merchant companies export her natural products of rice, oil and teak wood. Why is it that when one discusses these matters with regard to politics and gives statistics referring to them, rubies seem to lose their sparkle? Why is it that rice, so green and refreshing when it is growing and so palatable in a curry, becomes indigestible when it is dealt with as an exportable commodity? Why is it that oil which illuminates in its natural activity, should render a speech so dull? And why is it that teak wood, which is hard enough to be used for the decks of our Navy should become harder still when referred to in any discourse of this character? Nevertheless, I am obliged to refer to these products, and, if my remarks appear tedious to the House, it will be because I have to consider the effect of these matters upon the relations between Burma and India. Burma has grown in wealth to this extent that her sea-borne trade, which just after the annexation of Upper Burma in 1886 amounted to £19,000,000, last year reached a total of £48,000,000. During this time, not only has Burma grown in individuality but a a great divergence of economic interests between her and India has become apparent. In the submission to the Statutory Commission by the Burma Government the following sentence appears:Burma is a province in which the incidence of both central and provincial revenue is far in excess of that in other provinces and which furnishes the central revenues with sums that in comparison with those furnished by other provinces are increasingly large and rapidly expanding.This fact can best be illustrated by certain figures. In 1926–1927 Burma paid to the Central Government in customs, income tax and salt tax 635 lacs as against 5,470 lacs contributed by the rest of India—that is Burma paid about 10 per cent. of the whole, although her population, amounting to little over 13,000,000, 238 is only about 4½ per cent. of India's total. She also paid more per head in Provincial revenues than any other Province in India, namely, 7.3 rupees as against 2.7 rupees, the average for the rest of India. That is per head of the population. These figures, I think, illustrate the growing divergence of the economic interests between the two countries and the growing demand which Burma feels is being made upon her by the Indian revenues.
Not only in economic questions, however, but in many other respects has the individuality of Burma been growing more marked. She has a religion to which over 84 per cent. of her subjects adhere—the Buddhist religion—and from that fact springs a certain homogeneity in her population and outlook which is not present in India. We are in Burma spared many of the difficulties which communal problems bring in India or in parts of India. We have only to consider the different minority races, such as the Karens, Chins and Shans who, however, only make up a small proportion of her population. Moreover, social conditions in Burma are totally different from those in India. My hon. Friends opposite will be glad to hear that there are very few landlords in Burma. There are no depressed classes and the general structure of the Burmese policy is much more democratic than that which is found in India or even, I believe, in this country. How little, therefore, it would seem, hon. Members opposite can find to attack in any remarks that I want to make about the Burma policy. In comparison with India, women in Burma take a greater part in public life; there is no child marriage and many of the social problems which we find in India will be absent from our consideration this afternoon.
Besides these social and economic differences there are naturally great political differences arising from the distinctions between India and Burma. The Burmese delegates have to cross the sea to attend the Assembly at Delhi. The Burmese delegates to the Legislative Assembly have done noble work in the past few years. We know how difficult they have found it to assimilate themselves to conditions on the Indian continent and the Simon Commission found that representatives were, in fact, very hard to find. 239 Meanwhile within Burma the national life has been growing up on individual lines. Burma has now her own university at Rangoon. She is proud of the abolition of slavery within her borders, and she is proud of the share that she has taken in the constitutional discussions which have been going on for the last several years. Burma sent her delegates to take part in the Burma Round Table Conference, and Burma sent her delegates to share that work with us on the Joint Select Committee. Here I would like to pay a tribute to the work that the Burmese delegates did when they came here to join us just over a year ago. Without any sense of manoeuvre and with complete frankness, they joined in our discussions, and one saw a very great deal. They have, in common with this country, what we like to regard as one of our most valuable assets, and that is a sense of humour.
§ Mr. BUTLER
They contributed very nobly to our discussions, and I should like, in all seriousnes—and I feel sure the House would like to associate itself with me—to pay them a very sincere tribute for the trouble they took in coming. I feel sure that they found an English winter even worse than the cold spell to which I referred in the opening of my remarks. We found that these delegates were all imbued with the same strong wish that Burma should develop her individuality, but just as we find differences of opinion among ourselves on political questions, there was difference of opinion among the Burmese delegates as to whether they should continue to throw in their lot with India or whether their way should separate from India. Broadly speaking, it seems to me that their conclusion was that they were almost all in favour of separation, provided Burma could have separation on her own terms, and those who styled themselves anti-separationists desired, I believe, to enter the Indian Federation provided they had the right to secede later, when they hoped they might get better terms for an independent Burma. I am sure the House will agree with me in saying that to set up a Federation and at the same time allow a right of secession would 240 be absolutely impossible, and this was at the time made clear to the Burmese delegates. In the words of the Prime Minister at the Burma Round Table Conference,If an Indian Federation is established, it cannot be on the basis that its members can leave it as and when they choose.I have attempted, without going into the field of political speculation, to put the issue of separation as simply and clearly as I can. Those, I believe, were the arguments which led the Joint Select Committee, following upon the recommendation of the Statutory Commission, to recommend that Burma should be separated from India. Now if Burma is to be separated from India—and I have given the decision of the Joint Select Committee, which I feel that the House would wish to endorse when the time comes to-morrow night—what Constitution should Burma have, if she is to stand alone? I think it would be profitable at this stage to examine the success of Burma in administering the present Constitution, which she has had for the last 10 years. During this time, as I said earlier, Burma has had a Constitution equivalent to that of any Indian Province, but she has had something further. In 1923 the Forests Department was in Burma among the Departments transferred, and Burma, alone with Bombay, during these last 10 years has had the opportunity and the privilege of administering her own Forests Department. A Forests Inquiry Committee in 1925 reported that after examination of the working of the Burma Forests Department in its relations with the people, they found little that required remedy, and they were satisfied that the work of the Department was of a high order.
I have endeavoured to examine the reports on the other transferred Departments, and I have found that generally they may be said to have operated with great satisfaction and that an increasing amount of democratic support has been given to them in that operation. It may therefore be said that Burma has at the present moment a Constitution as advanced as, and in some degrees, as I have shown, more advanced than, that of any Indian Province. This was realised by pledges which have been given to Burma from time to time and which may be summed up in the words of Lord 241 Peel at the Burma Hound Table Conference, when he said thatthe objective after separation will remain the progressive realisation of responsible government in Burma as an integral part of the Empire.Throughout, pledges have been given to Burma that she shall, if separated, have a Constitution of this sort. Now the Constitution which we propose for Burma follows in its fundamental principles that which my? right hon. Friend explained yesterday to the House in connection with India, It is a form of responsible government subject to certain sate-guards and reservations, and I, therefore, will not go over the whole of the features of that Constitution, because I feel that my right hon. Friend has done it more ably than I could, yesterday.
There are one or two features upon which I should like to touch. The first is that the Burma Constitution will be unitary. The reservations in the federal field in the Indian Constitution and the special powers and responsibilities in the federation and provinces will be telescoped into one, into a unitary Constitution for Burma. There will be the same three reserved departments as are suggested in the case of India, but there is one special feature, due to the special circumstances of Burma, which do not seem to justify or to make necessary the establishment of a Reserve Bank for Burma. It is therefore proposed that Burma should continue within India's currency system, and it is thought that this will avoid some of the uncertainty and fluctuation which would be so undesirable at this stage of her development. The Governor of Burma is to be given control of monetary policy, currency and coinage for the reasons that I have attempted to explain. The Governor will also have the benefit of the advice of a Financial Adviser, who will be in touch with and available to the responsible Ministers.
In general, the other provisions follow those of the Indian Constitution. We had the same experience as in the case of India in attempting to arrive at the proper composition of the Burmese Legislature. We had to consider all the different claims, and we had a unique experience. Burmese women were offered three reserved seats in the Legislature, and through the mouth of their very able representative they rejected that offer 242 and said they would rather not have any reserved seats, but preferred to find their own place in the general constituencies. That is the only experience we have had, I think, of an offer being refused, and I am sorry to say that the other communities and interests for whom reservation of seats has been arranged in every case asked for more. Many of us would have wished in the Burmese problem 10 have avoided the difficulty of separate electorates, but we have confined our recommendations in regard to separate electorates to the minority rights of the minority races, the Karens and others to whom I referred earlier in my speech. There is, however, not the same problem of communalism that we find in India. There is one detail arising out of the women's franchise which I would like to mention. Some 21 per cent. of the adult women of Burma will find their place upon the roll, and it was unfortunately found impracticable to include any more.
I have attempted to show hitherto the growth of Burman individuality and her tendency to wish to stand alone, but naturally during this period of association with India certain associations and ties have been contracted, and no act of separation should be too drastic or should leave too clean a cut. It is for this reason that the Joint Select Committee have recommended agreements for an interim period on the questions of trade and emigration. There is seen to be a necessity for this when one examines the volume of Burma's trade with India. Burma sends to India her rice, her oil, her teak, her rice and her silver, and gets from India jute bags for her rice, coal and coke, cotton piece goods, and yarn. Nearly half of Burma's total imports and exports are in trade with India, and the values of the two tables I have given approximate fairly closely to each other. At the same time India sends to Burma annually, in a great migration, some 300,000 coolies to extract and to handle those very natural products which India needs so much, and Burma in her turn does not want an excessive or an unregulated supply of this labour from India.
The House will therefore see that there is a distinct interaction between the two countries on their various interests in trade and immigration, and they will readily understand the reason why the 243 Joint Select Committee have thought it necessary to recommend agreements on these questions for an interim period. The features common to these two agreements are that they are conceived for the purpose of avoiding disturbance, until we see how things work out, and they are conceived with an idea not to interfere with the independence of the future autonomous Governments either of Burma or of India, when they are established after separation has taken place. Therefore, there must be agreements, and they must be for a restricted period. Let me illustrate the necessity for a restricted period and for not interfering with the future autonomy of the individual Governments of either Burma or India. In the case of labour, it cannot be denied that Burma or any other country should have the right to decide upon the composition of her own population and the control of immigration, and in trade neither Government can be denied the right to control in the future, when separated, its own fiscal policy. There are certain differences between the needs of India and Burma in fiscal policy. Burma exports natural products which are not always suited by the high tariff wall which at present surrounds the Indian Empire.
The House will see that these are very important issues, and I think it will be wise, in coming to a decision upon them, to accept the general recommendations of the Joint Select Committee and not to hurry a decision. These questions, very naturally, are being exhaustively considered by the Governments concerned, and I feel sure that the House will be kept in touch with the developments and will watch them with interest, in view of the importance of the issues involved. In both these questions of labour and trade there are provisions suggested for preventing discrimination. For instance, the Joint Select Committee have suggested that the prior sanction of the Governor shall be given to any legislation on immigration which would have an unfairly discriminatory effect. Annually there pass to Burma from India different types of Indians who carry on different trades and avocations, and who contribute very largely to the prosperity of Burma, and this provision has been suggested in order that there should be 244 no unfair discrimination against any section of the populations of those countries.
In the same way, in trade, the Governor of Burma is to have a special responsibility to prevent penal tariffs on Indian goods, and the Governor-General of India is to have a special responsibility to protect Burmese interests. Both the Governor of Burma and the Governor-General of India are to have similar power in respect of British goods. This should, I think, allay the anxiety of those traders who are considering the future of British trade with India. In general, during the interim period of the agreement, to the extent to which it allows for the variation of the tariff schedules with third parties, it will be possible for British trade to find an outlet. British trade will have an opportunity in future when Burma's Government is established as an autonomous unit and is able to make her own fiscal policy. For the present her trade will be governed by any general agreement made by India as a whole with whom Burma at the present time naturally constitutes one fiscal unit.
There is one other very complicated issue to which I must refer. Separation would inevitably entail an apportionment of assets and liabilities between the Governments of India and Burma. Attention was directed to this problem from the time when separation was first advocated by the Statutory Commission, and the suggestion which the Government of India made in their dispatch of September, 1930, was endorsed by the first Indian Bound Table Conference. Following on that a preliminary examination into this subject was made by Sir Henry Howard on behalf of the Government of Burma and Mr. Nixon on behalf of the Government of India. But their examination inevitably left some questions of principle outstanding. These will be required to be settled in principle by an arbitral tribunal and the Joint Select Committee conclude their report by recommending that steps should be taken for its appointment at as early a date as is reasonably practicable. The Secretary of State has lost no time in taking action upon this recommendation and, if the House adopts the proposal to proceed with legislation on the lines of the Committee's report, he is is in a posi- 245 tion to proceed at once with the necessary arbitration.
In conclusion, I think I can sum up saying that I have every confidence in recommending the House to proceed to deal with Burma's future on the lines suggested by the Joint Select Committee's Report. I have attempted to show the growth of Burma's individuality and how the Joint Select Committee approached the question of separation in a spirit of common sense. In the researches I have made into the history of the old kings of Ava, I found that when suits were instituted in the courts it was always taken as an axiom that both parties had a certain amount of right and that both parties were certainly partly at fault. The guiding principle in coming to a decision was that of common sense. We have attempted to deal with the question of separation on common sense lines, and we have suggested certain compromise arrangements for the interim period. We believe that in the transitional period the arrangements suggested will avoid confusion and lead to the greater stability of the relations of Burma with India and this country. It is a great moment for Burma, who is waiting the chance to develop her own individuality. I feel sure when she reflects that she is in effect going to be separated, but, at the same time, is going to enter a new triple partnership, she will feel that her separation from India will be a happy one in that she will take part in a new triple partnership of India, Burma and Great Britain, and will be included in a great Empire partnership which will be for her future interest and benefit.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I am sure the House will be very grateful to the Under-Secretary of State for his most interesting speech on the important subject of Burma. I am certain that our loyal friends in Burma will be glad to think that in the midst of this tremendously important Debate the Under-Secretary has laid such great stress upon that side of the problem. I do not know what course the proposed legislation will take, but I hope that it will be possible for this subject to be dealt with in a special Bill and that considerable time will be given to the matter. As was indicated by the hon. Gentleman, this is a great 246 problem which is vital to British and Indian interests, and I hope that any new Constitution for Burma will not be rushed through the House by Orders in Council or in the manner of the Ceylon Constitution, which will be injurious to her in days to come.
I feel that the opening of the Debate to-day if of a congratulatory character. We offer our felicitations to the people of Burma that they are not to be included in this new Federation, which some people consider to be of a ramshackle character. I am sure my friends will do everything to see that in the future Constitution for Burma we shall take steps to ensure that the people of Burma are not exploited, but that they have the freest possible trade between Britain and India—a reciprocal trade—and that they do not have to pay, as the Indians do in many cases because of the fiscal system, high prices for goods which cannot be suitably produced in their own country. I hope I may have the opportunity towards the end of next year of replying at length to the Under-Secretary's speech in regard to Burma's Constitution. The subject will require many days' discussion, and I hope my hon. Friend will not think it impertinent of me if I do not follow him on that subject, because the greater issue of India's Constitution must occupy all our efforts, especially as 44 other Members who share my views desire to speak, and I can only humbly attempt to represent their views.
In the report which we are considering there is no suggestion whatever that British rule in partnership with Indians has broken down or failed, or that the conditions for the masses in India will show any definite improvement by the transfer of Government and administration. There is no suggestion of inefficiency or corruption among the British administrators who are serving in India, and there is no criticism of the services of the police or the great Civil Service in that country. Indeed, the Committee refer in the early stages of their report to the majestic structure of the Government of India and refer to all its services in the most glowing terms. There is common agreement in the House about that. The Committee, however, as far as I can see, bases its real reason for these reforms upon what is described, and what has so frequently been described in this 247 country, as meeting the aspirations of the Indian people. The Committee frankly declared that those who entertain these aspirations are but a small fraction of the population. If I can prove that the whole of this small fraction is either definitely hostile to or frankly dissatisfied with the proposed reforms, and if I can prove, as I think I can clearly, that in fact India, with such voice as she has, has rejected these reforms, I suppose that the House will agree that the framework of the Committee's structure is not suitable and will have to be either pulled down or built up again.
Let me substantiate my case, not by opinions of my own, which I am afraid would not carry much weight in some section of the House, but by the facts as they are. I have made it my business during the last two and a-half years to ask the opinion of every expert supporter of what I might call White Paper principles to tell me what figure I can truthfully give as the number of persons who may be regarded as politically-minded in India. The answers which I have received have varied widely between 1,500,000 and 10,000,000 people. I desire to give every advantage to those who disagree with me and, I will therefore take the higher figure of 10,000,000 which, out of a population of 352,000,000, is less than 3 per cent. The other 97 per cent. of the people of India are inarticulate or have not been touched by the democratic urge or surge which we are told exists in some quarters. Therefore, it is my duty, if I can substantiate my case, to examine and dissect this 3 per cent. of the population who are admittedly by their education, by their political knowledge, which is great, and by their organising ability, which is by no means small, those who will control the democratic institutions which it is proposed to set up.
The Secretary of State, who conducted his case with such suavity and good temper and, we all agree, with immense sincerity through all these discussions, has divided the population of India who are politically minded into two sections. Firstly, I think he will agree that he used to lay the greatest stress upon the Liberals and Moderates, some of whose leaders were actively supporting the ideals of the right hon. Gentleman, at 248 any rate, until recently; and, secondly, the Congress, whose influence the right hon. Gentleman, in a Debate about six months ago, begged us not to overrate. The Viceroy definitely voiced the opinion that Congress was the one great political force in India which was organised, and I beg the House to remember that immediately after the White Paper was published the Congress leaders decided to take part in the election for the Legislative Assembly and to make opposition to the White Paper the basis of their policy. In addition, I would remind the House that practically the whole of the Hindu Press denounced the White Paper.
The election is now completed, with the exception of seats in Burma and one or two others, and I suggest that it is imperative for us to realise precisely what has happened. Throughout India, with 106 elected seats, I think I am right in saying, on the analysis I have obtained, that only six Hindu Moderate candidates stood for election, and five of them were eliminated, suffering overwhelming defeat. I should have said six, but there is one ewe lamb who has gone astray, because I think the right hon. Gentleman did at least claim, when we interrupted yesterday, that at least one of these Liberal Moderates was returned. Whoever the ewe lamb may be, and wherever he stood, we gladly make the right hon. Gentleman a present of him.
But to get the true picture one must look at the actual results in the great Provinces of India. The right hon. Gentleman will perhaps forgive me if by any chance I make one or two mistakes, because these are cabled results received from India from time to time; at any rate, it will not alter the effect of the story. In Bengal not a single Moderate even stood for election. The field was left clear to Congressmen and to their allies, who, whilst differing on the communal question, have expressed their determination to support Congress. These candidates swept the board in Bengal. The United Provinces sent eight Hindu representatives to the Legislative Assembly. Four of these representatives were returned unopposed and four were elected by huge majorities. All of them were Congressmen. Madras was the one hope of my right hon. Friend, because there was the Justice Party, which some people honestly believed was going to "cut some ice." It was 249 the only party which stood up at all against Congress. The Justice Party has been completely wiped out in Madras. In the Punjab, of the Hindu representatives, one was a declared Congressman and two were Nationalists who have declared their support for Congress. In Assam both Hindu representatives were Congressmen. In the Central Provinces one was a Congressman and one a Nationalist Congressman. For Bombay I have not got the complete returns—I do not know whether complete returns are out—but here no Moderate ventured to stand, except Sir Cowasjee Jehangir, and what his fate was I do not know. Perhaps he was the ewe lamb.
The Select Committee, in their report, gave no indication whatsoever of this coming repudiation of the whole of their plan—because it has to be remembered that their plan is entirely based upon "the aspirations of the Indian people." I think they were, to a certain extent, led astray by the enthusiasm of friends of my right hon. Friend who came as delegates to the Conference, and who, I suppose, and not unnaturally, were mostly chosen because they were presumed to support these reforms. The Select Committee laid very great stress, however, upon the central body of opinion in India. They were relying upon that just as much as they rely upon the central body of opinion in this country. I hope their illusions will not be shattered in this country as they have been in India. Since the writing and the signing of the report the election has taken place in India, and the central body of opinion upon which they counted so largely for the fulfilment of their hopes has evaporated in thin air, and, in consequence, the basis of the case presented by the Committee to Parliament is very seriously damaged. Henceforth, if we have the smallest regard for realities, we cannot claim that there exist Liberals, Moderates, or a central body of opinion which can in any way help the Select Committee out of the profound difficulty in which they now find themselves.
This is only a part of this humiliating story. Hitherto, owing to the communal issue, Moslems have been more or less favourable to the policy of the Government as recommended by the Select Committee. 250 But now no less than 10 Moslems have been returned in opposition to the White Paper. They include Mr. Jinna, Mantava Shankat Ali, Sherwani, Dr. Khan—Ked Shirt Leader—and Mr. Ahmad Kazim, all leaders in the Moslem world. Out of the total number of 146 in the new House, therefore, as far as I can ascertain, there will be 53 Congressmen and their allies, 13 followers of Mr. Jinna and seven nondescripts, a total of 73 opponents of the White Paper policy. It is clear, therefore, that the Government can only avert danger on this question of the reforms with the help of the official members. If a vote is taken of the elected members only a section of the depressed classes, the Europeans, and certain Moslems—a majority of the Moslems—will vote for the Government, and three-quarters of the elected representatives will, in my opinion, be against the reforms. Therefore, "democracy," the word which these gentlemen have taught my right hon. Friend to utter so frequently——
§ Sir H. CROFT
I am very glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman never uttered it, but it has been used very loosely in many quarters. I am very sorry that I should have made such a terrible blunder. I always hoped that the right hon. Gentleman was not allowing himself to be carried along this stream of passionate verbiage about democratic India, when one knows that no possible form of democracy can exist in a caste-ridden country. I must therefore address myself to the Liberal benches. It has been shown that democracy in India is dead against them. The Government cannot get away from that fact, and if they persist in this policy they do so clearly in violation of the Indian electorate. I ask the question: Is His Majesty's Government going on with this Measure if the majority of the elected representatives in the Legislative Assembly decide against their reforms? I think we ought to have an answer to that question. To tell the House or the country that this policy meets the aspirations of the Indian people will, unless the facts which I have presented are completely wrong, be no longer true. The vast majority of the people want no reforms, and the articulate few with 251 political aspirations have refused the reforms.
We have also to face the fact that there is one more startling change in the Indian situation. My right hon. Friend puts his trust not, perhaps, in princes but in Indian Liberals, and, although they have not succeeded in getting elected to the Legislative Assembly, practically all of them have now denounced this policy. The Liberal Federation, presided over by Mr. J. N. Basu, went even further, and most unfairly, I thought, accused the British Government of a breach of faith and of dishonesty. Therefore, we have to face the fact that democratic India in both its branches, as far as it is vocal, has expressed itself against the policy of the Government. If the Secretary of State still doubts these facts which are staring him in the face, I invite him to take two immediate steps. First of all, in order to reassure the public of this country, let him get a document signed by ten leaders of the Hindus in India to state that they wish him to go on with the reforms. If he cannot do that, let him try to get six just Liberals who will sign such a statement. Secondly, I ask him to select any district in the whole of India, great or small, where Hindus predominate, and take a plebiscite of the people in that area on these reforms. If he is unable to do that I would remind him that three-quarters of the population of the Indian Empire are Hindus.
Now I come to the Princes. The bull point recently made at important gatherings outside this House, to which I hardly like to refer, was the desire of the Princes to come into this scheme, great stress being laid on the word "desire." We were told that we must not thwart the will of the Princes. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), with whom I have found myself in agreement on nearly every question except the Statute of Westminster for so many years, said: "We must not fob off the Princes for the Council." A great champion of the Princes was Lord Salisbury. Am I wrong in saying that the whole case for abandoning the recommendations of the commission which spent two years on this question under the chairmanship of the Foreign Secre- 252 tary was the assumption that a new situation had arisen in the great desire of the great Princes to come into a federal scheme. The Secretary of State, speaking yesterday, said:I have no reason to suppose that the Princes have in any way altered their position since they made that offer four years ago. Neither they nor I will be deflected by partisan propaganda. They are free agents."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th December, 1934; col. 59, Vol. 296.]Never at any time, I submit, did more than a small number of the Princes seek this policy. I am quite aware that a great Prince, a man to whom every British citizen is in debt, the Maharajah of Bikaner, was infected by this desire, and at the first Bound Table Conference he made a speech in favour of it, and we ought to pay very great attention to all that gallant, loyal, and distinguished citizen of the Empire may at any time say. His two principal supporters on that occasion were the Maharajahs of Alwar and Kashmir, of whose views I will not say more than that they would not carry quite the same weight. But it was only when a certain number of Princes saw that we were apparently determined ruthlessly to go on with self-government in the Provinces of India that some of them, fearful for their future, began to listen to the siren voice of Lord Beading, who is now claimed by the Liberal party as the real author of these reforms. A great Indian chief, speaking over here to a large gathering at which some of my hon. Friends were present, said:When the lion is running with its tail between its legs, can you blame the lion cubs if they follow?
§ Sir H. CROFT
The Maharajah of Burdwan. At no time have the representatives of the Princes given unconditional acceptance of Federation. The commitments of 1930, which were referred to by the Solicitor-General, were negatived in the Chamber of Princes in March, 1933, upon the publication of the White Paper. During the present year the Princes have made it perfectly clear that they would not enter Federation unless all the safeguards that they had demanded through the Chamber were incorporated. If the House wants the exact words, I can read them, but I hope 253 hon. Members will allow me to go straight on. The safeguards which the Princes demanded have not been incorporated in the report of the Joint Select Committee. These truths will out. Why were they not made clear in the great discussions which have taken place outside and here? You cannot count upon the Princes assenting to come in.
The Secretary of State for India talked about partisan propaganda. I am most reluctant to make any criticism of one who stands in the highest esteem of this House and who has done an immense deal for the restoration of order in the administration of India, but since he has made a political utterance I must, for one moment, make a political utterance in reply. The power of the Viceroy and his prestige among the Princes of India is, as everybody knows, very great. The Viceroy declared in India publicly that he could be trusted in this matter because he was a lifelong Liberal and Home Ruler. I confess I was staggered upon reading that. If any sovereign of any land were to say that he could be trusted on certain political measures because he was a lifelong Socialist or Conservative, that would be an impossible situation to contemplate. It gave very strong indications that he was somewhat partisan in his view.
Early in this controversy, the Secretary of State naturally wanted to get all the Princes to come in, and he varied his number of essentials for the success of the reform. I am not sure what is the exact number that are necessary at the present time, but it became clearly evident that if he were to count the noses of the subjects of the Indian States, he had to secure the support of at least two or three of the very biggest native States, such as Hyderabad or Mysore. So there suddenly emerged special talks and tributes, and one thing and another, with regard to those States. We are told that there was never any pressure, but I cannot help emphasising the fact once more that when the Prime Minister or the Nizam of Hyderabad, who has a great deal to say in regard to that State, was over here, he spontaneously burst out at the Round Table Conference and said that the Secretary of State had pressed them relentlessly. That spontaneous statement is not very much altered by the fact that the same gentleman signed a 254 letter with five or six others before they went back to India, saying that they approved the Scheme. First thoughts, spontaneously delivered, are best.
The Secretary of State is probably aware that running through all India at the present moment is an idea that a great deal of pressure has been employed. It would be very satisfactory, before the Debate comes to an end, if that matter could be cleared up. Would the Secretary of State empower somebody to tell us whether, in fact, the Viceroy has used his great position at any time to try to persuade the Princes to come into the scheme? Was he at any time instructed by the Secretary of State to do so? Has he interviewed many of the Princes on this subject? In view of the absurd rumours which are floating about and being broadcast in India, let the Secretary of State give an assurance to the House that there has been no promise of gun salutes, or precedence or anything of that kind. It would be very helpful for everyone if the facts were known.
§ Sir S. HOARE
Would the hon. and gallant Member allow me to interrupt him to ask if he will put this question as to gun salutes and precedence a little more precisely?
§ Sir H. CROFT
Throughout India at the present time—I have had, not one letter but scores of letters on the subject—there has been some question of gun salutes, which is a question of precedence. The question has been mooted in various circles that gun salutes have been brought in to the White Paper controversy. I will not put it any higher than that. Can the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that nothing of the kind has happened? Such an assurance would be very welcome.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I can give it in one sentence here and now. There is no foundation for any rumours of anything of the kind.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman has been able to say that. He probably knows that it has been very widely stated——
§ Sir S. HOARE
The only rumours that I have heard are to the contrary, namely, that inducements have been held out to certain Princes to oppose Federation on the ground that ultimately, sometime in 255 the future, they might receive the kind of reward to which my hon. and gallant Friend has referred.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend. What he has said will be received with very great satisfaction. I hope he will answer as emphatically the other questions that I have asked as to whether the Princes or Chiefs in India have been interviewed, or if any endeavour has been made to persuade them? I do not say that that is wrong. If you have a policy, you naturally try to persuade all the constituent elements to come in, but the Princes are in rather a different position from hon. Gentlemen sitting on these benches, who may be brought into harmony with the general scheme. In the case of the Princes let us not forget that a solemn pledge was made to them. It is the only unconditional pledge that has ever been given to India—Queen Victoria's pledge which was repeated by the two successive King Emperors to the effect that their privileges, rights and dignities will be maintained inviolate and inviolable. It is perfectly evident that if any Princes were in any way persuaded to come into a scheme of this kind they would be surrounded immediately by a surging wave of democracy, and it would be impossible for this country to see that their rights, privileges and dignities were maintained inviolable and inviolate in the future.
The point upon which a very great deal of stress was laid by the Leader of the Conservative party, the Lord President of the Council, was that you cannot hold India for two generations unless you pass these reforms. He was speaking obviously with great sincerity; I am sure he would not have said it otherwise. If that be a fact, I submit that it is not helpful to the Viceroy or to the administration in India that the fact should be proclaimed. There is no doubt that such a statement must be calculated seriously to influence any body of persons, such as delegates to a party conference. Surely we are entitled to some very strong evidence to support such a contention. The Statutory Commission did not advance any such argument, nor, as far as I can see, have the Joint Select Committee. Once before, after a similar 256 statement, there was an immediate response from those whom I may describe as the eight greatest generals before they left India. I think it is so important that I will read what they said in 1933:We, the undersigned, having had considerable and recent military experience in India, state unhesitatingly that, from a military point of view, we can, at any time, hold India against external and internal dangers, provided we retain command of land and sea communications and control of the police. It is, if and when the White Paper proposals are put into force, without modifications, the Army becomes Indianised throughout, and the police, railways, posts and telegraphs have been handed over to entire Indian control, that the danger of our losing India will arise. The control of these services is, in our opinion, a vital factor in the problem of the defence of India.It was signed by General Sir George de S. Barrow, Lieut.-General Sir E. Lock Elliot, Lieut.-General Sir W. R. Marshall, Lieut.-General Sir E. H. de V. Atkinson, Lieut.-General Sir George MacMunn, Lieut.-General Sir Herbert C. Holman, Major-General Sir W. G. L. Beynon and Major-General F. E. Johnson. I suppose it is true to say that they are the most brilliant names in military administration in recent years. I beg right hon. Gentlemen who are still in doubt to get the opinion of Field-Marshal Sir Claude Jacob and Field-Marshal Sir William Birdwood, the last two Commanders-in-Chief, and ask them if they do not support the view which was maintained by the eight distinguished soldiers whom I have quoted. When we drop the idea of the Reform Bill, the bogey of disaster will drop with it.
Before I resume my seat, I would refer to arguments which have been used frequently in recent discussion. Those who disagree with my hon. Friends say that the only question which divides us is one of pace and time. They they go on to say "you think as you do about the results at the Centre; you ought not therefore to proceed with the policy in the Provinces." That argument as to pace alone dividing us is not correct. We do not believe that the federal scheme can work, and we are utterly opposed to abandoning government at the Centre or handing over the judiciary or the police until all the Provinces have graduated in the arts of statesmanship and democratic institutions, and have proved themselves well-affected partners and fit to enter into a federal scheme with the Em- 257 pire. I never had any very great enthusiasm for the Simon Report, but it had one advantage. It apparently had the general support of the nation. The "Times," the "Manchester Guardian" and the "Observer" all went into ecstacies about it. They said it was the most perfect thing which had ever been produced. It was a policy which seemed to have general consent, and I accepted it simply because if you are going to take the step of granting home rule to a province of India that is not fatal. If the policy fails, you can draw back, but once you leave the Central Government of India, you are finished.
I am grateful to the House for the toleration with which they have listened to my remarks. I can only say that my friends and I are not concerned, in this question, in having a riot against the Government. This is a time that is far too solemn, and the dangers confronting the nation are far too great, for any factious opposition, but we feel deep down in our hearts that this thing is wrong; we do not believe that it is going to work. We believe that you are going to lay up for yourselves immense difficulties in the days that are to come, and once more we beg that His Majesty's Government will realise the fact that India has definitely declared against the reforms, and that, therefore, you are not placating those whom you had hoped to please. We beg you also to realise that you have not even had an opportunity, if I may put it in that way, to take the opinion of the people of this country. Are you quite sure that the people of this country want to end British government in India—for, even though this may not be a complete end, it is, as the right hon. Gentleman said yesterday, going greater stages are to come?
Some of us cannot get away from this fact. We believe that Britain has given the most marvellous gift to the people of India. It might have been better; there might have been here and there greater imagination; but, on the whole, it has been a wonderful service which the flower of our race have given to the people of India through all these generations. The losses will be greater even than the possibility of loss of trade, which has been appalling in Lancashire since these reforms were started. It has been going down and down, and, instead 258 of good will being promoted, as everyone in Lancashire knows, things have got worse and worse. There is something greater even than this. Although it is difficult to say these things, it exists deep down in our hearts. We have seen Christian rule bridging the gulf between Moslem and Hindu in India during all these years. Alone in the history of India has Christianity been able to pour this wonderful balm upon the acerbities of these people. We believe that, if that rule, based on these precepts, is removed, nothing else can bridge a chasm.
Therefore, let no one imagine that we feel lightly about this question. Here we have one-fifth of the human race, and we have terrible doubts whether, if you remove all power from the British administration and Government, you are not weakening the whole fabric of that which we count most dear on earth. For that reason we beg once more that His Majesty's Government will not persist with this Measure. If they think that a change is coming over the situation, can they not send a committee or a commission immediately to India, in order to ascertain from the Executive Council in India what are the opinions of its members to-day, as compared with what they were before the elections in India took place? I beg that the Government will not hasten forward with this policy. I do not believe it will go through. I believe that India will forbid it; I believe that Britain will forbid it; and I believe that a Higher Power may still yet deflect you from a course which I believe will be disastrous.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Lord EUSTACE PERCY
I ought, perhaps, to apologise to the House for the fact that another Member of the Joint Select Committee is making a speech in this Debate. I had not intended to do so, because I have felt that it is not for us who were Members of that Committee, deputed by this House to consider the question, to get up and hectically defend the work that we have done to the best of our ability. The result of the work which the House gave us to do is now in the hands of the House. The House can read it, and our function, I think, is rather to assist the House in any case where there appears to be misunderstanding or where any elucidation of the report may appear to be required. I did 259 feel that a volume of questions had been propounded yesterday which would justify my speaking, and, even if I had not felt that yesterday, I certainly should have felt it to-day, for, if my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) will forgive me, I never heard a Member of this House, whom we all respect for his sincerity, treat a State document with the liberty with which he treated the report of the Joint Select Committee. He said in effect: "It is obvious from the report of the Joint Select Committee that the whole object of this scheme, and its only object, is to placate Indian aspirations; and, therefore, if I can show that it has not done so, or if I can show that the politically minded classes in India are overwhelmingly against it, then, of course, the whole proposals will fall to the ground." May I say to my hon. and gallant Friend that that is all very well on the platform, but in this House his hearers are persons who have all read at least the first section of the report; and, when he asks them to believe that we drew up our recommendations on the basis that they were to satisfy Indian aspirations, no one is going to believe him. May I just give him one quotation from the beginning of the paragraph which he is always so fond of quoting about moderate and central opinion? This is our summary of what we decided to do:We would close this introductory part of our report with one final word. At its outset we recorded our recognition of Indian aspirations and our sense of the weight to be attached to them. Having done so, we have examined the problem from another angle, concentrating our attention on the facts of Indian Government and of Indian social conditions. Our study of these facts has led us to certain concrete conclusions, which in the body of our report we shall have further to elaborate and justify. But, having thus reached our conclusions by the exercise of our judgment on the facts of the case, we may be permitted to urge their acceptance as embodying"—and then follow the words which my hon. and gallant Friend is so fond of quoting. I put it to any impartial person whether the whole basis on which my hon. and gallant Friend built up his speech is what would be regarded by an ordinary Englishman as an honest argument? I do not think there can be any doubt as to the answer to that question. 260 It is not the whole fabric of our report which falls when my hon. and gallant Friend's speech has been delivered; it is the whole fabric of his speech that falls when anyone reads with an unbiased and unprejudiced mind the first 47 paragraphs, let alone the rest, of our report.
But, after all, my hon. and gallant Friend does not represent those in this House who really criticise the report. The real reasoned opposition is represented by my Noble Friend the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer). Listening to his speech, and to the speeches of others who agree with him, I could not but be impressed by one or two features. The first was that all of us in this House, except possibly hon. Members of the Opposition—at any rate the whole of the Conservative party in this House—approach this problem from the same angle. My Noble Friend said very forcibly that this was not democracy; that this was not Parliamentary self-government in our sense; that you could not have a system of Parliamentary government in our sense in India so long as you had no organised parties, or no rivalry between organised parties—that the caste system was a negation of democracy, that the communal system was a negation of Parliamentary government, and that in these circumstances what we had to aim at was to produce a scheme which would work, and not a scheme which would satisfy a demand for democratic self-government, for which ex hypothesi, India was not ready.
Where did my Noble Friend get all his arguments? He got them almost verbatim from the report of the Joint Select Committee. These are our arguments, and I think they are unanswerable arguments. What is the use, when that is the case as between members of the same party, of attempting to represent those points of absolute agreement as if they were points of debating difference. It really is not worthy of members of the same party discussing a great constitutional subject. I do not think that my Noble Friend desires to raise unnecessary debating points; I am not accusing him of any unfairness in debate; but I think that, if he had read our report with slightly more imagination, he might have seen that those are views on which we agree. Again, I am not impressed by the narrowness of our difference. It 261 is a difference of enormous importance, but it is a difference within defined limits. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth has, indeed, attempted to widen the difference. He has delivered an attack on the whole idea of any advance at all; and he has delivered that attack in the name of a principle which all of us revere—the principle of our religious faith; but it is a principle which many of us, in view of the bitter experiences of history, are very chary of seeing dragged into political discussion. Those who have ruled by appeal to the highest religious sentiments have not always been in the position of the most beneficent or the most honest government. But, whatever oratorical appeal my hon. and gallant Friend may have made, his whole case was this: "I would have accepted the report of the Statutory Commission because it seemed to have the whole British nation behind it." But did it have the whole Indian nation behind it? Did it have behind it more Indian opinion than this report of the Joint Select Committee? Was my hon. and gallant Friend taking any interest in India in those days? Does he know what was the state of public opinion in India on the subject of the Statutory Commission? He was prepared, apparently, to take one criterion of public acceptance in the case of the Simon Commission and another in the case of the report of the Joint Select Committee.
That is not the attitude of my Noble Friend the Member for Aldershot. He said: "We are prepared to accept Provincial Autonomy as a necessary step. We say, however, that we regard it as a first step, and that it is absurd to say that Provincial Autonomy implies control of the police." My Noble Friend pointed out that we in this House do not control the police. I am very glad that he laid that down so clearly, but there again he is repeating the recommendation of the Joint Select Committee, where we point out very positively that not only should a legislature have no control over the police, but it should have no control over the organisation of the Civil Service or any part of the public services. That is the function of the executive. I am glad that the difference on that subject is narrowed down to the question of the control of the police. I am sorry my Noble Friend attributed to the Joint 262 Select Committee the view that self-government is impossible without control of the police. The Joint Select Committee said nothing of the sort. They said, "unless there was some responsibility for the control of public order." That is a very different thing. This House is responsible for the maintenance of law and order in this country, but it is not necessary for the purposes of that responsibility that it should control the police. I am glad my Noble Friend has now made it clear that that is no longer the point of issue that divides us.
But what really divides us is the question of central Government. That is an enormously important issue, but it is a narrow one which can be argued on its merits and not by reference to the gossip that this or that Member of Parliament may have brought back from India as to what this or that Prince is likely to do. Let us argue it on its merits. My Noble Friend made the only attempt I have over heard from any critic of the Joint Select Committee's report to argue against our solution. It was a real attempt to produce a serious argument, and for that reason I want to answer it. I think that at the outset he rather fails to appreciate the case that he has to meet. Perhaps he did not quite realise what that case was because, as he said, he had a tendency to be sick when the expression "irresponsible centre" was used. We are all liable to these emetic tendencies, but in the interest of clear thinking we have to control them. If my Noble Friend had thought out what that phrase "irresponsible centre" meant, he would have seen this. Our case against Provincial Autonomy and nothing else is not that the Governor General in Council is an irresponsible Governor, or an unfit person to administer the affairs of the Central Government, nor is it our case, as he seemed to think, that the mere fact that we are not going the whole way will cause such popular feeling in the Provincial Legislatures that they will continually agitate in favour of going further at the Centre. That is not our case at all. Our case is that certain functions of the Central Government are so intimately linked with provincial administration that to attempt to separate them between two authorities, each responsible to a different constituency, is a form of dyarchy, probably the worst form of dyarchy conceivable, and 263 is bound to break down. That is our case, and the case is mainly based upon finance.
The whole administration of the Provinces depends, first, on the general economic policy of the Central Government, upon its tariff policy, whether it is imposing tariffs for protective or for revenue purposes; and, secondly, upon its own expenditure and upon the way in which it is prepared to distribute any surplus revenues that it has to the Provinces. Our case is that, if you have those essential questions left solely to an authority at the Centre which has no constitutional relationship at all with the authority in the Provinces, you will cause endless friction and sap the whole strength of the Central Government and you will tend to disrupt the unity of India.
Against that my Noble Friend, by not understanding the case that he had to meet, said, "My answer to that is, in the first place, that you ought not to carry provincial autonomy so far. You ought not to give the Provinces anything more than delegated powers. You ought to reserve all the residuary powers to the Centre and you ought to maintain the strictest control over the allocation of the central revenues to the Provinces." One or two of those items I do not think make very much difference. Whether you have a concurrent field in the Federal and Provincial legislation in which Federal legislation overrides Provincial legislation, or whether you have a reservation of the whole residuary field to the Centre, does not seem to me to make very much difference. Nor does, I think, the question whether you regard the powers of the Provinces as delegated powers or original powers. At present the powers of the Provinces are delegated powers, and they always have been. Surely my Noble Friend sees that his last proposal, to link the Provinces far more closely financially with the Centre, makes the difficulty which I have pointed out far greater. It is only if the Provinces are more or less financially independent of the Centre that you can get rid of this fundamental difficulty of an irresponsible Centre and responsible Provinces. Therefore, the whole of his alternative suggestion for getting rid of the difficulty seems to fall to the ground.
264 Then he said, "What you do propose is unworkable. It is insane. It is Alice in Wonderland." I am very sorry that any of my Noble Friend's friends should have behaved so badly as to incur epithets of that kind. What is the reason why he says our proposals are insane? He says, because in the first place the Princes will not be amenable to the jurisdiction of the Central Government to the same extent as the Provinces, and in particular they will not pay the federal taxation. The only federal taxation which they will not pay is Income Tax. I should like to say a word on this question, because it seems to be generally assumed that the attitude of the Princes towards dircet taxation is in itself wholly unreasonable. On the contrary, it is, I think, wholly fair and reasonable as a pure matter of justice. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth quoted that unconditional pledge which we gave to the Princes in the name of the Crown. We have given this pledge, and we are certainly bound not to ask for financial conditions which are not fair. The original claim of the States was that they should not be asked to assume the whole of the public debt of British India, in itself a most reasonable request. I think it is very difficult to argue that States with public indebtedness of their own should come in and take over a part of the public debt of British India. But, clearly, to have divided the public debt and to have had a central Budget affecting British India only and a federal Budget for the service of the rest would have been extremely inconvenient. The Princes disliked direct assessment of their citizens carried out in their territory by the authorities of British India, but I always felt that when once the State had waived their claim to a division of the public debt, it was very difficult to argue, quite apart from other elements in the financial accounts with the States, that they ought to be subjected to the full weight of federal taxation. The exemption of the States from Income Tax is certainly an anomaly of a serious kind which will become more and more serious as time goes on, but as a matter of practice now and for many years to come I do not think that exemption from Income Tax is, in substance, unjust.
When my Noble Friend goes on to point out the disparateness between the States 265 and the Provinces, I would issue a warning to my hon. Friends who are strongly against the Report of the Joint Select Committee not to use an argument which, if they are genuine in their professions in favour of All-India Federation as an ideal, must inevitably tend to the disruption of British India. Because what is the situation? The Indian States are sovereign States. Their relation with the Crown is a relation of paramountcy. The Crown is the paramount power. A Province of British India is an autonomous unit exercising delegated powers from the British Crown, which is sovereign. If you want to end this disparateness between the States and the Provinces, either you must destroy the sovereignty of the Princes, which we are pledged to uphold, or you must assimilate the position of the British Indian Provinces to that of sovereign States. If you take that line, if you say, as my Noble Friend says, "Let us wait," if you put nothing in the place of the present centre, if you are merely content to defer a decision and you use that argument in favour of it, it tends directly to the satisfaction of the aspirations of every extreme autonomist who does not very much care about the unity of India at all, and only wants to magnify the independence of his own Province. It is all the more dangerous, because the whole case is that the centre should be left untouched as a purely transitional form of government.
My Noble Friend the Member for West-Derbyshire (Marquess of Hartington) said, rightly, he thought that a nominated membership and an elected membership in the same Legislature was in the long run impossible. I do not agree with him as far as Federation is concerned. Indeed, I am not sure that I agree with him at all. After all, those two things have existed side by side in a number of legislatures in the British Empire for many years. The point of the speech of my Noble Friend is that he said, "I know that there is that nominated element in the present Central Legislature, but I suppose that no one regards that in any other light than a transitional form of government." Yet the thing which you cannot define upon any ground you are going to leave suspended in the air, and you are not, in other 266 words, trying to produce a system of government which will really work. I do not agree.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I come to another point of the speech of my Noble Friend. We are asked, what is to be gained by waiting? Shall we gain experience? On what single point that I have mentioned will you gain experience? These are the points, the permanent irreducible points, on which you always have to decide. No one is proposing that you should produce the whole thing in a day. We have now had dinned into our ears that it is very doubtful whether the Princes any longer wish to accede as willingly as they did before, and that there may be a long period of negotiations. Negotiations about what? How are you going to negotiate with the Princes unless you lay down terms upon which you are to negotiate? I imagine that the House would never say to the Secretary of State, "Go on and negotiate and see if the Princes will come in, and we will back you up." If he came back with the accession of a number of Princes based on terms which he had devised himself, what would my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) say? He would say, "You have committed His Majesty's Government without our consent, and have not Parliamentary sanction behind you. How are you to carry out this confederation of governments unless you have laid down in advance the terms on which you are to federate?"
I must refer to what, after all, was the main point of the speech of my Noble Friend, or what was, at any rate, the main apprehension in his mind. He felt that Congress was in precisely the same position as Mr. de Valera. Its only policy was to drive us out of India, and that if you established a Central Government it would give it the power; you would in that legislature at the centre have a "sounding-board" for Congress and your federal legislature would not prove to be strengthened by the addition of the Princes, because the Princes would not pull our chestnuts out of the fire. If we would not stand up to Congress, why should the Princes stand up to Congress? That is another phrase which the 267 critics of the Select Committee are fond of using. "We will not stand up to Congress." Who is not standing up to Congress? Who is saying that the Governor-General under that system will not stand up to the Congress party? He has all the cards in his hands. What is the position of this future Central Legislature? Out of the total electorate of British India, excluding those of the Princes, of the 250 seats, the Hindu seats number 105. There are a certain number of special seats which will fall to Hindus. There are the Sikhs upon which they can very often rely, but in order to get a clear majority in that House of 250 they have to build up a block of discordant elements. Moreover, if you take the representatives of the States with very diverse interests both between themselves and against British India, Congress, even if it captured the whole of the Hindu seats, would still have to build up a coalition of groups in order to get a majority opposition in the Legislature. All history shows that a coalition Opposition of that kind is difficult to build up, is very insecure after you have built it up, and that a strong Sovereign advised by a strong Prime Minister could almost always break it down if he had time to do so.
The Governor-General will have twenty times the staying power that George III had when be put the younger Pitt into the position of minority Prime Minister in this country. He will be able to wait, I would almost say years, when George III could not wait months. The Governor-General has all that power to break down that most difficult and precarious opposition which attempts to reconcile a number of conflicting interests. In the last resort he has his breakdown powers. That is to say, he holds all the trump cards in his hands. I would ask the critics of the report, "If you were building up a block of that kind, which would be the easier course to follow?" If you were leader of the Congress party, would it be easier to go to the leader of the Moslems and say, "My dear friend, I wish to build up a majority opposition against the Governor-General. I am now Finance Minister and am the leader of the largest party in the House. Will you promise not to become Finance Minister in my stead if I resign?" Is that easier, or is it easier to say to your 268 Moslem friend. "Let us join together in a great opposition to force the Imperial Parliament to give any member of the Legislature the right to enjoy the honours and sweets of office"? That is the position you have now in a Legislature where no member can ever hope to enjoy the sweets of office, where there is no incentive before the politician and there is nothing for him but to oppose.
§ Lord E. PERCY
Yes. I say that it is, and if the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) had lived as long in the United States as I have, he would know that the quality of a legislature, the members of which are excluded from power, is always far lower than the tone and quality of a legislature whose members come to their legislative duties in the laudable and noble hope of doing public service in administrative positions. The reason why the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme does not appreciate the issues which we are considering is because he has temperamentally no wish of that kind. He has said that he is temperamentally an agitator, and not a politician.
§ Lord E. PERCY
Precisely, that is the attitude of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. He would rather be an honest agitator than a politician after a job. I agree that public agitation and dictatorship are the only two really respectable political trades. I know that to bear office in a Parliamentary government is a second best sort of thing, but I do not think that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had better give that advice to India. That is the real issue. You will have a sounding-board at Delhi and fights against the Army Budget year after year, and, whatever you do, friction and opposition. Are you going to bring to that friction and opposition the only constructive outlet—the opportunity of some active responsibility? My Noble Friend says—and this is really the final issue of the argument—that Radicals always become more radical, that Liberals become Radicals, and Radicals 269 become Socialists. Is that his experience of Parliamentary government? It is the experience of rebels always. Your Nationalist party in Ireland, which was excluded by its own act from any hope of hunting for political jobs gave place to revolutionaries inevitably. But where you have a Parliamentary government where the agitator is continually put to the test whether he is prepared to assume responsibilty, has my Noble Friend not learned from the teaching of history, that things go from less to more radical? Has he not seen members of the Socialist party become the most respectable bourgeoise administrators? Has he not seen members of the Liberal party at the present moment becoming so conservative that they regard with horror my Noble Friend's radicalism in the agricultural field? The teaching of history is that if you can get your revolutionary elements into a real Parliamentary government, and however small is the measure of responsibility you may be able to give them, it tends not to make them more revolutionary, but to steady them.
Like the Secretary of State, I am not going into this new era as Emile Olivier went into the Franco-German war, with a "light heart." I know the dangers and I know the risks, but I claim that after these last seven years this House is presented with certain alternatives. It is not by any means bound to accept the Majority Report of the Joint Select Committee. It may take one of the Minority Reports. It may go back to the Report of the Statutory Commission or to the report of the Government of India on the Statutory Commission. But it has to choose between these. There is no use hesitating any longer before two opinions, and saying that we will leave half this problem undecided altogether, which is the one fatal course you can possibly pursue. Of the speeches I have heard in this Debate, the one with which I sympathise most is that of the hon. Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes) when he said, what all of us have felt, if we could only find a better solution and could only go back on the tendencies of British administration in the past and find some way of getting nearer to the heart of the peasant, if perhaps we had placed far more emphasis than we did before the days of reform on the creation of village councils and local bodies, and had not 270 made the fatal mistake of withdrawing the official chairmen from the district councils as we did after the War; if we had not committed these mistakes, perhaps we might have been able to find by now a different solution.
I went on to the Joint Select Committee full of the idea that there was some other way round, out, or under, by which we could undo some of our past mistakes, and that we could perhaps start a wholly new line of constitutional reform, but after these seven years of investigation by men all of whom had that hope, we are reduced, I think it is only right to say, to certain practical alternatives which have been worked out. Choose which you will have, but in choosing, for God's sake, do not delay or drift simply because you cannot make up your mind.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Mr. GRAHAM WHITE
The Noble Lord has rendered service to the whole House by restoring the Debate to a proper sense of perspective, after the speech to which we listened from the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). In his concluding sentence I think the Noble Lord really touched the vital point in the Debate. I certainly echo the sentence in which he told the House that of all the possible courses the one that was most likely to lead to disaster was the policy of drift. He has also rendered a service to the House by his masterly analysis of the arguments which have been addressed to it by the different hon. Members who have spoken on behalf of that group which is in opposition to the majority of the Members of the House, and he absolved any hon. Member who followed him from the necessity of dealing with that particular point.
While the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth was speaking it seemed to me that he was not accurate in his interpretation of some of the smaller facts of the case. In regard to the Princes, at what stage in the proceedings did he imagine that they would come into Federation? They announced their intention of so doing; indeed the whole structure, of the scheme has been built upon the principle that they were willing to come into Federation upon the basis of there being responsible Government at the Centre. Having said that, I do not see how it could be imagined that 271 at an earlier stage they could give their formal adherence to a scheme all the details of which had not been worked out, and parts of which were still in doubt.
The hon. and gallant Member said that only one of the Princes had expressed his intention of joining the Federation. My recollection of the Round Table Conference is that not one Prince made that statement, but that every Prince who spoke there made a similar declaration. Those who were not there were represented by their Prime Ministers, who spoke on their behalf. Sir Akbar Hydari and Sir Mirza Ismail both declared their intention in that regard. Sir Akbar Hydari, a distinguished public servant, seems to have come in for a good deal of attention in these Debates. He is alleged to have made a differing statement on two occasions. I do not know why the hon. and gallant Member should attach importance only to that statement, whether it was the first or the second, which seems to support the view which he wishes to put to the House, and to ignore the other statement.
With regard to the actual position of public opinion in India in regard to the proposals of the Joint Select Committee, although Congress has said that they reject the proposals, and although the Indian moderates have criticised them, I have yet to learn that any responsible Indian or any large body of Indian opinion, either the Congress or any other organised body, have said that they would definitely refuse to work the scheme. That is an important difference. I do not know what was to be expected from India, vocal or otherwise. One thing is certain, and that is that no important section in India has said that they will refuse definitely to work the reforms if they are brought into operation.
May I refer to some observations made by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. M. Jones)? He made some comment on the history of the British period in India and some criticisms as regards some of the events that have occurred. I do not stand, nor does anyone stand here to defend some of the events in the past history of our country in India, but I never think that it is a very useful occupation to make criticisms of men who were unable to 272 live out of their own time. In regard to the services which England has rendered to India, I have always felt that there was no finer example or truer appreciation than the words which were spoken at the first Round Table Conference by the late Maharaja of Nawanagar, whom we have known affectionately under another name in this country. He said:Three boons in particular stand to the eternal credit of Great Britain. I will give the first place to the Pax Britannica, which has enabled India to make much material progress. She has given India a unifying medium through the English language, the noble literature of which has helped to introduce a new spirit of liberty and self respect. India's connection with England has proved to the world that the two countries are complementary to each other, and to-day the world stands to benefit by the mutual 'give and take' of the two countries of which they are eminently capable.That is possibly the truest appreciation of the service which England has rendered to India.
I am glad that the Under-Secretary has turned the Debate away from the general course that has been pursued and has directed attention to the very important problems connected with the present relations of Burma to the proposals which we have under consideration. It is easy to understand that there has been in Burma during recent times some apprehension lest in the heat of controversy and the clash of argument their claims should in any sense be overlooked. The hon. Member made some deeply interesting remarks in tracing the history of the economic development of Burma, and also the political difficulties which have taken place from time to time. He pointed out with great effect that the fact that Burma is not torn and ravaged by the great communal controversies and difficulties which we find in India simplifies the problem of political advance for her. The matter has been brought much nearer to the practical realisation of Burma's wishes by the fact that the uncertainty that prevailed with regard to the wishes and aspirations of Burma in the early stages of the treatment of this problem by means of conferences has been cleared up. The activities of the anti-separationists caused some doubt as to the real mind of Burma on this subject, but I think we may agree with the Under-Secretary and be 273 satisfied that the matter will no longer be in doubt.
The stages of the political and constitutional progress of Burma have come to her as part of the Indian Empire, and all her hopes for the future are based upon promises which have been made to her as part of that political organisation. Therefore, it is proper that this matter should receive the most careful attention from Parliament at this time. From the consideration that I have been able to give to this question, I have always felt that whatever may be the discussions that range round the recommendations of the Statutory Committee in regard to the other portions of their report, their recommendations with regard to Burma have held their own against any counter-suggestions or any criticisms directed against them. If, as no one doubts, we are going to take an important step on the road of self-government for India, it is proper and essential that the question of Burma should be dealt with at the same time.
My hon. Friend paid a tribute to the members of the delegation who came over from India to join in the conferences which have taken place. He said nothing less than the truth when he referred to the great value which their co-operation has been in the joint deliberations. The whole of Burma will be glad to know that all parties in England are determined and anxious that the aspirations and wishes of Burma should receive full and careful consideration, and that the views of their representatives at the conferences have received the most careful consideration. We can only hope that the effect of these important proposals in so far as they affect Burma will lead to the realisation of the wishes and aspirations of Burma. We have to remember that although, geographically speaking, Burma may be the smaller part of this problem, Burma is as important to the Burmans as India is to the Indians and as England is to the English. I think the people of Burma will appreciate the fact that this matter is receiving the most earnest consideration of Parliament.
Whatever may be the fate of these proposals there can be no doubt that they constitute a remarkable development in the history of the relations of India and England. The manner in which they have 274 been developed is of the utmost consequence. Since 1929 the evolution of the Constitution of India has proceeded not on a basis of dictation but by a process of conferences and discussions, a change from which I hope we shall never recede. We on these benches accept the general proposals and give them our general support. My hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot), however, has made it clear that this is not our report and that there are matters to which, at the appropriate time, we shall consider it necessary to direct attention and criticism.
The importance of these proposals is that they represent the greatest measure of common agreement which can be arrived at in this country. I appeal to our friends in India to realise that they represent the nearest approach to common agreement in this country that we have been able to reach. It is true that a Socialist Government might have appointed a commission and arrived at a result which would give greater satisfaction to them; a Conservative Government, likewise, would have come to a conclusion which would have given more satisfaction to the Conservative party as a whole, and, likewise, if we on these benches had appointed a commission we should not have produced this report but one which would have given greater satisfaction to us. But the result that has been achieved—and it is of great importance that Indians should realise it—represents the greatest measure of common agreement which can be reached in this country. The attitude of the Liberal party was decided almost for all time by one of its great leaders, Mr. Gladstone. We have had many quotations during this Debate and there has been great anxiety on the part of hon. Members that they should be verified. I cannot give the date of the quotation, but I think it must be subsequent to 1863, and in it Mr. Gladstone defines not merely the Liberal attitude but the attitude of the people of this country towards India. He said:I hold that the capital agent in determining finally the question whether our power in India is not to continue will be the will of the 240,000,000 of people who inhabit India.The figure of 240,000,000 might give hon. Members some clue as to the date. Mr. Gladstone went on to say: 275The question who shall have supreme rule in India is by the laws of right an Indian question, but these laws of right are from day to day growing into laws of fact. Our title to be there depends on the first condition, that our going there is profitable to the Indian nation and, on the second condition, that we can make them see and understand that it is profitable to them.That leads me to this further observation. Important as these proposals are and vital as is the constitutional structure, we must never forget that there is a very important psychological question overriding the whole relations between England and India. The main and immediate task is to win the confidence, and keep it, of India. If we fail in that our constitutional efforts will be of little avail. That is the supreme test. That makes me regret all the more one item in which the proposals of the Joint Select Committee depart from the recommendations of the White Paper. I refer to the substitution of indirect for direct election to the Federal Assembly. That was the decision of the Government in 1919, and it has been pursued with increasing satisfaction—on the authority of the Government of India itself—to Indians themselves in the development and understanding of electoral law. That is now proposed to be altered in the face of the overwhelming weight of practical experience and evidence. It is to be altered against the recommendations of the Indian Franchise Committee, presided over by Lord Lothian, which went out to India, spent a long time there, traversed the country from end to end, and visited every province with the exception of Assam and the Central Provinces. They examined a good deal of the practice of elections in India, and in those provinces where they were not in force they conferred with ad hoc committees which had given special attention to the matter.
It is also, we understand, to be altered in opposition to the expressed opinion of the Government of India. At all events, the Government of India in their memorandum expressed themselves strongly in favour of the method of direct election. If they are not in favour of it now then the House should be told, and also given the reasons why they have changed their view. The Indian Delegation, which was taken into consultation by the Joint Select Committee, were 276 also strongly in favour of direct election. They took the strongest possible view with regard to it. It was not merely a question of the application of electoral law, it was not merely a technical matter, but something which was already in practice in India, which it was proposed to take away. They were influenced by the consideration that it would have a profound effect on the reception which the constitutional scheme would have in India. May I direct the attention of hon. Members to the memorandum drafted by Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, in which he said:It is possible that the advocates of a strong Centre may suggest a reduction in the size of the Legislative Assembly and the curtailment of its powers and an indirect method of election.The governing and most important sentence is this:Public opinion in India would never reconcile itself to any such action, and if any such thing is done it may easily jeopardise the working of the constitution even in the provinces.In view of the wealth and weight of this testimony the House will not be surprised to hear me say that we attach the greatest importance to this provision and that at the proper time we shall invite hon. Members to express their opinion upon it. We must realise that this House is not the sole repository of wisdom with regard to Indian matters and that we have not yet reached a stage when we can say that we shall not pay any attention to the views of India on these matters. I hope that we shall give proper weight to the expression of opinion in India on this particular question. It is not too late for a step, which we believe to be retrograde and unfortunate, to be retrieved. There has been criticism on this point from India. The "Times" correspondent has already directed the attention of the public in this country to it. The "Times" newspaper seems to take a somewhat unusual view with regard to this matter. In an article on the 22nd November they said:Criticism with regard to "this step will come from India, where there is a pathetic faith in direct election.I am at a loss to understand the meaning of the word "pathetic" in this connection. There is nothing pathetic in the belief in this country in direct election, and the "Times" must surely have not heard of the support given to the proposal 277 by the Government of India. Indeed, they do not seem to have been so well informed as they usually are of the course of events in this country. This particular article in the "Times" concludes in this way. It says that the question of direct versus indirect election:Is essentially one of those questions which. Indians can and eventually will settle for themselves.From all the evidence we have had so far India has already settled this question for herself. I repeat my plea, that I hope this is a matter which is not regarded as being closed for all time and that full consideration will be given to the opinion expressed from India on it There are other questions which I should like to have raised but as many hon. Members wish to take part in the Debate I do not feel justified in claiming the attention of the House any longer. May I revert to the concluding remarks of the Noble Lord the right hon. Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) with regard to the alternatives before the House. We do not need to be told that there are risks in the proposals we are now considering in this most important Debate on Imperial and foreign affairs. Of course there are risks; risks for England and for India, for Hindus and for Mohammedans, risks for all the peoples in India. But in the policy of doing nothing, of standing still, there is no risk but certainty of disaster. If there is anything worse than standing still, it is the policy of drift. There is only one course, and that is to pursue the road laid down in the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee, and advance steadily towards the day when we shall have a complete partnership with India, based on complete confidence between the two nations.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Major NATHAN
My hon. Friend who has just addressed the House, and every other speaker so far has spoken with special and particular knowledge as a result of long experience and service in India, or from consideration of the problems in the Statutory Committee or the Joint Select Committee. Other speakers have given time and leisure to the study of the problem. I am a speaker who claims no such knowledge of India, who claims merely to address himself to this 278 grave problem, with which this House is faced, as an ordinary man-in-the-street, bringing to it a keen desire to take a hand, to the best of my judgment, in anything that may help in the strengthening, the consolidation, the energising of the British Commonwealth, and India as an integral element in the Commonwealth. I hope to bring to bear on this problem simply that sense of responsibility which must attach to every Member of this honourable House, even though he may be a private back bench Member.
Regarding the matter from that standpoint, I should like to tell the House how this report strikes me. No one can read it without being impressed by the overwhelming complexity of the problems. This is what I would wish particularly to say, that the high seriousness with which this problem has been faced by the members of the Joint Select Committee of all parties, as disclosed by the report of the Majority and the draft report of my hon. Friend the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee), is particularly impressing. The report does not go as far as many of us would wish, but those would be blind—I would say almost wilfully blind—who would deny that it registers an advance genuine and substantial towards Dominion status. Towards Dominion status—but when? That is the crucial question. The introduction to the report quotes the Preamble to the Act of 1919, which has already been quoted more than once in this debate. The Joint Select Committee, in the main body of its legislative proposals, and the White Paper are silent about Dominion status. There was not one word on Dominion status from the Secretary of State yesterday in the speech with which he presented the proposals to the House. Yet Indian national opinion has looked forward to Dominion status, not as a distant objective to be achieved in some unforeseeable future, but as a finite end to be achieved within some time definite and foreseeable.
Indians have been led to believe by pronouncements from the King Emperor himself, from Viceroys and Secretaries of State, from ex-Secretaries of State, from the Prime Minister, that after so many years of travail there would at last and at least emerge from these proposals some indication of the date when 279 Dominion status would be achieved. Not only are the proposals silent about Dominion status now or at any future fixed date, but they contain no provision at all for the attainment of it at any time in the future, however distant. If the Select Committee's proposals be adopted, there can be no Dominion status without the invocation of fresh inquiries, of fresh discussions between the British Government and representatives of India, fresh legislation and Debates in this House and India. All this is in face of the direct recommendation of the Statutory Committee. They say:The Preamble of the 1919 Government of India Act declares that progressive realisation of responsible government in India can only be achieved by successive stages—but there is no reason why each stage should be marked by a Commission of Inquiry.Indeed, the Statutory Commission warned Parliament against attempting to formulate a Constitution which did not contain within itself provision for its own development. Yet that is what the Select Committee's report proposes. What course could the Committee have adopted? There is one which they have adopted on the question of Dominion status—that of silence. They could have fixed a date or at least prescribed—as I think the Statutory Committee contemplated—a date on which the machinery of Dominion status could be brought automatically into effect. Sir Tej Sapru, who is well known here as one of the most moderate and liberal-minded of Indian representatives, wrote a special article on this point which appeared in the "News Chronicle" on 22nd November. He said:Nothing has shaken Indian faith more than the repeated attempts in Parliament to disown the Prime Minister's and Viceroy's declarations. Without the definite objective of Dominion status, Indian political thought will be apt to run into dangerous byepaths preventing them from pooling their collective energies for the common end.These are words not to be lightly disregarded by those who have in charge these grave matters. I notice that the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) urged the House not to leave half done the task that it had set itself, but the failure to provide 280 machinery for securing to India Dominion status is leaving the task half done.
I have a few words to say on the subject of reserved subjects and special responsibilities. I say "a few words," because there will be ample opportunity at a later stage for giving to these vital aspects of the problem the consideration they require. I say, at the instance of the right hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition and those who sit on these benches, that when the suitable opportunity arises, Amendments will be placed on the Paper with a view to implementing the proposals made by the representatives of the Labour party on the Select Committee. We are warned that there are to be in the projected Bill between 300 and 400 Clauses. It is bound to be a long and cumbersome Bill. It seems certain that reserved subjects and special responsibilities will take a large share of it. It is a profound pity that it should be so, for it will give a wrong impression altogether. It is not that some or many of the reservations or special responsibilities are so very formidable in themselves. In the Continental system of constitution-making many of them would be taken as a matter of course, but we here have had a different training and work under a different tradition. India naturally has seen only the results of the working of the system without realising how it works. If anyone were to write down in black and white the Constitution of this country with its safeguards and elaborate system of checks and balances which have grown up almost unobserved, even those who operated the Constitution would be unfeignedly surprised. Yet I wish to make it clear that the proposed reservations and the special responsibilities are not only extremely formidable, but they are unnecessarily extensive.
The reservations and special responsibilities in many important respects are not buttresses of responsible Government in India. They take away from it and undermine it. They are a first-class patent for subsidence in the future. In considering the special responsibilities and reservations I cannot find that the Select Committee have faced the fundamental question of what our true function in India is to be in the future. The new Government, Central and Provincial, will of course make many mistakes and 281 commit many follies. That is inevitable, and representatives of the King in India will have to keep a steady nerve, be prepared to sit quietly by and watch things go wrong and do nothing. It needs a far stronger nerve to sit by and watch things go wrong than to interfere in order to prevent them from going wrong. We are not there, under responsible government, to prevent mistakes or even follies. We are there in reserve merely to avert catastrophe. Let us bear in mind the good old political adage which is not less true for being so often quoted, that good government is no alternative for self-government.
I observe throughout the report many references to the instrument of instructions, in which the powers and the responsibilities and the duties of the Governor-General and the Provincial Governors are to be defined. So many indeed are the exceptions from the Constitution Act which are to find their place in the instrument of instructions, that when the Bill comes before this House it is clear that it will be almost impossible to consider it adequately unless the House has before it at the same time the draft of the instrument of instructions. I trust that the Government will find it possible to present to the House at the same time as the Bill, and for consideration on the same occasion as the Bill, the draft of the instrument of instructions to the Governor-General and the Provincial Governors, dealing with the matters referred to in the report of the Select Committee which are to be excluded from the Bill and included in the instrument. It is a very vital matter, because without the instrument the Bill cannot be adequately considered.
I say nothing with regard to the important matter of the franchise, save that those who sit on the Labour benches believe, as stated in the report of my hon. Friend the Member for Lime-house (Mr. Attlee), that there should be provision within the Constitution Bill making it possible for adult suffrage to be achieved in due course. Amendments will be put on the Paper by the Labour party to secure that end.
There is only one other question to which I shall refer, and that is the coming into operation of this Constitution. In the report of the Joint Select 282 Committee from beginning to end there is no indication of a date when the Constitution is to come into force. There are, indeed, conditions prescribed before fulfilment of which it is not to come into force, but there is none stating when it will come into force. I should be inclined not to wait upon the accession of so high a percentage of the States. After all, the proposal for an All-India Federation emanated from the Princes themselves. I see no reason to fear that they will not come in in sufficient numbers. I would not make the coming into effect of federation dependent upon that. Indeed, it cannot be done, for when once the Provincial Governments are formed, as the Select Committee has unambiguously recognised, you must have some kind of federation, however incomplete, at the centre. Provincial autonomy predicates a federation centre, even if it should have to be a federation centre of British India only.
I cannot help feeling that an attempt to make the coming into force of a new Constitution dependent upon the financial condition, upon some vague situation of financial equilibrium in the balance of trade or payment in India, is a mistake and is unnecessary. India's present balance of payment is favourable to the extent that, curiously enough, she has discovered a new and singular export in the form of gold for speculative demand upon the London market. In considering the balance of trade in India for the purpose of bringing into force the Constitution Act, is that to be treated as a sound export or not? Or do the Government intend to safeguard that vital export and its continuance before the Constitution is inaugurated at all? Much the same criticism applies to the conditions as to the new Indian central bank. The introduction of the Constitution is in effect made conditional upon the successful operation of the central bank. I would like to know what "successful" means. There are always ups and downs and to's and fro's for a central bank; that is why it is central. Why should we withhold a new Constitution from India for reasons which are so very difficult and weak in definition? In this country there are many influential persons who do not hesitate to say that our own central bank has hardly been run successfully in the best interests of the nation as a whole during the last decade.
283 These financial safeguards or conditions seem to me to be unnecessary. But in any case neither in structure nor in function nor in operation does the Constitution in any way depend upon them. It could be introduced without waiting to see how the trade balance is moving or how the bank deposits are moving there. It is infinitely to be regretted that there is no definite date or definite condition prescribed for the coming into effect of this Constitution, so that India may know with a certainty whether and when the Constitution will be operative. I realise, of course, that the Bill when it is introduced will pass in substantially the form in which the Government present it. It will bring to an end some old problems, and it will create many new problems. There are risks which no one ignores and risks which it would be foolish to underestimate. I base my hope for the future on a quotation from Mr. Gladstone:The choice is between trust in the people, qualified by prudence, and distrust of the people, qualified by fear.We on these benches put our trust for the future in the people. We recognise that upon those in India to whom will fall the task of operating the Constitution there will repose a full but an honourable responsibility. It also offers a magnificent and enviable opportunity. I hope that when this Constitution has ceased to be a matter of debate in this House, and when the time comes for it to be operated in India, both those in this country and those in India who may have responsibility will go forward in a spirit of equal fellowship, bearing in mind, to quote an English writer of the last century:It requires the whole man, unreservedly and austerely given. Great things must be done greatly, with a great purpose, a great heart, a great courage, great energy and a great persistent patience.Above all, it must be with a great persistent patience.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Major COURTAULD
During the course of this Debate, which to an impartial observer like myself has reached a very high level, most of the ground has been covered by critics of the Government proposals. Therefore, I propose in a very short time to touch on only one subject, and that is the important subject of an All-India federation, more especially as it applies to the Princes. Without going 284 too far back into history I think we are all agreed that, previous to 1929, when a few Princes rather surprisingly expressed the view that they were prepared to come into a federation, no one had had any thought that federation was possible, at any rate in the near future. When the Princes expressed this view it-was very naturally seized upon by the then Socialist Government, because of course it allowed them to go a long step further towards the ultimate aim of any Socialist Government, and that is Dominion status. Following that we had a change of Government, and to the surprise of many of us and to the dismay of many who had agreed to support a National Government for certain specific purposes, we were told that this idea of federation, an All-India federation, was to be maintained; and since then the Government have gone further and further along that path until we arrive at the position to-day where we are quite seriously and solemnly informed, not only by members of the Government but by all of those who speak in support of the Government proposals, that unless we have an All-India federation, including the Rulers of the native States, it is quite useless to do anything for India at all.
If that is agreed, it is a point from which we may take departure. I find it extremely difficult to believe that myself. I think that but for the rather off-chance of certain Princes suggesting that they were willing to enter a federation, the Government of the time, or possibly a successive Government, would have framed a Bill on the lines of the Statutory Commission, which would have commended itself probably to most Conservatives and to the majority of Members of Parliament. I find it hard to believe that the whole thing would have been turned down and that the peoples of India, who we are told are clamouring for some self-expression, would have been told that they were going to get nothing at all because a federation, in the words of the Simon Commission, was a thing of the distant future, and without federation nothing could be done. That is past history and it is not worth while spending time arguing about it. But the present position appears to me to depend entirely on the question as to whether "a considerable number," to use my right 285 hon. Friend's expression, of the native Princes are prepared to enter a Federation. I imagine that when he or any of his supporters, say, "are prepared to enter the Federation," they mean prepared to enter it willingly and not under pressure and not with doubts and fears of any sort, because it must be obvious to anyone that to get the Princes or anybody else into any Federation, if they do not want to come into it, it is useless and that they would be much better outside in those circumstances.
If that is so and if this All-India Federation depends on the native Princes, it is surely necessary for the House to consider carefully whether the Princes are prepared willingly to come in or not. We were told by a succession of speakers on the Government side that a large number of the Princes are willingly prepared to come in. We were told rather more than that. We were told that the Princes, with, probably, a few insignificant exceptions, were unanimous in their desire to enter an All-India Federation. The President of the Board of Education is reported as having addressed a meeting at the National Liberal Club—not the Carlton Club—and as having said:I am informed that there are differences of opinion among the Princes of India and also that some pressure has been put upon them to enter this Federation, So far as I know there is no truth in that statement.I find it very difficult to believe that Lord Halifax is so ignorant of the real conditions in India, because, if words mean anything, his statement means that all the Princes are willing and anxious to enter a Federation—that there are no appreciable exceptions—or else it means on the other side, and this, I think, would be nearer the truth—that substantially none of the Princes are anxious to enter into a Federation. I am perfectly certain, however, that Lord Halifax did not mean that. As regards the entry of these ruling Princes as a condition under which a Federation can be started, the conditions which apply to the number of Princes entering have been considerably modified more than once. To start with, we were told that no Federation was possible unless all the Princes came into it. The word "all" was subsequently removed and we were left with just the words "the Princes," giving the impression that it was the Princes gener- 286 ally, with possibly a few unimportant exceptions. Later on it must have appeared to the Government that there were rather more Princes who were difficult than they expected, and we were then told that it was a majority of the Princes which was necessary. That was a different matter. That meant 51 per cent., and it was not nearly so satisfactory, and it could not have been so satisfactory for the Princes themselves. After that, even the 51 per cent. did not appear to be sufficient to safeguard the Government in the worst eventuality, and we were told that what a majority meant was simply a majority in numbers of the population under princely rule.
§ Major COURTAULD
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I was quoting at that moment—at least I had the impression that I was quoting—my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. If he never said so, then I have been completely misinformed or have failed to understand. I have certainly heard it stated on many occasions if not by the right hon. Gentleman himself—and obviously I have not heard it stated by him—then by Government supporters, that a majority of the inhabitants under native rule would be sufficient to justify them continuing in the Federation.
§ Major COURTAULD
The right hon. Gentleman and myself do not move in the same circles, and it is quite possible that I may have heard something said which he has not heard, but I assure him that I have heard it said, and I thought I had heard it said by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary.
§ Mr. BUTLER
Since my hon. and gallant Friend has quoted me in this connection, I should be grateful to him if he will mention the occasion on which I am supposed to have made this statement, and I will then be able to tell him whether I said so or not. I am not conscious of having said any such thing.
§ Major COURTAULD
That, of course, is quite sufficient. I cannot possibly quote the occasion. It was in my mind that it was in the course of a private conversation.
Duchess of ATHOLL
But is it not the case that both in the White Paper and in the Report of the Joint Committee it is laid down as a main condition of Federation that States representing not less than 50 per cent. of the total population and entitled to not less than 50 per cent. of the seats allotted in the Federal Upper Chamber should accede?
§ Major COURTAULD
It is not necessary for me to pursue the matter, and we will leave it at that. At any rate, we were told that we must have a majority, 51 per cent., of the ruling Princes. My figures may be wrong, but I think that there are nearly 600, and we were told that 51 per cent. must be in favour before the Government would embark on an All-India Federation. If 51 per cent. have not expressed that view willingly and without pressure, then one assumes that the whole question of Federation will be left out of account. I do not know whether I am right in that assumption, but it seems to be the logical assumption, and, if we take the logic a little further, it seems to me that there will be no Bill at all—though I cannot help thinking that I am letting my imagination run away with me when I go as far as that. In any case, it becomes of the first importance to the Government to get a sufficient number of the Princes into this All-India Federation in order to show that their policy is not based on a fallacy and that means that it is absolutely necessary for the Government also to satisfy Parliament and the country that these Princes are coming in willingly.
I have some knowledge, no doubt slender but first-hand knowledge, of the subject. I am one of those whom I think my Noble Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) called "those different Members who have been to India and have come back with some impressions." As the Noble Lord is in his place now, I may say that I am not one of those who are in politics seeking for jobs and neither am I an agitator. But I have been to India, and I went to India in order that I might at first hand have certain conversations with some of the leading Princes for the sole reason that I was not satisfied with the statement made in this House and outside that the Princes were perfectly satisfied. I had very good reason to believe otherwise, and I may say at once that, having pro- 288 ceeded to India and having had the opportunity of many conversations with some of the leading Princes, I was confirmed in that belief. I came back knowing, if nothing else, that there were many leading and important Princes in India who were not satisfied with the terms set out in the White Paper under which they were to come into a Federation. I do not know whether that is denied or not, but it is a fact, and it is a simple matter to produce proof. I know that the Princes whom I saw were limited in number, but they were undoubtedly of a certain importance.
Among other things I was given a letter signed by five Princes which I brought home on the understanding that it should not be published until the Report of the Joint Select Committee had been published—which was very natural. That letter has since been published in the Press. I think it appeared in all the important papers, in London at any rate, with one notable and obvious exception. It states in unmistakable terms that the signatories are not or would not be prepared to enter a federation under the terms set out in the White Paper. The fact that a request was cabled from the signatories that that letter should be published would seem to prove that they were not satisfied that the Report of the Committee had made any appreciable change.
§ Major COURTAULD
I can certainly tell the House the names. They were the Maharaja of Patiala, who is Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes; the Maharaj Rana of Dholpur, who is the pro-Chancellor; the Maharaja of Panna; the Maharaj Rana of Jhalawar and the Nawab of Bahawalpur. Everybody knows that they are members of the Standing Committee. In fact, they constitute a majority of the effective members of the Standing Committee, and I think that no hon. or right hon. Gentleman opposite will say that they are of no importance or that they are not worth listening to or that their prestige in India is insufficient to make them of any account. I do not think that anybody here will say that, although I have heard it said in private and by people who ought to know better. At any rate there is that letter which expresses the opinion of those Princes, 289 and I have had information only to-day that those signatories have examined carefully the report of the Committee, and they are satisfied that out of 17 points for which they ask as a sine quâ non the report does not grant them the majority. If that is true, and I am perfectly certain it is, and proof that it is true will soon be furnished to Parliament by the Princes themselves, then it seems to me beyond question that these Princes are not prepared under present conditions to enter an All-India Federation. Therefore, anybody who says that there is no difference of opinion, and it was not only Lord Halifax but speakers the other day at the Queen's Hall who gave that impression, is stating something which is not strictly accurate—to put it no lower.
There is one other point, and that is as regards such Princes as have stated their willingness to enter a Federation. I believe that they are very few in number although undoubtedly there are a few. There is the question of whether any pressure or any persuasion has been used or whether any attempts at pressure or persuasion have been made unsuccessfully as yet on those who have not yet signified their agreement. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) put a question to the right hon. Gentleman on that subject and received an assurance that nothing in the way of bribes had been offered. Of course, the House will accept that statement. I have no doubt that nothing in the way of bribes has been offered. Equally I have no doubt that there are many Princes under the impression that such offers have been made. However, that is not the fault of the Government. As for persuasion, the right hon. Gentleman did not answer. He left that question alone. That is quite another case.
Of course, there has been a very strong form of persuasion. I know very well from my own experience. Before I arrived in India certain of the Princes who had invited me and my companion to go to India and discuss matters with them were sent for by the Viceroy and put on the carpet. They were told they had been behaving very badly. No doubt His Excellency the Viceroy had been warned that two dangerous firebrands, no less than two Conservatives, were on 290 the way to India, and no doubt he resented that very much, and those Princes who had the temerity to ask two Conservatives to go out to see them suffered accordingly. Subsequently, while I was in India, proceeding as I did by invitation to stay with various Princes, on no occasion did I ever stay with any Prince who was not warned beforehand, either by the Viceroy or by some member of the political department, that he would be very unwise and be taking a grave risk if he asked us to stay with him.
That is literally true, and the Viceroy himself would be the first person to admit it. I had the honour to have a long conversation with Lord Willingdon, and he made no secret of the fact. He said, "You fellows are coming out here to try to put another case to the Princes. We have got to get them in. I have been spending my time trying to persuade them to come in, and you fellows are coming out and are trying to upset my applecart, but you cannot do it." We knew we could not do it, that we were not powerful enough, but we could have a try. In any case, it is perfectly well known that any ruling Prince in India is firmly of the opinion, rightly or wrongly, that, if he does not support the Government policy in this case, he is taking a risk of reprisals. One Prince said to me, when I rather charged him with timidity on the subject, knowing his real opinion: "You know, we are none of us infallible, and all of us may make mistakes in the administration of our States. If I agree with the Government's policy, I am a good boy, and if I make a mistake not much notice will be taken of it, but, if I now get up and say I disagree and make myself uncomfortable to them, then, if I made a mistake"—as he put it—"my life would be made a burden to me." I am not saying that that is true, I am not making any accusation, but I am saying that the Princes believe it is true.
§ Major COURTAULD
The hon. Gentleman behind me contradicts that, but those Princes with whom I had a talk believe it is true, and I repeat that in the face of the direct negative from the rear. The Princes are honourable men, although perhaps my hon. Friend behind me would say "No," and when they say 291 a thing they mean it and when they say they believe that they do believe that. I do not know why my hon. Friend behind me should accuse them of telling falsehoods.
§ Mr. KIRKPATRICK
I was not accusing them of telling falsehoods. I was suggesting that they thought that perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend was "hoodwinkable."
§ Major COURTAULD
I withdraw then. I do not know what my hon. Friend means. Yesterday a certain question was put to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State on the subject of these letters of which we have heard something and for which I am in some small measure responsible. I am bound to say, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will not bear me any ill-will for saying it, that I could not understand his answer. I have read it several times since, and I can make very little out of it, and I am rather inclined to think we were not intended to make much out of it. But there was a supplementary question put, to which the answer was perfectly clear. The supplementary question was:Can my hon. Friend say whether his right hon. Friend is now convinced that the proposals of the Joint Select Committee fully satisfy the demands made persistently by the Chamber of Princes?The hon. Gentleman's answer was:I think that in general the Report of the Joint Select Committee may be said to have met the points put forward by the Princes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th December, 1934; cols. 4–5, Vol. 296.]I do not pretend to any special knowledge of India or of the Princes or of anything else, but I do say that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will have to think again, because the Report of the Joint Select Committee definitely does not satisfy the Princes. Definitely the Princes do not consider it as satisfying them, and definitely the Government will be informed of that fact. Whether or not the Princes will come into this peculiar Federation which it is proposed to set up, I have no knowledge, nor has anybody else. It is impossible to make any prophecy as to what will happen over this ramshackle Federation. It may be that they may be persuaded to change their minds, to go back on what they have said, and eventually come in. It 292 may even be that 51 per cent. in number will come in, which will enable the Government to proceed with their Bill in full. I do not know, but in any case it is perfectly clear that to-day a substantial body of Princes, led by men of prestige and importance, do not accept the Report of the Joint Select Committee, and, if they are led to change their minds, it will be a case of further persuasion. I think, without being controversial in any way, that when the history of our retreat from India comes to be written, not the least unpleasant chapter will be that which deals with the persuasion of the Princes.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER-CLAY
Everybody appreciates the sincerity and strength of feeling of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chichester (Major Courtauld), who has just sat down, but I do not think it is the province of a Member who wants to speak as briefly as possible in any way to attempt to answer his arguments against Federation, because that is a matter which must be responded to by the spokesman of the Government, and I can imagine that the answers which can be given to the points that he has raised will be satisfactory. I rise as one of those who sat through all the Indian Debates in the Parliament of 1919, and I cannot help contrasting the interest which is taken at this moment in the government of India with the apathy which existed in 1919. With the exception, I think, of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), who, I think, objected to the Government's Bill in 1919 because it did not enfranchise the whole of the 350,000,000 inhabitants of India, the only person who was consistently against the Bill of 1919 was the late Colonel Yate. Those who were in the House at that time will remember that he stood almost alone. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) was, of course, Secretary of State for War at that moment and was, therefore, otherwise engaged.
I do not think it is a matter to be regretted that there is criticism of this scheme. If you want to get good government, you must have criticism, and one of the disadvantages of the Act of 1919 293 was that it went through with a sense of apathy and without full consideration. I also think it is a good thing that the opposition to these proposals cuts right across Parliament. It is a good thing that it is not merely a party question. It is not a case of Conservatives voting one way, Liberals another, and Socialists yet another way. We are not, I hope, going to bring this question of the government of India into party politics in the same way as was the case with the Government of Ireland Bill, unfortunately. I was not a member of the Bound Table Conferences, nor was I a member of the Statutory Commission or the Joint Select Committee, so I speak purely as a layman, and I have not had the advantage which the last speaker had of ascertaining the opinions of the Princes in India. I speak merely as a man in the street, but the man in the street has some responsibility, and he also is important, because it is the man and the woman in the street who are the ultimate arbiters of what you do. It is the man in the street whom you have got to convince that your case is right.
I, personally, think the proposals which the Government are bringing forward are the logical outcome of the Morley-Minto reforms of 1906, which were followed by the Act of 1919. The Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) pointed out the risks which we were taking then, and we are taking risks now, but, whatever course you adopt and whatever Bill is brought into this House, you will probably risk something. Whenever you have to take a decision, you have to take some risk, and perhaps that is why it is so difficult to get decisions out of a Government. But there is one danger which has not been mentioned. There is a possibility that there may be a weak Viceroy and a weak Secretary of State here at home, and a combination of the two would, I admit, produce a real risk of disaster. That is a point which should be considered. But what are the alternatives? I have listened to speeches both here and at the party meeting in the Queen's Hall the other day, and I have noticed that they are different here from what they were there. The speeches which we heard and the report which was put forward by Lord Salisbury's minority group advocated provincial self-government with an advisory committee 294 at the Centre. To my mind, speaking as a layman, I cannot imagine anything more dangerous than to have provincial self-government and with that provincial self-government a weak bureaucratic government at the Centre. That, to my mind, would be the greatest danger which could be set up and would bring about a really serious situation.
One point which my hon. and gallant Friend opposite ignored is that if you have the Princes in a federal system, you will have a steadying influence, a steadying Conservative influence, at the centre, which would be of great assistance to the Viceroy in carrying out his very responsible and arduous duties. I believe that the inevitable result of having self-government in the Provinces and a bureaucratic government at the Centre would be that you would have a constant pressure by the Provinces on the central Government, which would inevitably lead to a deadlock, and that is one of the dangers which I foresee. I do not believe that the proposals of the minority group would commend themselves to any responsible body of educated Indian opinion at all. You may say that the proposals which are at present before the House do not appeal to educated Indian opinion, but a fortiori the case would be far stronger against giving merely provincial autonomy and having no responsible government at the Centre. I believe this Bill will unite intelligent Indian opinion in a way in which no other Measure could possibly do it.
I was looking up some history a short time ago, and I came across the story of the revolt of the American Colonies against the British Government in 1764. The ultimate result was that 12 years later there was the declaration of independence whereby the colonies in America were lost to this country for all time. I believe that if we do not have unity of all shades of Indian opinion, of people who are most antipathetic to each other with strong communal dislikes and differences of caste and religion, the effect will be disastrous to the continuance of India as the Indian Empire. I do not think that I need allude at any length to the Socialist alternative. They would be willing to take greater risks than the majority of people in this House. They would be prepared to have an advance to Dominion status without any legislation 295 in this House, and they want to do away with the safeguards which are formulated.
§ Major MILNER
The hon. and gallant Member will agree that that policy has the greatest support in India?
§ Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER-CLAY
I agree, for naturally the Indian people as a whole want all they can get. That is understandable, but I am looking at it from the point of view of the interests of the Empire and the Indian people as a whole. I cannot say that politically-minded people would like to have Dominion status at once, but, on the other hand, I think they would prefer to go gradually as is now proposed and take all their people with them including other people in the British Empire, rather than have the proposals of the Minority Report which would tend to retrogression rather than advance. The Government have been wise in adopting the middle course. If the Conservative Minority Report were adopted, we should have a boycott almost immediately in India and, even more serious, we should have non-co-operation among those who are assisting the Government in India now. The ordinary man and woman in India does not realise how services are Indianised at the present moment, and, if we have a spirit of non-co-operation among those who are at present conducting the local government and the central government, we should have a state of affairs which would be chaos. We might govern for a few months by force and a few British civil servants might be able to carry on for a certain time, but sooner or later we should have a state of affairs in which we were governing by autocratic decree. How long would the British public stand government by decree in face of non-co-operation among Indians? Undoubtedly, we should have in the course of time a change of government, and, what was visualised by the Lord President of the Council the other day, a period of strong government or coercion and weak government or concession. Nothing could be worse for India and the condition of India would progressively deteriorate.
If we want to keep India within the Empire, it is essential to take educated Indian opinion with us. A great deal of sob-stuff has been spoken about the illiterate and inarticulate masses, but they will always follow educated Indian 296 opinion. If we want to encourage and to maintain trade and good relations, if we want to save Lancashire, which we are always told is suffering owing to Indian non-co-operation and through being shut out of the Indian markets, the only way is by a spirit of good will. If we endeavour to put back the clock, does anybody think for a moment that it will encourage conditions of trade with India? Because I believe that the proposals of the Government are better calculated to succeed than any others that have yet been put forward, because I value the opinion of those who have been loyally giving up many months to hard work in order to get this report issued, and because it is the opinion of men whose opinion I value, I believe this report should be adopted, and I hope that in the shortest possible time a Bill on these lines will be enacted in Parliament.
§ 8.8 p.m.
Duchess of ATHOLL
In a Debate on a matter of tremendous magnitude it is almost inevitable that many facts that are of vital importance to an understanding of it tend to be left out, and this Debate has been no exception. I would like to remind my Noble Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) that there are some important facts bearing on the question whether Congress is likely to get in power at the Federal Centre. The Noble Lord forgets that it is the only well-organised political body in India, as was proved in the recent elections and that it is a body mainly Hindu which, because of its extreme nationalism, can make an appeal to many Hindus who perhaps do not share all its views but who do not like to stand altogether aside from its activities. It has further been shown that Congress has the power to win to its side Moslems in both the Central Legislature and on the Calcutta Corporation. We have further to remember that as the great majority of the States in India are Hindu the majority of their representatives in the proposed Federal Assembly are likely to be Hindus, and these may well find it difficult to resist some sympathetic action with a Hindu Congress party from British India.
The Princes' representatives in the Federal Assembly may therefore not be the steady stabilising influence on which so many hopes have been built, and that has been clearly shown by the Princes' 297 own desire for a Confederation which their representatives should enter before joining the Federation. A representative who gave evidence on behalf of the Princes before the Joint Committee addressed a meeting of Members upstairs, and in explaining the reasons of the Princes for desiring Confederation, showed that it was because they feared their representatives might find it difficult to stand up in debate to politicians from British India, or because they feared that their representatives might be got at by those politicians that they made the suggestion of Confederation, which should oblige all its members to act and vote as one in the Federal Legislature. But they were obliged to admit that entry into this Confederation could only be voluntary, and that there was therefore no certainty that their members would work and vote together. They might find it difficult to stand up against the strong Hindu influences which are bound to be vocal and determinedly expressed in the Federal Legislature.
I now wish to get at some other facts which did not emerge yesterday from the statement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. He and others spoke of the hopes expressed at different times in the last 150 years by Englishmen in India that one day India might be able to govern herself, but he did not remind us that all those declarations were finally given Parliamentary form in the 1919 Act, which expresses in statutory shape the most definite and authoritative of the declarations. Nor did he remind us of the Preamble of that Act, which clearly lays down that any further advance towards self-government must depend on the use that Indians make of the powers transferred under that Act. It is satisfactory to find the Joint Committee setting out in their report that it is that Act which must govern Parliament's action to-day. In view of these conditions laid down by the Act of 1919 as to the use Indians have made of the Act, the first duty of anyone examining the question must be to inform himself as to how these powers have been administered. The Simon Commission, as the result of a report of an auxiliary committee which examined into education, reported thatit was now in a most critical position.You could not have a greater condemn- 298 ation than a sentence such as that. They also reported the serious deterioration that had taken place in the work of local authorities since their supervision had been transferred to an Indian Minister.
In view of what my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said to-day about no deterioration having taken place in the transferred departments in Burma, I hope that he will forgive me if I remind him that the Burmese Government wrote to the Simon Commission of progressive deterioration in the accounts of local bodies, of frequent frauds and embezzlements, and of failure to take effective action against those proved guilty. They also said that the authorities often ignored the auditor's comments and showed themselves indifferent to the qualifications, antecedents and behaviour of their officers. Deterioration in health services was also reported to the Commission by five provincial governments, and the Royal Commission on Agriculture in India presided over by Lord Linlithgow had shown that agriculture was in a condition which needed widespread and comprehensive reform. It is not surprising perhaps that we have not heard much of this deterioration in transferred departments because the Joint Select Committee gave extremely little time to hearing evidence from men who had served in these various departments.
Of the five most important Government departments transferred in 1921—education, health, public works, agriculture, and the supervision of the work of local authorities—they heard only about the work of the Health Department, and only in regard to two provinces out of British India's ten. Up to date reports on education and the work of local authorities show just the same conditions as the Simon Commission. Indeed, the annual reports which the Provincial Governments publish on the work of their local authorities make far clearer than the Simon Commission did the grave deterioration that has occurred in local authorities since they lost the guidance of the Government official who was formerly their chairman. In the latest report of the Government of Bihar and Orissa it is stated that it will take a long time to undo the mischief wrought by years of continual maladministration and the supersession 299 of the municipality of Patna, its capital city, was to be continued for two more years. The Provincial Government proceed to enumerate faults which are typical of those mentioned in reports on local authorities in other Provinces. In particular very serious defects are noted in the latest reports on local authorities in the Punjab and the United Provinces.
I want the House to consider the prejudice to the welfare of the masses such deterioration in the work of the local authorities must necessarily have produced. An ex-director of public health has stated in a recent review that many local authorities have brought to an end the extension of schemes of drainage and water supply which had been steadily increasing before the reforms of 1921. In many cases, he says, they have got into such financial difficulties that they have not even been able to maintain the services of the kind which had been provided before. Imagine what danger that means to public health in a country such as India, with all its many epidemic diseases. Then an ex-inspector-general of civil hospitals told the Joint Committee of grave deterioration in the health services due not merely to the deficiencies of local authorities but to the administration of the Minister himself and his constant interference in medical appointments. Most unsuitable men had been appointed and other important medical posts—appointments to professorships, which must have had very serious effects on the welfare of human beings. A professor of physiology, the Joint Committee were told, was appointed who admitted to the principal of the medical college that he had never lectured, never demonstrated and had done no physiology since his student days. An ex-inspector-general of hospitals spoke of the thousands of eyes that are blinded every year in India through operations for cataract performed by unqualfied quacks trained in institutions which are now receiving grants from public funds owing to the political pressure put upon Ministers by provincial councils which they have not been able to withstand.
When we learn of facts such as those is it not inevitable that we should feel that the greatest caution is necessary in giving further powers? I feel that it is only honest to say that if to-day we were 300 free to consider only the welfare of the masses—and, after all, Queen Victoria's declaration of 1858 pledged herself that India should be governed for the benefit of all her subjects resident in that country—we should transfer no single additional Department to Indian Ministers until efficiency had been restored in those Departments in which grave deterioration had taken place. But, in view of all that has been said in the past few years, and of the hopes which have been aroused, I feel that it is inevitable that some further powers should be transferred in the Provinces; but I also feel very strongly that they should be transferred in such a way as to minimise as far as possible what seems to me the inevitable suffering they must cause.
It is for that reason that those with whom I associate desire that there should be no transfer of responsibility for law and order, in order that we may feel that we can continue to give security for life, limb and possessions. I recognise, of course, that the Joint Select Committee's report specified certain means by which it is hoped to safeguard these things. The Secretary of State mentioned two of them yesterday. He instanced the fact that in this country the Home Secretary is not given the names of informants or the exact sources of information in secret service crimes, but the Joint Select Committee's report, as I read it, does not propose merely to withhold the names of informants from the Indian Minister for Law and Order but the actual records of information coming from terrorist sources. As I understand it, that means that the Minister is to get no information at all about these matters. If, therefore, he is attacked, as inevitably he will be, in the Provincial Council for steps taken as the result of information of this kind given to his Department, imagine what a humiliating position he will be in, and how difficult it will be for him and the Governor to maintain friendly relations when he knows that the Governor has the power to give him the information but has withheld it. Is that giving the Minister the responsibility which we are told it is so essential that he should have? It is setting up diarchy in the police force itself, and those with expert knowledge hold, I believe, that this suggested provision will not be effective in secur- 301 ing a continuance of the supply of information, because no informant will believe it possible that the Minister should not be told the names of informants, and will be too frightened to give information any more. Therefore I do not think that provision is one which will work.
The other means mentioned by my right hon. Friend was the power to be given to the Governor to resume control of Departments in the case of terrorist attempts to overthrow the Government by violent crime, but he was at pains to explain that this resumption of control would only be resorted to in the event of a serious emergency having arisen—in other words, after much harm has been done. My right hon. Friend also omitted to tell us of the close connection between Congress and terrorism in Bengal, which I think is admitted in his note on terrorism attached to the report. If Congress and terrorism have been able to establish close relations in Bengal why should they not do so in other Provinces? We cannot possibly prevent such an association from spreading. In the event of a Congress Minister being in charge of law and order, I do not think it is necessary for me to ask the House to picture all the connivance there will be and all the failure to deal effectually with terrorism before the moment comes when the Governor knows and sees that sufficient harm has been done to warrant him in taking over control. We do not feel, therefore, that these and other means proposed to safeguard life and limb are likely to prove effective. In most cases it will be a case of closing the stable door after the steed has been stolen, and we earnestly hope that responsibility for law and order, by which we mean the courts, the police and the district magistrates, who in all districts control the police, will be reserved to the Governor. Prevention is better than cure.
Another point to which we attach importance is the continuance of British recruitment for all important departments. Personally I feel very strongly about this, especially in regard to irrigation. Sir Raymond Hadow, chief engineer of the irrigation service of the Punjab, stressed the importance of British recruitment as a means of preventing the bribery of Indian subordi- 302 nates by the wealthier Indian cultivators to give them more than their fair share of the precious water. Sir Charlton Harrison, then chief engineer of the Sukkur Barrage, told the Simon Commission that even with 58 per cent. of his staff British he could not meet the demand for British irrigation officers from all over his area, because the people knew that under a British officer they would get their fair share of the water. If a wealthy cultivator gets more than his fair share a poorer cultivator has to go without, his land yields nothing and he and his family starve. I recognise that provision is made for British recruitment to be resumed if the economic welfare of a province or of its people has suffered, but much harm may have been occasioned before such a step is taken. Sir Raymond Hadow told the Committee that he had known of cases in which it took five years to bring to light the damage done to irrigation canals as the result of inefficient officials being in charge of them.
I also earnestly desire to see the Governor-General having the power to sanction big irrigation schemes. Does the House realise that irrigation is regarded to-day as being so valuable that a Governor is not allowed to sanction more than quite inexpensive ones? He has to send home to get the sanction of the Secretary of State in Council for anything that will cost more than £350,000. That provision is an effective check on any profiteers or concession hunters getting hold of the precious water supply or water power. But the report would place entire control of these in the hands of Indian Ministers responsible to no Governor or Governor-General or Secretary of State, but only to a Provincial Council which may be swayed or moved in all sorts of ways by people anxious to get accepted some scheme which will put money into their own pockets but not be for the benefit of India or her people.
In the fourth place, as the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) made clear yesterday, we want no transfer of responsibility at the Centre, and I personally attach great importance to the proposals made by the Simon Commission for strengthening the Central Government. The fact that the Simon Commission made those proposals seems to have been overlooked by a great 303 many people, but they are of great importance from the point of view of administrative efficiency. The commission wanted the Central Government to have "a more authoritative position" than it now enjoys constitutionally, in regard to questions vitally affecting more than one provincial department. Further, the Simon Commission wished the Central Government to have the power to give grants for provincial objects—not merely a doling out of so much of the Income Tax for a Province to spend exactly as it liked, but the making of grants from the Central Government to a Provincial Government in respect of particular services or some portion of a particular service. Mass primary education was mentioned as the sort of object which might be assisted in that way.
Anybody with experience of administration knows how great is the power of the Government that gives a grant to a local authority. He who holds the purse-strings can, tactfully it may be, and gradually, but in the end, lay down conditions attaching to the spending of the grant. The Simon Commission specifically desired this grant-giving power to be used by the Central Government for the restoration of efficiency in education, and they desired the Central Government to have more power than at present to guide and assist education and other provincial subjects. If the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) were here, I would tell him that that is my answer to the question which he put yesterday as to what we would do with the schools and universities of India. I would tell him that the latest report of Sir George Anderson, Educational Commissioner with the Government of India, who was a member of the Simon Commission's Auxiliary Committee on Education, shows on every page the need that education in the various Provinces has of more guidance in regard both to policy and to administration. I can imagine nothing which is more needed by India to-day for her education than that the Central Government should have power to take the initiative in bringing the Provinces together in order to help them to take united action for the drastic reforms in their educational system, which Sir George Anderson's report shows to be necessary. Lord Linlithgow's Commis- 304 sion on Agriculture also wished the Central Government to have the power to assist every department of agriculture with grants, initiative and guidance.
In the grant-giving power proposed by the Simon Commission and the power to give information and guidance which they desired, are constitutional links between the Central Government and the Provincial Governments such as do not exist to-day, links for the need of which my Noble Friend the Member for Hastings laid so much stress. I go further; I say that the scheme which he and his friends propose in the report will give much less of a constitutional link between the Central Government and the Provincial Governments than was proposed by the Simon Commission, because the Federal Government are to have no power whatever in regard to matters such as irrigation, education and agriculture, or any of those things for which the Simon Commission wanted more guidance and help through grants. Under these proposals Income Tax will be distributed by the Federal Government upon an automatic basis, apparently, according to the population of the Province and as to what the Province has contributed, and without any specific allocation being made by any Government Department which would help to steer the Province into a more efficient administration.
I regard it as absolutely lamentable that the report will give the Federal Government none of the power to help, guide or assist, upon which the Simon Commission relied for restoring efficiency to Provincial Departments. Some vague words are indeed put down in the report about the desirability of co-ordination. The Provinces can co-ordinate and co-operate, but as the report does not propose to give the Federal Government any power in regard to education or any of the subjects which I have mentioned, so how can that Government take any effective hand in co-ordinating? To give the powers which I am suggesting to the Central Government would undoubtedly strengthen that Government and should prevent those separatist tendencies which some Members fear might show themselves in the Provinces. Provinces which received grants from the Central Government would have a strong inducement to remain linked to it. It would not be necessary to reduce the official bloc in the Federal Assembly as the 305 Simon Commission proposed. This, I admit, would weaken it.
Hon. Members may ask: Why has the report failed to give the Federal Government any power over provincial subjects? I believe it is because of the very real dread entertained by many Moslems of a Federation which they see will naturally be dominated by Hindus. Their delegates have acquiesced in it because they have been given Sind as a separate province and the communal award will give them a majority in that and two other Provinces, and they say: "If we are to have a Federation, let us be top dog in three Provinces, and do not let the Federal Government interfere with us there." I car imagine nothing of greater danger to the peace of India than to press into a Federation a great proportion—I am told about 75 per cent.—of these warlike and virile people, the Moslems of the North-West of India, who occupy a strategic position of enormous importance. They have behind them a great tradition of dominating the Hindus, and many of them are perfectly clear that they will not submit to being under Hindu rule. I leave the House to picture to itself the sort of situation which might arise on the North-West Frontier in the event of disaffection among the Moslems there against Hindu rule, the probability of the emergence of a Pan-Islamic movement, and the great issues to which that might lead. That is, I believe, why the report makes a cleavage between the Federal powers and the provincial powers which will leave the Provincial Departments to wallow in the mire of the inefficiency in which the Simon Commission found them.
Then we would give the Princes the opportunity they desire of being able to influence tariff policy through an advisory council such as the Simon Commission proposed. The Commission proposed that council as a first step to an All-India Federation which they regarded as the ultimate goal. I fail therefore to see how hon. Members can say, as has been said, because this that Advisory Council is proposed in Lord Salisbury's Minority Report instead of a federation, that if federation is not set up now it will never be brought about.
Lastly, I should personally like to see some nominated element retained in the Provincial Councils in order to protect 306 the peasant. I know that the wider franchise is intended to enable the peasant to voice his opinions more than he has been able to do up to the present, but I most earnestly ask the House to consider whether the agriculturist, as matters stand to-day, is free to use his vote for his own benefit. An Indian well known in public life said to me some 18 months ago, "Election booths are auction marts,' and he proceeded to tell me the story of two rival agents in an election going down to a village and for a whole day openly bidding against each other for the votes of the villagers. With a desperately poor peasantry, one can imagine the temptation that it may well be to them to give their vote for a few annas to some gentleman who is in a position to spend what the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme said could be spent on an election.
But there is a greater danger still. If we remember that some 75 per cent. of the peasants are in debt to the moneylender, is it not obvious that the moneylender, if he chooses, can make his debtors vote as he wants them to vote without spending a penny, simply by threatening them? Moneylenders in India have undoubtedly taken a good deal more interest in politics in these last 15 years than they did before, and I am told that in some parts of India to-day the Government is actually called the "Usurers' Government." They have managed to hamstring some Measures for the protection of the peasant against their rapacity. The Linlithgow Commission reported that Acts to protect the peasant against the moneylender and to enable the rate of interest to be reduced had proved a dead letter in several Provinces, and asked the Government of India to endeavour to get these Acts put in force. That also is a power which the Government of India will cease to have under the proposals of the report.
I must here record my amazement that the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) said that we had given protection to the moneylender and policed the rapacity of the landlord. I am very willing to admit that there are landlords in India who are rapacious. An ex-Inspector-General of Police has told me of some of the exactions of the landlords in his Province. But he added that he and his officers spent half their time in protecting the rank and file of Indians 307 from petty tyrannies of that kind exercised by their own people who were in a more influential position. It seems to me amazing that, while hon. Members opposite speak, in their draft report, about the peasant and the moneylender, they do not seem able to see that it is we who have done anything that has been done to protect the peasant from the rapacity of the moneylender, and that, if we transfer all the powers proposed, and if we have no more nominated members on the provincial councils, it may be possible for the moneylending class to repeal the Acts which with great difficulty have been passed to protect the peasant.
It is because we want to save the peasant from all the misery that will be probable under the proposed transfers that we desire to retain power at the Centre to remedy any breakdown of law and order which may occur in the Provinces. We want also to retain in the Provinces the power to prevent a breakdown of law and order, and I personally wish to ensure the continued presence on the provincial councils of people who can be trusted to work for the interests of the peasant, and also for the protection of minorities against tyrannical majorities. I hope that in that way we shall gradually enable the peasant to free himself from the shackles which fetter him to-day, but which I feel confident, if all that the report proposes is brought about, will permanently enslave him.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Wing-Commander JAMES
It is my fixed determination to make the shortest speech that has been made, or probably will be made in this Debate. If I can do that, I think, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I shall have earned your gratitude and that of the House as well as my own satisfaction. Perhaps, therefore, the Noble Lady will forgive me if I do not endeavour to follow her, because after the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) practically all that can be said in support of the proposals of the Government from a back bench point of view has already been said much better than I could say it. I would only add that it appears to me that one of the greatest merits of these proposals is that once and for all 308 they will place on the Indian shoulders the onus of responsibility for which they have been clamouring, and it will be up to them to make the reforms a success. If they fail, if they do not play the game, if they do not do what they claim they are able to do, they will have earned everything that their detractors have said about them in this House and elsewhere.
I have risen for a distinct purpose. I apologise to the House for referring to a matter in which I do not think anyone except myself takes much interest, but the Secretary of State made a reference to it in his speech yesterday and it is a matter which affects vitally the lives of something like 4 per cent. of the total population of British India and Burma. I refer to that part of the report which deals with the Backward Tracts and Excluded Areas. I welcome the proposals in the report provided that they are implemented in the Bill. The proposals appear to me to be a great improvement on the proposals in the original White Paper. I may say at once that I do not expect any reply to-day on these rather technical points, but I hope they will be brought to the notice of the Secretary of State. This point that I want to bring to the notice of my right hon. Friend, and it is obviously one which has no party bearing whatever, even in the Conservative party itself, and I think that hon. Members opposite and particularly the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks), who has taken a great interest in this matter, would endorse some of that which I am going to say. The Secretary of State, in his speech yesterday, gave me some cause for apprehension, because in referring to the backward tracts he said:Again with the backward districts and the aboriginal tribes, there, I am quite sure, every hon. Member will agree that we must keep in reserve powers to prevent these tribes and these remote districts from being exploited."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th December, 1934; col. 53, Vol. 296.]That came under his remarks on the subject of special responsibilities, but my submission to the House is that that is not good enough. More than mere powers kept in reserve are required. I should like very briefly—so briefly as probably to be obscure—to indicate the background of this problem. The Simon Report dealt with the matter very thoroughly. In its survey it describes the conditions in seven Provinces, and its 309 recommendations and conclusions were specific. The commission also remarked in reference to the previous Montagu-Chelmsford Report that both the definition of these areas and their constitutional arrangements after the reforms were left for further consideration. The trouble is that they have always been left for further consideration and when the Noble Lady tells us, as she constantly does, of the terrible deterioration that is going to take place in their administration of India, I sometimes wonder if she quite appreciates the level from which deterioration will have to start.
The numbers of aboriginals involved gives some indication of how this problem has been consistently allowed to slide for years past. The total number of aboriginals living in British India is about 18,500,000, and the number in Burma about 2,500,000; and yet so little has the Government of India itself, apparently, appreciated the problem that we find the Franchise Committee, whose figures were presumably supplied from official sources, referring to from 5,000,000 to 7,000,000, and we find even the Simon Report talking in one place of 11,000,000. I do not want the matter to be allowed to slide again. In the White Paper it looks as though that were going to happen. Paragraphs 106 to 109 were very vague, and they certainly appeared to go back on the Simon Report. It has been frequently said that the Secretary of State in this report has been merely driving forward a preconceived idea rigidly held. I wish to testify that in this matter, at all events, he has displayed a very different attitude. Although he knew from speeches that I had made in this House that I was antagonistic to his views, it was at his suggestion and with his encouragement that I was privileged to give evidence before the Joint Select Committee, because, as he told me, he wanted every line and every paragraph in the White Paper to be scrutinised and subjected to critical and impartial examination. And I feel rather guilty now in turning to bite—or, at least, indicating that I might feel disposed at a later stage to bite—the hand that fed me.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I do not quite follow my hon. and gallant Friend's argument. We have laid down the most strict conditions for the excluded areas. Is 310 he not confusing excluded with partially excluded areas?
§ Wing-Commander JAMES
I was presuming hitherto to indicate what had happened on previous occasions before the Joint Select Committee met. The Joint Select Committee gave sympathetic treatment to the problem. There is, apparently, doubt as to how the appropriate paragraph should be interpreted, but the Committee gave in paragraph 378 (f) what appears to me to be a' very definite and satisfactory decision, because in that paragraph, as I read it, they say that those areas, either to be excluded or to be partially excluded, are to be specified and are to be prescribed by Order-in-Council after the passing of the Act. If that is to be interpreted literally, it gives me the greatest satisfaction. [Interruption.] It is because the House will have a say that I am entering a caveat now. What I should like to hear from the Secretary of State, if possible, is how and when he proposes that this survey, almost a boundary commission in its nature, I presume, will be carried out, because I hope the inquiry is going to be independent, unfettered and unprejudiced. I hope Parliament is not going to be asked to accept any bureaucratic substitute by which I mean recommendations from provincial Governments, because we all know that any department, let alone a provincial Government, will never relinquish hold of anything apparently in its grasp. I urge that the claims of each area should be examined separately and the matter treated purely on its merits in each case. Dr. Hutton's evidence shows quite conclusively that under the existing haphazard system of exclusion and part exclusion there has been very bad maladministration. If this matter is not tackled now, in my submission the Provincial Governors and Legislatures are from the outset going to be burdened with special responsibilities which would be more wisely dealt with in another way. In support of my general argument, I wish to read one paragraph from the report of the Joint Select Committee. It is true that it is written in relation to Burma but its moral applies equally to the whole of India, and further it almost seems to imply that the mind of the Secretary of State is not quite as fluid as I had hoped: 311The Secretary or State's memorandum, which we understand reflects the views of the Government of Burma, suggests that where an area has never been formally declared a backward tract and does not consist exclusively of hill districts it is undesirable to withdraw it from the scope of Ministers and the Legislature, and that it should therefore continue to be regarded as a partially excluded area only. We cannot accept this suggestion nor do we agree that the omissions of the past should necessarily be perpetuated in the future.That paragraph expresses the whole of the plea that I wish to make.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Sir JOHN GANZONI
No question since I have been here has caused more difficulty or more searching of heart than this Indian question, and I consider myself lucky in catching your eye, Sir, when I know that so many want to do so, because I believe I speak for plain Conservative men and women—there are no plain Conservative women, but plain Conservative men and typical Conservative women, both inside and outside the House, and I am certain that they feel almost in despair. Truth is only to be found at the bottom of a well, and it is extraordinarily difficult for those who have not practical, personal experience of India to be quite sure, among the multitude of counsellors, where the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is to be found. Perhaps I have a slight personal advantage over some of them inasmuch as, though I have no experience of working or living in India, I have a considerable experience of the great Dominions and the Crown Colonies, and also of the coloured races in many parts of the Empire.
As a thorough Conservative I should, of course, like to go back to the period before the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, as many of us would, but we cannot put the clock back. I have very grave doubts—and I certainly do not stand alone—as to the readiness of these Oriental people for a democratic constitution on Western lines. I have had doubts as to the wisdom of conferring it. I have had doubts as to the safety of the Indians themselves, or, at any rate, for the less warlike races residing in India, for the Britons in India and also for those Britons living at home and within the rest of the Empire. But there is another side to the question. No critics of the Govern- 312 ment's intentions can get away from the fact that we have made and repeated a promise time and time again. It may be said that it has been somewhat gratuitously repeated. But the fact remains. The promise is there, and it is a very moot point whether, after such a bright light has been shed on the matter, failing publicly and signally to implement that promise might not do a great deal more harm, particularly in dealing with Asiatic peoples different in language and religion from ourselves, than anything that could be put into the Constitution which has to be so very carefully drawn up and based upon a report which is, after all, a historic and most carefully considered document.
§ Sir J. GANZONI
I do not think it is a favourable opportunity to go into, I will not say back-chat, but conversation; but the hon. and gallant Gentleman must be well aware that ever since 1918 the people of India have been led to believe that when we considered that they were ripe for it they would be given a Constitution of their own. If that does not satisfy the hon. and gallant Gentleman, at any rate he will allow me to continue for the time being. It may have been perfectly true—I think that it was perfectly true—that some time ago there was no such thing as a national Indian opinion, and in that connection it explains a great deal of the honest hostility to the present proposals among people outside the House and among some of the best patriots, whether retired colonels or Indian civil servants or business men who have spent long, honourable and useful years in India and completed their life there by 1918, or as late as the time of the Simon Report. But since those people came home for good, things have moved apace. They have moved very fast indeed, and as generally happens, they have gathered momentum, and the pace has been still more marked since the time of the Simon Commission, and again since 1931. Finally, of course, comes the adhesion of the Indian Princes. I know that people impute various motives for that adhesion, but still it is an accomplished fact, and it came, as far as we in this country are concerned, by their own volition in 1931, 313 and I feel that that has completely-altered the situation. It has given us the chance for the first time of making a federation of all India and not only for British India, and, although I have not the knowledge to say that if we fail to grasp this present opportunity, no other will at any time be offered, still we are certainly well advised in seizing the opportunity immediately after, and as a consequence of, the report of the Joint Select Committee.
I am impressed with the Joint Select Committee not only with its report as much as I have been able to digest, but also with its objective and with its conduct of affairs throughout long and protracted sittings. I think that perhaps a good deal of improvement might have been brought about. What is not capable of improvement? Those who are most ready to say that it should have been greatly improved—and this is the only mildly provocative thing I propose to say from start to finish of my speech—and say so loudly are those who refused, after invitations, to participate in their deliberations and give the benefit of their advice and skill in drafting this very remarkable report. I have listened carefully, especially lately, to the best advice I could get from both sides, and notably to those who have led Debates both for and against the White Paper proposals in many places outside the House of Commons. Also there was the occasion of the party meeting at the Queen's Hall where I was particularly impressed with the speech of our Leader. I know that it is a trite saying, so much so that it almost provokes sarcasm, to say that it is the influence of his honesty and sincerity which makes him perhaps the most influential man in public life not only with a considerable portion of his own party, but also with right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are inclined to dispute it here in this House though they know that it is true with the bulk of their supporters in the country, and also among those with no settled political opinions. But there are other things besides transparent sincerity. This reminds me of something which I heard the late Mr. Bonar Law say in my presence at a great public platform meeting at the time of the Home Rule campaign in the country. Towards the end of a long speech, and in that charming 314 way he had of taking the vast audience into his confidence, he said:You know my enemies—and believe me I have enemies—allow me certain qualities, but they seem to think I am a very simple man. Now, I do not think I am such a simple man really.I do not think that the Lord President, who is leading the Conservative party as the backbone of a National Government, is a very simple man really. I think that I can find another simile which will be better understood by the people outside. His tactics more closely represent the tactics which are frequently pursued with great success by two outstanding characters of the turf to-day, Joe Childs and Freddy Fox, who have made a practice of allowing their chief opponents to take the lead, and sometimes a long lead, at the wrong time but almost invariably managing to come through with a rattle on the rails at the finish and being the first past the winning post.
I definitely support the Motion which the Government have put upon the Paper, and I believe that a Bill should be based upon the report of the Joint Select Committee. If I turn for hope or comfort to the Amendment which has been put upon the Paper by the party opposite and which, I understand, is to be moved to-morrow, it only makes me more thankful than ever that this Constitution is to be provided during the time of power of the National Government with a strong Conservative backbone. If I turn to the Amendment, which I regret and think is a pity, standing in the names of the two Noble Lords, of the Noble Lady, and of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and other Members of the Conservative party, and which I understand will not be moved, I find that it represents a negative and a non possumus attitude which does not help a plain man like myself either outside or inside the House of Commons to make up his mind. I hope that when the time comes I shall find that the Bill is drafted in such a way that I shall be able to support it. I shall ever be ready and willing to do all I can to strengthen safeguards, and I am by no means convinced at present that the control of police and the administration of law and order should be handed over to Indian Ministers elected on a democratic basis. I hope that I have stated my reasons, 315 as many as I have time for, in a temperate and moderate manner and that anything that I have said may help plain Conservatives inside and outside the House, many of whom I believe are thinking what I have been saying.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Miss RATHBONE
The cheerful speech to which we have just listened has been something like a relief. No one who has listened to the previous speeches can think that this House is in any danger of embarking upon this great adventure in a half-hearted spirit. Certainly no one who comes to the Indian problem as I do and has studied social conditions in India, and especially conditions among women, are likely to succumb to light-hearted optimism. We have looked at the dark side of the Indian picture, and if we have come to believe, as I have, that we have no choice but to go forward with a measure as far-reaching, though not necessarily identical in all its particulars, as that which is before the Committee, it is not because we do not realise the difficulties and risks but because we are convinced, as the Committee say, that only Indians can redeem India from the evils which are sapping the vitality of her race, and, further, Indians will only really buckle down to the task as long as the energies of her best men and women are in the political struggle, and they have British rule and British instruction to blame for failure to implement social reform. As I listened to the Noble Lady, I felt that as a logical conclusion of her speech we should take away from India all the powers we have given her hitherto. Whether Indian reformers are justified in throwing the blame for their defects upon British rulers is not now the question. I think that if we had taken a bolder line in matters of social reconstruction we might have encountered great difficulties, but we should have won greater respect from all, and more affection from those whose affection is best worth having. But it is useless to regret the past. All that is left to us now, in handing over a task which we have adjudged ourselves unable to fulfil, is to see that those whom we have failed to protect shall be equipped as far as constitutional rights can do it with the means of self-protection. The immediate question is whether the pro- 316 posed structure of government will achieve this end.
I want to deal chiefly but not exclusively with the bearing of the reforms upon the status of women. I have given more time to the study of that question than to any other political question, and perhaps more than to all other questions put together. Owing to significant and tragic reasons Indian women and girls are a minority of the population. Yet they only fall about 11,000,000 short of being half of it, so that I hope the House will not look upon this as a side issue. I want to make full acknowledgment of the generous way in which the Committee has approached this part of its task, and here I may include all the members of the Committee. I believe that the sections of the report dealing with the protection of the women's franchise and representation on elected bodies are practically the only portions of the recommendations of the Committee, as compared with those of the White Paper, which have extended rather than curtailed the development of democratic self-government. Perhaps this is in some part a testimony to the skill and persistence with which the women's claims Were presented to the Committee by the women's organisations here and in India and by Members of both Houses. I wish that one of those Members, Miss Mary Pickford, was here with us to-day. We shall sorely miss that very clear and very quick brain, but her labours have borne fruit.
The concessions made by the report are substantial, and we are grateful for them, but they will not satisfy the women's organisations in India, most of which have steadily demanded adult suffrage as the only way of achieving full equality. They will not even satisfy those of us who would have been content with the recommendations of the very moderate and able Lothian Report on the franchise question, which would have contented those of use who are broken in to British methods of gradualism and compromise. It may be worth while to summarise what those concessions give and what they fail to give, in the hope that there is still time to remedy some of the defects before the Bill is brought before us. First, as to the franchise. The White Paper made two very serious changes for the worse in the proposals of the Lothian 317 Committee. One change was to compel women qualified to vote in respect of their husband's property to make application for their votes. The other was to substitute a much higher educational qualification for the test of simple literacy recommended for women voters. We pressed for the restitution of the Lothian proposals in both respects. The report has conceded a change in one or other respects in each of the Governor's Provinces, but not both except in one and a half Provinces, and neither in any of the minor Provinces.
Secondly, the report improves on the White Paper by recognising that the grave obstacles imposed by the application condition and the heightened educational qualification to the achievement of even the most modest proportion of one women to four and a half men, which is considered reasonable, are justified, if justified at all, only by administrative difficulties which can and should be overcome before the second general election under the new Constitution. But it does not supply the necessary stimulus to the Provincial Governments to grapple with these difficulties by making the recommendation mandatory. I think that is a mistake. We all know the difference in the psychological effect on ourselves between knowing that we must prepare for a troublesome task within a given time, and of merely being told that we ought to be thinking about the task and getting ready to perform it as soon as possible.
Frankly, the record of Indian Government, both central and provincial, in the matter of women's interests has not been such that we who have these interests at heart can happily leave the initiative for further advances in their hands. When young Englishmen go to join the Services in India they are usually inoculated against various infectious diseases, but I fear that they are not inoculated against the most infectious of them, and that is the Oriental attitude towards women. They often catch it very badly. The best antidote, and one for which the Committee's report makes no provision, would be a liberal infusion of women into the administrative services. Here I would like to ask one direct question of the Secretary of State. What is the position of the women's medical service in the new arrangements? Is it not time that this 318 service should be given a more stable and recognised position, possibly by setting it up as a definite branch of the Indian Medical Service? Since the women's service is already subsidised by the Government, the change would not necessarily cost more money.
A word as to the method of pooling the nine seats reserved for women in the Federal Assembly. Since indirect election is inevitable in the case of so small a number of seats as nine, I think the proposal of the report is perhaps the best practicable, and certainly a great improvement on that of the White Paper. The new proposal is that the women members of the Provincial Legislatures shall form an electoral college. The women of India pride themselves specially on having kept clear of communal dissensions, and though under this plan certain of these seats must be allotted to special communities, it will give an opportunity of selecting women who will be really representative of women's interests and women's needs, and not merely communal or party hacks. I wish I could be equally hopeful that the question of the substitution of indirect for direct election to the Assembly as a whole will work out beneficially.
Before leaving the question of reserved seats I want to say a few words about Burma. The report, as the Under-Secretary told us, proposes to take away the three seats that were intended for the Burmese women in the House of Representatives because the delegates from the Burmese women convinced the Committee that the women of Burma did not desire those seats. True, but the representatives of the Burmese women also urged that the right of women to vote on their husband's qualification should be conceded to the women of Burma, as it has been conceded to the women of India. The Committee could not see their way to accede to that. It is not fair to take away a privilege which was disclaimed while refusing a privilege which they claimed. The two proposals balance each other and should stand or fall together. Without this the position of Burmese women in the matter of representation will be markedly inferior to that of the women of India, and I cannot believe that this will be either equitable or will give satisfaction.
319 The last defect in the proposal of the report applies equally to the claims of Labour, and it is a serious defect. Neither women nor Labour are given the certainty of any seats at all in the Upper Chambers, either in the Provinces or at the Centre. It is true that in both a certain number of seats are left to be filled by the Governor or the Governor-General respectively. It is even suggested that that nomination may give the possibility of securing some representation for women in the Upper Houses of the Provinces. But there can be no certainty. That is a serious omission, especially with regard to the Council of State both for women and Labour, especially in view of the great powers which are accorded to the Council of State. Unlike the Provincial Upper Chambers, and unlike our own House of Lords, the Council of State can do more than delay reform. It is to have nearly equal powers with those of the Federal Assembly, and if there is a conflict between them there may, but only at the Governor-General's discretion, be a joint session.
Consider how this may work out. In many of the questions most vitally affecting both women and Labour, marriage questions, custody of children, inheritance of property, factory legislation, trade unionism, labour disputes, industrial insurance, the Centre and the Provinces are to have concurrent powers of legislation, but in the case of a conflict between a central Act and a provincial Act, the federal Act is to prevail. It follows, therefore, that almost any piece of social legislation, which may be ardently desired both by the Provinces and by the majority of the Assembly, may, by the joint action of the Council of State and the more reactionary elements in the Assembly, be so worsened or emasculated as to be mischievous or useless, and yet completely block the way to any progressive legislation on the same subject in the Provinces. Yet there may not be a single representative of women or of Labour on the Council of State to uphold the interests of their order or in the Upper House, to which such great powers are given. I confess that I feel very anxious about the influence of these upper chambers, mainly representative of 320 wealth and great vested interests on the future of social reforms, which concern the great masses of women and the poor.
The representatives of the Indian States will be a new and untried factor in the Central Government. What sort of a factor? We are told that the States have made it clear that they have no desire to interfere in matters exclusively affecting British India. But what sort of matters will be so regarded? Large sections of this House welcome the accession of the Princes as a conservative and stabilising force. Perhaps But conservatism and stability are good or bad things according to the quality of that which is to be conserved and stabilised. We may hope from the lead which has been given by a few of the States in matter of education and social reform that the representatives of the Princes will not seek to conserve evil social customs or to stabilise deplorably low standards of living and of labour. But what about the rest? Is the Government so satisfied as to the quality of the influence, and influence may make itself felt otherwise than through votes, likely to be exercised by the States upon the interests of women and of the poor, that they are satisfied to leave those interests without any direct champions of their own in the Upper Houses?
This leads me to another issue, and it is the last upon which I shall touch. It is the question of the effect of the new constitution upon the rank and file of the masses in the Indian States. We are told that the Constitution Act will make no changes in the relations between the Crown as the predominant power and the States, except so far as the latter accede and admit the jurisdiction of the Federal Government in the matters specially reserved to it. Formally and technically this may be so. But may there not be some danger in the very dependency of this new structure for smooth working upon the support of the Princes? It is a strange partnership, this partnership betwen the greatest and most successful democracy that the world has ever known and autocratic oriental Princes. It may lead to some strange situations. I will not take the case where there may be flagrant and outrageous misrule in an Indian State, but will assume that there are now, land will continue to be, means of dealing with it. But suppose there is 321 a growing desire for self-government amongst the people of an Indian State, a movement fostered by its increasingly close connection with British India. Good things as well as bad are infectious. Democracy is infectious. Are we in any danger of incurring obligations that some day, perhaps without the British people or even this Parliament realising that it is happening, may result in whatever influence our representatives still possess, in India being exerted to discourage, perhaps even to crush by armed force, the aspirations of peoples rightly struggling to be free within the Indian States? The Solicitor-General reminded us yesterday that in the recommendations of the report:the most absolute regard both in form and substance has been paid to the autonomy, sovereignty and treaty rights of the States."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th December, 1934; col. 165, Vol. 296.]That to my mind is an ominous assurance. It may be that nothing new is being given away, but, in effect, to reaffirm to-day in this solemn manner as part of a new bargain, involving mutual obligations on both sides, rights, some of which were conceded generations ago, is a new and very serious thing. It has become one of the commonest and one of the most stupidest of cliches that democracy is a failure. Democracy, in fact, has failed nowhere except in countries where it is a plant of too recent and too rapid a growth to withstand storms. The Act to which these Debates are a prelude will be in substance a great act of faith in the future of democracy, not only for ourselves but for other lands and other peoples. It will be a strang irony if the same measure which marks a great advance in the path of self-governing institutions for one-half of India should prove in result to have riveted the shackles of despotism upon the limbs of the other half. We are deciding, so far as one Act can decide it, the machinery of government for a country which contains the largest population of the world. A single provision in the Act which proves in its working out to have been misconceived, or the omission of a safeguard which should have been inserted, may well prove to be the precipitating cause of more tragedies in individual human lives than are contained in all the tragedies of every great dramatist and novelist who ever lived. We shall hear 322 more of safeguards in the next few months. I hope we shall give India no reason to think that this House is more interested in safeguards which affect our own commerce and imperial interests than in those which concern the welfare of the poorest of her peoples, or of those who by reason of social custom are less able to protect themselves.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ Lord SCONE
During the whole course of the Debate yesterday and to-day I have been somewhat surprised, not to say a little shocked, by the way in which some exponents of advanced political opinions in my own party as well as in the party opposite, have been concerned so much more with administrative details than with what is going to be the actual effect of the proposed Act upon the lives of the common people of India. I regret the hon. and gallant Member for Tonbridge (Lieut.-Colonel Spender-Clay) is not in his place at the moment. Perhaps it is as well, because I understand he regards it as sob-stuff to make any allusion to the great masses of the Indian people, over 300,000,000 of them, and nearly all illiterate. Hon. and right hon. Members on Liberal and Socialist benches have been far more interested in discussing whether there ought to be a one-chamber or a two-chamber system of government, whether certain women ought or ought not to have votes, and whether there should be direct or indirect election, than in discussing the vital elements in this case. It seems to me that we have had too many examples of the preoccupation of little minds with little things.
I, myself, and most of those who usually occupy this bench know that really what matters is the effect of giving this Measure of self-government on the poor and humble classes of India. I submit that there is very little evidence to show that they are going to benefit in any way. For almost the first time in history the only people who are likely to benefit from such a proposed action are a small political class who have an influence that has been greatly exaggerated both in and out of this House. I have heard it said that the Indian masses will always follow Indian politicians. I think that is a statement which requires corroboration. It has been shown in the past that the illiterate peasants have a great deal more confi- 323 dence in the British civil servant, the British soldier or even the casual traveller, than in many of their own countrymen.
During the very short time I wish to take up it is my intention to Survey what the proposed legislation is likely to be, whether it is likely to succeed, and what, if it fails, the price of failure is likely to be. What is this legislation? It is an advance—if one can use that term—towards democratic government. I am not going into the merits of democracy: personally, I think it is a bad thing. The whole point is that never before has there been any attempt to set up a democratic government in the Orient, where it is totally alien to the ideas prevailing on forms of government. The numbers of those in India clamouring for these proposals are about as numerous as the just men in Sodom and Gomorrah, whose total did not amount to ten. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) has mentioned the figure of between 1,500,000 to 10,000,000 as the number of people who want to get Home Rule. I cannot find anyone who welcomes enthusiastically the Government's actual proposals. That is to say, we shall not get co-operation in working these proposals, but a good deal of non-co-operation if not actual opposition.
The best speech in defence of the Government's idea has been that of the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy). At the same time, that was a speech which one could only accept if one accepted the premises, which, to my mind, were based on despair. I hope the Noble Lord will not take it amiss if I criticise what appeared to be one of the strongest parts of his speech. One of the chief reasons, apparently, for these proposals was to give Congress politicians a chance of acquiring a little responsibility. It may be very good that they should acquire that responsibility, but if it is to be done at the expense of the majority of people in India, it would be far too great a price to pay. What is going to be the benefit of these proposals? We have been told that there has been a great deterioration in the services already Indianised. All questions on this subject to the Secretary of State and his deputy seem to have been a duel between him and the ques- 324 tioner, not as to whether any improvement had taken place, but as to whether the deterioration that had occurred was of a serious character or not.
Next we must consider what will happen if the proposals fail. I do not think anyone will deny that British rule has been beneficial to India. The population has increased very greatly as a result of our good government. The hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) quoted from Mr. Gladstone showing that there had been an increase in no long period of from 240,000,000 to now upwards of 350,000,000, simply because under the "Pax Britannica" there had been no internecine feuds, bad customs like infanticide and suttee had been abolished, the boundaries had been protected from foreign aggression, while health services, formerly non-existent, had been introduced and extended, and agriculture improved, so that famine, once so prevalent, has not now to be seriously considered. But in Indianisation we may get a return to conditions existing before British rule. On page 4, Volume 1 of the Joint Select Committee's Report it is admitted that before we went to India "the sum of human misery" could be found there. If all safeguards fail, who will suffer? Hundreds of millions of Indian peasants.
I submit that, in introducing a scheme of self-government, we are gambling, placing an enormous stake in order to get back at the very best a very little reward, merely to satisfy to some extent a small, if vociferous, number of Indian politicians. On the other hand, if our improvements fail to work and the new system breaks down, then, indeed, we shall put in jeopardy the happiness, the health, the very life of scores of millions of our Indian subjects. The responsibility for this must, in the long run, come back to this House. That is why many of us feel that there is an alternative. Let us go forward in such a way that if the worst happens our Indian subjects will not come out of it as badly as they otherwise may. One step forward could be the setting up of provincial assemblies, reserving to ourselves control at the Centre. If there were any breakdown we should then have control, but if there were a breakdown at the Centre, then there would be a situation that no one could wish to contemplate. In these circumstances, I 325 do submit that we are going too far, because we are venturing a great deal to gain very little. That is why we say to the Government that, before they risk the health, the happiness, and possibly the lives of tens of millions, just to gratify the political vanity of tens of thousands, in heaven's name, let them have a care what they do.
§ 9.34 p.m.
§ Mr. AMERY
The speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Perth (Lord Scone), a simple and sincere speech, was one directed not against the proposals before the House, but against everything we have done in India during the last 20 or 30 years. I am glad that one at least of the Conservative critics of the Government's proposals has taken the real ground of their opposition to these proposals as frankly as he has done. He laid his finger on one point which, of course, must always be in the forefront of our minds, and that is the welfare of the people of India themselves. That is obviously something that we can never forget. We have done much in the past to contribute to that welfare. We have given them good government. But it is just worth while remembering that British rule in India was achieved from start to finish with the co-operation and with the consent of Indians themselves. After centuries of anarchy the only thing that India thought of was reasonably good government. Because we brought it they helped us. Because we brought it they acquiesced in our rule, and were even grateful for it.
But can things stay for ever at that point? After all, we have taught them to believe that there is something more than good government by others-, that there is a virtue in good and progressive government by yourself. We have taught them that for the best part of a century. Everything that we have taught India, everything that we have promised India, everything that we have initiated in India for the last 50 years has led towards the desire for an extended measure of responsible self-government. Indeed I am not sure that even from the immediate point of view of the welfare of the humblest of India's people there is not something that Indian government can do, something that we have never been able to touch. As the Report of the Joint Select Committee shows, there 326 are social questions at the bottom of most of the poverty and misery in India—questions which for religious and social reasons we have never dared to touch. Let us at any rate see the hopeful sides of self-government in India as well as look upon the prospect with unalloyed distrust and suspicion.
During the last two days' Debate in most of the speeches that have been delivered there has been a continuous recurrence of certain words which, whether used in praise or dispraise, have been used without any very great precision and with very little relation either to Indian conditions or to the report of the Joint Select Committee. One of those words is "Federation." From the point of view of some of the critics of the Government, like my Noble Friend the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer), that is something disastrous, "insane," an "Alice in Wonderland" scheme. From the point of view of others, like the Noble Lady who has just spoken, it is an ideal. But both believe that it should be deferred, that we should proceed step by step, first inaugurate Provincial Autonomy and presently consider whether we should follow with Federation. That is a quite impossible suggestion. The moment you constitute Provincial Autonomy you have, ipso facto, set up Federation in British India. Unless you are to make the Provinces entirely independent of the Central Government, then so long as you give any powers of self-government—it does not matter whether the residual powers are with the Centre, as in Canada, or locally as in Australia—you have a Federation.
The trouble is that the Federation which is set up, if you make no change in the structure of the Centre, is a bad Federation because of the inherent weakness of the present system of government at the Centre. When you have, as you have at the Centre to-day, an irremovable executive face to face with an irresponsible legislature, the experience of the whole world, of every British Dominion and Colony, of our own past history, shows that you have created a system which involves endless friction, all the irresponsibility and recklessness and destructive criticism of a legislature that can never actually carry out the work of administration, and all the weakness and instability of an executive which cannot appeal to the nation for support, and 327 which for the sake of peace is always giving way. That situation is unsatisfactory enough at the Centre to-day. It will become infinitely worse the moment you set up the Provinces with anything like full autonomy. You will have deadlock after deadlock, with the only result that to escape from an intolerable situation you will have to set up responsibility at the Centre. You cannot avoid it. It is inherent in the situation itself.
It is true, historically speaking, that the issue of responsibility at the Centre was precipitated at the first Round Table Conference by the line taken by the Princes. I do not believe that that line was taken by the Maharajah of Bikanir and his colleagues as a sudden sentimental contribution to the Round Table Conference. This problem has been in the minds of the Indian rulers ever since they have seen extended self-government in British India looming in the distance, because, whatever pledges the Crown may have given, nothing could prevent them being injured by the tariffs, the railway legislation, the excise legislation and all the rest of the legislation which a central British Indian legislature, irresponsible so far as they were concerned, was liable to pass. The Princes made their offer from a sense of their own interest, and we from a sense of the welfare of India as a whole, as well as a sense of the stability of the Government of India, we were wise in accepting it.
But we should have to accept responsible government at the centre in any case. What I ask the critics is, if there is to be responsible government at the centre would they sooner have the Princes in or not? If they do, why gloat, as some have done, over the doubts of some of the Princes? It seems to me that once you accept the implication of any form of Provincial Autonomy, which is British India Federation, you must naturally be glad, in the interests of India, to bring in the Princes, if they are willing to come. If they do not come, well, then we are left with the so-called alternative proposals of my hon. Friends, and I only hope that they will not regret too much any action of theirs that might have deterred the Princes of India from joining in the scheme for the welfare of India as a whole.
328 Let me come to another word which I have heard frequently—"dyarchy." The scheme proposed by the Joint Select Committee is denounced because it involves dyarchy at the centre. Unless you are to make India wholly independent, or unless you are to get rid of every vestige of self-government in India, you must have some division of authority, some point of junction between those who are responsible to Parliament here and those who are responsible, in the current phrase, to their own legislatures and electorates. The question is, where can that junction be made with the minimum of friction and difficulty? The worst point at which to make it is, if your executive is responsible to one authority and your legislature to another. Dyarchy at the centre in India to-day is far worse than any dyarchy in the Provinces. It seems to me that the critics of the Government propose to maintain dyarchy in the Provinces in connection with law and order and also the worst form of it in the Central Government.
The report of the Select Committee suggests that the point of junction should be between external affairs, including defence, and the whole social and economic life of India, which is to be entrusted to India herself, subject only to the special responsibilities of the Viceroy and the Governors, which are not so much an external interference with responsible self-government as an essential reinforcement of self-government itself if it is ever to succeed. That is a point where friction may be inevitable. But it is reduced to a minimum. It deals with questions which will not affect the ordinary life of the people. The only point of contact with the legislature is finance and there, as the report points out, we start with an existing and customary distribution of the finances which, at any rate in substance, is likely to be maintained and likely to give rise to much less friction than dyarchy at any other point.
Then we have the stock phrases about "democracy" and "responsibility." Let me remind the House that there has been no pledge at any time by this country to introduce democratic party government in India. What we have promised is a progressive extension of responsible self-government—a much finer thing and a thing not necessarily dependent upon party or democracy. We had responsible 329 sell-government and ordered freedom long before we had democracy, in days when we had many anomalies in our Constitution, and Members who sat for pocket boroughs who were just as much nominated as the representatives of any Indian Princes would be. Undoubtedly democracy in our ordinary party sense is not applicable to Indian conditions. It is perfectly true that the differences of caste and religion and the complex structure of India make ordinary party government as we know it, unsuitable in that country and no one wants to impose it. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) passionately denounced the communal system. Surely if you have a division as deep and intense as that which separates Moslems and Hindus than if both sections are put into a common electorate it only means that that division will be the subject matter of every election. The minority is bound in every case to be defeated and never to get a chance of representation in the legislature. If, on the other hand you recognise the situation and if you eliminate that division at any rate from the elections, though it may well remain in the legislature, there is a chance of rival candidates of the same religion or caste competing with each other. I believe that under Indian conditions the only chance of developing some sort of party system based on social or economic policies lies in accepting, for the present, at any rate, the undeniable fact of the communal system.
Again take the Centre. Any Federation where there are many and varied interests makes party government a little difficult. In Canada before you construct a Cabinet you have to put in at least a couple of representatives of Catholic and Protectionist Quebec, to whatever party you may belong. At the same time you must have some representatives of the Free Trade maritime provinces and the Free Trade prairie provinces. The result is that while your party differences may be active enough up to a certain point, they do not cut very deep. Under a Federation in India it will be necessary to create a government at the Centre which will include representatives of the major Provinces and the leading States, some Moslems, some Hindus, perhaps some Sikhs. You create a system which does not lend it- 330 self very much to ordinary party differences such as we have here.
Then there is the word "responsibility." The word "responsibility" Is used in many different senses. It means first and foremost responsibility to facts, the responsibility for carrying your proposals into action. That is something which only experience can teach. Until you give India responsibility in that sense, until Indian statesmen instead of merely criticising and denouncing have to act upon their speeches, until you create legislatures the members of which regard themselves not only as critics but as potential administrators, you will not get that true sense of responsibility which is the first condition of self-government. We have done something to create that in the Provinces. There is no one who knows India but admits that in many respects the Provincial Legislatures set a higher standard than the Central Legislature. You have responsibility in the Indian States, and it has been mentioned more than once in these Debates that India possesses in the States some first-class administrators and men of high capacity. There is another sense in which the word responsibility is currently used, and that is responsibility to the legislature, the dependence of the Ministry on the legislature. There is a third sense, not often used, but by no means unimportant—the original sense in which Ministers are responsible to the Crown, not merely for representing a majority in the House but for securing the support of that majority in order that the King's Government shall be carried on properly, with fairness to all the King's subjects, in an orderly spirit and with regard to the permanent welfare of the nation.
That sense of responsibility is one which has developed in this country and has become an inbred tradition in our public life. As it has done so, the direct personal power of the Crown has become more and more dormant. But no constitutional lawyer would venture to say that if all those traditions, those boundary lines which we set ourselves, were transgressed by extreme party violence, those dormant powers might not yet, in the interests of the nation, have to be brought to life again. At any rate in India where those traditions are as yet largely absent, I believe that the 331 Joint Committee have found the only true safeguard against the dangers of party violence or sectional or religous prejudice by definitely and statutorily giving a wide and special personal discretion to the representative of the Crown. We are, in fact, embodying in persons brought up in and imbued with British traditions, the one element in which India is still lacking. India will accept advice far more readily from men whom it can trust, from leaders and guides in whom Ministers have confidence than safeguards in any purely documentary form. I believe that the discretionary powers of the Governor and the Viceroy will exercise an immense influence not so much because they will be frequently used but because the fact that they can be used will lend to the advice of the Governor in his ordinary, every-day, intimate intercourse with Ministers, a weight and an importance which they cannot afford to disregard.
From all those points of view it seems to me that the Select Committee at the end of seven years discussion have worked out a scheme' which as far as possible makes responsible government safe and does so by safeguards which are inherent and not artificially imposed, safeguards inherent in the type of government itself. They have also provided a constitutional framework calculated to meet Indian conditions, and one which, in fact, has inevitably proceeded from all that has gone before. The Committee have devised the only scheme which to-day holds the field. What is the alternative which some of my hon. Friends put forward? The alternative of Provincial Autonomy now is a mere refusal to face the obvious and immediate implications of that autonomy. What is the other alternative? To go back to before 1919? Is that what is wanted?
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) made great play of the fact that Indian political opinion has opposed this scheme. Does that mean that Indian political opinion is in favour of his proposals, that Congress has swept the general Indian electorate on the basis of "back to before 1914," or even on the basis of Lord Salisbury's Amendment? What does it mean? Does it mean that he would sooner have this House pass a scheme that Congress would approve and bless? If not, why 332 waste our time by dealing with the opposition of Indian political opinion? As a matter of fact, my hon. and gallant Friend seemed to think it was in the power of Congress to veto this Measure that will now be introduced. This Measure is going to be introduced here and passed here; it is not going to come up for the sanction of the Central Legislature in India. It will come into operation first in the Provinces, which have every reason for working it and for looking forward to the day when they themselves can nominate their representatives to a new Central Legislature in which their social and economic interests will be collectively dealt with.
What other real objection is there to this scheme, unless you honestly say you are against any scheme? That is not a position which, after all that has passed, after all that has been said in Parliament and outside, after all that has been done, can be adopted any longer in this country. If so, if the scheme of the Joint Select Committee holds the field, if, as was very truly said in one speech, it is both the maximum of what we ought to give and the minimum that there is any chance of India accepting in fact and working in fact, why not go ahead with it now? Now at any rate we can act in confidence, in strength. No one can accuse us of surrendering to intimidation or anarchy. India is better governed to-day than she has been for a long time past, and while I do not lay much stress on historical parallels, it is worth while remembering that wherever we have given self-government in our strength in the past it has succeeded. When we gave it to Canada—[An HON. MEMBER: "What about Ireland?"]—in our strength, it succeeded. When we gave it to South Africa after we had won the South African War, it succeeded. When we professed to give it to South Africa in 1881, because we were beaten in the field and not prepared to face the expense of reconquering the Transvaal, it failed. In Ireland yes; there you had weakness and weariness; you had abdication; that was a very different situation from that with which we are to-day confronted in India.
If so, let us realise that now we can act with all the world knowing that we are acting because we believe it to be right. And further, if we act now, there 333 is still time to act before all India has gone sour and bitter from disappointment at our delay. There is still to-day, I believe, a large body of opinion in India—whether they were successful at the particular elections held recently or not I do not care—which is prepared to work a scheme of this sort, and in working it to be guided, though not dictated to, by Englishmen, glad to take British advice and leadership from the representative of a Crown which is still honoured widely throughout India. If they do, at any rate there is a fair prospect that this great scheme, elaborated after so many years, may, if launched at the right season, lead to a happy issue. Of course, there are dangers. Of course, to do anything of this sort is in a sense a great act of faith. But, after all, in building up this Empire we have more than once ventured upon great acts of faith, and they have succeeded.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
It is with diffidence that I rise to take part in this Debate. I am probably one of many who are quite unfamiliar with the colossal issues which arise in a debate of this kind. Indeed, the problems are so profound that it is very difficult for an ordinary man to say very much more than has already been said in these two days' Debates. I have tried, however, to read the substantial portions of the report of the Joint Select Committee, and I have come to the conclusion that in all the matter that has been published, and in all the speeches that have been delivered, the issue is fairly simple in the end; that is to say, shall India have greater freedom than she now possesses, and shall we continue to hold out hope to the Indian people that they will rank in this Commonwealth of nations of ours, with the same status as Canada, Australia, and South Africa? There is one thing, however, that I can never forget about India. Nothing in these volumes, nothing in the speeches that I have listened to yesterday and to-day, will ever impress itself as much on my mind as to see the late Edwin Montagu standing on the other side of the House, some 10 or 12 years ago, a broken-hearted man because he tried to do for India what some of us have endeavoured in a smaller degree to do ever since. Indeed, many people, not only in 334 India but in this country, have sacrificed a great deal to try to secure for the Indian people greater freedom than they now possess.
I should like to refer to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), who, I am sorry to see, is not now in his place. I do not know that anybody will question his sincerity, but I could not understand his argument. He said that Congress and the majority of vocal opinion in India were against these proposals, but he never told us that the majority of vocal opinion in India is against these proposals because they do not go far enough. They want to proceed on the lines that the Labour party desire they should go. I object to the method of debate that the hon. and gallant Member employed in using the opposition to these proposals in India as if it were opposition to doing anything at all. In fact, the opposition to these proposals among Congress men in India, so I am informed, is opposition of exactly the same kind that we lay down on behalf of the official Opposition in this House.
I was more than interested in the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Perth (Lord Scone). I was thinking when he spoke that I could almost guarantee that I could put my hand on a record of speeches in this House on America 150 years ago just like the one he delivered this evening. Indeed, that kind of speech makes me wonder how we are going to deal with this problem of India at all. He talked about poor, illiterate Indian peasants, and that we are satisfying a small political class. I am not very old, but when I was a boy nearly all the political power in this country was held by a small political class of the type of the Noble Lord. Ordinary men like ourselves could never secure any political power, anywhere, at that time. The opposition of the Noble Lord to political freedom in India is exactly the same type of opposition that has been uttered in this House for two or three centuries. If I can make any contribution to this Debate, it is to say that whatever Constitution be granted to the Indian people that Constitution in the end will work or fail just in proportion as the urge for greater freedom comes from the people at the bottom. In the end democracy has to depend on the agitation of the 335 mass of the people at the bottom end of the social scale.
The Noble Lord said that democracy is a bad thing and unsuitable for the Oriental mind. I was one of seven Members of this House who were in Istanbul less than two months ago, and we were then in the Orient. I think my geography is right. When we were across the Bosphorus we were in Asia. When we went to Angora we were among the Asiatics. The most remarkable thing to me when we were in Istanbul was to see people behaving and dressed just like the working people of Lancashire or London. When I am told that because people live in the Orient they are incapable of working a democratic instrument, let me inform hon. Members that there is a Republic in Turkey, in Asia, and there is a President of the Republic, too, a very intelligent gentleman. They are making a good attempt at establishing a Parliament there. They secured their Parliament by more honourable means than this Government did in 1931. I have yet to learn that the Indians are very much more backward than the Turks. A real attempt is being made in Turkey, in spite of all the difficulties, at establishing political democracy as an instrument of government.
The first question we are asked when debating the Indian problem is whether the Indians are fit for self-government. Some hon. Members from the South of England, especially the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth, have been to Lancashire telling the people that the Indians are not fit to govern themselves. As a Lancashire man myself—[Laughter.] It is amazing how we Lancashire people stick together. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) and I are both Lancashire men. These hon. Members, in their desire to prevent these proposals being put into operation, have been trying to convince Lancashire people that the trade of that country will suffer if the proposals are adopted. There never was a stranger form of propaganda than to put Lancashire in pawn in this way. Somebody has mentioned in the Debate the treatment which Great Britain meted out to America about a century and a half ago. I have been in America twice, and it made me sad, in talking to people in New York, Baltimore and right 336 through to the Middle West, to find how the Americans regard the attempt that the then British Government made to stabilise the same position in the United States as the Tory Diehards are trying to do to-day in India. It has left an indelible mark of silent contempt on even the present generation of Americans against this country.
Le me now pass to the point that is somtimes made that the Indians are not fit to govern. I do not know any race anywhere in the world which can be stated to be fit to govern until it gets the opportunity to prove whether it is fit to govern or not. That is not a new gospel. At the beginning of 1924, when we became the first Labour Government in this country, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) said then that we were not fit to govern. Let me remind Conservatives who are delighted in thinking that way still that the Prime Minister of that Government is their present Prime Minister. That argument will not avail. Political democracy is not a failure. We are told that India should not be given self-government because political democracy has failed in Italy, Germany, Austria and Russia. So far as I understand the recent history of these countries, there is still a desire in them for greater personal liberty and political freedom, and it is still growing. We are told too that there are keen divisions of opinion in India and that because of their fundamental religious differences we must be careful, in giving the people freedom, lest they may, in common parlance, fly at each other's throats. I understand that India covers a territory as big as the whole of Europe, outside Russia, and that its population is as great, and I am wondering whether the castes and colours and creeds in India are very much more numerous and hostile to each other than they are in Europe, and especially in the Balkans. And when we are dealing with this problem we must not forget divisions of opinion among ourselves. The present Government here at home have tried to unite all parties, and some leaders of the Government thought the time had come, in 1931, when everybody in this nation would be of the same opinion, but recent by-elections have shown that that is by no means possible.
Let me turn to that point about Lancashire. I do not think there is any other 337 county or section of people in England as interested in these proposals. They affect the trade of the 5,000,000 people who live in Lancashire. I am very glad indeed that opinion in Lancashire is hardening against that small group who desire to insert in these proposals a provision that we in this country should retain the power to determine the Customs Duties for or against us in India. In fact, I was pleased to learn that the hon. and gallant Member for Hulme (Sir. J. Nail) who, I think, was a very doubtful starter on these proposals, has at last joined with Lord Derby. They wrote one of the best letters I have seen in print in favour of the proposition that we cannot trade with India, any more than with any other country, except on the basis of good will. I am very pleased indeed that the vast majority of opinion in Lancashire has come round to that view at last.
Without going into details I think it is worth while stating the case as we in that county see it. It is said that the cotton manufactured goods sent from Lancashire to India have declined from 67 per cent. of the total consumed in India in 1913 to 8 per cent. in 1933. Let me pause to say that no district in these islands has been so severely affected in its trade with India as Lancashire, where the decline has produced almost a calamity. Still, I was amazed at the argument of the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) that we must still present a rigid attitude towards India in order to get back this trade. In talking that way he forgets that what has happened in India is this: The Indian people have not given their trade to Japan, as is supposed in some quarters, but they have increased their own production of cotton goods by hand and by machinery. There is nothing we can do to prevent the Indian people from producing any commodity for themselves. Therefore, I come back to the point that I am sure the vast majority of people in Lancashire will welcome, namely, any step taken in order to secure that good will which is the only possible factor in trade relationships between one country and another.
We on this side of the House are very much disturbed, and we have reason to be, to find that the Joint Select Committee did not pay more attention to 338 the conditions of employment in India. After all the vast majority of the people in any country earn their livelihood by work. I have a report here issued by two members of the Trade Union Congress who visited India in 1928. After reading the figures in that report I feel that we shall do a terrible wrong to the working classes of India unless, in anything we do we take note of the fact that in forming a Constitution for India there is a possibility of removing the terrible conditions prevailing in the mills and factories of that great country. Let me give one or two illustrations to show what is happening there. In 1928—and I do not think conditions have changed—the wage of an Indian coolie, an adult man, was 9d. a day. In practically all the mills in Bombay if an ordinary worker lost a day's work his penalty was the loss of two days' wages. The party to which I belong would not be doing their duty unless they said, as we declare in our Amendment, that however good the proposals of the Government may be, they are not good enough unless they do something to prevent the continuance, in the mills of Bombay and elsewhere, of a condition of things to which I have referred.
We are of opinion that only a greater measure of self-government in India will bring about better conditions for the working people in that country, in exactly the same way as has been the case in our own land. I remember when there was no workmen's compensation law in this country, and when nothing was paid to the widow of a man who had been killed in the course of his employment. Most of us remember the beginning of unemployment insurance, health insurance, widows' pensions, old age pensions and the like. Members of all parties are proud that we have by those schemes laid down an economic foundation for our people through which very few will fall in the future. That has come about because of the organisation of the workpeople, and the urgings which have come from below for better conditions. The Government may give safeguards to Indian employers and capitalists; you may safeguard the Indian Army, the police and the railways; that may all be good, so far as statecraft is concerned, but we repeat, as a party, that we shall not be satisfied 339 unless the Bill which is produced gives hope not only for self-government for the Indian ruling class, but hope also for the millions of working people that they shall have better conditions consequent upon the granting of a new Constitution.
We have put down our Amendment, and it will be discussed to-morrow. I think we have taken the logical course in doing so. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and the hon. Baronet the Member for Bournemouth, if they were frank with the House, do not want any thing done for India at all, unless I am much mistaken. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) supports the proposals—I hope he does not mind my being critical of his speech—in the belief that nothing particular will happen when they are put into operation. That is the sort of mind which has expressed itself in this Debate on more than one occasion. One or two supporters of the Government have very nearly said that when we have given all this to the Indians, the Governors representing this country will always see to it that nothing untoward will happen to British interests. That sort of argument will not avail with the Indian people. In the last few years I have travelled, and have seen many countries and many other peoples living and working, and I have come to the conclusion that no nation will be able for very long to order the destiny of any other nation in the world.
§ 10.25 p.m.
§ The FIRST COMMISSIONER of WORKS (Mr. Ormsby-Gore)
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) into the Amendment which is to be moved to-morrow on behalf of the official Opposition. I would say to the hon. Gentleman, however, that nobody agrees more heartily than I do that it would be extremely welcome if Indian legislators would turn their attention to Labour legislation when they have got a Constitution, and that that kind of thing is wanted much more than long-continued barren discussions as to what powers they should or should not have. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman will excuse me if I devote most of my remarks to dealing with some of my own hon. Friends, who, on this Motion, are the real Opposition. 340 They are very sincere, and I know their keen belief that this scheme is almost infinitely bad. I will not say I believe that it is infinitely good, but I believe that it is incredibly the best scheme that has been evolved for the government of India.
Let me say one or two words about one of the leaders of the Opposition who spoke this evening, the Noble Lady the Member for West Perth (Duchess of Atholl). I am sorry that she is no longer in her place. When I heard the Noble Lady speaking, I could not help thinking of Voltaire's Dr. Pangloss. It will be remembered that, although disaster after disaster came along, it was always for the best in the best of all possible worlds. The Noble Lady thinks that all is for the worst in the worst of all possible worlds. Not one redeeming feature in the situation was revealed by her speech to-night. She began with her version of the results of transferring education and various other heads of government to provincial legislatures, and to Ministers responsible to those legislatures under the Act of 1920. My Noble Friend read out a catalogue of failures, of regrettable incidents, but not one single word on the other side. It was all one uniform picture of blackness. There was no mention of the fact that in Madras, in the Punjab, there have been conspicuous successes in administration by quite outstanding Indian administrators.
All that ran through the Noble Lady's speech, but there was not one single constructive suggestion, not one alternative proposal—only a root-and-branch condemnation of the existing situation of India, let alone the proposals which are now before the House. Indeed, what the Noble Lady asked the British Parliament to do was to tear up the reforming Act of 1920, and, having done that, to tear up the Morley-Minto reforms of 1909, and to go right back. I would ask her one question. She said that the Indian peasants are in debt to the moneylenders, the reforms having given them financial power. I want to know, is it only since the reforms came into operation that the Indian peasants have been in debt? This complete negation, this continuous denunciation by the Noble Lady up and down the country, after all that has been done in the last 20 years in India, is the 341 kind of thing that does indeed, from a person in her position, cause bad blood between races.
The other leader who has spoken to-day was my hon. and gallant Friend who spoke with such earnestness, the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). He was not as negative or as extreme as the Noble Lady, but he did advance what struck me as a very strange argument; in fact, it was his main argument. He said that between the signature and the publication of the report there had taken place an election in which a majority of Indians had been returned who did not like the White Paper, and that therefore we had no right to proceed with our proposal. I seem to recollect speeches by my hon. and gallant Friend up and down the country two or three years ago when he was arguing against the existence of the Round Table Conference. His argument then was that we had brought Indians over to England to discuss with us what should be the form of the new Constitution when it was expressly laid down in the Preamble to the Act of 1920 that this was a matter for Parliament alone. I will take my hon. and gallant Friend at his word. This is not a matter for any Constituent Assembly in India. There is no Assembly or Legislature in India that is competent to decide what the British Parliament in its wisdom thinks is the best form of Government for India.
This scheme, which has now been elaborated for so long, we put forward, as was stated by the Secretary of State yesterday, solely on its merits as a scheme for the government of India. I will take up a specific challenge of Lord Lloyd in a speech in the country in which he said more than once that no Cabinet Minister had dared to defend this scheme as one for the better government of India. He did not know what the scheme was when he was making his challenge. He was free to carry on his propaganda, but our tongues were tied. This is almost the first opportunity and we accept that challenge, and we do say that it is in that spirit that this matter is being dealt with to-day.
I approach this subject not with any direct knowledge of India, but I have served for seven years at the Colonial Office, and in the course of my time there I have visited all the Colonies, and not 342 only our own Colonies but those of France and also the Dutch East Indies. My experience in the Colonial Office was with an amazing variety of governments, some still with the official majority, some with an unofficial majority, some with an elected majority, some with representative government and some with dyarchic government, almost the most complete variety of governments one could imagine. Therefore, one inevitably came into contact with the organisation of different types of legislature.
The first thing I should like to clear up is the question of safeguards. It has become the word used in connection with the Indian discussions. At the Colonial Office for years they have been known as reserve powers; powers under the various Constitutions reserved either to the Secretary of State or the Governor in his discretion to override, either generally or in particular circumstances, the elected majority of a legislature. Those reserve powers and safeguards are frequently used, and rightly. They are part of the Constitution. Let nobody imagine that under these proposals any more than in any of the Colonial Constitutions safeguards and special powers are put in with the idea that they will not be used. They ought not to be in the Constitution unless they are part of the Constitution and unless it is constitutional to use them. The point is that if Safeguards are in a Constitution their use is constitutional.
During the course of my time at the Colonial Office I had to take part in doing away with an ancient Constitution, because some of those Colonial Constitutions go back 200 or 300 years. There was for over 100 years a Constitution in British Guiana which rubbed along in the most peculiar way, and finally got nearer and nearer to bankruptcy, because the Constitution provided that the control of finance should be in the hands of the Court of Policy, where there was an elected majority and where nobody in the Court of Policy was in any way responsible for any department of government, which consisted entirely of British officials. The result was a series of deficits. The elected representatives of the people demanded social reforms, and the Government, under the pressure, put those social reforms upon the Statute Book. They came to the Court of Policy for a grant of money and for taxation to carry them out and they were refused, and 343 there was a series of deadlocks. We passed through this House the British Guiana Constitution (Amendment) Bill which was, quite frankly, to do away with the elected majority, and we have done away with the elected majority.
All this is leading up to the fact that in the course of my seven years at the Colonial Office I formed one quite definite conclusion in all these constitutional matters. It was never to give political power and control unless you accompanied it with political responsibility. I remember that during the time I was at the Colonial Office coming up against a suggestion that there should be an elected majority in the Colony of Kenya. It was plausibly argued that elected majorities had existed in many other British Colonies. I always resisted the claim. Both in Nairobi and in this country I said that I should never personally stand for an elected majority for the Colony of Kenya unless the grant of an electoral majority was accompanied by definite political responsibility for a definite purpose. That was the lesson that we have learned in our experiments with Indian reform in the past, and I hope now that it is final.
I served as a member of the Joint Select Committee on Indian Reform in 1919. We went there with the idea that it was our duty to implement the famous pledge drafted by Lord Curzon about responsible self-government, that was given to the world on the authority of the War Cabinet as a whole on the 20th August, 1917. Our thoughts naturally turned to the question of defining the nature of the responsibility. I remember clearly that I came to the conclusion that it was not because of that declaration that the Montagu-Chelmsford reform scheme logically followed, but it was due to the existence of the Morley-Minto constitution in being at the time. I have heard hon. Members to-night and yesterday talking about the introduction of democracy into India as if we were doing it for the first time, as if there were something very novel about it. The Morley-Minto reforms in 1909 gave unofficial majorities in every Legislative Council in every Province in India and they gave an elected majority in Bengal.
I remember that when evidence was given by officials from the Indian Civil 344 Service who came before us in the rooms in the House of Lords, they said "You have faced us with, finally, having the power and the responsibility of government, and you have faced us with an elected majority, who do all the bowling but can never do any batting." That was the phrase that was used. The result was that it became inevitable that there should be some transfer of responsibility. When I look back on the difficult times in India. I do not say that everything has gone well, but looking on the sum total of the work done in the Provinces under the Montagu-Chelmsford reform scheme, we can at least say that they were on the right lines. There is evidence that a certain number of Indian Ministers have come forward and done their job well and have functioned in a way of which India may be proud. But I must admit that immediately after the War we did make profound mistakes at the Centre, and that the existing Central Constitution is one which cannot be allowed to go on indefinitely.
I go further. My own position is this. Were the Government proposals proposals to proceed with provincial autonomy alone, with or without some safeguards, with or without the transfer of law and order, leaving the Centre alone, I certainly should not be standing at this Box, but I should be taking a most active part in opposition. I have given the House opinions that I formed long before this Report came into being in regard to the Central Legislative Assembly. Paragraph 41 is the most crucial paragraph in the whole Report. Dealing with the question of the unity of India they say:We cannot leave this subject without asking the vital question which Parliament will have to answer; whether a Central Government of India constituted as we propose would fulfil the conditions we have already laid down—whether it would provide a central authority strong enough to maintain the unity of India and to protect all classes of her citizens.I wish to underline those last words.That question cannot be answered apart from a consideration of the strength or weakness of the Central Government as it now exists. As our inquiries have proceeded, we have been increasingly impressed, not by the strength of the Central Government as at present constituted, but by its weakness. It is confronted by a Legislature which can be nothing but (in Bagehot's words) 'a debating society adhering to an executive.' The members of that Legislature are unrestrained by the knowledge that they 345 themselves may be required to provide an alternative government; their opinions have been uninformed by the experience of power and they have shown themselves prone to regard support of government policy as a betrayal of the national cause. It is no wonder that the criticism offered by the members of such a Legislature should have been mainly destructive; yet it is abundantly clear from the political history of the last 12 years that criticism by the Assembly has constantly influenced the policy of Government. As a result, the prestige of the Central Government has been lowered and disharmony between Government and Legislature has tended to sap the efficiency of both. Indeed, the main problem which in this sphere Parliament has now to consider is how to strengthen an already weakening Central Executive. We believe that the Central Government which we recommend will be stronger than the existing Government, and we see no other way in which it could be strengthened.Those are tremendous words, and to my mind they are the test of the problem before us. If you are to grant provincial autonomy you have to strengthen the central executive as well as the Central Legislature. I ask myself, seeing that by Statute we debar anybody who is elected to the existing Central Legislature from ever having any voice in the government of India, what have you attracted to your Central Legislature? They are mainly lawyers, people who have big practices in places like Allahabad. Membership of the Assembly is an honour, and they know that they can handle their business and will not be interfered with by the danger of having to take on a responsible job of work. That is the inevitable consequence of building up that kind of legislature. I am satisfied that as long as the Central Legislature affords no avenue to an Indian who is anxious to serve his country in government, not merely in opposition, he will not go to that kind of Central Legislature; there must be some responsibility at the Centre.
Where do British Indians who are anxious to do work in government go to-day? They go into the provincial legislatures and become Ministers there—what the French would call "L'homme du gouvernement". Those people who are anxious to take part in constructive government, naturally, do not go into a Government where there is no opportunity of constructive government. Unless there is responsibility at the Centre, I do not believe we can go on with the existing Constitution of India. Either we 346 have to go right back and entirely reconstruct it, or give responsibility. Whether representatives come directly or indirectly from a system of election, however non-democratic, because of its communal character or prescriptive character, it is absurd to say they will not go together with nominees of autocratic rulers.
Why is it absurd? Certainly the system in the only other federation of Asia consists of the constitution of the Federal Chamber of the Dutch East Indies. I remember visiting that body in Batavia where there were direct representatives of the Chinese, indirectly elected Javanese—these were indirectly elected by the town by one remove, and by the villages by two removes—four representatives, or rather nominees, of the four hereditary Princes who have, as it were, native States in the centre of the Isle of Java and are Mohammedans, and one Hindu, the Prince of Bali himself. There you have a federation of very diverse elements all serving in one assembly. I do not see why it should be inconsistent for representatives of the British Provinces to serve alongside nominees of the Princes in the Federal Chamber. I am quite satisfied that that is the ideal solution. Again, our critics talk as if we had invented the idea of Federation during the lifetime of this Government. Of course, the word is writ large in the Simon Report. They regarded it as the ideal settlement if a federal settlement for all India could be reached. In paragraph 13 of their recommendations we read at the beginning:We believe that, unless this ultimate goal is borne in mind in framing India's Constitution, there is a danger of the mind of political India being led astray by false analogies and that there are practical as well as theoretical reasons for so planning the structure of Indian government that the transition to a truly All-Indian policy can be made as soon as the time is ripe.The origin of the whole conception of Indian Federation is in the Simon Report.
Let me come to the question of the Princes. The hon. and gallant Member made a lot of insinuations against the Secretary of State, that he had been using pressure, writing to the Viceroy and telling him to bring pressure. My right hon. Friend has assured me, and I think the House, that it was after reading the Simon Report that the offer 347 of the Princes came quite voluntarily and quite unexpectedly. Yet there has been all this suggestion that it was we who have been driving the Princes into federation because we want federation. We agree that federation is desirable, and personally I think that federation is essential if you are to grant provincial autonomy.
Hon. Members of the official Opposition talk glibly about self-government for the people of India. But let us face the fact that that self-government is essentially restricted by the present extent of illiteracy. I must say a word about that. When we are told that everything under the British Raj in the nineteenth century was perfect, and that everything in these modern reforms is wrong, do let us remember that in February, 1835, Lord Macaulay put forward his famous Minute, which laid down that the vernaculars would be submerged and that it was the duty of the British Raj to impose on the Indian people western education in the history of western culture and institutions through the medium of the English language. That has been the foundation of the education policy of the Government in India. What has been the result? Even as late as the time of the Simon Commission it was found that the Government of Bengal was spending more on university education than on primary education.
I remember reading some, not all, of the last volumes of the report of the Calcutta University Commission, and tragic reading it was. It showed how we had imposed university education upon India, when we had full powers, and not upon the masses of the people the primary education that was intended, with the result that in Travancore and many of the native States you have a far higher measure of literacy than in British India. You have that on the principles taught through the medium of Whig books under the domination of the Whig doctrinaire, Lord Macaulay, and the result is that you have the political problems with which you are faced to-day. Now, when we put forward a Tory solution with a measure of responsibility—[HON. MEMBERS: "A Socialist solution."] No, a Tory solution, for I believe in no political power that is unaccompanied by definite responsibility. When I see a long line 348 of old Whigs leading the Opposition to this Bill, I say "Macaulay is still with you."
§ Ordered, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—[Mr. C. Edwards.]
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.