HC Deb 26 February 1935 vol 298 cc971-91

Considered in Committee [Third Day—Progress 20th February].

[Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]

3.45 p.m.


I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

The Committee will not, I am sure, be surprised at my venturing to submit this Motion. I do so because of the momentous news which has been received from India, and which we learn from every side in the public Press. I do so for the purpose of commenting upon that news and pointing out the position in which we stand with regard to the Clauses which have now become the immediate subject of debate; and also for the purpose of giving the Secretary of State the opportunity, which no doubt he will desire, of making a statement on the subject. According to the reports which have appeared, and which I do not understand to be in any way challenged as official reports, the Princes of India, at their meeting in Bombay yesterday, passed a resolution which no doubt is present to the minds of hon. Members of this Committee, and the closing paragraphs of which indicate very definite rejection of the Government's scheme for the Federation of India. What strikes me about this resolution, the summarised reports, and the telegrams which, it is said, the Princes have addressed to the Secretary of State, is the variety, the gravity, and the substance of the differences which exist. These are not differences which can be described in any way as matters of drafting, as small points which can be adjusted, minor matters which make for some misunderstanding which can easily be cleared up later on on Report. It is said that these differences touch the following matters:

The form and mode of accession to the Federation.

The provisions for the preservation of treaties and agreements concluded with the States.

The special responsibilities of the Governor-General in respect of the States.

Then there is a most important point, touching the efficacy of the safeguards in the event of grave public disorder supervening in India and its being necessary to suspend the Constitution.

Measures to be taken in the event of its being necessary to suspend the Constitution.

The treatment of privileges and immunities.

Enforcement of the Federal laws and the powers vested in the Governor-General to give directions to the rulers of States.

The extent of the executive authority of the Federation in regard to the States.

There are further differences which have arisen on finance, and also upon what I should have thought was a very essential matter to federation, namely, the working of the statutory railway board in relation to the competition between State railways in the possession of native States and State railways in the possession of the Government of India. I venture to submit that this resolution constitutes a new political situation so far as the future of this Bill is concerned. Certainly I cannot conceive how, in the face of all these Amendments and alterations which are put forward by a body whose concurrence is indispensable to the entire process of the Bill, we can be asked to discuss the remaining general question of Clause 5, and still less Clause 6, which deals with this very topic of accession.

I have pointed out already the inconvenience to which the Committee would be put in embarking upon these discussions before we knew what the Princes' decision was, and, indeed, it seemed quite likely that we should have already disposed of Clause 6 by this time. Happily, it is still in the possession of the Committee, but how is it competent for us to discuss it? Here are Amendments which affect the whole basis, and we do not know what the Amendments are, nor, I suppose, is the right hon. Gentleman in a position to tell us exactly what the Amendments are or to place them on the Paper. If we were able to put them on the Paper in two or three days, we could easily postpone the Clauses until the Amendments were there, but to discuss the Clauses without knowing what are all the alterations in the structure of the Bill, to discuss the whole question of federation in all the Clauses in the Bill without knowing whether in fact the indispensable condition, namely, the accession of the Princes is going to be achieved, is purely to confront the House with the prospect of discussing a hypothetical matter with the prospect of embarking on a great waste of time, thus condemning us in all probability to a prolonged and dreary farce. This question of the accession of the Princes is, as everyone recognises on both sides, the Government and the Opposition, and those of us who dissent from the proposal of the Government, the foundation of the whole policy. I am not going to burden the House with any more quotations than one which is necessary to establish the ease. The Secretary of State in his broadcast speech on 1st January said: There cannot be provincial autonomy without federation, and federation must be all-India federation embracing the States and British India. If there is to be federation, there must be responsibility in the central Government if only to satisfy the reuirements of the Princes, who will not enter a federation controlled by Whitehall. There is the foundation, and it has been the whole story that the Government have told from the beginning of the discussion. It was for this that they made their departure from the more or less solid ground of the Statutory Commission. It was at this point that the landslide at the first Round Table Conference occurred. This was the point where they threw the train of coaches off the line with the disaster that we have suffered from ever since. I could give a dozen instances of the Secretary of State's insistence on this point. On this everything stands. This is the rigmarole that he taught all his followers to proclaim with so much insistence.

I see the Lord President in his place and I am bound to address myself to him amicably but pointedly. The Lord President met his party at Queen's Hall at a meeting to which great importance was attached and around which a great deal of interest hung. What was the crux of his appeal? It was that you must not reject this offer of the Princes. My right hon. Friend would not have thrown all that weight on to that topic at this moment if he had not honestly believed that there was a prospect of a great new situation, and to seize that prospect, to enjoy that opportunity, was what he urged them to do. He quoted first of all the Foreign Secretary's recantation of the Simon Report. He quoted the Foreign Secretary as saying: But since we reported there has been a new fact. There has been another new fact. We were commissioners, but we were not prophets, and it was not until after we had reported that the new fact emerged. He went on to describe the action of some of the Indian Princes which led to' the changes in the Government policy in 1931. The Lord President said to his followers—I can see them visibly wilt under the impact of the appeal— It would, indeed, be a great responsibility to reject the prospect of a closer union between the Indian Princes and their great territories on the one hand, and the British India, for which we have a special responsibility, on the other. This is the linch pin of the whole story, and the linch pin has been pulled out. I contend and submit substantially that that is the fact.

I must revert for a moment to the resolution of the Princes. It is not only what they say; it is the tone in which they say it that the House should note. If these were minor difficulties to which a happy outcome was expected, you would not expect a manifesto of this kind containing some very serious things considering the body from which they emanate, considering the relations of those Princes to the Viceroy and to His Majesty's Government. This meeting desires to emphasise that in many respects the Bill and the instrument of accession depart from the agreement arrived at during the meetings of the representatives of the States with Members of His Majesty's Government. Only the other day Lord Halifax was saying: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is confident that the report pf the Committee does, in fact, substantially meet the reasonable apprehensions of the Princes as they were explained to the Joint Select Committee. Here the Princes have declared that in many respects these proposals depart from the agreement arrived at. There is a direct conflict of testimony between the two parties. It is always very serious when people who are supposed to be in the closest relations say that there is a breach of an agreement arrived at. You may be sure that there is a great deal of feeling behind the differences. The resolution continues: And regrets to note that the Bill and the instrument of accession do not secure those vital interests and fundamental requisites of the States on which they have throughout laid great emphasis. Surely this matter cannot be dismissed as a mere question of drafting. It is without a knowledge of the Amendments that will be required to meet these vital interests and fundamental requisites that the Committee is going to be urged to proceed with the discussion of Clause 6 and the other federal Clauses. It went on to say: This meeting is of the definite opinion that in their present form, and without statutory modification of and alteration to the fundamental points, the Bill and the instrument of accession cannot be regarded as acceptable to the Indian States. Who are these Princes who made this proposal and committed themselves to -this very far-reaching and weighty pronouncement? They were unanimous in the first instance and they are representative of the Princes of India in an overwhelming degree. The little States were there as well as the great, though not by any means all the little States. The States to whom the greatest inducements have been offered to join the Federation, Mysore, Hyderabad and Travencore—all these States concurred in this resolution, and they are the greatest States in India. They are meant to be the main part of the 50 per cent.—the old guard—upon which the right hon. Gentleman is hoping to rely to carry his proposals. He cut it down to 50 per cent., and here are those great States which were an essential part of the 50 per cent. In addition to that, it is not only the Princes who were lukewarm, who had secret misgivings, who have been talking pretty freely of their misgivings and fears about the Bill and some of them declaring their definite hostility, who are represented in this resolution, but the Princes who were most in favour of this policy, the very Princes who made the original offer, the unauthorised offer as we contend and as many of the other Princes have contended, the very Princes who came forward and have always been paraded as the special champions of this policy and deflected the course of events at the Round Table Conference—these are the Princes who are associated with others in this resolution they have presented to us in this form.

The Committee, I think, will see the difficult position in which it is this afternoon in embarking upon the discussion. I must confess that I am not at all surprised at this change of opinion of the active minority of the Princes on whom the Government have hitherto rested as the champions of the Government policy. In fact, I think that this change in their opinion—a very decisive change it is—bears out what some of us have ventured to submit to the House and to the Committee. These were the Princes, these were the minority, who were led to make the so-called offer in 1931 as the result of a bargain with some of the representatives of the Congress, and some of the advanced parties in India. The terms of this bargain—an unholy bargain—were that if the Princes demanded responsible government at the Centre, then the Congress party would leave them to govern their estates as they liked. That was the outline of it.

I want the Committee to see exactly how this matter has worked. These were the Princes most susceptible to the influence of the Indian political classes in British India, and in those days the opinion of those political classes was in favour of a federal system, with responsible government at the Centre. But now that the whole matter has been examined and discussed, those very political classes are in full retreat and in recoil from the proposal. They have carried a resolution against it by an overwhelming majority in the Indian Assembly, and they are undoubtedly bringing their influence to bear upon the Princes with whom they were originally in touch in exactly the contrary sense of four years ago, with the result that those Princes, who are working more or less in close association with those political elements, are moving in the opposite direction just as strongly as they moved in the direction of the Government in 1931.

That is the explanation, and one can see it working. Thus those Princes who were most amenable beforehand to the Government project, are now falling back into the main line of all the rest of the Princes who never liked it, and were only embarrassed by the many influences brought to bear upon them to draw them into the main body. Hence the unanimity of all these Princes. The names of the States have only to be read out to dispose of any argument that they are not the dominating force with the Indian Princes, and that is the reason of the unanimity among them. There is another thing not less remarkable which should not be overlooked, and that is that the Ministers are in agreement with the Princes. The Ministers of the States are represented as being in agreement with the Princes. That is very remarkable, because one always can see that the Ministers naturally would be very much in favour of Federation. The Princes, with a dynasty going hack 1,000 years, might very well be cautious, but the Ministers had everything to gain with regard to their personal position, because once they became the nominees of those States in the Federal Assembly their position would be vastly different, their status would be vastly raised and they would no longer hold their position purely at the pleasure of the Princes they served. The idea that when some great Minister of State was playing a great part in the Federal Assembly he could be recalled owing to the fact that the Sovereign under whom he was serving wished to have another nominee, even if it were entertained would be very difficult to carry out in practice. Any assembly worthy of its salt would rally to such a man who was suddenly recalled by an outside power. The Ministers who were to gain this great accretion to their strength have associated themselves with the Princes in these far-reaching declarations.

Thus all the articulate elements in Indian political life from Congress up to the Princes are arrayed against this Bill, and the reason why I move to report Progress is in order to ascertain what course His Majesty's Government wish to pursue. No doubt the Secretary of State will try to minimise the difficulties. He will promise vaguely further important concessions, while at the same time hurrying on these vital Clauses, getting them through the Committee stage without disclosing the details of the concessions at all to the House or the Princes. If the Committee lends itself to this imposture, and if the Government, by using their enormous majority, enforce it upon the House, all I say is that they will only put off and only aggravate the inevitable day of reckoning. It is quite certain that the attitude of the Princes is now definitely against this kind of federation at this particular time. The safeguards may be whittled down. You may relax some of the precautions in the veto of the Viceroy which you believe indispensable to the discharge of the responsibilities of this House. The power of the Viceroy to deal with an emergency may be crippled by the concessions which you will propose. The coherence of federal India may be impaired by further awkward concessions in regard to railways and finance, and the small benefits which were offered to us as a result of this enormous change in the structural organisation of the Indian polity will be lost.

Although this may be the method which the right hon. Gentleman is about to adopt, and which has been enforced upon the House, and may condemn us to discussion utterly meaningless, which is an affront to Parliament, yet we predict with confidence that nothing will change now the resolve of the Indian Princes to disengage themselves from what they have realised is a dangerous project, and, while so many things are in flux, nothing will lead them, and nothing should lead them, to quit the, solid rock of their treaties with the King Emperor. Now that we have reached this point, we see the improvidence and the short-sightedness of the kind of arguments used by the Secretary of State, and by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) and by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy). These are the arguments of which I warned them when I addressed the House before. [Interruption.] I am in the recollection of the House that they were very shortsighted in declaring that nothing in this Bill is worth anything without the federal Clauses, and unless the Princes come in, and that without federation they would rather not go on with it, and that we had better drop it altogether rather than proceed with this provincial home rule, without this super-home rule at the summit. That seemed to me to be a most improvident argument at the time when it was uncertain whether the Princes would come in or not. The right hon. Gentleman kept on assuring us that it would be all right. Of course they would come in. Of course there would be minor difficulties, and so on. So have all the Government spokesmen said everywhere, but our opinion has, I think, proved more accurate upon this matter—more accurate, at any rate, than any opinion the right hon. Gentleman has yet given to the House or the Committee.

As I say, it seems to me that my right hon. Friends have placed themselves in a position of great difficulty, and so has the Secretary of State, because now, if the Princes do not come in, they have used arguments which will be used against them, or might be used against them, to vitiate even that provincial extension of home rule which was proposed to us by the solemn, carefully worked-out report of our Statutory Commission four years ago. However, we shall leave the Government and its Ministerial supporters to disentangle themselves from these foolish and unforeseeing arguments which were so freely used thus to get round the momentary corner of a Debate. It is clear that the federal scheme is dead. Every day its decomposition will be more evident, and, as the summer advances, more offensive. But even now His Majesty's Government have a chance—perhaps the most blessed end fortunate chance—to get back to the broad proposals of that Statutory Commission to which nothing useful has been added in the last four years. Although we consider, as I have often said, and I am bound to repeat now, that those proposals are a most hazardous experiment, they do not contain the mortal perils of this federal plan. Let the Government discard the federal plan. Let the right hon. Gentleman put aside pride and obstinacy. Let him imitate the prudence and the wisdom of Sir Robert Walpole on the great Excise Bill when, having seen what the situation was, he told his followers and supporters with the greatest conviction, "This dance can no further go."

4.12 p.m.

The SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Sir Samuel Hoare)

I must not be tempted into the wider field of confident prophecy which has just been traversed by my right hon. Friend. I rise rather—and I welcome the opportunity—to remove a number of misunderstand ings that are evidently in the mind of my right hon. Friend. Some other misunderstandings may be connected with a speech I made in the Committee stage of this Bill last week. Thirdly, a number of misunderstandings which certainly seem to me to be in the mind of many of the Princes themselves and many of their ministers. I suppose it is natural in questions of this kind that these misunderstandings should arise. We are attempting to deal with one of the most complex questions that have ever faced any assembly and we are attempting to deal with it with the principals 6,000 miles apart. While, therefore, I regret that misunderstandings do arise and must arise, I cannot say that I am surprised that they do arise. My right hon. Friend has quoted some passages in the Resolution passed yesterday by certain of the Indian Princes. In order that the Committee may have before them the whole position I think I had better read the whole of the Resolution: The Princes and representatives of the States present at this meeting have examined the Government of India Bill and the draft Instrument of Accession and read and considered the report made by the Committee of Ministers presided over by Sir Akbar Hydari, which recently dealt with some important provisions of the said Bill and draft Instrument of Accession. They have also considered the opinions of legal advisers and experts, whose views have been obtained thereon. While reserving to themselves the right to offer further observations and criticisms in due course, the Princes and representatives of the States present at this meeting fully endorse the observations and criticisms contained in the report submitted by the Committee of Ministers to the extent that the committee have been able to deal with the matters in question. This meeting desires to emphasise that in many respects the Bill and the Instrument of Accession depart from agreements arrived at during the meetings of representatives of the States with Members of His Majesty's Government, and regrets to note that the Bill and Instrument of Accession do not secure those vital interests and fundamental requisites of the States on which they have throughout laid great emphasis. This meeting is of the definite opinion that in their present form, and without satisfactory modification of and alteration to fundamental points, the Bill and Instrument of Accession cannot be regarded as acceptable to the Indian States. When I read that resolution last night it came upon me as a great surprise. Only three or four days ago upon the Committee stage of this Bill, when my right hon. Friend proposed that Clauses 6 and 7 should be postponed, I said what at that time was the case, that I was under the impression that there were only points of detail at issue between the States and ourselves, and there was no reason why those two Clauses should be postponed. I believe that I shall show in the course of my observations this afternoon that that was not only a, correct statement of the position a week ago, but that, in spite of the resolution that I have just read, it is equally the correct position to-day.

There is one statement in the resolution to which at the outset of my remarks I should like to draw attention, the statement in which it is alleged that the Government have gone back upon agreements made between ourselves and the representatives of the Princes. Let me say at once to this Committee, and let me say, if my voice travels as far, to my friends among the Indian Princes, that I cannot accept the justice of that charge. So far as I know, we have carried out in every respect the agreements that have been made between us and the representatives of the Princes. If by mischance we have failed in the drafting of the Bill to carry out those undertakings, I will see that they are carried out. I can only explain a statement of that kind on the ground that it may be difficult, without long notice, to follow the exact scope and drafting of a complicated Bill of this kind, but I do here and now say that, in my view and in the view of the Government, in every respect we have carried out the agreements that we said we would carry out, and if the draftsmanship of this Bill fails in any respect to show that that is the case, I will see that the drafting of the Clauses is readjusted and that, beyond at shadow of doubt, the position shall be made clear.

Secondly, the Princes are, so far as I am aware, agreed with us to-day, as they have always been agreed in the past, that if there is to be a federation, it must be an effective federation. I have always made my own position clear, namely, that I would not support any proposals for a sham federation. The Federation must be a real federation exercising effective federal powers over a sufficient field of administration. That is the view we have always taken of a federation, and so far as I know, in all our discussions, that is the view that the Princes themselves have taken of an All India Federation. I cannot believe to-day that they have altered in any respect their view in that regard. If they have altered their veiw—and I do not believe that they have altered it—let them tell us so clearly and categorically. The sooner this House knows the position, and the sooner everybody in India knows the position, the better for all parties concerned. I can, however, say to the Committee that, in spite of this resolution, I have no reason to suppose that the Princes have altered their conception of what an All-India Federation should be.

Assuming that both the Princes and ourselves are still bent upon setting up an effective All-India Federation, I say to the Committee, after a very careful examination of the points that seem to be at issue, that there is no reason at all why these questions should not be adjusted between the Princes and ourselves. I believe myself that many of them are already adjusted in the Bill and that the Princes do not yet realise in detail how far their legitimate desires have effectively been met. Where, as I say, they have not been met I have given the undertaking to meet them. Consequently, I say to the Committee that there is no reason—and I shall substantiate this contention in my later remarks—for the Committee to delay its discussions. Many of the points in which the Princes are chiefly interested come at later stages of the Bill. We shall have ample opportunity of dealing with them when the time arises for their discussion. If, however, in the near future or in the less near future at any time, it appears that there are irreconcilable differences between the Government and the Princes, I will at once inform the Committee of the fact, and I will give the undertaking that we will, in that case, reconsider the whole position. At present—and I am going to substantiate this point in the remarks which I am now going to make—I do not see that there is any irreconcilable difference between us. I do not believe that when I have finished my examination of the points to which the Princes allude in their resolution, that the Committee will come to the view that there are irreconcilable differences between us.

It is clear from the terms of the official report of the meeting that the Princes' decision does not indicate any change of their attitude towards federation, and is in no sense a pronouncement against the general scheme of the Bill. The Princes have always made it clear from the start, and no one has ever seriously questioned their claim, that it is their right as sovereign rulers to decide how far they are prepared to bring their respective States under the authority of the Federation. So far as I can see the major part of the difficulties which they now feel arise from doubts as to whether or not this position is made clear beyond doubt by the Bill. Both the States and the Government have, I am sure, the same broad objects in. view. We both desire that accession by a ruler to the Federation shall mean effective participation by his State in the federal organism. On the other hand, it has always been the States' intention and we, of course, on our side have always freely admitted, that the application of this Act to any federated State should be governed in effect by the ruler's Instrument of Accession. That is to say, it is for the ruler and the ruler alone to determine, subject, of course, to acceptance of his accession by the Crown, the extent of the field over which the Federal authorities are to operate in his State.

Clause 6 of the Bill was designed to make this position clear. The Amendments standing in my name, which I hope to move in the course of our next discussions, are intended, not indeed to make any substantial change in that Clause as drafted but to make the intentions still clearer, and I am confident after closer examination of the Clause, amended as I propose it should be amended, it will be found by the Princes to go much further than they have supposed towards meeting their difficulties. That fact will become clearer when I actually move these Amendments.

I understand—and I draw the attention of the Committee to this point—that the main difficulty which the Princes feel about this Clause as it stands is the obligation which it imposes upon them to accept the Act as a whole. They feel this difficulty, in spite of the fact that its acceptance is immediately followed in paragraph (b) of the first sub-section by a provision for freedom of choice on the part of the ruler as to the subjects for federal legislation which he accepts, or, in other words, describing the field over which the Act shall operate in his State, and further the freedom to make conditions as to his acceptance of any of these subjects. The intention of the Clause was that such conditions should be applicable not only to the legislative powers as regards any particular matter of the Federal Legislature in its relation to the State, but correspondingly to the executive authority of the Federal Government in relation to the same matter. My Amendments to this Clause are, in part, designed to make this intention perfectly clear, and later on I shall move another Amendment to Clause 8 with the same object.

I understand that the form the States would like this Clause to take is a provision whereby they would accept such of the provisions of the Act as they may expressly specify in their Instruments of Accession. There are obvious difficulties in the way of acceptance of a suggestion on these lines, and the result might well be that, in theory at all events, every ruler who acceded to the Federation would select different provisions of the Act as the basis of the constitution in his State with the result that we might have a multiplicity of consitutions operating in different parts of India as a result of this Bill. This, I am quite sure, is not the intention of the Princes. Their fear is—and it is a natural fear—that acceding to the provisions of the Act even subject to the qualifications to which I have referred might have consequences in their States which on present examination they cannot foresee, and which might lead to results in the way of a diminution of their sovereignty which neither they nor the Government could ever contemplate. I wish to remove this fear. On the one hand it is impossible to contemplate a position in which it will be open to every acceding State to select for itself the provisions of the Act to apply to that State, arid, on the other hand, I am quite prepared to consider sympathetically and to bring before the Committee any representation which the Princes may think it right to make with reference to any particular one of the later Clauses of the Bill upon which they anticipate disadvantages of the kind to which I have referred.

Let me put what I have said into more concrete form. The Government proposal is that the Princes should accede to the whole Act and that in the Instrument of Accession the Princes should set out the subjects on which the Act is acceded to, making it clear, firstly, that the Act does not touch any other subject, and, secondly, that the Act does not detract from the Princes' sovereignty in any other respect. The Princes are nervous because they are afraid that at some time in the future a federal Government might, as the unexpected result of some other Clause in the Act and perhaps as a result of a decision in a federal Court, encroach upon a field that the Princes have not actually surrendered. The Princes, therefore, say: "Let us not accede to the whole Act but let us set out in the Instrument of Accession only the points in the Act to which we actually accede." I do not think the Princes have fully considered the implications of a proposal of that kind. The effect of it would be, first of all, to throw open to negotiation the whole field of the Bill instead of throwing open to negotiation between the Government and the Princes certain specific points in the Bill. That in itself would prolong almost indefinitely the period of these negotiations.

But there is a greater danger inherent in a proposal of this kind. If it were accepted, Parliament would not know in the least what kind of federation it was setting up. The question would be left in the air and open to subsequent negotiations over the whole field between the British Government and scores of Indian Princes. I am quite sure that Parliament would never allow a Bill of this kind to pass on to the Statute Book without knowing what kind of federation was going to be set up, nor would it pass an Act of this kind if the result was going to be not one constitution in India but possibly scores of different constitutions in India. I do not believe that the Princes have realised all these implications. They are nervous, and perhaps they are rightly nervous, lest, after having acceded over a definite field, other issues encroaching upon their sovereignty might arise in the future. We are prepared to safeguard their position. I am prepared to give them an undertaking that we will deal sympathetically with any Clause in the Bill other than the Clauses which actually deal with the federal list—that is, the list of federal subjects—which may appear to them to be dangerous in the future. But we must deal with specific Clauses. We cannot throw the whole field open without any limitation upon it at all, and I believe that when the Princes have more leisure to study the Clauses in the Bill and when we have had a further opportunity of discussing these difficulties with them we shall be able most effectively, while retaining the general federal structure of the Bill, to safeguard the Princes' position in every respect.

I pass from the question of the method of accession to the second question which they emphasise in their resolution, namely, the question of the inviolability of their treaties. Here, I am sure that misunderstanding has arisen. They seem to regard it as a breach of faith that we have not in some way dealt with the treaties, either within the four corners of the Bill or in the Instrument of Accession. I was under the impression that in all our discussions, now ranging over many years, there had been a general agreement among ourselves and the representatives of the Princes that questions of paramountcy should be kept out of the Federal Bill altogether, and that it was much safer from the Princes' point of view to keep questions of paramountcy out of an Act of this kind. As soon as questions of paramountcy are included in an Act, inevitably they become the subject of decisions by the Federal Court, and I understood that that was the last thing in the world that the great majority of the Indian Princes desire. So also with regard to the Instrument of Accession. Here, again, I understood that it was the Princes' desire to keep questions connected with treaties out of the Instrument of Accession, and for the same reason, that the Instrument of Accession will be interpreted by the Federal Court. Because we intend to keep questions of this kind outside the scope of the Bill and outside the Instrument of Accession it does not in the least follow that we are not just as determined as we have always been to make it quite clear, in the most solemn manner, that we regard the treaties between the Crown and the Indian States as inviolate, and I give an undertaking that in the most solemn and formal manner, but not within the Bill, we will carry out that undertaking.

There are a number of other questions which arise from their resolution, hut I must not deal with them in detail. No doubt we shall deal with them in greater detail when we come to the Clauses affecting them. Let me, however, give to the Committee a general idea of what they amount to. First of all, there is a point in Clause 8. That Clause, so they say, even as I propose to amend it, does not make it sufficiently clear that the executive authority of the Federation within the range of any matter accepted by a State as a federal subject can be limited to the same extent as the legislative power can be limited. This I am sure will be found to be a question of drafting. Then, again, Clause 8, so we are told, does not make it sufficiently clear that the executive authority of the Federation extends to placing at the service of the Crown the military means of implementing the Crown's obligation to protect the States. That is a point to which we attach as much importance as the Princes themselves. But if further examination either of Clause 8 or of other Clauses should show that our provisions are not effective I am confident that the Committee would wish that they should be made secure.

Further, the States are inclined to regard the wording of the Governor-General's special responsibility as described in Clause 12 (I. a) as enabling him in his capacity as Governor-General to intervene to an extent not hitherto regarded as justifiable in the internal affairs of the Indian States. On this point I would remind the Committee that the special responsibilities of the Governor-General regulate the relations of his Ministers in the exercise of the powers which he possesses but do not themselves regulate the extent of those powers. Obviously, this criticism is founded upon a misunderstanding. Again, the States are not apparently entirely satisfied with the wording of the Governor-General's special responsibility for the safeguarding of the rights of the States. Here I believe there is no difference of intention whatever. It is a question of the manner of expressing what we intend. Other points on which questions have been raised relate to the provision in Clause 45 on the failure of constitutional machinery, the wording of Clause 99 defining the legislative powers, and to Clause 127, which describes the relations between the Federal Government and the States, and certain financial Clauses. I cannot believe that any of the points raised on these Clauses are matters upon which permanent difference will arise.


The right hon. Gentleman has quoted certain representations that have been received in respect of certain Clauses, and he has stated how those representations are to be met. They are of course not in the resolution of yesterday. Will he tell us when those representations were made and whether when the Princes met at their meeting they knew of the intended Amendments that would be submitted to this House?


The first time that I heard of these criticisms was on Sunday when I received a telegram about the meeting of Ministers. At present I have no more than a comparatively brief telegram setting out the points which I have described. What I undertake to do is that as soon as I receive the criticisms in detail I will in some appropriate way put the Committee in possession of them. I think I have said sufficient to-day to the Committee to show that so far as I can judge none of them seem to be questions of principle, but that all of them seem to be questions of detail that can be, at any rate in some cases, easily adjusted.

Let me, in conclusion, give, with great deference, a word of advice to the Committee. I would not venture to give a word of advice were it not for the fact that week in and week out for four years past I have been dealing incessantly with these complicated problems. The Committee is dealing with a question the magnitude of which it is almost impossible to estimate. At every point there are problems of immense complexity; in every chapter of the Bill there are angle= from which it can be attacked by an enfilading fire from both sides. There never was a Bill on which there was greater scope for criticism, greater scope for an opposition to exploit vulnerable points in it. It is very easy to exploit vulnerable points; it is very easy to magnify the obstacles in our way, obstacles which are sufficiently great in themselves. I hope the Committee will realise that this is a Bill of a unique character and that while there is no reason on an ordinary Bill why we should not make the most of our points of difference, in this case the House has set itself a task of immense responsibility. It has instructed the Government to produce a Bill on the lines of the report of the Joint Select Committee. The responsibility, therefore, is the responsibility, not of the Minister, but of the great majority of the House as a whole. That being so, I hope that we shall avoid the temptation of exaggerating difficulties as they arise from time to time and that at all costs we shall attempt to remove rather than magnify them.

There will be many perplexing moments in the course of our discussions and ample opportunities for critics to take advantage of a, difficult situation. I hope that we shall avoid that temptation, and that to-day we shall show by our action that we are not going to be rushed by alarmist charges of the character to which we have just listened, that we are going to proceed upon our way realising that the responsibility is on the shoulders of this House. While we are most anxious to listen to Indian opinion at every possible opportunity and most desirous to give the fullest possible weight to that opinion, I hope we shall realise that the responsibility is with us, and that the need is for us to go on our way drafting the Bill in the way that we believe is best for India, for this country and for the Empire. That being so, I hope that when we have disposed of the Motion we shall resume our discussions on the Bill Clause by Clause. I believe that we can meet the difficulties which have been raised by the Princes; if we cannot, then I shall be the first to come to the Committee and give the Committee the information.

4.49 p.m.


Once again the Committee has been made aware of the measure of interest which some hon. Members take in Indian affairs so far as the point of view of His Majesty's Opposition is concerned. Whatever other people may feel as to the wisdom of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) in moving the Motion, we on this side cordially agree that he has done the proper thing. I would add this, that if the right hon. Gentleman had not moved the Motion my Friends and I would have taken steps to have raised this matter at the earliest opportunity to-day. There is no use gainsaying the fact that the situation presented to us to-day is fundamentally different from that which was presented to us last week. There has been a substantial change in the position. I entirely understand that the Secretary of State felt the necessity for reassuring the Princes, as far as he can, in his statement this afternoon, but that does not alter the fact that the situation has substantially changed. I would go further and say that the speech of the Secretary of State this afternoon is an additional justification for postponing these discussions.

I do not want hon. Members of the Committee to misunderstand the approach of my friends and myself to this matter. The right hon. Member for Epping is well aware that his approach to this problem and ours are fundamentally different. He takes the most violent opposition to any further development beyond provincial self-government. We do not take that view. From the beginning, and throughout the meetings of the Joint Select Committee, my colleagues and I steadily took the view that some form of federation appeared to be inevitable if you are to enable the Indian people to achieve anything in the nature of unity. That is pretty obvious to everyone. But while I am quite prepared to say that we are in favour of a federation, I want to say most emphatically that the more I study these proposals and the more I hear them explained by the Government the more alarmed do I get as to their implications. It is easy for the Secretary of State to say that whatever form of federation he might propose it would be attended with great complexities and difficulties, that is obvious, and the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to say that some of the complexities, even those which have arisen as a result of yesterday's decision, are complexities which will arise in the course of the progress of a Bill such as this.

I do not propose now to raise in detail the problem of federation; the simple matter before us at the moment is whether the new situation justifies us reporting Progress. I entirely agree with the right hon. Member for Epping that the sooner the present situation is cleared up the better. I am not at all certain, if I may say without any disrespect to the Secretary of State, that even after what he has said I quite grasp the situation now. If my appreciation of the situation is sound and correct then-I must confess that I fell more alarmed than ever. What is the position? The whole basis of the speech of the Secretary of State this afternoon seemed to run on this line. He said, "We have made an honest effort to embody what we consider to be the demands of the Princes in this Bill, but if we have failed in any particular to implement any promise we have made I am quite prepared, as soon as possible, to set the matter right."

Whereupon the GENTLEMAN USHER of the BLACK ROD being come with a Message, the CHAIRMAN left the Chair. Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair.

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