§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN)
My Lords, before moving that the House do resolve itself into Committee on this Bill, I desire, with your Lordships' indulgence, to make one or two observations. The debate on the Second Reading was a very remarkable one in many respects. There was, if I may say so, great knowledge shown. Noble Lords, with enormous experience and knowledge of India gave the House the benefit of their opinions on the Bill, and I am bound to say that the criticism was perfectly fair, and that it was made in a temper towards the Bill and towards those who were responsible for it of which no kind of complaint could be made. 256 I think the noble Lord who was my predecessor at the India Office described truly the mood of the House when, in an early sentence of his most interesting speech, he said the House and the country had come to a position when we had to face the facts, and that the facts we had to face made it impossible either to stand still or not to make a move in advance. I believe that the passing of the Second Reading of the Bill without a Division was a sign of the sense that this House has of the peculiarity and gravity of the situation we have to meet. It was inevitable, in such a situation and with a Bill of the magnitude and importance of this, that the authors of the Bill should have to face a great deal of criticism and observations, and two or three noble Lords opposite, and one or two behind me, did criticise the Bill and make points of objection to this or that feature in it. It was impossible to bring forward any Bill whatever, whether a very moderate Bill or a fuller Bill such as the one we are now talking about, without exposing a good deal of surface to criticism; but, having carefully studied and weighed all the points that were made on the Second Reading, I do not feel that the foundation or substance of the Bill has been damaged, or that any good reason has been shown why we should not proceed with it, and proceed with it with a determination—this is a very important point—not to whittle it away in Committee, not to defeat the effect which, as Lord Curzon admitted, it had had of relaxing the tension in India—that nothing done in Committee shall impair that most desirable consequence.
It has been said that I, as the responsible Minister, have rushed this Bill, or, at all events, some points of it, and I have seen it stated in some of the Indian telegrams that there was a frantic haste in the construction of this measure. I cannot imagine what people can mean who consider the facts. It is three years ago since this policy was, as it were, put on the anvil. The Government of India sent a Despatch containing their views of the policy which they hoped might be embodied in a measure, so far as Parliamentary sanction was necessary. We at the India Office considered those proposals most carefully. We sent them back a reply begging them to reconsider this or that point and to submit 257 the whole case to the local Governments and local authorities. That was done. It took a very long time, but it was very carefully and even exhaustively done. The end of it was a second Despatch in October of last year. We considered it again, and made certain modifications in it. But those were not hastily made. Does anyone believe that an Indian Secretary, is there any one of the fifteen men who have held the office of Indian Secretary who would have dreamed of framing and completing a measure of this importance without consultation with the Viceroy and the Government of India? It was quite impossible and inconceivable, and I can only say that I am entirely guiltless of the frantic haste and hurry of which I have been sometimes definitely accused.
The noble Marquess opposite pointed to the last stage of all, and referred to my requirement, so to call it from the Government of India, that their views, so far as the heads of the regulations were concerned, should be in my possession when I had to move the Second Reading of the Bill in your Lordships' House. It is quite true that no great length of time was given for the consideration of those proposals to be framed afterwards in the regulations. But the local authorities had had all the topics before them for three years, and had had, I think, two solemn and formal inquisitions into them, and had given a great deal of evidence to the Decentralization Commission, much of that evidence touching points now in the Bill. The air had been full of all these topics for three years, and surely, then, there was nothing unreasonable or hurrying in asking these gentlemen and the authorities they represented what they thought as to the line of this or that regulation? I hope, therefore, that noble Lords opposite, and your Lordships at large, will absolve me from having been hasty at all. On the contrary, no one could have been more deliberate or more anxious to have consultation with the Government of India than I was, and I do not believe that anybody there would say otherwise.
I promised, in reply to the request of the noble Marquess opposite, that I would on this occasion describe to the House, so far as I could, the general heads of the regulations so far as we have yet arrived in discussing and settling them. Everybody agrees that it is for the Government of India to shape and frame these regulations 258 in conformity with principles laid down at home, but not arrived at without full consultation and deliberation with them. I will state first the points already settled which were to be dealt with by regulations, rules, or proclamations. The first regulation already settled fixed the number of members of the Imperial Council and the Councils of Madras, Bombay, Bengal, the United Provinces, Eastern Bengal, Punjab, and Burma. I will not trouble your Lordships with the numbers, but they are fixed.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I am not sure that they do. Perhaps the noble Marquess will allow me to look that up. The number of the Imperial Council is to be sixty-five, including the Viceroy; Madras, Bombay, Bengal, and United Provinces, forty-seven each; Eastern Bengal, thirty-seven; Punjab, twenty-five; and Burmah, seventeen. The next point was the quorum, which was fixed at twenty-one for the Imperial Council; fifteen for Madras, Bombay, Bengal, and United Provinces; twelve for Eastern Bengal; and eight for Punjab and Burma. The third point settled was the term of office, which is three years for ordinary members and one year or less for the class known as experts.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
They are, I understand, experts who are called in. The noble Marquess would know that better than I do. The expert is a man invited, as I understand, into the Council. We have settled, too, the method of filling casual vacancies. In the case of casual vacancies to be filled by election, the proper body or group of bodies will be informed of the vacancy by the head of the Government and requested to elect a member. If no such member is elected within three months of the date of receiving the request, the head of the Government may then nominate, at his discretion, a person belonging to the community or local area which the body or group of bodies is supposed to represent.
I come to the second head—rules settled in principle. The discussion of the annual 259 financial statement is a most important branch of the new system. I need not dwell upon this system, because it is described very fully and clearly in the Blue-book, and it is not easy to summarise. But, quite shortly, it comes to this. In regard to the Imperial financial statement, the Legislative Council will resolve itself into committee and discuss it by heads sitting de die in diem till it is finished. Each head will be explained by the member in charge, and every member may move resolutions and divide the committee on them; such resolutions being in the form of recommendations to the Government, who, of course, are not bound any more than they are either in your Lordships' House or in another place to take action upon them. When the committee has finished, the Government will make such alterations in the Budget as they think fit, and the Budget in its final form will be submitted to the council, when there will be a general discussion, but no more resolutions. All through, certain items of revenue and expenditure, including the State railways and the Army, are excluded from the debate. That is a very important limitation.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I cannot tell the noble Lord offhand. The discussion on the provincial Budgets will be on somewhat similar lines, except that a standing finance committee of the council will be appointed, not more than twelve in number, and equally divided between officials and non-officials, to consider the Estimates in a private and informal manner in their first stage. In their second stage the council will resolve itself into committee; and in the third stage the council as such will discuss them, as in the case of the Imperial Council. The subjects of general interest will be discussed subject to the following — conditions, which have not yet been put into the form of rules:—(1) Resolutions must relate to matters of public and general importance; (2) no resolution shall of itself have any force or effect; (3) the order of business is to be under the entire control of the president; (4) the president to have power to disallow any resolution if, in his opinion, it is contrary to public policy; (5) certain classes of 260 subjects, to be defined when the rules of the business are drafted, to be expressly excluded. So much for the matters that are settled in principle.
The Bill leaves the following points to be dealt with by regulations, rules, or proclamation. There are three possible ways of proceeding—regulation, rules (a narrower instrument), and proclamation, which only arises, I think, in two or three cases. The points to be dealt with are:—(1) The number of members, only the maximum being fixed by the Bill; (2) the number of a quorum; (3) the term of office; (4) the manner of filling casual vacancies; (5) the conditions under which and the manner in which persons resident in India may be nominated or elected; (6) the qualifications for being nominated or elected a member. There are rules not yet settled affecting the discussion of the annual financial statement, the asking of questions, and so on. As to the Executive Councils, they are to be called into existence by proclamation, and we are now considering—and the Government of India especially—what powers of the Lieutenant-Governor shall be exercised by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, the number of the members of council, their qualifications, their powers and duties, and the way of appointing temporary and acting members.
The next question is the regulations still under consideration. All that has been decided as to the manner of election—and this, of course, affects the burning question of Mahomedan representation—is that there is to be election in the proper and natural sense. The ordinary way for nomination was for the Viceroy or Lieutenant-Governor to ratify the recommendation. The question arises—Ought we to persevere with that system and still retain what is called nomination, but what is really ratification or confirmation in the case of members elected? The view of the Government is that it would make election rather—I do not say farcical in effect, but it would certainly make it look farcical if, after expanding the Act of 1892 in order to carry further the principle of election, we reserved to executive authorities the power of saying whether election should be void or should be a valid choice. We have decided that there is to be no ratification.
Of course, that leads to the necessity of going into the question of qualification. 261 Every legislative body—certainly the House of Commons—exercises its right of excluding from membership within it persons coming within certain categories. We have not yet quite settled what those disqualifications are to be, and the Government of India in a telegram about ten days ago have provisionally proposed the following as disqualified persons:—(1) Females; (2) persons of unsound mind; (3) persons under twenty-five years of age; (4) insolvents, subject to the conditions which exist in our own country in the matter of bankruptcy; (5) persons who have been convicted of a non-bailable offence, when such sentence has not subsequently been quashed or reversed; (6) persons who have been dismissed from the service of the Government—the noble Marquess will recollect a discussion on the propriety of the exclusion when he was Viceroy—and declared ineligible for employment under the Government in future. The Government of India are now specially considering a question undoubtedly of great moment—namely, whether the persons dealt with under Regulation 3 under the Act of 1818, should be declared for ever disqualified. Nine or more persons are now deported under that regulation. I slipped into an error the other day in replying to Viscount Midleton on this subject. The noble Viscount asked a question upon this point along with others. I meant to answer some in the affirmative, and in doing so slipped into the error. I do not now bind myself to take the view I then expressed. I think it requires a great deal of consideration. All these questions of disqualification have come into prominence because of the cessation of the ratification and confirmation from executive authorities. The moment you arrested that process it became necessary to lay down rules and categories of exclusion. In regard to all these categories, and in the question of the deported men and so forth, I hope the House will take the counsel which my noble friend Lord Courtney gave the other day and which, I confess, I have much at heart. I think it is vital for the success of this policy and this measure. If we are going to give these great extensions of power, let us not do it in a grudging way. If we make the list of disqualifications too large, if we include certain classes of people in India, I am afraid it would leave what I may call a "ragged edge" behind. It is vital that we should leave as little ragged edge as 262 possible, if ragged edge there be at all. Of course it will be necessary to make provision to meet the case of corruption in elections. On any member becoming disqualified under any of these heads, the head of the Government will have power to declare his seat vacant. It is proposed by the Government of India that the oath or declaration of allegiance should be taken by every nominated or elective member before he takes his seat, and unless he does so he shall not be qualified to sit.
As to the rules as to questions, there are already rules on this subject, and the only important alteration will probably be in respect of supplementary questions. We heard a great deal in the debate on the Second Reading as to the evils that would arise from a promiscuous multitude of supplementary questions such as we are familiar with in this country. Upon this point no final decision has been arrived at, but the Government of India propose as follows—namely, that no discussion shall be permitted in respect to an answer under this rule; that a member who has asked a question may be permitted to put a supplementary question or questions for the purpose of further elucidating any matter of fact upon which information has been asked for in the original question; and that the president may disallow a supplementary question without giving any reason therefor. That is the last explanation with which I need trouble the House as to the purport and scope of the rules and regulations, and I hope the noble Marquess will consider that I have explained them pretty fully and discharged the pledge which I gave on the Second Reading.
Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Viscount Morley of Blackburn.)
* LORD HARRIS
My Lords, I think it was understood, at the conclusion of the debate on the Second Reading, that those noble Lords who had not had an opportunity, owing to the exigencies of the convenience of your Lordships' House, of speaking on that occasion should be allowed, on the Motion to go into Committee, to offer their remarks as if it were the Second Reading stage. I should not, even with that permission, have presumed to intervene at this stage were it not for an overwhelming feeling that, having had the honour of administer- 263 ing the affairs of some millions of His Majesty's subjects in India, it is my duty to express my sense of the momentous importance of the proposals in this Bill, proposals which contain a germ not unlike the mustard seed.
I shall not detain your Lordships at any length on the subject of the enlargement of the Legislative Councils. It was my duty in 1892 to apply the Act of that year to the Legislative Council of the Government of Bombay. It fell to my lot to distribute the new seats that were allotted to various interests and classes, and that distribution has, upon the whole, stood the test of time, subject, I believe, to one alteration. As to the enlargement of the Legislative Councils, I see no great objection to it, but I think I might warn your Lordships that it will not add so largely to information on the subject of a legislative proposal as might be supposed, because such proposals are subjected to opinions of responsible bodies representing different classes, interests, professions, and I might almost say trades, before the matter is introduced to the Legislative Assembly. I do not, therefore, think that the enlargement of these Councils will add very much to the information given to the public in discussion beyond what has already been given under the old system.
As regards the subject of interpellation, I was delighted to hear from the noble Viscount that a rule will give the president full authority to disallow a supplementary question. That is very desirable in a country like India, where, however hard the work of the secretariats may be, and however anxious the officials are to do their whole duty, the Departments have not the means of obtaining information in order to reply to questions accurately such as exist in this country. The only other point with regard to the Legislative Councils on which I would touch is that of the annual financial statement, and really the Governor in Council has not very much latitude, the amounts being very largely ear-marked. I should like to illustrate what my own experience was in this matter. I suppose I was as much abused during my time as most Governors and Lieutenant-Governors, and I attributed a large part of that abuse to the fact that, as regards such money as I could allot, outside of the ear marked amount, to education, I did allot to primary education in preference to 264 higher and secondary education. That aroused the animus and the hatred of a very large part of the vernacular Press engineered by the Brahmins, who were disappointed that the money should go to classes whom they despised. I think, however, I shall have the sympathy of the noble Viscount in that I tried to do my best for primary education.
I turn to the proposals with regard to the Executive Councils, for, in my bumble opinion, they are the most momentous that have been put before Parliament in regard to India since the administration of that country was taken over by the Crown; and I ask myself two or three questions: Are the it men the noble Viscount wishes to find to be found in such numbers as to allow any choice? Are the conditions of intimacy in India such as to facilitate consultation within the Executive Council? Lastly, will these changes add to or maintain that confidence in absolute impartiality which is the strength of British rule in India? It is as well to bear in mind that my remarks apply solely to Presidential Councils, upon which the noble Viscount evidently contemplates putting two more members.
* LORD HARRIS
There may be two more ordinary members. In his speech in the autumn, the noble Viscount used expressions which have undoubtedly excited the hopes of those classes in India whose one aim and object is to obtain an official position. It is evident that they contemplate that the seats will be given to natives in India; and as the noble Viscount has provided in the Bill for two additions to the Provincial Councils I cannot help thinking he has in his mind the fact that if native members are added to these councils it will be obligatory to divide the seats between Mahomedans and Hindus. Up to now, in the case of the two members of the Governors' Councils it has been customary—at any rate, it was in Bombay—to divide 265 those seats evenly between the revenue side and the judicial side. It is well to bear in mind what has been said by the noble Viscount and two other noble Lords as regards the individuals whom it may be possible to find. It is significant that the noble Viscount and Lord Reay had in mind the judicial service—gentlemen who had gone in for the profession of an advocate or of a judge. The noble Viscount appealed for our sympathy as to what kind of reply he was to make to some distinguished lawyer if he had to explain that he could not select him for the Viceroy's Council; and evidently he had in his mind that it was more likely to be somebody in the legal line who would be selected than one in the administrative line. My noble friend opposite—Lord Reay—said he had no hesitation in saying he could have found a suitable native gentleman if he had been asked to select some one for his Council, and I cannot help thinking that he had in his mind a distinguished Judge. I think that is rather ominous.
Where will the distinguished men on the revenue side be found? The noble Earl, Lord Cromer, had to go back for thirty years to find two such native gentlemen. I had the advantage the other day of discussing this subject with a distinguished ex-Indian Civil Servant who approved of the noble Viscount's proposals. I suppose his service was thirty or thirty-five years. I asked him to tell me, in his long experience, how many natives he could, in fact, say he would have trusted as certain to be just and courageous in a crisis. He thought for some little time and then replied "Two"—and that in an experience of thirty or thirty-five years! If on the Executive Governments two members of the legal profession are to be added to the one judicial member already there, the revenue side of the councils is going to be swamped. Quite three-fourths of the work of an Executive Council is revenue work. Some of that work is bound to come up for discussion before the whole Council; and I know from experience that there is very often a want of sympathy between the legal and revenue sides, which will make it most dangerous for the latter; and, after all, it is the revenue side that one has to think most of in the administration of the affairs of those silent millions.
I had some experience of trying to select a native of India for a very high position. 266 I had to appoint a gentleman to an acting position as collector for a month or two, and I had to make up my mind whether I should appoint a native gentleman or a European. I knew the native gentleman in question; he came of a distinguished branch of a family who had been accustomed to revenue work. I had this responsibility, that if I selected him and he made no mistake my successor would be bound to make the same promotion when the next acting vacancy occurred. I selected the native gentleman believing he was capable, and during that term nothing critical arose and he did not fail. My successor, as I anticipated, had to appoint him again. Something critical, however, did arise at that time, and he retired and allowed a young police officer of three years service to run the whole show. That is not by any means a solitary instance of incapacity for revenue work amongst the natives of India. I do not know why it is, but the native does prefer the judicial side and he leaves the revenue side to Europeans; and I am apprehensive that, under the proposals outlined by the noble Viscount, the revenue side is going to be swamped.
I next turn to a very delicate subject which was touched upon the other night by the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, and which goes to the root of the whole matter. I ask myself whether the addition of these native gentlemen to the Governors' and Lieutenant-Governors' Councils will improve the intercommunication between the members of those Councils. Will this novelty which is going to be introduced lead to greater harmony? I am afraid that it is impossible for the European to know the natives of India even as well as he can know the natives of many other parts of Asia, and for this reason, that he is rigidly excluded from the home life of Hindus and Mahomedans. A native can judge what is the effect of home influence upon a European; the European cannot judge what is the effect of home influence upon a native public man. When it has fallen to the lot of one of your Lordships to entertain an Asiatic gentleman in your own home, what was the class of hospitality you offered? I venture to say that it was complete, that you welcomed him to your domestic circle where, if he pleased, he could judge, in the confines of the society of your wife or daughters or family, what influences the domestic circle had upon your opinion as a public man. But the European has no 267 opportunity of forming the same opinion in regard to a native of India. It is their religion, their custom; we have bowed to it most respectfully and have made no effort to intrude upon their privacy. But it must make some difference as regards our social acquaintance with them. I ask, therefore, Is the introduction of these native gentlemen going to maintain those harmonious relations within the Governor's Council which it is desirable should be maintained? Is it going to maintain that confidence in the impartiality of British rule which is, as I have already said, our strongest weapon in India? I am a little doubtful, seeing that so many questions come up in which the animosity of the two great religions are concerned.
Let me illustrate my point by a personal experience. Soon after I arrived in India a terrible calamity occurred. Two poor Parsee girls were killed by a fall from the tower of the University of Bombay, and the whole Parsee community was convulsed with the conviction—it amounted to that in the minds of a large number of them, and to suspicion amongst the more thoughtful, perhaps—that this was due to violence caused or threatened by some Mahomedans. Your Lordships may ask what business that was of Government. You may say it was the business of the coroner's jury to ascertain the cause of death. But India is a country of petitions. A petition came in this case to Government making allegations, and it had to be answered. I trust that our answer was just, but, whether it was or not, I am certain it was regarded as absolutely impartial. But if there had chanced to be at that time a Mahomedan sitting as a member of the Governor's Executive Council I do not think the confidence in the impartiality of that decision would have been quite as strong.
At moments of crisis and of great difficulty I personally would prefer to depend upon the experience as well as the impartiality and the courage of men who have been tried in public positions. When I went to India the distinguished Judge to whom reference was made the other day was regarded as a leader of advanced thought and of reform among the Hindus in some domestic matters. The subject of infant marriage was a very critical one at the time. The following year, I think it was, I heard that distinguished native gentleman hissed in Convocation in Bombay 268 because his infant daughter had been married. I cannot help thinking that domestic influence had been too strong, even in the case of a man of the highest judicial reputation, of the most eminent ability, and of the most attractive personality. A crisis came in that man's life, and, for some reason or other, he failed. Yet he was a man who would have been picked out amongst all the natives in that part of India for capacity to fill such a distinguished and responsible position as that of a member of the Viceroy's Council. Those are the thoughts that have been passing through my mind since the noble Viscount propounded his scheme last year. I listened with the closest attention to the speech of the noble Earl on the Cross Benches (Lord Cromer), because I thought I recognised that there had been the same doubt in his mind as to whether these changes would, after all, be for the advantage of India, and that, of course, is what we are all striving for.
Brought up as a child in India, I personally have to thank the natives of India for that devoted attention which they give to European children. I have travelled all over India and have had the honour of administering the affairs of a large Province. I have been most profoundly anxious as to whether what the noble Viscount now proposes will conduce to the advantage of those millions whose comfort, rest, and peace depend upon the impartiality of our rule. I have come to a conclusion different from that of the noble Earl, Lord Cromer. I cannot get over my apprehensions that it this great and momentous change of adding natives to the Executive Council of the Viceroy and of the Presidential Governors we are running serious risk of qualifying that confidence in our impartiality which has been the glory of our system of government and which, whatever happens, must ever redound to our credit, and which I honestly believe to be our greatest safeguard.
§ * LORD NORTHCOTE
My Lords, in the list of points which the noble Viscount read out, some as being settled and others still undetermined, there was one point which he said was not absolutely fixed yet—namely, the question of the number of members on the Councils. I would like to ask the noble Viscount whether the principle is definitely fixed that there is to be a non-official majority on the Provincial Councils. If that is still open to recon- 269 sideration, I should like to urge a few reasons against it; and, if it is fixed, I should like to explain why I most respectfully differ from the noble Viscount on the matter.
I submit that there are three reasons why this need not be done, at all events at the present moment. In the first place, this Bill, if it passes into law, will confer very largely-increased powers upon the natives of India, and, even if this provision securing them a majority upon the Legislative Councils were abandoned, they, nevertheless, would reap very distinct advantages under the Bill. In the second place I would point out that even Mr. Gokhale, one of the most prominent leaders of native opinion in India, never pleaded for more than a "respectable minority" on the Viceroy's Council. I cannot see why what is sauce for the goose should not be sauce for the gander, and why, if the Secretary of State considers that an official majority is necessary on the Viceroy's Council, it is not equally, or almost equally, necessary on the Provincial Councils. Then, in the third place, I submit that in reality this Bill is more in the nature of a disfranchising than an enfranchising measure, because it will take away power from the British representatives—who, as the late Lord Kimberley said, alone represent the hundreds of millions of agriculturists—and give the control of the Councils into the hands of what I may term professional middle-class politicians, the Banias and barristers, backed by the Brahmins, who represent but an insignificant minority of the people.
So far as it is a question of securing from the local Government or from the Imperial Government concessions in the matter of abatements or advances of public money, I quite acknowledge that these gentlemen will always be ready to make appeals and pass resolutions or votes in favour of obtaining such remissions. But now may I quote an instance which occurred to myself, and which will explain why I have had to make a somewhat uncomplimentary reference to a considerable section of my then native advisers? In the year 1901 the attention of the Bombay Government was drawn by a very distinguished Indian civilian, Sir Frederic Lely, whose services have recently been utilised by His Majesty's Government in a very important and interesting Report on Decentralisation, 270 to the miserable condition in which the agriculturists of Gujarat found themselves owing to the enormous proportion of their number who were helpless in the grip of the moneylender. Their farms were all mortgaged up to the hilt, and noble Lords acquainted with the conditions of life in India know that when an unfortunate ryot once gets into the grip of the moneylender he is in a state of servitude for the remainder of his life, from which he has not one chance in a thousand of escape. My colleagues and I brought in a measure prohibiting the ryot from mortgaging more than two-thirds of his holding. It was a Bill containing that one single principle. The native members had ample time to consider it. They memorialised my noble friend Lord Curzon, and got up an agitation throughout the Province declaring that we were attempting to take away one-third of the ryots' property; and when we brought the measure forward in Council, after an unsuccessful attempt to postpone the measure for six months they rose in a body and left the Council Chamber. As we had an official majority I was wholly unmoved by the spectacle, which I have seen many a time in another place, and we passed the Bill, which I am happy to learn from the accounts I have since received from India has been of very great advantage to the poor cultivators of Gujarat. But supposing that, instead of our having an official majority, the native members had possessed such a majority. In that case they could have postponed the Bill, fostered agitation throughout the Province, and kept the native cultivators in a state of misery. Therefore it is that I am very unwilling to abandon the principle of the retention of an official majority. What is to happen? The noble Viscount says that any resolutions to which the Government of the day object can be simply ignored or disallowed. But surely it is more reasonable and more constitutional that they should be vetoed by a majority than that the Governor should be continually placed in the position of being at first outvoted in Council and then of exercising his authority in disallowing or ignoring the resolutions adopted.
One word more with regard to the question of the appointment of natives. The noble Viscount spoke of the eminent qualifications which many natives undoubtedly possess, but I think rather for judicial than for administrative work. I agree with my noble friend Lord Harris on that point, and 271 I think it is very easily explained by the fact that the work of a Judge is rather to interpret a law already made, in the interpretation of which the keen and subtle intellect of the native finds ample scope, than to carry on the administrative duties which fall upon the shoulders of a revenue officer. There are many points upon which, if time permitted, I would gladly have said a few words. But I may say that I associate myself most entirely with the general criticisms on the Bill which have fallen from the noble Lords sitting below me. I will not waste time by repeating imperfectly what they have said much better. I can only say, in conclusion, that although I do dissent very strongly from this provision of the Bill, I do so in no party spirit. I recognise the great zeal and ability which the noble Viscount has shown in framing this measure, and I sincerely trust I shall never take any share in mere party opposition to a Government charged with so difficult and delicate a task as the administration of our Indian Empire.
§ LORD WENLOCK
My Lords, the noble Viscount has invited us to agree to the proposals he has submitted in this Bill, and I hope I may say for myself, as one who has taken a part in the administration of public affairs in India, that I have approached this subject with the very greatest anxiety and interest. I am well aware that the noble Viscount has been placed in a position of enormous difficulty and has had to confront problems which did not present themselves at that time, many years ago, when I was in India; and I trust that in the remarks I may have to make to-day I shall not say anything to add to his difficulties.
Turning, in the first place, to the Legislative Councils, I have not concealed from myself that the time must come when we would be bound to associate the natives of India more with us in the government of the country. At the same time I think it is of the utmost importance that care should be taken that none but the very best men should be selected for these positions. I failed to gather from the noble Viscount how many of these members of Council it is proposed should be put forward by popular election; but I understand that the members so elected are to take their place without any power of veto on the part of the Governor. The noble Viscount said that he considered fitness the real test of eligibility, and I ask him whether he thinks popular 272 election is going to be the means by which he will discover the fittest men to take these responsible places. I think the noble Viscount will have very great difficulty in applying that test, because the best men in India, those whom the Government would like to see associated with them in the government of the country, will not be willing to submit to the ordeal of popular election. Therefore I should be very glad to know that only a small number are to be elected by popular election, and that the regulations will be so drawn as to enable the selection of the best men to aid in this particular work.
I come to the question of the Executive Councils. I have an Amendment on the Paper regarding this particular measure, and I will state the reasons which have actuated me in putting down that Amendment. As I read the Bill, it will be open to the Secretary of State in future to appoint two natives on the Executive Councils of the Governors of Bombay and Madras and also on the Councils of Lieutenant-Governors. With a Council consisting of two European and two native members a Governor will be called upon to decide all questions which may arise between the two sections, and, whatever may be his decision, he will be subjected to a great deal of hostile criticism from the party which he does not happen to please. This is a very invidious and difficult position in which to place the Governor, and it is a point which requires most careful consideration. The Amendment I have placed on the Paper is to the effect that the consideration of this particular proposal should be postponed for the present. I was much struck with what fell from the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, when he suggested that it would be very much better that the House should be in possession of the views of the Government of India and of the local Governments themselves on this particular question before it was pressed forward. I hope the noble Viscount will allow this to be done, and will bring in a separate Bill presently containing the proposal he may have on this subject cleared up by the views which may be expressed by the various Governments concerned. I press this upon him, because I feel that this is one of the most important measures which have ever been submitted for the government of India.
The proposal to associate two native gentlemen with the actual day-to-day work 273 of the Government is an important and novel step, and one upon which the destinies of India will depend in a very large degree for a long time to come. Therefore I beg that your Lordships will allow this matter to be hung up, as it were, if only for a short time. I think it is important that we should know more of the subject before we allow the Bill to pass in its present form, and I sincerely hope that when my Amendment is reached we shall hear that the noble Viscount is willing to give time for consideration and consultation with those most deeply affected. I was rather surprised to hear the other day from my noble friend who leads the House that we ought not to concern ourselves with more than the conditions of the moment and should not bother our heads very much about what will occur one hundred years hence.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (THE EARL OF CREWE)
I ought to explain what I said, because I see that it has been Misunderstood not only by my noble friend opposite but also by some writers in the Press. I was alluding to what seemed to me the rather unfortunate intervention of a prophecy by my noble friend behind me—
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
The noble Lord may not place his prediction precisely in the form of a prophecy, but he seemed to foretell certain possibilities with regard to very extensive changes in the government of India, and I merely intervened to state my opinion that the less said about large changes in the future form of Indian government the better for everybody. I did not for a moment mean that we should not now take action with an eye to the future, or with an endeavour to forecast what would be best in the years to come for the advantage of the Empire.
§ LORD WENLOCK
I am sorry if I misrepresented what the noble Earl intended to convey. As far as I can see, the effect of the measures now proposed will be felt in India one hundred years hence and a good many years after that; and as future generations will erect a superstructure on the foundations we are laying now, it behoves us carefully to consider these proposals before we agree to them.
* LORD SANDHURST
My Lords, so many ex-Governors have addressed your Lordships that it is with great hesitation that I add to their number, but I shall not detain you for more than a few minutes. One cannot help sympathising with the aspirations of my noble friend the Secretary of State, as portrayed in the statement which he laid before your Lordships a few days ago, and there are few who will deny that the Act of 1892 requires some extension. But, in listening to the noble Viscount, one is so charmed with his speeches, couched in so lofty a tone and full of such high ideals, that one is apt to be carried away and to think those ideals almost attained, leaving out of sight or not analysing the means by which they are to be reached. I do not think any one of your Lordships was unmoved by the speech delivered by my predecessor in the Governorship of Bombay (Lord Harris), and I am bound to say that in a great deal that he said I find myself in concurrence. But one or two speeches have been delivered containing criticisms of a very vital nature, and when I listened to the speech of the noble Lord on the Front Bench opposite (Lord Curzon), I almost expected that he would move the rejection of the Bill. While, however, one may agree with many of the criticisms that have been made, it is quite obvious, I think, to any one who knows India, that to move the rejection of this Bill, to say nothing of carrying that Motion, would have a very bad effect.
The one or two points on which I wish to touch are those having to do with administration. Lord Curzon referred to the derangement and dislocation which would occur when officers were taken away from their work to attend these Councils. I go further than the noble Lord. I say that we have not enough men to do the work as it is, even in times when things are going smoothly. In my time I was so unfortunate as to have my Presidency devastated by two calamities—plague and famine. I had to take officials from every conceivable department to carry on the work of administration, and also to borrow a great many men from the Military Department, who did their work admirably. But if I had had to send some of my most experienced men to the Viceroy's Council the difficulties would have been considerably increased. As to supplementary questions, I can conceive their being extremely disagreeable and tiresome for the 275 presidents of the Councils and also for the officers who may have to answer them; but I do not think that is quite such a vital matter as has been stated. With regard to the civilians themselves, I have generally found that they are capable of doing most things, and, as circumstances develop, I have no doubt that, irksome as the duty will be, it will be well done.
I say nothing as to the effect of the inclusion of native Indians on the Viceroy's Council, though I concur in the opinion that the change will rather weaken than add strength to the Government of India. My noble friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies has spoken of this as an enabling Bill, but as the prospect of a seat on the Executive Council has been held out to the natives, I do not see how you can possibly withhold it. It is as good as promised, so far as I understand the Bill. I see that an Amendment has been placed on the Paper to the effect that the qualification for membership of the Executive Councils should be the same for an Indian as for a European—namely, twelve years service. But I am afraid that, even if you find men good enough for the position of chief of a department—and I am afraid I must concur in much that was said by Lord Harris as to that—you will be drawing those members from one class of the community to the exclusion of others, whilst if you do not have a qualification you will find yourselves in the difficult position of being compelled to take men inexperienced in Government work. The position of a member of an Executive Council is not merely one of honour and glory; it entails also being the head of a department or a group of departments. A department takes its character entirely from that of the man who is its head. The character of the head of the department may be said to permeate it; his experience guides it, and his knowledge stimulates it, and I am anxious as to what would happen in the various departments if you got men inexperienced and untrained in Government service at their head.
One thing which occurs to me is whether the quinquennial period is not too long for these Indian gentlemen to hold office in the Executive Government. There are, of course, the two great communities, the Mahomedans and Hindus, but in the Presidency of Bombay there is another community of great position and great enter- 276 prise, the Parsees, who also have shown considerable aptitude for affairs. With the quinquennial period it might be ten years before one of those gentlemen got office. Perhaps the noble Viscount will consider whether it would not be advisable, so as to enable the change in the representation of the communities to work more smoothly, to shorten the period of office.
Those are the points to which I desire to draw attention. But, at the same time, I cannot help sharing in some of the apprehensions that have been expressed by noble Lords of similar experience in India to my own. We have done so much—slowly, it is true, but everything in the East is slow—we have done so much for social improvement in India, for the redemption of woman, the protection of girlhood, the raising of low castes from the bondage of centuries, and the preservation if not the creation of the rights of ryots, that I am rather fearful that, if there is any weakening at the centre or at the extremities of the Government, we will be giving a certain set back to that slow but gradual and assured improvement. And as we are not legislating for to-day, or even for a few years hence, but are at the beginning of something the end of which we cannot really foresee, I sincerely trust that the regulations will be framed by the Governor-General in Council with the utmost care, caution and consideration.
§ * VISCOUNT CROSS
My Lords, I should not have intervened in this debate except for the fact that I was responsible to Parliament for the introduction of the Act of 1892. A Paper of Lord Dufferin's, when he was Viceroy, got out surreptitiously in some way, and this forced our hands at that time and made it necessary to do something; and when my noble friend Lord Lansdowne became Viceroy he and I concocted the Act of 1892. Thanks to the way in which that Act has been administered, I think everyone will admit that, as far as it goes, it has been a great success. I believe my noble friend at that time would have gone a considerable step further than we did in that Act, but I had the greatest possible difficulty with my colleagues in the Cabinet in inducing them to permit me to introduce at that time even the Bill as it was passed. Many of them had great apprehensions, and the noble Marquess who was then at the head of the Government, Lord 277 Salisbury, had the greatest possible objection to many provisions in the Bill; but he ultimately yielded to argument, and he said he was quite satisfied with the way in which afterwards it was worked.
Now I, for one, am quite prepared to say that, although I believe that Act, thanks to the way in which it has been administered, has worked extremely well, the time has come when further advance ought to be made in the same direction; and I congratulate the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India on the cautious way in which he has approached the subject. I have no fault to find individually with the provisions in the Bill which deal with the discussion of the Budget and with supplementary questions. I observed with great pleasure that when the noble Viscount received a deputation from the Mahomedans, for whom I have great respect and regard, he met them as far as he could on many points, and I was pleased to see that they were met in such a spirit. One point on which I, in common with many noble friends, have very great doubt is the placing of a native on the Viceroy's Executive Council. I agree with a great deal that has been said as to the danger that may take place in consequence. As there is only to be one on the Viceroy's Council, I think the Government will find itself in a difficulty when it deals with Mahomedans and Hindus. If the native upon it is a Hindu, the Mahomedans, I apprehend, will not acquiesce, and if he is a Mahomedan, the Hindus will not acquiesce. I do not suggest that two should be appointed, though I understand there will be two on the Executive Councils.
§ VISCOUNT CROSS
Not necessarily. There may be; but there are not to be two on the Viceroy's Council. I have not yet heard in this debate how the idea of having natives on the Executive Councils is viewed by the rulers of the Native States in India. Perhaps the noble Viscount will be able to give us some information on that point. I entirely agree that so far as the regulations and rules are concerned, they must, to a very great extent, be left to the Government of India itself. The mere fact that the Government of India has, so to speak, 278 sanctioned the admission of a native into the Executive Council puts it in a very different form in England, because if we were to reject that after it has been accepted in India, it would have a bad effect.
I see that there is an Amendment on the Paper to the effect that the regulations should be laid before both Houses of Parliament for actual discussion. I entirely object to that. You cannot govern India by Provisional Orders. The subject is far too large; but I have not the smallest doubt that the noble Viscount the Secretary of State will give us every explanation that is required as to the main principles of the regulations, leaving matters of detail to be settled entirely by the Government of India. I sincerely hope the House will now go into Committee, on the Bill, and, as it has been introduced after a great deal of discussion in India, I think it would be fatal to reject it; and the effect in India would be extremely bad if the Bill were tampered with in Committee in either House of Parliament.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
House in Committee accordingly.
§ [THE EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:—
§ Moved, That Clause 1 stand part of the Bill.—(Viscount Morley of Blackburn.)
§ * LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, this is, perhaps, the best moment at which to say something in addition to what was said the other day and in the light of what has passed this afternoon on the question of numbers. The question of numbers on the new councils, both of the Viceroy and of the Governors, is raised by sub-section 2 of Clause 1. I must confess that I had hoped that when he addressed us this afternoon the noble Viscount, in addition to giving us the information that he did in respect of the proposed regulations, would have availed himself of the opportunity of replying in some measure to the criticisms and observations that were made the other day, and I rather gathered from the tone of his utterance the other night that that was then his intention. Of course, he is within his right to choose his own moment for giving us 279 further information, and therefore I hope he will pardon us if we take hold of different points in this Bill for endeavouring to elicit something in addition to what he has so far given us.
On the question of numbers, I took the liberty the other day of putting before the House certain considerations which led me, at any rate, and I believe a good many others, to think that the numbers in these new councils will be unduly large. I pointed to my recollection of the fact that in 1892, when the last Bill for the extension of the Legislative Councils was introduced, grave doubt was expressed about the addition of very large numbers to these Councils. Now we have in this Bill a schedule containing the proposed numbers of the Legislative Councils, and the Secretary of State this afternoon has given us the exact numbers which, I understand, are to be fixed by regulation. As regards the Legislative Council of the Viceroy, I would ask him to favour us with some explanation. When the Viceroy and the Government of India put forward their proposals first in August, 1907, they asked for a council of fifty-four. In their letter of October, 1908, which I understood the Government had accepted, they asked for a Council of sixty-three. The schedule of the Bill, as it is printed and in our hands, contains the maximum number for the Council of the Governor-General of sixty, but the noble Viscount this afternoon told us that the number he proposes is to be sixty-five. I think some explanation is required upon that point.
As regards the numbers in general, I hope the House will realise that, while we all agree in principle to the extension of these Councils, and to a considerable extension, yet the numbers we are now asked to accept will mean a very marked and serious change. It is exceedingly doubtful whether you will get suitable men. Lord Sandhurst, speaking from his own experience, said that not only did he have difficulty in finding the men for a much more limited number of posts in his day, but that he was very doubtful whether more would be forthcoming. There is the further point, on which stress was laid the other day and on which I shall be very grateful if we can hear something from the Secretary of State, of the strain that is going to be imposed upon our officials both in the Provincial Councils and still more in the 280 Viceroy's Council. I really can hardly exaggerate what I believe will be the unfortunate effect of this proposal on those officers. The other day Lord Reay, who spoke from his experience of Bombay, said we need not be disturbed about this matter, because officers of the Public Works and the Education Department could be very well taken from their offices and brought into Council to supply the requisite number to vote for Government when required. Public Works officers in India are officers who have to do with the construction and maintenance of roads, bridges, tanks, canals, and all the business of irrigation and communications in general, while, as regards education, the work in India is much the same as here. Is it really to be contemplated that, with a view to keep the Government going in the Legislative Councils in India, you are to take these public works and education officers away from their duties and detain them at headquarters day after day in order, in the case of the Viceroy's Council, to give you a majority, and, in the case of the other councils, to prevent their having a serious breakdown? I cannot conceive anything more dangerous to the morale and efficiency of the service.
Then there is the question of expense. I hope the noble Viscount will tell us what he contemplates will be the initial payment and the total cost of these new officers to be placed on the Legislative Councils; and I wish I could persuade him that, by raising these councils to the totals contemplated, he is really going to introduce some of the features which we are all most anxious to keep out of India—the features inseparably attached to a Parliamentary system. If he had given us councils of, say, from thirty to forty or forty-five, I think we should all have accepted them with pleasure; but when I contemplate councils of fifty, and even sixty, I feel that many of those features must arise and that the Government of India will be the sufferers in consequence.
The second point that arises in connection with the question of numbers is that which was raised so forcibly by the noble Lord behind me, Lord Northcote—the question of dispensing with the official majority in the Provincial Councils. This appears to me to be the part of the Bill on which that question can be most easily raised, and I hope the noble Viscount will be able to give 281 us some explanation on the point. Let me recall to the House that this is not a proposal that emanated from the Government of India. It is a proposal that, I believe, has carried with it the consent of the Government of Bombay, for reasons which I endeavoured to explain the other day. To what extent it carries with it the approval of the other. Governors and Lieutenant-Governors we have not been told, but all the ex-Governors sitting in this House who have spoken on the subject have expressed themselves in terms of disapproval; and the principal ground of our disapproval is one which I am sure in its spirit, if not in its form, will commend itself to the noble Viscount. Lord Reay said last week that he was confident he could have passed the same measures as he did even if he had not had an official majority in his Council. True. But his Council was very different from that which is being constructed by the noble Viscount. He had a council of limited numbers, composed for the most part of persons nominated by himself; but now we are to have councils constituted for the most part by election, and we have yet to see what the character of those bodies will be as time develops. Lord Northcote gave a notable experience of his own to-night, which I should like to supplement by mine.
The noble Lord alluded to a case which I remember very well, because I gave him the most ardent support throughout his struggle, in which he was endeavouring to introduce and carry into law a measure of the utmost benefit to the poor cultivators of Gujarat. That measure was received with a storm of misrepresentation and abuse, and I am sure it could not have been carried into law in any Council on which the Governor had not an official majority. I take another case. It fell to me to carry into law, in the Imperial Legislative Council, a measure of a similar character for the prevention of the alienation of land which was going on to an alarming degree among the yeoman class in the Punjab. So much perverted ingenuity and hostility were applied to it in the Punjab that we decided to deal with the measure in the Imperial Legislative Council. Even there we had some difficulty, but we carried it into law in the face of the keenest criticism in the Province, and so great a success has it been for the protection and benefit of the class of people of whom I speak that petitions continually reached the Government of India in my time for an extension 282 of the provisions of the Act to other parts of India. If we had had a local Legislative Council of the character we are going to have in the future under this Bill, if the Lieutenant-Governor had not had an official majority and this Bill had been introduced in such a Council it would have had no shadow of a chance of passing into law.
Take another case. Bengal offers a most striking illustration of the force of what I am saying. During the past fifty years we have been passing a series of measures in order to relieve the unhappy peasants of Bengal from the injurious effects of the Permanent Settlement too hastily conceded more than a hundred years ago. Every one of these proposals has been steadily opposed by the whole of those interests—barrister, professional, land-owning, and so on—which are going to be placed in predominance in future on these councils, and it has only been by the exercise of the official majority and the power of Government that these measures have been passed into law. Noble Lords may say that is all very well, and that no doubt this will be one of the inevitable, and, perhaps, unfortunate results of these changes; but that the Supreme Government may safely be left to deal with such cases. Surely the noble Viscount would not welcome such an idea. Will it not be a serious thing for the future of land legislation if this legislation, hitherto dealt with by the provinces, should be handed over to the Government of India and decided upon possibly over the heads of the local Governments, because you have chosen, for other reasons, to create these large councils and to deprive the Governor of an official majority?
There is only one other consideration I will submit on this point. The other day Lord Crewe, with characteristic humour, said he should not think much of a Governor who would not be able, by diplomatic methods, known, no doubt, well to himself, to keep his non-official members in good hand so that they would vote for such proposals as the Government might desire. I do not say that such methods are unknown in India, but it must be remembered that you have no guarantee that the majority of your Provincial Councils will be members who will be open to those influences. You are throwing open a wide field of election, and there are a good many of us who contemplate that in future you will have 283 returned to these councils a strong body of extremists who will constitute what in this country we should call a permanent Parliamentary opposition; and I think the time may well arrive when the Governor will find it difficult to exercise successfully those powers of persuasion to which the noble Lord referred.
Lastly, let us look at it from the point of view of the members of the Legislative Councils themselves. You are going to invest them with a great responsibility. For the first time you are going to dispense with the supreme power of Government, and trust them to discharge their duties with honour and credit. So far so good. Yet at the same time you do not carry your trust to its logical conclusion, because all the while you hold in reserve the veto of the Governor if he be a Provincial Governor or the authority of the Governor-General in Council if it be an Imperial matter. Well, is that not giving with one hand and taking away with the other? Here you are affecting to give these wide and liberal concessions to natives, and yet you say that, if they abuse them, the Viceroy or the Governor, as the case may be, will have to set matters right. I must say I rather deprecate the Viceroy or the Governor being brought in to extricate the Provincial Councils from the mistakes which they may possibly make. These are the only remarks with which I need trouble your Lordships on this Clause, and they are merely addressed with a view of eliciting from the Secretary of State some information, first, on the point of numbers, and, secondly, on that of the official majority.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
My Lords, I have listened to the rather powerful observations of the noble Lord with some curiosity. If he takes this view of, for example, the abolition of the principle of an official majority, I am at a loss to understand—I hope he will not think I am taunting him at all—I am at a loss to understand why he did not vote against the Second Reading of the Bill. The Bill, if it contains any principle at all, contains the principle of extending the powers which the measure of Lord Cross first opened. That measure first opened the elective principle, and, by assenting to the Second Reading of this Bill, the policy of extending the elective principle is accepted with all its consequences. I know that the noble Lord when he was Viceroy 284 did not see his way to political concessions, but looked to efficiency as the true aim and end of British administration in India. That is a perfectly defensible view, but it is not the view of this Bill. What would be the advantage, what would be the sense of adopting the elective principle, if the councils had at the same time retained the old method of an official majority which would reduce the power of elected members to a mere farce?
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
As I have mentioned all along, the Viceroy's Council is on an entirely different footing. I accept that. The noble Lord will remember that I urged the Government of India, in the case of the Viceroy's Council, to retain the principle of an official majority, because that is not merely a legislative body, but a great executive body, quite different from the Legislative Councils. It would be a complete mockery to invite people to take a larger share in the administration of their country if the official majority were to be retained, and if all resolutions, votes, and proceedings were to be mere pious opinions. That is my answer on that point. The noble Lord does not accept the principle of the Bill. I do not think I am overstating the case. If he did accept the principle of the Bill he would see that to retain in any form the official majority would be to balk the whole purpose of this policy. It has been suggested that the votes of nominated members might take the form of proxies. I am not sure that my noble friend Lord Courtney did not suggest that the other night. It has also been suggested that the Government should fill up cadres to meet their need. I will read the view expressed by the Government of India upon the point raised by the noble Lord as to the inconvenience of officials being withdrawn from their work.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
It is a private telsgram. It is not a document which I should be prepared to lay before Parliament, and therefore I do not 285 technically quote it; but the House will be interested to know the view taken by the Government of India on this argument. They say that their proposals for these Councils were so framed as to reduce this withdrawal to a minimum, and I certainly say, without any hesitation or qualification, that they do not anticipate any difficulty on that ground. In the Viceroy's Council the difficulty will only arise in the case of eight officials nominated, as the noble Lord knows, to represent provinces. One of these, the member who represents Bengal, can discharge his duties as a Bengal official just as readily as before; he is not withdrawn from the scene of his work. As to the provincial members other than the Bengal member, their labours will only be slightly greater than at present. The introduction of debates on matters of public and general interest will tend to furnish occupation for them. While in Calcutta they will not be idle. The remaining official members of the Viceroy's Council will be secretaries of departments, heads of departments, and officers at headquarters, and they can attend the Council in addition to their other duties. In the case of Provincial Councils, the official members will ordinarily be officers stationed at headquarters and will not be withdrawn from their other work. That is the answer on that head. The noble Lord asked for information with regard to the expense of the Bill. That is a perfectly just observation to make, but the estimate is not yet complete, and I am afraid, therefore, I cannot supply noble Lords opposite with any information. As to numbers, the noble Lord has, I think, been slightly confused. He has added to the nominated members the ex-officio members, but they are two different categories of members.
§ * LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My point was this. As regards the Legislative Council of the Governor-General, I said that in August, 1907, they proposed a council of fifty-four; that then, in the Despatch of October, 1908, which I thought was agreed to by the Secretary of State, the number had risen to sixty-three; that in the schedule of this Bill the maximum number is printed as sixty; but that when the noble Viscount read out to us the regulations this afternoon he gave us the number of the Viceroy's Legislative Council, not as sixty, but as sixty-five, I think there must be some mistake.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
It may be that there is some mistake. I will have the point carefully looked into.
§ LORD WENLOCK
Before we pass from the subject of numbers, might I ask the noble Viscount if he can inform the House what are the numbers of the elected members for the Provincial Councils of Madras and Bombay whose election to the Council will not require the assent of the Governors?
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
The Legislative Council of Bombay will consist of—Officials, eighteen; non-officials, twenty-eight; the total, excluding the Governor, is forty-six, the maximum under the Bill being fifty. Fifteen will form a quorum.
§ * LORD MACDONNELL OF SWINFORD
The question put by Lord Wenlock raises an important point. I am in favour of the withdrawal of the official majority in Provincial Councils, but I voted for the Second Reading of the Bill on the understanding that the elected members would not be in the majority. I believe the most forward representatives of educated India will be satisfied if the official and non-official nominated members should always be in the majority; in other words, that the elected members should be in the minority. It was on that understanding that I voted for the Second Reading of the Bill, and I should like the noble Viscount to say whether in this assumption I was right or wrong.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
That, of course, is a point that the Government of India will deal with by regulation. It is not to be dealt with by the Bill.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, the noble Viscount has conducted these discussions with so much consideration towards those who sit opposite to him that I noticed, not without regret, an observation that fell from him a moment ago, when he taunted my noble friend behind me with not moving the rejection of the Bill on the Second Reading because my noble friend held strong views as to the size of these Legislative Councils and as to the necessity of maintaining an official majority upon them. When the noble Viscount asks those who share my noble friend's opinions why we did not move the rejection of the Bill on Second Reading, 287 he knows quite well that we should have been very slow indeed to take a step of such tremendous importance as the rejection of a Bill brought to us in the circumstances in which the noble Viscount brings this Bill to us. But, my Lords, because we do not desire to reject the Bill, or, indeed, to move any Amendments in it which could properly be described as wrecking Amendments, we do not consider that we are relieved from the duty of criticising any provisions which seem to us open to criticism, and of giving the noble Viscount the opportunity of affording us the explanation we desire, and it has been with that object that attention has been called to some of these clauses.
The noble Viscount tells my noble friend that two features in his scheme—the large number on the Legislative Councils and the question of the official majority—are in the nature of principles and essential to the measure. Surely it is not fair to describe any one of this series of changes which the noble Viscount proposes as by itself a principle of the Bill. The principle of the Bill is the popularisation, if I may say so, of the Legislative Councils, and what we have to consider is not so much each of these individual proposals upon its own merits as the cumulative effect of the whole of them when regarded together. Some of us hold very strongly that the large number at which you are going to fix the strength of these councils is a dangerous feature in the Bill. We believe that it tends to convert them into something very different from what they are now, and to make them, in effect, little Parliaments with a great many of the attributes of a Parliament; and when you couple with that the disappearance of the official majority the risk appears to us infinitely greater.
When the noble Viscount tells us that these things form part of the principle of the Bill, I would remind him that the Government of India did not ask for the abandonment of the official majorities. The Government of India desired to keep them, so far as we are aware, and, as my noble friend Lord Northcote told the House this evening, even so extreme a reformer as Mr. Gokhale, in the document published in the Blue-book, a document which contained far-reaching proposals, did not include a proposal for getting rid of the official majorities. I will not dwell, be- 288 cause it is not necessary to do so, on the evidence given to your Lordships during the course of this debate by noble Lords who have held high office in India and who have certainly put forward some considerations to show why these steps should riot be taken. Our fear with regard to these proposals is that they will have the effect of exposing the Governments, when once the official majority has disappeared, to a series of slaps in the face, and some of us who think we know something about Indian affairs do not believe that it is a good thing that any Government, whether the Imperial Government or the Provincial Governments, should be liable to rebuffs of that kind.
The noble Viscount has not adduced in any arguments to show that our apprehensions are ill-founded, and I confess I think it questionable whether we might not have asked the House to consider the propriety of substituting for the numbers in the schedule of the Bill other numbers of smaller dimensions. But these schemes under which a particular number of members is assigned to each of the Councils have no doubt been carefully thought out, and if we were to attempt to touch the numbers in the schedule the noble Viscount might very fairly turn upon us and ask if we had an alternative scheme. I will not pause to enquire whether it is very likely that any alternative scheme would be accepted by the noble Viscount. Although, therefore, we feel it our duty to place on record our misgivings upon these two points, I, for one, would not encourage your Lordships to propose to amend the schedule by putting in other numbers, and as we are not prepared to offer a substantive proposal to the Committee upon this point, it may, perhaps, be desirable that we should proceed to another Clause of the Bill.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I want to say one single word in reply to what the noble Marquess has said about my taunting the noble Lord opposite, Lord Curzon. I think I particularly said that I did not taunt him. The treatment of the Bill by the noble Lords opposite has been so entirely serious and considerate, so generously recognising the enormous responsibility that weighs upon the Government and upon the Minister concerned, that I should be the most graceless of men if I had thrown out any taunt of the kind, But my point was that his powerful 289 argument about the official majority really got its power from the assumption that the Bill was unsound in principle.
§ * LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My argument derived such power as it possessed from the Despatch of the Government of India, with which I was in entire agreement.
On Question, Clause 1 agreed to.
§ * LORD MACDONNELL OF SWINFORD
moved an Amendment to provide that not two, but all, the ordinary members of the Executive Councils of Madras and Bombay should be persons who at the time of their appointment should have been in the service of the Crown in India or of a native State for at least twelve years. The Executive Council of a Presidency was, he said, the supreme administrative agency; it controlled and directed the whole administration of the Presidency, and the appointments to the Council had been hitherto considered of such a vital character that no person bad been chosen without long experience of the work and without being a man of eminence and remarkable for prudence. He understood that there was no intention to alter the character of the work performed by these Executive Councils, though it would be more distributed than at present. It was most essential that members should come to the work of the Council with that knowledge which could only be acquired by experience. These appointments must be given either as the spoil of politics or from the point of view of the interests of the millions committed to our charge. It seemed to him that there could be no doubt as to the choice, and he hoped the choice would be made in the way he desired.
Amendment moved—In page 2, line 9, after the word 'direct' to insert the word `all,' and to leave out the words `two at least.'"—(Lord MacDonnell of Swinford.)
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I am sure the noble Lord will see that his Amendment would do what is really fatal. It would put a limitation upon the choice of ordinary members. For example, a Judge, however eminent, if he had not served twelve years would be disqualified 290 under this Amendment. My noble friend Lord Reay the other evening described a gentleman, well known to himself and whom everybody would accept as well fitted to be a member of one of these Councils; but the noble Lord's Amendment would exclude that gentleman. I do not know why my noble friend should assume that a Governor-General or a Governor of Bombay would recommend to the Secretary of State an intriguing politician. Why take this pessimistic view? Personally, I would like to see upon the Councils of Bombay and Madras an Anglo-Indian who was not an official at all. I think the work of the Executive Councils would be greatly benefited by having almost constantly the advice of a civilian. It would infuse a new element into these councils. Therefore I cannot accept the Amendment.
§ * LORD REAY
hoped the Amendment would not be pressed. If it were carried very important sections of the community would be excluded, and as the noble Viscount had pointed out, the selection would be unduly restricted. The Amendment would exclude such a gentleman as the founder of the Scientific Research Institution in Bangalore—the late Mr. Tata—who, in his (the noble Lord's) time, was one of the most distinguished representatives of the commercial and industrial activity of Bombay. He would have brought into the council a new and useful element. His advice on financial questions on the subject of technical education, which was then under consideration, on juvenile labour in factories, on Customs duties, on Excise would have been most valuable. He therefore deprecated putting a limitation upon the choice of these new members. He agreed with Lord Harris as to the importance of the revenue element, but did not think there was the slightest risk under the enlarged councils of the revenue element not being fully considered. At the present moment the two members of the Governor of Bombay's Council were both taken from the revenue side. The Governor would be fully justified in submitting the name of a gentleman taken from the Bench or the Bar to strengthen his Council.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
We were not able to catch the whole of the noble Viscount's argument in reply to the 291 noble Lord on the back bench. This clause does seem to some of us objectionable upon a ground which, I think, was mentioned the other evening in debate—that under the clause as it stands the head of the Presidential Government may find himself in this position. He may find himself with two members with official training on one side of him, and two members without any official training, and possibly both of them natives, on the other. That might place the Governor of the Province in an invidious and awkward position. If, however, the noble Viscount does not see his way clear to accept the Amendment, I do not think we need press it from this side. But I would like to ask whether he would see any objection to agreeing, instead of saying of whom two at least, to say of whom three at least shall be persons who have been in the service of the Crown, leaving only one without official experience.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
My own intention is, if the Bill is passed, only to appoint three members; but this would, perhaps, be better discussed upon Lord Wenlock's Amendment to leave out the clause. I should contemplate an Executive Council of three, of whom I hope one would be an Indian. It would be my intention to appoint an Indian.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
No. I think it would be better to leave it as it is, and see how it works.
§ LORD WENLOCK
then moved to omit from the Bill Clause 2, which ran:—2.—(1) The number of ordinary members of the councils of the Governors of Fort Saint George and Bombay shall be such number not exceeding four as the Secretary of State in Council may from time to time direct, of whom two at least shall be persons who at the time of their appointment have been in the service of the Crown in India for at least twelve years.(2) If at any meeting of either such council there is an equality of votes on any question, the Governor or other person presiding shall have two votes or the casting vote.He hoped he had made clear, in the few remarks he had addressed to their Lordships earlier in the evening, his object in moving this Amendment. He deprecated 292 legislating on these lines in a hurry, and thought their Lordships should wait to see what those out in India thought of the proposal. He hoped, therefore, the Government would consent to postpone the passing of this clause.
To leave out Clause 2."—(Lord Wenlock.)
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I am afraid I cannot accept this Amendment. The noble Marquess the other night made a strong point of bringing up this proposal in the form of a separate Bill to be introduced at some later time. Your Lordships will recollect that this proposal comes from the Government of India—paragraph 76 of the Government of India's Despatch. Noble Lords will observe that the clause is purely permissive. If the Government of India and the Secretary of State do not desire to extend, there is nothing in the Bill that makes it obligatory on them to do so. I would like to point out a rather remarkable discovery that has been made. I am advised by the Law Officers of the Crown that His Majesty already has power without this Bill to add a third member to the Executive Councils of Bombay and Madras respectively, and such third member need not possess the qualification of twelve years service of the Crown. Therefore, there is nothing to hinder the Secretary of State from adding a third member to either of these Councils to-morrow. But I am well content that it should come before your Lordships for consideration. The Government of India, in the seventy-sixth paragraph, says that experience will probably test this. In other parts of the Despatch they express the opinion that the work thrown upon the Governors will be so heavy that they will need the aid and support of another member. Lots of difficulties may occur in consequence, such as those the noble Marquess pointed out in connection with the Amendment of Lord MacDonnell, but those have to be faced. There is no reluctance on the part of the Government of India to accept this proposal, in spite of experience and so forth not being yet ripe or even begun. It is, however, a work of supererogation really to put in the clause, but it would be fatal now if Parliament, having been consulted, did not accept the proposal for the Council being raised to four if thought necessary. 293 As I have said, my own intention is not to augment it beyond three, but we thought it better to take power for another member who some day may be needed.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
The noble Viscount has a happy knack of opening masked batteries upon the House. He opened one not many minutes ago when he produced from his pocket a more or less private telegram from the Government of India, upon which he relied to support one of his arguments; and now he has opened another masked battery by quoting an opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown, which goes to show that the clause under discussion, or part of it, need not have been inserted in the Bill at all. The noble Viscount was kind enough to give your Lordships the opportunity of discussing the subject; but, whatever our conclusions may be, he is in a position to give effect to his opinion whether we approve of it or not. We may have what opinion we may think proper as to the appointment of these new members of the Executive Council; but the noble Viscount tells us that the Law Officers advise him that it is open to him to appoint them without legislation. In these circumstances the discussion becomes—if I may borrow a phrase of the noble Viscount—rather of a farcical description.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
At any rate, there is, we are assured, power to do a great part of what the noble Viscount desires. The noble Viscount rests his case mainly, I understand, on the views of the Government of India as stated in the seventy-sixth paragraph of their Despatch of October last; but the noble Viscount must be aware that the Government of India go out of their way in that Despatch to tell the India Office that, in their opinion, we should wait for further experience of these new Legislative Councils and of the amount of extra work which their existence may occasion to the Executive Government—that we should wait until that experience has been acquired before we make these important innovations. The words are clear and unambiguous. Lord Minto's Government say—It may be that experience will show the desirability of strengthening the hands of the 294 Lieutenant-Governors in the larger provinces by the creation of Executive Councils, and assisting the Governors of Madras and Bombay by enlarging the councils which now exist in those Presidencies .... But it would be premature to discuss these contingencies until experience has been gained of the working of the new legislative bodies.But the noble Viscount will not wait until he has gained experience of the working of the new legislative bodies. He proposes to legislate immediately. It was in those circumstances that I ventured to suggest to the noble Viscount, not really in any hostile spirit, that it might be worth while to postpone these clauses and deal with them in a separate Bill after he has obtained from the Government of India a report as to the manner in which the proposal is regarded by the higher local authorities in India. As far as the documents on the Table are concerned, there is nothing to show that there has been that consultation which Lord Minto's Government evidently considered desirable. Indeed, it is all the other way, because such evidence as we do possess goes to show that the higher authorities in India, including the Viceroy's Council, at no very remote date looked askance upon the proposals to tamper with the Executive Councils. Therefore, it does seem to me that my noble friend Lord Wenlock is not unreasonable when he makes to the noble Viscount the suggestion that this matter might be allowed to stand over for the present. The Bill would then deal as the Act of 1892 dealt with the Legislative Councils, leaving the other part of the question, the Executive Councils, which are really separate and distinct, to be dealt with hereafter, when the noble Viscount himself and Parliament generally have had a fuller opportunity of weighing the different considerations which bear upon the question.
§ * THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (VISCOUNT WOLVERHAMPTON)
pointed out that the clause was not compulsory, but entirely permissive. Having the opportunity now of dealing with the Indian problem, it would be unwise to leave an opening for another Bill and not to dispose of the matter now as far as they could.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Will the noble Viscount give the Committee some kind of assurance that no immediate action will be taken under this clause until the kind of consultation which the Govern- 295 ment of India contemplated and desired has been had, and until a little more is known on the subject than we know at present?
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I can assure the noble Marquess that no action will be taken under the clause without full consultation with the Government of India—I would almost say without their assent, but I ought not to say that, because it is the Secretary of State who makes these appointments, and I do not think I ought to debar myself from using powers that I possess. But my noble friend may take it from me that I have no desire to act precipitately.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 2 agreed to.
§ * LORD MACDONNELL OF SWINFORD
moved to omit Clause 3, which ran as follows:3.—(1) It shall be lawful for the Governor-General in Council with the approval of the Secretary of State in Council, by proclamation, to create a council in any province under a Lieutenant-Governor for the purpose of assisting the Lieutenant-Governor in the executive government of the province, and by such proclamation—(a) To determine what powers and duties of the Lieutenant-Governor shall be exercised and performed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, and what shall be the number (not exceeding four), qualifications, powers, and duties of the members of any such council; and(b) To make provision for the appointment of temporary or acting members of the council during the absence of any member from illness or otherwise, and for the procedure to be adopted in case of a difference of opinion between a Lieutenant-Governor and his council, and in the case of equality of votes, and in the case of a Lieutenant-Governor being obliged to absent himself from his council from indisposition or any other cause.(2) Every member of any such council shall be appointed by the Governor-General with the approval of His Majesty, and shall, as such, be a member of the Legislative Council of the Lieutenant-Governor in addition to the members nominated by the Lieutenant-Governor and elected under the provisions of this Act.
He feared that the discussion which had just taken place had somewhat prejudiced the chances of success of his Amendment. He was not impressed by the statement of the noble Viscount the Lord President of the Council that safety lay in the fact that the clause was permissive. His 296 feeling was that if this clause obtained a place upon the Statute Book the pressure brought by politicians in India and England would be such as to force the hands of the Government and deprive them of freedom of action. He agreed to the proposal to add additional members to the Councils of Madras and Bombay, because he thought that in those Councils the experiment could be safely made. The circumstances in which we were placed rendered it impossible to remain quiescent. A forward movement of some sort must be made. Inasmuch as participation in the executive work of the Government was desired by the most prominent representatives of educated Indian society, he thought the best way of complying with their desires was to allow an experiment to be made in the Presidencies of Madras and Bombay. But in regard to the creation of Executive Councils for Lieutenant-Governors a different set of considerations arose. In this matter, the persistent opinion of Indian administrators from 1868 to the present time was that it was very much better, having regard to the necessity of close touch with native populations, to retain the system of Lieutenant-Governors in preference to the system of government by council. There was only one part of India in which a considerable body of opinion prevailed as to the wisdom of that decision, and that was in regard to the Lower Province of Bengal. But he did not now propose to touch upon that. The question now for them to decide was whether they would have corporate government, whereby the Executive Government was weakened, or personal government, whereby the Executive Government was strengthened. He supposed no one would maintain that it was desirable to introduce the tedious and procrastinating system of government by council in Burma, a country which, even in recent memory, had been the scene of sanguinary wars. In the United Provinces, the country with which he was most recently acquainted, he considered that that system of government was wholly unfitted to the circumstances of the locality. In those Provinces the tradition of personal rule and the recollections of recent war were so strong that no person of importance in those provinces would understand what was meant by divesting the Lieutenant-Governor of personal rule. In those provinces, inhabited as they were by martial, but, he was glad to say, loyal races, the forces of disorder were very near the I surface. He might mention a case, known 297 to Lord Curzon, where he had seen the entire structure of British rule disappear in a night, and when he reached the city the next morning he found a city full of sullen people on the one side and the entire British garrison under arms on the other. What would a Lieutenant-Governor do if he had to consult with his Council and waste time in debate in a case like that? It was not safe to entrust the fortunes of from 40,000,000 to 50,000,000 of people under these circumstances to the control and management of a Council. However useful a Council might be in the more settled portions of the country, in those parts which were yet mindful of the effects of war the people had always looked, and would look for many a year to come, to the direct personal rule of the Lieutenant-Governor of the Province. Our great difficulty in these parts of India was the protection of the vast mass of the people from oppression frequently brought to bear upon them. It would be impossible if a Council had to be consulted to give them the speedy remedy now afforded by the Lieutenant-Governor going on tour, entering the villages, making himself acquainted with their particular wants, and thus bringing ryots and landlords together and endeavouring in that way to effect a reconciliation. This was the ordinary work of a Lieutenant-Governor on tour, and if he had to manage these things through a Council his efficiency would be greatly reduced. In the two Bengals different considerations arose, but even there, as the province had been divided in two, there existed no reason arising from administrative efficiency, for the introduction of a council in either. There, so long as the province remained divided, he thought it would be unwise to break with a system which had served us so well in the past and which, though it might be distasteful to a small minority, was acceptable to the vast bulk of the people. This change in our system was demanded by a very small and microscopic part of our Indian fellow-subjects. Taking those who were educated in English and those who were educated in the vernacular, the total of those who demanded the change did not amount to more than four per cent. of the entire population. He was in hearty sympathy with the bulk of the scheme of the noble Viscount, but on this point, to which he attached great importance, he did feel that they were going a little too far. 298 Amendment moved—To leave out Clause 3."—(Lord MacDonnell of Strinford.)[The sitting was suspended at a quarter to eight o'clock and resumed at nine o'clock.]
§ * LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, before your Lordships adjourned for dinner we had just listened to a powerful speech from Lord MacDonnell, who was for many years Lieutenant-Governor of one of the principal Provinces in India. Special weight, I think, attaches to what fell from the noble Lord on this question, because it is a matter of common knowledge, not only that his experience as a Lieutenant-Governor was unusually prolonged—it lasted for six years instead of the ordinary five—but that no Lieutenant-Governor, certainly in my time, established a greater reputation for administrative ability and command of all the problems of government. The noble Lord gave us his own personal opinion as to the proposal we are now discussing to add Executive Councils to the Lieutenant-Governorships of various Provinces, and I propose, in the few remarks that I shall address to your Lordships, to place before you the opinions of those who are, perhaps, if not equally qualified, at any rate nearly equally qualified, with the noble Lord to pronounce upon the matter.
Your Lordships' attention has been called to the remarkable words of the Government of India. It is necessary to draw attention to them again, because here they speak in language somewhat different from, and stronger than, the language they employed in respect of additions to the Executive Councils of the Governors of Bombay and Madras. In the case of this proposal for the creation of Executive Councils in the Provinces ruled by Lieuteant-Governors—an absolutely new proposal—they say that it would be—A large departure which could only be recommended after the fullest consideration, and after consultation with the heads of the Provinces concerned.
Our case on this side of the House is that, so far as we know, there has been no such full consideration, and, to the best of our knowledge, no consultation with the heads of the Provinces concerned.
When I addressed your Lordships the other day I spoke with some wonderment 299 as to the origin of this proposal. But since then the Secretary of State has presented to your Lordships the Report of the recent Royal Commission of Decentralisation in India. In that Blue-book, which contains some very startling proposals, but others which, I hope, will be of great use to the noble Viscount in carrying out his views with regard to the reform of Indian administration—in that document I came, much to my surprise, on this proposal. That body definitely recommend the creation of Executive Councils for Lieutenant-Governors. Without wishing to disparage that Royal Commission, I ask your Lordships to consider of whom it was composed. It contained two members who had never been in India, one of whom was the chairman; it contained two Bombay officials, who would, I think, be predisposed to a system with which they were familiar in their own Province; it contained not a single Lieutenant-Governor or representative of a Lieutenant-Governor.
The Royal Commission on Decentralisation allude in their Report to the well-known discussion in India in 1867, when the idea of a Governor-in-Council for Bengal was discussed. But they do not state the whole facts. They give us to understand that on the one side, in favour of a Governor-in-Council, were Sir Bartle Frere, Sir H. Maine, and Sir William Grey, while against it were the Viceroy (Sir John Lawrence), and Sir William Muir. But they were not the only ones against it. The Commission do not mention in their Report that the proposal was then rejected by four to three, the Viceroy having placed on record that—personal administration by a single head without a council is the best form of government for many parts of India, Bengal included.Nor do the Commission mention the more recent and exhaustive discussion of the subject in India in 1905. Their Report contains the following astonishing paragraph—The Home Secretary to the Government of India declined, under instructions from that Government, to inform us as to more recent discussions, or to give his own views upon the question.It may have been a prudent, but it was a somewhat prudish, act to refuse this information, since it is accessible to any one who cares to refer to the last Bluebook about the reconstitution of Bengal [Cd. 2,746, 1905]. There, on pages 8 to 300 11, will be found a full discussion of the question of attaching executive councils to Lieutenant-Governors undertaken by the Government of India only four years ago, and resulting, not in a divided opinion, as in 1867, but in a unanimous pronouncement against the change now proposed.
The arguments cover three or four pages of print, but there is only one passage that I think I need read—Here we arrive at what is, in our view, the crowning drawback of the system [of Executive Councils for Lieutenant-Governors]—namely, that what is best for a Province in India is not the rule of a Committee but the rule, or at least the responsibility in the last resort, of an individual. . . . The decisions of such a body carry less weight because their origin and sanction are obscure, and because they lack the personal touch which is an almost inseparable feature of strong government.That was a unanimous Despatch from the Government of India. And by whom was it signed? It was signed by three eminent officers, one of whom was till his recent death a Lieutenant-Governor, and two of whom are so now. The first was Sir Denzil Ibbetson, the fine flower of the Civil Service and late Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab, who, I remember, felt more strongly upon this than upon almost any subject of Indian administration. The two others were Sir J. P. Hewett, now Lieutenant-Governor of the United Provinces, and Sir E. N. Baker, now Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal. We had then in the Government of India Sir E. Law, who, on the eve of leaving India after five years of strenuous and successful service as a member of the Viceroy's Council, recorded his opinion that—Administration by a Governor or Lieutenant-Governor with an Executive Council results in paralysis or worse of the governing authority. The ideal is an administrative head directly in touch with the people and in intimate relation with all their executive officers.
I submit that these views are entitled to considerably more weight than the pronouncement of a Commission not one of whose members had any experience of the work of an Indian Lieutenant-Governor, and some of whom had no knowledge of India at all. But the consensus of modern authority is not exhausted by the above survey. Since Lord Morley introduced his Bill this particular proposal has been unsparingly condemned by Sir C. Elliott, formerly Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, and by Sir C. Crosthwaite, formerly 301 Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Provinces. We have heard the same view expressed by the noble Marquess who was for five years Viceroy of India. Therefore this change up to the present has not had the acknowledged support of a single ex-Lieutenant-Governor or a single ex-Viceroy. I regret that we have not had the advantage to-night of hearing the opinion of Lord Elgin, who has observed a silence on this Bill which I must say has filled me with some regret.
The situation, ominous as it was, has been rendered somewhat worse by what the Secretary of State told us to-night. He proposes to take power in this Bill to create these Councils, and I need hardly say that I am sure he will not upon this occasion shelter himself behind the defence that it is merely a permissive power, because it is certain that if you introduce into an Act of Parliament a clause to the effect that it shall be lawful to the Governor-General in Council to give Executive Councils to certain provinces, the Secretary of State who is responsible for that Bill is bound to do it, at any rate in the case of the most advanced Provinces. Otherwise, what is the point of introducing it in the Bill? The noble Viscount told us earlier in the evening that this is one of the reforms that are to be introduced by proclamation. In other words, if we were to allow this clause to remain in the Bill as it is with no further information at our disposal, all future opportunity of considering the matter would be lost. Thus it may come about that a change not advised by the Government of India, disapproved of, so far as I know, by the Government of India, opposed by every Lieutenant-Governor or ex-Lieutenant-Governor who has spoken or written on the matter, and likely to be introduced in a manner which will give us no opportunity of criticising it, may, if this Bill is accepted without amendment, be thrust upon the Houses of Parliament. I hope that if we appear critical or even hostile about this particular clause the noble Viscount will not bring against me or any of my friends the charge that we are, therefore, trying to wreck the Bill. He knows as well as anybody that we accept the general principle of the Bill; we even go further and are anxious to assist him, so far as we can, in passing it into law.
In his speech this afternoon the noble Viscount deprecated any idea of rushing 302 this matter. I submit that in this matter we are being absolutely rushed. We know nothing about this proposal except that the Government of India say that it is premature, that it ought only to be recommended after the fullest consideration and after consultation with the heads of the Provinces concerned. I hope the noble Viscount will see that it is not unreasonable on our part to urge for some further explanation, and, if that is not forthcoming, to ask for the postponement of this particular clause.
§ * VISCOUNT WOLVERHAMPTON
entirely agreed with what Lord Curzon had said with reference to his noble friend who had moved the Amendment. Lord MacDonnell's experience and statesmanship were well known and his judgment, of course, would have very great weight with any one at all familiar with Indian politics or Indian administration. But he ventured to say that Lord Curzon had misconceived the effect and intention of the clause altogether. The noble Lord had quoted the names of most distinguished Indian statesmen and administrators who in the past had entertained a very different view as to the proper method of administration. The present position was that they had advanced and were advancing in the development of the government of India. The step that was being taken to-day was a great step in advance, and the opening of a new chapter in the history of India. He was not blind to the fact that there were great risks. They had to face the facts, and there must be a change in the Government of India which would associate a larger section of the people of that country with the Administration. The argument of Lord Curzon was in favour of an autocracy as being the very best form of government.
§ LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON : No.
§ * VISCOUNT WOLVERHAMPTON
said that no doubt fifty years ago the very best form of Government was that of a single authority, having both military and financial power and also exercising great judicial functions. The theory on which this Bill was founded, on the other hand, was the association of the elective principle with the government of India. No one would be a stronger opponent than himself to the setting up of our Parliamentary institutions in India, but it was desirable to have behind the Administration of 303 India a greater popular force than that behind it at the present moment. He would not be tempted to reopen the question of the partition of Bengal, or he might express the opinion that while the noble Lord's policy with reference to dealing with the Government of Bengal was, in the main, sound, he did not think the way in which that great reform was carried out was a right way. He would have thought than an adaptation of the Government of Bengal to what existed in Madras and Bombay would have been the better mode of carrying out what was a necessary administrative reform. But with regard to Madras and Bombay, the noble Lord would admit that government there with an Executive Council had worked efficiently.
§ LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
said he had never argued the question of Madras and Bombay, where Executive Councils had existed for many years. The position of Lieutenant-Governors was wholly different.
§ * VISCOUNT WOLVERHAMPTON
said his answer to that was this. If Executive Councils had worked well in Madras and Bombay, why should they not work well in other Provinces?
§ * VISCOUNT WOLVERHAMPTON
said the Bill provided for the extension of the best mode of local government to other portions of India which did not possess it at present. If the Amendment were carried did they not think they would be opening another Indian question?
§ * VISCOUNT WOLVERHAMPTON
said it was impossible to carry on a duel across the Table. He might be wrong; but his own conviction was that if they introduced large changes into the local government of India, they could not have one description of government in one part and another description in another part. His belief was that there would be fresh agitation and unrest which it was most desirable to avoid. The wording of the clause was clear. It provided that it should be lawful for the Governor-General in Council with the approval of the Secretary of State in 304 Council, by proclamation, to create a Council in any Province under a Lieutenant-Governor for the purpose of assisting the Lieutenant-Governor in the executive government of the Province, and by such proclamation to determine what powers and duties of the Lieutenant-Governor should be exercised and performed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, and what should be the number (not exceeding four), qualifications, powers, and duties of the members of any such Council. The English language was not capable of defining better what was to be an optional or discretionary power. There would be no compulsion, and the Government of India would exercise the power with discretion, wisely, and well. His noble friend Lord Curzon had stated that no member of the present Executive in India had approved of this scheme; but his noble friend the Secretary of State would be able to give the noble Lord the authority of an existing Lieutenant-Governor in favour of this change. It was certainly not the unanimous opinion in India that this change would be a doubtful one to make. The position of the Secretary of State, clothed with these powers, would be this, that he would proceed cautiously in the matter, take the opinion of men on the spot, and not rush into it as if it were a thing finally settled. He would be very sorry to see this provisional power taken away from the Secretary of State. He felt strongly that if the change were brought into operation it would, with the wisdom which would characterise the Government in India and the Secretary of State's Council at home, effect a great improvement in the administration of India and would not be a step that Parliament would regret having taken. He hoped the Committee would not strike out the clause altogether.
§ * LORD AMPTHILL
did not altogether share the apprehensions expressed by Lord Curzon, particularly as under the wording of the clause the initiative rested with the Government of India. The clause commenced—It shall be lawful for the Governor-General in Council—and he thought it followed from that wording that nothing could be done unless those principally concerned and those who would be chiefly responsible for carrying out the change in India were agreed upon the subject. But his chief object in rising 305 was to say something in regard to the arguments used by the noble Lord who had moved the omission of the clause. He could not allow them to pass unchallenged, because they constituted a very serious criticism upon, and disparagement of, the system of Government in Madras and Bombay. The noble Lord's argument, in its crudest form, was that personal government was stronger and that corporate government was weaker. He denied the truth of that argument, and pointed out that if it were a sound argument it must also apply to the Government of India itself, which was that of a Governor-General in Council. Lord MacDonnell had spoken of government by council as a "tedious and procrastinating system." The noble Lord had had a lengthy experience of the Lieutenant-Governorship system, but could not claim the same experience of government in Council; and he (Lord Ampthill) indignantly denied that there was anything tedious or procrastinating about the system of government in Council. If government in Council were tedious and procrastinating so must also be the government of India under the Viceroy; and he doubted very much whether Lord Curzon, although he supported the argument, would admit for one moment that the government of India, under either his own direction or under that of his eminent predecessors, was open to that charge. Nor could he (Lord Ampthill) agree that government by a Lieutenant-Governor was personal government, while that of a Governor in Council was not. The personality of the Viceroy or Governor was not in the slightest degree minimised or obliterated by the existence of a Council. Every noble Lord in that House knew how the remarkable regime of his noble friend was spoken of in India. It was always referred to as the Government of Lord Curzon. Similarly, his noble friends Lord Harris, Lord Wenlock, Lord Reay, and Lord Sandhurst impressed their personalities upon the governments over which they presided. The government of a Governor in Council was every bit as personal as that of a Lieutenant-Governor. Then, as regarded sudden decisions, the noble Lord opposite imagined that in a crisis it would be necessary at Madras or Bombay to summon a meeting of the Executive Council and have a debate. He presumed that the noble Lord imagined also that when some crisis arose on the North-west Frontier it was necessary for the Viceroy to summon a meeting 306 of his Council and discuss the situation. He could assure him that nothing of the kind took place. In the case of the Viceroy, it was a matter of almost weekly occurrence that important decisions had to be given without any reference whatever to the Council; and in the Presidency Governments it was certain that in any emergency the Governor would act without waiting to summon a meeting of his Council. He thought that where a Governor in Council would act on his own responsibility a Lieutenant-Governor would be more likely to refer first to headquarters; the very nature of his office made it natural that he should do so. It would be extremely inexpedient to omit the clause in view of the important step to which they were committed. The avowed object of enlarging the Executive Councils of Madras and Bombay was to give the possibility of appointing Indians. If their Lordships omitted this clause they would be telling the people of the rest of India that they were not going to have any opportunity of sharing this privilege. The clause was not mandatory but permissive, and the initiative was to be entirely in the hands of the Government of India. Therefore, personally, he had no hesitation in supporting the retention of the clause.
§ * THE EARL OF CROMER
did not propose to deal with the merits of the case or desire to oppose the clause. But he wished to make an earnest appeal to the noble Viscount not to proceed with the clause at once. The noble Viscount the Lord President of the Council had admitted that there were manifest risks in carrying out this project. They all agreed that there must be large risks. In his speech on the Second Reading he had put it in this form, that they were making a leap in the dark. The question was how far were they to leap at once. If a house were on fire it might be wise to jump out of the window if one were on the first floor, but if on the sixth storey it would be better, perhaps, to wait for a fire escape. It was a question of the degree of risk, and before taking this risk he would like to know what the authorities in India thought of the proposal. Their Lordships had no evidence before them in an official form as to the opinion of the present authorities in India on the subject, and that information should be obtained before a decision was pronounced. The Lord President had referred to the clause as being permissive. If it were not 307 to be acted upon, what was the use of its insertion in the Bill? But, even if there were no present intention of acting upon it, when once the Bill was passed what guarantee was there that it would not be acted upon at some future time? They might have a Secretary of State who would not possess the strength of the noble Viscount opposite, and they knew what would happen when the Bill had once been passed. The members of Congress would put strong pressure on their friends in another place. Pressure might, in turn, be placed upon the Secretary of State, who might, perhaps, yield too hurriedly; and therefore before agreeing to the placing of such an important provision on the Statute-book Parliament should be in full possession of the views of the authorities on the spot. It did not at all follow that if the clause were delayed it could not be passed this session. Why could not the noble Viscount consult the Government of India, and, if the clause were thrown out now, lay Papers before Parliament, when possibly it could be reconsidered? He did not wish to wreck the Bill, but thought their Lordships would be incurring a grave responsibility in giving these powers without knowing the opinions of the Government of India and the local authorities. As one who greatly sympathised with the noble Viscount, he would make an earnest appeal to him to meet their views on this particular point.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
There is nothing that would be more agreeable to me than to meet the view of my noble friend; but let us see what it comes to. My noble friend desires to know the opinions of the Government of India and of the Lieutenant-Governors and so on. I put it to the two noble Lords opposite who have been Viceroys of India whether they are going to put on record in a Parliamentary Paper the opinions of this or that Lieutenant-Governor for or against this or that change, but especially against. How unpleasant, how weakening to the authority of a Lieutenant-Governor it would be to have it placed on record that he could not find any Indian gentleman to put on his Council, or that he did not want a Council, but preferred his own personal rule—how indiscreet it would be to have his opinion placed before the two Houses of Parliament. I submit that that is the answer to that part of my noble friend's question. He begs us to postpone this clause. Do the Committee 308 realise how we stand, and why we have taken this great task in hand at all? It is because there is a condition of things in India admitted by everybody—not denied by noble Lords opposite who know India so well—that demands dealing with without delay. Are you going to deal with a grave and serious situation of this kind piecemeal? When the Minister responsible for India tells Parliament that they are confronted with rather a serious situation, and when the Government of India, as shown in Lord Minto's early Despatch, say things of the same kind, are you going to face that situation seriously and firmly and completely, or are you not? Is it worth while to delay and have another India Bill, with prolonged debates and I know not what, India in the meantime tossing it all about, arguing it and saying "We always told you that Parliament was not up to this!" Lord Curzon said we might bring in another Bill this session. There is another place, and my opinion is that that other place will be greatly occupied, and I only trust to my own good fortune and some firmness in getting this Bill through before the dog-days. I hope to get it through immediately by using all the influence I can with my colleagues to press it forward. How should we look if this House, for example, which has discussed this Bill, if I may say so, with great authority, knowledge, and good temper, broke off and left a ragged edge? Lord Curzon questioned whether there was any Lieutenant-Governor who supported the proposal. In reply I will give him the name of one. The Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal is strongly for it, and is confident that he could find fit and capable men to man such a council.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I know; but still there it is. There are Lieutenant-Governors who doubt whether they could get men, and so forth. I do not wish to deceive the House for a moment. There are Lieutenant-Governors who doubt it, to be sure, but the Government of India, and especially we who are not Lieutenant-Governors but who have to look at the Indian situation as a whole, are bound to make up our minds; and I am perfectly certain that there is not a man in this House who would have been more determined to make up his own mind upon a 309 point like this than the noble Lord, Lord Curzon, unless it may be the noble Marquess who preceded him in the Government of India. Your Lordships acknowledge that they are to have Legislative Councils, and if you postpone or delay, or allow this business to drag on, the tension might easily return. If this Bill is dealt with either here or in another place—I am sure it will not be here—in such a way as as to make it a failure or a wreck, those responsible will take an enormous responsibility, and if your Lordships to-night play with any part of the Bill, you will be setting, if I may say so, a very evil example. As for the arguments of the noble Lord, they are good, sound, bureaucratic arguments; but it is the bureaucratic system that we are going to make a breach in, and this is one portion of the operation. I therefore hope the Committee will allow the clause to stand.
§ * LORD MAcDONNELL OF SWINFORD
said he believed the rules of the House permitted him to make a few remarks in reply to what had been said. He did not propose to follow Lord Ampthill, except to say that the noble Lord's conception of the duties and status of a Lieutenant-Governor left something to be desired. In regard to the appeal which had been made by the Lord President that their Lordships should pass the clause and trust to the Secretary of State for India carrying it out under the orders of Parliament, he would ask their Lordships to consider what influence the view of Parliament had upon the noble Viscount in regard to the appointment of the member of the Viceroy's Council. He supposed that if this Bill were passed and the Secretary of State of the day held the same views as to appointments as the noble Viscount the present Secretary of State held as to the Viceroy's Council, the same regard would be paid to the opinion of that House in reference to the creation of Councils for Lieutenant-Governors as was being paid to it in regard to a member of the Viceroy's Council. In regard to the argument that they might create turmoil and tension in India by the rejection of this clause, he would remind the Committee that the most advanced section of Indian politicians had never asked for the clause. He had endeavoured, on the occasion of the Second Reading, to trace the progress of Indian claims for political privileges from the time of their origin in 1885, during the Viceroyalty of Lord Dufferin, up to the time 310 that they reached the point when the National Congress were brought face to face with what he might call the Indian Terror. In none of their resolutions was there any claim made for the appointment of Executive Councils for Lieutenant-Governors. That proposal, as Lord Curzon had said, was first raised in a tentative and very doubtful way in the Despatch of the Government of India at the beginning of October last. It was taken up in the Despatch of the noble Viscount, and it there assumed the appearance of reality. They were now told that if this proposal, which had never been asked for by the most advanced Indian politicians, and which was in contradiction to the universal and continuous advice of the most careful and prudent of Indian administrators, were not granted that evening they might look out for difficulties in our Indian Empire. They would never do any good in India by being afraid. Things ought not to be done in a hurry. In the last resort they depended upon themselves, and if anything were done in a hurry or which tended to disintegrate the Indian Public Service then indeed the time had come to look for a liquidation of the Indian Empire. He did not look upon the present disturbances with apprehension. He thought they were largely due to the nervousness of the men on the spot, and it would be a fatal mistake to give to Lieutenant-Governors a Council for which they had not asked, which no Indian political party had demanded, and to do that before the Lieutenant-Governors were even asked their opinion. He was very sorry to have the appearance of differing from the noble Viscount, the great bulk of whose scheme had his entire approval. But, with regard to this clause, he honestly believed that if their Lordships conceded the point asked for they would be seriously affecting the safety of the Empire. He therefore intended to press his Amendment to a Division.
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
My Lords, I need not inform the House that I am really not competent to enter into the details of this particular discussion, but one observation which fell from the noble Lord who has just sat down seems to me to call for some comment. The noble Lord said that this particular proposal had never been invited or asked for by the extreme advanced section in India. I am inclined to say, what of that? This Bill, as I understand it, is not framed to meet 311 the desires or aspirations of the very extreme politicians of whom the noble Lord speaks as the advanced section. The proposals of the Bill must surely be considered on their merits, with a view to the acceptance they receive from the moderate and rational section of Indian opinion, and I should have thought that the fact that the extreme section had never asked for this reform would, in your Lordships' eyes, have been regarded as a recommendation for the proposal. Therefore, I confess I am entirely unable to follow the noble Lord's arguments on that point. As regards the general merits of the proposal, I should only say this, speaking, of course, without any local or technical knowledge. Your Lordships have agreed to give further considerable powers of self-government in the Presidencies, and it certainly does strike one, speaking from the point of view of general politics rather than from the point of view of one who is competent to judge of India, that the effect of denying or of delaying for long similar privileges to the Provinces must accentuate the difference between the two conditions. I should ask your Lordships, therefore, to pause before you, instead of rounding off this measure, leave what the noble Viscount has called a ragged edge, with almost a certainty of continued agitation for what appears to one who looks upon it, as I do, to be in itself a moderate measure of reform.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, after the long discussion which has taken place, I am not going to enter into a dissertation as to the respective merits of government by a Lieutenant-Governor without an Executive Council and by a Governor with an Executive Council. Each system has its own merits. But what we are asked to do this evening is to assent to a clause under which the Secretary of State will be given the power to create in those Indian Provinces where the system of government by a Governor in Council is unknown a new system under which for the first time Executive Councils will be created.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
On the initiative of the Government of India, with the sanction of the Secretary of State 312 for India. That is a very serious innovation, and our point on this side of the House is that we have not been supplied with any sufficient information as to the reasons for which this change is desired. An immense weight of authority has been cited by my noble friend behind me against the proposal. I will not travel again over that ground; the names which he cited are well known to all who are intimate with Indian affairs, and no one will be bold enough to contend that the authority of those high officials is an authority which can be lightly brushed aside. Then we know that this formed no part of the request put forward in October last by the Government of India; it was put forward merely as a suggestion to be hereafter considered. But, besides that, is there any evidence to show that a change of this kind really is desired generally by the people of India, if you can, indeed, speak of the people of India? The noble Earl who leads the House took exception to the statement made from these Benches that no demand of that kind had been put forward by the National Congress. Now, we know perfectly well that the demands of the National Congress represent the highwater mark of Indian pretensions, and if we find that this demand is not included among the pretensions of the National Congress, we are, I think, justified in holding that in the view of those sections of the Indian public which are most interested this particular change has not appeared to enter into the region of practical politics. The noble Viscount the Lord President of the Council dwelt at some length upon the fact that this was merely an enabling or permissive clause. So it is; but surely we are not to be told that these clauses are put into the Bill merely as a sort of shop-front decoration, not to be turned to account. The remark seemed to me to be a little inconsistent with another remark which fell from the noble Viscount, that this clause opened a fresh chapter of Indian history.
§ VISCOUNT WOLVERHAMPTON
The noble Marquess misunderstood what I said. I was referring to the Bill, and was quoting the remark of my noble friend the Secretary of State.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I entirely accept that. I agree that the Bill does open a new chapter, and I maintain that this is not an essential feature of the Bill. I draw a great distinction between 313 this clause and the rest of the Bill, between this clause which deals with the creation of new Executive Councils and the immediately preceding clause which deals with certain changes in those Executive Councils which already exist. What is it we ask for? We do not, as the noble Viscount seems to think, want to wreck the Bill. We do not even want to wreck this clause. All we say is, let the noble Viscount hold his clause back, and, if the clause were to disappear this evening and in the meantime the noble Viscount were able to collect a great mass of that information which he has not yet been able to produce, we might regard the clause in a different light. The noble Viscount the Lord President of the Council told us that the object of this clause was to associate the people of India more closely with the government of that country, and he seemed to think that the disappearance of the clause would rob the Bill of that salutary effect. But, my Lords, this is only a small fraction of the proposal. The manner in which the people of India will be brought into closer contact with the government of the Indian Provinces is by the extension of the Legislative Councils. The creation of new Executive Councils is a wholly different matter, and I do not think it deserves to be described as a proposal eminently calculated to associate the people of India with the government of India, or with any part of it. Earlier in the debate, a reference was made to the Report of the Royal Commission on Decentralisation. This matter of Executive Councils is referred to in the Report of the Royal Commission, which is one of the most recent pieces of evidence in our hands. Now, what has the Royal Commission got to say upon it? They tell us that, in their opinion, a good deal is to be said for doing away with the system of what they call single Lieutenant-Governorships. But what is their proposal? They say that it would be highly undesirable to have a civilian Lieutenant-Governor with a Council attached to him, and they say that if the thing is to be done the proper way to 314 do it is by appointing a Governor from home and then giving him a Council. That is a wholly different proposal, and one against which a great deal is to be said. It seems to me an objectionable proposal, because it would have the effect of robbing the Indian Service of some of the few great prizes open to it. But that is the proposal of the Decentralisation Commission—not a Lieutenant-Governor with a Council, but a Governor, as a rule exported from home, with a Council, and that is not the proposal which has been adopted by His Majesty's Government. We are told that among the points still being considered by the Government of India was that of the powers to be given to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council. Well, if they are still considering this point, the point which certainly arises under this clause, why are we accused of being unreasonable in asking that this proposal may, for the present, at any rate, be held over? If my noble friend opposite takes the sense of the Committee I shall vote with him on that understanding, not that I wish to proclaim unalloyed hostility to the proposal, but that at present I am not prepared to accept it upon the ground that, on the one hand, there is immense weight of authority against it, and, that on the other hand, a very slight amount of authority has been produced in favour of it.
said that if his noble friend the Secretary of State still refused to accept the Amendment he would be compelled to vote against him, because he did not believe that at the present time, at any rate, these Provinces were ripe for the scheme proposed. Reference had been made to this being a permissive clause. If it were merely permissive, he failed to see why there should be so much hurry.
On Question, whether the clause proposed to be left out shall stand part of the Bill?—
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 18; Not-contents, 59.