§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion of the Marquess of Lothian, That this House approves the Indian policy of His Majesty's Government as set out in Command Paper No. 3972; and on the Amendment moved by Lord Lloyd to the foregoing Motion, namely, to leave out all the words after "House" for the purpose of inserting the following words: "while appreciating the efforts made by His Majesty's Government during the Round Table Conference to resolve the grave problems connected with the future government of India, considers that the moment has not yet arrived at which His; Majesty's Government, mindful of their supreme responsibilities for the safety and welfare of the people of India, can pronounce a final judgment regarding the Solution of the problem."
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
My Lords, it is with great hesitation that I address you this evening on so important a matter. I do not think that any of us can be very happy as to the way they record their votes this evening. We must all realise that our decision is going to affect the history of and the relationship between England and India. My grandfather once said, when a certain course of action was urged upon him, that he did not wish history to say of him that he was the Viceroy who gave away India. I do not think that any of us here, even the most extreme, would like that verdict to be passed upon us. But the difference between the attitude I take up and the attitude I understand to be taken up by the mover of this Amendment is that, whereas he is afraid that India is going to be given away in his generation, I am very much afraid, as a younger man, that his policy will lead to India being given away in mine.
The policy that is implied by this Amendment is a possible policy. It is 438 quite obviously a policy which could be carried with a considerable measure of success, but it is obviously in the nature of things a temporary policy. You cannot go on for ever giving strict supervision and government to a nation and at the same time educating that nation in all the political ideals of our Western democracy. Sooner or later you are going to be confronted with a clash. The verdict of history is always that when it comes to that clash it is the Government that has to give way in the end. Therefore the question very simply before us this afternoon is this: Are we, when we abdicate our powers in India, as we are bound to do some time or other, going to leave behind us a happy and contented India, proud of her position and privileges, as a member of the Empire, or are we going to leave an India driven out by force, with all the ignominy that that implies and an India whose first act of independence will be to erase all traces of our occupation? That is the decision, as I see it, which we have to make this evening, and this Motion is our last chance, in my opinion, of achieving a right decision on that question.
I think that a very large measure of all the troubles that we have been experiencing in India of late has been due to a genuine belief that we do not intend to carry out the pledges we have made to India, and a belief—a genuine belief—that we are exploiting India, and have no intention of moving or advancing until we are forced to do so. It is my opinion, and not only my opinion but the opinion of every civil servant in India that I had the fortune of talking to, that there exists in India to-day a vast body of responsible and reasonable opinion that is waiting at this moment for our lead in the matter, and if we vote with the Government this evening I think that there is every chance that that body of opinion will give us a loyal co-operation in building up a new India within the Empire. But—and I hesitate very much before I make this point, and I do not wish it to be taken in any sense as a personal one—if we accept this Amendment, coupled as it is with names which in India, rightly or wrongly, are believed to be hostile to all Indian aspirations whatsoever, or indeed if we only adjourn the matter sine die, then that opinion, that 439 responsible educated opinion, will certainly be against us, and all possibility of a reasonable settlement, a possible settlement, will be lost in our generation.
If we do give this pledge to-night, I think we, in our turn, may demand something of India. We shall have done all that can reasonably be expected of us at this juncture, and if when Mr. Gandhi returns to India there is any recrudescence of these campaigns, of boycotting or of violence, then we shall have not only the support of the whole civilised world but of educated Indians in taking measures to stop these attempts to force us into an ill-considered advance. I think the Government should make it clear that there is all the difference in the world between a movement genuinely inspired by doubt as to our intentions and a movement whose one excuse will be gone when we pass this Motion.
I do not think that when we pass this Motion to-night we are committing ourselves in any way to the pace at, or the methods by which, our objective is to be attained. It seems to me it is simply-putting before us the ideal which is to be reached as quickly as possible, and so long as the pace is to go forward and not stand still or go back, and so long as the methods are acceptable to the House, I do not think the Government can ever come to us and say that because we agreed to the White Paper we must necessarily accept any particular method of advance. I say that for these reasons. I do not want to be at all dogmatic as to how this matter should be approached, but two things are quite obvious. The first is the difficulties to which the noble Marquess referred last night, and the second is the fact that the Round Table Conference has done nothing to solve and very little to diminish these difficulties. In view of these facts it seems to me to be quite obvious either that we are going to have a long trying period—trying to agree upon this Constitution and overcoming those difficulties peculiar to giving government at the centre with safeguards—or we are going to be forced ahead into a patched-up agreement which will satisfy no one.
I cannot conceive any Constitution more dangerous than government at the centre and safeguards if all parties do not loyally work together. It would be easy, if the Indians are not satisfied, for 440 an ill-intentioned man to make use of these safeguards and force the Viceroy to use his powers over and over again, and shelter behind the safeguards. In view of these great dangers, and in view of the fact that these difficulties are peculiar to central responsibility, would it not be better in the interest of India as a whole if we started in a humbler way with provincial autonomy? Would it not be better to give them that first and put off central responsibility, and when we do give it give far more real and wider responsibility? I know that at the present moment Indian opinion is hostile to that, but I ask the Government to keep an open mind on the question—not to shut the door—because it seems to me to be the most obvious, the easiest and quickest solution, and I think it is possible that if we pass the Motion tonight there is a chance that the fears and suspicions of Indians and Indian politicians would be so far removed that they themselves would come to realise that the best and quickest method of attaining their ideal is by taking a little first and a great deal more afterwards. If that is achieved I think that our Motion to-night will have done more to bring India and England into harmony than any other single act of the century.
§ LORD ISLINGTON
My Lords, it is for me a happy coincidence that I follow the noble Marquess. It was my privilege for years to be a very intimate friend of his father, and therefore it is my privilege—I hope he will allow me to discharge that privilege—of congratulating him upon his first and most admirable speech in this House. He certainly is carrying on the tradition of a great name connected with India, and we all hope that this House will have many opportunities in subsequent debates of hearing him. I am in the same kind of difficulty with regard to this debate and the Division which is to take place on it that I am sure many of your Lordships are in. I find it difficult to support, and in fact I should be opposed to supporting, the Amendment of my noble friend, not that I do not agree with a great deal he has said in the speech in which he proposed it to your Lordships, not that I do not agree with his public attitude in regard to India, and of those who are associated with him, very much, but I should be opposed to supporting this Amendment 441 solely for the reason that I know it would be construed in a particular way in India. There are many enemies of England in India who are only too glad to distort the truth and our intention, whatever it may be, and we have not the material at hand to be able to explain to them, like we have in this country, what we mean when we act on a Division.
When I have said that I do not altogether admire this White Paper. It has been my experience, as it has been the experience of many of your Lordships, to read many State documents. I cannot commend this White Paper as the most clear and the most able of those which it has been my privilege in the past to read. It appears to me either to say too much or too little. If it was confined to the earnest determination on the part of His Majesty's Government, supported by Parliament, to progress and advance in every genuine way that is possible self-government in the Provinces and at the centre for India, and if coupled with it there was a more enumeration of the safeguards that are to be linked with that determination, I do not think anybody would embarrass themselves in any sort of way by voting for a Motion of that character. It undoubtedly goes but superficially into a great many deep questions. My noble friend the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, who spoke last evening, I think impressed the House, as he did me, when he pointed out some of the anomalies and difficulties attached to the text of this White Paper. You can point them out ad infinitum, and it is very difficult, therefore, to realise how-some of these involved matters are going to be dealt with.
All, I believe, or practically all of us, are genuinely committed to advancing self-government for India. We all realise, especially those who have been connected with India, that you cannot have self-government still without certain safeguards. Reading through these safeguards with knowledge of the Act of 1919—and I speak with some familiarity with that Act because I took part in its formulation, line by line, as Under-Secretary for India—I recognise in these safeguards practically all of what are called the reserved subjects in the 1919 Act. Dyarchy, which was the statutory machinery for this Act, which divided the 442 Reserved Services and the Transferred Services, made it quite clear and simple; although I have no doubt it was difficult and embarrassing to administer, it made quite clear from a statutory point of view the functions that were in the hands of the Imperial authority and the functions that were transferred to the self-governing Indian authority. I understand that dyarchy is to be abolished; it has proved on the whole a failure; it is a clumsy method. But we have a long list of the safeguards. They represent nearly all the important functions of Government. I will not enumerate them, because they have been given to you more than once in this debate. But I agree with my noble friend Lord Salisbury in feeling very great difficulty, with the removal of dyarchy, as to what machinery is going to implement the effective administration of these most important functions. Of course the White Paper is only a cursory document; it is only superficial, it deals only with headings, and you could hardly expect to have the details in it. But I do think that your Lord ships will be justified in wanting to know how, with the removal of dyarchy, these extremely important functions, upon which depend the security, the safety, the life and interests of all the people of India, are hereafter going to be carried on.
My noble friend the Under-Secretary of State for India has made two very important speeches in this House, one in the course of this debate and one last week. Taken in combination they represent on broad lines the policy of His Majesty's Government in regard to India. I would like to say a word about the speech of the noble Marquess last week because it was an extremely important one. He naturally did not allude to it in the speech which he delivered in favour of the scheme of reform, but what he unfolded to the House—and it was very satisfactory to us to hear—was that the administration in India is going to be a good deal tightened up, and that you are going to have a strict and firm administration (and that I lay great stress on) as distinguished from a harsh administration. Violation of the law, danger to human existence, such as exists to-day in India, are going to be severely and promptly dealt with, and I think that is very satisfactory. It is all the more 443 satisfactory because my slight knowledge of India convinces me that, of all countries, you cannot hope to have a successful development of self-government unless you have it implanted in a tranquil soil. Turbulence, murder, danger to human existence, robbery and strife—they are all hostile to the development of self-government; in fact, they make it a practical impossibility. Therefore not only are a firm, strong Government and the advance of reform compatible quantities, but one is essential to the other.
The Lord Chancellor in his speech said that the initiative in the next few years depends upon this country and the people of this country. I agree with that as far as it goes, but it is not a complete story. As far as the removal and the mitigation of safeguards are concerned with the steady evolutionary movement of self-government, the initiative must be in this country, and I am sure, in accordance with all the proper safeguards, all the proper security, the Government will not be slow to meet that demand. That is where the initiative in this country comes in. But it is not merely the initiative in this country that is necessary, if this most difficult of all difficult schemes is to be carried to a successful issue. The initiative rests with the political people of India. I want to emphasise that as much as I can. We are working at a terrible disadvantage in introducing into this Asiatic country, a great subcontinent of the world, a Western system of self-government, whilst we are trying to implement it and foster it from this country, and we cannot do it to any appreciable extent in India.
In this country when we have our Elections, with a highly-developed political system, as in the late Election—noble Lords of the Opposition will not agree with this, perhaps, but I am only bringing this out as an instance—with the extraordinary modern machinery we possess, with the B.B.C. and the Press, and all the rest of it, we can not only explain anything that is not at once understood by large sections of the public, but we can, through our statesmen, whoever they may be and to whichever Party they may belong, through the wireless and the Press, instruct the public in such a way that they can go to the Election fully conversant with the issues of that Elec- 444 tion. Therefore we have a very informed electorate in this country. Now we are importing this same kind of thing into India and they have none of this apparatus at their disposal. The Statutory Commission, under Sir John Simon, suggested, and probably quite properly, that the electorate should be increased, but how many of these people are going to be really informed as to what they are going to vote for at an Election? It is a popular thing to say that a great many of them are illiterates, some are Untouchables, and so on. My experience is that a great many of these simple country people in the mofussil of India may be illiterate and may be very simple, but they are quite practical, sensible men in their way; they are industrious men, peaceful family men, and quite competent to have an opinion on what is best for themselves and for their own welfare. And therefore you have to have some arrangement made in India, if you are to have a successful self-government, by which the Indian electorate can become informed of the issues that stand before them at their Election.
What have we had in the past, in the last ten or twenty years? We have had a political India, but the weight and influence of that political India has been to embarrass, to impede, and to deflect all our interests and all our desires to participate and to assist in the self-government of India. If you are going to have successful self-government in India I venture to say that you must have an organised body of opinion in that country, determined with us to see that our scheme can be prosecuted with success. I would appeal to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House and to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, both of whom are prominent members of His Majesty's Government, to use their very best efforts to induce political India—I mean by "political India'' sane, moderate, sensible, political Indians who see with us, who have been at the Round Table, and many thousands more in that country who are experienced in politics—to come out to participate courageously and actively, and to co-operate with our aspirations and desires, because it is only by that means, in my humble judgment, that you will bring about a successful issue of self government for India. In conclusion, I do not feel disposed to vote 445 against this Motion. I should feel rather disposed to vote for an adjournment if there was not a danger of that being misconstrued in India.
§ LORD ISLINGTON
If I could be satisfied on that I should vote for adjournment, because there is a great deal in this Paper which I do not understand sufficiently. But that is a less evil, in my judgment, than the evil, if it does exist, of our attitude being misconstrued. Anyway, I shall listen with interest to what the noble Viscount who leads the House may say in reply to this debate.
§ EARL PEEL
My Lords, may I be permitted to add my personal congratulations to the noble Marquess who spoke this afternoon for the clearness and lucidity with which he addressed your Lordships? We know his hereditary connection with India and when he spoke of self-government and of safeguards the thought came that it may be that at some future time he may be one of those who will have to apply in person those safeguards in India. I am spared the trouble, in the few words I have the honour of addressing to your Lordships, of going too fully into the history of the past ten years because previous speakers have dealt with that subject with a wealth and profusion of historical detail that I think I need not emulate. Anything I say, perhaps, may be considered to be said in the light of all those different Declarations and statements which have been made: by successive Governments in the past and by which our action is so much controlled in the present.
I should like to make one observation upon those Declarations in connection with a statement made by my noble friend Lord Brentford. It is true that these statements made in the past have been made with certain reservations. It is an unfortunate part of any general declaration that is made that it is the generality of the declaration which is remembered while the conditions are too often forgotten. May I say (and it is the only thing I will say about myself) that when I was Secretary of State for India I did not make one single general declaration because I knew that it would be in that way misinterpreted. It is true, no doubt, as to the legal position, as stated by my noble friend, that Par- 446 liament retains, and retains in full measure, the right to regulate the pace of advance or to reduce the rate of progress in Indian self-government. Having said that, I am never quite sure that it-carries you very much further because, of course, Parliament in making up its mind has to be influenced and controlled, shall I say? by the history of the past and by all the different Declarations that have been made.
I am well aware (and this is the only point of history that I wish to allude to) with regard to the sittings of the Round Table Conference, that there was much discussion at the time whether it was a question of a change of procedure or a change of policy. I do not want to quibble about words. In my judgment it was more than a question of procedure; it was really a change of policy. It is obvious that if you call together all these representative men from the whole of India, if you ask them to a free Conference where they are able to discuss all these problems with complete freedom, the attitude of Parliament is bound to be changed; because that fact, alone is one of the regulative facts which Parliament has to take into consideration when it is trying to decide upon its policy. No doubt it must have been one of its results that the Statutory Commission, the Simon Report as it is called, has been thrust into the background. That may, or may not, have been foreseen by those who founded or set the Conference on foot. But while I cannot claim the long experience of a noble friend below me, I have sometimes observed that statesmen do not always see even the immediate results of the proposals which they put before the public.
I am not going to assess the value of the Conference because it must be differently judged by persons according to the approach from which they move towards it and the views they entertain on this subject. It certainly gave immense satisfaction to those who thought they had been somewhat slighted, wrongly as I think, by the fact that no Indians were included in the membership of the Simon Commission. It did, of course, much more than throw, as it did throw, into great relief the tremendous complexity of the problems on which we are engaged. I think we were, perhaps, aware of many 447 of those things. As the noble Marquess said yesterday, we are in some sense a House of experts. I think it did bring home to those men who came from India a fresh range of view of the difficulties to which we were exposed in dealing with Indian self-government, and, perhaps, some fresh sympathy with the problems that we on our part had to meet.
Indeed, I approach this subject, I may say, in no spirit of easy optimism. I realise the difficulties with which we are confronted on both sides. Listening a day or two ago to my noble friend Lord Irwin, who, after all, knows more than any of us about the immediate problems in India, I did not think he spoke with any degree or in any style of facile optimism. The whole of his speech was shot through by a profound sense of the difficulties of the situation. Let me allude to one difficulty—that is, the extraordinary rapidity of the growth in different sections of new views which are arising in India almost every day. One of the difficulties I have found in coming to a decision in my own mind on Indian problems is that the factors are changing so rapidly and that fresh points of view are constantly being developed. There is no country in the world where the different strata of society look upon the same proposition from so many different points of view. My noble friend Lord Dufferin dwelt very forcibly upon that reaction against Western ideas that is growing up so rapidly among the younger men of India. I did not myself notice the same reaction among the members of the Conference itself. On the contrary, I found among those who are older that they sat for the most part entranced in the highest admiration of those Parliamentary institutions which perhaps have lost something of their glamour in the West. Then we have that curious cross-current cutting across our deliberations of what exactly Dominion status means. We were not quite sure whether it was a declaration, or title of honour, or description of a Constitution, and we began to measure changes and reforms not so much by reference to necessities in India as by whether they were able to take the shape of that Dominion status which became one of the phrases we are all trying to escape.
I think I can most usefully express my views on one or two subjects by doing 448 what I think no, one has done in this discussion—offering one or two criticisms of the document itself. May I start with an observation or two about what was said by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury; and may I congratulate the noble Marquess on being so far returned to health that he was able to make so vigorous a speech yesterday? I am not quite sure whether he altogether did justice to himself. He spoke of his long experience, but I think he may add to that experience some power of intuition because he said he had not read some of the documents issued by the Federal Structure Committee, and all I can say is that he showed the most remarkable grasp of their contents. I hardly think, if he had spent another two months in their study, he could have made a more forcible criticism of the proposals therein contained.
May I try to deal with one or two points he raised? I think this sentence has been rather overlooked among those who read the Round Table Conference Report:.… I made it plain that, subject to defined conditions. His Majesty's late Government were prepared to recognise the principle of responsibility of the Executive to the Legislature, if both were constituted on an All-India federal basis.I wish to lay stress on the words "on an All-India federal basis." In the earlier stages of the Conference we thought we had done something when, as it were, we switched off the question as it was left by the Simon Commission—that is to say, the development of self-government with a Central Assembly representing British India alone—on to the larger question of the combination of the States and of the Provinces in that Joint Assembly, because we left behind the old and, some of them, bad traditions connected with the old system and were creating, as it were, a new Assembly with new traditions. The crux of the problem, of course, is this. So far as my own view was concerned I was entirely opposed to the responsibility at the centre provided you merely had autonomy in the Provinces and a Central Assembly for British India. My views were modified when we found large numbers of the Princes were ready to join in that federal system and take part in the -work of the Assembly itself.
449 They made it—I will not say a condition, but they indicated dearly that they were not prepared to enter into this federal system unless there was some degree of responsibility at the centre, because they felt that in that way only would they be able to have adequate in-fluence over those federal subjects which were to be entrusted to that Central Federal Government. They did not think if was enough unless they were able to make their voices felt in both Houses of the new federal structure. That is an immense fact which anybody considering the constitutional development of India would have to deal with. I attach enormous importance to the entry of the Princes into that Federation, because it altered the whole picture then being drawn of development in India. Your Lordships know well the history of those Princes, and their services to this country and—may I add without offending noble Lords opposite?—their very good Conservative feelings. Now anybody who has the most superficial knowledge of India knows that so curiously intertwined are the States with the Provinces that it is inconceivable that you can have proper government in India unless the relations between those two great sections are properly defined.
I have watched for some years now the necessity of working with the Princes in the government of India, and in the interest of good government and business government alone that is one of the ends towards which we should move. It therefore becomes of immense importance to consider: Are you going to refuse the co-operation of the Princes and confine your government to British India or accept such co-operation subject to certain concessions in the common task of ruling India? We are charged, I think, with committing ourselves too much to the principle of responsibility at the centre, but after all, some party has to begin, and if the Princes say those are the conditions on which we join, is it too much to say that you are prepared to admit some application of the principle of responsibility at the centre provided all other subjects are organised to your liking? You had the choice of saying that in no circumstances would you admit the principle of responsibility at the centre, but the inevitable result would have followed—and that is the problem 450 which must be faced by those who criticise responsibility at the centre—that you would not have had in this great task the co-operation of the Princes of India.
If I have established that point may I move on to the next, which is that if you admit the principle of responsibility is that to be entire responsibility for all subjects or limited in respect of some? It is obvious that if you push aside, as I think you should, the first assumption, you must get some division, but if you are to admit any responsibility it seems to me you must face the difficulties that must arise from these divisions of responsibility at the centre and that you do present to those who love dilemmas a number of difficult and troublesome dilemmas which have to be solved before the whole picture can be presented to your Lordships. It is true that heavy duties must be thrown upon a Viceroy under the sort of Constitution we have examined. But enormous duties are now cast upon a Viceroy who is trying to govern India, and if your Lordships have followed the difficulties the Viceroy has had with the Assembly in India you would be rather careful I think, to balance the difficulties on the one side and on the other. In listening to the speech of my noble friend below me, I was not quite sure whether he had really given full value in his criticisms to the fact that we were entirely departing from the old Assembly and moving on to a new Assembly differently constituted. Is it not reasonable that, if you have the co-operation of the Ministers in that work, the number of problems of that kind presented to the Viceroy will be far smaller than it would be if he simply had to face the old difficulty of the old Assembly? That applies to the general criticisms of these difficulties, because, if I am at all right in these matters, there will not be an isolated Viceroy having to fight or contest his Assembly alone, but a Viceroy largely supported by a large section of the population and he will find them a great lever if he has to use those special powers that are entrusted to him.
Let me take this one example. The subject is so enormous that I can only deal with it with great brevity. Take the question of minorities. My noble friend very pertinently asked how, in a Constitution so varied with a certain amount 451 of responsibility at the centre and greater freedom of government in India, you are going to ensure that the Viceroy has power to enforce his will and to protect the minorities. Having watched all these things very closely for the last ten years, one of the greatest changes that has taken place is this. It may be for evil as well as for good and may be because there is a relaxation of the control of Great Britain. Those minorities—although it is absurd to call them minorities when they are numbered in tens of millions—have enormously increased in importance and in the position which they occupy in India. You have had the singular exhibition that during the Conference itself the representatives of the depressed classes, hitherto so unvocal, stated their case with all the precision of some eminent lawyer in this House. The second change is that not only have these great minorities, numbering to-day 100,000,000 or 120,000,000 people, half the population in India, become more conscious of their duties and obligations but—and the movement is rather recent— they are conscious that they must unite together against the great predominating majority, and those united minorities, forming half India, may properly be considered as having considerable powers of protecting themselves. In that respect the duties of any Viceroy are greatly lightened because these minorities, some of them small minorities, united together will have a strength hitherto not displayed in the great organisation of the Indian polity. So much as a very brief word about that question. There are an infinite number of questions involved in it, but I can say no more.
I want to face two other points in that White Paper, and one is the question of autonomy in the Provinces. I agree with the view that you should first set up your policy on which the great structure of Federation should stand. In every other Federation of course—and precedent may be loved in this House—the units have been constructed and have lived for some time before they united together to form a Federation. It is not merely habit but common sense that, if you have these units fairly constructed and working, they themselves should have the best power and best knowledge in order to shape the great structure on which Federation can be built. I know very 452 well the reasons why the Government have not felt that difficulty in the White Paper. The reasons given have, I confess, never convinced me although I have spoken to many of my Indian friends on the subject. They are objections raised not on statesmanship but on suspicion. They think: "If you are going to have autonomy in the Provinces, even though it may be coupled with undertakings in the Bill which includes it, we may be put off for some time from that which we want, a Central Government with responsibility at the centre." But, after the proofs given by this country and by Parliament that they are determined to fulfil their pledges, there might be a little less suspicion among those Indian politicians of our intentions here.
I see also that there is a growing movement in India to realise that anyhow, whatever happens, federation must be slow to establish and that you have first of all to set up the self-governing institutions in the Provinces before you take the larger and the fuller step. I am glad to see that in the White Paper the Government have themselves reserved their opinion upon that subject and not proposed a complete and final decision. There is another immense advantage about that. If we do set up this provincial autonomy, you must anyhow, so far as the Provinces are concerned, have some settlement of the communal issue. I should like to pass on to that point as I have one question which I might ask the noble Viscount on that particular subject, because this White Paper goes on to say that in that event His Majesty's Government would be compelled to apply a provisional scheme, since they are determined that even this disability, want of agreement between the communities, should not be permitted to be a bar to progress.
It is well known to your Lordships that there were two great efforts made during the Conference to bring about some agreement on a national basis between these great communities. On one occasion we appeared to move very close to a settlement and the Prime Minister stated in another place that it was almost a question of one representative of the Sikhs, or some other close question of that kind, which prevented a settlement. I differ from the Prime Minister in that respect because my belief was—and it 453 proved to be right—that the closer you appeared to get to a settlement on the communal issue the further you were from it. The reason was that when you approached a settlement the heads of those great communities, knowing the tremendous interests behind them, could hardly take the resolute decision to come to a settlement which might bind their millions of followers in India. Another attempt was made. I myself am very anxious that there should be no disposition on the part of His Majesty's Government to impose a settlement of that kind on India. We, of course, are very much accustomed to compromise in this country. Lord Irwin will agree with me that compromise is less customary in India itself. Whatever settlement in that way was imposed by this country or by the Government of this country, would be attacked with the utmost vigour and constant virulance from both sides; indeed I have often felt that the capacity to settle this great question among them-selves is a test of the capacity of those two great communities to live together and to work a great Constitution in India. It is so much more than a mere settlement or agreement. It is the regulation for years to come of the relations that obtain between two great parallel civilisations, curiously and variously dispersed throughout the whole of India.
I should like to know what exactly these words mean, that the Government may be compelled to apply a provisional scheme, because they suggest that they are going themselves to enforce a scheme of their own making. May I say that that note seems to me quite in contradiction of all the other policy of the Government? We hope that this great settlement will be the result of agreement, peaceful agreement, between the different sections of India, but here, on one of the most tremendous questions with which we are faced, the Government say they wish to apply a provisional settlement. I know probably what is behind their minds. They are afraid of the charge that they may be using these communal differences as a lever and excuse for avoiding the promotion of self-government in India. I think this Government, or any Government, have fairly dispersed such an accusation made against themselves. I think the most suspicious persons in India must feel that 454 everything has been done that a Government can do to do away with the communal difficulty. I will only make this minor comment on the subject. I do not apply my criticism with the same force to a settlement in the Provinces, though there, I hope, there will be no settlement imposed, but, if opinion to this extent changes, and it is found possible to apply this autonomy to the Provinces before the centre has been set up—and it may be that it might have to be done Province by Province, because, as your Lordships know the details of this settlement differ in every Province, being probably most difficult in the Punjab and a little less difficult in Bengal—I hope, if I may say so, that the Government will proceed with very great caution in that matter.
There are only two other points I should like to refer to before I sit down. One is, I do commend the Government, if I may say so, for having so determinedly laid down that they will put a stop in Bengal, at any rate, to the murder and disturbance of which we have heard so much, and from which that Province has suffered so much in the last few months. Certainly the regulations they have made are very rigid and very stiff regulations. I may say how entirely I agree with that policy, and how miserable a gift to India would be a further grant of self-government if it was granted to Provinces that were in a state of chaos and disruption. But if we have any obligations I think the obligations upon those who took part in that Conference on India are equally great. It unfortunately happens that the more moderate people are fond of subsiding into a curious lassitude—I will not say indifference, but anyhow they become rather retiring characters when they get back to India—and they leave the more violent and regulated elements to assert themselves strongly. I think we might appeal to those who have so admirably, in many cases, argued the problems and difficulties of the new Constitution, that when they go back to India they may assert themselves rather more strongly, so that we may know it is not only the extremists of the Congress Party who may be vocal, and may hear some strong expressions of opinion from the more moderate elements of 455 India upon whom largely the new Constitution will rest if such a Constitution is to be set up.
The only question remaining, it seems to me, is what attitude am I to take on the Amendment and on the White Paper? I am very sorry indeed that I have to differ from my noble friend Lord Lloyd in my attitude towards his Amendment. Nobody has a greater admiration than myself for the disinterested zeal and devotion that he always displays in dealing with Indian matters, but the words in themselves, as so often happens when they are drawn up by those who are skilled in these Parliamentary matters, are rather harmless and rather inviting. There is the pleasant suggestion that we may have a little more time. Time may always be needed to consider these profound problems, but we must look at the Amendment in the light of the situation in India and what has happened elsewhere. You have had recently a dominant vote in the House if Commons supporting this White Paper. I do not wish to avoid a course merely because I think it might be misinterpreted, but if this debate is carried over for a couple of months, or if a decision were delayed, I cannot help thinking it would be regarded in many quarters in India as a reversal in some ways of the vote that was obtained in another place.
May I say one word in conclusion upon the White Paper itself? The White Paper has been a good deal criticised, and I do not necessarily bind myself to agree with all its provisions, but I would like to state the issue in this way. If all the, conditions—and there are many and very searching conditions—that are binding in the White Paper have been fulfilled, would your Lordships, or some of your Lordships, still say, in spite of that, you are hostile to the development of federal institutions in India coupled with some degree of responsibility at the centre? If you say that, then anybody who feels in that way ought to vote against the White Paper. If, on the other hand, you feel that subject to all the Declarations that have been made during the last ten or twelve years, to the whole current of events and to the movement of feeling in India,, to the development of that self-consciousness of which we may not always approve, and certainly cannot approve in all its forms 456 but which is undoubtedly a growing and developing fact—if you think that when those conditions are fulfilled you might still assent to that general principle with every reservation about detail, I think one is almost bound then to give a general vote for the White Paper. Those seem to me to be the two issues and I regret I cannot agree with my noble friend Lord Lloyd.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
My Lords, I do not rise to follow at length the speech which has just been made, and which comes from a member of your Lordships' House so specially informed on this particular subject, but I do rise to make an appeal to the Government as to the position in which they are putting independent members of the House to-day who deeply desire so far as they can to support the Government, and who also are most anxious to avoid any sort of disunion of public opinion in this country in regard to India. Honestly I do not believe Parliament has ever been asked to give such a vote as your Lordships have been asked to give to-night. Look at the position. We have had speeches of the highest possible value from recent Viceroys, including the remarkable speech of my noble friend Lord Irwin. We have had authoritative speeches from members of the Government. They have all directed themselves to the necessity which the noble Earl, Lord Peel, emphasised in concluding his speech of our not being backward in recognizing the new conditions which much obtain in India; but they have one and all avoided the main point on which we are asked to vote—namely, the White Paper, and a fact brought forward from the Front Bench, that it is not only a statement of policy but also any number of arguments; that it adumbrates all sorts of eventualities to which for the first time in the history of this House you are asked to give your approval by your vote this evening.
Before I take the course which I propose to take at the end of my speech let me ask your Lordships to give attention to one point which has caused much trouble to the mind of Lord Peel. Here we have paragraph 13. After the recital of certain difficulties, the Prime Minister says:We shall soon find that our endeavours to proceed with our plans are held up (in- 457 deed they have been held up already) if you cannot present us with a settlement Acceptable to all patties as the foundations upon which to build. In that event His Majesty's Government would be compelled to apply a provisional scheme ….Later on he goes on to say:….it will add considerably to the difficulties of any Government here which shares our views of an Indian, Constitution, and it will detract from the place which that Constitution will occupy amongst those of other nations. I therefore beg of you once more to take further opportunities to meet together and present us with an agreement.I ask this question, and I ask for an answer "Aye" or "No" from the Government. Does, this mean that in default of agreement in India, or amongst the very varied classes who must be parties to this agreement, Great Britain is going to frame a Constitution and force it on India—force it on reluctant minorities and possibly even on reluctant majorities against the wishes and without the support of those for whom this great bounty is intended? I have asked privately members of the Government. Some of them interpret this clause as only applying to the question of minorities. Others tell me that it is applicable to the whole question of the Constitution. Was Parliament ever asked to give an absolutely conclusive vote on a question on which there is grave doubt as to what the words involved actually mean? I am not meticulous about words, but your Lordships will remember that you are not considering what interpretation will be put upon those words in this House, but what interpretation will be put upon them throughout the length and breadth of India, and I venture to say it may terribly influence future negotiations.
May I be allowed to say one word upon what fell from the noble Marquess, Lord Reading I He told us that we need not be too anxious as to the final nature of the vote to be given to-day. He said that nothing will be done until a Bill is presented to Parliament, which will be the Constitution of India, and that every one of your Lordships may in this matter, until he sees the Bill, consider himself uncommitted. I cannot speak with Indian authority as so many noble Lords here can do, but I will undertake to say that there is not one man, whatever his authority is in India, 458 who will gainsay me in what I am now about to state. When the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms were first brought forward I had many consultations with the late Lord Curzon on the subject. I do not believe that in those days there was any man more conversant with conditions in India than the late Lord Curzon, and he said to me: "Remember, our difficulty in dealing with these reforms in this House is that what has once been promised to India by the Viceroy and Secretary of State can never be overthrown in this House without the charge of breach of faith." Surely, that applies still more to a declaration by this House on a White Paper which is admitted to be the policy of both Houses? I do not think the noble Marquess will persist in that. We may talk of small amendments, but if the noble Marquess supposes for one moment that the hands of this House will not be tied after it has once passed this Resolution, not only as to the main items of a Bill but as to the interpretation which may be put upon it by an Indian minority, I think he is wrong.
Before I sit down I would like to mention one point on which I have a little personal experience. Lord Peel asked what would be the effect upon minorities, or those who differed, of a scheme being put forward for a Constitution by the authorities in this country if there was failure to come to an agreement. Those who have had to deal indirectly with the framing of a Constitution for Ireland know that exactly the same difficulty which has arisen there would arise a hundredfold in India. No Oriental wants to take personal constructive responsibility. If he can escape it and put it upon somebody else, whom he may subsequently shoot at, he is willing to do so. The noble Earl, the late Secretary of State, says that has been the difficulty throughout in all these negotiations, and I think it is, therefore, the height of unreasonableness to aim at the very beginning to take a course which you may be forced to take at the end, and to tell India that if she cannot agree herself you are going to frame a Constitution and force it upon her in fulfilment of the pledges you are now giving. Think, my Lords, how all important is the decision which you are asked to give. The noble Marquess below me said that 459 this was the most tremendous constitutional experiment ever attempted in human history. Is that to be based on the uncertainty of six pages, however well expressed, of argument and rhetoric?
I appeal to the Government to give us a concrete Resolution. I am not moved by the feeling that by asking for that there may be a short delay. Let the Government come forward with a concrete Resolution, and I believe there are many members of this House who would put aside their own views of the danger of Darting with authority at the centre. One particularly distinguished man in this House, with great Indian experience and knowledge, made a tremendous appeal yesterday. I have seen Lord Inchcapc described as having had the most remarkable commercial career of any man who ever came from Calcutta. He told us yesterday:It is my belief that were the British to give up government of India at the centre, chaos, civil war, and slaughter would follow, and the country would go to the dogs.That is a pretty serious indictment. I am not saying that we must all accept it. I admit that there is great authority against it. But at all events let us proceed on something definite, and not on the indefinite statements in a White Paper for which I believe there is no precedent in Parliamentary history, and as to which I earnestly assure your Lordships that many people who are not here to-day because they do not wish to appear to be opposing the Government in a settlement, have the greatest doubt and uncertainty. For that reason, and because I feel that haste is the worst thing possible, and that we need some period for consideration, I will ask the Government to reconsider the form in which they ask us to give this assent, and I move that this debate be adjourned until February 16 next.
§ Moved, That the debate be adjourned until February 16 next.—(The Earl of Midleton.)
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
My Lords, I desire to say in my opening remarks that the Government can have no possible complaint, as my noble friend Lord Lloyd seemed to fear, either at the Amend- 460 ment which he has moved or at the fact that the proposals in the White Paper have been subjected to criticism during the debate of the last three days. When we invited this House to endorse the principles in that White Paper we invited the criticisms of this House; and we should greatly deplore if it were true that any member of this House refrained from, expressing his views or from giving utterance to any misgivings out of a sense merely of loyalty to the National Government. Still less can I complain of the tone of the speech in which my noble friend moved his Amendment. The issues which are involved are issues of great gravity. It is only right that those who have opinions, those who, like my noble friend, have had experience of the Government of India, should freely state what is in their minds. And I think it is true to state that, in a debate which has now lasted for three days, almost without exception the speeches which have been delivered have been delivered with a sense, which I think we must all have, that we are addressing a wider audience than that which is assembled within this Chamber, and that the language we use may have repercussions throughout the great Empire of India, and even throughout the whole British Empire.
But I hope that in the observations which it will be my duty to submit to your Lordships this afternoon I shall be able to satisfy your Lordships that the policy which we are inviting the House to endorse has not the dangers which some of your Lordships have seemed to find in it, and that in truth there is, I do not like to say a complete misunderstanding, but at any rate a very grave misconception, both as to the policy embodied in the White Paper and as to the verdict which this House is invited to express this afternoon. This is no occasion for meticulously weighing the exact language of an Amendment, but it is more than a verbal criticism when I point out that the Amendment invites your Lordships to say that the moment has not arrived at which His Majesty's Government "can pronounce a final judgment regarding the solution of the problem" of the government of India, and when I remind your Lordships that that is nut what you are invited to do 461 this afternoon at all. I agree with my noble friend that this is not the time at which this House can pronounce a final judgment regarding the solution of the problem. And I do not ask any member of this House to pronounce that final judgment, I would agree with any one who said that there is not available the material for such a judgment to be pronounced.
What are the arguments with which my noble friend sought to support his Amendment? He said himself that there were three. First, that there was too much haste in asking this House to reach a decision; secondly, that he objected to the method of what he called government by Declaration; and, thirdly, and as he truly said the most, important of all, that lie objected to the merits of the policy which was set out in the White Paper. I want, if I may, to deal with those three questions in that order, and, in dealing with them, to answer, so far as I may, the criticisms and the questions which have been addressed to mo during the debate.
First, then, the charge that we are in too much of a hurry, that we are asking your Lordships to pronounce a verdict too soon. If the White Paper were a document which for the first time propounded a. policy which had not been the subject of any previous consideration or discussion, which had no history behind it, it might well be said that there are many implications in it, many assumptions in it, which we should desire further time to investigate. But that is not really the position. Let me remind your Lordships of something at any rate of the history of the last two years. We had in 1919—both sides have reminded us of it—the Government of India Act, which declared the acceptance by this country of the principle of responsible government in India, and, of course, as my noble friend truly said, reserved to itself the pace at which the progress could be made towards that government. We had next, in accordance with the Government of India Act, the Simon Commission, which spent two years in investigating on the spot the problems which had arisen, and which gave us, if I may be allowed to say so in the presence of two of its members, one of the most remarkable State documents which I think has been produced within the 462 lifetime of any one of us. It gave us a most lucid summary and a most careful criticism of the history of the working of the Constitution. It gave us a wonderful picture of the political state of India at this time. Then it went on in the second volume to give us the unanimous, recommendations of a Commission drawn from all Parties of both Houses of Parliament, with regard to the progress which we should make and the direction in which that progress should be achieved.
That Commission was followed, at the suggestion of the Commission itself, by what is known as the Round Table Conference—a Conference which took place, first of all, some fourteen months ago, at which all Parties in this country were represented by their delegates, at which all but one, of the Parties and interests in India had representatives; a Conference at which months were spent in careful and detailed discussion, a Conference which commenced, as the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, reminded us, with that revolutionary change in the situation created by the declaration of the Ruling Princes of India that they were willing to come into a federal scheme; a Conference which produced the Report published last January, and which was concluded with the speech of the then Prime Minister in which he defined the policy of the Government, of which he was the chief. That was followed in turn by a fresh meeting of the Round Table Conference beginning some two months ago. At that adjourned meeting there was again the same representation as before, but there was added to its membership a representative of the great Party which had stood out of the previous meeting—the Party known as the Congress Party in India. It was at the conclusion of that second Conference that the Declaration was made which is now the subject matter of the debate in your Lordships' House. Whatever else can be said, surely it cannot be said that we are in a hurry in dealing with a matter which has a history like that behind it.
I should have been content, I think, to leave that objection where it is but for the speech of my noble friend Lord Salisbury yesterday afternoon. I hope the noble Marquess will realise that I am not speaking in any spirit of affectation or false modesty when I say that I find 463 the greatest difficulty in opposing anything which he brings forward in this House. I have been accustomed ever since I have been here to follow him implicitly. I have acquired a habit, which I believe is shared by a great number of my noble friends, of relying on his advice and of finding that advice wise and statesmanlike in every respect. But I listened yesterday afternoon to a speech which in brilliance and in effect has probably never been surpassed even by the noble Marquess himself. It is with a very real sense of difficulty and diffidence that I attempt to controvert some of the arguments which he put forward, and I hope he will believe that when I attempt to contradict or to criticise anything he said I am doing it with very real regret and a very real sense of his own greater experience and statesmanship.
The noble Marquess told us that he allied himself to the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Lloyd, that the time had not yet arrived for passing the Resolution which we have submitted to your Lordships' House. He said that we have not got the information. He went on to say "I have not read the Reports." And he averred, I hope for once without quite his old accuracy, that he thought there were not five members of your Lordships' House who had read the Reports of the Federal Structural Committee and of the Round Table Conference. I hope very much that my noble friend was mistaken in that estimate. At any rate it is not quite fair to say that we have not got the information if what you really mean is that we have had the information for eleven months and have never taken the trouble to read it.
I know very well that the noble Marquess has had many preoccupations to take up his time. I know very well, because I have been associated with him as a colleague, that there is no one more conscientious in reading Cabinet documents. But here is a document of first-class importance, the Report of the Indian Round Table Conference, which was published and circulated, I suppose, to every member of your Lordships' House as a Command Paper in January last; at any rate to every one who asked for it. It was included in the little pink paper which we all know, and it was circulated to anyone who took the trouble to ask for 464 it. That paper mentions the Reports of the Sub-Committees and of the Conference itself. For those who want to make a more thorough investigation there is the Blue-book which was published at the same time and which contains the detailed reports of the discussions upon which this document was ultimately produced. The material at any rate has been available for long enough. My noble friend will forgive me when I point out that the two matters which he selected as illustrations of the points upon which we have no information are matters with regard to which he could hardly have made that criticism had he read the Reports to which I have referred.
He said first of all—and he said it with great effect—How are you going to deal with the difficulty of the Princes being in the Federal Chamber when the Federal Chamber comes to deal with the domestic questions of British India? He reminded us of how, in Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule Bill, the so-called in-and-out proposals had led to infinite difficulty and had been finally buried in ridicule. My noble friend will forgive me if I point out that there is no real analogy between those two positions. What was happening in the case of the Home Rule Bill—we are not, of course, discussing the merits of it—was that, having an Imperial Parliament in London which dealt with all the domestic affairs of England and Scotland there was to be given to Ireland a Parliament which should deal with its own affairs. At the same time there should remain in the Imperial Parliament some members representing Ireland, and it was said: "This is an impossible position because you are giving Ireland the right to have home rule with regard to her own affairs and you are bringing, at the same time, into the Imperial Parliament Irishmen representing Ireland to deal with the domestic affairs of Great Britain." That is not really a fair analogy with what is happening here.
In the case of India what we are seeking to do in the Federation is to set up a Federal Assembly which is to deal with certain federal subjects affecting the whole of India, and we are leaving domestic subjects to be dealt with by the autonomous Provinces or States which make up the Federation. We have, for instance, the Ruling Princes who will continue to deal in their own way, in 465 their own States, with all such matters as are not made federal subjects, and we shall have in the case of British India a series of autonomous Provinces set up, an the Simon Commission recommends, to deal with the domestic affairs of those Provinces. There will be only a very small area at all in which any matter affecting British India can be discussed in a Federal Assembly which does not also affect the Ruling Princes. The only questions which come to my mind are some questions of Criminal Law, in which it is suggested that the Ruling Princes would prefer to keep their administration separate while the autonomous Provinces would prefer a common system throughout the Provinces. Even that one exception, which is very different from the situation in Great Britain or Ireland, was elaborately discussed in tie Round Table Conference. There are pages of the Blue-book which deal with it and there is a paragraph which elaborately explains the line on which a solution is expected to be found.
The other illustration was that of commercial discrimination which, as my noble friend truly said, was a subject of discussion at the Round Table Conference. But when my noble friend said that the Indian Legislature in future would have the power to put on a tariff against this country, that is not an instance of commercial discrimination. There is that power to-day. It is not by virtue of any proposed Constitution that the Indian Legislature of the future will have the power to impose a tariff against this country. It has that power and is using it. Commercial discrimination means something quite different. It means the risk that people foresaw, that when there was responsibility given to the Indian Legislature it might be abused to create discrimination against Englishmen resident in India as compared with native-born Indians. That is a matter which required safeguarding. Again the Round Table Conference pointed out the difficulties to which the matter gave rise. The discussion was resumed at the Round Table Conference in September and there is in the fourth Report, a Report in which the Committee are glad to be able to record a substantial measure of agreement on commercial discrimination. The Committee included I representatives of the various Indian 466 Parties, if I may use the phrase, and it was equally representative of the Europeans affected. So that with regard to commercial discrimination the instance which has been given is not one of commercial discrimination at all, and is not affected by the proposals of federation. The real commercial discrimination which has to be guarded against has already got on a long way towards solution.
I think that perhaps the noble Marquess is not being quite fair when he says to us: "I have not read your documents or your Reports, the opportunity has not come my way, or I have not had the leisure, and therefore I ask this House to say that His Majesty's Government is wrong in the policy which it submits, or at least that this House should refuse to endorse that policy or allow you to proceed with a policy based on material available for months past and commanding a large measure of assent, if not unanimity, from those who have studied it." I do not disguise that this problem of safeguards has not been completely solved, and I am not asking your Lordships' House to say that any measure hereafter introduced to Parliament which contains what purport to be safeguards must be accepted because of any vote your Lordships give this evening. That is a complete misunderstanding of what, we are asking your Lordships' House to do. We are not asking the House to commit itself in advance to any particular safeguard or framework. What we are asking your Lordships' House to say is that the line of advance on which we propose to go, the investigations upon which we propose to embark, the negotiations on which we hope almost immediately to engage, the Committees of Inquiry we are proposing to set up—that these various matters, all depending on a fundamental assumption, are to proceed; and the fundamental assumption is no more than this, that the most hopeful solution of the problem of giving responsible government to India lies in the All-India Federation subject to the safeguards embodied in the White Paper.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Does my noble friend say that in voting for the White Paper to-night this House would not commit itself to an Indian Executive responsible to an All-Indian Legislature?
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I am glad to answer that question at once. If this House votes this evening it will not commit itself to an Indian Executive responsible to an All-Indian Legislature unless that Executive is part of a Constitution which contains safeguards which satisfy this House that the matters set out in the White Paper as needing safeguards have been adequately protected. What this House is asked to say is that provided we do bring forward, in the form of a Bill, a scheme under which an All-India Federation is set up, with an All-India Executive responsible to an All-India Legislature, and provided we are able to incorporate safeguards which this House is satisfied adequately protects the various matters set out as needing protection, in that event they will not say that they are opposed to federation in any form and therefore will not look at any scheme. All we ask is to be allowed to proceed on the lines on which we are attempting to build and when we have succeeded in framing a scheme that scheme must of necessity come before each House of Parliament for approval. I can undertake to say here and now that no one who is voting for the proposal before your Lordships' House this evening will be in any way committed to accept that scheme or vote for that Constitution unless he is satisfied that the safeguards are adequate and the protections set up real and sufficient. That is the first point.
What is the second? My noble friend Lord Lloyd said he objected altogether to government by Declaration. With all respect to my noble friend I think he is completely inverting the real facts with regard to the proposal which we have brought before this House, because he went on in his speech more than once to say that we were inviting Parliament to abrogate its control and were inviting this House to part with its control of Indian affairs. My noble friend Lord Brentford when he supported the Amendment more than once used the phrase that this was the last time that your Lordships' House would have the opportunity of dealing with or considering these matters. Really, my noble friends are quite mistaken.
§ VISCOUNT BRENTFORD
What I was dealing with was the principle of the 468 matter, and my noble friend Lord Reading afterwards said that an acceptance of this Resolution would mean the acceptance of the principle. It was to that that I was directing my argument.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
Yes, but what is the principle? I am coming to that, but, if I may summarise it in anticipation of what I may have to develop, the principle is only this, that, given, as we all conceded twelve years ago, that the goal to which we are aiming is the goal of responsible government, the best means of attaining that goal as far as we can see is the method of an All-India Federation, subject to safeguards of those things that require safeguarding. That is the only principle to which anybody is committed and therefore, whether or not the safeguards are adequate, whether or not a workable scheme is evolved, all these things will come back for consideration later on. It is quite true, as my noble friend the noble Earl, Lord Midleton, said, that we need not have come to this House for this Resolution. We could have framed our policy, declared it through the mouth of the Prime Minister, and then proceeded on the various investigations and inquiries which that policy involved. If, as we believed and hoped, those investigations and inquiries did prove fruitful, we should have framed a Bill and introduced it in this House and in another place, where it would have been subject to discussion and detailed criticism. But the Government, which, after all, is rather proud of the fact that it is a National Government and does not represent any one Party in the State, desired if it could to associate at the very earliest stage both Houses of Parliament with its view that this was the most hopeful line on which our inquiries could proceed. We desired to let the Indian people know that, when the Prime Minister declared that these were the lines on which we were endeavouring to proceed, in proceeding on those lines we have the support of the overwhelming majority of the House of Commons and, I still hope, of the overwhelming majority of the House of Lords.
There was, indeed, criticism on the first-afternoon of our having brought this Resolution before the House. Why should we trouble to bring it before the House of Lords? it was asked. Why not be satisfied with the House of Commons? 469 I was a little surprised at that criticism, coming from the quarter from whence it emanated. At any rate, it has been my object, and I know it has been the object of my noble friend Lord Salisbury, ever since either of us had any responsibility for the Leadership of this House, to insist that this House shall be given the same opportunities as far as possible for discussion as another place, that we shall be recognised as having responsibility aid as being an integral part of the Constitution; and we shall never allow it to be said that the fact that you get the approval of the House of Commons makes it unnecessary to get the approval of the House of Lords. I shall never support the theory that, as long as the Government has the support of the House of Commons, it need not trouble about the House of Lords. I shall never feel that, the members of your Lordships' House who are in the Government do not think that, and the great majority of your Lordships' House do not think that. Your Lordships then will agree with me that we were right when we asked the other Blouse to express its view that we should also give an opportunity to this House to express its view also.
I come to the third criticism, which is infinitely the most important. My noble friend has said that he opposed the policy enshrined in the White Paper. Any one who takes that view ought to vote for the Amendment or for Lord Midleton's Motion or against the Government's Resolution. It does not matter which. Any one who believes, as my noble friend Lord Lloyd believes, that we are proceeding on wholly wrong lines and that we ought not to attempt any federal solution and ought not to proceed in any investigations or negotiations; in that direction, ought to vote against this, because that is the proposal. Unless you are prepared to say that you are opposed to the policy in the White Paper, the Government has the right to expect the confidence and support of the great majority of this House.
What is the policy which is embodied in the White Paper? Let me, first of all, begin by saying what it is not. This White Paper does not enunciate as a new measure, upon which for the first time Parliament is asked to pronounce, the question of giving responsible government to India, That principle was laid 470 down and accepted twelve years ago in the Government of India Act, 1919. So far as I know, there is nobody in either House of Parliament who has ventured to say that he wishes to withdraw from that pledge or to repeal that provision. We have proceeded and we are proceeding on the basis that Parliament, the Government, the country as a whole, are irretrievably and conclusively committed towards India to the principle of responsible government as the goal to which our constitutional changes must be directed. We assume that those who come to consider this White Paper and to decide on the policy embodied in it start upon that assumption as something about which there can be no question and no doubt.
My noble friend Lord Salisbury said that responsible government with safeguards such as were laid down by my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for India would not work; they were impossible. I wonder if my noble friend had quite thought where that led him, because it seems to me that it involves one of two things. It involves either that he is never prepared to give responsible government or else that he is prepared to give responsible government without those safeguards. I cannot think of any third alternative.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My noble friend seems to forget that Sir John Simon's Commission dealt with this particular point. It specifically considered whether there ought to be an arrangement under which the Executive should be responsible to the Legislature—in the sense in which we used it in these constitutional discussions. They rejected that solution and they said that it was possible to advance in the direction of responsible government without involving the country in the great dangers which that particular solution now embodied in the White Paper will involve.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I shall answer that question in a moment, but it really is not an answer to my dilemma. If it be true, as he says, that responsible government with the safeguards, which the Secretary of State has defined, is impossible, then he must be prepared either to say that he never means to give responsible government or that he means to give it without those safeguards. 471 Because he has said that it is impossible to give it with the safeguards. I do not believe that he means either of those things, and, therefore, his dilemma is a dilemma which destroys itself. My noble friend interposed to say that the Simon Commission had investigated the suggestion of dyarchy at the centre and had rejected it. That in a sense is quite true—but only in a sense. The Simon Commission was dealing with the provision of a Constitution for British India. The Simon Commission reported on giving complete autonomy to the Provinces, and the Simon Commission said that they thought that the time had not come for having a responsible British India Executive at the centre.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
Indeed that was the conclusion they reached, and they gave a number of reasons for it. It is true they did go a great deal further than that because the Simon Commission went on to say that:It inevitably follows that the ultimate Constitution of India must be federal, for it is only in a Federal Constitution that units differing so widely in constitution as the Provinces and the States can be brought together white retaining internal autonomy.They went on to point out that the prospect of obtaining federation was a distant one because, they could not hope the Princes would be prepared at that time to give India a Federation. But your Lordships observe that a Federal Constitution, uniting the Provinces and the States, of itself, of necessity, involves responsibility. You cannot have a Federal Assembly or a Federal Constitution without having same responsible person or head to deal with the matters which are agreed to be matters of federal importance. It is a contradiction in terms to say you are going to have a Federal Constitution but you are not going to have any responsible body to deal with the matters which are agreed to be delegated to the Federation.
The Simon Commission accept federation as being the ultimate goal; they reject the prospect of responsible government at the centre of British India alone; and they only refrain from discussing how to bring about a Federal Constitution because in their judgment 472 there was no hope of inducing the Princes to come into federation for a long time to come, and, therefore, that was not a matter of immediate practical importance. But, as my noble friend Lord Reading so truly pointed out yesterday afternoon, the whole situation was changed to the great surprise, I think, of everybody, certainly of every member of the Simon Commission, when the Ruling Princes said: "We are prepared to come into a Federation Constitution." The whole discussion which took place in the Round Table Conference took on a completely different complexion when, for the first time we had this tremendous fact brought before us, that the Ruling Princes, by their own free will and accord, announced to the Government of India and to the Government of this country, that they were prepared to co-operate in a Federal Constitution and to come in on an All-India federal basis. I confess it seems to me a profound mistake if this golden opportunity should be thrown away by this House.
I have said what is not involved in the White Paper. What is involved in it? Three things, as I understand, or three principal things. First of all, that the I best means of attaining responsible government is by an All-India Federation; secondly, that that All-India I Federation can only be set up if safe-guards are evolved which will protect certain named specified subjects. Nobody has said the safeguards are not wide enough. Indeed the only criticism was from my noble friend Lord Lloyd, that they were too wide and there was little left. And, thirdly, that the best method of approach to find a workable scheme which did embody those two conditions was not by imposition from without, but by co-operation between British I and Indians from within. I wonder if anybody in this House is prepared to challenge that proposition. Of course we may be wrong. My noble friend Lord Lloyd says we are wrong. He says the right method of approach, if I understood him rightly, was not to give any further responsibility until all India had been enfranchised, and the 320,000,000 of Indians had all got the franchise; that then we should find out what they wanted and should be able perhaps to make some advance. If you do not want to 473 make any advance at all, if you want to tell India you do not mean to make any advance at all, that is the way to do it, but that is not the method of the Simon Commission or of any responsible politician in the world that I know of except my noble friend Lord Lloyd.
§ LORD LLOYD
I do not want to interrupt the noble Viscount, but he does not, I am sure, desire to misrepresent me. He did not quote accurately my words. I wished to point out that to build up a heavy superstructure, a constitutional superstructure, on a fractional representation was not the way to get a solid and safe Constitution in India. I suggested that before rapidly going ahead with the superstructure you should widen your franchise, which I believe to be a safe principle in democracy throughout the world.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I was not conscious of misrepresenting my noble friend and having listened to him I am still not conscious of having misrepresented him. The plan, as I understand it and still understand it, was not to make any advance for the time being, but to extend your franchise until you are able to find out from their votes what the great masses of the people in India really flint. Does not that mean you are to wait until you have enfranchised the great masses of the people of India? And does anybody suppose that that is going to satisfy India, or that an announcement that that is the policy of this country is going to produce peace and contentment in India, or that when we had enfranchised the great masses of the people of India, after having kept them in their existing condition for I do not know how many centuries, we are then to find they are in a friendly frame of mind towards the people of this country? That really is denying responsible government, or any advance in its direction.
Against my noble friend there is a formidable array of authorities. It may be all wrong, but at any rate it is worth consideration that we have in support of this Federation proposal first of all the Simon Commission; and secondly, the unanimous opinion of the Round Table Conference, which, remember, embraced not one Party in this country but all Parties, and not one Party in India but 474 all Parties in India. Although it has been said that the Round Table Conference was chiefly useful in eliciting differences of opinion here is a fundamental agreement of opinion which was elicited and is recorded in the Report dated January last. For myself I believe that in an All-India Federation with the Ruling Princes coming into it you have a much more stable and much more safe, a much more conservative (using that phrase not in a political but in a wider sense) form of government than you are likely to achieve by any other method of advance.
And the second proposal, safeguards. They have been read out and I do not want to recapitulate them. Does anyone in this House doubt that we are right in saying that responsible government at the centre with federation could only be accepted subject to safeguards with regard to the matters which are specified in the White Paper? At any rate I have heard nobody who has suggested that we can advance without those safeguards, and it is surely a very great gain that we should have been able to secure the assent of the people of India as represented at the Round Table to the inclusion of such safeguards in the proposed new Constitution.
Then, finally, that co-operation is the best way. I wonder whether anybody doubts that. Perhaps as I have referred to co-operation I ought at this moment to answer one or two questions which were directed by way of criticism and which really do perhaps touch on that point. My noble friend Lord Dufferin, whose maiden speech we all enjoyed, and which I perhaps enjoyed all the more because I was glad to think His Majesty's Government were commanding the support of the youth of this country, on whom the responsibility for government in India will ultimately rest—my noble friend Lord Dufferin asked me whether we had excluded the method of advance by provincial autonomy first and afterwards by central responsibility. We have not excluded that method. What happened was that at the Round Table Conference there was a very large body of opinion which expressed itself as hostile to the idea—Indian opinion and for that matter European opinion in India as well—and you cannot set up a Constitution which the people who are 475 going to have it will not work. My noble friend Lord Peel pointed out a little earlier this evening (or was it Lord Midleton?) that you cannot impose upon the people of India a Constitution which they do not want, and that you cannot impose on a Province a Constitution which it does not want and will not work in advance.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
May I trouble my noble friend as to what is the meaning of paragraph 13? I want his interpretation of that paragraph. It definitely states that in the event of failure of agreement—
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
If my noble friend will forgive, me I will come to paragraph 13 in a moment. I was dealing with provincial autonomy, which has nothing to do with paragraph 13. I was answering the question whether we had excluded the method of giving provincial autonomy first. We do not exclude that alternative and if it should turn out that there is in India a large body of opinion which desires that method of approach certainly that suggestion will be very sympathetically considered by the Government. The second question, I think, came from my noble friend Lord Peel, and I am not sure that it is not actually on paragraph 13 to which Lord Midleton calls attention. Lord Peel dealt with the paragraph, which states that if we cannot get agreement as to what is described as the communal deadlock—the problem of minorities—we do not intend that that disability should be a bar to progress. The paragraph goes on:This would mean that His Majesty's Government would have to settle for you not only your problems of representation, but also to deride as wisely and justly as possible what checks and balances the Constitution is to contain to protect minorities from an unrestricted and tyrannical use of the democratic principle expressing itself solely through majority power.My noble friend Lord Peel explained his view as to the method which we should adopt, and I find myself so completely in agreement that I might almost have contented myself with accepting his language and making it my own. I agree absolutely, and I am sure I am expressing the mind of the Government as well when I say that we regard it as of the greatest possible importance that this question of minorities should be settled by agreement between the peoples of 476 India and not by outside interference from this country.
That is a proposition which we have reiterated again and again. It is the proposition which the Prime Minister has over and over again called attention to, and on which he has laid the greatest possible emphasis. But supposing agreement is not reached; supposing agreement is only reached in some places and not in others; are we prepared indefinitely to do nothing until we have got complete agreement? We are not going to impose a final and permanent settlement upon a reluctant population. That is not the way of framing a Constitution. All this means, and all it is understood to mean, is this: That since it has been suggested that there may be developments of autonomy in different Provinces, there may be places in which agreement is reached and places in which for the time being agreement has not been reached, and we are not going of necessity to have the whole scheme hung up until you get agreement with some recalcitrant minority in one Province. In the meantime it would be necessary to find satisfactory means of protecting minorities in that instance, and to put that in not as a final settlement imposed upon the people of India but, as it is described in the White Paper, as a provisional settlement until agreement is reached, when it can be superseded by whatever agreement is reached which is fair to everybody. That is what is intended by that paragraph, and that is what I think Lord Peel took it to mean, and what Indians understood it to mean.
Then I come to the last matter to which I am asking the House to give its approval. The last matter is this question of co-operation. What is the best way of making an advance? We believe that to frame a Constitution here, and then to impose it on India, is to make failure certain in advance. We believe, on the other hand, that to allow India to frame whatever Constitution she pleases and invite our acceptance is to disregard our pledges to minorities and interests which we are bound to protect. The right method, surely, is for Britons and Indians together to try if they cannot in co-operation hammer out some scheme which does meet the difficulties whose existence we have never disguised, 477 gives fair-play to everybody and, at the same time, gives a reasonable measure of responsibility, which we have promised in advance.
After all, we in England, apart from the common sense of that plan, have contributions to make: which India badly wants. We can bring to the discussion of that problem centuries of experience. We can bring knowledge of the practical working of democratic institutions. We can bring that spirit of reasonableness and compromise—give and take—which perhaps the Anglo-Saxon race under, stands better than any other people in the world. But India also can bring something. We are apt to deal with practical measures in a practical way, without much regard to idealistic conception. That is not the way in which the East loons at things. The Eastern people, so far as I have been able to understand them—and far be it from me to claim any real understanding—so far as I understand their literature and Expressions of opinion the Eastern peoples attach to idealistic conceptions, to the idea of national sovereignty, and the idea of responsibility, an emphasis and importance which the Englishman is apt to overlook.
English and Indian together can, I believe, frame a Constitution which will meet the conditions laid down in this White Paper, and protect all those interests which we are pledged to protect, and give at the same time to India that responsibility which she has been taught to expect from us. I doubt if any other means will really achieve the same end, arid after all it is the Indians, far more than the British, who will have to make this Constitution a success. It is to them we are entrusting responsibility, and it is their co-operation in working it which will translate it into practice. It is true that in that effort they will have the greatest possible assistance in the future, as they have had it in the past, from the wisdom and sagacity of those great public statesmen whom we are accustomed to send out to take part in their administration, but Englishmen and Indians will combine in framing the Constitution, and Indians and Englishmen together will co-operate to make the Constitution a success.
If you do not believe that on those lines is the right method of approach 478 vote against us. If you have not thought it out, and are reluctant to commit yourselves, and have not sufficient confidence in the National Government to accept its verdict, well then, perhaps it were wiser not to vote. I hope at least you would not vote against us. But if, on the other hand, you believe that on the lines which we have laid down lies the best hope of achieving success for India., if you believe that on those lines you will find that courage to which the noble Marquess alluded, as well as that caution which these great affairs demand, then vote in favour of endorsing the policy in this White Paper, and vote in the sure knowledge that, by doing so, you are not committing yourselves to any scheme at all; you are not, pledging yourselves to support any Bill when it comes before this House; you are committing yourselves to this and to this only, that you endorse the action of the Government in going on with their inquiries and negotiations, in sending out their Committees, in seeing the Ruling Princes, in endeavouring to find a solution on those lines, and you reserve to yourselves full liberty if, when the solution is brought before you, you think it does not meet the conditions laid down, to reject it and to say to the Government: "This does not give us the safeguards On which we insisted. This does not meet the conditions which you promised, and therefore we are perfectly free to refuse to accept a scheme which, however well meant, fails to fulfil the cardinal conditions of our agreement." So far and so far only will you be committing yourselves. And I hope and pray that this House will join with the Government of India, with the National Government, and with the House of Commons, in trying to reach a solution which I believe may be fraught with permanent blessing to India, to Great Britain and to the whole Empire.
§ LORD LLOYD
My Lords, as I had the honour of moving the Amendment which has occupied your Lordships' House for the last two days, I hope your Lordships will bear with me if for a brief moment I answer one or two of the points that have been put forward. I feel at a very great disadvantage in following the noble and learned Viscount, whose eloquence and much greater forensic ability than I can command has held our attention for the 479 last few minutes. But none the less confess that what the noble and learned Viscount has said has in some respects added to my confusion. The noble and learned Viscount said we have had all the information before us. The main object of my Amendment was to gain a little time in order to get information. We still are without the most important information of all, and that is what the Indian peoples themselves think of the proposals in the White Paper. I was very concerned that we should not come to a final conclusion until the Indian delegates, most of whom would scarcely claim to be representatives of great bodies of opinion, had had time to get out to India to hear what their own people thought about it. It seems to me that if the noble Earl's Motion were carried, as I hope it will be, it would afford us that great extra knowledge which we very badly need.
We were assured that if we voted for the White Paper policy we should be giving no final judgment on the policy. I do not think at three thousand miles' distance the Indian peoples will deal with niceties of that kind. I cannot help feeling convinced that those who vote for this White Paper policy to-day are definitely committing themselves honourably and honestly to the principle of simultaneous transfer of full responsibility at the centre and in the Provinces at the same time. That is an indisputable fact. I can only say for myself that if I had given my vote—it is an atmospheric and psychological thing—if I had given my vote to the White Paper policy I should feel in honour bound never to vote against putting into practice full responsibility at the centre and on the perimeter at the same time. At any rate that is my view.
The noble and learned Viscount discussed the question of a dilemma which was also referred to by my noble friend Lord Irwin. Lord Irwin two days ago said:Either you never mean to transfer responsibility to a central Indian Legislature at all, or, if you do transfer, you are going to do it all at once.May I give my answer to that? I think it is a very simple one. I think there is a third alternative, which is to proceed not at the centre, but in the Provinces. It is the simultaneous grant 480 of self-government in the Provinces and at the centre which many of us in your Lordships' House have always thought so dangerous. You are going to hand over responsibility, not in a moment of tranquillity, not with a full Exchequer but with a depleted Exchequer, at a moment of great turbulence, when all the best brains in this experiment will be required in the Provinces. If at the same time you give responsibility at the centre those best brains will drift to the centre, and you will risk having chaos. That is why we wanted to go slowly and have responsibility in the Provinces, and then afterwards, if necessary, responsibility at the centre.
May I repeat once again that far the greatest danger is that we should awaken hopes in Indian minds that we cannot fulfil, and should promise more than we can practically and reasonably assume to perform? My noble friend Lord Irwin talked rather lightly, if he will allow me to say so, about taking risks. What are the risks we are taking? They are not small ones. We are taking risks not only in English men's and women's lives, but in the lives of countless Indians, and I think we should be very careful before we precipitate India into more turbulence through the weakening of her Government, or through the proposals we have before us.
§ LORD IRWIN
I do not want to interrupt, but the purport of what I sought to say was that in my judgment the risks of my noble friend's course were greater than the risks of the course I advocate.
§ LORD LLOYD
That is where my noble friend and I must differ. I have to give a vote on this plan with none of the great questions answered. No one has attempted to answer fully, as far as I con see, the noble Earl who moved this Motion to adjourn the debate. We know nothing about safeguards. My noble friend Lord Irwin said as regards the dilemma I put to him concerning responsibility and safeguards, that he freely admitted that it was unanswerable. Was not that a very grave admission from so eminent a person as the late Viceroy? I think we ought to know some of these things before we go ahead. I would only conclude by saying that a great galaxy of Parliamentary talent has come forward to defend the 481 white Paper, but the Indian Empire was not won on speeches, and will not be maintained on. speeches. I think the brig and grave 'history of our achievements in India and for India cry out 13-day against our taking a final judgment on so grave a matter as this in so short s, time, and I can only earnestly beg your Lordships, with all the sincerity at
§ my command, to vote to-day for that extra delay, that pause, which will enable us to examine this great problem fully, and clearly and to come to a right and considered decision.
§ On Question, Whether this debate shall be now adjourned till February 16?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 58; Not-Contents, 106.483
|Argyll, D.||Chaplin, V.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Marlborough, D.||FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Sutherland, D.||Hood, V.||Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)|
|Plumer, V.||Greenway, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Sumner, V.||Jessel, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Ampthill, L.||Leigh, L.|
|Howe, E.||Banbury of Southam, L.||Lloyd, L. [Teller.]|
|Iddesleigh, E.||Beaverbrook, L.||Melchett, L.|
|Macclesfield, E.||Carnock, L.||Merthyr, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Carson, L.||Monkswell, L.|
|Midleton, E. [Teller.]||Charnwood, L.||Monson, L.|
|Poulett, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Phillimore, L.|
|Radnor, E.||Queenborough, L.|
|Scarbrough, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Selborne, E.||Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Roundway, L.|
|Wicklow, E.||Cunliffe, L.||Sackville, L.|
|Danesfort, L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Bertie of Thame, V.||Darcy (de Knayth), L.||Sydenham of Combe, L.|
|Brentford, V.||Desart, L. (E. Desart.)||Teynham, L.|
|Burnham, V.||Desborough, L.||Wharton, L.|
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Knutsford, V.||Hardinge of Penshurst, L.|
|Sankey, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Leverhulme, V.||Hawke, L.|
|Mersey, V.||Hay, L. (E. Kinnoull.)|
|Wellington, D.||Snowden, V.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Wimborne, V.||Irwin, L.|
|Anglesey, M.||Islington, L.|
|Camden, M.||London, L. Bp.||Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)|
|Dufferin arid Ava, M.||St. Albans, L. Bp.||Ker, L. (M. Lothian.)|
|Reading, M.||Sheffield, L. Bp.||Luke, L.|
|Zetland, M.||Southwark, L. Bp.||Mamhead, L.|
|Cromer, E. (L. Chamberlain.)||Addington, L.||Marley, L.|
|Balfour, E.||Alvingham, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Birkenhead, E.||Arnold, L.||Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)|
|Buxton, E.||Ashton of Hyde, L.||Morris, L.|
|Cavan, E.||Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Northbourne, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Bayford, L.||Olivier, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Bethell, L.||Ormathwaite, L.|
|Grey, E.||Biddulph, L.||Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)|
|Lauderdale, E.||Buckmaster, L.||Plender, L.|
|Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Byron, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Peel, K.||Chalmers, L.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Clwyd, L.||Remnant, L.|
|Rothes, E.||Cottesloe, L.||Riddell, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Craigmyle, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Strafford, E.||Cranworth, L.||Russell of Liverpool, L.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Darling, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Dickinson, L.||Sanderson L.|
|Allenby of Megiddo, V.||Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)||Snell, L.|
|Allendale, V.||Somerleyton, L.|
|Astor, V.||Ernie, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L. (L. Sheffield.)|
|Esher, V.||Erskine, L.|
|Goschen, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||Stanmore, L. [Teller.]|
|Hailsham, V.||Gainford, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Hambleden, V.||Hampton, L.|
|Hampden, V.||Han worth, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Swaythling, L.||Trent, L.||Wargrave, L.|
|Templemore, L.||Tweedmouth, L.||Wolverton, L|
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Resolved in the negative, and Motion to adjourn the debate disagreed to accordingly.