§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion of Viscount Halifax to resolve, That this House accepts the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee on Indian Constitutional Reform as the basis for the revision of the Indian Constitution and considers it expedient that a Bill should be introduced on the general lines of the Report, and on the Amendment moved by the Marquess of Salisbury to the foregoing Motion, namely, to leave out all the words after "That" and insert "this House is unwilling to pronounce in advance an acceptance of far-reaching recommendations on Indian Constitutional Reform until it has had the opportunity of considering and approving the particular recommendations of the Joint Select Committee to be adopted by the Government and proposed in the concrete form of the provisions of a Bill."
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT SANKEY)
My Lords, the present moment is not the time for a detailed survey of the Joint Select Committee's Report. During the course of this debate, which has been a very helpful one for those who will be taking part in the discussions on the Bill when it is before your Lordships' House, many points have been raised. Some of them undoubtedly are of vital importance; 424 others again, although important, may be more conveniently dealt with on the Committee stage of future proceedings. Yet again there are others concerned with the machinery for carrying out the recommendations of the Committee which perhaps may better and more conveniently be left to be drafted by constitutional experts. Nor would it be fitting on this occasion to tread the well-worn and familiar path and describe the course and progress of the advance towards the plan for conferring greater responsibility upon Indian Legislatures, which began as far back as 1858, and has made slow but sure progress ever since. Let me rather deal with several of the questions which excite the greatest controversy—namely, first, that which concerns responsibility at the Centre; second, that which causes acute anxiety, namely, the transfer of law and order; and third, as to how the Report of the Committee differs from and strengthens the safeguards recommended in the White Paper.
Before discussing these several matters it may be useful to refer to the unanimity which the present debate has disclosed as existing among members of your Lordships' House. No one has suggested, indeed nobody either in or out of the House has suggested; that we can stand still and do nothing. We are all agreed that we must go forward. We are all agreed that a large measure of provincial autonomy is desirable. We are all agreed that whatever measure is passed ample powers should be taken in the Bill to prevent a dangerous situation arising. We are all agreed that the Governor-General must retain control of the Army and foreign affairs.
Let me then first address myself to the question of responsibility at the Centre. Here again there seems to be some measure of agreement. As far as it is possible to gauge opinion it is agreed by nearly everybody in Great Britain, both inside and outside this House, that the ultimate goal to be striven for is an All-India Federation. The Statutory Committee clearly were of that opinion. In a statement recently issued representing the Minority recommendations of certain members of the Committee, it is expressly stated on page 20 that the federal objective need by no means be abandoned. The difference then between those who agree with the Committee and 425 those who do not is chiefly that the former are willing to decide on and grant some measure of responsibility at once, or as soon as may be, and those who disagree are anxious to try out provincial autonomy first and to leave over the question of responsibility at the Centre to some distant and uncertain date.
The advantages or disadvantages of these views will appear most clearly by an examination of two questions. First, what would be the probable effect of a grant of provincial autonomy only? Second, what is the value of responsibility at the Centre? First, it appears to everybody, as I have already ventured to suggest, that the establishment of a large measure of provincial autonomy is desirable. It does not mark arty new departure, but the next stage in the path which India has long been treading and in the opinion of many has long been promised. It is the natural development of the policy which we have steadily pursued for over seventy years. To that extent it has the advantage of satisfying Indian ambitions. Assume such a policy alone to come into force and see what is likely to happen. You will be creating eleven autonomous Governments in the Provinces whilst leaving the present Centre untouched. This surely cannot be a wise course.
The great danger in the present world situation is the tendency of States or communities to shut themselves up in watertight compartments, or, adopting another metaphor, to build walls round their territories which make trade, human intercourse, and all the advantages derived therefrom more difficult and more complicated to carry on. One would have thought that our present political philosophy was in favour rather of breaking down all such obstructions and impediments between nations. What would be the effect in the next generation of erecting these eleven autonomous Governments? Would they not tend in the absence of some strong controlling Centre to diverge further and further apart instead of getting together and establishing that unity or inter-communication which, at any rate as between the component parts of an Empire, is a consummation devoutly to be wished? It is not for me here and now to comment upon the wisdom of any declaration that the Provinces are autonomous communities within the British Empire, but 426 there are some who think that it may cause great difficulty to the Empire in the future. What, think you, would be the effect of eleven autonomous Provinces going their own way on questions of law, trade and commercial discrimination? The danger of such a policy would seem to be that before long instead of having what we all desire, a united India, we would have eleven disunited Provinces, each of them jealous and watchful of the others and between whom there is likely to be friction giving perpetual trouble to the home authorities. This view, my Lords, is no idle speculation but one derived from our experience of the past.
There has been for years a long and steady process of administrative devolution from the Government of India to the Provincial Governments which has profoundly affected the whole structure of Indian administration. This has produced, as the Report itself points out, three important results. First, it has tended to remove provincial administration from the immediate purview of His Majesty's Government and by thus weakening the direct accountability of Indian administrators to Parliament, it has rendered inevitable the introduction in some degree of local responsible government. Secondly, it has tended to make the Provinces the centres of the development of Social Services; and thirdly, it has tended to transfer to the Provincial Executives the prime responsibility for the preservation of law and order. If these have been results over a period of years when the Provinces have not had anything like the authority which all Parties are now prepared to give them, what is to be expected when enhanced powers are given to them? These tendencies will grow more rapidly both in point of time and in point of substance.
Consider for a moment another side of the question—that is to say, the effect that the pull of eleven autonomous Provinces will exercise upon a Centre constituted as the present one is. Here again, it is not necessary to indulge in idle speculations, for again the experience of history comes to our aid. What has been the result of the composition and powers of the present Centre? Many of its members are quite irresponsible. They are not restrained by the knowledge that they themselves may be required to provide an alternative 427 Government. Their opinions have been uninformed by the experience of power and they have shown themselves prone to regard support of the Government policy as a betrayal of a national cause.
My Lords, it is a commonplace in the history of our own country during the last fifty years, that nothing steadies a wild politician so much as experience of office. Nothing educates a critic so much as the duty, when he is called upon to perform it, of constructing a policy. Yet it is clear from the history of the last twelve years that the Assembly has in fact from time to time influenced the policy of the Government. It is to be feared that the pressure exercised by eleven autonomous Provinces having more power than ever before will still further weaken the already weakened Centre till it becomes almost impotent. A strong Centre is surely necessary for the existence of a number of autonomous units. To fail to provide it is like building an arch without the keystone. Once it is proposed to create eleven autonomous Provinces, two choices remain open to you. There will be the choice of seeing them in a few years independent units, or, in order to prevent this, the choice of some central authority which on vital issues will enable these autonomous Provinces to speak with one voice and to the same effect. As it seems to many of us, no more disastrous policy could be pursued than that of conferring provincial autonomy only with the Centre as it now exists. We have yet to hear what is proposed to be substituted for the present Centre.
Let me now turn to responsibility at the Centre. I assume for the purpose of the discussion of this point the creation of the autonomous units in eleven Provinces. Everyone is already agreed that on certain matters there must be some central control. Those matters are defence and foreign relations, which are to be reserved to the Governor-General. They at once bring in another consideration and that is the States which are ruled over by the various Indian Princes. Provinces and Princes are alike interested in these two matters. What other matters are there in which Princes and Provinces are also interested? Look for a moment at the map of India. Neither the Provinces nor the States are 428 tracts of country in a ring fence. The Princes do not own all the land south of a certain latitude any more than the Provinces own the land west of a certain longitude. The Provinces and the States are bound up together. To use quite a trivial metaphor, they are not unlike a jig-saw puzzle. But there are obviously many questions upon which, although they may have different opinions, they have the same interest and an interest which is best attained by mutual agreement after mutual discussion.
Further than that, it is obvious that there are great tracts of country in India composed of both States and Provinces. The needs and interests of Southern India as a whole may be very different from the needs and interests of Northern or North-West India and yet there may be certain considerations of an overriding character where their needs and interests are the same. There are some people who fold their hands and say that India is so divided both by religious beliefs and different civilisations that it is quite impossible to unify it. It is urged that the passions which divide Hindus from Moslems are deep, tragic and irreconcilable, and therefore the only refuge—a counsel of despair—is to do nothing. In answer to that, the first question is: Is unity desirable? If it is, I refuse to think that a project for unification is impossible for Great Britain to pursue and accomplish after centuries of political education, experience and compromise. The different orientation of politics leading to a rivalry, not between Hindus and Moslems, but between different parts of India as a whole, will be the first step towards determination of an age-long religious strife.
What is the greatest need of India as a whole? If one had to sum it up in one word, one would feel disposed to say "stability," and in stability is to be included a number of subjects. The stability which enables India as a whole to exist without fear of hostile, foreign invasion. The stability which enables the Indian all over India to pursue his professional business in peace and quiet and to conduct freely his trade not only with his immediate neighbours but with those further afield. The stability which comes from order, peace and settled government, the rule of law and material prosperity. The stability which comes 429 from similar laws and economic freedom. Above all, the stability which comes from free intercourse instead of from carping at one another from behind walls of any description.
The greatest factor to ensure such a stability is to be found in unity—a united India, or rather an India united for many purposes of mutual interest, an India well administered. Over and above that, if it is clear that on the creation of eleven autonomous Provinces it is necessary to have a strong Centre, any course which leads to its stability and adds to its strength is one to be examined, welcomed, and, if possible, adopted. It is therefore obvious that if you do desire stability in India, if you do desire mutual laws and economic freedom, if you do desire to confer added strength, stability and prosperity on India as a whole, it is more likely to be achieved by an All-India Federation, imperfect and restricted though it may be, than merely by a British India Federation. Consider the advantages of an economic policy vitally affecting the interests of the whole which can be discussed and agreed to by an All-India Federation. At the present moment tariff policies in which every part of India is interested are laid down by the Government of India and a British India Legislature in which no Indian State has a voice, although the States constitute only slightly less than half the area and one-quarter of the population of India. Above that, a common company law for India, a common banking law, a common body of legislation on copyright and trade marks, a common system of communications are at present almost impossible, but on all these points a Federation as now contemplated would have power to adopt a common policy.
No one who has thought of, and worked on, this problem for some years will under-estimate the difficulties attendant on such a proposal. They are obvious to anyone after the first week of his study of the subject. There are difficulties of distance, there are difficulties of population, there are difficulties of religion, difficulties of tradition, difficulties of modes of government, difficulties too which perhaps are the hardest to overcome. difficulties of sentiment, because against these hardly any argument prevails. Once, however, we are 430 all agreed upon the advantages of our goal, that of a united India, the fact that there are difficulties on the road, a Slough of Despond or a Doubting Castle, ought not to deter us from an endeavour to realise our ambition. Again let it be said that they are not difficulties British brains and British courage, after centuries of political experience und practical common sense, will not be able to solve. The attempt is worth the while. Disastrous as it would be to do nothing, it would be even more disastrous to set up provincial autonomy without a strong and suitable Centre. Let me also ask you, my Lords, carefully to consider what is likely to happen in India if after all these years, all these Conferences, all this weariness, all this expectation, nothing in the way of a responsible Centre is set up. It is almost possible to see some Providence in the timely declaration of the Princes in favour of an All-India Federation.
Let me now turn, if only for a few moments, to the second question, that of the transference of law and order. No one can approach this subject without anxiety. But consider what is involved in granting provincial autonomy. To preserve order and uphold the law is the primary duty of every Government, and indeed a condition of its existence. To create a representative Government in the Provinces and to free it at the same moment from all responsibility for law and order is a contradiction in terms. In an attempt to grant the substance it would be in fact only giving the shadow. Do you imagine that those upon whom you proposed to confer such an illusory form of government would not see through the real meaning of what you intend to give them? Representative institutions in our country go back for centuries, but representative institutions without responsibility have long been an anachronism. What do you imagine would be the result in India of such a policy? Year after year you would have fierce agitation for a grant of the powers which you have nominally bestowed, but which in reality you have refused to hand over. Besides, let the point again be stressed that it is responsibility which makes a man.
Grant them the right to exercise authority and to maintain order, and the lessons of history teach you that you will achieve the desired result. Should you 431 not do so, the very people who ought to maintain law and order will be those who will be most troublesome and most difficult to deal with. It will be part of their policy to make your own maintenance of law and order as difficult and as interrupted as possible. Do not, however, imagine for a moment that if the Provinces get this concession, all will be well from the moment they obtain it. It will not be. They may burn their fingers, but the burnt child dreads the fire. Experience is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other.
Doubtless there are difficulties which may take place with regard to terrorism in Bengal and with regard to the Secret Service, but your Lordships must not forget the difference between the recommendations of the White Paper and the recommendations of the Committee. Additional precautions have been taken by the Committee with regard to the functions and powers of the Governor in respect of law and order. Let me again put them on record: (1) The prior consent of the Governor given in his discretion is to be required to any legislation which would amend or repeal the Acts in force in any Province regulating the Police force, civil or military. (2) The consent of the Governor given in his discretion is to be required to the making or amending of any rules under the Police Acts which in his opinion relate to or affect the organisation or discipline of the Police. (3) The instrument of instructions is to require the Governor to give directions so as to prevent the disclosure of the names of those who have given information as to terrorism. The names will remain secret and undisclosed. (4) To combat terrorism, the Governor is to have a special power over and above his special responsibility to combat the activities of terrorists or, if necessary, to create new machinery for the purpose. (5) The Central Intelligence Bureau under the new Constitution is to be assigned to one of the Governor-General's reserved Departments as part of its normal activities.
Finally—and I think that we are indebted for this, if I may say so, to the assistance of the noble Marquess, Lord Zetland, who from the very first pressed it upon us—the Governor-General's rules of executive business are to be required by the Constitution Act to contain a provision laying upon Ministers the duty of 432 bringing to the notice of the Governor any matter under consideration in their Department which involves, or is likely to involve, any of his special responsibilities and laying upon the Secretaries the duty of bringing to the notice of the Ministers and of the Governor any matters of the same kind. This is a provision of the first importance. Many of your Lordships whom I have the honour of addressing have had experience of office in Governments in this country, from time to time, and will recognise it as axiomatic that the wise and able Minister is not the one who settles a crisis when it has arisen, but the one who takes early precautions to prevent a crisis arising. Not only is this method wise, but it is easier to nip trouble in the bud. So far with regard to law and order.
Let me turn to the third question—how the Report of the Committee differs from and strengthens the safeguards recommended in the White Paper. Some of the changes I have already referred to, but there are others of great importance. Let me instance two only. First of all, the recommendation that the election to both Chambers of the Federal Legislature should be indirect, and not, as proposed in the White Paper in the case of the Lower Chamber, direct. Personally I regret that it has not been found possible to comply with Indian wishes and sentiment upon this matter, but the arguments against direct election seem overwhelming. They were felt by and recorded in the Second Report of the Federal Structure Committee as far back as January, 1931.
It is unnecessary to enlarge upon them. Popular representation according to the accepted canons of Parliamentary government can hardly be found in a system which provides for the election of members by an average number of 5,000 electors scattered over an average area of some 4,000 square miles, and this difficulty cannot be removed by an increase in the average number of the electors by the lowering of the franchise. An increase in the number of the voters in such vast constituencies would merely increase the difficulties of establishing contact between a candidate and the voter. It is to be hoped that when the time has arrived for Elections in India it will be seen that, however ideal direct 433 election may be, the wise course is to adopt the system of indirect election. It is better to accept the practically possible rather than to refuse it for the sake of striving for the ideally perfect.
Another point upon which the Committee differ from the White Paper is with regard to the accession of the States. It has already been dealt with, and therefore I content myself with merely referring to paragraphs 156 and 157 of the Report, and emphasising the point that it is by a Resolution of both Houses of Parliament that Federation is to be brought into being.
Time forbids my going further into matters, but let me finally point out that the Constitution is a rigid Constitution, which those who work it will not be able to alter at their will. Certain matters in the Constitution Act are to be capable of alteration by Order-in-Council, and certain other matters to be prescribed in detail by Order-in-Council, but no Order-in-Council for either purpose is to be made unless it has been approved in draft, with or without modification, by both Houses of Parliament. No constituent power is placed in the hands of the Indian Legislatures enabling them to alter in any respect the provisional Constitution, but a procedure is to be provided by the Constitution Act, whereby any Resolution passed by a Legislature in India recommending such an alteration should be secured consideration by His Majesty's Government.
To sum up some of the main differences between the White Paper and the recommendations of the Committee, they are: (1) Tightening up of the regulations securing law and order; (2) the duty of Ministers to warn the Governor of the likelihood of his having to use his special responsibility; (3) indirect election instead of direct election for both Chambers of the Federal Legislature; (4) provisions as to the accession of States; (5) provisions as to the method of making alterations in the Constitution Act.
But, my Lords, to conclude, those who are opposed to the Government's policy quite rightly make repeated references to the risks which are being run. They are perfectly entitled to do so; but I venture to suggest to them that when they are deliberating upon these risks two points should never be absent from their minds. First of all, it is with Empires 434 as with individuals, you have to take risks. It is a law inflexible and inexorable that he who will not risk cannot win. Look back on our history. Remember the risks we have run, both in peace and war. Where should we have been if we had not taken them? Success generally attends those who act and it does not attend those who are timid and balance everything. Secondly, you must not fix your eyes upon the risks arising from the recommendations of the Committee alone. It is not a question of risk, but it is a question of choice of risks. Which is the greater risk? Is it the greater risk to carry out the recommendations of the Committee or to neglect and refuse to carry them out? Are you to pay no attention to Indian hopes, Indian desires, and Indian ambitions? Are you to pay no attention to what they, at any rate, think are promises and pledges? Which do you desire? Do you desire an India companioned by content, or an India disgruntled, disappointed and sullen, an India who will not co-operate with you in your commerce or your administration of the country, an India who will boycott your trade and endeavour to throw every obstacle in the path of government? To these questions there can be but one answer.
How are you to obtain the desired result? A nation may be governed by force or with the consent and co-operation of the governed. Utterly without consent one can be at no man's commandment living. Empires may be won but cannot be kept by the sword. For a time force may prevail, but during that time your military expenditure will increase, your civil revenue will go down, and the end of such an era is inevitable. And besides it is not by such a method and such tradition that we have maintained and shall continue to maintain our rule. My Lords, let us put, if only for a moment, the extremes side by side. On the one hand you have those who desire to confer provincial autonomy only. On the other hand you have those who wish to go far beyond anything recommended either in the White Paper or in the Report of the Committee, and to confer upon India extensive powers amounting almost to independence. Between these two extremes I ask your Lordships to declare for and steer a middle course—a course which is the one recommended by the Report of the Committee, a course 435 which will prevent us from any reproach that we have not carried out our promises, a course which I for one, at any rate, believe will bring not only peace and prosperity to India, but will strengthen and perpetuate the bond by which our Empire is held together.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I have felt some hesitation in taking any part in this debate, because my direct concern with Indian affairs dates from almost twenty years back, and so much has happened in the course of those twenty years while your Lordships have to deal with existing conditions, that I feel I can contribute little of value to the debate. At the same time, having spent six years at the India Office, and having there and in the course of visits to India known personally all the leading figures of that time, both among the Indian Princes and among Indian politicians, I do not like to remain altogether silent. But I cannot pretend to examine the details that have to be considered, some of which have been so powerfully dealt with by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, and I will set out a few considerations which induce me to give general support to the Report which has been the issue of these many inquiries and Conferences in which, unfortunately, I have been unable to take part.
I think it may be worth while to glance at the manner in which in the nineteenth century this country had to meet the problem which confronted it after many years of peaceful penetration of trade, and after victories gained over European rivals and over various dominations in India. That problem might have been met by saying: "There are two ancient civilisations, Eastern and Western, to be treated on a footing of equality, and each with much to learn from the other." For instance, our Western conception of the Christian religion, which might tend to throw excessive emphasis on the merits of that faith merely as an ethical system, might he elevated and strengthened with closer contact with the more contemplative and spiritually-minded Indian. And in the sphere of government—Indian government being in question—we might have looked back through Indian history to the days of Akbar and considered the methods of different rulers, Moslem, Mahratta, Sikh and other Indians, and the Ministers who advised them—those of them who were the most broad-minded 436 and the most humane. We might also have said: "Let us limit so far as we can our annexation of Native States to cases of absolute misgovernment, or where no inheritance could be found, and even there as little as possible if means could be found to continue Indian government." If this system had been carried out by sympathetic administrators of the stamp of Sir Thomas Munro, and Mount Stuart Elphinstone, or men of high imagination like Sir Alfred Lyell, it is very possible that by now there might have been a federated India, prosperous and content, which would have spared your Lordships from having to consider these problems to-day.
But events did not so work out. The nineteenth century witnessed a great deal of bloodshed and fighting in India, some of it inevitable, some of it inexcusable. It also witnessed a number of annexations of Native States, not all of them by any means obligatory. It saw too the creation of the Indian Civil Service—that body which, for its courage, its devotion to duty, its humanity and its self-sacrifice, has made all Englishmen proud. And it is mainly due to that Civil Service and also, of course, to some of the great men who have filled the position of Viceroy, that we are able to say, without maintaining that our Government of India has been perfect, that at any rate we need not make the abject apologies which some people seem to think to be necessary for our continuing to remain there. But it is also true—and this, of course, came into being especially after the Mutiny—that there was no attempt to treat India on anything like a footing of equality. We did claim to take a position of racial superiority. That showed itself in a great number of ways. The retention of the use of the English language as a medium of education was probably inevitable. So probably was the introduction of English justice. But in introducing English justice it was not necessary to throw roughly aside, as was done, the practice of Indian justice, and to apply our methods to oriental conditions utterly unsuitable to them.
Then again, in the mere matter of dress. I do not know whether any of your Lordships ever saw or heard of a work over which people smiled fifty years ago, the account of an Indian Judge 437 written by his nephew. Bengal now writes as good English as Bloomsbury, but in those days a good deal of Indian English was marked by extravagant phraseology and by the amazing interpolation of foreign languages. In this case the Judge who had discarded the Indian dress in favour of coat and trousers, was descrii3ed by his admiring biographer in the phrase: "With him it was esto perpetua in the pantaloon." Well, that article of clothing has very much gone out of fashion among the younger generation in England, but in those clays it undoubtedly was the opinion of Indians most friendly to the British connection that the adoption of English dress was a passport to the favour of the Government.
These, of course, are trivial matters, but what we did was to impress upon the educated Indian mind that our English Parliamentary system was the only one which a self-respecting people could hope to regard as the proper system for themselves. I do not know whether some of your Lordships may remember a book written in the last century by the philosophical statesman Sir George Cornewall Lewis, entitled "On the Government of Dependencies." In the course of that occur these sentences:The Constitution of the local Government ought not to be conceived in a form, or its provisions expressed in terms, by which the inhabitants of the Dependency might be naturally led to suppose their country a virtually independent State. The English Government in framing the political institutions of its Dependencies has not been sufficiently careful to give such a form as might suggest the idea of their subordinate character. So far indeed has it been from observing this caution that it has formed them after the model of the Supreme Government and has acquiesced in the use of forms and language by the Legislature of the Dependency which seem to imply that its Government was co-ordinate with and not subordinate to the Government of the dominant country.Of course, Sir George Cornewall Lewis was not thinking of India but was thinking of the North American and West Indian Colonies, some of which, as we know, have quite literally fulfilled the prophecy that he made; but the principle is everywhere the same, and I cite it on the ground that having persuaded thoughtful and politically-minded men that an imitation or reproduction of the British Parliament is the only form of government which free and self-respecting 438 people can hope for, you cannot now turn round, as some people would like to turn round, and say: "Well, Parliamentary government does not carry the prestige which it did. In some parts of the world we see that great countries have set it aside in favour of entirely different systems. Therefore do not proceed to go further in forming a Parliamentary system in India, but wait and see what turns up, and in the meantime be content to leave things as they are." That, I venture to say, is an altogether impossible line to take.
I should now like to say one word about provincial government. Ever since I thought about Indian matters at all it always seemed to me that the line of advance was through giving further responsible powers to the Presidencies and Provinces. That, of course, was no novelty, because many years ago Mr. John Bright took up the same line very strongly; but, of course, the objection always was that which the Lord Chancellor has just developed—namely, that you ran the risk of destroying the unity of India altogether if you made the Provinces too independent and too powerful. I confess I was impressed on the occasion of the last sitting by a remark which fell from the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, on the point of starting from the foundation instead of trying to work downwards. I remember having a long conversation on that subject with Mr. Gokhale, who, I suppose, most of us will agree was the ablest Indian politician we have known, and he strongly took the view that to start by giving more influence and more work to local authorities was the proper line of advance. I wish that had been done, but at that time his supporters—I think most of them—had become much more fascinated by the idea of obtaining more power and more activity in legislative bodies than in anything which could be done by local bodies. I entirely agree with the view which has been further developed by the Lord Chancellor, that having instituted provincial autonomy it would be almost approaching a farce not to give the power of preserving order to the Ministry. Of that I have not the faintest doubt.
I hope it may be assumed that when the House divides to-morrow there till be a large majority in favour of considering the recommendations of the 439 Report in the form of a Parliamentary measure. Noble Lords on the Front Opposition Bench are not prepared to support it on one or two grounds, very moderately and clearly set out by those who have spoken on their behalf. Their first complaint was that the Report did not, in terms, do anything to assist, I presume, their object of obtaining more political power for the Indian cultivators and industrial workers. I take it that the reply to that complaint must be that this is a measure of political reform not one of social amelioration, and that it will be for the Indians themselves in the future, having obtained this large measure of political influence, to go forward in the direction in which those noble Lords probably would approve, but that such provisions could scarcely form part of this measure.
The second reason which leads the Opposition to abstain from voting is that there is no mention in the Report of Dominion status. That is one of those cant phrases of politics which has been popular because it is undefined. In one sense, I think, in the estimation of the world and certainly at Geneva, there is no country which holds a higher position than India among all those that owe allegiance to His Majesty. But it is also, of course, the case that the phrase has been taken to mean some system of government very much on the lines of the Government of Canada, which, owing to quite recent practice, involves the complete absence of British troops from the country. Those noble Lords desire a term to be mentioned, a term of twenty or at the outside of thirty years, at the end of which that form of responsible government should have been achieved. It seems to me that it would be altogether unwise to attempt to mention a date, even an approximate date, for the assumption by India of those powers. I do not think the Government of the day has any more right to do that than it has to indicate what the income Tax should be at that remote date; and for this reason: that if such a promise were made it would have to be so hedged about by the consideration of possible contingencies that it would lose the greater part of its value. Who can say that the Empire, or some part of it, may not be at war at the time mentioned, and, therefore, I cannot help regretting that noble Lords holding those views 440 have thought it necessary on those grounds to abstain from voting for the Report, much of which they favour.
But I should like to make an appeal to some noble Lords opposite, not to those who, like the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, whose absence from the debate we all deplore, after a careful consideration and study of the question, and large experience, have decided that they are not able to concur in the main provisions of the Report. Those noble Lords must, of course, form and stick to their own conscientious opinion. But I feel that on the Benches opposite there must be a great many others who without pretending to a thorough knowledge of Indian matters, or to a complete study of all the Papers which have been produced by the different Committees of Inquiry, yet feel that it would be better to wait, that there is, after all, not very much hurry; and, therefore, that it would be wiser to go slow. I beg to say in reply that I think that is not a wise attitude to adopt, and for this reason.
I am sure that every vote which is given to-morrow in opposition to the Motion of the noble Viscount, Lord Halifax, will be taken in India as representing a desire to postpone indefinitely further advance. This question has to be considered as a whole, and, as previous speakers have pointed out, you cannot introduce a Bill including some of the principal provisions of the Report if you strike out some of the others which are really complementary to them. Therefore, as I say, every vote which is given against Lord Halifax's Resolution will be regarded, not as a plea for delay, but as a refusal to proceed. It is not, I think, unfair to say this, because the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, in his initial speech did not confine himself to advancing reasons why consideration might be delayed for a few months, but protested in strong terms against many of the principal provisions which, as we know, will form part of the coming Bill.
I would therefore beg noble Lords who do not consider themselves pledged, by a study of the question, to oppose the Resolution, to consider whether, even if they do not feel able to support it, they cannot agree to stand aside for the moment, because I am quite certain that the figures when they reach India will have an effect on public opinion which I 441 am bound to say the figures of Divisions in this House do not always carry all over the world. I say this because I have sat for many years in this House, probably longer than most of those who will take a part in the. Division to-morrow. I have witnessed two abortive attempts to carry a Home Rule measure for Ireland brought in by two Governments—quorum, pars parva fui. I remember the creation of the Australian Commonwealth, of which I naturally highly approved although I took no part in its inception. Among all my recollections of this House I think the pleasantest is that it was given to me to be in charge of the measure for creating the Union of South Africa. I am not sure that any of these measures, or any other measures or votes to which we have consented in this House, was of intrinsic importance equal to that which we are considering to-day. If the criterion to be taken is the number of those who owe allegiance to His Majesty whose welfare is affected by this measure, then this measure is the most important with which any of us have ever had to deal. I trust, therefore, that when Parliament passes the measure, it will be passed not in a spirit of tardy acquiescence but in a spirit of general and cordial agreement.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, I have had the honour of being an Indian Governor and I therefore feel bound as a member of this House—and indeed one of the oldest members—to declare the opinions which I have formed to the best of my ability and as conscientiously as I am able. I must confess, however, that it is only with great reluctance that I have brought myself to the discharge of that duty as I am no talker and I have reached the age when there is every inclination to leave everything to those younger men who will live to see the fruit of their works. I realize, moreover, that I have long since been placed upon the shelf.
I should, however, like to remind your Lordships that I was an advocate of political reform in India thirty years ago, that is to say before any or your Lordships, except a very few members who still survive, had given the matter a thought. I am still in favour of the progressive development of self-government in India, but only by gradual stages in accordance with the declaration which 442 was made by Parliament in the Government of India Act. I was fortunate enough to be Governor of Madras at a very interesting time which might well be described as the turning point of political evolution in India, and when I returned to England I was one of the very few members of the Conservative and Unionist Party who gave wholehearted support to the Morley-Mints Reforms. That was a long time ago, but in common with all those who have lived and served in India I have been giving constant thought to this Indian question for many years past, and I may say that the course of events in India and the manner in which our policy in regard to the government of India has been drifting has caused me almost daily unhappiness and anxiety.
It is too often forgotten that those who are outside of Parliament and Party politics but are in one way or another concerned with India, have not had to wait for the White Paper or the Report of the Joint Select Committee to form general opinions as to the state of affairs in India and the necessities of the case. They have had before them from day to day evidence just as abundant as that which was brought in more concentrated forms before the Round-Table Conferences and the Joint Select Committee. That evidence was furnished in the first place by the wholly admirable Report of the Statutory Commission which may be regarded as evidence of overwhelming authority. Next there has been the news of all kinds from India published in the daily Press as well as the newspaper reports of proceedings at the several Conferences and Committees. And lastly there has been the evidence furnished by a flood of books and pamphlets written by Englishmen and Indians of eminence and authority as the result of direct and recent experience. Just as an instance I may tell your Lordships that I know for a fact that my old friend and political associate for many years, Sir Henry Page Croft, has read well over 900 books on India and has devoted many hours a day to the study of the Indian question for the past few years. The members of the Joint Select Committee are, therefore, not the only persons who have been devoting months and days and hours to the study of this question. There are others who have been doing 443 the same thing but in a rather different way.
Can it be said, my Lords, that those who have sat at round tables in conference and have pored over documents which were mainly official are the only persons who can form a right judgment in this matter? There is an old saying that in certain circumstances a man cannot see the wood for the trees, and I think it is applicable to those who have been cribbed, cabined and confined for their study of this question. The interesting confessions of those who have described their conversion to the view of the Majority of the Joint Select Committee do not impress me. When a jury of British citizens has been shut up for a good many hours to consider their verdict the time always comes when those who entered the discussion with more or less open minds feel obliged to give way to the members who had made up their minds in the first instance. I should be a much happier man than I have been for some time past if I could give my whole-hearted support to the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee, if I could say to the Government without any misgiving or qualm of conscience that I think they have decided upon the best possible course, and that I believe that constitutional reform on the lines proposed will bring about peace and contentment in India. It is most painful to be obliged to disagree with men whom I respect and admire, with whom I am in political association, and among whom are many personal friends.
It seems almost presumption to disagree with men of such eminence and proved ability and to back your opinion against the opinion of those who have worked so long and so diligently. But a council of experts does not always arrive at decisions which are acceptable to the general public. A British jury, if I may quote that instance once more, from another point of view, has to give its verdict according to conscience in spite of the persuasive oratory of brilliant advocates and sometimes in contradiction to the summing-up of a learned Judge. This matter has to be decided by Parliament, and the duty of Parliament is to reflect the opinions and wishes of the whole body of electors; that is to say of ordinary people with very little particular knowledge of the question at issue.
444 Now, my Lords, from the point of view of the man in the street it, seems to me that the Government are proposing to give to India something that she does not want, something that she cannot afford, something which will do no good, and may possibly do great harm, to the masses of the peoples in India, and that the Government propose to do this at a time which is singularly unpropitious. Let me take these four simple points in order and try to prove that I am only stating facts which cannot be denied. I say that India does not want the scheme of the White Paper. What are the facts? They are that at least 95 per cent. of India's peoples know nothing whatever about the White Paper. The 5 per cent. who may have heard of it are divided into conflicting sections that regard the scheme only from the standpoint of their particular race, creed, caste or profession. There is only one point on which they are all agreed, and that is in objecting to the very proposals which we are told will alone make India contented. A powerful section of the Hindu Congress refuses to accept the White Paper or the Communal Award of the Prime Minister which is the basis of the whole scheme because it gives some protection to minorities. The Gandhi section neither accepts nor rejects the Award but is determined to bring matters to a deadlock with a view to fighting for the complete independence of India, with the right to secede from the British Empire. The left wing of the Congress, which is strong in the industrial centres, has adopted a Communist policy, inspired from Moscow, which aims at abolishing the Princes, big landlords and the British connection.
There is, moreover, a new movement in India which has been strangely ignored in this country and it is that of the orthodox Hindus, who have been roused to action by a fear of the dangers to their religion and customs which they think the White Paper proposals would bring about. This awakening of the orthodox Hindus has been ignored by all our politicians, who regard their opposite numbers in India as the only persons who can voice the views of India. But these orthodox Hindus are about half the population, excluding the Outcasts, and it is worth while to quote what was said on their behalf by the Chairman at a recent conference in Calcutta: 445As Sanatanists we believe in a spiritual Swaraj, not in a barren and useless political emancipation. We have no quarrel with the Government or their officers and representatives. If we have any right against our Sovereign, it is to invoke his protecting hand against the enemies of our religion.Now, whom do these people regard as "the enemies of their religion"? It is the unorthodox Hindu politicians whom the White Paper will put in power. I do not see how we can disregard the views of 150,000,000 people in British India to whom their religion and the customs based on it are the only things they really care about. I doubt very much whether the Joint Select Committee have given sufficient attention to this aspect of the case. It seems to be strangely ignored in that curious paragraph of the Report which refers to the emergence of a body of central opinion.
The sturdy Sikhs of the Punjab, and the Hindu minorities in the Punjab, Sind, North-West Frontier Province and Bengal are violently opposed to the White Paper because the Committal Award would place them permanently under a Moslem majority. The Sikhs are even threatening to fight rather than submit to this. Where do your peace and contentment come in? It is true that the Moslems, who number nearly one-fourth of the population, are quite disposed to accept the Communal Award, but only because it will give them a majority in Bengal and the key Provinces of the North-West and enable them to combine in order to fight against the certain Hindu domination of the Central Government. They are anticipating, just as Mr. Gandhi does, a fight to the death between Hindus and Moslems. Again I ask, how can you count on peace and contentment if you pass this measure as it is? The Indian Christians, who number over 6,000,000, and to whom the most reverend Primate did not seem to make much reference, complain (I quote their words) thatthough their fundamental rights are seriously threatened by the White Paper they were not given a hearing before the Joint Select Committee.As for the Princes, it is sufficient to say that they are full of anxiety and have not yet arrived at a considered decision.
In face of these facts who will venture to say that India is demanding and crying out for this scheme of constitutional reform? The noble Marquess who has just sat down seemed to think that a plea 446 for delay would be regarded with consternation in India. I venture to disagree with him. I think it would be welcomed by half the people of India, if not more.
My next point was that India cannot afford to have the White Paper scheme at present. The Joint Select Committee admit that their proposals will cost very nearly £5,000,000 sterling per annum. They also admit that special emergency taxation and special economies are still in force and that these in fact represent together a sum of £12,000,000. Thus India at present is short by £17,000,000 of revenue necessary to restore her to financial normality and meet the cost of reforms. The Committee, however, do not say where these £17,000,000 are to come from. They content themselves with a vague expression of hope and belief that the financial problem is "in process of solution." But even £17,000,000 is not a full estimate, for we have learnt from Sir Malcolm Hailey's Memorandum that even more would be required. It follows, therefore, that these constitutional proposals are at present impossible on financial grounds and we are asked to vote for them on the supposition that some miracle will improve the financial position of India. Are we really to believe that the money will be extracted from the pockets of the people and their buried hoards of treasure by this strange "magnetic power" of which we have been told by the noble Viscount, the mover of the Resolution? Will not the people of India say, and say with some justification: "You have forced this new system upon us and it is therefore up to you to pay the Bill"? Will the British taxpayer be willing to finance this specious Home Rule for the futile propitiation of Indian politicians?
My third point was that the time is singularly unpropitious, and I do not think it can be denied that a period of economic depression and frantic terrorism is not a good time for the introduction of constitutional reform. It cannot be too often repeated that the real grievances of India are economic and not political, and it seems to me, therefore, that our paramount duty is to maintain the protecting hand of British rule until India is able to share in a revival of economic prosperity throughout the world. It is all the more important to maintain the protection of British rule until we have purged the country of that 447 terrorism which is described in the note furnished to the Joint Select Committee by the Secretary of State for India with its appendix which we find in Volume II of their Report—a dreadful and terrible document.
In these circumstances would it not be the better, safer and more courageous policy to face these facts and place them quite frankly before the peoples of India, to say to them: "You have seen what earnest and protracted consideration we have given to your demands for a larger measure of self-government. You have seen how far most of us are prepared to go, but you must recogise that the time has not yet come for so large a step in advance. It would not be giving your politicians a fair chance if they were obliged to inaugurate and work this new democratic Constitution at a time when the people cannot bear any further taxation, and while the terrorists are still active. You must, therefore, be content for the present with a further experiment in provincial autonomy, while we continue to protect your frontiers and maintain that law and order without which all your endeavours to develop political consciousness and promote social reform are bound to be in vain."
The ultimate sanction for law and order in India is, of course, the British Army, and there cannot be any real self-government in India while India has to depend upon British soldiers. And do not let us forget our own point of view, which must be that British troops should not be jeopardised in any cause for which the British Government is not directly responsible. If the peoples of India have any real wish for self-government, and any real understanding of what self-government means, the first thing they have to do is to devote all their energies to that Indianisation of the Army which we are now facilitating to the best of our ability. No better earnest of our good faith could be given than by what we are doing in that respect. We have every right to be in India, and it follows that the duty of Parliament is to maintain unimpaired that existing partnership which is of mutual benefit to India and Great Britain. In other words, we must preserve our commercial, industrial and financial interests in India.
Now we are told in a somewhat didactic and superior manner that trade 448 depends upon "good will," and we are meant to infer that good will on the part of India depends upon political concessions to Indian politicians. There is absolutely no justification for that argument, which reminds us painfully of all that was said and done before Home Rule was conceded to Ireland. The same kind of thing was said by the same men who are saying it now in regard to India, but we cannot forget that their views and their confident anticipations have been completely falsified as regards Ireland. There is plenty of good will in India already, and we can keep and increase it if we maintain our responsibility for law and order, and continue to protect the people from oppression. There is no other way of doing it, and it is quite certain that political reforms which will not alter the mode of life of the people will not affect the good will upon which trade depends.
The peoples in India wish to buy our goods, and especially our cotton cloth, because it is better than their own. They are only prevented from doing so by the high tariffs which Indian politicians have imposed at the bidding of the mill-owners of Bombay and Ahmedabad, and we have it from those same politicians that they intend to discriminate further against us if we give them the power to do so. The proof that our goods are preferred is to be found in the fact that Indian merchants are constantly sued in the Courts for imitating British trade marks on their own goods. When the boycott—which was yet another imitation of Irish methods of political agitation—was organised by the Congress Party in 1930–31 it only succeeded where dealers could be intimidated, or even terrorised by bombs, into abandoning the sale of British cloth. But that boycott began to fail as soon as the Viceroy issued an Ordinance making intimidation with picketing illegal, and in many cases the Ordinance had immediate effect. I have these facts from men who have quite recently retired from India, and I would give your Lordships chapter and verse if time permitted.
The proposal to which there is most objection is that of granting responsibility at the Centre and incorporating Federation in the scheme. I shall not repeat all the reasons for that objection, and I intend to confine myself to one point 449 which, so far as I am aware, has not yet been touched. We are told that the chief object of that proposal is to maintain the unity of India. I submit that no Parliaments and no laws can create, or even preserve, national unity when the people are divided by conflicting interests arising from race and religion, and from unalterable geographical and economic circumstances, unless the form of government be autocratic. The story of Indian unity in the past is familiar to all and the more complete unity which has resulted from British rule has been due to two main causes. The first of these is the presence of the British Army in India, as a defence against external foes and the ultimate guardian of law and order. The second is that use of the English language which has been rendered indispensable by the adoption of our system of government and law, and the introduction of instruments of European civilisation. These real causes of unity are not going to disappear at once, or for some time to come, and yet the Joint Select Committee tell us in their Report that unless their scheme is accepted "the prospect of an All-India Federation will disappear, perhaps for ever, but certainly for many years to come."
Does not that statement reveal an utter lack of confidence in the efficacy of the plan proposed Has the federal scheme so little substance? Is it merely a thing of vapour which will blow away unless it is immediately liquefied? I cannot believe that. If the idea of an All-India Federation is a good thing, as indeed I believe it to be, surely it will keep for a few years? What are ten years, or even fifty years, in the life of a nation which has a future? I cannot see why the Princes and peoples of India should not be allowed to evolve their own scheme for the United States of India. If we really intend to make the All-India Federation self-governing, and to give it a status comparable to that of the Dominions, surely we ought to let it be based on Indian ideas? But the Princes and the Provinces have not yet had time to develop any definite notions as to their ultimate goal, and it would therefore seem to be the wiser course to let them settle down to peaceful experiment in provincial autonomy, and to find out for themselves upon what terms they can 450 really unite against the time when our protection will be withdrawn. It seems to me that the Princes at any rate will wish to see something of provincial autonomy in British India before they can form a fair judgment as to the possibilities of federal co-operation for the good of India as a whole.
We have been told that "a strong wind of nationalism" is blowing across the Indian Continent and the whole of Asia. Why not give that wind a chance of clearing the air and blowing away the dust and microbes of present controversies? Mr. Baldwin has told us, with superb confidence, that if we adopt the scheme of the Joint Select Committee we retain India for ever, but that if we reject or curtail it we shall lose India within two generations. He did not explain the reasons upon which he based that prophecy, and I do not think that it has made any impression upon most of those who have passed the better part of their lives in India. I think I am right in saying that there was no member of the Joint Select Committee who had spent more than five years in India, and then only in exalted positions which are far removed from the lives of the Indian masses. I myself am much more fearful of the prophecy which was made long ago, and by a man who knew more about India than Mr. Baldwin—the, prophecy that if we ever lost India it would be upon the floor of the House of Commons. My Lords, I live in dread lest the fulfilment of that prophecy may be at hand.
There are no possible consequences of our action in India that we need apprehend so long as we do without fear or favour that which we believe to be right, and are not influenced by any considerations other than our responsibility for the welfare of all classes and conditions of people in India and the maintenance of our own just rights. The things above all others that we have taught the people of India is that they can look to us to see fair play between them in all disputes, great or small. What they most respect is the courage of the British officer or official to be an impartial umpire or referee in any circumstances. It is a conspicuous characteristic of the Indian to how to just authority, and we cannot go wrong if we adhere to the letter of the great Proclamation made by Queen Victoria, 451 as indeed we may justly claim to have done thus far.
There is only one unconditional pledge that has ever been given to India, and that is that pledge to the Princes of India which has been renewed by each Sovereign and was reaffirmed in the Royal Proclamation at the inauguration of the Chamber of Princes by the Duke of Connaught on behalf of the King-Emperor. That pledge declared that it is the determination of His Majesty the King-Emperor "ever to maintain unimpaired the privileges, rights and dignities of the Princes of India" and it concluded with the words:The Princes may rest assured that this pledge remains inviolate and inviolable.My Lords, that pledge is sacred, but it cannot he kept if the Princes are unduly pressed to enter a Federation in which they will inevitably be subordinated to the self-governing democracy of British India. There is only one way in which that pledge can "remain inviolate and inviolable," and that is if all the Princes enter the Federation of their own free will and accord. That is the paramount and compelling reason why the adoption of the federal scheme should be postponed. The proposal made by the Statutory Commission that there should be a Council of State seems to me to be a wiser policy, in that it would give to the Princes, and also to the Provinces, the necessary opportunity of forming their own ideas on this vital question, and would not involve any irrevocable step that might cause the violation of the great and solemn pledge of the King-Emperor.
THE MARQUESS or LINLITHGOW
My Lords, it is always a pleasure, whether we agree with him or not, to listen to the noble Lord who has just sat down. He always knows his mind and exactly how to express it. I shall try in a moment or two to touch upon one or two matters which he has raised. In the meantime, I should like to be allowed, as Chairman of the Joint Committee, to associate myself with the expression by the noble Viscount, Lord Halifax, of the sad loss which the Committee suffered by the deaths of Lord Burnham and Miss Pick-ford. The House will perhaps allow me at the outset to say how grateful I am for the many kind words that have been used here and in another place about my 452 service in the Chair. It has been a great privilege to serve such a Committee, and I desire to acknowledge the unfailing support and kindness extended to me by every one of my colleagues. The Report is before Parliament. Every member of the Committee did his utmost to make it a document worthy of the great issues with which it seeks to deal. No Committee can ever, I conceive, have worked in greater harmony or with more readiness to hear every point of view. Some sections of the Committee did not feel able in the end to vote for the Report, but every section is entitled to claim that it contributed its full share towards the shaping of the Report.
Next the House will, I am sure, desire me to say how greatly the. Committee—and Lord Halifax has already mentioned the point—appreciated the help and counsel of the delegates from India and Burma. I think that Parliament owes a great debt of gratitude to those ladies and gentlemen, who were ready to journey far from their homes, often at great personal inconvenience, in order to place their able services at our disposal. I think there is a good deal to be said for the view that those of us who have had, shall I say our generous fling in the multifarious pages of the Report, ought to content ourselves at this stage with trying to help the House with any points of difficulty or of obscurity that may have appeared, and I certainly do not desire either to be too controversial or to speak at any great length this afternoon.
Before I proceed to other and more disputed matters, may I say this word about Burma I understand that His Majesty's Government accept the Joint Select Committee's recommendation for the political separation of that country from India. With the details of Burma's proposed Constitution, Parliament will deal when the Bill is before us. To-day I content myself by voicing what is, I am quite certain, the wish of the whole House—namely, that Burma may prosper greatly under any new Constitution, and that her sons and daughters may find, within the constitutional field, political contentment and ample opportunity to serve their motherland.
To revert to India and to one of the topics mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Amphill, I think it may be some service to the House if I 453 say a word about the financial aspect of the scheme of reform. Let me say at the outset that no one familiar with the position would pretend that in this respect it is altogether comfortable. Having said that, however, I would ask the House to remember, in surveying the Indian position, that the whole world is only now beginning to emerge from a prolonged and severe financial crisis, a crisis that has plunged whole Continents in misery and want; that has destroyed credit upon a prodigious scale; and that has led to the collapse of the currencies of more than one important country. This then is not a moment when you would expect to find the finances of India, or of any other country, in any very comfortable position.
First of all, what are the estimated costs of the proposed reforms in the Provinces and at the Centre? I think it will probably be for the convenience of the House if I give all money values in sterling. In order to set the Provinces going, the following costs will be incurred:—New expenditure on what I may call overhead charges, that is to say, upon the Legislature and so on, £500,003 (Rs. ¾ crore); loss to Indian revenues by the separation of Burma, S1,500,000 to £2,250,000 (Rs.2 to 3 crores); and subventions to Provinces in deficit on the basis of the 1934–35 Budgets as well as to Sind and Orissa, £2,250,000 sterling (Rs.3 crores), making a total in the provincial field of £4,250,000 to £5,000,000 sterling (Rs.5¾ to 6¾ crores). I shall have something more to say in detail later, but for the purpose of comparison I turn at once to the Centre. The only immediate and compulsory new charge involved in the setting up of the Federal Centre will be about £500,000 sterling (Rs.¾ crore) on new overhead charges; and even if the full ultimate cost of the settlement with the States were added—and that, of course, will not mature for some years—the total charges at the Centre would only be about £1,250,000 sterling (Rs.1¾ crores)—that is to say, £4,250,000 to £5,000,00 sterling in the Provinces against £1,250,000 on the Federal Centre. The weight, then, of financial difficulty is in the Provinces and not at the Centre, and those who assail upon financial grounds the scheme for a Federal Centre for All-India, while themselves advocating provincial autonomy, 454 are taking up a position that is, I submit, quite untenable.
Let me go one step further in analysing the position. What I have called "overheads" and the loss of Burma revenues clearly mean an additional burden on India, though not, I contend, one of unmanageable proportions. But the subventions to Provinces are in fact a redistribution of existing charges. It is, of course, true that so far as provincial deficits are now being covered by borrowing but in future will be met from revenue, the charge on the present generation will be increased; but even this, in the long run, means no more than a transfer of the burden from certain provincial taxpayers to taxpayers all over India. Similarly, in the case of Sind and Orissa, the charge for deficits in these areas (excluding the new "overheads") is to-clay borne by taxpayers in Bombay or Bihar and Madras, and will be merely spread over a wider area in future.
I asked the House a moment ago to bear in mind the financial circumstances and difficulties of the whole world. How do the finances of India stand to-day measured in the light of these circumstances? She has balanced her Budget; she has throughout the crisis honoured her obligations; her currency is sound and her credit is good. Three and a-half per cent. India stock may be bought in the market to-day at 98. I say that is a position of which India and this country may well be proud. I think it is true to say, applying the best judgment I can to this matter, that the best opinion available, including that of the Federal Finance Committee under the Chairmanship of Lord Eustace Percy, is that if the price level of agricultural products, by far the most potent factor in India's finances, follows a course that it is now reasonable to anticipate, the resources of India will be found, with prudent management, able to bear the cost of the proposed reforms.
In this connection when we are thinking of India let us never forget that agricultural countries, while they are the first to feel the brunt of falling prices, possess great resiliency and power of recovery. Past experience in India, if we look back over her financial history, proves that she is an outstanding example of this truth. If, unhappily, 455 the unexpected should occur and prices and revenues fall, then we shall have secured the position to this extent, that whatever may be in the Act, if our recommendations are accepted, the inauguration of the Federation cannot take place until both Houses of Parliament have presented an Address to His Majesty praying that this Proclamation may be issued. In paragraph 157 of their Report the Committee say they approve this proposal:because Parliament has a right to satisfy itself not only that the prescribed number of States have in fact signified their desire to accede, but also that the financial, economic, and political conditions necessary for the successful establishment of the Federation upon a sound and stable basis have been fulfilled.If the price level of agricultural produce falls to any considerable extent, I have no hesitation in affirming the view that not only would Federation at the Centre be beyond the financial capacity of India but so indeed would provincial autonomy, and so indeed, if prices fell to the point at which at the worst of the crisis they touched, would the present system and scale of expenditure in India prove ultimately impossible.
When we are dealing with finance and with the complicated and often technical operation of estimating revenue and expenditure under conditions not yet experienced, I think we are all of us bound to depend in a great degree upon expert advice for the material upon which to exercise our judgment. I think, too, that in measuring the weight—I do not desire to overstate the case at all—which ought to be attached to various and sometimes conflicting opinions in the matter of finance, the House should not lightly reject the advice and views placed before the Joint Select Committee by the Secretary of State and his advisers, available in the Minutes of Evidence, fortified as he was, and is, by day to day communication with the Viceroy and Governors and their officers throughout India, and in particular by Sir Malcolm Hailey, a former Finance Member of the Viceroy's Council and till last week senior Governor in India, whose views are set out in Record No. 1 of the Joint Select Committee, and to whom the Committee, and I think Parliament, owe a great debt of gratitude for his services.
Not less impressive, I think, if the House will bear with me, are the opinions 456 of the two Finance Members of the Executive Council of the Governor-General who held office immediately before the present Finance Member. Sir Basil Blackett is reported in The Tinges, when speaking at Liverpool on July 25, to have said:I hold that opponents of the White Paper have made altogether too much of the financial problems involved. They add together the increased expenditure due to reforms, the existing provincial deficits, the revenue lost to the Centre by transfer to the Provinces, and the revenue transferred to Burma. They then say that the cost of the reforms is £15,000,000 or £20,000,000 or some such total. This is clearly an arithmetical fallacy. The extra expenditure attributable to the reforms is something under 22400,000 a year, not an extravagant figure for Indian taxpayers to find for the purpose of securing for themselves self-government and a Federal Constitution. Even if the amount lost by India to Burma (which is, of course, gained to Burma) be added, the figure is still below 24,000,000 a year. After being in charge for a long period of the Central Government finances I am not likely to under-estimate the task involved for the Central Government; but I hold that, given a reasonable rise in prices, time problem is not likely to prove very difficult of solution; and it would be a great gain for all to have the financial position of the Provincial Governments secured.Sir George Schuster, then Finance Member, speaking in the Legislative Assembly on 20th April, 1934, used these words:Statements have recently been made in England by former officials of the Government of India who, if I may say so, seem to arrogate to themselves an authority to speak on these subjects which increases in proportion as their direct experience of Indian administration grows out of date; statements have been made that there must be some enormous adventitious increase to India's public revenue—and one speaker has put the figure at 220,000,00 or something like 30 crores—before it will be safe to start the new Constitution. I cannot understand this line of argument.He went on to say:All the Governments, both Federal and Provincial, are going to have—as Governments are having in every country in the world—an extremely difficult time, unless there is a fundamental improvement in the situation. But that does not mean that the new Governments cannot function.I make no excuse for having asked the House to listen to the views of Sir Basil Blackett and Sir George Schuster, apart from the present holder of the office, the two last incumbents in that position in the Government of India which in this country we know as the Chancellorship of the Exchequer. These men are of the school of those that have made the finan- 457 cial system of India and her financial condition the admiration of the whole world, and I respectfully suggest that until good reason is adduced to the contrary, we shall be wise to rely upon their opinions. I think I have shown that the difficulty of finance, so far as that exists, attaches far more to provincial autonomy than to federation at the Centre.
Let me now deal, quite shortly, with some of the other objections to the scheme of reform advanced by those who would, I understand, grant provincial autonomy but who would withhold federation and responsibility at the Centre, for the present. It is a little difficult to disentangle their arguments, but these are some of those which are adduced in respect of their case. It is said that communal differences so divide India as to make any system of representative Government quite illusory, and my noble friend Lord Salisbury, in moving his Amendment, made great play with creed registers. But where do these difficulties mainly arise? If they do arise it is not at the Centre but in the Provinces. Then it is alleged that the effect of the Communal Award is in the same direction. Do those who mean to introduce only provincial autonomy propose to disregard altogether the Communal Award, and the problem with which it seeks to deal It is said in vague terms that Indians lack Parliamentary and administrative experience. Is that circumstance of no importance in the provincial field where the greater part of administration work falls to be done?
Then, again, charges of nepotism and corruption are heard. Where are those failings (if indeed they exist) most likely to appear—at the Centre, or in the autonomous Provinces where the great bulk of appointments must lie, and where minor officials are in touch with the general public in town and village? Another and much favoured assertion is that since it is our duty to secure the welfare of the masses, we ought to preserve the Central Government in its present form. But where will lie at least ninety per cent. of the matters that interest and affect the great mass of the population from day to day? Why, in the provincial field of activity, which our critics are perfectly ready to make autonomous. Then, finally, we are told, in highly picturesque language, that the safeguards are perfectly useless. Do our 458 critics, when they set up these great autonomous Provinces, intend to introduce no safeguards into the Constitutions?
The truth is, and the more you study this problem the more evident it becomes, that these arguments, if they are good, are arguments against the grant of autonomy to those great Provinces, which in area and population are, many of them, as large as Italy or Great Britain. And if no one, so far as I know, has suggested that there should be no constitutional advance in the Provinces or elsewhere, that I suppose is because everyone recognises that to stand still or to attempt at this stage to go back is not practical politics. But if you go forward and set up these great autonomous Provinces, will it not be wiser to make provision at once for a system of government at the Centre which will establish the unity of India, which will bring to your councils the representatives of the ruling Princes, and which from its nature will work in harmony with the Provinces, and so provide a check upon centrifugal tendencies if they should arise?
I do not desire to inflict upon the House arguments already heard. Your Lordships will have applied your minds to the first forty-four paragraphs of the Report of the Joint Committee, and you will be familiar with the considerations that have led the majority of the Committee to recommend the inclusion in the Bill of provisions for the setting up of an All-India Federation. Those considerations, if I may say so, have already been admirably restated in speech after speech in this debate. I should, however, like the House for a moment to consider one or two things that will follow if, within a reasonable time after the establishment of provincial autonomy, you do not inaugurate a measure of responsible government at a Federal Centre.
Remember that you are going to have in these great autonomous Provinces which everyone means to set up, a quickening of political thought, and you are going to bring within the influence of political activity millions of men and women not at present subject to it. Now if there is one demand upon which all politically minded Indians are united it is the demand for a measure of responsible government at the Centre. Whatever the merits of the Constitution, that is the object of passionate desire. Of 459 that there is no doubt whatever. Refuse that demand and you will have every Provincial Legislature deliberately and persistently employed as a lever to discomfort the irresponsible Centre. The Central Legislature will devote every ounce of its strength to rendering the life of the Central Executive as difficult as it can, while at every Election, whether provincial or for the Central Legislature, there will go forth from every platform in India a flood of propaganda directed against the Central system of government. But the Central Executive, if you leave it as it now is, will have no public platform, no Press and no friends in the constituencies to explain and defend its policy and actions and to refute the charges of its critics. It will have to try to govern India against a steadily rising tide of public suspicion and dislike. Those are conditions of a kind that cannot for long endure in any country.
There was one matter raised by my noble friend Lord Phillimore in his thoughtful speech about which I should like to say a word. The noble Lord was dealing with the desirability of creating conditions in which indigenous systems of government might make their contribution to India's future. That is a matter which has been much in my mind and in the minds of many of us, and I for one have all along felt that in the meeting of these two very different systems of government at the Federal Centre, the British type as developed in British India, and the Indian States as representing the indigenous form, would lie exactly the field for experiment, adjustment and development that Lord Phillimore has in mind.
To change again the subject, I am confident that this House will not allow its judgment to be influenced in the least degree by criticism levelled against the composition of the Joint Select Committee upon the ground that many of its members had, before their appointment, expressed views upon the merits of the issue referred to them and that, therefore, the Committee was not a judicial Committee nor its findings unbiased. Is it really suggested that, when a great problem such as that of the future Constitution of India has been debated for seven years, you are going to find thirty-two members of Parliament who have never previously formed a view or uttered a word about it? Suppose that 460 in 1907 my noble friend and kinsman, Lord Rankeillour, had decided to appoint a Committee to examine the problem of our fiscal policy. Where would he have found his band of men uncommitted, one way or the other, unless indeed he had shipped to this country ad hoc a boatload of Esquimaux? Criticism of that kind does not ring true, and, if my noble friend will allow me to say so, I think it had better not have been levelled.
I do not suppose Parliament has often before been called upon to decide an issue more far-reaching than that with which we are now confronted, for its outcome must profoundly affect future relations between Great Britain and India and between India and every other part of His Majesty's possessions. It must affect their relationship, both constitutional and economic, and what in the outcome will prove even more significant, it is destined profoundly to affect that body of human values and their interplay which are implicit in the word status. But that is not all—and here I agree with my noble friend the Marquess of Zetland and the noble Lord opposite, Lord Strabolgi. That is not all, for the decision which this House will give to-morrow night is certain to influence the whole future relationship between the civilisation of the West and that of the East. We seek to deal with the political symptoms in those regions only for which we are responsible. But the basic causes of those symptoms are not confined to British territory in the East, and very plainly you may see them at work across the five and a half thousand miles from the Delta of the Nile to the Yellow Sea and beyond. Throughout that vast area and those immense populations, in varying degree and form, you may everywhere discern the opposition of those two great systems of life and thought.
Beyond any doubt, pressure is rising at their points of contact. These are conditions in which, sooner or later, la major adjustment must be made. The scheme of constitutional reform in India, now before the House, is nothing less than an attempt to establish betimes and in orderly fashion the beginnings of a new relationship between East and West. I think there is good hope that it may succeed. I think, too, that it constitutes a policy worthy of this great country, and I trust that it may receive the sup- 461 port of this House, and that your Lordships will support the Resolution moved by my noble friend Viscount Halifax.
My Lords, I think I deserve a little sympathy in having to speak immediately after the noble Marquess, who has made such a magnificent contribution to this debate. I rise to address your Lordships as a member of the Joint Select Committee who voted against the Report, and I beg now to support the Amendment moved by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury. My reasons for voting against the Report are, in the main, the same as those which caused the noble Marquess and my noble friend Lord Rankeillour to take that course. I do not stand before your Lordships as one who culls himself a great expert on India. Sixteen years service in India, fourteen years of which were spent in an Indian Service, were quite sufficient to teach me how impossible it is in that time, or even in a longer time, to arrive at any complete understanding of the processes of thought and reasoning of the inhabitants of that great sub-continent. I think that exactly the same would be said by those who can go back twenty years, thirty years, forty years, or even half a century. Endeavouring with sympathy to understand, in the end they are completely baffled.
Serving on the Select Committee, one was naturally immensely impressed with the deep knowledge of Constitutions possessed by members of the Committee, knowledge that was an indispensable asset in dealing with the very difficult problems which confronted us. No less was one impressed by the great knowledge and experience of ex-Viceroys and Governors, Secretaries and Under-Secretaries of State, who, after all, are the men who have had to deal with the machinery of government as they have found it in the last twenty odd years. It was, of course, difficult for me to make any contribution in discussions touching high statecraft, which was completely outside my experience, as no doubt your Lordships were aware when you elected me to serve on the Committee. But, at any rate, I was able to be a very interested if silent listener. If fine points of constitutional law and practice are beyond me, I could, at any rate, claim a closer 462 acquaintenance than all but one of the Select Committee with those who form the great bulk of the population of India. Very often one thought that the great masses of India were completely forgotten, that their interests were not taken into consideration, which seemed to us two on the Committee, at any rate, quite wrong, when they form no less than 90 per cent. of the whole population.
I agree entirely with the statement which appears in the introduction of the Report on page 5, that it is not wise to judge the political consciousness of a people by the standard of the least, instructed class. Nevertheless, it is the duty of Parliament to see that as far as possible the interests of any large section of the population are riot unduly sacrificed, to see that all sections of the population, rural and urban, literate and illiterate, receive fair consideration and fair play. It was a great difficulty for the Joint Select Committee to hold the balance equal, and it was because it seemed to me that the balance was unduly weighted in favour of a vociferous minority that the Report did not satisfy me. There is art old saying in India, "The silent babe receives little milk." Well, my Lords, 90 per cent. of the population are silent, and the remaining 10 per cent. extremely vocal. In all the cloud of witnesses who appeared before us, where were the men representing the 90 per cent., the men behind the plough? It is perfectly true that their brief was held with great ability by several of those who have served in India, notably Sir Michael O'Dwyer, Mr. Lyall, Waris Amir Ali, and one or two others; but the great weight of evidence was from the other side.
The most reverend Primate read to your Lordships a certain part of the Preamble of the Government of India Act, dealing with the development of self-governing institutions, and I do not think anyone can say that that sentiment has not received very great attention. But may I read just one more portion of the Preamble:And whereas the time and manner of each advance can be determined only by Parliament, upon whom responsibility lies for the welfare and the advancement of the Indian peoples:I would underline the last dozen words. What are the important things that promote the advancement and welfare of the 463 Indian people? I suggest just those things that enable them to develop their land, to farm successfully and to market their products. Those are the matters that concern them: irrigation, forestry, communications, and that great work, one of the greatest works ever brought into being by the late Lord Curzon, the Agricultural Department. All these things are of the highest importance, and are far more important than many of the things which take up an immense amount of space in the Report and an immense amount of time in this debate. The Simon Commission were perfectly definite about these things and their suggestions were quite contrary to the recommendations contained in this Report. They insisted that recruits should be brought into the Services from outside India, and one is afraid that if this does not happen, if these all become Provincial Services, then there will be a loss of efficiency and the peasants of the country will be the worst sufferers.
The noble Viscount, Lord Halifax, and the noble Marquess who has just sat down have said that those of us who plead the cause of the rural population should not oppose the grant of federation if we are prepared to swallow provincial autonomy. There is this point that I would make in answer. I certainly hold the view that if our plan is adopted and if provincial autonomy alone is granted, then supposing that things in the Provinces go very wrong Parliament will be able to interfere and take such action as will restore the situation. If federal government is granted then the control of Parliament will be very much reduced. That, at any rate, is one answer to a charge of inconsistency which has been levelled against us.
Now I would like to refer for one moment to the speech made by the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian. His words, must say, filled me with some apprehension, largely because he dealt solely with the intelligentsia. He seemed to think of them alone and nothing of the rural population. I desire to be very brief and to take up as little of your Lordships' time as possible, but I hope that I may not sacrifice accuracy for brevity. The impression which I gained from him in part of his speech was that because there are certain numbers of students, professors and others, who are educated, and because they have certain 464 hopes and aspirations, taught by us, therefore we should follow the recommendations of the Report because otherwise the only alternative is what I think he called "naked repression." How far can that argument be carried? Are we to suppose that those educated persons to whom he referred are going to be satisfied with this report? Have we not evidence that others who are leading opinion in a rather extreme way in India desire far more? Will his argument apply equally when they ask for a vastly greater measure of self-government?
Those who are most extreme desire that we should leave India—that we should withdraw. How far does the noble Marquess's argument carry us then? All I can say is that if we are to withdraw from India, then undoubtedly the history of India will be repeated. There will be invasion after invasion, and I do not think that there will be any liberty seen in those days. Educated youths may face up to the invaders and quote John Stuart Mill to them as long as they like, but I am afraid that the invaders will be hard-hearted enough not to listen. We have a trusteeship for the whole population and not merely for one section of it.
Next I would like to deal with one or two remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, whom I am sorry not to see in his place. I would suggest respectfully that in his recent tour in India the study of military problems was completely omitted. He talked about "a rough-and-tumble Army" officered by Indians for the defence of the Frontier. The noble Lord, Lord Belhaven, quarrelled with that idea, and I entirely agree with him. I do not quite know what a rough-and-tumble Army is. I know only two kinds of Army; one is a good one and the other is a bad one. There is only one standard and one kind of discipline and training, and that is the best. In regard to Frontier warfare I have had only a little experience, taking my turn in dealing with small expeditions after outlaws and raiders, and I have commanded a regiment in a small campaign of two or three months. I am a very nervous man, and I must say that I thought that Frontier warfare was the most nerve-wrecking experience that I have ever endured, an experience which necessitates the highest discipline and the best training.
465 I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Belhaven, that if there is any deterioration, if there is any slackening in the matter of the efficiency of our troops on the Frontier, we invite attack from the frontiersman, who may be supported by others. The noble Lord has talked about what happened in the days of Ranjit Singh. He has been dead and burnt these many years, and times have changed since then. I hold it as an axiom that we should never gamble with the security of India, and I therefore disagree entirely with every single word that the noble Lord said on this subject, and I sincerely hope that he is not held to be an expert on military matters in the councils of his Party.
The noble Lord also touched on the question of the Indianisation of the Indian Army, and I would speak with great care on this subject. There is no one who hopes more than I do that the experiment which is being tried to-day may be successful, and I hope that those Indian gentlemen who are wearing stars on their shoulders to-day and those who are in training at Debra Dun may do everything to uphold the great traditions of the Service to which they will have the honour to belong. We know—we have had evidence to that effect, and I have heard it privately—that they are being given every chance, that in officers' messes of British officers they are received as gentlemen and as brothers in arms, which does not surprise me.
One word about the position of an officer in the Indian Army, because I can speak with some experience. The position of an officer in the Indian Army differs very considerably from that of an officer in the British Army. An officer in the Indian Army has to know far more about his men. He has to know their family histories, he has to know all about their feuds, their law suits and a hundred other things which never affect the officer in the British Army at all; and only when he knows these things does he acquire the confidence of his men. It remains to be seen whether the Indian soldier will transfer his devotion, which some of us have experienced, to officers of his own kin. They have not the same detachment that we have. We are neither Hindus nor Moslems; we have no relations in the ranks; and in time of riots and civil commotion, when communal 466 feeling runs high, may it not be more difficult for them than for us? Then again on active service, when their men are tired, wet, cold and hungry, will they be able to stir them up and keep them going? The answers to all these things are in the future. Tests can never be made by examinations nor in the piping days of peace on the barrack square. These gentlemen—I can say it because I know it—are content to await the test, which can come only on active service, and if they are content, I submit that the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, might be equally content to wait.
The noble Lord criticised the numbers of Indian gentlemen who are receiving Commissions. If he had carried his inquiries a little further he would have known that military service does not make a great appeal to educated Indians. Most of them very much prefer the professions where there are less strenuous exertions and greater emoluments. During the War, 350,000 men were recruited in the Punjab. Of those, there were 70 men of education; that is all. An attempt was made to raise battalions of educated men. The total recruited was 200. It was as ignominious a failure as the attempt to raise troops in Bengal. When they had attained a certain pitch of training, there was a plan that they should go out on some field firing exercises, but it was found impossible, because it was known for a certainty that the half who were Mahomedans would shoot into the Hindus who comprised the other half. We are going slowly with it. We have magnificent young men at Debra Dun, and no one is dissatisfied with the quality, but we must have quality before quantity.
I do not wish to detain your Lordships any longer. In regard to the noble Lords opposite, I submit that if they understood the reality of the conditions under which rural India lives, their attitude would be entirely different, and they would join with us who are critical and nervous about the measures proposed in the Report. I think we all know that the noble Lord, Lord Snell, has very tender feelings about the interests of those whose, path through life is difficult, but the Labour Party do not appreciate the difference between India and this country. They have seen through history certain measures adopted 467 for alleviating distress and redressing ills and injustices, and they hope that similar measures will do exactly the same in India. I am afraid that they are entirely wrong, and that exactly the contrary will be the result. I will conclude by saying that we must remember the words of Mr. Baldwin, when he pleaded the cause of the men who fought with and stood by us in the Great War. Apart from the Princes very few of the intelligentsia did much, but, to their great credit, the men who fought with us and stood by us were the men of rural India, who are in danger of being forgotten in this Report.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
My Lords, I do not think I should be doing otherwise than expressing your feelings when I say with what pleasure we have listened to the speech of the noble Marquess who was Chairman of the Committee, and to whom I think the country owes a great debt for the extraordinary work done in that capacity. I am glad the noble Marquess addressed himself to the question, amongst others, of finance. I do not intend to entrench upon the main ground on which many of those more competent to address your Lordships have spoken, but I think that on the question of finance too little has been said. Yet everybody realises that unless there is a sound system of finance, and unless the difficulty of the Provinces can be met, the whole of this system may be jeopardised. I fully accept after some study of the figures the observations made by the noble Marquess. He said that these great deficits which are anticipated, and which according to many members of the House may amount to as much as £16,000,000 or £20,000,000, are grossly exaggerated, and he has given your Lordships figures which, if I were to put them in a nutshell, really amount to a deficit, unless there is an improvement in trade, of about £24,000,000.
I am not sure that he allowed for all the pitfalls. I think it is common ground that any serious increase of taxation in India is practically impossible. The Income Tax presses quite severely enough. To raise the Salt Tax is, I think, regarded as practically impossible; but where I think the difficulty is coming is from the direction on which the noble Lord who has just sat down had occasion to speak. Look at the position with 468 regard to the Army, and if I trouble you for a very few moments it is because I do happen to have had experience, having served in the War Office here. I know two things, and one is that whenever there is a shortage it is to the Army that the Chancellor of the Exchequer immediately turns for a reduction of expenditure. The Army is short at this moment, according to the figures presented to me, of some £4,000,000 of money. There have been reductions of pay which were temporary, and also there have been other reductions which were not temporary at all, but a postponement of necessary services in order to reduce the expenditure of the year. I am informed that sooner or later £4,000,000 extra must be paid for the Army.
I want to put this question. It is all very well to say that the Viceroy has the maintenance of the Army in his charge. You may say also that the collection of sufficient revenue may be obtained from Federal sources, including Customs, but the Viceroy is responsible for the whole of the Services, and how can he certify £4,000,000 extra for the Army and leave the Provinces £4,000,000 short? As my noble friend said very truly, it is only when you come to a campaign that you know what an inadequate Army may mean. I have fought this battle over and over again, and I have been told over and over again by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that a reduction of 5,000 men may not be felt and will equalise his Budget. I think we ought to have a little more minute figures even than those given by the noble Marquess to show that the shoe is not going to pinch at the very outset and imperil the whole edifice.
I would also like to speak on the question of time—the time for introducing these reforms. I suppose we should all agree that by every canon of procedure we ought to introduce these reforms gradually. On the other hand, by every person of real experience in India who has spoken we have been told that the whole advantage will be lost if we do not introduce them at once. But the general consent seems to be that progress must be established. That appears to be the opinion of a most remarkable chain of Viceroys, and to that has been added the testimony which appears in the Life of Lord Minto. There appears a fact 469 hitherto unknown—namely, that he was in advance of the Secretary of State, Lord Morley, in regard to these reforms.
I would like to give you one other piece of testimony. It happened that when the Montagu-Chelmsford. Reforms were under consideration there was a Committee practically similar to, though riot so far-reaching as, the one which has just sat, and the time came when it was perfectly clear that the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms would not be carried through Parliament in the form in which they had been brought in. It happened that I was engaged, with one or two others, in the negotiations which ensued between Mr. Montagu and the Conservative Leaders as to these reforms, and the point to which they v ere willing to go. If there was one man among Viceroys who I think was filled with an ardent desire for the protection of the weak, and the remedying of injustices, if there was one man who, more than any other ruler of India in the last fifty years, believed in a benevolent despotism as between West and East, it was Lord Curzon. And I well remember that of the three men who had to settle the terms on which the Conservative Party would deal with this matter, Lord Balfour and Lord Lansdowne were of opinion that the compromise would be accepted, and Lord Curzon said: "You may accept this compromise, but you will have to go a great deal further within a very few years—probably in ten years from now." I think that that is a not unimportant addition to the evidence of Viceroys that we have already had.
And may I say one word upon another matter upon which I had some personal knowledge? Mr. Baldwin the other day asked his Party in a considered speech not to allow themselves to be placed in this matter in the same position as that in which they found themselves in the course of the Irish trouble. I have not, I think, troubled your Lordships for something like thirteen years on any Irish topic, although I was concerned in all these negotiations, and I am not going to do so to-night; but I do say this, that when in the year 1918 the conviction came to a large number of persons that the time had come when the concession of a Parliament must be made if all Ireland was to be kept together, and when at that moment Mr. Redmond came and made the offer to serve under Lord Carson to keep all Ireland together 470 under a National Government not dissimilar to that which was afterwards formed in this country, the frustration of that effort was not due to the forces of revolution, but to the forces of reaction. Do not, I beg you, let us fall into the same abyss again.
If we are going to give this concession we have to remember the strong views of all those who have served there, and who know the country, not one of whom rises to say that you can put this off without fear. It is riot an ideal settlement, but may I remind your Lordships in one sentence that the greatest law-giver in ancient times, who, to all readers of the classics is an agreeable memory, Pericles, was asked: "Have you given the Athenians the best laws which you could give them?" He said: "No, I have not. I have given them the best which they are able to bear." My Lords, I think the situation is not unlike that to-day. They may not be ideal laws, but they are the best which, for both countries, they will bear at the present moment. And at all events, when we come to vote to-morrow, it is not as if we had a clean sheet. If we go into the Opposition Lobby against this Resolution, we have to vote against practically the whole of the experience massed in this House of all those who have served longest in the country. We should have, besides that, to put behind us the most minute and longest consideration of any topic, so far as I can remember, which has been brought before Parliament in living memory, perhaps at any time since the trial of Warren Hastings. In those circumstances, though we must have doubts, though we must have some feeling that we are almost gambling with this question, we must remember that since the Irish question was settled, and since Lord Curzon gave his advice, the world generally has gone forward by leaps and bounds, and it is not for us to stray behind when advice and opportunity guide us.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
My Lords, this debate has ranged over a very wide field, and produced a number of admirable speeches, not the least admirable of which, if I may say so, was the speech to which we listened just now, the very authoritative speech from the Chairman of the joint Select Committee. Arguments have been used on one side and 471 answered on the other, and I have no intention of repeating any arguments that have already been used. I intervene only for the purpose of putting shortly an argument before those of your Lordships who may not be as familiar with the details of the Indian constitutional problem as the members of the Joint Select Committee. The issue before us is a very simple one; the issue is whether to-morrow night, at the end of our debate, we are to vote for the Resolution moved on behalf of the Government by the noble Viscount, or the Amendment moved by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury. Whatever may be the difficulties and the complexities of the Indian constitutional problem—and I know as well as anyone how great they are—that issue is quite simple, and it is one on which we can all have opinions; and though we may not be Indian experts, I, at any rate, have never taken part in a Division in this House with greater confidence and with less doubt as to the side on which I should vote than I shall when I vote to-morrow for the Resolution moved by the noble Viscount. I will tell your Lordships why.
The terms of the noble Marquess's Amendment are very plausible, and they were defended in a speech of great force and vigour, which delighted us all. Whether we agreed or disagreed with the noble Marquess, we all welcomed the vigour with which he addressed us, and we all hope that he will return from his long voyage with health greatly restored. The noble Marquess said in effect: "We, the members of the Joint Select Committee have discussed this question now for nearly two years. We took all that time before we could make up our minds what Report to submit to Parliament; whereas you, my Lords, have only had our Report in your hands for a bare fortnight, and yet you are asked in that short time to commit yourselves to a decision on the merits of the case." That is a very plausible argument. But what are the facts? The first fact is that your Lordships are not asked to pass judgment between a Majority Report and a Minority Report; you are merely asked to say in what form the Government shall introduce a Bill and lay it before your Lordships. Further, we the members of the Joint Select Committee did not discuss this question for eighteen months: the greater part of that time was spent 472 in listening to the opinions of witnesses who came before us.
That is what the Committee were appointed to do. Because Parliament, as a whole, could not hear all these divergent opinions, both Houses set up a Select Committee to do that work for them. Surely it was the intention of each House of Parliament, when it set up such a Committee, that after hearing all the evidence they should decide not what Bill we should pass but in what form legislation should be submitted to Parliament for its consideration? What would be the use of setting up a Committee to do all this work, what would be the use of delegating these powers, unless you were prepared, after they had heard all the evidence and discussed the matter, that the Government should accept the recommendations of the Majority of that Committee? That is all that the Government are asking us to do by this Resolution—to authorise them to introduce a Bill based upon the Report of the Majority of the Committee. They are not asking you to delegate your legislative functions or to say that the Committee shall decide for you what Bill shall be passed. They are merely asking you to authorise them to introduce a Bill on these lines.
I ask you for a moment to put yourselves in the position of the Government. The Government have been asked in Parliament whether, when the Report of the Joint Select Committee was made public, they would give to both Houses an opportunity of discussing it, and they replied that they would. Supposing they had done otherwise, supposing they had said "No, we do not wish that Parliament should discuss this Report at all but that it should wait until we introduce the Bill," would not the noble Marquess have been the first to criticise them for weakness and to say they did not dare submit the recommendations of the Committee to the consideration of Parliament? Yet when they do the obvious and straightforward thing the noble Marquess describes their action as unprecedented, nay, even unconstitutional. There is the difficulty in which the Government are placed, and I hope your Lordships will show in the Division to-morrow night that they have taken the straightforward and obvious course, the only course they could have taken, in submitting to your 473 Lordships the Resolution which was moved by the noble Viscount.
But let us be in no doubt as to what the consequence of a vote in support of the noble Viscount's Resolution means. No one who votes for that Resolution to-morrow must be held to be committed to approval in advance of any clause in the Bill which the Government may subsequently introduce merely because such a clause is in conformity with some recommendation of the Majority of the Select Committee. Obviously we all retain perfect freedom in our attitude towards every clause of the Bill which the Government will subsequently introduce. Having sat on the Select Committee and listened to all the conflicting opinions which were brought before us, I am well aware of the immense difficulties of this problem. If I had any interest in so doing I could make a very damaging speech against the proposals of the Majority of the Select Committee. I agree with the most reverend Primate in that respect. We have only got to cite the variety of opinions which were laid before us by witnesses from India in order to show how little unanimity of opinion there is even amongst Indians themselves on this question. Yes, it is very easy to criticise. It would be very simple to make a damaging speech against any proposal that has been made from any quarter on this constitutional question, but I submit no one has a right to criticise the proposals of the Majority of the Committee unless he is prepared to recommend an alternative which, in his opinion, would solve the difficulties better.
Let it be said in justice that the noble Marquess who moved his Amendment has such an alternative. He and the friends who agreed with him on the Select Committee submitted an alternative proposal to the Committee. It is in the records of the Proceedings, and the noble Marquess has even taken the trouble to furnish us with a printed document containing his alternative proposals. I notice that he does not recommend your Lordships to approve these proposals. If he had done so, if that had been the nature of his Amendment, I could very easily have shown that all the objections that could be brought against the proposals of the Majority could be urged against the proposals of the noble 474 Marquess, and a good many more. He does not only not remove the difficulties of which he complained, but his proposals would create many which those who have knowledge and experience of India could point out were even greater than the difficulties which exist in the proposals of the Majority.
Again the noble Lord, Lord Snell, and his colleagues, the Labour representatives on the Select Committee, had also an alternative. I also had an alternative proposal with regard to the form of the Central Government which I recommended to my colleagues and for which I found no support. If any of these alternatives were before your Lordships, and you were being urged to accept them in place of the proposals of the Majority, I should be prepared to argue either for or against them; but no such recommendation is made. These alternative proposals did not receive the support of the Majority of the Committee, and the outstanding fact about the Majority Report is that it embodies the maximum of agreement that could be obtained both in this country and in India on this very difficult question. It does not obtain unanimity either here or in India. No proposal could. But the Report of the Majority of the Committee does secure the maximum support of all those who have studied the question both in this country and in India, and that is the reason why the Government have chosen it as a basis for their legislation.
I asked you just now to put yourselves in the position of the Government; and I do feel in this connection that a very special tribute is due to the Secretary of State for India for his conduct through all these years of this great and difficult question. The Secretary of State took office soon after the Simon Commission had reported and just after the first Round-Table Conference had been set up. At that time he was necessarily ignorant of the vast and complicated details of the Indian constitutional problem. He brought to the study of that problem a fresh mind, a mind which, if it had any bias at all, was biased by a traditional Conservative attitude. No one could say that when the Secretary of State took up the study of this question he took it up in the spirit of a rash man. He took it up in the spirit of an experienced Conservative statesman. Since then he has sat through all 475 these three Round-Table Conferences for two years. He has made an intensive study of the whole question, and at the end he produced on behalf of the Government the White Paper.
Since then he has continued his work on the sittings of the Joint Select Committee. He has listened to all the opinions, he has read all the documents, he has answered innumerable questions, he has stood examination and cross-examination in every single detail, and from every point of view in this complicated problem, and, as a result of all that work, he has confirmed some of the opinions which were expressed in the White Paper and modified others. No predecessor of the Secretary of State has ever, I think, had such an intensive training in the study of this particular constitutional problem, and I am quite certain that no predecessor of Sir Samuel Hoare had ever such a mastery of all its details as he has. And the result is the Majority Report of the Select Committee.
No one, of course, is under any obligation to accept the authority of the Secretary of State, and I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, this afternoon professed to know far better than the Secretary of State, with all the knowledge and information at his disposal, both what India wanted and what India could afford. Speaking for myself, I can only say that if, in discussing any detail of this constitutional problem, I was unable to secure the agreement of the Secretary of State, I should feel very humble in the extent to which I held to my opinion, and I should feel far more certain, if I could get him to agree with me, that I was right in the view which I held.
The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, deprecated the fact that the Secretary of State had been a member of the Joint Select Committee. Whatever may be the theoretical objections against such a course, I have no doubt whatever that the procedure was amply justified by the example of the present Secretary of State, and I am sure that all my colleagues on that Committee, whatever their views may be on anything else, will agree with me that his conduct throughout was truly admirable and extremely helpful to all of us. I may say that if I was able finally to agree with the Majority in submitting their Report to Parliament, it was largely due to the 476 arguments used by the Secretary of State in our proceedings and out of my great respect for the authority which he commanded.
Your Lordships may not be familiar with all the details of this constitutional problem, but you are not asked to express any opinion upon them. There 'are in fact three alternatives—the draft of the noble Marquess and his friends, that of the Labour members of the Committee, and, finally, the draft of the Majority. With the main lines of those three alternatives and the points of difference between them all your Lordships, I am quite sure, are familiar, and, as between them, there can be no question whatever as to which has the greater authority. The Government in this matter were bound to follow the Majority. They could not do otherwise. I agree with the noble Lord who spoke last; I do not think there has ever been a question which has been studied more carefully, more profoundly than this one, and no policy has ever been submitted to Parliament with a greater authority. That is the second reason why I have no hesitation in voting for the Resolution moved by the noble Viscount.
My third and last one has relation to the position in India. When I was in India the greatest difficulty which I encountered—and I think the noble Viscount will bear me out in this—was the uncertainty which existed as to the future in the minds of those who co-operated with us. And it was a difficulty which it was impossible for us to remove. It is customary in these debates to refer to the opinions of Congress. The extravagance of their demands is given to us as an excuse for doing nothing. Their criticisms of everything that is offered to them is pointed out to us as evidence that we have failed to satisfy Indian opinion. Those who argue in this way speak as if Congress was India. It is nothing of the kind. The Government of India is far more representative of India as a whole than Congress politicians. I have no hesitation in making that assertion, for the Government of India is able to speak in the name of officials, in the name of the Army, in the name of the Police, in the name of the Princes, in the name of the fighting races, and in the name of both the Moslem and Hindu communities, whereas the Congress politicians cannot even speak on behalf of one of the great 477 communities. There is no comparison between the authority of the two.
But it is also true to say that that argument can only be maintained so long as the Government do command the support of these people, a support which it is essential for them to retain. Therefore, when I speak of Indian opinion I am thinking of those on whose co-operation I had to rely, and on whose co-operation future Governors and future Viceroys will also have to rely. If the Amendment of the noble Marquess were carried tomorrow night, no matter what may have been the motives of your Lordships in voting for it, these men, the men who have co-operated and worked with us in the past, will be profoundly discouraged. It is not a question of whether we have satisfied Congress demands or not, but the men who have supported us, worked with us, co-operated with us, will be profoundly discouraged by such a vote. If your Lordships carry the Government Resolution, and carry it, as I hope you will, by a large majority, you will put new heart into these men; you will strengthen their hands; you will enable them to feel that the faith that they have always had in the British connection has been justified. The whole Government in India will be strengthened in consequence. So, my Lords, I ask you in the Division to-morrow, by the votes which you then record, to make easier the task of those who have responsibility for government in India, and to reduce, at any rate, the uncertainties which now exist in their minds, to increase the confidence with which they will continue their work—work the object of which is to make stronger the ties which unite our two countries.
§ EARL HOWE
My Lords, I hope most sincerely that it will not be looked upon as impertinence if one, like myself, who has such complete lack of qualifications, intervenes for a few minutes in this debate. I intervene merely as one who feels very much the tremendous responsibility which rests upon every member of your Lordships' Horse and every member of Parliament in connection with this Indian question. I am not one of those who can claim extensive knowledge of India. I have not been a member of the Joint Select Committee, I have not been a Pro-Consul, I have not been in the Services in India. I served on the East 478 India station, but all I saw of India was on the horizon. Therefore, I cannot claim to know anything of India from the point of view of experience.
The thing that makes me profoundly anxious with regard to this question is first of all that we are being asked to pass a Resolution which invites the Government to bring in a Bill based on the Majority Report of the Joint Select Committee. As I see it, such a Bill must inevitably be one to weaken British authority in India. We are dealing with a country—a sub-continent we are told—inhabited by 352,000,000 people, and of-those people I think only some 28,000,000 altogether can read and write. It seems to me that to give a full fledged Western democracy to such people, with all the machinery of elections and everything else, is simply to risk the most appalling disaster. It is not as if they had centuries of political progress such as we have behind us. They have nothing to help them. They have only very limited experience of Parliamentary government, and that experience has only been gained by individuals who have been very carefully selected and specially chosen for it.
Members of His Majesty's Government have repeatedly told us that responsibility at the Centre—in other words a Federal Government—is not possible without some of the Princes. What I want to ask some member of His Majesty's Government to tell us is the number of Princes whose adherence it will be necessary to obtain. As far as I can see, the only information so far given on that point is in the form of a declaration made by the Secretary of State, and that declaration was made some considerable time ago. On March 27, 1933, Sir Samuel Hoare, speaking in another place, said:The House will see that the test which we propose is the test of the entry of Indian States, representing half the population of the States, and half the States entitled to seats in the Upper Chamber.But Sir Samuel Hoare, when it was suggested in another place that fifty-one per cent. of the Indian States would have to come in before Federation could be granted, said he had never heard of it. I do hope some member of His Majesty's Government will tell us exactly what is the position.
479 Then I should like to know what is the attitude of the Princes themselves. We have not very much information about that. It appears very doubtful, to put it mildly. Certain correspondence which no doubt your Lordships will have seen appeared in the Morning Post—and I fancy in some other newspapers as well—some little time ago, in which it was stated that the Princes would certainly not come into Federation unless the requirements which they had laid down were fulfilled. That shows that the assent of the Princes is very doubtful. I should like to know from some member of His Majesty's Government—and I think we should be told, if possible, before to-morrow night—what the real chances are of the Princes coming in. We are told that political India is not entirely in favour of this scheme, and, in fact, rejects it. I believe it is true to say that every single Indian who advocated the White Paper policy, in any shape or form, was beaten in the Elections which took place in India the other day. If that is so, it is hardly an encouraging circumstance for those of us who think that if we are to have a Bill framed on the lines of the Majority Report of the Joint Select Committee, or on the lines of the White Paper, we should carry Indian opinion with us.
I am sure that every member of your Lordships' House must have been delighted to hear the magnificent speech, as it seemed to me, of the noble Marquess, the Chairman of the Joint Select Committee. It carried me back a long time, for nothing has interested me more than to see the oratorical and political triumph of my old "fag." The noble Marquess was, I think, the first of those who have spoken in your Lordships' House to give us some of the details of the cost of this scheme. That is one of the things I very much wanted to hear He said—I took down his words for the sake of greater accuracy—that the Indian economic problem was not comfortable, and he gave us certain figures with regard to cost. It is obvious that those figures are only provisional, but I hope that a representative of His Majesty's Government will tell us whether we are going to be asked to foot the bill, and if so, to what extent. I hope a representative of His Majesty's Government will tell us because it has been said by other speakers that it is 480 really impossible for this country, or for India, in the present economic circumstances, to face large extra items of expenditure.
I hope that we shall be told the whole truth with regard to this economic position, for it is one of the things that make me very anxious indeed. The cost of the reforms in India cannot, I think, be exactly and precisely confined to India. There is a further possibility as to the way in which the cost may conceivably fall upon this country. I refer, of course, to those millions of our people who are either wholly unemployed or only partially employed, and to the others who are happily still employed and who depend for their living upon Indian produce. I do not know whether the noble Earl, Lord Derby, who is looked to by everybody throughout the length and breadth of the country as being the great spokesman of Lancashire opinion, intends to intervene in this debate; but there are many of us who are deeply anxious with regard to the possible effects upon Indian trade of any legislation following upon the White Paper.
I noticed a speech made by the noble Earl, Lord Derby, a short time ago, wherein he stated that if the Amendment of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, stood alone he would have found very considerable difficulty in voting against it, but he said he really could not vote for it because he felt that it had to be taken in conjunction with speeches and utterances of others who agreed with the noble Marquess. I can quite sympathise with that point of view. At the same time I do not think we can be asked to do anything or to agree to anything which is possibly going to have the effect of still further adding to the number of people in this country who are out of work. At the present time, when one of our most frightful problems is that of the depressed areas, I submit that we ought to go with the greatest caution into anything which may have such an effect.
There is another circumstance which makes me very anxious indeed. I am not aware of a single member of His Majesty's Government or of a single Member of Parliament who supports them, who at the last General Election said anything whatever on the subject of India. I was at that time actually working in the Conservative Central Office and 481 I had peculiar opportunities of seeing the Election addresses of a great many Conservative candidates, but I never came across a single reference to India in any of those I looked at. The country, I submit, never understood and certainly never realised at the last General Election that if they returned to power a Government to deal with the urgent economic situation—as I am sure they did elect them—that Government would be likely to deal with the question of India without first consulting the electors. The only utterance we have had is an utterance of the present Prime Minister six years ago, that he looked forward to giving full Dominion status to India.
There is a suspicion which has been alluded to publicly, and therefore I think I do no harm by alluding to it again, that there may possibly have been some sort of arrangement behind the scenes of which the country knows nothing with regard to this Indian problem. If there was, I only hope that it will be stated by some member of His Majesty's Government. The only occasion upon which anybody can say that this matter has been before our people at all is when it was referred to a carefully packed meeting of the Conservative Party Council the other clay. That, in my submission, is not a substitute for consulting the country on the matter. I do feel that before anything of such tremendous magnitude is done, before such a terrific responsibility is assumed even by a National Government, the National Government really ought to consult the people in the matter.
The Joint Select Committee made very little material alteration in the White Paper, but they have certainly increased the safeguards; and that brings me to a point about which I am particularly anxious. I do not suppose that any Government would have dared to introduce a Bill based upon the Report of the Joint Select Committee without having any safeguards at all. Therefore I think we may assume that the matter of safeguards is one of the first importance; in fact numerous speakers have referred to it. That carries us back at once to the Irish situation, which is one of the things which make so many of us profoundly anxious to-day. Take the Irish Treaty. There were eighteen clauses in the Irish Treaty. Of those eighteen clauses five were concerned with the possible entry 482 of Northern Ireland into the Free State; two were concerned with matters which, relatively speaking, were really unimportant; and eleven clauses were concerned solely with safeguards.
One of those safeguards dealt with the Oath of Allegiance; that has already gone. Another dealt with the Governor-General, who is now, we are told, a "rubber stamp." A third dealt with the limitation of the armed forces and the formation of auxiliary forces; that seems to have gone altogether. Another was a covenant to pay pensions to civil servants who were compulsorily retired; that matter has been before your Lordships' House several times already, and we know that that has gone. Ireland's share of the National Debt was provided for, and that has been waived; and all the clauses providing that the relations with the Imperial Government should be the same as the relations between this country and Canada have gone altogether. Surely we ought to be warned by such an experience.
We are told that we need have no anxiety in the matter because there is really no analogy between Ireland and India, as we do not propose to withdraw the Army from India. What an admission that seems to me to be! Does it mean that the present scheme of the Majority Report has got to be entirely dependent upon the Army and that we may have to employ the Army to enforce the safeguards and that kind of thing? After all, the Army was not very far from Ireland, but we see what happened in Ireland. It seems to me that the position is going to be impossibly difficult for the Army in India. I am not a military man, as I have explained, but I do not think that it requires a military man to judge that. When you are going to hand over wireless, railways, posts and telegraphs, arms, ammunition, explosives, and the Police to Indian administration, surely in certain circumstances, if you have a hostile India or an India which is set against you, it is going to make it almost impossible for the Army to operate. I leave alone entirely the question of the possible refusal of supplies; I do not want to press imagination too far.
Another important safeguard which is proposed in the Majority Report is that the Governor-General or the Governor of 483 the State, as the case may be, should intervene on occasion if he thinks that intervention is required. But imagine for one moment what the Governor-General or the Governor of the State has got to think about if he does intervene. He has the certain knowledge that he will be attacked up and down India everywhere by democratically elected people. Not only that, but he will be attacked at home. Questions will be asked in the House of Commons as to why he has so acted, and probably the Secretary of State or somebody of that sort will have to justify his actions here. It seems to me that it is putting a tremendous responsibility on one individual, a responsibility which is almost too great for anybody to bear. It seems to me that once you have got representative institutions and responsible government in any Dependency, it does not matter how much you may restrict it, the Imperial Government can do absolutely nothing if the responsible Government chooses to defy it.
If legislation is brought in on the lines of the Majority Report, and if we accept it, and if we grant responsible government at the Centre, a Federal Government, it seems to me that the moment we do that we take a step from which there never can be any going back. The last speaker poured scorn upon the idea of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, that we should go very slowly, and grant responsible government in the Provinces, and wait a bit for responsibility at the Centre. It seems to me that that is a matter of common prudence. We are told by many who have intervened in this debate that it is an absolutely impracticable suggestion. I am not convinced that it is. At any rate it seems to me to be merely a counsel of prudence, and that is why I do not feel able to bring myself to support the Motion introduced by the noble Viscount, Lord Halifax. I feel that it is a gamble, and I am not prepared to go that far in a step of such first importance as this is. I feel deeply the responsibility resting upon me, and I was and am determined in no circumstances to give a silent vote. Therefore I have tried, without taking up too much of your Lordships' time, to give the reasons why I cannot possibly support the Government in this matter, and 484 why I shall follow the noble Marquess in support of his Amendment.
My Lords, it is with infinite hesitation that I take up any of your time so late in the evening. If I do so it is because I have not merely lived in India, but did so in rather unusual circumstances. I held neither an official, military nor commercial position, and therefore I have seen the country from a somewhat unusual angle. I naturally had not access to official sources of information enjoyed by many other noble Lords, but perhaps on that account I came more directly than some into contact with the man in the street. It is really his position under the reforms of which I should like to speak, and of his position as I saw it.
Primarily I think some protest should be made against the attitude, which I have found only too often adopted, of treating Indians as a backward race. The other day I read a pronouncement on India by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson, who claimed to speak with authority on India, primarily as an Irishman—a somewhat Irish claim—and secondly as a member of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, before whom many Indian cases had been tried. As a proof of Indian ignorance and backwardness, the noble and learned Lord quoted a case in which the question to be decided was whether a certain idol should be draped or nude. I do not think that is necessarily a reasonable conclusion from that case. Have there not been cases before the English Courts where the question most hotly contested was whether banners should be hung in certain churches, not to go into other more intricate questions of ritual? Surely people who find the draping of a church a matter of impassioned interest, have no right to criticise Indians who attach importance to the draping of an idol.
There are, of course, immense differences between the different races in India, but I think undoubtedly the vast majority of them are of very considerable and very lively intelligence, fully able to grasp political ideas—as fully able, in fact, as many Europeans, and more able than some. There are probably many European countries who do not govern themselves according to our standard of self-government, but who have magnificent records in history and contrive to govern 485 themselves to their own satisfaction, at any rate. Educated Indians have under our tutelage been brought up on the political thought of England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and they have imbibed the principles on which our democracy stands. I believe the merest "failed matric." in India will quote you Burke's speech on Conciliation with America. It really is not unnatural that they should expect us to extend to them the principles we have taught them, and should be bitterly disappointed if we refuse to do so, and naturally should suspect sinister motives, even if they do not exist. The great majority of Indians may he illiterate, but illiteracy is not synonymous with stupidity, and so far from illiteracy exposing the peasant to the machinations of the agitators, I suspect it would be more likely to protect him.
How quickly political ideas spread, and how fully they are grasped, in India, has been a matter certainly of very great surprise to me. While I was there, what was particularly noticeable was the difference between the first and second civil disobedience movements. The first was almost entirely urban, and the second reached almost to the most remote district, and caused embarrassment to the most remote District Commissioners. India is undoubtedly changing with incredible rapidity, and for this reason the latest authorities are the best. People with the most extensive experience of India very quickly become out of date, and there is an Indian susceptibility which it seems to me is not quite fully appreciated. That is their attitude to this matter of the status of India as a British Dominion and of Indians as free and independent subjects of the Crown, entitled to manage their own affairs. They have been repeatedly assured by various statements on behalf of different Governments, one of whose spokesmen was Mr. Churchill himself, that Dominion status for India was the object and, in fact, the immediate object of this policy, and attempts to whittle down these declarations have made Indians intensely anxious, and I think rightly indignant. They are therefore extremely keen that some such declaration should be included in the new Constitution. Such a declaration, I am absolutely convinced, would enormously help 486 the chances of acceptance of this Constitution by the Indian people.
Another objection, of which I heard a great deal whilst I was in India, was that at the time of the publication of the Report of the Statutory Commission for every line of concession there were twenty pages of safeguards. Well, that is of course a purely psychological reaction, but it seems to be a very natural one, and one which it would be advisable to consider. The word "safeguard" is a very unpleasant one, and one that is much resented. It is probably too late to change it now. And the administration of the safeguards will undoubtedly depend upon the Governors who are sent out to administer them. As was the case under the Canada Act, they may not prevent the growth of an Indian democracy, but let us hope that there will be sufficient Elgins forthcoming so to administer the safeguards, or rather to refrain from administering them, as to develop democracy in India.
Great anxiety has been constantly expressed lest we hand over the masses in India to a small literate class. Surely, the very best defence for the masses would be the widest possible franchise. The technical difficulties of adult suffrage are obvious, but surely they are not insuperable; and if Indian democracy is to develop, adult suffrage is perfectly essential. With a fully extended franchise special representation for labour could probably be dispensed with. Obviously, with a limited franchise such as that offered such representation is absolutely essential. It may have the useful result of teaching labour her strength and how to use it. Let us hope so. No such considerations, however, seem to apply to commerce and industry. Anyhow, if representation is to be given to commerce and industry, which in virtue of their wealth must be more than adequately represented, surely the representation of labour and capital might be made numerically equal. The power of capital must inevitably be stronger, but at least the numerical strength of capital and labour might be made the same.
It is very late, and I do not wish to detain your Lordships, but I should like to say a word on behalf of a community for whom I have a very deep sympathy, and I am sure your Lordships will have, 487 the Anglo-Indian community. They seem to me to have been perhaps a little neglected. They are people who are very peculiarly our own responsibility. One of the reasons why the Communal Award raises such very strong feeling is that on the number of relatives or co-religionists an Indian may happen to have in the Government depends his chance of employment on the railways or in the Secretariat. The Anglo-Indian has no such protection. When an Anglo-Indian makes good, he quits his community and returns to England. They are people who, apart from our obvious responsibility, have served us faithfully, and to whom we owe a great deal. Before Indian clerks were available Anglo-Indians supplied the personnel of the Government in India and on the railways. Without them our government and our trade could never have been built up. It has been suggested that it would be a gracious act on the part of the British Government to take over the charges of the Ecclesiastical Department. This would seem to be the merest justice. A far more gracious act would be to do something on behalf of this invidiously placed community. Could not the British Government—at some expense, but not too colossal an expense—perhaps endow schools or scholarships to Universities for this community, and thus place them more on a level with their more favoured, or rather more protected, rivals? The generosity of such an action, I am quite certain, would be enormously appreciated by Indians in India, and would enormously increase their respect for us.
The most surprising part of the Report is the particular tenderness with which the landlords of India have been treated. Why a community which must inevitably have such colossal influence has been treated as if it was weak and defenceless, and needed special protection, is very obscure. Perhaps members of the Committee, themselves landlords, thought they were protecting their own most estimable class. Speaking myself as a landlord, I should very much dislike to call Indian landlords my fellows. Indian landlordism is a very different affair from landlordism here in England, and as it is one of the abuses which an Indian democracy will have to deal with at once, it is natural that the landlords should seek all the protection that they can get. But that they should be given it by 488 Englishmen of any Party is amazing. It is, in fact, shocking. That, moreover, in certain Provinces, as it seems, Second Chambers are to be created, apparently expressly in order to protect these landlords, is appalling. Their influence is bound in any case to be enormous, and surely they need no more.
The overwhelming impression of India, to which the display of the Princes cannot blind us, is one of intense poverty. The revenues of India are literally made up of mites. I will not weary your Lordships with figures of the average incomes of Indian ryots, but they are so small that it is amazing that men can live on them, more amazing still that they can raise families upon them, and positively astounding that they can pay taxes. The revenue is drawn from sources so impecunious that it is a moral duty to see that those revenues are expended in the most economical manner possible, and, above all, not on political luxury. For this reason my noble friends on the Committee were opposed to Second Chambers in the Provinces and at the Centre alike. The noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, drew attention to the expenses which would be incurred by this new Constitution. If the suggestions of my noble friends were followed, undoubtedly these expenses would to a certain extent be cut down. Every saving in India is undoubtedly a great saving. It seems to me, apart altogether from this reason, that the fact that these Second Chambers should be created to protect a vested interest with a Constitution granted by the democratic Mother of Parliaments as the vesting instrument is shocking.
That the problem is incredibly complicated and difficult is obvious to all your Lordships, no doubt, but there is one attitude which surely does not help anything: it is the attitude of self-righteousness which Englishmen are inclined to adopt when they consider the Indian problem. Surely this is not justified. Why did the English go to India? It was not the British Crown that sent forces to India to rescue the Indians from tyranny and oppression, from famine and disease. It was the old "John Company" which in the interests of their trade and for the extension of it gradually conquered the whole sub-continent. If that unification of India has produced also peace and 489 tranquillity that is for Indians a happy chance; these were equally essential for the trade of the Company. If irrigation and communications have been built, these were not charitable endeavours. If the admirable fight against famine and disease has been largely successful, it has also had the profitable result of preserving consumers for commerce and producers for industry.
If, on the other hand, we look at the social side we find a far less creditable position. Fearful of disturbing our trade, we have left undisturbed and perpetuated abuses under pretence of consideration and respect for religious and communal feeling. Our sole effort to improve such conditions, I think I am right in saying, was the abolition of suttee, and even the passing of the Sarda Act abolishing child marriage was the act of an Indian Parliament. Of course it may be said that reforms of this kind come better from Indians themselves, from within, than from the British Government, from without. That seems only an additional reason for creating at once a Parliament responsible for such reforms and able to enforce them. Probably most of the opposition to Parliamentary advance in India comes from those who fear loss of trade. The noble Lord who spoke before me, in fact, drew particular attention to the prospective loss of trade to Lancashire. Such an attitude is perfectly natural, if not perhaps extremely admirable. But our pledges to India must be implemented, and that quickly, if we are to retain any trade at all. Probably it is consciousness of losses suffered by trade, the figures for which I have never seen—probably they would be difficult to compute—which has led the European commercial community in India to change its attitude radically towards Indian difficulties, and to take up an attitude far more liberal, far more generous. I urge your Lordships, therefore, to consider whether it is not advisable both on ethical and material grounds to implement our pledges and to give to India the Dominion Home Rule we have promised her.
THE DUKE OF ATEOLL
My Lords, at this late hour of the evening I am sure the noble Lord who has just spoken will excuse me if I do not follow some of the arguments he used in a well-thought-out speech. I rise to give my support to the Amendment moved by the noble 490 Marquess. Rarely can this House have been asked to commit itself on a, question of such tremendous importance to this country and to the Empire with so little time to digest proposals of vast range and complexity. Noble Lords who served on the Joint Select Committee have, of course, full knowledge of what the Report contains, but I submit it is impossible for any of us who have not so served to have been able, in the three weeks that have elapsed since the Report was published, to have sufficiently mastered its contents to be able to come to considered decisions on the very grave questions with which it deals. And that really is my answer in short to the noble Earl who spoke from the Cross Benches. Yet, when two or three weeks ago one of your Lordships asked that this debate should be delayed until the New Year, the noble Viscount the Leader of the House stated that in that case the Government's Bill would probably have been introduced into another place before your Lordships had considered the Report. That statement implies that the Government Bill must be already in draft before the Report of the Committee has been approved by Parliament.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
The noble Viscount says "No." I am wrong. But I should have thought it was inconceivable that any Bill dealing with all the recommendations of the Joint Committee could possibly be drafted between to-morrow and the beginning of February, with the Christmas holidays intervening. Moreover, the Report appears to be based on an assumption which now appears doubtful—namely, the belief that the Indian Princes as a whole, or a large proportion of them, desire the proposed Federation and insist on the great transfers of responsibility to the Federation which the Report proposes. In paragraph 32 we read:The Princes have stated clearly in their declaration that they are willing now to enter an All-India Federation, but only if the Federal Government is a responsible and not an irresponsible Government.But it was stated two days ago in another place that as long ago as April last a letter had been received from five leading Princes of the Chamber of Princes, including the Chancellor and the Pro-Chancellor of the Chamber, to the effect 491 that they would not be prepared to enter the Federation under the terms set out in the White Paper. The Member for Chichester, to whom that letter had been addressed, stated that he had had information that the Princes in question had carefully examined the Committee's Report—of course I do not know, but this is what we are told—and were satisfied that it did not grant the majority of the amendments for which the Chamber had stipulated as a condition of entry into the Federation.
There is, therefore, I think, obvious reason to doubt whether the Princes as as whole, or a majority even of the leading Princes, desire Federation. That being so, it appears to me to be wasting your Lordships' time and to be hardly consistent with the dignity of Parliament to ask your Lordships to commit yourselves to proposals which, before Parliament reassembles, may have been put out of court, so to speak, by a refusal of the Princes to accede to them. The Chamber of Princes, I understand, is not to meet until January to consider them. But there is a further point which I feel bound to mention here. It has been said that the Viceroy has exercised personal pressure on the Princes. I am not suggesting it, of course. The Viceroy has denied this, and of course we accept his statement. But as he went out to India on the nomination of a Government pledged in outline to the scheme adumbrated in the Report and has often publicly stated his belief in it—I am not suggesting that he should not—can it be wondered at if Princes, who have an enormous respect for the Viceroy, as representative of the King-Emperor, find it difficult to express openly the fears many of them evidently entertain with regard to it?
Further, can it be denied that the policy of the Government is to offer inducements to certain Princes to adhere to the Federation? In 1932 a Committee known as the Indian States Financial Inquiry Committee was sent out to enquire into and report as to the conditions on which the States might agree to federate. The Committee recommended that the States which paid tributes of money to the Government of India should have these tributes gradually remitted to them by the Central Government over a period of years, and payment should also be made 492 to certain Princes for territories ceded by them at different times to the Government of India. These remissions and payments would amount, I think, to something like £750,000 in a year, or over one per cent. of the present Indian Central Budget. It is important to note that the Committee, in paragraph 435 of their Report, emphatically state that these remissions or payments are to be made only to Princes who join the Federation.
They add that they were not empowered to make recommendations for the settlement of financial questions outstanding between British India and the States upon any other basis. In other words a system of inducements, bribery and of threats was suggested, because if they did not accept the inducements they were going to be financial losers and were practically to be put into outer darkness. In connection with this it should also be observed that the Joint Select Committee referred to "complicated financial adjustments" discussed by the Indian States Financial inquiry Committee, and state that they "endorse the main principles" on which the Committee's Report is based. As the Government have approved the Report of the Joint Committee, presumably they also approve of these monetary inducements euphemistically described as "complicated financial adjustments."
I observe indeed with concern that the Lord President of the Council, speaking in another place on Wednesday of last week, referring to the question whether inducements were being offered to certain Princes or not, appeared to condone such a procedure by reminding honourable members of the bribes offered to secure Scotland's consent to the Act of Union. But, surely, my Lords, we hope and believe that our standards of public morality and conduct have advanced since the year 1707? Bribery, then rampant in our public administration and our electoral system, has long since been made illegal, and is now regarded as shameful. I cannot help, therefore, expressing my deep regret that one for whom I have so great a personal regard as the Lord President of the Council, and who above all men is the soul of honour himself, should seem to think so lightly of the use of such political methods in India to-day.
493 But more precious inducements than money are being offered to certain very influential Princes. The Hindu state of Mysore, the second largest in India, with a population of six and a-half millions, besides remission of an annual tribute of about £187,000 per annum, is being encouraged to believe that its request to have retroceded to it the civil station of Bangalore will be granted in the event of its coming into the Federation. Bangalore, as your Lordships know, has an exceptionally good climate, and the civil and military station there has been occupied for considerably over one hundred years, not only by British troops but by many civilian residents, British and Anglo-Indian. When Mysore was handed back to the present dynasty in 1881, a Treaty was made under which it was agreed that the civil station would remain under British administration so long as British troops were kept there. The Secretary of State has announced in another place that the troops are not to be removed. Yet the Mysore Government has asked for the retrocession of the civil station, and the Under-Secretary of State stated last week that the Government had the matter under consideration.
Indeed, I hold here a newspaper report of an interview given as long ago as last March by the Prime Minister of Mysore to a deputation from the mercantile community of Bangalore, in which the Prime Minister stated that "partial retrocession had been decided on, and that there were certain details connected with it that needed further discussions with the Government of India." As this statement goes much fluffier than that made by the Under-Secretary of State last week, I would ask the Leader of the House to inform us to-morrow whether any decision has been taken by the Government on this important point. There are said to be about 130,000 residents in the tract of land in question, 2,700 of whom are Europeans, 5,500 Anglo-Indians, and over 30,000 Mahomedans. A memorial of protest against the proposed retrocession was sent to the Viceroy in February last by the Bangalore Trades Association, in which grave fears were expressed on grounds of educational administration, of hospital administration, of legal status, and other matters in regard to the proposed transfer. In September a renewed protest was made, not only by the Trades 494 Association, but by associations of ratepayers, and by the Anglo-Indian Association of Bangalore. More recently 30,000 Moslems in Bangalore civil station have vehemently protested against being transferred to a Hindu State.
It is also important to note that the Anglo-Indian Association is opposed to this transfer, because two or three weeks ago a well-known newspaper published an interview with Sir Henry Gidney, who has represented the Anglo-Indian community at the Round-Table Conference and on the Joint Select Committee, in which Sir Henry expressed approval of the proposal. An unsolicited cable was immediately received by a member of another place, asking her to make known that the Anglo-Indian Association in Bangalore "dissented entirely" from Sir Henry's view. A statement to this effect was sent to the newspaper in question, but as this was not published I am glad to have this opportunity of making the views of the Anglo-Indian Association known to your Lordships. Now, the Mysore Government is said to have raised this matter of the retrocession of Bangalore in the years 1912 and 1024, but the matter cannot have got very far then, as it never reached the stage of public discussion, and I feel that the fact that it is being openly discussed now cannot but give rise to the belief that the Government of India are to-day willing to consider what has formerly been refused, in order to bring Mysore into the Federation. Anyhow that is what is believed in Bangalore itself. The Joint Memorial of September last, already referred to, states thatit is common knowledge that Mysore, which has so far declined to enter the Federation, has now consented to do so, provided the subsidy"—that is to say, the tribute—is abolished, and the civil and military station handed over to them. This we know is what she has been urging for some time, partly culminating with a definite stipulation, as the price of her participation in the new federal scheme.But it is not only citizens of Bangalore, British and Anglo-Indian, whom it is proposed to hand over against their will to a Hindu State.
This has been also proposed in the case of a community of some two thousand persons at Tangasseri, whom it 495 is proposed to transfer to the rule of the State of Travancore. All but one family of the two thousand are Roman Catholics, who are protesting vehemently against being obliged to become citizens of a Hindu State. I have always understood that to transfer British-Indian inhabitants against their will to an Indian State is in direct conflict with the long-established custom of the Government of India. The significance of these attempts to force British subjects to become citizens of Mysore and Travancore respectively becomes clear when we realise what the Report proposes as the main condition precedent to setting up a Federation. This is not to be the adherence of a substantial majority, or indeed of any majority of the 560 States as a whole, or of the 235 States represented in the Chamber of Princes, but the adherence of States representing not less than 50 per cent. of the total population of the States and not less than 50 per cent. of the seats proposed to be allotted to the States in the Upper Federal Chamber. My Lords, a few of the Indian States are so very much larger than others that, to meet the condition in regard to population, the adherence of only nine of the largest States is necessary, or one twenty-eighth of the States represented in the Chamber, and to fulfil the second condition, only twenty-seven, or about one-eighth of these States. Mysore is the second largest of the States and Travancore is the third. The adherence of these two States would therefore go far to provide the population necessary and to meet the first condition. It would, indeed, provide more than a quarter of the necessary 50 per cent. of the total population of the States. That is the reason why such interest is taken by the Government in these two particular States.
As the question of these transfers of population is not referred to in the Report, and, being an administrative matter, is not likely to be referred to in the Bill, I have felt bound to bring it to your Lordships' attention as a matter vitally concerned with the setting up of an All-India Federation, the main proposal of the Report. The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, referred this evening to the nation of India. Did I believe or know that India 496 was a nation instead of a conglomeration of nations between whom there is very little love lost, and speaking I think over one hundred and twenty dialects, I would not be so doubtful as I am today of the success of the White Paper scheme. But it is obvious to me that in asking us to approve a Report as the basis of a Bill which we have never seen, the Government are, in effect, asking us to sign a blank cheque on a matter of transcendent importance. I, for my part, feel that I simply cannot do it, and I am therefore going to support the Amendment of the noble Marquess. In conclusion, my Lords, may I apologise for keeping the House so late in order to say things with which I know a great many of you certainly do not agree.
THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Hastings, I beg to move that the debate be now adjourned.
§ Moved accordingly, and on Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.