MR. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)
said he was sure that in bringing his Amendment before the House he would be treated with consideration by the many hon. Members who were new to the House but who had a wide knowledge of Indian affairs. The Amendment drew attention, in the first place, to the widespread dissatisfaction and unrest in India due to the recent policy of the Government, culminating in the partition of Bengal, and went on to set forth the opinion that such modifications should be made in the form of administration in Bengal as would tend to allay the existing discontent. Lastly, it expressed the hope that the Government would consider the reasonable demands of the Indian people for a larger share in the administration of their own affairs. It was not necessary for him to say that this Amendment was not moved in any hostile sense to the present Government. They, on the Ministerial side of the House, had the fullest confidence that his right hon. friend the Secretary of State for India and the Government to which the right hon. Gentleman belonged would, as far as practicable, reflect in their Indian policy the great change that had come over this country as revealed by the General Election. They were met with the fact that this dissatisfaction and unrest existed to a wide extent in India at the present moment, and it was felt that a declaration of the policy of His Majesty's Government should be made—not in regard to details, because that would be absolutely impossible, seeing that the Government had been in office for so short a time—but a declaration of the spirit of that policy which they believed would be of great value in India at the present day in allaying the existing tension of the situation. He would deal, in the first place, with the partition of Bengal only in outline, leaving to those who had personal local knowledge of the conditions of the situation to deal with 812 the details. By the provisions of the Order for the partition, Bengal was divided into two. Eastern Bengal was added to Assam and a new province was formed under a Lieutenant-Governor of Eastern Bengal and Assam. The main ground alleged for this change was that it was necessary because of the increased burdens of administration in Bengal, and the impossibility of maintaining in the circumstances a high standard of efficiency. Now that proposition was not assented to by those who had the largest experience of the facts of the case. But he ventured to make to the House this proposition, that even if it were desirable on administrative grounds to divide Bengal and readjust the boundaries, surely when there was more than one alternative plan, it was unjust that that particular one which aroused discontent and indignation among the whole population connected with it should have been adopted. It should be remembered that this matter had been discussed in India for some years, but only in 1903 were formal proposals made. Definite action, however, was not taken by the Government of India till twelve months afterwards. Immediately the scheme for partition met with the strongest opposition in all parts of the province. Undeterred by this, the Government proceeded with their plans, and in February following the Indian Government sent home a despatch containing their proposals to Mr. Brodrick, then Secretary for India. On June 9th last year a despatch was sent back to India practically sanctioning these proposals. Now, a few days after the late Government had sent the despatch to the Indian Government assenting to their proposals, the annual debate on the Indian Budget took place, and was it not rather strange that, notwithstanding the fact that the agitation against them in India was then at its height, not a single word was said in the debate by the then Secretary for India to indicate that the Home Government had approved of any scheme for the partition of Bengal? Indeed, the House of Commons knew nothing of the scheme officially until the early days of August last, when the announcement of the proclamation bringing the scheme into operation was 813 made. On August 9th he moved the Adjournment of the House on the question, and pressed the Government of the day to postpone the operation of the Order until they had further information. During that debate his right hon. friend the Member for East Wolverhampton, who was Secretary for India in the last Liberal Administration, pleaded that he was not at that time sufficiently informed on the subject to vote in the pending division, although the right hon. Gentleman indicated what his opinion might possibly be; and then in weighty words he urged Mr. Brodrick to postpone the operation of the Order and to give further Papers. On the undertaking that the operation of the Order would be so postponed he (Mr. Herbert Roberts) withdrew his Motion for the Adjournment of the House. What was his surprise, therefore, some time in September, to find from the papers the announcement that the Order for the partition of Bengal would come into operation on October 16th. He immediately wrote to Mr. Brodrick, protesting against the proposal, and asking him to postpone the operation of the Order until the further Papers promised had been presented to Parliament. Mr. Brodrick was not now in the House of Commons to explain, and he did not desire to say more than to repeat that the impression made on his mind and on others by the undertaking of Mr. Brodrick was that the operation of the Order would be postponed until the House of Commons had had the information desired. He could not understand what object could be served by promising to give further information if at the time it had been definitely decided not to postpone the operation of the Order, knowing as they did what the obvious effect would be in Bengal. It created a sense of injustice, brought forth the fruit of widespread discontent, an alienation of feeling and friction. Every conceivable constitutional device had been adopted for the purpose of bringing before the Government of India the mind of the people of Bengal and their deep-rooted objection to this Order. Petitions had been presented; public meetings had been held in all parts of the country in opposition to it. Another direct consequence of the policy of the 814 Government was that it produced retaliation on the part of the people concerned in trade matters by the boycotting of Manchester goods, and the spread and stimulation of the Swadeshi movement for the consumption of home-made goods. He could only say that these were signs which ought not to be passed lightly by Parliament; and he was glad to have the opportunity of bringing this Amendment before the House, in order that anything said here might tend to allay the agitation. Another effect of the Order, much to be regretted, had been the action of the Government in attempting to suppress the agitation. The Statesman, a journal well known for its unswerving loyalty to the Indian Government recently said—The successive Orders issued by Mr. Fuller had been designed to take away the right of public meeting.(Mr. Fuller was the Lieutenant-Governor of the Eastern Division of Bengal.)Goorkhas had been quartered upon the people, and a campaign of suppression continued which in any other part of India would have resulted in dangerous rioting.He hoped that it would be possible for his right hon. friend the Secretary of State for India to say something on this case which would tend to lessen the agitation against the Order. The third and last question which might be asked was, "What was there in this Order to cause such a tempest of feeling?" His right hon. friend the Member for East Wolverhampton, in the debate which took place in August last on this question, pointed out how in our own country the greatest excitement very frequently arose over questions relating to the transfer of boundaries in municipalities and in some country districts, and that these rose into grave matters. Might he point out that the case of the partition of Bengal was not one relating to a small municipality or country district? Bengal was the premier province of India. Considerations arose of race, language, intellectual development, historical associations, national aspirations. All those things had combined to create in the mind of the people of Bengal an intense pride in the land of their birth. They were proud of the capital—Calcutta—which was not only the capital of Bengal but the metropolis of India; and they saw in this 815 division of the province a blow at the fame of their city. This question of partition could not be looked upon from one standpoint alone. It must be remembered that it was but the culmination of a series of measures which, say what they liked, were interpreted by the people of India to mean a desire on the part of the Government to repress, curtail, and prevent future agitation. It was thought that that was the motive which underlay this Order. It was the general impression of the people of India that the aim and object of this Order dividing the Province of Bengal was to weaken the political power of that Province. In support of this idea, there was one sentence in the despatch of the Government of India dated April 9th, 1905, which seemed to corroborate that view—It cannot,says the Government of India,be for the lasting good of any country that public opinion, or what passes for public opinion, should be manufactured by a comparatively small number of people at a single centre, and should be disseminated for universal consumption.He put it to the House without distinction of Party or nationality that those words clearly conveyed the impression that the underlying motive of the policy carried out by the Partition Order was to do something to weaken the power of Calcutta and Bengal. Another thing to be added to these considerations was the hurried way in which this Order was passed, a fact which was recognised by the dispatch of Mr. Brodrick of July 9th, where it is admitted that the scheme in its complete form had not been laid before the public officials. Lastly, they must remember that in its final form this scheme was never discussed by the House of Commons, and the cumulative evidence of all these facts went far to explain why this widespread and deep-rooted agitation in Bengal and India had arisen against this Partition Order. It may be asked what alternative proposition was to be made? He desired to leave any suggested proposal to be considered by the Government to his hon. friend the Member for East Nottingham, who in this matter, he thought, had almost a unique experience in regard to 816 the conditions of the Government of Bengal; but he would like to say, before he left the matter, that he for one recognised to the full that the Order having been passed and the partition having been made, it was essential that in any modification which might be found possible by the House, care should be taken to disturb as little as possible the administrative machinery which had been already formed under the Order. As to the second part of the Amendment, namely, thatThe reasonable demands of the Indian people for a larger share in the administration of their affairs should receive the consideration of the Government,he thought they were fortunate on this occasion in having those demands outlined for them by the President of the Indian National Congress in his Presidential address in December of last year. They were of a reasonable kind and could be summarised under four heads: (1) that the number of elected members upon the Viceroy's Council should be increased to twelve, out of a total of twenty-five; (2) that the number of elected members on the Legislative Council should be increased; (3) with the appointment of three Indian representatives upon the Secretary of State's Council; and lastly, that advisory Boards for consultative purposes should be established in all districts in India. All that was asked for was that the representative members should be increased; a majority was not asked for. The only representation invited was such as would secure that the Indian point of view should be put forward in the discussion and settlement of matters of local administration. What, briefly, were the steps which had led up to the present demand for further powers of self-government in India? The foundation was to be found in the historic phrase in the Queen's Proclamation of 1858; then twenty years ago there was the founding of the Indian Congress. Then came the Indian Councils Act of 1892—a great step forward in the direction which he was suggesting should be followed at the present time. All that the Amendment really asked for now was that there should be an extension of the principle laid down and conceded by the 817 Indian Councils Act of 1892. Since 1892 education had been progressing in India and Western ideas had been more impressed upon the natives. At the same time they recognised that we must proceed slowly step by step and in accordance with the conditions of the case. The present conditions of life in India were the result of fifty years of development and British rule. But there was a matter which must be taken into account, and that was the rise of an Eastern power, which had created a great impression upon the mind and spirit of India. Whatever view hon. Members took of the ultimate goal of our rule in India, let this House recognise facts; let them endeavour to understand the views and wishes of India and let them make it clear that their desire in the future was to win the co-operation and not the hostility of the masses we governed in India. Some people took the view that the extension of the powers of local self-government in India might lead to the loss of India. If that were true, which he emphatically denied, the continuance of the present policy would likewise have the same result. One thing he would suggest to the House was that we required in India to have the same qualities of courage, foresight and statesmanship in order to adapt ourselves to the existing conditions, and work out the problems which now faced us in India, as were required by our forefathers in winning India, and constructing a government in that country which was the pride of the British nation. There was one fine phrase used by Burke on India worth remembering—The situation of the man is the preceptor of his duty.They desired to recognise the changes that were taking place in India, and recognising these facts to decide their future policy. His right hon friend the Secretary of State for India many years ago wrote a life of Burke in which there was one sentence which ran—The lesson of the Warren Hastings impeachment had been taught with sufficiently expressive force. It was that Asiatics have rights, Europeans obligations, and that the authority of the English Legislative is not more certainly a trust for the benefit of this country than is the dominion of the English in India a trust for the inhabitants of India.818 Sixty years ago Macaulay said from his place in this House these memorable words—The destinies of our Indian Empire are covered with thick darkness. It may be that the public mind of India may expand under our system until it has outgrown our system; that by good government we may educate our subjects with a capacity for better government; that having become instructed in European knowledge they may in some future age demand European institutions. Whether such a day will come I know not, but never will I attempt to avert or retard it. Whenever it comes it will be the proudest day in England's history.In conclusion, he expressed his deep conviction that if we proceeded wisely and cautiously in this direction, any step which we took would not be one leading to separation, but would be another link in the chain binding the people of India to the throne and the people of this country. He begged to move.
§ Sir H. COTTON (Nottingham, E.)
seconded the Amendment, and as a new Member craved the indulgence which was always accorded by the House under such circumstances. He had, he said, at least one claim for trespassing so early upon the time of the House in that he had spent many long years of faithful service under the Crown in India, and had acquired an experience in the affairs of that country which entitled him to express an opinion for the consideration of the House. More than that, he had acquired in a degree which was rare, if not as he believed unprecedented, the confidence and trust of the Indian people, who had appointed him in no informal manner their mouthpiece in this House, especially on such occasions as the present, when their interests and matters in which they were vitally concerned were being discussed. Sympathy was the keynote of successful administration in India The people of India were the most grateful people in the world. It had often surprised him to observe how splendidly they had recognised on many occasions the services of Englishmen who had, indeed, done nothing for them beyond their mere duty. When Lord Curzon returned to India after the expiration of the first period of his 819 Vice-Royalty, he said to the natives of Bombay—I pray the native community to believe in the good faith and high honour and the integrity of Englishmen.The people of India did place implicit trust in this country. There was also no question of the loyalty, absolutely none, of the educated classes of the people of India. With the permission of the House he would recall an incident which lately occurred during the visit of the Prince and Princess of Wales to India. He noted in this connection the expression in the King's most gracious Speech, in which he said—The reception which the Prince and Princess of Males have met with from all classes has been most gratifying to me, and I trust their visit will tend to strengthen among my subjects in India the feeling of loyalty to the Crown and attachment to this country.Those words were true. The result of the visit had been to strengthen that feeling of attachment and loyalty which the people of India felt and have always felt towards England. A gentleman whose name would be unknown to this House, but who had for forty years been one of the leaders of the party of advanced thought—the party which had urged reforms on the Government, had unsparingly criticised men and measures, and was regarded with suspicion by the late administration—was brought into contact with His Royal Highness and, somewhat to his surprise, introduced to him. He fell upon his knees and with folded hands, after the Oriental manner, in faltering accents protested loyalty and devotion to the Crown and this country. That action on the part of one who had been unjustly charged with disloyalty was a very remarkable one, because it was the strongest evidence of the goodwill and loyalty which lay at the heart of the educated Indian people. The Indian people were loyal and were grateful for the education with which they had been endowed, and for the liberty they enjoyed; and they were grateful for their immunity from invasion. But that gratitude was tempered by the feeling that the pledges held out to them by the late Queen Victoria in her Proclamation and by men in exalted positions, had not been fulfilled. The position of India now 820 was different from what it was a generation or two previously. The people had acquired aspirations and hoped to take an active and dominant part in the administration and government of their country; they had now reached the parting of the ways. We had given education to the people of India, and it was impossible now to go on indefinitely refusing the concessions they demanded. Year by year we had been turning out from the universities men with the best education we could give, engendering in their minds western habits of thought and kindling in their hearts many aspirations. The duty of administration in India was a comparatively easy one. It was easy to administer the affairs of a docile and subject people. There was no country—and he [...]poke from long experience, having been charged with the administration of a province—more easy to administer than India, because the people were so docile, law-abiding and amenable, but something more than mere administration was wanted now. Instead of merely administering provinces, the Government would have now to raise India, under our sway, into a great Empire, foster and protect the patriotic tendencies of the people, and to exercise that quality of statesmanship which the late John Bright in a memorable speech described as "foreseeing." It was necessary not only to appreciate the changes that had taken place but to prepare for further changes. Lord Ripon was the most benevolent and popular Viceroy that India had ever seen. He justly urged on behalf of a scheme of local self-government that it would be an instalment of political education. The period of Lord Ripon was the golden age of Indian reformers, and he was supported by some of the ablest of English administrators, in particular by Sir Evelyn Baring, now Lord Cromer, who had never wavered from the views he expressed more than twenty years ago on behalf of enlarging the liberties of the Indian people and by the present Clerk of this House. Under Lord Ripon and his able and sympathetic advisers education was encouraged, liberties fostered, and the foundation of Indian nationality firmly laid. They had read in the columns of The Times that we must wearily retrace our steps 821 and devote ourselves to educating the Indians in character and common-sense; that then, and not till then, could we admit them into the politecture of self-government; that we must wait until generation after generation of educated Indians had come and gone. This was but the vapouring of reaction; all this was canting sentiment. A system of government which deliberately excluded the people from power was more efficacious in depressing their character than all our laws and school books could be in elevating it. British officials in India had a great and unexampled sphere of work before them. But, however great might be their energy and activity, it counted as dross if they lacked the higher genius of training the people by making them work for themselves, of evoking their powers by affording them opportunities for their exercise, and of raising them from a condition of mere passive subjection to a capacity for the discharge of higher responsibilities. No system of administration could be progressive or beneficial which did not foster the self-reliance of the people and encourage their aspirations to realise their destiny through their own exertions. They had known what it was in England to witness a policy of re-action They had passed through some seventeen years during which many reactionary measures had been forced on a reluctant people. The echo of this reaction had extended to India, and, in the terms of the Amendment, it had excited widespread dissatisfaction and unrest, which was a source of danger in India, and, which could not but be regarded with great apprehension. He would summarise the reactionary tendencies to which he had referred, and which had gone on for the last ten years or more. They had seen legislation designed to curtail the liberty of the Press and speech; they had seen a crusade against so-called sedition, which was wisely allowed to die out; they had witnessed an attempt to abolish trial by jury, which fortunately failed; they had seen blows dealt at local self-government, especially in Calcutta, where, in total disregard of repeated and emphatic expressions of public opinion, a longstanding and successful system of representative municipal administration 822 had been swept away. They had witnessed the open declaration of race disqualification for public offices, a general trend of policy to exclude the children of the soil from positions of trust and responsibility, and to deny them the opportunities of acquiring the qualifications necessary in the posts monopolised by Englishmen. They had seen the substitution of nomination for appointments in the place of competitive examinations. They had seen a policy of knitting together still more tightly the bonds of official control over departments of education. These and other similar measures of a reactionary or retrograde tendency had galvanised the people into a condition of dissatisfaction and unrest. But all these measures might not have led to the condition of affairs which now prevailed in India. They had culminated in the measure known as the partition of Bengal. There was an old history attaching to the partition. It began so long ago as 1892, when it was proposed to separate a portion of the province and add it to Assam, on the ground that it was desirable that the whole of the north-east frontier of India should be placed under one administration. Not much came of that at the time, but in 1896, when he was himself at the head of the administration of Assam this question came up again, and on behalf of the province he agreed to the proposal that the control over the wild and savage tribes on the north-east frontier should be transferred from Bengal to Assam, but he gave good reasons for objecting to any transfer of what were called the regulation portions of the Province. His arguments prevailed, and nothing was done so long as he remained in India. But in December, 1903, certain proposals were put forward for dividing the province of Bengal—for annexing a considerable portion of the regulation districts to Assam. As soon as the proposal was put forward it was met with a perfect tornado of opposition. Meetings were held everywhere, memorials were submitted, and the whole country-side was roused. Lord Curzon then visited the affected districts, and made three speeches in different places, in which he endeavoured to subdue the agitation, but at the same time he adumbrated a much larger scheme of 823 partition—one which proposed to divide Bengal in a more decisive manner than had hitherto been contemplated. These proposals, far from palliating, further excited the feeling in the country and protests continued without stint or stay, but no official—no public—utterance was ever made in India intimating to the people of the country what was definitely proposed. All the deliberations that took place were behind the back of the people. It was not till February, 1905, that a despatch was sent to His Majesty's Secretary of State. The people of India had no idea of what was contained in the despatch. He happened to be in India revisiting the country at that time, and he well remembered the fever of excitement which prevailed with regard to the policy which the Government of India intended to follow. In the Legislative Council questions were poured in. No answer was given. Memorials were addressed to the Government, but no reply was received. It was thought by a credulous people that the Government were actually prepared in deference to public opinion to abandon the scheme of partition which had been so injudiciously proposed. Vain hope! This despatch was sent, and after due delay the late Secretary of State for India replied to it on June 9th, and very soon after the arrival of this despatch telegrams appeared in the papers intimating that His Majesty's Ministers had approved of the partition of Bengal. Then all the outbreak burst forth again, There were public meetings—the largest, the most influential, the most enthusiastic, he supposed, that had ever been held in India, to protest against what had been done—done behind the people's backs, in the dark. And then the Government of India published a resolution of July 19th indicating the steps which it had been resolved on to take in regard to the division of Bengal. Further protests went on in India, and it was with reference to this agitation that the debate, which his hon. friend who moved this Amendment referred to, took place in this House. He listened to the debate on that occasion, though not on the floor of this House, and certainly the impression left on his mind was 824 the same as that which was shared by his hon. friend, and after hearing the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, he certainly understood that Mr. Brodrick's reply gave a definite pledge that until the House was in possession of the facts of the case, and could consider the question from both sides, no further steps would be taken to press on the partition of Bengal. They all knew that no notice whatever was taken by the late Secretary of State of the debate in this House, and as early as September 1st a proclamation was issued in India stating that all the present arrangements regarding the partition were definitely and finally settled, and that the partition would take place on October 16th, and this was promptly followed by special legislation at Simla—a most unusual step, because legislation at Simla ordinarily took place only when uncontested, uncontentious matter was under consideration. Here was a question which had aroused Indian feeling to a degree unparalleled within his experience of the country, and the Government of India actually proceeded to legislation at Simla when not a single Indian Member was present in Council. He hoped he had given some indication of the strong feeling which prevailed in India. There had been many meetings to protest and many telegrams had been despatched to the Secretary of State for India. These meetings had been held in almost every village of the province, and never in the history of India had there been such evidence of public feeling as there had been in regard to this partition. All classes of the community were represented in these protests. He might be told that the Mahommedans had not joined with the Hindoos. To a partial extent that was true, but the great majority of the Mahommedan community were absolutely at one with the Hindoos in this matter. This was not a matter in which it had been found possible to arouse any sectarian animosity. It was alleged, and he hoped it was not true, that the policy of the Indian Government had been to create and to encourage these differences of opinion between Hindoos and Mahommedans. He could not believe that there was any foundation for such a charge. There were many 825 traces of this policy at the present moment, and certainly everything was being done and pressed forward to bring the Mahommedans into evidence as against the Hindoos, but that movement had failed because the great mass of the Mahommedans were at one with the Hindoos. He might point out that this agitation was not confined to the educated classes of the country, but all classes were affected by it. The shopkeepers and the agriculturists alike were affected, and this agitation had found its way into the heart of the nation. There never was a movement so thoroughly popular in India of its character. It was idle to say that it was dying out, because it was not. During the past month the agitation had been stronger than ever. On January 31st last one of the most sober and distinguished of Bengalee gentlemen, who had received the title of Rajah, when he addressed a crowded audience, said—How could we talk of peace when there was no peace?Those words echoed the feelings and sentiments of all present at that meeting, and indeed of the whole of Bengal. What was the reason put forward for this partition? They were always given an administrative reason, and it was that the province of Bengal was too large and possessed too great a population for one man to administer. He admitted that the Government of Bengal was a very heavy and arduous charge. Upon this point he could speak with as much authority and as much knowledge as most people, for although he had not himself held the high dignity of Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, he had been Under-Secretary and Chief Secretary to seven successive Lieutenant-Governors, and he had been more closely associated with the Government of Bengal for a long period than any other officer of his time in India. Consequently he could speak with some authority upon this question of excessive work and excessive responsibility imposed upon the Lieutenant-Governor. He did not hesitate to say that the work of a Lieutenant-Governor at the present time was actually lighter than it was twenty or thirty years ago. The reason of this was that the whole country had changed during those thirty years. It was nearly forty years ago since he first entered the Bengal 826 Civil Service, and in those days the difficulties of moving about the country, of getting in touch with the people, of consulting officers and others responsible for the administration in different parts of the country, were almost insup[...]rable. A Lieutenant-Governor had to spend a great deal of time in travelling at great personal discomfort to himself in all parts of the province. Now they had the telegraph and railways in every direction, and they could go in a few hours' time distances which formerly took two, three, or even four days. He thought this was a sufficient explanation by itself as to why the work and responsibility was lighter to-day than it used to be. He admitted that new interests had arisen, and that in other ways there might be more to do for a Lieutenant-Governor, but taken altogether the work was really less. It had never been found that any member of the Bengal Civil Service, who had been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Governor—that was to say any member of the service who had had previous service in Bengal—had ever complained of excessive work, and the complaint had always come from members of the Civil Service who had been transferred to Bengal from other parts of India. It had been too much the habit to appoint to the Lieutenant-Governorship officers belonging to other services. That practice did not prevail in other provinces so much, but those men who had been so transferred to Bengal were the only men who complained of being overworked. No doubt they were overworked, and they learned the work at great sacrifice and at the cost of the people. They frittered away their time in petty details and small matters of administration which ought to have been left to their subordinates, but which they found it necessary to take up in order to learn something about the country over whose affairs it was their place to exercise authority. So much for the argument of overwork, but the real reason for the partition of Bengal was, he regretted to say, of a very different character. It was no mere administrative reason that lay at the root of the partition scheme. That scheme was part and parcel of a policy intended to destroy political responsibility and to crush the patriotism of the Indian people. The Bengalee race, with 827 all their faults, were the principal section of the community who had inspired the new national patriotism in which was centred the hope and destiny of their country. This partition was designed to weaken the Bengalee ascendancy. The object of the partition was to strike a blow at an intelligence and enterprise which had taken a form which the officials did not approve of. Upon this point he would quote again the words from the despatch of February, 1905, which had been quoted by his hon. friend—It cannot be for the lasting good of any country that public opinion, or what passes as public opinion, should be manufactured by a comparatively small number of people at a single centre and then disseminated for universal consumption.These words explained clearly enough the political object which the Government of India had in view. He had heard this partition described by a right hon. Gentleman who was lately the Secretary for India—he alluded to Lord George Hamilton, who personally he much regretted was not still in the House of Commons, and therefore unable to take part in this debate—as a "mere duplication of administrative machinery." There was no foundation whatever for such an assertion. What was a duplication of administrative machinery? What did it mean? In the House of Commons it would mean that they would have two Speakers instead of one, for that would be a duplication of their administrative machinery. But what had been done in Bengal was to create two separate Governments, with separate executive powers, separate legislative power, separate laws, and a separate administration. How they could possibly call that a duplication of administrative machinery passed his comprehension altogether. It had been compared to the division of the Ridings of Yorkshire, where no separate governments on separate administration existed. A more accurate comparison would be the division of Scotland into two parts under separate Viceroys. Imagine what would be the result if any such proposals were put forward! But they have not only been put forward but actually carried into effect in Bengal. The result had been the irritation which he had de- 828 scribed. The wish of the people of Bengal was that the old state of things should be restored, and that they might still be placed under one Government. He confessed that he shared the feeling expressed by his hon. friend, that practical considerations would render any such arrangement extremely difficult. It was very difficult indeed to undo what had once been done, and that was an experience which His Majesty's Ministers were having in more than one direction. It was not easy to undo the partition of Bengal, but it was possible to meet the feeling in India by some modification of the existing arrangement which would proceed along the line of least resistance. He hoped the Government would give that proposal their most earnest consideration. Now there was a new Lieutenant-Governor, new commissioners, a new board of revenue, new secretaries, new heads of departments. A great many agreeable appointments had been created, the cancelling of which would be extremely unpleasant to the incumbents. He went so far as to say that it was almost impracticable, all things considered, to abolish the partition of the Province. The proposal he had to make was that Bengal proper should be left alone, that there should be no partition of the Bengali-speaking races of the province, and that in order to provide for the new officials there should be created a new province in the western direction of Bengal, establishing as the capital of that province the ancient city of Patna, and including within that province the whole of Behar and Chota Nagpore. This would comprise an area of 80,000 miles and a population of well over 30,000,000. The whole of this would be practically a Hindustani-speaking area. There was a wide difference between Behar and Bengal. One was Hindustani and the other Bengali. Possibly that definition would convey no impression or meaning to the House. It meant that the people spoke different languages, that they did not intermarry, and that their food and diet were different. The Hindustanis were not a rice-eating people like the inhabitants of Bengal. He urged the Government to leave Bengal alone and undisturbed and that the paraphernalia 829 of the new Government should be transferred from Dacca, which was Bengali to the very roots, to Behar. He further suggested that it might be convenient to add to Behar the province and division of Benares, which most closely resembled Behar. In fact there was no difference whatever between the natives of Benares and Behar. In that case the population would be no less than 42,000,000, which would make a new large central province which would be known as Behar. Bengal would consist of the Bengali-speaking people, and to it it would be necessary to add Assam. Assam was the province of which he was chief commissioner for six years, and he thought he could speak with some authority when he said it was desirable that it should go back again to Bengal, to which it formerly belonged. It was separated in 1874, and if the truth was to be told the separation had never been a very great success. In order to meet the special conditions of that province, with its wide frontier and various tribes, which required special knowledge, and in order to deal also with the large tea industry which was in Assam, it was desirable that the commissioner of that province should be vested with special powers—such powers as were to be found working advantageously in other parts of India where somewhat similar conditions existed. He referred particularly to the province of Scinde, where the Governor of Bombay delegated his powers by statute and was relieved practically of direct responsibility for the administration of that province, only the more important and larger questions coming before him for his consideration. That was the proposal he had to make in regard to the new province. He was convinced, however, that the desire in India in favour of the appointment of a Governor and Council for the old province would not be modified by the mere acceptance of the proposals he had put forward. The appointment of a Governor and Council in Bengal had always been contemplated. Under the Statute of 1853 a temporary arrangement was made, which was to prevail only until the Governor and Council should be appointed. He had intended to deal with the reasons why the appointment of a Governor and Council was necessary, but having already trespassed unduly on the time of the 830 House, he would not do so now. Perhaps he would have other opportunities of discussing the matter with the representatives of the Government in the India Office. It was a most important question, and he trusted it would receive most careful consideration.
At end of the Question to add the words, 'But we humbly beg lo represent to Your Majesty that this House regards with concern the wide-spread dissatisfaction and unrest of India due to the recent policy of the Government, culminating in the partition of Bengal, and is of opinion that such modifications should be made in the form of administration in Bengal as will tend to allay the existing discontent; and we further beg to represent to Your Majesty that the reasonable demands of the Indian people for a larger share in the administration of their affairs should receive the consideration of the Government.'"—(Mr. Herbert Roberts.)
§ Question proposed—"That those words be there added."
§ SIR J. JARDINE (Roxburghshire)
said I he had no intention of referring to the matters relating to Bengal, having little official or local knowledge of the questions connected with the partition of the province. He would deal chiefly with the second part of the Amendment, and in doing so he would endeavour to say nothing which would embarrass a sympathetic Government or introduce contentious matter to which hon. Members opposite could object, for he thought in a new Parliament he might quote what was said by an eminent man some years ago, namely, that they were all Members of Parliament for India no matter where they sat. He thought it had been conceded time after time in this House and in the country by both of the great political Parties that the natives of India should be employed in the administration of the country as much as possible and as far as was consistent with good government. He need not argue that principle this afternoon. He dared say hon. Members had heard that the more they gave the educated Indian natives the more they would want. No doubt that was the case, but it was not alone among Indians that this result was found. It was, naturally enough, the effect of an education extending over a hundred years. It was also reasonable as the value of the 831 services of the natives of India had been proved in every department of the Government; and, coming particularly to higher matters of statesmanship, it was, he believed, expedient and statesmanlike for the Gov eminent to lend a sympathetic ear to these aspirations. When one thought of the numerous languages and dialects of India, its various castes, its manifold customs and manners, its different systems of property and hereditary rights, it had to be conceded that what is needed in our administration at all times is competent knowledge and general sympathy. A distinguished Governor, Sir John Malcolm, had said that those responsible for pointing indiscriminate abuse at the people of India were usually deficient in a full knowledge of their language; that Europeans could never pretend to that familiarity with the native dialects such as native gentlemen possessed. He himself had been associated for years with native Indian judges in the High Courts, men of high reputation, great learning and versatile capacity. The same sort of persons were found in the Legislative Councils and would be of much usefulness if admitted into the Executive Government at the various Presidencies. In those Executive Councils the same qualifications would be valuable, learning in the law, knowledge of facts, power to adjudge on evidence, the understanding of native subordinates and their character, the familiarity with native aspirations and dislikes. There was another quality which they possessed which was very valuable, both in matters of justice and in administration—a talent which he believed made Scotsmen such acceptable Members of this House. They had the power of listening. People in India explained why the Government officials had been provided by a kind Providence with two ears; it was that there was one for the plaintiff and another for the defendant. He therefore supported the Amendment.
§ MR. REES (Montgomery Boroughs)
said he would not have interfered in the debate in so far as the question of the partition of Bengal was concerned, had he not thought it necessary that something should be said by some person conversant with India, and not taking the line of the hon. Member for East Nottingham. He 832 would not deny that there was a strong public opinion against this measure in Bengal, and that it had been exhibited in a legitimate manner in the Press and at public meetings. He went further, and admitted that there was a national feeling in Bengal which had grown up because it was believed that the existing system was of benefit to Bengal, the Bengalis, and Calcutta. He likewise admitted that the Chamber of Commerce of Calcutta—a body capable of expressing an opinion of great value—was opposed to this partition, and that that opinion was shared by the European Trades Association, although he did not understand that their objection was exceedingly strong or insuperable. But there was another class who were interested in this matter to whom the hon. Member for East Nottingham had not referred. He meant the planting class. He had made inquiry and had special means of finding out that the planting class were not averse from this measure. On the contrary, they approved of it. It was their interest that coolies should be obtained for labour in the tea-gardens; and he ventured to say that if the Bengal Government had erred in any way in this matter it was in that they had been protecting the coolies too much to their own disadvantage. For the coolies who had gone as labourers to the tea-gardens had taken the opportunities they had of acquiring land and settling in the neighbourhood of the gardens. That showed that they had been well-treated by the planters, who were just and generous employers of labour. It was said that the people of Bengal would never be satisfied until they had a Governor and a Council like Madras and Bombay. He had some knowledge of Presidency government, and believed the system to be so bad that it had only been possible to work it because the men were so good. Since the seat on the Council of the Commander-in-Chief had been abolished, the Governor might be in a minority for his whole term of five years. This was a system which had strained the abilities of Warren Hastings, and though it would ill become him to say that the Presidency Governors were not able men—indeed he held exactly the opposite opinion—yet it might safely be assumed, that they had 833 not been, and would not be, superior to Warren Hastings. The hon. Member for East Nottingham had made a claim which he was bound to deprecate; viz., that he represented the people of India. Hon. Members in this House were only representatives of their constituencies, and any other position that was given to them would be entirely due to the knowledge of the subject under discussion and their handling of it. He would put against the experience of the hon. Member for East Nottingham, as Secretary and Under - Secretary in Bengal, the experience of Sir Charles Elliott, who had been Lieut.-Governor of Bengal, and an exceedingly capable Governor who said it was the one office he had held in India in regard to which he was unable to say that he had done his daily duty as he would have liked to have done it. It was impossible to adopt the opinion of any one officer on this subject and the officer whose experience had been in one province was less likely to form a correct judgment than one who bad filled many offices in many provinces. He held it unnecessary and unwise to discuss this measure here, because of the use which would be made of the discussion in India. In common with the mover and seconder he wished that the matter had not been pursued until Papers had been laid, and the way in which the matter had throughout been conducted no doubt exacerberated the feelings of those concerned. It was also unusual that the measure should have been passed at Simla, but however carried, it had become an accomplished fact. The opinion of the planters deserved, however, the special consideration of this House. They had never been guilty of any cruelty to their employees, or of any conduct towards them of which complaint could be made. The measure might have been carried in a somewhat more public manner, but it was possible that if it had been communicated to those who were concerned there would have been difficulty in passing it. He did not say it was hurried through for that reason, but he thought that the feelings of the Bengalese in this matter did not receive due consideration. In discussing the further employment of the natives of India he did not want to indicate to-day what particular offices should be given them. 834 That seemed as futile as any attempt to carve India into new provinces this afternoon in this House. But he thought more might be done in that direction. The Indians made most admirable judges and served on the benches of the High and other Courts with the greatest distinction. For his part he should like to see them made district judges in larger numbers. Greek philosophers and sophists had been introduced into the House already, and a Greek poet had said that a man was a fool who did not know how much the half was better than the whole. He did not believe that he would have excluded from the application of that principle speeches upon the Indian question. He thanked the House for having listened to him so patiently, and trusted that when any question involving his constituency arose they would be equally indulgent with him, as the Welsh, Free Church, Liberal and larger half thereof, had for many years been inarticulate and unrepresented.
§ MR. C. J. O'DONNELL (Newington, Walworth)
rose to support the Amendment. Like the preceding speaker he had been an officer in the service of the Bengal Government, and he was extremely pleased to hear the way in which the people of that country had been referred to. A kindlier or a juster people did not exist, and, moreover, Bengal had the most numerous population of any state under the Crown of England—some 50,000,000 people. The better-class inhabitants were highly educated, and this country owed a great debt of gratitude to the Province, for during the 100 years in which Great Britain had been building up its power in India, Bengal had been the milch cow from which we had drawn our resources. We were therefore under in obligation to Bengal and should listen to the representations which it made. These representations appeared to have been made in a very constitutional form. There had been a protest which had rarely come from any country. He associated himself with the hon. Member or East Nottingham in his remark that the recent Government had shown hostility towards these people. That hostility began within three months of Lord Curzon's government. When the 835 noble Lord came into power the rights of the Government in the municipality of Calcutta, were protected by twenty-five nominated members, while fifty were elected to represent the wealth, the commerce, and the intelligence of the town. This body had been doing its work well, and it was not till Lord Elgin's time that any question about it arose. Lord Elgin examined into the matter and came to the conclusion that that body was working well, though it was necessary to give more powers to the chairman. But Lord Curzon came in and destroyed the body and reduced the elected members from fifty to twenty-five, so that the popular representatives—merchants, capitalists, and landlords—were always in a minority. A Committee was appointed to examine into the question of rating, but it was a strange fact that not one of the twenty-five elected members were on that Committee. The system of education which had grown up was destroyed and the native members of the University were driven out. While the men of wealth were insulted, the men of education were wronged. The important point was that everybody outside of the Government was hostile to this measure. When the Lieutenant Governorship of Bengal became vacant there was one man for that appointment and that was the hon. Member for East Nottingham. He was, however, undesirable, because he found in Assam the coolies in the tea-gardens were not well used. He himself had had a great deal to do with the supervising of the enlistment of these coolies and knew they were not well treated. The hon. Member for East Nottingham drew attention to this fact and he was put aside. Another gentleman of great experience and ability, Sir James Bourdillon, was opposed to the partition; he was allowed to hold the appointment for a year and he was turned out and Sir Andrew Fraser put in. He had never been a single day in Bengal, and naturally found the task of governing that great province an extremely heavy one. His (Mr. O'Donnell's) knowledge of this question was derived from a twenty years' stay in Bengal. His last appointment was that of a commissioner of a division with 12,000,000 inhabitants, a division that had been taken from Bengal without 836 any one being consulted. It seemed to him that the principal argument in this case was that of population. There could not be any argument more erroneous. The difficulty of the government of a country was not a question of population. It was more difficult to administer government to 1,000,000 Englishmen than to 50,000,000 Bengalese. Practically the whole population were docile peasants. Another point urged by the Government was that there had been such a great increase in the population. That also was incorrect. There had been four censuses taken, and he had carried out the third, and he had come to the conclusion that the increase of population was due to the better numeration of the people. But even so, such an argument was ridiculous. The population of England increased threefold during the last century, but nobody had ever heard of partitioning England up into different governments. There was a point to which he did not willingly refer, but it had been referred to by the hon. Member for East Nottingham, and that was that in his opinion this measure had been carried out, not for administrative, but for political reasons, the reason being to break up the power of Bengal and divide it into two. Perhaps Members of this side of the House did net often read the Morning Post, but a few weeks ago the correspondent of that newspaper, who was travelling with the Prince of Wales in India, took up this question of the partition of Bengal and wrote—A study of the subject from that aspect forces upon me the conviction that it was rather a reply to that advocacy than for administrative reasons.The advocacy referred to was that of the popular leaders. The correspondent went on to say—The Government desired to strike a blow at intelligence and enterprise which had taken a form of which it did not approve.He would take up the time of the House no longer than to say to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India that it was quite possible to do away with what had been done, and that he fully associated himself with the advice given by the hon. Member for East Nottingham in regard to the erection of 837 Behar and Chota Nagpur into a separate province.
§ MR. T. HART-DAVIES (Hackney, N.)
said he did not propose to detain the House at any length, but there were one or two aspects on which he desired to make some observations. He did not know much of Bengal, although he had been there and had friends there, but he could assure the House that what the hon. Member for East Nottingham had said as to the effect of this partition had not been an exaggeration. He knew that in the opinion of the natives this was a deep-laid plan on the part of Lord Curzon and the late Government to diminish the effect of the Government's previous attitude to the people of Bengal. He was not sure whether that was the case or not, or whether that Machiavellian policy was framed by the late Government, but he was rather of opinion it was as part of the wild policy that prompted the late Government to go in for such things as Chinese labour in South Africa and the Somaliland adventure without seeing the result which must accrue. But the result was the same. It was, he thought, unfortunate that a large and peaceful population should be struck at in this way. The Government had a right to do it, but they ought to remember what Burke said: that it was not a question of what it was our legal rights to do, but what it was to our interest to do. The other part of the Amendment raised rather a wider question than any hon. Member had dealt with that evening. People often spoke of the unchanging East, but he did not suppose that any country had changed more during the last thirty years than India. There was a new spirit, a new feeling there. We had a large population now trained by western education, which had been trained in western ideas, and it was absolutely impossible for us to go on refusing to give them an adequate share of the government of their own country. It was time that something was done. It was no exaggeration to say we were now living in the beginning of a great world-crisis. A new feeling had arisen over the whole of the East, a feeling which had attained its most extraordinary development in Japan, which would make the government of our 838 dependency of India a very anxious matter for many years to come. There would be difficulties in the way, but if we adopted this new spirit, and imbued the administration of India with it, he did not see why our rule in India should not continue in undiminished splendour through the ages to come in the dim and distant future, and of which no man could see the end. But we had to recognise the new spirit, and if we did not, the circumstances would be such as we should hardly like to think of. It was a good thing in the opinion of many that the affairs of India were in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India. It had always been the curse of the administration of India that too much power had been placed in the hands of officials, and that they had been unable to respond to the aspirations of the people. It was a question that could rightly be dealt with now, and which ought to be taken up at once. We ought to associate the people more with the government of the country, and if we did, and based our government of that Empire on local self-government, he did not see why our government of India should not continue through the centuries.
§ MR. SMEATON (Stirlingshire)
said he had no intention of voting for this Amendment if it was pressed to a division, because he was perfectly confident that the Government, with a great opportunity before it and a long prospect of power in front of it, would do justice to Bengal and to India. At the same time he desired to associate himself with much that had been said by hon. Members who had just spoken. He deplored, in common with all well-wishers of India, the indecent haste and tortuous methods with which this measure of partition was hurried on; but not having lived in Bengal, he did not feel justified in giving an opinion one way or the other with regard to it. He deplored the unfortunate impression which had been undoubtedly created, not only in Bengal, but throughout India, that one object of the partition was to destroy and break up the national and political solidarity of Bengal. The House had heard the question of the partition discussed from both points of 839 view. Both the hon. Member for the Montgomery Boroughs and the hon. Member for East Nottingham evidently held briefs. The latter had asserted with some justification that he held a brief for the people of Bengal. He thought, however, that the hon. Member for the Montgomery Boroughs was hardly justified in attacking the hon. Member for East Nottingham in the way he had done, because the hon. Member for the Montgomery Boroughs belonged to a province which they were accustomed to call "Benighted," where opinions on the important subject under discussion were not likely to be illuminating or instructive. As regarded Bengal he (Mr. Smeaton) had little personal knowledge. His service had been rather in the northern northwestern, and central parts, and in the far east of Burmah, so that he could claim a fair acquaintance with the feelings of the people of India as a whole. His object in rising was chiefly to say a few words upon the second part of the Amendment—And we further beg to represent to Your Majesty that the reasonable demands of the Indian people for a larger share in the administration of their affairs should receive the consideration of the Government.He had had very valuable opportunities of consulting many representative members of the best educated Indian people all over the continent, and he could say with a certain amount of confidence that the real object of the people of India, as represented by their leaders, was not so much to obtain offices under the Crown—those offices were showered upon them constantly. What they wanted was to get a hand in the control of the policy of India. Their point was—and it was a very vital one—that expenditure and taxation in India were excessive. Expenditure and taxation depended on policy, and therefore they claimed to have some share, subject, of course, to obvious limitations, in directing the policy of their country. It was a common remark, chiefly in the Tory Press, that it was a misnomer to speak of the "Indian people"—that the Indian people had never spoken collectively, and that the idea of anything like a body of Indian public opinion was absurd; that in fact "Indian public opinion" was a myth. That was a grave misapprehension. The people of 840 India were very easily moved in the mass when aroused by any sentiment, anger, or affection. They must remember the extraordinary outburst of feeling all over India in thousands of villages when Her Majesty the late Queen was in danger of her life, the prayers that were offered in those villages, and then the deep grief that was exhibited all over the continent when her death was announced. He would point to another instance. The whole of India was aroused unitedly when this country sent its great contribution of relief during the great famine five years ago. He was himself a witness of the universal feeling of gratitude for that help. One more instance—of a sinister kind. In the dark days of the Indian mutiny, fifty years ago, when there were no railways or telegraph, the whole of northern India rose as if by a mysterious telepathy. It was nonsense to say that the Indian people had no collective views when they were moved, and he asserted that they were now moved, and that what they claimed they claimed through their leaders collectively. The one great grievance they felt was that whereas they were taxed beyond their taxable capacity they did not feel that they got value for the money they paid. They were over-governed. They did not believe the government was the system best suited to the condition of the country; and it was far too expensive. Although, it seemed paradoxical, he had no hesitation in saying that there was no country under the sun more democratic than India. India had been over and over again conquered, but the villages never sacrificed their ancient democratic institutions, and no conquest ever suppressed them. He recalled a remarkable instance of this feature of the Indian people. When he went to Agra at the request of the Governor to ascertain if the citizens would accept the octroi system of taxation, the people sent emissaries all over the surrounding districts, and their elected representatives afterwards met him and protested against the introduction of the octroi system, pointing out that it was a tax on imported goods which would raise prices, diminish, consumption, and disorganise trade. The proposed system consequently had to be 841 abandoned. They wanted Free Trade, and they got it. Another instance of the democratic disposition of the people was furnished in Burmah, immediately after the annexation. He recalled going up the Irrawaddy immediately after the annexation to endeavour to discover how they could establish peace within some fifty or sixty villages. He went to one village and asked that emissaries should be sent all over the country they represented to obtain an authority with whom he could deal. There instantly assembled a little Parliament of sixty or seventy, who elected a lady as their representative authority, and proceeded to discuss and arrange matters under her leadership, so that their democracy extended to women's suffrage. Was it to be wondered that the spirit of democracy had penetrated the villages, and had been enlarged into districts, which had extended into provinces, and then over the entire country? It seemed to him that the time had come for a Liberal Government to recognise these remarkable facts, and to endeavour not only to convince themselves, but the sceptical among the people of this country and this House, that a great national feeling and aspiration did really exist in India for a share in controlling the policy of the country, and thereby its taxation and expenditure, which they considered to be excessive. Therefore he respectfully suggested that the Government might send a Royal Commission to India to satisfy itself whether or not this national aspiration existed to the extent he had described; and, if it did, what system might be adopted to meet this aspiration; and whether there were not thousands of loyal, educated Indians capable of being employed as the elected representatives of the Indian people in a new form of government to correspond with those aspirations. It was of very happy augury that after seven years of pomp and pageantry, extravagance and misrule, there also had expired a Government which was represented by empty benches opposite, and that the Liberal Party should now be in a position to bestow on India the foundation principles of the Liberal policy—peace, retrenchment, and reform.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Mr. JOHN MORLEY,) Montrose Burghs
This Parliament presents a considerable number already of new features; and it is a new feature, and one, I think, on which we ought to congratulate ourselves, that this afternoon we have had six maiden speeches in succession from Gentlemen who have shown themselves possessors of a competent knowledge of Indian subjects and were eager to express the views which they represented. I, for one, have no quarrel with my hon. friend the mover of this Amendment. Though I am not one of those who desire that the House of Commons should be always interfering with the complex and difficult affairs of India, yet I think a debate of this kind can do nothing but good to this country and also to our interests in India. Upon the partition of Bengal I do not propose to detain the House very long. I wish very much for many reasons that my right hon. friend Mr. Brodrick was in the House, because he knows better that I can possibly know from the Papers what was in the minds of the India Office and what was also in the minds of the Indian Government of that day. So far as my information goes, I cannot assent to the views of those Gentlemen who have said that the movement for the partition of Bengal arose from political motives and from the desire to repress the expression of political opinion. Whether the original motives may not have taken on some colour of that kind I am not in a position to affirm or deny. But I think my hon. friend the Member for East Nottingham almost admitted that there was a case for the redistribution of the boundaries of the Province of Bengal in the amount of work laid upon the shoulders of the Governor of that province. My hon. friend quoted in another connection Lord George Hamilton, and I am sure we all extremely regret the absence of the noble Lord from our debates. Lord George Hamilton had a longer experience at the India Office as Secretary of State than I think anybody now living. Lord George in December last said that, so far as he could recollect, with scarcely an exception, he had never come into contact with a Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal 843 who, when pressed, did not at once admit that the work he had to perform was almost an undue strain upon his strength. There was ample evidence that the labours of the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal were enormous. That is not saying that the specific redistribution of the administration of Bengal was the wisest that could be devised. The hon. Member for East Nottingham produced his own scheme to-night, and one or two other Gentlemen have made suggestions. But this is not the moment for a technical examination of the precise way in which this redistribution of the administrative areas was carried out. It had been said that it would have been better if we sent as Governor-General some successful Gentleman from the House of Commons with a council, and some think that that would have been the best plan. Others, Supported by the hon. Member for Montgomery Boroughs, thought no more fortunate or happy system of government could be devised judging from the experience of the past. I do not say for a moment that I share that judgment, although I know that it was held and urged by Lord Curzon himself in the discussion of this subject. I take it, then, that some redistribution of areas was advisable. The word "partition" I am afraid is rather misleading, and we are apt to think of Poland and other nefarious transactions of that kind. I should be very sorry to admit that this was a partition in that sense. But it was, and remains, undoubtedly an administrative operation which went wholly and decisively against the wishes of most of the people concerned. It had been said, and unfortunately by an important person in India, that this demonstration of opposition in Bengal was "machine-made opinion," that it was the work of political wire-pullers and political agitators. I have often heard that kind of allegation made before. Governments are apt, when an inconvenient storm of public opinion arises, to lay it at the door of political wire-pullers and agitators. There are, however, Indian officials of great weight and authority who entirely put aside that allegation or insinuation, and who argue that these Calcutta agitators would have had no response from the people they 844 were appealing to if there had not been in the minds of the people a distinct feeling that they were going to suffer a great wrong and inconvenience; and, although no doubt the agitators could form and disseminate these views, yet these sentiments and views existed quite independently of any wire-pulling or agitation. That is my own conclusion derived from reading the papers. But the redistribution of Bengal is now a settled fact, and every speech that has been made this afternoon has laid stress upon and given weight to that conclusion. At this moment there is a great subsidence—it may be only temporary—but there is a subsidence of the feeling against the redistribution; and in face of that it would be very unreasonable to ask the Government to start afresh to redistribute the areas and incur what, to my mind, would be a new outlay of taxation. As my hon. friend says, India has just had seven years of pomp and pageantry. The time has not yet come to pass any verdict upon the great administration of Lord Curzon. Some find the energy of it feverish; others find it glorious. At some future date the historian of that time will be able to pronounce much more effectively than we can what Lord Curzon's administration has effected and what not. But none of us will deny his fine powers, his great gifts, and his supreme devotion to what he believes to be the public interests. But my own view is that, at the end of his great period, India should now be allowed to take breath. Therefore, we should now move very slowly. I do not think it would be a desirable or even a defensible movement to attempt to reconstruct Bengal or to restore the old distribution of power in that area. My hon. friend who moved the Amendment suggested there should be an increase in the number of officers on the executive council, an increase in the Legislative Council, that there should be three natives added to the Council of the Secretary of State, and that there should be forthwith an advisory board set up in Calcutta.
MR. HERBERT ROBERTS
No, an advisory board should be set up, not in Calcutta, but in all the districts of India for purposes of consultation. My remarks had nothing to do with Calcutta
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY
I would point out that those advisory boards would have no responsibility, that all these other changes would need an Act of Parliament, and I doubt whether good results would follow. Whether the partition was a wise thing or not when it was begun, I am bound to say that nothing was ever worse done so far as disregard of the feeling and opinion of the people is concerned. It is a fundamental principle in any Government in which Englishmen and Scotsmen are concerned that you are bound to consult and take into consideration all the opinions and even the prejudices of those affected. When the scheme was in the first place exhibited to the people of India it was exhibited bit by bit. The first proposal was in one direction to take certain areas, and the second proposal was an extension and alteration of that. A final scheme in which all these competitive efforts were summed up was never submitted to the judgment of any body in Bengal at all. The result of that was the raising of a storm by a plan which was never carried out, and the storm which had been raised raged with just as much violence when the final scheme came to be carried out. I think that is a matter which no defender of the late Government will really stand up for. Coming to the last and most important part, in some respects certainly the widest part of the Amendment, I do not think I need say much. I think I gather already that I need not at all assure hon. Gentlemen who represent Indian interests specially, and I need not assure the House, that so long as I have any responsibility for Indian affairs I shall not be likely to depart from those general principles of Liberalism—not in a Party sense, but in that sense in which both Parties, in my opinion, desire to see India governed. It seems to be sometimes forgotten that India has an ancient civilisation and that the people are not barbarians. The officials who have had most dealings with them admit, and not only admit but proclaim, that these people have in them admirable material upon which you may by and by—and in this case I do not at all object to the phrase "step by step"—build up a system under which they shall 846 have a far greater share than they now have in the government. When this Amendment was first put on the Paper, it urged that the Government should take the admission of the natives of India to a larger share in the administration into their immediate consideration. The Viceroy has been on his throne I think three months, and I have occupied my office a few weeks with the trivial interlude of a contested election. For me, therefore, to guarantee the immediate taking of this matter into consideration would, I think, hardly be reasonable, and I am glad that the word has disappeared from the Amendment. But I for one shall deprecate in the case of anybody with whom I have any influence any resort to that rather harsh, rather arrogant, and rather supercilious language towards the people of Bengal which has been used by some from whom I should not have expected it. In the whole field of government there has been enormous activity and energy, no doubt, during the last six or seven years—in education, public works, irrigation, railways, and in regard to the frontier. I am not going into the frontier question now. It was once said that the study of the Apocalypse either found a man mad or made him mad. I sometimes think when I hear these endless discussions about the frontier—not by responsible men, but by irresponsible men—that the north-west frontier is almost as prejudicial a field of study in creating this state of mind as the Apocalypse has been said to be. My own view can be expressed in a few sentences. Though the zeal of your officers—most honourable for them—for great public works has sometimes gone to excess, so far as I am concerned there will be no tendency to stay vigorous action on the part of the Government of India in the direction of works which are proved to be, or which there is good reason to expect will be, of a remunerative character. If you want security and strength in India one of your ways of getting it is to lighten taxation, and I shall look therefore in the direction of greater economy in order to lighten taxation. I respond with all the conviction I have in me to the appeal for sympathy. You may call it sentiment if you like, but a man is ill fitted for the 847 governing of otter men if he does not give a large place to the operation of sentiment.
§ EARL PERCY (Kensington, S.)
I desire to express my concurrence with the general conclusions of the right hon. Gentleman. No one I believe wishes to impugn the good faith of my right hon. friend the late Secretary of State for India, or to assert that he intended to mislead the House when he promised to lay Papers. The right hon. Gentleman has accused the late Government of some precipitancy in sanctioning this scheme, but I think he hardly makes the charge good. The original scheme was put forward at least three years ago, and it was largely owing to the public criticism with which that scheme was met that it was modified in very important particulars. Then the right hon. Gentleman said he was not aware of the precise motives which actuated the late Government in assenting to this policy—whether their object was to combat political agitation in Bengal. So far as I know, the only object they had in view was to secure administrative efficiency. The wonder to me is that the change which the Government of India proposed has been deferred so long. It is fifty years since Lord Dalhousie described the burden resting on the Government of Bengal as greater than any single man could be expected to bear. Since then the population has risen from 40,000,000 to 80,000,000, and Calcutta in point of population has become the second city of the empire. The demands made on the time and energies of the local government have grown greater and greater every year with the increasing complexity of the problems connected with the rapid expansion of industry, and the development of municipal activity among a people whose proneness to litigation is, I think, only equalled by their aptitude for political controversy and criticism, and the keenness with which they scrutinise every detail of administration. I can hardly imagine a more conclusive proof of the need for this change than the fact that owing to press of business the Lieutenant-Governor is unable to visit many of the districts under his charge more than once in the whole five years of his tenure of office. It being admitted that 848 some change was necessary, the late Government were confronted by the fact that only one alternative was possible to that recommended by the Viceroy, and that was the solution alluded to by some of the earlier speakers, namely, the adoption of the Presidency system in force in Bombay and Madras. There seem to be two conclusive reasons against the adoption of such an experiment. In the first place there is the great disparity of population in the three provinces. I speak from memory, but I think the population of Bombay is something like 20,000,000; Madras, 40,000,000, while the population of Bengal is at least double that amount. I doubt very much—it may be rash to say so—whether any one starting de novo with a tabula rasa would now devise the Presidency system as one ideally suited to the needs of Indian government. For what is that system? You send out a gentleman from England who has none of that initial or personal knowledge of the people over whom he is to rule, or of the problems he is expected to solve, which every Resident and Commissioner possesses. In order to correct that inevitable defect, you associate with him two members of the Civil Service whose nominal prestige is inferior, but whose practical control of affairs is as great as his own; you make the Governor in fact, a mere primus inter-pares in a triumvirate, with the result that instead of the sympathetic influence of a personality you have to content yourselves with the intangible authority of a bureaucracy. Now, defective as that system is in the old Presidencies, its transference to the province of Bengal would have been attended with peculiar drawbacks. Owing to the fixity of the land system in Bengal the civil servants there are deprived of one of the readiest means of coming into daily contact with the lives and interests of the people. Whoever is appointed Governor of Bengal must have had previous experience of Indian administration, and his colleagues of the Civil Service would merely serve to divide his authority and weaken his sense of responsibility. There is one very pertinent question which may be put to gentlemen who criticise the change, and that is, "What individual or class would be benefited by the retention 849 the old system?" I can imagine only three. The members of the legal profession are naturally apprehensive that in course of time, with the development of the new Province, the local courts will absorb a great deal of the judicial business which now passes through the High Court at Calcutta. Then there is the class of absentee landowners, who prefer the social attractions of the capital to living on their own properties, but in future will have to spend a great deal of their time at their estate offices at Dacca; and, lastly, there is the class whose principal occupation is political agitation, and who will find much of their material for agitation cut away when they are no longer able to point to the neglect of local interests, which under the existing system is almost inevitable. One of the main reasons for this change is the crying need of the Province of Assam for the development of its material resources and an increased efficiency in its administration. Almost every large administrative area in India has its own Civil Service Commission trained on the spot and acquiring fresh knowledge every year of local conditions and requirements; but Assam has had for a long time past to borrow its Commission from Bengal, and has thereby lost the advantage elsewhere derived from length and continuity of service. If there is one principle of government which is elementary, it is that all administration is bad which depends on borrowed men. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment has added to it an expression of opinion that the time has come for associating the people of India in a larger measure with the management of their own affairs. That is rather a large subject to tack on as a rider to an Amendment to the Address. I suppose we all desire, whatever the form of government, not only to treat the feelings of the inhabitants with respect, but also, as time goes on and as they show themselves fit, to give them wider opportunities of expressing their opinions on questions that interest them. But even the mover of the Amendment recognised that the process of evolution must be a gradual one. Legislative Councils were not introduced until 1801, 850 and thirty years elapsed before any provision was made for native representation upon them. I think it would be rash to take the experience of the last fourteen years as affording adequate justification for a further step in that direction. Considering the character of India and the fact that it is as large as the whole of Europe, excluding European Russia, it is surely obvious that the permanence of British rule depends to a large extent on preserving unity of method. A popular system cannot be applied to one part of India and withheld from another. Though I do not desire any harsh repression of the political aspirations of any section of the community, I think it is safe to say that a great many of the ideals put forward by orators at the Congress are not only wholly opposed to the views of the large majority of the creeds and races of India, but if translated into practice, would be quite unsuited to their practical needs and requirements. There is no doubt that the present scheme has given rise to a great deal of discontent, and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy that there is no proposal, even at home, which is more certain to awaken bitterness and opposition than a proposal to alter old geographical limits, to redistribute electoral areas, or to interfere with municipal boundaries. But there is this to be said in favour of the scheme of administrative re-adjustment proposed by the Government of India, that, not only does it subserve the interests of administrative efficiency but it actually secures far better grouping than has hitherto existed both of language and nationality by recognising the preponderance of the Mahommedan element in the North, and amalgamating the Uriyah-speaking populations of the West. I will only observe in conclusion that the same agitation has been raised again and again in connection with similar administrative changes in other parts of India. We all remember the great outcry which arose with regard to the severance of the frontier provinces from the Punjaub, a policy the success of which I conceive is now almost universally recognised.
§ SIR H. COTTON (Nottingham, E.)
I think that there was no popular objection to that whatever; the objection there was a purely official one.
§ EARL PERCY
It is very difficult to gauge how far an agitation does represent a real popular feeling or not. Personally I doubt not from former precedents that within a very short space of time—probably five or six years—those who are loudest in their denunciation of the present scheme will be foremost in their recognition and admiration of the courage with which Lord Curzon has faced a temporary unpopularity in the permanent interest of administrative efficiency.
MR. HERBERT ROBERTS
said that, in view of the sympathetic statement of the right hon. Gentleman and the nature of the discussion, he would beg leave to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ SIR W. EVANS GORDON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
said he rose to move the Amendment of which he had given notice dealing with the exclusion from this country of foreign contract labour during times of trade disputes. It would be within the recollection of those Members who were present in the last House of Commons that an Amendment very similar to that which he now brought forward was submitted by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, when it received great support in the House, the Opposition, he believed, supporting it unanimously. At all events, 148 Members supported it, including the present Home Secretary, his Under-Secretary, the Postmaster-General, and many distinguished members of the present Government. He hoped, therefore, that the principle of the Amendment which he proposed would find acceptance in the House, and that hon. Members on the opposite side would support the views which they then held. No doubt he should be reminded that he himself voted against that Amendment. He was quite prepared for that charge, but he hoped he should not be deemed 852 guilty of any inconsistency in the matter, because his reason was that he was most anxious to do nothing whch would jeopardise the passing of the Aliens Act as a whole, and he had to subordinate what he believed to be the lesser to the greater consideration. He had to help the Government by every means in his power to pass that Bill into law, and he could not do anything which would risk the passing of that measure. In spite of that he was at that time and was now in complete agreement with the views of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil and his friends. He said so at the time in the House, and he had not changed his opinion in a single particular. As, however, must often happen under a system of Party government, he had to waive his personal feelings in deference to those of the Leaders of the Party to which he belonged. He thought, moreover, he might safely prophesy that there were many hon. Gentlemen on the Benches opposite who, before this Parliament was over, would find themselves forced into the same position. As he understood the position of hon. Gentlemen opposite, it was that they had no strong objection, or indeed, any objection whatever, to the admission of any quantity of unskilled or skilled labour during ordinary times, but that they did object to the admission of such labour at times when labour disputes were taking place. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil the other night, he was glad to find, went a little further than that when he however, that the importation or the protested against the employment of an enormous number of foreign seamen on British ships. He heartily agreed with the hon. Member, and hoped that he and his friends would press that point forward. His view was, influx of cheap foreign labour, which from the circumstances of the case was willing and, indeed, often compelled, to work for hours and wages which no trade union would tolerate, must have an adverse effect upon the general standard of work and living of the employés, and place them at a disadvantage. There was no doubt that a large number of unskilled foreign labourers made a strike much less difficult to organise and much more likely to be conducted with success. On the Royal Commission 853 they had evidence brought before them from the Lanarkshire coal mines, and the witnesses told them that foreign labour from Berlin and elsewhere had been systematically imported into that district because their labour was a little cheaper than the labour obtainable in the district. It seemed to him a wrong thing that these people should be placed in that position, and that the country should lose by emigration many valuable men. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, in putting forward his Amendment last year, spoke of men as having been vilely dismissed, and of a number of Spaniards and Poles having been introduced into the works, the English people being told that if they objected there would be a further importation of Spaniards and Poles. That threat was carried out, and there was abundant evidence that a large mass of this labour in Spain and Southern Italy was readily available. It had been imported into this country before, and might, and very likely would, be again on similar occasions in the future. He believed that at the time the labour problems of the Transvaal were being discussed and thought out, a large number of these men, Spaniards and Poles, were offered to mine owners at an incredibly low rate of wages—wages very little higher than those at present given to the Chinese. That fact was enough to show that the idea of employing European labour of this kind was not an illusory one—the question had been considered, and the labour was readily available. He supported the principle of this Amendment because he felt strongly that nothing could be more disadvantageous or, indeed, disastrous to this country than to lower generally the standard of living of the wage earners and working classes of this country. In the possibility of the importation of cheap foreign labour for the purpose of settling trade disputes to the disadvantage of one of the two parties to the dispute, he saw a menace to our prosperity and a very real and serious menace to the standard of comfort which the working classes possessed after so long and costly a struggle. They had the evidence, given before the Royal Commission, of a gentleman, who was admitted to be a good authority on 854 this question, the Rev. Mr. Davis, Rector of Spitalfields. That gentleman described as typical, and not at all exceptional, the case of a man in the tailoring trade with a wife and three children whose earnings were 7s. a week. People of that kind could be imported at any time when there was a trade dispute, and such a thing would obviously mean disaster to our working classes. No cheapness to the consumer could compensate for the bad effect on the producer which the low wage standard of 7s. a week would bring about. On the grounds of national health, and of what had been described as the physical deterioration of the people, this question had to be dealt with. We had little to depend upon now in our great and unequal struggle with the industrial world except the general physical condition of our people, and he did not see how we were to retain that, or improve the position our people were now in, if at any time there was to be undercutting in the manner he had described. It might be said that the logical effect of the argument he put forward was that a national standard should be set up, and that all employers should be compelled to pay a certain rate of wage, independent of any competition from abroad; but he had never taken that attitude. It seemed to be an impossible one. An industrial struggle within the limits of any given country should be fought out by the citizens of that country, and the importation of foreign labour in order to settle a trade dispute to the disadvantage of one of the parties to the dispute should be regarded as a foul blow and ought not to be permitted. It was with the hope that legislation would be promoted to prevent that foul blow from being struck that he put forward the Amendment. He hoped that hon. Gentlemen opposite, however much they might question the merits of the Amendment, would not question the sincerity of his motives in moving it, and he did not think they would. He begged to move.
§ SIR WILLIAM BULL (Hammersmith)
said he wished to second the Amendment. Representing as he did a large working-class constituency, and also being one of the officials of the Alien Emigration Society which initiated the Bill to prevent undesirable aliens 855 coming to this country, he desired that this logical consequence of that Act should pass into law. While trying to pass the Bill through Committee the Unionist Party were accused of bringing in the measure for window-dressing purposes, and of not being in earnest. He desired to show to-night at all events that they were in earnest and wished this matter to be carried through. He pointed out that in the United States the first Alien Immigration Act passed did not possess this charm, and that in a very short time it was found necessary to amend it.
At the end of the Question to add the words, 'But we humbly express our regret that Your Majesty's Speech contains no reference to the exclusion from this country of foreign contract labour during times of trades disputes.'"—(Sir William Evans-Gordon.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ THE SECRETAEY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. HERBERT GLADSTONE,) Leeds, W.
The hon. and gallant Member certainly succeeded in dissembling his tone in regard to his proposal under two hostile votes delivered last July, as he assured us he had always been in favour of it, and that he only voted against the Amendment of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie) because he did not wish to wreck the Aliens Bill. I should like to ask the hon. Member whether, supposing the late Government still occupied these benches, he would move this Amendment to the Address and ask them to accept it.
§ SIR W. EVANS-GORDON
I certainly would do so, and I beg to remind the right hon. Gentleman that I moved ah Amendment to the Address against my own side, which was the means of bringing to the front the Alien question. A Royal Commission was appointed on my Amendment to the Address of 1902.
§ MR. HERBERT GLADSTONE
As the hon. and gallant Member was prepared to vote against his own Government on the Amendment it is rather difficult to see why he did not propose it 856 last year. It was a question of great interest; but I am not going into that at all. When the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil brought forward his Amendment in July, at both the Committee stage and the Report stage I voted in favour of the Amendment, and the Prime Minister also voted for it, as well as the great bulk of hon. Gentlemen who were then on the Opposition side of the House. There are, as we all know, arguments for and against this proposal. There was a considerable discussion on the point last July, and I cannot understand why the hon. and gallant Gentleman, when he had a chance of putting this principle into the Aliens' Bill, did not make use of that opportunity. He now comes forward and blames us, and proposes practically a vote of censure upon us for not putting this proposal into the King's Speech this session, when he knows perfectly well that legislation with regard to it is impossible—perfectly impossible, for the simple reason that we cannot do everything at once. We have been in office a very short time, and have had a general election since we were put in, and we are now about to deal with many important questions. It is too soon altogether to re-open the question of the Aliens Act, and the hon. Gentleman very well knows that it is out of our power at the present time to propose any such legislation as he suggests. The hon. and gallant Member did not vote for the proposal during the passage of the Aliens Bill, and he gave as his excuse that he did not wish to risk the passage of the Bill. I remember at that time it was said by the late Home Secretary that it was not germane to the Bill. Why was it not? The Bill dealt with various questions. The principle on which the right hon. Gentleman opposite acted was that the Bill should exclude undesirables, and many classes were excluded, such as diseased persons, lunatics, and the very poor. But why not exclude undesirable labour, if labour is undesirable? On what argument could the hon. Gentleman fairly exclude this question from the purview of that Bill? No; the hon. and gallant Member did not intend his Motion on this ground. I must remind the House of something more. For the last ten years right 857 hon. and Gentlemen on the other side of the House have declaimed, in season and out of season, on the importance of dealing thoroughly with this Aliens question. For nine years they neglected it, and in the tenth year they brought in a Bill which they pressed through the House, and on such slender foundation did they stand that the hon. Gentleman said it would have risked the passage of the measure if he had endeavoured to carry the Amendment of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil. And now the hon. and gallant Gentleman proposes to censure us because we do not and cannot do what the Unionists refused to do last July when they had the chance. The House knows perfectly well that the Government cannot accept this Amendment, and I presume hon. Gentlemen opposite do not intend to press it to a division. It would be ungrateful after the support we gave to this principle. The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows well that the great majority on this side would support the Government in rejecting this Amendment, though most of us are in favour of the principle which underlies it. Is he then going to force us, knowing that, and having regard to the confession of his own exigencies last July, to vote against his Amendment? We cannot accept his Amendment at the present time, and as regards the future, I have no doubt it will come up for consideration on a more suitable occasion. I do not know whether the Aliens Act will come under the purview of this House, but it may be that amendment may have to be made in one direction or another, and if, and when, that opportunity arises, then will be an excellent opportunity for considering this question.
§ MR. CROOKS (Woolwich)
said he was delighted that the hon. and gallant Member for Stepney should have thought fit to bring forward his proposal. It only showed what a sobering effect a general election had on the mind. He remembered that the everlasting cry of the hon. and gallant Member and his friends was to clean something off the slate, and they started wiping this off the slate immediately after putting it on. He wondered if the majority of the hon. and gallant Member's Party had been maintained the House would have heard 858 a word on this question. It was very wonderful how people changed. He supposed that they might expect the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham to vote for this Amendment. He did not want to say the right hon. Gentleman had changed his mind, but he remembered reading a speech of the right hon. Gentleman in which, in reply to a question as to why he did not vote for this particular Resolution, he said it was not germane to the Bill. As a matter of fact the Act was an absolute fraud, and he himself stated distinctly when it was before the House that it would not do anything to promote that for which the hon. Member was honoured. Unfortunately a record was kept of other utterances, and he remembered the hon. Member's asking whether they could prove that this Bill would be used as an instrument for introducing cheap labour, and he replied that he thought it would be so used. Around the East End the hon. Member declared that this Bill was going to stop sweating, get rid of slums, and stop rack-renting. He remembered that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean voted against the Second Reading and took a few hon. Members with him into the lobby, with the result that some of the people who believed what the hon. Member for Stepney said waited for him (the hon. Member for Woolwich) on the railway platform and threatened him with a little personal violence. What a wonderful measure it had proved! All it had done was to provide a few soft jobs for people. A little deaf and dumb girl had been kept out last week under this wonderful Act. There was another case: to-day a refugee in danger had asked for the asylum of Britain, which had always stood for the right of asylum. It had been said that wherever the British flag was unfurled there was liberty. That used to be so, but it was altered by the late Government. The present Government had started cleaning the slate, but it would take a long time. Many hon. Members went down to their constituencies on the passing of this Act and laid in a stock of fireworks to celebrate the event, but those fireworks were wasted, because the people soon discovered that the time of the House 859 had been wasted on a fraud of a Bill. The rich people could buy their way in, but they would not admit a man like Mazzini. He hoped the Opposition were proud of that state of things, but he was ashamed of it. When the measure was before the House an attempt was made by the Labour Members to prevent its being used as a means of procuring blacklegs to lower wages in this country, but they were defeated. The Act had not kept out a single alien who would have come into competition with labour here. Seven persons had been kept out, and five of them would have dropped down dead had they been allowed to come ashore. The late Member for King's Lynn asked how the examination would take place, and he was told that they would be examined in a building on shore. And then came the further question, "After that what then?" and the answer was, "They would not allow them to land." It wanted a very clever Government to do a thing like that. He did not think the present Government could equal that in any circumstances. The people who promoted Bills ought to know their real effect. The position of the Labour Members was that some of the Members of this House had decided to bring in a Bill on this matter, and they expected it to pass as an unopposed measure. Surely there would not be found an hon. Member on the Opposition benches who would oppose it alter what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham said at question time, and he expected the hon. Member for Stepney and hon. Members opposite who voted with him on this particular question in the last Parliament would vote solidly in favour of the Bill which was about to be introduced. The Act wanted amending in a variety of ways, and at the proper time he should urge the Home Secretary to consider the way in which poor people at the present time were compelled to live. These aliens were brought in by an association from countries where they gave too much protection to the rich and not enough to the poor. They could not catch old sparrows with chaff like that. That was a question which had to be grappled with. Dwellings in some districts became more and more crowded, 860 and the more they were crowded the more they were rack rented. In Spital-fields he had known poor people living in coal cellars at 1½d. per night. He held it should be a criminal offence on the part of the sanitary authorities not to put a stop to that. Would the members of the late Government and their supporters join in assisting to putdown the system of sweating? The last Government gave out contracts for cap making for the Navy at prices which it would not pay any decent woman to work for. There was a system of contracting and sub-contracting and sub-contracting again which should be stopped. But the people who did that class of work were not on the register, and he supposed they were not worth considering or worrying about. It was idle to make excuses for not safeguarding the interests of the workmen of Stepney in last year's Act. They knew now that the Act was a mere makeshift for killing time. He and his friends said so at the time. His description for what was done last year was that the whole of the British people were bluffed by the Government doing nothing at all. Week after week they sat on these benches praying and beseeching the Government to do something for the people, and pointing out to them that the greatness of the Empire did not—
§ MR. CROOKS
I am obliged for the correction, but we are really discussing a Bill of last year. I stand rebuked.
§ MR. CROOKS
Thank you, Sir. I think last session's proceedings have been very properly dealt with by the electors of this country and I will not go into them. As lovers of the poor he and his friends had sympathy with the Amendment, but they were not going to vote for it. They were going to introduce a Bill which would, he hoped, make the law on this matter what they desired, They would vote against this Amendment, and they were willing to go into 861 every constituency in the country and state their reason for doing so. He was perfectly sure that the industrial community would be with thorn on that occasion. Some of the points with which they wished the Home Secretary to deal were sweating, overcrowding, and rents—if that could possibly be done by the introduction of a Fair Rent Bill. He appealed to the hon. Member to withdraw the Amendment.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
The hon. Member for Woolwich has made the important statement that it is the intention of himself and his colleagues to bring in a Bill dealing with this subject, and that being the case I certainly do not see that my hon. friend need press his Amendment. We shall be able to say what we have to say when the hon. Member brings in his Bill. The reason why I personally am anxious that this matter should be discussed and why I would be glad to see the Bill is that it seems to me by itself to indicate a perfectly illogical proceeding. It appears to me and has always appeared to me to be perfectly illogical and inconsistent to prohibit the immigration of these alien labourers and at the same time to allow the free import of alien goods. The hon. Member has said that during last session he sat praying and beseeching the Government which, then sat on the Treasury Bench to do something for the people and that nothing was done. Now he has his opportunity. Let him pray and beseech a Government more powerful than the last, and by the time the next general election comes round let us see what account he will give of its answer to his prayers.
§ SIR W. EVANS-GORDON
said that in deference to the request made by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, and in view of the fact that a Bill was to be introduced by the hon. Member for Woolwich and his friends, he begged leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.