HC Deb 01 November 1906 vol 163 cc1316-8
DR. RUTHERFORD (Middlesex, Brentford)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India whether in view of the promise made by Mr. Brodrick in August, 1905, that Papers on the partition of Bengal would be laid before the House, and of the fact that the partition was effected in the autumn recess immediately following, before Papers could be laid, and in view of the fact that the House has never been afforded the opportunity of discussing the subject, and that the partition has given rise to discontent in India, he will appoint a Select Committee of the House to inquire into and report upon all the circumstances connected with the partition of the province.


I stated on Monday last that it would be contrary to the public interest to present Papers on the subject of the agitation against the recent partition of Bengal;† and I am still less prepared to take any action of the kind suggested by the hon. Member.

† See Col 689.
MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)

Arising out of that Answer, may I ask whether we are to understand that this House exercises no control whatever over Indian affairs?


No; I do not think that is at all the inference to be drawn from my Answer.

MR. J. WARD (Stoke-on-Trent)

Does the right hon. Gentleman think it is possible for the House to give proper attention in regard to this subject if it is not supplied with the actual facts?


No. I should think no deliberative body could exercise deliberative functions usefully unless acquainted with the actual facts?


That is why we want Home Rule.


Were not the papers laid after Parliament rose?


I am not sure.


The facts in relation to the partition of Bengal were, as I have stated, laid before Parliament on some dare in August last year.


Will not the right hon. Gentleman take into consideration that this is an entirely new Parliament, that at least two-thirds, I should think, of the Members know nothing of these Papers, and does he not under the circumstances consider it advisable that the Papers should be re-issued?

† See Col. 689.

So far as I am concerned there is no objection at all to the re issue of the Papers. But they will not throw any light upon the real point. The real point is this: when the present Government came into office they found that the partition of Bengal had been carried out. It then became a question, in our view, largely of political expediency, whether that transaction should be reversed, or whether it should be upheld. The question was whether the disadvantages of setting aside all the operations which had followed did not far more than counterbalance the errors, as we thought them, of the original change. It was, therefore, a question largely of political expediency, and, of course, Ministers took the view I have announced on their own responsibility. In what they have done they may have taken a wrong view, but to appoint a Select Committee to consider the question of the presentation of Papers, such as my hon. friend desires, would really not help the House one atom to a sound conclusion in the matter.


May I ask whether it is not a well ascertained fact that public opinion in Bengal is dead against the partition, and whether, in view of that being the case, an alteration cannot be made in accordance with Liberal principles, and having regard to the views of the people?


Order, order. That Question hardly arises out of the one before the House.


Then I will put one on the Paper.

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