HC Deb 02 July 1917 vol 95 cc734-6
6. Commander WEDGWOOD

asked the Secretary of State for India about when Mr. Bhupendra Nath Basu may be expected to arrive in this country; and whether he was asked to declare his position, on Indian reforms, particularly on Indian Home Rule, before being offered the position on the Council of India?

The SECRETARY Of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Chamberlain)

Mr. Bhupendra Nath Basu is expected to arrive in this country about the middle of September next. The answer to the second part of the question is in the negative.

Commander WEDGWOOD

Is it a new departure in the India Office in this country to get in a politician from India?


The appointment of an additional Indian member of the Council and the widening of the area of choice are both novel. I do not particularly care to describe them as a new departure, but I think that they are wise steps to take, and will add to the usefulness of the Council of India.

7. Commander WEDGWOOD

asked the Secretary of State for India, whether there is any prospect of an Order in the Madras Presidency or elsewhere declaring all Home Rule leagues seditious?


I have no reason to think that local governments in India are at all likely to take repressive measures against associations that confine their programme of political reforms within constitutional limits and pursue it by reasonable methods. But I would beg my hon. and gallant Friend to remember that on the authorities in India rests the responsibility for the maintenance of peace and the protection of life and order, and they are bound to take such steps as are necessary to safeguard them.

Commander WEDGWOOD

Who are to be the judges of what constitutes reasonable measures—the India Office in this country and the right hon. Gentleman or the bureaucracy in India?


I do not know whether my hon. and gallant Friend wishes to describe the present Governor of Madras as a bureaucracy. The authorities in India are primarily responsible. I am responsible to this House for what they do. Of course, I do and always shall attach the greatest importance to the advice which I receive from them. They do and must act in anticipation of consultation with me in grave cases.


Is the movement headed by Mrs. Annie Besant supposed to be outside the Constitution?


I am not in full possession of all the facts relevant to this case at the present time, and I am anxious to avoid, if I can, anything which might appear to be a statement of policy in regard to India before that matter has been fully considered and decided by His Majesty's Government, but the agitation in which Mrs. Besant is engaged, in my opinion, has been not merely a mischievous agitation at this moment, but it has been carried on by improper methods. It is not necessary for the advocacy of constitu tional reforms, however extreme, to destroy, or attempt to destroy, the credit of British administration in India.

Commander WEDGWOOD

Does not the right hon. Gentleman see that the whole point of his answer depends upon the judgment of the bureaucracy out there saying whether a course of agitation is reasonable or not; and will he take steps to indicate to the Indian Government in the Presidency of Madras that the prevention of what would be a legitimate agitation in this country is not the duty of the Government of Madras?


My hon. and gallant Friend is aware that while we habitually allow, and even in these times allow, a latitude greater, I suppose, than that allowed in any other country in the world to political agitation here, there are limits here and there are equally limits in India. The responsibility rests, in the first instance, with the Government of India and with the Provincial Governments of India. If, in my opinion, they take a wrong action that is wrong, I shall correct them, but they have my confidence and I think they are entitled to it.




These speeches must be made on another more suitable occasion.