§ (1) There shall be a legislative council in every governor's province, which shall consist of the members of the executive council and of members nominated or elected as provided by this Act.
§ The governor shall not be a member of the legislative council, but shall have the right of addressing the council, and may for that purpose require the attendance of its members.
(2) The number of members of the governors' legislative councils shall be in accordance with the table set out in the First Schedule to this Act; and of the members of each council not more than twenty per cent. shall be official members, and at least seventy per cent. shall be elected members:
§ (3) The powers of a governor's legislative council may be exercised notwithstanding any vacancy in the council.
§ (4) Subject as aforesaid, provision may be made by Rules under the principal Act as to—
- (a) the term of office of nominated members of governors' legislative councils, and the manner of filling casual vacancies occurring by reason of absence of members from India, inability to attend to duty, death, acceptance of office, resignation duly accepted, or otherwise; and
- (b) the conditions under which and manner in which persons may be nominated as members of governors' legislative councils; and
- (c) the qualification of electors, the constitution of constituencies, and the method of election for governors' legislative councils, including the number of members to be elected by communal and other electorates, and any matters incidental or ancillary thereto; and
- (d) the qualifications for being and for being nominated or elected a member of any each council; and
- (e) the final decision of doubts or disputes as to the validity of any election; and
- (f) the manner in which the Rules are to be carried into effect:
§ Provided that Rules as to any such matters as aforesaid may provide for delegating to the local government such power as may be specified in the Rules of making subsidiary Regulations affecting the same matters.
§ (5) Subject to any such Rules any person who is a ruler or subject of any State in India may be nominated as a member of a governor's legislative council.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I wish to point out one or two matters with regard to the series of Amendments which are on the Order Paper on Clause 7. In the first place, these proposals are not framed to bring a franchise into being, but they are to insert special directions within the limited rules proposed under the Clause. It would not be within ray duty to take a series of interminable propositions of that kind. I propose, therefore, with the assistance of the Committee, to take three leading points from the various Amendments; and perhaps hon. Members of each group will subsequently let me know their views on the matter. Roughly, I suggest that one Amendment should be taken on the question of sex, another on the question of candidates, and a third on the question of the electorate. I think that will give a fair opportunity to hon. Members to put forward their views on the three divisions into which the Amendments may be considered to be divided.
§ Major HILLS
I beg to move, in Subsection (4), at the end of paragraph (c), to insert the words "provided that in framing such Rules no discrimination of sex shall be made."
In moving this Amendment laying down that there shall be no disqualification in the Bill on the ground of sex, I should like to say one preliminary word on the scheme of the Bill. The Bill itself does not lay down a qualification for electors. This is to be done by Order in Council. I want it to be a necessity that the Order-in-Council which describes the qualification of voters shall include women as well as men. I do not think I need trouble the Committee with any general arguments in favour of giving women the vote. I should say, in passing, that my Amendment is confined to the vote, and does not give them the right to sit on the Legislative Councils. I do not think I need waste the time of the House on this matter, because all those 651 who can be converted have been converted long ago, and those who are not converted I am afraid no words of mine will ever convert.
I want to deal with the question as it affects India. After all, India is not Great Britain. In the minds of a good many Members, I think, there must be a feeling of surprise that we should ask them to grant Indian women this gift of the vote which European women have won after a very long struggle. In view of the long constitutional history of our country, and our long training in representative government, it seems, perhaps, strange to some Members that Indian women should at the very beginning of this great experiment be given the vote whereas English and Scottish women have had to wait many centuries to get it. I quite feel the force of that argument. I propose to deal with it in a minute. Before I do so I want to clear out of the way one or two misunderstandings. In the first place, it is said there is no demand. All bodies in any way representative of Indian opinion and of the opinion of the public have supported woman suffrage. The Indian National Congress and the Home Rule League have done so, and I think every witness that appeared before the Joint Committee—and there appeared some very distinguished Indian and other witnesses—favoured this view. Also the only Indian member of the Viceroy's Council himself supports it, so it cannot be said that there is no demand for woman suffrage. A demand from the Indian women themselves is hard to ascertain, and cannot be evolved until they have got some constitutional means of expressing it. So far as Indian opinion goes, it is quite unanimously in favour of the grant of the vote to women.
It is said that it is quite impossible because Indian women are quite unfitted for the vote. They are, it is said, illiterate. A very small percentage read and write even their own language. They are not up to the standard which we expect an electorate should reach. I think these views arise from a misunderstanding of what education means. Education is not entirely a matter of reading or writing. You can obtain knowledge in other ways than from print. Anyone who knows anything of the East knows that the very high standard of knowledge, 652 ability, practical sense, and judgment of affairs does not depend at all upon books. After all, that argument destroys itself, for the basis of the Bill is not an educational qualification. A man can get the vote whether or not he can read and write. If he can get the vote, why not the women? Then as to the fitness of the two sexes to vote. An opinion from any of us here is difficult to express. I do not know; I have never been in India. But I have this advantage: I was brought up in an Oriental country, Egypt, which, when I was young—which is now a good many years ago—was an entirely Oriental country. I think I do know something of the manners and customs of the East. I agree, however, it is very difficult to judge of the comparative fitness of men and women to vote, but I will say this: that a very distinguished Indian Civil servant told me quite a short time ago that women and women's opinion ruled matters in India.
To pass from that, I come to what I believe is the real objection in the minds of most Members to this proposal. That is this: that the franchise is totally foreign and repugnant to the social and religious feelings of the community. On that, again, I cannot speak with great confidence, and I do not want to dogmatise, but I would ask the Committee to observe one or two things. In the first place, we have made very great inroads by this Bill on the social structure of India. We have enfranchised the lower castes. We have given special representation to the non-Brahmins; all along we have gone counter to the traditional customs of India. Surely what we have done in enfranchising the men of the lower castes is a far bigger shock to conservative opinion in India than the enfranchisement of women of their own caste? I am not sure that the House altogether appreciates the position of women in India. We have all assumed, I think, that they are oppressed, occupied entirely with domestic affairs, that they have no outlook at all, and that the man is lord and master. Anyone, who looks upon the picture of Indian history will find that he frequently comes across gallant figures—women leading their armies in battle, ruling their countries wisely, and presiding over their councils in peace. Apart from that, I just want to call attention to two facts existing at the present time. The one is of an aged and revered sovereign, the Begum of Bhopal, who her- 653 self is the strictest of the strict. The second figure is that of the Aga Khan, himself a Muslim of the Muslims.
§ Major HILLS
I could quote many more, but I do not want to quote more than one distinguished man. I do, however, entirely resent any aspersions on the Aga Khan, a most distinguished man.
§ Major HILLS
He told the Joint Committee that the effect of purdah was grossly exaggerated in Europe. He did not, he said, only regard the vote as possible, but he wanted the vote as necessary for women to protect their property. Evidence of that sort, I respectfully put it to the Committee, is to the point, and it is, I think, rather a tall order that we should say that Indian opinion will not sanction the vote. We all have a tendency to exaggerate the restrictions of Indian women's life. These restrictions, I would remind the Committee, are fast passing away. An Indian lady assured me that purdah never had prevented any woman from doing what she wanted, and I am sure that members of this Committee are well enough acquainted with human nature to realise that the influence of women is not merely a matter of convention. It is argued that my proposal is not practical, and that women in India, especially Mahomedan women, cannot go to the poll. They say that you may give her the vote, but the class of women you want to vote will not go to the poll and the less desirable class may go and exercise their rights. In this connection, I wish to point to the experience of Bombay, where women have a municipal vote and they exercise it; in fact, the percentage of women voting in Bombay is higher than is the case with the men and women who voted here at the last election.
§ Major HILLS
I agree; there is only a small fraction of the women on the register, and the percentage of those voting is more than 40 per cent. The effect of my Amendment would be this: The Bill gives the franchise upon a property or taxpaying qualification to about 5,000,000 men. I ask 654 for a franchise for women on the same terms, and the effect would be to enfranchise about 1,000,000 women. The franchise would then consist of about 6,000,000, of which 1,000,000 would be women.
I now Corms to another argument which is perhaps one of the strongest in the minds of the Committee. It is said that you ought to leave this question to the decision of the Legislative Councils. I want to meet that argument. In the Report of the Joint Committee, for which we are so deeply indebted, it is laid down that this question goes so deeply into the social life of India that we sitting here ought not to decide it, but should leave it to the councils when they are formed. I want to put to the House that it is for us and not for the Indian Councils to settle this great question. Surely it is for this House to guide them. You cannot leave a great question of this sort to the Governor's Council to settle. Even in England, with our centuries of representative government, we did not leave the question of the women to the county councils. We settled it here. I know there are many disadvantages. It appears that it is a democratic procedure. It looks as though we are referring questions to the decision of Indians themselves, but really we are doing nothing of the sort. The House will realise that the 5,000,000 men in India enfranchised under this Bill are only a very small fraction of the community. Again, you will have a hopeless want of uniformity. One Province may act in one way and one in another way and you do want some body like the House of Commons, well informed, experienced and absolutely impartial, to decide this great question. Do not throw this apple of sex discord into your new Indian Constitution. There is enough trouble there already without that, and we should settle it one way or the other. I would far rather it were settled here than it should be made a weapon in party warfare, because it is a very difficult question. We know how difficult it was here, and how it shook our old and well established polity rather severely. What is it going to do in the untried assemblies in India? Surely you had much better settle it here. In. India you have all sorts of franchises. Each Province has a different franchise, and there are different arrangements for the different classes. I still hope that the Government will give way on this point, 655 and I am absolutely in earnest in what I say. Until I examined the case for this Amendment I had no idea of its strength, and I had no idea as to the extent of the demand for it. Every organ of opinion and every body which expresses a view on the subject supports it.
I only wish to deal with two more points. In the first place, it is said sometimes that all revolutions are caused by women. I believe women are at the back of every revolution in the world's history. It may be that some of the more advanced spirits in India are women. It is said that if this be so, what risks you run in granting the franchise to women. In any case, surely they are safer inside than outside the Constitution. If there are these wild women thinkers there, they will continue to do their work. Give them an outlet and a chance in the future of voting for somebody who can speak and represent their views. That has always been our plan, and it has always been successful. I do not care how vast the number of the people are it is safer to give them a chance of expressing their views. A great many causes which would have been far more dangerous have been made safe and orderly by giving the speakers it chance of expressing their views.
My second point is that we have, consciously or unconsciously, sapped the old traditional historic system of India. Though we have held the balance fairly between creed and creed, we have allowed Western thought full play, and it has sapped the whole foundation. Therefore, you cannot expect the system to remain as it was before. You are destroying the old system and you must put something in its place. It should be built up on modern lines. The New World you can build up, but I do not believe you can build it up successfully without the help of women. The future of India is hopeful, but there are storm clouds around this enormous enterprise, which is a new experiment, and I want it to be made under the best possible conditions. We do not know what dangers are ahead, but I sincerely believe, and I ask the Committee to say, that by far the safest course, as well as the most just, is to grant women the vote.
§ The CHAIRMAN
With the hon. Member's permission, I will put his Amendment in a slightly different form as 656 follows: After the word "thereto," to insert the words "provided that in framing the Rules for this purpose no discrimination of sex shall be made."
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Montagu)
I think my hon. and gallant Friend, who has moved this Amendment, has made out the most powerful case that could be made for it. For myself, I am bound to express the hope that the Committee will adhere to the decision of the Joint Committee. I quite recognise the force of the demand for woman suffrage in India. There is no doubt about it, and it is quite true to say that the overwhelming mass of evidence before the Joint Committee was in favour of it, and, therefore, I think Parliament would be making a mistake in denying the opportunity to women to become enfranchised. My hon. and gallant. Friend may take it from me as a fact that none the less, despite the strong opinion in favour of it in India, in very many parts of India there is a very strong conservative opinion against it in India, more prevalent in some provinces than in others, but based very largely on the belief in old-established customs, sometimes amounting to a religion. That being so, there being on the one hand on a subject of this kind, divergence of opinion going, as the Joint Committee says, deep down into the social life of India, what is the best thing for Parliament to do? I submit it is to maintain the impartiality which has been the characteristic of English government in India ever since it was founded, and leave it to the people of India as represented to decide for themselves. That is what we have done. That is what we are doing in the case of the Brahmin versus non-Brahmin, and that is what is suggested by the Joint Committee's Report in the case of women. Let me remind the Committee that this is not a question of enfranchising the women in our own country, living under our own social conditions, a decision which we took only after years of hesitancy. It is a question of deciding now and at once whether we shall enfranchise the women of India, who live under different conditions, and whose relations to things in India are matters, I would submit, for Indians themselves to decide.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
That is quite true, but the hon. Member will remember that the question of the women's franchise here was decided by men.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
That is also quite true, but the pressure I am quite certain, if it does not already exist, will come into existence, and the matter will be decided in a similar way. I quite agree with everything that my hon. and gallant Friend said about the folly of excluding women from the franchise and about the valuable contribution which they can make to the political questions of the country both as electors and as elected, and, if I were in India and were a member of the Legislative Council, I should agree with my hon. and gallant Friend and vote for the proposition, but I do not think that we are entitled to do it here and now. I think we should leave it to those who are Indians.
§ Mr. SPOOR
The right hon. Gentleman, on the face of it, has put up what appears to be a very plausible argument why the recommendation of the Committee should be adopted, but I rather imagine that his case will not bear close examination. He asks us to leave this question to be decided by the people of India. I submit that the recommendation of the Committee does not leave it to the people of India at all. We are proposing to give to India a certain measure of self-government, so restricted or limited that 98 per cent. of her people will be excluded from the first electorate. However the Legislative Councils to whom this question has to be left, are composed, it is certain that they will not be representative of the people in India. We are actually advised by the Select Committee, of which I was a member, though I certainly did not agree with this recommendation, to leave to this small body, which I submit is entirely unrepresentative, the settlement of this very important question in this part of the Empire where we want to secure conditions of real equality as between India and Great Britain. When we say to India, "We are going to give you a form of government which in all essentials corresponds with that which we have in our own country," then, if we are to act consistently, we must say, "As we Great Britain have recognised the principle of sex equality so far as political matters are concerned, so at the very 658 commencement of the period, when you are going to travel, we hope, on the lines that we have travelled, the demand, though it may meet with considerable opposition from conservative quarters, should be met, so far as this Parliament at any rate is concerned. I submit, therefore, that in the interests of consistency alone we should affirm our belief in the principle of the right of women to exercise the vote. Witness after witness, representing not only the feminine interest in India, but other interests, and also British and commercial interests, came before the Select Committee and testified to the reality of the demand on the part of the women of India to take part in the political life of their own country. No more powerful and certainly no more eloquent memorandum was submitted to the Committee than that which was submitted by Mrs. Sarojini Naidu when she came representing the suffrage movement in India, and stated her case before the Committee. I only wish it had been possible for all the members of this Committee, and especially those who are not present to-night, to have heard, or at all events to have read, the very powerful plea that she made. It seemed to me, and I am sure it seemed to other members of the Committee, that she very effectually disposed of some of the reasons that had been advanced as to why this demand should not be granted.
Those of us who perhaps have a very recent and a very casual acquaintance with India have, at any rate, come to realise that in India for a very long period there have existed conditions of sex equality in advance of those which exist in our own land. The position of women in India is different from that of the women in this country. Certainly the reality of the equality of the sexes in India, despite all those intricate difficuties associated with religion that I am afraid many of us do not understand, has been one of the facts brought out again and again in the course of the evidence. I am sure that I speak for every member of the Select Committee when I say that we were profoundly impressed by the reasons which were advanced, by the eloquence with which those reasons were put forward, and by the strength of the case that was made out for the political enfranchisement of the women of India at the very beginning of this reform scheme. Personally, I was 659 immensely surprised that the Committee did not go further than the recommendation that they have made. I am sure, had they been guided by their first impulse, that a majority of the Committee would have agreed to the affirmation of this principle in the Bill itself. I sincerely hope that the members of this Committee will try to act consistently, and assist those of us who are urging the Secretary of State either to incorporate it in the Bill or make the strongest representations to the authorities in India that it is the desire of this House that a privilege which we enjoy here shall be extended to the people of that country.
One does not need to go over the arguments in favour of the vote for women, but I do want to emphasise the point that in leaving this matter to the Legislative Councils in India we are not leaving it to the people of India, and, as we have been reminded by the Noble Lady on my left (Viscountess Astor), we are certainly not leaving it to the women of India to decide. The women of India who have spoken in this country from hundreds of platforms have demanded this right with an insistence and power which has certainly never been surpassed by their English sisters, and, as a matter of elementary justice, in the interests of the future peace of India, and with the object of securing from the beginning the co-operation in the future government of the country of a large body of Indian women, many of whom may not have had educational opportunities, but some of whom have and have taken the fullest advantages or those opportunities — there are women of extraordinary literary distinction — I urge the Secretary of State to accept this Amendment which has been proposed by the hon. and gallant Member for Durham (Major Hills). After all, it is not an Amendment which goes very far. It does not enter into any details of machinery; it is merely an affirmation of a principle which we have already accepted in this House, and have reaffirmed again and again during recent months, a principle which, I believe, if extended to India, will bring about those desirable results to which I have referred.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I confess that I was very much surprised to hear one argument used by the right hon. Gentleman against the Amendment. We are accustomed in those days to hear some strange arguments 660 from strange quarters in tins House, but I never thought that I should live to see the day when my right hon. Friend would say an Amendment to any Bill could not be passed because there was a strong conservative opinion against it. It shows the remarkable political times in which we live. In fact, in the very short speech which he made, so far as I could make out, that matter was most prominently in his mind. He came down to the House, after listening to the proceedings of the Joint Committee, imbued with the idea that this proposal could not be accepted because there was a strong conservative opinion in India against it. I never heard my right hon. Friend (Sir H. Craik), who sits on my left, cheer any statement with more vigour. Honestly, I cannot see that that argument should hold good in considering this proposal. In the first place, what is it that is proposed to be done under the Bill as a whole? I understood that all shades of opinion supported this Bill—after all, different shades of opinion do support it, people who in ordinary politics have entirely different ideas—because it is an attempt to advance along a path by successive and progressive stages towards the ideal of Western democracy. That being so, there is no logical reason why Indian women also should not be permitted to make an advance along that path. Under the Bill as it stands the path is absolutely barred to women. Then I turn to the way in which this question was dealt wit by the Committee, and, with all due deference to the Committee and to the very admirable Report they presented, I must say I think their references to this particular subject are lacking in strength. I should like to read to the House the paragraph dealing with this question:The question whether women should or should not be admitted to the franchise on the same terms as men should be left to the newly-elected legislative council of each province to settle by resolution… The Committee have not felt able to settle this question themselves, as urged by the majority of witnesses who appeared before them. It seems to them to go deep into the social system and susceptibilities of India, and, therefore, to be a question which can only with any prudence he settled in accordance with the wishes of the Indians themselves as constitutionally expressed.When we come to examine what appear to be very weighty words one is tempted to ask whether an extension of the franchise in any country does not go deeply into its social system and susceptibilities. Is any- 661 one going to tell me that when we in this country a few years ago extended the franchise to women, and extended it still further last Session by opening this House to women, that that was not going deeply into the social system and susceptibilities of this country? After all, it has been suggested, and it is indeed always suggested, that there is something inherent in the purdah system which renders women who live under it entirely different to their European sisters. But really the evidence available with regard to the position of women in Eastern countries does not entirely bear out that statement, and I should like, with the permission of the House, to read an extract from a statement issued by Indian ladies who support this movement which expresses the situation in a nutshell. It is as follows:The very fact that a woman lives under the purdah does not prevent her taking an intelligent interest in the affairs of public life… There are many women who manage their business with great capacity.I fear that far too many people take their ideas of the conditions in Eastern countries from the scenes portrayed in Algal. But all the evidence that is available is to the effect that women in Eastern countries are taking interest, not merely in politics, but in the affairs of life generally, and this is exemplified by what has recently taken place in Egypt. If one ten years ago, had asked any Anglo-Egyptian who lived in Egypt if he believed it would be possible in the year 1919 that the wives of some of the most prominent officials in that country would agitate in the streets against an act of the Government with which they were not in agreement, he would have replied that it was an absolute impossibility. Yet we have seen that happening in Egypt. [Sir J. D. REES: "Egypt is a long way from India."] No doubt it is, but the question of women under the purdah can only be considered as a whole, and what applies to Egypt applies also largely, if not entirely, to India. I am rather sorry that my hon. Friend suggested as an argument that Egypt is a long way from India. I think he would be the first to admit that all countries in which women are under the purdah bear a close resemblance. But the whole argument is that women under the purdah are not fit to exercise the franchise. That is the argument put for ward by the opponents of this Amendment and by the supporters of the Report of the Joint Committee. But I say there is a great deal of misconception among many 662 people in this country as to the position of women under the purdah. As a matter of fact, they are stirred by life outside their own homes to an extent which was unknown ten years ago, and the experience of English ladies who have lived in Eastern countries and have come into close contact with women in 3ndia and Egypt—with women who very often live under what would seem to us to be the utmost detachment from the world—is that they take the keenest interest in political and religious questions of all kinds.
I can assure the Committee as a matter of fact, which can be testified to by anyone who has had anything to do with government in Eastern countries, that they exercise a far greater influence through their husbands on the government of that country than is generally supposed. If so—and I appeal to my hon. Friend below me (Sir J. D. Rees), who is an expert in Indian affairs—what is the reason for keeping them out of the franchise system? If it is true they exercise such an influence, for goodness' sake give them the vote. Is it not the whole experience of the British Empire that when you give people a vote, when you give it to people who are agitating, the result of giving them the vote is that their agitation takes place on constitutional lines? I do not want to go into any argument on the question of direct action, but this is the kernel of the question. Are you not, by refusing an extension of the franchise to women, running the risk of creating a state of agitation among the women in that country similar to that which was created in this country I My right hon. Friend above the Gangway quite naturally desires to see agitation put down in India. But you are putting a serious weapon into the hands of the agitators by refusing the vote. No one would suggest that the ladies who have come over here from India to represent the case of the women of India on this particular point belong to the agitating class. Certainly that most distinguished lady who represented the case extremely ably and eloquently—the daughter of one of the greatest financiers and capitalists in India—cannot be accused, either her or her family, of belonging to the agitating class. They are many miles removed from Mrs. Besant and those who act with her. She and many other Indian ladies have come over here and have ably represented the case of the women of India. We 663 are further told in the Report that it is premature to give the women the vote and that they are not fit to receive it.
§ Earl WINTERTON
No; I think it is in the Southborough Report that the opinion is expressed that the extension of the franchise is premature. Of course, there are cases in every country where women as well as men are unfitted to exercise the vote, and, really, when one reads cases which are reported in the papers, and especially the proceedings of the Divorce Court, one might as well say that some women in this country are unfitted to exercise the vote. In every country there are scores of people of whom that might be said. One need only take for example the case of the major's girl-wife. Is it to be suggested that the major's girl-wife when she reaches the age of thirty would be more fitted to exercise the franchise than a woman graduate of Bombay University? These arguments have a boomerang effect and they are most dangerous to use. May I return for a moment to the Southborough Report, which reads:We are satisfied the social conditions of India snake it premature to extend the franchise to Indian women at this juncture.I should like to give one other quotation from the Memorandum these Indian ladies have prepared. It is in reference to public work done by women in India, and I do not think hon. Members are fully aware of the important position occupied by women in India in regard to public work. They say:Women…take an important part in social and public affairs. There are many women's associations which do a good deal of Educational and social work. The work done in Bombay during the last famine is too well known to need detailed statement, and during the War the women did much in contributing to the comfort of the troops, raising thousands of rupees. They also took a conspicuous part in the influenza epidemic.All this is an argument against the ridiculous assumption made in this country that women take no part in public life in India. I have only one further argument which I wish to put forward. It is admitted by everyone, opponents and supporters alike, that, above all else, what is needed and what will be needed in the future when this new system of government is brought into operation in India is to bring formed public opinion to bear on such questions 664 as sanitation, hygiene, and social reform. Can it be contended that this House is justified in refusing to extend the franchise to women in a country where, above all, woman's influence is needed? Having extended it in this country, I cannot see how this Committee can refuse the same extension to India. There are fears which are always expressed whenever any extension of the franchise is proposed that something dangerous is going to be done by the people to whom you give the vote. That argument has been used in regard to every Reform Bill, and the result has always been very different to the expectations of the opponents of the Bill, and also to what may have been hoped for by some of the supporters of the measure. Let me take the Reform Bill of 1867 as an example. The Liberals believed that measure would keep the Liberal party in power for many years; whereas, as a matter of fact, they were very quickly turned out and for a very long period remained out of office. I do not fear any danger from the extension of the franchise. There are, of course, always people who fear such extensions, but when they have once been granted there are very few who will come forward and say that they would like to revert to the old conditions. I do remember one Noble Duke who, in private conversation, once said that, so far as he was personally concerned, he would like to see the Reform Bill of 1832 upset. But I have never heard that remark made in public by anyone in regard to any such Bill. I hope the Committee, therefore, will not allow their minds to be affected on this question by any such considerations. You are carrying out a great experiment in India and on ground of logic and of justice, and, indeed, if I may put it lower, on the ground of political expediency, I submit the franchise should be extended to women in India. I very much hope, therefore, that the Committee will support the proposal of my hon. and gallant Friend (Major Hills), and, as we intend to go to a Division on this matter, we shall see what is the attitude of the Committee towards the women's movement generally, and what they are prepared to do to hold out a helping hand to the women of India.
§ Mr. BENNETT
While I am in full accord with the hon. and gallant Member for Durham (Major Hills) in his deep convictions and enthusiasms on behalf of women's suffrage, I am not able to support 665 his Amendment. I should first like to address myself to a few remarks made by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Spoor), who told us that the question to be left to the Provincial Councils in India, whether women should or should not receive the vote was a question that would not be settled by the Indian people. I have noted with some regret the tendency on the part of my hon. Friend—I hope he will not mind my mentioning it—to undervalue the character of the representative institutions it is proposed to set up in India. He says that something like 98 per cent, of the people of India will have no voice in determining whether or not the vote shall be extended to women. Let me assure him that anyone who has any knowledge of the people of India would say that not from the 98 per cent. of the population will the demand for the vote for women proceed. The demand will come from within that 5,000,000 upon whom the franchise is to be bestowed and not from the 98 per cent. who are left outside it. The hon. Member's anxiety on that point is a little bit premature. The Noble Lord behind me (Earl Winterton) somewhat wasted his time, if he will permit me to say so, in condemning the Southborough Report. The Southborough Report has not been adopted by the Joint Committee so far as his question is concerned. The Joint Committee did not say that the giving of vote to women would be premature. As a matter of fact the Southborough Report in regard to this matter has been thrown over by the Joint Committee. Lord Southborough's Committee proposed to enact a positive disqualification for women, coupling them with minors and lunatics as among the people not fit to be trusted with the vote. In that regard Lord Southborough's Report has been thrown over entirely and the Joint Committee have given no heed whatever to it.
If I felt that in voting against the Amendment I should be acting in hostility to the women's vote in India or anywhere else I should certainly refrain from voting against it. I have been for years a convinced upholder of women's suffrage. I have not waited, as Mr. Asquith did, for women to show in the War what good work they could do for their country. I dealt with the question on its merits, and I may claim to be as enthusiastic an upholder of the right of women to vote as the hon. Member for Durham himself, and that is saying a great deal. But we have to consider the conditions under which we 666 are asked to extend women's franchise to India. Parliamentary draftsmanship is a cold thing; it appeals neither to the imagination nor to the feelings. As a matter of fact, there are drafting difficulties in the way. My hon. Friend will see, if he studies the Bill, which I know he has done, that the Bill itself does not propose to enact qualifications in the case of men. In its original form the Bill said not a word about qualifications. It did not empower the Indian Government to pass Rules defining the qualifications of men. That was put in in Committee. If we were to enact in the Bill the right of the women of India to vote, we should be acting quite inconsistently with the line on which the Bill has been laid clown. However, I do not put that forward as other than a technical objection. My objection is of a different nature. We have had from my hon. Friend a statement as to the hopeless want of uniformity throughout India. Is that not one of the reasons why we should refrain from uniformity of legislation on this particular point? Lord Southborough's evidence on this subject is worth reading. I think more of his evidence than I do of some of his proposals. He gave the circumstances of the tour of his Committee to India and, in speaking on the question of the women's vote, he said that in Orissa and Bihar he found great coldness in regard to it, and there was no desire shown to have the women's vote. Coming a little westward, he found a certain interest was being shown in it, but in the Punjab I believe no interest whatever was shown in it.
§ Earl WINTERTON
May I point out to my hon. Friend that the memorandum prepared by the women's associations came after the issue of the Southborough Report?
§ Mr. BENNETT
I quite recognise that. I am merely stating what the Committee found. They found in the Central Provinces a little more interest was being shown, but it was not until they got into the Bombay Presidency that they found any real interest being taken in it. That statement, no doubt, impressed the Committee, and the Committee, recognising the variety of conditions in regard to women's suffrage, thought it better not to suggest to Parliament the enactment of the women's vote. It has been said, but it should not have been said, that we are refusing the women's vote to India. We 667 are not refusing it in the least degree. We are helping India to an effective exercise of the women's vote more than we should be doing by enacting it in the Bill as it is proposed to-day. It is a. commonplace of legislation that Parliament should not go in advance of public opinion. I feel sure that if we resort to a universal enactment of women's suffrage in India the result would be that in parts of India the people would be absolutely indifferent, and no advantage to the cause of women's suffrage would result, because a function which is not exercised does no good and may do harm. I believe we may confidently leave it to the Presidencies and the various Provinces themselves to decide whether or not they shall have women's suffrage. We have heard a great deal about self-determination. What self-determination would there be in Parliament saying that, whether she liked it or not, India should have women's suffrage? I do not call that self-determination; it is rather the contrary process. Further, we want to have some assurance that women's suffrage is demanded in India. I know very well what will happen. I feel sure that in Bombay the Provincial Council, very soon after it assembles, will enact women's suffrage. One has only to know the Bombay delegates, the ladies who came from Bombay representing the cause of their sisters in this country, to feel sure that they will not allow much time to pass before they have converted their aspirations into legislative facts. Although I lived in Bombay during all the time of my life in India, I try to avoid as far as I can looking at all India from the Bombay point of view. I recognise that there are Presidencies other than that advanced Presidency in which I had the happiness to live for many years. For instance, there is the Punjab. Although the hon. Member for Durham said that all the witnesses from the Punjab were in favour of women's suffrage, one rather important witness, a Sikh gentleman from the Punjab, gave hostile evidence on this question. He said:Plainly speaking, the prejudice appertaining to questions like this so strong that I know of examples in which highly-placed and educated gentlemen would prefer to forego the benefits of this scheme rather than give out the names of their wives. We therefore think that this question should at present be left alone.That is not a theoretical argument; it is a concrete fact. It is one of the class of 668 facts which must have been in the mind of the Government of India when on this subject it advised that we should go carefully and warily. I recognise the strength of the case that has been put forward by the hon. Member for Durham and those who have supported him, but I hope that those who feel inclined to give their votes on his side will not think that in supporting the Government we are preventing, or even seriously delaying, the extension of the franchise to women. The course which the Select Committee proposed should be taken in this matter is, on the whole, quite as helpful to the cause of women's suffrage in India as the course which is recommended by the hon. Member for Durham and his Friends. Therefore I cannot vote for the Amendment.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Fisher)
I rise to make an appeal to the Committee. We have now heard four speeches upon this important topic, two on one side and two on the other side, and the case for the Amendment has never been more persuasively, more powerfully, or more thoroughly put than in the speech of the hon. Member for Durham. I feel that all the circumstances of this issue have now been placed before the Committee, and I appeal to the Committee to take a decision now. After all, it is important that we should press on with the Bill. We have a great deal of work before us and, for reasons which have been very powerfully stated at an earlier point in our procedure, it is necessary that the Bill should be passed with as little delay as possible. Consequently I appeal to the Committee that we should take a decision upon this. The hon. Member (Mr. Bennett) has put the case for the Government clearly before the Committee. We feel that if the text of the Bill is preserved in the form in which it is before the Committee now women suffrage will be introduced in many Provinces of India, but from all the evidence at our disposal we are convinced that to introduce this question at this moment in the Punjab would create very serious difficulty. For that reason we have come to the conclusion that it would be far better to leave the decision of the question to the opinion of the Provinces of India, and not to decide it on the floor of this House.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I am more puzzled by this question than by any other which has arisen, or is likely to arise, in the course- 669 of the Bill. I should like to ask the Government some further questions about what might happen in India if the Amendment were passed and to put other considerations before them, but, in view of the right hon. Gentleman's appeal, I refrain from that because I think he has good ground.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
I wish to answer one observation of the right hon. Gentleman with reference to the Punjab. I would call attention to the letter of the Aga Khan, the spiritual head of the Moslems in India, in the "Times"
§ three or four days' ago, strongly recommending the grant of the vote to women, and further to the fact that the three great native political organisations, the Indian National Congress, the All India Moslem League, and the Home Rule League of India, have passed resolutions by enormous majorities demanding—not asking—that the limited number of women who would be included should be granted the franchise.
§ Question put, "That those words be, there inserted."
§ Committee divided: Ayes, 67; Noes, 202.671
|Division No. 145.]||AYES.||[5.34 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton)||Roberts, F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Astor, Viscountess||Hallas, E.||Rose, Frank H.|
|Benn, Captain W. (Leith)||Hartshorn, V.||Rowlands, James|
|Bentinck, Lt. Col. Lord H. Cavendish||Hayday, A.||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Widnes)||Short, A. (Wednesbury)|
|Briant, F.||Hirst, G. H.||Sitch, C. H.|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Hoare, Lt.-Colonel Sir Samuel J. G.||Stanton, Cherries Butt|
|Bromfield, W.||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Swan, J. E. C.|
|Brown, J. (Ayr and Bute)||Inskip, T. W. H.||Thorne, W. (Plaistow)|
|Cairns, John||Irving, Dan||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Clyaes, Rt. Hon, John R.||Johnstone, J.||Wallace, J.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish University)||Jones, J. (Silvertown)||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander||Waterson, A. E.|
|Edwards, C. (Bedwellty)||Lawson. John||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Edwards, J. H. (Glam., Neath)||McMicking, Major Gilbert||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.|
|Elliot, Captain W. E. (Lanark)||Malone, Major||Wignall, James|
|Finney, Samuel||Mosley, Oswald||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Murray, Dr. D. (Western Isles)||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. (Exeter)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Perkins, Walter Frank||Winterton, Major Earl|
|Greame, Major P. Lloyd||Remnant, Colonel Sir James|
|Griffiths. T. (Pontypool)||Rendall, Athelstan||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Major|
|Grundy, T. W.||Richardson, R. (Houghton)||Hills and Mr. Spoor,|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral||Churchill, Rt. Hen. Winston S.||Gange, E. S.|
|Allen, Colonel William James||Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Ganzoni, Captain F. C.|
|Atkey, A. R.||Coats, Sir Stuart||Gardiner, J. (Perth)|
|Bagley, Captain E. A.||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Gibbs, Colonel John Abraham|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Cockerill, Brig.-General G. K.||Gilbert, James Daniel|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Cohen, Major J. B. B.||Glyn, Major R.|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick||Colvin, Brig.-General R. B.||Goff, Sir Park|
|Barnett, Major Richard||Courthope, Major George Loyd||Grant, James Augustus|
|Barric, Charles Coupar (Banff)||Craig, Captain Charles C. (Antrim)||Green, J. F. (Leicester)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Greene, Lt.-Col, W. (Hackney, N.)|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Curzon, Commander Viscount||Greenwood, Col. Sir Hamar|
|Bell, Lt.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.||Greig, Colonel James William|
|Benn, Corn. Ian Hamilton (Greenwich)||Davies, Sir D. S. (Denbigh)||Gretton, Colonel John|
|Bennett, T. J.||Davies, T. (Cirencester)||Griggs, Sir Peter|
|Betierton, H. B.||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Hacking, Captain D. H.|
|Bigland, Alfred||Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan)||Hailwood, A.|
|Blair, Major Reginald||Davison, Sir W H. (Kensington)||Hambro, Angus Valdemar|
|Berwick, Major G. O.||Dennis, J. W.||Hancock, John George|
|Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Denniss, E. R. Bartley (Oldham)||Hanna, G. B.|
|Breese, Major C. E.||Dockrell, Sir M.||Henderson, Maj. V. L. (Tradeston, Glas)|
|Brown, Captain D. C. (Hexham)||Doyle, N. Grattan||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)|
|Bruton. Sir J.||Duncannon, Viscount||Hood, Joseph|
|Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H.||Du Pre, Colonel W. B.||Hopkinson, Austin (Mossley)|
|Buckley, Lieutenant-Colonel A.||Edge, Captain William||Howard, Major S. G.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Eyres-Monsell, Commander||Hughes, Spencer Leigh|
|Burn, Colonel C. R. (Torquay)||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfrey||Planter, Gen. Sir A. (Lancaster)|
|Butcher, Sir J. G.||Fell, Sir Arthur||Hunter-Weston, Lieut.-Gen. Sir A. G.|
|Campion, Colonel W. R.||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Hurd, P. A.|
|Carew, Cherles R. S. (Tiverton)||FitzRoy, Captain Hon. Edward A.||Jackson, Lt.-Col. Hon. F. S. (Yark)|
|Carr, W. T.||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Jesson, C.|
|Cecil. Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Ferestier-Walker, L.||Jodrell, N. P.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Birm, W.)||Forrast, W.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm, Ladywood.)||Foxeroft. Captain C||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen)|
|Cheyne, Sir William Watson||Fraser. Major Sir Keith||Kellaway, Frederick George|
|Kidd, James||Nield, Sir Herbert||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Oman, C. W. C.||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||O'Neill, Captain Hon. Robert W. H.||Stephenson, Colonel H, K.|
|Lane-Fox, Major G. R.||Palmer, Brig.-Gen. G. (Westbury)||Stewart, Gersharn|
|Lindsay, William Arthur||Parker, James||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Lloyd, George Butler||Parry, Lt.-Colonel Thomas Henry||Sturrock, J. Leny-|
|Locker, Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Pease, Rt. Hon, Herbert Pike||Surtees, Brig.-General H. C.|
|Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Hunt'don)||Pennefather, De Fonblangue||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Lorden, John William||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Taylor, J. (Dumbarton)|
|Loseby, Captain C. E.||Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray||Terrell, G. (Chippenham, Wilts.)|
|Lyon, L.||Pownall, Lt.-Colonel Assheton||Tickler, Thomas George|
|M'Donald, Dr. B. F. P. (Wallasey)||Pulley, Charles Thornton||Walton, J, (York, Don Valley)|
|M'Laren, R. (Lanark, N.)||Purchase, H. G.||Wardle, George J.|
|M'Lean, Lt.-Col. C. W. W, (Brigg)||Rae, H. Norman||Waring, Major Walter|
|Macmaster, Donald||Raw, Lieut.-Colonel Dr. N.||Warren, Sir Alfred H.|
|Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Rees, Sir J. D.||Weigall Lt.-Col. W. E. G. A.|
|Macquisten, F. A.||[...]d, D. D.||Wheler, Colonel Granville C. H.|
|Maddocks, Henry||Renwick, G.||White, Colonel G. D. (Southport)|
|Manville, Edward||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Whitla. Sir William|
|Marriott, John Arthur R.||Rugers, Sir Hallewell||Wigan, Brig.-General Sir Tyson|
|Martin, A. E.||Roundell, Lt.-Colonel R. F.||Willey, Lt.-Col. F. V.|
|Mildmay, Col. Rt. Hon. Francis B.||Rayds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund||Willoughby, Lt.-Cot. Hon. Claud|
|Moles, Thomas||Rutherford, Col. Sir J. (Darwen)||Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.|
|Molson, Major John Elsdale||Samuel, A. M. (Farnham, Surrey)||Wilson, Capt. A. Stanley (Hold'ness)|
|Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Norwood)||Wilson, Lt.-Col, Sir M. (Bethnal Gn.)|
|Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.||Samuel, S. (Wandsworth, Putney)||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur||Wood, Major Hon. E. (Ripon)|
|Morrison, H. (Salisbury)||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)||Yate, Colonel Charles Edward|
|Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone)||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Mount, William Arthur||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)||Young, Sir F. W. (Swindon)|
|Murchison, C. K.||Shortt, Rt. hon. E. (N'castle-on-T., W.)||Young, William (Perth and Kinross)|
|Murray, Lt.-Col. Hon. A. C. (Aberdeen)||Simm. M. T.|
|Murray, William (Dumfries)||Smith, Sir Allan||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Lord E.|
|Nall, Major Joseph||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander||Talbot and Captain F. Guest.|
|Nicholson, W. (Petersfield)|
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I beg to move, in paragraph (d), after the word "Council" ["member of any such council"], to insert the words "provided that; non-residence in any constituency shall not disqualify for election."
My three Amendments all deal with the qualifications of prospective members of the Provincial Legislative Assemblies. Under the Bill, and under the Committee's Report, there are three points which ought to be quite clear. The first is that it should not be necessary that a candidate for these Provincial Assemblies should be resident in his constituency. In this country a Member can sit for any constituency wherever he lives. In America they have the other plan, and a man may only stand for a constituency in which he is resident. The difference between these two systems is profound. In England anyone who is a keen Conservative, Liberal, or Labour man, who loses his seat can find a seat elsewhere. In America that is impossible, and if you lose your seat you have no chance of re-election till another general election comes along. Furthermore, if you happen to live in a constituency which is naturally Conservative, and you are naturally Liberal or Labour you may never have a chance of getting into Parliament at all. The residency qualification is a curse in America. It prevents a man taking a real live interest in a political career. It makes a man much 672 more the delegate of the vested interests in his constituency than a representative of the whole community. In fact, I do not believe there would be one Member of this House who would consent to the introduction into this country of the regulation that no man might represent any constituency in Parliament except the one in which he resided. That being so we ought to be very careful not to introduce into India a system which we would toot tolerate here. In this Bill they have arranged for India that in the three Provinces of Bombay, Punjab, and the Central Provinces for some unknown reason a member who is elected to the Legislature must reside in the constituency which he represents. In the other three Provinces it is not necessary. In these Provinces the stipulation has been made—I think I am right in saying at the instance of the local Government—that there should be a residency qualification. All the arguments against residency which apply in England apply with even greater force in India, because there they are beginning political life, and there is not a very large selection of candidates available. Leaders are few in number at the present time, and to intensify the difficulty of getting these leaders elected by prohibiting them from standing in any constituency save that in which they live would make far more difficult than it would otherwise be the 673 selection of leaders to lead the new democracy in India. I protest against this system. Obviously, what is good for England should primâ facie be good for India, and when we see that it is considered right in five Provinces we have a right to some explanation as to why a system which has proved satisfactory here and is expected to prove satisfactory in the other five Provinces should not be satisfactory in Bombay, the Punjab, and the Central Provinces. I cannot help feeling that at the back of this desire to limit the choice of candidates for any constituency there is a desire to have representatives in these legislative assemblies who will be less educated, less experienced, and more amenable to political pressure. Against that we most emphatically protest. That is one of the Amendments I have on the Paper; the demand that, as in England, there should be no residency test for any candidate for the Indian Parliament.
The next Amendment dealing with the qualifications of those who are to stand for the Provincial Assemblies is that a man should not be disqualified by reason of the fact that he has been dismissed from the Government service, or that he has been in prison for any offence not involving moral turpitude. In that question we should follow our own precedents in England. A man who has been dismissed from the Government service may have been dismissed for all manner of reasons.
Generally speaking, when you are dealing with places like India, the man who has been dismissed from the Government service is a man who found that he could not work in the Government service by reason of his Nationalist aspirations. I do not say that that man makes an ideal candidate, but I do say that to start this reform in India by intentionally preventing any man of that type from getting into a local Legislature is bad, not only for India, but for this country. It is a well-known principle of all government that the best way to cure a poacher is to make him into a gamekeeper. In the same way the best way to get into the agitator a sense of serious responsibility to the community is to put him into Parliament, whether in this country or in ally part of India. Why should these people be ruled out and be driven into non-constitutional methods of agitation? As to the question whether a man who has been to prison should be a Member of this or any other Parliament 674 it ought to be the decision of the electorate and not the decision of the administration, that he should be ruled out. In this country it would be very difficult to secure election for any man who had been in prison for any serious offence. The same might or might not be true for India, but the principle should be laid down that the electors are responsible for a man's character and not the Government, by saying a man who has been in prison should not be allowed to stand for election.
There are many cases of Indians whom we hope to see in responsible positions in the new Parliament. Take the case a Banerjea, who is one of the moderate leaders, and who will be one of the people to lead India in the next ten years. His connection with the Indian Civil Service was cut short, and unless we stipulate that dismissal from the public service shall not disqualify a man from the Legislative Assemblies, Banerjea, upon whom the right hon. Gentleman counts in order to get this Act to work in India, may be prevented from standing for any of these legislatures. Take the case of Mr. Tilak, who has spent years in prison. He has been twice convicted. He is one of those Indians whom the right hon. Gentleman would like to see on a Provincial Assembly or in the Indian National Assembly. Such a man ought to be in a position of responsibility instead of in a position of complete irresponsibility. Take the case of Lajpat Rai, my friend in America. He has been deported, but he is a patriotic Indian, and wishes to work this Act to a successful issue, to make the best of it, in order to do the best for India. Is he to be barred out by reason of his deportation and imprisonment? Everybody, bad as well as good in India—I mean from the point of view of the present administration—have to be invited to co-operate in working this Act if it is to be a success, and any other policy would be fatal to the prosperous outcome of this great piece of experimental legislation.
The third Amendment dealing with the qualifications of Members to sit in the Indian Legislatures says- that a man representing a constituency in the Indian Legislative Assembly at Delhi should not be debarred from being a member of, say, the Bombay or the Bengal Legislative Assembly. I want to see it possible that a man may sit in his local legislature and in the Imperial Legislature at Delhi. I do not want to have a hard and fast rule that if you are a member of the one 675 you cannot be a member of the other. In this House there must be nearly one-fourth of the members who are also members of town councils or county councils. We combine the duties of local legislation and Imperial legislation, and we do not find that it hampers our position here or our position on the county councils that we are also Members of the House of Commons or of the county councils. On the contrary, we find that it strengthens our position here that we are able to bring the experience from the local body to the assistance of Parliament, and take the assistance of Parliament to the local body. It is eminently desirable that the Indians, just as we in this country, should be able to sit on both the Imperial and the local Legislature. The stipulation that a man shall not be eligible far the local Legislature and the Imperial Legislature is most unfortunate. It has come about, as I understand it, through the determination of one of the Governors in the past, I think Lord Sydenham, that a man could not sit on the Imperial Legislative Assembly if he was already on a local Legislative Assembly. That may have done in the past, but now that we are starting a genuine responsible Government in the Provinces and a Representative Assembly at Delhi, we ought to make a fresh start and arrange that the practice which has proved successful in this country should be given an opportunity of working in India as Well.
§ The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN (Sir E. Cornwall)
The Question is after the word "council." to insert the words "provided that non-residence in any constituency shall not disqualify for election."
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I should like to have my Amendments put consecutively and together. I have moved them together by arrangement, and at your request, and I want them on record as having been moved.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
The hon. and gallant Member would gain nothing by that. He has made a speech on all the Amendments.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
It was decided that we could not allow all these Amendments to be moved, but to assist the Committee in considering the various questions raised by the Amendments it was arranged that latitude should be allowed in the moving of the first Amendment, so that the hon. Member might deal with the issues raised by the subsequent Amendments. It was only on that understanding that the matters could be discussed generally. There is no question of the rights or wrongs of Members.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I have tried several times, and I regret without effect, to persuade my hon Friends opposite that they are doing no good to the cause they have at heart by these Amendments. I will tell them why. The scheme is that the franchise should be included in Rules. The hon. Member takes up certain points and says, "To these things I attach great importance and they must be in the Bill. The rest must be done by rule." Consequently you get an unintelligible scheme. People will wonder why some points are in the Bill and why they are not all in the Bill. I know what my hon. Friend is afraid of. He says, "Unless I get my opportunity now, somebody in India will do these dreadful things without my getting any chance." Can I not persuade my hon. Friend not to move these Amendments if I give him an assurance, which I do, that when the Rules in regard to the franchise come from India, and are put before Parliament, an opportunity will be given in this House to discuss them, and, if the House wishes, to recommend Amendments. Surely that is sufficient. I can assure my hon. Friend that the recommendations of various people will be considered in framing these Rules in India. Let me say a word about the three recommendations that he now makes. I will deal with them on their merits, although I hope they will not be included in the Bill. As regards the residential qualification, I believe that the residential qualification provision is a bad one, because it is very little used. Its object is to ensure that candidates who stand for a constituency are really representative of that constituency. It is very easy to get a residential qualification.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I am not sure about a poor man, it he stands for an organisation. it was holly pressed upon the Government of India and upon the Joint Committee that there should be a residential qualification in order to see that we did nut get an urban representation of a rural constituency. The provision that this should be tried in five Provinces without residential qualification was suggested as a compromise. There is no reason whatever why you should not try different conditions in different Provinces, and if it is found that, the absence of residential qualification leads to good representation of rural constituencies, then I hope that the reservation in the three Provinces will disappear. My hon. and gallant Friend is always inclined to look with suspicion on anything coming from the Government or the local Governments in India. On the other hand, I would urge him not to reject the advice of the local Governments in India by whom this course has been endorsed. On the second point I am enthusiastically in agreement with my hon. and gallant Friend. I do not think that dismissal from the Government service should be disqualification. That is the recommendation of the Joint Committee. That is what is intended to be embodied the Rules, and at this time next year, or I hope earlier than this time next year, you will find that that condition has been incorporated, as recommended by the Joint Committee.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
The suggestion of the Joint Committee is that imprisonment for a, period of more than six months should be disqualification for five years.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I do not know whether the gentleman to whom my hon. Friend refers has been out of prison for five years. If, as I have heard stated, he has been out four years, then, before these elections are over, the five years will have terminated. I believe that that provision has been copied from some other constitution, but it is one thing to disqualify for a term of years after a long term of imprisonment and another thing to leave to a Government Department the very task of deciding whether a man is qualified or not. I do not like the phrase "moral 678 turpitude" used by my hon. Friend. It is difficult to decide its meaning. Various experts differ on this.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
It is a matter of taste and opinion. I would rather not have it. I do not know who is to decide what is moral turpitude. The third suggestion is that a man may be a member of two Legislatues in India. There is nothing sinister behind the existing provision. It is a question of geographical impossibility. My hon. and gallant friend knows perfectly well the great distances that there are. It is not at all comparable to the case of simultaneous membership of this House and of a county council. These local Legislatures are Legislatures to whom will be entrusted very often the interests of 40,000,000 people. They will have great powers of legislation. They will sit at the same tune of year as the Imperial Legislature. They will have far more work to do in future. How can a man be a member of two Parliaments which may be sitting at the same time, one in Bombay and the other in Delhi, or one in Darjeeling and the other in Simla? I cannot see how it is possible. If a man is elected for both he can choose which he will sit for, but to allow a man to accept seats in two Legislatures of supreme importance would mean that he must be an absentee member of one of them. I am in agreement with my hon. and gallant Friend on one point, but I think that all his Amendments would be much better moved, if they are to be moved, when the Rules come before the House.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I hope the Committee will not accept the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman. He said that he hoped the Rules would be laid before the House by this time next year. The Committee has understood that the whole argument for pressing on with this Bill is the need of speed, and that it is essential to get this Bill through as quickly as possible. Now we are told that the Rules for the first election, which will probably be of vital importance—and I agree that the need of speed is paramount—
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I am doing my best. These Rules might 679 have to be framed for emergency elections which might have to be held to pacify certain parties. My friends and I feel that certain classes of people should not be differentiated against in their right to stand as candidates, as we fear otherwise will be the case. We look upon this first election in India as of great importance. It is a great historic event, and we want to make certain that the men who suffered for the cause of India shall not be prevented from standing at the first elections in the country for which they have struggled and suffered, and we feel that certain provisos should be put in the Bill in order to make certain that the first elections in India shall be held under democratic conditions.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
Will these Rules be statutory or changeable? If we could get a reply on this question then we shall be able to take it into consideration.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
They will be changeable, but when any change is made they will again be brought before the House.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
When is it hoped that the first elections under this Bill will take place in India?
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I thought I had explained that yesterday. You cannot arrange that until the Bill is through. I want the first elections to be held in November, 1920, in order that the first session of the new Council will open in January, 1921. In order to do that, I want the Bill through as quickly as possible. I am sorry that through a slip in my speech I should have misled the hon. and gallant Gentleman as to the date.
§ Mr. SPOOR
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (4), to insert the wordsProvided further that the Rules under this Section shall be so framed as to provide that every ex-sepoy, ex-officer and non-commissioned officer shall be entitled to be a voter.I wish to deal with three or four Amendments down on the Paper concerning the franchise proposals under the Bill. The great difficulty in considering the whole question is that so much is left to Rules, that the House is at a loss to understand 680 what kind those Rules will be and what actually is going to occur. The first point to be discussed is the power to have an alteration of those Rules when they come before us. These Amendments have been brought forward not in any spirit of unkind criticism, but for a very constructive purpose. It is quite evident that the Government has no intention of accepting any Amendment on the Paper. They are trying to pass the Bill, as was said by an hon. Member yesterday, without the alteration of a single comma. At the same time I feel that a very distinct purpose is served by this discussion, isasmuch as it will convey to the Government of India the desire which exists in Parliament that when these Rules are shaped, even in the first instance before they come here, they shall be so framed as to meet with the approval and express the real wishes of this House. The franchise proposed in this Bill strikes those of us who have been intimately considering it, as it must strike those who have not been doing so, as absurdly limited. When one thinks of a great country like India with its population of 315,000,000, and when one remembers that it is proposed to enfranchise about 2 per cent. of these people, it is really difficult to believe that we are even taking a step in the direction of democratic sell-government in that country.
I am simply expressing what every member of the Select Committee felt when I say that those of us who have considered this question at some length, and in some detail, agree that the franchise should at the earliest possible moment be widened considerably. There are differences of opinion as to where that widening should be effected. There was disagreement as to whether this class or that class should be included, but there was general agreement, and I believe a very general desire even among the conservative-minded members of the Committee, that the electorate should be made at the earliest moment as wide as possible. In the course of the sittings of the Committee Amendments were proposed, and in one case an Amendment was actually carried, though at a later meeting of the same Committee that Amendment, coming up again with some fresh information from the Government of India, was negatived. That is the Amendment which I am now proposing. I imagine that it will meet with general approval in all parts of the House. When the War broke out the people of India showed a loyalty to the British Empire 681 that, to put it mildly, was surprising to some people, at all events. They contributed during the progress of the War in men and money in a truly remarkable manner. Over a million of their men came on. They were not conscripts. They were volunteers. Every man who has come into touch in any capacity with Indian soldiers will admit that, whatever else they may lack, they certainly have never lacked courage. Large numbers of them laid down their lives, and we ask that these men who were good enough to fight for us, whatver their class in India may be, should have the right to vote.
The position of the Indian soldiers is a peculiar one. When I have been discussing with friends the conditions obtaining in India I have always found great surprise manifested by people when they have learned the way in which the widows of Indian soldiers have been treated now that the War is over.
They find it difficult to believe that the wives of these men, who laid down their lives in the interests of the Allied cause, are to-day paid a pension of 1s. 6d. a week. As far as I know, that amount has never been increased from the start of the War, although we do know that the cost of living in that country, as in others, has very considerably advanced. I submit that justice has most certainly not been done to the widows of Indian soldiers. We ask that, so far as the men who have been spared are concerned, the men who have fought in this terrific struggle, they shall be entitled to whatever protection the exercise of the vote will give them. If this Amendment was left to the considered Judgment of this House, I feel that it would be accepted without even the necessity of a Division. I cannot imagine any member of this Assembly, or of any other, who would have the temerity to get up and oppose a proposal of the kind. As I have already said, when it came before the Select Committee, that Committee, I believe with complete unanimity, accepted it. Later on that decision was reversed. It was reversed, I believe, because of a telegram that came from the Government of India expressing disapproval of the proposal.
§ Mr. SPOOR
It was pointed out that 1,000 men would be enfranchised if the proposal were adopted. Whatever their opinion may be, the proposal as a matter 682 of common justice, I am sure, commends itself to the right feeling and the good sense of Members of this House. I feel that it is not a debatable question at all. The next Amendment on the Paper dealing with the franchise provides that the Rules under this Section shall be so framed that persons whose annual income exceeds 150 rupees shall be entitled to vote. Reference has already been made to the growing industrial class in India. That class is at present entirely without political power. Economically the conditions are very severe. There is not the slightest doubt that in the months and the years that lie ahead attempts will be made to improve the conditions of the industrial workers. I believe that no better weapon could be placed in the hands of the industrial worker than to give him a measure of political power. If that is not done he may resort to other, and perhaps less desirable, means of achieving his end. I do not want to occupy the time of the Committee by discussing the terrible conditions existing in India now—the fearfully low wages and the long hours. I know that there are settlements where improvements have been effected and where a certain amount of social welfare has been secured. But at the same time the fact remains that the economic conditions in the industrial areas are appalling. We submit that this class is entitled to special consideration, and that the workers should at the earliest possible moment be included in the electorate. I believe that that also is a matter upon which the Select Committee was in almost complete agreement.
The last Amendment dealing with this question is one which provides that the rules under this Section shall be framed so as to provide that every person who knows how to read or write in the vernacular shall be entitled to a vote. It is proposed to apply a simple literacy test. I believe that rather lees than 10 per cent. of the population of India are literate. My Friends here say 6 per cent. Even if this Amendment is adopted, it is not going to enfranchise a very large number. The whole object of the three proposals is to secure from the beginning of the working of this scheme the widest possible electorate; the most democratic electorate. It might be argued that the proposal of the second Amendment, that a wage-earning basis should be adopted, is not altogether a democratic proposition. I admit that it is not the basis which 683 I would ordinarily choose, but it appears to those of us who went into this question carefully, to be the only practical way at the moment. I believe that the present basis is tax-paying capacity of a certain amount. This was fixed so as to exclude practically the whole of the industrial workers. By making the basis a wage-earning capacity of 150 rupees per year, we include a very considerable section of those whose interests we are seeking to protect—seeking, too, to give them in their own hands the power by which they can achieve reforms in their own conditions. Again and again we have referred to the tremendous experiment that this scheme really is. A great deal of doubt has been expressed on both sides as to whether it is going to be a success. There are right hon. and hon. Members in this House who believe that the course of the Government is an exceedingly dangerous course. They feel that we are going very much too far. There are others who believe that it is a dangerous course because it does not go far enough. I am quite satisfied, from all our experience of government in this country and in every other part of the Empire, that the success of the scheme depends in very large measure, if not entirely, upon the depth and width of the electorate upon which this machine is built.
I move only the first of the Amendments to which I have referred. I am quite willing, if you, Mr. Chairman, will not allow the other Amendments to be voted upon separately, to take a vote on this Amendment alone, because I feel that the Committee appreciates the justice of this case and will support the request I make.
§ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Whitley)
The vote will be on the Question whether or not this and similar Amendments shall be put here and now in the Bill, or whether the matter shall be left to Rules which will come before us at a future time.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I fear it will be of no use if I repeat the arguments I have so often used as to the danger of making provisions which we cannot safely say can be universally applied statutorily. Once they are put in a Statute they are unalterable. You cannot make different rules for different Provinces, and you have gained absolutely nothing. I have said that often. The hon. Member starts by 684 saying that the franchise is unsatisfactory, and he seeks to increase its size. All that is known is that by a stroke of the pen so many more million people nominally have votes. Is the franchise so unsatisfactory? Hon. Members have again and again given figures, but not accurately. Let me give them. The direct franchise vote will give 5,179,000 males over twenty a vote out of a population of 60,182,000, or a percentage of the population of 8½ per cent. I agree that that is not as representative as we should like. But the present electorate in India is only 05 per cent. There is therefore an increase in the electorate seventeen times. There has never been an extension of the franchise in this country anything like it. You really must keep in your mind whether you can invent the machinery in sparsely populated country districts to enable people to exercise the vote. You cannot simply add millions of men to the register and trust to luck to give them a chance of voting. Everybody wants to do what he can for the gallant soldiers who fought for us, but it does so happen that a very big proportion of the soldiers come from one Province, the Punjab. I do not know how many this would add to the electorate, because I do not know how many soldiers would be otherwise qualified. Take my hon. Friend's second suggestion, with reference to the income of 150 rupees per year. How many voters is that going to add? He does not know, and I do not know. How are we to find out income? He does not know, and I do not know. He puts it in the Statute and leaves some other unfortunate person to find means of carrying it out.
§ Mr. SPOOR
Is it not a fact that the Government of Bombay actually prepared figures and ascertained the number of people who would be eligible under the proposal regarding 150 rupees income? That being so, does it not suggest that in the minds even of some officials in India there was the idea that as a practicable scheme this was not to be ruled out?
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I really do not know whether they have done so in Bombay or not, but in any case that does not mean that they have done so in other Provinces. My hon. Friend proposes to make it universal. The Committee have recommended that "every effort should be made to improve the representation of the wage-earning classes," but to make a statutory happy-go-lucky suggestion 685 that the whole of India should be treated in this way would be to do something which would stultify our legislation. As to the literacy test, I have seen a man in an Indian village reading a newspaper to a group of twenty, and is the man who can read the newspaper more intelligent than the men who listen to the contents of it? I think a literacy qualification and an educational qualification is the mast undemocratic and the most faulty you could possibly conceive. Let us get on to some of the other provisions of the Statute, and leave the franchise to be developed. We want it as wide as we practically can get it, but we do not want to have our proposals ridiculed by adopting a proposal putting on vast numbers of people without any thought of how we are going to get them there.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is not entitled to make reflections of that character on his fellow Members.
§ Mr. OMAN
The Amendment has been drafted with great carelessness, and might, if passed in its present form, in the case of the ex-sepoys, include many people from across the frontier, and enfranchise possibly 100,000 aliens. Why should ex-sepoys and the other classes mentioned be given the franchise whilst those who served on Government armed ships at sea and Indian sailors generally are not to be included? That gives an idea of the want of completeness of this Amendment.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
I am sorry once again to have to directly oppose and criticise what the Secretary of State has said. I will not say he ridicules, but he treats lightly our suggestions as to these particular classes of enfranchisement. Surely it would be of great assistance in the preparation of the register if it were known definitely that these classes were to be enfranchised without all the waiting and lengthy discussions to decide whether they should be or not. I believe it was intended in any case to enfranchise ex-soldiers who fought in the War, and that it was on the urgent representation of Sir Michael O'Dwyer, as most of the soldiers came from the Punjab, that this military qualification was cut out. That is contradicted, and it is said to be on the recommendation of the Government 686 of India. I withdraw my previous statement, and I understand that the representation came from the Government of India that soldiers were not to be enfranchised. I am glad to hear now from the right hon. Gentleman that that is not the wish of the Government of India, because that Government has always lauded the martial qualities of the martial races of India, who have always been held up to us as the people who supported our rule and did not agitate and have been loyal to us. An hon. Member criticised this Amendment because of the number of people of the frontier tribes who fought in our Armies might get the vote.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
They will not be on the register unless they live in a village, so that I think that that is drawing a red herring across the track. I have a subsequent Amendment to this Clause, providing that graduates of universities shall be entitled to be voters for their own universities. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) spoke very eloquently on the right of women to be enfranchised. I hope he will support this proposal as to graduates of the universities and not leave himself open to the criticism that he was angling only for the feminist vote in this country. One of the great arguments used against enlarging the franchise has been that uneducated people should not get the vote, but in this case the people are graduates of universities. The graduates have been referred to as great agitators because they could not get briefs as barristers or patients as doctors. Surely the best way to cure agitation is to give the vote. I dare say they are agitators because they are politically and racially conscious. For that reason I think it is essential for the security of government in India that these very people should be enfranchised. I think it was suggested by one of the Provinces that retired soldiers should get the franchise, and I suggest the subject is worthy of more consideration than has been given to it. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that early next Session these Rules will be before the House, but they will be Rules made, I understand, by 687 the Viceroy in Council, and we will be told then that we cannot alter them and that they are the opinions of the men on the spot. There may be further troubles in India by that time, and we may be told that it will be necessary to push on with the Rules with all speed, and that any alteration of them might mean weeks or months of delay. This is our opportunity, if we are to exercise our sovereign rights over India as expressly stated in the Bill, to put in provisions which shall ensure that certain classes shall be certain of the vote. I am sure that this concession, if it were agreed to and cabled to India, would have a great effect. I believe it would have the same sort of effect as the declaration of the grant of self-government to Malta, which at once turned a Crown Colony which was in a state of open revolt against our rule into a colony burning with loyalty and patriotism for English rule. I do ask that these proposals should receive some little consideration, and that we should not commit these people to tread the long path of agitation, direct action, passive resistance, and the other means that afterwards they may have to adopt to get granted to them the right to vote for their own members to carry out the very limited functions which this Bill give to them.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I am afraid that nothing I can say or do will have much effect on my hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken. There is inherent in all his speeches about this matter, the suggestion that the Committee which considered this question might quite easily, by a few strokes of the pen, have enormously amplified this franchise without any difficulty at all. We really have done our best to set up a franchise which, at any rate, will have the merit of working, and that is what none of these Amendments would do. If we were to enfranchise ex-soldiers it would probably be in one special area, and in that district you would absolutely swamp the constituency. If you tried to find out who were the people who had 150 rupees per year that would probably take two or three years. At present there is an Income Tax there, but only on those who have over 2,000 rupees per year. The other inquiry would have to be undertaken on a different basis which no Department has tackled. The literacy qualification would enfranchise school girls and school boys.
§ Mr. ACLAND
There is a proposal to enfranchise those who can read and write. Graduates in India usually graduate at sixteen or seventeen years of age, and I do not suppose we want to give the franchise at that age. These proposals would not work, and the Committee have tried to make a franchise which will work.
Mr. T. WILSON
May I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should bring these Amendments which have met with sympathy in this House, to the notice of the Government of India? A promise of that kind might be satisfactory.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I would draw my hon. Friend's attention to the report of the Joint Committee, Clause 7, (a), which deals with the very point.
§ Major HILLS
Might I draw your attention, Sir, to an Amendment providing that every graduate of a university shall be entitled to be a voter?
§ The CHAIRMAN
We have already discussed that.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
CLAUSE 8.— Sessions and Duration of Governor's Legislative Council.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not select any of the Amendments to this Clause.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
CLAUSE 9.—(Presidents of Local Legislative Councils.)
§ (1) There shall be a president of a governor's legislative council, who shall, until the expiration of a period of four years from the first meeting of the council as constituted under this Act, be a person appointed by the governor, and shall thereafter be a member of the council elected by the council and approved by the governor:
§ Provided that if at the expiration of such period of four years the council is in session, the president then in office shall continue in office until the end of the current session, and the first election of a president shall take place at the commencement of the next ensuing session.
§ Mr. SPOOR
I beg to move, in Subsection (1), to leave out the words "There shall be a president of."
My object is to move in words providing that the Governor's Legislative Council 689shall, before proceeding to the despatch of any other business, choose a member to be president of the Council and, as often as the office of president becomes vacant, shall again choose a member to be president. The president shall cease to hold office if he ceases to be a member; he may be removed from office by a vote of the Council or he may resign his office or his seat by writing under his hand addressed to the governor. Prior to or during the absence of the president the Legislative Council may choose a member to perform his duties in his absence.This is a matter upon which there was some difference of opinion in the Committee. It was discussed at considerable length, and my Amendment simply seeks to ensure the appointment of a President by direct election. As the Bill stands, the proposal is that the President of the Council shall for the first four years be appointed by the Governor and that after that he shall be a member of the Council elected by the Council and approved by the Governor. The argument that was used in support of this paragraph in the Bill was that in these new Councils which were to be set up it would be extremely difficult to find men with the necessary qualifications and experience of Parliamentary procedure to act in the capacity of President, and it was further suggested that it might be found desirable to send out from this country men who had Parliamentary experience and who would be prepared to give four years of their life to go out there and assist the people of India in this work by taking over this responsible position. So far as I have been able to ascertain, there has never been any desire expressed by any responsible Indian for such assistance on our part, nor is there any strong evidence leading us to believe that there do not exist in India at the present time a very large number of men highly qualified to fulfil offices of this character with satisfaction to the Government they are serving and with credit to themselves. It might not appear to some to be a very vital matter, but it is to me. It is another one of those cases in which I fear we show a lack of confidence in our Indian friends, and I feel that the Committee would be well advised to reverse the decision of the Select Committee on this matter and allow the constituent members of these new Assemblies to select their own presidents.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I think, if I were opposed to this scheme, I could not recommend any better way of prejudicing its start than by accepting this Amendment. These new Legislative Councils, which 690 some schools of thought in this country will watch with the greatest possible care, have a burden big enough upon their shoulders already without suggesting that they should find a man among their number, learned, I do not know how, in all the niceties and intricacies of Parliamentary chairmanship, to be president. Perhaps I should not be out of order, Mr. Whitley, in telling the Committee how often some of my Indian friends who have listened to these Debates this year have expressed their admiration of your chairmanship and wondered how long it would be before they could discover similar qualities and experience in India. We all want that day to come, and therefore the scheme that suggested itself to us was that the President should be appointed in the first instance and should be assisted by an elected vice-chairman, and after one Council has gone by and the second Council has been elected, that the appointed President should disappear and the elected President should take his place. That is not enough for my hon. Friend, who for some unearthly reason says, "I will not wait; I want to risk everything by insisting that that step shall be taken to-day, when in the Legislative Councils no Indians have had any experience of presiding over a Parliament." I submit that of all the Amendments that have been proposed before this Committee this is perhaps—and I say it without offence—the most unreasonable.
§ Mr. BENNETT
I think the hon. Member who has just spoken and I were the only members of the Joint Committee who held that at the beginning we should do as it is proposed by the Joint Report to do four years hence. There is no difference between the Report of the Joint Committee and my own view as to the ultimate object. There is to be an elected President, only we have to wait four years for him. It seems to me that that rather mars the gift which we are making to the people of India. We ought at the beginning, and I think we might safely do so, give them the complete gift of a Legislature electing its own President. I doubt whether there is any warrant for saying that suitable men could not be found. Of course, it is a truism that you cannot find men in India who have had Parliamentary experience, but you will find in any elected Assembly, whether Imperial or Provincial, that there are a number of men with experience 691 which, so far as it goes, would help to qualify them for the particular service they might have to render in the Chair. We have, for instance, in the Bombay Presidency, a number of past-Presidents of that municipality. The municipality of Bombay has a population much larger than that of one of our Dominions. It has a Budget of £1,500,000 a year, and a series of men who have successfully presided over the affairs of an important community of those dimensions have prima facie some qualification for taking up these posts which we have in view. Again, in the Universities, the Vice-Chancellors, though I admit they have been chosen by the Government, are evidences of the existence of a certain capacity for presiding over large and responsible deliberative assemblies. The Chancellors, whether of the University of Bombay or of the University of Calcutta, have been Indian gentlemen, mainly of professional antecedents, and one and all, I believe, have been successful in presiding over the senates of those universities. That does not go far, I admit, but it does go so far as to suggest that the Legislature would be able to find suitable men as Speakers of those Assemblies. I take it the first Speaker of this illustrious House was not fully competent when he first took the Chair, but that he learned, and the Indian Speakers would learn, and tradition would grow up round their office, and in time they would fully justify their choice. I do not press the matter further. I shall not support the Amendment in the event of a Division, for this reason, that it differs from the Amendment which I had on the Paper in some essential particulars. For instance, it does not suggest any termination of the office, and for that and other reasons I shall not support it, but I hold that the proposal is one which is worthy of being taken into consideration, and I know there will be a certain measure of disappointment amongst political circles in India if the scheme is started under the narrowing conditions which we now propose.
§ Mr. ACLAND
Is it not possible under the Bill and under the recommendations of the Joint Committee that in Provinces where persons of the experience referred to by the last speaker are to be found, those persons should be appointed by the Governor as presidents of these Councils? That being so, I think the point is met. The difference between that and the 692 Amendment is that, whereas those persons will very likely be appointed in Provinces where there are trained persons who have presided over these large municipalities, the Amendment would make it compulsory.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
The right hon. Gentleman attacked my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Spoor) almost with contumely, and said it was impossible to find Presidents of these Councils.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
The right hon. Gentleman maintains that it is absolutely necessary to appoint Presidents of these Councils for four years, but all over Europe to-day are little Parliaments sitting and functioning without any practice or experience whatever, in Latvia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and so on. All these little places, with Eastern blood amongst their people, are appointing their own Presidents of Councils and electing them, as we have in this House elected Mr. Speaker, and I am very sorry the right hon. Gentleman cannot accept the Amendment.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not select any further Amendment on this Clause.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
CLAUSE 10.— (Powers of Local Legislatures.)
(3) The Local Legislature of any province may not, without the previous sanction of the Governor-General, make or take into consideration any law— (e) regulating any central subject;
§ Mr. STEWART
I beg to move, in Sub-section (3,e), after the word "regulating" to insert the words "currency or coinage or".
I put this Amendment down because it seems a matter of very great importance. I think we must bear in mind that the trade of India is so great that, immediately she operates to fill her currency requirements, she really affects the trade of the whole world. I maintain that this subject is an Imperial and not a local one, and I submit that it should not be buried away in a book of appendices, but should be placed right in the forefront of the Bill. I am obliged for the answer the right hon. Gentleman gave me yesterday on this 693 subject, but, although his answer was on die whole favourable, he admitted the question rests on these Rules we hear so much about, and it seems to me there is a possibility, if this matter is left in doubt, that it may have the effect of endowing the local Legislatures with powers in Platters of tins sort. I put down this Amendment to make assurance doubly sure that nothing of the sort shall happen. I admit this is not the occasion to raise the question of currency, but let me give two illustrations of how the question of Indian currency affects this country and the whole world. When India closed her mints to silver in 1893, and instituted a boycott of silver, I am old enough to remember that I thought it was a very unwise action to take, and I think so still. They tried to do the impossible.
What has happened? Shortly after the War began she set to work to scour the world for what she scorned in 1893, and acquired all the silver she could secure from China. Had China been an organised country she would never have allowed it. The act of the Indian Government on that occasion was something like robbing a paralytic. She created a vacuum in China, and China, in filling up the vacuum, has placed silver in a high and an unhealthy position. One result, as the right hon. Gentleman admitted two days ago, has been to cause India to debase her subsidiary coinage. We see certain newspapers in this country advocating a nickel shilling, which would also tend to high prices. Foiled in her efforts to get silver, India is now buying gold to an enormous extent, and we in this country are left with paper notes, which also tend to inflation and high prices. It would be of very great interest if the right hon. Gentleman could say briefly how far the financial policy of India is regulated in India or is regulated in London. In any case, we do not want to run the risk of dealing with more than one financial authority in India, and we do not wish to have controversies between the central Government of India and the local Legislatures, which may arise if this question is left in any doubt at all, and I would urge this Amendment., because it is only really a drafting Amendment, and does not ask the right hon. Gentleman to give away a single point of principle. If he would look over the borders of India into China, he would find every province having a different standard of value, leading to great incon- 694 venience and utter confusion, The object of my Amendment is that we should lay down quite clearly that a similar confusion shall not be created in India.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I quite agree with my hon. Friend about the vast importance of the currency and coinage. I cannot conceive of anybody giving any Province of India a different currency or coinage from any other Province. It is intended that the currency and coinage of India should be a central subject, and I can assure my hon. Friend there is not the slightest danger of what he fears. He says, "Why not put it in the Bill?" I hope he will not think that necessary. I have always been assured ever since I have been in this House that it is one of the greatest mistakes of Parliamentary drafting, which has brought about before now confusion in law, to specify one particular subject out of a category. We all agree there is not the slightest danger of currency and coinage ever being a Provincial subject in India. It is physically impossible that it should be without the assent of this House, and absolutely impossible that anyone should propose it. Therefore, I would earnestly recommend my hon. Friend not to press his Amendment.
§ Mr. STEWART
I certainly do not want to press the Amendment, but my right hon. Friend has not convinced me that there are any other questions analogous to this question of currency. In his answer yesterday to my question, he said:The list of central subjects, when embodied in Rules made under Clause 1 of the Bill with the sanction of the Secretary of State in Council, cannot be varied except by Rules similarly made, and will, therefore, not be subject to alteration by any local authority in India. The answer to the second part is in the affirmative."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd December, 1919, col. 372.]We all know we are in absolute darkness as to what these Rules will be, and we do not know if they are put on the Table of the House that we shall be acquainted with the fact that they are there.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.