§ Earl WINTERTON
I desire to ask the Under-Secretary of State for India one or two questions about a state of affairs which, in some respects, is of equal, if not of greater importance to that which we have just been discussing. The hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn) has referred to the attitude of 1653 those who sit on this side of the House towards Imperial questions. I am about to deal with matters vitally affecting India, but I take the liberty to say to him that in my deliberate opinion, had the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) in his attitude towards, on the one hand Greece, and on the other hand Turkey, been carried to its logical conclusion by the fact that the right hon. Gentleman had remained in office it would have gone a. long way towards making the problem of the Government of India absolutely impossible. I say now from my official experience at the India. Office that there is no name of any statesman in this country more universally mistrusted throughout India than that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, or whose policy is believed to be more disastrous to the relations between India and this country.
I desire to raise two matters of which I have given notice. I wish also to refer to another matter which has occurred since I gave notice. The first is the letter which was recently written by the Secretary of State to the Indian Swarajist, Mr. S. Satyamurti; secondly, the terms of reference of the Committee appointed by the Government to inquire into the machinery and working of the Act of 1919. There is a third point. Has the attention of the Secretary of State been directed to the very serious action recently taken, in fact within the last week, by one of the branches of the so-called National Congress of India in passing a resolution which is in effect a direct condonation of murder? I do not propose in the brief remarks which I am about to make to deal with the Lee Commission Report, which is too big a subject to discuss at the fag end of an adjournment debate. If it is to be discussed here at all, the opportunity should be given for it to be discussed fully.
The first matter to which I have to refer is, as I have said, the letter written by the Secretary of State to a Swarajist member of the Madras Council. I propose only to say a word, for the question was, I think, as satisfactorily disposed of as could be by the Debate which took place in another place, and which, of course, it is not in order for me to refer to this afternoon. I should like, however, to ask the hon. 1654 Gentleman, the Under-Secretary, to give the House an assurance that in future the ordinary procedure will be rigidly observed in communicating the views of the Secretary of State to the people of India, that is through the Viceroy and the Government of India. The Under-Secretary of State has shown in his answers to questions a most meticulous care to avoid giving any information which would embarrass the Government of India, himself, or any other person, and it is to be hoped that the Secretary of State will in future follow the example of his Under-Secretary, and refrain from polite letter-writing to Swarajist gentlemen in India. I think that is all I need say on what I think the House generally will agree is a somewhat unhappy incident.
I come to the second matter, that is, what will be the exact scope of the work which is to be done by the second of the two Committees of inquiry which has been appointed by the Government of India? I have carefully read the two statements which have been made on the subject by Sir Malcolm Halley in the Indian Assembly and I am bound to say though Sir Malcolm's statements are generally characterised by clearness there is a certain ambiguity that I am anxious to see cleared up by the Under-Secretary. Sir Malcolm, speaking on 8th February of this year, in the legislative assembly at Delhi, said that the Government:Would undertake an official examination of the defects in the working of the present machinery, which, unfortunately, had not been given a proper chance. The proposed inquiry would aim at removing the difficulties revealed in the working of the Act, but it would not be an inquiry intended to alter the framework of the policy of the Act.Speaking on 18th February Sir Malcolm said—Speaking with the full authority of the British. Government—which was a rather curious phrase to use in the Indian Assembly, and of rather special significance—that the Government held to its general position as stated in his speech of last Friday week. Before His Majesty's Government would be able to consider the Amendment of the Constitution, as distinct from Amendments of the Act to rectify imperfections of administration, there must be a firm investigation of the defects and difficulties which have arisen in the working of the transitional constitution. The British people was not lightly inclined to consider changes in. the 1655 British Constitution laid down by Parliament in 1919 after the fullest consideration.I do not know whether those words were intended to be a sort of sop to the Swarajists, but they seem to contemplate that these two Committees, the second of which has recently been appointed, are both merely preliminary, and that there is some possibility of further steps being taken by the Government of India or by His Majesty's Government to consider the amendment of the Constitution as distinct from the amendment of the Act. The statement I have just quoted contains the words:Before His Majesty's Government would be able to consider the amendment of the Constitution.I would like to point out that by the appointment of this Committee the danger is of a predetermination by the Committee of what it hill be the duty of the Statutory Commission to decide in 1929. After all, the period between now and 1929 is only five years, a very short period in the history of the working of a constitution. I think I am entitled to ask the Under-Secretary for an unequivocal assurance that what we on this side have hitherto understood to be the pledged undertaking of the Government will be adhered to, and that is that the first stage of the reforms ending in 1930 will be carried out as this House determined they should be in the 1919 Act without either acceleration or retardation. It is important that we should be assured that this very short testing period will be adhered to.
I will make two qualifications to the assurance which I have just sought. First of all, if it can be shown that there are defects in the working machinery of the Act which can be remedied without affecting in any degree the principle of the Act, or altering the rate of progress laid down in it, then I think it can legitimately be done. If that is all the Government of India and the Government of this country have in mind in the formation of this Committee, then I think no one on this side will have any objection. I think, however, that we do need an assurance on that point, more especially in view of tie pressure which is being put on the Government from various quarters to alter the whole basis of the working of the Act.
The other qualification I would make is that if the Swarajists by their action make the Act unworkable then its prin 1656 ciples may have to be altered before 1930, although such an alteration, if we on this side of the House can prevent it, will certainly not be in the direction of giving the Assembly and the Councils greater power or abating one jot the protection which this House, through the Secretary of State and the Government of India. gives to the helpless minorities and the depressed classes of India against some of those who would, if there was a great devolution of power, be in a position to exercise over them a control which in the past we have always done our best to prevent. That is all I wish to say on that point except to make this further observation that by far the best way for the Government to deal with the undoubtedly difficult situation with which they are faced in India—I do not think it is more difficult than it was three or four years ago, and apart from purely political agitation I think the state of India has been better both under the present Government and the late Government than it was three or four years ago—would be to dispose of all the rumours, threats and rumblings one hears, and say more firmly than has yet been said by the Under-Secretary or the Secretary of State for: India that this Government, like their predecessors, do not intend to be deflected from the course laid down by the 1919 Act by pressure either from the right or from the left, and that they intend to carry out the Act of 1919 to the best of their ability. While. I do not see, any great objection to these committees of inquiry with the qualifications I have indicated, I do fear the effect of them may be to instil into the minds of those who have to work the Act in India, both European official so and others who are now well disposed towards the Act, a feeling of doubt and uncertainty, and it may cause them to ask are the Government going to adhere to the policy laid down by previous Governments or not? I do not wish to press the Under-Secretary further on that point, and if he will give us an assurance that what is taking place is merely an inquiry that will be satisfactory.
I wish now to say that I regard as a very serious symptom indeed of corruption of one portion of the body politic in India, and I think it is only a limited portion, the action of the Bengal Branch of the National Congress in passing a resolution which condoned the murder of a perfectly 1657 innocent Englishman, Mr. Day, who had no connection whatever with politics. I think that is one of the most, infamous actions ever taken by any body of people who had the smallest pretence to responsibility in any part of the Empire. While I have heard in the past of attempts being made in debate not to condone but to find reasons for certain events of violence in other parts of the Empire as was the case in Ireland, everyone knows that it would be inconceivable that any Member of this House could ever get up and condone the murder of a perfectly innocent man by a fanatic in India, on the ground that the murderer in some obscure way was helping the cause of the Swarajists in India. The responsibility rests with the Government of Bengal and the Government of India, and in a lesser degree with His Majesty's Government, and I do not know what action they are going to take, but I hardly think that an incident of that kind can be ignored.
The serious feature is that this Congress is mainly composed of the Dasite Party, and to judge by the reports, Mr. Das has succeeded in making himself one of the most powerful personalities in India, and has taken up largely in India the position occupied by Mr. Ghandi. Every one of those who voted for this Resolution in the Bengal National Congress were Swarajists and the vast majority of them were the pledged followers of Mr. Das. I do not know whether Mr. Das was at the Conference, but he was privy to what occurred. He is not only one of the most prominent politicians in India, but he is also Mayor of Calcutta, and he was approached by the present Governor of Bengal three or four months ago—I do not quarrel with the Governor's action—and asked whether he would become a Minister. It is the followers of Mr. Das who have passed this infamous resolution, a resolution which, serious enough in this country in the possible effect it might have, is trebly, quadruply and one hundred times more serious in India, where it might have the result of instigation to the murder of Europeans and loyal Indians.
It looks as if we have approached the parting of the ways in this matter, and as if it was necessary for the local government of Bengal, or through the direct action of the Government of India to take steps that will prevent a continuance of this sort of thing. I am not advocating 1658 anything in the nature of Diehard methods. I have always resisted the pressure from Members of my own party to take strong action where it was not justified. I am in every sense of the word a Moderate in these matters, but I do not believe that in any section of the House there would be any abjection to the Government taking legal action against people who advocate murder in a highly inflammable province such as the Province of Bengal. My own view is that the difficulty in India to-day is far more largely a difficulty confined to a certain number of politicians, and the difficulty of maintaining law and order is again a matter of dealing with a comparatively small section of a very large population. In the years from 1919 to 1922 the difficulty was much greater. You had a large mass of the population greatly inflamed against Government, and I fear greatly inflamed against Europeans qua Europeans. That was the case in those years. I doubt if that is true of the state of affairs to-day. I am glad—I heave heard it, from many quarters—that the attitude of Indians generally towards Government, towards Europeans, is better than it was in the critical years of 1920 and 1921.
But there are not wanting people in India to-day who would do everything they could, and perhaps go so far as to risk their own lives in the doing of it., to bring India back to the state of turmoil and danger in which she was in those years; and there are not wanting people in Bengal who would like to see that province return to the unhappy state of affairs that existed, I think in 1908 or 1909, when what I call the bomb and revolver methods of political persuasion were indulged in by, a section of the population. Speaking with responsibility, as anyone must who has been Under-Secretary of State for India or who has been connected in any way with the administration of India, I say that if it can be shown that Mr. Das or any other of the prominent Swarajist politicians of Bengal or India are privy to this movement of violence of which this Congress Resolution appears to be a symptom, and which seems to link up the Congress indissolubly with the people whose methods are those of the bomb and the revolver—if it can be shown that they are privy to or have instigated such a movement, I trust that this Government will not have any hesitation, 1659 in spite of the injudicious attitude of some of their supporters when they were private Members, in putting the whole machinery of the law into operation. If, following this abominable action of this Bengal Congress, there is an outbreak of political murder in India, both the Government of India and this Government will have very serious responsibility on their shoulders if they have not meanwhile taken steps to deal with those who instigated it.
Lieut.-Colonel T. WILLIAMS
I would like in the first place to express my gratitude to the Noble Lord for bringing on this Debate about India. The whole problem is so important, that we cannot discuss the question with sufficient frequency in this House. It has been a sorrow to me as an old Government of India servant, and as one very interested in Indian affairs, that we have had only very scrappy debates on this subject during the Whole of this Parliament. Therefore, we owe a very great debt of gratitude to any Member who goes out of his way to start a discussion on this question. To-day I have found myself more in agreement with the Noble Lord who has just spoken than I found myself on a former occasion when he spoke on Indian questions. I agree with all that he says about the resolution passed by the Bengal branch of the National Congress. I think it is very important that we should definitely realise that certain conditions existed in the past in Bengal, and that it is absolutely essential, if they recur, that more or less similar action should be taken to put down these murder gangs in the interests of the whole of the people in that province. The Noble Lord referred to another thing which I believe is a fact. My information goes to show that the conditions in India generally are very much better than they were in 1919, 1920 and 1921. I believe that on the whole things are progressing. I think the attitude of the Noble Lord to-day was much more reasonable than in a former debate. He has told us that he is not in any way a Die-hard, but is essentially moderate. His moderateness always seems to me to be of a very Die-hard variety. I cannot agree with the attitude of mind which he brings to this problem. As to the broad facts of the problem there will be no dispute. I agree with everything that was put forward by an 1660 hon. Member opposite on a previous occasion, about the very great complexity of the problem, due to the enormous area of India, the enormous number of the races in India, and the very great divisions resulting from religion, caste and all that kind of thing. There is no dispute about that. There is another very important fact we must keep in mind and it is the trend of political progress in India during the last 20 or 30 years. You must keep that in mind while considering the material facts which go to complicate the situation. The issue to-day is merely between those who seem more or less to want to stand fast or to go too slowly, and those who are prepared to go very much faster than we are doing at the present moment. I would like to suggest to the Noble Lord that this is where is seems to me, after quite a large experience in India and the East, that he gets wrong. It is in not understanding that this is really a psychological problem. It is all very well to deal with it from administrative areas like Downing-Street or the India Office, but we want to get down to understand what the Indian people are feeling on this question.
I am sorry the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Hope Simpson) is not here to-day. On a previous occasion he made a speech for which he was taken seriously to task by the noble lord, but I agreed with everything said by the hon. Member for Taunton on that occasion. You have to remember that things have been moving very fast not only in India but all over Asia during the last 20 years, and, therefore, I suggest that at the present moment we are faced with a problem which is largely psychological. The difficulties are enormous. You have a position of affairs at the present moment in which people are disgruntled. They won't listen to your talk. When you are thinking of the Indian problem you must not concentrate too much on India alone: it is necessary to look at the whole of Asia. One can look back at periods in history and point to certain events which proved to be turning points in particular centuries. I should like to ask the House—and I think the hon. and gallant Member for Melton (Sir C. Yate) will probably agree with me—to remember that there is one great milestone which can be marked down in this century, and that is the Russo-Japanese War. Up to that time practically the 1661 whole of Asia has been dominated by the West, but the Russo-Japanese War demonstrated that an Eastern Power was capable, by organisation, of bringing down a first-class Western Power. That turned the whole problem of the East, and after that you saw an entirely different look come into men's eyes. They did not know exactly what they wanted, but they walked better, they looked better, and they stood more upright because they felt there was a chance after all of proving that they were men just as much as the people in the West. Therefore I would ask hon. Members to take into their consideration the fact that from the Russo-Japanese War arose a ferment which has been spreading rapidly all over Asia. You can trace it in most recent movements. In China, Persia and Turkey it has been progressing rapidly. Most of the people cannot describe what they want, but they know it is something which they call "running their own affairs." This ferment is acting very strongly, and it is getting much more difficult to deal with. It has really brought us up against this trouble in India. It was moving so rapidly that we in this country did not realise how quickly it was progressing, and, as a result of that, there were actions taken by this country and by the Government of India due to a want of understanding, to a lack of imagination, to a want of ability to see what was happening in people's minds
If the House will allow me for a minute or two, I would like to put before it an idea gained from personal experience of the problem of the non-co-operative movement. If the House could only get into the Indian mind and see what really brought on this non-co-operation movement I think it would realise that there is a good deal of ground for Indian grievances. What happened was this. The reforms were more or less wrecked by the Rowlatt Bill. It was more or less an accident that the two things were running together. The Montagu Report was published in July, 1918, and very shortly afterwards the Rowlatt Committee published their Report. During the whole of the cold weather, up to February, the people were interested in that Report. They were agitating more and more during that period, but I do not believe there was any intention of finally non-cooperating. In February they found that 1662 the Government had brought forward a Bill based on the Rowlatt Committee's Report. To the Indians the Measure was very repugnant. They saw that the Government were going to press forward a Bill to give them certain reforms and that these reforms were offered to them as a reward for what they had done in the War. When the Bill was brought before the Imperial Legislature the Indian Members unanimously implored the Government not to proceed with it. They said, "We do not dispute the facts or findings of the Rowlatt Committee, we admit that these things occurred in Bengal "—and it was particularly in connection with what did occur in Bengal that the Rowlatt Committee came into existence" but we implore you to size up the general situation. We have difficulties in the country. We are trying to help you with your reforms, but if you insist on pushing this Bill through against our unanimous appeal it will make the position almost impossible for us in the country." I was in India at the time and they put a point which appealed to me on the ground that it was almost unanswerable. They said two years ago, when the British Empire was in great financial difficulties, and you did not know what was going to happen, you appealed to us for financial aid. You said, "We recognise you have done so well in the War and you are so thoroughly loyal, that we are not going to force you to contribute but we will leave it to a free vote of the Assembly." The vote was, I believe, unanimous', exception being taken to it by only one speaker. They voted off their own bat a contribution of £100,000,000 towards the assistance of this country in the War.
They brought that to the mind of the Government, and they sad, "You did that when you were in great difficulties. Now that the danger is over, and you feel you have got us again, now, when we similarly implore you unanimously not to pass this, you absolutely go against us, you do not consider us at all, and you are going to force this Bill upon us." Moreover, they said, "A great deal of this crime for which the Rowlatt Bill was needed was due to the fact that we had no self-government at all. We believe that, if you do not force the Rowlatt Act, the mere reforms themselves will eliminate a great deal of this crime." But, they 1663 said, "We promise you that, if our forecast is not correct, and if these crimes do recur, if you then come before us and ask us for the powers of the Rowlatt Bill, we will pass them in a, day." I submit, and I said so at the time, that that was a. fair contention, and I think it showed very great want of imagination on the part of the Government of India in forcing that Bill through against them.
That, obviously, was a question which did affect the whole of the people of India, and especially the intelligent people, very much, and this was where Mr. Gandhi came in. He said, "This is a test process, and if you really do force this through against the unanimous desire of our Members in the Legislature, I and my friends will definitely refuse to cooperate." I said at the time that T thought the Indian Government ought have gambled and not passed it, but, anyhow, they passed it, and that really, in my opinion—and it is confirmed by what ninny Indians have told me—was the start of non-co-operation, Amritsar, and all the other conditions which have followed from it. I think most hon. Members will admit that at any rate Indians had a grievance: Considering what they had done in the War, and the fact that they had voted this very large sum from India on a free vote of themselves in the Assembly, to be then treated like this when the danger was over would, I think, have made most of us act in exactly the same way as the Indians have acted.
I should like to suggest to the House that we are now at a point where, if we only exercise our imagination, we can get on terms again with the Indian people. I think we ought to live dangerously and gamble again. I think we ought to advance so rapidly that we should put the Indians themselves up against the difficulties of the situation The difficulties of Dominion Government in India are enormous, but, as long as you keep refusing them any further advance, you will never get them into the mental attitude where they will sit down and discuss these troubles with you reasonably. My own feeling is that it would be better to risk whatever disorder might occur while the Central Government is strong, while you control the Army, and to give them the very largest measure which is possible of self-government in the Provinces, and even in the Central Government. I feel 1664 sure, and many advanced Indians agree with me, that I am correct in this, that the difficulties inherent in the problem are so great that, when they come up against them, they will then have to turn to us and ask for our assistance. The trouble is at the present moment that we are forcing our asistance upon them, and, therefore, they will not listen. I think it is only consistent with our own knowledge of human nature that, if you can only convert them into the attitude of needing you—because I am quite sure that they will need us—it will be well worth any trouble or disorders which may occur in the process of getting to that position.
Hon. Members opposite seem to be afraid of any conference, but personally I am not afraid, because the situation out there is so very complex that it will be quite impossible for Indians themselves to suggest or frame any Constitution which will not be considered a very moderate Constitution, even by hon. Members opposite. I feel very sure of that, and, therefore, I think the Secretary of State is pursuing a perfectly sound policy in going just as far as he can at the present moment along those lines of conference. I think it would be a very great mistake if he were to take the course suggested by the Noble Lord of laying down a hard-and-fast line that we are not going to do anything till 1928, or 1929, or whatever the date is. You cannot dogmatise and say that things will only move at a certain rate every year Things out there are moving faster and faster, and what you want to do is to try and get ahead of the times. I say, therefore, that, the criticisms—or, rather, they were hardly criticisms, but mainly questions put by the Noble Lord referring to the action of the Secretary of State—are not sound; that the policy which is being pursued at the present moment of getting into as close touch, whether by letters, by conferences, or by any other means, with representative Indians, is a sound policy. As I have said, I believe the problem at the moment is mainly psychological, and what you have to do is to convert them from this attitude of disgruntlement into an attitude where they are prepared to talk reasonably and discuss the difficulties. To get into that position, I believe it is worth taking risks, and, therefore, I thoroughly approve of the policy which is 1665 being pursued at the present moment by the Secretary of State.
Lieut.-Colonel M EYLER
I should like to take the opportunity of congratulating the last speaker on the very interesting contribution that he has made to this Debate. It is unfortunate that, at those times when we do get an opportunity of discussing the all-important matters which concern India, we are usually treated to one point of view only in this House. We have had no general Debate, and there has been no opportunity for the expression of opinions from all sides; but when to-clay we get such a contribution from a member who has spent many years in India, it is moat valuable, and it shows that there are many points of view in the House that have not yet been expressed. I propose to confine my own remarks to three points that have been raised by the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). The first is the question of the unfortunate letter that was published, wirtten by the Secretary of State to an Indian gentleman. It was considered of such importance by the Secretary of State himself that he debated the matter for 55 minutes in another place. He evidently looked upon it as an important matter, and, of course, it is not for me to deal with his explanation, but I should like to refer to that matter at a little greater length than the Noble Lord did, because I do think that the trouble that has arisen, and especially the newspaper controversy that has arisen in India as the result of the publication of that letter, marks the Indian point of view on the policy of the present Government.
We know that the Labour party, before they undertook the responsibilities of office, had a most advanced policy as regards India. They openly proclaimed that they were in favour of Home Rule for India. Promises to an Indian are sacred. An Indian has a different way of looking at the spoken word from that which, possibly, we have here in the West. He looks upon these things as coming with full authority from people who intend to carry them out to the very letter when they have the opportunity, and I am not in the least surprised that the people of India have been greatly disappointed by what has occurred since the present Government took office. Their promises have not been carried out. They 1666 appeared at one time as if they intended to come out with a forward policy, but pressure was brought to bear upon them and they hesitated; and they are still hesitating to announce what their real policy regarding India is. That is misunderstood in India and it is more misunderstood still when promises, or suggestions of promises, are made in private correspondence by a person of the standing of the Secretary of State. I think the Government would be wise if they would come forward, before the House rises for the Autumn Recess, with a statement of policy much more definite than they have made at present. I suggest that when they come to frame that policy they should first of all bear in mind the promises which have been made to India in the past and that they should take measures to carry out those promises to the very letter, because it is the letter of a promise that the Indian mind understands, and that whilst agreeing to carry out those promises to the very letter they should be very careful that on no account should new promises he made until we have redeemed those which have been made in the past. That is the position as I view it, and it will give the present Government plenty of work, if their term of office extends for several years, to redeem those promises.
I should like to refer to two of the most definite of those promises because we are apt to forget these things. I will start with the the statement. of Mr. Montagu. then Secretary of State fol. India. in August. 1917, when he made that very weighty statement with full deliberation in the middle of the War, at a time when Indian troops were fighting side by side with us and India was putting up vast stuns of money to assist us in our tame of danger. Mr. 'Montagu said:The policy of His Majesty's Government, will, which the Government of India are in complete accord, is that of the increasing association of Indians in every branch of the administration and the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realisation of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Government.He went on to say:This latter policy can only he achieved by successive stages. The British Government and the Government of India must be the judges of the time and measure of each advance and they must be guided by the cooperation received from those upon whom 1667 new opportunities of service will thus be conferred and upon the extent to which it is found that confidence can be reposed in their sense of responsibility.Seeing that that was put out at the same time as the pronouncement of policy was put out, the people of India cannot say they were under any misunderstanding as to the manner in which the reforms were going to he carried out. The question now is, do the Government of India and the British Government in co-operation think that the time has come when there should he a further advance. We are told, and the suggestion has been made again by the Noble Lord to-day, that we have got to wait till 1929 before this question of further reforms can be reopened. I welcome this appointment of a Committee which is going to inquire into the possibilities of reform straight away. I hope after that Committee has reported, which, I understand, may be within two months from now, the Government will take further steps to deal with all matters that they think should be dealt with at once, because it is inconceivable to think that we are going to drift on for another five years with the present state of things in India. Non-co-operation with the Government has assumed serious dimensions. Great harm has been done to the country by the refusal of the Budget in the Legislative Assembly. But at the same time we have to recognise that it has always been announced in the British Parliament for hundreds of years that one weapon that the representatives of the people had was to refuse Supply if they thought their grievances had not been redressed. In that respect the Swaraj party in the Assembly were perfectly constitutional in their method of action, but the sting was taken out of their action when it is recognised that they knew all the time that there was other machinery which would carry on the Government of the country. So it was not defending the last ditch that they were doing. It may have been a gesture to show what they could do, but it was not the final act. The final act has harmed the country, and that is where the danger comes in in the future. There was a surplus in this Budget. It was a very good Budget for the welfare of the country. There was a surplus which was to be applied partly in 1668 reduction of he amounts which were to be paid to the Central Government by the Provinces, and through this Budget not being passed, the Provinces have lost that advantage which they would have had, and the consequence is that they have not had this surplus to spend on education and on the welfare of the Provinces generally.
May I refer again to these promises which have been made? It seems sometimes when we are listening to speakers on the other side of the House that the very word "Swaraj" is objectionable to them, and that they are opposed to anyone who is going to voice this policy of Swaraj, which simply means, I understand, self rule for India. On 21st February, 1921, the Duke of Connaught opened the First Legislative Assembly at Delhi, and on behalf of His Majesty made the following speech to that Assembly:For years, it may he for generations, patriotic and loyal Indians have dreamed of Swaraj for their Motherland. To-day you have the beginnings of Swaraj within my Empire and wide scope and ample opportunity for progress to the liberty which my other Dominions enjoy.I have spoken already of the great value that the Indian mind puts upon the words of people in an important position like the Secretary of State. But far more have they always been encouraged to take heed of the message their King Emperor sends them. Therefore, I think we must recognise that there has only been a forward movement. I am utterly opposed to the idea that the Government should be stampeded by any wild agitation in the matter, but to sit still and do nothing is the most dangerous thing they can possibly do at present. They must make up their mind what their next step is going to be, and I hope they will make that step the early appointment of the Royal Commission under the Act of 1919. It may be argued that it cannot he done. The suggestion has been made that it cannot be done. In this House, when Mr. Montagu was introducing the Government of India Act, and the matter was being discussed in Committee. he stated quite plainly that Clause 41 does not tie the hands of Parliament in any way whatever. There could always be a Commission appointed in the interim. I might say, too, there must be a Commission appointed at the end of 10 years. The House knew perfectly well what it was doing when it passed Clause 41. and the Government 1669 need have no hesitation to appoint that Commission if they think the time has come when an alteration of the law is absolutely essential.
The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham referred to the Resolution which has been passed by the Bengal branch of the National Convention. He used strong words in connection with that Resolution. I have not had the advantage of reading it and I will accept his explanation that the effect of it is more or less to condone an act of murder. It is not wise to bring up this question. We have a proverb that the pot should not call the kettle black. We have seen what happened in Ireland, where one form of violence has led to another, and to-day of all days the Indian nation has before it some grave matters of importance in connection with the unfortunate violence which was used on our behalf at Amritsar. It is a most unfortunate occasion to have chosen to bring up this matter. The Indians have not forgotten that there was one case where 20 Sikhs were shot down and killed, and 30 wounded. They know perfectly well in India that during the recent strikes in Bombay many people were shot down in the streets. Amongst al/ the others, stands the horror of Amritsar, where the men who were wounded were not allowed to be touched, but were left there lying all night. Now, this matter is brought up the day after a Judge in an English Court has seen fit to condone cases of violence of that sort.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Richards)
I think the House—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Robert Young)
Mr. Speaker has arranged a Schedule, as many hon. Members wish to raise topics. I presume this will finish the Debate on India.
§ Mr. RICHARDS
I think the House is exceedingly fortunate that on the last two occasions when Indian matters were being discussed we have had such well-informed speeches on the present conditions in India as we have had the pleasure of listening to to-day. It is not my intention to detain the House for more than 1670 a few minutes. I will endeavour to reply to some of the points raised by the Noble Lord who opened the Debate. He referred to the Resolution of the Bengal Branch of the National Congress of India. I know nothing of that Resolution beyond what has appeared in the newspapers, but I would like to remind the Noble Lord that the Sevany is essentially a pacific party. That is to say, the objective in view is chat they call a nonviolent and non-co-operative movement.
§ Mr. RICHARDS
It does, in common with the rest of the party led by Mr. Gandhi, and I should be much surprised if there was any connection between the Bengal movement to which the Noble Lord referred and the constitutional party. It is a constitutional party in common with Liberals, Moderates and Independents. It is a party that is working for Home Rule in India. The distinguishing feature between it and the other parties is the speed at which it would like to advance in the direction of Home Rule, but, essentially, it is a purely constitutional party. The reforms that are being suggested, that is to say, the investigations, have been advocated by the Government of India itself. That is, by the men who have been attempting hitherto to work this particular piece of machinery. It is because the Government of India and the Provincial Governments feel that there is a difficulty in carrying out the provisions of the 1919 Act that they have instituted this inquiry into the working of the Act.
Perhaps the best way in which I could reply to the questions put to me by the Noble Lord, would be to cover very shortly the ground that led up to the appointment of this Committee. The first point we have to remember is that on the 18th February this year a Resolution was carried in the Assembly recommending a revision of the Government of India Act, with a view to establishing full responsible Government, and for the purpose of summoning a round table conference to frame a new constitution, with a view to its ultimate enactment by Parliament. That Resolution was carried in a perfectly constitutional fashion in the Assembly by a majority of 76 to 48. In the course of that Debate, two important speeches were delivered by 1671 the leader of the Government, Sir M. Hailey. I will read rather longer extracts from those two speeches than were read by the Noble Lord:Now for the action we propose to take. We do not limit ourselves to demanding that the system should be further tested. We propose to make a serious attempt to investigate justifiable complaints against the working of the scheme in practice—He was speaking on behalf of the people who were attempting to work the machinery—to assess the causes, and to examine the remedies necessary. We claim that this must precede any general inquiry into the policy and scheme of the Act, or general advance within the Act itself. In investigating these difficulties and defects in the actual working of the present system, we shall consult the local Governments on the subject, and we shall not close our ears to representations from outside. It may be that the remedy for these difficulties will be found by using, rules making the power within the Act: I refer to the utilisation of those Sections to which reference is so often made, 19A, 45A, and 96D. It may even be—I can say nothing as to this—that the inquiry may show that some changes are required in the structure of the Act in order to rectify the definite and ascertained defects experienced in the actual working.In a speech ten days later, he said:We have again considered the position very carefully, and I am anxious to emphasise that in what I say I speak with the full authority of His Majesty's Government. We still hold to the general position I took up on behalf of the Government. Before His Majesty's Government are able to consider the question of amending the constitution, as distinct from such Amendment of the Act as may be required to rectify any administrative imperfections, there must be full investigation of any defects or difficulties which may hare arisen in the working of the transitional constitution now in force. Neither they nor we would be justified in considering changes in that constitution unless they were in possession of full information which our investigations will place in our hands. In 1919, Parliament, after the fullest consideration, laid down a scheme transitional in its nature, but, nevertheless, carefully devised with a view to effecting steps necessary for progressive realisation of ideals embodied in the Preamble of the Act. It is not to be supposed that the British people would be lightly inclined to consider a change in that constitution, and it is bound to concentrate attention for the present on such imperfections in working as may have been disclosed by the experience of the last three vears. I said that we have carefully reconsidered the general position and we hold to the precise attitude which I then took up. save in one respect. If our inquiries into the defects in the working of the Act show the feasibility and possibility of any advance within the 1672 Act, that is to say by use of the rule making power already provided by Parliament under the Statute, we are willing to make recommendations to this effect; but if our inquiries show that no advance is possible without amending the constitution, then the question of advance must be left as an entirely open and separate issue on which the Government is in no way committed. To that extent, the scope of our inquiries goes somewhat beyond that originally assigned to it but I must again emphasise the fact that it does not extend beyond that scope to the Amendment of the Constitution itself.These facts were printed in full in reply to a question which I gave to the hon. and gallant Member for Dulwich (Sir F. Hall) on 3rd March.
What have the Government of India done to give effect to the promises made on that occasion? They have started, in the first place, by appointing an official expert committee, consisting of three members of the Gevernor-General's Council and three Secretaries of the Government of India, for the purpose of inquiring into the legal and constitutional potentialities of the situation, and as to whether any advance is possible under the rules framed under the Act or by an Amendment of those rules The second thing they did was to send a circular letter to all the local Governments of India, which are as much concerned in the working of the Act as the Government of India itself, quoting Sir Malcolm Hailey's speeches, and asking them to investigate the difficulties arising from or defects inherent in the working of the In resent transitional constitution, and to see how far the situation could be improved without taking measures so far reaching as to involve fundamental changes in the policy and powers of the Government of India Act.
It was the intention of the Government of India that this official expert Committee should address itself also to an inquiry relating to the Central Government similar to that relating to the local governments, and it had been asked to do so. On receipt from the expert official committee of its preliminary report. on the technical aspect of this question, the Government of India modified their original intention as to the field of its activities and decided to reconstitute the committee by the addition of representatives who were non-officials, and to charge it with a two-fold duty. The first. was to make the investigation which they had originally intended it to make into the 1673 defects and the possibilities of removing them within the constitution as affecting the Central Government, and to advise the Government of India accordingly; the second was to consider the reports of the local governments under the constitution as affecting the provinces, and to advise as to the recommendations which should be based thereon.
I think that my hon. Friend, if he will turn up the answer which I gave on the 2nd of June, will find that those terms of reference are taken almost exactly from the speeches that were delivered by Sir Malcolm Hailey, and merely reproduce under appropriate heads and categories the scope, purpose and limits of the inquiry. as indicated in the first instance by Sir Malcolm Hailey at the beginning of February. That is to say, the terms and the scope of the inquiry that is being conducted at the present time are exactly those which are outlined by Sir Malcolm Hailey, with this addition, that nonofficial members have been asked to cooperate with the committee in the inquiry that is being conducted at present.
§ Mr. RICHARDS
No. The difficulty is that the personnel of the newly constituted Committee has not been completed yet. But the expert inquiry has been more or less completed.
§ Mr. RICHARDS
I have seen some reference in the Press, but I have no official information on the point.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I understood that the Committee was in process of being appointed now. It appears to me that there is some hitch in the matter. Why is there this delay in appointing the nonofficial members?
§ Mr. RICHARDS
I am afraid that I could not answer that without making inquiry. That is the position with regard to this inquiry at the present moment. With regard to the letter of my Noble Friend the Secretary of State to a member 1674 of the Swaraji party, I quite agree with the views of the last speaker. We have got to recognise that the Swarajists have been returned to the Assembly in a perfectly constitutional fashion. We have got to recognise also that they form the majority of the members of the Assembly at the present moment. That is, they are in exactly the same position as hon. and right hon. Members opposite. They are His Majesty's Opposition as far as the Legislative Assembly is concerned, and I suggest that when my Noble Friend gets a letter from a member of the Legislative Assembly it is only natural that he should reply to it. In addition, I. would like to point out that the letter contains the well-known views not only of the Secretary of State on the two particular questions to which it refers, closer co-operation with the Swarajists in the working of reforms, and the views, which are held, I believe, by almost every party in this House, with regard to the difficulty of working any real general democratic scheme with the communal system of representation. There is no reference to a change of policy at all. I think that the storm that has been created in connection with that letter was not even a decent storm in a teacup.
§ Earl WINTERTON
The hon. Gentleman has not answered my question. I was not objecting to the views expressed in the letter. I asked whether we could have an assurance that in future when a Secretary of State wished to communicate his views on important matters of policy to the Indian people, he should do so, as every previous Secretary of State has done, through the Government of India, and not by means of correspondence with an opposition member of the Madras Assembly.
§ Mr. RICHARDS
My answer is that there was no indication of any change of policy at all. If my noble Friend will turn up the Montagu-Chelmsford Report he will find there a condemnation of the communal system of representation.
§ Mr. RICHARDS
I can assure him that on questions of policy the usual practice is followed in every case. This is merely expressing an opinion of the Secretary of State, which was shared by Members of the Noble Lord's party. I do 1675 not think that there is anything more than that in that letter. It certainly does riot represent any change of policy on the part of the Secretary of State.