HC Deb 03 March 1924 vol 170 cc949-51
8. Lieut.-Colonel Sir F. HALL

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India

countries; and the measures now in progress or under consideration to stimulate cultivation in India?


With the hon. Member's permission, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement containing information which I think will meet his views.


Will the hon. Gentleman also say what steps can be taken to improve the quality of the cotton produced in India?


That does not arise.

The following is the statement:

what steps the present Government propose to take in view of the fact that the newly-elected India Legislative Assembly, on the motion of Pandit Motilal Nehru, has, by a large majority, passed a Resolution in support of the setting up immediately of a Home Rule Constitution for India and the supersession of the Indian Government Act of 1919?


My hon. and gallant Friend appears to be misinformed as to the terms of the motion of Pandit Motilal Nehru adopted by the newly-elected Indian Legislative Assembly. The Resolution referred to is, no doubt, that which was passed in favour of setting up a round-table conference to frame the scheme of a constitution. My Noble Friend has not yet received any recommendations from the Government of India in favour of taking action on this Resolution. I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the text as received by telegram of certain passages in two speeches delivered in the course of the debate on the Resolution in the Assembly by Sir Malcolm Hailey, speaking on behalf of the Government of India and after consultation with His Majesty's Government.


Can we rely on the Government taking any necessary steps to see that the Regulations of the 1919 Act are carried out?



Following is the information promised:

"EXTRACTS from speech by Sir M. HAILEY in the Legislative Assembly on 8th February, 1924. Sir M. Hailey explained why it was impossible to entertain any demand for immediate steps in the direction required by the Resolution, referring more particularly to the problems as presented by the Indian States, protection of minorities, communal differences, the Army, and condition of the electorate. After defining the position of the Government in this respect, he proceeded to state the action which the latter proposed to take in regard to the demand for advance in reforms generally. 'That is,' he said, 'the definition of our position: 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, to assess the causes, and to; examine the remedies necessary. We claim that this must precede any general inquiry into 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 6hall 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 96B. 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. When we have our results, and those results are ready for presentation to Parliament, then, before they are finally presented to Parliament, we shall ask the Secretary of State to give every opportunity for discussion in this country, both in Legislature and elsewhere. That is as far as we can go at present, but I believe this undertaking gives a guarantee that we are determined genuinely to discharge our duty to reforms scheme and to prepare the way for the next stage of advance.' Later, in correction of another speaker, the Home Member repeated his position as follows: 'Government of India are prepared to examine, in consultation with Local Governments, into the existence of any defects in the working of the Act, as revealed by experience, with a view to their remedy. That was the statement that I made this morning. I did not say that we were prepared to set on foot any wide investigation as to the complete revision of the Act such as Mr. Dumasia seems to suggest.' "EXTRACTS from speech by Sir M. HAILEY in the Legislative Assembly on 18th February, 1924. 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 have 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 their 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 years. 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 Act show the feasibility and possibility of any advance within the 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. We are warned, on the other hand, that our inquiries will not be good enough and do not dispel mistrust. In spite of all we have done, mistrust still seems to be Government of India's fate. We are clear in our conscience; we must look to history for a justice which our contemporaries deny to us, and have no doubt that history will endorse our own conviction of consistent honesty of our purpose and reality of our efforts. But it offends even more against my sense of justice that this charge should be brought against the English people, who have initiated and Fostered literal institutions throughout the world. That mistrust apparently extends to the present Government. For myself, I do not believe that, where Indian policy is concerned, change of helmsman can mean a change in the course of the ship's statesmanship. But again I speak with full authority when I say they have noted with great concern the distrust shown by the advocates of constitutional reform regarding the good faith of His Majesty's Government in their attitude towards constitutional progress. His Majesty's Government are sincerely convinced that the only hope for a satisfactory solution of the problem of the Government of India lies in pursuance of the policy adopted in the Government of India Act and set forth in its preamble. They associate themselves with the Indian party of constitutional progress in the effort towards the institution of responsible Government, but they believe that this aim can only be realised if that party will co-operate with the Government of India in enabling the Act of 1919 to be administered as efficiently as possible in the interest of good government.