HC Deb 04 December 1925 vol 188 cc2789-800

Order for Second Reading read.

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Earl Winterton)

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

I do not propose to detain the House by a detailed examination of the Clauses of this Bill, especially as it has come to us from another place, and has received consideration before the Standing Joint Committee of both Houses; and I understand it has the general assent of hon. Gentlemen opposite—at any rate their assent was so expressed by their representative on Indian affairs in another place, Lord Olivier. The House is no doubt aware that for some years past recruitment in this country for the historic Civil Service of India has been one, and not the least, of the many problems with which the Government of India and the Secretary of State have had to deal. The higher Civil Service of India, as the House is also aware, and particularly the Indian Civil Service, are the instrument, or one of the instruments, by which the Secretary of State, through the Viceroy, is able to discharge his responsibilities to Parliament for the good government of India. The position two or three years ago was that not only were the existing Services uneasy about the security of their careers, but they were also hard put to it to make both ends meet, and many of them were retiring at a period when their services were most useful to the State. It was in these circumstances that the Royal Commission, of which Lord Lee of Fareham was chairman, and which is generally known as the Lee Commission, was set up in 1923, and, inter alia, the conditions of the superior Civil Services in India were considered by them.

The Commission reported, and their recommendations were promptly dealt with by the Government of India and the Secretary of State, and by the end of last year the greater part of them, and particularly the most urgent of the recommendations—those concerning pay and passage concessions—had been approved and acted upon; and I may say, in passing, that I have no doubt that all the evidence goes to show that the effect on the Services has been excellent. It is no part of the purpose of this Bill to grant the concessions recommended by the Lee Commission, because, as I have already said, the Secretary of State in Council has sanctioned them; but, in the course of the consideration of the measures proposed, it became clear that what I believe were the clear intentions of the Government of India Act, 1919. in regard to the Services and their protection, had not been expressed sufficiently comprehensively to conform to the rather technical language of the Indian Pay Codes and Regulations. Undoubtedly, the intention of Parliament in 1919 was that the emoluments of the Services appointed by His Majesty or by the Secretary of State in Council should not be exposed to the hazard of an adverse vote in the Legislature, but, as the Act stands, that is not completely secured. I will give an example. One of the most welcome, and, I think, one of the most needed recommendations of the Lee Com- mission was the grant of passages to and from this country to members of the Services and their families. It is doubtful, as the Act stands, whether the Indian Legislatures could not refuse supply for the provision of these passages. It is true that they could not interfere with the salary of the officer, but the refusal of a vote for passages would indirectly reduce his emoluments by throwing a fresh burden on them. Sub-section (3) of Clause I of the Bill makes such interference impossible.

There is one point which I want to make quite clear in commending this Bill to the attention of the House. It does not involve any diminution of or interference with the powers of control handed over to Indian Ministers and the Indian Legislatures by the Act of 1919, if regard is paid to its clear intentions, as in the instance I have just given. Exception might be taken to what I have just said inasmuch as Sub-section (1) of Clause I removes from the vote of the Legislatures a small class other than the services appointed by His Majesty and the Secretary of State in Council, who are granted this protection by the Act of 1919. The Lee Commission, having made their recommendations for the Secretary of State's services generally, did not think the concession they proposed ought to be withheld from officers of the same standing and responsibility who up to that time had been appointed not by the Secretary of State, but by the Government of India. The concessions have, in fact, been extended to officers appointed by the Government of India and will be extended to those appointed by the provincial governments, subject, firstly, to this, that the appointments they hold must be clearly superior, that is to say of the same general type as those of the Secretary of State's services, and, secondly, they must have born appointed before 1st April, 1924, the date from which the Lee recommendations have effect. The concessions having been granted, it is clearly desirable that the grant should be effective and the two Clauses of the Bill secure this.

The House will realise that the protection afforded applies to a very limited class of officers who, in course of time, will disappear. I need hardly add that it extends to Indians as well as to Europeans. I should like to say, because it has a bearing undoubtedly on the Bill and the circumstances in which it is brought forward, that there is no doubt that the result of the Lee Commission's recommendations and the fact that they have been put into operation so promptly by the Government of India—and the Bill rounds off the putting into operation of these concessions—have had a most beneficial effect on recruiting for the Indian Civil Service. There is a very material improvement this year over the results of last year and every year since the War. It is agreed in all quarters of the House that it is most desirable that the Indian Civil Service, with its splendid historic traditions, should continue to attract the best possible class of recruit in this country. There is no doubt the recent examination gave great grounds of hope that the old standard, both as regards quality and quantity, will be maintained. The Bill does not interfere with the real principle of the Reforms Act, but simply makes effective and places beyond doubt concessions to the Services which have been made after the most careful examination both by my noble Friend in Council and by the Government of India, and gives effect to what I believe to have been the real wishes of Parliament in 1919.


Will the Noble Lord tell us whether and in what way this affects the Indian Medical Service?


Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to answer any points like that when I come to reply.


I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."

I want to protest against the Government introducing at a late hour on Friday afternoon an important Measure of this kind. Whatever may be our views as to the correctness or otherwise of the Measure before us, the results of it are going to affect the lives of something like 300,000,000 of people. The Indian Civil Service is, as the Noble Lord has said, the representative of the British Government in India, and whatever we may do in regard to that Service, either to keep it contented and happy or to make it discontented, is going to have its reflex action upon the people of India. Therefore, before we consider the details of a Measure of this kind, we ought to have proper time for discussion of it. It is true that it has been read and passed in another place, and that the general principles underlying it have been before the Joint Committee of both Houses, but there is no reason why the House of Commons should abrogate its rights, and at this time on Friday afternoon, to discuss this question.

I do not want in any sense of the word to be misunderstood. In regard to the whole question of India I take an absolutely definite point of view. I contend that the time must come when this Parliament recognises that the only proper way of fulfilling our responsibilities to India, and keeping our obligations and promises to that country, will be to place her exactly upon the same terms and conditions as the Dominions in the British Empire. That is the view I take, and I take it very strongly. In criticising this Bill I do not want it to be thought that I am offering any criticism of the conduct of those of our people who are to a very large extent in exile in India at the present time, carrying on the administration in that country. I recognise that the Indian Civil Service is a really efficient body. It is one of the most efficient bodies in the world. I would say, incidentally, that the existence of the Indian Civil Service is a very good thing for the upper middle classes in this country. It has been said on many occasions that our Government of India is a system of outdoor relief to the upper middle classes of this country, and to a very considerable extent that is true.

I recognise that if we send these men far away across the Indian Ocean, in order that we may be able to control the administration of that part of the Continent of Asia which is under our control, we have a considerable amount of obligation to them. If we send men away from this country into a climate so different from ours, and under conditions which make it impossible for them to make a permanent home, and under which they have very considerable expenses in regard to their families, etc., which the Civil Servant in this country has not to face, then there are obligations upon us to see that these people are well looked after and well paid. On all sides of the House there will be no disagreement on that point, but when it comes to the question as to who is to honour that obligation, we come to a very different point of view.

Under this Bill and under the system which exists at the present time, the obligation to maintain these people who are now carrying out the administration in India is not thrown upon those in this country who benefit from the occupation of India, but upon the people of India. Because we recognise India to be the greatest jewel in the Imperial Crown, because we recognise that the possession of India is absolutely necessary to the whole maintenance of the fabric of the British Empire, and because India is held all the time for our benefit, and the people there are carrying on for our benefit the administration of that country, the expense ought to be met by the people of this country who benefit, and ought not to be thrown upon the people of India. In so far as this obligation of administration is concerned, there may be a certain amount of the work done by civil servants in India which is a benefit to the people of India themselves. I am certain that if the administration of India were entirely Indian, the people of India who were charged with the administration would be quite prepared to accept and pay for handsomely the services of people in this country upon whose help they might call. But if they did that, they would do it of their own volition. In this case we do not consult the Indian people in any sense of the word.

We have brought into existence, under the Government of India Act of 1919, a certain number of institutions in which we have taken, perhaps, all the worst features out of our system of government, and we have asked the Indian people to come and play at the game of politics, without in any sense giving them the opportunity of achieving the responsibilities which follow when you are governing yourselves and administering your own institutions. In the diarchy system, under the system which the Montagu-Chelmsford Report called into being, we have a number of hybrid institutions—one might use a stronger word— with the consequence that the Government of India has been temporarily upset, and that no one is satisfied with it, neither those of the old régime nor the Indian people themselves. We are under pledges that there shall be a Royal Commission to inquire into the matter, but it is really absurd to suggest that a Royal Commission of an alien people will be able to lay down principles which will govern another country.

When some of us have urged on successive Governments that something ought to be done to meet the Indian demand for self-government, that examination ought to be held into the grievances of the Indian people, that opportunity should be taken to bring together the whole of representatives of the various political parties in India, that they should be brought together in order that between them an agreement might-be entered into, we are always told that we cannot alter the Act of 1919, and that we must wait until the Royal Commission is appointed in 1929. That is said when the question affects the Indian people; but when it affects our people, a Measure of this kind is brought in, attempts are made to rush it through, and it is found that we can alter the Act of 1919 quite easily. This Bill ought to be withdrawn. I will accept—I think I can speak for most on these benches—the obligation to those of the Indian Civil Service who are in India to see that they are properly paid, and so on. There is not a single Member on these benches who will stand up against the proper payment of persons for work done, but we say that the obligation is England's and not India's, and, that being so, it ought to be a charge on our Exchequer and not on the Indian Exchequer.

The Indian people ought to decide how much they are prepared to spend on the administration of their country. What would be said if it were suggested that we should bring over here from the Continent of Europe persons, no matter how expert or efficient they might be to run our country? In the previous debate the hon. Member for Western Derbyshire (Marquess of Hartington) expressed the idea that efficiency of government did not matter, and that what we really wanted was government by ourselves, even if we carried out that government badly. The English people are not the only people who have that view. Other people have it as strongly as we have. The Indian people have it as strongly as we have. We claim that we have gone there for the benefit of the Indian people and we boast about the pax Britannica, but as a matter of fact the Government of India has been a sound paying proposition to this country. Ever since Clive fought the battle of Plassy we have been able to secure developments of our own industrial system as a result of the money obtained from the people of India and all the way through we have been drawing upon them in this way, and India to us has been in every sense a good milch cow. The time has come to protest against the attempt to deal with Indian problems in piecemeal and to say that the government of India should be in the hands of the Indian people and that our obligations to the Indian Civil Service should be paid for by us, on whose behalf they work, and not by the Indian people whose interests they sometimes have to sacrifice in order to obey the behests of the people of this country.


I beg to second the Amendment.

I assure the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary for India and this House that I am free from any racial prejudice in this matter and from any desire that men and women in higher positions in life should be underpaid. Though I take the view that the system is wrong, yet while the system lasts, if any member of the Indian Civil Service is ill-treated or underpaid I shall be as willing to fight for him as for the miner or any other worker. In whatever we do, we must bear in mind consistency of policy and a sense of justice, and if we are not consistent in our policy, we are no longer held to be just. The Government of India have no scruple in employing a few million human beings on Government railways, in the police, in the Army, as clerks and as teachers, at the wretched wage of £2 a month, the excuse being that an Indian public servant does not require much money; yet the same Government asks us to pay to a certain section of servants something which is paid by no other country in the world. That is not consistent. If the Indians themselves appreciated the services of our British comrades they would not be slow to reward those services adequately. Private firms in India sometimes feel the need and value of British or American assistance, and have always paid them more handsomely than they were paying their own men. But the people of India definitely now take the view that, as there are a few millions of educated Indians themselves, not only educated in English institutions in England, but actually educated in English institutions in India, there is very little need of having a racial and class distinction in the public services of their country.


The hon. Member speaks of racial distinctions, but this Bill applies to Indians as well as Europeans, and his is a most unfair argument, and, indeed, quite untrue.


I gladly correct myself and make it clear that I did not mean that there was any undue distinction aimed at paying an Englishman as an Englishman. I was only pointing out, perhaps not quite clearly, that from the Indian point of view the necessity of recruiting for the Indian Civil Service in Great Britain is nothing like so great as it was 20 or 30 years ago. I quite agree with the Noble Lord, however, and did not attribute any intention to the Government to pay its European staff unduly higher in the Civil Service. The other point is that the people of India believe that, if it is upon a basis of fraternal ties, there should be some reciprocity. There should be a few hundred Indians in the Civil Service in Great Britain, but they feel that, even in the India Office and the High Commissioner's Office in England, it is very hard for any Indians to find positions.

So, bearing everything in mind, while we are quite agreeable to the Members of the Indian Civil Service being rewarded as highly or as well as this country may decide, we think it would be an act of injustice from the Indian point of view, and a very impolitic act for this House, to make Indians, without their consent, without the appreciation being from themselves, pay by force of law something higher than they consider necessary for a particular section of the service. If low wages are to be the ruling standard in India, and the only thing possible as well as justifiable, then this House must refrain from asking the same people to overpay a certain section of the service, and if there are funds available in the Indian revenues, I put it to this House that the first claim on those revenues is from those wretched people who are now, in 1925, paid literally £2 a month, when the cost of living in India is declared by the Government themselves to be £4. I appeal to this House to consider this Amendment in an unbiased way and to make some contrivance of paying an additional or super-remuneration for their services from the funds of Great Britain and not from those of India.


I wish to support the Amendment, and also to join in saying that it is rather disgraceful that an important Bill, small though it be, should be brought in and expected to get a Second Reading in about 30 minutes. It is conduct of this sort towards India— similar conduct used to be meted out to Ireland—that causes a very great deal of anger in the hearts of those who in India are fighting for what they consider their own freedom. There was a great laugh went up just now when the hon. Member talked about Indians being employed in India, but I should like to know whether in Scotland they would submit to the whole of their offices being filled by Englishmen. I am sure Scotsmen do not mind filling offices down south, but they take jolly good care that their own offices are manned by Scotsmen. Scottish representatives want Home Rule for themselves, but take good care not to let us have Home Rule. This Bill is attempting to carry out some recommendations of the Commission which, I believe I am right in saying, the Indian Parliament itself has entirely rejected, and I do think the Noble Lord when he proposed this Bill and told us what a little Measure it was, might have taken the trouble to say that by a majority the Assembly has rejected the Lee Report, and this is part of that Report, and it is rather an important one. Then he went on to tell us, that it did not interfere in any material sense with the Government of India Act. I do not think Members of the House are quite seized with what the Bill really does propose to do. It is a Bill to amend the provisions of the Government of India Act by exempting proposals for expenditure upon certain salaries, pen- sions and other payments, from submission to Indian legislatures. What bigger thing could be done in this House than for some over-riding authority to take from us the power of controlling the expenditure of our own money? Is there anyone here who can call that a small controversial proposal, something that only needed 30 minutes of the British Parliament's time to give it a Second Reading. And yet that is exactly what is proposed in this Bill. You may say that the sum involved is only small. I am not so sure about that. None of us can be sure what the amount will be, but the principle is there all the same. I am sure this House would not allow a single pound of expenditure to be taken away from its control, and it is only a few years ago that this Parliament passed the necessary legislation giving certain powers to the people of India, and part of those powers it is proposed to repeal, because you are going to take away from submission to Indian Legislatures, and to enable rules made under the said Act relating to the Civil Services of the Crown in India to be dispensed with or relaxed in certain cases. The first Clause of this Bill calls attention to Section 67A, and 72D of the Government of India Act, and says: shall as from and after the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and twenty-four, have effect as though the following Amendments were made therein. I will call attention first to what the Amendments are, because unless that is done the House will not understand what an innovation it is. The Government of India Act as it is amended up to August, 1924, is, as I understand, not available to Members. I have been able to get what I think is the only copy in the Library, and then only by the courtesy of one of the officers there. In this Bill it is proposed: In Sub-section (3) of the said Section 67A (which relates to proposals for the appropriation of money)— remember that is the right at stake here, the right of Parliament to control expenditure—

It being Four of the Clock, the Debate Hood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed upon Monday next (7th December).