Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £76,500, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1926, for a Contribution towards the Cost of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for India in Council, including a Grant-in-Aid."—[NOTE: £39,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I do not think that we ought to start this Debate to-day without first expressing our dissatisfaction at the fact that an important announcement such as was made on Tuesday by the Secretary of State was not simultaneously delivered in this House. This House has certain privileges which we ought not voluntarily to whittle away, and I hope that what happened on Tuesday will not be made a precedent. I may add that it has always up to now been the practice of the Under-Secretary for India, or the Secretary of State when he is in this House, to take the opportunity of this Vote of opening the discussion, and giving us an account of what has happened in India during the past year. Mr. Montagu's speeches on such occasions were a model for all time, and I am sorry that the Noble Lord the Undersecretary has not, as usual, opened our discussion in that manner. I imagine, however, that his speech will have to be more or less a repetition of that made by the Noble Earl in the House of Lords, and that, therefore, he desires to have an opportunity of replying to, rather than initiating the discussion. I think by that we are again the losers, because the Noble Earl has only been a short time in his present post, whereas the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary has become 632 almost a permanent official in the India Department, and I think we should have had a more interesting and a more informing discussion upon India if we had his speech to go upon, rather than that made in another place.
Let me start by stating what I believe to be the views, not only of the Labour party, but of every Member in this House. We do not always live up to them, but I believe that every Member in this House, including the Prime Minister and the Under-Secretary, will agree with us that, so far as India is concerned, our main object is to secure for that country democratic self-government, and that not because we think India has been badly governed in the past. In urging self-government, we make no sort of reflection upon those great men who have built up our Indian Empire, and made its history something of which Englishmen can be proud. Nor do we desire self-government in order to provide a better Government in India. I think it is quite possible that a self-governing India might be more under the heel of capitalists and landlords than India is to-day, and that the Indian Civil Service, may well compare favourably with future rulers in India. But we urge self-government for India because no human advance can ever come save through freedom and self-respect. It is to establish freedom and self-respect that all thinking men advocate, not good government, but self-government. We of the Labour party believe that no man has yet been born good enough to govern another. It is the ambition of some of us that in centuries to come the people of 2,000 years hence may say of Great Britain and her Empire that she was the first of the old Empires to set men free. That seems to me the highest aim of statesmanship. I speak not only for the Labour party when I say that, but for every thinking man and woman in this House.
How, then, does the great movement for Indian emancipation stand to-day? The Government of India Act staggers along. It has fallen down in Bengal. It has become a matter of sneers and jeers in the Punjab. It is walking a bit straighter in Madras. Burma, and the Central Provinces. It is indeed a marvellous thing that it should be walking, or moving at all, considering that it has 633 no friends. The tragedy of the Government of India Act has been the attitude towards it of both the Indians and the British people. Let me quote the words used on Tuesday by the Noble Lord the Secretary for India in another place. He was dealing with the non-co-operation movement in India, and he spoke as follows:I should, however, be failing in my duty if I did not make plain my clear and definite impression that the tactics hitherto pursued by the most highly organised party in India could not have been more happily conceived if they had been subtly intended to forward the cause of re-action.Speaking not only for myself but for my party, I am afraid we must agree with those words. Lord Birkenhead has not been long connected with India. In spite of many things, I still have many friends among the Indian nationalists. I should like, however, to emphasise every word that Lord Birkenhead says in that warning. Non-co-operation has been the curse of India. I could have wished that Lord Birkenhead, in making that warning, had had the courage to say—what I believe are really his feelings—that for that non-co-operation movement in India, Indians alone are not solely responsible. If there had been no Jallianwallah, there would have been no non-co-operation movement in India! Let us also remember that non-co-operation has not all been on the side of the Indians. We have seen that the Government of India Act has been staggering along the road. We have seen how very differently it has worked in different Provinces under different kinds of administration and different Governors. Where the Act has been a success in Madras, it has been because we had there a man grounded in our parliamentary traditions. Where the Act has failed, it has failed because the frame of mind and attitude of the Governor was not that which is accepted by every Member of this House, and by everyone who endeavours to follow out the democratic traditons of this country. I have often thought that the most reactionary Member of this House would make a better Governor in India than would the best permanent official, because the training here would have helped to do away with a predisposition towards reaction. I am bound also to say that, so 634 far as Burma and the Central Provinces are concerned, some relationship to a Member of this House seems to be almost as effective in securing a friendly Governor as actual membership of this House. In Burma and the Central Provinces the Governors have certainly tried to make this Act work well. In the case of Burma it has been a shining success.
The object of this House, therefore, in the present crisis in Indian history, should be to increase the amount of co-operation on both sides, not merely to advise Indians to adopt co-operation, but to try to secure a proper attitude on the part of our Indian Civil Service, so that assistance may be given in the movement for obtaining training for the Indians in self-government, the eventual goal being self-government for themselves.
There have been recently many somewhat belated tributes to that great Bengali, C. R. Das. I should just like to say this, that the great credit due to Mr. Das is not due merely because of his extraordinary patriotism and devotion-he surrendered a. large income and a large practice; from a rich man with £40,000 a year he became a poor man with nothing at all—and that is a thing that no politician or statesman has ever gone so far as to do in this country—but the greatest thing in Das was that he had the moral courage to stand up against a non-co-operation movement, and gradually to bring it round from the boycott to one of semi-co-operation. The last utterances of that great man lead me to suppose that, if he had lived, he would have ended by persuading the whole of the Indian Nationalist movement to leave the boycott and to leave the refusal to take any part in government, and would have gradually brought them round to real co-operation, educating the people up to the next great step. We have, however, lost that opportunity, and I hope that those who believe in C. E. Das will carry out in the future that same courageous advance, that same courageous determination to do what is unpopular because they know that it is right. Do not make non-co-operation a fetish because Das was a non-co-operator. Remember that Das was coming round, and that sooner or later non-co-operation must come round also.
635 Now, how about the effort at co-operation made by the late Government? I know that many hard things are said in India about the late Government, but let us remember that one little step forward was taken. We had the Muddiman Committee, and we now have the Reports of that Committee—the Majority Report and the Minority Report. I can only regret that when that Committee was set up there was not a stronger attempt made to get the Nationalist party to take part in the deliberations of that Committee. I know that Pandit Motilal Nehru was asked to sit on the Committee and refused. I think there was some justification in that case for his non-co-operation. The numbers of the Swarajist party in the Assembly certainly might have authorised a larger representation of that party on the Muddiman Committee, but the Muddiman Committee, even as it is, has given us some little light towards further progress. It has shown us, in the first place, that the Indians, in the working of the reforms, are not getting the training in government that was the main intention of the Government of India Act. As a matter of fact, the friction between Ministers and Executive members outweighs the advantages of the education and responsibility, and nullifies them to a certain extent, though it does not do so in Madras where we have now got a system of Cabinet responsibility such as we do not see in the other Provinces. We have not got the Government of India training the Indians, partly through the inherent default of the Government of India Act and partly through non-co-operation of both sides, and I am afraid we must judge from both these Reports that diarchy is unworkable and that a system of diarchy cannot possibly endure. It is a system which both the majority and minority say is unworkable, but we are told that it has got to be continued until 1929. I think any sensible statesman must view with some fear the continuation for five years of the working of an unworkable system. I wish now to call attention to a statement made in another place by Lord Birkenhead on Tuesday last which I consider to be a most important offer having a direct bearing on this question.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Earl Winterton)
I am extremely 636 sorry to interrupt the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, but did I understand him to say that the majority of the Muddiman Committee had reported that diarchy is unworkable?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Yes, I did: but I must qualify it. They say, in spite of all the reports from the various councils and the allegations of its unworkability, that it can with ail its defects still operate. But I think an enthusiasm for diarchy could not be read into the Report even of the majority.
This is Lord Birkenhead's offer to the Indians to which I wish to draw particular attention. He does not regard it as absolutely necessary that revision should wait till 1929, and he says:If our critics in India are of opinion that their greater knowledge of Indian conditions qualifies them to succeed, where they tell us that we have failed, let them produce a constitution which carries behind it a fair measure of general agreement among the great peoples of India.He goes on to say:The door was never closed. It is, on the contrary, open to-day; but the condition is clear and precise. There will be—there can be—no reconsideration until we see everywhere among the responsible leaders of Indian thought evidence of a sincere and genuine desire to co-operate with us in making the best of the existing constitution.I want, particularly, to draw attention to that passage in the Noble Lord's speech, because it seems to me to be carrying out exactly the policy that we should have carried out had we remained in power. It is desirable, if there is to be any settlement of this constitutional issue, that the leaders of thought in India should put their views on paper and supply us with what they want. We have from Mrs. Besant her famous Bill backed by the Liberals of India, unfortunately a small number, and this reference made by Lord Birkenhead is directed towards that Bill. It is holding out a hand, and I can only hope that that Bill, drafted by Mrs. Besant's Liberal party, will form the basis of discussion in India, and that we may have all the responsible leaders of Indian thought bending their minds now to putting forward a definite constitution. I know that the Nationalists may refuse. It is very tempting to refuse. After all, human nature being what it is and Mrs. Besant being an old lady and an Englishwoman, 637 it is difficult for Indians to says, "You are right, and we were wrong." But there are in India many with big enough minds not to worry about things like that. I know it is difficult for men who have been on the soap box denouncing the present system to come down to hard facts and implement in the shape of a constitution exactly what they are prepared to take. I know that democratic self-government itself is a bit difficult with the Moslem problem and the social problems obscuring the pure light of democracy, but I do hope that advantages will be taken of this offer, and that we shall have a concerted effort by every section of political thought in India to get down to business and to supply the India Office with the constitution which they think would work and for which they would stand. Then we can get to business and the discussion of any details—the Government can—and we may be able to get this constitution revised before 1929. Lord Birkenhead, unfortunately, is not Mr. Edwin Montagu, but this offer which he made on Tuesday is a surprisingly liberal offer. I sometimes wonder whether the India Office quite approve of the speech that the Secretary of State made. I wonder whether we have got a Secretary of State who is stronger than his permanent officials. I am sure that I hope so.
We, on this side of the House, must say to India: "Unless you will say exactly what you want, we cannot help you so far as the Constitution is concerned." Meanwhile, there are certain Majority recommendations that are going to be acted upon. Lord Birkenhead told us the recommendations of the Majority Committee will be put into force, and I particularly want to call attention to one of the recommendations made on page 45 of the Report, because it deals with what, I believe, to be one of the few practical methods of advance, namely, provincial autonomy. It is along the lines of provincial autonomy that it is most easy to advance, because security of the Empire is maintained and at the same time education in self-government can most safely be attempted. Indeed, there is no doubt that to-day Madras could be as self-governing as any of the Provinces in Canada. But in this Report they say:Before their system of provincial autonomy could be introduced into India, the question of the definition of the fields 638 of taxation and legislation would require much closer examination, and the extent to which it would be necessary for the Central Government to employ its own agents for the administration of its own subjects would become of the greatest importance.I would like to know from the Noble Lord whether Lord Birkenhead, when he said that he would carry out the recommendations of the Majority Report, included the setting up of a committee to consider precisely that point of how provincial autonomy could be made to work, because that is one of the things with which I think we might start next to see how an advance in that direction might safely be made. Then on page 63 of the Report, there is another recommendation that they make, which I think is of importance. I say that we want to get the Indians to co-operate, and, if you really want the Indians to co-operate, you must include all the Indians. Unfortunately, we have in the Government of India Act certain disqualifications respecting Members of Parliament and of the Senate. All those who had been sentenced to over six months' imprisonment were excluded from standing for Parliament for five years. That, of course, affected a large number of people who went to prison during the non-co-operation movement, and, in particular, it affected some of the most brilliant young men in India to-day who ought to be taking their part in the government. The Committee in their recommendations desire that these disqualifications should be modified in certain directions and that it should not be necessary for the offence to be pardoned before the candidate can stand. I hope particularly that Jewharilal Nehru, who has hitherto been barred out and who is absolutely the finest type of Indian I have ever known, will be enabled once more to stand for the United Provinces Legislative Council or to join his father and two cousins in the Assembly. That recommendation may make a considerable difference, if put into operation. There is a third question they raise, and that is the representation of the workers. We all know that under the Government of India Act, no factory workers, practically speaking, and hardly any agricultural workers, have the vote. That is true as far as India is concerned, though it is not true of Burma. Both the Majority and Minority Reports make 639 recommendations for the representation both of the untouchables and of the factory workers. The Minority Report recommends that there should be a lowering of the franchise, so as to give them a chance, but they qualify it by saying they are prepared, as a temporary measure, to have elections on a special electorate. We entirely agree with the minority in this, that by far the best way of dealing with both the untouchables and the factory workers is to extend to them the franchise. If that is impossible until the Constitution is revised, we hope we shall get special representation of the untouchables and the factory workers, and I hope that representation will not be by nomination, but by some form of election. The Trade Unions Congress in India is in a very rudimentary condition, it is true, but it is better that a rudimentary organisation like that should elect the persons who are supposed to represent the workers in India rather than that they should be nominated by the Government. I know, as a matter of fact, that the nomination by the Government of N. M. Joshi to the Assembly has been a most happy one, one that no Trade Unions Congress could improve upon. But on the Legislative Council of Assam they have appointed to represent the coolies of Assam a man who employs 5,000 coolies, and that is not a very happy nomination. Whether a nomination be good or bad, it is far better that we should get away from the suspicion that nomination inevitably entails and get back to the sound system of elections. The untouchables elect their representatives, I believe, in Madras, and what is done there can be done elsewere. I do deprecate very strongly the setting up of any further special representation in any part of India. If this is done, let it be the most temporary measure possible. An extension of the general franchise and the abolition of community representation and special representation are essential if democracy is to have a chance in India.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
Will the right hon. Gentleman say if that would be generally or widely supported in India?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Oh, no. It would find much more general and wide support in this House than in India, but that does not alter the fact that community representation—
§ Sir H. CRAIK
Then would it meet the requirements of Lord Birkenhead's proposal, that it must meet with a large measure of support in India?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I think the whole object of the Government of India Act, and I hope the whole object of British administration in India, is to educate the people up to see that community representation is not an ideal which any western nation can have, and one that it would be desirable to change, in the interests of democracy, in any other country. I may say that it is the object of the Indians in Kenya to get a franchise on the general roll, and I think it would be found the best thing in India also.
The Majority Report considers that it is impossible at the present time to extend the franchise, that it would be dangerous to extend it, and, indeed, most of the evidence given before the Muddiman Committee was against a lowering of the franchise at present. That is all very well, but in Burma, where the Act has worked better than anywhere else, excepting perhaps Madras, we have a franchise as wide as in this country; whereas in the rest of India, where the people are, in some ways, really better educated than are the Burmese, 8 per cent. or 10 per cent. of the males over 20 years of age may have the vote, and in Burma 50 per cent. of those over 20 have the vote. The Government of India Act works smoothly, and what has been a success in Burma I see no reason for supposing will be a failure in the rest of India. There is this further argument in favour of lowering the franchise. We are all in favour of education in India. The one objection that hon. Members opposite take to any extension of the franchise in India is that the electorate is not well educated. History all over the world shows that in every nation education has come after the franchise and not before it; and if we want to get an educated Indian electorate an extension of the franchise is the best means of starting that education on right lines.
Education is also essential to any real economic advance, and I want to say a few words about the economic conditions of the Indian people before closing my speech. Education is the basis, really, of any successful trade union action, or any 641 successful political action, by the workers in India, and on both sides of the House, I think, we are beginning to see how essential it is that there should be an extension of social legislation in India. We have taken an age-old country, and we have suddenly, in 30 years, pitchforked it into the middle of the factory system. People who throughout thousands of years were living on the same patch of land, cultivating the ancestral acres, going on for generation after generation in the old groove, were suddenly taken out and pitched into Bombay and Calcutta, and are now right in the middle of the 19th century factory system. We see growing up in India to-day the same deplorable results of that system that we saw in this country 100 years ago. A man who leaves his farm and goes into Bombay loses all his home ties. In the old days when he was old, sick and incapable, his relations would look after him, for family ties are very strong in India, but now he becomes a forlorn, lone man in Bombay. If he is out of work, there is no benefit there: sick—no sickness benefit; old—no old age pension; and, worse still, however terrible his poverty, no Poor Law relief. He is a lost man, with his family far away. More and more people are being pushed into that position.
The factory system is growing there, and the responsibility is on us. We have got to see that those safeguards which were fought for by Ashley-Cooper in the old days, and were embodied in our Factory Acts, shall be in Indian legislation. It is all the more desirable to do it because we have not much time in which to do it ourselves, and it will be better that we should get those Measures through rather than that it should be said hereafter that we handed over to India a factory system, a capitalistic system, without any of the ameliorations of that system which we have embodied in our own legislation. They have some form of workmen's compensation, but that is nearly all that form of legislation which they have got. We are proposing now—much too la to—some form of legitimation of trade unions in India, yet in legislation that is being passed there we are still leaving it possible for any Labour leader to be sued for civil damages for any loss caused to employers by a strike. If, at any of their strike meetings, there is one man who is not in the union, they are 642 liable to civil damages for persuading that man to go on strike. That legislation is not quite up to date from our point of view, even the point of view of hon. Members opposite. We want the same liberties for trade unionism in India as in England, more particularly because the course of trade unionism must be extremely slow and difficult in that country. With no education to start with, with little cohesion, with all the difficulties of caste, and communities—in spite of that we have got to build up a trade union movement in India if the workers are to get justice.
In the mines in India, run partly on British capital and partly on Indian capital, there are 50, 000 women working underground. It is the only country in the. world where that is found. We ought to stop it, and stop it now. The hours in mines in India are 54 a week below ground and 60 above ground-quite a reasonable amount, it will be said, considering that they are Indians: but the difficulty is they may have to work 16 hours a day, the limitation being only in the number of hours per week, and they may have enormously long days.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
These are all questions for the Assembly. I will not go into details with reference to the Assam tea plantations, but there, there is work for legislators to do in passing social legislation dealing with contracts, the return home of the workers, inspection of the plantations and the workers.
§ Major-General Sir ALFRED KNOX
I would like the right hon. Gentleman to mention how many hours the average coolie works in Assam.
§ Sir CHARLES OMAN
I would like to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is proposing that the English Government should legislate for a self-governing Dominion on such subjects as factory rules?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
If only India were a self-governing Dominion we should not be having this Debate to-day. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that we here are responsible, and as long as we are responsible I hope there will always be voices raised, even on those benches opposite, where Ashley-Cooper sat, to get protection for the workers.
With regard to the mills, one of the difficulties there is that the shortening of hours depends upon the ratification of the Washington Convention. If Japan would only ratify that Convention, and reduce hours in the Japanese mills, if they would put a stop to night work for women in Japan, in accordance with the Washington Convention, it would be infinitely easier for labour all over the East, not only in India but in Shanghai and in China as well, to get improvement. We want progress on those lines, and we want our Government to be the driving force and not the check. We still have in India the system of arbitrary fines, and we ought to have there the same Truck Acts that exist in this country. We want to see that women are prohibited from working in the mills before childbirth, as they are here. In fact, we want to have a social ideal in India under the factory system similar to the social ideal we apply to our own workers here. There is no reason why there should be any difference if they adopted the same social legislation which has rescued our population from the terrible conditions of factory life. I think it is time that we took up this question in this House. There is a growing consciousness in this country, people are beginning to realise that the workers in this country, working in competition with the people of India, China and Japan, are suffering here. This kind of thing is making our trade and production more difficult. That is true, but we on these benches are urging social legislation, because we realise that the 644 cause of Labour is an international one. In this matter we are actuated by a desire to raise the standard of labour in India, irrespective of its effect upon production in this country. I think we may say that the Members of the Labour party consider that the worker, whether untouchable or the highest Brahmin in the land, is our brother, and that we are responsible as our brother's keeper. We have to look after them. I was reading the other day an account of the prosecution of a man in North Wales for allowing a flock of sheep to become scabby and maggoty. They were dying off from flies—eaten alive. Most hon. Members like myself regard any form of cruelty to dumb animals as about the worst form of beastliness. I felt as I read that account that I could have strangled that man with my two hands. The people in India are like those sheep. They suffer helplessly, silent, unseen, they are swept away with plague and influenza in millions. They are a different race from our own. They are very much in the position of that flock of sheep, and we are responsible. Beware, lest it be said to you, some time, somewhere, in judgment, "Thou art the man." That is what I would say to this House. So long as we are responsible for India, let us not be satisfied merely by striving to secure democracy, but let us try to save these helpless victims from a system for which we are responsible.
§ Sir ALFRED MOND
The concluding eloquent passages of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down are sufficient evidence of the difficulty of this problem. The right hon. Gentleman spoke, not unnaturally, about the extension of greater self-government for the Indian people, but he concluded by an appeal that we should force upon the Indian people, whether they wished it or not, a certain kind of factory and social legislation. I am with the right hon. Gentleman in his desire to get better labour conditions for the people of India, but I am not aware that there is anything to prevent the Legislative Council majority in India introducing legislation of this kind, if they desire it, for the people of India.
§ Mr. THURTLE
Is it not a fact that the Indian Assembly has passed Acts conferring maternity benefit and workmen's 645 compensation, and neither of these Acts has been put into force by the Government of India?
§ Sir A. MOND
I do not think that is correct, but I have no doubt that when the Under-Secretary of State for India replies he will deal with those points in detail.
§ Mr. J. JONES
Is this not a matter of fact and not a question of opinion? We are quite willing to listen to facts, but we are unwilling to listen to statements which are not correct.
§ Sir A. MOND
I was saying that one could not be expected to carry all the facts in regard to the Government of India in his mind. It is our duty to administer the Government of India Act and the new Constitution in a sympathetic manner, and on this subject I do not think anybody in this House will object to the line which was taken up by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). But in considering this matter one has to bear certain facts in mind, and I think the chief fact is that the Government of India Act is perhaps the greatest experiment that has ever been made in an endeavour to impose on a population entirely inexperienced our own particular form of government, and especially self-government. When one sees the magnitude of the task, we see at once the immense responsibility which It must carry with it. I do not think we have any reason to be discouraged by the fact that difficulties have arisen or that friction shows itself, or that such a complicated system should present difficulties in working and show signs of necessary amendment. All this was foreseen when the Act was passed, because it was then laid down that within 10 years of the commencement of the Government of India Act a Royal Commission should inquire into its working and propose such amendments as might seem necessary.
Therefore, this is really a question of whether the Act has been in force for a sufficiently long time, whether a re-investigation should take place, and whether it is necessary to make any changes. The Secretary of State for 646 India admitted the other day that the 10 years' period mentioned in the Government of India Act was not a sacrosanct date, and that the Royal Commission might be appointed, if necessary, at an earlier date. I know there is a divergence of views on the subject as to whether we have had sufficient experience of the working of the Act in Central India and the Provinces to make the appointment of such a Royal Commission really necessary. Personally, I do not believe very much will be gained by delaying for a much longer period the inquiry, which is bound to come.
The Report of the Muddiman Committee shows that an important section of this Committee, representing responsible Indian opinion, and not the opinion of extremists, but of moderate men who have served in Provincial Governments, agree that there are defects in that extraordinary production, the diarchic system, which consists, not merely in dividing the subjects for legislation, but in governing in two halves. With such an opinion before us, surely it is time to see whether some better, more coherent and more harmonious system of Provincial Government could not be devised. It may be well to reserve for the Provincial Assembly the question whether it is necessary to carry on the Government by the method of the diarchic system or whether some other modus vivendi could not be discovered. We do not in any way resent the growing feeling in India of a desire to govern herself by her own people and her own electorate; in fact, we have ourselves, both by our course of instruction and action, encouraged this very natural desire. It is a fact that the development of Western education and ideas in India, to which we have contributed so much, has gone a long way towards solving many difficulties.
I sometimes think that it is not unnatural that we should be somewhat timid and hesitating in allowing the Indians to have more control of their own affairs. Like all those who have been working at any problem and have been the guiding stars, we find it very difficult for people to conceive that others might do the work as well as they do. But surely self-government should become a reality in India, and if that is so you must start 647 by giving the people responsibilities, even if they do not always at the beginning dc as well as you are doing yourselves at the present time. The natural line of advance is by giving greater responsibilities to the Provincial Governments. That is the only way in which you can do that which is so essential in India. You should allow the Indian Government to deal with the many large and difficult problems with which they are faced.
I must confess that of the many things one hears, particularly when one gets to India, very few prove true on examination. It is said that the East is unchangeable, but the real fact is that the East to-day is changing more rapidly than any other part of the world. You have only to look at China, Japan or any Eastern country, including India, to find that the unchangeable East—which never was unchangeable—is to-day passing through the most rapid mental changes of almost any part of the world. You also, therefore, find, naturally, the most striking contrast, in the same country, of people of modern thought and people living in almost mediaeval times; and you find, too, that the difference in standard among the Indian people themselves, between men who have been trained at our universities in Western ideas and thought and people who have, perhaps, never moved away from the small villages in which they live, is greater, perhaps, than the difference between what may be called educated Indians and ourselves. With these divergences, startling as they are, some difficulty must be found in framing a constitution in a country like India, but in some directions these divergences are not always so fundamental as people think.
For instance, you find a growing national Indian consciousness. I have heard complaints by thoughtful Indians that at one moment we treat India as a nation, and invite her to sign a Peace Treaty and be represented at the League of Nations, while at the next moment we tell her that she is a congeries of different tribes, nations, and religions. It is very difficult to treat people in different ways for different purposes. I do not think there is any doubt that among all classes, in spite of internal dissensions which no one would minimise, there is growing up 648 what may be called an All-Indian people, perhaps vague, perhaps not well defined, but growing up in many directions and struggling very forcibly. Take, for instance, the All-India Olympic Team which represented India at the Olympic games in Paris. You had there people of different religions and different tribes and classes, and yet they were forming an All-India team, and all India was interested in what they were going to do in Europe. Those are phenomena which we cannot afford to neglect in dealing with problems such as are raised in thi3 question of constitution.
The creation of a Parliament such as we have created, with certain powers and yet without responsibility, raises questions of the very gravest difficulty. I remember very well listening to a Debate in the Delhi Assembly when the Budget was thrown out by that Assembly. Member after member got up and said that, of course, they could quite easily reject the Budget, because it was certain that the Viceroy would certify it and the country would go on just the same. That is one of the evils of divorcing responsibility from power. I am certain that if those same members had known that their action would mean the cessation of the machinery of government in India, the stoppage of the payment of salaries, the stoppage of order and law in their country, they would never have taken the step that they took or that occasion. The mere creation of an Assembly that has no power and is irresponsible, brings with it difficulties and dangers, and one cannot, therefore, be surprised, in any representative body, to find a certain impatience and resentment of the fact that people are asked to come and spend many months taking part in Debates the result of which will, they know before they begin, be practically nugatory.
That is one of the difficulties that have to be faced in dealing with the question of non-cooperation. That the policy of non-cooperation is already proving itself to be a policy that is not even popular with the electors in the constituencies is, I think, being admitted more and more by all parties. No constitution, of course, however it may be framed, will work if a large part of the people concerned in its working refuse to allow if to work. You can make whatever safeguards, provisions or checks you like, but all constitutions 649 can only work if those who are parties to them are willing to work. Therefore, I welcome the declaration of the Secretary of State the other day in which he asked Indians themselves to draw up what they would consider to be a constitution which would satisfy their present needs. Although I heard many Debates on constitional subjects while I was at Delhi, I must confess that it did not seem clear from them what it was that the critics of the present Government really wanted themselves. There were two or three points on which there seemed to be general agrement. For instance, it seemed to be agreed that foreign policy and defence should be made reserved subjects, and there was practically unanimous agreement that they wished to remain in the orbit of the British Empire; but beyond those points there were divergences of view, and a certain lack of clarity as to what was really wanted.
That is not unnatural, because there is always the difficulty, which has not yet been removed, as to the necessary protection of minorities, for you are not dealing with a democratic constitution in India. It can scarcely be said that a constitution is democratic in which the representation has to be largely based, not on the number of voters, but on religious denominations and different communities which have to be represented. Anyone who takes the trouble to examine the framework of the Government of India Act will sec that, owing to the necessities of the case, the franchise has to be largely what we should consider fanciful, and based upon very different lines from that of a country like our own. These difficulties have to be surmounted, and it is really for the people of India rather than for us to work out the methods of surmounting them. If they succeeded in doing that, it would very much simplify the task of anybody who is dealing with this thorny subject in the future.
There is another difficulty in connection with this constitutional question which I think is not always sufficiently realised. In addition to all the difficulties I have enumerated, there is the further difficulty of creating a constitution of a federal character with a central Government, in which it is necessary to define the functions of the central and of the local 650 administration. Everyone who has studied any constitution of this kind knows the difficulties of defining those functions with sufficient clearness, and the conflicts that always will arise between the provincial and central Governments on powers of privilege. Under the Constitution of the United States of America, with its prolonged historical continuity, such conflicts still arise, and cases are continually being brought before the Supreme Court on the question of State powers and Federal powers; and they also arise in our own Dominions.
In the case of India, it is not laid down with any clear precision where these various boundary lines are. Naturally, every provincial Government, from the Governor downwards, is anxious to increase its autonomy, quite apart from the question of Swaraj or nationalist feeling. Every provincial Government, naturally, resents central control, and wants to extend its boundaries, while every Central Government and everyone connected with it naturally wants to keep as much control as it possibly can. In a country like India, the more it is possible to decentralise the better, for the country is so large and so difficult that there is a growing danger, administratively, of a bottle-neck deadlock by which progress is made very slow and questions are finally settled by those who do not know the local conditions best. Our administration in India is no doubt in some ways extremely good, but I do not think anyone can deny that it is very minute—I will not say "red-tapey"—in the way it works. It is difficult to avoid, in any Civil Service, a considerable amount of red tape. We have it in this country, but I think that in India it will be found that the red-tape habit and the minute habit is even greater than it is here. The more complex the problems become, the more the danger grows, and centralisation, which some people inform me is greater than it used to be in former days, really slows down progress and action to such an extent that it can no longer keep pace with the rapid developments, both mental and economic, throughout the length and breadth of the country.
Anyone who is considering these propositions must consider them from these points of view. I do not think we ought to be concerned merely with the controversy 651 between the British Government and Indian Nationalist opinion. A good deal of the Government of India has no concern in. this political controversy. The whole question of financial arrangements and financial dispositions between the Central Government and the Provincial Governments is open to a good deal of criticism and consideration, and I think one reason why it is alleged that dyarchy is a failure, and why the transferred services will not work as was anticipated, has been the difficulty of the Provincial Governments in getting the necessary powers in order to develop their services of education and agricultural development, and other things which they want to do. It seems to be very doubtful, for instance, whether the Income Tax, which is now collected by the Central Government and allocated, not as Income Tax, but as grants, to Provincial Governments, ought not to be taken in the reverse order. That would certainly be more in accord with the practice in other countries, where, as in the German Empire in the old days, Income Tax was contributed as a part of the local taxes, to the Central Government. It is a question whether it would not facilitate collection, and create more enthusiasm, among those who are engaged in collection, if they knew that it was to be done on their own financial basis, rather than being put on to the Central Government, whose machinery is much more inadequate for a good deal of the work of collecting Income Tax throughout a huge country like that. I think it is a subject that is well worthy of investigation.
I think the speech made the other day by the Secretary of State was, on the whole, welcomed in the Indian Empire itself. I think it shows what it is very important to prove, namely, that there is no party in the State which is anxious to go back on the Government of India Act. No section, no Government, will ever go back on the solemn pledge that was then given. All parties are agreed that steps forward should be made. The difference of opinion which remains is really more as to the rapidity with which these steps should be taken, than as to the fact that steps must be taken. That in itself, I think, ought to have an encouraging effect on the more moderate opinion that one meets in India, which realises that they have a long way to go before they can 652 undertake the burden which complete self-government involves. It ought to encourage them to go forward and work in a more friendly spirit towards the British Government in India itself, and that would be a great advance. Everyone who is experienced in politics knows the difficulties of political parties, and the Swarajists, of course, are a political party. Like all political parties, they have to make concessions to their extremists and to their constituents, and for that very reason they very often have to be more violent in language in public than their opinions really are when they are ex-pressed round the council table. That should not debar us from going forward. Those upon whom we wish to confer benefits show sometimes but little gratitude and little appreciation of the position in which we find ourselves.
The problem in which we are involved is not one of short but of long duration, not easy but difficult, and one that requires firm and patient treatment. I think the people of this country are convinced that the policy on which we have embarked can neither be hurried by menaces, nor, on the other hand, can we be debarred by timidity from proceeding on the lines we have laid down. The political question looms largely, especially in Delhi, which exists largely on politics because there is nothing else in the place for anyone to exist on. A Government is always apt to get out of touch with the current life of a country so far removed and detached from what I might call economic and business affairs. The peasant, living in a primitive manner, in poverty, as he has done for centuries, has seen many dynasties come and go and many Emperors come and pass, and still goes on cultivating his land in a quiet, patient way. He is not much concerned, unless he is unduly harassed by the tax collector, in abstruse constitutional problems, but he is very much concerned with the improvement of his condition, and by the improvement of economic conditions in India we can really do much more towards political pacification and also do much more, I consider, for the advancement of the people than by chewing over different Sections of the Government of India Act.
653 I do not think anyone who has only visited a part of India, as I did myself—I was only there a short time—could fail to be impressed with the economic backwardness of the country and with the poverty of the masses of the population. I feel a certain regret that after all the time we have been there we have not achieved more in what I would call the economic development of this great continent. At the head of that economic development one question that must strike anyone who is used to looking at countries from an economic or industrial point of view is the question of transportation. For a country of its size, India has the worst and most complicated transport system of almost any country. It is cursed with three different gauges of railway—in itself a terrible handicap. On the whole its trains are slow. It is a country of large distances and slow trains. Wherever you go you find not unnatural complaints of the impossibility of developing many of the natural resources owing to the lack of adequate transport facilities. This is not a view, of course, put forward merely as an observer. We have heard it expressed by those who have spent many years in India. It is also the view expressed by the Acworth Committee, which devoted a long period of careful examination to the Indian railway question. They put forward various concrete proposals, and I should like to ask how far any of those proposals have been put into operation and acted on. One of their chief opinions was that the State-owned railways must be financed solely by the Government. I should like to ask what has been done since the date of their Report by the Government in the direction of finding further finance for the development of the railway system.
They also pointed out the necessity for large capital expenditure. The need, they said, is great and will continue for an indefinite number of years to come. What largo capital expenditure has been undertaken for fresh railway development? They also point out the vital question of putting the railway system into such a condition as to be able to handle with reasonable efficiency and dispatch, not the traffic of the future but the traffic which is now clamouring for accommodation that the railways cannot give. I should like to ask what has been done to grapple with this urgent and immediate problem. The Committee's 654 Report is undoubtedly a very severe criticism of the railway administration of the Indian Government in the past. I know certain very valuable steps have been taken for at last separating railway finance from general Budget finance. They foreshadow clearly the very great necessity for the future, and I should like to ask, as the commercial community of India are vitally interested in the question, what steps are being taken and whether the British Government, by the use of its credit cannot do something to help both our country and the Indian Government. When I was chairman of the Cabinet Unemployment Committee a scheme was put forward, and was under consideration, by which by the use of Indian Government credit supplemented by our own we could obtain orders for Indian railway material in this country and at the same time accelerate very largely the Indian railway programme. I should like to ask whether any further steps in this direction have been taken, or are under consideration, or will be considered? It seems to me one of the opportunities where we could at the same time do good service to the people of India and to the people of this country. Then there is the question of the improvement of agriculture. I heard from those responsible for the administration of agriculture of the difficulty they experienced in obtaining the necessary funds to establish agricultural colleges and to do research work on an adequate scale.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I should not like the right hon. Gentleman's speech to end with the assumption that nothing has been done on that Report. I shall be able to show that the vast majority of the recommendations have been carried out in the last two or three years and that there has been a greater reconditioning of the railway system than has ever gone on in our history.
§ Sir A. MOND
I was merely putting forward these questions in or3er to enable the Noble Lord to tell us what has been done, how much more is going to be done and how it is going to be done. I am dealing for the moment with agriculture. That again is partly a question of finance. In all Budgets you have a continual struggle between those to whom expenditure on defence problems appears 655 the most important and those to whom the development of the country appears most important. In India it is a question of a balance between the amount of money you can spend on problems of that kind and the money you can keep, or get left over, in order to advance the material welfare of the population. On the improvement of cotton very important experiments have been made, to my knowledge. It is of enormous economic importance to India and also to ourselves. There is also the question of the development of sugar cultivation on modern lines. There is no doubt there is room for a very large development of agricultural policy, for the development of minerals, and for development in other directions. In fact, one is rather surprised to find that a country which we have occupied so long remains still, relatively, industrially and commercially, in an undeveloped condition. If the great potentialities of one of our most important Dominions were known in this country much more British capital would be forthcoming. India does not advertise herself as well as she should do in British financial and industrial circles. There is undoubtedly in this direction a very great deal to be done, and a body filling to some extent the functions of the Civil Research Committee recently set up by the Cabinet would be of very great value indeed.
Another question I should like to refer to is the position of the tariff. India's tariff before the War was a revenue tariff of a relatively low amount, and although it could never claim to be framed on any scientific principles—I do not think anyone ever defended it as being scientific in any way—the duties, on the whole, were low. But during the War the rates of duty have been very considerably increased, and on some articles have increased to a pretty high figure. Although some still retain their revenue character, others are becoming, intentionally, I understand, definitely more and more protectionist. That raises the question again of how far we are entitled still to interfere in the fiscal arrangements which the Indian Government or Legislative Assembly sanction. I do not see how, as long as we retain any responsibility, we can divest ourselves entirely of responsibility for the 656 fiscal policy that is pursued. There is one reason I should like to call attention to, and it seems to me a very definite one. One-third of India is still governed by Princes in the native States. They have no representation as such in the Legislative Assembly, which deals with these fiscal questions, but they are indirectly very considerably affected, and so are their populations, by import duties at the ports, and they naturally must look to the British Government to see that their subjects are not harmed, to the benefit, perhaps, of manufacturers in the big towns, like Bombay and Calcutta, by heavy import duties on materials that are necessary for them in agriculture.
After all, India remains mainly and preponderatingly an agricultural country, and therefore any tendency to tariffs on steel or other products of that kind which tend to raise the price of utensils used in agriculture seems to me a very harmful policy to pursue. It is one of those instances which show how sometimes, quite unwittingly, damage can be done to a home industry by one of our Dominions imposing duties for its own fiscal purposes possibly without sufficient thought or consultation. There is an Import Duty on motor cars in India of about 30 per cent., and the result is not protective because India does not make motor cars. The people of India have a low purchasing power, and the consequence is that the import duty has the effect of practically excluding the lower-priced British cars altogether from India. By raising the price of the imported motor car to such a large extent, it has been made possible only for the cheapest kind of American motor car to be purchased by a relatively poor population. Therefore, a duty of this kind is acting detrimentally to our interests, while at the same time a lower rate of duty probably world not seriously affect or disturb the finances of the Indian Government. It seems to me that in these cases there should be some more co-ordination to avoid economic results and happenings of this kind.
On the subject of finance, there is one more point which I desire to make. It is one which has previosuly been put before the House by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). That is 657 the question of whether we cannot co-ordinate more closely Indian loans raised in this country with Indian goods. The Indian Government very rightly have the advantage of using our money market for raising loans at a rate of interest lower, I imagine, than the rate at which they could raise such loans in any other country, but they maintain the right of spending that money in the purchase of goods in any of the other markets of the world. It has never seemed to me that that is altogether reasonable. If the Indian Government wanted to raise a loan in any other country they would find that one of the first stipulations of such a loan would be that the money should be spent in the country which was financing the loan. That being the case, it does not seem to be unreasonable for us. if not making that demand, to seek, at any rate, to prevent what has happened in the past when large amounts of money raised in the London money market, which might have been spent on British manufactures, and might have helped to reduce British unemployment, have been spent on the purchase of materials in Continental countries. This is a subject which has caused a considerable amount of criticisms in industrial circles in this country, and it is a subject worth pursuing, because while we wish to do everything to make our Indian fellow subjects feet our sympathy with them and our desire to forward their interests, they, on their part, should not forget that they also should endeavour to create a sympathetic feeling in this country wherever they have the opportunity of doing so.
A Debate of this kind necessarily can only cover a very small part of this vast and complex subject, a subject which will occupy this House probably for many generations yet to come. The putting of an Eastern country, with centuries of tradition and culture, with great and ancient glories, with a people of high intelligence and acute logical critical minds, into Western forms of any kind and within the orbit of the British Empire, which is largely inhabited by people of a different race and of different traditions, is a problem of almost baffling complexity and difficulty, and yet everyone feels that this bright jewel, for which we have laboured so long, should not be allowed in any circumstances or for any reason to escape without the ambit of the Empire. I feel certain 658 the inhabitants of India themselves, from all I have been able to gather, have no desire to be dissociated from the British Empire to which they are proud to belong. They, not unnaturally, want their own share and their own part and their own prestige, but they fully recognise the spirit of equality and the idea of the inferiority complex has to be abolished. They feel strongly the part they played in the War and the sacrifices they made, and the fact that they fought shoulder to shoulder with our own and other Dominion troops. Therefore, no word should ever be said and no act or deed should ever be done which even unintentionally would give them the impression that we do not regard them as fully equal partners in the Empire. I welcome the declarations in this respect which have been made. I only hope they will be extended and there will prevail that spirit of cordiality and friendship which means much more than our people perhaps realise. Atmosphere means more in the East than in the West, and I hope an atmosphere will be created in which will be dissipated those difficulties which we have found in trying to solve a problem of this kind, the solution of which is essential to the future stability of this Empire if it is to continue as a great civilising factor throughout the Far East as well as throughout other parts of the world.
§ Mr. PILCHER
If I may say so without presumption, I feel certain the sensible and practical speech to which we have just listened will be gratefully welcomed in India. British settlers in India in the past have suffered very much from Mr. Paget, M.P., who arrives, stays a short time, goes away, and says almost anything. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) saw a very great deal, and it would be difficult, even for anyone who has long resided in the country, to make more practical suggestions than those which have fallen from him. If I were to criticise his speech at all, I should do so on the ground that he placed the political factor before the economical factor in India. It seems to me the time has come when we should reverse the ordinary process of political discussion in all that relates to India. Four or five years ago we initiated a tremendous political reform, and an electorate of 659 37,000 was increased at a single stroke to one of 7,000,000. The time for revising that great experiment in a progressive direction has not yet arrived. It is much better to allow the country to work out this experiment throughout the 10-year period allotted by the Government of India Act of 1919 and then, as the Secretary of State for India suggested the other day, have a thoroughgoing inquiry into it, throw all the elements of this experiment into the melting pot, closely examine everything that has been done, estimate what progress has been made and start off again on the basis of the merits of the achievement of those 10 years.
It was my particular anxiety in this Debate to draw attention to some of the more important economic factors in the Indian position. I fear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen has stolen a considerable amount of my thunder. I desired particularly to draw attention to the extraordinary degree in which the economic interest of India and the economic interest of this country at present dovetail into each other or could be made to dovetail into each other. In the Indian market you have one or two features which are very nearly unique in the post-War economic world. For one thing, you have in India a country with an exchange which is above par—an appreciated exchange. You have also a country which is definitely better off, economically speaking as a result of the War than it was before the War. The average income of the Indian has greatly increased since 1914. The accumulation of capital wealth has enormously increased. The country throughout the War years, in most of its staple trades, went through a period of perfectly stupendous prosperity. There were hundreds of thousands of Indian soldiers pouring into the country the money which they were receiving in the various war zones. There was quite unimaginable prosperity in jute, tea, hides and skins and practically every one of the staple industries. Great capital wealth was accumulated and there was every reason to hope that after the War was over India would have gone ahead to a fresh spell of prosperity which would have placed her considerably higher in the 660 category of buying and selling powers in the world's market.
So far as regards her exports, something of what was expected has happened. We have to-day nearly 100 per cent. increase in her post-War exports, compared with her pre-War exports. That is very satisfactory. It is not quite what it should be, but is very nearly so. When we examine the record of India's post-War imports, we find something which is in some degree the contrary of what has happened in her export trade. Greatly though the average income of the Indian agriculturist has increased, that income has not increased in such a ratio as would permit him to pay the prices for British goods and goods in general from Europe, which the post-War cost of production in those countries demand. As compared with pre-War you have 50 or 60 per cent. increase in the value of Indian imports, as against nearly 100 per cent. increase in the value of her export trade. The position, as regards unemployment in this country being what it is, it seems to me the time has some for the British Government and the Indian Government to come together and consider what means can be employed to approximate in some degree India's needs as a consuming market and the needs of this country as one in which there is a greater amount of unemployment than in any of the principal industrial countries of the world. The right hon. Member for Carmarthen has alluded to the Acworth Committee, and I should like to take his remarks a little further. It is quite true as the Under-Secretary suggested, that some of the many recommendations of the Acworth Committee Report which was issued in 1920 have been carried out. May I remind him however that practically all that has been achieved has had relation to the problem of rehabilitating existing railway lines after the long struggle. Apart from the Khyber Railway and one or two special railways pushed up to the coalfields, you have had practically no new construction; at any rate no comprehensive constructional programme has been put in hand such as the Acworth Committee and the Mackay Committee of pre-War times, and even earlier Committees, recommended. You have had a five-year programme of replacements and renewals under which there 661 was to be an annual expenditure of £20,000,000 per annum. Whether the whole of that amount has been spent or not I am not certain, but I rather think it has been found impossible, owing to the economies dictated by the Inchcape Committee, to keep up to that expenditure. I suggest it might go far to ameliorate unemployment in the iron and steel trades in this country if we pressed the Indian Government, when it feels itself in a position to do so, to go on with the great programme of new railway construction which was so strongly pressed by the Acworth Committee.
The Acworth Committee drew attention to the fact that India with a population of 320,000,000 has no more that 37,000 miles of railway which is approximately the same railway mileage as Canada with a population of 8,000,000. The existing railway mileage is considerably below the economic potentialities of the country, and as soon as the work of replacement and renewal which is so essential after the war-time dilapidation, has been finished, it is desirable in India's interest that the railway programme should be put in hand, and it is still more desirable from the British point of view that something should be done with India's consent and co-operation which will help to produce employment in this country.
It seems to me that even with the greatest degree of co-operation on the part of India we shall find ourselves up against a very serious difficulty. Our very high cost of production will militate against our receiving many of those constructional orders, just in the same way is at present militates against the receipt of orders by our cotton manufactures. It seems to me that the right hon. Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) was right in suggesting that some financial accommodation would be necessary, so that we may offer to India possibly some, very clear advantage in our loan market. If that is arranged satisfactorily she may be able to place those orders in this country. When you compare the very much lower cost of iron or steel work from the Belgian or German markets it is a matter requiring very careful thought and negotiation. But I do press on the Under-Secretary of State the desirability of inquiring whether the Indian constructional programme, as distinct from the Indian replacement programme, 662 cannot fairly soon be elaborated, so as to help the work of approximating Indian needs to our own necessities in this country in the matter of employment.
I would like, if I may for a moment, to refer to the position of the cotton trade in Lancashire in reference to the Indian market. The year before the War Lancashire sent 3,000,000,000 yards of piece goods to India. Last year I do not think that she sent more than 1,500,000,000 yards. The position in the Indian cotton trade has altered very considerably as the result of the tremendous struggle in which we were engaged, and the Bombay cotton mills to-day have got a new and much more serious competitor or rather two more serious competitors than they even had before. There is very serious competition from Japan, and there is ever growing competition from the Italian mills. In the case of Japan it is possible to say that the competition from which the Bombay mills are suffering is accentuated by the difference in the laws in the two countries.
The right hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), who was, as I understood, rather critical on the subject of the non-existence of social and factory legislation in India, is very much mistaken as to the present position. There is a very strong code of industrial, factory and social legislation which wag enacted recently by the Indian Assembly, of which I was formerly a member. I was myself interested in those debates and participated in them, and it is most desirable that Members on those benches who have a really sympathetic and kindly interest in India—
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I did not say a word about factory legislation. I referred to certain specified directions in which Indian legislation did not come up to the European standard.
§ Mr. PILCHER
The right hon. Member's explanation goes far to meet my case. So long as this House does realise that they have recently had a revision of Indian factory legislation I am satisfied. They have now a maximum week of 60 hours, and a maximum day of 11 hours. There is no night work for women at all. That was mentioned as a blemish upon the Indian factory system. They have a maximum six-hours day for children. In India at the present time 663 they have a considerable, and, judged by Oriental standards, a very exacting code of factory and social legislation, most of which has been enacted during the last three or four years. So far as I can understand, the Japanese, if they have any such code at all, are not practically enforcing it.
It is essential that Members of the Labour party should understand that, though you may have legislation in an Oriental country, it is extremely difficult to get that legislation enforced. In India the problem of efficient factory inspection is persistent. You may have an Act on the Statute Book, but the enforcement of those Regulations involves considerable inspection by a highly-paid white public service. The country cannot afford the system of inspection. In any case, the possibilities of evasion in those countries are extraordinary. In the matter of the exclusion of children from the mills, in the case of the mills of Calcutta, where there is a large labour force of 300,000, there is the greatest difficulty in preventing the children, who are almost unidentifiable, who have only one name, and who have to be identified by their finger prints, from going from one mill to another to a second shift. My point is that in India, so far as the British administrative system can enforce it, by strict rules and inspection, the factory code is being enforced to the letter.
In Japan there is no enforcement. You have double shifts and very long shifts, and, though the cotton has to go these great distances, the Japanese are offering an increasing and more strenuous competition against the Bombay mills. I would suggest that with regard to the cotton industry we were never nearer a time when a clear understanding could be arrived at between Lancashire and Bombay with a view to a possible assurance in the Indian market, for the Lancashire mills, of a certain large section of the trade, and an assurance for the Bombay mills of another large section of the trade.
In Bombay there are very strong reasons for some arrangement. For the past 30 or 40 years there has been imposed an Excise Duty of 3½ per cent. The levying of that duty involves a very big capital charge on the mills for the manufactured material on its issue from the sheds 664 before it goes into the consuming market. That was imposed in deference to the Free Trade beliefs entertained in this House so strongly and so sincerely 30 or 40 years ago. So long as you had an Import Duty of 3½ per cent. on the products of the Lancashire mills there might be some logical defence for the system, but since then you have had the 3½ per cent. Import Duty raised to 11 per cent. and the 3½ Excise Duty remaining as it was, and you have got a situation like that of a person with a diseased appendix, and the time has come for the economic surgeon to take that appendix out. That will tend to diminish the unhappy misunderstanding which still exists between the political classes and ourselves in this country. We must, to some extent, get back in the Indian market to avail ourselves of that country's prosperity and its accumulated capital as a result of the War, and we must give them some return or make some concession to them if we are to ask them for consideration of our unemployment problem at home.
I know that, so far as regards the repeal of the Excise Duty, there are great difficulties in India, and that a loss of revenue cannot well be borne, but with a modicum of arrangement what is required can be done. I may mention that already very great benefit has been conferred on one or two specified trades in India by the consideration which this House has shown for Imperial products. The Finance Member of the Indian Government has, I think, on one or two occasions referred to the great impetus given to the cultivation of tobacco in India by the Imperial preference. Looking up the statistics of millions of pounds of tobacco exported from India, I find that you had the exports to this country jumping from one to fifteen million pounds in three or four years. The amount may seem pathetically small to anybody who know the dimensions of the tobacco trade but in many industries, the potentialities are there so long as the right kind of understanding is extended to India. It is for such co-operation and understanding between the British and Indian Government that I am pleading at the present moment. The potentialities certainly are very great, and much may be done to counteract the efforts of the minority who are promoting misunderstanding.
665 Those are the main points which I want to make on the subject of trade opportunities which India offers, but if the House will extend its indulgence to me I would like to refer for a moment to the problem of the Services. During the past two or three years the attitude of the Government with regard to the Indian Services has improved enormously. I was told to-day that we had in these Services some 70 or 80 entrants from the old universities for the Indian Civil Service Examination. That is very satisfactory so far as it goes. In 1912 42 men from Oxford University alone—my own university—sat for the examination. Last year, I think I am right in saying, there were only three from that university who were finally chosen. I need not dwell on the terrible consequence which must result to India if there is any deterioration in the quality of its administrative ranks—if the "steel frame" constituted by the disinterested British element is permitted to decay and finally buckle. It is satisfactory to know that the entrants for the examination have increased in number. I hear now from India that it has been decided to appoint the Public Services Commission for which statutory provision was made in 1919 but which has never been appointed since the passing of the Government of India Act.
I wish to draw the attention of the Secretary of State to one thing. Recently a Joint Select Committee of the two Houses have been discussing the Government of India Civil Services Bill. In that Bill the Secretary of State very wisely takes power to ensure that, under the rule-making already conferred on the Government of India, no rule shall be construed to limit the power of the Secretary of State in Council to deal with the case of any person in the Civil Service in such manner as may appear to him to be just and equitable. The Services in India are given a new charter. They can appeal to the Secretary of State, and he is the supreme authority in regard to practically everything that concerns them. As I have said, this Public Services Commission is now to be appointed in India. I would draw the attention of the Undersecretary of State to the recommendation of the Lee Report with regard to the functions and powers which the Services Commission in India will 666 possess. It recommends that every Government servant in the country should retain his right of appeal to the Secretary of State, provided that his case is certified by the Public Services Commission as a fit one for such a step. If the Commission is to be appointed and is to be given powers of that kind, it will nullify—
§ Earl WINTERTON
I would like to remind the hon. Member that, under the Rules of this House, I shall be prevented from replying to that point, because it deals with a Bill at present before the other place. The matter can be dealt with only by legislation. I would warn him that it is a matter of legislation, and not of administration.
§ Mr. PILCHER
I am very grateful for the explanation. The matter is one of such very great importance that I felt it necessary to mention it.
§ Mr. PILCHER
In my reading of the Act the Commission is to be assigned such powers for rule-making and so forth as the Secretary of State may—
§ Earl WINTERTON
I am sorry to interrupt again. Let me explain what is the situation. it is quite true that the Commission can be set up under the Act. What the hon. Member is asking me to do is to make an alteration in a Bill which is at present before the other place. I could not give him an answer on that point, because it is a matter which requires legislation, and is now before the other place.
§ Mr. PILCHER
May I make a brief explanation? I was not asking for an alteration in the Bill, but for an assurance that the rule-making power would not be utilised in the way suggested in the recommendation of the Lee Report—a way which would practically nullify the express provisions of the Bill now before Parliament. The great thing is that I have drawn the attention of the Secretary 667 of State to the subject. There were one or two topics referred to by the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), to which I wish to refer. It is possible that not many Members of this House have been in India recently, and they have had to sit under these rather inexact criticisms and misunderstandings of the position in that country, and I know from long experience that the British in India, and Indians also, are a little restive under some of the suggestions which fall so extraordinarily wide of the mark, as do some of the suggestions of the right hon. Member for Neweastle-under-Lyme. One of his suggestions was that the time was ripe for a great extension of the franchise in India. The province which he selected as evidence of the success of the constitutional experiment in India was Burma. This is what happened at the election for the Burma constituency for the Imperial Assembly. There were 33,157 voters on the roll and 8,848 votes polled. Personally, I was very much surprised to find that as many as 24 per cent. of the votes had been registered. All over India, what you are getting in the elections is that from 25 to 35 per cent. of all the registered voters are exercising their franchise. You have extended the electorate from 40,000 to 6,000,000 or 6.500,000, and at the same time you have made no parallel extension of the educational system. The vote is being exercised only by an incredible minority, and it is perfect madness to suggest that we should now give a great extension of elective powers to the Indian population.
Had it been permitted, I would have liked to have drawn attention to the education problem. On this subject may I put a most pointed question? What is being done in regard to recommendations such as those of the Sadler Commission? Six or seven years ago that Commission issued a Report which was voluminous and extraordinarily interesting. So far as I can ascertain, absolutely no action has been taken on it. So far as numbers are concerned, you have in Calcutta the largest university in the world, on the old London model, with some 25,000 undergraduates. It has become a positive factory of political and social discontent. The Sadler Commission indicated in detail the lines of a 668 process whereby the non-university type of student of the matriculation and intermediate type should be withdrawn from the curriculum of the university and assigned a secondary school status, and whereby that university could be given some of the real functions of a university, as understood in this country. As far as I can ascertain, not one single step has been taken to carry out those reforms. The old process is still going on; you still maintain a mainly English system of education in a number of subjects which have no relationship whatever to the economic and social conditions amid which the students are to pass their after life.
Apart from Calcutta, all over India you now have a mushroom growth of new universities framed on almost exactly the same lines. I would like to know how many of these new universities are now in embryo or have been started, and whether some consideration cannot be given to this educational problem in its relation to the economic condition of India. I anticipate that the answer will be that this is a transferred subject. But surely the Indian Government still has some influence over Provincial Governments and their Ministers through the Imperial Education Department acting by and with the governors. Surely some pressure can be brought to bear so as to give a new direction to the educational trend.
I will mention one other point in the speech of the right hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme. He alluded to what he conceived to be the great superiority of Members of this House or of gentlemen with an English political training, as Governors of Indian provinces, compared with members of the official classes in India. I would draw the attention of the House to the extraordinary success which has within the last few months been achieved in the Punjab by Sir Malcolm Hailey in the solution of what, even two or three years ago, appeared to be the entirely insoluble religious problems of the Sikh race—problems, the abortive efforts to deal with which were embittering relations between the British and even the military Sikhs. Those who know anything about the Sikh problem first hand will realise the extraordinary extent to which that nation, and 669 even its military components, were becoming undermined by the difficulty, and how hopeless the task appeared.
The thanks of this House are due to Sir Malcolm Hailey and to Lord Reading, who appointed him to the Governorship of the Punjab, for the measure of success achieved, thanks to Sir Malcolm Hailey's firmness and tact, in bringing the Sikh people to a more reasonable point of view. The whole success or failure of the Governor of an Indian province depends, indeed, on the type of man, wherever he is and wherever he may have had his training. The great Services in India are still producing men as good as the great Lawrences or any of their principal products of the past. Lord Ronaldshay, a former Member of this House, was as great a success in Belgal as Sir Malcolm Hailey in the Punjab, and I offer my protest against the assumption or the imputation that all the good work in India is done by men of one class appointed from this country. One of the most satisfactory features of the new regime at the India Office has been the new encouragement given to the members of the great Indian Services. I hope as time goes on they will receive more, and not lees, recognition from the Secretary of State and from the British House of Commons.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Unlike other hon. Members who have spoken, I have no direct knowledge of India. I have never been in India, not even for a holiday, although I hope to go there this year on a mission of inquiry. My excuse for intervening in this discussion is that I represent in this House a city which is directly affected by the industrial conditions in India, and I believe that unless the industrial conditions in competing countries that are in our markets can be raised, there is no hope for the working classes in our own land. I was glad to see a report of a speech by the Minister of Labour the other day, in which he said that it was only by getting better conditions adopted abroad that we can be safeguarded against those countries which can take advantage of our better conditions.
I disagree absolutely with the remarks of the last speaker, when he deprecated any interference with the franchise conditions 670 in India before the expiration of the balance of the 10 years still to run. Unless we give India a democratic franchise, unless the people of India are given the right fully to govern themselves, this House and the people of this country must take whatever responsibility attaches to the fact that we have refused that right. To-day, for the Legislative Assembly franchise, the working man in India must pay Income Tax upon 2,000 rupees a year, with the rupee at 1s. 6d. That means that he must have an income of £150 a year, or he gets no vote. No industrial worker on these terms can get the franchise. It is idle for anybody in this House to say that we are not going to interfere with the political conditions in India, that we are not going to widen the franchise for another six or 10 years, so long as these conditions obtain. The people of India are going to get the franchise in spite of us, and it will become us far better to take time by the forelock and to sit down calmly and reasonably and come to terms with the Indian people, so that not merely the middle class man, not merely the exploiting classes, but the working man and the working women of India should have the franchise. What is the agricultural franchise in India? So far as I can understand it, no one has a vote on the agricultural franchise unless he pays 75 rupees per annum of land taxes. In other words, only the bigger proprietors, only one in six under the agricultural franchise, can have the vote.
There are separate constituencies in the Legislative Assembly. The mill-owners have a constituency, the Chamber of Commerce has a constituency, the European inhabitants have a separate constituency, but there is no Labour separate constituency. There are 140 members of the Legislative Assembly and of these the Government of India nominates the Labour representative. One Labour representative out of 140 may be said to represent the working classes of that country. I do not deny that there are members of the Legislative Assembly who support this Labour representative. There are Swarajists, three or four of them, who support the Labour representative. The fact is that there is only one direct representative of Labour in the Legislative Assembly, and he is not elected but only nominated by the Government of India. 671 At this time of day to pretend that a situation of that sort is going to persist is to ask this House and the people of this country to agree to a political farce that they will not be inclined to agree to any longer. Of the 140 members of the Legislative Assembly, 25 are Government officials, and 15 are nominated, one of whom is a Labour representative. The other hundred are elected on a rotten class franchise which prevents the working classes having the vote. It is true what the right hon. Gentleman who initiated the discussion said, that in Assam the Government actually nominated as the Labour representative a gentleman who is a big planter in his own right, a man who has 5,000 acres and who employs an enormous quantity of labour. He is a member of the Planters' Association, and the Government actually had the face to nominate that man as the Labour representative.
What are the results of this class kind of Government; the results for which we must take the responsibility, so long as we maintain them? The last hon. Member who spoke claimed that in Bombay great reforms had taken place, and great improvements had been made. There is evidently room for some further improvement in Bombay, for I read of 16 people living in a single room. I read of slums so foul and so stinking that they horrify even visitors from this country who are cognisant of the slums of Glasgow and Dundee. Anyone who has read H. G. Weil's "Passionate Friend" will remember the unforgettable picture he paints there of the slums of Bombay. Yet we have hon. Members getting up in this House and boasting about the great reforms that our administrators have been able to secure there. I am informed that the rents in Bombay—most of my information is official, I may say, should any hon. Member dispute it—are 15 rupees per month, while the wages are 30 rupees per month. Half a man's wages goes in rent. It cannot be done. What happens? A man comes in from the country to Bombay. He arranges with 15 or 16 of his fellow sufferers, who, like himself, are looking for a job in Bombay, and they join to hire a room. They have no money, and they have to go to the moneylenders to tide them over until the first pay day comes.
672 I wish the hon. Member who spoke last had told the House that these poor devils in Bombay do not get wages at the end of the week, nor at the end of a fortnight, nor at the end of three weeks, nor even at the end of a month, although they are supposed to be paid monthly. After the first month they have to wait a further fortnight, so that it is 42 days before these poor devils get any pay from the millowners. How do they live during those 42 days? They have no money. They have to go to the oldest institution in the word, the money-lender, and the money-lender charges from 75 to 300 per cent. At the end of the six weeks, these poor fellows start to pay off the moneylenders. How, out of a wage of 30 rupees at 1s. 6d. per rupee, does any hon. Member think that these poor fellows are left any purchasing power? I asked the Under-Secretary for India some time ago to give me the rate of wages paid in the factories in Bengal. He told me that the last figures he had were for 1922, and that the coolies there were getting .65 of a rupee per day. That is, 10d. a day wages, or 5s. a week, if they work the whole six days in the week. What sort of purchasing power have these people? They have no purchasing power.
I asked the Noble Lord not how these people live, because I cannot see how they do live, but how they die. After an error, which was not due to his fault but to his Department, he told me in a letter dated the 24th February, that in the Bombay municipality the infant mortality for the year 1921—an exceptional year, as I will explain—was 667 per 1,000 children born. In other words, two children out of every three perish before they reach the age of 12 months. In a normal year, not in a year of great epidemics, when things are running smoothly under our administration, or under the administration which some hon. Members have entered this house to boast about, in 1922 the infantile death rate was 403 per thousand, in 1923 it was 411, and in 1924 419. That is the worst infantile death rate in the world, so far as I know. There may be worse, but I do not know of it. In London, Christiania, and other places where we can ascertain the death rates the infantile mortality is very much lower than that. I read the other day a report of a speech by His Excellency the Governor of Bombay, who was Chief Whip of the last Conservative Government, Sir Leslie 673 Wilson. He will not be accused by hon. Members opposite of drawing the long bow. He will not be accused of inciting to class warfare. On the 23rd January, 1925, he is reported in the "Indian Daily Mail" as going into all these figures of infantile mortality. He said:In 1921 the infant mortality was 606 per 1,000. To-day the numbers are better but they are still at the very high figure of 400 per 1,000. Compare this with other great cities in. the world, Vienna 146, Berlin 135, New York 71, London 80.He then goes on to say:Do we realise how great is the task before us to do everything which lies in our power to help practical measures to better a position which is not a reproach to the mothers themselves"—he does not blame the mothers—but a reproach to the society which allows it.The society which allows it is a society for which this House has hitherto been and to-day is now responsible. The conditions are better in Calcutta. There are lower wages there, but the cost of living is lower. In Assam the conditions are worse. The pay is 10 rupees a month for men, at 1s. 6d. a rupee, or 15s. a month, and six rupees a month for women, or 9s. a month. Those conditions prevail in what is called the tea garden, run by British capital, controlled by British people, and tolerated by this House. The Factory Acts, to which the hon. Member who last spoke made reference, still permit children of 12 years of age to work in the factories, still the hours are 60 per week, still the hours are 11 per day.
Surely, if anything condemns our refusal to give Indians control of their own affairs, it is this, that the working classes in India, unless one or two, here and there, cannot read or write. We have not given them an education. Only 10 per cent. all over the country can read or write, and that includes Englishmen, Scotchmen, Welshmen, Irishmen, and foreigners of all kinds. When the Noble Lord in another place the other day said that we no longer held the gorgeous East in fee, he forgot to make any reference to the fact that every thinking citizen of this country hangs his head in shame when he realises that, after all these years of British control in India, practically no working man or woman is enabled to read or write, that they are sunk in the abyss 674 of poverty and wretchedness, and that their infants are massacred at a rate that Herod never knew. I am distressed, indeed, when I find hon. Members of this House, who know the commercial side of it and the industrial side of it, making speeches here, and not one of them making any reference whatever to these horrible tragedies, of which the figures and the facts are indisputable.
It is true that the coal mines of India have a maximum working week, but the hours of labour per day can be anything you like. There is no limit per day, and you can work 16 hours per day, and occasionally, although this is an Irishism, 36 hours per day-36 hours at a stretch. A man may take down his wife and family to help him to work, and when hon. Members protest against this and ask questions about it in this House, they are told that the Indian does not want to leave his wife at the mercy of other Indians up above; he has to take her with him. I say that that is an insult to the Indian people, and it is an insult to the people of this country who are fobbed off with arguments of that kind. As the right hon. Gentleman who initiated this discussion said, India is now alone, among all the nations in the world, where the women are allowed to go down into the bowels of the earth to earn a living. There is workmen's compensation, but for accidents only; there are no payments for sickness, no old age pensions, no unemployment benefit, no poor relief, and no Truck Acts. Even these miserable wages are subject to fines, and when the Government of India was recently asked to make inquiry into the extent of these fines, which would be stopped here by legislation, the Government refused even to inquire into the extent. We ask for an inquiry into the labour conditions of India, and we ask for a full inquiry. It was 16 years ago since the last inquiry took place, and if the facts which I have cited cannot be disputed, I submit that this House ought to insist, for its own dignity, for the sake of the British people, who send us here, that a full inquiry should take place at once.
The hon. Member who spoke last referred to the extraordinary competition from Japan which was taking place in our Indian markets. That is absolutely true, 675 and I think he was quite right to call attention to it, and to the fact that Japan can get her cotton in India, take her cotton from India to Japan, weave it there, send it back into the Indian market, and beat even the slave labour of India. I think we will have to take steps internationally to deal with these conditions, whether they are in Japan, India, London, or anywhere else; we will require to insist upon certain minimum standards of civilisation, or we will require to boycott the products of this sweated labour from the civilised markets of the world. If we will stop the transport of sweated goods inside this country, if we will attempt to deal with the home sweater, we must also deal internationally, through the League of Nations, through the International Labour Office, or anywhere else you like, with the international sweater. We must, in other words, internationalise our Fair Wages Clause and our fair wages conditions. Capital is international. The labour charters, the labour defences, which seek to preserve minimum standards of civilisation from the sweater, must follow capital, or we here at home are beaten too.
Let me give the House a few figures. They are official, and I got them from the Overseas Trade Department. In India in 1914 there were 6,084,378 spindles, and in 1925 there were 8,313,000 spindles. The number has gone up by almost 2,000,000. Looms had risen from 94,136 to 151,485. plus the hand looms, which are innumerable and have not been counted. The bales of cotton consumed in the mills in Britain during that period fell from 4,350,000 to 2,750,000, while our consumption of cotton, measured by bales, in India is rising, and the jute production is rising, because cheaper labour is obtained there than in this country. Capital goes there, not for its health, not for the scenery, not because it likes to go to India; British capitalists are going there because they get cheaper labour, because they are not fettered by the legislation with which we fetter their ravages here, and they are moving further East now, because you impose a 60 hours' limit upon them in India, as you have done since the Washington Convention. In that connection, I pay this tribute to the Government and to the mine owners of 676 India, that they are about the only country in the world that has fulfilled to the letter the obligations contracted under the Washington Convention. They have fulfilled their 60 hours week.
Capital is moving east to India and to China. There is cheaper labour there, and it will move to Patagonia next, it will move to anywhere where it can exploit and reap profits, and we have to follow. When electricity was introduced to the jute mills in 1896 in India, the working day was increased to 15 hours, because electricity was introduced, and Saturday was included. This involved the workers in cleaning and repairing the machinery on the Sunday. It compelled them to work on a Sunday at a time when those of us who come from Scotland were contributing our pennies on the Sunday to send our missionaries to India to see that the poor heathen would observe the Lord's Day "to keep it holy." The working-class representatives in this House and in every trades council in the land have got to begin to pay more attention to the operations of our British capitalists abroad than they have been doing in the past, and, apart altogether from that we ought to insist upon a square deal for the Indian labourer, we ought to see that he, as well as his exploiters, has the franchise. The working man and the working woman of India must get the franchise; they must, as we say in Scotland, he given the freedom to make a kirk or a mill; they must have the right to guide their own destinies. Whatever faults or mistakes are made afterwards, we then do not have the full responsibility for them. They must get the franchise, and we must see to it that these inhuman, barbarous conditions of labour to which I have just referred shall, so far as this House is concerned, be abolished.
§ Sir FRANK NELSON
On the all too rare occasions on which we are enabled to debate in this House subjects relating to India, I think that the fear must be uppermost in the minds of all of us who have pursued our lawful occasions in India, that our remarks may savour of the dogmatic, or tend perhaps to pedantry on the subjects on which we may think, quite naturally, we know so much. I was thinking, while the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston), who has just sat down, was speaking, of the 677 almost impossible task that he sets us, in the limits imposed upon a speech in this Committee, of endeavouring to bring home to him—and I hope he will believe that I shall endeavour to bring home to him in all sincerity—how very unjust it is to assume that anyhow we Europeans, who have lived our lives in India, do not know, realise, and pity the people who live in the conditions that he has outlined, and how unjust it is to say that we do nothing, and have done nothing, to attempt to improve them.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I want to make it perfectly clear that I did not say that. I went further, and said it was to the credit of the mineowners of India and of the Government of India that they were the only country in the world that had fulfilled to the letter the bond of the Washington Convention.
§ Sir F. NELSON
I beg the hon. Member's pardon, but it would have been better had I said that I gathered the imputation that we were not perhaps pulling our weight towards, as he put it, having an inquiry and having the whole position of Indian labour looked into. I could only wish that it had been possible for him to have given me notice that he was raising this particular question, for, unfortunately, I have not by me the details which I could give him, and I hesitate to guess or to give them without being sure of them, but we know that a former Member of this House, the right hon. Gentleman who sat for Eastbourne (Sir George Lloyd), and who is now going out to Egypt, was responsible for an expenditure of no less than £10,000,000 on what is known as the Bombay Development Scheme, the greater part of which was destined to work to the improvement of Indian labour in that town, in which I have lived for so long. A part of that £10,000,000 was to be expended in 50,000 working-class tenements. I will ask the hon. Member to believe also that the question of paying a native of India's wages a month or five or six weeks after they are due is an immemorial custom.
I am talking of Bombay because Bombay has been mentioned. In the neighbourhood of Bombay Presidency, it is, as I say, the immemorial custom, and I am perfectly sure the hon. Member who 678 has just spoken will believe that, when you set out to alter immemorial customs, you are up against a most extraordinary problem, with which it is almost impossible for me to deal without adequate notice. But I know in what I am about to say I shall get his support, because I propose to take a little further the argument put forward by one of the previous speakers of my own party, and that is the injustice of the present Excise duty on all cotton manufactures in India. This is a direct tax upon the clothing of the masses, and, therefore, I feel confident I shall get the support of my friends on my right above the Gangway. But I have a very piquant task to perform, and a task which, perhaps, could not be well undertaken at a more inopportune moment, having regard to the Excise duty which my own party has just imposed upon silk. But I think I can show that the conditions are entirely different.
May I, for a very few moments, take the Committee through the history of this Excise tax? It was put on in 1896, and, as was admitted at that time by a then finance member of the Government of India, it was put on, not by the then Government of India, but at the direct request of the Secretary of State. His exact words were:I cannot help thinking that the Government of India is placed in some difficulty in defending the provisions of a Bill which they have professedly brought forward as imposed upon them by conditions required by the Secretary of State.Ever since this imposition, it has been the subject of the most tremendous and deep-seated criticism, and bitter resentment among the people of India. I will not carry the Committee through all the intervening years, but in 1916 Lord Hardinge, who was then Viceroy of India, said:I need hardly say that the Government of India have no desire to create controversies here, in England or elsewhere at the present time by the discussion of questions affecting Indian interests; but they are glad to have had the opportunity of placing on official record their views that the import duty on cotton fabrics should be raised, and that the Excise duty should for the present remain at its actual figure, and an assurance given that it will be abolished as soon as financial conditions will permit.In 1917 this subject was debated in this House in connection with India's contribution 679 to the War, which was £100,000,000, and, in the course of that Debate, the present Foreign. Secretary alluded to this Excise duty as "an open and a running sore," and at the same time said:It has been the theme of every seditious writer; not only that, it rankles as an injustice and an indignity in the mind of every loyal Indian who cares about these things."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 11th May, 1917; col. 1153, Vol. 41.]Also during that Debate, the then Prime Minister the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) also in the very strongest terms condemned it, and suggested that it should be taken off at the earliest possible opportunity. I do suggest that this would be the most opportune time for a gesture of what I might call goodwill towards the labouring masses of India, whose case has been so eloquently pleaded by the speaker who has just sat down, because on them, to a large extent, rests the burden of this 3i per cent. Excise Duty. I admit, of course, there is the other side of the case. Lancashire will say, What are you going to do about us? I do not know whether we shall ever agree upon figures, but I think it might be very truly said that a very small percentage only of Lancashire exports to India are really in direct competition with the product or output of Indian mills. It has been said that about 2 per cent. comes into direct competition, but we will not differ as to whether it is 2 or 4 per cent. Anyhow, it is a very small percentage, and I do submit, from Lancashire's point of view, that this gesture, if they would subscribe to it would put such goodwill into the minds of the people of India, that. I feel absolutely confident the result would be an increase in Lancashire's exports, rather than a diminution.
The Japanese competition is such, that it is almost impossible to believe, unless the Committee allow me to give them one or two figures. As another hon. Member has said, Japanese shippers of cotton, especially Indian cotton, take it to Ozaka. They weave it, or spin it, as the case may be, they ship it back to India, they pay duty when it comes back into India at the rate of 5 per cent. on yarn and 11 per cent. on cloth, and yet 680 they are able to undersell the Indian mills to a very considerable extent. I submit that Bombay is employing at the moment over 300,000 mill hands, and probably 400,000 would be the total for all India. The Indian cotton industry at the moment is in very, very deep and very dangerous water. The competition of Japan is such that nothing is more likely than that a wholesale stoppage of work in the Indian cotton mills may take place. Therefore, I feel sure, as I have said before, that rather than run any risk of this happening to these 350,000 mill hands, I know I shall have the support of most Members above the Gangway in the gesture that this. 3½ per cent. Excise Duty should be taken off. Japan at the present time has about 5,000.000 spindles and India has—I do not quite agree with the figures of the hon. Member who spoke earlier—about 8,000.000 spindles, and yet both consume about the same amount of cotton.
That is probably the best instance I can give of the intensive competition of Japan, as regards hours of labour. The Japanese mills work two shifts, making 22 hours a day, and also employ women labour. The imports of yarn from Japan to India in 1914 were 900,000 lbs., and in the ten months ending the 31st January, 1925, 28,800,000 lbs. The imports of Japanese piece-goods into India in 1914 averaged 3.000,000 yards. For the ten months ending 31st January. 1925, the figure was 128.000.000 yards. I think I have said enough on this subject to carry the Committee with, me, putting aside the Lancashire point of view, which I know I cannot carry with me. I do submit, if ever there were a time politically, morally or practically that this 3½ per cent. Excise Duty should be lifted, now is it that this House should express some kind of opinion upon it, and we should probably see the Government of India fall in with our view and lift it at the earliest possible opportunity. A very distinguished Indian gentleman, who is at present in this country, told me only the other day, a fact I knew very well myself, that, rightly or wrongly, it is said throughout India that no Conservative Government has ever done anything really good for India. I make a perfectly frank appeal to my own party, that this is the most excellent 681 opportunity they can have of holding out the hand of Conservative friendship to India in this particular connection.
Passing on, very naturally, from that, I should like to direct the attention of the Committee for a moment or two to another very anomalous fact in regard to India, and that is the export of Indian cotton. The average Indian crop is, roughly, about 5,000,000 bales every year, of which we export generally over an average of five years, about 1,500,000 annually to Japan, about 150,000 bales annually to China, about 150,000 bales annually to Belgium, France and now to Germany, and all that we export, taking a rough average for the last five years, to Great Britain, is 100,000 bales. It surely is, I think, a great anomaly. I know that the Lancashire spinner is conservative, but I think he will allow me to tell him that in India the Indian mills produce about 200,000,000 lbs. of yarn from 21's to over 40's. India grows at least 1,500,000 bales which could be used for those counts, and which is, therefore, suitable for Lancashire, and I have never been able to understand, and I do not even now begin to understand, why it is that, with cotton improvements going on as they are in India from year to year, when the Central Indian Cotton Committee is undertaking large experiments, when India is able to produce good long staple cotton, and can produce what is known as Punjab-American, of one-inch staple we cannot provide this country with more of its cotton, because we are going ahead in India in cotton production very strongly indeed. The Sukkur Barrage or, to give it is proper name, the Lloyd Barrage, taking the name from the one-time Governor of Bombay, once a member of this House, to whose initiative and driving force this, the largest thing of its kind in the world, is due, will, during the next 10 years, bring 3,000,000 acres of waste, which was known as the Sind desert, into cultivation, and probably most of it will come under cotton cultivation. That will mean, as the years go on, as far as is humanly forseeable, an immense increase in the output of Indian cotton. I look forward, probably not so much with hope as with pleading to those who have anything to say in this matter in Lancashire, to see whether they cannot do more in this direction to ensure that the flow of Indian cotton shall come to 682 the mother country, rather than go to foreign countries, which at the moment are taking the greater part of the export.
I do not think that I shall be trenching upon a subject which ought not, with propriety, to be touched upon in this Debate, if I allude to the fact that I understand, in a few months, an Exchange Commission will be formed, and will be sent to India to examine the position of the Indian exchange. A very well-known Indian Finance Minister, Sir Fleetwood Wilson, once described the Indian Budget as a gamble in rain, and, to a very large extent, although, of course, irrigation has carried us on each year, it is still largely a gamble in rain, for with a bad monsoon the tendency is naturally for the exchange to fall, and, in a good year, when there are bumper crops, and our exports in India largely exceed our imports, the tendency, naturally, is to rise. I would ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for India to believe that this Commission is going to have a most extraordinarily difficult task. Not only will it be a very difficult task to suggest a stable exchange standard for India at a time when we are very far from being settled as to the world's exchanges and as to the prices of the precious metals; this Commission will be, as it were, from its very inception politically pregnant. Deep down in the hearts of the Indian—I will not call it a fallacy, but it is an economic argument pursued with great heat by all the experts, and the Indians hold it very strongly—is the idea that in an export country a low exchange is in its favour and a high exchange is not. The moment the Commission sets foot in India—and I hope it will spend some time there—the members will find that what confronts them is not only a commercial but a political problem of the very highest magnitude. I also hope that my hon. Friends will allow me at this juncture to suggest, with all possible deference, that, whatever it does, the Commission will, if possible, visit America, where the members will possibly get the best possible advice on various matters, and then that they should not only go to India but should tour India; take Indian opinion, go to Bombay, Calcutta, Amritsa, Simla, go right through India, and discover what really is thought and wanted before they advise, or suggest, to the Secretary of State or to the Governor-General as 683 to what exchange standard should eventually be suggested for India.
Let me deal, very briefly, with some of the wider aspects of our constitution in India. We who have so recently come home know that at heart India and the Indians are absolutely sound. We know-perfectly well that it is only a question of time before this very controversial question of what the constitution is going to be will be settled. We believe—I ask hon. Members sitting about me to believe—that the Europeans in India are doing their utmost, with all the sincerity in their power, to make the reforms a success and to help them to work. Many European residents in India are gradually beginning to realise that they can take their part in Indian, politics without making a business of politics, whilst at the same time realising the politics of business. It means that the European is increasingly, year by year, endeavouring to take his part in Indian politics. At the same time they realise, those of them who worked out there, what incalculable and immeasurable harm any observations in this House made—and I say this with all possible deference—by people with insufficient knowledge of the conditions out there, or with insufficient accuracy, may do. Incalculable harm may be done not only to British rule in India, but also to the people about whom hon. Members above the Gangway are so anxious, the Indian labouring classes. I feel absolutely confident in saying that we must go on treading the road to self-government out there and extending each to the other both British and Indian the courtesies of the road, but at the same time recognising that that road has in it a great many pitfalls.
It is, therefore, absolutely essential that nothing shall be said in this House either from careless or from want of knowledge which might in any way exacerbate the feelings of certain parties in India which do not see eye to eye with the Government. If hon. Members will take the assurance of one who has so recently returned from living in that country, perhaps they will believe that we are not quite so bad as they would think. We really do think of the interests of India and have the interests of the Indians at heart. At the same time, I would have hon. Members believe that 684 there is no short cut to a self-governing democracy in that huge country. You must inevitably, to build securely, build slowly. I am confident that if we build slowly it will only be with the united help of all parties in this House. I am perfectly confident that the words of the Secretary of State for India, given in another place the other day, are to the point.We shall not be niggardly in bargaining if we are met with that generous friendship which is so near and dear to our hearts.I have only one word to say, in conclusion, and that with no sense of direct criticism. Perhaps I might quote a few further lines from the speech of the Secretary of State for India:if our critics in India are of opinion that their greater knowledge of Indian conditions "—This was also alluded to by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle - under - Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) who initiated this Debate—qualifies them to succeed, where they tell us that we have failed, let them produce a constitution which carrier behind it a fair measure of general agreement among the great peoples of India. Such a contribution to our problem, would nowhere be resented. It would, on the contrary, be most carefully examined by myself, and I am sure by the Commission whenever that body may be assembled.I fully endorse that. but I do sincerely trust, with all deference, that it will not raise false hopes in the breasts of any particular party in India, for I cannot conceive how any scheme at the moment could have a fair measure of general agreement amongst the peoples of India. I do not know how you are going to arrive at a conclusion as to whether the scheme has or has not the support of a large portion of the Indian people. Rightly or wrongly, in India, where I have many friends who are politicians—and I hope I shall continue to have them—there is a noisy minority of politicians in no way representing the Indian people, or who in any way put forward the views of the Indian people. These may put forward a scheme which may possibly induce the Secretary of State, or someone else, to think that there is in them a certain worthy aim. I doubt if any scheme which may be put forward and considered important enough to merit examination in method and in detail by 685 the Secretary of State, is likely to be brought forward before 1929, the year in which the Statutory Commission undertakes this very heavy task of reporting as to whether the present measure of self-government in India should be extended, modified, or restricted.
§ Mr. FISHER
I do not think that the House has any reason to regret the large share of discussion which has been taken up with the consideration of the economic problem, especially since our speakers have been so highly instructed. I am not competent to follow them into that field. My reason for intervening in the discussion is that six years ago I was associated with the Secretary of State for India in procuring the passage of the Government of India Act through this House. Now that the Montagu-Chelmsford Constitution, as one may call it, is the subject of so much controversy, and now that it is currently stated that the Constitution is unworkable, if it has not completely broken down, I should like to be allowed to offer a few observations upon the Act in its relation to the problem of Indian Government. The author of the Act is no longer with us. Mr. Montagu was a statesman with a passionate faith in the political destiny of India. He loved India. He believed in India. He took risks for India. He has an enduring place in the political memory of a sensitive race, always ready to recognise a friend and to acknowledge the promptings of a large and generous imagination.
It is worth while, however, I think, reminding the House that, although the Government of India Act would not have been passed in its present shape without the faith and driving force of Mr. Montagu, the principle upon which that Act was founded was settled by the Cabinet in August, 1917. It devolved upon Mr. Montagu to give to that principle the clothing of an Act of Parliament. Those who attack the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms as constituting a vast innovation are, in my opinion, perfectly right. Those reforms do constitute a vast innovation. When I was in India in 1912–13–14 there was not a single Indian politician who would wager a rupee on the chance of a scheme so generous and so far-reaching being carried through in so short a time. What do the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms really mean? Apart from the acceleration of the Indianisation of the services, 686 those reforms go far beyond the recommendation of the Report of the Islington Commission, upon which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald) and I sat. Apart from that, these reforms entrust to Indian Ministers responsible to the Indian electorate the control of the whole range of social services in the country. The Government have said, in effect, to the political classes in India, "everything which touches the real life and prosperity of the Indian people is yours—the schools and colleges the farms and factories, the forests, the irrigation system, the system of public health, the whole fate of your people is henceforth in your hands. All these services are transferred to you. The security services, the cost of which will be stationary if it does not diminish, we propose for the present to keep in our own hands." The cost may be stationary, possibly it may diminish. I mention these fundamental facts because in many quarters of India there is an extraordinary disposition to attenuate the magnitude of the change which was made, and the character of the opportunity which was offered. We hear talk of Swaraj. Every young enthusiastic Indian student regards Swaraj as the golden dream of the future, but in effect Swaraj, or self-government, in the most important range of national activities is already afforded to the Indian people under the Government of India Act. I am very glad to find that the Secretary of State, in the important speech which he delivered the other day in another place, does not contemplate any reversal of the important reforms which were carried out by the Coalition Government in 1913 Those of us who were associated in the passage of the Government of India Act always realised that there were three indispensable conditions for its successful working. The first, of course, was good will. That postulated the co-operation of Indians and Englishmen in the task of carrying on Parliamentary government in India. The second condition was a Government surplus. It was difficult to suppose that the Act would work smoothly unless the Ministers in charge of the Civil Services were equipped with funds with which to finance their policy. The third was such a condition of 687 economic prosperity as would enable progress to be made in every department of social welfare.
I need not remind the Committee that not one of those conditions was realised. The Act was launched under the most unfavourable conditions. Prices were high; the cost of living prohibitive. There was disturbance in the Punjab. The whole Moslem population in India was in the throes of the Kalifate agitation. There were chronic deficits. There was an adverse balance of trade, and, above all, there was a widespread non-co-operation movement. In other words, the Act could not have been launched in an atmosphere more unfavourable to its successful working. My contention is that the Government of India Act has not yet had a fair trial; that Indian Ministers have had no money to work with; that the provinces have been burdened by heavy financial contributions to the Central Government; that trade has been bad; that in some provinces an extreme faction aiming at the complete exclusion of the British from India have captured the machinery of government. Under those circumstances, although I agree that the Constitution may probably be amended in certain details—and I think that the Majority Report of the Muddiman Committee does point to certain respects in which amendments might profitably be introduced without waiting for the conclusion of the decennial period: one is that some representation should be accorded to factory labour and to the depressed classes—I venture to submit to the House that the Constitution should be given a further trial before any question arises of a large and comprehensive consttutional change.
I know it is sometimes said that diarchy is essentially unworkable and that the sooner we put an end to diarchy the better. My reply to that is very simple. I say that if we in Great Britain hold that there are certain branches of public policy upon which for the present, at any rate, we think it necessary to have the last word, and that there are certain other branches of public policy upon which we are willing that Indians should have the last word, then, whatever the particular form of the Constitution is, you have in effect diarchy; you have a division of responsibility. 688 If you say to India, 'take over responsibility here and leave us responsibility there,' that is, in effect, diarchy, a difficult system to work, an anomalous system to work, a system almost impossible to work without easy financial conditions; nevertheless, not an impossible system to work, as the example in Madras and some other provinces proves.
Let me be quite frank. If the system has failed, it has broken down because of the opposition of Indian statesmen who wish to discredit the plan of divided responsibility in order to replace it by a system in which India would have the whole responsibility. 'India without the English' is their idea. If all Indian statesmen held to that idea, and if indeed it be true that there is no one in Indian political life who does not desire at the earliest possible moment the exclusion of the British from India, then diarchy or any other Parliamentary system which implies the cooperation of European and Indian is bound to fail. I agree with the hon. Member (Sir F. Nelson), who has just addressed us with so much knowledge of the recent Indian position, that the non-co-operators do not represent the best part of the political mind of India. The movement is in reality a passing phase of emotion. We have already signs that it is languishing. Mr. Das, who was, I take it, the most influential political leader in India, practically abandoned the attitude before his death and expressed himself willing to enter into more cordial relations with the British Government. For this reason, I want to see the system of the Government of India Act tried out. It was admittedly experimental, but what was the experiment?
The Act was introduced to test a thesis, and the thesis was the belief that there was in India, or that there could be found in India, a body of wide, sagacious, patriotic Indian politicians, who, recognising the cardinal factors of the political situation in India, the necessity for the British Army, the necessity of a British element in the Civil Service, the necessity of law and order and security as conditions of industrial prosperity and advance, would be willing to co-operate with the British in working Parliamentary institutions. That is the thesis 689 which the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms was to test, and that is the thesis which, I believe, they will end by establishing. I do not wish for a moment to deprecate consideration of a constitutional suggestion put forward by responsible and patriotic Indian statesmen. In my view, the only real alternative to the diarchical system is a plan which, on the one hand, grants full autonomy, and on the other hand strengthens the principle of authority in the Government of India. That plan would be a revolution. I see immense difficulty in carrying out a project of that kind, but I venture to say that if such a proposal were put forward it would take years before the constitution could be set into working.
I should like to say a word about the public services. An efficient public service is more important under our present system than it was under our late system. The fewer Englishmen who go out to India the more important it is that they should be first-rate. The work, of course, has changed in its character. Many Englishmen will be called upon to serve under Indian Ministers, and Indian Commissioners. What a change since the days of the great Lord Lawrence, who never allowed an Indian, even if he was a reigning chief, to he seated in his presence. I gather from the Report of the Lee Commission that young men who have recently gone out in the Civil Service in India find their work interesting and instructive and are content. The Government have happily adopted the recommendations of the Lee Report. It is my view, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will confirm it, that the financial conditions offered to young men from our universities who desire to make their lives in India are sufficiently attractive to justify responsible advisers in urging them to go out. I do not think that every type of Englishman will find the present conditions in India congenial. There is a great difference between temperament and temperament in the matter of susceptibility to racial differences, differences felt by Indians as well as by Englishmen, but I Believe, and I hope that I may be confirmed by my Noble Friend, that an able young Englishman, who has a sense of humour, who is not affected by racial prejudice, and has equanimity and ability, can still find a congenial and 690 honourable career in the service of India. I hope the Noble Lord may find time to say a word about the Public Service Commission. The whole position seems a little nebulous, and I should be grateful if he could throw some light upon it.
I confess that, after these four dark years, the sky seems somewhat lighter in India. Political animosities are abating, the Budget is at last balanced, trade has improved, and it is possible—and here, again, I hope the Noble Lord will be able to confirm this—that within a very few years the whole burden of the provincial contributions to the Government of India will be taken off the shoulders of the Provincial Governments. What does this mean? It means that we are now only just approaching those general economic and financial conditions in India, the presence of which was from the first deemed essential to the full and effective working of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, and that I regard as a very strong argument against any large change at the present moment.
§ Earl WINTERT0N
A close relative of mine, who once occupied the position which I now occupy, and was afterwards Secretary of State for India, on taking office as a young man met a distinguished Liberal statesman—I forget whether it was Mr. Bright or Mr. Gladstone—who said to him: "You are going to the very best office for the training of a young man. You are dealing with a subject which very few Members of the House of Commons know or care much about. You will almost invariably address empty benches. If any of your colleagues come into the House and discover what is under discussion, they will immediately leave; and next day you will read in the Press that the Debate was a dull and uninteresting one, the dullness of which the Secretary of State, or the Under-Secretary of State, as the case may be, made no attempt to alleviate." That was, in the main, true of Indian debates in the past, but I do not think it has been so true in recent years; and whatever view may be taken outside to-morrow of the Debate we have had this afternoon, I certainly think we have had some exceedingly interesting speeches from both sides of the House, not the least interesting of which was the speech delivered by the right hon. 691 Gentleman who initiated the Debate from the Front Bench opposite.
I should like very shortly, because I have a good many things to deal with, to reply to two points raised by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle - under - Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). He said it was regrettable that I did not speak first in the Debate. I would remind him that there has been a complaint in some quarters that far too great a share of the time of the House is taken up by the various front benches. I do not know how much truth there is in the complaint, but I think there is a certain amount. The fact that there are now three front benches makes the position rather different from what it was before the War. On the last occasion on which I stood at this Box to introduce the Indian Estimates, I spoke for the abnormal period of one hour and 55 minutes, and there was some objection to my action on that occasion. I sympathise with both sets of objections, both as to the time taken up necessarily in the present condition of politics by the three front benches, and as to the time that was occupied by my speech two years ago. On the present occasion I decided I would speak before dinner, which would give more opportunity to hon. Members on the back benches.
The right hon. Gentleman also said that it was an unprecedented thing for an important statement on Indian affairs to be made in another place before it had been made in this House. I have not had time to look up the records, but if he searches I think he will find that that is not really so, and that where the Secretary of State for India or for the Colonies or for any other office has been a Member of the other House there have been constant instances of an announcement of general policy by the Government being made there first. After all, if the right hon. Gentleman or anyone on those benches does feel it an objection, I would point out that there have been many opportunities during the last two months, had they chosen to avail themselves of them, for discussing Indian affairs. They could have asked for these Estimates to be put down much earlier—though I make no complaint that they have not done so—or the matter could have been raised on the Easter or the 692 Whitsuntide Adjournments, but none of these steps has been taken.
§ Earl WINTERTON
The hon. Member states that he was not called on. I do not wish to repeat a private conversation, but he knows quite well that he came to me and said he was going to raise the question, and I said I was very-glad to hear it, and then it was discovered that his own party were going to speak for three hours on unemployment. I was perfectly ready to make a statement, and my Noble Friend and myself were anxious that there should be a statement. I only want to assure the Committee that at the earliest possible moment, by an arrangement made in the usual way, a Debate is taking place in this House.
I wish to say something first of all on what, after all, is the question that must be in all our minds at the moment, especially in view of the announcement made by my Noble Friend in another place, and that is the constitutional and political aspect of affairs in India. While I occupy a humble position in the Government, I am in this matter speaking on behalf of the Government, I am the sole spokesman for the Government, and I am sum the Committee will acquit me of any desire to be self-important if I speak with some deliberation, and occasionally choose my words or my phrases with care. I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme smiles when I say that with reference to a matter the importance of which cannot be exaggerated. He is aware that any statement which goes out from either Front Bench on Indian affairs—and it applies to speeches from the back benches as well—probably excites greater attention in India than a statement upon any other question, with the single exception of foreign policy.
First of all, lot me deal with the reference made by my hon. Friend to the question of a Constitution to be put forward by Indians themselves. It has been stated in some quarters that my Noble Friend invited proposals for a new Constitution. That is hardly an accurate way of describing what he said. At some 693 time there will have to be a revision of the present Constitution. That is provided for in the Act, and is inevitable. If, meanwhile, proposals for a Constitution are put forward by Indians themselves which carry a reasonable measure of general agreement among the peoples of India, those proposals will be carefully considered when the time comes by the appropriate authorities, that is, the Government of India, the Cabinet, and the Statutory Royal Commission. The right hon. Gentleman gave the impression in his speech that he thought my Noble Friend was referring specifically to some proposal that has been put forward, or was going to be put forward. My Noble Friend was not referring to any specific proposal; he was talking of proposals generally. His words were very plain, and I do not think myself there is any reason to misunderstand them.
There is one other matter to which the right hon. Gentleman referred which I wish to make clear. My Noble Friend did not say that the recommendations of the Majority Report of the Muddiman Committee would be carried out. His words were:It is rather on the lines recommended by the majority that any immediate action must be taken.and he qualified that statement as, if I may say so, I think he was bound to do, by saying that we must await the formal views of the Government of India on that subject. Therefore, it would be impossible for me to answer, even if I desired to do so, the questions which the right hon. Gentleman put on that point.
I turn next in order of importance to the reference that has been made in this Debate and outside to the statement made by my Noble Friend on the subject of the working of diarchy in the Provinces, because, although I think myself my Noble Friend's statement was perfectly clear, there seems to have been in some quarters a misunderstanding of what the effect of his statement was. It is quite true that the recital of the present position of affairs which my Noble Friend gave in another place shows that the working of diarchy is not altogether smooth, but one must carefully distinguish between successful or unsuccessful diarchy and successful or unsuccessful administration. It is quite true that the working of the diarchical system in the Provinces has not attained the results 694 which the authors of the scheme, for example, my right hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Mr. Fisher) believed it would do; but it is equally true to say that its partial failure by no means necessarily entails the failure of the administration. It is a travesty of the facts to assert, as is constantly asserted in some quarters outside this House, that because of diarchy administration in the Provinces as a whole has broken down. Administration has not broken down in any single Province. Regrettable as is the failure of the people of Bengal effectually to participate in the new Constitution, it is true that administration there is proceeding quite smoothly. As an illustration of what I say I would like to refer to the Mahommedan festival of Bakr-id which took place recently. As everyone who knows India, or any part of it, knows, that is an occasion when there is grave risk of communal disturbance between Moslems and Hindoos. It passed off last week, with a single exception, without any untoward incident, and that notwithstanding the fact that inter-communal feeling at this moment is probably more acute than it has been for many years. The fact that it did so pass off can only be attributed to the excellence of the preventive arrangements which were adopted by the authorities. A. more important fact still is that the everyday life of the people proceeds normally as it has done in the past. I must excuse myself for seeming in this matter, and in several other matters on which I speak, to be dealing with what may seem to some Members who know India to be mere platitudes. In dealing with the political situation in India I am in somewhat the same position as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when he talks upon the economic situation in England. There is a great deal of resemblance between the economic situation in England and the political situation in India, in this way, that everyone agrees that there are difficulties and agrees that there are dangers, but no one in any quarter of the House is able to find any immediate solutions for those difficulties and those dangers. I notice that my right hon. Friend has been attacked because it is said that he talked platitudes, but as a writer in the "Times" said:Platitudes are facts which no one denies and everyone forgets, and consequently 695 Ministers have to keep on repeating them.I am in the same position with regard to this constitution question. I very much doubt if the Leader of the Opposition, if he speaks in this Debate, will not find himself in the same position. One of the tendencies of post-War opinion in all matters is that while recognising the problems of national or international life, it is restless and indignant if an immediate solution is not put forward by the Party in power. In this matter, as in many others, there is no immediate solution.
I now turn to say a word or two about another matter to which considerable reference has been made in this Debate and this is the question of agricultural development. I think it is a necessary preliminary to any wider survey of this question that we must await the report of the Economic Inquiry Committee which was set up by the Government of India a few months ago to examine the material at present available for framing an estimate of the economic condition of the various classes of the people of British India and report on its adequacy. That Committee was set up, and we shall not have the Report probably for some months. When it is received it will probably show the need for a wider or more specialist inquiry.
Meanwhile agricultural development is certainly not standing still in India. From the point of view of wheat, rice and cotton there has been a progressive improvement in the varieties of plants cultivated during the last few years. This may not seem of much importance to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond), but we must not forget that the right hon. Gentleman spoke rather as a great industrialist than as an agriculturist, although I know he is well acquainted with both subjects, and he spoke rather from the point of view of a European industrialist than from the point of view of a country which is 90 per cent. an agricultural country. As a matter of fact in India, if you can only improve one variety of crop, of cotton or wheat or rice, you are doing an enormous good to the country, and you are increasing the general production, and I claim that 696 that has been done in recent years in India. The right hon. Gentleman is aware of the difficulties, and it may be that he is correct in saying that more might be done by indirect pressure, but the fact remains that it is a transferred subject. So far as improvement of cattle is concerned, the difficulties which arise are considerably greater, partly owing to religious views and customs.
I would like to say a word or two on the subject of the Lee Commission. This question has only been referred to by one speaker, but I should like to say a little more about it. The recommendations of that Commission are essentially a compromise between the Indian and the Service points of view, and it is vital to a proper understanding of all that is in the Lee Report that that fact should not be lost sight of.
To meet the needs of the Services the increases in overseas pay and the sterling remittance concessions recommended by the Commission have been granted. Similarly, passage concessions and increases in the pensions of members of the uncovenanted Services (though not of the Indian Civil Service) have been given as recommended. In order to make these concessions effective a Bill is now in process of consideration in another place, which, of course, it is not possible for me to refer to on the present occasion. The local Governments are taking over the engagement and control of recruits for certain Services, such as Educational and Agricultural. Similarly, the Services directly administered by the Government of India, commonly called the Central Services, will now be controlled by that Government, with the exception of the Ecclesiasitcal and Political Services, and with certain reservation of control to the Secretary of State in other Services where the service may be strategically important, such as railways.
Also, the rate of Indianisation of the Services will be accelerated with a view to producing, in the case of the Indian Civil Service and the police, a cadre of one-half European and one-half Indian in 15 and 25 years respectively. I would like to say just a word or two about the criticisms levelled against the Lee Report. The recommendations of that Commission are apt to be criticised on the ground that they will swamp the Indian Services and impair their efficiency. As to the first 697 ground, Indians in the Indian Civil Service constituted in 1924 17 per cent. of the total number of officers, and in the police 11 per cent. An increase in 15 and 25 years to 50 per cent. does not seem violent. As to deterioration time alone can show what has taken place, but Indianisation is an integral part of the scheme for preparing India for self-government, and the risk must be faced here as in other parts of the scheme. All this naturally follows from the Act which was passed by this House in 1919 without a Division. With regard to the re-organisation of the Medical Services the matter is under active consideration. I will say, however, that considerable progress has been made towards the establishment of a Public Service Commission, and I hope it will be possible to make an announcement within a short time. There is increased contentment and more reassurance among existing civil servants, and as regards future entrants there has been a most gratifying increase in the number of British candidates for the forthcoming Civil Service examination.
I turn rapidly from this point now to survey for a moment or two the military situation, to which reference has not been made this afternoon. I should like to say that, comparing the situation to-day with that with which the present First Commissioner of Works and myself were faced when we were both at the India Office in 1922, there has been an immense improvement, and the Army since then has greatly recovered from the. disorganisation which was caused by the reductions after the War. The policy put into operation about that time on the frontier had not had time to come to fruition, and there were other matters which made the position difficult. I am glad that I have no hesitation in saying that there is a very substantial improvement to-day as compared with three years ago. I think in this respect both His Majesty's Government and the Government of India are entitled to some gratitude from the public here and in India for the policy which was then adopted, and which has been carried out so successfully.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
May I ask whether anything has been done to settle on the frontier ex-soldiers belonging to the fighting races of India?
§ Earl WINTERTON
I am afraid that I am not aware of what has been done in 698 this connection, but my impression is that every square inch of ground is cultivated there that can be cultivated. I do not think anything has been done in this connection, but this is the first time I have heard of that proposal being made. The internal situation in India has also greatly improved with the result that it is less necessary now to use troops for internal security; and that beneficial results of that policy have been seen in the improvement in our training programme which it has been possible to carry out in the interesting manœuvres which took place at Delhi last year which were the first manœuvres held on a considerable scale since the War. In the last three years Army expenditure has fallen from 65 crores to 57 crores, and this reduction has not been effected at the expense of the officers and men. As a matter of fact the pay of the officers has been improved and passages given on the lines of the Lee Commission's recommendations for the Civil Service.
Now I come to that portion of my speech dealing with a subject in which obviously the Committee takes most interest, and that is the financial and economic condition of India at the present time. When I spoke from this table before, both during the Coalition and the Conservative administrations, I had to admit that India was passing through a period of Government deficits. I am glad to think that that period of deficits came to an end, so far as the Government of India is concerned, in 1923–24. and in that year them was a surplus of 2⅓ crores, and last year the surplus was 4 crores. This satisfactory result has been achieved very largely by putting into operation the recommendations made by the Committee over which Lord Inchcape presided, and also by the imposition of additional taxation, although I am glad to say that a part of that taxation has since been remitted. This result was also assisted, as I have already indicated, by the successful efforts made by the military authorities in putting down expenditure. In this respect I wish to pay a tribute to the late Lord Rawlinson, who was primarily responsible for reducing our military expenditure in India without passing the margin of safety. At that time there were a lot of criticisms from hon. Members on the Government side of the House on the ground that they 699 thought we were endangering the safety of India, and for that reason they objected to these reductions and to what was being done. I believe, however, that those reductions were justified, and they have materially assisted Sir Basil Blackett in producing a very successful Budget.
I would like to say a word or two about the railways. I regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen is not present because he devoted a large part of his speech to discussing the railway position in India. In the first place, it was asked whether it was the fact that the recommendations of the Acworth Committee had been carried out. The principal recommendations of that Committee are being carried out. The separation of railway finance from general finance was effected last, year; the Railway Board has been reconstituted, with the Chief Commissioner of Railways at its head, and with a Financial Commissioner added; and I may mention that Sir Clement Hindley, the Chief Commissioner, was formerly the head of the Calcutta port trust, and is one of the ablest business men in India. Then, steps have been taken greatly to strengthen the Central Railway Advisory Council, the institution of a Rates Tribunal is under active consideration, and the only two companies whose contracts have become terminable since the Report have been extinguished, and their lines have been taken under direct State management. The right hon. Gentleman will see, therefore, that his rather gloomy picture about the Acworth Report is not accurate, and his apparent assumption that we are not acting upon it is not justified. The right hon. Gentleman and, I think, someone else, complained of the very small amount of money which had been spent in India on railway construction—on new lines—since the War. I cannot admit that that complaint is really justified. It is quite true that in India, for its size, we have a railway mileage which is very small compared with many countries, but, while the right hon. Gentleman compared that with countries like Canada, I think it would be fairer to compare it with other countries in Asia, when he would see that it is greatly in advance of the mileage in those countries. It is, however, admittedly very small—only 37,000 miles.
§ Earl WINTERTON
Yes, that is so, but the Acworth Committee, after all, reported some time ago, and I was referring to the criticisms which have been made in the Debate. The right hon. Gentleman referred specifically to the question of new mileage. I do not think the figures for new mileage are as bad as he seems to think. From 1921 to 1925, 1,100 miles were opened, and 2,500 miles are under construction to-day. There are two very important new lines under construction, one from the Central Provinces to the East Coast and an important new line in Burma. Nor can I accept for a moment the right hon. Gentleman's comment about the badness of the Indian railway system from the point of view of speed and efficiency. I think it is both efficient and, for a country of vast distances like India, speedy. The right hon. Gentleman, if he thinks the Indian railways are so slow, cannot have had much experience of railways in other countries of vast distances,
I will say only a word on the subject of irrigation. It has not been referred to in the Debate, but it is important that it should be referred to, because the record of India in this matter is really very remarkable. The total area under irrigation in British India is no less than 26'5 million acres, which represents nearly one-eighth of the entire cropped area of the country. There are two schemes under construction now, both of enormous importance. One of them, the Sutlej Valley project, will, it is estimated, cost £13,000,000, while the other, the Lloyd Sukkur barrage project, will cost £12,000,000. The former will bring under irrigation 3¼ million acres of desert waste land, or twice as much as the whole cultivable area of this country, while the Lloyd Barrage, which, I believe, is one of the biggest, if not the biggest scheme under construction in the world, will irrigate 5,000,000 acres.
I now turn to the question of trade, and here I have a most satisfactory report to give to the Committee, though there are certain difficulties, to which I will refer later. It is impossible for me, in the time I have allotted to myself, to do 701 more than give the facts and figures in the most compressed tabloid form. I have not the time—I wish I had—to comment upon them. The figues are really very remarkable, and I would invite the attention of the Committee to them. There was in 1921–22 an adverse balance, which for India is abnormal, and it gave those connected with the Government of India and the India Office at home considerable anxiety. In 1922–23, however, that adverse trade balance had been wiped out, and there was a favourable balance of 80 crores of rupees. In 1923–24 that was raised to 134 crores, and in 1924–25 it reached the record figure of 150 crores. There must be a good many countries where the Ministers of Commerce would look with envy on those figures, and I am not at all sure that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade would not be one of them.
At the same time, there are certain difficulties. I think it is true of all the world to-day that, in the present unprecedented conditions of trade, one can never be sure that any one country at any given time is playing or. a good or a bad trade wicket. I do not want to get into a discussion on such matters, but it is a fact well known to Chancellors of the Exchequer. Finance Ministers, and Ministers of Commerce in each and every country, that in some countries, where conditions appear to be favourable everything goes wrong, while in others where conditions appear to be unfavourable everything goes right. As regards India, before the War, such an exportable surplus would have meant prosperity all over India, but, unfortunately, that is not the case at the present time with some of the most important industries in India. The condition of the cotton industry, to which reference has been made this afternoon, is so serious that, as has already been pointed out, some owners have been compelled to state that, if trade does not improve, they will be forced either to reduce wages or work short time.
They attribute this depression, rightly or wrongly, to Japanese competition, representing that, while India has adopted a 60-hour week and prohibited night work by women, Japan works cotton mills much longer hours by a system of double shifts, in the course of which women are employed at night, and successfully 702 competes with Indian mills in the Indian market. The Government of India do not unreservedly accept this view, but think that other factors are at work, to which I should like to refer in a moment; but I must take the strongest possible objection to some of the statements that have been made to-day, especially by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) on the subject of the position of India in the matter of industrial legislation. In so far as the hon. Member for Dundee was merely endeavouring to show that India was a country which, compared with Europe, was in a backward position, I, of course, must agree, but if his object and that of other speakers, including the right hon. Gentleman on the other side, was to try to show that India, in comparison with other Asiatic countries, has a bad record—I am very glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, and that he, at any rate, does not hold that view—
§ Earl WINTERTON
Just so. What has India herself done, through her Legislature, in the direction of leading the way, so far as Asiatic countries are concerned in social legislation? Within the last two or three years—under the reformed constitution—an Amendment to the Factory Act has been passed giving shorter hours, raising the minimum age of employment of children, and giving rest periods. There has also been an amendment of the Mines Act giving a reduction of hours, them has been prohibition of the employment of children and there are also two matters on which the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle) showed a strange ignorance, in view of his general interest in Indian affairs. A Workmen's Compensation Act was recently passed. The hon. Gentleman got up and interrupted the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen, saying that the Government of India had thrown out such a Bill. I hope he will take the opportunity, if he is called upon in the Debate, to make it clear that that is not so.
§ Mr. THURTLE
I said that the Bill had actually been passed, but had not become operative because the finance was not provided by the Central Government.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I must say that I did not understand that that was what the hon. Member said, but if he says that it was, I, of course, accept it as being what he said. As regards the Trades Disputes Bill, which I also understood the hon. Member to say was smothered by the Government of India or by the Legislature, that Bill is now before a Select Committee of the Legislature. I make no apology for quoting a statement on this matter which was made by the right hon. Gentleman himself, either in an interview or in an article—I forget which—and which has a very important bearing on the complaint which has been made from the benches opposite on the subject of the backwardness of Indian social legislation. The hon. Member for Dundee said that this House has the power, that this is the place where the power resides, that we here in England are responsible for. the condition of affairs in India. I will answer him out of the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for New-castle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), who said:Let us take stock of the situation. First, Congress no longer counts any more than do the annual Labour Party Conference or the National Liberal Conference in England. It meets for a week of platitudinous resolutions and hurrah-politics. Now it is the Assembly and Legislatures that count. They are representative; they are permanent; they have the practical work to do; they have some power and, above all, they have the platform. You may call the members, if you like, a lot of place-seeking pot-hunters, but they are India—an epitome of the people. India made them whatever they are, and elected them. One M.L.A. counts for more than 20 patriots on the Subjects Committee of the Congress, and he knows it, and the Viceroy knows it, and we know it, and it is time that Indian Nationalists knew it and planned accordingly.8.0 P.M.
I was very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that contribution he made to the Press. [Interruption.] I do not know why the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) treats this matter in a risible fashion. I am entirely serious in saying good work was done by (the right hon. Gentleman when he stressed, as he was perfectly entitled to do, the fact that members of the Legislative Assembly and of the Provincial Councils have the power if they choose to use it. I think a great deal of credit for this social legislation 704 to which I have referred is due to the members of these Assemblies. There were also difficulties in the matter of steel and of coal which I have not time to refer to.
I know I am going to speak on a well worn subject, but I see in some quarters a disposition again to-day to repeat what I regard as the nonsensical statement, that when the British first went to India they found her united and prosperous and they have made her to-day poor and disunited. It would be impossible to find in any connection so complete a travesty of the facts of history. I have heard it again and again outside the House and I have heard it said by at least one hon. Member in the House, who does not belong to the party of the right hon. and gallant Member, though he is not far behind him at this moment. I could, if I wished, but I do not wish quote on that point a statement made by the leader of the party opposite, which effectually disposed of some of the criticisms which have been made on this subject. What was the situation when the British went to India? It is well that we should realise it. Prior to the advent of the British, for 700 years the warring races of Central Asia and Afghanistan had poured successive hordes of robbers into India. There were no fewer than six of such invasions in 23 years in the middle of the 18th Century. It was not only this aggression by outside forces which caused such misery to the people of India, but the system of taxation and the utter absence of any pure system of justice or any kind of popular representation. While I quite agree that the problems of the present and the future must not be considered wholly or mainly in relation to what has occurred in the last 200 years, facts are facts, and no political movement can succeed which attempts to ignore them. It is absolutely necessary, in considering the position of India to-day, to refer to its position in those days. Some Indians object to the recital of such facts as those I have just given, but in common justice to British reputation and British prestige, which is being assailed very venomously in certain quarters throughout the world to-day, it is necessary to state the record. To deny that Great Britain has helped India from the time she first went there 705 and found a complete chaos to the present day is simply to deny the facts of history, and indeed to be ridiculous. To deny that it is our task to help India to the path of self-government is to be both foolish and ignorant. To suppose that we shall abandon that task from weariness or because of threats is utterly to misjudge—and here at any rate there will be nothing between the Front Bench opposite and this—the inherited traditions of British policy, itself derived from British character, which vary very little throughout the centuries.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
On a point of Order. Are the Members on these benches who will take part in the Debate later on to have any reply from the Government?
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is hardly a point of Order. I cannot produce spokesmen for the Government, and I cannot command anyone to rise, though in certain circumstances I can command them to sit down.
§ Earl WINTERTON
In order to deal with the hon. Member's fears, I understand the Leader of the Opposition is going to speak at half-past 10 o'clock, and, by arrangement through the usual channels, I propose to get up 10 minutes before the close of the Debate to reply.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
I am thankful to the Noble Lord that towards the close of his speech he told the Committee that I am bound to take a different view from both Front Benches, who are more or less alike in their policy and their outlook on Indian affairs. I would not take the Noble Lord's certificate that both Front Benches are identically and absolutely alike, but he is entitled to believe that there is general agreement on certain main questions. What I say here is not in any mood of anger or hatred, but positively with a view to speaking the truth, when sometimes truth, though unpleasant, is ultimately better than diplomatic statesmanship and political thought. I pay homage to- the British spirit of hypocritical statesmanship. It is a wonderful sight to-day. We are talking of the Indian Empire just in the same strain of common agreement, with that very placid attitude of mind and phraseology of speech as if we were discussing some matters relating to the 706 renewal of the furniture in the library or the cooking utensils in the kitchen of the House of Commons.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present.
§ The CHAIRMAN proceeded to count the Committee.
§ Committee counted, and 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
I am thankful to the hon. Member for getting me a bigger audience. I assure the Committee that my whole object in taking the line I do is to place before the Committee, as well as before the country, not only the Communist party point of view, but the general international point of view, the overlooking of which in the near future is going to bring serious calamity to many European countries, and especially to Great Britain. We are debating hero as if the Bengal ordinances were never promulgated, as if the shooting of Bombay operatives during the cotton strike had never taken place, as if a great strike of thousands of railway workers is not even now going on in the Punjab, with men starving and the Government, the controller of those railways, taking up a hard-faced attitude, as if all these things had not happened, as if a great controversy is not raging, not only with the people of India but with the people all over the world, whether British Imperialism, whatever its past history, is at all permissible to exist now for the benefit of the citizens of Great Britain herself. There are great problems pertaining to India and Britain which ought to have been discussed on an afternoon like this. I agree that the commonness of parties and the commonness of policy between the last Government and the present Government has tabooed all these important questions from being uttered in the House. The main question with which we are confronted is the entire question of Imperialism and the existence of the British Empire in its present form.
It is rather unfortunate that from the earliest time you have called this agglomeration of different peoples and 707 different races the British Empire. I wish you had from the first designated it as the Indo-British Empire, so that what we may say about the Indian subjects in the Empire may not be taken as a reflection by our Colonial friends in Canada, Australia, and elsewhere. The conditions are entirely different. Rules and regulations, formulae, political remedies and experiences which apply to that part of the British Empire which is composed of Great Britain and her white Colonies are not at all applicable to the other portions of the Empire, such as India and certain portions of China and Africa. I disagree even with those of my own Indian friends and compatriots who would take a sentimental view of British Imperialism as it exists to-day. I take it for granted that if it is admitted that the Imperialist relationship of one dominant nation guiding the destinies of another bigger and vaster nation, directing all her social, economic and political—forces in a channel of her own choosing, to suit her own convenience—if that tie is to be taken as a justifiable tie, my Indian friends have no right to come and dictate to the British nation how to hold on to that tie. If for diplomatic purposes, or if once India herself or the Socialist friends of India undertake to keep up the position of one dominating nation in an Empire controlling the destinies of another nation, then it becomes a contract, and I believe that Great Britain as the contractor should be the best judge as to how to carry out the contract. I do not take the view that there are progressive ways of self-government, of Dominion Home Rule, of Indianisation of the Army and all those things just as possible as there are certain progressive measures for cultivating apples in Canada, cattle markets in Australia and bringing the fruit and meat to this country from the distant parts of the Empire.
I take the view of the reality of life, that if genuine self-rule is in the hands of the Indians and if there exists a genuine Indianisation of the Indian Army, no Indian will be so despicable, just as no Britisher would be so despicable, as to say that they would hold that country and that army for the benefit of some people other than their 708 own. I do not want to deceive myself on that point. The talk of the Constitution and the alteration of the Constitution, of a 10-year limit or a 15-year limit, are nothing but little details in the art of governing another nation by a sort of hypnotisation. I am not interested in such problems. I tell my Indian friends, as I tell to my British friends, that the same principles of life are in every European or Asiatic nation. I put that to the Committee and to the Noble Lord and his party quite seriously.
Take the problem as a human problem. India is a large country with over 300,000,000 people. You talk of 10 per cent. of people being educated to-day. That 10 per cent. in that large country represents 30,000.000 people, and you admit that these 30,000,000 people—which means a much larger population than many other smaller European countries—are educated and as fit as other similarly educated persons in several parts of Europe. Then you style yourselves the trustees of the whole of India, and as trustees yon take jolly good care to see that the other 280,000,000 of people remain ignorant, illiterate, uneducated, with no freedom to call their souls their own. You tell those 30,000,000 people that although they may be educated, and although they may be fit—and in a short time those 30,000,000 will become 40,000,000 or 45,000,000; as big a population as the whole of Great Britain—because Great Britain, to suit her own purpose treats those 280,000,000 persons as so many animals or beasts of burden, these 40,000,000 or 50,000,000 of educated people will have to lead an unnatural life and will have to believe one thing and practice another.
Is there a single British man or woman to-day, is there a person in any country in Europe, in any of the backward countries, in the Balkan States, in any of the small nations which are not yet so fully developed as Great Britain, who would tolerate for one day a power so despotic and arbitrary as the Crown, under the Imperial system, is insisting upon enjoying in India? There would not be a man or woman who to-morrow would not rise and fight to the bitter end to claim their rights if the monarchy claimed one-tenth of the privileges which in the name of the Crown are exercised over the people of India. Because you keep the 709 other 280,000,000 people back, you are asking the 30 or 40 millions of educated people there also to swallow such an indignity and such an impossibility in public life.
It may be said, indeed it is said, for it is a Western idea, that the Asiatic people always allow a good deal of latitude to their monarchs. That is Western ignorance. Eastern people have never tolerated anti-democratic rights and privileges in their monarchs. You see in the 20th century the Chinese people have overthrown their monarchy, which was 3,000 years old, because the monarchy did not square in with the democratic opinions of the people. The Persians have overthrown completely one monarchy after another and have put their monarchs under lock and key for not obeying the people's wishes. You see the same thing in Turkey. No Eastern country would tolerate as the British people have tolerated the humbug and nonsense from the governing classes: they have overthrown them and established the people, the peasants in power. It is an untruthful statement to say that the people of the East are tolerating high privileges in monarchy and in their ruling castes and classes. It is a false notion. It is the Western conceit; it is the Westerner admiring himself, as though the Westerners have the highest consciousness of human life.
How does the Committee reconcile the idea of telling 30,000,000 of people that they are British, that they have British culture, that they have received British education, and yet they must put up with the privileges and rights that have been claimed under the British Crown by their rulers in India and which the people in this country would fight to the bitter end rather than they would accept? Human feeling, the human heart and the human mind are just the same in India as Here or elsewhere. You call the Indians seditious when they protest against these things, but when you rise in revolt in this country against the ruling classes it is called the spirit of democracy. In India it is sedition, conspiracy, subversive propaganda. Is it the intention of the Government, and is it their claim, that the people in India should call themselves British citizens, having equipped themselves fully with education and historical facts, and having received fully 710 the ideas of the progress of the world, and yet put up with an out-of-date form of government? Day by day they see that the Chinese people, the Persian people, the Turkish people, and other Oriental nations are asserting their rights, the rights of the people before the ruling classes.
Do you seriously propose that India should put up with a form of Crown government which was possible 100 years ago, but which to-day not even the people of the smallest Balkan State would put up with? I put it to my Indian friends that no sensible persons expect them to submit to such an unnatural state of mind and to such hypocritical expressions in their speeches. They are fully entitled to strain every nerve to carry on what is called seditious propaganda, what is called a revolutionary movement, and to fight with all their might and main such iniquitous and unjust and brutal privileges as are claimed by the Crown, through their Agents, in India. It is perfectly right. You will all do it. No one doing it in this country would be condemned for doing it. That is the position which has to be viewed in the first place.
The Noble Lord was very angry with my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) because he tried to scratch the surface. I do not say that he was angry from, any personal motive, but through the habit of mind that believes that certain human beings must be slaves. My Friend from Bombay who took part in the Debate spoke of weekly wages in Bombay, and said that in Bombay there had been monthly wages from time immemorial. The hon. Member forgot that hand-loom weaving was the only institution known in Bombay from time immemorial, and that does not prevent him and his partners and his fellow-investors from starting factories there. They forgot all about time immemorial then, but when it comes to applying to their men the principles of modern rights and privileges, then they speak of time immemorial.
The Noble Lord, if he will forgive me for saying so, stood up in a schoolboyish fashion, and referred us to the lessons of history for the last 700 years. As I read English history for the last 700 years, it is a more ignominious record than ours. He says "you have always had a foreign monarch, always an invader coming from 711 outside to rule you." Since my childhood days, when I was studying English history, I have known that England so far never has had an English monarch. She has always had a foreign invader. Never has her monarchy been a home-grown product. Monarchy is a sort of family privilege. A few families supply monarchs to Europe just as a few biscuit factories supply biscuits all over Europe. We sent an English Prince to Norway to be called King Haakon.
§ The CHAIRMAN
We are dealing with the affairs of India and not with those of Europe or Norway. The Noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State for India cannot be held responsible for the Government of Norway.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
No, but the Under-Secretary trotted out a theory which is a schoolboyish theory, and I am simply showing the want of logic of the position which he took up in reproaching India as a country which was always governed by a foreign monarch, and thereby trying to establish the right of himself and his family and future generations to go on governing India. May I point out that monarchs may be foreign? We do not quarrel with an Englishman who went to India and settled there, and became a king. We shall become reconciled with him, but a foreign monarch never meant a foreign ruler. An Arab, a Turk, a Mongol or a Chinese invader, or anybody may have come to India and may have himself become an Indianised monarch, and lived in the country and become a ruler of the country. But never did the people of China, Turkey, Central Asia, Persia, or Greece, remaining in their own homes, call themselves the rulers of India, and continue to send out their advisers to rule.
It was entirely a futile argument, and if you go back 200 years, your education, sanitation, and internal arrangements with bishops burning people, and with persecution and religious terrorism, you had nothing much to be proud of. You had your struggles, and we have ours, and shall still have them. I put it to the Noble Lord as well as to his own party, not to take the narrow-minded schoolboyish view of life when talking of the biggest affairs of mankind. What is the good of entering into such recriminations which 712 lead nowhere. We want to put it to you that you are talking in contradictory terms. Sometimes one thing is right and at another moment it is wrong. If you decide to go to India and revolutionise the lives of the Eastern people, you do not talk of castes, you do not talk of Hindoo and Mohammedan ideas, or of the depressed classes. When it is your intention to start cotton factories, jute factories, steel works, engineering works, post offices, railways and telegraphs, you do not say, "We cannot do it, because India is cut up by caste, or because of Hindu and Mohammedan hatreds, or because there are depressed classes." With just the same ease, comfort and confidence with which you start these machines for grinding human life and freedom here, you start factories, mines, railroads and dockyards there. Nothing stands in your way then. But when we tell you, "See here, you pay so much a head here"—not that you pay willingly, for it was extorted by the workers fighting inch by inch against you—and we say to you that if you apply these modern instruments of production, these modern instruments of treating human life, you must also apply other conditions, you say, "We must never try such experiments."
One hon. Member interjected that Indian workers never work more than four or five hours. We are ready to compel them and to compel you to work eight hours a day. But the position is that when we ask you to apply to these workers the other modern conditions of life, then you begin to talk of castes and of Hindus and Mohammedans and the depressed classes, and you say, "Oh, no, let the Indians educate themselves," which for the last 150 years you have never permitted, and "Let them organise themselves," which for the last 50 years you have not been anxious to permit. "Let them sit at their roll-top desks with their monthly circulars, and then in the next 250 years they will have the same rights as the workers of Lancashire." I put it to you that that is a very cowardly game. I do not impeach your intention, but I do impeach your habit of mind. It is a very crooked habit of mind to take in the case of human beings. It is a cowardly game.
If you were setting the Indian worker the same equal race with his employer 713 as you have in this country, your argument might be at least logical, even if it were not humanitarian. But here you have a fully developed master class, who with their struggles of 100 years with the working classes in Europe are experienced, well-informed and well-equipped with all the methods of enslaving and grinding down human life. That ready-made master does not begin slow. He goes to India, to Bengal, Bombay, or somewhere else, and pitches his camp there, and applies his up-to-date knowledge and his full blast methods of controlling labour and grinding down human beings. His informed mind, well equipped with experience, devises schemes. You do not hold his hands. You see a group of British merchants going to India. Immediately they found a Chamber of Commerce, a Cotton Association, and this association or that association. I do not blame them.
The Government from time to time say, "We are the trustees of the people, the protectors of the undefended." Where are you when it comes to defending the people against the robbers of your own country? Then your custodianship vanishes. I put this matter to the Government seriously. They talk of Labour legislation. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) got a whipping in his absence from the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary. At the same time there were jocular remarks and insulting hints against the Indian Swarajists. There were roundabout aspersions on the fitness of the Indian councillor to administer his own country. Before the Indian councillors got some nominal power in their councils, these Acts had not been passed 50 years. I could allow the Noble Lord to take credit to himself as an honest man if these things had been done 50 years ago. This plan of life, the Factory Acts, the curtailment of hours and of child labour, were known to the British rulers for 50 years, and though the British rulers in India were acting as trustees for the people they have not made the slightest effort to use them. All the activity took place because of the push that we gave from here and because of the co-operation of the revolutionary men in In3ia who demanded a fight on behalf of the workers.
We are told by the man in the street how well the British merchants who go 714 out to India take care of the poor people and are always anxious to grant them their rights. Yet two years ago, when our Indian friends wanted to hold a Trade Union Congress in the mining area, to draw the attention of the whole country to the most hideous and most brutal conditions prevailing in the Bengal mines, the Merchants' Association, the European Mineowners' Association, asked the Government to stop the Congress. They demanded the presence of a Gurka regiment. Machine-guns and soldiers, with bayonets ready, were in the mining areas. That is the part they played in granting the rights of the workers. When these tactics did not succeed, and when the Indians who devoted themselves to work on behalf of the miners, showed their determination and were backed up by 50,000 to 60,000 miners laying down their tools and attending the Congress, the Chairman of the Miners' Association wrote a letter of apology and presented himself and said he would now agree. I appeal to my British friends that if they are so proud of being Britishers, for goodness sake let them remain Britishers when they go abroad. If they want to take credit for everything that somebody else does and refuse to take discredit for everything they neglect to do, the least I can say is that they are a very funny people. But remember that all other people in the world are not so funny; they see you through and through.
Take another matter—the infantile death-rate. My hon. Friend from Bombay spoke in magniloquent terms of the £10,000.000 to be spent upon the homes of the workers. If it were so, I would give credit to the Englishman or Scotsmen who did it. But it is not so. It is a case of contracts and contractors. They are handling this £10,000,000 scheme. I remember that over my own signature, four years ago, I had to take the plan of the Bombay housing scheme. £10,000,000 are not to be spent on the workers' housing scheme. The money is to be spent mainly for contractors' profits, for the dwelling-houses of the rich, for showy shop fronts, for increasing the land values of the landlords, and so on. There are to be workers' dwellings included, but the original scheme was for dwellings of one room, eight by 10 feet, with an 715 average calculated family of 8.3 persons in each room.
I communicated with an architect in this country. I submitted to him the whole plans, and I asked him to draw up a scheme which would not be extravagant He was an architect belonging to your Army, but at the same time he belonged to the Labour party. He studied the whole scheme most minutely, and gave us a design where we could have one ante-room, one back room and an open verandah. We calculated the cost and printed 5,000 copies, and I sent some out to the Governor of Bombay. I had a very nice and courteous acknowledgment, with the usual statement that the proposal would be borne in mind and would be carried out some day when possible, followed by an admission, "At present our hearts are with you, but our money is with us." There was a human touch in that letter. These things cannot work. They are bound to bring, in the long run, a painful fall which will be heavier for Humpty Dumpty in proportion to the long lease of life that he has. The Noble Lord the Under-Secretary has entirely evaded the issue of the Bengal Ordinances, seditious movements, suppression of the Communists and so forth.
I plead guilty that I am at the bottom of many of the Communist manifestoes and the Communist propaganda in India. I am not ashamed of it, and I say that my work is a hundred times more humanitarian than the work of all your missionaries and merchants taken together. Why are you taking this bigoted, narrow-minded view of life? You talk about agriculture. What do you discuss: "Shall Lancashire have more cotton from India than in the past?" "Shall England have more wheat from India than in the past?" That is said to be studying agriculture. I appeal to you to study agriculturists and not agricultural profits. It is alleged that whatever is said in this House travels abroad and creates misunderstanding. Why be afraid of the truth being known abroad? I, as a Communist, as a true believer in internationalism, do not speak with the intention of offending, but with the intention of giving a shock to your mentality, 716 so that you can think in terms of humanity instead of in terms of banking accounts and profits. You pay you are the trustees of the people. You have had 150 years and to-day you say you cannot give the franchise to the agricultural population; you tell right hon. and hon. Members of this House that they do not know the conditions in India, that the education of the villager in India is impossible and that they are not to think that the population of India is like the population of Great Britain.
It may be that you are honest incompetents, and that you say this in your impotence and incapacity, but why not learn from others? Our Russian Bolshevist friends have in five years' time been able to give the political franchise to the agriculturists of Russia, who are a class parallel with the agriculturist population of India. They are also people of diverse religions, including Mahommedans, Jews, Greek Church people, and others. The Bolshevists have been able to give them education in five years, yet in the Tsar's days these people were treated with the same callousness and brutal cruelty as that with which you have been treating the Indian peasant for 150 years. In five years after the Communist international revolution in Russia, 65 per cent. of the agricultural population have received their education, and you have, to-day, the testimony of half-a-dozen British men and women that in spite of the bloodcurdling articles in your newspapers, the Russians have done their job well. Why play a dog-in-the-manger part? I appeal to this Committee to allow a commission of Indians to go to Russia to study and to find what th8 British have failed to discover—the way of granting to the people political franchise and education, scientific laboratories, institutions, health homes, compensation and allowances for industrial workers. If Russia, a country of agriculturists, could find the way out, how is it that you with your world-proclaimed cleverness as administrators have failed to find it? If you have failed to find it, why not be honest and step aside and let us do the job, and we shall do it on an international Communist basis? Why are you turned inside out at the very thought of Communist propaganda in India? If as an 717 industrial nation with your Western mind you have failed to discover a humanitarian cure for the ills of an agricultural population in an Eastern country, why play the dog in the manger? Why not permit the Russian nation, which is an agricultural nation, and which has a proportion of the Eastern mind, and which has actually discovered the way out of the darkness, to come and help you?
The Noble Lord delivered himself on a previous occasion of his views on Russian propaganda. To-day we have to review his actions during the last 12 months with regard to the Cawnpore trials. Why does he consider himself entitled to suppress Communist propaganda? He says other propaganda may be allowed, but not seditious propaganda or subversive propaganda. That is another contradiction. Every propaganda must be subversive. If it is not subversive then there is no need for propaganda. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour) is carrying on prohibitionist propaganda. That is propaganda to subvert the drinking system, and if his propaganda were not subversive it would not be worth anything. Every propaganda, if it is effective and sincere, means something new, and if those who carry it on have the courage of their convictions and want to put what they feel to be right in the place of the old system, that propaganda must be subversive. You are talking to the 20th century in the terms of 18th century lawyers when you refer to subversive propaganda, sedition and revolution. They are the birthrights of modern nations, and they are the birthrights of the Indians just as much as they were your birthrights. I, for one, will not yield to terrorism. I am going to carry cm subversive propaganda, revolutionary propaganda, Communist propaganda, international propaganda, with the assistance of the Russians, and the Chinese and the Germans and the British. I am not alone in that. The Government have kept quiet about the great Indian railway strike. The Government say all kinds of things about the masters being kind, but the Government of India forget that they themselves are the largest employers of labour in the world, taking their postmen, 718 public service men, railwaymen, miners in Government mines, workers in Government factories, and so on, and I put it quite definitely that, taking a comparison with any other Eastern country, you pay the most miserable wage, and give the most miserable conditions, and deprive the population which works for you and for the prosperity of your great Empire of their rights, and inflict on them political indignity and humiliation worse than can be found in any part of Asia. You could improve things if you meant to do so, but you would not be able to stay there after the improvements had taken place. You know it, and I do. But the international spirit will throw you over the precipice if you do not retreat gracefully. I am not talking only about my Russian comrades, but about my British comrades. I know the difficulties of the Front Bench among my British comrades. We must treat them as a section apart. But I think even the Noble Lord knows that the British Government are treating with the most inhuman, callous oppression the railway workers, and imposing on them a negation of their rights to such an extent that the general council of the trade union movement in this country has telegraphed £100 assistance.
I touch on one more point, and that is the death rate to which the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) referred. I ask the Committee to look at other reports besides the one to which he referred in regard to infantile death rate. You say you went to India because the Rajputs were killing their daughters, and you wanted to save human life; because suttees were being burnt, and you wanted to save human life, but I tell you, you are there to destroy human life. It may not be your intention, but that is part of the game, and without it you cannot play the game. I ask hon. Members to analyse the infantile death rate a little more closely. The rate mentioned by my hon. Friend for the City of Bombay was 411 per thousand. That is the normal rate, though it has been 834 in one year. Even this, however, is a mistaken figure. The City of Bombay is a richest. My own community is one of the richest communities there, and they do not present a death rate of 411. Their infantile mortality is very near your own. There is also the European population and the rich Hindu 719 and Mahommedan populations. But if you take the figures of infantile mortality in the municipal records before the final abstract is made, and if you study the rate in those wards where the factory women live, the death rate there is not 411 per 1,000, but is from 600 to 700 per 1,000. You cannot attribute that to the climate or to insanitary conditions, because all over India in the agricultural areas without sanitation or education and with a hot climate the infantile rate is about 190. It is in the factory wards of Bombay, Calcutta, Allahabad, Delhi, and so on, wherever there are modern factories, that the infantile death rate comes to between 600 and 700 infants, and we think that, if nothing else, that one inhuman item, that cannibalistic feature of your Imperialism, should be quite enough to make you come away.
You went there, you say, to save the people, but you have acted in a contrary direction, and in the name of the people here, in the name of the people there, in the name of the masses, in the name of world civilisation, in the name of the necessity for world disarmament, I appeal to you to Bolshevise your own minds and hearts, and to determine, once and for all, that that Imperialism, with all its good talking points, has got behind it a trail of inhuman murder, brutality, negation of rights, and degradation of human life, and must be dissolved. British Imperialism must go if humanity is to progress. I do not say that in a spirit of anger again. I say it for your own sakes, that if you want to save yourselves from future misery, from future starvation, from a future heavy fall, from being cut out by India in all the raw materials on which alone your industries live, if you want to save the people, if you want to take away all the armaments and military, wasteful energies of the whole of Europe, at the bottom of it all is British Imperialism. Do not despise Communist Internationalism, study it from the point of view of the Indians, and you will find it of greater value.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Sir GEOFFREY BUTLER
I think that every speech in the Debate to-day has emphasised the economic aspects of the problem as opposed to the political and, speaking for myself, in listening to each of the speeches, whether it was 720 the enthusiastic opening speech, or the very eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston), or the speeches from below the Gangway, informed with so much business experience, I could not help feeling, first of all, that there was in the appeal of the many problems of India something that can unite us, in spite of party, and also how vital at the present moment it is, in thinking of the unfortunate social conditions, of the great governmental problems, of the agricultural prospects of the country, to visualise India as a great field for engineering and scientific effort, as an opportunity for economic work, and to visualise it as a romantic problem in preventative medicine. I believe that this was really the chief constructive feature of Lord Birkenhead's speech last Tuesday. He has been accused of not being constructive enough, of having said nothing positive or constructive, of presenting us with nothing in levee dress, if I may put it like that, but I think that the one constructive feature of the problem which he presented to us was that passage in which he spoke of the agricultural development to which, if I remember his words, he hoped to be able to give an impetus.
Realising that fully, there comes to my mind, as it were, another current of thought which has been suggested in the Debate, and I ask my Noble Friend for information, because I do feel somewhat puzzled by the clash of these two conflicting ideas. It is difficult for anyone who is not an expert to understand just how much provincialisation of these services has taken place. Are these services of medicine, of engineering, of forestry, of waterways, in future to be controlled by provincial governments and entirely Indianised? I do not, for a moment, suggest that if they be Indianised they become inefficient—I say nothing of the kind—but surely if that be the case, it will be necessary to have at least a certain quota of experts from Europe who can hold positions in the all-India services or who will hold permanent appointments under the Secretary of State to inspire with some of the latest European notions and to keep a standard alive, in the various provincial services. Surely, for that purpose, even if you only need a few, you do need very, very excellent 721 men; and I sometimes wonder whether, in speaking of the problems that lie before us in the recruitment of the services of India, we have not allowed ourselves to be too much mesmerised by the problem of the executive branch of the Indian Civil Service.
Is it not. important to procure, and what steps are the India Office taking to procure, the best material for filling these expert technical posts about which I have just spoken? I think that the prospect is perhaps better than it has ever been, if I may speak for a moment as one who is still engaged in practical teaching work at the university—I think that never more than now have you had such excellent specialist education, that perhaps it is true to say that the men at the universities at present are, for good or for ill, and there is much to be said on both sides, educated in a rather less all-round degree and rather more as specialists, but I think that they combine with this specialisation a realisation of the fascination which lies in the application of their knowledge to the practical problems of the day; that they are very remote from the purely theoretical, and that the practical never interested young men as it does now. That does not mean to say that they are all becoming scientists of a purely narrow outlook.
If you take even the study of Greek history, whereas 50 years ago the student of Greek history was engaged in explaining the age of Pericles in terms of the age of Mr. Gladstone, he is now a traveller in the Mediterranean digging up buried cities and grubbing about in thousand-year-old dust heaps for papyri. That is only one instance to show that even in subjects far removed from science there never was a period in which the scholar was less of a recluse and more interested in the practical application of his knowledge. Again, if you take the sons of families with a long record of fine public service to the country, you find that whereas before they were rather toying, perhaps, with an all-round examination, which included everything from elementary chemistry to the Gospel of Saint Mark, they are now engaged in, and finding real interest in, subjects such as engineering, architecture and particularly agriculture. In both the older universities you have good and active schools of agriculture taking men of just 722 the right type, interesting them and provoking their powers.
I pass from that to the large scientific schools. In the past the science school at Oxford has been more remarkable for its supreme excellence than for the number of students entering it, but I noticed in the "Times" to-day that in connection with the. school of science there is a class list of 150 names. We must not forget this splendid material when we are looking to fill these specialist posts. There is the material that can be used if the India Office are in touch with not only the English Universities but others also. The history of Scottish Universities is a history of service for India, and I wonder if I might put forward still another suggestion, which is this, that I think I am right in saying in the old days you did not confine your recruiting for the Indian Civil Service to the young men and to examination, but there was some system of transference—I think I am right in saying—from the Indian Army, and that certain of the best public servants in India were brought in that way. [An HON. MEMBER: "Only the political!"] I think if they were only the political, that is sufficient for the purpose of my argument.
Is it impossible to apply that to these technical experts you are sending out to India? Would it not be possible to take in from time to time some of those people out of the technical services'? What we have learned to-day tends to show how much depends upon speeding-up the economic development of India. Is it not possible for the Indian Civil Service to be recruited, mostly, of course, by the present method, but with the possibility of taking into its ranks these experts of whom I speak, and the need for which in India is, I think, apparent? Is it not possible that you might widen the outlook and increase the power of the Indian Civil Service? Another point which I think is in its favour is that these expert services of which I speak, have always been treated rather as the Cinderella, have never had quite the same position of honour and respect in India, and the possibility of transference from one to another might tend to obliterate the social differences which have unfortunately existed.
The Noble Lord, in his most interesting speech, spoke of the very satisfactory increase in the number of recruits for 723 the Indian. Civil Service, a point upon which he and others who worked in that direction deserve our congratulation. But i do hope that he will not rest content with the matter here. He will admit that to get this very great improvement, an enormous amount of what I can only call advertising work has been done. The universities of England in the last 12 months have become so many elephant keddahs into which have been introduced a stout old tusker, in the shape of the Secretary of State, and gentle female elephants, in the shape of certain ex-Governors and other officials, charged with prodding, or alluring, the young elephants to a corner where Sir Stanley Leathes, waving a torch and beating a. tom-tom, has instructed the Civil Service Commission to lasso the bemused creatures by the tender parts. We must admit that this is a kind of effort that cannot be continued. Neither the India Office nor the universities can endure an annual travail of this rigour and we shall have to go back to less dramatic efforts. I hope the Noble Lord will not discontinue the admirable efforts made to establish contact with the universities, and, if I may say so, by rather less dramatic efforts. I believe they are in the long run the most useful. I would suggest to him in this connection that in a university the ideas which last descend from the senior to the junior rather than ascend from the junior to the senior members.
I know many Members want to take part in this Debate, and although there are many points which arise in my mind about this important subject. I will content myself with making these practical suggestions which, I hope, the Noble Lord will not regard as an impertinence.
§ Mr. SNELL
The hon. Member who has just sat down has led us into academic regions which seem to take as rather far away from the acute problem that India and this House have to face. In prefacing what I want to say to-night, I would like to refer to some remarks made by the hon. Member for Stroud (Sir F. Nelson) earlier in the Debate. He called upon us who belonged to the Labour party to use measured words, and not to excite temper in the minds of the people of India. I am not sure whether we have given any cause for an admonition of that 724 kind. My own reflection is that there never has been a Debate upon this important question where a greater sense of responsibility prevailed, and where the language was more measured than it has been to-night. I would like to say that for myself I am always impressed by the enormous sense of responsibility which anyone dealing with this problem must have in his mind, and we are to-day speaking in a situation where that sense of responsibility is almost unprecedented.
We have to remember this, however, that if a responsibility rests upon those who might be tempted to say too much, there is an equal responsibility on those who perhaps are tempted to say too little. We are bound to face the situation which prevails. We cannot solve it by ignoring it. We have to face the world as it is, and deal with the problems which present themselves to us. The situation in India, as I see it, is of almost alarming seriousness. It is nobody's fault. I am not blaming any individual, or party, or any particular Government. It may be that there are faults in our system of administration in India. I am sure there are. If our administrative Government in India had been faultless and perfect, the situation would still have arisen. We are face to face with an awakening sense of nationhood in the Eastern part of the world. Whatever Government holds sway there will have to meet that situation.
If we have failed, as in many respects we have failed in India, it has not been the failure of Britishers. It has been the failure of Westerners. It was some satisfaction to hear from the Under-Secretary of State for India that conditions have improved, that the economic situation is better, that finances are in order. If, however, we rely upon these things settling the issues which prevail we shall be living under a delusion. What is to the fore in India at the present time is that men are suffering from the feeling that they are not getting conceded to them what they consider are their just demands. Indian leaders have begun to lose hope of maintaining a constitutional attitude, and the hold over the peoples of India whom they lead is in danger of being weakened.
In these circumstances, what is our duty? If we desire progress in India, then it is our business to stretch every point we can to retain these men as 725 partners in our common task of bringing to India peace and prosperity, political, economic, and in other ways. If we take, as we do, their loyalty in both hands, we ought to give them some con-cession as early as we can which will enable them to feel that their work is fruitful. I believe there never was a time in the history of our relationship with India when moral courage would give greater results in peace and good will between the two peoples. The hour is rich with promise if we are alert enough to see to it. The Secretary of State for India, speaking in another place a day or two ago, led us to believe that no move would be made to review the present situation until 1929. In the course of his speech he uttered one very wise observation to the effect that "wise men were not the slaves of dates." It would seem to me that our business is not to think of a particular date on which, some years ago, we promised to review the situation, but to think of the existing need and to make ourselves also no slaves to dates. The Noble Viscount said:What is ten years in the age-long history of the immemorial East?What would three years be in the relationship between our Government and the people of India if those three years would help to the peace of mind in India They 3hould be used to the full. We should not hang out until the last hour of our bargain. What it means, it seems to me, is that no legislation can take place until about 1932, if a Royal Commission appointed in 1929 recommended it. Why not say to the people of India: "We will appoint a Commission of inquiry next year so that when 1929 comes, we shall have material in our hands that will enable us to come to a correct decision." That would seem to me to be more far-sighted statesmanship than is visible at the present moment.
As to the principle of self-government in India, I should like to say a word or two. Hon. Members who have spoken this afternoon have spoken of conferring constitutionalism upon India. You can not confer constitutionalism upon another country. Constitutionalism is developed from the country itself, and opportunities for its development must be afforded. We have to remember when the word "unfitness" is used that that must not be taken to be the opposite of 726 "fitness." It is a question of variation and gradation. Every race we know that is now thought fit, started on their journey very low down in the scale of unfitaess. Most experienced nations in the world made mistakes in their development. Our own nation, for example, one of the most experienced in Parliamentary government, made the mistake last October of returning the present Government to power. I give that as an illustration of how far wrong even an experienced nation can go.
The Indian people feel themselves capable of greater powers of self-government than those to which they have at present attained. They ask for self-government. It is the desire of every progressive nation that they should have self-government for themselves. Hon. Members this afternoon laughed at my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) when he spoke about good government and self-government. I repeat what my right hon. Friend said, that good as good government may be, it is no substitute for self-government. If we attempt to procure for the Indian people ultimate self-government, our business is to support them on the way to gain experience as quickly as it is possible. The argument about capability has always been misused. The people of this country were denied the extension of the franchise on the ground that they were incapable of using the vote. The leaders of both the other parties in this House denied women the vote on the ground that they were incapable of using it, of knowing good from evil in the matter of the choice of candidates. The Noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India, in another place the other day, tried to explain the situation by a statement of this kind:If we withdrew from India to-morrow—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman is not entitled to quote speeches made in the other House, in order to reply to them. Is he doing so in order that there may be a reply from the other side?
§ Mr. SNELL
I pass that by, Mr. Hope. May I put it this way: that the Noble Viscount, so far as I remember, stated that if we withdrew from India to-morrow, there would be a struggle between different sections of the population. 727 That may be perfectly true. I do not know. Among the many other qualities of the Noble Lord which we admire, I have never regarded him as a prophet, but it may possibly be true.
§ The CHAIRMAN
This is a standing rule of the House. It was enforced the other day in the case of Lord Arnold, and the rule equally applies to Lord Birkenhead.
§ Mr. SNELL
I am sorry I have unwittingly transgressed. We cannot withhold extensions of government for fear that disturbances might occur. We are bound sometimes to take a certain moral risk. For instance, there was civil war in this country in the 17th and 18th centuries. There was civil war between the Colonies and the Mother Country at the end of the 18th century. America began her great and promising life with a revolution, which was succeeded by a bloody and disastrous war. The South American Republics have not been exactly immune from internal strife. Ireland has not been an illustration of undisturbed brotherly love. Every nation possibly has to face responsibilities of this kind. I only wish in conclusion to say a word upon another matter. We are asked to be afraid because vehement patriots in India have uttered harsh words about us. I ask that we should not be over-sensitive on these matters. After all, we are not very careful of what we say of each other in this country, and if the Indians read our newspapers and see that one party in this House is accused of being the tool of Moscow while the other is the dutiful menial of high finance and so on, he may be accused if he thinks he may say of all of us what he reads said of each other. Let us not be too sensitive in that matter. Let us remember nationalism is always hyper-sensitive and men who desire a certain thing in the way of development are apt to regard it as a religion which is being assailed. The humblest Englishman in India knows that he has behind him the whole weight of the Empire, but the most illustrious Indian cannot help feeling that he is a man of a subject race. I would like to say that the time we are living in is enormously important and that next year the Indian General Elections will take place. It ought to be our business to seize on this opportunity of cultivating every possible 728 avenue of goodwill that there is in order that we can bring peace and prosperity to that great and wonderful land.
§ Major-General Sir RICHARD LUCE
I wish to narrow down the Debate and to raise a few points with regard to the future of medicine in India. Hon. Members will remember that medicine is one of those services which are described as transferred, that is to say, it has passed out of the control of the Government of India to that of the Provincial Governments. Up to the present time the personnel of those services have remained members of the Royal India Service and have been, as a personnel, under the control of the Secretary of State and the Governor in Council. The Lee Commission inquired into that and that has now passed away. But in the case of medicine there have been certain reservations. It was decided by the Lee Commission that there was a difference in the matter of medicine from the other services and that for various reasons it was necessary that there should be in each of the Provincial Services a certain and a fixed proportion of European doctors to carry on the work. The reasons given were, in the first instance, that it was necessary to have a certain proportion of trained Europeans to carry on those Services efficiently, and, secondly, it is considered by the rest of the European population in the Services of India that they have a right to the services of European doctors for themselves and their families. That, I know, is one of the things which Indians will perhaps take as a slight on their services, and to some of us who have worked in England with eminent Indian doctors in this country who are doing most excellent work and are excellent practitioners—personally I have had experience of working very closely with such Indian doctors—it is a little bit difficult to see why that prejudice should be so strong. But there that prejudice is. It is slated by the Lee Com-mission that it is almost universally reported that it was a vital matter that they should have European medical officers to look after the European population in India. If that is an obvious feeling, if the Services are to be maintained in India, a provision must be made that there should be European doctors in each of the Provincial Services.
729 The other point on which it was decided that it was necessary to have Europeans in the provinces was that there should be a reserve for the Indian Army. it was definitely stated in a speech by the present Commander-in-Chief in India in the Indian Council a year ago that it was an absolute necessity that there should be a reserve for the Indian Army. For these reasons the Lee Commission decided that there should be a difference in the recommendations with regard to the provincialisation of the personnel of the medical services. The difficulty arose because the Indian Medical Service has for some considerable time been far from popular. From being, as it was from 15 to 20 years ago, one of the finest and most popular medical services of any country in the world, gradually, from various causes, it ceased to have that popularity. Even before the War it was not attracting the best recently qualified men in England, and since the War that inability has increased until it has been extremely difficult in the last two or three years to get enough medical men to fill the vacancies in the Service. The reasons for that inability are various. I think it began by the great increase in the cost of living in India and no corresponding increase in pay. That was one of the causes. A second cause was that in the Indian Medical Service rather more than half—62 per cent.—were before the War, in the early days, seconded for civil work and were granted the right of doing private civil practice, which of course, was one of the most lucrative parts of the service. That had ceased to some extent before the War and in recent times has ceased to a very large extent. Since the War there has been a shortage of medical officers right throughout the country. It is not only this service which is suffering, the Army service, the Navy service and the other Imperial services have suffered from the shortage of doctors throughout the country due to the fact that in War time so few people qualified. There is also the fact that the atmosphere in India is not now so agreeable for Europeans to live in as it was in years gone by. For those reasons it has become extremely difficult to get men into the Indian Medical Service, and it has only been possible to fill up the vacancies in the 730 last year by instituting a system of short-time service, under which men can go out at the end of five years with a good gratuity. That system must be a great source of weakness, and also a source of expense to the Government if it is to be maintained for any length of time. It means that the attraction to go out at the end of five years must be sufficient to make a good many go out, and if they go out in five years the wasteful process of training a new lot must be gone over again, because in the first five years a man will not be so valuable for the service as he will be afterwards.
If we are going to provincialise these services, if we are going to place them entirely under the provincial governments, removing them from being members of the Indian Medical Service under the control of the Secretary of State but with an appeal to the Secretary of State, there comes the question, Will the services become so much more unpopular that it will be even more difficult to get sufficient men? I gather from the reply given to me on Tuesday last by my Noble Friend the Under-Secretary that this question is still under consideration by the Government. All who have to do with the medical service of the Government of India have realised the extreme difficulty of deciding these questions, and as it is still under consideration it is doubtful yet whether the medical service will be entirely provincialised in the way recommended by the Lee Commission. I gather from the speech of the Secretary of State in another place that it is not his intention entirely to remove all control of the Secretary of State over the transferred services, and if that be so, I think there is a chance that the transfer will not make so much difference to the popularity of the service. Closely allied to this question of the civil service is the question of the army medical services in India. There are two distinct services looking after the Army there. In the British Army the Royal Army Medical Corps has complete medical charge. A certain proportion of the Royal Army Medical Corps officers and personnel are sent out to India on tour of duty, and they are entirely responsible for the British Army while serving in India. On the other hand, the Indian Army is looked after by the Indian Medical Service, which is primarily, as I said 731 before, a military service, and only' secondarily a civil service. Those two services are working side by side, both, as military services, looking after different sets of troops. There we have one of the most difficult points in the provision of an efficient medical service in India. There have been many inquiries into this dual system, and many attempts to find a solution by which the two could be united, and now that the civil service is being disconnected from the military side of the Indian military service it seems that a suitable time has come to produce some method of uniting those two services so that they will be one.
The difficulties were exceedingly pronounced during the War; in fact, many of those difficulties which caused such heartburnings and scandals, one might almost say, in Mesopotamia, arose out of the fact that there were dual services working together in India with different standards of efficiency and different standards of equipment, and, sometimes, acting with a certain amount of jealousy. Whether they can combine these two services I do not know but it should be done if possible. There should be a united service—something on the lines of the Indian Army Medical Corps—in which the officers of the corps should be made up of Indian and British officers and the men should consist partly of British Royal Army Medical Corps men and non-commissioned officers attached to, and united into the corps for the time they serve in India, but, when their tour of service in India is over, going back and taking their ordinary places in the Royal Army Medical Corps. It is a difficult problem, but I do not think it is an insurmountable one, and if the reform could be carried out it would be. I am sure, for the benefit of the Indian Army and the British Army. Hon. Members will understand what difficulties must arise in wartime. In peace time it does not matter so much about having these two services working side by side, one looking after the Indian troops and the other looking after the British troops, but when the armies are united for war it means that a brigade consists partly of Indian troops and partly of British troops, and there are separate medical units to look after the different troops in the same brigade, producing, often, a quite impossible position. During the War the 732 system broke down and a new system had to be devised for combing those two services into one, which eventually was found to work extremely well, so clearly it should be possible to combine these two.
One other matter I wish to refer to, and that is the question of the method by which the medical service and others have been transferred. We all sympathise with the idea that India should have more control over its own services, but whether the whole control of medicine should be passed from the State to the provinces without leaving any control at all, seems to me to be a doubtful point. Medicine is one of those services which requires control from a centre more perhaps than any other. We have found it so in this country, and even during the last few years we have found it necessary to form a Ministry of Health to co-ordinate and control the various medical services right throughout the country. If that was necessary in this country, it must be necessary to have at least the same control in India over such matter as education, research, quarantine, and the appointment to the higher medical posts in the universities, and perhaps even the hospitals, because it is not safe to leave that work to young Provincial Governments, because they are now under native ministers starting with new experience, and there must be some method of coordinating and giving advice to the Provincial Governments. India is being handed over to a young set of Governments, and in doing this it seems to me that we must be very careful not to consider medicine one of those services on which a young Government can try its 'prentice hand. We must not let go the leading reins before these young Governments are established firmly in the saddle.
§ Mr. THURTLE
When I listened the other afternoon in another place to the statement on India, I could not help feeling how unfortunately India was placed in the Imperial scheme of government. The good fortune of India depends entirely on electoral fights in this country. Last year Lord Olivier was Secretary of State for India, and this year that office is filled by Lord Birkenhead, and that change has taken place as the result of an electorial fight in which I venture to say India was hardly mentioned. Owing to this Imperialist political structure of ours, 733 great questions of this kind are decided by the vagaries, whims and caprice of the British electorate without any consideration whatsoever. No one will suggest that the majority which was obtained by the party opposite last October was obtained in any way as a consequence of its avowed policy in connection with India. I think the Committee ought to realise from the very fact that we never do consider India when we are taking these large electoral steps, it is necessary to be more cautious in the attitude we take towards India on such occasions as this.
There is an old platitude that the people deserve the kind of government they get. That may be true of a democratic country, but I do not think we can apply that doctrine to India. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] An hon. Member asks me "Why not?" and I would like to ask what has India done to deserve to have at the India Office to-day so reactionary, headstrong and so anti-democratic a person as the present Secretary of State for India? If India was in any way responsible for the present occupant of the office of Secretary of State I would say India deserves that, but, as a matter of fact, India has had absolutely nothing to do with that matter, and the Zinovieff letter has had a great deal more to do with the position occupied by Lord Birkenhead at the India Office at the present time than the wishes of the Indian people.
I want to say that the announcement made by Lord Birkenhead will be received in India with very great disappointment. The Indian people probably do not know Lord Birkenhead as we know him. They do not know the power of the Die-hard spirit in the present Government as we know it, and they have been led to hope and expect that as a result of the conversations which have taken place between Lord Reading and the Secretary of State for India there would be some generous offer made to the people of India who are longing for self-government. As a matter of fact I believe that the death of that great Indian leader Mr. Das has possibly caused a change in the intentions of the Government in that respect. I was looking up, only the other day, some of the speeches and announcements made after that friendly gesture had been made by Mr. Das, and it seemed to me that there was a much more generous tone 734 animating those statements than the tone which was expressed in another place the other day.
I want to say that it is a very shortsighted policy for the Government not to meet the aspirations and desires of India in a different fashion, because there is no doubt about it at all that this diarchical system has utterly failed to work effectively in India, or to satisfy the aspirations of the Indian people, or place them on a progressive road towards self government. I do not know how to describe this diarchical system. The other day I came across Burke's speech on Conciliation with America and in it he denned a certain system of government as "a heterogeneous monster, half hostility and half government." It seems to me that definition might easily fit in as a definition of diarchy, because it is neither one thing nor the other. It is neither government by the buraeucracy, nor government by the democracy, and it has entirely failed to satisfy the desires of the Indian people.
It is, of course, obvious that the Secretary of State for India is very well acquainted with the Muddiman Report, and if he has read that document conscientiously he must have convinced himself, as a result of the evidence contained in it, that there is very general dissatisfaction amongst even the most moderate politicians with the diarchical system. It is claimed that it has worked satisfactorily in the Province of Madras, May I just quote this one reference to Madras? It is by a Minister who was in office in Madras for 1921 to 1923 who was not by any means an extremist. He says:It is admitted on all hands that diarchy has failed. Even in the Province of Madras, where an honest attempt has been made to Work the reforms in the spirit in which they were conceived, diarchy has absolutely failed. The only remedy I can think of for these defects is complete provincial autonomy.That is so far as Madras is concerned. As a matter of fact throughout India—Burma has been mentioned as an exception, but even in Burma the scheme has only been a moderate success, and generally speaking throughout India, as a scheme for satisfying the Indian people, diarchy has been an almost unqualified failure After all, the test of a schema of government is not merely whether it 735 is a good scheme in itself, but also whether the people for whom it is intended think it is a good scheme. Perfect paper schemes of government may be devised, but, if they do not satisfy the people for whom they are intended, it cannot be said they are workable schemes. So far as diarchy is concerned, quite apart from the fact that intrinsically it is a bad system, there is this vital fact, that the Indian people, moderates and extremists—if you like to call them so—alike, find this system utterly unsatisfactory and are not prepared to work it.
I wanted to deal with one or two points that were referred to by the Noble Lord, but perhaps I ought not to do so, and, therefore, I will leave them, but I would like to assure him that I have ample evidence, were there time at my disposal, to show that, in attempting to deal with the social and industrial conditions in India, the Indian Labour representatives have found themselves hampered and thwarted at every turn by the official representatives of the Government. Therefore, it is idle for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) and others to say that the remedy for these things lies in the hands of the Indian representatives themselves. I believe, Mr. Hope, that the time which you have kindly allotted to me is already at an and I will draw my remarks to a close, but I want to say this: The problem of India is not going to be solved if it is faced in the spirit which animated the statement made in another place. If you are going to regard India in this haggling, cautious, grudging spirit, thinking 10 times before you make a single step forward, you are inevitably going to lose India. Lord Birkenhead said that there would be no lost Dominion, but he must not be too sure of that. Exactly that same kind of language was being held in this House 150 years ago about America. There was then on these benches Edmund Burke, pleading with all the force and vigour that he could command, that America should be treated in a generous fashion. That advice was rejected; the idea of a breaking away of America was scoffed at; but that has long since been an accomplished fact, and, however certain the present Government may be that they can hold India in check without granting to the Indian people the 736 legitimate demands they are putting forward, they may find in the not distant future that they are making a very serious mistake indeed. I have not been permitted to develop my argument, but I want to say, without having, I admit, adduced proof of it, that this diarchical system has proved a failure, and the least the Government ought to do is to be prepared to accept the recommendation of the Minority Report of the Muddiman Committee to this effect, that they ought to be prepared to say that they will set up a Committee immediately to go into the whole matter, so that, long before 1929, they will be able to put forward, as a result of the work of that Committee, a scheme of government which will be acceptable to the Indian people and in consonance with the dignity and the legitimate aspirations of that people.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
I think the Committee generally, and especially those of us who are deeply interested in India, will be grateful to His Majesty's Opposition for the opportunity afforded in this discussion, and also, perhaps, particularly to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), for the very eloquent and moderate terms which he used in opening the Debate. I hope he will not think it an impertinence, but rather a compliment, if I say that I find myself much more in agreement with him than, perhaps, I usually am, and that those of us who are interested in India must also be glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) paid a visit to India, from which, evidently, he has acquired a new and, as far as I know, exceptional interest in its affairs. At this late hour I cannot deal with many subjects with which I should have liked to deal, and particularly those subjects which have been raised in the Debate, but I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen spoke specially on the question of agriculture, which, as my Noble Friend the Under-Secretary said was, of course, a transferred subject in India. At the same time, I want to take this, one of the few opportunities one may have, to appeal to the Government to make such representations as they can to the Government of India in connection with the possibilities of further rural development and agricultural research.
737 There is, I know, entire truth behind the statement which the Under-Secretary made regarding what has been done, and in anything I say I do not want to minimize for one moment what has been done by the Agricultural Department of the Government of India, who have laboured, as I know, for a great many years for the benefit of the ryot. At the same time, one cannot help feeling that there is a great deal yet that could be done. I know from statistics I have read that, for example, in certain parts of India the yield of wheat at the present time is only something like 11 bushels per acre, while on similar land, not very far away, the yield is something like seven times that amount. I only instance that to show that evidently there is more that could be done, and consequently it shows that there is a possibility of some development in that direction.
There is one point I want to mention in connection with agriculture, and that is the great difficulty the ryot labours under owing to the tremendous subdivision of land. It is easy to say, and it has been said, that the sub-division of land is a matter which everyone agrees is of great difficulty, but nothing can be done. I realise that it is an extraordinarily difficult subject. When it is known that small portions of land almost not larger than the floor of this House, are divided up into two or three holdings, and when you have the agricultural experts of the Government saying that owing to this subdivision many agriculturists have only got to work on their own patches of land for something like 150 days in the year, you are finding one of the contributory causes of the poor-earning capacity of the ryot. Consequently, I think that is a matter which the Government of India could well pay some attention to. Of course, the real difficulty in connection with agriculture—and agriculture represents 80 per cent. of the total population—is the question of debt. Debt is the bugbear. One thing that is always before us is the fact that the ryot is born, lives and dies in debt. He is born with that weight round his neck. He can never get away from it. That is the real difficulty. I should like to ask the Under-Secretary what increase, if any, in the last year there has been in the number of co-operative societies, say, in the Bombay Presidency. 738 There has been a steady increase and it is said, with what truth I do not know, that the result of the working of these co-operative societies has been a saving of something like £500,000 to agriculturists in the Bombay Presidency alone.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I am afraid that I could not supply the figures offhand, but there has been a considerable increase.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
Perhaps it was unfair to ask the question, but the operation of these co-operative societies is a very valuable point. I should like to say a word on the question of finances. I agree very largely with the excellent remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Sir F. Nelson) on the difficulties which will face the Government of India, and more particularly the Currency Commission, which I trust will be set up before long. As long as the fiction of a 2s. rupee continues, we are bound to have a curious and unnatural position, but I do not envy the task of those who have to settle what the future currency is to be. There again, no one who has studied Indian conditions can but be amazed at the enormous absorption of gold that is still going on. It is, one knows, now a popular way of locking up belongings, but even in the prosperity of India the figures are amazing. Nothing, I suppose, will cure the hoarding difficulty except the continuous provision of more banking facilities, which is one thing, I am glad to say, the Government are doing their best to encourage. I did not agree quite so fully with some of the remarks which have been made regarding the question of the Excise duty or the difficulties of the Indian mills. It is not that I want to see the Excise duty continued—I have always been strongly in favour of its removal—but I do not see that its removal would immediately bring prosperity to the Bombay mills. Its removal, to my mind, is much more a political matter than anything else. There is no doubt that in some cases it might have made the difference between a profit and a loss, but I do not think the Bombay mills can hope for profitable conditions for their industry as long as they are in the position they are in at present, that is to say, as long as they are buying their cotton at something so much larger than pre-War prices, and trying, 739 in consequence, to recover from their customers an equivalent price for their products. The fact of the matter is that last January the price of ordinary cotton goods was 169 per cent. above pre-War, because of the high price of cotton. On the other hand, the ryot is getting something like 35 per cent. above pre-War figures for his food. It is manifest where the difficulty of the Bombay mills is, apart from the question of Japanese competition, and also the difficulty of the Lancashire mills. If we have to try to recover from the ryot a price something like 169 per cent. above pre-War while he is only receiving 35 per cent. more for his grain, it is impossible to expect him to be buying in the usual quantities. I think the events of the last two years have proved, if it required proof, the marvellous power of the ryot to hold off buying if he did not want to pay the price. Perhaps Lancashire, as well as Bombay, is finding these conditions difficult. Another great factor is the question of Japanese competition—hours of labour, and so on. Unfortunately Japan has not confirmed the Washington Convention, and shows no sign of doing so, and until she does, I see no prospect of improvement in that direction.
I should like to deal with the general political situation in view of the remarks made by the Secretary of State in another place this week. I am very glad my Noble Friend made it clear that a somewhat erroneous impression that might have arisen as the result of the Secretary of State's speech is based on a misunderstanding of what he said. That it is desirable that we should know the views of everyone who is in a position to express valuable views in India there is no doubt. I should be very glad if there could be some form, I will not call it of conference but of discussion with anyone in India who is in a position to put forward views which he thinks will be to the benefit of India after the present period laid down by the Act has expired, or even before it, always provided such a conference or discussion is entered into without any binding arrangement beforehand on either side. The more we can hear of what India wants the better. But there can be no greater truth than that laid down by the Secretary of State when he said the whole thing is a question 740 of what co-operation can secure. We in this country nowadays—and I am sure that may be said of the House generally—are, I believe, neither diehards on the one hand nor extremists on the other. All we want is to do what is best for India as a whole and we want to get every possible bit of advice and assistance that we can get from India. Let it equally be made clear, as was fairly stated by the Leader of the Opposition, that no good can come of any form of coercion or any threats. No statement that has been made in the House could have been more definite or clearer than that which he made when Prime Minister. I hope that if India will only see that England is still holding out a hand of friendship to India, asking for co-operation, there will come about that change which already there are signs of, and we shall get from India a gesture of friendship and co-operation which will bring about fair conditions. The late Mr. Das, in almost his last speech, made a statement in Bengal which I think is well worth remembering. He said:We are determined to secure Swaraj and political equality for India and terms of equality and honourable partnership in. the Empire. To the sons of Bengal I say, fight the battle of Swaraj, but fight it cleanly. To the Europeans I say, do not misunderstand us. Lay aside unjust suspicion.That is a very interesting statement to be almost the last word of the leader of what has been looked upon as the most extreme party in India. I do not pretend to say what would have happened had he lived; but I do say that if India will take those words to heart, I am quite certain that the European at home and in India will be equally willing to take them to heart.
Constant statements are being made regarding the position of the Indian Service. The Indian Service is passing through one of the most difficult times that any body of civil servants in any country was ever asked to undertake. All that they are asking for, and I think they asked for it rightly, is that if there is a difference still, as there must be for many years, in the standards of what is east and what is west, as they are appointed from the west they should be judged by western standards; that if their work is good it should be acknowledged to be good, and if it is bad then 741 they should be censured for it as being bad. Every bit of support that we in this House can give, will not only be appreciated, but it will operate and work towards that day, which I believe will come sooner or later, when India realises that her future lies entirely in co-operation with this country, until she becomes one of the greatest parts, if not the greatest part, of the Empire.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
We are now drawing to the close of one of the most remarkable Debates on India that I have ever sat through since I was a Member of this House. There was one warning which came from an hon. Member below the Gangway which I cannot allow to pass without comment. He told us that we ought to be very careful to say nothing that was going to do harm in India. I do not object to that warning, but I think that if all the mistaken speeches that have ever been delivered in this House were gathered together, and if all the evil done in India by those mistaken speeches was brought together, they would not amount to one-tenth of the evil that is done in the relations between this country and India, owing to the mistaken attitude and conduct of the Europeans in India itself. There is such a newspaper as the "Statesman," of Calcutta. I have read in the columns of that newspaper attacks that could do nothing but provoke Indian resentment, and insult Indian self-respect. Then you get the "Civil and Military Gazette," the "Pioneer," the "Bombay Gazette," one after another doing the same thing, and then we get hon. Members who come from India warning those of us who sit above the Gangway to measure our words. They really are the very last section of this House that ought to utter such a word of warning.
I have intervened not for the purpose of recriminating but for the purpose of saying to India, remembering that, and remembering the tone of to-day's Debate, take it as an evidence of the anxiety not only of one side but of all sides of the House, that we should let those unfortunate bygones be bygones, and all strive unitedly to bring about a more harmonious and co-operative state of things between India and ourselves. I am rather sorry that apparently a misunderstanding has arisen about certain words used by the Secretary of State in another place. I am 742 very glad that the correction, if it was necessary, has been made quickly, because undoubtedly an expectation was left in the minds of all sorts of people both in India and here that, by the words which Lord Birkenhead used, we invited the production of constitutional schemes, and that those words meant that the Government was prepared to examine those schemes immediately. When we were in office our position was perfectly clear. It was this. That if there were any plots or plans or movements that were designed to upset order, or that would inevitably upset order, those had to be dealt with in a firm and an effective way, but while dealing with them we were to insist upon the Government of India exploring thoroughly every possible avenue through which conciliation between Great Britain and India might be reached, and I was of opinion when I read the statement made by the Noble Lord in another place that that was the policy which His Majesty's present Government wished to pursue. Even now, though the statement has been somewhat modified, I am sure not in intention but in form, modified so that it is now narrower in form than it appeared to be when it was first stated, I still hope that the Noble Lord, who, I believe, is going to follow before the finish of the Debate, will be able to show that the modified statement still means in substance that His Majesty's Government is prepared to listen to and consider any reasonable plans that may be put forward.
§ Earl WINTERTON indicated assent.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
A great deal has been said about the industrial conditions in India. We have once again had complaints about the 3½ per cent. Excise duty. I associate myself with the statement made by the hon. Member who has just sat down. I do not believe for a moment that the 3½ per cent. Excise duty will make any appreciable economic or industrial difficulty. But it is a very largo political element indeed, and, as the difference between the Excise and Customs duty now is so very substantial, we have now not even the excuse for keeping the Excise duties of 3½ per cent. that it is to maintain in practice a sort of theoretical Free Trade position regarding the manufactures and imports of India. That has gone. It is perfectly true that the Indian 743 Government needs the money. But, once again, a good deal would be done to settle opinion and feeling in India if the Government would repeat that it means to keep its pledge, that it would strive so to arrange the financial conditions of India that the 3½ per cent. will be at once taken off. An hon. Member who has spoken professed that he was interested in the 3½ per cent., not for profits but prices. He knows perfectly well, if 3½ per cent. Excise duty means an increase of prices, what 11 per cent. Customs duty would do. The Customs duty on cotton imports into India goes, with an added percentage in profit, on to the price of the goods consumed by the Indians, and a reduction of the Customs duty would mean directly and at once a reduction in price. I am not at all sure that the Bombay cotton millowners will allow the very necessary and most desirable and most beneficial change to be made in the Indian Customs duty.
So far as the industrial conditions, the factory conditions, are concerned, we must remember that opinion in that respect in the West is unfortunately not yet shared by the East, that the conditions which move us and touch us do not move and touch the East in quite the same way. It is coming; it is coming all right. That is no reflection upon the East. It is coming. It is coming in India; it is coming in China; it is coming in Japan. I am not at all sure but that India is leading the East in that human sensibility. The growth is enormous. Those who were in India a considerable number of years ago can remember the callous indifference to conditions in the Bombay cotton mills—callous indifference to the child brought at its mother's breast into the mills, laid down on the floor, where in due course it was covered up under the cloth, so that one had to poke away the cloth with a walking stick in order to see the curious thing that lay like a shadow underneath. The change between those days and now is tremendously marked. Yet we have still far to go. But the change is coming. Therefore, I hope that the Government will make it perfectly clear that the charges which are constantly being made, rightly or wrongly—I am describing what I know is happening—that the British official representatives upon the various 744 Legislative Councils are out of sympathy with improved factory legislation, are not true, and that they will issue such instructions as are necessary in order to make good the statement to that effect.
The Indian trade union leaders are now supported by a body of opinion painfully and deplorably small in relation to the great bulk of the Indian population. But it is slowly growing and receiving more and more the support of the Indian community and the support of the British community in India as well. All that must be supported. I am not at all sure that I agree with the view that we, as the supposed superior sovereign authority in India, should also constantly keep ourselves as the superior legislative authority. I think the two things are different. Our superior sovereign authority is there, and nobody disputes it. The speech of the late Mr. Das, which was quoted by the last speaker, shows that he did not dispute it, but in developing a self-governing country in starting Legislative Councils, in giving them more and more power, we must try to be consistent, and we will find it increasingly difficult to do both things, namely, to grant self-government and at the same time constantly interfere in its operations. The line I should like to pursue would be this: I think it would be a very good thing for Indian labour if we lay down our standards here, if we give all the encouragement we can for the development of Indian labour opinion,, and then put the responsibility of legislation upon Indian councils—seeing, of course, that they have full power. I am sure that is the best line to pursue in that respect. I hope the Government will lose no time in getting an amendment of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms by allowing and providing for the special representation of Indian labour. The history of Indian labour during the last 10 or 12 years justifies that step being taken. It may be—and I am not answering the question myself at the moment—that when this experiment was started, when the development from the Morley reform into the Montagu-Chelmsford reform took place, the Government were still doubtful whether this special community in India justified a special representation.
745 I do not think any impartial observer of Indian social conditions to-day will doubt that organised labour has now justified that confidence being shown in it to enable it to be represented properly, directly and not indirectly, on the various councils. We have had some interesting statements about the economic and industrial conditions of labour, about agriculture, cooperation, and finance, made by men who have a personal knowledge of these matters to which I for one cannot pretend. These contributions are most valuable, but behind all this is the question of what the relations are to be between Great Britain as a sovereign authority and India as a self-governing nation. Until that is settled much of our good work will go for nothing. If hon. Members wish to realise the importance of that point I cannot do better than refer them to the recently-issued Report of the Reforms Enquiry Committee, 1024, and if they look at page 4 in the second rubricated paragraph, they will see in language, the definite meaning of which leaves no possible doubt, how everything in India, good, bad or indifferent, is turned, twisted, contorted by an unfortunate political mind in India. Now to that I would just like to make this contribution, and the Indians themselves must try and see the reality of the situation. We are living to-day in a period of transition, a time when we are steadily moving out of a state when India was definitely and absolutely subordinate to us into a time when India is going to be self-governed. Every day there is a transition, there is a drift, and it is just in those periods of transitional change when problems become most delicate and, unfortunately, at the same time most irritating to both sides.
What we have to remember is this, that a period comes, before a country really can give the best result of self-government, when, as a matter of fact, political forces compel it to get self-government. The feeling grows up, the power grows up, and the country drifting to self-government reaches the position when it has a power to stop administration, to make it unequal, to make the administrators unhappy, and to make government almost intolerable. Then, on the one hand, you get your Diehards saying: "Now your authority is challenged, do nothing until that authority 746 has been recognised again." On the other hand, you get a prompting: "Go on, do not trouble about what is happening," and between the two you get a most unhappy state of affairs. I would beg both sides to go ahead, guarding what is necessary, always remembering that the change is coming, and I want to give this experience, because I think it ought to be made public.
The hon. Member who has just spoken referred to something that I said to the effect that it was quite impossible to imagine that any Government would yield simply to threats or to revolutionary methods. It may be that any Government for which I should be responsible would be one of the very last to do that sort of thing, but that is not enough. I want to say something more than that. I want to make it perfectly clear, especially to our Indian friends, that the action which the non-co-operators took, just when we were on the- threshold of office, put innumerable obstacles in our way, gave us difficulties that made it quite impossible for us, for the time being, to do what we should like to have done, that, so far from assisting India in its progress towards self-government, it was most serious and, to my colleagues and myself, a most tragic disaster. Just at the moment when co-operation would not only have made it easy for the Government, as a Government, to do its work, but when it would have made it easy for hon. Members, who, sitting opposite there now, at that time sat here, to have allowed us to do what we would like to have done, at the moment when co-operation, purely genuine co-operation, a co-operation that said bravely: "We understand your difficulties, and we are going to allow that understanding to mix in our minds when we are devising our own policy," would have helped us, and would have helped you to have enabled India to go on substantially in the direction that we certainly meant it should go, and were determined to help it go, the opposite policy of non-co-operation did nothing but put difficulties in our way—difficulties that remained right up to the very last minute while we were in office. I think that that ought to have been said, and, as a matter of fact, it was to say that, in the main, that I made up my mind to make any contribution to this Debate at all. I hope India will make no mistake about the 747 meaning of the statement. Some of us have given too many pledges, too many hostages to India, to be suspected regarding our intentions about Indian self-government.
Having said that, I should like to make our position clear upon another point, which is very germane to that. We are constantly being told that India is not a nation, that there are so many hundred tongues and dialects, so many religions, so many sects, so many castes always coming up again and again. All I am concerned with is this, that I will defy anybody to turn to me a page or a section in the history of India, where the life of India was running at the full, where in peace or in war—turn to me one single section of those religious philosophies that are really the basis of the life of the Hindu, and point out to me anything where there is not underlying all the assumption, the aim of Indian life was unity within the peninsula. It has been the aim of everyone, of every conqueror, to unify that peninsula. It has been the aim of every statesman. The Hindu who utters his religious prayers at the Ganges, the whole conception of the Indian mind is unity, and the fact of a common habitation in the peninsula has gone far to remove, at any rate amongst the sections of creative intelligence, the sections that are creating our political problems—I say that amongst those people the difference between Hindu and Mahommedan is steadily being bridged over, and the leaders of both sections are constantly in the same category. Whether the aspirations I have put forward become an established fact with India as a nation, I do not know. It may be so. I make a present of the observations to hon. Gentlemen, and I leave the question unanswered. Hon. Members opposite will find the problem a very interesting one for Sunday afternoon at the fireside. The problem we have to solve in Downing Stret, the problem we have to solve here, is the problem which has been pursued with somewhat limited considerations. I have put it forward to-day my idea of the active aspirations and determination of those concerned to be a unified community within the peninsula. That is all that is necessary for our present consideration.
748 But I say that we are under the greatest obligations to those Liberal Indian politicians who have met together and drafted this Bill, a copy of which I hold in my hand, known as the Commonwealth of India Bill. It may not be its final form. Undoubtedly it is not its final form, but the people who drafted this Bill have the interests of India at heart. There is no doubt that with the goodwill of both sides of the House, and the determination of both sides of the House to make people of India comfortable and contented within the British Commonwealth, this matter may be pursued. Those of us who hold that view feel that we are under a big obligation to those who have drafted this Bill.
I hear some people asking what have we done for India? May I in conclusion remind the House that what we have done is this: In that wonderful novel written by Bankim Chandra Chatterjis, there is an extraordinary ending, as follows:There is no hope of a revival of the True Faith if the English be not our rulers. Till that is so, till the Hindus are again great in knowledge, virtue and power, till then the English rule will remain undisturbed. The people will be happy under them, and follow their own religion without hindrance.What we have got to do now is like wise people to regard the matter just as we would our own children going out into the world and taking the responsibilities of the world more fully on their shoulders than they have done hitherto. Let us keep them as free partners with us in the great Commonwealth of the British Nation.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I would in two minutes refer to the points which have been made in Debate, and then I will refer to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald). I was unable owing to pressure of time and a desire not to trespass unduly on the time of the Committee to make reference in my first speech to the cotton Excise. It is interesting, for the first time as far as I know in the history of Debates in this House, that there have been two Members of the British Parliament who have advocated the abolition of this duty. Hitherto the situation has been that opinion in India has undoubtedly been almost overwhelmingly in favour of its abolition whilst objection has been taken in this 749 House, mainly by Lancashire Members, to its abolition. I am making no new statement when I say the Government of India have said very definitely that if and when they are in a position, from the revenue point of view, to do so, they will abolish the cotton Excise. It would be improper to give any indication when that will be, as it would be divulging fiscal or Budget secrets.
I am not yet in a position I am afraid to answer the hon. and gallant Member for Derby (Sir R. Luce) with regard to the medical services. With regard to the hon. Member for Cambridge (Sir G. Butler) who spoke on the subject of recruitment of the service, I was naturally glad to hear, coming from such a high authority, a tribute to the success of the campaign to induce people to enter the service. He said he hoped it would not be necessary another year to conduct it on quite the same lines as this year. My answer to that is that it was necessary to bring together a consensus of important official and unofficial opinion—those who held high office in India and those who have been connected with it—and to get them to go round the Universities and explain the situation in the hope that recruitment will be much better than in the past. That hope has been fulfilled.
In the few minutes left I would like to say a word about the speech the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon has delivered. In the first place, I am well aware of the delicacy and difficulty of what I am going to say. I am well aware when anyone, a senior or junior Member of the Government, pays a tribute to the Leader of the Opposition, on the one hand the supporters of the person who is speaking smell some sort of rat, and are not very pleased; and, on the other hand, the supporters of the Leader of the Opposition are suspicious. But, seriously, I must say that I can see no reason why a matter of such grave importance as the constitutional relations between India and Great Britain should not be general to the three Front Benches. Two right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken from the Front Bench opposite, two from below the Gangway on behalf of the Liberal party, and I myself have been in general agreement, at any rate, as to the aim to be reached in India.
750 There is only one thing I must say of a less pleasant nature and that is that I rather regret the right hon. Gentleman—I think he did not quite intend the meaning his words seemed to carry—made the reference he did to Europeans in India. I think there will be general agreement on this point. I do not know what happened in the past, the right hon. Gentleman had experience of India before I had, but I am sure he will accept from me what I am about to say, because I am certain it is true, that there has been no section of the community in India which has been more anxious to aid in working reforms than the Europeans have been. If he were to read the statements that have been made by the European Association and in the European Press in India—and it is part of my duty to read every newspaper every week—I do not think he would find anything with which to quarrel. I can only assure my right hon. Friend that I myself, as well as others, were rather alarmed at what he said in view of the general tenour of his speech which was hopeful to the cause of good will and peace in India.
I will deal next with the other points he raised. He said he hoped the idea would not go out that officials in India, in the Assemblies and the various Councils, were hostile to the idea of social legislation. I can assure him here and now that there is no reason for such suspicion. They have aided it rather than hindered it. Secondly, he said he hoped there would be some possibility of altering the rules so as to give special labour representation. That is certainly a matter for consideration in the future. Thirdly, he asked me about what I may call the constitutional invitation of my Noble Friend. I think it is a matter of the greatest importance, a matter where the words coming from a humble person like myself might have a very ill effect or a very good effect, and I am sure he will not think me discourteous if I say that I think I can best deal with the question by saying that if he reads my words to-morrow in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and reads the words of my Noble Friend in another place, he will see that we said exactly the same thing. After all, the real point is that my Noble Friend said what might have been said by any other Secretary of State, that proposals emanating from India under the conditions laid down 751 by my Noble Friend will receive the consideration they ought to receive from the appropriate authorities at the appropriate time.
I would only say on this, one further word; what we have got to realise is that the British Empire is to-day, and always has been, a tesselated pavement of different races and creeds, each with its own ideas and outlook but all fitting in somewhere. That is the condition, though it is not always realised in this country or elsewhere, under which the Empire exists. The whole Empire is of that nature. We have managed somehow to fit in these different races and different creeds in this tesselated pavement, which has been firm and smooth. We have to continue to do that in the future. We can only do it if we can have throughout the Empire the utmost goodwill, the goodwill not merely of one side but of both sides. My final word is that I resent just as much comments in British newspapers disparaging to the capacity and stability of India as I do attacks in India, reiterated to the point of intolerable tediousness, against the alleged rapacity and selfishness of Great Britain. Neither does the slightest good. We live in a most difficult world, in which the utmost goodwill is required, and if it is forthcoming I believe that most of our difficulties in India can be solved.
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) referred to the attitude of the Labour party, and drew a comparison between that attitude—
§ It being Eleven of the Clock, the Chairman left the Choir to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.