§ Mr. BROCKWAY
I gave notice to the Secretary of State for India that I proposed on this occasion to draw attention to the present situation in India. The right hon. Gentleman has just been to see me and has informed me that another unexpected engagement, the importance of which I realise, has prevented him from being present, but he has indicated that what I say will be sympathetically referred to the authorities in India and that some brief statement will be made on his behalf. I regret that the Secretary of State for India is not present because no one recognises more than I do the difficulties and the terrible responsibilities of the position which he holds, and the sincere desire on his part to reach a solution which will be fair to India and prevent a conflict between India and the people of this country. I know from my own experience that since he has been at the India Office a new spirit has animated that office; that he has been receiving Indian representatives in a way they have never been received before; that he has regarded himself as the representative of the Indian Government, standing for policies which would be unpopular with this House, and that in connection with East Africa, and many other problems he has steadfastly stood for the Indian point of view. I recognise all that, but unfortunately events very deep-rooted and distant are likely to exceed in their volume and speed even the most sympathetic attitude which will be adopted in this country; and that is the situation which is occurring in the relationship of India and this country to-day.
It is a tragedy that despite a more sympathetic attitude at the India Office, despite a more sympathetic attitude on the part of the Viceroy, forces which have 3217 their roots in the past are growing so extensive at the present time and are sweeping on and are making ineffective the sympathy which is undoubtedly there. During the past week events have been occurring in India which must have caused great anxiety to every one. I am not going to discuss to-day these events which are finding expression in the newspaper headlines. They are only symbolical of a much deeper feeling, and real statesmanship will not seek to deal with isolated events but will seek to understand the spirit which is behind these events and remove the grievances which find expression in them. A year ago, when the Secretary of State for India assumed office as a result of the Labour victory at the General Election, he had to meet a situation where practically all the large representative bodies of Indian opinion had decided that they could no long co-operate with the British authorities. The position had become so serious that the Indian National Congress, the largest of these associations, had declared that unless a definite pledge was given that India would receive Dominion status it might before the end of last year declare for the independence of India, and would organise a movement of civil disobedience in order to reach that end.
Some of us who understand the serious position in India urged then upon the Secretary of State that three courses were absolutely essential if the clash between India and Great Britain, which is now beginning, was to be avoided. We urged, first, that there must be a definite declaration of Dominion status for India, not as an ultimate measure, but as an immediate objective; that is to say that the principle of Dominion status should be embodied in a Bill. It may easily be that such a measure would require a transitional period to operate while the Civil Service was Indianised, and the forces, if they were retained, were Indianised, and that during that period arrangements might have been made regarding the control of foreign policy. But I know enough of the Indian leaders of every type and of every school to know that if a declaration of that character had been made it would have been possible, even so recently as six months ago, to have negotiated a settlement upon those lines round the table.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
What the hon. Member is suggesting now would entail legislation, and it is not in order on a Motion for the Adjournment.
§ Mr. BROCKWAY
I did not realise that I was transgressing and I will endeavour to keep within the terms of the Motion. Fortunately the second point which I am going to discuss comes within the terms of the Motion. The second point which we put to the Secretary of State for India was that such a roundtable conference should be called. We welcome gladly the fact that the Viceroy of India, with the support of the Secretary of State and the Government, did invite the Indian representatives to come to such a conference. The third point is also an administrative matter. We urged that if there was to be a new psychology in India, under which proposals of this kind could be discussed with hope, it was absolutely necessary to open the prison doors in India to political offenders, and that a new policy must be adopted by which the prosecution of Indian opinion would not be continued.
When we have urged that we have had two types of prisoners in mind, so far as those in gaol are concerned. First, we had the type of prisoner who was imprisoned either during the War or immediately after the War for offences connected with the War. There are men in Indian gaols now who were sentenced for war-time offences as long ago as 1915, and there are other men who were sentenced in 1919 during the martial law period. We suggest very strongly to the Secretary of State that the time has gone by when war-time offenders for political reasons should still be kept within the gaols of any country. In Ireland those who were imprisoned for war-time offences are now in the Government. Thirty-five Members of this Parliament, including myself, were imprisoned during the War for war offences here. Surely, if Irish offenders can be released and can enter the Irish Government, and if English offenders can be released and can be elected Members of this Parliament, it is not too much to ask that Indian offenders should be released and be allowed to take part in the public affairs of India?
In addition to those two classes of prisoners, we also had in mind many who have been imprisoned at more recent 3219 dates for the expression of political opinions. We are not thinking of those who have been guilty of acts of violence, or who have incited to acts of violence, but of those who have engaged in the expression of political opinions which, in any constitutional country in the world outside the military dictatorships of Europe, would be regarded as absolutely legitimate. If the Secretary of State for India had been prepared to make the bold gesture of opening the prison doors in India to that type of offender, the psychology of India would have been completely changed. That step, with a definite declaration for Dominion status, would, I am confident, have led to the successful conclusion of the policy for a round table conference which he has been urging. The tragedy is that the Government have gone so far and yet not quite far enough. The Government have sought to meet the need, but have not gone far enough to meet it, and the result is that, despite their change of attitude, the forces which are operating in India have not been brought to the negotiating table, and the movement in India is now away from the method of negotiation and settlement, and in the direction of clash and conflict.
I am sorry that the Secretary of State for India should have taken the view that the Indian National Congress, the movement led by Mr. Gandhi, Mr. Motilal Nehru, and others is not completely representative of Indian opinion, that moderate politicians outside that movement would come to his round table conference, and that at that conference a settlement acceptable by India would be reached. Many of us put to him the point of view that he was under-estimating, very seriously, the strength of the movement behind the India National Congress and Mahatma Gandhi. We have also put to him the point that if a situation developed in which he felt it necessary to prosecute the leaders of that movement, even moderate opinion in India, upon which he was relying, would move in sympathy towards the Left, and that the round table conference which he was seeking would be doomed. Events are proving that our prophesy, based on some knowledge and on information, is working out truly. We find that even the constitutional leader of the Nationalist Party in the Indian Legislative Assembly, 3220 Mr. Malaviya, a man of great influence, as a result of the developments which have occurred, has resigned his position and has identified himself with the extremer movement. We find that another official leader of the Indian moderates, Mr. Kelkar, has done the same—
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I am sure that the hon. Member does not wish to do an injustice. Mr. Malaviya has resigned but he has not identified himself with the non-co-operation movement.
§ Mr. BROCKWAY
What I said was perfectly true. Mr. Malaviya, the leader of the Nationalist Party in the Indian Legislative Assembly, has resigned his position in that Assembly because of the policy which the Government are now pursuing.
§ Mr. BROCKWAY
While he has not joined the Indian National Congress, he is now one of the leaders of the non-co-operative movement for the boycott of British goods in India. Indeed, those who know India realise that the movement which he is leading may be even more serious, so far as British rule is concerned, than the protest against the Salt Tax which Mr. Gandhi is leading. Thirdly, I will not mention names, because I do not want to encourage a situation of difficulty, but one of the leading Indian officials in the present British Administration in India has made it fairly clear that, if the present situation continues, and Mr. Gandhi is arrested, he will resign the very responsible position which he holds in India. The effect of the present position is that even moderate opinion in India is now, as we anticipated it would, going to the Left, and if the present situation continues very long, the round table conference which has been proposed by the Secretary of State for India will be absolutely doomed.
Then, so far as the degree of support in India is concerned, a few days ago, at the beginning of the movement which is now being led by Mr. Gandhi, the dominant response which was made to it was one of ridicule and of laughter. I do not believe that that is any longer the mood in India or the mood of those 3221 in this country who know the situation. We have the report even from the very Conservative Reuter's Agency that at least half a million people took part in the great demonstration in Bombay at the end of last week against the Salt Tax. We have the statement of the very well-informed correspondent of the "Daily Telegraph" that at least 1,000,000 people are actually illicitly making salt in the City of Bombay at the present time. So far as the district of Gujarat is concerned, throughout that district there is practically at this moment a civil rebellion, a rebellion which is just as effective because it is not violent, but where you have a whole population having absolutely lost its faith in British administration and by public acts declaring its opposition to it.
If these movements are restricted to certain areas, I think our authorities ought not to console themselves by that fact, because the definite policy of the Indian National Congress has been to begin those movements in certain areas and, having established them there, to widen them, and to widen them with possibilities which are terrible for anyone to contemplate. I want to urge that, before this situation goes too far, a supreme effort must be made for a solution of this problem, and I want to suggest that in the immediate future an opportunity for that supreme effort will arise. The party which sits on these benches is quite definitely pledged to the policy of self-government and Dominion status. We were pledged to it absolutely in the programme which we adopted before the General Election, and not only were we pledged to it in that programme, but the Prime Minister of this country, speaking less than 18 months ago, declared the hope that before many months had passed—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is again getting back to the same subject, which would need legislation.
§ Mr. BROCKWAY
I was suggesting that the immediate way out is a declaration of intention rather than actual legislation, and I hope that, in urging that declaration of intention, I shall be in order. My suggestion is that in the past the Secretary of State and the Government have said, "We must wait until the Report of the Simon Commission is issued before we can definitely declare 3222 our intentions," and I want to urge that the occasion of the publication of the Simon Report, which is anticipated now within a few weeks, should be made the occasion when His Majesty's Government should definitely declare that it intends to carry out the policy of the Labour party of applying full self-government and full self-determination to India. I appreciate that the position which the Secretary of State holds is one of terrible responsibility and difficulty. There are in these conflicts between subject races and dominant Powers almost fatalistic forces with which it is almost impossible to reckon.
I had hoped that in the relationship of India and this country, we might find a solution by negotiation, by settlement, by agreement and by encouraging those forces in India which are making for self-government. Even now the opportunity has not passed. Even now, if the Secretary of State will carry out Labour policy when the opportunity to make a declaration on these lines arises, we may reach that solution, but, if that is not done, one can only view with a great deal of apprehension the future relationship between India and this country. My appeal to the Secretary of State is that he will do now what might have been easy six months ago, and what is difficult now, but what will be impossible six months hence, and that is, that he should accept this opportunity of making some movement towards India which will convince India that this Labour Government are seeking a solution on the lines of self-government and self-determination by the Indian people.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
My hon. Friend has chosen the greatest platform in the world to make a speech about which no one could complain in regard to its moderation. Unfortunately, though the platform is the greatest in the world, the audience is not here. That speech will go round the eastern world, and it will not perhaps be understood, unless it is made plain, that the Secretary of State cannot be here, and that there is no Cabinet Minister except the First Commissioner of Works in the House. The Conservative party are represented by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Epsom (Commander Southby), and no party leader is present; and not even the Noble Lord who spoke for India 3223 in this House in the last Parliament is here. Nor is one Member of the Liberal party here.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I agree, but, if this matter was to be raised at all, it should have been raised with proper notice in a full House at the beginning of the Debate. It is far more important than the question of cadets, or wireless workmen at Farnborough, or even Scottish education. I cannot for the life of me understand what my hon. Friend requires of the Secretary of State for India. The position is that we have to wait for the Simon Commission's Report to be issued The House has taken that decision. My hon. Friend was not in the last Parliament, which decided, with the concurrence of the Labour party, to send the Simon Commission to India. We must, therefore, await their Report. There has been an invitation issued from this Government to all sections of Indian opinion. This was a great event, far greater than the Declaration. It was an invitation to a round-table conference of all sections of Indian opinion. The hon. Member referred to the Lahore Congress. They refused to have anything to do with the round-table conference, and they declared their independence. Every nation has a right to declare for independence, if they want to, provided that those who make the declaration speak for the nation.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I have tried on two occasions to prevent speeches dealing with questions where legislation would be involved.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I am not discussing legislation; I am discussing the position in which we find ourselves. The unfortunate part of it was that those who spoke for the Congress had nothing to do with the round-table conference and boycotted it. That was a very unfortunate thing. They might have used the round-table conference, and I think they still will do so, as a means of putting their point of view forward. But in the meantime, what can we possibly do but support the Government in Delhi in enforcing the law, as seems to them best to do it, and preserving the peace of that huge country?
3224 My hon. Friend talks about the headlines in the newspapers in this country. Of course, the matter is of public interest, and we cannot blame the newspapers, but what does it all boil down to? Disturbances in two or three cities; serious disturbances, which are regretted, with servants of the Crown injured, as well as those who were led into these disorders being injured and, in some cases, killed. But let us remember that India is a country as big as Europe—without present-day Russia—with 320,000,000 people. In three cities, perhaps four—in Poona, Lahore, Karachi and Bombay, and in two quarters of Calcutta—there are riots; heads are broken, lives are lost. But supposing in Europe there was trouble, as there is to-day in Spain; trouble in Italy, as there is; trouble in Lithuania, as there is; and perhaps a free fight in some great Scottish city to-night. The newspapers of India could come out with headlines saying: "Heads broken in Spain; men shot in Italy; political leaders arressed on the Clyde and put in prison," and they could make the people of India believe that Europe was in complete turmoil.
I do not want to under-estimate the situation in India, and my hon. Friend was quite right when he said it was serious, but it can very easily be exaggerated. Out of the vast population of 320,000,000 I guarantee that at the outside 50,000,000 really know what is going on in India. The bulk of the remaining 270,000,000, the great majority of the 750,000 villages in India, scantily supplied with communications, and thickly populated with great masses of peasantry, are quite untouched by this movement. I admit that later on the movement may spread to them, but at the moment it is confined to a small section of intellectuals and those whom they have been able to influence. My hon. Friend spoke about the Congress. I admit that the Congress is important as the only organised political party in India, but it has a paying membership of only 500,000 in the whole country. The total paying membership of the Labour party in our little country, with our small population, and with two other competing parties, is more than 2,000,000. Anyone can join the Congress party by paying 4 annas a year, and its total membership is only 500,000. The present policy is being led by a few. The 3225 majority of those who went to Lahore were in favour of the policy of peaceful non-co-operation.
There are great areas of population who will have nothing to do with Congress at all. I do not say they are not in favour of an extension of self-Government in India, but they will have nothing to do with Congress. I do not say that they are particularly friendly to British rule at the moment, or do not feel that progress should be made in certain directions, but it is perfectly true that there are huge classes in India—the Hindus—who are quite untouched by the Congress, and the Mohammedans are almost entirely untouched by the Congress agitation. I do not say the Mohammedans are not in favour of a very large measure of self-government—but I do not want to go into that. The 5,000,000 Christians and the 60,000,000 of the depressed classes are not touched by this movement. Then there is a very large European population, a quarter of a million Anglo-Indians or what used to be called Eurasians, and 2,000,000 Sikhs—some of them were represented at the congress at Lahore.
My hon. Friend will admit that the Congress at the present time, although it has great influence, only speaks for a very small minority. My hon. Friend also knows that in regard to these matters we are bound to support the Government of Delhi in whatever steps seem to be necessary, and to be fit and proper to preserve order. The leaders of the movement, I believe, are anxious to avoid bloodshed, and, in my opinion, it will be very unfortunate if we lose our heads in India and engage in any unnecessary acts of repression. I admit that it will be unfortunate if the judgment of the Government is overridden by agitation on the other side of this House. Those of us sitting on these benches, who make the existence of the present Government possible, feel that if the Government of India is not to be trusted there is only one alternative and that is the withdrawal of our forces, and that means the evacuation of India. Hon. Members on these benches know that that is not practical politics, and that it would be a crime against the people of India if we withdrew from that country at the present moment.
It must, however, be realised that that is the only alternative to what we are 3226 doing now. Recently, I have had an opportunity of conversing with the leaders of every shade of opinion in India, including some of those who were mentioned by my hon. Friend in his speech. Some of them, like my hon. Friend, have been in prison, but they went to prison from very high motives. I thought it right to ascertain the point of view of these men, and I was glad to talk to them. They included men of all shades of opinion, and represented every class of the common people in India. I told them that we had in this country a certain section of our friends who held the opinion that we had no business to be in India at all, that the people of India did not want us, and that we ought to clear out. I believe that that was the opinion, in his younger days, of the First Commissioner of Works. I assured the people with whom I was conversing that those people represented only a very small section of the people of this country. I asked these people what they really wanted, and in some cases they said that they were prepared to face the resulting chaos if they were left to govern themselves, but in no single case was it admitted or advocated that we should throw out the Government of India. Some of them said that there would be chaos and anarchy, but that eventually India would win through; but they said—and some of these are men of the most extreme views—that we have a duty upon us, that we have been there for 100 years and have allowed no alternative to be evolved for governing the country, and we must help the country to a reasonable solution of its present difficulties. That is the exact truth.
In these circumstances, and there being no other governing body who would possibly take control of that vast continent, with its conflicting interests, creeds and races, we must stay there; and, as we have to stay there, we must govern. Government does not only mean violence, force and oppression. We have not always been very successful in exercising it. With the present Viceroy, and the respect and affection in which he is held throughout India, we must support the civil power in India in taking what steps are necessary to preserve order as best it can be preserved. My hon. Friend has, of course, his constructive suggestions, with which I very largely agree. 3227 It is necessary to do what we can to make it clear to all shades of Indian opinion that, while we are not to be diverted from the course which this Government and this party have approved—and, of course, I accept that with the rest of the party—by violence, or unfortunate happenings, at the same time we are not to be alarmed, panicked, stampeded into other courses which we should consider unnecessary and dangerous.
We have to face a testing time. There will be a great test of nerves in this matter. There will, I am afraid, be those on the other side of the House who will accuse us of weakness; and there may be those on our own side, like my hon. Friend, who will accuse us of over-harshness. I hope I am right in saying that the alleged dangers in India are exaggerated and can be kept within bounds. I hope that there will be an end to any sort of violence in India. Nevertheless, we have to face a very trying time, which will be a great test of our nerves; but I believe we have it in our power to make it clear to the great majority of the Indian people, who are law-abiding, who want to avoid violent courses, and who do not, I believe, think it best that India should be outside the commonwealth of nations which we call the British Empire, that we do intend to follow out the policy which we have publicly declared, and that we intend to do so at the earliest possible moment. This is not a legislative question, but an executive and administrative question. I think it is necessary to make it absolutely clear that the round-table conference will meet at the earliest possible moment. It must meet, I think, this year if it be at all possible, and it should be made clear that the invitation, to those who really speak for Indian opinion, to attend that conference, remains open. At one moment one prominent Indian leader may dissociate himself from this party and join another. That kind of thing is happening continuously. But I think that up to the last moment the invitation to those who can speak for important sections of Indian opinion must remain open, that the conference must be held, and that it must be made perfectly clear that it will meet at the earliest possible moment.
3228 Further—and this, again, is an administrative question—when the Conference does assemble, it should be allowed to discuss the whole programme of the future without any sort of inhibition. The discussion should not be circumscribed in any way. I was asked in India what would be the best policy to be pursued by those in India who wish to co-operate with us, and who believe that the Labour party and the Labour Government are sincere in the policy that they have declared. They were good enough to ask me what my advice was, and I ventured to suggest three things. One was that those who wished to see a constitutional solution of Indian difficulties—and I repeat that, as far as those who are politically awakened are concerned, they are the vast majority still—should form a strong alternative party of constitutionally-minded people who are prepared to work by constitutional means towards the goal that they and we wish. Secondly, that they should draw up their programme, their proposals, their policy for presentation to the round-table conference. Thirdly, that they should do what they could to discourage and prevent violence and disorder. Now, those were the three points that I ventured to put to those who were kind enough to ask me to express an opinion, and I still think that is good advice. And—not because of anything that I said—a good many of those suggestions are being followed out. Those who are prepared to work constitutionally with us because they do believe in our sincerity, because they do believe that Englishmen keep their word when they give it, must and should be encouraged; and we shall only discourage them by panic action on the one hand, or by pretending that the Government of India has not the support of this House, and especially of this party.
This is a very grave arid a very difficult question. I do not complain of my hon. Friend raising it, but I am sorry it was not raised on a better and more suitable occasion. I have found it necessary to make these few comments on his speech, because it is, I think, the duty of us on these benches to make it clear that, as long as we belong to this party, we support the Cabinet policy with regard to India, and that we support that part of the declaration of my 3229 right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in which he said that as long as we are the Government of India, it is our duty to govern, and to see that the law is obeyed. In that, I support the Secretary of State, and I believe the great majority of this House, and the great majority of this party support the Secretary of State, and it is not in any way contrary to the declared policy of this party and the necessary action that will be taken this year when the Simon Commission reports.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I anticipated that the Government's spokesman would make his reply, although I imagine my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) has unofficially taken over the task. I am very much surprised to hear him—that champion of back bench liberties and that seizer of back bench opportunities—lecturing my hon. Friend the Member for East Leyton (Mr. Brockway) for seizing the only opportunity for raising this matter that was available to a back bencher on this side of the House. He may take it as being a certainty that if my hon. Friend the Member for East Leyton could have got an opportunity, with a full House and with a full Cabinet present, he would have preferred that infinitely to the present situation.
I do not know that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull is doing a real service to India or to the cause of Indian freedom or to the preservation of peace in India if he tries to suggest that the policy of the Labour party is to leave Indian administration to the man on the spot, without criticism from this House, or without suggestion from this House as to better methods of handling the situation. Nor is he right in saying that Labour governmental policy is to be made subservient in every aspect to the fact that a Commission was set up by a Conservative Government and manned as that Conservative Government believed it desirable to man it, until that Commission has issued its report.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Does my hon. Friend suggest that the Conservative Government appointed the two Labour representatives on the Simon Commission? That is what his word might be taken to mean.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am speaking from recollection, but I should be very much 3230 surprised to learn that any Government, even this Government, accepts the election of individuals from other parties. A Government always mans its Commissions.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
I also have a very lively recollection of the matter and I heard it discussed in the party meeting, as my hon. Friend did. Representatives of our party were chosen by the present Prime Minister, with the approval of the Labour party, and there is no question of them having been picked out by the then Secretary of State.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I do not want to quibble about the matter at all. It is undoubtedly true that the Government of the day decides on what the size of the Commission is going to be, decides on what the relative proportions of different political opinion are going to be, and may veto or accept nominees from a particular party for the proportion of places that has been allotted to them. I think I am well within the facts when I say the Simon Commission was manned by the last Conservative Government, and manned with the definite and deliberate intention of having a majority of their people on. I only wish our Government would adopt the same method in the appointment of Commissions. But, recognising that fact, I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will not attempt to commit me to the view that the legislative steps that the Labour Government will take when the Simon Commission reports will be a slavish acceptance of that report. Therefore, I support the contention of the hon. Member for East Leyton that the Government, in dealing with Indian agitators, should observe the greatest restraint. It is not strong government, although I know it has been recognised in the past as the right way of governing, to throw someone into prison. Here is a man put into gaol last week. He looked at political, social and economic problems largely through the same eyes as myself. In connection with this whole movement, he has done nothing more, or infinitely less, than I should have done in a similar situation in this country. It is not good government and it is not strength to throw such a man into prison.
I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will not attempt to minimise the earnestness of the Indian people for independence 3231 by counting heads. We remember a war in this country that arose over one head. As a matter of fact the war of Jenkin's ear was a war about a bit of a head, and very small things may spread a conflagration over a very big area. People who are unconscious to-day of any particular antipathy to English rule may easily find reasons for that within a week or two of what they regard as harshness and injustice being meted out to men of their own race. Therefore, I support the claim of my hon. Friend that the Government should give evidence of its good intentions by liberating the whole lot of prisoners detained from the first unjustly, and should step in and say it is grossly unfair that these prisoners, men who are trying to build a Labour movement of the type that we have here, should be treated as sedition mongers and revolutionists. The men who are carrying on public agitation to-day in India should not be put behind prison bars. The Secretary of State and those responsible in this country should issue the strongest and most definite declaration of their genuine intention to give to India the liberty that she desires. My hon. Friend made no suggestion of the immediate withdrawal of troops out of India, or the scuttling of England out of India. I do not think that there is anything to be got by precipitate departure, but it ought to be made clear to the Indian people that we are genuinely anxious to leave them with the rule and responsible control of affairs in their own land and that our control and direction will only be maintained for the purpose which is deemed desirable by intelligent men in both lands as necessary for a proper change over.
§ Major MUIRHEAD
I have not heard the whole of this Debate, but I feel, however, on perfectly sound grounds in intervening, considering the present state of affairs in India and the fact that the Simon Commission Report has not yet been published, and saying that in the public interest this question should not have been raised in this House in any shape or form whatever.
§ The FIRST COMMISSIONER of WORKS (Mr. Lansbury)
The hon. Member for East Leyton (Mr. Brockway) has already told the House that the Secretary of State for India informed him that he 3232 is unable to be present, and I only rise for the purpose of saying that the Secretary of State for India will give the most careful consideration to the proposals which he has made and which he will be able to read in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I do not propose to enter into a defence of the present administration, because it would not be right for anyone to attempt to do that on behalf of a Minister who will be here after the Recess to make his own defence. My right hon. Friend has been called away rather suddenly to a special State Conference which it is necessary for him to attend, and that, I think is a sufficient reason for his not being here. I think that if he had been here he would probably not have been able to enter into a long detailed discussion of Dominion Home Rule or into some of the questions raised this afternoon.
I want to say, personally and simply on my own behalf, that I think that India and Great Britain are extremely fortunate in having as Viceroy, Lord Irwin, and as Secretary of State, the present right hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Benn). The situation is extremely difficult and one which needs very sympathetic treatment and I am confident that both those very high officials will do their very utmost to bring about a settlement of the very difficult questions and of the very difficult situation which has arisen. As to going back on our policy—the labour party policy—I think that hon. Members ought to remember that it is not many months ago that the House had a full dress Debate on this subject and that most emphatic statements were made, and challenged from the other side, by the Secretary of State on that occasion. I do not think it would serve any useful purpose for me to say anything more except to express the hope that the people in India and the people in this country will get back to the position where each recognises the other as speaking the truth to one another, and so get some confidence in one another, such as ought to exist at the present time, seeing the two men that we have at the head of affairs.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Ten Minutes before Five o'Clock, until Tuesday, 29th April, pursuant to the Resolution of the House of this day.