Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £135,000, 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, 1931, 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: £37,500 has been Voted on account.]
I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee if I state, very briefly, the motives which have actuated those on this side of the House in having this Vote put down for discussion this afternoon. Before doing so, I should like to refer with regret to the death of a very distinguished Indian which occurred two days ago—I refer to the Maharana of Udaipur. As the "Times" newspaper states in an obituary notice, hehad personal as well as dynastic claims to the veneration in which he was held by Hindus as the head of the premier house of India in point of ancestry.He had a strong personality, a most austere character, but nevertheless of great persuasive charm, and incidentally was one of the finest sportsmen and gameshots in the whole of India.
We have had no opportunity of considering the Indian Estimates for nearly two years, and, except on two special occasions, when we were dealing with special subjects we have had no debate at all on Indian subjects within those two years. I maintain that it is not desirable when events of moment are taking place in any part of the Empire for which His Majesty's Government have full or partial responsibility for administration, that there should be no discussion in this House. I say that for two reasons. In the first place, it gives an impression, which I know from personal experience is 826 often much resented in the Empire, of apathy towards constitutional responsibilities. We are aware that questions can be asked in this House at Question Time and they are very frequently asked; but often, through no fault of the Minister, but owing to the rules which govern questions and answers, a partial impression of the situation is given, and that may be exceedingly dangerous from the point of view of forming a true perspective of the situation.
Obviously, the Government of India, the Presidency Government and the Provincial Governments are going through a very difficult time. There is a good deal of disorder and attempts at disorder. There may be some who may think that a Debate at this period may embarrass them by showing differences of opinion in the Committee. I take a different view, and I believe that it will have an opposite effect. While some hon. Members may say that the Government have not been sufficiently firm in repressing disorder and others may say that they have been too drastic in that direction, I believe that the result of the Debate will be to show that the Committee generally will support the Government of India in the measures it has taken and is taking to maintain law and order. I suggest that such an affirmation will not be without its value in India at the present time. There might be objection to a Debate if any question could arise on the Vote we are discussing of anticipating the Simon Report or of discussing events and action which might be taken on that Report.
§ The CHAIRMAN
If the Nable Lord will excuse my interrupting him, I think it might be well for me to say at this stage that on this occasion there can be no discussion on anything needing legislation.
I am very much obliged, Mr. Young. If I may say so, I was just going to submit, having some technical knowledge of the subject, that such a discussion would be plainly out of order, and I am very glad that that has been made clear at the outset. Since it must be obvious that His Majesty's Government and the Government of India have promised the freest and fullest conference with representatives of Indian opinion after the Report has been produced and considered, it would, even 827 if it were in order, be highly injudicious for any Minister to make any announcement at this moment in the nature of changes in the Constitution.
I should like to make one or two observations on what I conceive to be the causes of the trouble which has arisen. I have had a fairly long experience of these matters, having spent in all some 6½ years at the India Office since 1920, and having visited India on two occasions during that time. Therefore, I am sure the Committee will permit me to make some general observations on the genesis of what may be termed the Gandhi-cum-Congress Movement. As must be within the recollection of Members of the Committee, from the very moment of the passage of the Government of India Act, 1919, which is usually referred to as the Montagu-Chelmsford Act, a fairly large section of Indian politicians, whether they called themselves, as they did at first, non-co-operators, or whether they called themselves swarajists, holding seats in the Legislative Assembly and in the various legislative bodies in India, have done their best to ignore, to obstruct, and to ridicule the work alike of the Administration and of the Act. I would like to take this opportunity of emphasising that these men are not the whole of political India. There are many Indians in public life, as members of the Viceroy's Council, or of the Governors' executive councils, or as back-bench members of the various legislative assemblies, who, throughout these years, have done admirable service in supporting and working the existing Constitution, even though they might not wholly agree with it. I think it is very necessary to say this at a time when so many slighting references are being made to Indian politicians as politicians.
If I may return for a moment to the extremists, I should like at the outset to say what I feel confident that, whatever form of statutory commission had been appointed, these people would have objected. I say this despite the legend that has grown up that in some way the manner of announcing the appointment of the commission by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) and by the Noble Lord in another place, had given great offence. It may possibly have caused some mis- 828 understanding at some points; I do not know—one cannot be a judge in one's own regard; but that was not the primary cause of the objection of the extremists to the commission. Of that I am quite certain, and I am equally sure that, whatever announcement the Viceroy had made, or even if he had made none at all, these same extremists would have proceeded as they have done.
Let us be quite clear about this matter. The fact is that these men and women, from the first, have been determined to try to alter the allegiance of Indians from the King-Emperor to themselves. They are mostly, if not entirely, Hindus. They have never come to any real terms with the Moslems or any other minority in India. They have never shown themselves willing in reality to loose the depressed classes from the bondage which their own caste imposes upon them. They have had no real contact, except in certain districts, with the peasants. Therefore, although their movement is based on the Sinn Fein model, it has very much less substance behind it. These people have again and again during the last 12 years promised their deluded followers in India, and their equally deluded sympathisers in this country and America, that they would have the British out in a year or less. No doubt the confusion and disorder that they are producing at present is formidable, but, so far as I am able to judge, looking at the matter from outside, it is not more formidable than that which these same people succeeded in producing in the years from 1919 to 1921. It is worth noting that, between those years of disturbance and the present disturbances, there was an almost complete lull so far as regards attempts to hold up government by force, but there was no such lull in Hindu-Moslem riots, and I consider that those Hindu-Moslem riots have been very largely the outcome of this extremist movement, since I have no hesitation in saying that there are millions of Moslems in India who believe that Mr. Gandhi, Pandit Motilal Nehru, and the rest, are trying to set up a Hindu Raj in place of the British Raj.
There have been, as is usual on these occasions, suggestions in some quarters in this country that the Viceroy and his government should hold a parley with these extremists, but I think that we should very carefully distinguish between 829 those who have shown willingness in the past to work the Constitution and those who from the very first have been opposed to working the Constitution and have opposed its working in ways which cannot be described as other than unconstitutional. In a time of tranquillity there may be no harm in parleying even with the extremists, even with those who have refused hitherto to work the Constitution or to assist their country in any way under the existing form of government; it may, indeed, be good to learn their views; but I maintain that it is useless and dangerous to do so when they are in process of defying the law. I believe that one of the primary maxims which every statesman who has to administer a country like India should bear in mind is, "Do not attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable." Before I leave this question of the extremist movement, I want to say a word about another aspect. Hitherto I have been speaking about the extremist movement which is of an indigenous character. I would like now to refer to certain external influences which have been at work during the last few years.
If the hon. and learned Gentleman will be good enough to bear with me, he will hear my evidence. There is no doubt that, although the Swarajists and the Non-co-operators are not actually allied to these external plotters, they are unquestionably glad of their adventitious aid, and work to an increasing degree with their agents in India. With regard to this loosely connected and externally organised subversive movement, the following points may be noted. In the first place, one form that it takes is that of sending European agents to India. When the late Government were in power in this country, the Government of India were in consultation with them on the subject of this form of the movement, and, as is well known, it was decided that a prosecution should be initiated. That prosecution, which is commonly known as the Meerut conspiracy trial, is still going on, and, obviously, even if it were not technically out of order to refer to a matter which is sub judice in India, it would be very improper to do so, and, therefore, I am estopped from referring to that particular 830 trial. I can only suggest to the hon. and learned Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Knight), who interrupted me just now, and to others, that they Should read the statements which have been made by the Crown Prosecutor, and which I hope will be published as a White Paper at a later stage. [Interruption.]
I have been referring to Europeans hitherto, but undoubtedly there have been cases in recent years of attempts to send Indian agents to India, and to send literature to India, in order to form Communist leagues, youth leagues, and the like, whose programmes are purely subversive. There, again, evidence can be found in such official documents as the "Annual Statement of the Moral and Material Progress and Condition of India," which is published as a Command Paper, in answers to questions, both by the present Secretary of State and by myself, and in official documents published by the Government of India. A third form is that of making revolutionary appeals to Indians and to Indian troops through the media of British newspapers. In view of the statement that the Foreign Secretary made at Question time in regard to that matter, I do not propose to say anything further upon it, except that I hope that the Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary will expedite their investigations. In case anyone should ask how it can be in order to refer to such a matter on this Vote, I would say that it has always been held to be the duty and the right of the Secretary of State for India to call the Prime Minister's attention, and the attention of his colleagues who are concerned, to any attempts made in this country to foment by subversive action violent revolutionary action in India.
I should be willing to withhold my judgment in the matter until we have had a fuller statement from the Secretary of State than has yet been possible. The right hon. Gentleman has afforded us such information as he was able to do within the limits of Parliamentary answers, but there are certain things which most emphatically need further explanation. The Government of India, in their first communiqué about the disorder in the Frontier Province, referred to the existence of Communist propaganda and posters. Since then, we have learned, I think from official answers, but certainly from reports 831 in newspapers of widely different views, of the existence of an organisation in that Province, which is called the Red Shirts Organisation. I should suppose the recent most regrettable murder took place as the result of a conflict between police authorities and this organisation. We want to know where these people get their ideas from. [Interruption.]Is it really a matter for laughter? There have been extremely serious disorders in Peshawar City, and a police officer has been murdered. I should not like to think it went out to India that hon. Member saw anything funny in it.
At least one of the people who have been in practical revolt against the local government in the hills to the north-east of Peshawar is a well-known revolutionary who was trained at the Bolshevist revolutionary school at Tashkent, in Turkestan. There can be no room for doubt as to its existence. It is known to everyone. The Foreign Secretary the other day seemed to be a little hazy about the exact position, but it has existed for many years, and its object is to train propagandists for work in Eastern countries. Whether that is the intenteion of the school or not, the effect of the training of these propagandists has been to loose upon all Eastern countries a number of very extreme revolutionaries who are prepared to go to any lengths of force in obtaining the ends that they seek. Everyone on this side of the House, and I should think everyone below the Gangway, wishes to have as full a statement as possible from the Secretary of State in regard to the activities of these people and the steps that are being taken to cope with them.
I think it is infructuous to discuss whether Mr. Gandhi was or was not arrested at the right moment. The Government of India were obviously in this dilemma. If they had arrested him at the commencement of his anti-salt tax illegalities, they would have been charged with being the cause of the disturbances that arose, just as they are now charged with having been so because they did not arrest him. The disturbances would have occurred anyhow. The fact of the 832 matter is that Mr. Gandhi and the Communists have been bent on mischief from the very first. They were anxious, either to make the Government ridiculous by refraining from using force, or odious by the use of force against subversion and sedition. That was their object from the first. I am sorry to say it had some unexpected aid from some British newspapers, which have abused and insulted not only the Government of India but the Viceroy. Save perhaps for the Prime Minister of this country and the Prime Ministers of certain Dominions—I am not sure that I ought to make even that exception—any Viceroy of India occupies infinitely the most responsible position of any subject of the Crown, and unquestionably the loneliest. Unlike the Prime Minister, full consultation with his colleagues is difficult, because in some respects he must act on his own responsibility. One would suppose that such a position would preclude personal attacks from anyone professing a regard for constitutional principles. Perhaps it is an honour to be attacked by some persons who are anxious to emulate the example of Mr. William Randolph Hearst.
In times of disturbance in India, it is obvious that you must have a mixture of firmness with conciliation if you are to deal with the kind of fever that arises in the East in times of excitement. The police have to persuade crowds to disperse if possible, and, if not, they have to disperse them by force. They must use their firearms only when the lives of police and soldiers, and innocent and peaceful civilians, are in danger and they must use them then with discretion, causing as few casualties as possible. They must never allow the mob to get the upper hand. These are the maxims of every good police officer in India. To carry them out requires that which India most fortunately possesses, and that is one of the most courageous, loyal, well-disciplined and long suffering police forces in the world. We should frankly admit that few of us possess the exactly matched ingredients of firmness and restraint in the face of abuse, obloquy, and danger which the Indian police force, both provincial and municipal, has in all pervasive quantities. If they have a fine record in past years, their record in the last few weeks has almost exceeded that of past years. When you think 833 of the influences to which they are subjected, the attempts to intimidate and boycott them, the appeals that are made to them to give up their loyalty to the King Emperor whom they serve, the often poor conditions of pay and even worse conditions of housing, when you think how these men again and again, a handful of them very often, have stood up for hours to a howling mob and have used no more force than the police in this country, and infinitely less than the police of any Continental country would do under similar conditions, we cannot but pay a tribute to their loyalty.
We know a great deal about the loyalty of the Indian Army. Far be it from me to decry it in the slightest degree. It is also a magnificent instrument. But we hear too little about the people who in time of disorder are in the forefront of the forces of law and order, and have to bear the brunt of the trouble—the Indian police. I should like to mention one example which has appeared already in the Press, and which happened at Datta Khel near Pashawar. There was a force of 150 constabulary, commanded by an Indian officer. There was no European officer present. These men for four days defended themselves against 20,000 people who attacked them. For four solid days, 150 men held the place against 20,000! There is nothing much wrong with the type of Indian who can show that loyalty and courage. It is clearly the duty of the Government not to put too great a strain on them. Although I have carefully eschewed throughout this Debate using any party weapon, I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to give us an assurance that, in so far as he can influence it—I know it is mainly in the hands of the provincial governments—he will see that if these men are killed in the exercise of their duty, their widows and orphans receive proper compensation; that if they are permanently injured, they will receive proper pensions; and, thirdly, I hope it will be possible for the various Governments in India to do something to improve their pay and conditions. They are very badly paid in many cases, and very badly housed. There has been some improvement in recent years, but, I am sorry to say, that improvement has been retarded by the action of the legislative councils of various provinces of India in 834 refusing the grants necessary for improved pay and improved conditions. I venture to trust that the Government in future will exercise the undoubted powers they have to insist upon adequate sums of money being provided for these people.
There is another matter in which, I think, unless the Government are careful, too great a strain will be put upon the police, and that is in allowing the so-called nationalist volunteers to attempt to usurp the place of the ordinary police. These people have already in several places added to the trouble. The grossest intimidation of shopkeepers and others who refuse to carry out the hartals and refuse to sell British goods, is going on. It is, in itself, a very bad thing when any Government in any country is not able to prevent intimidation. Speaking from my former official position, I think that there is very grave danger, indeed, of the most serious trouble arising between Hindus and Moslems, unless steps are taken by the police to prevent these volunteers, all of whom are Hindus, from intimidating the Moslem shopkeepers, who, in many cases, are only too anxious to continue trading as before. Another thing is the manner in which these same volunteers and their leaders are flaunting in the face of authority a so-called national flag, which, I understand, flies on some municipal buildings in Calcutta. I know it is difficult for the Government to deal with that sort of thing, but I hope that they will make it clear from the outset that, as far as they are in a position to do so, they will not tolerate two flags being flown in India. All of these things are important in order to maintain the moral and the prestige of the police.
In concluding my reference to the question of disorder, I should like to make one or two observations in regard to things which do not seem to me to help very much in the present situation. One of these is the exaggerated accounts in and the fears of a section of the British Press about riots. Nobody denies that the Government of India have a formidable situation to deal with, but not more formidable than that of 1919–21, I am convinced. For a newspaper to talk about "losing India" by these riots is ridiculous. The second thing which is not helpful is the wounding and injurious references to Indians as a whole, because a 835 few thousand Indians in certain localities have tried to make Government impossible, and a few thousand more are making equally impossible demands of Government. Great, exception is rightly taken in India to certain of the references which have been made to Indians in this controversy by respectable newspapers in this country. I happen to read every week a daily newspaper published in Calcutta—a constitutional newspaper, though not in any sense a back supporter of the Government. In the issue arriving by the last mail I read a quotation from an English weekly journal. I will not give its name, but it used this Phrase:Indians have shown courage, which is a rare quality among them.In a leading article, this Indian newspaper, which, incidentally, supports the Government against Mr. Ghandi, very truly asked, how can it be said that phrases of that kind in a respectable newspaper can possibly make the situation better? In some quarters of this country, on the subject of the Empire, we talk about "white men," of "Colonies," instead of "Dominions," and things of that kind, which show a lack of knowledge. Exactly the same words are used by newspapers supporting hon. Members opposite. Many people are far too careless in their references to events in other parts of the Empire.
The third thing which, I think, does not help the present situation is, appeals to the British and Indian Governments to understand the mentality or psychology of the Ghandi cum Congress movement. These appeals are being made by people who make them, though they do not say so, to get the Government to yield to the demands which this movement is making. They are based on an utterly foolish and unstatesmanlike view of the situation. Surely the basic origins of this movement are easy enough to discern and understand. You have a visionary in league with a number of ambitious politicians, supported by a few thousand or a few hundred thousand—either figure is but a tiny percentage of the peoples of British India—sincere fanatics and enthusiasts as well as hired agitators—and I say, in passing, that you can hire agitators for a few annas—are trying with the most feeble success to 836 seize Government by a coup d'état for themselves. Their alleged grievance is simply the refusal of Government to anticipate the Commission's Report and the Conference. Their real grievance is their own failure to destroy Government. What is the use of suggesting that the wishes of such people should be met? What is the use of that in a crisis of this kind?
I was going to mention the fourth thing which does not appear to me to help the situation, but the right hon. Gentleman's answer at Question Time has more or less disposed of that. I was going to refer to the excessive sentimentality of the Indian Government in allowing Mr. Gandhi to give an interview, while under lock and key, to an English newspaper. I am glad that that sort of thing has been stopped. Lastly, there is another thing which does considerable harm to good relations between this country and India. I have referred to matters on our side on the part of newspapers, or a section of newspapers, which do harm to India. I would now refer to things on the Indian side which do injury—to foolish, inaccurate and most unjust references to the Civil Service in India by certain distinguished Indians who claim not to be concerned with politics. There is the example of a distinguished poet who, in an interview in a newspaper a few days ago, said of the Indian Civil Service, whose work is being reviewed under this Vote:India is being ruled by a complicated machine. The mechanics who drive it have a long training in power, but no tradition of human sympathy.That is a complete misrepresentation. I say that no officials in any country have done more to improve the condition of the people whose affairs they administer than the members, both British and Indian, of the Indian Civil Service, and it is a pity that whenever an Indian philosopher more suo indulges in esoteric diatribes about the alleged materialism of the West in contradistinction to the spirituality of the East, he should invariably traduce officials in this fashion. I have nothing more to say on that aspect of the case. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare), who is going to speak later in the Debate, may have some more questions to put to the right hon. Gentleman, but I have nothing more to say at this moment.
837 There are one or two other things to which I would like to make reference before I sit down. I would invite the Secretary of State to make any observations he thinks useful on the Budget and the Railway Budget. As the Committee is probably aware, by, I think, a very wise arrangement which was entered into some years ago, the Railway Budget is separate from the General Budget. This makes it very much easier to carry out railway improvement and construction in India. Both the General Budget and the Railway Budget, of course, reflect the difficult times through which India, in common with all producing countries, is passing, owing to the drop in commodity prices, and, unquestionably, those difficulties in India have been accentuated by disastrous strikes. But there are three points which seem to me to emerge. I think that the right hon. Gentleman will probably agree with me that the Indian railway position and the Budget are fundamentally sound, and that the general financial position in India, despite the difficulties of the times, is strong.
Owing to the causes which I have mentioned, increased revenue under the General Budget is necessary. India, having adopted a tariff, was bound to increase taxes for both revenue and for protection to the mill industry. I have nothing more to say upon that point. The Committee, though, should remember, as I emphasised when I introduced the Estimates two years ago, that the Government of India have had a tremendous drain on their financial resources in the last two or three years, because it has remitted—and very properly remitted—what are known as the provincial contributions paid to the central Government. That has meant, of course, that a heavy gap has had to be filled up by finding fresh money somewhere, and I think, on the whole, that successive Governments of India in the last two or three years have been very successful in finding these fresh loans.
I would like to ask one or two points of detail in connection with the Railway Budget. What is the extra mileage of new railway lines opened last year and likely to be opened this year? I would also like to know the amount of new electrification work which is being carried out in various parts of India where such 838 work has been started. Then, can the right hon. Gentleman make any statement as to the results of the inquiry—which I think we were promised by the Minister in charge when he introduced the Railway Budget last year—into the pay and conditions of the lower-paid grades of railway servants in India. It is a difficult question. I am well aware of the difficulty of raising the pay to any considerable extent, as it might possibly affect revenue. At the same time, the pay of the lower-paid groups of railway workers in India is very low indeed. I should like, in connection with finance, to ask a question as to the extent of the irrigation which has been carried out at the present time. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us, in his reply, the amount of new irrigation work which has come into active operation in the course of the present year? Finally, on this point, can he tell the Committee the extent to which it has been found possible to carry out the recommendations of the report of the Agricultural Commission, generally known as the Linlithgow Commission? That Commission made some very valuable recommendations, and the Government of India took steps to carry out some of them. No doubt the disturbance caused by recent events has made it difficult for the administration to proceed as fast as they would like on some of these ordinary administrative matters, and I should like to know how far they have gone?
No doubt, in the course of this Debate, as in the course of every debate on Indian affairs which I recollect, reference will be made to the poverty of the Indian cultivator. No one can deny the poverty of the Indian cultivator when compared with that of the peasant in most, if not all, European countries. If you compared his position with the position of the peasant in China, I think that there might be a different tale to tell. It is always necessary when we are considering this matter—and I rather anticipate that criticisms are likely to be made from some directions on this point—to remember these salient facts. In the first place, the peasants in India as a whole are probably better off than they were before the War, and they are infinitely better off than they were before the British connection with India. Anyone who says anything to the contrary or suggests that the result of 839 the British connection in India has not been to improve the conditions of the peasants, is really trying to say something which is not a fact. There is a quotation in this book "Moral and Material Progress in India"—in one of the chapters devoted to the conditions of the people—by the late Lord Macaulay, which, I think, the Committee should always bear in mind. It should be the first thing to be remembered in connection with any debate on Indian affairs or any debate in regard to the economic condition, Lord Macaulay said, that they had to face the stupendous process of the reconstruction of a decomposed society.
These are very wise and true words Not until many years had passed were we able to begin, but when we had reestablished justice and law and order we were able to begin these movements which are bearing fruit to an increasing extent. There are the co-operative movement, the freeing of land from the clutch of the moneylender, the money which is brought into the country by improving and extending the railroads, and irrigation and things of that kind. All of that work is only beginning to bear fruit. Another thing that makes for poverty is the dense population itself, mainly due to the great reduction in deaths from disease and famine in the last 100 years, brought about by the influence brought to bear by British-Indian co-operation in the affairs of India. Another thing, to which all of us should be careful in referring because of the delicate nature of the subject, but which it would be disingenuous not to refer to in speaking on the subject, is the extent to which religious manners and customs render improved methods of cultivation almost impossible. There are thousands of square miles where it is a great offence almost to dream of killing old and diseased cows. They have to remain until they die. How can you, to take this one example, apply modern methods? These are some of the difficulties with which the Indian administrators are faced, agriculture being a transferred subject. I would, with very great respect, ask hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway and others taking part in this Debate who make the usual references to the appalling poverty, to take these facts into account. There is no one who does not wish to see the 840 Indian cultivator better off, but let no one ignore the steps that have been taken. The wonderful schemes of irrigation, the extension of railways, and the extension of co-operation and voluntary agencies of that kind are bringing about an improvement. I again emphasise that agriculture is a transferred subject, and, faced by the limits which I have just stated, I believe that the Indian Minister of Agriculture and the Departments have done what they can, and I believe that if some of the important recommendations of the Linlithgow Committee—and I pay tribute to my Noble Friend Lord Linlithgow for the admirable work of that Committee—are carried out we shall see a very great improvement.
I would like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us what is going on in regard to the Wana occupation, which occupation was decided upon some years ago, and which is a very important area on the frontier. The roads, I understand, are being constructed, and I want to know whether they have yet been finished. Another matter on which I should like information is the question of electrification and improvement of barracks and hospitals. Some years ago the barracks, both Indian and British, and the hospitals, both those for soldiers and for civil servants, Indian and British, and also private individuals, were very much behind the standard that ought to exist. Have steps been taken to carry out the five years' programme? I hope that that programme is being carried out and that the right hon. Gentleman can give us some assurances on the subject. I venture to hope that the Committee, in considering this Vote, will not suppose that because we have heard of these disturbances, which, after all, are limited, the matters which I have mentioned are not important. The ordinary administration is going on, and I am sure that the message which will go out from the great bulk of the Members of this Committee this afternoon is one of good will towards the Viceroy and his administration and the members of the Council down to the humblest servants in Government office in the difficult and strenuous times through which they are passing.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
What can have happened to the Noble Lord? We, who have hitherto been accustomed to rush into this House when the glad news goes 841 round "Winterton's up!" if he again keeps us for an hour floundering about without a point, shall be rushing out of the House instead.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The Noble Marquess could not have heard it. The Noble Lord has been held up, bound hand and foot, and could not make the dagger thrusts he wished because the ex-Prime Minister was sitting beside him.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
It may have seemed 45 minutes to the Noble Lord, and we all felt sorry for him. The Noble Lord loves attack, and he could not find anything to attack safely. What he would have liked to have done would have been to have said what he thought about the Viceroy, and he could not do it. Naturally, we have to suffer. We have to suffer such points—I do not know how to describe it—about Communist influence in India. There is nobody who feels more satisfaction, certainly at the back of his mind, than the Noble Lord at the fact that the Moslem and the Hindu in India cannot agree. In his view, that is one of the safeguards of British administration in India. Can he not see that the Communist influence in India is just as valuable to those hon. Gentlemen opposite who see India through his glasses I The more Communist influence there is in India the more India will be divided and the less spirit there will be behind the Nationalist movement; the more certain will everybody be who has any stake in the country that the Nationalist movement is dangerous to them. He ought to welcome this purely imaginary, as I believe, Communist influence in India.
I think that we may ask on this solitary occasion when we are allowed to discuss this question in the House of Commons that we may pass from half-points and feints made by the Noble Lord to the real question of what is happening in India and what can still be done by us in India. I see, as he does not of course, that the real trouble springs from the exclusion of Indians from the Simon Commission. That to my mind was a fatal step which prevented the real 842 co-operation between English people and Indian people both desiring the same end—the earliest possible establishment of self-government in India. Our troubles date from that, but because our troubles date from that there is no reason why we should not seek, even now, to do something to put matters right.
The intolerable situation has arisen in India that there is between the European and Indian people the same sort of antagonism that there was in Ireland between the Protestant and the Catholic in Sinn Fein times. Can we not, even now, prevent the development of that feeling I have often said to myself: What could one do if one were Viceroy of India in Lord Irwin's shoes? What could I do different from what he has done? I do not believe that he was responsible for the exclusion of Indians from the Simon Commission. But what could he do now, in this present position? It is difficult for anybody, however anxious he is to secure ultimate freedom for India and to secure good feeling between English people and Indians; it is difficult to say what could be done that Lord Irwin has not done. I will say this for my right hon. Friend on the Front Bench that I think between them, seeing the situation in which they were put, that I do not believe that anyone, however radical and extreme his views might be, could have helped following much in the same lines. The arrest of Gandhi seems to have been inevitable in the end, and the suppression of the Press seems to me to have been inevitable also. As each new repressive step comes along, one does not know what else could have been done, and although we shall have from now, and, for a considerable period, the rule of the bayonet in India, the steel frame supported by unwilling canvass, yet we must look fox something further.
The Viceroy and the Secretary of State and I think many people still look forward to the round table conference with hope. They say, in effect: "It is true that we have made a mess during the last two years, but if we once get into a round table conference and get Englishmen and Indians together we can still put everything right." I do not think that it is possible to put matters right by any round table conference. It does not seem to me that a round table conference could ever meet as it was conceived 843 and adumbrated in the Viceroy's statement. It seems to me that even the so called moderates are fighting shy of coming, because they believe that they would be acting in the face of public opinion in India. Pandit Maleviya, who used to be a very good friend of England, and Kelkan Taiaka, have stood out. More and more we are getting now a round table conference with Indians, excellent friends of ours, statesmen of the first water, but, unfortunately, people who carry nothing behind them. That sort of conference must be ineffective. In the first place, the Indians there would be unable to deliver the goods if they came to an agreement and, far more serious than that, they would feel bound, as representing India in the absence of Mahatma Gandhi, to take up an extreme view.
I am surprised to see that many Indians, friends of mine still, like Srinivasa Sastri, think that it is possible at a round table conference to achieve Dominion Home Rule, even now. I do not think that there is a chance of it. I wish I could believe that there was a chance of it. If they are coming to a round table conference under the impression that that is obtainable now, I am afraid that they will be disappointed. A round table conference can only end in far more dissatisfaction in India than there is at the present time. There will be disillusionment, which will make the position more intolerable. I am very much afraid that the Report of the Simon Commission will go less far than is imagined among the Indian people, and that a round table conference will go no distance to meet the situation, and that we shall have not merely an aggrieved party among the extremists in India, permanently hostile to England, but that we shall have every native, I beg pardon, every Indian, dissatisfied, and Indians in the Civil Service taking up the position that the British Government have badly let them down. They will imagine all sorts of impossible things, and then they will be faced with the result of the Simon Commission Report and the round table conference, and the feeling, bad as it is to-day but confined to small classes today, may very well extend to a far larger circle of the Indian population and it may become a permanent tradition among the Indian people that our promises are pie 844 crusts and that nothing can be done and nothing can be expected from the good will of any British Government.
That is a bad picture, but nobody will say that it is not possibly a correct picture of the situation. Can we not, even now, do something to make it more tolerable and to restore to the Indian people, at least to those people who are not seeking every argument against Britain, the feeling that justice is still possible and that the House of Commons may still be regarded as a place which will stand up against Indian grievances and is still anxious to carry the work of Edwin Montagu through to a successful conclusion, sooner or later? The first thing that the Government could do to create the possibility of a better feeling is to treat justly all those Indians who have been arrested, not the disturbers who have been arrested for killing police or throwing stones, but the perfectly passive resister like Mrs. Sarojini Naidu and like Abbas Tiabji, a dear old man of over 80. These people are not criminals. They are exactly what we should be if we were Indians instead of Englishmen—people who are capable of standing up to imprisonment or death in the interests of what they believe to be justice and freedom. We think that they are wrong. Undoubtedly, if the State is to endure in India these people may have to be secluded, but do not treat them as criminals. Do not let them have six months of hell in an Indian prison, when what they deserve is segregation in some place where it would not be too difficult for them to escape. One does not mind if they do escape.
Do remember that, sooner or later, these are the people, these people who are now in gaol, with whom we shall have to bargain and argue and with whom we shall have to try to get on friendly terms. It is much more easy to get on friendly terms with a man who does not feel that he has been treated like a pickpocket and a thug. It is much more easy to treat with a man who has not suffered the worst form of incarceration. I do not see what there is in the way of our getting over this difficulty. We do not want to punish these people; we only want to prevent them from going on agitating. Therefore, if they can be put into exactly the same position as Mr. Gandhi, put into a camp, or I do not 845 care what you call it, where they will not have to suffer the horrors of an Indian prison, the position will be eased. The Secretary of State told me to-day that Indian prison rule is not as bad as it used to be. It was too awful in the old days, and I do not know haw far the mere change; of rules and regulations affect Indian prison conditions to-day. Let us make these Indians realise that they are in for a long constitutional struggle and that the people who get into gaol will not be treated as the Italian patriots were treated in the 1860's, but will be treated like decent citizens, who, unfortunately, must be kept quiet.
When the round table conference comes along I wish hon. Members and the Government would consider whether it is not possible to treat India as if India were not all one country. We have been told that India is a vast continent and contains numerous races. Let us remember that the troubles of the present day are not all over India. If you take a line between Goa and Madras you will find that the country south of that line has been more or less free of these troubles. The Malayalam, the Canarese and the Tamil and the most progressive of the Indian States, such as Travancore and Mysore, are comparatively peaceful. Why must we treat all India alike? If the iron heel is to come down on the necks of the Indians as a result of these troubles, let us see if something cannot be done for that southern portion of India. Ceylon is next door to these southern States of India. We have given Dominion Home Rule to Ceylon. To all intents and purposes the Donoughmore Commission, a Conservative Commission, gave universal franchise and self-government to the Ceylon people. They have not yet had their first elections. There they have a system now for which India is asking. Ceylon is not merely "getting away with it" but apparently everybody in this country accepts the position that the Cingalese are fitted for that system of self-management. I think that we might, at least, have three Ceylons in the south of India who would be put in the same position, as Ceylon, and who would serve as a hope and example to the rest of India that they also might rise to the level of the Tamil.
846 If you go to the north, everybody who knows India knows that the Maharashta is the home of Indian home rule—selfconfident and self-reliant. There you have Chitpavan Brahmins, whence came Tilak and Gokhale, and you have a large body of civil servant Brahmins who are absolutely confident that they are as capable of ruling humanity as any Englishman. There, between Poona and Nagpur you have another area which can be treated differently from that troublesome India of the north, where they are continuously rioting over religious questions and are determined to make any co-operation between Britain and India for the development of democratic institutions impossible. The hope for India now is to treat it not as one problem but as a whole series of problems, and to treat in a different manner the different peoples of India according to their ability and their desire to co-operate in developing democratic institutions, according to their friendship for the British people and according to the possibility of building up a Federal India, which shall include not merely a large number of the smaller provinces directly under the British Crown but also those progressive Indian States where the people are not now getting a fair deal but where, with our encouragement and by our instigation, constitutions could be set up and a real confederation established of allied races under the British flag.
I am confident that if Edwin Montagu had lived and continued in power we should have been through the greater part of our difficulties in India to-day. We must follow in that direction. Let us not give up hope but let us try to make friends with the people of Southern India and start thence a system which will enable democracy, in the long run, to cover the whole of India, and which will make India into not merely the finest jewel in the British Crown but a democracy worthy and worth having in the federation of the British people.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) commenced his speech by saying that the House would be disappointed that my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) in his three-quarters of an hour's speech made no attack on the Secretary of State 847 for India and no attack on the Indian Government. He seemed surprised to find my Noble Friend in this happy position. I hope the right hon. and gallant Member will forgive me if I say that I am equally surprised at the mildness of the speech to which we have just listened when I remember the many speeches which he has made in this House on the subject of India and his attacks from time to time upon Secretaries of State on the past.
There was another feature of the right hon. and gallant Member's speech which surprised me, and that was that he put forward no proposition at all, and gave no message and no lead which might go from this House to the people of India. It really did not deal with the situation at all, but the right hon. and gallant Member ended by suggesting that this country should consider the future of India from the point of view of the extent of co-operation, or, to use his own words, from the point of view of the extent of the friendship, which was shown by the Indian people towards the British people. Is not that the proposal, in other words, and the spirit of the great Declaration of 1917 and the preamble of the Act of 1919? Is not that the spirit under which this country has been working in regard to India both before and particularly since that date? It has been clearly laid down that the extent to which self-government can be given to India is dependent entirely on the progress of and the co-operation of the Indian people. That is precisely what the right hon. and gallant Member is asking the Government to maintain. The only difference is that he suggests that it should be done piecemeal, and in regard to Southern India first. I do not object to that, although I think the proposal would require a little more detailed consideration.
I want to refer to one or two matters which underlay the speech of the right hon. and gallant Member. He found himself in great difficulty, as we all do, realising, as we all realise, the importance of a debate of this kind and the necessity that no wrong note should be struck in connection with India at the present moment. He realised that it was extremely difficult to say what should be done in regard to India when you are 848 faced with a situation such as is put before us every day in the Press, and in regard to which the Secretary of State gives us every week a careful analysis. It is perfectly clear that no Government whatever its complexion can pretend to govern India unless it is prepared to see that law and order are fully maintained, and that means, in the present situation, that whatever our political opinions may be, we can do nothing but support the Government of India and the Viceroy in ensuring that they will maintain peace and good order in that country.
The point which occurs to me as most important, and upon which I should like to get some information from the Secretary of State, is this: Is he satisfied, the situation being what it is, that the Government of India have ample powers at their command? I should like to join my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham in a tribute to the police forces in India. No more loyal body of men exists anywhere, but it cannot be denied by those who know India that for years past there has been almost a campaign on the part of certain Indian members of the Legislative Assembly, and elsewhere, to fritter down that force, to decry its efficiency, and in some cases to cut dawn its emoluments. That must have led to a good deal of dissatisfaction and, therefore, it is net an unnatural but a necessary question in a debate of this kind to ask the Secretary of State whether he and the Government of India are entirely satisfied that if, as unfortunately seems to be the case there is likely to be a continuance of these disorders and troubles for some time to come, the Government of India have ample powers at their command in the police force itself and in troops if necessary to support them. I do not want to go into details, nor do I expect the Secretary of State to give me details, but I should like to have a declaration that he is satisfied that law and order can be maintained and that there are ample forces for that purpose. The right hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, if I understood him correctly, suggested that a great deal of our troubles came from the date of the appointment of the Simon Commission and I rather gathered that if he had had his way he would have appointed a differently constituted Commission. I do 849 not for a moment suggest that he did not say so at the time, but I do not think he made the point perfectly clear—
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
In that case for the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's sake I bad better not go into the matter in greater detail so far as he is concerned, but I think it is within the recollection of hon. Members that there was no great demand from India previous to the appointment of the Simon Commission for a Commission to be appointed consisting partly of Indians—
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
At any rate, it was not a point of which a great deal was made. The real trouble came after the Commission was appointed. For two or three years after 1919 there was a constant outcry for the appointment of the Commission before the date laid down in the Act, and, in fact, many leaders of Indian opinion were prepared to say definitely that if the Commission was appointed earlier than 1929 it would satisfy Indian opinion and that we should not hear so much about trouble and dissatisfaction in India. As a matter of fact, the appointment of that Commission did not have the effect which these Indian politicians expected. It did not bring about peace and contentment in India. From the moment of its appointment there was immediate trouble and opposition. The point I want to make in that connection is this. A short time only has elapsed since that Commission was appointed, and between that date and the present we have had the declaration of the proposed round table conference. That also has had no particular effect in pacifying Indian opinion; it has had no particular result in any way in bringing about good will. On the contrary, it has resulted in all the troubles of the present non-co-operation movement.
It seems to me clear that the appointment of the Simon Commission really has nothing whatever to do with the troubles in India. The fact of the matter is that this movement has nothing whatever to do with the large section of the people who want to co-operate. It is a movement which has had its birth among 850 those who have no intention of co-operating. It is a movement entirely for an independent India, and if this country, as I believe it is, is quite unprepared to consider the idea of an entirely independent India then I agree with the right hon. and gallant Member that if there is a doubt existing it is just as well we should make our position clear at once. It is not a question of dealing with those who are willing to co-operate. You cannot, by any statement you may make, bring about peace or satisfaction amongst those whose one aim and object is to turn us bag and baggage out of India, and to my mind it is no use trying. We must ignore this movement in India from the point of view of co-operation and endeavour to get those who will co-operate to join with us and bring them to our side to whatever extent we can. But whatever happens we must make it perfectly clear that we will maintain law and order, and that we will not listen to abuse and vilification of the kind which is now going on.
It has been said that there is no comparison between the conditions in India and those in any other part of the world. That is perfectly true. Over and over again as one reads in the newspapers, and particularly the American newspapers, you see the idea, that India should be federated on the pattern of the United States of America. India is not like the United States of America. There is no homogeneous population. You have not one country but many countries, not one people but many peoples, with tremendous racial and religious differences, with enormous differences of caste, a huge number of people who are called Untouchables, and it is perfectly clear that you are dealing with a totally different problem to one which arises in any other part of the world. I suggest that when the Viceroy made his statement a few months ago regarding a round table conference that he did not mislead anybody in India who really read the statement carefully without desire to misunderstand and he did not mislead anybody in this country. There was not one word which was not in accord with the statements made over and over again in this country, except that it was perhaps not made sufficiently clear that what this country had definitely promised to India was a gradual extension of self-Government until the day when India could take 851 her place amongst the other Dominions under the British Crown. That is what we have always aimed at, and what we aim at to-day; and nothing that can be done in India against us should make us deviate in the least from the path which has been laid down by Government after Government for many years past.
Equally, it is well that we should make clear the extent to which we mean to go; that we do not contemplate India as a separate Government outside the Empire, or as a self-governing country outside the Empire. If there is anybody who is in any doubt as to the objects of Great Britain and her policy in connection with India by all means let us have that point made quite clear so that there can be no possible difference or doubt about it when the round table conference meets in the autumn of this year. It is perfectly clear that the progress towards self-government, which we are anxious to bring about, must not only be by stages but must entirely depend upon India itself. Over and over again it has been said that only India can really lay down the rate of progress towards self-government. We cannot do it; it can only be laid down by India itself, and India is more and more inclined, I believe, in spite of what has happened in the last few months, to give birth to a real national movement which will bring about some day her position as a Dominion within the Empire, not a national movement which is merely meant for disruption and which will end in chaos, but one which will work steadily for self-government in co-operation with us.
Another aspect of the question which is often forgotten is the position of the Indian States. It is utterly impossible to consider any future development of India without considering what is to be the position of the Indian States and what part they are going to play not only in any immediate development but in the eventual future of India. That is a problem that does not exist in any other part of the world. It is a problem that never existed in America, and it is a problem with which probably no nation has ever been faced. I suggest that when these Indian extreme leaders continue to speak about the future of India and self-government of India without telling us what they propose regarding the great 852 Indian States and without considering what the position of the Indian States is to be, they are leaving out one of the greatest factors in the consideration of the problem by all practical politicians.
There is, of course, a practical difficulty in connection with the use of words; there is the difficulty in the definition of "Dominion" and "Dominion status," dating back to the Imperial Conference of 1926. That Conference made it a little difficult to deal with the matter without going into a great deal of detail. But if it is clear, if the British House of Commons definitely lays it down that our policy is to bring about, gradually and according to the amount of co-operation that we receive, self-government within the Empire, then I do not believe that there can be the slightest doubt on the part of any of the people of India as to what we mean. I heard it said in this House to-day, and I have heard it said over and over again, that many people would rather be free in their government than be prosperous. I take it that that is an indication—whether it is true or not, I do not say—that in the case of India it is not disputed that she is extremely prosperous. I do think that we should make it perfectly clear what we have done for India. It is no use allowing the idea to spread that we are continually apologising for being in India. The real truth is the very opposite; the real truth is that India owes almost everything to the British Empire and the British people. The British Empire and British control have made India prosperous. Before this movement began India was not only prosperous, but upon the whole was happy and contented.
In that connection I want, with permission, to read a few words from a letter which struck me as being extremely apropos. It appeared in the "Pioneer Mail" on 21st March, and was reproduced in the "Times" on 10th April last. It is written by the Reverend J. C. Blair, one of the oldest inhabitants of Gujarat, the main scene of the present civil disobedient campaign, and it is addressed to Mr. Ghandi. This is What Mr. Blair says:It is not my intention to refer to the different points mentioned in your letter (to the Viceroy), but one point I am concerned with as a resident of Gujarat, and that is your statement concerning the condition of 'The dumb millions' of India.853On reading these paragraphs from your letter I could not help wondering how you received your information, for I have lived among these 'dumb millions' for 40 years, and, looking back over those years and comparing the ryots' condition to-day with what it was then, I can honestly say that I find the village people in a much better condition now, both materially and physically, than they were in 1890, when I came to India.A little later in the same letter the writer uses these words:I have found no discontent among the villagers. The rank and file of India's people, the 'dumb millions' whom you refer to, I have found as happy and contented and even prosperous as the ryots in other parts of the world, and I have travelled far.If these are the people—the toiling, voiceless millions—on whose behalf you propose to set out on a march to defy the Government established by law, to stir up the evil passions of the crowd, and to let loose upon our fair province forces for evil, which can have only one ending—for the sake of an independence they do not understand and have never asked for, and under which they tell you they would not be happy—then I ask you, Mr. Ghandi, to pause, meditate upon the consequences of your action before embarking upon this 'mad risk' (as you term it), which can only bring suffering to these dumb millions.I do not know the writer personally, but I gather that he is a missionary. I have read that quotation because it seems to me to put very clearly the point that I want to make. In the opinion of most people who know India well, Mr. Ghandi's movement is not one which is likely to help the largest number of people in India. While it is our duty to listen and to pay attention to the opinions of those who claim to speak for the people of India, it is also our duty to consider the interests of the ryots, not the interests of the few thousands or the few hundreds of thousands who are politicallyminded—to consider the interests of the 300,000,000, probably, who know nothing of this movement, but look entirely to the British people for justice, good rule and good government.
I do not suggest that there is not a national awakening in India. Of course there is, and we want to see it. There is nothing I would like better than to see that national movement, rightly guided, moving forward constantly towards the day when India gets self-government. But it is no use pretending that the movement exists all over India or that there is any real national claim for self-government immediately. Nothing 854 of the kind. Of course, it will be said that we cannot expect such a movement where the people are not educated, and it will probably be said that it is the fault of the people of this country that they are not educated. Let us look at the facts. Think of the problems of education in a country like India. Until recently there were no women teachers. Think of the immensity of the country. How long is it since we have had any education worth talking of in this country? Surely in that respect we are a little more advanced than India, and yet how recent is our own progress.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
I shall not go into details of policy. Apart from education, think of the progress towards the self-government at which we are aiming, that has been made in the last few years, and compare it with the progress towards self-government in this country. I believe it was in the 13th century that the first burgesses or knights were-returned to a British Parliament, and it was not until 1832 that there was any sort of popular government in this country. That was a period of something like five centuries. It is only 40 years since the first Indian representative sat in a Viceroy's Council. In 30 or 40 years is it expected that India, faced with much greater problems, should achieve the kind of government that in this country took five centuries? Not that I suggest it will take five centuries in India; times have changed. But those of us who are anxious to see the progress of India, and more than anxious to see India move steadily towards self-government, should be equally anxious that that rate of progress is not interrupted by movements which have no really popular foundation and which aim only at destroying the peace and security of the country. That peace and security will go forward steadily at the same time as the movement towards self-government will grow if the Government of India remains strong and steadfast.
I do not want to go into the question whether Mr. Gandhi should have been arrested earlier or later. One thing is perfectly plain. The Viceroy has made it as clear as any human being can do, that he is anxious and more than anxious 855 to co-operate with everyone who is willing to work reasonably with him in India. With every shade of opinion that expresses political views in India the Viceroy has offered to co-operate. Whether these offers were made so often and for so long a period that they appeared almost to show weakness, as has been said, is a matter that we can also leave aside to-day. These offers have been made, and it is equally clear that there is one section of the people of India who will not co-operate. Having made its position clear, it is now the bounden duty of the Government to see that the peace and progress of India are not disturbed and set back. Therefore, apart from the questions of detailed administration with which the Secretary of State is to deal in his reply, I ask him to give us an assurance that, while he and the Viceroy are more than anxious to work with those who are willing to work with us, equally he is ready and has the force necessary to maintain order in India for the benefit of the millions who have no voice whatever and who have not taken any part in the recent disturbances.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Wedgwood Benn)
It is not the language of hyperbole to describe the issues, on the consideration of which the Committee is engaged, as momentous and even vital to the future of the British Commonwealth. Despite some criticism which has at times been made, it has been the desire of the India Office to give to the House and to the public at every stage the fullest possible information on all matters concerning India and all events that have happened there. I propose now to supplement such information, as far as is within my power, at the request of those who have spoken or who may speak. It is very important in considering this matter that we should maintain a sense of perspective. A thing may be very interesting to us at this moment, but by concentrating attention on it we may lose the full view of the picture. Therefore, with the permission of the Committee, I propose to give in general and in very thin outline some account of recent events of all sorts in India, and in that account I shall attempt to interweave answers to the questions that have been put to me. When we have the picture so presented, we can 856 deduce some idea of the general causes of the trouble which are evident at the present moment, and then, so far as the limits of a Debate in Committee of Supply allow, I shall say a word or two about the Government policy in Indian affairs.
As the Committee well knows, I am a beginner at this subject. I have been now about a year an observer, a studious and certainly a most interested observer, of events in my charge. I should be certainly failing in what I wish to do if I did not here pay a tribute to the services of the officials in the India Office. No body of public servants have better knowledge or exhibit a finer public spirit; and in this connection I would ask to be allowed to say a word about the loss which is about to fall on the India Office in the approaching retirement, at the age of 60, of Sir Arthur Hirtzel. He has served no less than 36 years in that Office. He was Private Secretary to a great Secretary of State, Lord Morley, and he served then for a time in the important position of Political Secretary, and for six years, he has been acting as Permanent Under-Secretary of State. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), if he were in his place, would be able to bear his personal tribute to Sir Arthur Hirtzel's services over a much longer period than I can, but I should like to say how much I owe to him personally and how great is the loss which the State has sustained in the retirement of a public servant, not only of high qualifications, but of deep selflessness and regard for public and not for private interests.
We here have read in the newspapers a good deal about events in India and it is the business of the newspapers to collect news of events which are likely to interest the public but, despite the headlines and all the stirring accounts of the serious events which have been occurring in India, I would like to remind the Committee that the vast majority of the people in India, even in the urban areas and certainly in the rural areas, pursue day by day their avocations under the benevolence of settled and ordered government, carried on, I must remind the Committee, by a governmental machine which though it may be designed by British hands, is, at the present time mainly operated by Indian hands, not only as regards posi- 857 tions of high control but, of course, almost exclusively in the subordinate branches. In order to get a true picture of the operation of the machinery of State in India to-day, the Committee will perhaps permit me to deal briefly and statistically with some aspects of the national life.
Let me take, first, the question of trade and finance—a very important index of the condition of the country. There are few countries in the world that in the matter of external trade can give a better showing than India. Last year the private trade in merchandise showed a favourable balance of £58,000,000 sterling and in each of the four preceding years the favourable balance was at least equally good. As regards public revenues and expenditure, last year's Budget closed with a balance on the right side and although it was found that on the basis of existing taxation the Budget for this year would present a deficit, the Government of India, with the support of the Assembly and the Legislature, presented a Budget which will show at any rate a balance and perhaps a surplus, and will maintain in the eyes of the world the solid financial position in which India has always stood. The Committee are aware that in the last week the Government floated a loan of £7,000,000 sterling which was over-subscribed, and here is a very interesting fact. The price of Indian securities on the London market is higher now than it was on 1st January last despite all the events which have occurred in the meantime. It is just as well to consider these matters if we want to get a full picture of the situation and these are very important points, because the price at which you can borrow money governs the rate of interest which you have to pay, and the charge which you have to lay upon the people in order to pay it. It is something, therefore, that we can say that the position is as satisfactory as that which I have been able to describe.
Although there is a large public debt in India 80 per cent. is represented by productive assets—Socialist enterprises such as railways—valuable property which is not only constantly being developed, but which makes a contribution from year to year to the general revenue. I think it was the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham who asked me a question 858 about the electrification of the railways. I have been able to obtain some particulars for him as to the progress of electrification. I am told that the electrification of the suburban lines in the Bombay area has been completed and that the main line from Bombay to Poona is in course of electrification. Provision is being made for the electrification of the Madras suburban lines and it is expected that these will be completed in the year 1931–1932. The project for electrifying the Calcutta suburban lines is still under consideration. I hope that that statement gives the Noble Lord the information in that connection for which he asked. But no less important than the railways—to which in the course of the past five years 2,300 miles of new line have been added and on which more than £100,000,000 sterling of capital has been expended—is the work of irrigation.
That work is important because it supports India's main occupation of agriculture and, by increasing the purchasing power, which is very low indeed, of the peasants, it provides a market for the products of India's growing industries. I think it was the Noble Lord, or one of the other speakers from the Opposition side, who asked me for some particulars about irrigation in the last few years. I am not able to give the details for last year separately, but I will give some very remarkable facts of the whole story covering the general field. An area of 28,000,000 acres, or nearly 13 per cent. of the total crop area, has been brought under irrigation at a cost of £75,000,000, and when the schemes now under construction, including the Sutlej scheme in the Punjab, and the Sukkur barrage scheme, are completed, the total area under irrigation will be nearly 40,000,000 acres. As I go along I fancy I am providing an answer to the question which was addressed to me by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Holton (Mr. Lambert) at Question Time to-day.
As regards the trading and industrial position generally, let me give these facts to the Committee. During the last 20 years India's oversea trade has nearly doubled. In the same period the number of jute mills has almost doubled, and the production of tea and raw cotton has increased by 50 per cent. The production of coal has increased by more than 50 per cent., and the production of woven 859 cotton is more than double what it was 20 years Ago. Here is an interesting point. I know that some of my hon. Friends may say that while this represents an increase in wealth, it does not necessarily represent an increase in the wellbeing of the workers. They may say that it is not sufficient to speak about the Amount of wealth, but that I should also say something as to how it is distributed, and I will give another figure which bears on that point. In agriculture, the number of members of co-operative credit societies has increased in the same period from 300,000 to 3,500,000. I hope that hon. Gentlemen who are interested in the Indian peasant, who rightly desire to do something for him—and I share their view—who desire to uplift the Indian peasant or the Indian industrial worker, will not, in the meantime, overlook the great and beneficent work which has been carried on, not by Englishmen alone but by Englishmen in co-operation with Indians under the Constitution which exists in India at present.
While I am speaking about the Budget, I should like to say a word about a subject which I know will be intensely unpopular with many Members of the Committee. I mean the increase in the Cotton Duties. The Government of India make the proposal that the duties upon cotton goods should be increased from 11 per cent. to 15 per cent. At the present moment, with the state of trade what it is in Lancashire and the difficulties of unemployment what they are, no proposal could be more difficult for the British industry. What happened? The Committee are well aware that the Joint Select Committee which examined the Government of India Bill in 1919 laid down this principle—that when the Government of India, which is not a Government responsible to the Legislature—it is irresponsible in that sense—was in agreement with the Legislature on the matter of a tariff, then the Secretary of State should refrain from exercising those general powers of superintendence and control which are given to him by the Government of India Act, 1919. I was much criticised by many hon. Members of this House who represent cotton interests of one kind and another, but, despite that criticism, I believed it was my duty, and I discharged that duty, to observe both in the letter and the spirit 860 that convention of liberty for the Government of India, acting in concord with the Legislature.
Something happened which was without precedent in the history of the relations between this country and India. I was estopped by this Convention from interference, but the British Cabinet approached the Government of India and the Legislature, in exactly the same way as they might approach the Government of any Dominion. They put before the Legislature of India and the Government the difficulties which this increase in the cotton tariff might inflict. The Government of India and the Legislature considered them and replied that willing as they might be to assist us in our difficulties, they had their own case to consider and they were unwilling to concede and unable to concede the demand made by this Government. The increased cotton tariff has been made because it is a fundamental principle in our relations with India that Indian interests must come first, and it is impossible to regard India—and I shall refer to this again in a moment—as some possession to be exploited in the British interest, whatever that British interest may be. I know that some critics in the Assembly went further and said "This is not tariff autonomy if tariff autonomy involves full responsibility of the Government to the Assembly or the Legislature." That is a different point and I express no opinion about it, but I do ask the Committee to note what occurred, namely, the increase in the tariff; the approach by Government to Government; the consideration of the matter by the Government of India; their rejection—that dotted the i's and crossed the t's—of the appeal made by the British Government, and the imposition of the duty in the interest or the supposed interest of India. I say that there you have a fulfilment of that growth of autonomy which is not the least important element in the developing relations between this country and the Indian Empire.
I would like before passing from the question of trade and commerce to say something about labour legislation, and about the general position which is occupied by India in this matter. I think it is true to say that in the last 10 years more progress has been made in industrial legislation in India than in the pre- 861 ceding 50 years. I am very far from saying that things are what they ought to be. Anyone who reads of the conditions in some of the mill areas in India must be inspired by a desire that something should be done, but if we desire to do better do not let us decry what has been done. Do not let us forget that, in regard to industrial legislation, the reputation of India stands very high at the International Labour Office at Geneva; and in that connection I should not fail to pay a tribute to that very remarkable Indian statesman Sir Atul Chatterjee, the High Commissioner for India in this country and the representative of India at Geneva. He has not only established a reputation for himself but has added very much to the international renown of India at Geneva where she stands as an original member of the League of Nations.
Further, I would like to say a word, an anticipatory word, about the work of the Commission under the Chairmanship of our distinguished ex-Speaker, Mr. Whitley. It is true that they have not yet finished their labours. Mr. Whitley, assisted by trusted leaders, both Indian and British, in the Labour world, has made a visit to India and is in process of discharging his task. His Commission has been very well received. With one or two trifling exceptions, everybody has been willing to co-operate with it, and, although it is true that it has had no time as yet to make its Report, it is also true to say that it has achieved this result, that the very presence and journeying of the Commission throughout India has done much to improve relationships and bring people together with a view to the betterment of labour conditions. I am certain that I shall carry the Committee with me when I pay this tribute to the work of Mr. Whitley and his Commissioners, both Indian and British.
As the Committee knows, Indian labourers, on account of their valuable qualities, are very much sought after as immigrants in various parts of the world. Whether in Fiji, Ceylon, East Africa, at one time South Africa, or in parts of South America, their presence is eagerly welcomed, and I would like to remind the Committee that the welfare of these labourers is very much at the heart of the Indian Legislature and the Government of India. When these questions 862 come before the House, I would bespeak in advance the sympathy of this House for the Government of India in the fight that it has to put up to protect the interests of those of their own citizens who are labouring overseas.
On the subject of Indian medical degrees, perhaps a word might be accepted. The Committee knows that the General Medical Council, after considerable discussion—the point has been raised many times in recent years—decided that unless an officer called the Commissioner of Medical Qualifications and Standards was appointed—Colonel Needham had been designated for the post—to appraise, so to speak, the standard of the medical education given in the various Indian medical colleges, they would be unable to continue to recognise the Indian medical degrees. Owing to circumstances which I need not further describe that appointment was never completed and the result was that the General Medical Council felt compelled to withdraw their recognition of Indian medical degrees. This is a most unfortunate thing, both for the Indians and the British, and the problem is urgent and is being urgently studied by the Government, in the hope that by the creation of some All-Indian medical organisation, some sort of authority may be created which, manned and staffed in India, may be able to give these guarantees which the General Medical Council consider requisite before it can give recognition to the Indian medical degrees. That something may be arranged at the earliest possible moment is in the interests of both India and this country alike.
In a general way, may I say a word about the development of the relations between the Home Government and the Government of India? The growth of self-government in the British Commonwealth has been various in form. Sometimes it has come after clash and conflict, sometimes it has come by peaceful and almost imperceptible development, sometimes it has come by Statute, once it came by Treaty, and sometimes it has come by use and wont; and in this connection I would remind the Committee of a view expressed by the Joint Select Committee in 1919 who said that, in their opinion, where the Government of India and the Legislature were in agreement 863 in matters touching a purely Indian interest, the Secretary of State might consider the propriety of abstaining—in fact, they recommended that he should abstain—from interference. That, I consider, is a sound indication of opinion, and upon that principle, so far as it is a principle, I have attempted to act in the few months in which I have been responsible for this office. It means this, that the Government of India is looking more and more for approval and support to the Legislature and to Indian public opinion, and, though it may be embodied in no Clauses and no Schedules, that in itself is a real, effective, and, I believe, lasting growth in the measure of self-government which India even under the present constitution possesses.
Passing from these civil subjects to the matter of the Forces, I will give the Committee some few particulars which may be of interest. The military forces in India consist of the Army, the Air Force, and the Royal Indian Marine. As regards the Army, there has been no material change in strength since the Army was reorganised after the War. If further particulars, numbers and so on are desired in the course of the debate, I shall be very happy to submit them to any hon. Gentleman who may care to ask for them. I would remind the Committee again, in reference to the Indian Army, of the very remarkable tribute paid to the steadfast spirit of the troops in the Indian Army by Sir William Birdwood in a telegram which I read to the House some few weeks ago: The telegram reads:Birdwood assures me from his long and intimate experience of the Indian Army and after seeing a host of Indian officers during his recent long tours that he is fully satisfied that the Indian Army is thoroughly loyal and he feels sure that the Garhwali incident will turn out to be an isolated incident.An hon. Member asked a question to-day, as illustrating how reports are perverted to a bad use, about the disbandment of a battalion of the Bombay Grenadiers. He was under no misapprehension about the reason for the disbandment of the battalion in question, but others had used what was an ordinary rearrangement of military forces in order to spread a story which was absolutely without warrant. The Committee might wish 864 that I should give them some account of the process of mechanisation in the Indian Army. We have now mechanised two divisional trains, two divisional ammunition columns, and a field artillery brigade which is served by one of these columns; also a cavalry brigade train and the ammunition column of another field artillery brigade. Another noteworthy improvement is the replacement of bullock-drawn ambulances by six-wheeled motor vehicles. That is an achievement, and I would make some remarks about the desirability of making mechanisation suitable to the conditions, climatic and topographical, of the country in which the mechanised units are to work.
Has the mechanisation proceeded on the lines of standardising as much as possible the vehicles used; that is to say, both the armoured cars and the cars for transport?
§ Mr. BENN
If I understand the question aright—I am not a soldier—I should say, "Yes," but, in order to be perfectly accurate, I will have an answer to that question prepared. As the Committee is aware, an arrangement was come to by which the military budget in India was stabilised for four years—it has now been extended to five years—at 55 crores, say, £41,000,000, and it is hoped that the Army Budget will come down in the present Estimates by two and a half crores to 52½ crores. As to the Air Force, there are eight squadrons, besides the two heavy transport aeroplanes which played such a notable life-saving part in the evacuation of the civilians from Kabul in the disturbances about 16 months ago.
As to the Royal Indian Marine, I would like to say a word, because it is an extremely interesting and promising development of the Indian Defence Forces. As the Committee knows, it has lately been reorganised on a combatant basis under the control of Admiral Walwyn. What I am particularly interested in and pleased to tell the Committee is this, that already there is one officer, an Indian, an engineer sublieutenant, that two have passed for the engineer branch and are now under training, and that three appointments have been offered for competition among Indian boys of the Mercantile Marine Training Ship "Dufferin." The actual material is not on a very large scale. 865 There are three sloops besides one under construction, a depot ship, and a number of ancillary craft.
Following the excellent precedent which has been set at other times, India was represented at the Naval Conference by a separate delegation under the leadership of Sir Atul Chatterjee, and the Committee will be interested to note that in the Naval Treaty special provision is made regarding one of the units in the Indian naval forces, namely, the "Clive," which figures in the list of "special ships" to be exempted. What is more interesting than that and what touches the subject of Indianisation—very dear, I know, to the heart of many Members of the Committee, and not least to that of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy)—is Admiral Walwyn's estimate of how they are getting on in the Royal Indian Marine. I would like to read some extracts:The officers of the Royal Marine are excellent, they are very keen on their service and only too anxious to be told, in what, to my mind, they have been wrong. They are rapidly working up gunnery tactics and will do very well. I am most favourably impressed with the men, their discipline and bearing is excellent, and their behaviour on shore exemplary. They are keen and take the greatest interest in friendly exercises. Good at boat work. I consider the present boys under training will be ideal for the sea service. From the many letters and applications I have received from good class Indians for their sons to join the commissioned ranks of the Royal Indian Marine, there will be no lack of volunteers. From what I have seen of the cadets of the Indian Mercantile Training Ship 'Dufferin,' I should be delighted to have the best of them for the Royal Indian Marine. I see a great future for the Indian youth who joins this Service with his heart in it.Here you have a force in which the British Admiral in command finds a ready use for Indian talent, and that is a matter on which I think we might find common ground for rejoicing.
§ Mr. BENN
My hon. Friend is not giving the full facts in making that statement, and I would point out to him that when, in pursuance of the Naval Treaty, the question of the naval defence of the Commonwealth is to be discussed, India will be represented with the other Dominions in the discussions that will ensue. At the Imperial Conference, India 866 will be represented by me and by representatives of India. Having touched a few points concerning the general administration of affairs in India, I come to the subject which has formed the main topic of debate to-day—
Will the right hon. Gentleman refer to the question of Wana, which is very important, because it forms the apex of the frontier defence? Can he assure us that the occupation is either in existence or that it will be?
§ Mr. BENN
A brigade has been there since last November. I now come to the question which has been the main subject of interest to hon. Members, namely, the recent disturbances which have taken place in India. I have attempted to give the Committee the very fullest information available, but let us see the whole position in perspective, even as regards these disturbances. I will deal with underlying causes in a moment, but, leaving out of account the smallest incidents, what are the facts? In Bengal there have been serious disturbances at Calcutta, Mymensingh and Chittagong. In the Bombay area there have been disturbances in Bombay city, and in the salt depots in the Surat district and Sholapur. There have been disturbances in Madras City and at Karachi, and grave rioting at Delhi. I will speak about the North-West Frontier province in a moment. Except in the Gujerat area, these disturbances have been confined to urban districts. It will be observed also that generally speaking—although it is not universally 100 per cent. the case—the Mohammedans have held aloof.
§ Mr. BENN
That is true, but, generally speaking, the Mohammedans have held aloof, and it would be fair to say that the disturbances may be described accurately as sporadic rather than general. In some recent resolutions passed by the Congress Working Committee at Allahabad, the proposal is made that these disturbances should extend so as to organise the non-payment of land revenue and taxes, and breaches of the forest law, with appeals to Government servants to abandon their posts. So far, however, these resolutions have not been put into effective force, and it is not the intention of the Govern- 867 ment that they should be permitted to be made. I would say a word, as I promised, about the position in the North-West Frontier province and in the tribal area. A very full communiqué was issued on the 5th May which dealt with occurrences at Peshawar. Since the disturbances of the 23rd April, the city has been quiet, and normal life has been or is being resumed. Outside Peshawar a centre of disturbance was caused by a leader called the Haji of Turangzai and his son, who settled themselves in some hills to the north-west of Peshawar. I told the House at the time that air action was taken against them and was proving effective. It would be true to say that their attempt to raise a disturbance among the Mohmands has been unsuccessful. The Afridis are taking no part, although there was a lashkar or military assembly of 500 for some time at Gandao, but nothing came of it. The attack which was made on the British post at Datta Khel was described to the House by me immediately I received the information concerning it, but the lashkar engaged in that operation was dispersed. A joint jirga of Mahsuds and Shakai Wazirs was held in order to decide the attitude of the tribes; but only a small section showed any hostility to the Government. The Wana Wazirs are quiet.
On the whole, it may be said that the tribal situation is greatly improved, and a favourable sign is that there has been no hostile movement of any tribe as a whole. All this news will, I am sure, be reassuring to the Committee, and looking at the matter from the Indian standpoint, I am perfectly certain that it is no less reassuring to Indians themselves. I cannot imagine anything that could be more dangerous to Indian interests than the stirring up of trouble in this quarter. I cannot help, in passing, making the observation that, as was announced in the communiqué, one of the arguments in the propaganda of Communist speakers in this district was this: They went among the Mohammedans and wilfully perverted the purpose of the Sarda Act, or the Child Marriage Act That was introduced by a distinguished Indian, and supported by much of the best public opinion in India, and ostensibly by leaders of Congress. Then, when it is passed, not by a description 868 of the Act—far from it—but by wilful misrepresentation of what the Act meant, they succeeded in using it as a weapon.
§ Mr. BROCKWAY
Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the very strong denial of that report on behalf of the Indian National Congress?
§ Mr. BENN
I can only give the Committee the information which is supplied to me. I have not seen that denial, but I shall be glad if the hon. Gentleman will bring it to my notice, and we will weigh it. I am not making a party case against anyone; I am trying to arrive at the facts. I believe that I am stating the facts to the Committee when I say that this Child Marriage Act, or the misrepresentation of its purpose, was made a weapon for stirring up trouble among the Mohammedans in that quarter. So far as the conditions on the other side of the Frontier may affect our position, we are confident that in King Nadir Shah we have a neighbour who will maintain the highest traditions of neighbourliness.
§ Major-General Sir ROBERT HUTCHISON
Has the right hon. Gentleman any statement to make on the reasons for the original outbreak?
§ Mr. BENN
An appreciation of the situation has from time to time been prepared by the Government and published, but the hon. and gallant Member will know that a special inquiry into the causes of the outbreak is being held by two judges, one a distinguished Mohammedan; I will be glad to give the hon. and gallant Gentleman full information. In addition to that, there is a military inquiry going on into the incidents connected with the Garhwali. In the face of the events—I am leaving out of account the general description of finance and trade and so on, and am dealing only with this matter of disorder—what is the duty of the Government? There is a movement which is intended to bring government to an end. What is the duty of the Government?
§ Mr. BENN
I gave way to the hon. Gentleman, for this is the place where his views should be expressed, and I shall endeavour to meet them in argument. I make no complaint of his criticism. Does my hon. Friend think that these things have not been the source of deep anxiety to me? If he does not, let him deal with the case. I say that it is the duty of the Government to carry on the Government. I will justify the whole position as far as I can, and then leave my hon. Friend to deal with it. In this connection I should like to pay a tribute to the men who have been engaged in difficult and dangerous work—in the majority of cases, Indian officers and men. I had to announce to the House at Question Time the lamentable news of the killing of a British officer on the Frontier. It is very well for us and for me to speak about carrying on the Government. I should be a poor thing if I did not express my sympathy with, and my support of, the men who are carrying on personally dangerous work, and I will extend that to district magistrates, who have to make difficult decisions, to district officers, to the local Governments and to the Government of India.
Let me say that in this matter, as in all others, there never has been and is not between the Government and the Viceroy anything but relations of the warmest understanding and the strongest support. My hon. Friend, in a rhetorical way, spoke about this work which is being carried on. Is peace being maintained in the interests of some external agency? Is not peace being maintained in the interests of India itself? I look forward to the day when Indian liberties will be enlarged, and when India will take her place as a fully self-governing Dominion among the other Dominions of the Empire. Is it for us to hand over to her a legacy of anarchy and chaos?
§ Mr. BENN
We shall see about that. If extraordinary powers have been taken, they have been taken with the greatest reluctance. Let me remind my hon. Friend what happened. When I entered into office, my most passionate ambition 870 was to get rid of those extraordinary powers which existed in Bengal under the Bengal Criminal Law (Amendment) Act. I saw the persons concerned, talked it over with them to see what could be done, and we decided to do without them. On the 1st April that Act was repealed. Within nine days, a murderous outrage took place at Chittagong, men approaching unsuspected sentinels and killing them, and we were compelled to reimpose for six months the powers with which we had so joyfully dispensed. Does my hon. Friend say we were wrong? Can he say we are wrong? I say that in maintaining peace, we are doing so in Indian interests. These exceptional powers are introduced for an emergency and will disappear with the emergency, but the disappearance of the emergency is not a matter that we can help. We must await the restoration of normal conditions. It does not lie in our hands; it lies in the hands of those responsible for the disturbances. Having said all that, I do not want anybody in the Committee to think that we regard force as being a remedy. It cannot be a remedy, but we are compelled to maintain order, or our difficulties will only become greater.
The moral basis is that peace and quiet are maintained in Indian interests in order that in that atmosphere constitutional enlargement of the liberties of the Indians may take place. We are not dealing merely with an ordinary outbreak of lawlessness. If we were dealing merely with lawlessness, the task would be a very simple one. We are dealing—I do not know whether it is fully realised in this Committee—with an insurgence of national, racial aspirations. It may be perfectly true to say that all but a small number of Indians disapprove of the campaign; it may be perfectly true to say that minorities are looking anxiously to what their position may be under any new Constitution, but it is equally true to say that Indians of all races and classes are looking for progress in the satisfaction of their desires. They are looking for the disappearance of manifestations of race superiority, and recognition, which is, indeed, vital to the stability of our Commonwealth, that, within it, there is complete equality of citizenship. It is idle, therefore, to complain 871 if patriotic Indians, while condemning the attempt which is proceeding to organise anarchy in India, also express in the most earnest fashion their own desire for a great constitutional enfranchisement.
Let me recapitulate the aims of British policy in relation to India. First, there was the Montagu Declaration. Then there was the Viceroy's statement on the 1st November last in which he declared that, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government:It is implicit in the Declaration that the natural issue of India's constitutional progress, as there contemplated, is the attainment of Dominion status.This House, under its own Act of 1919, laid upon the Statutory Commission the duty of exploring and reporting. Its functions were well described by the Chairman when he said:The present commission is only authorised to report and make recommendations. It is not an executive or legislating body authorised to pronounce decisions about the future Government of India.That task is now concluded, and within a few weeks we shall have in our hands one of the great State documents of our time.
The next stage is a conference to consider the question of constitutional advance in co-operation with those who can speak authoritatively for opinion in British India and the Indian States. As the Viceroy said:It is as unprofitable to deny the right of Parliament to form its free and deliberate judgments on the problem as it would be short-sighted of Parliament to underrate the importance of trying to reach a solution which might carry the willing assent of political India.That policy stands. The goal is accepted, it is accepted by all parties in this House; but there are great difficulties on the way to it. Does anyone deny that there are great difficulties on the way to the goal? These difficulties do not exist exclusively or mainly on this side. They are largely Indian difficulties, and it is from Indian opinion that we must seek the solution of the difficulties. I will make bold to say that if in this conference substantial agreement were reached, no Government would be likely to ignore its work when it came to present its proposals to Parliament. To launch at this moment a campaign of civil disorder, 872 which often involves suffering for innocent non-participants, is merely to add to the difficulties which were inherently sufficiently stubborn and insurmountable.
Among the obstacles to which I have referred, none is more insistent and none more difficult than that affecting the future position of minorities. It is evident that no settlement can be considered satisfactory which does not carry the consent of, and give a sense of security to, the important minority communities who will have to live under the new Constitution. How is that problem to be solved? There are some who rely on the archaic maxim, "Divide and rule." That is not the principle upon which our Commonwealth has been built up. Our Commonwealth has been built up by teaching persons of various interests and various races that in the bond of union exists the liberty to develop in their own way their own capacities. It is of no interest to us that these difficulties should persist, our interest is to see them solved, and they must be solved amongst Indians themselves. Attempts are being made to arrive at a solution, and, as I say, it is in the highest Imperial interest that a solution should be found, but it is really useless to employ mere words as if they could find a solution. A solution—a real solution—we do most earnestly desire.
There are other difficulties. I refer to one school of thought which presents this view, that India is a market to be exploited by or on behalf of the British interest. I say that were such a belief held by any large body of opinion in this country, the days of the British connection with India would be numbered. What is the principle on which our influence has been extended over such a large tract of the globe? It is that by voluntary co-operation the interests of each is served by the union of all. Any policy which sets before an Indian any ideal save the Indian ideal, by which, I mean, the welfare of all those, of whatever race or colour, whose interest is in India, is foredoomed to failure. How long would this Empire last if this doctrine which some seek to apply to India were attempted to be applied even to the smallest fragment of the self-governing Empire? Who would desire to see an Empire built on the principle of the exploitation of one race by another? What moral justification could there be for a structure of this 873 kind? Does this mean that self-governing India will make a lesser contribution to the economic prosperity of these islands Not at all. That such is not the case is proved by the abounding trade and commerce we enjoy with the self-governing Dominions. The essence of profitable trade relations is goodwill. All the strong hands and iron heels cannot compel the Indian peasants to buy British goods. Goodwill and good understanding are the keys to open the gates of the market place.
We ask ourselves, Can any good come out of the tragic happenings of the last few months? I say that some good may come, if they result in the quickening of the consciences of the two peoples. The Indian people are responsive to idealism; behind a Western reserve we are not without our generous instincts. We are not facing a question of the exchange of merchandise or of Parliamentary draftsmanship, but we are facing a question of trust and understanding. Politicians and statisticians have their part to play, but the peoples themselves have a still greater rôle. Clearly, the cruellest and wickedest thing that could be done on either side would be to foster bitterness and hatred, and to add fuel to the flames of racial animosities. For long years our two great countries have been knit together to the undoubted well-being of both. Is it too much to hope that bitterness may be cast out and the future may see a rebirth of mutual understanding and respect?
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
This is an occasion when we cannot go into the larger issues of the Indian problem. I hope it will be understood in India that the House of Commons to-day is not purporting to deal with those major issues. I hope the criticism will not be made that we have been dealing with comparatively minor points, and not devoting our minds to the fundamental questions which lay beneath them. Even if it had been in order to go into those larger constitutional and political matters, it could not have been expedient, for I think that all Members of the Committee are in a large degree suspending their judgment until the report of the Statutory Commission is available. That Commission was somewhat unfortunate in the manner and method of its appointment. It was necessary that this Parliament should 874 appoint a body of its own Members, of the two Houses, in order to advise it, but it was also most desirable that the Indian Legislature should have been invited at the same time to appoint a body of their own to co-operate with that nominated by the British Parliament. The manner of the appointment of the Commission gave the impression to the Indian people that their fate was to be decided as an act of supremacy, an arbitrary act of rule from afar and from above, and the troubles that have followed are largely due to that fact. The original mistake was in some measure redeemed by the invitation to the Indian Legislature to appoint their own Committee, which was done, and the Committee has sat and has co-operated with our Statutory Commission. But it was a profound pity that that mistake was made at the outset.
We should always remember that Indians are a proud people, that they demand the right to hold their heads high among the free men of the world, and the British Government and Parliament, in all their dealings, should have respect for that most honourable sentiment. I entirely concur with some wise remarks which fell from the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winter-ton) that infinite harm is done by wounding references in the British Press, and sometimes from public men, to the Indian people and to Indian characteristics—not only in the serious Press, but sometimes in cartoons in the comic Press, which may do very great harm in a manner that those who are responsible for them never foresee and probably little desire. The earlier mistake is not to be made again at the conclusion of the Commission. The Government have made it clear, through the Viceroy and here, that when the Commission has reported, its recommendations are to be considered by a round table conference as fully representative of all sections of Indian opinion as Indians themselves will enable it to be. That conference has to sit and to report before the Imperial Government arrives at any conclusions on the recommendations of the report, and before any proposals are laid before Parliament. We earnestly hope that that conference will be fully representative, and that its decisions will be wise, and such as will commend themselves to this Legislature and to the Empire as a whole.
875 Meantime, there is nothing to be done except to proceed as rapidly as may be with the agricultural and economic development, the fulfilment of the recommendations of the various Commissions and committees that have sat upon these matters, as the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham urged. There remains much to be done to promote that development. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State took credit for the fact, as an illustration, that there are now 3,000,000 credit co-operators in India. In this country 3,000,000 would be a vast figure, but in India it is only a trifling percentage, a beginning and nothing more; and on the economic side, particularly the agricultural side, there are immense developments eagerly awaiting the hand of the Governments of India and of the Provinces. As for the rest, there is nothing for it except patiently and firmly to maintain order.
I think that we are fortunate in our Viceroy. He is an ex-Member of a Conservative administration. He was appointed by a Conservative Government, he is a man who holds—I use the term in its widest sense—Liberal opinions, and he is working in the closest co-operation with a Labour Government. There could not be one more fully representative of the whole of this nation, nor one more genuinely sympathetic to the aspirations of the Indian people themselves. His is the task, in which we here will support him, to restore and to maintain order. Riots, mob-rule—these can do no good in any direction, but only an infinity of harm. We are grateful to those who take effective measures to meet them, and we all endorse the tribute that has been paid by the Secretary of State to the police in India and to all who have borne the brunt. For the rest, it only remains for me to express on behalf of those who sit on these benches our concurrence with what has already been said above the Gangway, that the House of Commons as a whole will extend full support to His Majesty's Government in any indispensable measures that may be necessary for performing the first duty of any Government, the maintenance of order.
§ Major-General Sir ALFRED KNOX
Perhaps I may be allowed to intervene for a few moments, as I happen to have spent some 11 years in India. May I 876 be allowed to congratulate the Secretary of State for India upon the excellent review which he has given of the situation in India? A question was put to the right hon. Gentleman by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Wardlaw-Milne) as to whether the Government had enough troops in India to deal with all possible emergencies, but no reply was given to that question. I wish to put one or two questions about the present troublous state of India, which is causing a great deal of anxiety among those who, like myself, have served for many years in India and who are doubtful about the present situation. I was talking the other day to a very distinguished Indian gentleman who has been connected with India in an official position for about 40 years, and he said that never in his memory had the Government of India been more weak. I hope that the loyalty of the police in India will not be strained too far. I have had some experience of the police serving in different parts of India, and I have no hesitation in saying that they have been consistently underpaid. They have never been treated properly, and they have only had a mere handful of Britishers to lead them. I think the police of India have been asked to do a great deal too much. Take recent events, going back to the Lahore Congress. There you had the Union Jack hauled down and burnt, and, strange to say, nothing was said about that at Simla. A few weeks later at Cawnpore the Chairman of Congress Committee made a speech in which he said that Cawnpore distinguished itself in 1857, and it would not be behind in 1930. That is a situation which is very danegrous indeed. At Chittagong there was a sudden raid on the Arsenal, two sentries were butchered and two Indians were killed. Why was this arsenal left without a proper guard? Then I come to the incidents at Peshawar. I know something about the Indian frontier and the town of Peshawar. I know the people of Peshawar, and as I talk Pushtu, I have been able to talk to them. I know those people very well, and I like them, but they are a very excitable race and can be misled very easily. I would like to know what the Indian Intelligence service has been doing for the last two or three years to allow such propaganda to grow 877 up at Peshawar and why agitators have been allowed to exploit those people. There is gentleman named Mian Jaafar Shah, and he is the leader of the so-called Red Shirts who carry a sickle and hammer on their pugarees. They are the actual cause of the disturbances at Peshawar in regard to which the Secretary of State seems to have rather smoothed over matters. The Secretary of State has told us what happened in this district on the 23rd April, and he said that since then the City of Peshawar had been quiet, and, in reply to a question which I put to him, the right hon. Gentleman said that he could only tell me what had appeared in the Press. From what I have read in the Press it appears that from the 23rd April to the 4th May there were no troops in the City of Peshawar at all, and the administration was handed over to the local Congress party who were in communication with the Haji of Turangzai.
I would like to ask, is it a fact that when the two soldiers were butchered on the 23rd of April the troops were not allowed to use their weapons? Is it not a fact that on the 23rd, 24th or 25th of April the Commander at Peshawar telegraphed to Simla stating that the position of the troops at Peshawar was intolerable? Rightly or wrongly, it seems to me, from the information I have obtained, that the civil authorities in Peshawar withheld from the troops permission to use their weapons even when it was necessary for the maintenance of law and order on the 23rd of April, when two soldiers were killed. I would like to ask if it is true, as reported in some of the newspapers, that the reason why some of the men in one of the Indian regiments refused to obey orders was that they were not allowed to protect themselves as soldiers in a way in which it is only right and proper that they should be allowed to act. If that is so, I think the smirch which has been placed upon this regiment ought to be removed at once.
I come to what happened at Sholapur, the hottest place in the Bombay Presidency. Sholapur is a town of about 80,000 inhabitants. We gather that there was a whole battalion of troops there, and we had to send another battalion to help them to restore order. Why was 878 this necessary? Simply because of the extreme leniency of not allowing those troops to use their weapons. We have only 60,000 British troops in India to protect a population of 320,000,000. If the British troops are not to be allowed to use their weapons in order to show that we are top dogs in India, then you are going to have far worse trouble in India. [An HON. MEMBER: "Shame!"] At any rate, there is one person in this House who will raise his voice on this matter and tell the truth.
I would like to make an appeal to the Secretary of State for India to give us more information. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) spoke of the noble defence at Datta Khel. A few sentences about this incident appeared in the "Times" four days ago, but that must have been two or three weeks after the incident happened. I think everybody in this country ought to be told more about that incident. I make this last appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to do what he can to be a realist, because it is only by realism that he can save India from grave disaster.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
The hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox) said outright what is being said by his political friends up and down the country and in this House, and it is just as well that we should know their point of view with regard to what is happening in India. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has said that we must be top dogs in India, but I think hon. Members sitting on the Liberal benches will agree with me when I say that that sort of talk in the present condition of India will not do at all. We must remember that we cannot govern a, country very long without the consent of the governed. It is all very well for the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Wycombe to contend that he has been expressing the opinion of those who have spent many years in India, and he must know, as we all know, that, whereas in 1910 and 1911 you had disorders in India, they were confined almost to a small section of people in Bengal, and otherwise they were very little noticed in the rest of India. The next struggle in India occurred in 1919–1920, and these disturbances seem to happen after intervals of about 10 years. 879 At the time of the Montagu-Chelmsford Report you had a still worse trouble in India which was the beginning of the trouble with the Mahommedans. Now in 1929, when we have a distinguished liberal-minded statesman as Secretary of State for India, we have the present trouble, and you have the beginnings of these troubles spreading to the mass of the people. The workmen and the peasantry are being disturbed and you have disturbances among certain sections of the frontier tribes.
I believe the Secretary of State for India is quite right in boldly facing the situation. There are certain encouraging factors. We have to see these matters in perspective. We must not simply read the headlines in newspapers, but we must see that these outbreaks, which seem to occur every 10 years, do grow in intensity and strength and do spread to the mass of the people. At present, 60,000 British troops are necessary to maintain law and order, but while I support my right hon. Friend in maintaining law and order at the present time statesmanship must find another way out of the difficulty. I think the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) and the speech of the Secretary of State for India were slightly out of order, and I will not follow their example by discussing matters which will require legislation. First IA all, I must say that there was too much in the speech of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Wardlaw-Milne) and the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) with regard to the police. I associate myself with the tribute which was paid to the police, but there was exclusion of some word of sympathy with the civilians in India and the soldiers. They are our instrument in India, and I think this House should be very sensible of the difficult position in which working men who have enlisted in the Army from one cause or another are placed when acting as soldiers in India. I think they deserve our sympathy and I am sure that this House will not withhold it from them. The same also applies to the Civil Service—to the new generation of young men who go out from the Universities with quite a different idea from that of the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe; with the idea, not of 880 ruling, of governing, but of serving, helping and advising, and with quite a different conception of their duties. They are now the junior ranks of the Service in India. Presently they will have risen to positions of great responsibility. They have to work with Indian colleagues and under Indian colleagues in the Service, and they are doing splendid work in India. I quite agree with the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham that it is quite wrong to say that the rule of our Civil Service in India to-day is inhuman and unsympathetic to the people.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
I am sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman will permit me to say that, as far as I personally was concerned, there was no question of omitting a tribute to Indian or British soldiers, but merely an accentuation of the difficulties of the police in the present situation.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I was sure that the hon. Member would agree about the soldiers, although he did not mention them. I am sure that there was nothing deliberate in his omission to do so. There is one point with which I would ask my right hon. Friend to deal when, as I presume will be the case, he replies later, and that is with regard to the question of news from India. On the 5th May, I asked my right hon. Friend a question with regard to censorship in India, and he gave me an answer about his powers under the Telegraph Act, 1885, and about what was being done; and to-day, at Question Time he gave a further answer in reply to an hon. Member on the other side. I asked my right hon. Friend, in a supplementary question, if he was satisfied that the truth about events in India was not being kept from the British public, and he replied:Certainly; questions have been asked and answered in this House."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th May, 1930; col. 605, Vol. 238.]Apparently my right hon. Friend thinks that his Monday answers to questions are all that we require at the present time, but I would respectfully suggest to him that we want a little more than that. I then asked him whether he did not think it would be unfortunate if there were any impression that there was difficulty in getting the truth about events in India, and he was good enough to pay me the compliment of saying that he was 881 certain that I would do my best to correct any false impressions that arose. The hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown), and other hon. Gentlemen on the other side, thought that that was rather a good joke. I am certain, however, that my right hon. Friend did not mean it unkindly, for, of course, any of us here are only too anxious to see that false impressions about India do not get about in this country and other parts of the world. He must not take this matter lightly. If he pays no attention to me, I do not complain, but these things must have very serious reactions.
Then we get news circulated through Reuter, and this is significant, because Reuter telegrams have been accepted by British Governments in the past as so reliable as to be treated, in some cases, almost as State documents. We had, through Reuter, extraordinary accounts of alleged happenings in Sholapur. It was stated, for example, that soldiers were being driven about in motor lorries with long sticks with hooks on the ends, and were using them for pulling off the homespun caps which the supporters of Mahatma Gandhi wear. This puerile, ridiculous action naturally astonished everyone in this country who takes a close interest in Indian affairs. It was almost unbelievable, and, surely enough, my right hon. Friend was presently in a position to deny that ridiculous rumour. But haw did it come to be sent by Reuters, apparently with the connivance and knowledge of the Government of India? I do not want censorship; I want the truth, but, at the same time, we do not want these scandalous and lying rumours about India. Then we had the report about floggings in India, apparently of adult offenders. Actually, the truth, according to my right hon. Friend, was that four juveniles were birched, which I suppose would have happened this morning in Manchester or Birmingham as the result of week-end offences there. Then there was the series of rumours about the burning alive of police, and the throwing of other police down wells in Sholapur. All these rumours received wide credence; they were reprinted in the papers there, and went all round the world.
My right hon. Friend is able to give answers in this House which he seems to think quite sufficient to dispel any misunderstandings, 882 but now let me quote to him the words of a very distinguished American journalist, Mr. Robert Scripps, the Editor-Proprietor of the Scripps-Howard Newspapers, a large new newspaper syndicate in America, with very great influence because of its position of having almost a monopoly of certain kinds of news. Speaking recently at a luncheon given by the English-speaking Union, and, therefore, in a very sympathetic atmosphere, he said that he had been asked by Lord Burnham, who presided, what American opinion was on the situation in India. I do not know if my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has seen this report but it certainly should be brought to his notice. Mr. Scripps's reply as reported in the "Times" and "Manchester Guardian" of the 23rd May, was that people in America were distrustful of their information. They were told that censor ship was only directed against Indian local newspapers, but, on the 16th May, the London office of the United Press of America received a cable from its Lahore correspondent, asking whether his daily dispatches were being received, but that was the first that they had heard of those dispatches being sent. Similar cases of missing dispatches had occurred, and the result was to discredit all Press reports. According to the "Times" report, Mr. Scripps said that the natural reaction was to assume, when they read that two people had been killed, that probably 20 were killed and that the hospitals were full; and he went on to say that he believed that Englishmen were as much mystified as to the true situation as were Americans. He went on to describe in detail how the messages of his Lahore correspondent had been mutilated, tampered with, and stopped.
That is a most unfortunate impression to be created in the mind of a man in the position of Mr. Scripps in American journalism, and it deserves the very closest attention of my right hon. Friend. He may say to me, "But a moment ago you said that I ought to suppress or stop false and defamatory statements about troops, or Nationalists in Sholapur, and now you complain that there is a censorship." We must have it one way or the other. Either there must be complete freedom in India, or there must be the fullest and truest official statements. I believe that my right hon. Friend gives all the information that he can in this 883 House, but he must not interfere with bona fide English, American and other newspaper correspondents in India; while at the same time I suggest to him, though I know the situation is difficult, that some steps must be taken to prevent the spreading of very mischievous and harmful rumours, either about our troops or about the Nationalists in India, which will simply inflame public opinion in this country, and, when they are telegraphed back to India, will inflame public opinion there. I apologise for having dealt with this matter at length, but I think the Committee will agree with me that it is a matter of some importance at the present time.
My right hon. Friend turned to me very kindly while he was speaking, and said that I had Indianisation very dearly at heart. I presume that he was referring to Indianisation of the Army, and that is perfectly true, but he only spoke about the Indianisation of the Navy—of the Royal Indian Marine, which was to have been called the Royal Indian Navy. I am glad to say that I had something to do with the events that led to the defeat of the Bill which had that object in the last Parliament. I happen to know what my old friend and former commanding officer, Admiral Warley, is doing in Bombay; I know the admirable results of getting suitable young lads from the Punjab and training them as seamen, and some presently as officers, for the Royal Indian Marine. That is a small matter affecting a few sloops, minesweepers and so on; I do not expect that India will need any more for many years, as the defence of India's coastline will always be an Imperial question. The important matter is the Indianisation of the Army, and on that my right hon. Friend was silent. I assure him that it is a vital matter.
I believe that we shall be judged in India very largely, in the course of the next two or three years, by our treatment of this subject. It is useless to say, though it can be said to-day with truth, and has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe, that India is not in a position to defend her own frontiers or to keep internal order without the assistance of British officers in British or Indian regiments, or of the 60,000 picked, efficient and splendidly drilled and organised British troops. The 884 steps that we are taking to remedy this defect, this want, in India, are altogether inadequate. I found in India recently no Indian of any shade of opinion—including gentlemen of undoubted loyalty and desire to help the Government in India, including distinguished Indian officers with very fine military records, including young officers who have received the King's Commission, who have been trained at Sandhurst, and who, in some cases have done splendidly, including the most experienced Indian politicians—I found no Indian of any shade of opinion, or of any caste, among the ruling Princes, politicians, and, of course, the so-called extremists of the Nationalist Congress party, or the non-co-operators, to whom I talked on this matter, who was satisfied with the present system of Indianising eight units and sending a handful of young Indians over here to Sandhurst for training.
On the other hand, if young Indians are to be trained at Sandhurst, it will mean converting Sandhurst into an Indian college, because there will be so many; while, on the other hand, if the present system of sending a mere handful every year is continued, sufficient progress will never be made. I do not want to go into the findings of the Skene Committee, who, I know proposed that military colleges should be established in India. Since my right hon. Friend has held his present office, he has told us more than once that he has tried, as I am sure he has, to introduce a new spirit into the India Office and into our dealings with India, but he will have to tackle this matter of Indianisation far more seriously than he has yet had time to do. I know that he has been very busy in connection with the Naval Conference, and I know his pre-occupations at present and the troublous times he has been going through during the recent disturbances; but I must impress upon him the fact that it will be necessary for him really to tackle this matter. The expression "Dominion status" has been used by several speakers in this debate, including the right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Liberal benches. If India is to have Dominion status, not within the centuries foreshadowed by the hon. Member for Kidderminster, but within the time and with the safeguards that will satisfy sensible Indian opinion to-day, there is no time to lose in creating in India an in- 885 strument for defence which will remove the reproach that she cannot defend herself or keep internal order.
Without further delay, the only thing to do is to begin immediately setting up machinery for the training of your necessary officers, not only infantry, which at present you are only allowing Indians to become, with the exception of a few flying officers, but artillery and engineer officers and, above all, an Indian Air Force. I believe the air weapon will play a tremendous part. Great things have been done on the frontier by the use of Air Forces, and I believe an Indianised Air Force in a few years, combined with a mechanised Indian Army—the use of motor cars to a much greater extent for transport purposes—will solve many of the present difficulties. I hope, also, my right hon. Friend will urge on the Indian Government the necessity of developing civil aviation. The country is most suitable for flying but is extraordinarily backward, and the Indian Government are very lax in developing civil aviation, which is a part of the same problem. I know that my right hon. Friend understands the problem of Indianisation very well. Those who have studied the matter in India including Europeans, well-wishers of the present Government and their policy, and many Indians with whom I have come in contact and discussed politics seriously, all agree that this matter of Indianisation is vital and that my right hon. Friend's policy so far has been lacking.
Another administrative matter that I would bring to his notice is with regard to the Political Department of the Government of India. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham referred to the lamented death of the Maharana of Udaipur. I had not the honour of knowing His Highness, as the Noble Lord did, but I only heard well of him, and he stood very high in the opinion of all who knew him and his illustrious house. The Indian States are bound to loom very large in any consideration of India's future. The mention of the Maharana of Udaipur brings me almost naturally to the question of the political service. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham will know what I mean. In the Butler Committee's report there are very definite recommendations in regard to the future of the Political Department, par- 886 ticularly with regard to its recruitment. The present haphazard method of recruitment is condemned by the Butler Committee, which included former members of the political service, and they suggest that it is time to recruit separately from the universities in England for the service, and that it is very important to train future political officers when appointed. They say it would be desirable if they had some previous diplomatic training before they undertook their duties. It is not only necessary to overhaul the organisation of the Political Department, but it needs a new spirit also, as much as my right hon. Friend's Department does. In the far distant past it was the policy to keep the States, with their 72,000,000 inhabitants, weak and divided. That was the deliberate policy in the old days. Traces of that policy remain to this day, and the momentum of this policy carrying on to-day is hampering the economic development of many Indian States.
I would ask my right hon. Friend to look into the difficulties that an Indian State has in developing its railways or running out a branch line to open up a quarry or a mine. It takes, in some cases, years to get permission from the Political Department to build it. They say the States must not be encouraged to develop their communications. That was the policy 30, 40 or 50 years ago, and the tradition still remains in this most conservative of Departments. Take telephones. I can quote the case of an Indian State which wanted to connect its telephone system with the main system of India, but it was not allowed to do so because of the old inhibitions, for strategical purposes, in the past. There was the case of the State that reorganised its police service and wanted 24 revolvers for its police inspectors, and it took three years to get permission to have those revolvers brought in. How can you talk about trusting the people of India and looking forward to welcoming them among the sister nations of the Empire? I cannot possibly rival, or even approach, my right hon. Friend in such eloquence. How can you say such things and think them when there are these survivals of distrust, suspicion and fear going on? We need a new spirit altogether in the Political Department, and its whole organisation requires overhauling and not only its recruitment, as the Butler report 887 suggests. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham reminded me of the story of Frederick the Great and the mule. When a certain general was recommended to him for appointment and he thought he was not suitable, he was reminded that the general had many years of service. He replied that he had an army mule that had more years of service and had seen more campaigns than any general in the army, but the mule still remained a mule. I am not saying this personally. The Noble Lord speaks of the Sinn Fein movement in India. Does he really, because of his admiration for the exploits of his fellow-countrymen in building up the Irish Free State, really compare India with Ireland?
I said there was no comparison. The hon. and gallant Gentleman could not have heard what I was saying.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I heard the Noble Lord's speech with the greatest attention and delight. If he says there is no comparison, I will not pursue it any further, but my hon. Friends below the Gangway have a habit of comparing the situation to-day in India with that of Ireland. I hope it is only used as a very distant comparison. One difference between Ireland and India is that in Ireland, when at last the party opposite saw sense, there was a strong, united, vigorous, combative if you like, party who could take over the reins of Government. The difficulty in India is that if we did say, "We have no business to govern another people against their will, we have no moral right to be there, we have no business to carry on what is called dirty Imperialism," there is no one to whom we can hand over the reins of Government—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member says there is anyone, I ask to whom? I pause for a reply.
§ Mr. KNIGHT
I thought my hon. and gallant Friend was aware that there is a considerable responsible element in India who are prepared to take over the responsibility.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
That is extremely vague. There is a very large section of Hindus who are opposed to the Congress party. Your Mohammedans are, for the most part. What are you to do about your 2,000,000 sikhs in the Punjab?
§ Mr. KNIGHT
I am amazed to hear this line of argument pursued. I hope I misunderstand my hon. and gallant Friend. I know that there are—and I say it without fear of contradiction from anyone in the Committee—Indians of responsibility in all the public groups, whether large or small, who are prepared to take over the government of their country under suitable safeguards.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
When I put that point to them, from Gandhi downwards, every one of them admitted quite openly—I am giving away no secrets—that the result would be chaos, anarchy, bloodshed and civil war. Someone says, "What does it matter?"
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Did not my hon. Friend hear the speech of the Secretary of State? There has been most regrettable bloodshed, loss of life, disturbance of trade and disturbance of the King's peace, but this is a country as big as Europe without present day Russia and with 320,000,000 of population. You could say the whole of Europe is disturbed because there are troubles in Poland, in Italy and in Spain. I admit that the trouble in India is serious, and future troubles will be more serious, but if we were to evacuate India there is no machinery of government which could take it over. There are eminent, capable and efficient Indians in their own particular spheres but you have no central organised party which can combine together. The best hope for India is that such a strong constitutional party should be formed by the composure of the differences between Hindus, Mohammedans, Sikhs and the 5,000,000 Christians and the Anglo-Indians on a constitutional basis to co-operate and deal with these questions. In these circumstances, there is no question of the duty of those who sit on these benches to support the Secretary of State in giving support and help to those in India who are responsible for the maintenance of order and the restoration of peace. There is no other policy that we could possibly support. I have suggested some administrative action that we could take, some extra manifesta 889 tion of the changed spirit, to let people understand that we mean to keep our pledged word to India. In the meantime, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen said, there is nothing to do but exercise restraint and patience, and I believe that if we keep our heads and do that, and if unnecessary repression is avoided—I agree as to the treatment of political prisoners; I do not think that men who are imprisoned merely for political views should be treated as criminals—if these things be done, then, I think, the Government will have unanimous support to-day, on an occasion when, for the first time for 24 months, India has been discussed, and discussed, I may say, in the presence of a larger number of Members than is usually the case.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Sir SAMUEL HOARE
We must leave the Secretary of State to answer the detailed questions put to him by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), and we must leave the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull to settle his differences with the hon. and learned Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Knight). All I desire to say is that I agree with what I may call the sound sense of what seemed to me to be the predominant feature in the last half of his speech. But I rise to comment upon the speech of the Secretary of State. Those of us who heard it will feel well justified in having arranged this debate. We required a statement from the Secretary of State on the grave events that are taking place in India at the present time. The Secretary of State has, if I may say so, given a very plain and courageous statement on the situation. I listened with great interest and with entire approval of what, I consider, were his main conclusions. He said, first of all, that trouble in India is sporadic rather than general. I will say a word or two about that in a minute. He said, secondly, that the primary duty of the Government in the present crisis is the maintenance of law and order. He said, thirdly, that he and his Government were solidly behind the Viceroy. I can find no opportunity for criticism; indeed, I can find opportunity for nothing but full approval on all these three main conclusions.
The right hon. Gentleman said, first of all, that trouble is sporadic and not 890 general. Many of us on this side of the Committee, and many more people in the country, have been gravely disquieted by certain recent events in India. We were made anxious by the outrage at Chittagong, a very sinister outrage, because it seemed to me to represent the most modern methods of a terrorist attack, very cleverly and efficiently carried out. We were gravely disquieted again by the events at Peshawar. We were also gravely disquieted by the very sinister riots that took place at Sholapur. But, taking into full account the gravity of all these incidents, and it may be of other incidents which we here know little or nothing about, I still say that the trouble is confined at present to certain definite centres, and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that these centres are mostly urban and semi-urban centres. And I agree further with him that they seem to show no general movement against the British Raj. I have not access to the confidential information that he possesses in the India Office, but the information that I have received from India confirms the general conclusion he has just stated. It is a significant fact that in almost all these places where disputes, disorder, riot and threats of anarchy have commenced, there has always been some quite local cause of discontent upon which the agitators and revolutionary agents concentrated.
Take, for instance, the riots in Calcutta. I am told, from a very good source of information, that the rioting began with a dispute with the water carriers. The water carriers had trouble with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The Society was insisting upon their buffaloes being given a rest in the middle of the day, a little insignificant local dispute. But almost at the same time there was another local dispute with the Sikh taxi-drivers who, for the first time, were being prosecuted by the police for breaches of the traffic regulations. The same local, limited discontent, yet worked up by unscrupulous agents and carefully organised propaganda; an attempt to set fire to the already inflammable material and turn a local dispute into a general movement against the British Raj. So also, I am told, was the state of affairs at Peshawar. Information that I received when the trouble occurred at Peshawar confirms 891 what the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon, namely, that it started with an agitation playing upon the susceptibilities of the Moslem community upon the subject of the Sarda Act. And even the trouble with the two platoons of Garhwali Rifles—remember these Garhwali Rifles have shown themselves in the past one of the finest regiments in the Indian Army—there, again, I am told it was a case of agitators playing upon their Brahmin susceptibilities and telling them that if they went into the streets of Peshawar they would be defiled by sewage being thrown at them, and that the British Raj would not allow them to retaliate.
This goes to show that, serious as may be many of the incidents that are taking place, we are faced not so much with a general movement throughout the length and breadth of the country against the British Raj, as with a formidable organisation, manned by a comparatively small number of people compared with the huge populations of India, engaged in fomenting any trouble that may exist and turning it into a widespread movement against the British Empire, and the Government of India in particular. If my analysis is correct, it surely goes to confirm the anxieties that have so often been expressed from these benches as to the dangerous propaganda that is undoubtedly going on in India. I do not want to-day to turn this debate into a debate upon foreign affairs. I only wish to point the moral of what the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs told us in answer to a question this afternoon. Evidently he and his colleagues in the Government are now impressed by the danger of this revolutionary propaganda; otherwise I cannot believe that they would have set in being the special machinery to deal with it to which the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs alluded this afternoon. In the course of time we shall ask for further information as to the workings of this special machinery, but, in the meantime, let me emphasise what my Noble Friend said at the beginning of the debate, that at the back of all this local agitation in India there is almost always, if not always, the work of these carefully organised agents and of a very well-directed propaganda based upon the latest Moscow model.
892 Then there is a further question connected with propaganda. I have the uneasy feeling—perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will deal at greater length with it if he speaks later in the debate—that while propaganda carefully organised and bitter, is being directed against the Government of India, very little resistance to this propaganda is being shown. I realise to the full the difficulties of the Government, the difficulties inherent in the system of administration, the difficulties of putting your case to a public of hundreds of millions, a large percentage illiterate; yet I should feel easier if I felt that the Government of India were making a greater effort in putting their ease—and it is a good case—to the people of India, and by this means making some defence against this efficient and vigorous propaganda put up against them. This afternoon the Secretary of State, in answer to a question, dealt with what seemed to me to be an extraordinary lapse in the field of propaganda, the fact that almost at the same moment as the Government of India are exercising more stringent control over the vernacular Press they should allow Gandhi to give an interview to a paper with a great circulation, in the presence of three of our officials, for two or three hours and to use this paper as a platform from which to spread his propaganda over the whole of the world.
I hope that the Secretary of State will draw the attention of the Government of India to the genuine anxiety which is felt by all my friends on this side of the Committee upon this question. It was suggested to me the other day by someone whose opinion I value that the Government of India might make a much fuller use of wireless for stating their case and for disseminating accurate news. The danger at present is that, with so many of the newspapers not being published, rumour, and very dangerous rumour, takes the place of news. There are all sorts of alarmist reports, as, for instance, the report the other day that the Viceroy had been recalled by the Government and had fled from Delhi disguised as a woman, spread from one end of India to another. Let the right hon. Gentleman investigate this question of wireless. The Government of India, so I understand, have recently taken over the operation of wireless in 893 India. I cannot help believing that, with loud speakers and the fuller use of wireless, true news could be spread about, and the stable population, by far the greater percentage of the population of India, could be steadied and reassured.
I have purposely dealt with these questions of law and order. Law and order, as the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) said just now, are the primary questions with which the Government of India have to deal in the present situation. But, because I have dealt with them in some detail, I do not wish the Committee to think that personally I regard the problem of India as exclusively a question of law and order. Law and order at the moment are vital, and they are vital for the reason that without law and order no progress—political, economic, social—is possible in India in the immediate future. I am one of those who wish to implement, in word and in spirit, the promises which we have made in this House and outside to the populations of India. It is because I wish to see the next step taken in an atmosphere of peace that I attach so much importance to the maintenance and restoration of law and order at the present time.
We are entering upon this new phase with certain definite advantages to our credit. If we compare the situation to-day with the situation in 1919 when we were last embarking upon a new phase of constitutional development in India, we have many advantages on our side that we did not possess 10 years ago. Ten years ago the Moslem community was solidly united against us owing to the Caliphate agitation. Ten years ago the depressed classes and the untouchables had little of the influence that they possess to-day. Ten years ago we were actually at war with Afghanistan; to-day we are glad to think that King Nadir is a loyal friend and ally. Lastly, though I do not wish to make any comparison between this Viceroy and any of his predecessors, we are fortunate to-day in having a Viceroy who not only possesses the respect of India but possesses to a great degree the affection of India as well.
That being so, it is surely our duty to take advantage of these favourable conditions and to press on steadily, resolutely, soberly, with the programme with which all parties in this House have expressed 894 their agreement. It is for us not to be rattled by what is happening at the present time, and still less to be rattled by the difficulties and doubts of the future. We have to go on with the present programme, and to be deflected from it neither to the right nor to the left. First of all, there is the report of the Simon Commission and the duty of all of us to give it studied support and the value which, I feel sure, will be due to it. Secondly, we have to see that the round table Conference starts in the best possible conditions. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman, before the end of the debate, can give us any further information about the Conference? We on this side of the Committee are very anxious to know at the earliest possible opportunity what are to be its terms of reference and who are to be its members. It may be that to-day the right hon. Gentleman will say that he is not yet in a position to give us this information. In that case, will he tell the Committee that he will give it to us at the earliest possible opportunity?
May I make this single suggestion to him with reference to the Conference? We all want to see the Conference as fully representative of the principal interests of India as is possible. I hope when the time comes to constitute the Conference adequate room will be found for representatives of the untouchables and also for representatives of the more conservative and the less vocal forces in India. There is always a risk when you have to form a conference of this kind, and when the numbers are limited, that those people are most generously represented whose interests are most active and vocal. I hope we shall see a place found for the quiet conservative element—I am not saying it in the party sense—upon the Conference, for I feel that without that element—and after all it represents a great body of opinion in India—the Conference will not be as comprehensive as we should desire it to be.
After the Conference will come the time for the Government to consider its results, and, in due course, for this House to pass the necessary legislation, and for the Joint Standing Committee presumably to make a detailed inquiry into the Clauses of any proposed Bill. There is a programme to which, as I say, every party in the House has given its support 895 and behind which, I believe, there is a big body of public opinion in the country. Let us go forward with it undeterred by agitation in India, unperturbed by irresponsible criticism here, with a sincere desire, in all the obligations that we have undertaken towards India, to see them fully carried cut both in spirit and in principle. Let us then go forward and show that the British Empire, when it has once set its hand to a task of this kind, carries it through and completes it to the end.Though the dogs may bark, the caravan of the British Empire passes on.
§ Major GRAHAM POLE
I think that which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) has outlined is enough to keep us going for, at any rate, a few years before all these things take place. The noble Earl who opened the discussion this afternoon said that they had not put down this debate with any intention to embarrass either the Government here or the Government in India. I am very doubtful whether it may not embarrass the Government somewhat. Certainly, the leading article in one of our daily newspapers—the "Daily Mail"—which said thatWhat we are attempting in India with this nonsense about 'Dominion status' is to achieve the impossibleis likely to do so. That paper and papers like it which write in that over-bearing and foolish manner with regard to things Indian are doing as much harm as they possibly can do. We have been brought up in this country with the idea of freedom. We have been taught to sing, "Britons never, never shall be slaves," and we have been taught that what is good for us is good for other people. We desire freedom not merely for ourselves, for we desire all other people to be free. I believe that the great mass of the British people desire to do justly by India and the Indians, but to-day the Indians are sceptical. They do not believe that we intend to do so. They believe that there is much more in the Rothermere Press than there really is. They believe that there is much more of that about in this country and they demand from us some tangible sign to the contrary.
896 India is changing very rapidly. It changes from year to year, and almost from month to month. Anyone who has been in the habit of visiting India more or less frequently realises that when one goes back to India, after being absent for a year or two, he goes back to an entirely different India. The whole thing has changed. The parties have changed. The whole alignment has changed. Anyone who wishes to understand the Indian problem has to keep very closely in touch all the time, week after week, with India and the Indians, and try to see things through Indian eyes. It is true that only a few years ago the villages were practically asleep and that no one in the villages took any interest in political affairs. That is not so to-day. The people in the villages have been awakened, probably, to a great extent, by the fact that politicians are now going down to the villages, but more by the fact that young men associated with the Youth Movement, young men students and others, are going to the villages trying deliberately to stir up these people. It is an unfortunate fact that some of the men who are most revolutionary in India are men who have been trained over here and who have been students in this country. I heard the other day of a Parsee, who was loyal in Bombay, who came over here and who, as a result of his treatment here, went back to India absolutely a rebel. I do not think that hon. Members realise how difficult it is for Indians who come to this country. They come here as members of a great Empire and try to get rooms in hotels or other rooms to live in and time and again they have had their rooms taken away from them; they are told that they have been let or some other feeble excuse is given. Within my own knowledge, during the past few months, this sort of thing has happened to men who held very high official positions in their own country and who have been treated abominably when they have come here. We have heard a good deal to-day about the spread of Communism and Bolshevist theories in India. That never impresses me very much. I do not say that there is not any of it; I believe there is a good deal of it, but I never can take it at its face value.
I have gone out to India time and again during the last 20 years and I have never gone out without being followed all 897 over the place by two Criminal Investigation Department officials. I never could make a speech without two men representing the Criminal Investigation Department sitting in front and taking down every word that I said. I was asked when I was in India, not long ago, if I would preside over a trade union railwaymen's meeting, and I agreed. I saw two reporters in front of me at the meeting, and, as they were going to report what I said as chairman, I said to them: "What paper are you representing?" They replied: "We are not representing a paper; we represent the C.I.D." "Why on earth are you here?" I asked. They replied: "We have come to report your speech." I asked: "Where they had come from," and they had actually travelled 200 miles to report what I might say, because I was a, member of the Labour party. They had to go back 200 miles. At the end of the day, they said: "You have said nothing unconstitutional. You are not a revolutionary." I said: "What did you expect?" "Well," they replied, "you are a member of the Labour party." That is the mentality of the Secret Service of the Criminal Investigation Department in India. Therefore, when I am told about the terrific number of things that they have discovered, it does not impress me in the least. I know that any member of the Labour party who goes to India will be followed about and his speeches will be reported by the Criminal Investigation Department officials the whole time. In my speech, I frankly criticised things in India and I made a point of turning to the reporters and saying: "This is the sort of thing that I want you to report, because I think it will do the Government good to hear it."
The present unrest in India is not merely confined to those of the Congress. It is not confined to the extremists, about whom we hear so much; it is general all over India. Merchants, traders, professional men and, for the first time in history, women in India are taking up this movement enthusiastically. This movement is not a thing that we can treat lightly; it is a thing that we must take seriously. We must begin to consider what we can do about it, and how best to deal with it, because a movement which is practically universal, as this movement is, cannot be without cause. 898 We talk about the Liberals and Moderates in India who have been co-operating with us and who have been supporting the British raj, but let us realise that not one of these men could get a hearing in almost any part of India. The thing that is at the bottom of all this trouble is that Indians want, in the first place, to be free citizens in their own country. They want to have the same freedom there to stand upright and to look a man in the face, that we have here. Anyone who goes to India and lands at, say, Bombay, soon realises that an Indian is not a free citizen if there is a white man about. The white man has always precedence. You have only got to go to the Post Office to buy a stamp and if there are Indians there they are brushed aside until you are attended to, because you are a white man. That is the kind of thing that must be stopped in India.
Indians have the best right in their own land, and if they demand equality in their own land surely it is a very little thing and a thing that we should be willing to accord to them. They demand that Indian interests should be no longer subordinated to the economic interests of Great Britain. That is why we have lost one of our best co-operators Pandit Malaviya, who resigned from the Assembly after co-operating with us for years, through a long life, because he believes that we are considering the interests of our own country first, before the interests of India. He proposed in the Assembly when the Tariff Bill was being discussed that it should not be a 15 per cent. tariff but a 20 per cent. tariff, but the Commerce Member of the Government of India said that if that Amendment were carried the Government of India would withdraw the whole Bill. That was not treating the Indians fairly. They felt that the Government of India was over-ruling them on a matter of tariffs, when they have had practically tariff autonomy for 10 years. Now, they feel that autonomy has been taken from them and they do not believe in our good word. We want to establish again among the Indians a belief in our good faith. If we believe that they have tariff autonomy why cannot we allow them to have the same right in their own country as the Australians have in Australia and the Canadians in Canada. We could not try to dominate the Australians or the 899 Canadians in that way, without losing them out of the Empire.
We have heard to-day about the round table conference. I have had great hopes of the round table conference, but I am bound to say that I do not think there is the least chance of the round table Conference being in the least successful unless we can get the leading men to come to it. Can we get the leading men to come to it? I do not think we can. The Secretary of State said that we want those who can speak authoritatively. They will not come unless they feel that they can take back from that round table Conference something that is self-government of some kind. If they cannot get that, they will not come, and there is no good our blinking our eyes to that fact. We may try to dominate them, but for goodness sake let us be honest. We do want to have some kind of self-government established in India at the earliest possible date, and with safeguards. That is what all of us feel. There are questions such as the Indian States, the Army, the commercial interests, the money invested in India, the Civil Service and the difficulties between the Hindus and the Moslems.
The Indians know about these things as well as we do, and the Indians, if they are going to get any kind of self-Government, want safeguards. Gandhi knows that, and he would be willing to provide safeguards. If I were dictator in this country and I could sweep away all these more or less futile Parliamentary talking places I would invite the Indians to come to this country to frame their own Constitution. I would see that all parties and sections of Indians were represented and I would put them round a table and say: "Now, ladies and gentlemen—I would bring the ladies in—frame your own Constitution, and whatever you frame we will pass through the British Parliament, and that will be your Constitution." If we did that and if they knew that that was going to be the Constitution we should find far more safeguards in that Constitution than we should ever dare to put into the Constitution. If we put in those safeguards they would never accept them from us, but they would put them in themselves if they knew that that Constitution was going to be brought into being and passed into law. The Government of India 900 must rest upon the good will of India, because it can rest fundamentally on nothing else.
Those of us who listened the other day to the right hon. Srinivasa Sastri, in a room upstairs, must realise how much truth there is in the statement that the British in India can no longer go there merely to make money, merely to have an occupation, but looking to England as their home—making their money there and then coming back home. They must go to India, if we are going to continue the connection with India, to be Indians while they are there, just as one goes to Australia to be an Australian or to Canada to be a Canadian. They must go there to be Indians and to take part in the common life of India as Indians. That, I believe, is absolutely essential. Since the Viceroy's statement certain things have happened which have had an unfortunate effect upon the Indians' confidence in our disinterested intentions. Following upon that we had immediately a great Press campaign, "Die-hard" articles of the worst kind, and the perfectly poisonous "Daily Mail" articles. Lord Rothermere, writing about "The United Party and India," said:We need India as a market for our goods. … India is Britain's best buyer. She takes £85,000,000 worth of our exports every year…Referring to the Viceroy's promise of Dominion status for India, Lord Rothermere said:In making this promise the Viceroy had the support of even Conservative statesmen at home, who thereby showed their complete incapacity to understand the Indian situation and the grave imperial perils which have arisen from it.In another article, Lord Rothermere shows how little he knows about India, because he writes thus in the "Daily Mail":In a fresh proclamation issued earlier this week, that semi-Socialist, Lord Irwin, renewed the fatuous and impracticable pledge of Dominion status for India, which, encouraged by the connivance of his intimate personal friend, Mr. Baldwin, he issued last November. The promise of Dominion status should not be confirmed but cancelled.He goes on to speak about British soldiers being murdered and Mohammedan police being flogged to death or burnt alive. He repeats the same story about the police being burnt alive that 901 was officially contradicted. The Government at Bombay inquired into the report, and they found that it was not true, but the contradiction did not receive anything like the headlines and the prominence that the original story did. Further, Lord Rothermere talks about the Maharaja of Burdwan ruling 8,000,000 Bengalis. I do not know what my Bengali friends will think about that. The Maharaja of Burdwan does not rule anyone at all. He has what we might call a courtesy title. What will the Bengalis think about Lord Rothermere's statement that the Maharaja of Burdwan rules 8,000,000 Bengalis? I do not think it is worth while reading more of Lord Rothermere's article. His knowledge of India and Indians is pretty feeble. Let me read an extract from a letter written by one who has held high office in India and in the Councils of the Empire, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru:If the present situation has some lesson for us Indians it has also some lesson for the Government, for Parliament, and the Press in England, which has either ignored or misrepresented the Indian situation. If the announcement made by the Viceroy in October had not been followed by the very unstatesmanlike utterances of some British statesmen in Parliament; if the British Press had not started the campaign it did start; if it had only attempted to understand the situation in its true perspective the position might easily have been very different.I have referred to the burning of the policemen, which was untrue, but the Press correspondents, with the exception of one, did not send home the denial. Even the "Times," in a leading article on propaganda in India dealing with the Press, refers to three instances of unreliable or concocted news. Two of them are not relevant at all, but the article, on the whole, gives the idea that the Indian Press is unreliable, and as an instance it refers to a railway accident of two years ago, when a very wrong report was issued in the Indian Press, in the "Forward" of Calcutta and the "Pioneer" of Allahabad, both of which got into trouble on the matter. It was dealt with in the ordinary Law Courts, and has no bearing on the present troubles in India. Our own Press here is just as unreliable when dealing with Indian matters. In the same article the "Times" referred to the rumour that the Viceroy had left Simla disguised as a woman on his recall 902 by the present Government. That was written on a blackboard and put in a shop window, and if you are going to have the Press in India more or less closed, as is the case now, you are going to have more and more blackboards, more and more of these rumours and less reliable news. The Press Act is an abomination in India. It was an abomination before it was dropped; now it has been re-enacted. As a judge of the Madras High Court has said; "Running a newspaper in India is a very hazardous occupation." It is; and when newspapers like the "Times" generalise about the Indian Press they should be very careful what they are doing because there are great papers in India, like the "Leader" of Allahabad and the "Hindu" of Madras, which are very reliable and read by thousands of people. It does not help these newspapers to co-operate with us or to represent us in the best way if newspapers here condemn in general the Indian Press.
I want to refer to the question that there is any want of respect in India for law and order. We have heard a great deal about law and order and how we must uphold it. We all agree with that; we do not want shambles anywhere or people to get broken heads. But you must first see that your laws are good. The Indian Penal Code requires drastic revision. You can be hauled into court for bringing any section of the people or the Government into hatred or contempt. What has the Opposition in this Parliament been doing all the time except trying to bring the Government into contempt. They would find themselves in a very serious position if they did the same thing in India. Indians have been appealing for many years for the separation of judicial and executive functions. How can you have respect for law and order when the executive officer is also the judicial officer. This is a matter to which those who have to administer the law are as much against as Indians themselves, they would gladly have the separation, yet it has not come after all these years. The Under-Secretary of State in the late Government, the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) said he hoped that before the century had elapsed the separation would be effected, and when I put a question to the present Secretary of State for India he said that nothing could be done 903 until after the Simon Commission Report. I do not know what that report will contain and I am inclined to think that it does not matter very much now because it is almost out of date, things have changed so rapidly since the Commission was appointed; but I think we must deal with questions like the separation of the judicial and executive functions, with the Indian Penal Code and repressive laws.
I agree with the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Wardlaw-Milne) that only India can lay down the rate of progress towards self-government, but I should like to know whether the hon. Member and I mean the same thing. Would he be willing to bring Indians over here and let them decide exactly how far the rate of progress warrants a further step in self-government, and how far it should go?
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
May I say at once that I should be perfectly willing for them to come over, but if they alone are to decide then I should not agree.
§ Major POLE
Of course, one cannot get away from the fact that this Parliament alone can decide. I rather disagree with the hon. Member when he says that the present movement is started by those who have no intention whatever of co-operating with us. Many people are in the movement not because they do not want to co-operate but because they see no chance of getting anything unless they join it. I think they are wrong. We could get them to believe that we genuinely do intend to give self-government if we passed a Press Act whereby we could put Lord Rothermere and people like that in prison for the kind of thing they say, which might mean the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives in India. It is doing an immense amount of harm, indeed more harm than anything written by any Indian journalist in India. It is no good having one kind of law here and another in India, using the repressive laws in India to stop the kind of thing for which Lord Rothermere gets a peerage. We want more co-operation, but we shall only get co-operation if we can persuade Indians—I sometimes wonder whether the time has not gone by—that they can believe in us, that in the British House of Commons and among the people of Great Britain there is an 904 intense desire to do justly by India; that we are not merely in India for what we can make out of it, not there to see how much we can get in pensions or profits but as trustees for Indians, and that our first interest is the welfare of our ward and not the commercial interests of this country.
§ Mr. BROCKWAY
I have listened to the whole of this discussion and have been wondering why the party opposite have asked for the India Vote to be put down for discussion. As far as I understood the speeches of the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) and the right hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) and also the speeches from Conservative back benches, they were in complete accord with the policy which His Majesty's Government is pursuing, and the only reason they have raised this debate is to point to the danger of Communist propaganda in India. It is an easy and very simple solution of every problem where grievances and disturbances occur to always find the key in Moscow, but though that is an easy solution I want to suggest that it is not an historical solution or a scientific solution; that it is a solution which is only looking at the surface of things and that there cannot be the kind of discontent there is in India to-day without it having roots much deeper than an explanation of that kind. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) suggested that the movement in India for national freedom is not powerful because it is only taking place in certain parts. He said that India is as big as Europe without Russia, that this movement is only taking place in Calcutta, Madras, Lahore, Karachi and Bombay and that the masses of the people have been untouched. The right parallel to draw would be this; if you had in Europe simultaneous risings in London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna and Rome. You would then realise that they were not sporadic risings representing local circumstances but that there must be something deep and general behind them and you could be perfectly certain that if these demonstrations were concentrated in these big cities that in the vast areas surrounding them that there was discontent as well.
I should like to make it clear that the Motion on the Paper for a reduction of 905 his salary is not in any way antagonistic to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India. Indeed, I can claim personal friendship with him. But it is because I believe the moment has come when very strong protest should be made against the policy which he and the Government are pursuing in India. I have spoken on a number of occasions on the Indian situation, and I think that if he were here he would repeat what he has said before, that I have spoken with restraint. Outside the House I have done my utmost to try to obtain a basis for a settlement, but I believe the situation has now developed in such a way that there is absolutely no alternative for many of us but to declare our opposition to the present policy in strong and quite unmistakable terms. In saying that I want to recognise what the Secretary of State has done within the limits of his policy. I recognise that he has seen and met Indians in a way which no Secretary of State for India has done before. I recognise that he has asserted the rights of Indians, whether in East Africa or in other parts of the Empire, as no Secretary of State has done before. I recognise that in this House he has stood for policies in relation to tariffs which were against the desires of powerful influences in this House. I appreciate that in a hundred ways, within the limits of his policy, he has sought to give a new note to Indian administration.
The strength of our criticism is this: that forces bigger and deeper than any which can be controlled by that sympathetic administration have arisen. They have arisen from the long past. They were the inheritance to which the right hon. Gentleman entered. But those forces were of such a nature that it required much more than sympathetic administration to deal with the inevitable situation which was arising from them; it required great courage; it required an entirely new policy if those forces were to prevent him from being forced into a position where, despite all his personal desires, despite all his ultimate hopes for good will and self-government in India, he and his Government would become the instruments of repression in India. That is the situation by which we are faced.
Soon after this Government was returned to office, and after the Secretary 906 of State assumed office, soma of us pressed three things upon him as absolutely essential if the situation which has now occurred was not to arise. The first was a definite declaration of the intention of the Government to accept full responsible government as its immediate policy and not as an ultimate object. The second was that that declaration should be accompanied by an amnesty to the political offenders in India. The third was that there should be called a round table conference, where representatives of this country and of India might meet as equals and work out the necessary transition policy after the acceptance of the principle of full self-government had been laid down. So far as the first of these proposals was concerned the Government did make a vague declaration of Dominion status as its ultimate object, but it felt bound not to go further because the Simon Commission was still continuing its labours and had not reported. I want to be clear in my statements about the Simon Commission. There is no one who recognises more than I do, not merely the service, not merely the sacrifice, but also the willingness to face danger which membership of the Commission involved. There is no one who recognises more than I do the vastness of their task, and the thoroughness with which they have done it, and it is not because I have any sense of their failure in that respect that I am criticising the appointment and the procedure of that Commission.
§ The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN (Mr. Dunnico)
The hon. Member will not be in order in discussing the Simon Commission. It is not included in this Vote.
§ Mr. BROCKWAY
I understood it was within the area of the debate covered by previous speakers. The appointment of the Simon Commission and the delay of the announcement of a definite policy by His Majesty's Government until that Commission reported, has been one of the largest factors in leading to the very grave situation which now exists in India. On the second point, that of a political amnesty, we have both privately and in the House of Commons urged upon the Secretary of State that if he was to have a psychology in India which would enable agreement to be reached, it was absolutely necessary to open the prison 907 doors in India to political offenders. We had two types of prisoners in mind. There was the type of prisoner arrested and imprisoned during the War for wartime offences and for offences immediately after the War. I say that it is a shame and an outrage that men arrested in India for war-time political offences are still in Indian gaols, and that they are there when even the Committee of the Punjab Council has recommended their release. But in addition to these prisoners of 1915, and the martial law period of 1919, we have had in mind the more recent political offenders who have been imprisoned for criticism, in speech and in writing, which would have been regarded as legitimate political criticism in any democratic country in the world. We have not asked for the release of those who have been guilty either of acts of violence or of direct incitement to violence, but we have been able to show in case after case that criticism which would everywhere else, outside the Fascist and semi-Fascist dictatorships of Europe—
§ Mr. BROCKWAY
And also under the conditions of Russia—where that criticism everywhere else would have been regarded as legitimate, in India it has led to long terms of imprisonment. We have put it strongly to the Secretary of State that unless, after the declaration which we asked for first, namely, definite self-government, an amnesty were granted to political offenders, his acceptance of the third proposal, for a round table conference, would be absolutely doomed to failure, that he might invite it but that those who could speak as representatives of India would fail to come. I agree with an hon. Member who has spoken in this debate. The Secretary of State may still place his faith in the round table conference, but the occurrences in India are dooming that conference to lose all its moral authority in India, just as the events in India have similarly destroyed all the moral authority that the Simon Commission once had. The Secretary of State has taken the view that though the Congress party and Mr. Gandhi have been rejecting the offer of the round table conference, the Moderates and Liberals in India, the Moslems, would co-operate 908 with it, and upon them he could rely; and he has also been taking the view that Mr. Gandhi and the Congress party had not the masses of the people behind them.
About that I would say this: First, when a situation develops as you now have it in India, the centre parties, the Moderates and the Liberals, lose all power and influence, and their representative capacity absolutely ceases. What those who knew the India situation anticipated has occurred. Either Moderate leaders have thrown in their lot with the Congress party or with Mr. Gandhi, or they realise that in present circumstances they can make no contribution towards a solution of the Indian problem, and therefore they must be silent and cannot take part in the efforts which the right hon. Gentleman has made for a solution.
Broadly speaking, the Moslem movement in India can be divided into three parts. There is a small right wing which is absolutely loyal to the Raj, whose interests are identified with the continuation of British rule. Upon them my right hon. Friend can still rely. There is also a large central party which at this moment is still wavering, but with every week that passes is inclined more and more to associate with Mr. Gandhi and with the Congress party. In considering that situation one cannot shut one's eyes to what has occurred in Egypt and Palestine as assisting that tendency in the movement of the Centre—in the Moslem movement to the extremists and Mr. Gandhi. Thirdly, there is already a very considerable section of the Moslem movement which is completely identified with Mr. Gandhi and the Congress party—men who are Indians before they are Moslems, and side by side with Mr. Gandhi and the Congress party they will have to be faced.
The development of the situation in that way has forced the right hon. Gentleman—I am sure against all his instincts—to be responsible for a repressive movement in India sterner and severer than any repressive movement since the time of the Indian mutiny. The right hon. Gentleman may say, "We withdrew the Bengal Ordinance, and then found we had to reimpose it." He had to reimpose it, for a situation had developed because of the inadequate policy he had previously pursued. A Press Act more 909 severe than the Press Act of 1910 has meant that throughout India, Indian papers are suppressed, so that rumours spread and cause much more disturbance than the papers which have been suppressed. The right hon. Gentleman, or those who are pursuing this policy in India, reimposed the Seditious Meetings Act in various parts of India where even a meeting of four people has now been made illegal. In various parts of India he has imposed martial law. This policy has meant the flogging in public of Indians whose offences are only of a political character.
§ Mr. BROCKWAY
I know that the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I also am anxious to be strictly accurate. I am relying upon the Press, and the fact that that Press is censored, perhaps, makes one rely upon it to a greater degree than one otherwise would.
§ Mr. BROCKWAY
As regards Sholapur there was the quite definite statement that there had been these floggings before the courts martial, and, in another case reported yesterday or to-day in the Press, there is another sentence of flogging for the offence of burning British goods. I say that these are things against which the utmost and the strongest protest ought to be made. This kind of policy has inevitably led to an attempt to repress political opinion in India by a great show of force, and, under modern conditions, a great show of force means the use of aeroplanes for bombing purposes. I notice that the Simla correspondent of the "Sunday Observer," in the issue of 18th May, makes this statement:The main jirgah (conference) was held yesterday at Kaniguram. The result is unknown as yet but the deliberations of the tribesmen were assisted by the moral influence of 40 British aeroplanes which droned continuously overhead. A satisfactory result is anticipated.The kind of policy which depends upon preventing the expression of opinion by showing a force of aeroplanes, is the kind of policy which none of us in the Labour movement, with the principles which we hold, desires to see followed by 910 the right hon. Gentleman and by the Government. Then I come to the question of imprisonment. About the imprisonment of Mahatma Gandhi I am only going to say this. Any system of government which requires the imprisonment of one of the finest and noblest souls in the world stands self-condemned. In history, I am perfectly sure, the name of Gandhi will live as that of one of the great figures of the world, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman must be sorry in his own heart that he has had the responsibility for imprisoning that great man. There is one particular matter which has arisen since the civil disobedience campaign to which I wish to make reference. The right hon. Gentleman has said that he desires to reach the truth about things in India. So do I, but as far as Peshawar is concerned, we have only had the official communiqué of the Government. I am going to read to the Committee a statement from the Indian point of view of what happened at Peshawar. I say at once that I do not necessarily accept it, but when the official British point of view has been brought before Parliament and the Government, we are entitled to hear the Indian view as well.
According to the Indian statement, the All-India Congress committee sent a deputation to make inquiries into the working of the North-West frontier regulations. That deputation was stopped at Attock on 22nd April. A crowd had assembled at the railway station to meet them, and when the news arrived that the deputation had not been allowed to go to Peshawar, a procession and meeting of protest were held. At that meeting it was announced that on the following day five liquor shops were to be picketed in accordance with the general campaign of civil disobedience. On the following day, between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m., according to this statement, six leaders were arrested. The Congress committee heard at 6 o'clock that warrants were out for the arrest of two further leaders. They then themselves went to the police station in procession and the two leaders surrendered. There was a general hartal in the city that day as a protest against these arrests. At 9.30 a.m. a sub-inspector of police with armed constables arrived at the Congress office with two more warrants. These two leaders surrendered in the presence of a large 911 crowd and were taken away in a lorry. On the way to the station the tyres of the lorry were punctured, and the two leaders offered to walk and surrender themselves. They did so. They went to the police station and gave themselves up, and I read what follows from the actual report prepared by Mr. Abdul Qadir Kasuri, the President of the Punjab Congress Committee:Under such circumstances when from 3 to 10 o'clock in the morning all these events were taking place and there were no more arrests to be made either, and the crowd had throughout been behaving in an exemplary manner and was returning towards the city, two armoured cars full of soldiers came from behind without blowing the horn or giving any notice whatever of their approach and drove into this crowd regardless of the consequences. Many people were brutally run over, several were wounded and at least three people died on the spot. In spite of this provocation, the crowd still behaved with great restraint, collected all the wounded and the three dead persons. We possess photographs of some of them. At this time an English officer on a motor cycle came dashing past. As to what happened to him, it is not quite clear. There are two conflicting versions. The semi-Government version says that he fired into the crowd and one of the persons who was wounded by shot, struck him on the head and he died. The other version that has been given to me is that he collided with the armoured car which was standing by and as a result of the collision fell down and died. Until some more inquiries are made, it is difficult to say what are the true facts.At the same time one of the armoured cars caught fire. Here again while it is alleged on the one hand that it was set fire to by the mob, the other version is that it caught fire accidentally. By this time, however, a troop of English soldiers had reached the spot and without any warning began firing into the crowd in which there were women and children also present. Now the crowd gave a good example of the lesson of non-violence that had been instilled into them. When those in front fell down, wounded by the shots, those behind came forward with their breasts bared and exposed themselves to the fire, so much so that some people got as many as 21 bullet wounds in their bodies and all the people stood their ground without getting into a panic. A young Sikh boy came and stood in front of a soldier and asked him to fire at him, which the soldier unhesitatingly did, killing him. Similarly an old woman seeing her relatives and friends being wounded came forward, was shot and fell down wounded. An old man with a four year old child on his shoulders, unable to brook this brutal slaughter advanced asking a soldier to fire at him. He was taken at his word and he also fell down wounded.912Scores of such instances will come out on further inquiry. The crowd kept standing at the spot facing the soldiers and were fired at from time to time until there were heaps of wounded and dying lying about. The Anglo-Indian paper of Lahore which represents the official view, itself wrote to the effect that the people came forward one after another to face the firing and when they fell wounded, they were dragged back, and others came forward. This state of affairs contined from 11 till 5 o'clock in the evening. When the number of corpses became too many, the ambulance cars of the Government took them away. It is said that they were taken to some unknown place, and though they were mostly Mohammedans, the bodies were burnt. After this struggle the leaders of the public and volunteers collected all the remaining bodies, and these alone come to 65 in number, and there is a list of these people kept.Two facts are noteworthy in this connection. One is that of all the dead collected by the Congress men there was not one single instance even where there was the mark of the bullet at the back. Further, all the wounds were bullet wounds, and there was no trace of grape shot. This is also an admitted fact, that neither the police nor the military nor anybody else alleges that there was any stick or weapon, blunt or sharp, with the persons in the crowd, nor were any wrenched from any person in the crowd by the authorities. At this stage it is very difficult to say what is the number of the dead and the wounded. This much seems most likely, that the number of the dead is in hundreds, and a careful study of the situation seems to disclose this incident to be a repetition of Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
§ Mr. BROCKWAY
I will answer that statement in perfectly plain terms. I do not know whether it is true, but we have had read in this Parliament the official, British point of view about this incident, and, if this Parliament and the public are to know the truth, they must know the Indian account of that incident as well. I would add this, that when the kind of policy which is now being pursued in India develops, it is almost impossible for occurrences not to happen in India of the kind which happened at Amritsar and of the kind suggested here, and it will not be sufficient merely to have an official Government inquiry into that statement; it is absolutely essential that there shall be an inquiry which by its impartial character, by its joint 913 character, will secure the confidence of India as well as of this country. Finally, if the present type of policy is carried out, it will lead to further revolt, to further repression, to a situation where you will have to proscribe the Congress organisation, and where you will have to apply martial law in various parts of India.
I want at this moment, terribly momentous for the future relationships of Britain and India, to make this appeal to my right hon. Friend, that he will take action now which will still make a settlement by agreement possible, that he will carry out the policy, to which his party is pledged, of full self-government for India, that he will realise the hopes which the Prime Minister himself held out only 18 months ago that India might become a Dominion before many months had passed, and that he will say, "We will accept for the round table conference the principle of full self-government, and we will allow that round table conference to work out the details of the transition period." If he will say that now, and accompany that declaration of policy by a generous amnesty to the political offenders in India, then he can have his round table conference, then there is some hope of agreement, but, if agreement fails and his policy of repression has to continue, it is because he and the Government of which he is a Member are failing to carry out the policy to which the Labour party and the whole of our movement are pledged.
Those for whom I speak took an unpopular line during the War, and in this crisis between Britain and India our line may be equally unpopular, but whether it is unpopular or not, there is nothing which is going to prevent us declaring our sympathy and our solidarity with the Indian people in their struggle for freedom. We recognise their rights to self-government and to self-determination, even though their decision be one of independence, and we are not going to be silenced when we see our own Government and our own party imposing on India a policy of repression more severe and more stern than any which any hon. Members who have represented the parties opposite in the course of history have ever imposed. So far as my Amendment to reduce the Vote is concerned, there is to be another early occasion 914 when we can discuss this matter with the right hon. Gentleman, and there will be early occasions upon which we can discuss it in the House of Commons. Therefore, we shall not be moving that Amendment to-night, but I want to make it clear that, in reaching that decision, there is not the least doubt, not the least wavering, not the least compromise in our definite declaration. We stand by the right of the Indian people to self-government and freedom, and we will do what we can, whatever the consequences may be.
To return to realities, I think the Committee will agree that the request of the Conservative party for a day to discuss Indian affairs has been justified. On the debit side, we have just heard the official anti-British point of view expressed by the hon. Member for East Leyton (Mr. Brockway), backed up by a rigmarole that would not deceive a child. On the credit side, we have had an interesting and wide survey of the situation in India given by the Secretary of State, which is much more satisfactory than the piecemeal information that we have been able to get at Question Time, and has given us a very much better idea of the state of the country. We have also had an opportunity of joining in the tribute which was paid by the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), who was Under-Secretary of State for India in the last Government, to the loyalty and self-sacrifice of the police and the Indian Civil Service. It is an unfortunate thing that in these days too little publicity is given to the good things in India and too little is heard of those vast numbers of men who are sacrificing themselves for the good of their country. We only hear what is had, we only hear the sensational items of possible trumped-up scandals in either the administrative or the business world, and we hear little of the real progress which has been made during the last generation.
I had the privilege during the last few months of paying my first visit to India, and it is obvious to any tourist who goes out there what benefits have accrued to India from the advent of British government. It is perfectly true that the Indians are not satisfied with the amount of responsibility which they have got. We agree that that responsibility ought to be increased, and it is perfectly justi- 915 fiable for them to criticise us for not having given them a greater measure of self-government. That is no excuse for Members of the House of Commons minimising what has been done for the Indians by the British in India. We have saved them from the wars and raids which were their common lot in days gone by. From the speeches we hear, one would imagine that a brutal British force had descended on a country which was living in peace and amity. There has been far greater peace since the British Army took control of its defences than India ever knew before. Again, India used from time to time to be ravaged by dreadful famines, which carried off an enormous proportion of the population. No tribute has been paid to the work which the Government of India have done in making these famines impossible in future. A lot of it, it is true, is due to the march of science, improved methods of production, and better means of transport, by which a surplus of food in one place can make good a deficit in another.
It is ridiculous to say that the British Government have done nothing for the progress and betterment of the inhabitants of India. There is glib talk of the exploitation of the Indians by the British. There may be isolated cases of exploitation, but they are found in every country; in the general run, there has been nothing of the kind in India. I paid an interesting visit to a farm in Punjab which is largely connected with cotton growing. The company running it was making a profit, and that may be called exploitation, but one must take into account the advantage which it conferred on its tenants. Work of that kind can only be for the benefit of India. It is only outside India that one hears talk of exploitation. The work of this particular company is realised in India, and a proof of the good work that it is doing is in the fact that all those who want to go as tenants to farm under our administration are unable to do so.
A point which was made by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) is well worth the consideration of the Secretary of State. It refers to the lack of propaganda by the Government of India. The Government allow a great many statements about bad government to pass unchallenged, and they do not take enough trouble to have 916 their own point of view put before the community. As a result, a large proportion of the population of India hear only the political views which are put before them by the extremist Press, and they never get the opportunity of hearing the Government point of view. Anything that the right hon. Gentleman can do or persuade the Government of India to do to improve their pro-Government, propaganda will be of real benefit and will very soon reap its own reward.
We have two problems to discuss at the present time. The first is the future constitution of India, and the second is what can be done to put down the present state of unrest. The future constitution of India is obviously of the greatest difficulty, which is increased by the fact that Indians and English people do not approach the problem from the same point of view. The Indian point of view is to say, "Give us Dominion status, and then we will discuss the safeguards." The English point of view is to say, "Let us come together and see how many points we have in common, and, having come to general agreement on those points, let us see if we can call that agreement Dominion status or not." We ought not to take a pessimistic view of the round table conference, because we have a great many points of agreement. The main point is that all parties are really desirous of giving India an increased and increasing measure of self-government, while at the same time realising the difficulties of going as far as most extreme Indian enthusiasts would like us to go. Some of those who put the case from the Indian point of view are inclined to under-rate the difficulties with which we are confronted. They under-rate the problem of the native States and the difficulties of bringing them satisfactorily into any new constitution. They under-rate the difficulty of defence. It is obvious that for a good many years a British Army must, be responsible for the defence of India. That surely is to the benefit not only of ourselves, but of the Indians, because the happenings on the North West Frontier during the last month show the kind of thing that might happen if the British forces were withdrawn from the frontier province.
The greatest difficulty with which we are faced is the fact that there is no similarity about the different districts 917 and provinces of India. We must be tired of hearing the comparison of India with a continent, and the statement that it is wrong to describe it as a country. That may be a platitude, but it is a truth which we should bear in mind, for there are such great differences of race, religion, temperament and custom that it is as difficult to find a constitution to suit the whole of India as it is to find a constitution to suit the whole of Europe. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) made a rather ingenious suggestion, which unfortunately is out of date. He said that we ought to take small districts where local self-government is fairly satisfactorily and efficiently carried out, and give them a larger measure of self-government as an inducement to the other boys in the class, as it were, to see what they would get if they behaved themselves. There is a good deal in that suggestion, but it is quite out of date, and Indians themselves will not accept a proposal of that kind. I had consultations several times with prominent Indian politicians, and I asked them whether, if they were given provincial autonomy, they would agree that some provinces like Madras—where the present system has worked very well, and where they might probably be given a provincial self-government at once with little difficulty—should be given a larger measure of self-government than some of the other provinces, which have not so far had the same experience. They turn that suggestion down altogether. They say that they cannot possibly have differentiation in the way in which the various provinces or districts are treated.
The hon. Member for East Leyton spoke with despair of the prospects of the round table conference. Surely it is too early to take that view. Because some of the extreme political leaders in India say they are not coming to the conference, why say that the conference is bound to fail? Instead of the politicians, let us get either the religious leaders or the leaders of industry and commerce to come to the conference. It is not at all unlikely that they might produce a far better settlement than would be arrived at by a conference composed entirely of politicians. It may be the conference would be very much better without the presence of some of those members who 918 now refuse to come to it than it would be with them.
Then we come to the immediate problem with which the Secretary of State is confronted, and that is the restoration of law and order in India. This movement ought not to be mixed up with the report of the Simon Commission or with the round table conference. It has nothing to do with them. The present unrest is caused by the action of Mr. Gandhi and the Congress party. Whatever we might have done, whatever measure of self-government we had promised, they would not have been satisfied, and we should still have had this unrest stirred up, and for one reason only, because they say they will be satisfied only with complete and absolute independence. Call it if you like a revolutionary movement, or call it a movement for independence, for our purpose it does not very much matter what name you give it. There is another cause behind it. While we all hear of the saintly character of Mr. Gandhi's private life, we must also recognise him as one of the very vainest of politicians. Undoubtedly, he realised that the ball had been passed from him to people immediately under him, people not quite so extreme as he is. They were holding the centre of the stage, and he had to do something to attract public attention back to himself, so that he would still remain the leader of extreme opinion in India. An actress who is losing her charms very often finds that, for publicity purposes, it is advisable to lose her jewellery at the same time. That is exactly Mr. Gandhi's case. He found that he was losing his popularity. He had only one chance of regaining his position, and that was to be sent to prison for a further time. It is in that way that he has tried to keep his hold on the extreme elements in India.
Some hon. Members on all side of the House, and particularly hon. Members opposite, may think that the Congress party is a democratic and a representative party, something, possibly, on the lines of the Co-operative party. It is nothing of the kind. It is formed on the most unrepresentative and the most undemocratic basis that it is possible to find. A small body of gentlemen meet together and elect themselves the executive committee of the Congress party Then, in turn, they elect a larger number 919 of men, who call themselves the council of the Congress party; while the main body of this party is formed of people who are ready to pay either a small affiliation fee or to take some extreme oath of disloyalty to the British Raj. That is the party which certain people are trying to make out to be a democratic, responsible political party.
One thing that is certain about the present unrest is that there is no real grievance behind it. It has been engineered as an attempt to stop any possibility of a round table conference, and, therefore, of a peaceful and satisfactory solution of India's difficulties. That is the very last thing this particular section of the people desire. If I wanted any further proof of the correct attitude which has been taken up by the Secretary of State for India I should find it in the names of the four members who have moved the reduction of this Vote. I am not surprised to see their names there, because if there were a Congress party in this country they would undoubtedly be the founder members. There is only one basis for membership of the Congress party, and that is that you should be against the Government of the day, whatever it may be, whether it is right or whether it is wrong. We are glad of this debate, because it gives us an opportunity of telling our friends in India that those members who have put down their names to this reduction are not quite as important as they may be made out to be in India. That is one of the dangers with which we are faced. It may be said that we in this House are ignorant of affairs in India, but it is nothing approaching the ignorance of India with regard to affairs in England. Although we know perfectly well that any speeches made by hon. Members on the upper benches opposite will have no great importance for anybody in this country, we do not know what effect they may have in India, where the ignorance is so great that one quite prominent Indian politician to whom I spoke thought that the "Daily Mail" was the official organ of the Conservative party.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Was not the Noble Lord very glad of the assistance of the "Daily Mail" at the last Election?
I do not think that has anything to do with this particular question. I would like to say a word on the position of the Viceroy. Extreme elements on the right and extreme elements on the left are criticising him, one side saying that he is taking a weak attitude, and the other that he and the Secretary of State for India have used repressive measures. I take this opportunity of protesting against their attack on the Viceroy. They have tried to single him out as an individual acting apart from his advisers either in India or in this country. Nothing can be further from the truth. In every step he has taken he has had the advice and the whole-hearted support and agreement—I am sure the Secretary of State will bear me out—of all those best qualified to judge both in India and in this country. If, as we all hope, we come to a happy issue out of our afflictions, that success will be very largely due to the popularity and character of our present Viceroy. It is obvious that we have a difficult, dangerous and critical time ahead of us, but I do not think there is any reason for us to be in despair or to get into a panic.
Our way seems to be perfectly clear. On the one hand, we have promised the Indians an increased measure of self-government, and that is to be carried out. On the other hand, we are still charged with the Government of India, and it is our duty to see that law and order and the safety of individuals are preserved in India. Both the Secretary of State for India and the Viceroy have been criticised, because it is feared that they have gone too far to try to meet the point of view put by hon. Members opposite, but do not let the desire to come to an agreement, which is a very laudable one, be taken as any sign of weakness. I am sure that there is nobody in this House who does not realise the great inheritance that has been handed down to us in regard to India, and that should not be handed over at the bidding of an irresponsible party.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I feel that I must refer at the outset to the speech which has been made by the hon. Member for East Leyton (Mr. Brockway). The hon. Member read an extract from a news- 921 paper which he did not name, and which he quoted as representing Indian opinion. That quotation gave an account of the outbreak at Peshawar, and it described British soldiers as firing point blank into the bare breasts of unresisting Indians. After reading that account, the hon. Member said he did not know whether it was true or not; in fact, he said that he believed it to be very improbable. I think the hon. Member should have taken the trouble to authenticate that story before making such a reflection upon the action of British soldiery in India. I suggest that when that account is investigated it will be found to be a rash statement, and I believe that it bears the very impress of untruth. Mr. Gandhi's statement about Indians baring their breasts to be shot down in cold blood is not what Members of this House believe British soldiers would do, and I do not think an hon. Member of this House should make such an accusation without previously making some investigation as to its truth. That is simply an illustration of how the forces of disorder are let loose in India.
I would like the Secretary of State for India to give us some more information as to what is being done to prevent those influences which have caused the outbreak at Peshawar. I would also like to know what has been the result of the Child Marriage Restraint Act. I wish the Secretary of State would give us a little more definite information with regard to that Act, and what steps are being taken to secure its observance. May I call the attention of the Committee to the issues that are involved in that Act. It was passed only six months ago, and came into force in April this year. We hear that a very large number of child marriages have taken place in India in anticipation of that Act, and that shows that the Indian people are taking up this question very seriously. I feel a great deal of interest in regard to what is happening under that Act. The Secretary of State has told us that the Act has been greatly misrepresented, and has been regarded as a breach of religious neutrality especially in the mind of the Moslem population. That is only the case presumably on the North-West Frontier where disorders have taken place. We should like to know whether 922 the Act is being observed in other parts of India.
I would remind those who have any doubt upon this matter that a short time ago we had an All-India Committee appointed which most thoroughly investigated the problem of child marriage. They reported, as a result of their investigation, that it was a terrible evil, and they compared it with the horrible practice of suttee, by which widows were allowed to burn themselves on their husband's funeral pyres. That Committee deliberately declared that in their judgment child marriage was a greater and more terrible evil than suttee, because of the terrible sufferings of the child wives, who, in many cases, prematurely became mothers and perished in large numbers. The terrible mortality among these children is very largely the result of early marriages. No less than 126,000 deaths per annum took place, or something like 14 deaths per hour—14 lingering deaths, in great pain, of mothers, many of them in their early teens. A practice that has results of that kind has naturally excited very deep concern among reformers, both British and Indian, in India, and both have been for years hoping for an Act in restraint of this custom. Now the Act has passed into law, and it is important to note that Indian reformers have again and again charged the British Government with being guilty of all the suffering that has arisen from the custom of child marriage, because of their apathy and slackness in putting a stop to it. A short time ago I received a letter from one of the most respected women in India, Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddi, who is the Deputy-President of the Madras Legislative Assembly, in which she deliberately made the charge that the British influence in India was largely responsible for the slowness of social reform in matters such as this.
My reason for bringing this matter to the notice of the Committee is simply that, now that this Act, after long agitation, has been passed into law, during the months before its passage into law there were very many child marriages, with the result that premature death has actually been increased by the mere passing of the Act, and it is important to know what is happening. I want to appeal, in the first place, to the Secre- 923 tary of State. It is not for any outsider to say what can or cannot be done, but I would ask him, in all the action that he is taking for the defence of those who are working for the good of Indians in India, not to forget these innocent sufferers who may be condemned to a miserable life, and even to death, and not to leave undone anything that can be done to secure the enforcement of the Act.
Then I would like to appeal to those on the opposite side who have shown themselves, not only on this but on countless other occasions, such impassioned defenders of the legitimate aspirations and desires of the Indian people, to take up the cudgels on behalf of these people if there is any evidence at all, or sometimes even if there is no evidence beyond mere hearsay, of wrong being done to them. I challenge hon. Members to say what action they are going to take, what steps they are taking, what influences they are bringing to bear on their Indian friends in India and over here, to make them realise that every movement, like every tree, is judged by its fruits. The Indian people are a proud people; they demand equality with the other nations of the world. I would ask, what real effort are they putting into the attempt to stamp out one of the most terrible—and all the more terrible because completely unseen—evils that corrode and corrupt their country, the evil of child marriage? I have not observed, within the limits of my opportunities for observation, that many of the impassioned friends of India in this country are using their influence in any such way. On the contrary, I regret to say that such evidence as I have seen is that everything is done to gloss over, to minimise, to help to hide every fact that might, if it came to light, give pain to their Indian friends.
I say that those who do that are no true friends to Indian aspirations. In these anxious months that lie ahead of us, every true friend of India ought to realise that every war and every political tumult has its innocent victims, and I suppose it is very rarely the case that the victims are so numerous or their sufferings so great as in this instance, and yet the whole thing passes completely unknown and unnoticed. I appeal to those in authority in the Government, and to those who have influence in India, 924 not to forget these unseen sufferers, but to take this matter to heart, and to see that, in the midst of all these political turmoils, the wretched child wives of India are not made catspaws, that these attempts to misinterpret the Act are not allowed to go unchallenged, and that their friends in India are asked to use their utmost influence to secure and enforce the protection of these child wives of India.
§ Mr. MARLEY
I am sure we were delighted to hear the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) intervene in this debate, knowing that she was going to take up some great cause and advocate it with great power. I am sure, however, that she would not suggest that child marriage started with the Congress party, or with the demand of the people for Dominion status. I would suggest to her that those who have been in charge of India for at least 100 years might have turned their attention to this question before. In this debate one thing that has struck me, as an average listener, is that in nine cases out of 10 there has been running through the speeches, whether from the one side or from the other, the superiority complex, the Imperialistic outlook. The Labour movement has had thrown upon it a cloak of Imperial responsibility, and, wearing that cloak, we must judge how far we may permit peoples to go along developing themselves or endeavouring to get any form of self-government.
Hon. Members on the other side seem to see two things. One section sees a great sickle and hammer floating across the dark clouds and causing disturbances at every corner. Another section sees an opportunity for a strong hand and a firm foot. We have been told by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the other side that all this talk of immediate self-government, or even remote self-government, for India, should be put out of our minds at once. The tone of one speech after another has been, how far is India fit for self-government? Who is to be the judge of how far India is fit for self-government? Do we set up ourselves as the Imperial power to say when and where and how India shall have self-government? Is it to be assumed that we must be judge and counsel in our own cause? I want to appeal to the Secretary of State for India, and to tell him 925 quite frankly as a friend not associated with any movement for a reduction of his salary or any Vote of Censure, that, if admiration in India were for a strong hand and a firm foot, the Indians would have far more admiration for Birkenhead than for Benn, far more admiration for strong Toryism than for imitation Toryism at the hands of a Labour Secretary of State.
We have to face the position in which we find ourselves to-day. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) asked what else we can do, and suggested that no one shouldering our responsibilities could have done anything else but keep law and order, that we had drifted into the position in which it became inevitable that force had to be used. But is it statesmanship, is it the greatest gift of Imperial power, that these things are unforeseen and unforseeable? Everyone who has looked at the matter closely for the last 10 or 20 years could see the situation developing. The Labour Government has not created the situation. It is true that all progressive forces throughout the world have turned their eyes, and not without reason, to the coming of a Labour Government in this country, because, unless all our promises and pledges are wrong, they have a right to look for better treatment, for reinforcement of emancipation movements when we assume control in this country. I do not think that they are looking in vain; at least, I hope that before we leave office we shall have shown to them that they are not looking in vain.
Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite do not do their cause any good by trying to persuade the world that our rule in India has been one huge, philanthropic enterprise. It is true that we have brought some good to India. We could not help doing so. It is no use saying that India is better off to-day than she was before we went there. Every other country in the world is better off than it was 100 years ago. One wonders if the Hindus and Moslems ought to kneel down and thank God for the day when the British Government came in. They would probably have cut each other's throats and buried each other if we had not turned up at the right moment. It sounds such utter nonsense to be talked across the House by Members who con- 926 sider themselves to be intelligent. When hon. Members opposite criticise this Government they say it has been returned by the irresponsible, illiterate and most ignorant masses of the people of this country. [An HON. MEMBER "Who said that"] Read Beaverbrook's pamphlet on how this Government got into office.
The same people criticise those who are making an agitation in India, not because they are ignorant, irresponsible, and illiterate but because they are lawyers, doctors and the intelligentsia. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot criticise the Indians who are lawyers, doctors and the intelligentsia and accuse us of being returned by illiterate and irresponsible persons. If those people are causing trouble in India, they are the Eton, Harrow and Cambridge of India. They are intelligent, though I have no doubt they are all wrong and they have no right to have aspirations for their own people. In the past, it was true that the young, intelligent, educated Indian offered himself for service to the British Raj. We have now reached a period when that young, intelligent, educated Indian has to decide either to go under the British Raj and be outcast and boycotted by his own people, or to join the Congress movement and the rationalist movement. That has become increasingly true year after year. If the seed of Bolshevism is sown, it is because there is a growing feeling, and a feeling which certain accidents and incidents in this country tend to increase, that there is no real desire on the part of this Government to give any semblance of home rule to India.
I will come to the immediate thing I intended to speak about when I got up. You have in India to-day government by ordinance. The Legislative Assembly has disappeared and you have rule by the police, who are responsible to no one but the executive and the Viceroy. How much information we are getting depends upon the Government of Indian permitting it to go through. There may be exaggerated reports. There may be all kinds of underground rumours. The easiest way to disperse them is to have open and free publication and to let the councils meet to investigate charges, such as those mentioned by the hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone). If you had open discussion and 927 a free Press, you could easily discover whether they were true or not, but as soon as you get this suppression of the ordinary system of government you have rumours, which are denied by those who believe one thing and believed in by those who want something else to happen. They will grow and grow more rapidly as we suppress the channels through which people usually get information.
I should like hon. Members to consider why the Declaration was made. Was it because the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench suddenly thought he would like to say something bold and dramatic, having assumed office, or was it because it was thought by his responsible advisers that he ought to make it or something would happen? I have no sources of information but, on the face of it, it appears to me that he made the Declaration because he was advised that it would be an opportune moment for creating a psychological change pending the report of the Commission. As day by day goes by the question of a round table conference recedes. The question of its success was getting dimmer and dimmer, until last week we had practically the last of the moderates saying they could not under any circumstances associate with a round table conference if it were called in October, and calling it in October for three months, with men who have never been out of India, would probably have meant giving them all funerals at St. Paul's before the end of the time. They could not stand a winter here.
Why should we study the Simon Commission report? It is as dead as mutton. It neither interests the people in this country nor in India. Whatever the Simon Commission may or may not say will not alter by one jot or tittle the claim made by the people of India, nor what the people of the other side of the House are prepared to let the Indians have. They have already made up their minds what the Indians are to have. They have told us to-night. The Indians know already what they are going to claim, and the sooner we have the conference the better. The Indians are saying it is going to be a talkie talkie. They are to come and talk and go away. What is the conference being called for? What are they going to discuss in it? Are they going to discuss some permanent 928 form of constitution for India, a form of government in which they will have some responsibility, or are they simply going to talk in a roundabout fashion and come to no agreement and go home again? If a statement were made by the Secretary of State that the conference would be called to discuss a permanent constitution for India and to give a measure of responsible government to Indians, he would have a successful conference, including Gandhi, within the next two months. [Interruption.] I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does not want to be associated with the Country party, when the London Member is Sir Michael O'Dwyer.
The economic boycott which is being carried on at the moment is growing more intense every day. My information this morning is that the latest move is that the tailors and cutters in Madras and Bombay are refusing to cut or handle British cloth. If the Lancashire manufacturers really had any sense, any economic idealism, they would come to the right hon. Gentleman and say, "Here we are losing one of the most valuable markets in the world. Go out and see if you cannot get it settled." That is from the sheer commercial point of view. The idea that you can poke people in the back with a bayonet and sell them your stuff at the same time is sheer nonsense. We were going to do the same thing in Germany, and then they ran off with a £32,000,000 loan to give them power to buy our stuff. We cannot afford to lose customers in that way. I am talking to the opposite side from the purely business point of view.
Someone said that trouble such As there has been recently in India comes every 10 years, but, whether it comes every 10 years or every five years, the one thing certain is that it is going to keep on coming and will get worse and worse with every recurrence. It will not be stopped by increasing the amount of pay you give to the police force, or by sending out a few more troops. You may be Able for a short while to keep law and order by the bayonet and the bomb, but in the end you will have to give up that practice and proceed to negotiate. It does not make it easier to negotiate with a man if you have killed all his brothers and his relations before you start, and it does not make it easier for anyone to be 929 prepared to take part in a discussion if you have been already carrying on a campaign of ruthless repression against him and his friends. Those who know the Irish troubles know it was not easy, and that those who did come to the final discussion came with their lives in their hands, with terrible results.
The Indians have analysed that situation, and they know that the time will arrive in India when the chances of negotiation with responsible people will be gone. Unless we now take the opportunity which is offered us it will be more and more difficult to get responsible leaders. When you put them in gaol and put a halo round them, their mantle passes to less reputable people, and you may have to negotiate in the end with people much less reputable than those who are leading the Indian nationalist movement at the present time. I hope my right hon. Friend will leave the "standfast" people alone, throw out a gesture to India, and say, "We will no longer wait for the Simon Commission." India has become suspicious of the Commission's report, and thinks "whatever it reports, it will not be favourable to us and will only confirm what the British Government are prepared to give us. We have our own demands, and we are prepared to negotiate on our own demands." On these lines, I think we may be able to negotiate and reach a settlement.
§ Colonel HOWARD-BURY
There seems to be an unreality in the debate to-day. We are on the threshhold of a very important report which is to come out and of which we do not know the tenor. The whole debate to-day seems to have run on lines which are difficult, because we cannot discuss what is likely to happen in the future; we can only discuss what is going on at the present time. This report and the present situation in India are both of them of the very greatest importance to the future. I do not envy the right hon. Gentleman in the difficulties which he has to face. Every speech which has been made in this House only serves to accentuate the great difficulties which have to be overcome if there is to be a peaceful settlement in India. We are later on to have a round table conference. The trouble with which he is faced is to get at that conference speakers who can really represent large 930 groups and large parties in India. That is going to be very difficult.
There is a certain amount of moderate opinion in India, but how are we to get at it? They are in a way a young nation politically. They have not been taught, like we have, to think politically, and for that reason it is extremely hard to get anyone really to represent the feelings of any large class of the community in India. To-day, we know there is a large Press, both in the vernacular and in English, which has been allowed to publish all sorts of statements. I am very glad the right hon. Gentleman and the Government of India have at last put their foot down on this Press. They did not merely distort news, but in a country where over 90 per cent. are illiterate and one or two men in each village can read, and do read it, every one in the village who hears that believes it is gospel truth because it is written.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
And who is to blame for that? Why did you not educate them? You have been 100 years there.
§ Colonel HOWARD-BURY
If I were to talk about education I should be ruled out or order. Education is a reserved subject, and I cannot launch into the subject with which the hon. Member would have me deal. I wish the right hon. Gentleman would take every means he possibly can to get real and correct news throughout the country in India. The Indian Government have recently taken over the broadcasting in India. Is there any reason why in every village correct news of what is happening should not be broadcast so that everyone should know exactly what is going on?
§ Colonel HOWARD-BURY
Exactly. They are adepts at broadcasting and at propaganda. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman what is the Indian Government doing with regard to propaganda? That is another important thing. The masses should know what the Indian Government are doing. At the present time, the masses are not aware and do not know what the Government are doing. They hear all these reports, but, if the Government of India would sometimes use that method of propaganda throughout every village, I think they would stop a 931 great deal of this agitation by letting the truth be known to all the villages. The hon. Member who has just spoken asked who was to be the judge when India was ripe for self-government? Surely this country, which has been responsible for the last 100 years. What is the word "India" after all? Is it not an English word? It is our creation. India was never a united country before we came there. The Moguls never ruled more than a part of India. You may go back to 500 years B.C., when Asoka ruled perhaps over a larger territory than anyone, but for the last 100 years we have been responsible. We came into India when different parts of the country were warring one with the other, and the Provinces were divided, and we have brought wealth and prosperity to that country. The right hon. Gentleman was boasting how in the last 20 years the cotton and the factories had increased and muliplied by 50 per cent. Whose wealth was it that went into that? A great deal of it came from this country. He was boasting how India had progressed in the last 20 years. He went on to add—it amazed me—when he was talking about tariffs and the raising of the tariffs, that the Indian tariffs prevented their industries from being exploited from outside. That is exactly what the right hon. Gentleman said, and I think it might well be used throughout this country. The reason India was given power to fix her own tariffs was in order to protect her young industries.
The right hon. Gentleman has told us that most of these disturbances have been in the great cities. The populations which are in the towns in India are comparatively small as compared with the vast masses in the country districts. The country districts are unaffected. They are still peaceful and law-abiding, but there is a danger of this propaganda arising there. Also most of the troubles, except at Peshawar, were among the Indian population. At Peshawar there was a good deal of trouble, but it was for quite a different reason. Congress agents went there and exploited the terms of the Sarda Act and misrepresented it so much that it offended all the Mohammedans in the district and over the border, with the result that there had been these troubles due to the misrepresentation 932 of that particular Act in Peshawar. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to try to keep the Moslems in India on the right side, he should make himself aware that resolutions are being passed. Islam is a religion, the followers of which cling together all over the world, and what is going on to-day in Palestine is reflected to-day in India. The All-India Moslem Federation passed a resolution to-day asking that the just demands and rightful claims of the Arabs in connection with Palestine should be met.
§ Colonel HOWARD-BURY
This was a meeting at Bombay, and it was a gathering of the All-Indian Moslem Federation. They have protested on behalf of 70,000,000 Moslems in India. I have put to the right hon. Gentleman one or two questions with regard to what is happening on the Frontier. In the old days in India we used to have what was known as the Russian peril. We were afraid of armies coming over the Frontier.
§ Colonel HOWARD-BURY
Yes, that is what I am saying. We used to have a Russian peril, and we had agents in all countries around who knew exactly what was going on. We made preparations, and our armies were gathered round the frontiers for the purpose of resisting any invasion. What is the position to-day? There is no longer a fear of that kind of invasion, but there is a far more dangerous kind of invasion—invasion by propaganda. That is going on beyond the Frontier, and there are schools for the purpose of training Indians to come into this country. I ask the right hon. Gentleman what is he doing with regard to those countries such as Chinese Turkestan that bounds the North-Eastern Frontier of India. To-day, instead of having as Consulate-General a man who has been there for years and years we have young Indian Army officers who know nothing of Turkish, Chinese or Russian, and there are no fewer than five Russian Consulates, each with 10 or 12 Russians, all working against this 933 country. Is it not possible for the right hon. Gentleman to obtain some information as to what is going on? In the last two years there have nearly been two revolutions in the country in an attempt to hand over that country to Russia. Then we should have had Russia right along our Frontier.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. and gallant Member may talk about Indian frontiers, but he must not, as he is doing now, bring other countries into his argument. We are not dealing with foreign policy.
§ Colonel HOWARD-BURY
Then I would ask the right hon. Gentleman what is going on in Tibet to-day? In 1904 we had a war in Tibet. What is happening in Kashgar to-day? What information has he at the present time? I would ask him to keep his eyes open with regard to that district. There are 3,000 miles of frontier along there, and if people who have been trained outside are to come into India, it is going to be very dangerous indeed, for we shall have to look after a larger frontier than we have had before. The movement in India to-day is not only a movement for independence. There is a, second movement. There is the Communist movement as well as the movement for independence. Each is making use of the other, each with the idea of getting rid of the British Government. The result is that the Communists are making use of Gandhi as a kind of smoke-screen. All the attention is being drawn to Gandhi in order to draw off attention from the Communist agitation going on below.
§ Colonel HOWARD-BURY
I hope it has been good use, anyhow. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to watch, as I know he is watching, very carefully those two movements which are on parallel lines. It is not only a movement for independence which the Congress party is advocating, but a movement which I 934 should have considered to be now illegal in the country. Justice in the country ought to be speedy. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he does not think it a scandal that trials should be allowed to go on 10, 12, 13 or 14 months such as in the case of the Meerut trials? Trials, if they are to be effective, must be speedy. Accused persons should be brought to trial, and the trial should be ended one way or another in as short a time as possible. In Lahore, steps have been taken. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to speed up these trials which do no one any good, but which are means of propaganda and can only lead to increased trouble and annoyance. Finally, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to see whether he cannot put forward the views of the Government of India throughout the country by some method of propaganda, by the institution of some Government paper, by leaflets distributed in the villages or by whatever methods it is possible to bring home what the Government are doing, what is the policy of the Government and what they have promised to do, so that misrepresentation in India shall be brought to an end.
§ Mr. BECKETT
Although my hon. Friend the Member for East Leyton (Mr. Brockway) has announced that it is not our intention to proceed with the Motion for the reduction of the Minister's salary, which we have on the Order Paper, because we know that we are going to have further opportunities of expressing our views to him on this matter, we feel that it is necessary for one or two of us to try to explain the distressing unanimity of three of the parties in the House on this matter. It is nothing short of a tragedy that the Labour party should be in office at this crisis in. India. If the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) had been in office we should have had some check on his actions. Our party as a whole would have been in full howl on his track. Everything that he and his officials did, everything that happened in Indian would have been dragged into the light of day. Question Time would have been a constant battle between the friends of India and a reactionary Government. Stirring speeches would have been delivered putting the case against the administration in India, but to-day, unfortunately, 935 that does not happen because of the astonishing influence in politics which has brought the House to unanimity. The responsibilities of office which dogs the footsteps of my right hon. Friend on this side and the position of the Opposition on the other side has brought forward the Noble Lord to meet my right hon. Friend until they reach a common level of agreement.
I should like, in the first place, to reply to the question which the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) addressed to us on these benches. I do not want to be misunderstood in my reply. I should like to express my belief in the sincerity and good intentions and the wide views that caused the hon. Member to take the line that she did, but I submit, with all respect, that she has allowed one aspect, upon which she feels very strongly and in regard to which I agree with her attitude, rather to colour and bias her view of the whole question. It is all very well to denounce certain iniquities in the Indian social system—which are certainly growing less as the years go by—which are monstrous, and, in my opinion, quite indefensible, but when the hon. Lady proceeded to shoulder the white woman's burden and to say that it is our duty as a nation, if we follow the logic of her argument, to impose our rule or to interfere with the Government of any country when monstrous and iniquitous things happen under its social policy of which we disapprove, she is starting the House on a long, long trail which we should be very ill-advised to follow.
With regard to the other point which she put about the quotation from the National Congress which was read by the hon. Member for East Leyton, she said that he was not in a position to vouch for the truth of the document. Would the Secretary of State for India be as frank as my hon. Friend and say whenever he gives us information from India: "This is a statement of my officials in India, but I am not in the position to vouch for its accuracy." The official organ of the Government this morning describes the beating in great detail, which was witnessed by the "Daily Herald" correspondent, of Indians engaged in a raid on the salt works. I am not questioning my right 936 hon. Friend's sincerity, but when I asked him a question last week about flogging he admitted that there were four cases of flogging at Sholapur, although he said that they were juveniles. It does not seem to be any more moral to flog juveniles than to flog adults. The hon. Member for the Combined Universities thought that my hon. Friend was to blame because he did not investigate this matter before he read the memorandum to the House. The Secretary of State has not investigated personally all the facts that he has presented on the official side. We have to face the regrettable and unpalatable fact that, from the right hon. Gentleman, who is being held responsible—here I would like to say that he must have had great anxiety and trouble during the past few months—down to the Private Member, we are discussing on hearsay things that are happening thousands of miles away. That is the tragedy of the whole position. My hon. Friend was not in a position to investigate the document but he read it, and I think the House will agree—I do not think my right hon. Friend will disagree—that when the official statement had been put to the House it was only fair that the other side should be put to the House.
I was bitterly disappointed with the speech which my right hon. Friend made this afternoon. I had hoped that we should at least have got some fresh excuse for the policy of repression. I do not think that there is any man one could think of in the public life of this country who, by reputation, by heredity and by every trait which calls for the respect of the intelligent, thinking British public, could be entrusted with more care in this matter than the right hon. Gentleman. I wish that in the ranks of the Opposition we had someone with the fire, the courage, the ability and the scathing invective with which in the past my right hon. Friend has denounced conduct such as is going on in India at the present time. I am as incapable of taking over his mantle as a fighter for the right as he is of taking over the somewhat long mantle of Imperialism over which he is tripping at the present time. His speeches in the past on matters like this seem to lave said all the things that I would say if I had his talent in Parliamentary debate. I read his extremely fine speech in this House in March, 1922, 937 when he moved the rejection of a Vote on Egypt and said:No Government is possible in the face of a hostile people. The same Being Who gave us our country, gave them theirs, and they have a right to enjoy it.When he was an ornament of this House in 1921, one of the few men who were fighting a minority battle against what was probably the worst Government that this country has ever seen, and the worst House of Commons, he was one of the few who kept alight enthusiasm in our breasts outside, he was responsible for this:And we humbly represent to Your Majesty that the policy and practice pursued by the executive in Ireland have failed to secure the repression of organised outrage, have invoked the officers and servants of the Crown in a competition in crime, and have handed over to the imperial authorities unrestricted discretion in the defence and the punishment of offenders, and have frustrated the prospects of an agreed settlement of the problem of Irish self-government.If we substitute India for Ireland that speech would be almost applicable to-day. Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say:They (the Government) have done more than has happened for centuries to increase the numbers who dislike English rule. Let the hon. Gentleman think whether there are the people in Ireland who three months ago would have rallied to his Government.He then went on to say:Failing to allay moderate opinion what is going to happen to the next generation? What hope of peace? Every child gods to bed in terror hearing shrieks and seeing murder.We do not believe everything we read, but if we only believe the statements we have had from the right hon. Gentleman from that Box, or the statements in the "Daily Express" and "Daily Herald" we shall know that the young people of India to-day are coming nearer to the position which the Secretary of State feared when he made that speech.
§ Mr. BECKETT
Let me repeat the suggestion which has been made by the hon. Member for East Leyton, which is this: that the proposals made by Mr. Gandhi in his message to the Government last week should be more or less put into effect.
§ Mr. BECKETT
Because, unfortunately, there are a good many reactionaries in this House who would wait for years before we could apply them all. The first suggestion is the release of political prisoners. No Government which relies on putting men like Gandhi and Pandit Motilal Nehru, and many others well known to hon. Members in this House, into prison without trial can hope to get an agreed solution of this difficulty.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. BECKETT
From the remarks which have been made I have not detected any anxiety to save his life. It is no good making speeches such as have been made from all sides of the Committee today, expressing a desire to give India self determination, when you have several hundreds of the best and most intelligent of the Indian people in prison, when you suppress their papers, abolish the right of trial, and take away the right of citizenship; when you are ruling by the use of the cane, the rifle and the bayonet, is not the time to expect people to believe in pious aspirations as to what is going to happen. I hope the right hon. Gentleman can give me a little information as to the actual number of prisoners at the present time, and also what is happening to the Gwalior Battalion in which it was reported there had been some trouble. I am particularly interested in that case because during my own stay in India I had to do with two Indian battalions in very much the same position. I shall never forget what happened to one of these battalions nor the penal settlement to which some of them were sent. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me whether any capital punishments have been awarded or whether the battalion is being sent to what the Indian Government is pleased to call "punishment duty." I should like to know whether any of the men have been put in prison or sent to the Andaman islands.
I have been alarmed by the reports which have appeared in the newspapers that the native police are not now very keen on their work. What is the right hon. Gentleman going to do in regard to that? If what the papers of all shades of opinion tell us this morning is true we are perilously near the use of troops in India. I should like to know the policy 939 of the right hon. Gentleman in regard to it. I appeal to him to realise that whatever kind of catastrophe might occur as the result of our evacuation of India it could not possibly be a greater catastrophe than is bound to happen if we stay in India. We must learn from history. Some people learn nothing and forget nothing, but history has shown over and over again that you cannot retain a people who are determined not to be governed by you, and if they prefer their own Government, if it is bad, to our Government, if it were good, then in a short time we shall have to clear out of India.
I will venture to make this prophecy. If the right hon. Gentleman is not successful in negotiations with India, if he is prevented by his own Government or by a majority of this House, or by his failure to influence the Indian Government, and hon. and right hon. Members opposite are in control of Indian affairs in a short time they will be crawling to the Indians as they crawled to the Irish and will be giving them terms which they have publicly denounced. They will lose respect and caste; they will lose everything in their headstrong audacity and then when they will make a humiliating surrender and give away more than they are prepared to do at the present time.
§ Mr. BENN
I apologise to hon. Members for rising at this stage, but they will forgive me if I answer immediately some of the questions that have been put to me. I noted what the hon. Lady the Member for the Combined Universities (Miss Rathbone) said about the Child Marriages Restraint Act. She is aware that it is the outcome of a movement amongst Indians themselves, and the delicacy of its purpose no one can question. But the hon. Member will have noticed how the misrepresentation of it has given rise to difficulties. That is a point, unfortunately, which has had to be taken into account. Such particulars as I can procure regarding the operation of the Act I shall be very happy to put at her disposal as soon as information can be received from India. The suggestion as to propaganda made by several speakers is not being overlooked. There are difficulties in the way. People often speak of wireless. The number of receiving sets in India is not sufficient to make wireless a very effective or wide- 940 spread way of getting a bulletin issued, but communiqu.s are issued from time to time, and the matter is not being overlooked by the Government of India.
With regard to the statements about Communist intrigue and so on, I will tell the Committee quite frankly how I stand in the matter. Whatever information I have I give to the House. If hon. Members wish to make deductions from it, they must do so. But from what I have seen I have not been able to find anything like a serious organisation interfering in the troubled state of India today. One hon. Member spoke about Tashkend. My only information is that the School of Oriental Propaganda, or whatever they call it, has not been training Indians for the last nine years 1921 was the last information I had. I know from personal inspection that there is such a school in Moscow, but the Tashkend centre, there is no doubt, has not trained any Indians for nine years.
When the right hon. Gentleman says there is such a school in Moscow, does he mean it is similar to that in Tashkend?
§ Mr. BENN
There is an institution there, I have visited it and I speak from personal knowledge. It is a school, as was explained to me, for the training of propagandists. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) referred to the Indianisation of the Indian Army. The following are the facts: The first Army entrance examination on the lines recommended by the Sandhurst Committee was held in India in November, 1928. The successful candidates with one exception joined at Sandhurst in August, 1929, and they are due to pass out in January, 1931. From that date onward, if all goes well, we may hope for an average output of 20 to 25 Indian officers per year, including Viceroy's commissioned officers who passed through Sandhurst. That will represent roughly a quarter of our total intake of officers into the Indian Army. In addition, two Indian candidates are due to join at Woolwich and six at Cranwell, in August, 1930. The former are destined for service with 941 Indian artillery and perhaps signal units, and the latter with a new Indian Air Force which has now to be constituted. At the latest Army examination for the first time in competition, 10 candidates, the full number, passed for Sandhurst, two passed for Woolwich and six for Cranwell. The facts that I have given show that so much has the supply of candidates improved and so good are the prospects, that we are well within sight of the saturation of the possibilities of Sandhurst, and therefore of the consideration of the question of an Indian Sandhurst. That is the essence of the matter. The information will be of interest to my hon. and gallant Friend and it will be gratifying to all who wish to see Indians participating more and more in every branch of service.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Will my right hon. Friend go a little further? When this Indian Sandhurst is set up—I ask him to do it without further delay—will that take the place of the very expensive and difficult business of sending these young gentlemen to the English Sandhurst to be trained?
§ Mr. BENN
I should imagine that the answer was, Yes, but if my hon. and gallant Friend is asking me on a technical question to make a statement which might be interpreted as a pledge, I would ask him to give me the necessary notice. Of course, I shall give the fullest information I have. I now Dome to the speech of the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Beckett). I am not untouched by what he said, not because he read quotations from my speeches, but because the feelings I had then I have now. But I ask him plainly this question: We have put forward a policy of which we are not ashamed. We have set before us a goal at which we are aiming. We have invited responsible representatives of India to come and confer with us. What more can we do? By that policy we stand.
§ Mr. BROCKWAY
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I have done my utmost to get Indian representatives to the round table conference, but the conditions regarding that conference and the refusal to announce a political amnesty have doomed the conference. That has made the position in which we are to-day.
§ Captain HAROLD BALFOUR
Having heard the mischievous speech of the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Beckett), I suggest that this is one of the occasions when those who are not fully versed in the subject and do not have to bear the responsibility of this terrible crisis in India should keep silence in this House.
§ Captain BALFOUR
I will have pleasure in telling the hon. Member. Because there is a handful of hon. Members opposite who are recalcitrant and against the best methods of maintaining law and order in India, who know full well that whatever they do to-night they cannot hope to change the country immediately and cannot hope to carry any reform. They know full well in their hearts that their speeches will have only one effect, which will be to cause mischief in India. Hon. Members opposite who take so lightheartedly the responsibility of getting up and speaking know that their words will be telegraphed tonight to India, and that with some of the people of India they will carry weight instead of merely the contempt of the majority of Members of this House. Those words may carry weight in India, but they carry absolutely no weight among respectable-thinking and orthodox-thinking people in this country who desire to see law and order in India. [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite below the Gangway do not like their medicine, but they are going to have it, and I am not afraid to give it to them. Hon. Members might as well take machine guns and fire into crowds and cause casualties as use words such as they have used tonight, because every speech of that kind which they make they may have satisfaction in knowing is probably causing the loss of round about 50 human lives in riots in India. That will probably be the result of their rash and foolish action; and I only hope that in all parts of the Committee there is a disregard for the opinions held by hon. Members below the Gangway opposite, and I hope that there will be no more such speeches as those which we have heard, which embarrass the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State and the Government of India, whom we all, regardless of party, wish to support in a time of emergency and crisis.
§ Mr. W. J. BROWN
However irresponsible the group of Members on this bench may be they would find it difficult to give such an exhibition of reckless wantonness as has been given in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour). Whatever views hon. Members may hold about the policy advocated by the hon. Member for East Leyton (Mr. Brockway) I think the Committee will agree that his speech was a model of moderate, courteous and reasoned statement and, certainly, there was nothing in it to call forth the kind of unrestrained condemnation which we have just heard.
When the hon. Member for East Leyton was speaking my mind went back to the last occasion on which India was discussed here. Then we had from the Leader of the Opposition one of those large philosophical utterances with which he sometimes graces our debates. We had from him, just after the Viceroy's pronouncement, an expression of anxiety as to whether that pronouncement meant any change in the objective of British policy in India, or the pace at which that objective was to be attained. That evening the right hon. Gentleman received no direct reply but we had a speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) which profoundly impressed me, as it must have impressed the House of Commons, in which he said that the Viceroy's pronouncement would raise expectations in India which could not be fulfilled and that when the non-fulfilment of those expectations came about we should see in India a worse situation than confronted us at that time. The right hon. Gentleman was in a prophetic mood and his prophecy has been borne out by experience. On the day following that debate there was an exchange of letters between the late Prime Minister and the present Prime Minister. The late Prime Minister sought an assurance from the present Prime Minister that the Viceroy's pronouncement involved no change in the objective of British policy in India or in the speed at which it was anticipated that objective was to be attained. The correspondence, including the Prime Minister's reply, which gave the assurance asked for, as any ordinary person would read the sense of the language employed, was published in the Press a few days later.
944 I say to the right hon. Gentleman, with profound personal respect and in the sincere belief that he is as troubled in his heart about India as is anybody else in this House, that any Government handling India is in a difficult position, but a Labour Government handling India is in perhaps the most difficult position of all. If the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon had said, what nine out of ten on these benches are thinking, that we are responsible for India to-day as the result of an Imperialist process with which the whole Labour party disagrees, that it is a profound misfortune that we should inherit the responsibility for dealing with the situation, but that, having inherited it, we propose to approach the problem along lines which the Labour movement has laid down for so many years past, we would feel more sympathy with the position in which the right hon. Gentleman is placed.
He said that we were not in India because of a desire to find a market for British goods. I remember the late Secretary of State for the Home Department, now Lord Brentford, making a speech in which he said:It is sometimes said that we are in India for the good of the Indians. That is cant. We conquered India by the sword, and we will hold India by the sword, because it is the finest market for British goods in general and for Lancashire goods in particular.We are—[An HON. MEMBER: "Do you object to that?"] If the hon. Member has not yet discovered from the trend of my remarks that. I do object to it, I am somewhat less than clear. We did not acquire India for the benefit of the Indians. We have acquired India, as we have acquired the rest of the British Empire, as a dumping ground for the surplus that Capitalism wrings from the work-people of this country, and when Capitalism wrings that surplus from the masses and acquires an Empire to dump that surplus, which its own people cannot absorb under the Capitalist wages system, then the very people from whom that surplus is wrung are expected to maintain armies and navies for the defence of the overseas markets of English capitalists. We are in India because it has paid us to be in India, and we ought to get out of India on many grounds, but on one, if on no other, namely, that the holding of India is becoming an un- 945 economic economic proposition from the point of view of this country.
We are asked what will happen if we get out. The argument as to what would happen if we got out is an argument which ignores the whole moral position that we occupy. What would happen if we got out? I do not know that, but I know this, that we have had rebellions raised in various parts of the Empire, that we have lost part of the Empire in the shape of the Colonies that now comprise the United States of America, but I do not know of a single instance where rebellion and disorder within the Empire came from going too fast in conceding to the aspirations towards self-government of those parts of the Empire. Every rebellion that we have had inside the Empire has come, not from going too fast, but from going too slow.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
What does the hon. Member mean by there being rebellion if we go out? He speaks of our going out, and in the same breath he speaks of rebellion. How can there afterwards be rebellion if we have gone out?
§ Mr. BROWN
I am making the point, which I should have thought was a reasonable point, that the difficulties which we have experienced in the past have not come as the result of proceeding too rapidly in the direction of self-government, but as the result or proceeding too slowly.
The right hon. Gentleman drew what comfort he could from the fact that the disturbances in India so far have been limited to a relatively small part of that country, that the outbreaks were sporadic rather than general, and that they were localised rather than universal. My mind goes back to Easter week in 1916, when the beginnings of the Irish Rebellion were seen. I was not in this House at that time, but I can imagine the Secretary of State for Home Affairs standing where the right hon. Gentleman now stands, and saying, "You need not be unduly alarmed: the outbreak is confined to Dublin." What a misreading of the situation an observation of that kind would have been! I can imagine that a Government which seeks comfort in the fact that the outbreaks so far are localised, may find that their own refusal to act because the outbreaks are localised will lead to the outbreak 946 becoming general. What would happen then? Shall we be told that, because they have become general, therefore Indian demands must be met? Not in the least. We shall probably be told that the honour of the British Empire and English credit in the world demand that we shall show no weakness in India.
A few more months at this pace, and the troops will be arriving in India under the directions of a Government pledged to meet Indian nationalist aspirations and they will be moving because our policy has failed the supreme test of carrying Indian opinion with it. I want to say with some emphasis that if, as a result of our failure to move rapidly enough, there developed in India an Indian mutiny on a larger scale, and troops were invited to go out and crush the Indian movement, I would decline to take part in a venture of that kind, and I would regard it as a bounden duty to persuade every man in England whom I could influence to have nothing to do with that business.
Who is to take over if we get out? That is not the issue, and the right hon. Gentleman knows that is not the issue. Ghandi himself does not want the British to, leave India, and the right hon. Gentleman knows that. What Gandhi says is, "Recognise that you have no right there"—does anybody assert that we have, except the right of conquest?—"recognise that you have no moral right there, and then we will co-operate with you in the working out of a programme which will lead to your being able to leave without any of the terrible consequences that you prophesy if you leave now." Hon. Members talk about Communism. It is not an untrue observation that no revolution has ever been made as the result of the conscious acts of groups of revolutionaries. The French Revolution did not come because of the conscious revolutionary efforts of Frenchmen of that time. It came because the average Frenchman had reached the point where it became worth while to challenge the existing order rather than to submit to the tyrannies that that order imposed. The Russian revolution was not made by the Communist party in Russia. It was made by the incompetence of Tsardom, and all that Lenin did was to ride the storm that Tsardom had created.
947 Ghandi the pacifist, the man of non-violence, unless you handle him right, may lead to the biggest upheaval of violence that we have ever seen in India, for the obvious reason that when a policy of non-violence, carried to the length that Ghandi and his comrades are carrying theirs, fails, behind the pacifist comes the revolutionary. They say that Ghandi's hold on the youth of India is very much less strong to-day than it was some years ago, because young India has reached the conclusion that nothing but violence can shake British rule in that country. I venture to suggest that we should regard it as a cardinal feature of British policy to carry Ghandi with us, for if we do not carry Ghandi with us, we have to face the alternative to Ghandi, and that is organised violence and revolutionary effort.
I would like to conclude by saying this: I think history goes to prove that in international affairs as well as in domestic affairs there is a chronic tendency for policies to lag behind the need of the moment. I believe the policy which the right hon. Gentleman is pursuing is a policy which might have been appropriate in India some years ago. It is not a bad policy; it is a mistimed policy. We have passed the stage at which this policy, good in itself, can influence the course of Indian events. Again and again in history one sees examples of good men pursuing good policies, but failing because they were six months or a year or two years behind the needs of the situation as it had then developed. That is the great fear than many of us have in regard to this policy. We fear that events are moving in India at a formidable pace. There is a rigid insistence upon doing nothing until the Simon Commission reports. May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Simon Commission was not a Labour Commission? How much trouble our Government will take upon its shoulders from accepting the implications of the actions of its predecessors I do not know. If we take the line of saying we can do nothing till the Simon Commission reports that when it reports we are to have a further period of delay while the round table conference is summoned; and that after all that we will consider the legislative form of the proposals emerging from the Simon Commission and the round table conference, 948 gentlemen of the House of Commons, what do you think is going to happen in India?
On a point of Order. Is it not the Rule of the House that when an hon. Member addresses it he should address the Chair, and may I call attention to the fact that the hon. Member has not done so?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Every hon. Member addressing this House should address his remarks to the Chair.
§ Mr. BROWN
I am very sorry, but it was the kind of slip which anybody might be led into. I say that the great anxiety in our minds is the anxiety that needs are outstripping our policy, and because of the gap between our policy and the need that it is meant to serve we may find the Labour Government landed with the responsibility of handling a second Indian Mutiny. I hope in what I have said that I have not been provocative I hope I have not been wanton or reckless. I plead with great conviction and not with any desire to hurt the feelings of the Secretary of State for India. I doubt if any Member of this House would care to take on the burden of responsibility which confronts the right hon Gentleman at the present moment, and I beg him to believe that if we differ from him it is not because we think he is heartless or a lackey of capital, or something of that kind, but because we believe that events are maturing at a pace which leaves our policy behind, and that that makes our policy just as dangerous as a bad policy. We ask the Secretary of State to move and to accede to the requests made by my hon. Friend the Member for East Leyton before it becomes too late to hold the Indian situation 949 by any means that the mind of man can devise.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. T. Kennedy)
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.