Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [2nd December]:
That this House approves the India Policy of His Majesty's Government as set out in Command Paper, No. 3972 (Indian Round Table Conference), presented to Parliament on 1st December, 1931."—[The Prime Minister.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I beg to move, in line 3, at the end, to add the words:Provided that nothing in the said policy shall commit this House to the establishment in India of a Dominion constitution as defined by the Statute of Westminster; provided also that the said policy shall effectively safeguard British trade in and with India from adverse or prejudicial discrimination; and provided further that no extensions of self-government in India at this juncture shall impair the ultimate responsibility of Parliament for the peace, order, and good government of the Indian Empire.I cordially agree with what was said by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and echoed by the Secretary of State for India yesterday about the disadvantage of phrases and generalities upon the Indian problem. I would almost say it is a pity that this observation was not made before, because I am sure that many of the generalities and wide, loose, equivocal statements which have been made from time to time during the Indian Conference must have been very galling to the Prime Minister who is a master of terse and pithy statements. However, I gladly agree with him that both here and in India we have become at times the victims of phrases, and we have been obsessed by and entangled in our own terminology. Take the hackneyed phrase "Dominion status." During the Great War India obtained Dominion status so far as rank, honour and ceremony were concerned. The representatives of the Government of India attended the Imperial War Conference, they attended the Peace Conference, and they are included among the British Dominions who serve on the League of Nations.
Most of the leading public men—of whom I was one in those days—made speeches — I certainly did — about Dominion status, but I did not contemplate India having the same con- 1288 stitutional rights and system as Canada in any period which we could foresee. I did, and I do, contemplate our Indian fellow countrymen as fellow subjects enjoying equal rank with us and all other subjects of His Majesty's Government without distinction of race, creed or colour. Moreover, it was obviously inherent in the nature of things that we could not carry on the Government of India for a day except through the administrative abilities and the co-operation of very large and increasing numbers of educated Indians rising steadily to positions of greater responsibility and discretion. Therefore, I accept the statement made by the Secretary of State for India in his admirable speech last night in which he said:We have to reconcile the obligations of this long British partnership with India with the legitimate aspirations of Indians to take a greater part in their own Government."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd December, 1931; col. 1209, Vol. 260.]4.0 p.m.
I accept that, and I think that the right hon. Gentleman has stated accurately the problem which is before us. All this is common ground. I am tired of it being suggested that those who differ in this or that from the policy of His Majesty's Government are mere obscurantists and obstructionists who have no idea or policy but the denial of all progress in India and the arrest of constitutional development. I do not admit that the sense in which the expression "Dominion status" was used 10 or 15 years ago implied Dominion structure or Dominion rights. I looked up the word "status" in the dictionary, as you would say, Sir, for greater accuracy. I do not admit that it means structure or rights. The word "status" means rank—not necessarily rights or structure. Let me take an instance which will be familiar to everyone. Take the Privy Council. There are a, large number of Privy Councillors who are all of equal rank and some are privy to all the secrets of the State, and actually conduct the Government of the country. Others are not privy to any of the secrets of the State, and have only a remote chance of conducting the Government of the country, but there is no legal bar to their doing so, and all are equal. As Mr. Fox once said in a Debate on property and the inequalities of property: 1289Men have equal rights to unequal things.I think that that is a very profound observation upon the actual state of the world in which we live, and it has its bearings upon the question of Dominion status. Ten or 15 years ago there was a great deal of talk of the offence caused to Indians by the idea that they occupied a lower rank and status than the people of this island. We were assured that once this slur was cleared away, once there was no further suggestion of what they call in India "Nordic superiority" an immense boon would be afforded to our brave Indian fellow-soldiers who fought in the War and to Indian collaborators in building up the British Empire, that it would afford a sensible relief and encouragement and an enhanced sense of dignity, and no practical or serious difficulties would arise. We were told that what India wanted was a recognition and the form of equality of status. No one ever suggested then even in the most haggard moments of the War or the most expansive hours of victory that the Indian proletariat with its vast masses, its almost innumerable peoples of India would be likely to live in peace, happiness and decency under the same polity, and the same forms of government which prevail among the British, Canadian or Australian democracies. The idea is preposterous, and is well known to be preposterous. It is not preposterous, assuredly, because the natives of India are inherently incapable of working modern democratic institutions, or that they are inherently unfit to enjoy any form of autonomy. It is impossible because the conditions of India, of the country in which they live, the political, social, cultural, racial, religious conditions of that country are such that any attempt to apply the democratic institutions of Australia and Canada rigidly and pedantically to India, would produce measureless tyranny and misery, ending in bloodshed and probably utter confusion. That is why it is our duty at once to concede status as we have conceded it, and to reserve and withhold structure in our dealings with the Indian problem.
I have given, I think, a very fair account of the opinion in governing dominant circles in this country at the 1290 time of the Montagu reforms on this point. Certainly, I have stated my own recollections. I was not directly brought into these matters, but I have stated my own recollection of what the general view was. Side by side with this desire to confer equality of rank upon our Indian fellow-subjects, there were earnest and practical efforts to associate Indians even more directly with the responsibilities of Government and administration. But the whole position was defined and set out with the utmost clarity in the Preamble and in the Sections of the Act of 1919. The Prime Minister referred to the Preamble yesterday, but he did not refer to Section 41, which must be read with the Preamble. That Section is the one which gives us the power to regulate, limit or restrict the pace at which the constitutional reforms should proceed in India, and the two must be read in conjunction, one with the other. Read together they proclaim at once the sincerity of our purpose, and the plenary, and, as I hold, inalienable authority of Parliament to control, regulate, restrict or alter the character, extent and direction of Indian constitutional progress. I take my stand upon that Act of Parliament. Until it is superseded by another Act of Parliament, it embodies and expresses the whole constitutional relation between Great Britain and all the nations, races and tribes of India.
There are many who hold that the Statute of 1919 went too far. I sometimes meet people who have given up all hope or interest in the Indian situation, and when they are invited to consider a new and dangerous position, they merely say, "Oh, well, all that was settled in 1919." There are many who contend that serious evils flowed from the Act of 1919, and certainly that no good was done either to the wellbeing of the people of India or to their loyalty to the King-Emperor. These critics point to the increasingly vociferous discontent of the Indian political classes for which this Act was largely passed, and the increasing administrative deterioration of all the scientific and cultural departments which have been handed over, or, as I would prefer to say, experimentally delegated to Indian control. I must admit the force of these assertions, but I say, nevertheless, let us take our stand 1291 upon the Government of India Act, 1919. That is our only starting point for any new departure or advance in the Indian problem which is now, or may new be open to us. I do not recognise the validity of some of the declarations which have been made in the interval. I may deplore their consequences, but I do not recognise the validity of individual declarations. Here is the Statute, the Act of 1919, and here is the Parliament which can alone, when it chooses, alter it in any direction it pleases.
The Statutory Commission arose directly out of the 1919 Act. I am going to make some demand upon the good will of the House, and, basing myself on the gravity of the problem, I am going to follow for a few minutes the Prime Minister in his historical review, but I shall, perhaps, touch on some points which he omitted, no doubt through want of time, and perhaps I shall place my emphasis with different weight upon others. The Statutory Commission, as I said, arose out of the Act of 1919. Lord Birkenhead, taking time by the forelock, not waiting until the 10 years' period had run out, anticipated the date prescribed in the Act for a Commission to review the workings of the Montagu reforms, and he set up the Commission known in history as the Simon Commission. That Commission was set up, I must remind the House, with the utmost formality. No simple Order brought it into being. It was based upon a special Act of Parliament passed through this House with the names of the Commissioners duly chosen from the three political parties.
The Commission presented their report. All—Liberals, Conservatives and Socialists—were unanimously agreed. I do not pretend—I have never pretended—that every word of that report was right, or that all its recommendations are applicable. Obviously, they are not. But I have always ventured to urge that here was the true Parliamentary foundation for action, and here should 'have been the basis upon which all our discussions should have begun. I must say that a grave responsibility at the bar of history rests upon those who have incontinently, and with much presumption and levity, cast aside the recommendations of this Commission, and have departed from the 1292 orderly, recognised, constitutional procedure which had been prescribed by law, and, having done that, having brushed aside the whole of the plan on which the three parties were proceeding in unison, have embarked, almost at a night's notice, upon all kinds of airy and adventurous excursions of their own.
Ten years pass rapidly. I have several times been connected with public matters where all difficulties have been satisfied by saying, "Oh, well, let this be reviewed in 10 years." I have lived long enough to sit in a Government which found that 10 years' period come to an end, and saw the evil of putting off difficulties merely by so brief a term as 10 years. But before the 10 years' period prescribed in the 1919 Act was completed, it was clear to almost everyone who knew India that this idea of Dominion status, into which had been read the 'idea of a Dominion constitution, could not be helpful in any way to any British or to any Indian interest. The Statutory Commission, after a profound study—two years of their lives they gave up to the matter; no one knows a quarter about the subject that these men know from their vast work—the Statutory Commission, after their profound study, deliberately excluded the expression "Dominion status" from their unanimous report—a tremendous fact, when you remember the atmosphere at the time; a great august decision, which has never received the weight and attention which it deserves from Parliament.
Nowadays everyone, I suppose, can see how unwise it was of the late Government and of their Viceroy to revive and renew the idea of Dominion status at a time when such a declaration could only prejudice the Report of the Statutory Commission for which Parliament was waiting, and also at a time when this idea had received a new connotation, and had become a symbol of hostile propaganda. Moreover, as we have been pertinently, and even pointedly reminded in the last few weeks, the whole character and definition of Dominion status has been fundamentally altered by the declarations of the Imperial Conference of 1926. Read now your Statute of Westminster when it comes to you from another place, and let any man, I do not care where he sits, ask himself whether he would take the personal responsibility of extending the rights and authorities conferred and 1293 described in that Act to the peoples of India in any period which can be foreseen. I call to account those who were responsible, first, for the departure from constitutional procedure as prescribed by law, and, secondly, for this declaration of the Viceroy, which prejudiced, and, indeed, destroyed, the whole vast work of the Simon Commission. Other grave mistakes have no doubt been committed in Indian affairs, but these are the parent mistakes—these are the parents of all the evils which have flowed upon us since, and are still flowing upon us in a rising tide.
The Prime Minister yesterday spoke to us about the origin of the Round Table Conference. I do not quarrel with his description. There were no Indian representatives on the Statutory Commission. Discontent was caused; the Indians demanded admission; they were refused admission. To satisfy them it was proposed by the Foreign Secretary himself that there should be a Consultative Conference, a kind of collateral consultative conference. So, when the time came for this conference to meet—it was a very sensible thing to do—the question was, who should be the British representative? One would have imagined from the speech of the Prime Minister that he was most eager to carry all parties with him in the matter. I am afraid his historical recollection is at fault in that respect. As a matter of fact, great concern was caused among Conservatives, for fear that a declaration would be made at this consultative conference by the Socialist Government of the day which would have a binding effect and tic the hands of Parliament in the future.
The Conservatives accordingly demanded, and so did the Liberals, who at that time were working in accord upon this question—it was one of those periods when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) was in a highly patriotic mood; unhappily, the mood did not last very long on that occasion—the Conservatives and the Liberals demanded representation. The Government resisted. They objected, and so did the Indian Congress. They thought it would alter the whole character, and so did the other people who were likely to be invited. They objected. However, in the end a joint representation was insisted upon, and a 1294 joint representation was effected. I am bound to say that I do not think the Indian Congress, and the others need have worried very much about it, because there is no doubt that the fact that the representatives of all these three parties were gathered there has enabled this conference to play a vast, and it may well be a fatal, part in the whole of the development of our Indian policy.
When the Conference met, in view of the Viceroy's declaration, in view of a great many foolish speeches which were being made, and in view of the general feeling of weakness and despondency which spreads throughout the British Empire when a minority Government, and a Socialist minority Government, is in power, the Indian Princes, not knowing where to turn, came forward and offered to join in a federal system. Immediately there followed this landslide to which I have always drawn attention. In a night, in a day, the whole situation was transformed. The Consultative Conference, which was to lie alongside the Statutory Report, converted itself into a quite unauthorised kind of informal constituent assembly, and immediately set to work to fabricate and manufacture federal constitutions of every kind in every direction. This process was accompanied by speeches and perorations which might well have justified the assumption that the United States of India and full Dominion status were actually at hand, or very close to our hands. I do not at all wonder that great hopes and expectations were excited over India, and great disappointment, naturally, has followed as those expectations have gradually, but steadily and remorselessly, been contracted.
The Conference, I say, went on its path, and, when it separated in January, the Prime Minister made the declaration which is repeated in Paragraph 2 of the White Paper which is now before us. The House is familiar with it, and has read it with attention, and, therefore, I will not re-read it. There was the new declaration—there was the declaration which side-tracked the Simon Commission, which committed us to an altogether different departure and different mode of action. I, from the very first, have protested against this violent change, but hitherto I have never been asked by the 1295 Leaders of my party to become committed to it in any way. This is the first time we are asked to take upon ourselves responsibility for the declaration made by the Prime Minister at the head of the Socialist Government jn January last. Otherwise we have been free. I will return to that in a minute.
The consequence of these events was, of course, an attempt to procure the assent of the Indian Congress. Mr. Gandhi and other leaders were all in prison. They had to be released to induce them to take part in this great new settlement. Then followed their release, and immediately upon that we saw the spectacle of Mr. Gandhi and some of his leading lieutenants negotiating almost on equal terms with the Viceroy and arranging the celebrated Gandhi-Irwin Pact. There followed upon that the attempt to set up two parallel Governments in India—a Government of the Congress, which was to be in close, harmonious touch with His Majesty's Imperial Government, and was to be, as it were, an agent and a co-operator in the work of governing India. I say that that was a, most profoundly injurious blow struck at British authority, not only in India, but throughout the globe.
My right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council said before the General Election that he and the Prime Minister were a pair of brothers. The discovery of their brotherhood dates from an earlier period than the difficulties of the pound sterling. They came together upon this Indian matter. The close association between the Prime Minister and the Lord President of the Council, and the great friendship which my right hon. Friend has for Lord Irwin, led to all the forces of the Conservative party machine, all the enormous influence which they possess throughout the country, in this House and in the Press, and all the loyalties of a great party looking forward to a victorious General Election, being turned against those who protested against this sudden, unconstitutional and novel twist that had been given to Indian affairs. The result of this has been that no fair or adequate expression has been given to the deep sense of alarm and of repulsion, I may say, felt throughout the country, and especially by all those 1296 British folk who have a real knowledge of India and are brought in actual contact with Indian affairs. Their alarm at these events was completely overlaid, and they were virtually extinguished as a political force. There seemed to be no Conservative point of view; there seemed to be no resistance at all to this swift drift of events, heedless, almost, of the direction in which it was going.
That was harmful to our world reputation. All that the world could see was an apparent complete absence of backbone in our Imperial affairs. It was freely said on the Continent, "England will always give way to whoever shouts the loudest." It was said, that England had lost her capacity for leading, guiding, and, I would add, ruling Oriental countries; that, just as she gave up her naval rights without any real need, so she would give up her rights and her enormous interests in India if pressed far enough. Invoke certain principles, it was said, repeat certain formulas and phrases, and England will submit as if she were under a spell of witchcraft. That is what was said and believed almost universally throughout the world. Believe me, Mr. Speaker, this had as much to do with the collapse of British credit as any speculations of acceptance houses in the City of London. England, apart from her Empire in India, ceases for ever to exist at a Great Power. Strip this Island of her appanage of interest and sovereignty in tropical lands, and you would indeed have a plain explanation of the collapse of the pound sterling.
The pound sterling is based on many things, but among them, indispensable 'and almost prime, is the gigantic historical position of Britain in the East; and when it was widely believed, and when it was actually part of the British Government's policy not to deny, that in a time which might be short or long, but whether long or short we did not dare to say—it could not be stated—that in a time which might he short or long we should be ready, if the Indians wished, to evacuate India; when that was the world opinion, which we did not contradict, and could not, in virtue of the argumentative position taken up by the Government, contradict, naturally the confidence of the world in our general strength was undermined.
1297 The negotiations with Mr. Gandhi, coupled with all the flowery speeches about the United States of India and the currency of this phrase "Dominion status," together with the new definitions which were being imparted to it—the whole of these things were interpreted, by people who do not understand our ways or our resources, or our power of recovery, as a complete collapse in national and Imperial moral. Foreign countries could not understand it at all. They could not understand it any more than the Germans could understand that England might become a great military Power. They could not understand that England is much stronger than she looks. They did not, do not, and will not believe what we cannot bring ourselves to doubt, namely, that we have only to make a sustained effort of national will-power to recover our entire position.
The results were disastrous in India, as well as to our position here. British authority was for a time brought into unparalleled contempt. All classes in this teeming population who had the slightest capacity for thought above their homes, their daily bread, and their religion, were led to expect some vast impending, gleaming change in the whole foundation of life and Government. That was a terribly unsettling element to bring about, working its way in tremors through these enormous, vast populations, carried from mouth to mouth—"The British Raj is going to depart; there will be a new Raj to take its place before long." All classes in India were feeling this unsettling, undermining, shattering influence in their lives. In India, constitutional and political matters affect only a tithe, perhaps, of the people. The great mass are interested in the technical apparatus of government, which secures them some protection of health and some of the facilities of science, but 999 out of every 1,000 at least are absorbed in the struggle for life in this world or the next. All are being unsettled, all are being taught to regard the proceedings of the ruling power as a mere winding up of their affairs, as a preliminary to abdication and exit. Naturally they look about. Who would not be unsettled? Naturally, in the face of this astonishing threatened desertion, they look out for something to take hold of. They turn 1298 from side to side seeking an anchor that will hold. As the British authority passed for a time into collapse, the old hatred between the Moslems and the Hindus revived and acquired new life and malignity. We cannot easily conceive what these hatreds are. There are mobs of neighbours, people who have dwelt together in the closest propinquity all their lives, who, when held and dominated by these passions, will tear each other to pieces, men, women and children, with their fingers. Not for a hundred years have the relations between Moslems and Hindus been so poisoned as they have been since England was deemed to be losing her grip and was believed to be ready to quit the scene if told to go.
I make some apology to the House for this historical survey. Others may state it in a different way, but that is the sequence of events which, in my judgment, has led us to the present position, and you cannot discuss the present position without comprehending the chain of causation by which we have reached it. I now come to immediate history. I listened yesterday to the speeches of the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State, and I must confess that I am completely mystified about the policy of the Government. The Secretary of State, addressing me amicably but pointedly, said, "Do we mean the same thing?" I was very tempted to say, "Do he and the Prime Minister mean the same thing?" At any rate, I would gladly answer his question when I could get a satisfactory answer to mine. No one would be more pleased than I should be to feel that he and I were agreed. It has been very painful to me to separate myself from friends and colleagues with whom I have had much pleasure in working and with whom it was most agreeable to discuss the common action that we could take in political affairs. Glad should I be indeed if we mean the same thing. I must try, therefore, to clarify the position a little, and I will do so before I sit down.
Let me say, however, in the first place that there are serious objections in my opinion to making a speech delivered on a valedictory occasion, with all the generalities and civilities appropriate to speeding the parting guest and with all 1299 the agreeable sentiments naturally aroused in the breast of the host when he takes leave of those with whom he has long collaborated, the right hon. Gentleman bidding farewell to" My dear Mahatma." A speech delivered in these circumstances may well play its part in the regular and agreeable and decorous conduct of administration, but it does not and ought not to serve as the foundation for a solemn declaration of policy by the House of Commons. However, the speech has been elevated into a State paper. Obviously, it is a report of a speech largely extempor, with all the loosenesses of phrase and unprecision of sentences which unhappily we are all led into when we are speaking in these conditions. This is a State paper which has superseded the massive report of the Statutory Commission. This is a State paper which is now the foundation of our future action, and we are to give a vote of confidence, a vote of approval, to this speech whatever it may mean, and I conceive it to be designed to mean different things to different people.
There is one part of the paper, however, which is certainly not at all ambiguous, and that is paragraph 2. That is the vital, operative part. There is the new declaration, and that is what we are now asked to make ourselves responsible for. That is a grave and far-reaching decision for us to be asked to take. In January, when this statement of the Prime Minister was made at the Round Table Conference, it was only a statement of a Socialist minority Government. The Conservative party was repeatedly assured that it was wholly uncommitted. Most important deputations visited the party leader and received from him an assurance, and my right hon. Friend dropped the word "implement" into which by his enthusiasm he had been incautiously betrayed. In December the Conservative party is invited to bind itself to the acceptance, not only of the provincial autonomy recommended by the Simon Commission, but to responsible government at the centre and the establishment of a federal system. The whole of these changes are only the preliminaries which, after a transitional period, are to give way to what I presume must be what is called 1300 full responsibility for her own Government, what I presume must be Dominion status or Dominion constitution as now defined by the Statute of Westminster.
What has happened to induce us to make this change? What has happened in the interval to induce us to make this tremendous advance in Conservative opinion? What has happened to make us commit ourselves to the full Socialist policy as formerly promulgated by the Prime Minister and Mr. Wedgwood Benn? Certainly not any agreement that has been reached at the Round Table Conference. On no one single disputed point has there been any agreement. Public order, defence, trade, finance, representation of States, protection of minorities —on none of these topics has there been any agreement. There have been some advances towards agreement in matters in which Indians have united to demand concessions and the British have conceded, not as much, but a good deal of what they asked, but there has been absolutely no agreement of any kind in the differences between one set of Indians and another except these various minority agreements which are largely in the nature of mutual protection. On the contrary, there has been a marked sharpening and hardening of all these during the progress of this Conference.
Last January Lord Reading postulated a number of conditions without which be declared he would not support a responsible federal Government. I remember well that his speech was at that time thought to be extreme by the Conservative delegates on the Conference. Yet, now that there is no agreement on any of the disputed points, both he and the Conservative delegates are ready to go the whole way together, and we are to be compelled to accompany them on that perilous voyage. Last January it was urged that much larger concessions as to self-government might well be made to India for the sake of getting, and on the basis of, an agreed settlement; that you could make much larger concessions than could be given in a scheme which was simply imposed by the spontaneous act of the Imperial Parliament. Good will, we were told—the assent of the Indian political classes, the co-operation of Congress and of Mr. Gandhi—would make a basis upon which we would go much further than if we had to act 1301 alone. In the last Parliament, as I must remind my friends here, it was part of the innocent Lobby propaganda of the Conservative Whips that there was no need for Conservative apprehension about the Prime Minister's declaration or about the Round Table Conference proceedings, becacse, it was said, all depended on agreement between Indians themselves and this agreement would certainly not be obtained. It has not been obtained, but the policy that was dependent upon agreement is now to go forward in the teeth of disagreement, and the Conservative party, which was not committed even on the basis of agreement, is now to be committed on the basis of disagreement.
That is what has happened, and again I ask what is it that has occurred in the interval to produce this surprising change that we are now going to be compelled to make? Consider what has happened in India. There has been the massacre of Cawn pore, the most terrible episode that has happened since the mutiny, there has been a long and increasing succession of assassinations, there has been a movement of boycott which has largely ruined the trade of Lancashire. We had only the other day Lord Lothian's speech showing that. the lives of officials and Europeans in Bengal are held only on tenure from minute to minute. There have been the stern ordinances which the Government have thought it their duty to impose. There is nothing in the state of India which justifies the Conservative party in committing itself to-day to a position in this matter that it was not asked to commit itself to, that it was solemnly free from responsibility for, in the beginning of the present year.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Although it is a National Government, Conservatives still exist. They may be proud to serve, but still they live, and have a right to live. I think I have thus shown that there has been an immense change in the position of the Conservative party, involving the whole of this new Parliament. All are being committed to the Socialist policy of the Prime Minister and the late Secretary of State, without even that measure of agreement or acceptance on 1302 behalf of the Indian political classes which, less than a year ago the Socialist leaders themselves thought indispensable to this scheme. This step we are asked to take irrevocably at 48 hours' notice without the slightest examination worthy of the name by Parliament of the merits and character of the Round Table Conference scheme or still less of the scheme of the Statutory Commission. Those who were in the last Parliament will remember how rigorously the provisions of constitutional change were always excluded from our Debates. I was myself on several occasions prevented from making even an indirect reference to them—a reference necessary to render the discussion intelligible—because it was said, "No, we are only on the administrative points upon the Secretary of State's salary."
The whole of these matters were ruled out of the last Parliament, and this is the first opportunity upon which the House of Commons has ever been allowed to discuss questions like, well, say, whether it is a good thing—I do not say it may not be—at this juncture to make a federal system before the communities out of which it is to be made have been created? That is an absolute departure from all that has ever been known of Imperial construction. Another question is whether it is wise to merge the fortunes of the Indian States with those of British India? It may be, I do not say it is not, but it is the first opportunity that it has been possible for us to mention that since the 26th January last. We might also discuss whether 450 roadless constituencies as large as Scotland, each containing half-a-million illiterate voters, can be a satisfactory basis for what the Prime Minister in his speech calls:the democratic principle expressing itself solely through majority power.We might discuss whether it is prudent to hand over—if this is what we are going to do, and I confess I do not know whether it is so or not—the responsibility for law and order, that is to say, the police and secret services, shall we say, in Bengal, Bombay, the North-West Provinces, the Frontier Provinces, to hand over those responsibilities to Indian provincial cabinets enjoying plenary authority and elected upon a franchise whose working no human being can value or measure. We might discuss whether it 1303 is prudent at the same time and by the same operation to create a brand new federal system for a continent nearly as large as Europe, inhabited by nearly as many human beings, the vast majority of whom are in a primitive state, with more national, racial and religious divisions than Europe, and far more bitter and tar more bloody feuds rampant and rife within it. And having created this United States of India you endow this federal system with the responsible powers or a large measure of the responisble powers hitherto exercised by Parliament. That is a tremendous issue to which, surely, some time and thought might be given by Parliament to consider before it takes a decision to which you will for ever afterwards be told "you are bound irrevocably."
There was much in the Simon scheme—I know my right hon. Friend will forgive me mentioning his name in this way; that is the penalty of being an historical person—there was much in the Simon scheme which caused anxiety. The full provincial autonomy of countries as large as France and Germany, including peace and order, was to be confided to utterly unproved men upon what I believe to be an utterly unrepresentative basis and chosen by methods unnatural in the East. That was a most audacious and temerarious departure recommended by the Simon scheme. That was supposed to be so reactionary that no one dare even mention it since it was penned and signed. At any rate, the Simon scheme proceeded upon a practical argument. It strove to get rid of diarchy and dualism in the provinces. It took the line of making a bold experiment in the provinces, giving self-government in its integrity with full responsibility, but keeping the supreme control, the supreme central organism of government and the ultimate authority of Parliament integral, intact and inviolate. If anything went wrong in the provinces, if abuses, disasters, confusion, retrogression, massacre and pillage occurred in the provinces, then there would be an organism of supreme power, absolutely integral, one unbroken unit which could come to the rescue of the province which had gone into disorder or confusion, could put the coaches on the line again, and come to the aid of, and give peace and 1304 order again to a population which was suffering the horrors of anarchy. That is the Simon scheme in a nutshell, if I am not taking his name in vain. That was a plan and a policy.
But what have we got now? When loyalty and order in India have sunk far lower than when the Simon Commission penned their report, we are to undermine simultaneously by a double convulsion all the local foundations of British rule and many of the central foundations as well. I am not saying I refuse to associate myself with such a policy, but to say that without discussion we should be committed to it is a terrible abuse to be imposed by a Government of the House of Commons. I can conceive variants of this scheme which might be an improvement of what is put forward in the Simon Report, but it is a risky thing. These are matters of enormous consequences and complications, and at the very moment when the aid and action of the central Power may be more needed than ever before on account of the provincial experiments and on account of the state of the country, the central Power is to be hampered by that very diarchy which has already been found so injurious in the provinces to good government that the Statutory Commission advised its abandonment even at a great risk of having to hand over law and order to the provinces. All this scheme is inherent in paragraph 2. Paragraph 2 is the operative part of this document which sets out and commits us to that scheme.
All that is but the prelude, is but a period of transition which nobody dare say will be a long one. It is against your policy to say it is a, long one. It is a mere prelude before the inauguration of full Dominion status as defined by the Statute of Westminster, with control by an Indian Legislature of police, army and finance, and power to abrogate any Imperial law, even the law which calls it into being, power to discriminate against British trade, the right to which Privy Councillor Sastri has attached so much importance, to secede from the British Empire, and by an effort of volition to cast off the sovereignty of the King-Emperor. I have not over-stated by one hair's-breadth the issues hanging upon the decision to which we are now asked to 1305 commit ourselves, and which we never knew anything about until the day before yesterday.
What did the Government want to demand this vote of confidence for? We were perfectly content to have a Debate on the Motion for the Adjournment. Why did they wish to seize this vote of confidence from the House at this juncture on a policy which they admit themselves is all in a state of flux? We have to commit ourselves to-night within six or seven hours from now, without examining these proposals in detail, without giving them a tithe of the time and attention which are given to the most ordinary Acts of domestic legislation. I say that it is astounding that we should be placed in that position. We shall be told that nothing can be done without the Act of Parliament, and that all the reserves and defences of Parliamentary procedure—the First Reading, Second Reading, Committee, Report, Third Reading—all these will be at our disposal when the time comes. Several years must pass before such an Act can even be introduced. Why worry? Let us get rapidly on to other business and pass the vote of confidence in the Prime Minister's Indian scheme for which he now asks.
We have only to look back to last week. Short as memories are nowadays, we have not yet forgotten the arguments by which His Majesty's Government—I do not blame them; they were the arguments which were alone available—secured the passage of the Statute of Westminster Bill. We had committed ourselves, we were bound in honour. We had committed ourselves by the decisions of 1926. We had no choice but to ratify them and to implement them, heavy as our hearts might be, and as their hearts were as they told us. Still, we all had to go through with it. That is your protection of an Act of Parliament when you have already committed yourselves in advance to some vague affirmation of principle. Now we are being drawn and entangled in the same kind of gradual, imperceptible procedure. We might almost say that the operation is proceeding according to plan. In a few years these vague, indefinite and obscurely stated principles in the speech of the Prime Minister, with all their ambiguity, and Whatever they may mean or may not mean, may come before us in a Statute, and we shall be 1306 told, "You have already bound yourselves. Read the Prime Minister's speech. Read your own solemn affirmation of it given on the third day of December, 1931. You have no choice." We are giving ourselves over, bound hand and foot, without knowing in the least what concession may be made.
I would sit down at once if the Government would be content with the adjournment of the Debate. While we are asked at this juncture to take this decision, I am bound to press my case to a conclusion. I say that it is not fair to the House, and may be woefully injurious to the State. Can you wonder that some of us who do not agree with the general tendency of Socialist policy in India feel that we must make some rugged affirmations of our own such as are contained in the Amendment we have thought it our duty to put upon the Paper before we can assent to a vote of approval of the general policy of the Government? I say that I would not vote against the Government at this stage on the difference between a whole-hearted measure of autonomy in the Provinces on the one hand, or some compromise between autonomy in the Provinces and central autonomy. I would like to see the scheme and consider it. My prepossession is against the latter scheme. At any rate, it is a matter we should consider at leisure and with precise information before us, but that we should now have to commit ourselves to the whole of this policy without being permitted to assert some of the indispensible requirements to which the British Government are entitled to attach importance is most oppressive.
We have postulated in this Amendment three conditions. I hoped that it might be accepted by His Majesty's Government. The Prime Minister's speech showed me, at any rate, one thing. I was very sorry to see it. It showed me that the Amendment would not be accepted, but I was left in doubt whether it would not be accepted because he did not agree with it, or because he agreed with it so much that he considered it superfluous. It was not clear whether he regarded it as an honest assertion of British requirements, or whether he regarded it merely as an effort on my part to gild refined gold and paint the lily. Then, late at night, there came the speech of my right hon. Friend 1307 the Secretary of State for India, our Secretary of State for the Department which is charged with these events, the responsible Secretary of State upon this subject. There was no equivocation about that. I sat here and listened without the slightest difficulty in deciding what was the intention and purpose of the Secretary of State's speech, for my right hon. Friend said, quoting my reference to the Statute of Westminster, that the Government policy has no more to do with the Statute of Westminster than the man in the moon. The Statute of Westminster, at any rate, defines the present position of Dominion status. Therefore, Dominion status, apparently, has no more to do with the policy of His Majesty's Government than the man in the moon. Certainly, there is no difference between what we have put in our Amendment and the excellent and clear-cut statement of the responsible Secretary of State. My right hon. Friend went on to detail safeguards, and not for the first time. It has always 'fallen to his lot to dwell upon the safeguards, and he has always done so very faithfully. He carries a great measure of confidence, even from those who have not agreed with him, because of his inflexible adherence to certain positions which he outlined at the outset. I hope the House will read that speech; it is most important. He spoke of the Army. That must be reserved. Foreign affairs must be reserved. Financial stability, that is to say, the balancing of the Budget, currency, the banking system —all these must be reserved. Not much will be left for the Chancellor of the Exchequer when all these subjects have been reserved. Internal order and police must be reserved, in the ultimate issue.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Sir Samuel Hoare)
The phrase that I used was "internal security." I said nothing about the police.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I beg my right hon. Friend's pardon. Internal security, in the ultimate issue, must be reserved. The protection of minorities must be reserved. The minorities in India, added together, are majorities, substantial majorities. They are entangled at every stage with the Hindus. There is to be no discrimination against British trade, 1308 and the interests of the Services are to be properly safeguarded. Here, instead of the three points which we have put forward in our Amendment, the Secretary of State has put forward eight points, including the three which have been mentioned by us. I will not take up the time of the House in arguing how much will be left of responsible Government, or what will be the meaning attached to the phrase "responsible Government" when all these safeguards have been given full and loyal effect to. The Secretary of State quarrelled, in the most courteous manner, with my Amendment only on one ground: it does not go far enough. It only states three desiderata of the eight or nine which my right hon. Friend put forward with so much force to the House. If that is the only dispute and difference between us, I will gladly do my best to remove the difference that is outstanding. If that is the only difference, I am sure that it can easily be got rid of. I told my right hon. Friend this morning that I should be quite willing to withdraw the Amendment. I have been in consultation with hon. Friends associated with me, and we should be quite willing to withdraw our Amendment if the Government would agree to substitute for certain words at the end of the Motion:That this House approves the India policy of His Majesty's Government as set out in Command Paper, No. 3972 presented to Parliament on 1st December, 1931, and also in the speech of the Secretary of State for India of the 2nd December.Now I address myself to the Prime Minister, and I ask him publicly a question. I am authorised by those who are associated with me, no doubt, a forlorn and scanty band, to withdraw the Amendment if the Government will merely add to their Motion the speech of their own Secretary of State—the statement of policy made by him, not merely an enumeration of the safeguards but the whole of the statement he made, including his resolve to persevere with the policy of self-government and with the erection of a federal system. If he will include that speech in the Motion which he is asking us to pass this evening, he will have a unanimous vote so far as his supporters are concerned. I pause for e reply.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald)
It is perfectly plain that everything that was in the Secretary of State's speech is in the White Paper.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Then I take it that the offer is refused. The Government, supported by the Liberal party—[How. MEMBERS: "And the Conservative party!"]—will use their Whips against the incorporation in the Resolution of Confidence to them of the speech delivered by their own Secretary of State on this subject last night. I say that that is an oppressive use of the machinery of Parliament. I would like to know the explanation. I can see perfectly well the explanation. The right hon. Gentleman is wishing to speak with two voices to two audiences. Here is what he has said to the Indian delegates, which they have taken away with them to encourage them, honeyed words, only saying the things that please them, leaving out a firm insistence on British rights and a blunt expression of what belongs to us, and merely dwelling on what we wish to give to them. They are to take that away with them, to be encouraged by false hopes and to be misled by a wrong impression of the actualities and the verities of British opinion. There are verities and resistances in British opinion.
We in this House are to be induced to consent to a policy and a White Paper by the speech—the most reassuring speech—which the Secretary of State for India made to us for domestic consumption, which is not to be incorporated in the Resolution which we are to pass, and when legislation is presented to us, a few years hence, that will be the only operative fact of which the House will be able to take cognisance. When the Resolution comes forward and we say: "Look at what the Secretary of State said in regard to safeguards," it will be said to us that what we voted on was the Prime Minister's statement. When we say that there are some things in that statement which show that he bore those safeguards in mind, we shall be told: "The operative thing is the solemn declaration made by the Prime Minister in January, 1931, from which he has never swerved and which we are carrying into force to-day." That is the condition in which we find ourselves. What is the value of the declarations made by the 1310 Secretary of State if they are not to play their full part in the decision to which the House is to come? The Government Whips are to be put on to resist the application of the Government's own policy in order that a false impression may be given in India, or that we may ourselves be entrapped into a loss of our liberties and discretion at some future date.
This shows that the Government, with all their able men, with all the good wishes and the good will which they command have been paralysed from birth by internal weaknesses. They have lost in height what they have gained in breadth, they have lost in stature what they have gained in girth and they have lost in fibre what they have gained in bulk. That is what the people are saying all over the country. Things of this kind are more likely to injure the Administration than the most firm action, even if in some respects it were mistaken action in the handling of a great public problem. What are we to do? We are to send out committees to India. They are to roam around India, large parts of which may be under something like martial law. They will roam around India in places where the ordinary constitutional rights are superseded by measures of enforced protection. They are to be subjected to the same sort of ill-usage as that to which the Simon Commission were subjected by the adherents of the Congress party. India is to be kept in this state of unsettlement, perhaps for two or three years, with these hopes and fears of some great change that is going to take place.
Five years have past since we began unsettling the pathetic content of the people of India. It is five years since the Simon Commission was appointed, and three years since it reported. All the time there has been change, perpetual friction and disturbances, raising every kind of grave question and every type of discussion. That is to go on for another two or three years pari passu with the repressive measures, the stern repressive measures, which, I believe, have largely arisen out of our foolish policy of fermenting this feeling of unsettlement. All the time our officials in India, officers of all kinds, will have to go on with their enormously difficult work, with this haunting feeling behind 1311 them that nothing is settled, that there is nothing to stand on. Meanwhile the committees will be roaming up and down the country. There will be the feeling all the time that some great development is sure to occur, and there will be this horrible undermining impression that they are the representatives only of a rearguard which is edging off, shuffling off responsibilities and ultimately out of the country altogether. The people of India as well as the people of Great Britain are entitled to better treatment than that.
I have finished, and I am most grateful to the House for permitting me to intrude for so long upon their attention. What can we do but persevere with our Amendment? It is not a vote of want of confidence in His Majesty's Government. On the contrary, it merely asserts the principles which they themselves affirm, and which both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State have affirmed. It can only be made a Vote of want of confidence by what I think is the abusive action on the part of the Whips, to which the leader of the Conservative party had no right to lend himself. Let me tell the House, seeing that there are so many new Members, how this matter will be put to the Vote. The Amendment will be put first as a positive Motion, the Question being,That the words proposed to be added stand part.Therefore, the House will vote upon the words of the Amendment:Provided that nothing in the said policy shall commit this House to the establishment in India of a Dominion Constitution as defined by the Statute of Westminster, etc.The House will vote upon that for or against the Amendment, and hon. Members will consider the implication of voting against. It would mean a reversal of these proposals. If they put it in that way, hon. Members will be able to see what it is they are asked to vote against. If the Amendment be defeated, it will still be open to any hon. Member who has voted for it to vote for a general Vote of Confidence in the Government. There is no inconsistency in that; because any hon. Member may say that he would rather have the Government Motion with the Amendment, but that if he cannot get it with the Amendment, 1312 nevertheless he must go on. There is no reason why we should not have a free vote on the Amendment, and afterwards a Vote of Confidence in the Government can be given. The Amendment affords the one sure foundation upon which those who take their stand, who believe it is their duty not only to advance the cause of Indian self-government but to uphold the rights of Britain and tell the truth to India.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir John Simon)
I make it no matter of complaint that my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) should have occupied an hour and a-half in the course of his most brilliant and interesting speech, and I am sure I shall have the sympathy of the House in following him immediately, and, I hope, at less length, because it naturally involves a strain upon the attention of the House in a very grave matter. Let me state what I believe to be two or three misunderstandings under which my right hon. Friend is labouring. He spoke of the White Paper as though it were merely a shorthand note of the impromptu and almost ill-considered observations of the Prime Minister as head of the Government, and suitable, therefore, to be the subject of further editing and emendation and improvement by other Members of the Government who may speak from this bench and by other hon. Members of the House. Whatever may be the decision to which the House comes, let there be no misunderstanding as to the origin of this White Paper. For good or ill, it is a document which has been prepared not by the individual who is at the head of the Government but by the united and deliberate decision of the whole Cabinet, and, consequently, great as its authority would undoubtedly be, and well deserving of consideration if it came from the Prime Minister; let there be no misunderstanding as to what the House is asked to do. This new House of Commons, the vast majority of whose Members were elected on the solemn assurance to their constituents that they would support a united Government—
§ Sir J. SIMON
I am sure the hon. and gallant Member will allow me to finish the sentence. I was saying that the House must clearly understand the issue which is to be decided here. Whatever the decision is, the issue is whether or not the House of Commons is prepared, at the invitation of the Government, to affirm this statement representative of the views of the united Government. The right hon. Member for Epping is under a further misapprehension. He has endeavoured to institute some contrast between the speech made at the end of the Debate yesterday, a most admirable speech, by the Secretary of State for India, and the contents of this White Paper, and although I am sure the right hon. Member for Epping would be the last to make the insinuation if he knew the facts, the actual insinuation involved in his comparison is that the Secretary of State for India in the Cabinet is prepared to agree to one thing, and as Secretary of State for India in this House to say another. Let me point this out. This document having been prepared as the result of most careful deliberations in the Cabinet, containing sentences dealing with various matters which were most elaborately reviewed and most solemnly determined, contains the statement that its contents are, by the decision of the Government, going to be placed before both Houses of Parliament, and that the Government will ask the approval of Parliament to them.
It must be obvious to every hon. Member in the House, even a new Member who requires a little guidance as to the way in which the Question is put, that there is a world of difference between the House of Commons affirming, as I trust it will, the contents of this White Paper, and the House of Commons setting to work at the instigation of this Member or that to add or subtract, to annotate or gloss, to explain or explain away this phrase or that phrase. There is a world of difference between the emendations of an Act of Parliament, taken sentence by sentence and Clause by Clause, a matter entirely within the province and function of the House, and the question which arises here. It is entirely for hon. Members to decide; but the one question that has to be decided is whether this deliberate declaration will or will not receive the approval of the House of Commons. I say this, with the Prime 1314 Minister at my side and with his authority, that we are bound in this matter to ask that the Vote taken this evening is a decision as to whether they approve of this declaration or not.
§ Sir H. CROFT
May I take it that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was not trying to suggest that at the time of the General Election, when the national verdict was given for the Prime Minister and the leader of the Conservative party, the country was asked to vote for central government for India?
§ Sir J. SIMON
I do not believe there was any candidate, however confident of his own powers, who was prepared to make a list of everything that the National Government were to do, and I think it would be a difficult thing for any of us to make such a list at this moment. I am bound to say that the speech of the right hon. Member for Epping, elaborate and forcible as we all recognise it to be, far from convincing me that we ought not to affirm this Declaration, makes me the more confident that affirmation from the House is needed. The right hon. Gentleman has reminded the House of some of the history of this matter. He has referred—and quite rightly—as the source of much that has since occurred, to the Montagu-Chelmsford Declaration. The House will forgive me when I say that the real cleavage, the real division of attitude and outlook and view, is this: There are those who really mean actively to promote the achievement of responsible Government in India, and there are those who do not. I am as ready as any man to admit the difficulties. The right hon. Gentleman referred in most courteous terms to the part which I and my colleagues have taken in this matter. I do not know anything whatever in our description of the general situation and of the difficulties in India which is an exaggeration. But the real question is this: Is the achievement of responsible Government in and for India an object which we set eagerly before ourselves as the definite purpose of British policy, or are we keeping in our minds a reservation —some people would say a consoling thought—that when it comes to facing the business, we are confident that it is impossible to accomplish?
1315 The hon. Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock) in his speech yesterday expressed bluntly a view which is held; and I am not quarrelling with it being held by any private citizen. His view is that the Montagu-Chelmsford Declaration was a great mistake. Probably that attitude of mind reflects a view which is held by many persons of great experience and knowledge, that, broadly speaking, Orientals are best governed by other people, and that responsible government is not fitted to the East. I have no quarrel at all with any private citizen holding that view, and stating it bluntly and fearlessly, but I am bound to say that that is not a position which can be taken up by any British statesman who was a party to the Declaration of 1917; it is not a position which can be taken up by anybody who believes in the continuity of Parliamentary policy.
§ Sir REGINALD CRADDOCK
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has not exactly represented my view when he says that I believe that Oriental peoples are best governed by others. I did not imply that in my speech. What I said was that I thought the pledge most unfortunate because it was a pledge which it was impossible to fulfil.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I accept the hon. Member's correction. The House will observe this, because it is fundamental to the argument. I know that the hon. Gentleman will not think that there is anything personal against him in what I say, but there is a cleavage of view on it. Is it very surprising, when it is known that that cleavage of view exists, that there should be in India and among those who are the statesmen and politicians of India, some consciousness that such a difference of view is to be found, and seine doubt as to whether or not the Montagu Declaration is to be taken at its face value? That is the reason why to-night we ask that the House of Commons, at any rate, should state its position and let India know one way or another whether you do or do not stand by the Declaration. It is not fair that we should go on, any of us, thinking, at the back of the mind of some of us, that the obstacles are so manifestly overwhelming that the goal 1316 can never be reached. Therefore, for my part I think that a decision of the House of Commons on this point is to be desired. As this House contains so many new Members, and it was some time ago, may I be allowed to point out the peculiarly grave and solemn circumstances in which the Montagu Declaration was made? The late Mr. Montagu called it the most momentous utterance ever made in India's chequered history. Every circumstance was present which could add weight and authority to what was then said. We have reason to know that it was Lord Curzon's pen which helped to frame the actual language of the Declaration. The right hon. Member for Epping was a Member of the Government and of the Cabinet at that time.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
My right hon. Friend knows quite well that the War Cabinet prevailed then, and that only the Members of the War Cabinet had any responsibility for policy. The others were never summoned unless their Departments were concerned.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I do not wish for a moment to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman,, but, as a matter of fact, I think it is far too late for anyone who was associated with any Department of that Government to throw doubts on the validity of that Declaration. The British Parliament accepted it.
§ Sir J. SIMON
Accepted it unanimously and as a statement not made by a particular Cabinet or a particular War Cabinet or a particular party, as indeed it was not, but they accepted it as a statement that was an assurance offered to India itself. And it was offered to India at a moment which would add, if anything could add, to the solemnity of the assurance. It was when we had our backs to the wall, when the Indian effort on the side of British in the War was of great importance to us. No challenge was issued from any quarter to what was then said. Indeed, when the Government of India Bill of 1919 came to be examined in Committee a change was made in the language of the Preamble for the express purpose of making sure that what would be found on our Statute Book corresponded exactly with the Declaration previously made by the Secretary of State.
1317 Therefore, we must start with this: That regarded as a statement of the goal it remains completely unchallenged and the only policy to be considered is one inspired by the honest purpose of trying to carry it into effect. Admitting all that, it will be found to carry the right hon. Gentleman and others very far. The Declaration refers to self-government. It is wholly inaccurate to suppose that the Declaration was dealing only with the provinces. It is manifest from its terms that the self-government there mentioned envisaged projects of self-government at the centre of India. And for this reason: The Declaration went on to say, by way of contrast, that there was this distinction between the provinces and the centre —that the stage of approach to self-government could, it was thought, be first reached by dealing with the provinces.
I am willing to express my own personal feeling on that point at the moment. It is a point of method, of mode of treatment, which is of vast importance. It is not fundamental to the main question. I am bound to say quite frankly that my own view is the view of the right hon. Gentleman, that as a matter of fact the advance to more complete self-government in the provinces is an easier step, and I myself think it would be a wise step, in advance of those more ambitious projects. The reasons for it are elaborately set out in the report to which reference has been made. I would add this: I take that view, not because I think it would be putting an obstacle in the way of further advance, but because I believe that it would be a quicker way of clearing the ground of difficulty. But the House will observe how the Prime Minister in this Cabinet declaration refers to that and says that the Government had had before them the view that:The surest and speediest route to federation would be to get these Measures in train forthwith, and not to delay the assumption of full responsibility by the provinces a day longer than is necessary.That is a point on which there is some substantial difference of opinion. I think I am speaking my right hon. Friend's mind when I say that I do not regard the door as closed. The situation may change. We may find that in point of fact there will be a desire on the part of this or 1318 that province to make a more rapid advance than may seem possible over the whole field. We are not shutting the door to that in the least. My point is that the Montagu Declaration itself, solemnly accepted and affirmed by this House and the other House and by every successive Viceroy since then, contains in it, not merely implicit but explicit, as the object for which we are bound to strive, not merely self-government in the provinces, but some system of responsible self-government at the centre.
If this present discussion was merely turning on question of pace—how fast can we go?—it would take a wholly different aspect. As a matter of fact, the Amendment put down by the right hon. Member for Epping has nothing to do with pace. You may examine the terms of the Amendment and they have nothing to do with pace. These are immensely difficult questions which only become important because, unhappily and undoubtedly, the impression has arisen, and has arisen in some quarters in India, that there are some who believe that the only pace is a pace so slow that it can never be seriously intended to get to the goal. The reason why we submit to the House that it is so necessary to have a declaration from the House as a whole, is that we desire to make it as plain as it can be put, that that is not the view of the British people represented in the British Parliament.
The right hon. Member referred, as speakers did yesterday, to "stubborn facts." My lion. Friend on the Front Bench opposite mentioned them—the stubborn facts about India. Really, as far as a Western mind can, I have soaked myself in this question for some years, and nothing that can ever happen would make any difference to my own appreciation of the stubbornness and the complexity of those facts. Let no one suppose that I have forgotten them. Let us see what they are. The immense area and population of India makes it much more like a continent than a country. The diversity of race and creed and caste, and the operation of the social arrangements of Indian life upon all political divisions, the existence of the immense and powerful Indian States, the predominance of the numbers of the rural population, the high percentage of 1319 illiteracy, the standing menace of the North-West Frontier—it would be perfectly foolish, perfectly ignorant and perfectly stupid for anyone, through any excess of zeal or emotion, to fail to make full allowance for them.
Those are very stubborn facts, but they are not all the facts. There are two other facts just as important, just as irremovable, just as effective in their influence on what we are going to do, as this list of geographical and ethnological and social features. The first fact is this: The declarations that have been made in the name of the British Government. That is just as much a fact as any geographical fact in India. I think we do the gravest disservice to the whole cause which we are all trying to promote as we may, if we do not treat those declarations as just as much part of the sum total of essential facts as those tremendous geographical and social facts. There is another fact which, I think, we must not altogether overlook. There is the fact that there has grown up in India and exists in India to-day this Indian national movement. That is just as much a fact. A learned judge, Lord Bowen, on a famous occasion, observed, when there was some dispute as to what was a question of fact, that the state of a man's mind was as much a question of fact as the state of his digestion. Here you have this tremendous fact, which cannot be measured, it is true, or photographed or presented as one of the physical features or other manifest characteristics of the land, but it is a tremendous fact which has in some way or other to be allowed for and met.
Therefore, if you take these facts all together the real question that then emerges is this: You speak of these things, you point to these obstacles. Yes, but for what purpose and in what spirit? Are you pointing to them because you are determined to co-operate with Indian opinion in finding the best possible way to surmount them and circumvent them, or are you pointing to them because you think in your heart that these obstacles will be a permanent barrier to advancement? Anyone who takes the view that these tremendous facts are really permanent barriers on the road, turning the road to Indian self-government into a 1320 cul de sac, had no right to take part in setting up or approving the Montagu reforms. Indian political opinion is waiting to know where this House stands. Here we are, a body gathered together in order to express the national view. It is vital, before this matter goes further, that there should be from Parliament as a whole, with our conjoint and freshly-gathered authority, a declaration as to the sense in which we regard these difficulties and seek to deal with them. Do we reiterate the Montagu Declaration with our hands on our hearts, or do we pronounce it with our tongues in our cheeks?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The right hon. and learned Gentleman must do justice to his country's case. Section 41 is an integral part of that position.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I am very well aware of that, It is perfectly true to say that the Government of India Act contemplates the possibility not merely of rapid advance or of slow advance but of reconsideration. That is perfectly true, but that does not alter the main test. The main test, the fundamental question is this: Can one say of the new Parliament which is now assembling that it is prepared to dedicate itself in a. genuine and practical spirit to the pursuit, by every means in its power, of the objective which has been declared so often to he in view? That, I think, is the justification for the course which we ask the House to take.
I am as conscious of these difficulties as any man alive. I am, if I may say so, the last man in this House to endeavour with smooth words to treat them as though they could be easily and rapidly swept away. Indeed, I do not mind adding that I believe them to be more formidable and more likely to be intractable than some other people do. It is ignorance and folly to ignore them. But the real question is not a question of exactly how high you rate the particular obstacles to be overcome but what is the underlying spirit and purpose of Parliament and the House of Commons now, when this Round Table Conference is returning to India, and its members are naturally anxious to know and we are anxious to show them, what is the actual attitude and temper of the British people?
§ Sir J. SIMON
Certainly. Now I come to the actual words of the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment. He made, of course, a most brilliant speech, but for the most part it had very little to do with the Amendment. Let me deal, however, with the three points in his Amendment, and if he will allow me I propose to take them in the reverse order from that in which they are mentioned. He has suggested three conditions. Let us look at these conditions and see to what they come? I notice first of all that he is not challenging the objective of all-India Federation. He is not, as far as the Amendment is concerned, challenging what I may call the broad principle of responsibility with safeguards. He is not challenging the conception that you must build up this federation out of provinces which are self-conscious units, and the Indian States. But having passed those grave matters by, he has three points which are specially mentioned. The first point with which I wish to deal, though it is the last to be mentioned in the Amendment, is:that no extensions of self-government in India at this juncture shall impair the ultimate responsibility of Parliament for the peace, order and good government of the Indian Empire.Let us see where we are. The right hon. Gentleman said some very nice things about the Statutory Commission's Report. It is quite a comfort to hear it referred to as though it were a work of reference and not used merely as a missile. What did the Statutory Commission propose about that point? It proposed that, as regards the administration of what is ordinarily called law and order, the very grave, the very important step should be taken of transferring that branch of Indian administration to Indian ministers. 'The House will appreciate that the subject of the police in India is not a central but a provincial subject. Some people have considered whether it should be made a central or ganisation. It seemed to me since I looked into it to be just about as easy to imagine policing Europe by a central police office at Geneva as it would be to imagine policing the continent of India by a purely centralised system of that 1322 sort and for a very long time the administration of the police in India has been done, province by province—great areas it is true but areas in which already there is a very considerable measure of that transferred power. The Commission's report proposed, and 'we stand by the proposal, that under certain defined conditions police duties should be transferred to the responsible provincial government.
I know very well the argument against it. I understand clearly the risks which occur to any thoughtful mind when he contemplates it. But what is your alternative If you want honestly to pursue the achievement of responsible government in India nothing is more certain than this. You must place the responsibility for departments of Govment which are difficult, and which are open to criticism and attack, upon the shoulders of those to whom you wish responsibility to be given. Three-quarters of the trouble in India since the Montagu reforms has been due to this. We have given under our Act of Parliament a very wide opportunity of irresponsible criticism, and we have refused to put responsibility upon the shoulders of the critics. So far, I do not think that there is a wide distinction between the right hen. Gentleman and myself. Frankly, I look at that proposal as he does, not with misgiving but with the anxiety with which it ought to be regarded by anybody who understands the importance of law and order in India.
§ Sir J. SIMON
But the House will please observe and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman has not overlooked it, that, as in the Commission's report, so in this statement which we are asking the House to approve, we have carefully insisted that there must be in reserve an ultimate authority for, without it, the risk that would be taken would be a risk which no sane man in the present circumstances would be prepared to face. If the House will look at paragraph 9 in the Prime Minister's statement they will see there thé words:The powers entrusted to the Governor to safeguard the safety and transquillity of the Province shall be real and effective.1323 If the question be asked, "Yes, but what about the centre," the answer is to be found in paragraph 4 in which in express terms it is stipulated:that the Governor-General must be granted the necessary powers to enable him … to fulfil his responsibility for ultimately maintaining the tranquillity of the State.I put it to the House, apart from the fact that we are all draftsmen, that everybody thinks he can improve everybody else's language, that nobody is ever quite satisfied with any scheme of words but his own—am I not justified in saying that the first point to which the right hon. Gentleman has called attention in his Amendment is fairly dealt with in the Prime Minister's statement I We do contemplate the transfer of law and order. There cannot be provincial autonomy of any practical sort without it. But we do not contemplate that that shall be done without adequate safeguards in the Governor and the Governor-General. I quite agree that the matter is left open for discussion and that much may happen to be considered hereafter, but, regarded as a declaration of intention, I say without fear of contradiction that it is perfectly plain and straightforward and does not require any addendum or gloss at all.
I take the second of the three points which the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned in his Amendment. He feels as I think we generally feel in this House that it is very important not to forget the position of British trade and British commerce in and with India in the working out of a new and more advanced Constitution. I agree with him in that. The only point on which I differ from him is that I believe it to be a most unwise course to pick out one particular instance in which you must secure the rights of a minority, and to elevate it, as though it, was the only principle of interest to the British people and at the same time to pass in silence a number of other instances which, from their own point of view, are equally important. As a matter of fact this White Paper contains a perfectly clear statement as to the guarantees required by minorities to protect their rights. There has never been any doubt whatever as to the importance of securing in a new Constitution, a proper guarantee not only for British trading rights but for the rights of minorities of 1324 very different kinds, who look to us, for exactly the same reasons as the British commercial oonamunity looks to us, but who expect us to be as much interested in their protection as we are in the protection of British trade.
I venture to advise the House if I may be allowed respectfully to do so Do not let us make the mistake of imagining that the instance which is here brought to our notice, grave and critical and momentous as it is, ought to be regarded as standing apart from the general duty, under any new Constitution, of seeing that the rights of minorities are to be adequately safeguarded. India, says the right hon. Gentleman, is a land of minorities. I should think it was. The real difficulty about the Indian constitutional problem is this, and it is far better to state it boldly and bluntly than to use mere vague words. The real difficulty is that for very large masses of the Indian people the conception of self-government as we have it has not really yet been adopted and understood by them. It is understood, of course, by the intellectual leaders, but the real point is that self-government as we understand it in this House means that each citizen, whatever be his creed, or class, or origin, or his special interest, is prepared, in return for his share in the franchise and the like, to put himself, as a citizen, without distinction, under the rule and government of the majority of other citizens. India is not at a stage where it will do that.
It is exactly for that reason that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has devoted all his skill, all his negotiating power, all his sympathy, to trying to help to get some solution of the various minority questions, but there is no ground whatever on which the House ought to take out this particular minority question and deal with it as though it were our special concern, and as though we were not equally concerned with every other minority question which arises.
Lastly, comes the right hon. Gentleman's third point, his reference to the Statute of Westminster. I had rather hoped that he would have found a passage in this White Paper of which he would have approved. I should like to have his whole-hearted enthusiasm for, at any rate, one passage. May I direct his attention to paragraph 8 1325 and ask him to read the second sentence? Here is a declaration which, as I have told the House, is not only a declaration of the Prime Minister but of the united Cabinet. The Prime Minister on our behalf has said:I want no more general declarations which carry us no further in our work.I think that must be of some satisfaction to my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
But the right hon. and learned Gentleman will see that the Prime Minister is repeating in paragraph 2 a very general declaration. In the very next sentence to that which has been quoted he says thatthe declarations already made and repeated to-day are enough.They are.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I thought the right hon. Gentleman's anxiety had to do with still further embroidery or enlargement.
I would only say that this, which I regard as a very good maxim, "No more general declarations," really must apply both ways. It is a very sound thing to say that we have passed the stage of general declarations and are going to get down to business—and Heaven knows there is enough business to do—but it is a very different thing to get to the practical work of constitution making, if we are going to be challenged at each stage and invited to make yet another declaration, though it be of a negative character.
§ Sir W. DAVISON
Will the right hon. Gentleman proceed with this paragraph—"only a transitional period"?
§ Sir J. SIMON
Certainly. Everything in this world is transitional. I will take my hon. Friend's interposition, and make use of it in order to develop the point which I want to make. Is it really suggested as an act of statesmanship that in the year 1931 the House of Commons, without putting any limit of years or centuries upon what it says, is going to make, or ought to make, a positive, unlimited declaration for the whole future of the existence of this planet on a point of this sort? I cannot conceive that that is in the least consistent either with the contents or with the spirit of the Montagu declaration. The right hon. Member for Epping will have, I hope, a long 1326 life, and I am quite sure he will have a merry one. Perhaps I may be allowed to repeat to him the words of one of the Eastern poets, who said:When you and I behind the Veil are past,Oh, but, the long, long while the World shall last!Anyone with his extraordinary power of visualising the future, anyone who knows the past history of India for thousands of years, will not think it an act of statesmanship to endeavour to say, "Thus far and no farther can you ever go in any circumstances in the future." The actual situation, of course, is as plain as possible. The Statute of Westminster ought not to be treated like King Charles' head which turns up in everybody's argument. It has literally got nothing to do with this point. The Statute of Westminster does not, in fact, define a sort of model Dominion constitution. It is a Statute, as we all realise, which makes provisions and declarations about a defined number of areas and populations, and I would commend to the right hon. Gentleman the passage of this statement which says that we do not want more general declarations one way or the other; we want to pass from that in order to enter upon the really difficult business of practical construction.
My last word is this: I have tried to point out to the House that there is in this matter an interest to be served over and above the satisfaction of our own minds as to the necessity of a particular declaration made on a particular day. It is beyond all possible doubt or dispute that there is, in many Indian minds, a perfectly sincere question as to whether or not British statesmanship intends to pursue, vigorously and to the best of its power, the goal that has been defined. I believe that it does. I know it is true of this Cabinet that we desire to do so. I do not shut my eyes for a moment to the difficulties, but I ask the House of Commons to authorise this message to go forth, that this declaration has been made on behalf of the whole Cabinet by the Prime Minister, and is a declaration which should receive the unanimous support of the House of Commons.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
We have listened this afternoon to the presentation of two points of view by speakers to 1327 whom the House at all times listens with the greatest possible respect. Those two points of view are fundamentally opposed to each other, and I think the whole House is under a deep debt of gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman who has just preceded me for having stated so clearly a point of view which is so contrary to that entertained by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). I do not feel called upon this afternoon to make many references to what the right hon. Member for Epping said, but there are one or two points which he made which I think are worthy of attention, mainly by reason of what we all know to be the right hon. Gentleman's previous association with government in this country. Indeed, as the right hon. Gentleman proceeded with his argument, and made certain references to the Indian people, I could not help ruminating upon what would have happened, say, to an Indian to-night in Bengal, supposing that Indian had committed himself to the same sort of references to the English people as the right hon. Gentleman did this afternoon to the Indian people. I rather imagine that he would have been in very grave danger of being hauled up before some tribunal on the ground that he had been uttering sentiments of sedition.
I observed in the course of the right hon. Gentleman's address to the House that he was at great pains to try to defend the proposition that in some way or other the issue with which we are immediately confronted dates from a comparatively recent time, and repeatedly the right hon. Gentleman turned back upon what he obviously regarded as a sort of anchor to which he ought to be attached, namely, Section 41 of the Government of India Act, 1919. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to desire to import into that Section a much narrower meaning than the Section in fact would bear. The right hon. Gentleman has presented us, for our convenience, in a book containing his own speeches on India, with an exact copy of that Section, and I would like to quote it verbatim. It states:The persons whose names are so submitted, if approved by His Majesty, shall be a commission for the purpose of inquiring into the working of the system of government, the growth of education, and the development of representative institutions, in British India, and matters connected therewith, and the commission shall report 1328 as to whether and to what extent it is desirable to establish the principle of responsible government, or to extend, modify, or restrict the degree of responsible government then existing therein, including the question whether the establishment of second chambers of the local legislatures is or is not desirable.In the course of his remarks, the right hon. Gentleman seemed to desire to underline particularly the word "restrict." It is quite true that the word "restrict" is there; it is quite true that it was possible and open to the Commission to make recommendation of a restrictive character, but it was equally possible for them to make recommendations expanding the area of representative government in India, and therefore, from that point of view, the right hon. Gentleman cannot exonerate himself from a share of responsibility for the actual wording of that Act of Parliament, carried at the instance of a Government of which he himself was a distinguished member. I know that the right hon. Gentleman has said elsewhere, by way of explanation of his share of responsibility, that there was, a War Cabinet, of which he was not a member. That is true, but he was a member of the Government., and it is a well-understood rule in this country, I believe, that if a member of a Government cannot subscribe to the actions of his Cabinet, there is only one course open to him, and that is to resign and exonerate himself from all responsibility for them. But inasmuch as he did, in point of fact, remain in the Government, he cannot remove from himself a full share of responsibility for all that has followed upon the interpretation of that particular Section of the Act of 1919.
The right hon. Gentleman argues over and over in the course of his speeches upon India that the Indian people have been misled, by reason of certain public announcements both in this House and outside. In my judgment, if the Indian people—and I say "if" advisedly—have been in the slightest degree misled, then the right hon. Member for Epping must himself take a share of the responsibility, in so far as the dawn of this conception of Dominion status came with the passing of the Act of Parliament to which I have briefly referred.
The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, or some of them, have presented an Amendment to the House this 1329 afternoon, and the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary dealt very capably, if I may be allowed to say so, with the three points to which the Amendment directs our attention. In order to test the effect of the Amendment, might I put it in this way I Suppose the House to-night were to carry this Amendment, what would be the inevitable result? I submit that the immediate consequences of the passing of such an Amendment to a proposal of the Government would be to put an end at once to any chance of continued co-operation between them and Indian representatives. In my judgment —and I think it is probably the view of the Government also— if that eventuality should take place, it would be one of the most disastrous things that could possibly happen in regard to the future relationships between ourselves and the Indian people.
The right hon. Gentleman who preceded me raised the fundamental issue which is involved in this controversy between the right hon. Member for Epping and the Government. I wonder what the right bon. Member for Epping and his friends really entertain in fact concerning the character of this which we now call the Commonwealth of Nations within the British Empire. Do they regard it from the old Imperialistic point of view of Empire. or from the point of view of a Commonwealth of Nations? If from the point of view of a commonwealth of nations, it is quite clear that the states which form the component elements of that commonwealth must be regarded as sister states equal in status and authority, equal in autonomous powers, and equal in the sight of this Parliament. If, on the other hand, the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues who are associated with him in this Amendment take the point of view of empire as distinct from commonwealth, the only deduction which we can make is that the empire which they visualise is an empire of white peoples from which the people of any other colour are to be rigorously and carefully excluded. If that be the point of view which is to be presented to the House, I can say without fear of contradiction that there is not one of my colleagues on this side who would subscribe to such a vision of the British Commonwealth.
1330 Let us put it in this way. This business concerns Indians as well as ourselves, and we must have as careful regard for the feelings of the Indian people as for the feelings of Members of this House; and what must be the feelings of Indian people when reading speeches like those delivered by the right hon. Member for Epping and others, in which they repeat the point of view that Indian, because of their colour and for no other reason, are to be excluded from association with other citizens in the British Commonwealth on equal terms? The right hon. Gentleman feels very keenly undoubtedly, but if he is entitled to feel keenly concerning the permanence of British power in India, surely an Indian is entitled to feel keenly concerning the relation of his country to England. We are entitled to challenge the entirely new point of view which the right hon. Gentleman put before us when he said, "When I speak of Dominion status I do not mean status in the ordinary sense; I mean it in a more formal kind of way, a more ceremonial kind of way." There can be nothing more offensive to the Indian people than to pronounce such a theory at this late hour.
I would like to make one other observation upon the right hon. Gentleman's philosophy, if I may call it such, which is entertained by other people beside the right hon. Gentleman who no doubt will vote for the Government to-night. There are those who still entertain the notion that because of the immensity of the problem—and, God knows, it is an immense problem, and a man would indeed be a fool to deny it—that is some reason why we should deliberately and of set purpose mark time. The great thing that worries our friends in this matter so much is what they call the unpreparedness of the Indians for the enjoyment of all the powers of self-government. I have done my best within my limited opportunities to study the Indian problem, not I admit on the spot, but as best I can from all the documents that are available to me. I was interested the other day to read a book which has recently been published by a number of distinguished Indian ex-civil servants. In the chapter devoted to the status of the services in India on page 88, written by a Mr. O'Malley, an ex-Indian servant, it is shown flat a very large proportion of 1331 the civil servants now in India is made up in the lower reaches of the Service by Indians themselves. I was struck in connection with that passage to read a statement, quoted by the author, which Lord Curzon made as long ago as 1906:It reveals"—said Lord Curzon—a European system of government entrusted largely to non-European hands, what is called a subject country, though I dislike the phrase, administered far less by the conquering power than by its own sons; and beyond all it testifies to a steady growth of loyalty and integrity on the one part and a willing recognition of those virtues on the other, which is rich with hope for the future.That was written nearly 30 years ago. Since then a rich experience has been acquired by these people. I therefore put it to those who take the view of unpreparedness that in view of this passage, which is testified to not by an extremist but by an ex-civil servant, and by an ex-Viceroy, in view of the obvious fact that such a large proportion of Indian people actually participate in the task of government day by day, is it not rather too much to say now, 30 years later, that these people are wholly unfitted for the task of self-government?
There was another observation of the right hon. Gentleman to which I attach some importance. He said, "Certainly, let the Indian people be recognised so far as possible for they collaborated with us in the Imperial War Cabinet." They were represented, too, at the Imperial Conference; they represent India at the League of Nations Assembly; they have thus served in the most pivotal organisations of government, both national and international, and I have not heard that their service has been less than worthy. We are now told that, though they can perform these very onerous and highly important services to the nation and to the Commonwealth of Nations, they are not fit as yet for the responsibility of self-government at home.
I turn now to the White Paper which is the subject of our discussion. I confess that much that the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary has said this afternoon has allayed some of the fears which I entertained at the end of the Debate last night. I was a little disturbed when I saw that angling be- 1332 tween the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for India and the right hon. Member for Epping for support in the Lobby to-night. I do not quite understand the enormous effort that is being made by the Government to prove to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping that there is after all no great difference between them. I can only say that if the Government can successfully prove to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping that there is so little difference between them that they can safely go into the same Lobby, it will be enough to determine me not to enter the Lobby with them. What will suit the right hon. Member for Epping will certainly not suit me, for his philosophy is not mine, and my point of view is not his.
The question which we have to ask ourselves is: Has any advance really been registered through the medium of the Round Table Conference? This is important from the point of view not only of the House of Commons, but of India, for let the House recall that the delegates who came to the first Conference and again to the second took tremendous risks in coming. They have their constituencies to consider, as we have, and if they are obliged to return to their constituencies, be they elective or otherwise, empty-handed or with a consciousness that they are empty-handed, we have gone a long way to destroy their authority among their own people. Can these people return at the end of this week with a real conscious sense of achievement at the Conference 7 When they came to the first Round Table Conference every one was tremendously impressed with the statesmanship that they disclosed, and they on their part were so impressed by us and by our willingness to be fair and to be straight in our dealings, that when they returned, they proceeded at once, on the strength of the good faith generated at the first Conference, to bring pressure to bear upon the element in India's life which has deliberately refused to associate itself with the first Conference, namely, the Congress Party.
They set themselves the task of inviting Mr. Gandhi to co-operate with them in the approaching second Round Table Conference. In the interregnum between the first and second Conferences, Mr. 1333 Gandhi and Lord Irwin arrived at what was called the Irwin-Gandhi Pact. That Pact contained in general terms very largely what is contained in this conference record of to-day. When federation, responsibility to the centre, provincial self-government and safeguards were agreed to in principle, I understand that the phrase frequently used, in regard to safeguards particularly, was "safeguards demonstrably in India's interest." The result of the Pact was that the Congress Party, through the person of Mr. Gandhi himself, was represented at the second Conference. I have discussed the Conference with some people who were present, and I therefore speak with some knowledge when I say that one of the faults of the Conference procedure was that most of its time was devoted, I will not say to unimportant subjects—for that would be. wrong—but to the less important subjects. The more important and more fundamental subjects were relegated to discussions covering a shorter space of time. Now we are presented with this White Paper, which embodies the speech delivered by the Prime Minister on the last day of the Conference. When the usual formalities and courtesies were over, we are told that the right hon. Gentleman's mallet descended on the table and the proceedings closed. In my judgment that was rather, or I should say really, a great fault in tactics. The Conference having been closed in that way, there is just a risk of great difficulty in continuing the discussions and retaining the atmosphere of co-operation between now and some later stage in the proceedings.
I do not agree with much, indeed with most, of what was said by the right hon. Member for Epping, and I should find it harder still to agree with the speech of the junior Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock), but in regard to one matter I am bound to confess I have a sneaking sort of sympathy with what they said. There is in this document rather more vagueness than I care to contemplate. It is undoubtedly possible for some of its phrases to be interpreted in one sense by some people and by other people in an almost entirely contrary sense. Vagueness of that kind is highly prejudicial to the retention of confidence and good faith. 1334 I understand there is considerable difficulty in regard to one aspect of this document in particular. Reference is made over and over again to safeguards. Even on that one person can say, "Oh, this is safeguarded" and another can say, "It is not safeguarded." May I ask the right hon. Gentleman representing the Government this precise question, Has a detailed explanation and definition of the meaning of safeguards been presented to the Indian people? Do they know in real fact what we mean when we speak of safeguards concerning finance, the army, and so on?
I understand there is a complaint about too great a degree of nebulousness regarding the meaning of the word "safeguard." If we say to the Congress party, "You shall have self-government, but we must reserve the control of the army," then clearly the Congress party are entitled to say, "How far does that limit the realisation of the principle of self-government itself?" In my judgment, if we reserve wholly and completely the control of the army and reserve wholly and completely the control over finance, we have banded to the Indian people an offer which is only the semblance of self-government. If there is no control of taxation, then clearly there is no Dominion status, because I remember Mr. Sastri—I think it was he —when he was speaking in a committee room upstairs, saying very eloquently that when he spoke of Dominion status he meant that he requested for his country self-government to the same degree exactly as it has been, or may be hereafter, granted to Canada or any other among the Commonwealth of Nations.
I observe that the Prime Minister promised that four committees would be set up. There is to be the working committee, the franchise committee, the federal finance committee and, I understand, some committee for dealing with the states' finances as well. I would ask, when are those committees to be set up and when are they to get to work? Is it to be a leisurely business that may last a year or two years or three years, or is it to be made an urgent business, with a definite time limit, so that there shall be no dilatoriness, no excuse for prolonging the agony for either side? May I ask this further question? On 19th January the Prime Minister said: 1335Now this work of drafting and investigation must not be left to the bureaucracy in either country, but must be conducted on the direct responsibility of the politicians.Who are going to be on those committees? Are we to have a distinguished English gentleman presiding over a group of bureaucrats from England and from India? I am making no reflection on the Civil Service; all I am concerned to do is to point out that if we wish to continue co-operation we shall not get it if we exclude from hearty co-operation with those committees all who represent Nationalist opinion in India at this time. So I plead very earnestly with the right hon. Gentleman that every possible effort should be made, while these committees are in being, to maintain the closest possible association between the Government on one side and those who speak for various aspects of Indian life on the other side. Another thing I want to say is this. Civilians may be put on the committees. If so, let ins urge that the civilians shall be people whose minds are not entirely closed to the ideas that agitate modern India. If we pack these committees with people whose minds are already made up, who have a hardened philosophy, which they will not abandon, we might as well give up the effort so far as co-operation is concerned.
Next, I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman could not do something, even at this late hour to safeguard—for that is vital—the continuation of the good will of the Indian representative bodies during this interregnum of further inquiry. I make this suggestion on my own authority, and commit nobody to it, but for my part -I should like to see some gesture like the addition of more Indians to the Viceroy's Council in India and the further addition of representative Indians to the Secretary of State's Council here in London. An enlargement of that representation would be a gesture of good will and good faith and of a desire to co-operate with these people in the coming years.
My last observation on this matter must be this. The right hon. Gentleman has told us in this White Paper, and in speeches in this House made by himself and his colleagues, that the Government hope to secure the good will of the Indian people; and yet these delegates will re- 1336 turn to India to an atmosphere which will make every element of co-operation almost entirely impossible. I want to tell the House and the right hon. Gentleman that I can have no part or lot with terrorism or violence anywhere. I am absolutely and irrevocably against anything of that sort within the State, but with the continuance of the Ordinance now in operation in Bengal it will be in the highest degree difficult to secure a measure of good will and readiness to co-operate. I have in my possession a copy of the report of an official inquiry —not an unofficial inquiry—into the proceedings at Hijili and Chittagong. The report of that official inquiry, which was presided over by an Indian judge, declares that at least all the fault in those disturbances was not confined to one side. I would like to see the right hon. Gentleman take his courage in both hands and remove this instrument of oppression as speedily as possible; for the significant thing in regard to India at this moment is that we are losing not the older minds of India, but the young minds of India. If we lose young India it is not the problem of to-day, that we shall have to contemplate, but the problem that must face us 10, 15 or 20 years hence. This is a poor foundation on which to build the edifice of co-operation. While I am prepared to vote for the Government on the limited principle contained in paragraph 2, and no more—I stand precisely where the Government stood in January of this year—I do not commit myself to any interpretations the Government may or may not hereafter place on some of these loose phrases. I stand on the broad principle enunciated in paragraph 2. Having said that I invite the Government, with all the earnestness at my command, to do what they can to remove this element of suspicion, doubt and bitterness in the minds of the Indian people and to go forward with them cordially towards the realisation of self-government in that distracted land.
§ Colonel GRETTON
I think it is important that I should try to place before the House the reasons why hon. Members are asked to accept the Amendment which has been proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). Nothing which has been said in the course of the Debate has 1337 shaken my belief in the points which are put forward in this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) has attempted, with great forensic skill and legal subtleties, to explain away the three points which are set forth in the Amendment. On this question what can be less clear than the words which appear in the Command Paper issued by the Indian Round Table Conference, which says:The view of His Majesty's Government is that responsibility for the government of India should be placed upon Legislatures, Central and Provincial, with such provisions as may be necessary to guarantee, during a period of transition, the observance of certain obligations and to meet other special circumstances, and aleo with such guarantees as are required by minorities to protect their political liberties and rights.What could be more nebulous than that pronouncement? We are now told that everything is to be decided hereafter in some way or other, but this House has not been given much information on those points. We have been told, it is true, that there must be more inquiries and conferences in order to find some sort of solution, but we have had inquiries and conferences ad nauseam in the past. Surely, all the facts necessary to come to a decision are well known, and no one will deny that the inquiries which have been held up to the present have elicited everything that we wish to know. What is really needed—and I press this consideration on the Government—is a wise and statesmanlike decision and immediate action. We do not want any further inquiries, because we have all the facts before us, and the Government ought to be in a position to act. During the war period many Members of this House had no opportunity of concentrating on the Indian problem or of giving it that close examination which was necessary. I remember Mr. Montagu's declaration, which was considered by Members of this House who had very little knowledge of the circumstances of India. That declaration was rushed through, and it went further than it would have gone if the facts had been investigated more fully.
There has been much hard thinking on the Indian problem for a considerable period. Many of us may have started our consideration of this problem from different points of view, but we have all 1338 come to the conclusion that matters have gone so far that we must insist upon responsibility to this House being maintained. I am sure that, with the utmost good will and sympathy, and a desire to take the course which is right and best for India's future, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley came to the conclusion that there must be Provincial Governments and some form of federation. The great model of federal government is the United States of America, but even America has gone through some very severe times in recent years. There have been very great difficulties in Australia, and there are constitutional questions in that country of much complexity which have not yet been settled.
I agree with what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping that things would be very much more satisfactory if the statements which were made by the Secretary of State for India yesterday were embodied in the Resolution, because the position would then be understood more clearly both in this country and in India. With regard to safeguards, we are told that financial solvency and stability, the protection of minorities and political liberties are provided for. I wonder why. Then there is the question of the political rights of minorities and the control of the Army. I would like to ask, if all those powers are to be used, how are those safeguards to be exercised and enforced? The safeguard provided by the Statute of Westminster has been mentioned, but what is the use of paper safeguards if you cannot enforce them? How can you ensure that those safeguards will not be violated, and, if. they are, how can you exercise powers to enforce them I The Governors, in the last resort, and the Viceroy must have control of such of the administration and Government of India as will enable them to carry out the decrees which they decide upon.
Let us be clear what we are doing. The Government are not clear. The Government shirk the issue. They could not put up a more skilful advocate than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) and he has never exercised his powers with such art as he did in the Debate to-night. As I listened to him, I heard echoes of 1339 speeches which he made last year and on previous occasions, expressing the gravest doubts whether it was possible to have a federal legislature with a responsible executive. To-night, he was arguing in the opposite sense. Let us not make the mistake we made before. Let us not leave possibly nebulous phrases to be explained away by their authors. If we cannot get it all down in black and white let us put down at any rate the most important things. Nothing has transpired in the Debate to-night, or can transpire, which will deter me from going into the Lobby to support the Amendment of my right hon. Friend.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. BERNAYS
I hope the House will not think it presumptous of me to take part in a Debate on India. I certainly would not attempt to do so if I had not been in the fortunate position, out of all the hon. Members in this House, of having visited India most recently. I do not pose for a moment as an expert. I believe that the notorious "Paget, M.P." was in India six weeks. I was in India six months, and it was little more than a cold weather visit, but during that time, as the special correspondent of a London newspaper, I did have facilities for seeing some of the leading personalities on all sides. Travelling as I did from Ceylon to the Khyber, I was able to get some rough and ready idea of what India looks like to-day. At any rate, I was there long enough to know how eagerly the Indian people read the Debates in this House and how dangerous a chance aside may be, which 6,000 miles away may be elevated to-morrow in the Congress papers into a flaming headline.
I know also how disastrous some of the speeches of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) are on the spirit and temper of the Indian people. His Amendment this afternoon, cleverly worded though it is, would surely, if carried, mean the end of all idea of immediate responsibility at the centre. The right hon. Gentleman has never disguised his views. He and his friends are against any Teal extension of self-government at the centre. Their position is perfectly logical and perfectly consistent. They say that India does not want it; they assert that we, who propose to give it 1340 to them, are wantonly betraying our heritage, and that we are handing over India to a junta of irresponsible Hindu politicians. They assert that in those views they represent expert opinion. If they do represent expert opinion, why is it that their Amendment this afternoon is not backed by any member of the Simon Commission? It is backed by only one member, as far as I can discover, who has had any personal administrative experience in India, the hon. Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock). He is a most distinguished servant of India, but I would say, with all respect to him, that it is many years since he was himself in India. He resigned from the Viceroy's Council in 1917.
Of all the people who are always trotted out in the "Daily Mail," the experts, the supporters of the right hon. Gentleman, hardly any of them have been in India recently. There is Sir Michael O'Dwyer, who left India 12 years ago, Lord Meston, who resigned his post 14 years ago, Lord Sydenham, who resigned his in Bombay 18 years ago. The only personal experience of the right hon. Member for Epping himself was, I believe, 33 years ago, more than four years before I was born. Lord Lloyd left India as long ago as 1926, and has not been there since as far as I am aware. Great though these hon. Gentlemen's experience of India is, and vast as is their knowledge, surely they would be the first to admit that, since they left India, there has been a gap, not of a decade, but of two centuries, in point of time and atmosphere. The unchanging East is changing at last. I do not for a, moment put my own quite small experience against the experience of these gentlemen, but, if it is a matter of expert opinion, we on this side can point in our support to men like Lord Reading and Lord Irwin, the two most recent Viceroys, to say nothing of the right hon. Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), upon whose Commission these right hon. Gentlemen were once proud to take their stand.
I admit fully that there is a good deal to be said for the old India that these hon. Gentlemen envisage, the old India that they remember, the old India directed from Whitehall through the agency of the most efficient and the most incorruptible Civil Service in the world. 1341 I was fortunate enough to see something of that old India this year and very impressive it was. In the wild districts of Baluchistan I saw ruling over those half civilised tribes a young Englishman, whom I had seen only a few years before keeping wicket for Oxford at Lords. As I watched him in court on a long Indian afternoon solving the tangles that were brought before him, admonishing some, punishing others, indifferently administering justice to all, I could not help thinking that no Round Table Conference in the world could produce a better system of government in that part of India. But one has to face the fact that such a government can only rest on the consent of the governed, and over a large part of India I suggest that that consent is being withdrawn.
I see my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan) in his place. He talked yesterday of the illiterate millions who supported our rule. I wonder if they are as illiterate as we think, if they are as dumb as we think. Surely, there are great changes going on. In hundreds of villages now there is the village schoolmaster, who reads the local papers and passes on the news to the village. I do not suggest for a moment that these villages understand the full implication of congress policy. They probably have a muddled idea that a Congress Raj will hasten the coming of the monsoon, but they do feel that in a mysterious way Mr. Gandhi is on their side. I remember travelling back from the Karachi Conference last March in the same train with Mr. Gandhi from Karachi to Lahore. At every station we passed through the platform was packed to suffocation with men and women who had come to acclaim him. At every station it took us five or 10 minutes to get the train off, and in consequence we were hours late at Lahore. Yet, when one looked out of the window, there did not seem to be a habitation in sight. These men and women had come from the villages tens and scores of miles away. It was the dumb millions acclaiming a great national advocate.
I suggest that the right hon. Member for Epping, if he went back to India, would be surprised at the little support he would have for his policy. He would not even have the business men on his 1342 side. I am not in a position to speak for Calcutta, but I do know something about the business men in Bombay. We have heard a great deal of sneers about the Irwin policy which led to the withdrawal of the Civil Disobedience Movement. There were no people in India who rejoiced more at the calling off of that Civil Disobedience Movement than the business men, because in India, the Indian merchants are realists. They know that peace is the only foundation of trade. They were in an impossible position in Bombay. It was for many months like a besieged city. Day after day, several days a month, they would have to leave their businesses altogether—the younger men to go as special constables to maintain order, the older men to carry out the ghastly duty of magistrates and to wait all during the day at the police station in case through dire necessity they might be called upon to give the terrible order to fire on the crowds. You cannot carry on trade successfully in an atmosphere like that; you cannot do business with a cotton sample in one hand and a lathi in the other.
The central block of opinion, just as much in England as it is in India, is in favour of these declarations by the Prime Minister. We are all substantially agreed as to what shall be done. What we do want to know is when it will be done. I am sure that the Secretary of State for India will be the first to realise the dangers of delay in India. It is these delays in the past that have done so much to create an atmosphere of suspicion. If I might just give one instance, I believe it was in 1893 that, by Resolution of this House, it was decreed that examinations for the Civil Service should take place in India simultaneously with England. In actual fact that reform was not carried out until 1921. That is the kind of thing which is chalked up against us in India. T do hope the right hon. Gentleman, who replies this evening, will be able to give some kind of indication as to when this policy will be embodied in a Bill to be laid before the House of Commons. I do not want in any sense to ask any embarrassing questions. Will it be two years? Will it be three years? Will it take as long as five years? I fully realise the difficulties and complexities of creating this new constitution. You cannot get a new constitution by the next air 1343 mail. I am sure that the Government will recognise the necessity for speed, and that all Liberals in this House will admire the way this National Government has stood by the declaration made by the Prime Minister last January. May I, in conclusion, express the hope that to this White Paper they will add a declaration that they propose to proceed to the goal with steps as swift and as firm as the difficult nature of the ground will allow.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
It is my pleasing duty to say a word of congratulation to the hon. Member for North Bristol (Mr. Bernays) on the speech which he has just delivered. I feel that he must be gratified at having got rid of the first difficult task of a, Member of Parliament, and that his next effort will be easier for him to make. I know that the House will feel that, if he can do as well in. the future as he has done on the first occasion, they will listen to him with great pleasure.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), in moving his Amendment to-day, made so many statements with which I am in agreement that it would be pleasant if I could feel that the House would bear with me long enough to allow me to go over the points on which he and I are in entire agreement; but I am afraid that that might try the patience of the House, and that I should not be justified in asking for that indulgence. I therefore propose, while stating that with many of the right hon. Gentleman's statements I am in agreement, to deal with one or two points on which, from my point of view at any rate, I think he went wrong. There is one outstanding matter, however, with which I entirely agree, and which should be stated first of all, and that is that this Debate is the first real occasion since 1919 upon which the House of Commons has been asked to give an opinion in regard to the policy in India. I think I am right in saying that on no single occasion since that year has the House of Commons been asked to approve definitely of the policy of any Government in regard to India. I may be wrong, but certainly I know of none since 1922. We have had a few—not many—Debates on India during the past nine or ten years, but on no single occasion which I recollect has the House of Commons com- 1344 mitted itself definitely to a policy in regard to India.
To me, therefore—and this is the first point that I want to emphasise to the House to-night—the position is that the House for the first time is debating a declaration which may or may not mean a change in the policy on which we have been working since the Act of 1919 was placed on the Statute Book. I think that that is a fact which every Member of the House should fully realise. This is a very momentous Debate on that account. The second point that was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping was that in his view India bad acquired Dominion status during the War. To my mind, that is a most remarkable statement. He said that India had acquired Dominion status so far as rank, honour and position were concerned. I differ totally from that statement. India has never acquired Dominion status at all, and I maintain that India has never actually been promised Dominion status. I want to make the position perfectly clear, because in all these Debates, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping said, it is perfectly true that we have never had an opportunity of dealing with the constitutional position. The House has never been committed up to this moment, whatever it may do to-night, to any question of Dominion status at all. I say that advisedly, because, whatever we may do, I think we should know exactly how we stand. I have here a list—I do not intend to read it to the House—of various statements, almost all of them made by statesmen of note, going back, however, to the Proclamation of 1917, and in no single one of those statements do I read of the words "Dominion status" having been used. The only statement that I know of which contains these words was that of Lord Irwin, in the middle of 1930, in India.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, having said that India had got Dominion status during the War period—and no one ought. to know better than he, because he was Minister of Munitions at the time, and afterwards was Secretary of State for War when the 1919 Act was passed—went on to say that the same conditions which exist to-day in Australia, Canada and other Dominions was never contemplated in the 1345 case of India. There again I fail to see that anything that has ever been published bears out that contention. It seems to me perfectly clear on the contrary that the aim in front of the people of this country, or, at any rate, of the Government of this country, when the famous declaration of 1917 was made, and again when the Act of 1919 was passed, was that a day would come when India would have self-government on exactly the same terms as Australia, Canada, or any other Dominion. The words "Dominion status" may not have been used, but to my mind there can be no question but that a condition of self-government quite equal to that of any of the Dominions was the eventual aim and object of the policy which the Government were laying down. I think that the first matter which the House has to consider to-night is whether it affirms and approves of that object and aim, however near or far off it may be, or whether it is going to alter the policy and say now that it is not going to carry out what was laid down in 1917 and 1919.
There is no doubt that in all these statements, although the words "Dominion status" were not used, and although no definite promise of Dominion status in the future was ever made, over and over again it is stated categorically that the object which the Government of that day, and the British people, had before them in regard to India, was that eventually there would he self-government within the Empire on the same terms as the other parts of the Empire. I think it would be the greatest pity if this House were for one moment to deviate from the policy which was laid down and has been understood since the year 1917. I say that advisedly, because I was one of those who opposed the Act of 1919 in the form in which it reached the Statute Book, and I am able, therefore, if I may with great respect do so, to advise the House that it cannot go back upon what was then done. I was, I think, the last witness before the Joint Standing Committee which considered the Bill of 1919, and, speaking on behalf of associated commercial opinion in India, I said quite frankly that the view then held by Europeans ii India, who were anxious to see progress in self-government, was that the Montagu-Chelmsford proposals went at 1346 that time too far and too fast. Having said that, I am the better able to say to the House that I do not think there is the smallest question that the policy to which we are committed by the Act of 1919 is the gradual, definite, and steady realisation of self-government in India, on the same basis as in the case of any of the other Dominions. But Parliament, and Parliament alone, is to be the judge as to when that time has arrived.
Let us again state clearly what our object is. I think it would be the greatest pity if anything that has been said to-night should give an impression in India that we in any way desire to deviate from the objects that we have had so long before us and from the course which we have followed. The next question that we have to consider is the question of the rate of progress. It has been very clearly stated—and again I suggest that the right attitude for this House to take is to follow clearly the lines which have been laid down over and over again—that the rate of progress towards that goal can only be measured by the extent of the co-operation that we receive and the conviction in the minds of people in this country as to whether India is ready, nearly ready, or not nearly ready for a further advance in self-government. In the White Paper which we are asked to approve, we are faced, first of all, with this question: Does the declaration in Paragraph 2 go beyond what Parliament laid down in the Act of 1919, and does it go beyond the policy in which the bulk of the people of this country believe and are prepared to confirm to-day? There is only one sentence that appears to me to be ambiguous. If that sentence were not there, I should say at once that the House could accept the declaration in the White Paper without the slightest hesitation, though I do not suggest that the wording is exactly the wording that all of us would have chosen. The words to which I specially refer are the words:during a period of transition"—in the fourth line of the quoted paragraph in Paragraph 2. That quoted paragraph reads:The view of His Majesty's Government is that responsibility for the government of India should be placed upon Legislatures, Central and Provincial, with such provisions as may be necessary to guarantee, during a period of transition, the observance of certain obligations'1347 and so on. I ask quite plainly, what do the words "during a period of transition" mean? If it means, as I understand it to mean, that it is in fact repeating what we all know to be the principles which we have followed for so long, i.e., that the period of transition is to he measured by the good will and the co-operation that we receive, and that Parliament is from time to time to be asked to decide what the next step should be and when we can go ahead, then what is meant by the period of transition is clear to me. But if the period of transition is considered to mean in India something very definite in the way of a short period—the hon. Member for North Bristol asked if it meant two years or five years—I say categorically that it does not necessarily mean two years, five years, 50 years, or five months, but that it depends entirely upon the amount of co-operation that we receive and upon our conviction that a further move forward will be in the interests of India, of this country and of the Empire. Therefore, if it is clear in the minds of those who drafted this White Paper that in repeating that declaration they maintain the principles on which Parliament has always worked, and that the period of transition is to be within the power of Parliament to decide at any given time or from time to time, I say that there is no objection to these words.
These words govern the whole of paragraph 2—the whole of the repeated declaration—and I think that it ought to he made clear that whether the period be short or long will depend entirely upon the conditions in India itself and upon the co-operation that we receive. There is another sentence of a very similar character in paragraph 3:The principle of responsibility was to be subject to the qualification that in existing circumstances Defence and External Affairs must be reserved to the Governor-Generaland so on. Again, I want to make it perfectly clear that these words "in existing circumstances" may not mean a matter of a clay, but quite likely of some considerable period—we do not, know how long or how short. I think the time has come when we in this House should make our position perfectly clear to India—that we are anxious to press 1348 on with the work to which this country set its hand 10 or 12 years ago, that we do not deviate in the least from the goal which was then set before us, but that at the same time we maintain that this Parliament is supreme, and that Parliament, and Parliament alone, can decide as to the nature, the extent, and the time of each step that is to be taken. At, this point may I say that I hope very much that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India will try to enable the House to have some assurance to-night, before it is asked to vote, that these points which I have mentioned, and the detailed points to which he himself referred in his most admirable speech last night, are intended to be fully included in the terms of this White Paper?
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
We have my right hon. Friend's assurance that that is so, and that is extremely satisfactory. I do not want to enter into details regarding the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping or the reply given by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, but I think it is clear to most of us in the House that this point had not been clarified in a manner which we could all understand. As it is now quite definite that the Government, in putting before us this White Paper, can assure us that all the conditions laid down in the right hon. Gentleman's speech last night are included in their policy and covered by it, I do not think we need have any further fears in approving the Prime Minister's statement.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I can assure my hon. Friend that there is no difference whatever between the two statements. Everything in my statement is included in the White Paper and everything in the White Paper is included in my statement.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
In that case, the House may rest assured that they need have no fear in accepting the policy which the Government have put forward. It is on that point alone that I have felt a great deal of uneasiness. When we come to the words of the Amendment, I do not think, in view of what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has just said, that there is anything in the first three parts of the Amendment, but 1349 the wording of the last line is of a character that I do not think the House has thoroughly appreciated. It begins by saying:No extensions of self-government in India at this juncture shall impair the ultimate responsibility of Parliament for the peace, order, and good government of the Indian Empire.It is surely perfectly clear that, if that means anything at all, it means that the framers of the Amendment do not contemplate a time when India will ever be herself responsible because they say nothing shall impair the ultimate responsibility of Parliament for the good government of the Indian Empire. It is surely clear that, when the day comes—and we have promised that it shall come at whatever time it is right and just—it must be the Government of India of that day which will be responsible for the good government of the Indian Empire and not this Parliament. I cannot see how the House could be asked to accept the Amendment in its present form unless in effect they desire to cancel and annul that definite promise made to India in the Act of 1919.
It ought to be clear to all of us that every reference here that is made to minorities—and there are several references—applies perfectly clearly to British as well as to other minorities. It is undesirable, as the Foreign Secretary said, and I believe it is unnecessary to elevate the British commercial situation above that of other interests in India. We do not want to do so for the simple reason that British traders in India have asked for nothing which is not freely granted to every other person. They want no special privilege or position, but they want it to be clear that they are not going to be in any way prejudiced by anything that may be done now or in the future, and that their position will in effect be just as good as that of other British citizens in any other part of the Empire.
The evils from which India is suffering, and some of those things which make the path of progress somewhat slow, are not things that we can deal with in this country, or by legislation in this House. They rest largely with the Indian people themselves. I have stated over and over again that the rate of progression cannot really be laid down by the British 1350 Parliament, although in the end they must be the judges of the progress made. It depends very largely upon what happens in India itself. I agree with the last speaker that there have been immense changes in the last few years, but still the difficulties in the way of progress remain and can only be put right by the Indian people. There are certain social conditions which only they can remedy. It is easy to say that India is a place in which the population live very near to the edge of starvation. India is suffering to some extent from the results of our own good government. I do not know that hon. Members fully realise the extent to which the beneficial measures taken by different Governments of India in the last 50 years have led to a great increase in the population. That alone is one of the great problems of India and that, of course, is partly, if not largely, due to the success of our efforts in regard to famine relief and the like. It is also, of course, partly due to early or child marriage and other social conditions.
Our record in India is too long and too honourable a one for us to jeopardise by any action we can take here. India will prosper so long as the close connection with this country continues, until the day when we feel that she is ready to take up the burden herself. When that day comes, I do not think there will be in the mind of any Member of this Rouse, or of our successors, the slightest doubt that the moment has come. The required conditions patent to every friend of India will have been fulfilled. I am only anxious to-night about these two points, firstly that the House should make it clear that there is no change in the ultimate policy, that there is no change in the intentions of the British people towards India, that we are not putting up conditions with the object of making them stumbling blocks. On the contrary, that our intention is to work steadily, whether Round Table Conferences succeed or fail, for the goal set out in the declaration of 1917. To that we are committed. For that we must honestly work. But the rate of progress must be laid down by this House, and we are not committed by accepting this White Paper in any way to anticipating what our decision may be when proposals regarding further steps are put 1351 before us. In due course, I have no doubt, some further step, perhaps the whole advance to a Central Legislature and Provincial Legislatures in one Bill, will come before this House and, under the proper constitutional procedure of a Joint Committee of both Houses, an examination of the Bill will have to be undertaken. I hope very much that what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) will prove true and that India herself will realise that it is better in this matter to hasten slowly. It would be well, I think, if she reconsidered the decision which her spokesmen apparently have come to at present and if she started with provincial autonomy first of all, tried the experiment and learnt in the provinces—there is nothing derogatory in learning in a matter of this kind—made progress and found that these Measures were a success before they asked for an immediate transfer of power at the centre. I believe that would be the wiser way. However, as their spokesmen have decided that they do not want a move made at present on these terms, again we can only say that the goal we are aiming at remains and we want to clear the path. But it is for Parliament alone to decide when each step shall be taken and the extent of the move forward at each stage and to that we firmly adhere.
§ Colonel GOODMAN
The speeches that we have heard during this Debate and on other occasions show us that the problem of government in India can be approached from many angles. I have had some long experience in India, but I should not have the temerity to intervene in the Debate were it not for the fact that I am aware of the sympathy and indulgence which this House shows to a new Member making his first speech. With all humility, I crave that sympathy and indulgence. We have many different opinions about this problem, but I am sure we cannot conceal from ourselves the fact that we have gone a very long way on the road towards self-government. We are definitely committed to such an extent that it is no longer possible to go back.
The preamble to the Government of India Act, 1919, was a definite pledge from Great Britain to the people of India. The Foreign Secretary stressed 1352 that, and some other speakers have done so as well. But I think quite a number of Members who advocate immediate self-government have overlooked the fact that that pledge, certainly as to time, was conditional, and that no great change should take place until those conditions are satisfied. Mr. Montagu's pronouncement was that it was the policy of the Government to increase the association of Indians in every branch of the administration and to bring about the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the realisation of responsible self-government in India as an integral part of the British Empire. I do not think the importance of those qualifications, "gradual" and "progressive," should be overlooked. Mr. Montagu went on to say that the progress of that policy could only be achieved by successive stages. The Government of Great Britain and the Government of India, on whom lies the responsibility for the welfare and advancement of the Indian peoples, can only be guided by the co-operation which is shown by those upon whom opportunities of service are conferred and by the extent to which they justify confidence being reposed in their sense of responsibility.
I am in this difficulty, and none of the speeches that I have heard have removed it. I am not satisfied that the amount of co-operation shown by those upon whom opportunities of office were conferred has justified confidence being reposed in them to the extent that entitles us to view any departure, or any new evolutions, with equanimity. History teaches us that it is folly to limit the aspirations of a nation for self-government, but it is folly also for people to aspire to great heights which they are unfitted to occupy, and the responsibility of those who give power where realisation of the duties which accompany it is lacking must be a very heavy one.
The Government of India Act, 1919, made provision for a Commission of Inquiry within 10 years. The Simon Commission was appointed. The appointment of that Commission was the redemption in part by Great Britain of her pledges. It spent over two years on this inquiry. It spent seven months in examining many thousands of witnesses, and it drew up a report which is almost unanimously acclaimed as being the finest and most 1353 comprehensive report on India that was ever published. It was unanimous on all fundamental matters and without a single dissenting minute, and yet it was scrapped with scarcely as much as a reference in the House. I should like to know what were the good reasons for so contemptuously rejecting such a Report.
The White Paper goes for an All-India Federation. The Simon Commission was very definite on that point. It appears that that must be the ultimate end of all this discussion. The Prime Minister says in the White Paper that federation cannot be achieved in one month or two months. I think that is likely to be mischievous, because it may create the impression in India that we are going to have more speed even than that which was asked for by the gentleman who preceded the last speaker. It is not possible—and I do not think that anybody to-day can consider it possible—to begin federation from the top. After all, half of India is governed by Indian princes and rulers. It has a population of over 100,000,000, and there are considerably over 560 states. Some are large and some are very small. At the same time they all have rulers, and, before federation can be discussed properly, surely it is necessary that the Indian princes should agree among themselves that federation is desirable. And if they do so agree their agreement must be followed by a similar agreement between the provinces of British India.
Before the provinces of British India can be safely joined in federation, it is absolutely necessary that they should first give thorough evidence that they are able to govern themselves separately. If and when the provinces and the princes come to agreement, will it then be possible to give what I think was alluded to in this House this afternoon, a United States of India? Will it then be possible to give them full and complete responsibility at the centre? I think not. If a federated states of India comes to pass,—and I believe it will come to pass—when it comes to deciding officials, there is likely to be great dfficulty among the rulers, if the responsibility is to be full and complete.
1354 I am also convinced that the suspicion of Hindus by Moslems and of Moslems by Hindus is so deeply rooted that it will be generations before either will have any confidence in the other. The Hindu population, apart from the wide differences of caste between the Brahmin and the Sudra, and between the Kshatriya and the Vaisya is divided. There are 60,000,000 untouchables, people who are considered not to be entitled to any of the rights of humanity by their co-religionists. Again, we have seen during the last few weeks at the Round Table Conference that the minorities could not even agree among themselves. The Prime Minister said yesterday that he bad tried and tried to bring about a Hindu-Moslem settlement, but that he had failed. It seems almost certain that agreement between Hindus and Moslems cannot be accomplished, and yet Mr. Jinnah, Mr. Hosein and Sir Mahomet Shaf'i have publicly declared that it is impossible to enact any constitution without an Hindu-Moslem settlement. In my view, the time is very premature for the complete government of India by Indians. Conditions in India itself and conditions for Indians themselves do not exist for immediate and complete self-government.
Before we come to any settlement of the Indian problem, two very vital considerations present themselves. In the first place, there must be full and effective Imperial safeguards. It is unthinkable that this House should hand over full control of business, finance, external affairs, and law and order to such people as compose the so-called National Congress, a Congress which, despite all assertions to the contrary, does not represent more than 5 per cent. of the Indian people. In the second place, before this House could agree to any new constitution in India it must be certain that it has the support of all the important sections of the Indian people, that it is acceptable to all creeds and all classes in India, and, what is most important, that in actual practice it will work. Many schemes may be brought forward which are workable on paper, but the human element must never be overlooked, particularly in India, with its population of 359,000,000, with its 206 dialects, its 2,000 castes and groups, not of peoples but of nations, a sub-continent 1355 which holds perhaps one-fifth of the population of the globe.
I hope that the National Government will view the situation with courage and face stark realities. Why not admit now what everybody knows, that the Round Table Conference failed. There is no blame attaching to the failure of a policy when conditions to successful negotiations are impossible, but there is a great deal of blame attaching to any persons who try to force through an impractical scheme rather than stand up and face hard facts. Why not come down from the clouds to earth. The Secretary of State for India has said that it is not a question of whether this House will give India self-government. Britain always honours her pledges and the Indian people believe that she will. As the Secretary of State for India said, it is not a question of whether we shall give it or not. We know it cannot be done at once. Federation will take some time. Then why not say it plainly to the Indian people, that the time is not yet ripe for the self-government of India by Indians. Why not let them know that there could not be any self-government until all creeds and all classes unite in India with amity for the good government of the country. If you do this, then this heterogeneous mass of people, I should say group of nations, will be happier, more secure and more prosperous under the kindly and firm guidance of a nation which has kept them from anarchy and invasion for 150 years.
It has often been said that Great Britain owes a lot to India. India owes much to Great Britain. Great Britain has given India irrigation, education, all that it knows of law, order and justice, railways, factories, and, greatest of all, one of the finest medical services in the world. The day has gone by when we had famine, pestilence and epidemics. If the House agrees that speed is not necessary, but that the people who are set up to look after India or who hope to govern India, must give proof of their proficiency of government, then the present regime should continue until then. No scheme of self-government will make it better for a people who have been happy, although it has been said it was a pathetic happiness. They have been happy under the old regime except dur- 1356 ing the last five years when discontent has been spread by Congress. Leave it at that, and let people know that we are going to keep our promise, and I think that India itself will be satisfied.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I do not want to detain the House very long, because I recognise that there are a number of old and new Members who, on this occasion, wish to make contributions to the Debate. I wish to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for North Islington (Colonel Goodman) upon his maiden speech. If I may say so, he spoke with a good voice and one that was equal to his figure. As one who has been in India, he did not commit the mistake which, I am afraid, most people who have been in India commit, the mistake of lecturing those of us who are unfortunate enough never to have been outside Great Britain. I congratulate him both on the tone of his speech and upon the good sense he showed in not lecturing an unfortunate section of this House that is never likely to see India or India's shores.
I rise to make a contribution to a point of view which has not hitherto been put. I was interested in the Debate for two reasons. One was as to how far the official Opposition would differ from the Government, and the other as to how the Tory back benchers would act towards their Front Bench. I have this in common with back bench Tory Members, that I have very often acted in similar fashion in regard to the Labour Front Bench. I was wondering whether the Tory back benchers would seek to drive their Front Bench in the direction of being more reactionary, or in the direction of making a greater advance. I was interested to see the Tory back bench, differing from the Labour back bench, trying to drive their Front Bench in the direction of being even more reactionary than they are at the present time. We have put down an Amendment which disapproves of all that has so far been debated.
I would say to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Mr. E. Brown), who is at present sitting on the Front Bench opposite, that the Secretary of State for India has not treated the House with decency and fairness. The Secretary of State for India was absent when the responsible spokesman on the 1357 Front Bench of the Labour party was putting the major portion of his questions. He has been absent a good deal. The speaker on the Labour Front Bench put certain important questions, and I think that the Secretary of State for India ought to be more frequently in his place than he has hitherto been.
I frankly say that I cannot see the position of the Labour Opposition. I intend to vote against the Motion of the Prime Minister. If I can get colleagues to go into the Lobby, I shall vote against the Prime Minister's declaration. I shall vote against it for three reasons. First of all, it must be apparent to everybody in this House that the declaration of the Prime Minister is typical of the Prime Minister, typical of him when he led the Labour party, and typical of him ever since he entered public life. What does it mean? It means anything that the Prime Minister hereafter may say. He may stand at that box or this box three years hence and say, "What I meant was not what you said I meant. I meant something else." This document comes from a Cabinet whose differences are wide in the extreme. The document is drafted in such a fashion as to suit the Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister, the President of the Board of Education, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, all of whom differ much more than the various groups in this House differ. The document is drafted mainly for one purpose, to allow the Prime Minister to come and say that the document may mean nothing at all in after days.
The Secretary of State for India, and indeed the Opposition, and the Government will say, "Oh, we cannot grant the Amendment of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) and the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) in favour of complete independence." The previous speaker said that the Indians are not ready for it and are not capable of carrying it out. You have differences of creed and of caste, all manner of differences in India, and, above all, lack of intelligence. May I say, without lecturing the last speaker, who talked about lack of knowledge on the part of the Indians, that the Indians had a civilisation long before we had a civilisation? It is not fair for us to come here, with 1358 a certain superiority that we have arrogated to ourselves, and to say that the Indians cannot be made capable, and are not capable even now, of governing themselves if given the chance. The Secretary of State for India said yesterday:We have given to India peace and justice. We have driven away the spectre of famine, and we have provided opportunities of advance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd December, 1931; col. 1208, Vol. 260.]"We have driven away famine." What authority is therefore saying that? Has famine been driven away from Britain? To-night in Britain, within our own doors, in divisions represented by hon. Members, people cannot keep a roof over their heads. Then we are old that we have driven famine out of India. We may have made it less ugly than it formerly appeared, less noticeable, but that does not drive famine away. It may have a veneer over it, but nobody can tell me, after looking at the condition of Britain, that we have removed famine from India. There, we have diseases of all kinds, people working under the most cruel conditions, children working under the most miserable conditions in factories. We are told that we must not leave India. Did we go there because India wanted us? We went there not for the salvation of India, not for India's good, but for Great Britain's good. We are an imperial country and India offered us markets and wealth that could not be given by any other country. What is the use of saying that we have freed India from famine and given her justice and peace, when all the time we have been thinking of the commercial domination and prosperity of Britain, and not of India's good.
I was rather surprised at the Opposition that they have not noticed one point in the demand for freedom. What happened when Mr. Gandhi met the British Government? Every political prisoner was released. What about the prisoners at Meerut, who are still lying rotting in gaol? They have been rotting in gaol for 2½ years without trial. It is a shame, a disgrace, a most indefensible thing. The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) said that the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) must accept the responsibility for what was done. The Labour Government have a terrible responsibility in that they kept 1359 those men in gaol for years, without trial. We are told that we have brought justice to India, and these men are lying in gaol. What is their crime? The working-classes begin to organise and make economic demands, and these men are not only put in gaol but they have been kept there. They are regarded as a danger to British commercialism and British Imperialism. The policy is to keep them from organising the working-classes of India in order that they may demand not merely political liberation but economic liberation.
The two or three colleagues who sit with me on this bench will vote against the White Paper, if we are given the opportunity, for three reasons. The first reason is that we are asked to debate a document which is ill-defined, ill-thought-out, and an insult to Parliamentary institutions. In the second place, I shall vote against it because I do not think that the Prime Minister is in the least bit sincere in his declaration. He is using India as a pawn to carry him a little further on in his political prestige and his political influence. He dare not tell us what he thinks, lest on the one side India disowns him, or, on the other side, the Conservatives fling him out from the office that he holds. Therefore, he clings to office, telling the Conservatives one thing and India another. The third reason why I shall vote against it is that I believe India is ripe for full independence. I think the Indian people are as capable of governing themselves as are the British people. There are no more deep-rooted differences among the religions of India than we have among the religions in Britain. One has seen religious fights in Britain that India could rarely equal, even at her worst. We in Britain are not superior, and the great hope for the future is that India will govern herself.
Is there one line of the White Paper that could not have been written before the Simon Commission was sent out to India? Why was the Round Table Conference brought here? Because the Indians had kicked up a row. The Simon Commission had to be set aside because the Indians had, to use a popular phrase in Glasgow, "Played hell with the Government." It was not because the 1360 Commission was wrong, but because the Indians had got the Government on the run, that the Commission had to be thrown over. It was Ireland over again. Ireland forced the hands of the former Government. It was not until Ireland started to arm in her discontent that we conceded her demands. India is the same. Imperial Britain has never, with all its Imperialists, conceded anything to any democracy without the people having to fight and struggle for it. In India, the working-classes will have to organise, to fight, to demonstrate, and to use all the capacity and the knowledge they have against the will of Britain, so that one day India will be free. The great masses of the common people of India, who have the same aspirations as the masses of the common people of Britain, will one day be united, and we shall see both India and Britain economically free.
§ Mr. WISE
I must ask for the indulgence of the House in addressing it for the first time on an occasion of considerable importance. I feel curiously humble after hearing yesterday and to-day the speeches of many hon. Members who have so much more experience of the subject under discussion and so much more experience of life in general; but I hope that the measure of my diffidence will be taken as the measure of my simplicity in the remarks that I have to make. I am extremely grateful to the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), who has raised a point which I think has been neglected in the House, and that is that we are not in India solely for the good of the Indians. We have heard a great deal from time to time about our duties to the Indians, the benefits we have conferred upon them, and our future duty to stay in India and continue to confer those benefits. If that was the only reason for our staying in India we in, this House could not conscientiously sacrifice one British life or one British ship for it.
I hold the view most strongly that we are in India for our own good as much as that of anyone else. We entered into, our Indian Empire by two very sound legal methods of acquisition—the right of conquest and the right of purchase. The vast bulk of that Empire has been secured by one or other of those two means, and, having so secured it, we 1361 have developed it to our own advantage. If any people or any Government arrogates to itself any rights it, naturally, cannot avoid corresponding obligations. That is why we owe these duties to the people of India. Having exacted from them the rights of a market for our goods and a home for our trade, we owe them in return good government, sound ad, ministration, and as much prosperity as we can possibly bring to them. So long as we fulfil our part of that contract and nobody can fulfil it any better, that contract must, surely, remain valid. If it could be shown that India could perform those obligations better than we can, then India would be entitled to the right to do that. I do not believe, however, that that state of affairs has come about yet, and I have very grave doubts whether it will ever come about, and those doubts are borne out by historical happenings.
There is no need to go back into the mythical ages of Indian history. If we go back even a thousand years to Mahmud Ghazni, from that time onwards his successors, who held India by the strong hand as invaders, only relinquished India to another set of invaders. So on through the whole list of invaders—the Afghans from Ghor, the Afghans from Lodi and, eventually, the Persians of Nadir Shah. One after another tribes have come down from more vigorous regions to rule India, but when they have settled in India their hands have grown idle on the sword hilt, and they have lost it to a new stream of invaders. Therefore it would seem, according to history, that India is fated to be ruled by some form of outside race. The ideal outside race for that rule is one which is constantly recruited from overseas and which does not have to make its home in the country which it rules. In other words, Great Britain does seem to be almost intended by Providence to hold dominion over the Indian Empire, and Great Britain is more fitted to do that than is any other nation.
Until it can be clearly shown that there is no other nation capable of ruling that peninsula to better advantage then Great 1362 Britain should remain in the position she has won for herself. It is easy to say that what our grandfathers won and our fathers held we should maintain; but there is a great deal more truth in that statement than is popularly imagined. We have earned certain rights in India, and we are loyally fulfilling the obligations which those rights entail. Until we cease to do so, it does not seem to me that the question of responsible self-government need arise at all. A degree of Indianisation of the services is reasonable as an experiment to see whether it is possible that the historical disability of being incapable of ruling has been removed by the introduction of a new civilisation, but there is no evidence yet before us to show that that has been done. We are now being asked to vote for Government Measure largely because it is a Government Measure.
We have been reminded somewhat sharply by the Foreign Secretary that we were elected as a National Government, and that logically we are expected to vote for the National Government. Some of us have our own ideas about that and feel that at least our constituents knew that they were voting for Tories and not for come monstrous hybrid. It does not seem to me a fair request that we should vote for the Government because it is the Government. I am voicing the opinion of many hon. Members when I say that the one thing for which we are longing tonight is that the Government will give us some reason why we should vote for them. We recognise that to a great extent we are pledged to support the Government, and we want to do so, but I maintain that the Government have not yet answered the case which the supporters of the Amendment have put forward. I hope that the Lord President of the Council in the final speech to-night will enable us to do what we all want to do, and that is to support the Government in its task. Up to the present, no reason has been given why we should support the Government. The Foreign Secretary quoted some lines from a poem, and I should like to complete my speech by quoting a verse, which is applicable to the structure which the Round Table Conference is apparently putting before us. This is the verse: 1363Ah, love, couldst thou and I with fate conspire,To grasp this scheme of sorry things entire,Would not we shatter it to bits, and thenRemould it nearer to the heart's desire.
§ Mr. HICKS
It is my privilege to compliment the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Wise) on his excellent speech. I am sure that the House will desire to hear him on subsequent occasions, and I trust that his constituency will be no impediment to his rising to the Front Bench. I desire to put before the House the trade union point of view in so far as responsible government in India is concerned. For a good many years I have been associated with the trade union movement in this country and I have served on its international committee. Through this international committee we have come into close touch with the representatives of Indian trade unions and have become familiar with many of their problems and difficulties, and on occasions have assisted them against the extremists who at various times have attempted to utilise the Indian labour movement in directions which in our opinion were not desirable. Those who have followed industrial conditions in India, and the requests that have been made for legitimate machinery through which to express their grievances, will recognise that there has been a lack of willingness to grant to Indian workers the machinery through which they might be able to advance their grievances and get them discussed.
A glance at the industrial history of India shows that it is only when there has been considerable industrial and political unrest that the Government have taken any action at all. Whenever requests have come from the working people of India to have their claims discussed, there has always been, from the evidence at our disposal, something that has prevented an opportunity of their meeting to discuss their grievances. I formed one of a deputation Which waited upon the late Lord Birkenhead, when he was Secretary of State for India, to ask him if it was not possible to set up some general machinery which would give an opportunity for the trade union organisations 1364 and the workers of India through that organisation to be able to advance their claims. I have a reply to a question which I put down to-day; it was not reached, but I presume I am in order in referring to it. My question was, why Mr. Edo Fimmen, Secretary of the International Transport Workers' Federation, who has made request after request to get a visa for permission to enter India in order to approach the workers' transport organisation, which are already affiliated with the International Transport Workers' Federation, has been refused a visa. The applications for the visa have been backed by the Trades Union Congress Council and the general secretary, Mr. Citrine, has attended the India Office and made special representations on behalf of our movement, to see if it was possible for the visa to be granted. The answer I have received suggests the reason why he has not been allowed to enter India.
If methods are not devised to allow the working-classes to make known their claims and get their grievances redressed the enemies of bona fide workers organisations will increase in strength and add to the forces of violence and disruption. We are constantly being asked, after the ordinary channels have been exhausted or denied of ventilating their grievances, to see what we could do to help to straighten out the position in India. The Royal Commission of June of this year made it plain that the bulk of the population of India is half-starved, or in more calm and judicial and official language the condition of the people and the workers is miserable and pathetic, in the main. The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. J. Williams) last night made specific references to the terrible distress that exists in India; but it is not my purpose to refer to them at this moment.
Great Britain is now directly faced with a very grave crisis in one of its great industries. There are representatives of the textile industry in the House, and they will be able to contradict or supplement any statement that I make. The employers in the textile industry of Lancashire are demanding a lengthening of the working week and a worsening of working conditions for at least 250,000 operatives. A monstrous attempt is being made to establish bad 1365 health conditions in the Lancashire mill towns, where the sound of the clogs shall resound through the streets at 5 o'clock in the morning. What is the reason for this demand? The Lancashire millowners say that they must reduce the cost of production so as to meet outside competition, and especially the competition of Eastern countries like Japan and India. In India, in Bombay and Calcutta, and Cawnpore, the textile operatives, as the Royal Commission has indicated, are mercilessly exploited. There can be no other term that will adequately fit the facts. In the mills of Bombay the average earnings of the male operative are 2s. 2d., and of a woman, 1s. 2d. per day. The operatives have to work long hours. Moreover, the Hindus are rapidly becoming as efficient as their fellow workers elsewhere. With wages of that character in India how is it possible for the workers in Lancashire to compete? Unless the wages and working conditions of operatives in India can be improved the doom of the Lancashire operative is sealed. There can be no doubt about it. The Lancashire cotton operative cannot live in a loin-cloth, with a handful of rice for his food.
§ Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
I do not see how the hon. Gentleman connects his argument with the Motion or the Amendment before the House.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. HICKS
I was leading up to the point of getting adequate representation of the workers in any constitution that is set up for India. I am particularly anxious that the workers' side shall be known. At present, unfortunately, the workers' side is not well known, and our own Government has refused a visa for trade union organisers to go to India to assist in the organisation of the workers there. There appears to be a desire not to have that type of organisation. I appeal to the Government to make provision, when any committees are to be set up, whereby the workers have proper representation. In deference to the Chair's Ruling I must limit some of the matter that I was proposing to introduce into my speech, but I would say that if India is to be saved from violent revolution and to be placed on the way of orderly progress, it is absolutely neces- 1366 sary that provision be made in the future constitution of India for the adequate representation of the workers. The communal problems are problems of the past, however much they may be obsessing the Government of to-day, and others. The real problems of the future in India will be economic and social problems. In the building up of a constitution for India special regard should be had to the realities of to-morrow while recognising some of the difficulties of to-day.
The demand for communal electorates has been made for years. Trade union organisation in India has demonstrated, whether the workers be Hindus or Moslems or Christians, the existence of a common cause. It is in that common organisation that the Indian workers have been best able to express their desires. I ask the Government to approve of the idea of joint electorates as against the communal electorates which have been urged. The demand for communal electorates comes from a small section of the educated classes. I can understand references being made to the illiteracy of millions of Indians. That charge ought not to be made against them, but against those who have denied those millions the chances of education. I ask the Government to take the broad view that there should be joint electorates in which all will have an opportunity of expressing themselves. If there is to be home rule for India I do not want it to be home rule for a few capitalists in India, but home rule for the people of India. I want the franchise to be extended to them according to their work and education, and as opportunities present themselves for it to be extended still further. British India covers about 61 per cent. of the total area of India and comprises about 78 per cent. of the population of India.
Then there is the question of the relationship of the Central Government to the provincial governments, and the relationship of all to the international conventions that affect labour. Out of 30 odd conventions that have been ratified by the International Labour Office at Geneva, 12 have been ratified in India, Whilst they have been ratified by the Indian legislatures, not one of them has been ratified in any of the States of the Princes. Improved conditions which the 1367 conventions bring about must reflect themselves in the cost of production, but those who adopt the conventions ought not to be at a disadvantage compared with the States of the Princes. Whatever is ratified by the Central Government should not only be compulsorily adopted by the provincial legislatures, but also by the States of the Princes. I suggest that the co-operation of labour has not been adequately asked for. As to the poverty that exists in India here is a quotation from the Commission's Report of July. In regard to the representation of labour in India they say:There are several directions in which the adequate representation of Labour should benefit both itself and India. In the first place the presence of representatives able to voice the desires and aspirations of Labour and to translate these into concrete proposals is essential for the proper consideration of measures specially affecting Labour. But the welfare of Labour does not depend purely on what may be called Labour measures. It can depend on the whole trend of policy and legislation. More adequate representation of Labour is necessary for its protection in this respect, and, if given an opportunity organised Labour can make a valuable contribution to the wise government of the commonwealth. Further, the proper representation of Labour is itself educative. The recognition of its claim as part of the body politic will bring increased responsibility and a sense of unity with the community as a whole. Conversely, the exclusion of Labour from a fair share in the councils of the nation will inevitably drive it to rely unduly on other means of making itself felt to the injury of itself and of the nation. What we have said is applicable to Labour generally, both agricultural and industrial.I am confident that the Commission which unanimously assented to that paragraph felt deeply the importance of recognising Labour's right to come into representative councils in India. To-night I make this special plea. I ask the Government not to wait until Labour, denied the legitimate opportunity of expressing itself openly and constitutionally, takes violent action, before giving consideration to this important question. The opportunity to accept responsibility for the good government of one's native land is an opportunity which makes a great appeal. It makes a very strong appeal to the emotions of the Indian. Those who have never had the experience of being a subject nation might not be 1368 able to appreciate the importance and significance of that appeal. I hope we shall do all we can to educate the people of India, to give them the opportunities of education, and to give them the chance of this work and this responsibility. I hope that at no far distant date the people of India will be the proud possessors of those rights and responsibilities. I ask the Government in setting up the new Constitution to see that it will not be the privilege of a, few Princes or landlords or capitalists to exercise those rights. I ask them to recognise the rights of industry in India, which is now firmly established and is now affecting economic tendencies and events in many parts of the world. It will do so in the future to an even larger degree and in the new India I hope it will have its proper place and be able to give adequate expression to its views.
§ Major-General Sir ALFRED KNOX
There is much in the speech of the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) with which I am in hearty agreement. It is very difficult to see how the workers—perhaps not the industrial workers so much as the peasant agriculturists of India—are going to have proper representation under the scheme now put forward. But my object in rising is to support the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) with every word of whose speech I am in complete agreement. I pay my small tribute to him for having to-night, not for the first time, brought back a Debate on India in this House to realities. When he spoke on this subject last January, several members of the Round Table Conference were here. When asked afterwards which speech in that Debate appealed to him most, one of them said, without a moment's hesitation, that it was the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, because he was the only speaker who would face the facts. That is what we have to do in dealing with India or else we are preparing unheard-of disaster for ourselves, for India and for the Empire.
The right hon. Gentleman was replied to by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) who began by warning new Members, so to speak, that they would vote for the Amendment at their own 1369 risk. I think his words were that they had been elected to support the National Government. I also was elected to support the National Government but, whatever Government I have been elected to support, I have always retained my freedom of conscience. I support the Government generally, but, if they bring in proposals with which I do not agree, I will never, in order to save votes support them in a course which I believe to he wrong. As one who has heard many lawyers speak in this House I realise the facility and dexterity with which the right hon. and learned Gentleman argued that we should, all at once, give responsibility at the centre and complete autonomy in the provinces. But was not the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Chairman of the Statutory Coin-mission which after threw years consultation published that admirable report which many speakers have described as one of the best reports ever published? Having collected evidence on every side did not that Commission state as its considered opinion that we should first give autonomy to the provinces—far too wide a measure in my opinion—and, only after that, some measure of central responsibility? To-night, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has forgotten all that.
I am only a bluff soldier. I cannot argue with a lawyer who argues first on one side and then on the other. But on this question of India I support the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping who, throughout, has taken a strong, straight and firm line and is facing realities. The right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley sweeps aside with scorn the newly elected. Member for the Combined English Universities (Sir R. Craddock). Is there another Member here with half the experience of the people of India of all classes possessed by the hon. Member for the English Universities. He was the home Member of the Government in Simla; he has been Governor of two provinces; he has spoken with Indians in. some 7,000 villages. Is there another Member here, or another member of the Round Table Conference or the Statutory Commission, who is in a position to talk to the cultivator of the soil or the Indian soldier in his native language? Are his strong objections to this declaration to go for nothing?
1370 I want to get back to realities. I do not admit that the Round Table Conference was representative of India. There were people on it prominent in political life but where was the representative of the agricultural workers? There were big landlords on it but not a single small landlord, much less an agricultural worker. How are you going to get at the opinion of these people, that ought to be the opinion above all others of which we ought to think? Some 80 per cent. of the population of India consists of these peasants who earn their living on the soil. Selecting people from the political parties in this country to be members of the Round Table Conference, it seems to have been the design to pick out people who were capable politicians and fluent speakers, but not people with practical knowledge of the wants of the peasants of India, who are the people we want to get at.
The hon. Member who has just spoken rather laughed at the idea of communal dissension in India being any difficulty, but I would point out to him that it is a very real difficulty. I speak as one who served for about 11 years in India, and although it was some time ago, the East does not change so much. I have heard the right hon. Gentleman in this House say the East was changing now, but I would like to put it to him that it is not the East that is changing, but the minds of the people and the governors of this country, who have one eye on Geneva and the other on the American Middle West. They have forgotten how to govern, and the people in India are waiting for us to say what we want. Only two days ago I met an officer who has commanded, for the last four years, a native Indian battalion in India. I asked him "What do the men say?" He said, "The Indian officers come to me and say 'Sahib, what is the matter with the Sirkar? When is he going to begin to govern?'" These people are looking for a lead, and they know that our hand is paralysed.
Communal representation is really the crux of the whole problem. If you look at the past, nearly from the beginning of the last century, you find Norway and Sweden separating, and if they could not agree to stay together, what hope have you got of the Mahrattas, Mohammedans 1371 and Moslems throughout India coming into one organic whole? In my own country of Ireland we managed to make a temporary arrangement, but if you look at the Ulstermen, who are a compact body in the north, they are cut off. In India you have Mohammedans scattered all over the country, and how can you give them proper freedom and protection? Again, look at Western Europe. You had in Austria many different races, all kept together in a firm hold by the old Austrian Imperial Government. You had in Russia many races, all kept together under the Imperial Russian Government. They have all split asunder. The whole tendency of the times is against this federation, and in the whole of history there has never been an instance of units, before they were separately formed, coming together in one federation.
A lot has been said about promises. The right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley spoke of the promise made by Mr. Montagu in this House. We all know the sanctity of promises, but when these right hon. Gentlemen speak of promises, they always omit the qualification of that Section which said that any advance in self-government should only be granted on condition and in measure with the sense of responsibility and cooperation engendered by the Indian people themselves, and we know that there has not been much sign of that. After all, there is a limit to promises. I heard the case put very well the other day that promises are not always binding. If you are a fond parent and you have promised your little son a very big feed on Christmas Day, and on Christmas Eve he develops a severe attack of communal appendicitis, will you consider it your bounden duty on Christmas Day to drown his cries of pain by stuffing him with turkey and plum pudding? If the Indians have not shown any sense of responsibility, are we to go any farther? I speak not on behalf of ourselves so much as on behalf of those millions of Indians, some 80 per cent. of the people of India, who know nothing of all these political movements. Mr. Gandhi said the other day that 85 per cent. of the population of India were at his beck and call. There never was a more preposterous claim put forward by any leader.
1372 Before sitting down, I would like to recall to the memory of this House some of the things that we have done for India, because I have never seen any mention of them in these voluminous debates of the Round Table Conference. All our British representatives there stood up apologising for England, but the British nation has made India what it is to-day. We went there, a small trading community, and by the force of facts, by things over which we had no control, we were pushed into a prominent position. After all, we gave the Indians law and order; we gave protection to the common people of India who wanted to go about their business and do their work; we established the trade of India in jute, in tea, in coffee, in hides, in rice, in wheat—all from us. Then we gave them railways. At the time of the mutiny there were 30 miles of rails; to-day there are 40,000 miles, built by English engineers and English capital. We gave them irrigation. In the Punjab province alone there are 8,000,000 acres of land irrigated. By these two methods of railway construction and irrigation we have conquered famine in India. Just 300 years ago, in 1630–31, there was a famine that carried off the people over great stretches of the country and depopulated the countryside. Whole families took poison because they were not able to endure the misery of starvation. In the last big famine that I knew of in India, an area was affected with a population of 49,000,000, and only 11 people died of starvation.
What have we done, too, in the realm of medical science We have half conquered malaria in the country. Ronald Ross, whom I knew when he was working there 33 years ago, has never received any proper Government recognition for his work in that respect. Then, in regard to cholera, it is no longer the scourge that it was years ago in India. I remember seeing tombstones to British regiments that lost as many as 1,000 men in a few years from a cholera epidemic in India. We do not see that now. Then bubonic plague was fought by our medical officers and our military officers, and where did they get any help from these emissaries of the Congress then, who told the people that we were poisoning the wells if we put in an antiseptic and that our inoculations would cause them 1373 illnesses? That is the sort of help that we got from them.
We have definite responsibilities in India, and it is time our people realised what they are. We have duties and obligations, and the obligations on which I set most stress are our duties to the common people of India, who were not represented at the Round Table Conference, who want a square deal from their rulers, who trust the Britisher because he is neutral in the constant quarrels between Mohammedans and Hindus, who, when they want a Judge whom they can trust, ask for an Englishman to try their case. They want protection from the rapacious moneylender and the rapacious landlord too, and where can they get it except from an Englishman, who stands in their eyes as above all law, the only honourable person whom they have ever known? For these reasons, I look upon this Motion with the greatest suspicion, and I shall record my vote against it.
§ Mr. MOLSON
I feel that it is rather rash for me to venture to address this House so soon after I have been elected to it. My excuse, which I hope the House will accept, is that I have been engaged for the last five years in studying the subjects which are before the House at the present time, and particularly that one of commercial discrimination, which has been brought up in the Amendment. I was, from 1926 to 1929, political secretary to the chambers of commerce in India, and I have been secretary to the European delegates from India at the two Round Table Conferences. I do not claim to be an expert upon India, but my researches into the early life of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) show me that his experience of India as a cavalry subaltern was not any longer than mine as a political secretary.
I am perhaps unduly sensitive of title criticisms that have been made of the Round Table Conference, but I feel that the gibe that on so many occasions it failed to obtain unanimity has been rather overdone. Of how many assemblies of between 80 and 100 people can it be said that they attain unanimity on many occasions? I suppose that this House of Commons gets nearer to unanimity than any of its predecessors. There are, however, a few bon. Gentlemen sitting on those benches who do not 1374 agree with the vast majority of us on so obvious a question as the support of the National Government, and on those few issues on which they do agree with us, the right hon. Member for Epping and a few of his Friends can generally be trusted to break up the happy unanimity.
I whole-heartedly support this White Paper, and I want to protest against the argument that those of us who stood in support of the National Government are not expected to support them upon their Indian policy because it was not explicitly referred to by our Leaders in the election. We asked for a free hand and the Prime Minister asked for a doctor's mandate. If some of us are sorry when seine of our Liberal Friends find it difficult to support the National Government on questions of tariffs, we can surely have no complaint against them if we are not prepared to support the National Government in matters which are of equal importance.
I understand that the principal argument of the right hon. Gentleman is that he demands that there shall be strong administration in India. There is no conflict between strong administration and a liberal policy. I hope the time will never come again when Mr. Gandhi, like some oriental Pied Piper of Hamelin, will lead a lot of boys and girls down to the beach to make salt, but, if that time came, I should agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the Government of India should enforce the law regardless of the consequences. If we are going to enforce the law, I hope that at the same time our policy with regard to India's aspirations will be as liberal as the obstinate facts of the situation allow.
May I refer especially to the question of commercial discrimination, upon which subject I speak, if I may say so with all modesty, with some degree of intimate knowledge. The experience of the working of the present reforms caused the chambers of commerce in India to be very apprehensive of discrimination against them when increased powers were given to the Indian Legislature. We represented that to the Simon Commission, who considered, after examining the evidence, that our apprehensions were well founded. When the Round Table Conference assembled, the representa- 1375 tives of the European community in India entered into negotiations with the Indian delegates, and for days and weeks on end we had intimate private negotiations and public debates. We have at the present time a report upon this subject, which has been accepted by the Round Table Conference, and if it does not represent quite that unanimity that we should have liked, it does at any rate represent a very great advance. I do not know whether the hon. Members who are responsible for this Amendment have read the report, but in any case I would like to quote the salient sentence from it:The committee are of opinion that no subject of the Crown, who may be ordinarily resident or carrying on trade or business in British India, should be subjected to any disability or discrimination, legislative or administrative, by reason of his race, descent, religion or place of birth in respect of taxation, the holding of property, the carrying on of any profession, trade or business, or in respect of residence or travel.The European community in India were fairly satisfied with the amount of agreement which was reached at the Round Table Conference, and if anything more were required to give them reassurance, it was the speech of the Secretary of State for India last night. Trade is far more dependent upon good will than it ever can be upon any paper safeguards or upon any political force which this House might see fit to use, and I think that I am speaking for the European community in India when I say that to bring this matter up in the form of an Amendment to this Motion is calculated to prejudice good relations in India and to make more difficult that settlement by agreement which we have so very nearly attained.
There is one important matter to which I should like to refer. I am sorry to say that even since the Irwin-Ghandhi Agreement, the Congress authorities in India have continued a policy of boycott of British mills. The whole of the boycott movement is in my opinion contrary to the spirit of the Irwin-Gandhi Agreement, but the condition, which I will quote, in an undertaking which is being imposed upon British mills in India by threats of a boycott, is clearly a flagrant con- 1376 travention of the letter of the Agreement. In the undertaking there is a sub-clause which says:No person connected with the management of the mills will engage himself in propaganda hostile to the National movement or participate in any activity organised voluntarily or at the instance or on behalf of the British Government in India in opposition to the movement.In other words, should the Civil Disobedience campaign be started again, and should the Government of India, adopt those firm measures to repress it, which I earnestly hope they will, then, under this undertaking, British mills would be under an obligation to support the Congress or, at any rate, not to support the Government. That is a clear contravention of the Irwin-Gandhi agreement, in which Mr. Gandhi said:It is accepted that a boycott of this character"—that is, a political boycott—organised for this purpose will not be consistent with the participation of representatives of the Congress in a frank and friendly discussion of constitutional questions with the representatives of British India, the Indian States and His Majesty's Government.I earnestly hope that Mr. Gandhi and Congress will see to it that that undertaking is carried out, that they discharge their honourable obligations. I further hope that the Government, will insist that these obligations are observed, as they are entitled to do under the Irwin-Gandhi agreement.
In the Amendment there is a reference not only to British trade in India but to British trade with India. I think it is an unfortunate thing that the representatives of the three political parties did not bring up at the Round Table Conference the question of trade between this country and India. This is not a criticism of the Government; it is equally a criticism of the representatives of all three political parties. But let there be no mistake about one thing. If we desire that the trade between this country and India should flourish and increase, that must be brought about by agreement. There must be no idea that we in this country are trying to impose upon India a policy which will be solely to our own advantage. If the hon. Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock) agrees with me upon nothing 1377 else, he will agree with me in this, that even to-day there is no more fruitful cause of in India than the fact that for so many years the cotton excise duties were imposed upon India in face of the opposition of the Indian people and of the European merchants established in India. I hope that something will be done in the course of the negotiations to make certain that the trade of this country with India does flourish. In particular I feel that the Lord President of the Council has not yet been able to carry out the pledge which he gave at Newton Abbot on 6th March this year when he said:We have all been gravely concerned by the boycott of British trade in India and by the methods employed. Suffice it to say at the moment that as a party we intend to use our fullest influence in support of British traders, and to insist that in any future settlement of the Indian constitution there shall be a fundamental undertaking forbidding unfair discrimination against British trade.In conclusion, may I repeat that that end will not be secured by proposing an Amendment of this kind, which is calculated to arouse all the animosity and all the bitterness of India, but rather by coming together and negotiating on equal and friendly terms. If this Amendment has been put forward with the idea of assisting British traders in India and British traders with India I earnestly hope that it will, even at the eleventh hour, be withdrawn. If, on the other hand, the British community in India is being used merely as a pawn for the purpose of embarrassing the Government and of prejudicing the chances of a happy and amicable settlement in India, then, no doubt, another policy will be followed.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I am very glad to have the privilege, on behalf of my fellow Members, of congratulating the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson) on a most admirable speech, delivered with such good temper and with such a display of knowledge as I trust will be most helpful to this House on many other occasions when he takes part in our Debates. I am sure that all who have heard his speech, even if they disagree with very large parts of it, as I do, will admit that we shall often wish to hear the hon. Gentleman again. It is with great reluctance that I rise this evening. 1378 I particularly did not want to speak upon this question, and hoped to be in the North of England this evening. I felt satisfied that when the Conference reached the point it did the Prime Minister's statement would have invited this House to get back to the solid ground of the Simon Commission. I am certainly of opinion myself, and I think a great many of my hon. Friends will agree, that we were led to expect that, there would be no question of forcing the issue unless agreement had been arrived at. Certainly in the party to which I belong, which is not an inconsiderable section of the supporters of His Majesty's Government, we were led to understand that we as a party were not committed, and that in any event, unless there could be agreement, there was no likelihood of the matter being pressed.
Reading this document, issued the day before yesterday, we find we are asked to accept an entirely new policy—that is what it comes to from the point of view of those who agree that I have correctly described the situation in which hon. Members in our party found themselves before this Debate. In the space of 24 hours we are asked to decide upon this document, which is really vital to the whole future Of India, and, therefore, of the British Empire. I want to protest that that is forcing the question through. I wish we could have debated the matter for several days in order that we might have more time to get into touch with the European population in India, because I think even the hon. Member has not been able to consult the whole of the European population for whom he spoke. I searched this remarkable document in vain for one single reference to British interests, and was in such a disturbed state of mind that I went to one of my hon. Friends who can usually be relied upon to explain the position of the Government and asked how this came about. After all, British interests in India are no small thing. We in this House are immensely proud of our wonderful partnership in India, to which tributes have been paid by every impartial observer, from the time of the late President Roosevelt down to the present day. I was told that if I looked carefully I would find these words in paragraph 2 on page 1: 1379and also with such guarantees as are required by minorities to protect their political liberties and rights.I was informed that the word "minorities" covered British interests in India. It has come to this with the British Empire, that henceforth when we are discussing Indian questions we have to think of ourselves as one of the minorities, in company with the Untouchables and the various smaller minorities in India. That is a serious position. Nothing could be more dangerous that that we in this House, obsessed as we are with this grave crisis of finance and economics, should lightheartedly subscribe to this policy without seeing that every safeguard is included.
I would like to refer to a somewhat parallel situation on 20th August, 1917. At that time the House of Commons was jaded, war-weary, tired, and almost incapable of dealing with any great new problem. We were suddenly confronted, without ample time to consider the matter in all its implications, with what was described in the Montagu-Chelmsford Report as the most momentous utterance ever made in its chequered history. Right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench will remember when the late Mr. Montagu determined to stir the Indian people from their pathetic contentment, and he succeeded in doing that. What was so extraordinary was that we were moved to throw up our caps and say, "Splendid," because of the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Membler for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who said, "Look at the wonderful things the great fighting men of India have done alongside our men in the War," and there was not a Member of this House who was not deeply moved. There was no mention at that time of self-government for India in any form. That demand did not come from the men who had been fighting in our Army. The contribution of Bengal, Bombay, and Madras to the Army at that time was only one-seventh of the total fighting men in the Indian Army. I can assure hon. Members that there were very few men in the Indian Expeditionary Force who took any interest in politics, or who knew what that magic word "vote" meant. Our minds at that time were on the trenches where our people were suffering. At that time we were 1380 not able to concentrate on this subject, and yet here to-day men's minds have been concentrating on these new problems, and suddenly we are asked to assent to a policy upon which no Member of die Conservative party was aware that he would be asked to give a vote. 'We read in the White Paper:We must build like good craftsmen, well and truly; our duty to India demands that from all of us.We also have our duties to the British Empire, and to those hundreds and thousands of people in this country whose whole livelihood is dependent upon their partnership in India which has been so fruifful in its results in the past. It is easy for the Prime Minister to state at the Round Table Conference that whatever is proposed will have to be brought before this House before anything is done. I remember, when we raised certain difficulties in regard to the Government of India on a previous occasion, we were told that "the white man's word must stand." Let us see to it to-night that the white man's word is understood, and that we leave no word unsaid to make the position absolutely clear. Let us deal with the realities of the situation. I believe that there is not a Member in this House who has studied the Simon Report and the other documents who will not agree that the co-operation of the people of the Indian Empire is absolutely essential if we are to win through the difficulties in which the Government of India have been plunged by so much good will and sentiment and so little reason, and so much utter disregard of the report of the Simon Commission, which was Parliament's own statutory commission.
Never before did I feel more sorrow for a great statesman in this House than when I listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) trying to prove that all the conclusions which he and the Simon Commission bad come to, after very long and wonderful labours, could be laid on one side, that we could jump all our fences, and go right through, and this after a solemn declaration that it was essential for us to move in India by successive stages step by step. I think it is essential for hon. Members to understand that India can never be a nation. I mention this because the Prime Minister said in his speech that he was trying to under 1381 stand the Indian mind. On topics like this you might as well talk about a Russo-European nation as talk about an Indian nation. You might as well talk about a Chinese-American mind as talk about the Indian mind. When you consider the Punjabi, the Gurkhas, the Jat, the Pathan and the men of Madras and the various types that you come across in India, they are just as different one from the other not only in their appearance but also in their habits and in their faith as any other nation in the world. Suppose that we were dealing with the question of a united Government for the whole of Europe, with headquarters in England, and we were unable to agree with, say, 40 nations as to communal representation, and we declared, "As you cannot agree, we shall be compelled to impose upon you a settlement." That would be very similar to what is happening now, because it is proposed to impose central government on India, not to-day or to-morrow, but if they cannot agree among themselves. All through the great Debates on the Montagu-Chelmsford proposals we were told that these great changes in India could only be achieved by successive stages.
I am going to ask my leader to realise that I am absolutely convinced that we cannot go back on the idea which we have expressed in regard to self-government for India. But it must be a bad thing to raise those hopes so soon, before you have given Provincial Government, and before you have given the Indian people an opportunity of gaining experience in government. The promise has been made, and we are violating in this document all our former decisions that self-government can only be achieved by successive stages. The Government of India Act passed by Parliament apparently is no longer a subject to which we ought to refer, and yet it stands. The Simon Commission, apparently, did not understand their subject. We have to take in one gulp what all these great authorities have advised us to take in very definite stages. The second great truth to which I want to refer is the fact that we are not dealing with a democracy, as we understand the word, but with great masses of people of utterly divergent views upon religion, 1382 and with utterly different outlooks upon life and who are utterly contemptuous of the wars and habits of one another. In the case of the Hindus, who form the large majority of the people of the Indian Empire, you are dealing with a people who are existing on an unshakeable basis of aristocracy—an aristocracy of many degrees, it is true. So extreme is that aristocracy that even if a well of the lower caste race dries up in a village, the men of that lower caste are not allowed to draw water out of the well of the higher caste. These are facts which you cannot neglect. Therefore, it is very wise of the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary to remind us that people who have these ideas in regard to civilisation do not yet understand self-government as we understand it in this country.
Are we quite sure we are doing wisely? I have seen some of the ill effects of political education in some of the distant parts of the world. Are we quite sure we are wise? Is democracy in the old world such a success when we cannot show remarkable achievements in bringing peace or preventing war, in learning how to balance our trade, in regulating currency, in lifting up the whole people of the world or in being able to stabilise the price of commodities, and so on? Are we wise to go in a hurry to the oldest civilisations of the world and say, "Lift yourselves out of your pathetic contentment and take our democratic medicine. Why should you, when we are suffering so terribly from our conception of democracy, stand out and not come in also? You must come in at once, and even though 94 per cent. of your people cannot read or write, you must have the same measures that the old world is suffering from." Are we wise—for the East which is still unchanging, in spite of what we may be told from the Front Bench—to go to the East and say, that there is a continent of people—I do not say they will be completely uneducated eventually—who must accept our democratic ideas?
If this full scheme is carried before there is a complete change in the customs and habits of the people of India, you will really be establishing a Brahmin oligarchy, and handing over the fate of 350,000,000 people to some very stern rulers—not to a democracy, for the best 1383 they can hope for is that the people of India are to be put in the hands of a bourgeoisie who have had a little education at a university here and there, where they are turned out like sausages. Because there are no jobs to go round —for they will not take anything but Government service—they have nothing to do but to agitate and make trouble. These are the people to whom you are handing over the rights of India at the present time.
I want to say one word in regard to another astounding fact in this document. The reason why I want to see the statement of the Secretary of State—not a very immoral suggestion—added to the White Paper is this: Always before, we have looked to the Secretary of State, and not the Prime Minister, to make these pronouncements. Why should we not have that remarkable speech of the Secretary of State in explanation? There is not a word that he fears will go to India. How ridiculous to suggest it! Why should not the man responsible for the policy have his great speech embodied along with this White Paper as explanatory of what we really mean? The speech of the Secretary of State made reference to several subjects which are not included here. I will refer to only one of them. There is not a word in this White Paper about the vital interests of our trade in Lancashire. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke this evening—and I want to thank him for this—did explain that these matters were his concern. It is a very terrible thing to hear what an hon. Member said earlier in the Debate, that this vital question of trade interests was never even discussed. Am I wrong when I say that the people of Lancashire have done more to create the building up of trade ideas in India, and brought riches to India than anything else? Hon. Gentlemen opposite will declare that imports are always paid for by exports, and as we have exported a great mass of goods into India, is it not clearly the fact that we have helped to build up her overseas trade?
I believe that the people of this country now realise that a great and fundamental error was made at the time of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms when we 1384 did not insist that the whole basis if trade, at any rate in future, should be that of partnership and mutual advantage between Indian peoples and ourselves for our common good. I pray that we shall not make such a mistake again, and that we shall do everything in our power to see that it is made clear in the future. I lay especial stress on the words "mutual preference," because we believe that we shall do more to uplift India and bring happiness to her people by stimulating her primary products and various industries, than by any constitution-mongering we can think of. If we can hit on a great plan of economic unity between this country and the Indian Empire, we shall be doing a great deal to soften asperities and to make life happier for the people in India, and, to secure the interests of our people at home as well. We have invested more in India than any other country has ever invested in another country, and upon the basis of those investments there has been built up those wonderful railway systems and irrigation works, and we have stamped out famine and saved millions of lives. Instead of apologising, and not referring to British interests in this document, we should have started the document by saying how proud we are of what we have done in the past, and how much we hope to do for the future. I hope I have not spoken too warmly on this subject, but I feel very deeply that if we do not put in every possible safeguard, we are liable to have great suffering and great remorse in days to come. Some of us had relatives who died in the Khyber Pass in the defence of India, and many of our people have been there defending India on the frontier for six, eight or 10 months in the last year or two. That is service. Our people fought in the War, and suffered to preserve the great thing which we call England, Britain or the British ideal, and who only knew that we were a people who have ruled wisely and well. After the War, the men who suffered were really amazed to see that everywhere we were overcome by a policy of softness, of trying to get out of our responsibilities and putting them on shoulders which were not able to bear them.
There is one more question I should like to ask. I want to say here and now that I am sure we can never go 1385 back, but before we go hastening unwisely on, may we not ask ourselves, as Christian people, whether the people of India are going to be better governed if we walk out before the allotted time? Are the people in the great continent of India going to be better governed when police control is no longer under the white man, and when no longer is there anything to stand between those who engage in terrible religious blood feuds? If we cannot answer that question decisively, if we have even a shadow of doubt in our minds, then we ought to do everything in our power to see that every possible safeguard is announced here and now, before we allow this question to go out of our hands.
§ Sir AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I should like to add my congratulations to those of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), to the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson) on what I think was his maiden speech a short time ago. It was a, remarkable contribution to this Debate, and I regret that it was heard neither by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) nor by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, for I think it contained something that was worthy of the attention. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping might have learned, perhaps, from the speech of the hon. Member, something of how the interests of Britishers in India can best be protected; and the Secretary of State will, I hope, look at his speech in order that his attention may be drawn to the clear case of a breach of the Irwin-Gandhi agreement about boycott, to which the hon. Member called attention. It is a very grave breach, and it certainly ought to receive the immediate attention of His Majesty's Government and of the Viceroy and Government of India.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth repeated with emphasis in his speech that he had no desire to go back on the resolution or decision which had been taken in the past. He was explicit, and I think he is almost the only hon. Member who has spoken in favour of the Amendment who has been explicit on this point. If I criticised speeches in this Debate, it would be to say that many of them have dealt 1386 with things that are past, and cannot now be undone or altered, but are part of the stubborn facts of the situation which we have to face. There is no more useless occupation in politics than crying over spilt milk, or, to vary the phrase, "jobbing backwards" and considering how much better things might have been if this or that had been done. For my part, I can play that game as well as anyone. I can express my regret that Lord Curzon altered the phraseology of the Montagu Declaration, and altered it, I think, very much for the worse. I can express my regret that Lord Irwin should have borrowed from my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping that unhappy phrase "Dominion status"; and I (lore say, if Lord Irwin were still a Member of this House, he would explain that when he used it he used it as my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping says he used it—to indicate the position of India in the Empire, and not the internal structure of the Indian Constitution. But my objection to the phrase is that it is capable of an innocent meaning and it is capable of a very mischievous meaning, and you do not want to use phrases in this connection, or in your relations with other people, which are capable of two interpretations, and which, from the moment they are delivered, are interpreted in different ways by the parties who are interested in them.
These declarations have been made; they are part of the stubborn facts with which we have to deal. What, then, is there in the White Paper which is novel, which is new, which we have not assented to already? What is it that my right hon. Friend finds to object to in it? It is not the declaration in Paragraph 2. It cannot be, because he is perfectly ready to accept the declaration in Paragraph 2, and all the rest of the Paper, if the Government will do either one of two things—attach to it the Amendment which stands in his name, or attach to it the speech which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State delivered last night. It cannot be the declaration in Paragraph 2, or my right hon. Friend must not only move to add words at the end, but he must move to omit Paragraph 2. "Then," says my right hon. Friend," at least attach the statement of the Secretary of State. What reason can 1387 there be for not attaching it except that there is some contradiction between it and the Prime Minister? If there is no contradiction, what objection can there be?" My right hon. Friend makes a proposition which sounds very reasonable, but, if he will permit me to say so, he is an old Parliamentary hand, and he knew perfectly well, when he made that proposition, that it was impossible for any Government to accept it. The Government laid this statement as a Cabinet declaration before the Conference, and they said that they would take this statement to the House of Commons and ask them to approve of it. My right hon. Friend has conducted with great skill more than one negotiation with other Governments or peoples. Would he ever have consented, when he had made a particular statement to the one party and had said that he would seek the assent to it of the other party, to an alteration by the other party without consultation with the first party? As I said, my right hon. Friend knew that he was putting forward a suggestion which was extremely plausible, but which could not be accepted by any body of honourable men.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
My right hon. Friend has no right to say that. The House is asked to take a great decision and approve the policy of the Government, and I have asked that the policy of the Government should be the whole policy set out in its entirety both by the statement of the Prime Minister and by the speech of the Secretary of State.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
That does not alter the justice of the statement which I have made, that my right hon. Friend is asking for something which, if he will allow me to say so, he would, if he had thought about it, have known that no honourable body of men could do. It is, in effect, to vary an agreement which they have made with another party without the assent of that party. It is open to the House—
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
My right hon. Friend is now talking of this document as if it were a treaty, an agreement which had been arrived at, as if it were a matter dictated and agreed line by line between two parties. It is nothing of the sort. It is not represented to be 1388 that. It is represented as the free utterance of the Prime Minister. What right has my right hon. Friend to say that it is a treaty which I am advising the House to break?
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I say that it is a, definite statement made on behalf of His Majesty's Ministers to the Conference. They told the Conference that they would bring that statement, and not some other statement, for approval to this House. It is open to the House —it is not open to the Government—to alter their attitude or break the promise which they made. As I have only a very little time, I hope that I may be permitted to put the rest of the argument without interruption. My right hon. Friend thinks that he sees some contradiction between the statement of the Prime Minister and the statement of the Secretary of State. I can find no such contradiction. I find in the White Paper every condition laid down by the Secretary of State except perhaps the special safeguard for the relations of the Princes with their suzerain. I find all the safeguards to which my right hon. Friend referred within the four corners of the statement. I beg the House to consider what they would be doing if they added to that statement a special reservation, and were these three points mentioned in the Amendment picked out.
After listening to my right hon. Friend and to others, I cannot see what the Statute of Westminster has to do with what we are engaged upon. The Statute of Westminster, even in its very Clauses, was adjusted to the conditions of each individual Dominion, and, if at any time in some future which I shall not live to see another House of Commons should wish to adjust the Statute of Westminster to the India of that day, India will have to have its special Clause just as much as the other Dominions have theirs. But it is not in the picture. It does not arise here. There is no more reason for mentioning it than for mentioning Magna Carta.
My right hon. Friend is also anxious about law and order. The ultimate reservation to the Governor-General of the internal security of India is complete in the White Paper if the ordinary machinery breaks down. Finally, my 1389 right hon. Friend picks out British trade for a special reservation. I think, if he looks at paragraph 17, he will find the security that he wants in broader terms than his own. The British community in India is not concerned for its trade alone. It is concerned to secure the education that it desires for its children, and its cultural and its religious freedom. Those are as important as more material things. In paragraph 17 of the White Paper the Prime Minister says:A decision of the communal problem which provides only for representation of the communities in the Legislatures is not enough to secure what I may call natural rights.'I hope the Prime Minister will not talk too often of "natural rights."When such provisions have been made, minorities will still remain minorities, and the constitution must, therefore contain provisions which will give all creeds and classes a due sense of security, that the principle of majority government is not to be employed to their moral or material disadvantage in the body politic.There is security, not merely for their trade, but for their cultural freedom, about which they will be quite as much concerned. To pick out these particular points for mention to the exclusion of others, if another old Member may give a word of advice, is one of the things that in the course of our Parliamentary experience we learn on the highest authority is extremely dangerous. The mention of one is interpreted as the exclusion of the rest, and I prefer the wider language of the Government statement to the narrower provisions of my right hon. Friend's Amendment.
The real difficulty that we confront in the problem of India is that we are trying to engraft Western institutions on to an Oriental civilisation. My right hon. Friend, the Member for Marylebone (Sir R. R odd), on another occasion observed that self-government was not a right but a habit, and there are imitations of the British Constitution strewed among the wreckage of the world sufficient to show how true it is that, unless you have the habit of self-government, no particular constitution will bring safety. I was very glad to hear the Foreign Secretary repeat what the Prime Minister said in the White Paper, that the door is not closed to the advancement of provincial self-government and that that 1390 may yet take place in some part if not all over India. But I will ask the Government to go a little further. Because we are grafting Western institutions on to an Oriental civilisation, we are obliged to build from the top instead of from the bottom. I think the error of the past has been that we did not in time strive to develop such local institutions as exist, so that the path of Indian constitutional development might be the same as our own. There is one local self-governing institution of native growth mentioned by the Prime Minister, the village panchayat. Cannot the Government set to work, apart from these big problems, without waiting for the larger solution, and try to develop that local institution, and thus to create the educated body politic without which no constitution will succeed?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The right hon. Gentleman says that self-government is a habit. We must start that habit at some time or another before it becomes merely a habit. If self-government is a habit, before the practice of self-government becomes a habit, it must be commenced. I should like to say to the hon. Baronet the Member or Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) that, if he is anxious for business in India, I think the first thing to be obtained is peace and confidence and trust in the Indian people, and by the Indians in ourselves. Someone has said that the greatest British interest is peace, and I think that to-day. I should like to say to the Prime Minister that we accept paragraph 2 as meaning that clear definite agreement has been reached on the question of the right of India to have self-government with responsibility at the centre so soon as details can be worked out. After this has come into operation, there will be a transition period with agreed safeguards. I should like the Lord President of the Council to tell us whether we are right in that understanding. There has been so much discussion about this matter, that I think it is important.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Would the right hon. Gentleman mind reading it out again, the words are so very important?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
We accept paragraph 2 as meaning that a clear, definite agreement has been reached on the ques- 1391 tion of the right of India to have self-government with responsibility at the centre so soon as details can be worked out. After this has come into operation, there will then be a transition period with agreed safeguards—all the safeguards which, I understand, the right hon. Gentleman requires. In speaking to-night I do not claim any personal knowledge of India, but I do claim to have spent a good deal of time trying to think about India and to understand India ever since I was a boy. I am going to say some things to the House to-night which, I think, require saying, because of the sort of attitude of mind which some hon. Members seem to have taught the Indian people. It has been said during this particular Debate that we are discussing the affairs of a great country inhabited by a great people, a country which contains the descendants of nations, who, long before the Christian era, enjoyed the blessings of civilisation and religion, the ethical truths of which are still recognised as among the very highest and best in the world. Long before the Gospels were dreamed of, philosophers from the plains of India proclaimed the truth that the law of life was service, that life itself was sacred, and that to do unto others as we would they should do unto us was the one way by which peace and happiness could be brought into the world.
I recall these facts because it is impossible that any of us should understand the true feelings of Indians unless we also realise that we are dealing with the descendants of a cultured race. I would also remind the House of the opinion of one of the greatest students of the East, the late Professor Max Muller:If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions of some of them which will deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant, I should point to India. And if I were to ask myself from what literature we here in Europe, we who have been nurtured almost exclusively on the thoughts of Greeks and Romans, and of one Semitic race, the Jewish, may draw that corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact, more truly human"—[Interruption.] I dare say that it does not matter to many hon. Members what 1392 I am saying, but there are many Indians to whom it matters that this House should understand their position. I should have thought that in a House of Commons that starts with prayer, it might be fair to hear something about another country and their religion, and what one of the greatest writers of our time thought of that people. You are discussing their faith here to-night, and I have a right—anyone who cares for India bas a right—to put their point of view as far as it is possible,a life not for this life only, but a transfigured and eternal life—again I should point to India.This great people has been under the rule of British people for 150 years, that is, under the descendants of those who, while people in India were living as a civilised race, were wandering the forests of Britain without culture or any of the blessings which culture brings. Now at the end of 150 years, the question has arisen for how much longer shall our rule remain. From the start, when the affairs of India passed from the East India Company to the British Government, there have been repeated promises and pledges that we were in India only for the good of the Indians; that in the end we should hand back our trust, and leave India free to work out her own salvation. That was said at least 80 years ago. It is true that men like Lord Brentford have declared that this is not so; that we spent blood and treasure in securing India in order to make money. But I like to believe that, however mixed our motives may have been, the pledges given by Queen Victoria and her successors, and reaffirmed in the name of the British Parliament, were given in truth, and to be redeemed. Be this as it may, events have brought us to where we are to-night.
No one sitting on these benches wants to call in question the good will of the Prime Minister or his colleagues on this subject. We are willing to accept at their face value the reiterated pledges and the documents we are asked to accept this evening. This is, however, in my judgment, not enough. We wish to make it absolutely clear that the Indian nation, in our view, has the right to say when she herself desires to receive the rights and duties of nationhood. The British 1393 Labour movement has throughout its history always stood side by side with all nationalities, whether under our flag or anywhere else in the world struggling for freedom—in fact, men and women of all classes in this country have shown sympathy, and expressed it in word and deed with all nations struggling to be free.
We believe that it is not for Great Britain alone to determine how India shall be governed. It is her right. We believe, once we concede to India the full, complete inalienable right of saying whether she will or will not become a partner in the British Commonwealth of Nations, her answer will be, "Yes; but the choice must be hers. The words "self-determination" means this, or they mean nothing. And that is our standpoint. We, therefore, desire that the Government shall, without any delay, continue to negotiate along lines which will enable India to realise that we are not relying on force, but on good will. For a moment let us consider why the Indians claim this. As my hon. Friend the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) pointed out, every nationalist movement has an economic basis. Lord Balfour, when Chief Secretary for Ireland, described the Irish Home Rule movement as asocial revolution in the guise of a political agitation.Absentee landlordism and other forms of landlordism have brought the peasantry of Ireland to ruin, depopulated the countryside and stirred in the minds of Irishmen the world over a grim determination that in one way or another Ireland should be free.
§ Sir WILLIAM WAYLAND
On a point of Order. Is it correct for the right hon. Gentleman to read his speech?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I deliberately put down very copious notes in order to try to keep within time.
Our Indian friends suffer from the same economic causes. The immense cost of the British Army and pensions alone reach the terrible figure of 63 per cent. of total central expenditure; in fact, the upkeep of the British administration means a terrible drain of wealth from a people, millions of whom live on the 1394 borderline of destitution and famine. I need not call further attention to the facts which my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. Williams) brought before the House last night. I wish, however, to emphasise the point that this drain is from the resources of poverty-stricken millions. Our 150 years' rule has also left—and the hon. Baronet agrees about this—the overwhelming mass of the people in India illiterate. That does not mean, as Lord Lytton said, that they are ignorant. Such of them as are literate, those who have come to Europe, to Berlin, Paris, Moscow and London, have learned in the schools and universities what liberty means. Thousands of them are back in India with no outlet for their training. They are demanding, and in my view rightly demanding, that armies manned by Indians who would live in India and whose families would live in India, shall replace the very costly British Army. They are demanding that the Civil Service shall be Indianised. In both cases the cost would be very much less. They demand the same in regard to the judiciary and the whole services connected with Government and administration. These things are demanded as a right and also on economic grounds. They maintain that just as Ireland suffered from the drain which absentee landlordism caused, so does India suffer from British administration. I think every fair-minded person must see their case.
Out of this condition of things and many other well known evils, nationalism has grown. It is a mistake to imagine that the movement for responsible government is now confined to the towns. All that is vocal in young India is in the villages and will be there to-morrow preaching the gospel of the new India, pointing out that poverty and want, foul housing conditions, terribly high mortality rates, are all due not to nature but to the evil results that come from living under conquerors who drain immense wealth from the country and spend it abroad. [Interruption.] The hon. Member who is hiding behind the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Marjoribanks) might have the decency to allow me to proceed without interruption. I wish also to call attention to the fact that the Indians also desire that the wealth created in factories and work- 1395 shops, on railways and elsewhere, shall be retained in their own country, just as to-day we in Britain are striving might and main to keep within our own shores whatever wealth we are able to create.
If I have made this clear, I think I can go a step further and make the House understand that when the All-India Congress party demands control of finance, and control of the army, it is really asking for something which in all justice must sooner or later be conceded, and I hope "sooner" will be the word adopted. Some representatives of the All-India Congress are going home quite unsatisfied. No one in this House can foretell 'what will happen on the return of Mr. Gandhi and his friends. It is said that already non-co-operation is being organised, and that boycott and passive -resistance are being prepared. I have no authority or right to speak definitely on these matters, but I am terrified at the thought of any attempt on the part of the home Government or the Indian Government to suppress the Congress. I cannot without dire distress agree with the position that this Parliament must accept the present coercion or an extension of the powers of repression.
We are sending out Sir John Anderson as Governor of Bengal. I know that he is looked upon in India with suspicion [Interruption]—because of his association with the Home Office, and because he served in Ireland during the worst period of the Sinn Fein troubles. I have known him only a very short time. He is a courteous, high-minded public servant, and I am certain that he will carry out his duties in as humane a manner as is possible, but we must face the truth that violence begets violence and that Satan cannot cast out Satan. We all know that evil begets evil. I hope that when Sir John Anderson gets to Bengal he will be able to follow the lead of Lord Irwin, the greatest Viceroy that India has ever had, and keep in mind the fact that force is no remedy, not even for civil disobedience, and that as Governor there he will be not only responsible for law and order but also for doing his utmost so to advise the home Government that the causes which lead to disorder may be removed.
I wish, if my words reach them, to say to my friends in India that while we of 1396 the Labour party can give them sympathy and what help our propaganda amongst British people brings, we cannot assist them in defence of violence or law breaking. We should be untrue to ourselves and our convictions if we were for a moment to encourage people thousands of miles away from us to endure the suffering and misery which violence and disorder brings, while we rest safely at home. The responsibility for their actions must rest on them. I am in no position to advise, but I would impore every friend of mine in India and everyone in any position of authority to believe that our nation is sincere and, given the time, will see that justice is done. I also want to say to the Government that we on these benches cannot stand simply for coercion. The history of our own country, in fact the history of the human race, proves what futile folly it is merely to rely on force. Mr. Gladstone, on a famous occasion when dealing with Irish disorders, said that the resources of civilisation were not exhausted. Immediately afterwards the Irish Land League was suppressed. Mr. Parnell and the leaders were flung into prison but, as is well known, this lasted only a very short time. The Kilmainhan Treaty was signed and the Land League again functioned. Do not let us forget that when the men were put into prison in Ireland the women took their places. I beg the House to bear in mind the fact that this has also happened in India. Women of all sections, daughters, wives and sisters of princes, merchants, labourers and peasants, banded themselves together in a women's movement to take the place of Gandhi, Nehru and others when these leaders were recently sent to prison.
I want to make an appeal to the Prime Minister, although it may appear a hopeless proposition. I make it without any communication with Mr. Gandhi on the subject. I would appeal to the Prime Minister once again to see Mr. Gandhi and to use his persuasive powers to make that great man understand that the differences between us are not and shall not be insurmountable. Do not let the House imagine that I am in any doubt as to the power of Great Britain to hold India down by brute force. If it is to be a fight between the Congress and ourselves, Britain for a time may be 1397 victorious but the power of the terrible meek who use passive resistance will break us. Public opinion in the world will not permit either the British Government or Mr. Gandhi to stagger humanity. There is a grave and terrible responsibilty on both sides because of consequences too terrible for any of us to contemplate. Some more excellent way must be discovered. Therefore, I appeal to the Prime Minister once more to approach Mr. Gandhi, not through the Secretary of State but himself. [Laughter.] I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will understand that I do not mean that in any offensive way. It has been stated publicly that Mr. Gandhi is very fond of the right hon. Gentleman.
If the Prime Minister would himself invite Mr. Gandhi to meet him it might have some effect. [Interruption.] At the risk of rousing the hilarity of hon. Members below the Gangway, I want to remind the Prime Minister of the story of the man who wrestled with an angel, and who said, "I will not let thee go." If both these men were inspired by that thought much bloodshed might be avoided. I am a firm believer in the union of the British Dominions. I have a great faith that India will become one of the foremost partners, that together with her we shall start on the road to the federation of the world. We are torn and distracted in Europe because of our economic difficulties. We may chide and jibe at Indians, but We have not yet discovered the real way of life. We are only struggling towards the dawn. Asia, after centuries, is awakening. Millions of people are awakening to new visions of what life should be. The new wine is bursting the old bottles. [Interruption.] We have done great things in the past; and we are not played out. Our course now lies along another road. We have to substitute comradeship, brotherhood and co-operation, in place of domination and imperialism, and in dealing with our Indian comrades remember that India is their country, their motherland, which they love as we love Britain. I believe that those who are young will work this transformation.
Whatever the result may be it is not worth while this great country of ours embarking on a policy to hold India which may mean bloodshed and slaughter, 1398 or even economic stagnation and ruin. It will be better that we should take up our belongings and leave the country. [Interruption.] I do not want this to happen. There is a more excellent way; prompt negotiations, prompt settlement. Once or twice in this Debate hon. Members have mentioned Rome. Do not forget that the Roman conquerors came here, settled down, and for four centuries administered the affairs of Britain; created a civilisation. In their day they were powerful beyond measure—I think even more powerful than ourselves. But Rome fell. A writer, Mrs. Jessie Mother-sole, has said:Rome had great qualities, great and good men, yet she fell. What did she lack? She has left us a shining example of strength, endurance, courage, and justice, attention to duty. Where did she fail? She lacked just what we lack ourselves, the true idea of unity, the true ideal of universal love, without which all other greatness profiteth nothing.Are we just beginning to learn that the true walls, which alone can preserve our nation and Empire from destruction and decay, which do insure its stability, are not walls of brick or stone, or armies, or dreadnoughts, aeroplanes or submarines, but the great moral and spiritual qualities, high aspirations[Interruption.]
§ Mr. LANSBURY
—an ideal of unity, which views the whole world as one, faced by one common enemy, and sees that, with the nation as with the individual, true greatness consists in humility and willingness to serve. The writer concludes:Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise.[Interruption.] I just want to say this in conclusion: The House has done with me what, in the whole period that I have sat in that Gallery, since I was a boy of 15, I have never seen done before. I have never heard any speaker treated with the absolute contempt that I have received. I think I was entitled to some protection. Excuse me, Mr. Speaker. I did not appeal for it. The behaviour of this House to-night is a disgrace to any 1399 assembly. I have no sort of feeling about those who have treated me like this. The British public can decide. I have quoted from two writers. It is probable that the men who have interrupted me have never heard of them. It is quite possible that those who have jeered never knew that India had the civilisation of which I have spoken. But the people in the Gallery who have witnessed this scene will judge the action of the people who hold their destinies in their hands.
§ The LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL (Mr. Baldwin)
The Debate, which has now lasted for two days, has been one of singular interest both from the subject itself and from the merit and quality of many of the speeches which have been delivered. We have had an unusual number of maiden speeches, many of which have delighted the House by the promise they showed of future eminence in this Chamber. We have had a most interesting and valuable contribution from my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), himself at one time Secretary of State for India. I think that the Debate has been worthy of the subject, and I shall do the best I can, in the short time that I shall occupy, in maintaining its character. At this period of Debate it is not possible nor desirable to make an eloquent speech. What is wanted is to pick up two or three of the points which deserve consideration, and to make some observations upon the position which awaits the House and the decision which the House is asked to take.
With regard to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, there was but one question that he asked. He read a kind of paraphrase of paragraph 2 of the White Paper. My short answer to him is this: I think it would be better for him to read again paragraph 2 and to assume that it means exactly what it says. What it sets forth in about three words is a federal Constitution, with safeguards as an essential party to the Constitution. There should be no mistake about that.
I want, if I may, to note one or two points before I proceed with my speech, which were raised by my right hon. 1400 Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). It is a great tribute to the importance of this Debate that two of the most remarkable men, one belonging to the East and one to the West have each postponed their voyage across the seas to await the result of this Division, one going home into the sun-baked East, and the other going to cross the stormy winter ocean to the palpitating publicity of the new Republic. I am glad for one, that my right hon. Friend has postponed his voyage, because though to-night, again, I am sorry to say that we find ourselves differing from each other, I do not think anything that passes between us is going to affect our friendship. I have watched him for some time, holding the deep convictions that he does on this Indian question, and I am quite sure that all he said to-day reflects quite sincerely what has been in his mind for a long time past. So soaked has he lately been in Indian problems that, while, I sometimes think how impossible it would be for Mr. Gandhi to deliver that speech which he delivered this afternoon yet at the same time I find it equally impossible to visualise him as the Lama in "Kim" sitting under a banyan tree with his faithful Chela from North Paddington, engaged in deep and holy converse as to whether they can keep silence for 24 hours or not.
There are two points which my right hon. Friend mentioned and which I think it my duty to note. I take, first, the second point which he raised. He said, I regret to say— I think perhaps in a moment of high emotion—that at one time in this House—I was not clear when —it was put about by the Whips that agreement would never be reached between Indians. That, so far as my knowledge goes, is an invention. I consulted the present Chief Whip, and he denies all knowledge of it. If things are put about discreetly as they are put about, the leader of a party generally knows what is going on. Nothing of the kind has been done. I mention that, because I do hope that, whatever statements may appear in the Indian Press, quoting any right hon. Friend, they may equally quote what I have just said.
The second point on which I would like to pause for a moment is this. He spoke of my friendship with Lord Irwin, and 1401 with the present Prime Minister, and I think he implied by that, that it was through these evil associations that I had led the Tory Party into wrong paths on Indian matters. That is what I understood. I may say, incidentally, that I have had any critics for my friendship with my right hon. Friend, but I preserve the liberty of every hon. Member to choose my friends where I like. Well, it is a curious thing, but, if what my right hon. Friend says is right, I must be a very different man from my reputation. I do not often read about myself in the Press, but I have gathered through several years that I am a feeble creature, amiable, but always apt to be pushed aside and overborne by stronger characters; and yet he speaks as though I had snatched the Tory party, as a brand from the burning, from his clutches. There is some mistake somewhere, but, wherever the truth may lie, I am still here.
All I would say about my leadership on the Indian question is this: I was anxious two years ago as to the line which our party would take on the Indian question. I believed that the one course was the only one for a progressive party—and a party must be progressive Co live. I believed that the other course led to the destruction of the party. Hence it was that I made a speech, just two years ago, which I knew at the time did not commend itself to my right hon. Friend, because I saw that he sat silent through it and that he cheered the speech which followed mine by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). He has confessed that that right hon. Gentleman has completely changed his view since then, but I am exactly of the same opinion that I held two years ago. I think it only right, looking back to that night, to tell this House, and perhaps particularly the older Members of the House, that I received a letter two days after I made that speech in such warm and generous terms that I have hardly shown it to a single friend of mine, but it endorsed everything that I said. It finished with these words:It is a delight to me to think that on a subject which has so greatly occupied the thoughts of my declining years it has fallen to you, as Leader of the party, to give utterance in fitting language to great 1402 thoughts on the greatest of subjects. Yours ever, Balfour.I discussed this whole Indian question with Lord Balfour about that time, and he told me then that he agreed with every word I had said in that particular speech; and I felt that, if that was so, at all events I had a great sanction behind me in trying at that time to give the lead which I did give to the party.
I will say a few words about the situation in which we find ourselves to-night. I listened to the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Swindon (Sir R. Banks)—one point of this was also touched upon by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping—stressing the terms of the Statute, of the Government of India Act, and expressing, not the fear, but regret that the Government and the previous Government had gone outside those terms in inviting the Conference to come to London. It seems to me that what happened is no unusual thing in this country. We have very seldom committed anything connected with our Constitution into writing, and the attempt to do that, to commit the imponderable and intangible into a Statute, was what we all of us felt went a little against the grain. The great secret of our politic 1 strength is that from our own political experience we have a flexibility in meeting situations as they arise, and with that usual sound instinct, as the years went by, we felt that we ought to add the Conference to the lines that we laid down in that Statute. It is a curious thing, but it has been the pride of the political theorists in our own country, and particularly of the Liberal political theorists of past generations, to be at the greatest pains to educate Indians in our political theories and in the study of democratic institutions, and I have no doubt that it was done largely with a view to bringing our various races together by a sympathetic understanding of political principles.
The results have not been entirely what those who embarked on them could have foreseen. It is from that teaching that the demand for democracy has come, and not from our imposing it upon them as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) would have us believe. The difficulty of our position is this: Having given them this education for two or three generations, 1403 having encouraged their students to come to Oxford, Cambridge and London, are we to turn round on India and say, "While it is quite true we taught you all this political theory, after all, democracy is for us, and not for you"? It is an impossible position, and you have to remember that an essential and inherent factor in democracy is the consent of the governed, without which democracy cannot function. You must gain that consent, and that is the basic idea of proceeding by conference.
Has the Round Table Conference after all been a failure? I say "No" It is true that it has not reached anything cut and dried, and that there is a great deal to be done yet, but it has done one or two things that wanted doing. It has brought together the English in India and the Indians more closely than they have been brought together yet, and that is a good thing for the future. It has taught us a lot, and it has taught the Indians a lot, and that is to the good. Now that both sides are getting into contact with realities, and beginning to realise the difficulties of realities, that. I believe in itself will bring them closer. Here I should like to touch on something which my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham said. I do hope that as discussions proceed in India we may find that contributions of value may come from the Indian side. After all, we in the rapidity of the progress of our democracy have practically destroyed rural life in England; at any rate, we have sacrificed it to the urban. India is a, country still where village life is predominant. May it be their good fortune to remember that, and may it help them to frame their constitution as not necessarily a constitution which would suit this country, but a constitution in which that village life may play that great part in that continent that it ought to have done in this country. We have got to the point that we have reached with still a practical unity of parties. The House is probably well aware that I have, for various reasons that I need not elaborate to-night, always laid great stress on the importance of that. There is a well-known observation of Lecky; it is known to most of us, but I will give it to the House again.I think it is very true that party must exist, that it must be maintained as an 1404 essential condition of good government, but it must be subordinated to the public interest, and in the public interest it must be in many cases suspended. They are subjects which cannot be introduced without the gravest danger into the arena of party controversy. Indian politics are a conspicuous example.I believe that to be absolutely true, and I want to pay tribute, here in this House, to the delegates from all three parties who have worked for months and months through the two Conferences. They have worked together, on the whole, with great harmony, they have put an immense amount of labour into it, and I think the thanks and gratitude of this House are due to them all, including the Liberal and Socialist representatives. It is quite true that in this matter, as in all other political matters, you have extremists on both sides, and extremists, too, who are perfectly honest in their convictions. I can gather from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that he has extremists in his party who would go to a point which, in my view, might easily lead to anarchy, and, again in my view, would be the most deadly thing which could happen to any part of India having regard to her future, and particularly the prospects of her political future—a disastrous thing from every point of view. Equally we have on the other side men who regret that the Montagu reforms ever took place and who would, if they could, put the clock back under that Section of the Government of India Act which has been quoted.
I listened last night to a new Member, my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock). Men who hold those opinions and hold them honestly would he fully justified, in my view, in voting at any time against the Government on a Resolution of this kind, because they cannot honestly support it—they cannot do it. But I do say that not only the bulk of this House but the bulk of the country are with the Government in the course they are pursuing. I think the vote to-night will show it, and I am perfectly certain that if it were possible to put a referendum to the country it would show it too. But, after all, this whole Indian question is much more a question for the younger men than it is for most of us who sit on this bench. My hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities and myself cannot 1405 look forward to many more sears of active politics. The day will come when even my right hon. Friend will feel that he will have to lessen his activities—I hope not yet. The day will come, also, when many Members, particularly among the new Members, who may well have half a century yet before them, will see what the new development of the British Empire is going to be, and what is going to be the position of the great Indian Empire in relation to that Empire.
There is no problem in the world today of more vital interest to us, to India, and to the whole world, and I must say there is none more fascinating, from its very difficulty, and from the romance that attends all that is concerned with India; and were I to be able to put my own clock back, which I do not want to do, if I were 40 years of age again, there is no task I would more willingly undertake than that now undertaken by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India. To-day what we ask for is the approval of this House of the general lines on which the Government are going to proceed. I would say here a word on the speech last night of my right hon. Friend. It was stated by himself last, night, and I say it again on his authority, that there is no difference of any kind between what he said and what is contained in the White Paper. He spoke for 40 minutes, and the Prime Minister spoke for 20 minutes. Naturally a man who speaks for 40 minutes says more than a man who speaks for 20 minutes, and his speech was the White Paper and the White Paper was my right hon. Friend's speech. I would like to say something in answer to a question put to me by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Wardlaw-Milne), whose speech I regret to say I did not hear. He asked about the transitional period, and how long it will last. At this moment no one can say. What they can say is that it will last just as long as it is the will of Parliament that it should last. If and when that constitution is set up nothing in that constitution will be relaxed without the assent of Parliament.
With regard to the committees of which something has been said, they will be Government committees, and in each case where a committee is set up the names and the terms of reference will be 1406 announced in this House. Reports of their work will be published when they return and their work is done. Such reports would be available in due course for Parliamentary discussion. All I can say is that I hope if will not be long before my right hon. Friend will be in a position to give the House such facts as he will be in possession of with regard to the first one or two of these committees. One more observation on something that fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping. I think the right hon. Gentleman was a little confused about the way in which the Motion is put from the Chair. If I may anticipate, Mr. Speaker, in a case of this kind, always puts the words of the Amendment, reads them, and says, "The Question is that those words he there added."
What I want to say is this, as it was put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham: When the Government put down a Motion of this kind, odd as it may seem, and I do not pretend to justify it, it is the acknowledged practice of this House that any Motion to add words or subtract them is taken as a vote of censure on the Government, and therefore it is hardly open to anyone who would be willing to accept the words of the Resolution to vote at the same time for a vote of censure. As I said before, men who are so deeply convinced that any attempt in the direction of democratic government is wrong and should be protested against in this House, those men, if they are honest to their own convictions, must vote against this. There is no question about that, but I hope that those who are not convinced that that is the right course will think once or twice before they allow themselves to censure the Government for what, possibly in the next Division, they may be supporting, because the position would then be somewhat ridiculous.
With regard to the course that we propose to pursue, I agree that no man can say now whether success will crown our efforts or not, but we can continue our labours, and use our experience and our sympathy to the utmost to bring our efforts to a successful conclusion, and to help India to help herself. It all depends, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said, on the spirit in which we 1407 enter on this great work. India calls to-day more than ever for the best we have to offer in men. The task is so hard. It was a simple thing to work in India before the War compared with what it is to-day. Courage and statesmanship are called for as they never were before, but the alternative to proceeding as I have said, would be to proceed with your mind made up that nothing but failure awaits you. To enter on this work in that spirit would be neither honest nor wise. We are going forward with a full realisation of the gravity of the problem, with a full realisation of its difficulties, but with the will and the intention to succeed, and to support our will and intention, we want to be fortified by a large majority of our fellow Members of this House, who in their turn represent, after a most remarkable election, the people of these islands, that we may send a message forth to the world that, at any rate, all that courage, perseverance and good will can do, we will do. Give us our mandate to-night, and wish us well in the most difficult task that anyone in this Empire has ever tried to undertake.
The right hon. Gentleman, the most respected leader of the party to which I belong, has, in say opinion, in the concluding speech of a Debate of this kind taken rather an unfair advantage of the fact that there are so many young and inexperienced Members in this House. He has put before us the view that anyone voting for this Amendment is voting against an extension of a democratic form of government in India. I do not think it was quite fair or reasonable in a concluding speech, well knowing that there was no likelihood of any answer, unless perhaps one of the old Members would dare to get up to express himself. I want to put this to the newly-joined Members of the House. You are dealing to-night with a great constitutional issue. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) said that it was no use crying over spilt milk, or "jobbing back," but to-night we are not crying about. spilt milk, we are spilling milk to-night. [Interruption.] It is all very well, because you do not agree with my opinions, to laugh at them. If there were time—if we had two more days allowed for this Debate—to allow all Members to 1408 express their views, you would perhaps come to different conclusions.
What is the real truth of this position? A day was asked for for this Debate, and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) said, it would in the ordinary course have been a Debate on the Motion for Adjournment. We also asked that His Majesty's Government should state in this House and give a declaration of their policy. Why is it that the declaration of policy was given just a day or two before this Debate took place, and we are to have no alternative at all but to give a blessing to a declaration which was made, not by parties discussing a treaty, but at a Round Table Conference, and we are not allowed to say "No"? It is put to us, and by this we are fixed for the future, and our policy regarding India is fixed for the future. My view is, as far as I have been able to judge, held by a large number of the newly elected Members of this House, though no doubt they will feel compelled out of loyalty to vote with the Government, but what is the real opinion of the people outside in relation to this position?
I ask right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench what is the first duty of statesmen. It is to interpret in this House what they really understand and know and believe to be the spirit expressed by the people outside. What is the spirit of the people outside? Is it in favour of this legislation? At any rate, let the Government come before this House reinforced with the knowledge that they have this issue before the House, and that they have explored it in this House, so that the people outside might have a reasonable opportunity of understanding what it is that is placed before us. Has that been done? This is the last opportunity that the people outside have of understanding this issue, and how long an opportunity has been given in the last five years? What chance has there been of the people of this country understanding the issue that we are deciding to-night in this House, with hardly any Debate?
The Prime Minister, in his opening speech, laid it down that this Resolution must be passed or it would be a vote of no confidence in the Government. In what circumstances were the Government elected? They were elected as a 1409 National Government, and we all give them loyal support, in order to deal with the crisis at the present moment. Is it urgent that this declaration made to the Round Table Conference should be hurled at our heads to-night? I say most decidedly "No," and I say it is an abuse of the rights and privileges of the Members of the House of Commons for the Prime Minister of a National Government, willingly given support by all of us and entrusted with powers by the people of this country to do certain things—to rescue us in this crisis and not to deal with these matters. The Statute
§ of Westminster was hurled at our heads the other day, and this matter is hurled at our heads now. If this is to continue, this National Government can exist for but a short time—[Interruption.] I beg and implore the Prime Minister to try to give up these pet hobbies of his, which are being given effect to by support of this National Government, which was elected for entirely other objects.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 43; Noes, 369.1411
|Division No. 223.]||AYES||[11.0 p.m.|
|Applin, Lieut. -Col. Reginald V. K.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Purbrick, R.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Raikes, Hector Victor Alpin|
|Blaker, Sir Reginald||Greene, William P. C.||Rankin, Robert|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Remer, John R.|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Caine, G. R. Hall-||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Smiles, Lieut. -Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Carver, Major William H.||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Stewart, William J.|
|Chalmers, John Rutherford||Kimball, Lawrence||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Levy, Thomas||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Lymington, Viscount||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Marjoribanks, Edward|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Moore, Lt. -Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Dixey, Arthur C. N.||Nail, Sir Joseph||Major-General Sir Alfred Knox and|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Peters'fld)||Mr. Hannon.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Craven-Ellis, William|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds. W.)||Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Cripps, Sir Stafford|
|Agnew, Lieut. -Com. P. G.||Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Crooks, J. Smedley|
|Albery, Irving James||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)|
|Allen, Maj. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd. W)||Buchan, John||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Cross, R. H.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Burghley, Lord||Crossley, A. C.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Culverwell, Cyril Tom|
|Apsley, Lord||Butler, Richard Austen||Curry, A. C.|
|Aske, Sir William Robert||Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Daggar, George|
|Astbury, Lieut. -Com. Frederick Wolfe||Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Cawpbell, Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley)||Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. B.||Capt, Thomas||Davies, Maj. G. O. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Cassels, James Dale||Denman, Hon. R. D.|
|Balnlel, Lord||Castlereagh, Viscount||Denville, Alfred|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Castle Stewart, Earl||Dickie, John P.|
|Barrio, Sir Charles Coupar||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Doran, Edward|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Duckworth, George A. V.|
|Batty, Joseph||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Duggan, Hubert John|
|Beaumont, R. E. B. (Portsm'th, Centr'l)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A. (Birm., W)||Duncan, Charles (Derby, Claycross)|
|Bonn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgbaston)||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N. J|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Eales, John Frederick|
|Bernays, Robert||Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Eden, Robert Anthony|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Chotzner, Alfred James||Edmondson, Major A. J.|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Clarke, Frank||Edwards, Charles|
|Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Clayton, Dr. George C.||Elliot, Major Walter E.|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Ellis, Robert Geoffrey|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Colfox, Major William Philip||Elmley, Viscount|
|Blindell, James||Collins, Sir Godfrey||Emrys-Evans, P. V.|
|Borodale, Viscount||Colman, N. C. D.||Entwistle, Major Cyril Fullard|
|Bossom, A. C.||Conant, R. J. E.||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Cook, Thomas A.||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W,||Cooke, James D.||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Cooper, A. Duff||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Copeland, Ida||Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)|
|Briant, Frank||Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Fraser, Captain Ian|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Cranborne, Viscount||Fremantle, Lieut. Colonel Francis E.|
|Fuller, Captain A. E. G.||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Rothschild, James L. de|
|Gault, Lieut. -Col. A. Hamilton||Lunn, William||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Mabane, William||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Gledhill, Gilbert||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)|
|Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Russell, Richard John (Eddlsbury)|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Mac Donald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Salmon, Major Isidore|
|Granville, Edgar||McEwen, J. H. F.||Salt, Edward w.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||McKie, John Hamilton||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Graves, Marjorie||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||McLean, Major Alan||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Griffith, F. Kingtley (Middlesbro' W.)||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Corn'll N.)||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Grimston, R. V.||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Selley, Harry R.|
|Groves, Thomas E.||Maitland, Adam||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Shaw, Captain William T, (Forfar)|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H||Mailalleu, Edward Lancelot||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Hales, Harold K.||Mander, Geoffrey la M.||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)|
|Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Manningham-Buller, Lt. -Col. Sir M.||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetland)||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Smith. Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Hanbury, Cecil||Martin, Thomas B.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Hanley, Dennis A.||Mason, David M. [Edinburgh, E.)||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Harris, Percy A.||Mayhew, Lieut. -Colonel John||Soper, Richard|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Meller, Richard James||Sotheran-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Southby. Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Headlam, Lieut. -Col. Cuthbert M.||Mills, Sir Frederick||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Milne, John Sydney Wardlaw-||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Heneage, Lieut. -Colonel Arthur P.||Milner, Major James||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Hicks, Ernest George||Mitcheson, G. G.||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Hillman, Dr. George B.||Molson, A. Harold Elsdale||Stanley, Hon. 0. F. C. (Westmorland)|
|Hoare, Lt. -Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Stevenson, James|
|Holdsworth, Herbert||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut. -Col. J. T. C.||Stones, James|
|Hope Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston)||Moreing, Adrian C.||Storey, Samuel|
|Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge)||Morgan, Robert H.||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Hopkinson, Austin||Morris, John Patrick (Sallord, N.)||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Horobin, Ian M.||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Morris, Rhys Hopkin (Cardigan)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Howard, Tom Forrest||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Morrison, William Shephard||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Muirhead, Major A, J.||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Munro, Patrick||Sutclifle, Harold|
|Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Taylor, Vice-Admirals. A. (P'dd'gt'n, S.)|
|Hunter-Weston, Lt. -Gen. Sir Aylmer||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Normand, Wilfrid Guild||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||North, Captain Edward T.||Thompson, Luke|
|Hutchison, Maj. -Gen. Sir R. (Montr'se)||O'Connor, Terence James||Thomson, Mitchell-, Rt. Hon. Sir W.|
|Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romford)||0'Donovan, Dr. William James||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas W. H.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Palmer, Francis Noel||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Janner, Barnett||Patrick, Colin M.||Train, John|
|Jenkins, Sir William||Peake, Captain Osbert||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Jennings, Roland||Pearson, William G.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Peat, Charles U.||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|John, William||Penny, Sir George||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Percy, Lord Eustace||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Peters. Dr. Sidney John||Ward, Lt. -Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Petherick, M.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Ker, J. Campbell||Pike, Cecil F.||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|Kerr, Hamilton W.||Potter, John||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Kirkpatrick, William M.||Powell, Lieut. -Col. Evelyn G. H.||White, Henry Graham|
|Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Knebworth, Viscount||Price, Gabriel||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Knight, Holford||Pybus, Percy John||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Lamb, Sir Joseph Quintan||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Williams, Dr. John H. (Lianelly)|
|Lansbury. Rt. Hon. George||Ramsbotham, Herswald||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Law, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.)||Ramsden, E.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Lawson, John James||Ratcliffe, Arthur||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Leckie, J. A.||Rathbone, Eleanor||Windsor-Clive, Lieut. -Colonel George|
|Leech, Dr. J. W.||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Withers, Sir John James|
|Leighton, Major 8. E. P.||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Womersley, Walter James|
|Lewis, Oswald||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe||Rentoul Sir Gervals S.||Wood, Major M. McKenzie (Banff)|
|Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Renwick, Major Gustav A.||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton(S'v'noaks)|
|Lloyd, Geoffrey||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd. Gr'n)||Robinson, John Roland|
|Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Loder, Captain J. do Vere||Ropner, Colonel L.||Captain Margesson and Mr. Russell Rea.|
|Logan, David Gilbert||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
§ Main Question put.
§ The House proceeded to a Division.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
(seated and covered): On a point of Order. I want to ask for your guidance, Mr. Speaker, seeing that the number of voices in the Division which we have challenged is likely to be small. In the event of your not calling the Division and asking the hon. Members implicated to stand up, will you allow those hon. Members to have an opportunity of showing that they think this is a vital issue and of having their names recorded, so that they may indicate their dissent from the majority of the House?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not know of any Standing Order by which the names can be recorded. There used to be a Rule of the House by which the names of hon. Members standing up could be recorded, but that Rule was done away with some years ago.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I do not intend to pursue the point, but I give notice that as soon as possible after Questions I will raise the point again.
§ Mr. SMAKER stated that he thought the Ayes had it; and, on his decision being challenged, it appeared to him that the Division was unnecessarily claimed, and he accordingly called upon the Members who supported and who challenged his decision successively to rise in their places, and he declared that the Ayes had it, three Members only who challenged his decision having stood up.
That this House approves the Indian Policy of His Majesty's Government as set out in Command Paper, No. 3972 (Indian Round Table Conference), presented to Parliament on 1st December, 1931.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That is only the rule while the House is dividing. If the hon. Member wishes to address me now he must stand up in his place.