§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I rise to a point of Order. May I ask you, Mr. Chairman, for the convenience of those who are taking part in this Debate, whether the scope of it will be general in its character, and whether, for instance, all the topics referred to in the conversations between the Governor-General of India and Mr. Gandhi, as published in the White Paper, will be within the scope of the Debate so long as they are treated of in a general manner? I quite comprehend that a detailed discussion upon constitutional questions which may afterwards form the subject of legislation will not be within the scope of the discussion, but the repercussion of the present constitutional discussion in India, and the matters set forth in the White Paper—I would ask whether you would consider that they are fully within the scope of our Debate. In support of that, I would venture to say that I do not believe that the Debate can be intelligibly carried on unless a reasonable latitude is given in that direction.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The discussion of this Vote on Account will have the same scope as any previous Votes on Account. Matters dealing with administration will be in order; matters dealing with future legislation will not be in order, and any references of a hypothetical or problematical character will be out of order.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I have a further question to ask on this point. One of the main subjects for discussion is, of course, the agreement which has been made in India between the Viceroy and Mr. Gandhi. In paragraph 2 of the statement there is a very full reference to the various points of difficulty now existing in regard to the constitutional settlement, and I submit to you, Mr. Chairman, that a reference to those points is a definite part of the administration of the country at the present time, because in the treatment of the preliminaries of the constitutional discussion lies a great part of the administrative problem.
§ The CHAIRMAN
As I have already stated, any question relating to administration arising out of what has been agreed to would be in order, but nothing further.
§ Mr. STANLEY BALDWIN rose—
On a point of Order. I notice that the second paragraph states:the scheme for constitutional government of India discussed at the Round Table Conference.Is that not contemplating future legislation, and, as such, is it not properly ruled out of discussion this afternoon?
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I wish to thank the Government for having acceded to my request that the promised Debate on India should be anticipated and take place this week instead of next week. I thought at the time, and I think it still more to-day, that that was the right and necessary course, having regard to the gravity of the subject in itself, in its issues, and in its outcome. I can promise the House that what I have to say will not take long, and will be expressed in simple and plain language, and I shall not trespass on the time of the Committee at any undue length. I hope that free expression may be given in the course of the Debate to every shade of opinion in this House from whatever part that shade of opinion may come. I think 1418 I can best begin by reminding the Committee of words that may be familiar which were used in 1917, and it is just one sentence:The Government spoke not only of the increasing association of India in every branch of the administration, but also the granting of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realisation of responsible Government in India as an integral part of the British Empire.4.0 p.m.
I quote those words having clearly in my recollection the phrasing of the preamble of the Act, and the relevant Clause in the Act which stresses so markedly progression by stages. I quote that merely for this reason. I want to remind my party that we have always prided ourselves, and have often been twitted by our opponents with regard to it, on putting, the Empire in the forefront of our speeches, our posters and our placards. I think it is particularly essential for us in our party on this side of the House to remember, as some of us, perhaps, in the country are apt to forget, that the Empire, if it is anything, is a living organism; that the Empire of to-day is not the Empire of the first Jubilee of Queen Victoria. No man can see to-day, however far-seeing he may be, what may be the position of the Empire 50 years hence. It is no dead matter. It is organic and alive, in a constant process of evolution, a process which is being speeded up every day. Few could have foreseen, even a few years ago, to what point that evolution would have brought the relations of the great Dominions with the mother country, and it cannot be supposed that, in this world of evolution, India alone is static. We have impregnated India ourselves with Western ideas, and, for good or for ill, we are reaping the fruits of our own work. Indeed, the Declaration itself, which I have just read over, and the Act to which I have alluded, give the lie to the idea, if idea it be, held to-day, that the East, at any rate, must be static, however far and however fast the West may move.
After those few preliminary words—and I have no wish to waste time; I am not going to trace the events that led up to the Conference; I will take the Conference as an accepted fact—I want to make a thing perfectly plain which always has been plain, and of which, I 1419 think, there can have existed no doubt in any mind at all, if it were not that in many parts of the country we are still suffering from a very common after-war effect of nerves and hysteria—a very dangerous combination. The Conservative party to-day stands exactly where it stood on 26th January, when a statement was made by Lord Peel on its behalf which I have not yet heard challenged. It stands exactly where I stated it stood in a speech I delivered last week at Newton Abbot, one paragraph of which I will read to the House:Our main objective is clear, the objective of an all-India Federation. But when we have stated our objective we must not forget that many grave difficulties have to be surmounted before we can attain it. At present we have only sketched the framework of the problem. The details are not filled in, and many of them will present serious difficulties. Apart from the pledge of an honest attempt to confront these difficulties, and thus to carry on the work of the Conference, the Conservative party is uncommitted. Everyone is uncommitted—for the simple reason that it is impossible for any of us to pronounce a definite opinion until a definite plan is before us. The Round-Table Conference did not attempt to fill in the details, and in the period before us we shall have to judge how far it is possible to achieve the federal idea without surrendering any of the essential safeguards that we have clearly and definitely stated, and that we consider fundamental in any future settlement.I think that that is quite clear, and I would only add this. In spite of what you may have read or have heard, the party co-operation which has existed since the setting up of the Simon Commission is not broken, and remains exactly where it was. I think I owe it to the Committee to make a few observations on certain events which have transpired, as the Press would say, in the last 48 hours. There has been a great deal of excitement about nothing. What is the position? It was perfectly obvious that, after the conclusion of the Conference, the Government—and this would have applied to whatever Government had been in power—would then have to decide what next step they should take to go on with the work which had been begun in the Conference. It is, in effect, a simple matter of procedure. I use the word "simple" because it is procedure. It is not really a simple matter, because the whole problem teems with difficulties which none 1420 know better than the Government. I have no doubt that they have considered divers courses of action at the present time, and no course can be put forward but good arguments can be found for taking that course, and good arguments can be found for rejecting that course.
It is perfectly obvious that, after the conclusion of the Conference, the problem before us is not now how to settle the conditions; it is how to satisfy them, and that is a difficult question. The Government put forward one suggestion for our consideration, as I believe they put it forward for the consideration of right hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway—a consideration that involved sending delegates to India. I always had a definite view on that subject, and I may say that the view which I took was the view of such colleagues as I consulted, and the unanimous view of the four delegates who represented our party at the Conference in London. Our view is this: It is no question of party co-operation here; it is a legitimate question of differences of opinion as to the right procedure on a particular point at a particular moment. I took, and my friends took, this view, that anything in the shape—but, first of all, I should say we took this view, that at this juncture it was the business of the Government of the day to take the matter in hand until, in the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare), the picture became more filled in.
It is impossible for me here, and undesirable, possibly, even if I were able to say what course we could or would pursue if we were responsible as the Government, but I feel quite clear that whether I had been responsible as the Government or as the Leader of the Opposition, with every desire to cooperate, I should have thought the same, that at this juncture the work that wants doing in India would be best carried on by the Government of the day, in what-even manner they think best to achieve that end. There are obvious difficulties if a complete party delegation were to re-open discussions at the moment. I am going to say very little on that. I want to say nothing that will cause any difficulty here or in India, and make the task of men here or in India more difficult than it must be in the circumstances of the case. But I told the Government 1421 and I wish to tell the House, that while we take that view on this particular question at this particular moment, I intimated to the Government that we were willing at all times to be consulted if the Government thought it desirable, and that the answer we gave on this point in no way prejudiced our fair and free consideration, at any future time, of the question of calling all the delegates together, and we should judge of each case on its merits as and when that occasion arose.
Everybody knows that there are differences of opinion in our party on this subject, because there always have been. There are a large number of people in this country who are genuinely apprehensive of all that is going on, and it so happens that they all belong to our party. On this matter we are faced with certain difficulties which, in spite of possible difficulties other parties may have in other directions, they are, at any rate, free from that, and there was a genuine anxiety, an anxiety which I respect, among many of my supporters as to whether at this moment the delegates who had been at the London Conference were going out to India. I felt it only fair to relieve them of that anxiety, as I did weeks ago, and acquaint them of my opinion, and I think that it gave a certain amount of relief. But when I was asked on Monday if I had any objection to an authentic statement going out that that decision had been come to, I was in a little bit of a difficulty for this reason. I would much rather, quite frankly, that no statement had been made. These conversations had been private communications between a leader and a committee of his followers, and they ought to be private.
I noticed that there was some communication between that committee of my party and that section of the Press which had announced its intention to smash us, and it seemed to me that, whatever steps I took, that was going to come out, and if it was to come out, I preferred it to come out authenticated by myself. I knew the results might be unfortunate, not to myself—I do not care twopence about that—but I was afraid of the reaction in India. My fears were justified. I fully believe, and I hope, that what has happened since, and is to be said in the course of this Debate, may not only alle- 1422 viate, but remove those fears, but if they show people what difficulties we have to contend with at present in pursuing the course on which, I believe, the majority of the party are set, it is well that it should be known. We shall hear from the Secretary of State presently, I imagine, what steps the Government are proposing to take, and how they hope to proceed with—if I may use the phrase again—filling in the picture. I would here express the hope, the confident hope, that the Government will not think of effecting any major change under the existing Constitution while this great question which has been discussed at the Conference is still in process of negotiation, and, we hope, settlement.
I would say a word or two, and a word or two only, on the conversations between the Viceroy and Mr. Gandhi. I used the word "hysteria" a short time ago, and I used at advisedly. It has been brought to my attention that the results of these conversations were announced in two popular papers, in one of them as a surrender of Mr. Gandhi, and in the other as a surrender of the Viceroy. Both of those statements cannot be true, but I deprecate in the strongest way possible the use of such words as "victory" and "surrender." I have been told that I have surrendered to my eight hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill)—
§ Mr. BALDWIN
There has been no surrender. There has been no victory personally. But there has been what I regard as of prime importance, a victory of common sense—a victory rare enough in India, and rare enough at home. Such a conclusion as has been reached, I believe, could not have been reached in the circumstances by any other Englishman than Lord Irwin. It is a great tribute to his character—a character which has given him a prestige in India that nothing else could have afforded him. We cannot judge of the ultimate effects yet of these conversations. Extremism, in India or at home, dies hard and slowly. But I may say this with perfect safety, that, whatever happens, and even though we may later on be disappointed at finding the results
1423 not equal to our expectations, yet it has definitely enlarged the area of good will and co-operation, and that is the one thing that is wanted to-day more than anything else. I would quote a few words on that subject, written with more lucidity of thought and felicity of style than I can ever hope to attain, being a man of plain speech, and I think the House will be glad to hear them:Our reign in India or anywhere else has never stood on the basis of physical force alone, and it would be fatal to the British Empire if we were to try to base ourselves only upon it. The British way of doing things, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India, who feels intensely upon this subject, has pointed out, has always meant and implied close and effectual co-operation with the people of the country. In every part of the British Empire that has been our aim, and in no part have we arrived at such success as in India, whose princes spent their treasure in our cause, whose brave soldiers fought side by side with our own men, whose intelligent and gifted people are co-operating at the present moment with us in every sphere of government and of industry.I like the ring of those sentences, so I am going to give two more. The speaker was alluding to some trouble that had broken out in Egypt at that time, and he went on:If the disastrous breakdown which has occurred in a comparatively small country like Egypt, if this absolute rupture between the British Administration and the people of the country had taken place throughout the mighty regions of our Indian Empire, it would have constituted one of the most melancholy events in the history of the world. That it has not taken place up to the present is, I think, largely due to the constructive policy of His Majesty's Government, to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India has made so great a personal contribution. I was astonished by my right hon. Friend's sense of detachment when, in the supreme crisis of the War, he calmly journeyed to India, and remained for many months absorbed and buried in Indian affairs. It was not until I saw what happened in Egypt, and, if you like, what is going on in Ireland to-day, that I appreciated the enormous utility of such service, from the point of view of the national interests of the British Empire, in helping to keep alive that spirit of comradeship, that sense of unity and of progress in co-operation which must ever ally and bind together the British and Indian peoples."—[OFFICIAL RFPORT, 8th July, 1920; cols. 1731–2, Vol. 131.]1424 [HON MEMBERS: "Name!"] I wish that those words had been mine, but I remember listening to my right hon. Friend—[interruption.] Really, I think it is very good of me to quote them at this period of my speech, because they will make the rest of my speech sound like a Sunday school textbook. I need hardly say that I agreed with every word of that when it was spoken in 1920, and I agree with every word of it to-day. I do not think there could be a better summing up of the situation, possibly with the alteration of a word here and there, than that speech delivered 11 years ago.
I have long realised that this question of the constitutional government of India is by far the most important Imperial question, by far the greatest, by far the most difficult, not only that we have to face to-day, but that we have ever had to face, and it is for that reason that during the last nine months I have often abstained even from good works, in the hope and the attempt to bring about the maximum amount of unity in our party on this subject, and to keep India out of party politics. The difficulty, for obvious reasons which I have already given, is one more peculiar to our party than to others; but I have said before in this House and outside it what I want to say once more, and that is that more important even than party unity is the unity of all the parties on this subject. I believe now, as I believed last year, as I believed when the Simon Commission was set up, that, if party co-operation in this country were once broken, the whole problem of the government of India would be insoluble and impossible for this country, and I, for one, would never undertake the responsibility of attempting it, but would leave the responsibility to those on whom the responsibility rested for breaking up that unity.
I have said before what I think is worth saying once again. Difficult as the course is, the dangers do not come from the difficulties; they come from extremists in India and at home. I will tell you what I mean. I am firmly convinced that such writings as appear in such papers as the "Daily Mail" will do more to lose India for the British Empire, will do more to cause a revolu- 1425 tionary spirit, than anything that can be done in any way by anyone else. I got many letters, I need hardly say, of all points of view. I had a very characteristic one last week. It was from a colonel, and I would remind the House that it was Butler who said that it was the colonels who very nearly threw Disraeli out of his leadership in the winter of 1871. It was from a colonel; he was an old man, you could tell that by his writing; and he used this phrase: He said, "You and Lord Irwin are negrophiles." Perhaps he was a member of the United Empire party. That is not the way to cement the Empire. This sort of thing, and the spirit behind it, will break up our Empire infallibly, and that is what I am out to fight.
The responsibilities of leaders of parties, as my right hon. Friends know very well, are always great, and they have never been greater than they are to-day, and never more difficult. We are all agreed upon that. Even if the rank and file refuse to face facts, the leader has to look at them, and he has to warn his people; and they do not like being warned. It is the supreme duty of a political leader to tell the people of the country the truth, because truth is greater than tactics. There is a mutual and a reciprocal loyalty between a leader and his followers, but if that fails on either side, whether on that of the followers or on that of the leader—and it is sometimes the one and sometimes the other—then that partnership is dissolved.
What is the principal fact that I see in the world to-day? It is that the unchanging East has changed. That is a very remarkable fact. Not only has it changed, but it is changing with alarming rapidity, and there are many people in the country who are blind not to see it. You cannot to-day, however much you may desire it, however much you may regret the course of recent history, however much you may believe it to be wrong, however much you may believe it to be dangerous—you cannot reverse the engines without breaking up the whole machine. You cannot reverse the engines on the ground of sane and wise policy, and you cannot reverse the engines on the simple pound of British honour. If I may refer again for one moment to those passages which I have 1426 quoted, whether the problem is going to be solved, whether the attempt is to be made and the attempt fails, the ultimate result depends, not on force, but it depends on good will, sympathy and understanding between India and Great Britain; and the great work of Lord Irwin is that he has, after many years of suspicion, bridged that gulf. He has bridged it by ability and by character, and, whatever mistakes he may have made—and five years is plenty of time for the best of us to make mistakes—whatever mistakes he may have made, I am firmly convinced that, when the history of this time comes to be written, his name will stand out as that of one of the greatest Viceroys, and a Viceroy that I had the honour myself of sending to India.
I only wish to say this in conclusion. I know the difficulties that confront many men in my party—difficulties of conviction and of old ties. I do not believe the bulk of our party, either in the House or in the country, will take any different view from that view which I expressed in the earlier part of my speech, from what was said by Lord Peel and from what I said at Newton Abbot. I shall carry out that policy so long as I am here. I shall carry it out in no niggardly spirit. I shall carry it out with every desire to overcome the stupendous difficulties that face us. If there are those in our party who approach this subject in a niggling, grudging spirit, who would have to have forced out of their reluctant hands one concession after another, if they be a majority, in God's name let them choose a man to lead them. If they are in minority, then let them at least refrain from throwing difficulties in the way of those who have undertaken an almost superhuman task, on the successful fulfilment of which depends the well-being, the prosperity and the duration of the whole British Empire.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Wedgwood Benn)
After the historic speech to which we have just listened, there is really, from the point of view of the Indian situation, nothing to add to this Debate. I am perfectly certain that the words of the right hon. Gentleman will be read with relief and delight by all sections of opinion in India, and I am perfectly certain that no one 1427 will feel more encouraged in the vast task that he has in hand than the Viceroy, for whose appointment the right hon. Gentleman and the party opposite were responsible. He said they stood where they stood on 26th January. If that is so—and that is so—the work upon which we have all been engaged together can go forward with some hope of success.
If the Committee would have the patience, I should like to trace for a few moments the history of the efforts that we have made to secure co-operation between parties, and co-operation between this country and the peoples of India. The right hon. Gentleman himself said the first stage in co-operation between parties was in the Statutory Commission. That was co-operation between parties in this country. Towards the conclusion of the labours of the Commission the right hon. Gentleman who was its Chairman put forward a suggestion that the next stage in the work should be conducted by means of a conference, and that conference was set on foot with the accord, with the applause, the approval and the co-operation of all parties in this House. The Viceroy, in the significant proclamation of 1st November, 1929, set out as the task in which the Government had to engage the removal of what he called the webs of mistrust. It would be true to say that the whole object of the policy of this Government has been, through co-operation here, and co-operation with India, to remove the mistrust between the peoples of the two countries and to set them co-operatively at constructive work. My endeavour will be to trace the history of that effort, which has been a sustained and difficult effort, and to remind the House of what measure of success we have achieved up to the present moment. It is a matter of immense difficulty owing to the distances, the diversity of thought, and the diversity of interest and outlook.
The first success that we had in attempting to remove the webs of mistrust was in the meeting of the Conference itself. There was a time when it was doubtful whether representative men from India would come to this country for the Conference. I am not speaking of Congress at all. I am speaking of British Indian and other represen- 1428 tatives of non-Congress parties. There was grave doubt as to whether they would ever be persuaded to come to the Conference, but the Conference met, with a personnel of a very wide, though not complete, authority—not complete because everyone recognised that, as it was without the presence of representatives of the National Congress, it could not be fully representative of Indian opinion. But it met. At the time that it was meeting, and that we were failing in our efforts to secure the co-operation of all sections of Indian opinion, we passed through the deplorable episode called civil disobedience. It would serve no purpose now that the movement has ceased, to make any detailed reference to it, but I should like in passing to pay a tribute to the public officers, including the Indian police, who, in a time of very great difficulty, discharged the duties which were laid upon them, owing to the failure of politicians, with singular devotion to their work. The maintenance of public order is of prime public interest. I would in this connection quote the words of Mr. Gandhi himself. He said the other day:If we resort to excesses we shall be opening the door to self-destruction when we have Swaraj.It was because we wished to hand on the legacy of self-government to an Indian Government that enjoyed traditional authority that we did our part in maintaining public order during this campaign of civil disobedience. A firm hand is a good thing but, if you have a firm hand, there is no harm in having a clear head and an understanding heart. Throughout the period of civil disobedience the policy of the Government remained unchanged. It was to encourage, to seek and to welcome the co-operation of representative Indian opinion. For a long time it was not forthcoming in those quarters. Those who had announced their intention of coming to the Conference met with criticism. They were told their efforts would fail. They even met with hostility among their own countrymen. I think the House, especially those Members of it who were concerned in the Conference, would wish to pay a tribute to the patriotism of those Indians—Princes, British Indians, Mohammedans, Sikhs, representatives of the Depressed Classes 1429 and others who often in the face of discouragement received from their fellow countrymen came to St. James' and gave us our first success in our campaign for co-operation.
A remarkable thing occurred at the Conference, and every Member of the House who was a Member of the Conference can corroborate this from his own personal experience. A very remarkable impression was created on the minds of the delegates. We had different views. We approached the problem from different angles and perhaps with different measures of enthusiasm. But the delegates returned to India convinced of the good faith of the British Parliament. They came here doubting and they went back fully convinced of our good faith, and I trust we shall never let down the men who have rendered that service and who have shown that trust in the British Parliament. Therefore, in the matter of the Round Table Conference and in the impression created upon the Indian delegates who attended, we won our first battle for understanding with the Indian people.
What happened at this Conference itself? Our next attack was to be directed on those who had refused to co-operate in the policy we are pursuing. Members of the Round Table Conference, representative men of all parties, said they believed that, if they could go back and explain to their fellow countrymen what had been done at St. James', they could win them over. Although I very much admire the courage of these missionaries, I myself always considered that they were overoptimistic. I thought it hardly possible that they could succeed, but they said, "If we are to discuss with Members of other parties the future, and if we are to convince them of the good faith of Great Britain, then it is necessary that we should meet them as free men," and it was in response to that that the Prime Minister made the declaration that he made at St. James' in reference to the way in which the Government would meet a gesture of co-operation from the other side.
The delegates went back to India. In July these same representative men had met Mr. Gandhi and other Congress leaders and failed to convince them that this Parliament would keep faith with 1430 India. After many efforts they came away having failed to convince Congress that they could trust Parliament. They went back after meeting representatives of Parliament—not only of one party—and they succeeded in the effort in which in July last they had failed. They succeeded because of the impression that had been produced on their mind by the transparent sincerity of the delegates whom this House sent to the Round Table Conference. So the area of co-operation was extended. As the right hon. Gentleman has truly said, the real link that binds India to this country and the Empire is confidence in our good faith.
After the conversations which the representatives of the Round Table Conference had with representatives of Congress, the leader of the Congress party, Mr. Gandhi, wrote a letter asking the Viceroy whether he might have an interview with him. It was understood that his purpose was to substitute co-operation for the non-co-operation in which for the last 10 years he had engaged, and I say that at that stage a second battle was won in the campaign for understanding and goodwill between the people of the two countries. Mr. Gandhi said:I shall strain every nerve to make the provisional peace a permanent one.We welcome that expression and reciprocate it, and we remember with gratitude not only what has been done by our own friends at the Round Table Conference, but we look forward with confident hope to what will be done by old and new friends when the Conference reassembles at a later date.
As a result of these conversations certain things followed. The conversations themselves and the situation as it developed at the end of the conversations are set out on the White Paper which is in the hands of Members. I would like to deal with the results, or perhaps one might almost use the word achievements, of these conversations, under several heads. In the first place it should be remarked that the result, the settlement if you like to call it that, has been received with universal approval in India. Members of the Council of State, members of the Legislative Assembly have passed resolutions approving. The resolution in the Legislative Assembly was moved by a 1431 distinguished Mohammedan and supported by the leader of the European group, and was unanimously passed.
Furthermore, the atmosphere which has been created by the restoration of peace in India is an atmosphere in which it should be very much easier to solve some of the thorny problems which baffled solution in London. I think I am right in saying that the communal question, which is notably one of the most difficult questions, will come nearer to solution owing to the co-operation which now exists between the various parties in India. The second result was that we were enabled with an immense sigh of gratitude to empty the prisons of people who had been engaged in civil disobedience. We were enabled to permit India to revert to government by the ordinary law instead of being governed by the special ordinances which had been necessary—I make no apology for them—in times of very great stress.
From the Indian point of view what does this mean? It does not merely mean that people who from patriotic motives were engaged in this civil disobedience campaign are now free men; it does not mean that people are merely breathing the freer atmosphere of the ordinary law. It means that people who have been driven by their love of country to courses which we must all deplore, now have open to them a constructive way in which to serve their country, instead of the obstructive way which hitherto they had followed. That is not an insignificant gain from the Indian point of view.
Then, again, take the very important question of the credit and Budgetary positions. If the Committee will permit me I would like to read a somewhat long passage from the speech which was delivered by Sir George Schuster in the Assembly recently when he introduced the Budget. This is what he said:The implications of the movement have weakened confidence in India as a field for investment both at home and abroad, and this has led to a decline in the price of Indian securities, both Government and private, to a lack of credit for traders and capital for new enterprise, and to the steady export of capital from the country. This has meant increased expenditure on loans for the Government and has forced the Government to take measures to protect the 1432 position which have resulted in high money rates with consequent increase in the difficulties of traders in very difficult times.I have stated the case with studied moderation, but I must guard against that moderation being misunderstood. The country has, it is true, survived the past year without irreparable disaster, but the reserves and credit of all individuals and of public authorities alike have been seriously weakened, and any continuance of internal disorders is a matter which all who have the true interests of India at heart must view with the gravest possible concern. It might, in fact, mean that India, on the day when she should be inaugurating her new Constitution with bright hopes of success, would find herself instead struggling desperately for mere existence in a morass of economic troubles.The gloomy prospect which Sir George Schuster painted in that speech is to a large extent relieved by the settlement which has been come to and the disappearance of civil disobedience in India. But I would add this: The importance both now and under the new Constitution of the financial stability of India and her credit position cannot possibly be exaggerated. In India's own interest, which is that she should retain the position of confidence she enjoys, the safeguards referred to by the Federal Structure Committee, including the powers of the Governor-General in relation to currency legislation, are essential and cannot be abated if we are to set up a new Constitution with success. I may add that here I am specifically referring to the considered view of the Government, which indeed is well known. The passages of that report are familiar to Members of the House.
Not only was the gloomy financial prospect somewhat relieved by the discontinuance of the civil disobedience movement, but Indian credit in London was notably improved. The 5½ per cent. Loan, which in the recent slump had been at a discount of 3 per cent., is now only at a fractional discount, and I think I am not overstating the case—I shall no doubt receive the co-operation of Members of experience in these matters—when I say that one of the effects of the White Paper has been notably to improve the credit of India in the City of London.
I have spoken of credit, and now I come to another result of this White Paper, and that is the question of trade. It is too early for me to give any positive 1433 figures in this connection, for none exist. Speaking on information officially supplied I would go no further than to say that an improved tone is noticeable. Everyone is glad that a settlement has been effected and that the tone generally in trade circles is better. But if I were asked for unofficial views about this, I would like to give one or two which I have collected from the newspapers. Here is one which was published on the day when the conversations came to a conclusion:Leaders of the cotton industry declared to me to-day that it was the best news they had received for a long time, and that it would pave the way for a revival of trade with the great market in India.That was the view of the Trade Correspondent of the "Morning Post" on the day that the news was published. Here is another quotation during the course of the conversations:Bombay buying orders supplied the chief stimulus again.That was in the "Daily Mail." There are many of the same kind. There is the opinion of the "Daily Telegraph." I could quote many. I will take the "Times" of this morning, in which the City editor writes:Since the successful conclusion of the Delhi conversations they have had evidence"—that is the correspondents in India—of a considerable revival of business, as shown by the numerous telegrams they have received.Without attempting to paint the picture too brightly it must be a source of great gratification to everyone that the conclusion of the conversations has been marked by an improvement in those trade relations. And it is not merely a question of overseas trade. We have to think of the position of the Indian merchants themselves, who have been very hard pressed by this civil disobedience movement and many of whom have been forced into financial disaster. Not only the Indian merchants but the European traders in India have welcomed this settlement with a great sigh of relief. On the trade side it represents to them a very definite improvement indeed.
Next to trade I should catalogue, as one of the beneficent results of this settlement, the improvement in world opinion of British policy. I am not 1434 suggesting that we should be over-mindful of the opinion of other countries, but it is obvious that the good will of the world is a substantial asset to this country, whether in foreign affairs or matters of armament, or in trade or in any other matters, and we should seek as far as is possible, consistently with the right policy, the good will of other nations. I will give two quotations in this connection. The "Times" correspondent in New York, on the day that the settlement was announced wrote:The news of the agreement between Lord Irwin and Mr. Gandhi has been received in the United States with a chorus of applause.The only other quotation I will read is an official telegram which came spontaneously:His Majesty's Government in New Zealand have read with deep satisfaction your telegram of the 6th March, containing a general summary of agreement arrived at between the Viceroy and Governor-General of India and the representative of the Congress party. They desire to express to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom their sincere gratification at this notably happy issue of negotiations, and especially to offer to Lord Irwin their warmest congratulations on his supremely successful achievement towards the reestablishment of peace, prosperity and happiness in India and maintenance of cordial relations with Great Britain.I think, therefore, we are entitled to say that this achievement has not only been well received in the world but has done something to improve relations among the nations of the British Commonwealth. So we have the two pictures: Before the agreement public opinion sore and hopeless, jails full, discontent rife, costs rising, credit falling, the world critical and trade declining. The picture to-day is content and trust growing, money saved, credit improved, trade hopeful and the world friendly. If there are critics of this agreement one is entitled to ask this question of them: Do you want the agreement or not? If anyone gets up and denounces either the Government for permitting the Viceroy to receive Mr. Gandhi, or denounces the conversations in general, then a fair question to ask him is, do you want to put us back into the position we occupied a fortnight ago? You cannot have it both ways. You either must take the conversations, with their beneficial results, or you must declare that the conversations should not 1435 have taken place, in which case you must say that you wish the situation in India to be what it was three weeks ago.
We may say that when these conversations were complete and this White Paper was issued we had won our third battle for trust and co-operation. But that, after all, is in a sense a negative achievement. It gives us public peace and quiet. But there is a positive side and a much more important positive side in this White Paper. Congress will join in the Round-Table Conference and it will join on the basis of the St. James's Palace findings, agreements or provisional understandings or whatever you like to call them. That is clearly stated in paragraph 2 of the White Paper. You stated, Sir, at the beginning of this Debate that it would be quite out of order if I were to range over the whole field of future legislation. First, let me say a word about the Agenda of the Conference. It was stated in paragraph 2 of the White Paper that three outlines of the Constitution were sketched: Federation, responsibility to be granted at the centre, and safeguards of interests. I should like in relation to that last question, which includes defence, external affairs, the position of minorities and the financial credit of India, to make one brief comment. First as to the position of minorities. I would like to lay stress upon the authoritative declaration which was made by the Prime Minister as Chairman of the Conference on behalf of the Government at the concluding meeting of the Conference. He said there must besuch guarantees as are required by minorities to protect their political liberties and rights.He went on to say that it would be the duty of the Governmentto insert provisions guaranteeing to the various minorities, in addition to political representation, that differences of religion, race, sect or caste, shall not themselves constitute civic disabilities.He further added that the Government were anxious that the new Constitution should start with the good will and confidence of all the communities concerned. There is therefore no ground whatever for apprehension. The Government have approached or will pursue the question 1436 of the Indian Constitution with impartiality towards any group or community or race. That being so, it will endeavour, by co-operation here and in India, to promote that spirit of good will in which alone we can hope to make advance. What is required now is that I should make some statement about the practical programme which we hope to pursue.
It is the earnest desire of His Majesty's Government to continue with the least possible interruption the constitutional discussions of the Round Table Conference, and, in considering what steps should now be taken, they have had to be guided by what is practicable here and by what is most convenient for the Indian side of the Conference. They have given very careful consideration to a plan by which a Parliamentary delegation should go to India forthwith and reconstitute there the Round Table Conference which sat at St. James's, with the addition of representatives of Congress. The obvious advantages of this plan were outweighed by important practical considerations. Here, the exigencies of the Parliamentary situation made it difficult to secure an adequate Parliamentary delegation. In India, on the other hand, there is much preliminary work to be done—[Interruption]. I beg the right hon. Gentleman not to believe that it is not in hand—
§ Mr. BENN
—as was indicated by the Prime Minister in his announcement, which Indians themselves must undertake, in particular, the issues still left open by the Minorities Sub-committee. We regard this work in India as of great importance, and we desire not to prejudice it. Moreover, the activities which the Round Table Conference pursued must, in the case of most of the committees, await results of expert investigations which the Conference itself has recommended. Subject to what I have just raid, His Majesty's Government will seek the co-operation of the leaders of the other parties, in re-establishing contact with the Indian side of the Conference in the most convenient form, at the earliest practicable date. There need, in par- 1437 ticular, be no great delay in bringing the problems which have been entrusted to the Federal Structure Committee under further discussion. Accordingly, as soon as Indian delegates, among whom I include representatives of Congress, are prepared to resume discussions, we propose to invite them to come to London to resume the work of the Federal Structure Committee. We hope that the committee's deliberations will make progress here during the summer, and meanwhile the expert investigation of particular problems recommended by the Round Table Conference will be undertaken in India. By this means the whole problem will, we hope, be ready for final discussion early in the autumn.
Apart from what we are going to discuss this afternoon, could the right hon. Gentleman say in what way this Committee will be constituted, and whether there will be an adherence of further Indian personnel.
§ Mr. BENN
Yes. The Noble Lord did not hear, probably, what I said. I will supply him with a written copy of this part of my speech the moment I sit down, and then he can make his comment when he makes his speech. Therefore, we are to meet again at the Round Table. I would remind the Committee of these words used in connection with this Conference by the Viceroy in his address to the Indian Legislature on the 9th July, 1930:Any agreement at which the Conference is able to arrive will form the basis of proposals which His Majesty's Government will later submit to Parliament.The Round Table method is vindicated. The work it has done is preserved. Its deliberations are to continue, with all the authority that comes from full representation of all interests in Britain and India alike. In his concluding speech at St. James's, the Prime Minister said:One of the secrets of our success thus far—in fact I am not at all sure it is not the main secret—is the personal contact that we have been able to establish … Let us get down to facts, face to face. Let us sit round a table. Let each of us state our claims, state our hopes, state our fears, state our expectations; let each of us be candid one to another, and, face to face, there is an enormously better chance of an understanding and an agreement than under any other circumstances. I wish to continue that condition.1438 That is the spirit in which we advance. If anything were needed to prove the necessity for direct contact, it has been the misunderstandings of the last few days: two whispering galleries separated by an ocean. If we can come face to face with our Indian friends, if we can discuss freely our doubts and difficulties, if mischief makers will be silent, and men will cease to sow tares, then there is a real hope of peace and understanding.
§ Sir ROBERT HAMILTON
The two speeches that we have so far had in the Debate to-day have both made an important declaration. I am sure that the way in which the Committee received the declaration made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) must have satisfied him that we intend to preserve the three-party system of keeping India and not allowing it to be backed by one party and perhaps opposed by another. In other words, that the policy regarding India shall be a national policy. That has been our policy in the past, and it would be disastrous, as the right hon. Gentleman himself said, if we were to depart from that policy in the future. During the last few days we have had an unfortunate publication of statements, and of explanations partly authorised and partly not authorised, which have led to very serious misunderstandings, both in this country and in India. It was with great relief that we all heard the right hon. Gentleman describe what was the real state of affairs, as far as he was concerned. The party which he represents stands in the position that he took up on 26th January, in its policy with regard to India. That was a very gratifying fact for us to know and to know on the best authority. We have been told so many things not on the best authority. Now we have it on the best authority that that is the position the Conservative party has taken up and means to adhere to. I am sure that that will be welcomed with equal relief when the news reaches the other side and is read in India.
From all that one has seen in the papers the reports that have reached India during the last 48 hours have caused growing consternation in that country, which thought that Great Britain had put her hand to a work 1439 and that one of the parties concerned in that task had drawn back. We want to avoid the possibility of that sort of thing. I hope, after this Debate, the air will be made so clear on this point that no further misunderstanding will arise. There are, of course, people who will criticise, but at the present time the right hon. Gentleman is the representative of the Conservative party and with the Conservative party behind him he is following in line with the other two parties, with regard to the policy adopted towards India.
I will refer a little later on to the other statement, which has been made by the Secretary of State for India. It is a very important statement with regard to the action which it is proposed to take. I would ask the Committee to cast its mind back for a few moments to what happened when the Round Table Conference assembled. As hon. Members are aware, representatives of all sects and parties, and all views and opinions, were at that Round Table Conference, with the exception of the representatives of Congress. We, who were engaged in the deliberations at that Conference, could not help feeling what a defect it was that those representatives were not there, taking part in our deliberations. It could not be helped, but we all felt how unfortunate it was. Now that the atmosphere has been changed, there is not only a possibility but there is a certainty of representatives of Congress taking part in any further deliberations. I think we ought to congratulate ourselves and particularly the Secretary of State for India on the part that he has taken in being able to achieve that end.
Whatever we may say about Gandhi—we may look upon him as a person in the nature of an outlaw, outside the constitution altogether—we much remember he is followed by large numbers of the people of India. He is heading a big national urge, outside the constitutional area, it is true, but a person like that cannot be disregarded. It would be a great want of statemanship in anybody to disregard a person because he was acting unconstitutionally. Let us cast our minds a few years back, into the history of this country. I remember the "uncrowned King of Ire- 1440 land," Parnell, heading an unconstitutional movement on the land question in Ireland. He was put in gaol in Kilmainham. In those days, there was a campaign in which Parnell was released from gaol in the hope of stopping the unconstitutional agitation that was going on, and of bringing the agitators in on the constitutional side. With differences, that is something similar to what is happening in India. Gandhi is leading a, big national movement outside the constitutional pale, with a great, big following behind him. He broke the law and was put into gaol, and we felt that if we wanted to get on terms with the whole people of India it was impossible to leave him outside our consultations.
Every effort was to be made to bring him inside. How was that first achieved? Representatives who came over here to the Round Table Conference gained an enormous amount of confidence as to the intentions of Great Britain when they discussed with us across the Table. They went back to India determined to do what they could to bring Gandhi inside the pale and not leave him outside. I should like to pay a tribute to the work that has been done by the delegates, who, on their return from this country, in very difficult circumstances, have faced up to the work and the obligations that were laid upon them at the Conference here. It was as a result of the labours particularly, I think, of Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Mr. Jayakar and Mr. Sastri, that the way was paved for the conversations between Lord Irwin and Mr. Gandhi. I would say a word or two about those conversations. The most important part of the White Paper is contained in paragraphs 1 and 3, which I will read:Consequent on the conversations that have taken place between His Excellency the Viceroy and Mr. Gandhi, it has been arranged that the Civil Disobedience Movement be discontinued, and that, with the approval of His Majesty's Government, certain action be taken by the Government of India and local governments.That is the first thing—Civil Disobedience Movement discontinued. In the third paragraph, it says:In pursuance of the statement made by the Prime Minister in his announcement of the 19th January, 1931, steps will be taken for the participation of the representatives of Congress in the further discussions that are to take place on the scheme of constitutional reform.1441 Then follows the details of the settlement. In my opinion, the details of the settlement take an entirely minor place when compared with those two great results which have been achieved. The Civil Disobedience Movement has been called off. After the noise and disturbance of civil war—because that is what it was in parts of India—a different atmosphere has been created by an amnesty to the people who were put into gaol for following the Civil Disobedience Movement but who were not guilty of serious acts of violence. An atmosphere has been created in which it has been made possible for a future advance to take place in India, and also for the discussions to take place on the basis of the outline which was sketched at St. James's. I have no doubt that hon. Members taking part in this Debate later will criticise some of the details of the settlement which has been arrived at. Personally, I have studied the settlement with very great care, and although one may criticise here and there to some slight degree, on the whole, I am sure that anyone who reads that settlement with an unbiased mind will come to the conclusion that it is a fair and a good settlement, and that Lord Irwin is entitled to every credit.
I have seen it said that it was beneath the dignity of a Viceroy to discuss these matters with Mr. Gandhi. I, on the other hand, would have said that any Viceroy who, in these circumstances, failed to discuss these matters with Mr. Gandhi would have failed in his duties as a statesman. Lord Irwin was so big a man that he could afford to disregard any petty matters like the loss of prestige and so on which people had attributed to the Viceroy. He has shown himself a big man on this occasion and has done a great thing, and the whole of the British nation owes him a great debt of gratitude for the magnificent action he has taken and the magnificent results he has achieved.
But while speaking of Lord Irwin in this connection, let us not forget the position of Mr. Gandhi. We have to remember that Mr. Gandhi, who, as I said just now, is the leader of this great movement outside the pale of the constitution, has been persuaded at the conversations which he has held with the Viceroy entirely to change his line of 1442 advance. It is a great thing to persuade any leader, but it is an even greater thing to persuade a political leader who has been basing his hopes of progress on the unconstitutional method, to give up the unconstitutional method and to adopt a constitutional method. I think that we have to say something for Mr. Gandhi for having seen on which side the best future of India lies. At the same time, we ought to be very glad that the position has altered so entirely for the new Viceroy, Lord Willingdon, who is about to go out to India. We know that Lord Willingdon will have a difficult course to pursue, but we hope that as a result of what has taken place he will not have to face the same difficulties as Lord Irwin had to face. Lord Willingdon has had a long and strenuous career in public service, and we thank him for undertaking this very difficult job on behalf of the Empire at the present time.
I will quote the Resolution, because it is well that the Committee should remember it, which was passed at the Round Table Conference. There was only one Resolution passed, and it was in these words:The Conference sitting in Plenary Session has received and noted the reports of the nine sub-committees submitted by the committee of the whole Conference, with comments thereon. These reports, provisional though they are, together with the recorded notes attached to them, afford, in the opinion of the Conference, material of the highest value for use in the framing of a Constitution for India, embodying as they do a substantial measure of agreement on the main ground plan, and many helpful indications of the points of detail to be further pursued;"—and this is the important part—and the Conference feels that arrangements should be made to pursue without interruption the work upon which it has been engaged, including the provision in the Constitution of adequate safeguards for the Mussalmans, Depressed Classes, Sikhs and all other important minorities.That resolution was passed unanimously, and it was the unanimous view of the Conference that the work should proceed without interruption. For that reason we were very glad to hear the statement that has been made by the Secretary of State this afternoon. We all realise the practical difficulties in the way of continuing the work of the Conference, but, as far as one has been able to grasp the 1443 details of the programme which he read out just now, it is one which will commend itself generally to the House when further time is given to consider the details. The difficulties of holding another conference in India immediately are obvious; at the same time, we all know that there is a tremendous amount of what the Secretary of State called preliminary work waiting to be done in India, and not only in India, but here, which work, he gave us to understand, was already in hand though there was a great deal more still to be completed.
I look upon this constitution building as likely to be a very, very long job, and I was a little surprised when the Secretary of State mentioned a date in the autumn as being a likely date on which some Bill might be brought in. One would only hope that one could act so quickly, but in these matters I think it might be a case of more haste less speed; the slower we go the less likely are we to make mistakes. I hope that the Secretary of State will forgive me if I am misinterpreting what he said, but I rather gathered, that although it is very necessary not to have any break in the work, he was putting on a speed, which, I thought, might not be realised when we came to the autumn, and we might find ourselves somewhat behind the schedule.
§ Mr. CADOGAN
May we have this matter cleared up, as it is very important? Did the right hon. Gentleman refer to legislation?
§ Sir R. HAMILTON
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon; I misunderstood him. Still, I think the Committee should realise that we are not likely to go too fast in this matter, and that if we do go too fast, we are likely to make mistakes. I would rather see the matter go on slowly but steadily without a break. There are all the difficulties which were before the Conference; and these were not minimised. There are 1444 lots of reservations, lots of matters in regard to which no agreement was reached, and lots of matters relating to the safeguards which are still open. All these difficulties—you might call some of them stupendous difficulties—have to be got over, and they are bound to take time. When we tackle those big difficulties, as they will have to be tackled in India, I think you will find that it is safer from every point of view to make the fullest and most ample allowances of time in order to deal with them rather than to run the risk of making a mistake by being too quick. After all, we are building for a long future. What is a matter of a month, or a year, or five years in building up a great constitution for India as long as the work goes on uninterruptedly?
If one does not, desire to criticise, as I certainly do not, the various points of the settlement, there is really very little to add to the outline to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded. His speech might have been made from these benches or it might have been made from those benches, it so fully represented the feeling of the great majority of the House. In conclusion, I ask myself: What is our duty in this matter? Our duty—and when I say our duty I do not mean the duty of any one party, but the duty of all parties in this House—is to let India and the world know that we are determined, without interruption, to carry on the task to which we have set our hands. It will be a long and a difficult task. It will call for infinite patience and for the united energies of both Great Britain and India. The greatest disservice that could be done to the mutual interests of either of these countries would be by the mischievous showing of the dragon's teeth of suspicion and disunion. Were India at this moment to lose her belief in the honesty of purpose of this country, the consequences would be far-reaching and might be disastrous. The last words spoken at the Round-Table Conference were:This Conference is adjourned.I would ask this House, as far as in it lies, to see that the good will and mutual trust which inspired the discussions which took place at St. James's are carried over that adjournment into the preparatory work which is being done 1445 now, carried on there and renewed when the Conference reassembles, as the Secretary of State told us he hoped it would reassemble, in the autumn.
§ Miss PICTON-TURBERVILL
In rising to welcome this agreement between Lord Irwin and Mr. Gandhi, I should like to point out that it is a sequence to the success of the Round-Table Conference. On reading the White Paper, one cannot but visualise the situation of India to-day, and what is behind this settlement. The references to boycott and other unrest indicate that India is no longer prosperous, and her people no longer content, nor have they the gratitude which they had in days gone by for the benefits of ale British Raj. The right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) quoted from one of the proclamations of the past. I will quote from one of many years ago, in which there appeared a most pregnant sentence. It was the proclamation that was issued when the British Government took over the government of India from the East India Company. In that proclamation, speaking of the people of India, this sentence appears:In their prosperity will lie our strength, in their contentment our security and in their gratitude our best reward.If it be true, and it is true to-day, that there is little prosperity in India, where then is our strength? If it be true, and it is true, that there is little contentment, where is our security? If there is little gratitude, wherein comes our reward? The task that lies before us now is to regain that strength, to regain that contentment, to regain the reward and gratitude of millions of our fellow subjects in India. The strength that we shall regain by accepting the agreement outlined in the White Paper will be a strength of a different but more durable order. The contentment that we shall have among the people of India will be built upon better and more sure foundations, and the gratitude will come from the grateful hearts of millions of people who will feel that they have had justice done to them.
Of course, the task is complicated. Who, reading this White Paper, can fail to see that the task is complicated? But there is one straight path which will lead to harmony, and that is, that this coun- 1446 try and the Government must by the utmost scrupulousness see that they keep every pledge that has been given in the past, not only in the letter but in the spirit; that path among all the complicated and difficult issues is a clear and simple one. The idea that lies behind this White Paper, the idea, of responsible Government, has been held out to India not only in the last 10 years but for past generations. As long ago as 1824 Sir Thomas Munro spoke of the time when the British control would be removed from India. I do not know whether I shall be in order in alluding to the matter, but I would point out that Sir Herbert Edwards, when the whole of this country was wild with enthusiasm over Garibaldi, said these words in regard to India:God would never have put 200,000,000 under 30,000,000 merely that their roads should be improved, their canals constructed, and their lives ameliorated. We who shout 'Italy for the Italians,' should lift that same voice still higher and shout across the world 'India for the Indians.'That was spoken and uttered publicly by a man of high authority in the British Government many years ago. We do not wish to minimise the attitude or to consider antagonistically the attitude of those who fear the acceptance of this White Paper, who feel that it is one step further away from the strengthening of the British Empire, and who feel that we are giving away the power and strength of the Empire. We are giving away nothing. We are maintaining a strength that will be more enduring than all the strength of the past. We shall give the people of India a contentment based on a firmer foundation than in the past. Objections have been spoken of in this House again and again. Who would be so foolish as to underrate the difficulties that lie before us? Who would be so foolish as to minimise the division that does exist between the different sections in India? Nevertheless, there is growing up in India to-day, indeed there has grown up, a new generation that is putting Indian unity and nationality before Hindu and Mohammedan differences.
I have heard in this House the words "Indian nationality" almost mocked at. I have heard hon. Members on the opposite benches get up and say that there 1447 are 50 nationalities in India. That is not true. There are not 50 nationalities in India. There may be 50 races but there are not 50 nationalities. It is not race that makes a nation. If that were so we ourselves would not be a nation. We have English, Scotch and Welsh in this Kingdom. I have the honour of sharing the nationality of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). The English, the Scotch and the Welsh are different races but one nationality. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] The Welsh is far the oldest. The Welsh have their own language. But it is not language that makes a nationality. What is nationality? Nationality is of the spirit. It is not unity of race and it is not unity of language. Nationality is born of the spirit.
Therefore, when hon. Members look upon the difficulties that concern us in India and declare that India is not a nation, I would ask them to remember that there have been great historical events in the past 25 years—I must not enumerate them, although I would like to do so, otherwise I might be called to order—which have united the great people of India and fused them into a unity of which we did not realise the possibility 30 or 40 years ago. I was in India, for the first time, two months before the death of Queen Victoria. If ever there was an event that united the whole of India into one common woe, and one common sorrow, it was that event. Great waves of feeling swept through India. There have been one event after another in the last 25 years which have united the people of India in a way that was not realised in days gone by. Lord Bryce speaking of nationality, said:We recognise it when we see it, although we cannot define it.I hope that I have not overstepped the limits of order and that I shall not do so. It has been said in this House that the difficulties that lie before us in accepting the White Paper are the difficulties of the people of India themselves. I welcome the White Paper as one further step towards the goal which we have for generations had before us, namely, that India in due time should join the commonwealth of nations. We should be proud that that demand has been made, 1448 for it is born of our literature, nurtured in the study of our own institutions, and a following of our own example.
I plead with this House not to dash aside any attempt to understand the great Gandhi movement. An appeal was once made from the opposite benches that we should not attempt to understand the Gandhi movement. We should, on the contrary, appeal to the British and Indian Governments to understand the mentality of the Gandhi movement more than they have done in the past. The one thing that we need to-day is to understand the psychology and mentality of the Gandhi movement. This settlement brings new hope to us and new hope to India. It will enable Gandhi and those who have returned from the Round Table Conference to work in harmony. Finally, I would make an appeal to hon. Members opposite to do nothing to hinder the good work. The safeguards are in the White Paper—the safeguards concerning foreign affairs, finance, minorities and the financial credit of India. The safeguards are clearly there. Of course, difficulties still exist, but I would ask hon. Members not to be led away by that old, old tag:East is East, and West is West,And never the twain shall meet,Till earth and sky presently standAt God's great judgment seat.How often have we heard the quotation—East is East and West is West,And never the twain shall meet.Why is it that the second verse is never given? The second verse is this—But there is neither East or West,Border or breed or birth,When two strong men stand face to face,Though they come from the ends of the earth.Two strong men have stood face to face. Lord Irwin and Mr. Gandhi. They have come from the ends of the earth and they have come to a settlement which will help to make enduring harmony between the people of India and of this country.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I am afraid that I must make a demand upon the attention of the Committee while I go somewhat more fully into detail on the various aspects of the Indian question than the hon. Lady who preceded me has done. I must also ask for the indul- 1449 gence of the Committee, because the extreme inclemency of the weather has left me with only a severely regulated ration of voice. Much has happened although only a bare six weeks have passed since we last debated the Indian question in the House of Commons. I must admit that there is some cause for congratulation among those who are eager to establish an all-India Federation, under responsible government, as the precursor of full Dominion status. I must admit that they have some grounds for self-congratulation at the progress made. Much less enthusiasm may perhaps be felt by those who view these processes as premature, dangerous, and ill-thought out, and that they are likely at an early date to lead to confusion and even disaster.
I will, if the Committee will permit me, briefly survey the sequence of events during the last six weeks: not a lengthy period. The sequence is what is important, because we must not forget that one step leads to another, and each step can only be appreciated in its proper order. The Round Table Conference had ended, and in order to facilitate a free discussion of the wishes of the Round Table Conference, in order to, what is called, carry on the work of the Round Table Conference, the Viceroy released Mr. Gandhi and his principal associates from prison. That was the first event in the last six weeks. After I had spoken on 26th January, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition felt it his duty to express in most courteous and kindly terms a very serious difference from my view, and he made that memorable statement in which he said that the one duty of the Conservative party, if returned to power, would be to try to implement the work of the Round Table Conference. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will not object to my referring to that speech, delivered only six weeks ago, since he has done me the compliment of referring to one delivered by me 11 years ago.
The speech of my right hon. Friend was one of memorable importance. It was an event in the chain which is unfolding. It was telegraphed all over India. It was sent by wireless to the ship upon which the Indian delegates to the London Conference were returning to their homes. Everywhere it was accepted as a proof that the Conservative party was 1450 in line with the Socialist and Liberal parties, and that, apart from a few diehards and reactionaries, and other untouchables, Great Britain was united upon a policy of framing and bringing into being the constitution outlined, perhaps it would be fairer to say adumbrated, at the Round-Table Conference. The Indian delegates on board their ship were greatly encouraged by the tidings they received. They drafted a manifesto, sinking some differences among themselves, appealing to the extremists and the Congress party that all should join together in further discussions in India in order to frame the constitution which had been outlined. Then there followed the conversations between Gandhi and the Viceroy, the result of which was announced last Thursday. That is the sequence of events of the last six weeks.
Let me come to the agreement reached in the Gandhi-Irwin conversations. In order to appreciate this agreement, it is necessary to consider both its objects and its terms. The object is quite clear; it is to bring about such conditions in India, such conditions of truce and armistice between the Government of India and the law-breakers, as will enable all sections to sit down amicably at the Conference table in India. That was the object—so that they could proceed to frame the constitution which I have described, of an All-India Federation, responsible government at the centre, the whole as a precursor to full Dominion status, or, as Mr. Gandhi prefers to call it, "independence." There is the object, and those who believe that it is a most desirable object and ought to be achieved as soon as possible will naturally be prepared to pay the necessary price, even a high price, for securing so great an advantage as the continuance and reopening of such discussions.
There was, I believe, a general feeling of satisfaction, or, at any rate of relief, in this House when the terms of the White Paper were read out on Thursday last—I had not the good fortune to be present, having an engagement elsewhere—by the Secretary of State for India. There was admiration for the statesmanship of Mr. Gandhi and his patriotism in calling off the movement of civil disobedience which he launched a year ago, and which the Government had vainly attempted to quell. A hope was enter- 1451 tained that now that the boycott of British goods is not to be political but only economic, that picketing is only to be peaceful, there would be some recovery in our Lancashire trade, certainly a matter for general satisfaction. There was a feeling that the settlement of the Salt Law question was in the nature of a compromise and, lastly, there was great relief, even enthusiasm, when it was known that although the Viceroy had been forced to let the rioters out of prison, he had firmly and successfully resisted the proposal to lock up the police in their place. [Interruption.] Nothing could more painfully, and, I may say, more pitifully, illustrate the ceaseless landslide in British Parliamentary opinion than that these modest achievements should give so much pleasure, that they should even be hailed as a miracle of statecraft. It only shows that we are becoming accustomed to be thankful for small mercies and glad when anything is saved from the wreck of our great estates.
I am not particularly concerned to-day to cavil at the details of the terms to which the Viceroy has agreed. Once it is judged an aim of high policy to persuade the extremists to come to a Conference, and in view of the fact that they demurred strongly, once it is considered necessary that they should come, of course the necessary price has to be paid. I daresay, having regard to the objects in view and to the policy he is pursuing, Lord Irwin made the best bargain he could in the circumstances. The price, however, is heavy, and it must be examined. Although the boycott and civil disobedience have been partially called off, they remain suspended over us and can be loosed at any moment by the mere lifting of Mr. Gandhi's little finger. The violation of the Salt Law was specially selected by Mr. Gandhi a year ago as the means of defying the Government of India, as the one means of defying the Government of India which would be most deeply and widely comprehended throughout the land. His lawless act has now been made lawful. Anyone may now make salt from the sea. [Interruption.] Any dweller by the sea may now make salt—I agree there is very little material importance in this point. Its effect upon the revenue cannot 1452 be at all serious. I am told that salt which is made in this way is unpalatable, and even makes people ill, and so no serious loss to the revenue need be expected. At any rate, the Government of India have increased the duties on Europeans, and put up Lancashire cotton duties by 5 per cent., so no doubt they are in a good position to meet any slight loss that may occur from the salt concession.
But neither can it be pretended that this concession is of the slightest benefit to the people of India, the working masses of India. It was never intended to be. When Mr. Gandhi went to the seashore a year ago to make salt he was not looking for salt, he was looking for trouble. He was looking for means of flouting the Government and compelling them to arrest him. Now he has compelled the Government to recognise the propriety of his action. He has elevated his deliberately selected breach of the law into a trophy of victory, the significance of which, believe me, will be appreciated from the Himalayas to Ceylon. Though I approach this question from a different angle from that of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, so far as the practical steps which we should now take are concerned we are in entire agreement—[Interruption]—and I am a cordial supporter of the decision to which he has come. My right hon. Friend said that these terms, this White Paper, was a triumph of moderation over extremism, a victory for moderation over extremism. It was, at any rate, a Pyrrhic victory. It was a victory for breaches of the law against the Government responsible for enforcing the law. It was a victory of lawbreakers, who consented for the time being partially to lay aside their lawbreaking because hopes had been held out that before very long they will be law-makers.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
My hon. and learned Friend will have an opportunity of replying in the course of the Debate, and I have no doubt he will then be able to tell us all that is in his mind. I have noticed that he is prone to interrupt the thread of other people's arguments and it is a tendency which, at the outset of 1453 his career, he should endeavour to repress. As for this victory of moderation over extremism let us see what is said by a member of the Council whose position tin Indian Liberal circles is unique as the only non-Swarajist mayor of Calcutta. I notice that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) dwelt on the victory for moderation over extremism. This is what a Liberal leader and the only non-Swarajist mayor of Calcutta has to say about it. After complimenting the Viceroy and Mr. Gandhi, he says:In this settlement, however, the outstanding fact remains that the Liberals in the future will be wiped out, and from now onwards no Indian will think it worth while to have any faith in constitutional agitation. I am afraid that the process of arriving at this settlement is such as to undermine in the minds of the masses respect for authority.That can hardly mean that he thinks that this has been a notable victory for moderation over extremism. I consider, however, that Mr. Gandhi and the Congress party were well advised to come to terms. I think they have played their cards singularly well. They have secured, I am told, substantially and almost exactly the very terms demanded by the Congress as a condition of their coming to the London Conference—terms which were then pointedly and unquestionably refused. They have secured in this victory for moderation the whole of the terms which they demanded as a condition of their coming to the London Conference, and now they will go to discussions in India or a further conference in London—if they are generally satisfied, they will go to these further discussions, in which, at any rate, they have everything to gain and nothing to lose. I think that they were very well advised.
I notice that Mr. Gandhi speaks of Lord Irwin in terms of strong approbation. It is no more than just. In the course of this year the Viceroy has fostered the growth of Mr. Gandhi's power to an extent almost inconceivable, first, by neglecting to arrest him until his breaches of the law had gradually attracted and rivetted the attention of all India; secondly, by arresting him when they did for his breaches of the law; thirdly, by not trying him upon any 1454 known charge or proceeding against him by any recognised process of the law but confining him under some old Statute as a prisoner of State; fourthly, by attempting to negotiate with him when he was still in prison; fifthly, by releasing him unconditionally; sixthly, by negotiating with him as an equal and as if he were the victor in some warlike encounter; seventhly, by conceding to him as a permanent emblem of triumph the legalisation of the very practice which he had selected for the purpose of affronting the Government.
This series of steps ought to be preserved as a patent prescription for building up the reputation of a political opponent, or rather of a revolutionary leader. By this most elaborate process, undertaken, no doubt, at each stage, from the highest and most well-meaning motives, Mr. Gandhi and Congress have been raised before the eyes of hundreds of millions as the champions of Indian nationalism against the white intruder, and, henceforward, they are the dominant and recognised power with whom we have immediately to deal. They have been raised to a towering pedestal of fame and eminence in the eyes of all disloyal elements in India as having inflicted upon the mighty Government, on whose functioning the safety of the whole country depends, such humiliation and defiance as has not been known since the British first trod the soil of India. They have been lifted to a position far above the Moslems and other religions and classes in the East. Gandhi has become the symbol and the almost godlike champion of all those forces which are now working for our exclusion from India.
That is not, I think, a very satisfactory series of events which I have had to record in their sequence, and I am glad I have not to stop here. There is one event which makes amends for much. The Conservative party is not to be represented at any Round Table Conference in India. The continuance of the Round Table Conference in India, was the next step in the contemplation of His Majesty's Government, and it was strongly urged by those in India who are pushing forward this policy that it was for this—to faciltiate such a Conference and the discussions incidental 1455 thereto—that Mr. Gandhi was released and that the Gandhi-Irwin miracle was performed. Now, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has decided that the Conservative party cannot participate in such a Conference. We had the usual exegesis by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) of that pronouncement, in a statement in which he conveyed the impression that this was not a decision of very great importance, but a mere matter of procedure, of convenience of method. I cannot understand how anyone who is looking at the facts of this question can for a moment be blind to the great importance of the decision which my right hon. Friend has taken. It can only show a lack of grasp of the whole situation both in India and in this country not to regard it as a matter of the greatest importance.
It has, in fact, reversed the whole programme upon which the Government and the Government of India has set their minds. The crystal palace which they were erecting has been shivered and shattered. Anyone who reads the telegrams flowing in from India can see how gravely they have been disconcerted by this pronouncement, which we are assured is a matter of no particular consequence.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Anyhow, they are not going. There is no misunderstanding about that. Out of many confusing matters there are some few points which emerge from time to time with clarity. I agree that my right hon. Friend's decision does not decide finally the question of whether the Conservative party should participate in any further Conference which may be held in London. I, certainly, would not suggest for one moment that such a decision of that kind should be taken now.
I may, perhaps, say that I myself, with my own hand, in the Resolution which was moved at a private Committee upstairs wrote in these words "in India." My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Wardlaw-Milne) had the draft in my own hand-writing and I wrote the words in myself, for the very 1456 reason that it would, obviously, be rash to prejudge now what we should do many months hence in circumstances which we cannot possibly judge at the present time. I think we are in substantial agreement on both sides of the House, and in all parties, that the Conference in India should be dropped and that inquiries and discussions of a less formal character should precede it. No one can possibly reproach my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition for his decision. It has been endorsed not only by the Conservative party in the House, but still more, I venture to say, by the party throughout the country. His Majesty's Government might very easily have inveigled the Opposition into an entanglement where, if they had agreed to the many concessions pressed upon them, they would have compromised their party or perhaps been disavowed by their party, and, if they had not agreed, the blame for breaking up the Conference in India would have been saddled upon their backs. It is just in time that my right hon. Friend has rescued us from that great danger.
I should like to say a word about this question of three-party action and of the unity of all parties. The unity of all parties upon a policy dictated by the Socialist Government would, in my opinion, be worse even than disunity of parties upon the Indian question. The foundation of three-party unity on the question of India is the report of the Statutory Commission. Together we joined hands to create that Commission. Together we appointed our representatives and those representatives, working together, unanimously arrived at a common report. There is the basis on which your three-party unity was founded but, from the moment the Government side-tracked the Statutory report, the original basis of the three-party action ended, and I submit that the Conservative party is entitled to regain its unfettered freedom of judgment upon events as they arise. That does not mean that we shall not give a loyal and fair consideration to any proposal that the Government may put forward, or that may emerge from any inquiries or discussions which they may conduct, but it does mean, I trust, that the Opposition will not continue any longer to be burdened with the responsibilities of the execu- 1457 tive Government. Too long have the Conservative party been exploited and carried on from point to point by hon. Gentlemen opposite.
Too long have they been made responsible for unfolding events in the shaping of which they have absolutely no control. Too long have they been prevented from exercising that proper restraint which belongs to a powerful Opposition which is probably at no great distance of time about to assume power. I will say to any of my hon. Friends who may have some doubt upon the position in which we now find ourselves, not to be alarmed if the Government say, "Very well, things will be decided without you." Nothing can be decided without Parliament. As long as the Conservative party are independent and free, their wishes will carry weight both in this Parliament and also, perhaps, in the next. There will be plenty of opportunities to make our view effective, or to give way and to make necessary concessions, or to arrive at any general agreed solution. That can be done at any time. After the discussions which are to take place in India, and after the further conference which, I understand, is now to be held in London, will come the regular constitutional process of drafting and presenting the Government of India Bill. Then there will be its passage through all its stages in both Houses possibly—[Interruption.] The other place have as good a right to give their opinions from the point of knowledge and authority as hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. It will be possible, if desired, to have the joint committee of both Houses which was part of the original agreed procedure between the parties, before whom the different sections of Indian opinion can send their representatives. There will be plenty of time, at least two years—and here I am in agreement with the spokesman of the Liberal party, because I gather that he thought five years—
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I will not go any further, but, at any rate, we are in agreement that there will be plenty of time, and there ought to be plenty of time, for the full and careful discussion 1458 of this matter. It will be found, I predict, that from the moment the Conservative party have regained their freedom they will also have regained their influence upon affairs. Some regard will be paid to the views which are held by large sections of people in this country, and those people will not be denied reasonable opportunities of expressing their views. I do not consider that the Government are really hampered in the practical steps which they have to take by what has occurred. I agree with the views which have been put forward by my right hon. Friend and which are held, I believe, by his principal colleagues upon this bench.
The next task of the Government is to clear up some of the principal questions which were left over from the Round Table Conference. Not one single difficulty was solved by the Round Table Conference. No difficult clash was adjusted, and no really difficult constructive matter was solved. Take the safeguards. They certainly should form a subject of discussion in India now, and let us not forget the words of wisdom which Lord Birkenhead used when he said, "Tell India the truth." My right hon. Friend said that we ought to tell the truth upon these matters, and I say that now is the time. Take the question of the financial safeguards. We had a speech from Sir George Schuster, the Finance Member, in which he said in effect, that we were winding up our affairs and handing them over to new proprietors, and he hoped they would be indulgent to their predecessors, and so forth. But he did not make it clear to the Assembly that in the proposals which were discussed at the Round Table Conference, 80 per cent. of the finances will rest under the sign manual of the authority of the Viceroy. No conference is needed to explain that to Mr. Gandhi. It can be done by a few friendly talks, but it ought to be explained. It is no use misleading people and covering it all up with vague phrases.
Then take the question of the two-thirds majority. [interruption.] You do not wish me to make these points. I do not propose to elaborate them at all; I will merely enumerate them. I am entitled to enumerate them, because they have been enumerated in this White 1459 Paper, and the hon. Lady who preceded me has already read out some of them from paragraph 2, in which these safeguards are enumerated. Certainly I am entitled to mention them if they have already been brought into the Debate. There is the question of the two-thirds majority, and the calculations which are possible as to the power of removing Ministers. Mr. Gandhi may not take quite the same view of the advantage of these proposals as the Government. Then there is my right hon. Friend's declaration about trade—a most robust declaration which he made at Newton Abbot, and which I read with the greatest, satisfaction. It is a very far-reaching declaration; it certainly is not inconsistent with anything which exists in the Dominions which enjoy full Dominion status, though I agree that in every respect it is necessary. Then there is the question of the Viceroy's power. As a matter of sensible, wise and farseeing administration, the right hon. Gentleman should begin to discuss this with Mr. Gandhi and his associates. The powers are enormous, and, as has been pointed out, they will be quite inoperative unless with the powers are given the apparatus necessary to enable their exercise. None of these points want a conference; they are far better approached in private. Then there are all those other questions, not in the nature of safeguards, but questions left over—the franchise, communal representation of Hindus and Mohammedans, the representation of the native States and a whole host—[Interruption.]
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Dunnico)
I hear comments that the right hon. Gentleman is not in order, and I rise to make it clear that as long as the right hon. Gentleman does not discuss those matters requiring legislation he is in order. He is entitled to indicate the grave and serious nature of the problems that have to be confronted, but not to discuss them.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I am obliged to you for your Ruling. I do not intend to do more than cite these points as matters which, in the course of wise administration, the Government would proceed to discuss with Mr. Gandhi and the Indian Congress. Whatever view we take, there is no use drifting on 1460 without any clear idea and concealing awkward facts from the other side, and hoping something will turn up if we only go on making flowery speeches. The Indian revolutionaries, with whom the right hon. Gentleman has now to deal, will invite British representatives to quit the cloud of platitudes and perorations in which they have hitherto lain concealed, and give further and better particulars of what they really mean by responsible government, by a transition period, and by full Dominion status. Of course, that will be their smallest demand. Their smallest demand will be for concessions on safeguards. As to their full demands, they leave us in no doubt about them. I see that Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru and Mr. Gandhi have both made statements since the publication of the Viceroy's agreement. One made it clear that it is to be absolute independence that they require, and the other that complete internal autonomy—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Gentleman is now going beyond what is permissible. What I tried to make clear was that as long as he simply indicates the seriousness and gravity of the problems that have to be confronted, he is entitled to name them.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Though the rules of Order hamper a full discussion, it only make it all the more necessary that another occasion on which to have a fuller discussion must take place. Of course, I submit to the Ruling of the Chair, but it must not be imagined for a moment that the Government and their supporters have it in their power to prevent a full discussion of these matters. When these matters come to be discussed in India, it seems that Mr. Gandhi will be in a strong argumentative position. He will be able to say when the safeguards are under discussion, "Do you not trust us? Have you lost your faith in the virtues of responsibility? Where is that sweet co-operation in your leaving the country which we had been led to expect? We have come here, not at our wish, but at your request, and if we think you are not sincere, well, we shall have to begin to use again those methods which were found so unsatisfactory in the last year." It is far better that this kind of discussion, of your pourparlers should 1461 take place in private rather than that they should be the subject of a conference. Therefore, I am in agreement with the position of the Government and that of my right hon. Friend which compelled that position from the Government.
The chances of an agreement which will unite all sections in India, and which will be ratified by the British Parliament, are remote and slight. The probabilities of a breakdown are enormous. One has only to read the latest dispatches to see how true that is. Meanwhile, all over India, expectations, aspirations and appetites have been excited and are mounting. Already Mr. Gandhi moves about—so I read in the "Times" newspaper—surrounded by a circle of wealthy men, who see at their finger tips the acquisition of the resources of an Empire on cheaper terms than were ever yet offered in the world. I was reading of the Roman senator, Didius Julianus, who was dining at a restaurant when they told him that the Praetorian guard had put the Empire up to auction and were selling it in the ditch of their camp; he ran out, and bought it for £200 sterling per soldier—according to Gibbon. That was fairly cheap, but upon my word I believe the terms upon which the Empire is being offered to this group surrounding Mr. Gandhi, are cheaper still.
Now I must ask a question not entirely directed to those upon the Government side of the Committee, but to some of my own friends and colleagues, for whose opinion I have the greatest regard. I would ask them to consider, in the months that lie before us, was it worth while to throw all those issues open on the chance of an agreement being reached, was it worth while to throw all those issues of the Round Table Conference open in the hope of getting, in a Diet of Notables, rather a more convenient Parliament at the centre of the Indian Government than at present? No, sir, we have been most imprudent to depart from the prescribed constitutional course which has been marked out and laid down, upon which all parties had agreed and to which they were faithfully addicted. We have been most unwise to depart from that procedure, which I have already unfolded to the House once this 1462 Session and which will, I believe, be the final procedure which it will be forced to adopt before we come safely and honourably out of this Indian difficulty. Here let me say, and I must say it, the responsibility for what is going to happen rests with those who are having their way, it rests with those who are having their policy tried out, it does not rest with those who vainly protest against the course of events. The responsibility rests on those who are having their way; on them alone descends the reckoning which is gathering.
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India has been in the habit of charging me with being an advocate of violent repression. He says that my policy is the lathi, the bayonet, the machine-gun and artillery, and, apparently, those words have been received with more respect and agreement upon this subject that utterances from the Government Bench usually command. It is easy to say such things, and easy to cheer them when they are repeated, but they are not time, and they are not just. The quotations which my right hon. Friend did me the honour to read from the speech I made in the Dyer Debate might at least have been borne in mind in this matter. I am no advocate of brutal force in India; indeed, I hold that no more physical force is needed in the solution of the Indian question. A tithe of the force and the punitive measures which the Socialist Government and the present Viceroy have vainly employed would have sufficed if they had been part of a firm and coherent policy, the simple maintenance of law and order; if they had not been accompanied by the disturbing of the minds of the masses by the belief that all the institutions and the whole world around them was to be thrown into the melting-pot; if they had not been accompanied by the building up of a belief in the minds of the masses that the Government of India, and the Socialist Government here, were squeezable, and that enough pressure would make them give way stage after stage. A tithe of those measures would have had their effect, a tithe of the suffering and of the police charges which the right hon. Gentleman has been pouring out and launching all this year would have had their effect if they had been accompanied by a coherent and sober policy.
1463 [Interruption.] Hon. Members had better hear what I have to say, because then they will know the arguments which they will have to meet and which, no doubt, with their superior skill, they will easily be able to overcome. After charges like that, surely I am entitled to reply.
The Indian problem does not require more force. May I take as an example two teams of coach horses? Under one driver they go along beautifully, happily and in a most elegant manner. Under another, who perhaps uses more force and strength, the horses are driven mad and gallop round the streets causing a disaster. [An HON. MEMBER: "Men are not horses!"] No, I am illustrating a point. If the hon. Gentleman does not like that illustration, let me take the illustration of two ships in the Royal Navy. In one ship there is a strict discipline, and yet everyone is happy and smiling and everything is all right. In another ship the punishment book is loaded with cases of men punished in every way, and yet the crew is driven almost into mutiny. Obviously, we need something more than the mere use of force. But who are the users of force? No Government for generations have used the force in India which the Socialist Government have used.
Let me illustrate this point by comparing the conditions in Calcutta and in Bombay. In Calcutta there is a very active seditious movement, a great deal of revolutionary feeling, a great deal of anti-British feeling. It is a centre which might, easily become a most dangerous centre, and yet there has not been there, I think I can say with safety, a tithe of the police charges, arrests, Indians committed to prison and Indians bruised by the blows of the police that have taken place in Bombay. Why is that? In Calcutta we have had a man, Sir Charles Tegart, as Chief of the Police—only Chief of the Police, but he has nevertheless been able to give firm, steady guidance to the masses and has prevented matters from getting into a shocking state of disorder. In Bombay, under the weakest possible control at the summit, a policy has been pursued of pandering to disorder and sedition, alternating with knocking people about on a very con- 1464 siderable scale, and then going round and pandering to them again. The result is that the amount of misery and suffering inflicted upon the Indians in Bombay is 10 times as great as it has been in Calcutta. It is my abhorrence of the use of physical force which leads me to resist a policy which will gradually reproduce over large parts of India the lamentable conditions of Bombay, and I say it is not I, but the Secretary of State and those who think with him, who are bringing bloodshed and confusion ever nearer to the masses of Hindustan.
I have only one more word to say. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I never expected that what I said would be agreeable to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway on the opposite side, and I am afraid I cannot make my views upon this subject agreeable to them, but if they think those views are very wrong their interest would be to allow a full expression of them in order that the good sense of the nation may be manifested against them. It is not true, I think, to say that those who do not like the way in which the constitutional problem is being handled administratively at the present time by the Government have no constructive policy. We take our stand upon the views almost universally accepted before the present Socialist Government came into office. We take as our point of departure the report of the Statutory Commission. Why is that so very shocking? On the one hand we assign no potential limits to the ultimate progress of Indians in every form of civilisation and self-government.
§ Mr. MARLEY
I do not want to interrupt, but I would like to draw attention to the suffocating condition of the atmosphere and to ask whether anything can be done about it.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
On the one hand, we prescribe no theoretical limits to the ultimate potential progress of India and self-government. On the other hand, we hold that the responsibility for the well-being of the Indian masses rests here, with this Parliament, and that it is for all practical purposes inalienable. We hold that any constitutional changes which Parliament may decide to make do not depend upon procuring the agreement of the extreme sections of Indian 1465 opinion, or, indeed, of any section, although their agreement would be welcome. They only depend upon our right discharge of our mission to the Indian masses. If further discretionary power is to be given, as no doubt it should be given, and pretty soon, to Indians, it should be delegated power experimentally bestowed, capable of continual supervision and capable of effective recall if that power is abused or misapplied. We hold that it is futile and most hampering both to constitutional changes and to administration to talk about independence and full Dominion status at the present time.
Meanwhile, we take stock of the position. The Montagu-Chelmsford reforms have largely failed. It was a mistake in those reforms to emphasise unduly the wholly artificial and visionary conception of all India as a political entity. Clause 41 of the Act of 1919 gives us the right to vary or moderate the direction and the progress of Indian self-government. That was the general message of the Statutory Commission's Report, it is also the main purport which emerges from the alternative scheme presented by the Viceroy. The whole purpose of those documents is to show that the line on which we should now advance is in the development of Indian responsibility in the provincial Governments of India, that efforts should be made to make these Governments more truly representative of the real needs and feelings of the Indian people, giving Indians the fullest opportunity of trying their hands at all the great questions—
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I must submit to your Ruling, but I regret that it is impossible for me to add the absolutely necessary section of my argument. I find myself repeatedly reproached by those who say, "What is your constructive policy?" and in a few short sentences I was about to indicate, in general terms, in terms as general as those of my right hon. Friend the line along which a safe and sure advance might now be made. If I cannot do so, I will easily find ample opportunity on other occasions. With the permission of the Committee, I may say, to conclude these few general observa- 1466 tions, and to justify our position—if any there be who share my views—that we hold that the line of advance now is in the development of provincial responsibility, and that meanwhile the Imperial executive, which is the sole guarantee of impartiality between races and creeds—
I wish to raise a point of Order. While I have no objection to the right hon. Gentleman proceeding along the lines he has adopted, I would like to know if other hon. Members will also be permitted to proceed on the same lines and indicate their ideas?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I did not hear the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) and did not know that he had outlined any policy. I simply lay it down, that it is not in order to discuss the details of anticipated or prospective legislation. We must confine ourselves to the administrative action of the Government.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
In the circumstances, I will not attempt to make the point to which I attach considerable importance, and, no doubt, the Government will afford another opportunity when I shall be able to discuss these matters in full. I will only say that the views which I shall not express now ought not to be described as "diehardism," because they are by no means reactionary, and they are the views expressed in the Statutory Commission's report, which is the sole foundation of the three-party action. We are encouraging hopes in India which cannot be realised, we are assigning exaggerated importance to individuals in India with whom we shall never be able to agree and we are injuring the prestige and strength of British Government in India for dealing with all these problems. We are lending ourselves and allowing the minds of millions of people in India to be attracted to all sorts of vague and specious ideas which are not going to be realised, and cannot, in fact, be given by legislation or by agreement between the British and the Indian people. Hitherto all these absurdities so airily and facilely entertained are approaching their inevitable collision with reality, and the first contact of reality upon the Indian question was manifested when the right hon. Gentleman published his decision on Monday night 1467 not to allow the Conservative delegates to take part in the Conference in India. Many more contacts with reality will be made as the weeks go by and it is for these impending shocks that I am anxious that opinion both in Great Britain and in India should be thoroughly prepared.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Returning to the House after a long absence I felt, while listening to successive speeches, that I had returned as a ghost in dreams or to the land of miracles. Where were the empty benches of the annual Indian Debates, their slightly condescending speeches, the steel frame without a picture Then came the right hon. Gentleman's speech and I know I was awake, and that miracles were off. It was the old classic Indian speech in the old classic style. The right hon. Gentleman never gets older. He alone will never grow up, but he will remain for ever the brilliant witty irresponsible enfant terrible of this House. To-day for the first time the right hon. Gentleman has not succeeded in convincing even me by his arguments. The House was against him when he started and has remained against him to the close of his speech. Never before has a right hon. Gentleman spoken to a House so hostile, and I think that is really because he does not believe in his own arguments.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I do not think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman ought to make a statement like that, because it is quite unworthy of him.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I will withdraw that statement and say that I cannot believe that he believes in his own argument. Did no ghosts warn him. He might have seen Lord North besides the Emperor Vitellius.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I stand convicted but some ghosts should have spoken louder. The right hon. Gentleman knows that in America, in Ireland and in South Africa we failed, and they broke off from the Empire as enemies, and two are still our enemies to-day. We are now faced with exactly the same problem that faced North and Gladstone and Campbell-Bannerman, and we shall not make this Empire of ours permanent if 1468 we repeat the old mistake, and make the Indian people also the enemies of England. I had given up all hope of keeping a friendly India working with Great Britain during the ages to come. Recently by a marvellous chance, due partly to the efforts of the Secretary of State for India but more perhaps due to having as Viceroy a man who understands the feelings of the people of India—suddenly there has arisen a possibility—no more—that we and India might yet become and remain friends in spite of all. I say that is a chance which should be snatched at by every man and woman desirous of establishing peace and perpetuating our influence for good. I have done all in my power in the past to develop freedom in India. But it was for England that I worked, our chance not theirs came foremost—that we should develop a friendly free India, ready to co-operate with us as Ireland and South Africa will never do. If there was no hope of accomplishing that, then we could only look forward to two generations of force with a final dishonouring collapse.
Now I think there is a chance of success. Some people believe that Gandhi is a nationalist leader but he is nothing of the kind. His gospel is not to drive out the English from India but to make men brothers and to make men self-governing. His work in India is the breaking down of caste not to attack British rule. His whole object for the last 12 years has been to produce a change of heart amongst the governing class and I think that change of heart has now come. Gandhi deep in his soul is of English culture. He is an advocate of freedom, and he has recently been saying that when he speaks of Indian independence he means freedom for individuals to control themselves, and such a State he is trying to build up in India. Love of liberty is what Gandhi has inherited from the English education, and we ought to have great respect for an English education which has produced a man like that. Gandhi is not a Brahmin nor a Mohammedan with any desire to lay down law and coerce; he desires that all the people of India should have self-respect and self-reliance and should no longer suffer from the inferiority complex. They should feel themselves to be free men living in a free country. Gandhi is 1469 a friend of all that is best in England and an enemy of what is worst in England, and, therefore, a good uniting link, between England and India.
I must apologise for talking to the Committee as if I knew Gandhi better than they do. I do not want to fit his saint's halo on my head, but I do understand him, because he is, like me, a philosophic anarchist, because, like me, he does not believe in governing or being governed. He only wants freedom. I know he speaks of "the satanic government" and it has been held that he is anti-British because he talks of "the satanic government." Every Government to Gandhi is equally satanic; government itself is wrong. What he is thinking of is civilisation; civilisation to him is satanic. He sees this Moloch civilisation grinding the lives of men not merely to penury but to subservience and ignominy. He wants to put an end to this.
As to the safeguards, I do not think they very much matter. The Committee might realise that what the ruling class in India are afraid of is not British rule, nor British bayonets. What the ruling class in India are afraid of is exactly what the ruling class in this country were afraid of 100 years ago and perhaps are to-day; they are afraid of Bolshevism, of Socialism, of Democracy, of the working class. They want those safeguards just as much as the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). Those safeguards will not be of very great importance as long as Gandhi and the English people work together. There also is a leader whose followers follow; there, too, you have a leader who is able to carry along with him people who may be anti-British. But Gandhi is mortal, and the time must come when he ceases to be the uncrowned King of India. When that time comes, safeguards may be necessary. I will ask the Committee to observe this in conclusion. The danger in India is that the fear which the ruling class have of the working class may lead that ruling class to over-emphasise perpetually the constitutional struggle with England in order to distract the attention of the masses of India from the economic issues which are of such infinitely greater importance. In every country, whether it be Ireland, South Africa, or this country, 1470 the nationalist drum is always beaten to distract the workers' attention—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I am afraid that if the Debate proceeds along these lines we shall get rather away from the subject now before us.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The question of the safeguards cannot be discussed in detail. I was merely trying to point out that this question of safeguards depends very largely upon an artificial state of nationalist agitation which may supervene in India when Gandhi dies. I submit that those safeguards need not be very stiffly insisted upon by our Government. They will be asked for by many people in India itself, and it is far better that the solution should be a solution of complete friendship between the two peoples rather than that it should be safeguarded by some paper conditions, which might be a source of future difficulty but which could not, in fact, long withstand the action of a race-conscious nationalist party. For right action between the two peoples you must rely on mutual confidence, and paper safeguards make for trouble.
I only got up this afternoon in order to say that here there seems to be, by some miracle, a God-given chance of securing India's coming of age on friendly terms with the parent stock—a stock that has supplied the conquering ideas of liberty and democracy. That opportunity must not be thrown away now. There is a chance that Jawaharlal Nehru and other extremists in India may force Gandhi's hand or beat him. There are a hundred chances that this opportunity of growing co-operation and friendship may be destroyed. But for the sake of the British Empire, for the sake of our traditions, do not let it be said that it was we who threw any obstacle in the way of the dawn that has appeared in Indian politics.
I should like to be allowed to congratulate the right hon. and gallant Gentleman on his return to the House. He has told us that he is a philosophical anarchist. I have known the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for many years, and I can remember the days when I used to think he was more anarchist than philosopher. There is, however, a certain amount in his speech to-night with which I found myself in 1471 agreement Here, to-day, possibly, we have an opportunity of a new start. I am sure I shall have every Member of the House with me when I say that the atmosphere created by the speech of the right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) and the speech of the Secretary of State for India is one which is most favourable. That makes me all the bolder in striking a note of caution more than of criticism, and I trust that, in doing so, I shall not be accused of sowing tares. Those who were the signatories of the Indian Statutory Commission Report can surely not be accused of indiscretion. For years they have refrained from retaliating to the most violent provocation by their critics. I for one do not wish to forfeit that reputation.
The right hon. and gallant Member for Ashton-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) drew the attention of the Committee to the great change which has taken place since he first took part in Indian discussions. I remember those days. Time was when the Debates on India were lacking in ingredients which would be palatable to any save those previously associated with the Government of India, or who were concerned either with the financial or commercial interests of the Indian Empire. Now, for painfully obvious reasons, Indian affairs have a much wider and more insistent appeal. India and industry are the two star turns of the political stage to-day—both supplying in an intensive degree the tragic element. Yet, although Parliament has fewer greater responsibilities than Indian affairs, the opportunities afforded to us for discussing them are meagre enough. It might be urged with a considerable degree of plausibility that, while there are so many vital issues sub judice and so many fateful decisions affecting the future of India hanging in the balance, it would be far from profitable to initiate any discussion on India in this House, as it might only prejudice the ultimate solution of the difficulties which now concern us. I should like to protest, and the Secretary of State for India will not disagree with me when I say that, unless we exercise our full constitutional right of discussing Indian affairs, and perhaps with some degree of candour, it might be forgotten that the ultimate destinies of 1472 India are in the control of the Imperial Parliament. We are not here merely holding a watching brief in this great constitutional crisis. We are the ultimate judges of whatever constitutional settlement may be arrived at.
It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that there has been some resentment and some concern lest, with so many secret conferences, so many parleys behind closed doors, and so little information vouchsafed to us, possibly the authority of the Imperial Parliament is being ignored or allowed to go by default. The Secretary of State for India has done something to allay our fears in this respect. I often wish, when I hear Debates in this House, that the Debate of to-day had taken place the day before yesterday, and so much trouble saved. We often hear that Parliament is becoming an effete organisation in the body politic. Indians themselves affect to believe our Parliamentary system is perfection. Mr. Srinavasa Sastri goes into ecstasies when he speaks of it. A number of Indians believe that it should be lavishly copied as the model for the Central Legislature in Delhi. But what would Mr. Sastri say if Parliament gives a further example of its ineptitude by abrogating its responsibility for the Empire. I am not suggesting for a moment that the Government would do so, but there is a grave danger that it may be forgotten that the destinies of India are in the hands of the Imperial Parliament. Members on all sides of the House, who are responsible for the prosperity and welfare of India, are well entitled to ask the Secretary of State for India that he should keep us well posted in all the subsequent developments of this difficult and intriguing situation.
The situation is still extremely obscure. Looking at this White Paper, it is not altogether intelligible as to all its implications. Therefore, to indulge in an unqualified panegyric of the Gandhi settlement would be premature. I use the word "premature" advisedly, because it is my earnest prayer that one day we shall be able to give it absolutely unqualified approval. I hasten to add that to indulge in any denunciation of the Viceroy, one of the highest-minded and most single-hearted statesmen who ever controlled the destinies of our great 1473 dependency, one who is respected by every class and creed from Cape Comorin to the Himalayas, and one whose role, patiently played under the most trying and adverse circumstances, will surely one day be vindicated, would be as ineffectual as it would be uncalled for. If I were a trader in India, if I were a holder of Indian Government securities, if I were a holder of Indian railway stock, I should be much more ready to evince my gratitude and relief at what has transpired; but I am none of these things, and I am obliged to say that the Gandhi agreement leaves me with a craving for further and better particulars, and also a certain lingering apprehension, which I hope will never be justified, that the quid pro quo—which, after all, we know nothing about at present and the speech of Mr. Gandhi yesterday does not fill me with confidence—might be too dear a price to pay for a temporary alleviation of our difficulties.
It is easy enough, I know, to sit at home and criticise the men on the spot, but I would invite hon. Members to bear in mind that I have not sat at home. Those who, at the bidding of the Imperial Parliament, devoted—I hope I shall be always able to use that word, and not the word "sacrificed'—three years of their lives in that strenuous work upon the Indian Statutory Commission, did not stay at home; they went out to India to take up their work under the most trying conditions. I can assure hon. Members that, when we started on the immense task that was entrusted to us, the atmosphere was very much less congenial than anything that obtained in the foyers and drawing-rooms of St. James's Palace, and, therefore, it would indeed be ungenerous of anyone who served on that Commission to criticise in any unfriendly spirit those who are bearing the heat and burden of the day, just as we bore the heat and burden of the day two or three years ago. Let me say at once that, if this agreement results in achieving what, apparently, the Government of India has hitherto failed to achieve by normal methods, namely, the restoration of order and the opening up of the normal channels of commercial intercourse between India and England, of course we have to be devoutly thankful, although, of course, according to our 1474 notions, the method of procedure is somewhat bewildering—the method of letting out the chief law breaker, as it were, and then asking him to restore law and order; but if it results in putting a period to this drifting at the mercy of circumstances which the Government of India appears to be unable to control for the time being, we must be satisfied.
I am not, however, so much concerned with the immediate effect that it will have upon the peace and prosperity of the peoples of India, because, of course, that can ultimately only be permanent it this settlement has a favourable effect upon the constitutional issue. That is all that matters, and, in the few observations that I have to make, that is the side of the question to which I desire to draw the attention of the House. Presumably the immediate effect will be to encourage the extreme members of the Congress party to accept any invitation that His Majesty's Government may see fit to send to them to take part in a subsequent Round Table Conference. That will be for good or ill; I hope it will be for good; but it has been argued in certain quarters that the Congress party is the best organised, and, possibly, the only organised, party in India—the one which contains the cream of the Indian political intelligentsia, the one that is alone capable of making an appeal to the great masses of the Indian people—and that, therefore, it would be impossible to hammer out a flawless constitution without its collaboration, or without having the seal of its approval set upon whatever result those who are at work on the Constitution may achieve.
All that may have been absolutely true about the Congress party some three or four years ago, when the Indian Statutory Commission first went to India. At that time, when we first landed there, there was in India a number of men of light and leading who, much to our regret, and in spite of our efforts at conciliation, held aloof. They were not all Congress leaders; there were many who were outside it, but whose views were indistinguishable at that date—I say "at that date" advisedly, because the Congress views have changed from what they were at that date. They were men of outstanding ability, men whose influence with the people of India no one could 1475 gainsay, and whose refusal to collaborate with us we were the first to regret. They were such men as Sir Tej Sapru, the late Lala Rajput Rai, Mr. Jayakar, and Mr. Jinnah—all men who proved themselves to be great patriots; and, although it is hardly called for from me, because none of these gentlemen did anything to help us, yet at the same time I cannot withhold my meed of admiration and praise for the splendid way in which they have now collaborated with Englishmen at the Round Table Conference.
The Congress party in those days was certainly a formidable party, but I want the House to bear in mind that since then there has been a great falling away of very powerful support from the Congress. The Congress some three years ago got into the hands of the hotheads, and a series of resolutions which I am obliged to say were in my opinion preposterous and fantastic were passed, which undoubtedly alienated a great deal of what was best in its composition. When, however, the Conference met here at St. James's Palace, there were still those who said that the representation at that Round Table Conference was incomplete because the Congress party were not there. I think it is perfectly fair to say that a very large proportion of those Indians who came over and sat round the Conference table were, until quite recently, in the secret councils, or in the confidence, certainly, of the late Pandit Motilal Nehru, and only forsook him when his obsessions took the place of constructive statesmanship. But let the House make no mistake; India sent us of her best to that Conference, and, therefore, as regards those who refused to come, I should very much doubt if their co-operation, having regard to the nature of their demands, could have been anything but an embarrassment to the work of that extraordinarily valuable Conference.
While the best and most patriotic of India's sons were giving their best energies to try and arrive at some solution which should be just and fair and equitable to all, and, withal, were coming to a remarkable measure of agreement, there were a few recalcitrants who remained behind in India and who did 1476 everything they could to render the efforts at St. James's Palace nugatory; and at their head—I am not saying anything that everyone does not know—stood Mr. Gandhi. It might be of interest in present circumstances, and having regard to its bearing on the constitutional issue, for the House to inquire how it was that Mr. Gandhi, who, as we have just been told by the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, always had a spiritual ascendancy over the people, acquired his political ascendency. That has its bearing upon the constitutional issue. The Secretary of State for India told us a few weeks ago that the struggle in India has been a struggle for the support of Indian opinion. I think that the right hon. Gentleman is wrong. The struggle in India during the last 10 years has been to create an opinion.
When the Indian Statutory Commission first landed in India, Mr. Gandhi, so far as one could make out, had retired from the political arena, and was in seclusion. We were told, at the time when we first arrived there, that there was a great rebirth, a great reawakening in the masses of the people to a political consciousness, and that a craving possessed the soul of this great nation for responsibility, for self-government, for Dominion status, and those other ideals which it is so difficult for even the most astute English lawyer to define. How far that was likely, those who are familiar with Indian village life—and I appeal to those in the House who are familiar with that Indian village life, which forms 80 per cent. of the life of the nation—are best able to judge, but it seemed to us that it required something more than Congress to stir those placid waters and to arouse the masses of the people out of their condition of pathetic contentment. I think one might safely say that, of the 270,000,000 persons who inhabit British India, 250,000,000 had never heard of either the Conference or the Congress, but they had all heard of Mr. Gandhi, and that accounts for the fact that the Congress asked him to come out of his seclusion and lead the people.
The plan succeeded far better than anyone could have expected. Mr. Gandhi came out. It is unnecessary to 1477 go into the subsequent history, but he called upon men to make salt out of sea water, he instructed them in the making of cloth, and, although possibly the masses did not understand why they were making salt, or why they were making cloth, yet the Mahatma ordained it, and they were content. Mr. Gandhi made a series of speeches, the burden of which was certainly not helpful to the situation as we found it. He told the people of India that there was no external danger; he told them that he would be able to ward off the Afridi with the spinning wheel, and that, if only the British raj was evicted, he would be able to exorcise any ill will between Moslem and Hindu. He also gave the very date on which he was going to "deliver the goods," but unpunctuality is so universal and endemic in India that his failure to do so passed unnoticed.
The question, surely, is really this: Is it really to be supposed that such Indian leaders of thought as I have mentioned would have allowed such political philosophy as Mr. Gandhi was preaching to be countenanced if there really had been a genuine awakening among the masses of India? The fact that such an influence was necessary surely proves to the hilt that things were not moving very fast among the masses of India. I am only trying to strike a note of caution. We heard the Secretary of State for India speaking of the advance of India in seven-league boots—a happy metaphor borrowed from a fairy story and applied to a fiction; but I can be under no illusions with regard to India. I have travelled, as a member of the Indian Statutory Commission, countless thousands of miles, and have tried to travel intelligently, and I can be under no illusions. What I have seen with my eyes and heard with my ears is far more important to me than any amount of leading articles in leading London newspapers. What we have to hope is that the Viceroy, who has proved himself to be remarkably capable in influencing Mr. Gandhi and his followers so far, will be able to influence them still further, and will be able to induce Mr. Gandhi to moderate his views, although I am obliged to say that the report of his speech in to-day's newspapers does not encourage that hope. That is the one 1478 hope, otherwise, surely, the accession of the extremist Congress party to any conference that there may be will only weaken that fine body of moderate opinion which is now beginning to face facts and to frame a constitution for India as she is and not as she is imagined to be in the fevered brains of a few infatuated extremists.
I still believe the best interests of India will be served by the moderate men of all parties if they will consent to face the facts. You had a splendid team of such a type in London a few weeks ago. Support them against the extremists of all parties and I believe the path to the great goal of our ambitions will at length be clearly indicated. The lesson of to-day is a lesson of caution for the Government to lend the full weight of its support to those level-headed leaders of Indian opinion who, owing to the latest developments, may be in danger of being overbalanced if we allow the philosophy of the extreme Congress party unfettered licence. It is in the last degree unfortunate that those who counsel caution and preach against precipitancy are at once suspect in the minds of the Indian intelligentsia. They are at once accused of making the very obvious difficulties that present themselves the occasion for postponing indefinitely the grant of reform. Let everything be done to counteract this prejudice. Possibly those who have for many days now sat together in conference are beginning to overcome that prejudice and to realise how impossible it is to force the pace of the advance.
There are those who believe that the India of to-day is the India of the Company days. There are others who imagine that the India of to-day is the India of 15 years hence. Both these schools of thought are imagining a vain thing. I believe there is a large and ever growing body of public opinion of moderate and temperate views that will steer clear of both these misconceptions, which realises that, although India is becoming increasingly conscious of a desire for self-government, and increasingly capable of giving effect to so legitimate an ambition, she has yet under the best of circumstances a very long way to travel, a rough and uphill journey, to its ultimate achievement.
§ Major GRAHAM POLE
I am sure the whole of the Committee, as well as the whole of India, will welcome the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, as much as they will deplore that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). I entirely agree with the hon. Member who has just spoken in what he said about the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. I think it was a wonderful and a historic speech and one which will redound, not merely to his personal credit but to the credit of the House of Commons. The only regret we can have about it is that it was not made 48 hours earlier, when the deplorable effect in India of the Conservative party Resolution that was sent out—
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE indicated dissent.
§ Major POLE
It has done an immense amount of harm, and no one but the Leader of the Opposition could have counteracted it in the way he has done. I do not think the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping can do much harm in undoing the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition said that the "Daily Mail," and the articles written in it, were calculated to do much to help to lose India to the British Empire. I believe that, and I believe, also, that it is only newspapers that are trying to drive wedges in the opposite party which will welcome the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping to-morrow. If you take the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping for a few years back, you can prove any point of view and anything you want from them, because you get as much on one side as on the other side.
The greatest question to-day between ourselves and India is the question of confidence, and that goes to the very root of the Indian problem. The suspicion that has been engendered, the lack of confidence and the lack of belief in this country has been the one thing that had to be eradicated. As Lord Willingdon said the other day, it must be the main purpose in the mind of any man who undertook the heavy responsibility that lay before him to replace that mistrust by trust and confidence. Not the least significant of the many changes that have come about in feeling in India is that 1480 so many of the speeches that have been made, and the things that have been written in the Press, which were referred to by the Leader of the Opposition, have been taken at their true value, as they used not to be. The only unfortunate thing was that the recent Conservative Resolution seemed to have official acceptance, and that is really what did the harm, and not the passing of the Resolution itself.
About sending a deputation to India, whether that was the best method or whether it was better to have a deputation here, the "Times" special correspondent in New Delhi said yesterday:To tell the candid truth, no one in this country who is seized of full knowledge of the situation would have been much surprised by an announcement that the British parties were unable to take part in the proposed resumption of the Conference if held out here.It is, of course, quite understandable that there might be differences of opinion, but the differences of opinion did not bear the interpretation that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping would seek to put upon them. He is a long way further from agreement with his Leader than he would have the House suppose. The "Times" correspondent went on to say:Coming, as it does, so soon after agreement had been reached between Lord Irwin and Mr. Gandhi, Mr. Baldwin's declaration will be taken as nothing short of a rebuff by thousands of Indians genuinely desirous of peace.He adds that it merely required Press messages quoting Lord Brentford's heavy-footed announcement that Mr. Baldwin's speech at Newton Abbot meant the repudiation of Lord Irwin to complete a singularly unedifying picture. I have read the Newton Abbot speech, and I could not read into it either what Lord Brentford or the right hon. Gentleman found in it. As to the effect on 'commerce, take the City editor of the "Times":Firms doing business with India have been greatly perturbed during the last two days by the Conservative resolution published on Tuesday morning. Since the successful conclusion of Delhi conversations they have had evidence of a considerable revival of business, as shown by the numerous telegrams they have received. Yesterday their representatives in India were asking for an explanation of the new political situation which had arisen, since the uncertainty which it had produced had caused 1481 a set-back in business. It is feared that the better prospects due to a more settled political outlook have disappeared for the time being.Those who, like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, are opposed to agreement between the Viceroy and Mr. Gandhi should tell us really what is their alternative. Can it be that they can look forward to Congress not participating in the Constitutional discussion?
§ Mr. BRACKEN
On a point of Order. Your predecessor in the Chair, Sir, stated that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) could not develop any policy which would indicate future legislation.
§ Major POLE
I was not intending to go nearly so far as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
You asked what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) intended to do.
§ Major POLE
I was not asking for an outline of legislation but for alternative ideas. There are proposals in the White Paper. It is those very people like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping who attacked the Conference in London because members of Congress were not there, and it does not lie in their mouth now to object when we manage to get these people in. It was absolutely necessary for the Viceroy to get the Congress campaign on civil disobedience suspended before he could go on with the work in an atmosphere of peace and trust, and who but Mr. Gandhi could have made a request which would have been obeyed by millions of people? There was no one else who had that moral authority over the people of India which would have got them to obey that. Was it weak-kneed government for the Viceroy to negotiate with a man who had such power to try to get these people to come in to co-operate with the Viceroy and the Government of India? The only alternative to 1482 this agreement being arrived at would be a prolongation of the circumstances which have been going on, whereby thousands of people who were innocent of any crime except a burning and patriotic desire to help their country in the best way were put to imprisonment or beaten.
But for this agreement we were bound to have continuation of strife, imprisonment and increasing bitterness, and the longer it goes on the more difficult it will be to overcome it and the more impossible will it be to get back the trade and economic conditions that we had before and which we hope will result again from this agreement. It has been hailed as a triumph of common sense, and with reason, but it is mostly a triumph for good will on both sides.
The announcement of the Viceroy in October, 1929, was greeted in India with instantaneous approval, and it was later that the suspicion, which had been laid aside after the Viceroy's announcement, began to grow up, because again they believed we did not mean what we said. That was largely because of some of the very foolish speeches delivered in the country and some, I am sorry to say, in this House, that made Indians wonder whether they could trust the promises that we had given them in the past. There was a return of the old scepticism towards our professions of good faith. It was in that atmosphere of doubt and suspicion and non-belief in our good faith that the Lahore Congress passed its resolution of non-co-operation. It was little wonder, because they then had not got the pronouncement from the Leader of Opposition. In the "Daily Mail" Lord Rothermere wrote immediately after the Viceroy's pronouncement:In a fresh proclamation issued earlier this week that semi-Socialist, Lord Irwin, renewed the fatuous and impracticable pledge of Dominion status for India, which, encouraged by the connivance of his intimate personal friend, Mr. Baldwin, he issued last November. The promise of Dominion status should not be confirmed but cancelled.Soon after that, I received from Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru a letter in which he said:If the present situation has some lessons for us Indians, it has also some lesson for the Government, for Parliament and for the Press in England, which has either ignored or misrepresented the Indian 1483 situation. If the announcement made by the Viceroy in October had not been followed by the very unstatesmanlike utterances of some British statesmen in Parliament; if the British Press had not started the campaign it did start; if it had only attempted to understand the situation in its true perspective, the position might easily have been very different.That statement from Sir Tej Sapru is worth considering, because at the Round Table Conference he showed himself to be one of the statesmen of the Empire. But Mr. Gandhi himself, who then disbelieved in the good faith of the British nation—that was his reason for refusing to co-operate when the Round Table Conference was proposed—showed that he also was a big man like the Viceroy, because he allowed no question of prestige to interfere with his meeting with the Viceroy and coming to an agreement with him. As I have said, this really is a triumph of good will on both sides. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) said recently in his constituency:I hold it of the utmost importance that we should make it clear that there is no chance of such a goal—Dominion status—being reached in our lifetime or in any period which it is profitable for us to consider.One is entitled to ask then, did the right hon. Gentleman dissociate himself from the declaration made in this House by the Secretary of State for India in August, 1917? Not only did he not dissociate himself from that, but he was in the Government as Minister of Munitions at the time. When the Duke of Connaught went out to India after the Government of India Bill had been passed by this House, and made the declaration in India, on behalf of the King, that this was the beginning of swaraj or self-government in India, the right hon. Member was also responsible, because he was a member of the Cabinet, then as Secretary of State for War. One is entitled to ask him, what force or what sincerity did he put into that declaration of 1917? Did he intend the Indians to believe then that he was a party to that statement, and did he intend them to believe that he could never foresee in our lifetime that that would come to pass? If he did, he was trying to make the Indians believe that we were giving a solemn pledge and 1484 making mental reservations at the same time. I am not sure whether it is in order to say that in that case it was an absolutely dishonest pledge to give, but it certainly is dishonest to mean one thing and say another, or make mental reservations which are not understood by the other parties to whom a pledge is given. The right hon. Member for Epping, speaking in his own constituency lately, said:We should always try to be better than our word and let any concessions we make be real and true.We ought to be "better than our word," but the declaration that the right hon. Gentleman has made this afternoon, and the declaration that he made to his constituents last month, do not mean being "better than our word" of 1917, but falling a good deal away from it. It is only another instance of what the Indians call breaking to the heart the words spoken to the car. These words were used by the late Lord Lytton, when Viceroy of India, in an official despatch on 2nd May, 1878:We all know that these expectations never can, or will, be fulfilled. We have had to choose between prohibiting them and cheating them; we have chosen the least straightforward course. Since I am writing confidentially I do not hesitate to say that both the Governments of England and of India appear to me, up to the present moment, unable to answer satisfactorily the charge of having taken every means in their power of breaking to the heart the words of promise they had uttered to the ear.That is the charge that we make against the "Daily Mail" and the reactionaries who are supported by it in the present campaign. I would like to quote from one who is well known because of his experience in India, Sir Hubert Carr. Writing in the "Times" recently, he said:The Round Table Conference scheme carries the impress of Britain's intention to implement her pledges, and it is doubt of this—justifiable or not is not the question—which has poisoned the political atmosphere of India for a long time. If Mr. Churchill succeeds in his threatened task of marshalling public opinion against the Conference scheme he will without question do a grave injury to both Britain and India, for he will have re-established that devil of mistrust in the Indian consciousness in an almost impregnable position.The great personal achievement of the present Viceroy, of whom no praise can be too great, is that by his sincerity and 1485 his wise policy he has very nearly been able to exorcise that "devil of mistrust." But what has been the contribution of the right hon. Member for Epping? What was his intention in making that "cat's meat to a tiger" speech during the progress of the Round-Table Conference? In a letter to the "Morning Post," he said:Public men and party leaders have not only to consider what they say, but what will be the impression upon the public mind.Then, in a speech to his constituents, he said:It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi, an Inner Temple lawyer, now become a seditious fakir of a type well known in the East, striding half-naked up the steps of the Viceregal palace while he is still organising and conducting a defiant campaign of civil disobedience, to parley on equal terms with the representative of the King-Emperor.What kind of effect is such a statement likely to have in India while the Viceroy is trying to bring about peace and an atmosphere of confidence and trust there? The right hon. Gentleman does not seem to realise that it, is these very things that to him are "nauseating" that commend Mr. Gandhi to millions and millions of his fellow-countrymen. Gandhi is revered and followed by these millions, and has a very much better right to speak for the 300,000,000 of his fellow-countrymen than has the right hon. Member for Epping living 6,000 miles away. Another Member of the party opposite also made things as difficult as possible. I refer to Lord Burnham, who ought to have known better, because he was a member of the Simon Commission. About three weeks ago, in a public speech at Salisbury, he referred to Mr. Gandhi as:A crafty, half crazy old fanatic.That kind of thing should not be possible from any statesman in the position of Lord Burnham or the right hon. Member for Epping. It makes one wonder how much Lord Burnham did learn in India when there with the Commission, and how much value we can attach to what he said when he came home.
§ Major POLE
I did not know that, and I am obliged for the information. Let me now refer to words used by the right hon. Member for Epping 10 years ago:The British way of doing things has always meant and implied close and effectual co-operation with the people of the country. In every part of the British Empire that has been our aim, and in no part have we arrived at such success as in India, whose Princes spent their treasure in our cause, whose brave soldiers fought side by side with our own men, whose intelligent and gifted people are co-operating at the present moment with us in every sphere of Government and industry.Are we to sacrifice "the British way of doing things," lauded to the skies by the right hon. Gentleman 10 years ago, and to treat our promises as scraps of paper, in order to provide in his words "a bond of union, inspiration and an invigoration" for an ailing and divided Conservative party? There was another point that the right hon. Gentleman raised. He said that Gandhi had pressed for the repudiation of Indian loans. That is not so. The fact is that the Lahore resolution of the Conference did not call for the repudiation of Indian loans, but for reference to an impartial tribunal. Mr. Gandhi repeated that statement in his letter to Mr. Jayakar.
§ Major POLE
But in the Irish Treaty, to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping was a party, there was a Clause which the Indians discovered, and on it they founded this Clause. The Irish Treaty Clause was:The Irish Free state shall assume liability for the service of the public debt of the United Kingdom as existing at the date hereof and towards the payment of war pensions as existing at that date, in such proportion as may be fair and equitable, having regard to any just claims on the part of Ireland by way of set-off or counter-claim, the amount of such sums being determined, in default of agreement, by such arbitration of one or more independent persons, being citizens of the British Empire.It was done in the case of Ireland and when it was discovered that Ireland got her self-determination in that way, it was thought to be a fair way to get it for India. So they said: "We may as well stipulate it and follow the example of the Irish."
1487 8.0 p.m.
The great benefit of the Round Table Conference was the personal contact that was made between Members of this Parliament and the people of this country, and India. We overcame that difficulty of personal contact, which we have never been able to have in this country, or, except for the very few of us who have been to India or who have lived in India, in this House. The only knowledge of British methods which the ordinary man in India has is gained from the administration. In that, lies the importance of our administrative policy. We in Britain are apt to think that so long as we are conscious of the goodness of our intentions, that is sufficient. The politicians in India read the newspapers, such of them as get out there, and are able to form an opinion of the situation. The telegrams that go out do not always say accurately what is the position. The politicians can judge what is the position, but the great mass of people in India cannot, except by first-hand experience of our administration. When repressive measures need to be taken, the people are not very actively inspired by our methods. Frequent repressive acts have had to be taken in the interests of law and order.
We have undoubtedly left many scars in the public mind of India, and it is just as important to convince the Indian man in the street, as to convince the Indian politician, of the change of feeling that has taken place in this country. What we want in India is not more law and order—that is what the Viceroy has realised—we do not want a stronger hand, but a spirit of conciliation and a desire to meet the grievances of the Indians and a readiness to inquire into their alleged injustices. If we want to see how the spirit of the administration in India has changed, we have only to read the speech delivered by the Commander-in-Chief in the Council of State last week. Sir Philip Chetwode said:His Majesty's Government has accepted the principle of more rapid Indianisation: the Government of India has agreed; and I, as Commander-in-Chief, with all the responsibility on my shoulders for the defence of India, have also accepted it.We are accustomed to hear so much about the Indians not being fit to command and not being able to defend themselves. 1488 The Army in India is constructed on a purely mechanical principle. All initiative and all purpose has been left to the British commissioned ranks and not to the Indians. That was not always the case in the past. It was not the case before the Mutiny. We have a reliable fighting machine, but, as Sir V. Chirol says in his book "India Old and New," it is not calculated to train Indians to protect themselves. This is the result of the deliberate policy of fear which developed in this country after the Indian Mutiny. The Peel Commission which sat in 1858, after the Indian Mutiny, advocated "mixing up castes and corps so as to make regiments as heterogeneous and as unlikely to combine as possible," merely because we did not trust the Indians. Lord Ellenborough said, in the Peel Commission report:The natives"—that is the Indians; he would not call them natives if he had been living to-day—have a genius for casting and working guns, and we should not afford them the means of enjoying it …. Their practice in this war"—that was the Mutiny—is allowed to have been at least as good as our own.Lord Elphinstone, the Governor of Bombay, said:I agree with those who think that it is not judicious to train ally natives of India to the use of guns. They make excellent artillerymen, and they attach great value and importance to it. These very circumstances make it dangerous to place them in their hands.That shows that Indians have not been excluded from what one might call the more scientific branches of the Army because they were not fit, but because they were too good at it.
We are told that this settlement means a loss of British prestige. It certainly does not mean a loss of British prestige in the eyes of India nor in the eyes of the rest of the world. We have the "Statesman" of Calcutta saying:In time to come this will be regarded as one of the greatest happenings in the second quarter of the twentieth century, and possibly as decisive for the world as the 11th November, 1918.The "Times of India" says it is confident that the concessions will not be found to have been made at too great a 1489 price, and it congratulated Lord Irwin. We have the "Daily Gazette" of Karachi hailing the settlement asa triumph of reason on both sides."The Rangoon Gazette" and the "Rangoon Daily News" both welcomed it, saying:No praise is too high for the Viceroy.More remarkable still, we have the "Hindustan Times," a Congress organ which has been opposed to the Viceroy and all he stood for, saying this:If Lord Irwin has earned an immortal place in the history of India, it is not only for showing himself a strong Viceroy, although even there he has had few rivals among his predecessors, but for having shown outstanding capacity for statesmanship and for having saved India for the Empire.The Secretary of State for India pointed out that Lancashire has welcomed the settlement through the "Morning Post." Europeans in India welcomed it, and so did the members of the Indian community. The "Times" special correspondent in New Delhi has pointed out that all parties there, Government parties and every other party, welcomed the settlement. He says:No one supposes for a moment that all difficulties are at an end, but the great fact stands out that when the agreement has been formally ratified, not only will life in the cities and in the villages be purged of bitterness, but the whole of India will be able to settle down to the task of shaping its awn destiny.The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping spoke of the salt tax and of how wicked it was to surrender on that. The "Times" correspondent in India says:This may at first sight seem a partial surrender on the very battleground where the Civil Disobedience Campaign started. As a matter of fact, it is no new concession, the practice having been given general recognition over wide areas during the war. It will certainly not apply to politically-minded Congress volunteers who have defied the provisions of the Salt Tax all over India, not for domestic purposes, but simply as a political gesture.He referred then to the "non-co-operation" which has come over the critics at home.
We have the testimony of two Viceroys that have been out there, Lord Reading and Lord Hardinge. Both of them give agreement to the wonderful settlement that has been made by Lord Irwin. 1490 Even the Viceroy-designate, Lord Willingdon, hailed it as a "wonderful triumph" and one that would lead to greater triumphs.
According to the "Manchester Guardian" correspondent in Berlin, the newspapers in Germany say that the Indian settlement has certainly added to the prestige of England in German circles. The Paris papers say exactly the same thing. The New York papers, the Baltimore "Sun," the "New York Tribune" and the "New York Evening Post," all welcome the settlement as a very great thing. The Baltimore "Sun" says:The success of these painful and of[...]-imperilled conferences makes the die-hards, on both sides alike, look a little silly. Fortunately, we do not now have to give too much attention to what Mr. Churchill and his allies think.We can feel that this settlement has been brought tremendously further on to-day by the wonderful speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. I believe that nothing that is now said or done in this country will or can undo the good, the wonderful good, that that speech will do in India.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has given an interesting account of the reception which the settlement between His Excellency the Viceroy and Mr. Gandhi has had in different parts of the world. I am sure it must be very gratifying to all of us to know that the settlement has been so well received. Wonderful as all this is, however, I am much more interested in what we think about these matters ourselves than in what a lot of people think in different parts of the world. I entirely agree with the hon. Member in the tribute that he has paid, and I associate myself entirely with it, to the members of the Indian Legislative Assembly and other Indian politicians who came over for the Round Table Conference. I am as strong as he is in the view that confidence is the basis of the future settlement of the Indian problem. But I would desire that the hon. Gentleman and others would not dwell quite so much on the necessity for the Indians having confidence in us. It gives an impression as if the whole matter is one-sided. There is also the necessity that we in this country should have trust in the Indians and in Indian promises. If I 1491 criticise his speech, I am sure he will understand that it is because I believe that this continual harping on the necessity for confidence in British promises is apt to make it forgotten that confidence is equally necessary in regard to the promises made on behalf of the Indian people.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) made reference to a resolution which was passed at a recent private committee meeting in this House, and he has asked me to make it clear that I am entirely in agreement with the statement that he made, namely, that the resolution which he put forward at that meeting and which was subsequently withdrawn in favour of a resolution, afterwards published, did contain the words "in India," and therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, in putting forward a resolution at that meeting, was merely expressing the view which had already been stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition some ten days or a fortnight before. At that time the Leader of the Opposition definitely expressed the view that, speaking for the Conservative party, he was unable to agree to a conference in India, as foreshadowed by the Government, at the present time. My right hon. Friend suggested that I should make it clear that that Resolution, which was subsequently withdrawn, was merely carrying out the exact words and phrases of the definition laid down in the declaration made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. I am glad to be able to do so.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
I am not concerned with that at this moment. I think that my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping made a little too much of this matter of the decision not to join in a Conference in India and it was a little like flogging a dead horse after the statement the Secretary of State for India had made in this House to-day. Before I follow that matter however, there is one point in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State about which I was very anxious to ask him at the time he made it, but I did not, 1492 against his will, desire to disturb the flow of his argument. It was a very important statement which, as far as I know, did not catch the attention of the Committee. It is extraordinarily difficult, without having the actual words in front of me, to quote what he said, and as the right hon. Gentleman is not here now, I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not pretend to be quoting his exact words. If any hon. or right hon. Member on the Front Bench of the Government would be so good as to give me his attention for a moment I shall be obliged, this being the only opportunity I shall have of drawing attention to the matter. I should like the Committee, if possible, to be given information upon it by whoever winds up the Debate for the Government.
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State gave us to understand that when Mr. Gandhi approached the Viceroy and asked for an interview, he indicated that the object of the interview was to make it clear that he, Mr. Gandhi, desired in the future to co-operate with the Government and possibly to bring non-co-operation to an end. If that statement is accurate—and I say at once that I am not quoting the exact words of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State—it is an announcement of the utmost importance. I think that we are entitled to ask at once why the House and the country were not made aware of it, because there are a great many people, not only in this House but throughout the country, who may, and I am sure do, like myself—I am speaking entirely for myself—welcome the settlement between the Viceroy and Mr. Gandhi but who were distinctly disturbed by the length of time these conversations were carried on and the possible political consequences in India because of their long-drawn-out character. If it had been made clear, as the Secretary of State said, if I understood him correctly, that when Mr. Gandhi asked for his first interview he indicated that the object was to form some bond of co-operation with the Government, many of us would have had much less anxiety as to the length of the conversations than we had with no knowledge of what was going on. That is a point which, it occurs to me, the Committee did not notice in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary 1493 of State, and the matter, in my view, is of the utmost moment. I am bound to ask, if my interpretation is correct, that whoever winds up for the Government will make it clear whether or not Mr. Gandhi did give such an indication when he first approached the Viceroy and asked for an interview?
The importance of that, to my mind, is that there is no doubt whatever, with that fact not being known, those lengthy conversations were apt to give in India the impression that Mr. Gandhi and those for whom he spoke were the only political body of any importance in the country. Nothing can be more harmful than an impression of that kind. I do not minimise for a moment the importance of the National Movement, but do not let us forget that the moment you begin to exaggerate in the minds of the other political parties of India the importance of any one political section of the people, you immediately do harm. We have in India representatives of something like 70,000,000 loyal Mohammedans, for example, and a large number of millions of other communities who have loyally co-operated with the Government, and they may naturally have felt that these long conversations were giving an exaggerated importance to one section of political thought in India.
I have said that, speaking for myself, I welcome the agreement, although I was nervous about the length of tame the conversations were carried on. But it must be said that while one welcomes the agreement, there are a good many things in it one would have liked to have seen expressed otherwise. The statement that civil disobedience is to be called off is worth a great deal. I would sacrifice a great deal to get a settlement on that basis, but I cannot say that anyone who has lived in India and who knows conditions in India will particularly like the wording of parts of that settlement. I find, for example, the reference to the inquiry concerning the police—instead of such an inquiry being definitely refused, as, indeed, it must have been intended definitely to refuse it—was put in this way:Having regard to these considerations, Mr. Gandhi agreed not to press the matter.I do not like that. I do not think that that is in keeping with 1494 the dignity of the British Government, because I am positive that the British Government never intended to have such an inquiry. Any such proposal would have been repudiated, I believe, in every quarter of this House. I think that there is not a Member of this Committee, in any part of it, who is not prepared co join in paying the greatest possible tribute to the police and to the British and Indian forces in India who have carried on their work in times of particular trial and difficulty over the last few months, and, in fact, over the last year or two. That applies to all ranks, from those in command down to the newest joined recruit in a country village. No praise can be too high for their loyalty and devotion.
I agree with what has been said from the other side, that the concession regarding the Salt Tax is not one of any importance in the sense of revenue. To begin with, it is often forgotten that it is only one portion, one side of India, that eats the kind of salt which is referred to in this agreement, and only a very few of those living in that part of India could possibly make any use of the concession. The concession from the financial point of view is worth nothing, but, the concession has been looked upon in India as a definite victory for Mr. Gandhi as the result of the campaign, which was definitely to break the law, and it is in regard to that aspect of it that I think here is harm. There, again, I do not want to press these matters, but we have been told to-day that this is the opportunity to speak plainly and tell the truth. I do not think that you are going to gain anything in India by pretending for a moment that you like the terms of the wording of this agreement. I personally welcome the settlement because I think that if you get co-operation and an end to the disputes of the past, and if you get a new spirit, not only on the side of the British but on the side of the Indians, then, I believe, it is worth these sacrifices. If that result comes about, I shall be the first to pay a further tribute to the one I should like to pay now both to Lord Irwin and to Mr. Gandhi for the result which they have achieved. Let us, however, be perfectly plain. That would be the position if we got the results we hope for, but, definitely and frankly, I ask, can Mr. Gandhi deliver the goods? That remains to be seen. I hope that he 1495 can, and I pay tribute to him for trying to. We on our side have delivered the goods. In Great Britain we have done it.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
Some hon. Members of this House must have been present when a speech was made by one of the greatest Indian delegates to the recent Round Table Conference, just before he left this country on his return to India. I refer to Mr. Sastri. In that speech he said that a miracle had happened in England. I differ from him as to its being a miracle, in the sense that I think he misinterpreted the general attitude of this country to the question of India even before the Round Table Conference. Assuming, however, as the hon. and gallant Member for South Derbyshire (Major Pole) seemed to assume, that there has been a complete change of heart, the miracle, on the evidence of Mr. Sastri, has taken place. The question we have now to consider is whether there has been a corresponding miracle in India.
It is impossible to go on expecting the people of this country to make gestures and to express their good will if there is no definite response from India. I am not one of those who believe that this continued talk about the good faith of the British people is doing any good. It is time that we said to India, quite definitely: "We have made it quite clear at the Round Table Conference what we are prepared to do. You cannot doubt what our intentions are. We have said clearly and definitely that we want to meet you and work with you and also the extent to which we are prepared to go. Do you mean to co-operate with us on these lines or do you not?" I would go further and say that it is no use wrapping up that question in talk about good will. It is much better to face the position quite clearly. If the object of the Indian politicians, or certain of them, is independence and cutting India away from the Empire, then this country will have nothing to do with it, and the sooner India knows it the better.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
I am prepared to speak for this House with as much authority as the hon. Member opposite, and, in this matter, with a good deal more conviction. I am more convinced than I can say that if that issue came before this House there would be no question whatever about the reply. It is because I feel the matter so vital that I think it is very unwise to allow India to believe for a moment that there could be any other possible result.
§ Mr. MAXTON
My interruption was not to question the rightness of the hon. Member's statement that this House would not countenance separation from India, but my intervention was for the purpose of saying that it may have to do so, sooner or later.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
I cannot, of course, say what sooner or later may be. "Ever" is a very long time. We do not know what may happen, but I do know that in the near future, or any future that we can visualise we need not worry about the reply if that issue came before this House. Having made that clear, I can join with hon. Members opposite, with great sincerity and satisfaction that the position has been made quite clear by the Leader of the Opposition to-night as to where the Conservative party stands. I do not think there was any doubt before, but at any rate both this country and the politicians of India now know where the Conservative party and, indeed, where every political party stands. I want to see a continuation of the non-party or all-party attitude in connection with India. It has done a great deal of good in the past, and I hope that we shall continue it in the future; but it is no good our avoiding facing the position. We must let India know quite clearly that we are waiting to see whether they are prepared to meet us on the lines that we have clearly laid down and which, so far as we know, were accepted by their representatives at the Round Table Conference as the basis for progress in the future.
I was a little disturbed, as many other hon. Members must have been disturbed, 1497 by the boycott provisions in the Agreement. I think the terms against objectionable forms of picketing are drastic, but picketing if it goes on at all is unlikely to remain peaceful. I hope that Mr. Gandhi can deliver the goods and that there will be no picketing at all, but if there is a complete breakaway from his attitude by some of his extremists I am afraid that that portion of the extreme element will be unlikely to continue the boycott by any peaceful means. While we welcome the agreement and while We offer co-operation, it is not the slightest use in this House shutting our eyes to the fact that there is an element in India, I hope that it is only a small element, that will not be satisfied with any offer that it is within our power to make, and these people will give us trouble and they will give the Government of India trouble. The great hope that we have is that we have brought to the side of moderation the great bulk of moderate opinion and our great hope also is that Mr. Gandhi's change of heart, if I may call it that, or his change of political attitude, will bring over to the side of co-operation and progress a large number of people who have hitherto stood outside these negotiations with us. Do not let us ignore the fact however that India is so big that there are extremists in India just as there are in England and that we cannot expect to have everybody working smoothly with us at once.
There is one further point in the Agreement that I would mention. The boycott has done a great deal of harm to our trade, and it is a little unfortunate that, just at the moment when there is a chance of this boycott being removed, it should have been necessary for the Finance Minister of India to put a further tax upon Lancashire goods. That, to say the least of it, is unfortunate. It is not our business, and it is not right, perhaps, that we should criticise the financial measures which the Finance Minister of India may think necessary. I believe that he has spread the burden on all classes.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
My only object in mentioning it was to lead up 1498 to a point which is raised in the agreement. I will not carry it further, except to say that while the burden has been distributed, the tax was introduced in a speech which I think almost every Member of this House who has read it must consider extremely unfortunate.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
I have no intention to disobey your Ruling, but I would point out that this matter has been the subject of debate to-day.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said to-day that the natural outcome of negotiations in connection with the future of India was some scheme of federation. With that, we shall all agree, but there may be a long road to go before we reach federation. I want to make it perfectly clear that while we are more than anxious to assist in examining that problem and more than anxious to build up a scheme of federation with the help of India, we are not in a position to tolerate any possible action directed solely against British interests or British traders. We want every Britisher in India to have exactly the same rights as every Indian has in this country—no more and no less.
One word regarding the general outlook for the future. I am not one who has ever believed that you can control India by the sword. That is absolutely impossible. There you have a population of 320,000,000 of people and 60,000 British soldiers, and there are thousands and thousands of miles in which probably a British soldier has never been seen. With this small British force and an Indian Civil Service of less than 1,000 Europeans, it is quite clear that the future government of India rests upon good will, whatever form that government of the future make take. It is because I believe that good will is necessary and because I believe we can build up with Indians a system which will be satisfactory to them and to us, that I am so anxious and willing for co-operation. This is also the reason why I believe the position should be made perfectly clear 1499 and that we are entitled to say to India: We have shown you quite clearly what are our intentions, we have shown you quite clearly our good will, now we ask you whether you are willing to co-operate with us on the lines we have laid down.
§ Mr. FOOT
The Committee has no doubt listened with interest to the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Wardlaw-Milne) who speaks with special authority on this subject inasmuch as he spent so many years in India. Many hon. Members in this House speak on India although they have not had the advantage of having heed there, and if the rule had been enforced that no one who has never been in India had any right to speak on the subject in this House, we should have heard nothing on India from Charles James Fox, Edmund Burke, John Bright, Henry Fawcett, Lord Morley—
§ Mr. FOOT
I do not quite see the importance of the interruption, but it may be noted that Oliver Cromwell and the Protectorate were closely associated with the establishment of our association with India. I wish to associate myself with other hon. Members in paying my tribute to the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition. We have to put up with a great deal in this House, there is much that is distressing sometimes, but there are compensations; and one of the compensations was the speech which we listened to to-day from the right hon. Gentleman. It has raised the Leader of the Opposition in political stature and will strengthen his hold upon the opinion of this country. It is not for me a comparatively young Member to praise the speech but I wish to express my gratitude that a speech of that kind should have been made at the time when it was sorely needed. It will stand out in the memory of this House.
Let me now make a reference to the speech of the Secretary of State for India. I only heard the declaration of the immediate policy of the Government as read this afternoon, and I am bound to accept the contention that it would be difficult to continue the Conference in India. I think it is unfortunate that 1500 we cannot do so. When the delegates met at the Round Table Conference the one thing upon which they laid much stress was that as soon as possible after the adjournment of the Conference at St. James's Palace there should be a calling together of the Conference in India. It may be that this was only sentiment, but sentiment counts for a good deal in these matters. It was the intention of the Government to proceed upon this line, and I regret very much that it has not been found possible to do so. I am glad, however, that the course is to be taken of summoning the members of the Federal Structure Committee who are now in India to meet some time during the summer in the hope that there may be an adjourned sitting of the whole of the Round Table Conference in India in the latter part of the year.
My hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetlands (Sir R. Hamilton) used a phrase which has been misrepresented by the right hon. Gentleman for Epping (Mr. Churchill). My hon. Friend never intended to suggest, any more than I do, that these negotiations should be carried on for five years. He laid emphasis on the words "without interruption," which are the words in the Resolution unanimously passed by the Round Table Conference. He suggested that five years was a short period in the history of a nation, but he did not intend that these negotiations should be protracted and he is as anxious as any hon. Member, or as any Indian delegate, that not a moment should be lost in pushing on with this work of peace and reconciliation, If there is unjustified delay a great deal of the advantages of the Round Table Conference will be lost. The history of India during the last twenty years shows the danger of delay. The Leader of the Opposition made a reference to one of the most momentous utterances ever made in this House by Mr. Montagu on the 20th of August, 1917, and may I say there was no name at the Round Table Conference which was received with more spontaneous applause and approval than the name of Mr. Montagu. Next to that of Lord Irwin, it provoked the most cheers. No man ever served in this House who found his way more readily into the confidence and trust of Indians than Mr. Montagu.
1501 In 1917 he made his announcement and after that there came his visit to India and the report signed by Lord Chelmsford and himself. Then came the Act of 1919. It was not put into operation until 1921, and the interval between the announcement on the 20th of August, 1917, and putting these proposals into actual operation in 1921, was an interval fraught with disaster. The result was that the reforms passed by this House never had a fair chance. Before the new Assembly was called together many things had happened. There had been the agitation over the passing of the Rowlatt Act, against the great mass of Indian opinion, the disturbances in the Punjab, the tragedy at Jallianwallah Bagh, and when the Assembly met there were appeals for conciliation and expressions of sorrow, and the Duke of Connaught in opening the new Parliament said that the shadow of Amritsar had lengthened over the fair face of India. I only hope that we may learn from the experience of a few years ago that while there is to be no undue haste there should be no undue delay, and that the plough is not to be allowed to lie idle in the furrow. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping was certainly in more measured language than the speeches which he has been giving in the country. I am glad that he did not debase the currency of Debate in this House by using here some of the phrases which he has used outside. As I listened to that speech, which seemed so ineffective, I wondered why it was made at all!
The right hon. Gentleman's main contention was that the Statutory Commission is our only authority and the sole foundation for three party action in this House. That is not true. Three party action, the unity of all parties in this country in relation to India, was an accepted tradition of our Parliamentary life long before the Statutory Commission was thought of, and if the right hon. Gentleman will go back to the writings of Professor Lecky, he will see emphasis laid on the fact that of all the subjects which come before this House and which ought to overleap political and party divisions, the subject of India comes first. Those of us who are supporting the proposals of the Round Table Conference, and the agree- 1502 ment now arrived at, are not seeking to derogate from the Statutory Commission or from its work.
We heard the speech of the hon. Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan) and no one would seek to depreciate the services rendered by those who made possible the report of that Commission. But the Round Table Conference was the direct outcome the Statutory Commission. It was called on the suggestion of the Chairman of the Statutory Commission and his colleagues, and they know that, when the Round Table Conference met, we were confronted, within two hours of the commencement of our work, with a new situation and with questions which went beyond those that had been brought within the ambit of the Statutory Commission. I say that it is mischievous on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping to seek to draw some line of distinction and cleavage between the work of the Statutory Commission and the work of the Round Table Conference. The work of the one was in direct sequence to the work of the other. If we have no authority for the three party action of the Round Table Conference, as is suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, are we not entitled to quote the words of His Majesty the King when he prayed that the names of the men associated with that Conference might go down to history as the friends of India, and as those who were engaged in working out peace and concord where there had been disturbance and ill-will?
I join in the acknowledgment which has been made of the services of those who made possible that work of conciliation, and I cannot speak in exaggerated terms of the gratitude which I feel towards the Indian delegates to the Round Table Conference. They came here with every difficulty in their way. They put their political lives to the hazard. If there had been a breakdown their political careers would have been cut short. They anticipated that unless something substantial was secured they would be received on their return to their mother country as they had been denounced when they left, with black flags. But they went back with a substantial achievement; they pledged themselves to the advocacy of these proposals, and they have carried out their pledge. They have most honourably discharged their 1503 obligation, and no professional or personal considerations have been allowed to interfere with that work. They have given themselves to it unremittingly. It is no small thing in itself that men should leave their professions and their personal concerns and come on such a long journey. Some of them were in ill-health and one of them died in this country. They set aside all their own concerns; they gave themselves to this task, and this achievement in the cause of peace and conciliation would not have been possible but for the pressure brought to bear, but for the beneficent influence exercised by men like Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Mr. Sastri, Mr. Jayakar and many others. I am sorry that the work of those men has been made more difficult by things which have been said at home. May I call the attention of the Committee to what was said by the "Times" correspondent on 7th March? Having dealt with the immense satisfaction at Delhi caused by the accomplishment of this work, he writes:Those in the best position to judge very properly maintain that nothing is more calculated to spoil the promising atmosphere than the cynical mistrust which has come from some ill-informed critics at home.If Members of the Committee refer to the message from the "Times" correspondent this morning, they will see what Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru has to say about the latest news from this country. I do not know how anyone can read that statement from a man who played such a great and distinguished part at the Round-Table Conference, and who has given himself so wholeheartedly to this work, without some distress of mind. Then there is our tribute to Lord Irwin. I said when I was last speaking in the House of Commons on this subject that I was glad that Lord Irwin was the grandson of a Liberal Secretary of State, and if I were a Member of the party above the Gangway, I should be anxious to acclaim as best I could the services which he has rendered. I am sorry Abet there was no great hurry on the part of hon. Members above the Gangway to express the thanks which I think was generally felt throughout the country to be due to the Viceroy.
We have now, fortunately, as a result of the speeches made to-day, some 1504 elucidation of the unfortunate events of the last two or three days. Often the question is raised, "Is India fit for self-government?" but really after the experiences of the past two or three days, the question surely should be uppermost in our minds, "Is Britain fit to govern India?" It is a humiliation to think that the constitutional and political future of 300,000,000 people or three-quarters of the population of the British Empire should be dependent upon events such as we have witnessed in the last seven or fourteen days. India brought into controversy in the election which is now being fought! India made a pawn in a political fight! India being made to play her part in a personal vendetta! To judge by some of the things said at this time about the settlement between Mr. Gandhi and Lord Irwin, one would think that there was an utter lack of regard for the interests of those 300,000,000 people who have been committed to our care. I ask, can it be looked upon as anything other than an anomaly that the political future of those people should depend upon events of this kind?
Again, let anyone take the interpretations put upon what was said by the Leader of the Opposition in my own native county of Devonshire. The right hon. Gentleman made a speech at Newton Abbot. I read the speech with great care, and I am not going to criticise it in the slightest measure. But the right hon. Gentleman said to-day that there was a necessity for simple plain language in dealing with this matter. Yet he made a, speech which was open to varying interpretations. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edgbaston (Mr. Chamberlain) spoke of the miracle that had been done by Lord Irwin. At the same time there was another gentleman, who was Secretary of State for Home Affairs in the last Government, who said that he had been uncertain of the course that he should take; he had been uncertain in his political leadership. He said that the speech at Newton Abbotmeans a repudiation of Irwinism, and my doubts are set at rest.Here were two members of the "Shadow" Cabinet, both holding the highest offices in the last Government and colleagues of the right hon. Gentle- 1505 man; and, of the speech made at Newton Abbot, one said that it is a tribute to the greatest miracle we have had in modern times, and the other says that it is a repudiation of Irwinism. If there be such difficulty between those who are in close personal association with the right hon. Gentleman, how can we expect the Indians 7,000 miles away to be able to accept with any certainty what is said by the statesmen of this country?
Two criticisms are made of this Agreement, and I want the Committee to consider what they are. The first criticism, which is being made in order to damage and to invalidate the agreement is the suggestion that, in this settlement with Mr. Gandhi, the great Moslem population of India has been forgotten. I will quote the words used by Lord Brentford in a letter which appeared in the "Daily Mail" on Monday of this week. He said:I can now go forward on the old lines of upholding the British Dominion in India, and of carrying out our responsibilities to the uneducated masses, and to the Moslems who to the number of 70,000,000 regard Gandhi as so much less than dirt.9.0 p.m.
No one who has read the report of the Round Table Conference can fail to realise that the demand for self-government in India came not only from the Hindus who were there, but came just as strongly and insistently from every Moslem representative. In fact, Mr. Jinnah, when he put his case before the Conference, said the Moslems of India had not joined in the non-co-operation campaign, but that, if we declined to give self-government, the danger was that those who bad kept outside that campaign would join it. I am sure that in any settlement that is arrived at, all the safeguards which were given in the first instance by Lord Minto and Lord Morley will have to be continued, but a most dangerous game is being played by some who are attacking the Agreement by suggesting that it is the intention of this Government to leave the Moslem population unprotected. There is the other suggestion against the Agreement, which comes into almost every argument. It is that in arranging with Mr. Gandhi, Lord Irwin has been making arrangements with a small oligarchy and leaving the great masses 1506 untouched. I could give quotations from those at the Round Table Conference who, one after the other, said it was an utter fallacy to believe that only the small educated section in India was interested in self-government, but that the movement had now touched many of the rural parts of the country. Further, if we talk about the illiterate masses we may be faced with the argument that the responsibility rests, not on the Indians, but on the Government—[Interruption.] I wish the hon. Member would make his interruptions vocal. I am not expressing any opinion, but giving the statements made by responsible men at the Round Table Conference.
§ Major-General Sir ALFRED KNOX
If the hon. Gentleman is blaming the British raj in India, we must take into account the difficulty of getting teachers.
§ Mr. FOOT
I have had the opportunity of studying with some care the report with which the hon. Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan) would be better acquainted than I am—that is, the interim report on Education in India presented to the Statutory Commission. I am as aware as the hon. and gallant Member of the difficulty of getting teachers. I know that that has been the hindrance, particularly in the advance of education among the women. I appreciate the difficulty, but what I said is that, if we talk about the illiteracy of India, we lay ourselves open to the argument, which was used by many speakers at the Round Table Conference, that the responsibility for illiteracy in the end falls upon the governors of India. If the hon. and gallant Member thinks that I was making an attack on the British raj, he cannot have been listening. It is a dangerous argument to use in attacking this arrangement which has been arrived at with Mr. Gandhi. In relation to India we ought to have measured speech. There is no subject upon which we ought to be more willing to put a bridle on our tongues, and I want to make my protest against some of the language that has been used in relation to this agreement. The hon. and gallant Member who just spoke drew attention to what was mid at Salisbury. When I was passing through Salisbury—not in connection 1507 with the election—I was astonished to see in a report in the local paper what had been said by a Noble Lord, who was a member of the Statutory Commission, when speaking on a platform of a League of Nations meeting. I quote the words of Lord Burnham, who said:For the Government to 'kowtow' for a long period of time, as they are doing, to a crafty, half crazy and old fanatic like Mr. Gandhi, is to do a great injury to the name and fame of Great Britain in the East.Language of that kind should be repudiated. The right hon. Member for Epping said in one of his speeches that it was nauseating—I will quote his words:It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi, an Inner Temple lawyer, now become a seditious fakir of a type well-known in the East striding half naked up the steps of the Vice-regal palace.What is nauseating is that language of that kind should be used. The papers which support the policy of the right hon. Gentleman make sport of the food that is eaten by Gandhi. We have leading articles with the title, "Cat's meat and goat's milk." They make sport of the clothes, or the lack of clothes. All this is said about a man who, I suppose, is the most powerful man in the world to-day, a man who over a great many years has won in India a position which is unequalled throughout the world. I can only express my regret that flaming and mischievous rhetoric of this kind, wicked and irresponsible speech, should be used in dealing with issues affecting so many of our brothers and sisters and our kinsfolk in the British Empire. I can only commend to them the words of one of the hymns written by a great Imperialist which I have no doubt they sing with much unction:If, drunk with sight of power, we loose Wild tongues that have not Thee in aweSuch boastings as the Gentiles useOr lesser breeds without the law.I can only say that we have had nothing from the leading Indian statesmen and politicians except dignified language in relation to this dispute.
§ Mr. FOOT
I say that on the whole the example which has been set to us in the use of language is such as has not been set by the right hon. Gentleman and those associated with him. When the Montagu-Chelmsford Report was published many years ago certain words were used at the end about the social relations of ourselves and India:It is perhaps not easy for the successful and unimaginative Englishman to realise what the rule of another race must mean to patriotic minds, and the great obligation that lies upon him to treat with all possible consideration those whom he has hitherto ruled and whom he is now admitting to a share of the task of ruling …. If there are Indians who really desire to see India leave the Empire, to get rid of English officers and English commerce, we believe that among their springs of action will be found the bitterness of feeling that has been nurtured out of some manifestation that the Englishman does not think the Indian an equal. Very small seeds casually thrown may result great harvests of political calamity. We feel that particularly at the present stage of India's progress it is the plain duty of every English man and woman, official and non-official, in India to avoid offence and the blunder of discourtesy.Those are words which I commend to some of those who have been attacking this settlement. I can only refer in conclusion to what was said by Lord Brentford when writing in the "Daily Mail" on Monday of this week. He said we were at the parting of the ways, and went on:One of the principles"——he was referring to the principles of his party—was the Disraelian one of the belief that India was the brightest jewel in the English crown; of the determination to uphold the policy of 1857, and to destroy with a strong hand any attempt at mutiny whether military, whether armed or whether merely seditious.We are indeed at the parting of the ways if we are considering now not the policy of 1919 but going back to the policy of 1857, before there was a single Dominion in the British Empire. If there is a parting of the ways, I am glad to think that a better attitude is now being taken up throughout the country. I am sorry to hear the right hon. Member for Epping say that we had to be thankful for small mercies, thankful that we could save some part of our large estate. Are we to think of India as part of our estate?
1509 I am a great believer in the British Empire, but I am glad to remember a statement made not many years ago by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) that the British Empire is not a white Empire. It is an Empire in which these 300,000,000 people may come and take their share. I fully realise that we are at the beginning of many difficulties. Although I took part in the Round Table Conference I admit that very little was settled there, that a great deal had to be suggested. We are at the beginning of our difficulties, and the burdens are very heavy. The burdens are too heavy for India to carry alone—she would be crushed if she tried to do it; and I believe they are too heavy for us to carry alone; but I am convinced that by co-operation we can carry them together. My conception of the Empire is that those of every colour and every outlook should come in with the object of making the Empire what it should be, the greatest political system and the greatest political adventure in the history of the world.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
The hon. Gentleman's care and sympathy for the people of India has my agreement and it does him credit, but I hope he will also give me a little credit for some interest in the people of my constituency, and I am going to attempt to bring a little realism into this Debate. So far we have had too little of it. I am sorry the Secretary of State for India has been out of the House for many hours now. I am very sorry he missed the speech of the hon. Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan) who, after all, is one who gave up a lot of time to taking part in the Statutory Commission. I am very glad to see the Secretary of State for the Dominions is here, because he will know what I mean. We have heard a great deal about the difficulties of Lancashire and the interests of Lancashire, but I would have hon. Members know that the interests of Yorkshire are also affected, and that in my own constituency a great many people earn their own living. [Interruption.] I am very sorry to have to mention this to the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Foot), sorry to have to bring in these mundane, bread-and-butter matters, but a great many of my constituents earn their living by trading with India. We have direct 1510 steamer lines to India, and we send machinery and goods of many kinds, made in Hull and it is a most serious thing for us if the boycott is to continue. My first request, therefore, is to ask for elucidation of this question. Perhaps the Colonial Secretary can tell me, as the Secretary of State for India has unfortunately been called away and is not able to be here.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I beg my right hon. Friend's pardon. A rose by any other name! He will know what I meant; we understand each other. When we first saw the White Paper it was hailed as a great triumph because, apparently, the boycott was going to be taken off. I ventured to put a question to the Secretary of State for India on this matter. What he said was that it is early yet to know what will be the results of the agreement and he said the same again to-day. I ask my hon. Friends on this side of the House to support me in elucidating this point, because if the boycott is to continue in an economic form the change of name will make no difference, and we shall have men kept out of employment in this country. It is no use our throwing up our hats in the air unless we know exactly where we stand. My hon. Friend the Member for East Leyton (Mr. Brockway) said, "Oh, but this only means that the Indians will be allowed to advocate 'buy Indian goods.'" I have no objection to their advocating the purchase of Indian goods. We in this country advocate the purchase of British goods, but we do not picket shops or private houses to force people to buy British goods. I am most disturbed at the stress laid in this White Paper on the continuance of peaceful picketing in connection with the economic boycott.
§ Mr. BROCKWAY
Picketing in this country is perfectly legal. The trade union movement has for a long period insisted upon its legality for trade union purposes, and, therefore, there cannot be any grounds for saying it should be illegal if used for national purposes.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Picketing in a trade union dispute where 1511 workmen are struggling for their rights has no comparison with a Continent-wide picketing movement directed against goods made in this country. Those on the other side of the House for whom the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) speaks are alarmed at the thought of granting India anything in the nature of Dominion status. In the Dominions we get preference, however; whereas under this arrangement not only do we not get preference, but our goods are differentiated against. [Interruption.] My hon. Friends on this side must realise that there are other points of view, and in this matter I am acting in the interests of my constituents. If the Government give way on this point, coastal shipping will be the next, and attempts will be made to reserve coastal shipping for Indian ships or rather Indian owners. We are being shown a very scanty return for the sacrifices which the Labour party has made upon this matter and the risks we have run politically for India.
A great mistake was made in connection with the Salt Tax problem. I do not approve of our allowing people to evade the Salt Tax law on the seashore. It would have been far better to have repealed the Salt Tax 18 months ago than to make concessions of this sort. I wonder if my hon. Friends on this side realise the importance of this problem to the people of India. The tax bears heavily on the poorest classes. It is a very serious question of public policy, and it is no use hon. Members thinking that 60,000 troops can hold down 300,000,000 people. We cannot do it except by prestige. On a matter like this we have to consider our own prestige, which has been very seriously compromised by the wobbling and vacillation shown by the Government during the last few months. I think that it would have been a far better policy to have repealed the Salt Tax altogether, because that is a tax which bears very heavily on the poorest class of the community in India. [Interruption.] I entirely agree with the tribute which was paid to the Viceroy by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin). In what I am saying now I do not mean any reflection upon the Viceroy, who has been placed in a most 1512 difficult position. Nevertheless, I think the Viceroy will be remembered in India for many generations as a man who has been trusted in India. It must be remembered that the position of the Viceroy has been made extremely difficult by the wobbling policy of the Government in the summer of 1929, and I agree with what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping in regard to what had been granted in the White Paper. Those concessions were demanded by Gandhi before his march to the coast took place and before so much suffering and bloodshed had occurred in the Civil Disobedience Movement. In 1929 the Viceroy made a declaration that the object of the forthcoming Round Table Conference was to consider the question of Dominion status for India and to draft a constitution for an Indian Dominion. The Secretary of State for India who is very fond of quoting from "The Times" quoted a passage from "The Times" correspondent showing the excellent effect of the Viceroy's declaration and other passages from other papers and messages from India praising the Declaration. Conversations took place behind the Speaker's chair which more and more take the place of deliberation in this House and as a result the Prime Minister thought it best to retreat from the position he had taken up. The right hon. Member for Epping must have shown his fangs even then. The result was that the Viceroy was thrown over and Parliament was told that there was no alteration of policy.
Nevertheless, the Round Table Conference proceeded, and it was announced that it was to be a conference at which the representatives of the Government were to speak for this country. The views of the Conservative party and the Liberal party was that they must be represented by delegates. I always thought that it was right that both Liberal and Conservative delegates should be included in the Round Table Conference. The Government invited representatives of every section of Indian opinion and the Opposition asked that the three parties should be represented; but there was great resistance to that proposal in Government circles at the time. At last the Government resistance gave way and the three parties were represented at the Round Table Confer- 1513 ence. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) was very warmly praised by the Prime Minister at the close of the last Conference and he has a very great knowledge of Indian affairs. The hon. Member for Bodmin referred to the great sacrifices which had been made by the Indian delegates and with that I quite agree. I would like to point out, however, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley was not allowed to be a member of the Conference notwithstanding his great knowledge of Indian affairs while the hon. Member for Bodmin apparently because he is a protagonist in our own communal differences and knows a good deal about Oliver Cromwell was put on in his place. [Interruption.] I am sorry the hon. Member for Bodmin has gone out of the House. He would not have objected to my saying it. Then the Round Table Conference assembled. There was no kind of policy or plan prepared ready for it—none whatever. The Prime Minister made a speech recently in which he referred very kindly to his followers on the back benches, and said we had nothing to do. I have always managed to keep myself very busy since I have been in Parliament. We make time to think, and some of us have been thinking of what has happened in the last few days, but also of what has happened in the last two years. I am very sorry, indeed, that I am not fin a position to congratulate the Government on what has happened.
Now I come to another matter in the White Paper, namely, the question of the release of prisoners. I am very glad indeed that the political prisoners who are not guilty of incitement to violence or violence are being released. I only wish that the Round Table Conference delegates from India had been listened to at the end of the Conference when they advocated the immediate release of these people. It would have been far the best thing to release the political prisoners immediately after the Conference as part of the new settlement that had been come to, and which we have heard so eloquently praised from the Liberal benches. That would have been the time to release prisoners not guilty of incitement to violence or violence, whereas now have you satisfied anyone? 1514 It is part of a bargain, instead of coming graciously with magnanimity and good feeling.
Let us see the result of this handling of the situation. The Secretary of State for India is very fond of quoting the "Times." If things do not go well in India, the leakage of information from the Conservative Indian Committee is going to be blamed. I have here a cutting from the "Times" of 10th March reprinting a message from its Allahabad correspondent of 9th March, reporting a speech by the younger Nehru, the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, on Sunday, 8th March. The first news we had in this country of the Conservative decision not to take part in a conference in India was on Monday, and therefore this speech was made before there was any inkling of the reversal of attitude, if I may so put it, of the right hon. Member for Bewdley. This is what the younger Nehru said. He is a man of great courage, and undoubted patriotism. I ask hon. Members on both sides of the Committee to listen to these words, and realise what the situation in India is. It is no use building up fantasies and talking about what Oliver Cromwell said about India. This is what the President of the Congress said last Sunday. The message runs:Referring to the Delhi agreement, the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said it was a truce and not a peace. Until and unless India achieved Swaraj, peace was impossible: The Congress and the Government had only settled mutually that acts of aggression must stop on either side to give a chance for a settlement at a second Round Table Conference. If the Congress later found that there was no hope of getting the substance of independence, the struggle must begin afresh. Personally, he had not the least hope of a successful settlement.That is honest and straight. Then he went on:Swaraj implied control of Indian affairs by Indians, and this was not possible until Great Britain conceded power over India's Army, finance and other vital interests.That is the President of Congress. I think we are rejoicing prematurely, though I myself am hoping that the younger Nehru will change his mind and come into the Round Table Conference. The early conversations with Gandhi have been successful, and tributes have been paid to the Viceroy and Gandhi, who is also thoroughly sincere and 1515 straightforward. But it is extremely doubtful if this good result will come, and if it fails, I blame the Prime Minister sitting on the Front Bench for his indecision and timidity in this matter and his betrayal of the Viceroy in the summer of 1929. You can go further back than that, for the trouble began in the last Parliament when the Simon Commission was appointed with no Indian on it. A good many of us on these benches foresaw the trouble, and same of us opposed the appointment of Labour party delegates to the Commission at all. However, they went, two very distinguished members of our party who were held in great esteem. They joined the Commission, but we should never have put our hon. Friends in that position without Indians being on the Commission, because it meant that the Simon Commission started in a false position and a bad atmosphere. You can trace the troubles we are now experiencing in India to that initial blunder.
I am not criticising only, but wish to make suggestions for the future. We are assisting at the end of an Empire, there is no doubt about that. It is a question of retreating now from India in good order and hoping that our Empire in India will be merged into a far greater commonwealth of nations which, if it had no other justification—and it has many—at any rate, means that one great area of the world is immune from war. That is, to me, the great defence for modern present-day Imperialism, and I hope the Indian Empire will merge into that of its own free will. That Empire will have lasted about 150 years, or for less time than the Mogul empire. I wonder if the Prime Minister, who has visited the country on numerous occasions, and always had its interest very much at heart, has ever considered why it is that the Moguls, a small band of military adventurers, without a wealthy country to draw on for support, and being aliens in India, were able to maintain an effective empire for over two centuries. Why was it?
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
The hon. and learned Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten) will not have forgotten when the Morley-Minto reforms were introduced, his political predecessors in this House said that the Liberals were throwing away the Indian Empire. There was no Labour party in those days, and the same prognostications of disaster were made. The reason the Moguls retained their power for so long in India was because they governed through the Indians The mistake we made was the policy of breaking up the State Governments in India. In West Africa we have followed a much better form of government, and we are governing through the native organisations. In India, if the pre-Dalhousie policy had been followed, we could have erected and gradually improved an Indian system of government working through Indians. The Moguls had Indian Viceroys, Indian Governors, and Indian Commanders-in-Chief of the Army. I suggest that we should as soon as possible put Indians into the highest positions for which they are available. This is not a matter of legislation but of administration, and I would make that suggestion to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State.
The next question, which is also administrative, is that we must press on with the Indianisation of the Army. I have had several friendly talks with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on the Floor of the House on this matter, but he has always told us that it is being done. This matter is particularly urgent. The latest information that we have, according to the speech of Sir James Crerar in the Assembly, is that an Indian college for the training of suitable Indian gentlemen to hold commissions in India will be established in 1932. It has taken three years to set up this college by 1932. The speech of the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Philip Chetwode, to which my right hon. Friend referred me the other day when I asked him about this matter, speaks only of setting up a committee to go into the matter, but we have really passed the committee stage, and we want four or more colleges in India. This matter should be got on with as soon as possible, because the situation is this: I am sure that hon. Members in all parts of the House will agree with me that it would be impossible to leave an 1517 army of, say, 30,000 British troops on the frontier in the air, isolated with their lines of communication not under central British control, though with a strong central Government it could possibly be done. It is necessary, therefore, to create an Indian frontier force, and there is plenty of material in India with which to do that.
We must at all costs have a good rough-and-tumble force on the frontier, and an armed gendarmerie, with modern equipment, for the plains. I have gone into this question as carefully as I possibly could, and with some small knowledge of these matters, and I assure the Secretary of State that there is very respectable opinion in India, both British and Indian, with military experience, that believes it would be possible to Indianise the Army effectively in from 10 to 12 years, or, at any rate, to erect parallel with the present forces—not necessarily in substitution for them—Indianised forces that could gradually take over the maintenance of law and order in the plains and the guarding of the frontier. If we are sincere in our declared policy on which we fought the General Election, we must now push on with this question of Indianisation as rapidly as possible, and it is not being done. 1932 is not good enough, it must be done in 1931. I am sorry for pressing this matter, and I am sorry, as a pacifist, to have to speak of these things, but in India, as everyone knows, armed forces will be necessary to maintain order for many years to come. I want them to be Indian armed forces.
Thirdly, I would ask that, in the framing of a policy of political action in India, from now onwards, the collaboration of those Round Table delegates who have been praised in all quarters of the House should be sought and used. I know that Sir Tej Sapru, Mr. Jayakar, Mr. Sastri, and others have been consulted on the conversations referred to in the White Paper, and have approved of them. That is very good. I hope that those consultations will continue, and I hope also that the other great Indian and Moslem political leaders who came to this country for the Round Table Conference will be consulted on all great questions of policy. The hon. Member for Bodmin spoke about the 1518 great services that they rendered as delegates at the Conference, but he did not say one word about the Indian rulers who came here, and whose declaration of federation apparently took His Majesty's Government by surprise, though there was no excuse for that, because it was known a year before that they would declare for federation, and it was published in documentary evidence to which I would refer the Secretary of State if he doubts my statement. This declaration of federation made the success of the Round Table Conference possible, and that was only made possible by the very statesmanlike and far-sighted action of the rulers of India who came over here. They should be consulted in all future major questions of policy in India, and, obviously, the strongest possible delegation must go to India to continue the conversations.
The Conservative party have refused to co-operate in this part of our task. We did not want them to co-operate in the Round Table Conference at the beginning. They know perfectly well that we can go on without them, and that, in filling in the gaps of the framework which was drawn up in London at the Round Table Conference, no party political delegation is necessary, as long as you have one or two good political leaders. Everyone in India would welcome people like Lord Sankey and others who did so much at the Round Table Conference. That work should be continued in India, the object being, obviously, to push on as soon as possible with the federal structure. The Secretary of State spoke of the Federal Committee being practically reconstituted, and that is the important work to be done now.
As has been said, very many gaps were left, and they must be filled in. We must now go on with our task without any more shilly-shallying. I shall not be a bit sorry if the Conservative party fall in behind the right hon. Member for Epping and make this a party question. Let them make it a party question, but let us show the people of India that at any rate one party that is in touch with the masses of the British people themselves believes that the policy for which we have always stood in the past is right, and that India should be granted her free self-govern- 1519 ment as a Dominion as soon as she is ready for it. Let us stick to that policy, and help her to get ready for it. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Enfield (Mr. W. W. Henderson) is pleased to be amused at my remarks. I am sorry he has got to a stage when he is amused at the recital of the policy on which we fought the last election, and which was included in our election manifesto. If we will stand by that pledge, it is not too late, but there has been too much indecision, too much fear of opposition from the other side of the House, in the last two years. I appeal to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister really to go forward in this matter with a policy that will satisfy India. I believe we shall get the cooperation of the Congress if we can show them that as a party we sympathise with their aspirations, and that we intend to make it possible for those aspirations to be realised.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
It gives me great pleasure to endorse everything I heard from my great leader in his most statesmanlike speech. I had the good fortune to spend 21 years in the East and I think I know the Indians as well as anyone in the House. I know them in agriculture, in business and as a British official. I know their ways and their aspirations. I have a very great respect for them. What my right hon. Friend has said will do a great deal to help the situation which I am sure all of us want to help, according to our lights it may be, but the question has to be solved, and the more amicable and the more statesmanlike the manner in which it is solved the better for all concerned. I had intended to make a speech of a somewhat different nature but, in view of what we heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), that he accepted the intentions of the Leader of the Opposition, I do not wish to say too much on those lines. He referred to the landslide. I should like to suggest that the landslide has not started just now. It started in 1917. Some of us were in favour of the Montagu-Chelmsford agreement. I must admit that I was not but, whether we were or were not, it was from that date that we in the East realised that there was indeed a landslide and, since then, 1520 we have had, as a consequence of that agreement, first of all the Simon Commission.
I regret very much that not more use has been made of the most valuable report of the Simon Commission. These gentlemen have an opportunity which no one else has ever had of information in all parts of India and in this country, both by journeys, by interviews, by reading, by meetings and by general intercourse, and their report is most valuable. I very much regret that, when the Round Table Conference was called, it was not used entirely as what I may call their book of reference. It may have been referred to to a certain extent but it was not really, as far as I gather, the official organ of the Round Table Conference in the manner I should have liked to have seen it. I should also like to have seen the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) co-opted to give advice on matters that were going through the Conference so that he could elucidate various things that it was necessary for the members to know.
We now have before us the conversations of the Viceroy and Mr. Gandhi. I was never very keen on those conversations but, when they were read out to us, I was pleasurably surprised at their contents. I did not expect for a moment that they could be even as good as they are. Whether we appreciate them or not, there is one thing that many people forget, and that is to show respect for the opinion of the man on the spot. We lost the Dutch East Indies, very valuable possessions indeed, owing to the inefficiency of our Foreign Office in not listening to the man on the spot. Many of us praise Lord Irwin and many blame him but, in any case, he is a great man. He has accomplished a great deal and, if we are wrong in our criticisms of this White Paper which we have received, we must always remember that, at any rate, he has used the influence and the experience which he has gained in 4½ years to the very best of his ability and I think, generally speaking, we may be pleased with the results of that White Paper.
There are one or two things I should like to suggest. I should like to know, for instance, in how far the Viceroy is 1521 right in surmising that Mr. Gandhi can deliver the goods. That is, of course, a matter which the Viceroy himself knows better than anyone even in this country, but he is asking a great deal of one man. He is expecting a great deal of him and, to my mind, it is somewhat questionable whether all that Mr. Gandhi has undertaken can be accomplished. I sincerely hope it can, but it would be a disaster for India and for this country should his undertakings not be fulfilled. Nevertheless, I take them, knowing India a bit, with a pinch of salt, and I do not think we should rely too much upon all these suggestions being fulfilled. I am also very disappointed that a boycott of any sort is to be legalised. It is a bad thing, because India is bound up with British trade. India is dependent upon British trade in the same way as Britain is dependent on India, and one has always to remember—I know there are some doubts cast upon this assertion by people who do not know it—that India is what it is to-day owing entirely to the British population and what they have done in the last 100 years. Men have gone there, built up big businesses, put up factories, given a great deal of employment, built railways, founded big shipping companies, and the Indians have to be very grateful indeed for what has been done for them. I do not say it has always been on one side, and I do not say the Indians have to be entirely grateful to us and we not to them, but we know that the white man goes and opens up the country and then the work is spread around amongst the people, schools are opened, and they get the benefit of the white man being there.
I also do not like at all the phrase about the police. I have had several chats with the Secretary of State about the police. I want it to be clearly understood how much we appreciate the great police force. My own contention is that, had it not been for the police, there would have been a great deal of bloodshed during the last year or two. The manner in which they have carried out their duties is very laudible indeed. I want to see them remain under the sole control of the Secretary of State and the Viceroy in Council. I received a letter a day or two ago from a friend in a high position in the Indian police, saying that all ranks of the police in India must be 1522 gratified at what was said of them by the Leader of the Opposition in his speech at Newton Abbot, and at knowing that they have behind them the full support of the British and Indian Government. I object to the concessions with regard to the salt tax. The amount of money is very small but it is a great principle that is being surrendered. It may be necessary—and once again I say the man on the spot must know—but it is a great principle which I, for one, am sorry to see acceded to in a bargain such as this.
From my own experience of the East I know that sooner or later we must give a great amount of self-Government to India. But I want the Government not to rush matters. I would say, "Progress slowly, keep a firm hand in India and remember that Indians respect a strong and just Government but spurn a weak one." If anyone makes to an Indian a promise of any sort or kind and does not keep it, that Indian will never respect that man again. That is so whether the promise be in business or a question of punishment or anything of the sort. A promise must be kept, whichever way it is given. For the man who keeps his promise the Indian will have respect, just as our children have respect for us if we say that if they are naughty we will spank them and when they are naughty we do spank them. [Laughter.] Some hon. Members opposite laugh. Perhaps they did not get sufficient spankings.
We have also to remember that many millions of Indians do not want any change at all; they are content with things as they are to-day. In any future conferences their opinion must be listened to with attention. Ill-considered legislation, without adequate safeguards of the interests of British and Indians alike, will be the ruination of India. To my own friends I say that it would be a pity to make a party question of this matter. India and the problems of India are far too serious for a party matter to be made of them. Therefore I sincerely hope that Members on all sides of the House will consider this question in a statesmanlike way without any hysteria or panic. To the Government I would say again, "We wish you good luck, but we wish you to realise that it would be a pity to rush the thing without full consideration of all the consequences."
§ Mr. MAXTON
The hon. Member who has just spoken, in his last sentence, warned the Government not to rush things. Surely that is a somewhat inappropriate suggestion to make with reference to the progress that has been made during recent years in this matter of self-government for India. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) in his speech talked about the hopes, aspirations and ideas that have been raised in the last week or two, but the hopes and aspirations of the Indian people were first stimulated in the early days of the War, when this country was very anxious to have the co-operation of India in the prosecution of the War. That is when the present phase of the demand for Indian self-government really received its impetus. That is now something like 17 years ago, and to warn the Government of the day against giving the Indians something tangible in return for the aspiration that we raised then, seems to me a somewhat inappropriate warning. I am glad that I have the opportunity of urging for some greater scheme, of urging for some greater self-government for India than is contemplated in the very hesitating statement about "Dominion self-government as soon as they are ready for it." My whole mind rises in protest against this setting up of ourselves as judges to say when the Indian people are going to be ready for it.
The hon. Member who has just spoken talked about the relationship of this country to India in terms of the metaphor of a parent spanking a child. Is not that just a little bit impertinent? Is it not just a little bit presumptuous for either of us to talk as parents or teachers with reference to some of the great minds amongst the Indian people, who are quite as competent to govern the affairs of their country as he or I have ever proved ourselves to be to govern the affairs of this country? Indeed, the intelligent Indian, watching the somewhat hesitating and unsatisfactory efforts that Great Britain has made towards solving her own internal problems of trade and employment, might quite well say to us, "You fellows have enough to do in managing the affairs of England without devoting any serious part of your effort to managing our affairs at the same time."
1524 The attitude of most of those with whom I am most closely associated in the House is that the whole question of the relationship between India and this country should not be settled as between governing nation and subordinate nation, that the principle of self-government and the fact of self-government should be granted at once, and that the question of our withdrawing from India, if at all, the question of the amount of help that we shall give to India, the question of the amount of defensive power that we shall offer to India, the educational services that we render to India, should not be subject of granting it from this country, but should be subject for treaty as between two equal nations meeting together.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
I do not want anyone to think that I suggested any inferiority complex with regard to the Indian. I said it was a question of keeping a promise. In another sense I said that one's own children had to keep their promises That has nothing to do with rudeness to the Indians.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I accept the hon. Member's explanation, but unfortunately for him we have been talking all day in terms of discipline, of keeping order in India, and the hon. Member brought forward his metaphor of keeping order by the use of the strong hand. I think that the right hon. Member for Epping is the man who deserves congratulations for to-day's proceedings. The right hon. Gentleman has been the subject of opprobrious attacks from every speaker in the Debate, from every party, but I want the House to recognise that the one gentleman who walks away with anything from to-day's Debate is the right hon. Member for Epping. We agree that the next stage in the granting of self-government to India should be the continuation of the Round-Table Conference in India. There will be very general agreement towards that end, and the advantages of it, to all of us who are really interested in getting the right thing done, are overwhelming. But this important effective and definitive Conference should take place right in the atmosphere, and among the people, whose lives are going to be affected by what is said. That is of the greatest importance, 1525 as compared with the Conference that was going to meet here, when the pressure upon that Conference would be, not the pressure of the desires and aspirations of the Indian people, but of the London daily Press, the London vested interests, the London money markets and the English politicians.
The advantages of having that continuation of the Conference, when it came to actual definitive things in India, over England, were overwhelming. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, who, I am glad to see, has returned to his place, went into the country and made two or three speeches, and in the course of the speeches used one or two phrases, the sort of phrases that we all like to get when they further the idea that we want to propagate. He got the exact phrase that furthered the idea that he wanted. He walks in to-day and delivers one of the speeches, not in the very top of his form. He could do much better. I was just telling the Committee before he came in that he has walked away with the winners. He has not merely altered the policy of his own party, but he has altered the policy that was agreed to by the Liberal party and by the Government, in his insisting that the further stages of the Indian conference on self-government should take place in England and not in India, and I congratulate him. Somebody on my right suggests that he is a mischievous devil. I was thinking of him intellectually rather than geographically.
He reminded me, and he reminds me still, sitting there looking at me just now, of a part in his most recent book, which by his own kindness I was enabled to read, and which I discussed with many Members of the House who appreciated it and enjoyed it very much. Everyone of them was tremendously struck with the great skill with which the right hon. Gentleman, writing about his early life, could transport himself back into the attitude of the five-year-old, the nine-year-old, and the 10-year-old. I remember particularly when he was a schoolboy at Harrow or Eton—[An HON. MEMBER "Harrow !"] I know it is a terrible mistake to say the wrong one. He was a schoolboy at Harrow at the age of about 12 or 14 when he kicked one of his schoolfellows into the bathing 1526 pond, from behind. The schoolfellow has subsequently become a Front Bench colleague. He was small in size, but the right hon. Gentleman discovered when he came out of the water that his colleague was not at all ineffective in his operations. The right hon. Gentleman had to pay the penalty for his mischief on that occasion. Well, again the right hon. Gentleman has been mischievous. I say he has recaptured the spirit of boyhood on this occasion. On this occasion, as distinct from the last, he has had a very notable victory. He is walking away, by his own efforts and practically unaided, with the transference of the proceedings of the Indian self-government conference from India which was its proper venue, to England.
Nearly every spokesman in this Debate has endeavoured to put the point of view of his own opposite number in Indian political opinion. The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Foot) paid a high compliment to all the Liberals of India and England who played a part in the settlement. In the most masterly fashion he traced a connection between the Liberal party and Lord Irwin, although he had to go back to his grandfather to establish the connection. Hon. Members above the Gangway on the other side spoke for their friends in India, mostly the successful business men of India. I want to say a word for my opposite numbers in India at the present time. They were not represented at the Round Table Conference. They were not the subject of the Gandhi negotiations. They were in gaol at the time of the Round Table Conference and they are in gaol now. I am concerned, not with those who are anxious for self-government for India, but with those who recognise that, as well as national aspirations, there are class aspirations. I am interested in those who, in face of tremendous difficulties, are trying to develop something like a working-class movement that shall fight, whether under British or Indian rule or Indian independence, for the liberation of the working class against the exploitation of the exploiters, whoever these may be, Indian or English. There are three men under sentence of execution just now. The sentences have not been affected in any way by the agreement which has just been reached. I have been in direct communication with 1527 the Viceroy about them and I have been in association with the Secretary of State for India. I only make passing reference to the subject, and to the wrong that has been done at Meerut, where 31 men of India are being tried for a crime. The crime was the attempt to organise a working-class industrial and political movement. They are not charged with violence.
§ Mr. BENN
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but I am sure he will see that if he were permitted by the rules of Order to develop his case in regard to a matter which is now under the consideration of the court, I should have to ask to be allowed also to state the facts. Without in the least desiring to interfere with my hon. Friend, I would ask him to observe that the matter is sub judice, and therefore it is not right that he should discuss it.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am not going to attempt to deal with the merits of the case at all. I accept the right hon. Gentleman's statement at once that the matter is sub judice. The biggest part of my complaint is that it has been sub judice for 21 months. I am making my appeal now to the Prime Minister and not to the Secretary of State. The crime of these men is that they have celebrated May Day and carried banners saying, "Workers of the world, unite!" The right hon. Gentleman and I, not for some considerable time but in the course of our lives, have celebrated May Day and have spoken under the banner, "Workers of the world, unite," and I am urging him now to put an end to this trial, which is a travesty of every single thing that British justice believes in, however much it may be in keeping with the Statute Book of India. It is a travesty of British judicial methods to keep men on the rack for 21 months, and I am urging, for the sake of the future peace of India, for the sake of a very rapid settlement of the political question, and for the sake of giving these men the right to develop a movement in India like our own here, that the Government—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Member is too sensitive upon this matter. So long as the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) is calling attention to the protracted keeping in 1528 prison of certain people in India, he is quite entitled to proceed, but if he proceeds to prejudge the question, he is out of order and must refrain.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I want to make it perfectly clear that I cannot permit the hon. Member to prejudge the question. The only thing he is entitled to do is to suggest that these people are being kept in jail, in his opinion, unduly long without trial.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I do not want to pursue the question, because before I rose I entered into an undertaking that I would finish in a very limited time, and I intend to do so, but I think the right hon. Gentleman's remark that my statement was a travesty of the facts, is pretty strong. I am prepared to admit that it is a very gross compression of the facts, but I merely raised it and extended it to make my appeal to the Prime Minister. If at this time it is desired in all parts of the House to extend clemency to those elements that have participated in the Round Table Conference and that are associated with the Indian National Congress, I am urging the Prime Minister, quite apart from the facts, quite apart from the question of guilt or nonguilt—there is no question of the guilt of the people who are being released under the amnesty—whether he cannot carry this clemency of the Viceroy one stage further to cover the men of Lahore and the men of Meerut.
We have had a Debate that has been exceedingly interesting to those who, like myself, have studied for many years the moods and methods of the House of Commons. We have had from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and from my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), from what I might call two opposite peaks, speeches imbued with sincerity in dealing with this question of haute politique. We have had from the benches opposite also two speeches which obviously have been 1529 entirely in disaccord with the views of His Majesty's Government. Therefore, I hope the Committee will agree with me in saying that it is not for either side to suggest that the two most numerous parties in the State are entirely in agreement on the methods to be pursued in regard to policy in India. The only party that appears to be in agreement to-night, and which is always united when no vote is to be given, is the party below the Gangway, whose two speakers have said almost exactly the same thing. At any rate, there are, in the two principal parties in the House, serious differences of opinion, and always have been, on the question, so let us avoid cant in this matter, and let neither side twit the other with not being wholly united on this matter.
In a matter of this kind, where the greatest interests are at stake, some of the highest interests that any nation or any Empire could have to do with, I think the House of Commons and this Committee ought to be the temple of truth, and that it is well that those who have differences of opinion should express them. [Laughter.] I do not see that there is anything to laugh at in my saying that the House of Commons should be the temple of truth, and that differences of opinion ought to be expressed. I wish to address myself not to the general considerations to which I have referred but to certain circumstances which have arisen, where I must express some criticism or, at least, some doubts in regard to the administration of India. In doing so, I want to make it clear that on the general considerations which have been so eloquently put by my right hon. Friend and leader, the Leader of the Opposition, I am in complete and absolute agreement.
In regard to what I may call the Viceroy and Gandhi conversations, I should like to follow the line, with which I am in complete agreement, which was taken by the Leader of the Opposition in saying that, obviously, no successful result could have been achieved unless the present Viceroy had possessed immense personal influence in India, based on belief in his character and integrity, and the purity of his motives, as well as—this is perhaps not so fully recognised in this country—his willingness, when need arises, to take drastic 1530 action, as the various ordinances which he has passed, show. It must be a good thing to have as Viceroy anyone who commands such respect among vocal Indian opinion, although, unfortunately, it does not necessarily mean that his policy commends itself to all sections of British opinon; it would be unnatural if it did so.
I should like, in a few sentences—no one has referred to the matter and perhaps it is tactless on my part to do so, but I feel so strongly about it that I must—to say that it seems to me highly improper and wrong that the person of the Viceroy should have been treated as it has been treated in certain cartoons that have appeared recently. It is perfectly right and perfectly legitimate that the Viceroy, the Governor-General, as head of the Executive Government in India, should be subject to criticisms—if the persons making the criticisms believe in them—in his capacity as head of the Executive Government, but that the person of the Viceroy should be subject to the offensive cartoons which have appeared in certain quarters in this country appears to me to be highly wrong, and a breach of journalistic etiquette. So far as I know, it has never happened before that the representative of the King in any country has been subjected to such treatment in British newspapers. It was certainly never done by the man who may be described as a master of his art, the late Sir F. Carruthers Gould, whose very delightful cartoons in the "Westminster Gazette," although they were usually directed against those who sit on this side of the House, we all admired. Perhaps the Committee may think that I am making too much of this matter—
Gandhi does not at present happen to be the King Emperor's representative. He happens to be an Indian politician. I regard the result of these negotiations as a settlement, at least for the moment, of the very determined struggle which did more harm to India than to anything else. I believe, as the Leader of the Opposition has so aptly said, that here is no case for the use of terms either of triumph or surrender. Both are equally inapplicable to such a situation, and I hope that this 1531 will really be a settlement of a devastating state of affairs. At the same time some of us have some doubts as to the phraseology of the document itself, and I hope the Prime Minister will be able to remove those doubts. I do not propose to analyse the document in detail, but only to refer to certain points. In the reference to the boycott it is said that:It is therefore agreed that the discontinuance of Civil Disobedience connotes the definite discontinuance of the employment of the boycott of British commodities as a political weapon, and that, in consequence, those who have given up during a time of political excitement the sale or purchase of British goods must be left free, without any form of restraint, to change their attitude if they so desire.And the document goes on to say:In regard to the methods employed in furtherance of the replacement of non-Indian by Indian goods …. resort will not be bad to methods coming within the category of picketing except within the limits permitted by the ordinary law. Such picketing shall be unaggressive and it shall not involve coercion, intimidation, restraint, hostile demonstration, obstruction to the public, or any offence under the ordinary law. If and when any of these courses are employed in any place, the practice of picketing in that place will be suspended.I must say that in a country like India unaggressive picketing, not in furtherance of a trade dispute, but of an economic dispute, will be difficult of achievement and very difficult to define, and I must express my agreement with what has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy). I regret that it was not made clear in this document that boycotting and picketing were going to be once and for all abandoned. An attempt has been made to draw a resemblance in some quarters friendly to the Government, between what is in the document and the "Buy British goods" campaign in this country. It is a most infelicitous parallel. The British Empire Marketing Board does not picket the International Stores, or Selfridges in order to prevent them selling Argentine meat, and as one who did all he could to encourage the sale of Indian goods I wish that the encouragement of Indian goods had been dealt with in a rather different way in this document. Later on there is a reference to the police. It says: 1532Mr. Gandhi has drawn the attention of the Government to specific allegations against the conduct of the police and represented the desirability of a public inquiry into them. In present circumstances, the Government sees great difficulty in this course and feels that it must inevitably lead to charges and counter-charges and so militate against the re-establishment of peace.That is a very weak defence of a force whose discipline and loyalty and patience in circumstances of the greatest stress deserve the admiration and gratitude of all responsible citizens in this country, and in India. Let me quote some figures given by Sir James Crerar in the Assembly. In reply to a question he said:The casualties among the police during the four months from the 1st April to the 3rd June, 1930, arising out of civil disobedience were six killed and 600 wounded.These men underpaid, living in difficult conditions, and subjected to every sort of social boycott, have done service for India and the Empire that has never been equalled. I was very glad to hear the Secretary of State for India pay a somewhat tardy tribute to what these men have done. I wish now to quote what the Home Member said on another occasion on the same subject and it would be well for Government supporters to pay regard to these words:The word 'repression' placed the Government in an unjust light and he was sorry that some members should have attacked the police force as being inhuman and as having used excessive force. On behalf of the Government of India, he wished to express his gratitude and sense of appreciation of the services and the devotion to duty which the police force had displayed during the past year.That is a well-merited tribute. There is another matter in connection with the administration of India to which I wish to draw attention. I, in common with many of my hon. Friends on this side, am rather concerned at the tendency shown in some quarters in India recently, among high officials of the Government to anticipate what the results may be of the Round Table Conference and to anticipate the eventual form which an alteration of the law may take. I would, in all friendliness, venture to enter a caveat. I ask the Government to guard against the danger of what I would call swimming with the tide to too great an extent. People are very fond of using that cliché about 1533swimming with the tide," but I have always thought it a very bad phrase, because if you are swimming with the tide you are liable to be carried out to sea and drowned and to leave your friends shivering on the shore. That tendency was shown in Sir George Schuster's Budget speech in which he spoke of a change of management and of new proprietors. No doubt it was intended by him as a jest, and I suppose one must not be too hard on a phrase when it is used merely in that way, but even in jest it is unfortunate thus to anticipate the intentions of Parliament. It may raise in the minds of Indians expectations which cannot be fulfilled.I wish to mention to the Committee a fact which is worthy of emphasis, that for purely physical and mechanical reasons it must be anything from two to four years before any large change in the constitution can be passed through Parliament or can come into law. There will have to be a considerable period as in the case of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms before a Bill can become an Act and the most optimistic person could not suppose that any such Bill is likely to be passed before the beginning of the year 1933. Therefore I think it is premature and unwise for officials of the Government of India thus to anticipate what the Government is going to do. I am afraid I must make the same charge against Sir Philip Chetwode who in his speech on the Army Estimates spoke as if Parliament had already given assent to very important changes or, if that was not his meaning, he suggested something else, which I think is equally unwise, when he spoke, to use his own words, of "major changes" that were going to take place in the administration of the Act. I would beg of the right hon. Gentleman opposite not to make these major changes until we can see the whole structure.
To pass rapidly from that subject, may I refer to the very important question of the North-West Frontier which, curiously enough, has not been mentioned at all in the course of the Debate so far. On what happens on that frontier rests the safety and security of the whole of India. Everyone knows the menace which is always lurking in the background in the North-West Frontier Province and in Peshawar itself. The way to guard against it is to have a settled and consecutive policy 1534 to treat the tribesmen and British Indian subjects alike with tact and consideration. But let them not be under any illusion in that land of blood feuds that when the Government uses force against invaders, rioters or raiders they will use it swiftly and effectively. I know from personal experience that any of the tribes you could name are very charming and delightful people in peace time; I have had the pleasure of taking more than one cup of tea in their houses. When they are on raids, however, they have exactly the same mentality and physical attributes as the Chicago gunmen, and when one of these tribesmen is on a raid, he will, to use an American term, "bump" you off unless you "bump" him off first. When these gentlemen proceed to raid, it is no use arguing with them and citing the Covenant of the League of Nations or quoting the last resolution of the Peace Society, for they have never heard of it, and would not be impressed if they had. The only thing is to use force swiftly and effectively. The Secretary of State, in a speech he made when we had a Debate on the Round Table Conference said:The first change has been a change of spirit. We have got rid of the Birkenhead tone.I feel bound to remind him that no one can say that this new spirit or change of tone has had very successful results on the frontier which is, after all, the key to the whole situation. When the late Government left office complete peace on the frontier had lasted for years, but last year we had a lamentable series of events, Peshawar was in the hands of the mob for two or three days; there was an armed invasion of the province by raiders, who penetrated to the interior on two occasions; and what is more serious, there is still considerable unrest among the tribal leaders. There were other events, and real damage has been done to our prestige. It would not be in the public interest to disclose the scheme of protection which was in operation when we were in office, and, I do not doubt, is still the scheme of protection of the North West Frontier province against external aggression and internal disorder. It will only break down if one of two things happen—if the military and air commanders make grave 1535 mistakes, or if the civil government and the Government of India by their action or inaction fail to take adequate measures in the first place, or fail to support the military authorities. One or other of these things has taken place. It is all very well for us to talk about conversations between the Viceroy and Mr. Gandhi, or about any other events of high importance which have occurred in India, but unless the frontier is protected, none of those things can ever take place in future. It goes to the gist of the whole matter. In no spirit of antagonism, but merely for information, I want to ask if the right hon. Gentleman can give us an assurance that steps are being taken to prevent a recurrence of what was really a calamitous series of events last year.
There is one other matter of equal importance, the question of Burma. This is another part of the Indian Empire where the new spirit and the discarding of the Birkenhead tone seem to have been imperfectly appreciated by the local inhabitants. We have seen there one of the most serious armed risings, if not the most serious, since the occupation. The killed and wounded run into hundreds, and great injury has been done by the rebels to the property and crops of the innocent peasants. The Government of India and the right hon. Gentleman have been extremely reticent about this matter, and although questions have been asked we do not yet know the cause of this rising. Was it due to political grievances, or economic grievances, or is it true, as has been stated in some quarters, that it was instigated by agitators from India? It is an extremely serious affair, and apparently it is not yet over. Who is the rebel leader, and has he been killed or captured? [An HON. MEMBER: "Churchill!"] Really, the hon. Gentleman should not make a jest of a rising in which hundreds of people have been killed and wounded. It is no matter for laughter. It is a serious matter, which even the hon. Member might treat seriously. Riot and rapine have gone through half a province, 200 people have been killed, 400 people have been wounded, and 700 are in prison.
As an Opposition we are entitled to ask the Government what is the cause 1536 of this affair. Whatever the attitude of their more irresponsible supporters may be, I am sure the Government will give a courteous answer to a fair and courteous question. I cannot help thinking that the Secretary of State has been rather more fortunate than any of us would have been had we been sitting on that side of the House. I can imagine the rain of questions which would have come from some hon. Members opposite in that event. [Interruption.] I am glad to see that an hon. Member whose division I cannot recall for a moment but with whose sincerity I always acknowledge, agrees with that. What a rain of questions there would have been had we been in office when such a sanguinary affair had taken place in Burma, or indeed in the Frontier Provinces or elsewhere. When the right hon. Gentleman talks of the abandonment of the Birkenhead tone and the installation of a new spirit, let him never forget that in the days of Lord Birkenhead and Lord Peel we did not have to put 50,000 people into prison. We kept peace in India. Whatever the reasons may have been our régime, compared with the régime of the present Government, was extraordinarily peaceful and uneventful.
Although these matters which I have raised may seem to have little connection, in reality they are intertwined, and they go to the heart of successful rule in India. That rule can only be maintained by the loyal and devoted co-operation of British and Indians alike, from Members of Council to the humblest peon, and with the support of reasonable and law-abiding private citizens. It is at least questionable whether hard words from the right or gush from the left will help to keep that support; but the present system must be kept together, or otherwise no new constitution will have a chance of success in the welter and confusion that would ensue. The essence of success in any new constitution is to maintain reasonable, orderly and decent government in India to-day. The fact remains that despite the growth of post-War ideas, and a slow but pervasive sense of vague nationalism, India remains a vast sub-continent as full of diversity in race, religion, creed, colour, outlook, conditions and climate as Europe itself.
1537 I am certain that sentiment and phrases alone will not solve our problems, because no phrases and no sentiment can appeal to India as a whole. India is too vast for that to be the case. I am equally certain that the people who talk either of South Africa, or Southern Ireland, cannot realise that the solution which we seek is harder to find in India than it was in the more limited areas of those two countries, where there was far greater homogeneity of population. The reason always has been that no policy not founded on facts can succeed in India, and if the Government pursue an administrative policy based on a firm grasp of the facts, those of us who are entitled to speak officially will offer no party or factious opposition. At the same time, those of us who have had experience of Indian affairs must offer from time to time, as opportunity occurs, honest criticism and comments, as I have done to-night, if we see anything that we think ought to be criticised in essential matters.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald)
I rise, not for the purpose of carrying on the discussion, but because I think it is desirable before the discussion closes that I should say a few words by way of summarising the situation rather than by raising new points, and not even replying to all the questions which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) has put. There is, however, one question which the right hon. Gentleman put to which I would like to reply, and that is the question with regard to the situation on the North-West Frontier. The Government are still awaiting complete reports on that situation; we have not received them yet. On that matter I would like to tell the Committee that if hon. Members have not heard about the situation on the North-West Frontier, it has largely been on account of the very successful handling of the situation by the Indian Government. I may mention that the road which has been built across the Kajuri Plain has been built with hardly a paragraph about it in the newspapers. When it was first mooted it was very doubtful what would be the result, but it was begun and it has been carried on and finished, and no newspaper has 1538 found that there was enough sensation in it even to mention the matter. Case after case like that has taken place, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Horsham may rest assured that as soon as those reports are in our possession we will inform him, and give him an opportunity of putting a further question, so that the whole of the information in our possession may be given as to how the matter stands.
I would like to say that I think the great majority of all parties are united in standing by the work, the spirit and the methods of the Round Table Conference. I believe the great majority of all parties stand by that. If the right hon. Gentleman opposite disputes that, he must not dispute it with me, but he must dispute it with his own leader. We are carrying on through the Round Table Conference, and it is continuing the work that has been done before the last Government and before this Government, and we cannot stand by at the present moment, with all the changes going on in the East, and more particularly in India, and say that what we have said up to now is the last thing to be said. We are bound to take an evolving situation in time so that that situation may not be a revolutionary situation, but may be confined within channels of evolutionary changes.
We co-operated while we were in Opposition. We co-operated with the Government that then existed in trying to keep this problem of devising a constitution for India outside party polities. Since we came into office we have done everything we can to maintain the same policy, and as long as we are in office and this work is to our hands, we shall do everything we possibly can to maintain that co-operation. It is perfectly true that the Government are responsible, and the co-operation which takes place is a co-operation of independent advising bodies. When the decision is taken, it will be primarily the Government's decision, and will be subject to criticism, just as the right hon. Gentleman has criticised us in our work this evening. We shall do everything we can to maintain the machinery which enables us to exchange views, and to be benefited by advice given from various ends. We hope co-operation will be as creative and effective as it was during the sittings of the Round Table Conference.
1539 The Leader of the Opposition said something about filling in the picture and that that should be the work of the Government. May I remind him that very fortunately in that work the Opposition has already co-operated? We began to fill in the picture at the Round Table Conference. We did not fill in the details, but we planned the general aspect of the picture. We laid down the conditions—a federal structure, responsibility at the centre, safeguards of various kinds, the Princes coming in, all communities in India being safeguarded by constitutional provisions—that has been done. What is the use of talking about the Round Table Conference having produced nothing? The Conference has been more successful in laying down the preliminary conditions which must be observed. The right hon. Gentleman seems to imagine that he can come to his conclusions regarding details before he has made up his mind about the general aspects of the picture. That work is going on now. It is going on in India and here. The first thing that has to be done after the preliminary explorations have been finished, is to get the Federal Structure Committee together again. Before the Round Table Conference dispersed, I saw the Indian leaders, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru and the others, and they impressed on me the very great advantage that would come if without any delay at all it were possible for the Government to arrange that representatives should go to India to keep up personal touch with them.
They told us about the very difficult task they had undertaken. They pledged themselves to us not to go back to India to do nothing, and just to leave the newspapers to go on creating a future situation; they pledged themselves to us that they were going back as supporters of the Round Table Conference and its work. They said that their influence would be enormously strengthened if the personal contact they had made here with the representatives of Parliament—emphasising Parliament—could be continued in India and established without delay. I told them then of the situation here. I told them that, while I profoundly believed in that, while I believed that one of the reasons, if not the main reason, for the success of the Round-Table Con- 1540 ference was the effect of personal contact, I visualised the situation in which we found ourselves here. They were never promised that that request should be carried out, but they were promised that it would be very carefully and sympathetically considered. It was. We are going to get the Federal Structure Committee beginning its work here as quickly as we possibly can. The invitation has gone to the Government of India, through the Viceroy, to do its best to arrange an early meeting of that Committee. That Committee's report indicates the big points that have to be discussed together. We hope, when they come—I cannot say that we have been officially told, but the hope is so strong that it almost goes beyond the frontiers of hope—that Congress representatives, Mr. Gandhi himself, for instance, will be here. I hope that that will be so.
With that added element, we shall meet our old friends, the men to whom we owe so much, in that Round-Table Conference—Princes, Hindus, Moslems, representatives of Labour who were at the Round-Table Conference, representatives of the depressed classes—I hope representatives, not only of the Government, but representatives of other parties. With the same globular representation, enlarged by representatives of Congress, the Federal Structure Committee will pursue its work to a successful conclusion. We are facing now a test upon the honour of this country, and not only upon the honour of this country, but upon the capacity of this country to face a very difficult political situation—a political situation, probably, more difficult than any Government has had to face before. That is all a new order of things. It grows. I should have liked to hear my right hon. Friend on the wording of the resolutions which he accepted at the Imperial Conference of 1926. Everyone knows that verbal statements of a logical kind in all constitutions have to be taken as imperfect expressions of living interests. The right hon. Gentleman in his speech referred to the organic nature of our Empire. That is the only way in which we can face our problem, in that scientific frame of mind, and that is how we are facing the Indian problem now. I hope the assurance may go to India without a peradventure, a doubt or a reservation, that the opening part 1541 of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, that he is where he was when the Round-Table Conference finished, still holds good.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.