Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £81,110, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1933, for a Contribution towards the Cost of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for India in Council, including a Grant-in-Aid.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Sir Samuel Hoare)
The time has now come when the Government must make a number of important decisions upon Indian policy, and must take this Committee into their confidence as to their intentions. During the nine months for which I have been connected with India, I have attempted to withhold from the knowledge of the House no material information bearing upon Indian questions, and I propose to-day to give to the Committee as frank an account as I can of the present situation, to explain to hon. Members the Government's immediate intentions, and to ask hon. Members to help us to surmount, in a practical and sensible way, the obstacles that still stand in the path of constitutional development.
The decisions which the Government are taking gather round three different groups of questions. First, there is the group of questions connected with the emergency Ordinances; secondly, there is the group of questions connected with the communal decision; and, thirdly, there is the group of questions connected with the procedure of the Government's constitutional programme. I will begin by dealing with the first of these groups of questions—the emergency Ordinances.
As hon. Members are aware, the emergency Ordinances have a life of six months, and, at the end of that period, the Ordinances lapse. So far as the Bengal Ordinances, connected with terrorism, are concerned, the Ordinances 1486 lapsed some weeks ago, and, as the Committee are aware, it was then found necessary to issue a new Ordinance. So far as the Civil Disobedience Ordinances are concerned, the six-months period comes to an end on the 3rd July. The first question, therefore, to which I would direct the attention of the Committee, is the question whether, on the 3rd July, there will be in existence a state of emergency which would justify the imposition of new emergency measures. If we are to give an intelligent answer to that question, we must take a survey of the present position in India. Some weeks ago, when, it was obvious that the six-months period was coming to an end at the beginning of July, I arranged for a detailed survey to be made, Province by Province, from one end of India to the other, and to-day I will give to the Committee, in a few sentences, the results of this investigation.
Generally speaking, the action that has been taken has been completely successful in keeping the Civil Diobedience Movement in check. I some cases it has exceeded our expectations. In the North-West Frontier Province, for instance, where there was at hand an excess of inflammable material, we have got through this difficult period with scarcely any loss of life, and we have been able to launch the Province upon a new chapter of self-government. Take the adjoining Province, the great Province of the Punjab, a Province with a very virile population, with the seeds in it of much communal trouble, an agricultural district with agricultural prices slumping to an almost unprecedented degree. Indeed, upon every hand it might have been supposed that there was a chance of trouble in the Punjab. Yet during the last six months we have had scarcely any trouble at all, the machine of Government, thanks to the very able administrators, British and Indian, in the Province is working smoothly and, although there was grave communal trouble going on on the Kashmir boundary of the Province and south of the Province, yet there was scarcely any communal trouble at all in the Punjab.
Take another centre of difficulty. Take the United Provinces, where there was a state of affairs not very many months ago when it looked as if the no-rent campaign was going to develop into an agrarian revolution. There, again, during 1487 these six months the attack upon the forces of law and order has been kept in check on the whole. There has been a period unmarked by any serious disturbance. As to Bombay, I quite admit that in the City of Bombay there has been grave trouble, both economic and communal. It is admitted by almost everyone that not a little of the bitterness of the grave communal trouble has been directly attributable to the Civil Disobedience Movement. But even in the Presidency of Bombay, even in Gujerat, for instance, the centre of trouble in 1930, civil disobedience has been throughout this period kept under effective control. Much the same results have been achieved in the other Provinces. Indeed, it may be said that from one end of India to the other every local Government obtained the initiative at the beginning of the campaign and has retained it ever since. There has been no hesitation to take action, no doubt regarding the main line of policy and no relaxation of effort.
So much for the first part of the results of the survey that we have taken. Let me now come to the second part. In the course of these Debates—there have been many during this Parliament—it has often been said that we have made an excessive use of the emergency powers that we have assumed. The survey that we have made does not give any ground for justification of that charge. Admittedly, the powers are drastic, but they are justified by the necessity of proving that civil disobedience cannot succeed against the organised resources of the State. With very rare and justifiable exceptions, such as the emergency of the communal riots in Bombay, use of the special powers has been strictly confined to persons engaged in civil disobedience, and it is the case that hardly more than one person in 10,000 has been prosecuted in connection with civil disobedience and less than one in 20,000 under the Ordinances. In at least 90 out of 100 villages the Ordinances have had no practical effect whatever. Moreover, the possession of these powers has unquestionably prevented loss of life and property and has greatly diminished the necessity of forcible action. Regrettable incidents, as the House has time after time noticed during the Session, have been remarkably few. The best proof of this is the great difficulty that Congress is ex- 1488 periencing in finding material with any basis of truth for propaganda purposes. The charges which have been proved to have been falsely brought against certain police subordinates in Benares for alleged ill-treatment of women are evidence of the lack of this material.
The use of the Ordinances has been strictly confined to the actual needs of the situation, and it has been on a diminishing scale. The following figures of convictions, including those under the ordinary law as well as those under the Ordinances, speak for themselves. In January the number was 14,,800 and in February 17,800. In March the figure had fallen to 6,900, in April it had further fallen to 5,300, and in May to 3,776. The total number of convicted persons undergoing imprisonment at the end of May was 31,194, which is a decrease of 1,260 on the total of April. The position may, I think, be summed up in a sentence by saying that the Government has the movement under control and the initiative is with them and not with Congress, but—here I wish as strongly as I can to emphasize this third result of the survey that we have made—the campaign against the Government has been held in check, but it has not been called off. It is still in active operation, and it is now mainly directed towards the following objects; Firstly to encourage an intensive boycott of British goods; secondly, to keep alive enthusiasm by demonstrations, such as the attempt a little while ago to hold the Congress Session at Delhi and the subsequent attempt to hold provincial Congress Sessions to confirm the resolutions then passed; thirdly, to extend agitation in rural areas and, fourthly, to dislocate the machine of Government, for instance by malicious damage of Government property, such as telegraph wires and post office boxes. Mischief makers have been effectively checked, but all the evidence goes to show that they have not yet any intention of abandoning their subversive campaign.
In a situation such as this there should be only one test of policy. Is action necessary or is it not in the interests of law and order and good government, and is action calculated to give the protection from illegal and oppressive tyranny which the community at large is entitled to expect? Judged by this test—the sole test which the Government have applied to the question—we have come to the con- 1489 clusion that on 3rd July there will be an emergency sufficiently grave to necessitate the exercise of special powers. It is, therefore, our intention to assume by Ordinance the majority of the special powers which would otherwise lapse when the existing Ordinances run out. It has not been found necessary to include any additional powers, and it has been found possible to dispense with a few of those now in existence. Moreover, although these powers are to be assumed, the desire of the Government in India—and this is a point to which I would specially draw the attention of the Committee—is to restrict the application of the various provisions to those Provinces only where their use is definitely required. Similarly, inside the Provinces themselves the powers will only be applied to those districts where it is impossible to do without them. The ordinary law-abiding citizen need not be affected by the existence of these special powers at all.
I am aware that in arriving at this decision the Government lays itself open to two lines of criticism. It may be said that the review which I have just given shows so definitely an improvement in the situation that there is no longer any need for the exercise of emergency powers. Consequently, it can be urged—as indeed it has been urged more than once from the benches opposite—that the action which we are continuing will have the effect of creating a feeling of sullen resentment among many who are not actively engaged in the Civil Disobedience Movement and whose cooperation we need in the constitutional programme before us.
Let me say a word or two about these two charges. Though some of the emergency powers may not be used, it is none the less necessary to have them in reserve. Let the Committee remember that we are dealing with people who are engaged in an attack upon the whole system of ordered government and are prepared to use every ingenious device for the purpose of defeating us. We are confronted with many very ingenious and subtle opponents who are ready and willing to make use of any gap which there may be in our defences and are only too anxious to exploit it to the full. These people will concentrate upon every gap and by every cunning device obtain every possible advantage from it. The powers, therefore, I urge to 1490 the Committee this afternoon, must be retained in reserve, though their application will be carefully and sympathetically regulated by the needs of particular Provinces and particular districts.
I come now to the second charge, namely, that our course of action is stirring up a feeling of sullen resentment in the minds of many who might otherwise be our friends. I put this question specifically to the Government of India and I asked them to make a most careful inquiry, Province by Province, into the justification of this charge. I can tell the Committee this afternoon that I have masses of material on which to base my opinion. There is no justification whatever of any so general charge. There is sullen resentment in India, I agree, but it is the sullen resentment of the men who have been attacking the whole basis of ordered government and whose efforts have been frustrated by the action we have taken. There are others—I freely admit it—who are not directly identified with the Civil Disobedience Campaign? but who none the less regret the drastic action which we had to take. Let the Committee remember that many of these people—excellent as many of them may be—do not regard the situation as we regard it. I think that I should not be misrepresenting their views if I said that most of them wish to see a drawn battle between the Government and the Congress movement. I think that most of the people of whom I am speaking do not want to see a definite result emerge from the action which the Government are taking. I have never disguised my own position in this matter from hon. Members. I have always made it quite clear that I regard the issues at stake as so grave that we cannot treat them as though it was a match in which each side was to play for a limited time, and then at the end of it stumps were to be drawn. That is not the point of view from which I regard this attack upon ordered government at all, and I say, quite definitely, that, as far as the Government are concerned, we cannot be content with a drawn result of this kind, but we are determined to take every action in our power to suppress this challenge against government.
I know that it will be said that the action which we are taking will create suspicion in India and will endanger our 1491 good faith in relation to the future action which we may take in the field of constitutional reform. I am never blind to the words of my critics—I take them into account—but I say to the Committee this afternoon that just as one should not be blind to the words of one's critics so on no account can one abandon one's friends. And there is no denying the fact that during the last six months great sections of the populations of India have stood behind the Government. As I have said, nine villages out of ten have taken very little interest in. the Civil Disobedience Movement at all. They have refused, as a whole, to take any part in the Civil Disobedience Movement. There has been our own steadfast band of officials, Indians as well as British, who have stood by us in 'a time of great emergency. The way to show one's good faith is surely not to break faith with one's own friends. The way to show one's own good faith is not to take action one day, and then, for no particular reason, to abandon, it the next, but to go resolutely on with one's programme, and to carry out the pledges which we have given to the House and the world. I say to the Committee this afternoon, that the way that we are going to show our good faith, the way we are going to disarm suspicion, if suspicion exists, in India, is to go on expeditiously, resolutely and sympathetically with the programme to which we have given our hand.
The Committee this afternoon will wish to know something of our future programme, and I propose to tell them what is in our mind. First, I will sketch in a few sentences the background against which we have to make our decision. It is a very intractable matter. Hard, unavoidable facts have to be faced. Across all of them stretches the spectre of the communal trouble. It does not matter where you look in the field of Indian problems at the present time, there you will find in the background the spectre of the communal trouble. It does not matter what point of the constitutional problem engrosses your mind, there at every turn is the communal trouble. It comes to this, that unless some decision is given upon the communal question, there can be no constitutional advance of any kind either in the centre or the Provinces.
1492 That was the situation which faced the Government last December. Last December we still hoped that the communities would settle their differences among themselves—obviously, by far the best solution of the overwhelming difficulty. We have been disappointed, and during the last six months the communal question has, on the whole, become more bitter and more complicated even than it was last December. Just as we said last December that we should be prepared to make a decision if the communities refused to agree among themselves, so I repeat it here this afternoon, and I tell the Committee that we intend to make a decision during the course of the present summer. I cannot be explicit about actual dates, for the very obvious reason that these are questions of immense complexity, and they are questions that in particular it is essential that we should have the Prime Minister back among us to give his invaluable and undivided attention to a question about which he knows so much. So determined are we to go on resolutely with the constitutional programme, that in spite of all the manifest difficulties and dangers with which we are faced, we shall give our decision sometime during the present summer.
I come now to the rest of our programme, and, in particular to the many questions of procedure which we must take into account when we come to consider the last chapters of our constitutional efforts. Since the Round Table Conference adjourned last December, I have had innumerable communications both with India and with Indians in this country as to the best procedure to be adopted for terminating and bringing to an issue the questions which still remain, undecided and undiscussed.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I rise to a point of Order. May I ask whether, if my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State opens the constitutional issue, a reasonable latitude will be given to the House to debate the topics arising out of the points which he makes? I do not wish to stop the right hon. Gentleman in his interesting speech, but I think it would be convenient for the House if we knew that it would be possible to deal with the constitutional procedure and its aspects.
§ Sir S. HOARE
Before you give your answer, Sir Dennis, I will tell you what had been my intention. My intention had 1493 not been to deal with the merits of the constitutional question, but to deal with the procedure, which is an entirely administrative question.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It would, obviously, be out of order in this Debate to discuss anything in the nature of details which would ultimately be embodied in a Bill. We could not even discuss anything which would need legislation. If the Secretary of State merely indicates the general policy of the Government as he has been doing I do not think there will be anything out of order.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
On the question of administration, would it be In order to discuss the disturbing effect that those commissions have had, or may have had, upon the administrative situation?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think that it would be quite in order to discuss these Committees of Inquiry so far as concerns the purpose or effect of their being set up and any doubts as to the future policy of the Government regarding the manner in which the Secretary of State proposes to develop his policy. That will be quite in order. I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee generally if I say I am listening very carefully to what the Secretary of State says, and, if every hon. and right hon. Gentleman keeps within the same limits as he will be confined by, I have no doubt we shall keep the Debate in order.
§ Sir S. HOARE
When my right hon. Friend intervened, I was saying that during the last six months I have received innumerable communications from Indian and British experts as to what is the best procedure to adopt in future. Those communications differ in details, but on the two broad lines they have been almost unanimous; I think I might even say they have been entirely unanimous. Every communication that I have had has taken this form: "The time has now come for decisions to be made. Let us get on expeditiously with the work, and let us have as little delay as possible in the future." Secondly, every one of my friends has said to me, "Let us on no account abandon the attempts to maintain Indian co-operation until our efforts are completed." The Government and I have viewed 1494 the question of procedure with those two desires constantly in our minds. We are most anxious that there should be no unnecessary delay in future. We are most anxious, also, that we should keep with us to the end the Indian cooperation that has meant so much during the last two years.
When it comes to applying those two desires to the actual facts of the situation, a whole number of detailed difficulties obviously arises. For instance, most of my Indian friends have said to me, "Do let us now have no more committees." For better or worse, India has had a very large number of committees during the last few years, and most of the Indians who correspond with me have come to the conclusion that the chapter of committees is, speaking generally, drawing to an end. When I say that, I do not, of course, say one word in disparagement of the really remarkable work that was carried out by the three committees that went from here to India in the winter, I believe every hon. Member in the House to-day, to whatever party he belongs, ought to be grateful to our hon. and right hon. Friends for the manner in which they carried through their duties with an expedition unique in the history of such inquiries, and with an efficiency that; has seldom been surpassed. But, speaking generally, I think I am interpreting the views of most Indians, and, I believe, of most hon. Members of this Committee, when I say that the time has now come for decisions, and for as few further inquiries by committee as possible. The next desire, as I said just now, that has been constantly in the mind of the Cabinet, is to do everything in our power to ensure Indian co-operation in substance, even though we may not have the same kind of inquiry by committees as in the past.
Almost all my Indian friends, when I have discussed with them the question of future procedure, have made it clear to me that, upon the whole, they would prefer that the Government should attempt to proceed by the introduction of a single Bill covering the whole constitutional problem, rather than approach it in two stages with a provincial autonomy first and a federal Bill subsequently. It obviously would not be in order for me to involve myself in a discussion of the merits of the two alternatives this afternoon. I am dealing 1495 only with the question of procedure, and I wish to tell the Committee that, after the most elaborate consideration of the two alternatives, the Government have definitely come to the view that, in the interests of India no less than in the interests of this House, it is better that we should attempt to proceed by a single Bill, and that the Indiana in India and every hon. Member in this House should I see the whole picture of the comprehensive constitutional scheme before he is asked to give a Vote or a decision upon any part of it.
When, therefore, I say that it is our intention to attempt to proceed by one Bill, I hope I am making a statement that will be generally satisfactory to the great majority of Indians and will also be for the convenience of this House, who will not be asked during this Parliament to deal with two big, complicated Indian Measures, but will be asked to deal with one in a comprehensive fashion at a single time. I said just now, and I said it intentionally, that it is our desire to attempt to proceed by one Bill. I used these words for this reason, that I no one in any part of this House can categorically say that an All-India Federation Bill can be produced until we know in detail and for certain that the Indian States are going to be an effective part of the Federation. In the Same way it is impossible here and now to say that we shall succeed in our endeavour until we have made quite sure that the safeguards to which this House has always given special attention are properly protected.
So far as to-day is concerned, I can say definitely that we are going to proceed with this attempt, and we are going to make every effort in our power to succeed with the attempt expeditiously and without any undue delay. So far as the actual procedure for enabling us to introduce a Bill is concerned, I may tell the Committee that we have at once started conversations with representative Princes and that these conversations will be continued primarily in India with a view to ascertaining at the earliest date how far we can proceed with the All-India Federal scheme. I have purposely given the Committee this background, without which they cannot satisfactorily judge the merits of the pro- 1496 cedure that we are to-day proposing. Having given them this background, I now proceed, for the sake of brevity, to read to the Committee a short statement, which is going to be issued in India this afternoon, summarising the various details of the action which the Government are proposing to undertake:Since the policy of His Majesty's Government, as announced to the Round Table Conference, was endorsed by Parliament, the primary concern of His Majesty's Government has been so to lay their plans as to facilitate its translation into legislative results with the utmost possible despatch. The first immediate steps required to supplement the discussions of the conference were the inquiries of the three committees which have lately returned from India. The reports of two of these committees are now in the hands of His Majesty's Government and, as they hope shortly to receive that of the third, they are in a position to indicate the methods by which they intend to make further progress.In the first place, His Majesty's Government have definitely decided to endeavour to give effect to their policy by means of a single Bill, which will provide alike for the autonomous constitutions of the Provinces and for the Federation of Provinces and States. They intend that this Measure shall contain provisions enabling the provincial constitutions to be introduced without necessarily awaiting the completion of all the steps required for the actual inauguration of Federation. Since it is an essential feature of His Majesty's Government's policy that the Federation which it will be the object of the Bill to construct shall be a Federation of all India, it follows that the units concerned must be prepared actually to federate, and that the proposals to be laid before Parliament to this end must be complete in all essentials; in particular there must be reasonable assurances forthcoming at the time the Bill is introduced that the financial and other provisions for the cementing of the structure will enable Provinces, States, the Federal Government and Parliament alike, adequately and harmoniously to fulfil their several functions, and that the interests which require to be safeguarded shall be assured of practical and efficient protection. But it is their intention so far as lies within their power to spare no effort to secure the fulfilment of these conditions, and to this end they will continue to prosecute their endeavours to find means as speedily as possible for surmounting the obstacles which the study of the concrete details necessarily discloses.His Majesty's Government have carefully considered the procedure by which they can, on the one hand, most expeditously and efficiently overcome these obstacles and, on the other hand, retain the advantages of consultation and co-operation with Indian opinion which the Round Table Conference was designed to secure. After carefully considering the present position, they are convinced that matters have now reached a 1497 stage at which the settlement of the urgent and important questions that still remain to be decided will only be delayed by formal sessions of large bodies such as the Round Table Conference, or of Committees such as the Federal Structure Committee. They have, therefore, come to the conclusion that expeditious treatment of the outstanding questions will best be secured by the following programme which, though involving some variation in method, will secure to the full the collaboration which has been the underlying principle of the work accomplished hitherto. In the first place, they will take the next immediate step towards the removal of obstacles and will announce the decision which they have undertaken to give on those aspects of the communal problem which now retard progress. They are now engaged in the settlement of the actual terms of the decision and, unless unforeseen difficulties intervene, they hope they will be able to announce it some time during the present summer.Secondly, on the assumption that the communal decision removes the obstacles which have been impeding progress, they trust that, as soon as their decisions have been announced, the Consultative Committee will reassemble and will proceed continuously with its programme of work"—
§ Sir S. HOARE
In India.—"bringing its collective advice to bear on the numerous and important questions entrusted to it, many of which were not examined by the Conference or its Committees in London. Subject to discussion in the Consultative Committee of matters which affect both British India and Indian States, His Majesty's Government are considering the means by which solutions may be facilitated and expedited of those difficulties which confront them in connection with matters affecting the States alone. His Majesty's Government greatly hope that such progress may result from the Consultative Committee's discussions that there may be found remaining over from its final session only a few specific problems, for example, financial safeguards, of such a nature that they might appropriately be the subject of informal discussions in London with a few individuals whose personal experience qualifies them to speak with authority upon them. If this hope is fulfilled, their intention would be, after such informal discussions, to pass straight to a Parliamentary stage on the following lines:His Majesty's Government consider that the final stage of consultation with Indian opinion can usefully take place only on definite proposals. They therefore propose to invite both Houses of Parliament to set up a Joint Committee to consider their definite proposals for the revision of the Constitution and to give the Committee power to confer with representatives of Indian opinion, and it is their intention, in the belief that this course will commend itself to Indian opinion, to invite Parlia- 1498 ment to set up the Joint Select Committee before the introduction of a Bill.
§ I emphasise that part of the scheme.
§ Sir S. HOARE
In general terms and specific terms.It has been the intention of successive Governments that a Joint Select Committee of both Houses of Parliament should be called upon at some stage to examine the proposals for constitutional reform. His Majesty's Government hope that by their present decision to recommend that this important task shall be performed before any Bill is introduced, they will facilitate Indian co-operation and ensure its effective influence in what is probably the most important stage in the shaping of the constitutional reforms and at a time before irrevocable decisions are taken by Parliament.The programme I have indicated is based on the hope that the inquiry by Joint Select Committee may follow as the next formal stage after the conclusion of the Consultative Committee's business, but it may be that the course of discussions in the Consultative Committee may prove that matters will not be ripe for the formulation of definite proposals for the consideration of a Joint Select Committee without further consultation of a more formal character. In that event, at the cost of delaying their programme, His Majesty's Government will make arrangements accordingly; but they would regard it as essential, unless the objects they have in view are to be frustrated, that the size and personnel of the body to be summoned for such further discussions in London should be strictly determined with reference to the number and character of the subjects found to require further discussion.By a procedure framed on these lines, His Majesty's Government hope to ensure both rapid progress towards the objective in view and the continuance of the co-operation between the British and Indian representatives on the one hand;, and between the three British parties on the other, upon which so much of the success of the constitutional changes must inevitably depend.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State has invited us to approach this problem from three points of view. In the first place, he wishes us to discuss the present situation in India, secondly, to consider the immediate intentions of the Government and, in the third place, to consider ways and means whereby certain very formidable obstacles may be overcome. The right hon. Gentleman, quite properly, invited us at the very 1499 outset to consider the difficulties which now lie in the path of the Government in dealing with the problem of India. I was interested to hear the results of the survey which his Department invited the Indian Government to take on his behalf into the present situation under the operation of the Ordinances, some of which, as the right hon. Gentleman says, come to an end next month, particularly those in regard to civil disobedience. He then proceeded to examine the question as to whether the situation justified the Government in retaining these Ordinances in being. In order to enable the Committee to take a survey of the situation the right hon. Gentleman gave us an account almost province by province of the present situation; not entirely province by province, but he cited certain provinces and made some general observations concerning them all with a view to examining the present situation in those areas, and I shall not be doing the right hon. Gentleman an injustice if I say that the picture which he has given us this afternoon was a picture of a gradual improvement in the condition of affairs in most if not all the provinces. Indeed, he used the phrase that the action taken has been, generally speaking, completely successful.
The right hon. Gentleman naturally has avenues of information which are not open to me, but at the same time hon. Members on this side of the House, and in all parts of the House, are not entirely bereft of information on the conditions in India, and the information which some of us have does not accord in every particular with the glowing and somewhat comforting picture he portrayed to us this afternoon. We have criticised the operation of these Ordinances on previous occasions. We have laid down the general proposition that if you arm the administrative authority with almost unlimited powers, as you do under these Ordinances, there is every chance of finding yourselves in the presence of a situation where the ordinary law is entirely abrogated. The right hon. Gentleman in that situation is, therefore, very much at the mercy, I use the word without any offence, of the people who administer the law for his information concerning its success or failure, and, therefore, we say that the people who assure him that all is well in 1500 India are in fact the people who are called upon to administer these Ordinances. They are more or less in the position of sitting in judgment on their own activities. Therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman presents us with a picture so glowing as he has this afternoon I say that the information at my disposal, and at the disposal of hon. Members on this side of the House hardly warrants so optimistic a tone as his speech disclosed this afternoon.
We have never denied, and we do not deny now, that the right hon. Gentleman in possession and control of the forces of the Crown in India can by an application of these forces entirely overcome any physical forces which may be opposed to them. Clearly there can be no possible chance of the assembly of any physical opposition to the forces available to the Crown in India at this moment, but to secure peace or a condition of quietude in such conditions does not indicate that the trouble is overcome. Not infrequently is it the case that in such circumstances a movement which the Government desire to suppress by armed force is not in fact suppressed but driven underground, and I submit that there is substance for the suggestion that a good proportion of the forces which the right hon. Gentleman has been seeking diligently to suppress for the last few months have been driven underground and not suppressed. If that can be proved then I submit that it is a situation which is hardly favourable to that co-operation which the right hon. Gentleman is anxious to secure when the proposals are presented to this House. I have made these observations before, and they are confirmed by friends of mine who have recently returned from India and who have offered me the benefit of their experience.
The danger, as I have seen it in the last few months, is that the Government by their dogged perseverance in a policy of repression have been alienating two most important groups of opinion in India, if not three. Their action has tended to dishearten moderate opinion in India, bad enough in any case, but have also tended to create a siuation where moderate opinion, which is anxious to co-operate with the Government, has been steadily driven to the opposite side and into closer association with the Congress section. In saying 1501 this I am not sitting in judgment upon one section of opinion or upon the Congress party and their programme. I am merely stating the fact that the dogged perseverance of the Government in a policy of repression has tended to alienate substantial sections of moderate opinion in India, and when the right hon. Gentleman tables his proposals before this House and before India I am afraid that he will find it somewhat difficult to bridge the gulf now yawning between the Government and these moderate forces, created because of their perseverance in this most unfortunate policy, as I conceive it to be.
The right hon. Gentleman said that it was necessary to pay attention to the observations of their critics but while paying attention to the criticism of opponents of their policy that they must do so without abandoning their friends. I was most interested to follow his succeeding remarks in order to discover who the right hon. Gentleman still regarded as his friends in India. He only cited one class, and that was the official class. Without in any way showing any lack of gratitude to the permanent officials in India who bring to bear such a spirit of devotion to their great task day after day and year after year the right hon. Gentleman must bear in mind that he must have friends outside the official class. The legislation which is to be presented later in detail to the House must depend ultimately for its success not merely upon the willingness of the official class to co-operate—which we may take for granted—but also upon the cordial co-operation of the average Indian in India. I invite the right hon. Gentleman to deny this statement, that during the whole of his speech this afternoon he never offered one syllable of promise of co-operation with that one section of opinion which has the vast majority of adherents throughout the length and breadth of that land.
You cannot, however well intentioned you may be, successfully propound legislative proposals for securing peace over an area like India unless you are able to rely—I had almost said absolutely— upon the cordial co-operation of every representative organ of opinion in the country. Frankly, and we must be frank with each other, there was one ominous omission in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. I found no trace in the first 1502 portion of his speech of any intention or even desire to effect some policy of reconciliation between the Government and that vast section of opinion represented by the Congress party. How are you going to conduct the negotiations to which the right hon. Gentleman referred? You may think Mr. Gandhi an extremely ill-advised person. You are entitled to that point of view if you care to entertain it; but, whether well-advised or ill-advised, Mr. Gandhi is a person representative of a substantial body of opinion in India, and if you want to propound proposals whereby India is to enjoy a larger measure of self-government, it seems to me in the highest degree desirable that first of all you should make that co-operation attainable by a policy of reconciliation as between Mr. Gandhi's party and the Government. I regret exceedingly that there was no indication in the earlier part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech of any intention to effect that reconciliation as speedily as possible.
Naturally, in approaching the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, we are somewhat handicapped. The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that we regard his pronouncement as one of the gravest possible significance. Indeed the way in which he presented it to the Committee indicated that he so regards it too. The Government, naturally, has given to this question careful consideration, and I do not blame them for that; but just as it was necessary for the right hon. Gentleman and the Government to give adequate consideration to so grave a statement, so we must have adequate time for considering it. I might perhaps say by way of consolation, if it be consolation, that I do not think my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side will find the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's statement unhelpful or unhopeful. It seems to me that it is very much like a curate's egg, good in parts anyhow. Whatever may be its merits or demerits, we do not feel that we can fairly and with appropriate regard to the importance of the statement, pronounce upon it this afternoon. Therefore perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will excuse us if we do not at present proceed to discuss it in greater detail.
I, therefore, content myself with saying—I think I can say this for my hon. 1503 Friends on this side—that we should feel a greater measure of confidence in the ultimate success of these proposals, good or bad as they ultimately may prove to be, if we could have drawn from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the consolation of knowing that he proposed to use the time intervening between now and the end of the summer months in trying to build a firm and permanent bridge across that yawning gulf that now lies between the Government and that considerable section of opinion represented by Mr. Gandhi and the Congress party. I wish I could have spoken more enthusiastically of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman as regards the first part. I specifically exclude the second part. But such is the situation, as I see it, that I am sure that the Government sooner or later will be driven to realise the eternal and fundamental truth, that reliance upon force is by no means a safe way of leading out of difficulties either of temperament or of philosophy. Napoleon once said, "The more I study the world, the more am I convinced of the inability of brute force to create anything durable." The House of Commons will be called upon to build a structure which we hope will be durable. Its foundations, it seems to us, must rest ultimately upon the principles of good will and mutual understanding.
§ Sir REGINALD CRADDOCK
There are a few salient points upon which I wish to say a few words, but before proceeding to them I would submit one observation for the consideration of the Committee. We are proceeding down a slope; it is a slope when the facts are known. One important consideration that I want to put before the Committee is that Parliament should not be lulled to sleep by consoling itself with the idea that one can realise an ideal by idealising the real. That is the mistake we have been making for a long time past—neglecting the real and pretending that the ideal which we put before ourselves is practically attainable when the great majority of people who know the country realise that it is not. It is only by realising the real that you can eventually realise your ideal, and if you fail to do the one you will certainly fail in the other purpose. That is the mistake which was made by the late Viceroy, by 1504 Mr. Wedgwood Benn and by the Labour Government, and it has brought us down to a point which we did not want to reach but to which in process of time we have been driven.
It has been said to us times without number that we must fulfil our pledges. Who dares to say that we have not fulfilled our pledges? We are fulfilling our pledges. Who will cite the pledge that we have not fulfilled? Indeed we have gone far beyond what we promised. This cry of fulfilling pledges is merely designed to push us further and further down that slope of which I have spoken. There were the boycott of the Simon Commission, the concessions made to that boycott, the ill-starred Dominion status announcement, the shelving of the Statutory Commission is Report which was put before the Round Table Conference as a mere exhibit, interesting no doubt, but to be ignored by anyone who wished to ignore it, according as it suited the orator at the Round Table Conference. Then this House became committed to the White Paper. That went far beyond anything ever promised in the Montagu announcement. By that White Paper the House committed itself to provincial autonomy and responsibility at the centre. Those were the salient points of the White Paper. But later on in the document it was stated that the responsibility at the centre must depend upon the coming into existence of the Federation.
In listening to the Secretary of State to-day I noted that he hoped and proposed, if it were possible, to combine the whole scheme of constitutional reforms into a single Bill. By that I hope he does not mean that the central Government will be modified from its present status until the new federal scheme is an accomplished fact instead of a mere aspiration accepted in principle. I urge the Committee not to allow the Governor-General and his Executive Council to be tampered with or altered until the federation is possible of immediate introduction. Otherwise we shall get to the point at which there will be a measure of responsibility at the centre without the balance of the States. It is, therefore, most essential that the Bill shall provide that not until federation is really accomplished will the reforms go beyond mere provincial autonomy. I would like the Committee to realise that the whole scheme 1505 of constitutional reforms to which we have now been committed by the White Paper is like an architectural structure in which it is impossible to calculate beforehand the stresses and strains which the building will have to bear. It reminds one rather of the Tower of Babel. One can imagine how the architects and designers of the Tower of Babel discussed interminably the ornamentation with which that daring edifice should be crowned; but they reckoned without their hosts, without the hosts of races and languages with whom they were concerned. It seems to me that, in regard to our constitutional structure, we are in very much the same position. We have designed a structure with, all this amalgamation of races, creeds and languages confronting us, and the structure has not taken into account the actions and reactions of all these discordant elements. The Prime Minister at an early stage of the proceedings of the first Round Table Conference, asked two very pertinent questions, and, rather like jesting Pilate, he did not wait for an answer. Those questions were—as the test of any scheme that might be introduced— "will it work?" and "will it evolve?" The right hon. Gentleman did not answer those questions, and I have never heard of anybody who did answer them. Nobody can say what is to come from the Constitution which is adumbrated and which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State says will be included presently in a Bill, after various further discussions have taken place. I have not met anyone, even among the greatest admirers of Lord Irwin's Government and of all the Round Table Conference procedure, who is prepared to say what will be the end of these schemes and how they will work. But for every one of those who are confident supporters of a structure of that character there are hundreds, not merely persons retired from India like myself, but people who are actually in the middle of things at this day, who when asked how they think all these constitutional reforms will end, have a very laconic answer. The word they use is "Crash." That is the opinion held by a very large number of people to-day, both British and Indian. I had a letter from Bombay this morning written by a veteran politician who has been in his time a stern critic of the Government.
1506 He dreads the results—he speaks of them as the dire results—of a certain policy and he ends by saying:Where, I inquire, has gone that sterling steadfast management of Indian affairs which distinguished British statesmanship from 1869 to 1918?One feels that it would be useless to keep on going over the past and lamenting what has been done but, at least, it is desirable that the House of Commons and the Government should be warned of the dangers that are ahead. The House of Commons should take steps to see that it is not pushed any further down the slope, and that it can still regain any ground which may have been lost. It is not easy to go into detail on this occasion. It is not easy to formulate exactly what should be done but what I suggest is that when the House of Commons comes to grant any reforms which it is decided to grant, they should make it plain, beyond cavil, that this is a difficult and dangerous experiment, that it is going to be tried but that it is an experiment and that the ground lost must be reoccupied, if the experiment proves to be a failure, such as will impose chaos and misery upon 300,000,000 of His Majesty's subjects in India.
We have heard about the Ordinances, and about law and order, but no one seems to have visualised what it will mean in the Provinces if the maintenance of law and order is given over to the charge of provincial legislatures and provincial ministers. People seem to think that the Civil Service, the magistracy and the police would continue to function then just as they function now. That opinion is based entirely upon the idea that as the Government, with the aid of the police, whose loyalty has been most remarkable, and with the control of the Civil Service—I include both British and Indian and T make no distinction of race in this case—have, up to the present, been able to control the situation that state of things will, necessarily, continue even after the constitutional reforms come into force. If this Committee think that that view can be taken for granted they are making a terrible mistake. If you shift control from the people who have exercised it to those over whom it has been exercised the whole situation must of necessity be changed.
1507 The Civil Service is in a state of great anxiety and so are the police, both officers and men, in India to-day. They fear that in the course of time they will come under the control of the men who now pull the strings of the Congress. They fear reprisals and victimisation. They fear that all their rights and all their past services will be obliterated and that in fact they will cease to exist. The Secretary of State has given assurances from time to time that safeguards for the services will be duly inserted. Here again you may provide these safeguards, but there is no guarantee that they will work when the time of need comes. I have a suggestion to make which I hope will not be considered out of order. It is in reference to the position of the Governors under the scheme which is about to be introduced. Hitherto every Governor who has ever left this country to govern an Indian Province has had the benefit of an Executive Council and of advisers drawn from men of great administrative experience. It is only by the aid of those advisers that a Governor can carry on at all when he comes as a stranger to govern, say, 40,000,000 or 50,000,000 people, without any experience of their habits, customs or language other than he has been able to pick up by a hasty reading of certain standard works just as he is departing to take up his governorship. It is perfectly certain that without the aid of some stalwart, strong and experienced adviser, drawn from the ranks of the Civil Service, to act as Deputy-Governor, a Governor, in such a position as I have described, would not be able to carry on.
I am sure that every gentleman who has governed an Indian Province with the aid of those Executive Councils would agree as to the necessity and value of their advice. The Executive Council is now to be scrapped and in its place there are to be Indian Ministers, supposed to represent an electorate which, according to the proposals of the Franchise Committee, is to consist of 36,000,000 persons, of whom the great majority will be entirely illiterate and unable to understand any issues outside the immediate neighbourhood of their villages. Those Ministers will certainly be at the mercy of the Press and of attacks by the small educated section. There will be communal greed, religious 1508 hostility, corruption and intimidatior— all these influences will be brought to bear on the new Indian Ministers and they will be driven either to succumb to them or resign. It is quite impossible for a Governor to cope with all these difficulties unless he has some help of the kind I have mentioned.
The Simon Commission itself proposed —and it was rather with a view to this question of law and order that the proposal was made—that there should be one or two official ministers. That proposal was waved aside. I do not know that it was a good one—at any rate it was treated with scorn by the Round Table Conference. The Royal Empire Society which contains many members of experience appointed a committee in reference to these matters and I know that the Secretary of State expressed his approval of their report which was a very moderate one. Their proposal was the same as that I have just put forward though I had independently arrived at the same proposal at the time when they were examining the question.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I should warn the hon. Gentleman that I think he is now getting near to a question of legislation or of legislative proposals which cannot be discussed on this occasion.
§ Sir R. CRADD0CK
I naturally follow your Ruling, Sir Dennis. I was only putting forward the suggestion that in the Executive of the future Government, there should be a Deputy Governor to assist the Governor and there having explained the reasons for that proposal I do not propose to deal further with it on this occasion. There are one or two other matters in relation to the communal question on which I should like to say something but that decision is still before the Government and it is a most difficult decision to make. I fear that, however wise and just that decision may be, it will not be possible to regard it as an agreed solution. It is most unlikely that the parties, the Hindus and Moslems especially will be found to agree to that and that makes the future Constitution, the future electorate and the future working of the new scheme hazardous in the last degree.
My Bombay friend from whom I quoted earlier and who is an experienced politician thinks that all that has been going on—these riots and so forth—has been 1509 sowing the seeds of future civil war between those two communities—a civil war in which the British Government will not have the same control as it formerly enjoyed. He speaks of the consequences which, in his mind, are dire and threatening. That again is one of the points on which we have been forced. The Prime Minister himself lost no opportunity of telling the parties concerned that it was their dispute, their quarrel, that they should settle it themselves, and that it was unreasonable to expect that any Government should decide a question of that kind for them, but in the end he was forced one more step towards assuming responsibility, on behalf of the Government, for making that decision, and I fear—and everybody who is familiar with India shares that apprehension— that no settlement that can be made by this country can possibly settle a dispute which is fundamental between those two sections of the people, the Hindus and the Moslems. As my friend in this letter says again, oil and water will never mix.
I do not want to say anything about the Indian representation at the Ottawa Conference. I do not know, Sir Dennis, whether you would consider that any reference to that question was in order to-day, but I will say nothing whatever which could prejudice in any way the results of the discussions in regard to the Indian representatives. But if there is any country in the world which has any claim for favourable consideration by another, it is Great Britain in respect to India. This country has put its capital into India, it has developed it, it has given it peace, it has united it, and if there is any nationality in India—and it is only a budding one—it is Great Britain that has created it. On every consideration which one race or one people or one group of nationalities can have towards another, this country is entitled to benefit, if any such benefits are ever deserved as between nation and nation.
I would like to revert to the question of the Ordinances and to that particular point which was raised by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones). I congratulate the Secretary of State and the Government upon the firmness which they have displayed in keeping at their disposal the weapons which they have already forged in case they may be necessary and to the extent to which they may be necessary. Nobody wanted 1510 the Ordinances at all. It is no pleasure to issue Ordinances of that kind, and nobody wanted them. They would not have been necessary at all if the ordinary law had not been allowed in the first instance to fall into abeyance and contempt, and it was on that account that even the Labour Government were at last forced to issue Ordinances themselves. I gather that they think those Ordinances might now be withdrawn, in the interests of peace and to conciliate Congress, but in asking that, they are asking the Government to repeat the very error which they made themselves when, in order to conciliate Congress, the late Viceroy entered into a compact with Mr. Gandhi and let out all the people whom he had been compelled to shut up because they were trying to subvert the whole of the British Raj.
What happened? The whole work had to be done over again. That is what always happens, and if we were to follow the advice of the Opposition, we should go and repeat the same blunder and have to do all the work yet a third time. I realise perfectly well that you want to have the consent of the people, but we have the consent of the people. The hon. Member on the Front Opposition Bench was talking about people who are really very little distinguishable from Congress. Those who now call themselves Liberals and are not very different from the actual members of Congress. There is a very thin veil between them, and they can pass over there, or others can come over, at any time. As to the Congress, hon. Members do not seem to realise that Congress is no longer a mere political party. It is a conspiracy, and it is the very negation of liberty. It is a complete engine of oppression.
Nobody can conciliate bodies of that kind. When the Labour Government issued their Ordinances, they did it tardily and apologetically. I have no sympathy with people who want to apologise to revolutionaries of that kind. They should never have apologised to the revolutionaries, but they should have apologised to the other people for not doing it before. Hon. Members do not seem to realise that they only hear the opinions of a very few. They may have heard the opinions of 100 or 1,000 people, if you like, but they do not know what the 350,000,000 people are talking or thinking about in India. They do not 1511 know that the vast majority of that population are saying, "Why on earth do you let these people cause all this trouble, and worry us about what we should buy and sell, and stir us up about our rent, when there is nothing in it? Why do you let them do it? "That is what the majority of people are saying, and they are thanking God now that the Government have set out to prevent them being troubled and worried by what they would call pestilent agitators.
It is no good the hon. Member saying we ought to conciliate. Mr. Gandhi is always talking about the lack of conciliation, and the other day some idealists in this country managed to communicate with Mr. Gandhi, who made the same answer that he always did, namely, that he is longing to conciliate, and that there is nothing he loves better. He said, "Subject to my duty as a Nationalist, of course, I am ready to conciliate."
§ Sir R. CRADDOCK
I do not think that makes very much difference, but I accept the correction. That is what Mr. Gandhi says, and, of course, it enables him to stand out and say, "Well, this is not consistent with national honour." We have tried all that. Hon. Members do not seem to understand that Mr. Gandhi is a Bania, a Gujerati Bania. He is a man who is accustomed to bargaining, and so forth. He belongs to the class of moneylenders, and that is the attitude that he has adopted here. He is disguising what his real intentions are by what I might call conjuror's patter, giving extracts from religious books, and so on. He deceives himself as much as anybody, and he is an impossible person to negotiate with. Surely that has been realised.
Now they fall back upon the idea of saying, "True, we did try and conciliate Gandhi, but think how we have proved to the world at large, to America, to Europe, and so on, that we were after all in the right." I cannot find any use in a course of policy by which you sacrifice your own subjects, cause a huge loss of life, and ruin your trade; and what for? Simply to convince a number of ignorant people in the Middle West of America, and our enemies perhaps in Geneva or on the Continent, that we are 1512 not massacring and oppressing the people of India. Surely we have to look after our own people first, and I can only say, as I began, that we must not look upon this constitutional question, however much we have been driven into it, as a sort of arrangement under which everything will go like a marriage bell hereafter, and we shall all be happy for the rest of the time. It is fraught with every kind of difficulty, and we must remain alive to the dangers of the situation. We must have a position in which we can go back and retrace our steps, making it clear that this is only a risky experiment, and that if our people are to be subjected to chaos and misery, we will go back on the situation and reoccupy the ground which has been lost.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The hon. Member for the English Universities (Sir E. Craddock), who has just sat down, is an ex-Governor of Burma, and I wish that when he speaks he would remember that everything he says here will be fully reported in India, although it may not be in this country, and that it will be taken as being the opinion of those who are still governors in India. I think it is absolutely incumbent upon anybody in this House who speaks on India to take a wider view than trying to put forward a point of view just to please this Assembly. I think sometimes that a practical reform would be to get half-a-dozen or a dozen representatives of India sent by India to this Assembly, so that here in the Imperial Parliament we might hear the Indian point of view put, probably a wrong point of view, but at any rate we ought not to hear only the point of view of the English who have been in India, although I do not think it is the view of the English who are in India to-day.
I rise on this occasion because I want to point out to the Committee and to my friends in India that I think a very dangerous step has been taken by the Government in combining the Bill for dealing with the autonomy of the Provinces with the question of the Federation of India. It is quite time that those of us who are democrats should point out the danger of the Federal solution as proposed by the Round Table Conference, and as now adopted by the Government. I do not know what that scheme will be, but I am certain of this, that in the interests of democracy, so far 1513 as the Central Government are concerned, the Indians would do better to stick to what they have got than to take this Federal solution. It is true that there are in favour of that solution a large number of people in India—not the Congress people so much as the so-called Liberals in India who have accepted it. I ask the Committee to observe that the Indians who have accepted it have done so for reasons which ought not to appeal to any Member on these benches, or indeed to any democrat in the House of Commons. They are bringing in the Princes, they are strengthening the hands of everybody who has a stake, as it is called, in India as against democracy. The report of Lord Lothian on the franchise is an excellent report so far as the Provinces are concerned, but so far as the Central Government is concerned, if it is carried out, if the Government of India in Delhi is watered down by the representation of the landlord class, and by the representation, especially, elected or nominated, of every one of the communities; if, in addition to that, a large part of the representation in the House is not elected at all, but nominated by the Princes, we shall get a body which will be the most tremendous and permanent obstacle to any sort of democratic development in India. I feel that the Indians who are supporting this scheme are afraid—they are not afraid of English coercion, but afraid of the type of Jawarlal Nehru, of the demagogues, and of the Trade Union Congress in India. The same fear that besets the governing class throughout Europe besets the governing class in India, and there is in all countries this desire so to shape their democracy that it shall be a permanent barrier between those who have and those who have not.
When the Measure based on the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms was before the House, the Labour party and I opposed a great deal of the new legislation. We tried to improve it at the time. We were against the communal representation, and I think that we should be against it still, but, although that legislation is by no means perfect from the point of view of those who love democracy, it is ten times better than anything that is likely to be acceptable to the Princes of India. We are apt in this House to think of every patriot in India 1514 and other countries as being a Radical and a Democrat. That is far from being the case. Patriotism has been defined as the last refuge of scoundrels. It is only too often a cloak for the fear of a very different form of development. There are in India to-day, as indeed in Egypt, and I think in other countries, political parties which have been built up on the desire to break loose from England. As long as those political parties can convince the common people, whether it be in India or Egypt, that their enemy is not the exploiting class in their own country, but the alien rule of the English people, they can remain powerful and in the saddle.
Whether the solution of the national problem in Egypt or in India is a solution which will satisfy the Nationalist party or not, we should remember that we have a duty not merely to the well-to-do extreme Nationalists, but to the mass of the people. There is a certain job that England has to do in the world. Every Empire in the past, it may be said, has left some sort of thumb-mark on the world. They have passed away, but they have left it may be their laws, it may be their language, it may be merely a military autocratic organisation; but the one thing for which the British Empire stands peculiar, whether it vanishes or not, is its great contribution to the development of democratic institutions and self-government. No other Empire in the past has set its provinces free and enabled them to stand on their own legs. Our reputation must depend upon whether we in our time have helped forward that great British tradition. The establishment of a home rule government, whether it be in Egypt, in India, in Kenya, or anywhere else, is not the important duty; the important duty of Englishmen is to establish government of the people by the people for the people.
We have not to set up something which will be a solution acceptable by the Princes or the capitalists or the governing classes. It must be something which, in the gradual issue of time, as education spreads, as the dumb masses in India begin to be able to think for themelves and to express their own opinions instead of the manufactured opinions of, it may be, the Congress or of Jawarlal Nehru, gives a chance for the peoples. We must realise that it is not enough to divest ourselves of our responsibility; we must 1515 give the people themselves a chance of a real democracy, a chance of making their own mistakes their own way. We shall hear more of safeguards, but safeguards for what? If they are safeguards for the common people of India I shall be all for them, but we know what these safeguards will be. They will be for our investments, for the vested interests; they will be safeguards for the landlords, and safeguards for the Mohammedans or the depressed classes or Anglo-Indians—
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Safeguards invented for the depressed class by the other classes. The best safeguard for the depressed classes is the vote, which you refuse to them, and an equal right with other men in the long run to think and vote for themselves.
§ Major-General Sir ALFRED KNOX
We have listened to an eloquent speech from the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle - under - Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). From it I gathered certain information. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman attacked my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock) on the ground that when he spoke in this House he ought to say things that would not only please the House but, apparently, would please the whole of India. That is not the kind of advice that should be put before any back bench Member. Every hon. Member speaking on a subject like this, especially a back bench Member, should say exactly what he thinks according to his conscience, and not speak in order to please this House or any class in India. I do not think that the speech to which we have just listened will make very pleasing reading for some of the minorities in India. The great Moslem community will not be pleased with the idea that the safeguards which they should have should be relegated to their power of voting. Everybody knows that they are a minority in the sub-continent of India, and they cannot obtain proper protection by mere votes. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke as a regular Democrat. I do not claim that high belief in democracy that he has. I recall something that was said to me about democracy by a member of the first Round Table Conference. The late Government were then in office, and this gentleman told me that 1516 he talked to every Member of the Government Front Bench. He said: "They had not a single idea in their heads except what they called democracy, and democracy according to them is counting heads irrespective of what those heads contain." That is the opinion of a representative Indian gentleman.
I have always contended that in trying to graft this scheme of Western democracy on to the ancient autocratic system of India we are incurring a frightful risk. If we want real protection for minorities in India, the only way—and the minorities themselves will say this—is to retain our armed forces in India in order to protect them from possible persecution by the majority. I would like to congratulate the Secretary of State for India on his decision to continue the Ordinances in force. He gave a very optimistic description of the present state of India and showed conclusively how these Ordinances have protected the poor ignorant people in the villages who do not want to be made the prey of agitators. There is a good deal of sympathy from the Front Opposition Bench about the number of people who are cast into gaol. I was sent the other day a story, which I believe to be true, of the late Congress meeting in Delhi. That meeting was prohibited by the Government, but the Congress wallahs turned out in large numbers and were promptly arrested and taken off in motor lorries to gaol. One unfortunate individual turned up in the afternoon and went to a policeman and asked to be arrested. The policeman said, "You have come late; you ought to have come this morning." The man said, "But, please sir, I had a pain in my stomach and could not come this morning; is it not time enough to arrest me now? I cannot possibly go back to my village and have my face blackened because I was not arrested." That is martyrdom in India to-day.
I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman with regard to this communal settlement. One cannot go back on the Prime Minister's decision, but, when we undertake to make a communal settlement in India between the warring classes, we undertake a very difficult and impossible task. We all know what the poet says:Those who in quarrels interpose,Must often wipe a bloody nose.1517 I think that will be the result of any decision we may take. A decision which favours the Moslems will be violently attacked by the Hindus or the Sikhs. A decision which favours the majority will be attacked by the Moslems. I do not envy the Government their task. It may be necessary, and it was possible before our prestige was let down, as it has been in the last five or six years, to introduce a settlement, but now everything we do is bound to be attacked by one side or the other, and probably by both together.
I am not very clear about the sequence of the machinery which is to be set up regarding a further instalment of constitutional reform. I gather that a decision regarding the communal settlement is to come in the summer, and the consultative committee, which is now sitting in India, is to go on sitting and come to some certain decision. Then, I gather, the Bill framed by the Government is to be put before a Select Committee of both Houses, who are to sit here and take evidence from Indians and others regarding the practicability of the proposals. It is of great importance to know how this Select Committee will be composed. It will, of course, be composed according to the strength of parties in this House, but there is a great divergence of opinion among supporters of the Government regarding the rate of advance in constitutional reform in India. The section to which I belong believe in protecting the masses from dangerous political experiments; we, who are the really democratic section of this House, think that we ought to go exceedingly slow. What form the recommendations take and in what form the Bill will emerge from their hands will depend very much on the composition of the Select Committee.] would ask the right hon. Gentleman when he replies to make it perhaps clearer to a stupid Member what the actual sequence of events will be.
I have one word to say about safeguards. The right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme spoke rather sneeringly about safeguards. Safeguards are essential, but what safeguards are of any use? What can we do to safeguard our rights in India once we have handed over responsibility at the centre and autonomous power to the Provinces? Personally, I did not wel- 1518 come the statement of the Minister that the House is not to be worried with more than one Indian Bill. Of course, it is very pleasant to the House to get on to other work, but I should like to see two Bills; I should prefer to see the introduction of autonomous power in the Provinces, as recommended by the Statutory Commission, and a period of five years allowed to elapse to see how that would work. We could have gone on with the federal scheme: but I should have held to power at the centre, to responsibility at the centre, until we had some indication of how this great new departure in the Provinces was going to work.
For that reason, I regret the decision to have a single Bill. It may save us time and labour, but what is that when the whole future of our Indian Empire is at stake?' I hope the right hon. Gentleman when he replies will answer a question which has been put to him: Suppose we have introduced all these reforms, suppose we have handed over autonomous power to the Provinces and complete responsibility to the centre? This great gesture will, no doubt, be ushered in with a Bill of amnesty. Are we going to let all these Communist agitators loose on a distracted India at a time when it is trying to digest these constitutional reforms? If we do we shall have the first Government formed of those who are absolutely opposed to British rule in India. If the Legislative Assembly passes a Measure to "cut the painter," to cut off all connection with Great Britain, what are we going to do then? What will our safeguards be worth in that case? We have had an in-stance of that near home. Surely the experience we have had in the case of the Free State ought to give us some power of prudence, make us decide not to give away things irrevocably. As my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities said, we must have the power to retrace our steps in order to protect the people in India, who have been brought up to trust in us, and who believe only in us, and not in their fellow-subjects in India.
§ Mr. HICKS
When the Opposition asked for this day to be devoted to India, it was for the specific purpose of discussing industrial conditions in India. I raise no objection to the Secretary of State having widened the discussion, but 1519 for the purposes of my own speech I wish to bring the Committee back to the subject for which we asked for this Debate. I suffer from never having been in India. A number of hon. and right hon. Members have been in India, and, providing they were at all observant, their views both on the physical structure of the country and the condition of the people must necessarily be enhanced as a consequence; but, if it is my misfortune not to have visited India, on the other hand my study of the reports on the material and moral progress of India and the recent report of the Royal Commission make me realise my good fortune in not happening to be an Indian worker living under the conditions prevailing there.
A number of people in this country have a picturesque idea of India as a place of processions, of elephants with tapestries hanging round them and rajahs riding upon them,, of tom-toms and pageantry of all sorts. They have not instructed themselves in the facts of life in India. India has provided us with some brilliant sons in literature, law and sport. When they come to this country we have fraternised with them, shaken them by the hand, and been happy to make their acquaintance, and they have had opportunities for tuition and for training, and I submit that the ordinary working Indian has plenty of potentialities providing he has the opportunity of training. I speak with some authority on behalf of the working people of this country, who are constantly discussing the problems of India, and wages and conditions there, relative to British conditions, and inquiring how far those conditions adversely affect us in the manufacture and the marketing of our commodities. I wonder how often in the history of our troubled relationship with India working people in this country have had to say farewell to their brothers who have gone out to protect the East India Company, or the British Raj, and the frontiers of India? No doubt some case could be made out to show that the periods of relative prosperity which the workers have experienced here have been to some extent due to the economic consequences of Anglo-Indian relationship.
I may say that I agree with some observations made here to-day that in discussing this great problem it is particularly unwise to say things which 1520 may appear pleasant to the ears of individuals, if we have at the back of our minds something of greater importance to us which we withhold in order that we may not appear to be offensive. But when we are discussing problems of this kind we are entitled to put forward those views which, in our opinion, more adequately represent the facts, instead of covering them up with smooth phrases. I want to point out that the periods of prosperity which have come to this country as a result of Anglo-Indian relationship have been for the benefit of the privileged few. The vast majority of the working people have not benefited. A highly restricted class has profited by milking the milch cow of India, while the workers have been left to suffer more from the claws of the Indian tiger. So far as I am able to judge, looking at the industrial conditions in the North of England, there is very little evidence that the tiger is in any more gentle mood in the economic sphere. We have sent out to India builders, engineers, railway builders, railway organisers, technicians, textile experts, and skilled workmen who have created great capital undertakings, for while India is still overwhelmingly agricultural, it is by no means unimportant industrially. The reports that I have had indicate that, at a very modest estimate, the number of Indians engaged in industry and transport in India is over 18,000,000. More than 16,000,000 of them are directly engaged in industry; the others would be more or less engaged in distribution. Big engineering works have been established, railways have been built, mines have been sunk, and cotton and jute mills erected. Factories and workshops have been built in India upon the most up-to-date lines. The statement that I get from those who have visited India and are willing to converse—and there are many—the reports that I read in regard to India and the conversations I have in my international connections at the International Federation of Trades Unions, where I come into contact with international representatives, indicate the enormous advance that has been made and the great efficiency of the factories that have been built in India.
At the back of Indian industrialism there is a huge poverty-stricken agricul- 1521 tural population, consisting of millions and millions of people. Later on I will give some figures of the death-rate per thousand, and of the ravages of such diseases as plague and influenza, showing the millions of people that are taken off, and then we shall have some sort of understanding of the background which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India asked us to-day to have in our examination of this problem. When there is disaffection, and when people disobey constitutions and laws and fight for reforms, they do not do so because they are satisfied. It is only when they are dissatisfied and when the economic conditions themselves speak out so loudly, that it seems it is no longer possible to give such feelings healthy expression.
The great agricultural populations, living as they are under actual conditions of privation in which, practically from their cradle to the grave, they are hungry, is the great area from which the industrial capitalists recruit the personnel for their industrial undertakings. Into the mills of Indian industrialism this infinitely cheap and poverty-stricken labour has been, and is being squeezed. It; is being ground down in a process very similar to the history of industrialism of the north of this country 100 years ago. Those who take the time and patience, and have the willingness to compare the industrial history of this country 100 years ago, before Parliament imposed some of its factory laws, and great men and women of that time agitated the country, urging the Government to take some hand in its general reform, will understand what I mean when I say that some conditions in India compare very much with those in this country 100 years ago.
If the capitalists of India, either native or British are left to their own devices and their own insensate pursuit of gain— and I am not one of those who think that the capitalists in India are the white sheep, while the British capitalists are the villains of the piece; it has been generally stated that, so far as comparison can be made, it is in favour of the British capitalists—and unless some steps are taken to stop their insensate gain and greed for themselves, they will be using up this humanity, with all its frailties, dreams and emotions that all of us have, and which they are equally capable of sharing, provided they have 1522 an opportunity. If I can give hon. Members a picture of conditions in India as I see them—the brains and ability that our great technicians and engineers have taken over to that country and developed, and the wonderful understanding of industries that they have, together with the millions of pounds of capital that have been invested in India—we shall begin to realise that India to-day is potentially, if not actually at the moment, one of the dealiest competitors that we have, in a very large part of the industrial life of Great Britain. You cannot send over all that knowledge, ability, money and organising capacity, without releasing in the mosaic of their life or in their industrial fabric that great potential engine of competition which will very severely affect the liability in this country.
While we are saying in this country, "Buy British," in India, they are saying, "Buy Indian," and they are boycotting nearly all British goods at the present time. When textiles are produced in the modern mills of Bombay and Calcutta with, cheap labour, they are used to oust from the markets Lancashire textile products. It is obvious, and no one can gainsay, that when coal is produced in India by the same cheap labour, it must, of necessity, enter into competition and oust from the market the coal produced by a number of workers in this country. Provided that competition were fair and the costs were comparative there would be no immediate reason for us to grumble. I am not discussing to-day the wider political issues; I am speaking about the administrative and some of the industrial conditions which are in India, hoping to call attention to them and see if it is possible to make some approaches and advances in order to improve the conditions.
Indian industry established on the present modern lines on the shoulders of the cheapest labour on earth is the greatest industrial Frankenstein within this Empire. Let me try to impress upon the Committee the importance of that point. Indian industry is based upon the cheapest labour on earth. There is no labour of which I know in any part of the world cheaper than Indian labour. [HON. MEMBERS: "China," "Russia!"] I will give some figures. I do not think the Russian has to maintain a wife and family on 6d. a day, as I will prove that Indians 1523 have to do, with their family wages. Whether you think that is a class of labour that we ought to go below I will leave to hon. Members own choice. With up-to-date machinery in India, factories with all the technicians, skill and money equipped for industry, and with 16,000,000 people engaged in industry and competing against their own industry, what chance has the Lancashire cotton operative against those conditions?
§ Mr. HICKS
The figure that I used is the one that has been given in the Royal Commission's report, and is the number roughly calculated as the total of those engaged in industry in India at the present time. With the cost of food, clothing and shelter such as it is in our northern climate and with the standard of living that we have and must maintain, what chance have our Lancashire people to-day? Our northern people cannot live on handfuls of rice and walk about in loin cloths. They must have something different, in order to be able to maintain themselves in decency and physical efficiency, and in order to carry on their work. What chance have they in the wages market against conditions that are obtaining in India, against labour of a character to which I have just referred? What chance will they stand in competition with the Bombay mill operatives? I understand that fuel is very largely provided by the sun. Clothing is certainly very largely provided by the sun. I submit that to attempt to compare it under those conditions is asking for something to which this House ought to give no support.
We have been in India for 150 years. Presently I want to ask what justification there may be of our stewardship, seeing that at the end of 150 years these are some of the conditions which are operating. Whether we have been looking at the thing from an angle that has not given us the best possible perspective or whether we have not cultivated the best agencies of judgment for dealing with the position, I do not know. Particulars are given in Chapter 12 of the report of the Royal Commission on Labour in India which staggeringly emphasise this disparity of wages. I do 1524 not want to quote it this afternoon because it will take too long. On page 196 of that report is emphasised the disparity in wages, and it shows, on those figures, that it is clear that anything from four to 12 workmen can be employed at the price of one person in this country. That shows the great disparity in wages and conditions—the terrible conditions—that obtains there. What chance under Heaven has a woman textile worker of Lancashire to compete in the wages market with that class of labour, which receives anything from 1s. 2d. to 7½d. for a day's work? Out of that actual amount they have to provide for housing, food, clothing, shelter, recreation and cultural standards, and to put by for a rainy day. Let us think of the father of an Indian family having to maintain his family on 6d. a day, and not of other matters which are totally irrelevant to the actual economic conditions which are responsible for the political expressions of which we hear from time to time.
It is evident from the report that the earnings of the Indian industrial worker are abysmally low, but what are the earnings of the agricultural worker? The earnings of the agricultural worker axe even lower still, according to the figures from which I am now quoting. I know that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India has merely inherited this state of affairs since he took up his office; it is not of his creation, and I am not blaming him for the system which is responsible for it; but I desire to call the attention of the House to it in order that we may get some understanding of it. Much of the industrial labour of India to-day is family labour, as is the case in some parts of our own industrial towns, particularly in the North of England, where the father and mother and their family all go to work in the same mill. In fact, it is a saying in the North of England that the bed never gets cold; when the father comes home, the mother goes out. It must be apparent that, under the present economic arrangements in India, the industrial workers cannot possibly earn wages which will enable them to purchase sufficient of the necessaries of life to satisfy their own physical needs. They must be hungry all their lives.
I understand that there are something like 700,000 villages in India, and that 1525 about 90 per cent, of the total population dwell in those villages. They grub a scanty existence with tools of production, as far as agriculture is concerned, which are of an almost prehistoric character. If the land of India were supplied with ordinary agricultural equipment, it would be equivalent to a social revolution. After our 150 years of rule in India, 90 per cent, of the population are illiterate. I would like to quote from the 1929 Report on Moral and Material Progress and Conditions in India. On page 138 of that report, there appears this statement:It is to the education of children of the working classes that we must look for the most hopeful line of attack on the present unsatisfactory conditions in which the great majority of industrial labourers in India live, for, with greater knowledge, will come greater discontent with prevailing disabilities, and, what is more, greater capacity to remove them. One of the most satisfactory developments of recent years has been the fall in the employment of children in industry.I am sure we are all happy to know of that,Already we see in India the first beginnings of a clash between labour and capital, and the betterment of the labourer's lot in that country, as elsewhere, will prove to be a policy, not only of humanity, but of good business. Already Indian labour has been internationalised, and India is one of the original members of the International Labour Organisation established by the Peace Treaty.This statement indicates that those who examined these questions at that time thought that one of the best things that could be done was to start educating the children, in order that they might be able to deal effectively with those who were always, telling them that it was right and proper for them to remain in their present situation, and not to advance further. Conceive of the industrial proletariat, illiterate, their minds buried in ancient superstitions, crowded into industrial districts where the lack of sanitation simply beggars description. I believe that most members of the House would agree with me, speaking not only as a building worker, but as a member of a civilised community, that there is no greater civilising agency than good sanitation; but, according to all the reports I have seen, the lack of sanitation in India simply beggars description. Instead of sewers there are open ditches running through the streets and villages, in which filth of all kinds, including human excreta and domestic waste, is exposed 1526 to the burning sun and becomes a breeding ground for flies and other insects which settle on and poison the food and infect the people. On page 271 of the Royal Commission's Report will be found testimony that I am not exaggerating the case as regards the abominable conditions of sanitation which obtain in India to-day. These people, desperately poor, are packed into dwellings in circumstances of almost incredible overcrowding. Each hut is a one-roomed structure, windowless—
§ Mr. KIRKPATRICK
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but is he now referring to the population in the towns or in the villages?
§ Mr. HICKS
These huts are built of almost anything, and the report states that there may be a dozen persons, sometimes of both sexes, and often two or more families, living, eating and sleeping in these places that are called homes. They are but unsatisfactory shelter, and certainly could not be described as homes. A room is usually from 8 feet to 12 feet square at the most, and it contains 10 or 12 people—sometimes two families —who live in conditions of incredible overcrowding. As a result, malaria, cholera, tuberculosis and other devastating disease are rife. Such are the industrial conditions on which the whole superstructure of capitalism in India to-day is raised, and this is the price which the people of India have to pay for it. I am sine that every Member of the House must feel that we should like to alter this state of affairs. There can be no joy in knowing that it remains. Over 30 years ago I listened to the late H. M. Hyndman and to Mr. Nairoji and other eminent Indians, who at that time were attempting to import into our minds some understanding of the problems of India, and ever since that time I have, so far as opportunity has permitted, tried to make myself better acquainted with the life of India. As I have said at the beginning, it has been my misfortune never to have had the opportunity of visiting India, but I have learned something of the conditions of life of the people there as they have been reported. How does it come about that, after a century and a half of British domination, there is this widespread ignorance and illiteracy in India? Someone must have failed in their work. It cannot be to our credit that, after we have been there for 1527 150 years, 90 per cent, of the people are still illiterate.
§ Mr. HICKS
If it will suit the hon. Member's purpose, I will bring it down to 100 years; that will be quite long enough. How comes it that the people are so poor, and that under the Union Jack usury is as rampant as it is? In many districts the debtors are the actual slaves of the moneylenders. I have had explained to me, though I am not able to explain it in great detail here—I shall be glad if those who have knowledge of it will give me further information—the kamia system, under which moneylenders lend to a poor unfortunate Indian money for a particular purpose, and he never has a chance of repaying the capital, but has to continue to work to pay the interest, and the members of his family are also involved in the same way. How is it that elementary sanitation is so appallingly neglected? How is it that, while we are so concerned about impressing upon the Indians the beneficial results of our rule, we neglect such a thing as sanitation so appallingly? These are some of the questions that are being asked in the trade union movement and in the political Labour movement up and down the country. The Labour party insist that our only justification for being in India is that we are there for the economic, social, and cultural benefit of the Indian people and for the mutual benefit of both peoples.
I submit that sooner or later we shall realise that it will be impossible to win the friendship of Indians by prosecution and imprisonment, by rattling the sabre, by always saying that we have behind us arms and men in the event of their not obeying our will, and that in that event we shall take very harsh steps and apply the iron hand. That is not the way to cultivate the regard and respect of the Indian people. If we will deal with the conditions that are responsible for their troubles, I submit that we shall by that method bring about a lasting and fruitful friendship, but it must be based upon the most complete understanding and cooperation between us both. It is not merely a question of stamping out illiteracy in India, or of ensuring industrial conditions there on a par with 1528 those prevailing in the Western world, by raising wages, establishing factory regulations, and so on, although these are matters of very great importance— to safeguard workers in employment, to protect women and children and to compensate those meeting with accidents. A large number of the Conventions that have been passed at the International Labour Office have not been ratified. Some have, but they are those that cost the least to apply. Out of 30 odd Conventions, only 13 have been ratified in India. These matters are of grave concern to those of us who are trade unionists and are concerned about the conditions of labour of our people here and the constant challenge that is being put up against those conditions. We are particularly anxious, not only to preserve them, but to improve them, and anything that happens nationally or internationally which is likely to challenge that causes us great concern, and we are entitled to take every opportunity to deal with it.
It is not merely a question of scientifically organising sanitation and building decent houses. It is all that and much more. In my opinion, we must get the mutually concerted action of the British and Indian peoples, and it should be directed towards the ordered planning, co-operation and understanding of both the social and political life of India. Modern industry in India implies economic, social and political modernisation. It is going to happen. It implies modern towns and cities. That is something that most come. It implies rationalised industries, transport and communications. India cannot exist by itself. It must necessarily be influenced by world conditions, and it implies all that. It implies modern agriculture, town planning, road and railway planning, electrification and all the things that must follow in the wake of industrialisation. That carries in its train vast social changes in the status of the people. The introduction of modern mechanised agriculture will, in effect, be tantamount to a social revolution.
It is impossible successfully to arrest modern progress for long anywhere, and India is developing very swiftly. One of the things needed at present is more trade union organisation. That would be a great help to the Indian worker. It 1529 would be beneficial to industry in every possible respect. It would be a wise thing to give encouragement and help instead of allowing grievances to accumulate till there is an outburst and then arresting and imprisoning them and calling them enemies of their country. I am concerned about these people having the opportunity to organise and develop. Their organisation in the past has been spasmodic and fragmentary and has been regarded as something that must be suppressed at the earliest stage. I have taken part in many deputations to high officers of State with a view of trying to get some general understanding and the setting up of conciliation machinery or opportunities to tabulate and present grievances, but I have never received much encouragement.
One of the best things that could happen would be improved trade union organisation to level up wages and improve working conditions. It is imperative for the workers and industries of Britain in competition with those of India that such things should happen. Lancashire, for instance, must level down unless Bombay levels up. I am not anxious that Lancashire should perish in order that Bombay should flourish. I am anxious that something should be done to load the people. To put restrictions in the way of trade union organisation, to imprison the leaders and check and hamper the growing trade unions is reactionary and stupid. More and better food, better clothing and housing, the municipal organisation of communities, higher pay in industrial concerns, shorter hours of labour—these are some of the matters which should take precedence over all others.
I have been able to call attention to a few of the factors of Indian life and some of the things which are responsible for the troubles and difficulties that Ministers of State have had to take steps to deal with from time to time. But they have dealt with effects and not with causes. These reports are filled with terrible conditions, which make one feel that he must hang his head in shame if he feels in any way responsible for their maintenance. There is page after page by impartial investigators, who, with patience and skill, have obtained the information. There is a big and a terrible responsibility upon the House and the Government. Nothing should be allowed to stand in 1530 the way of taking immediate and vigorous steps to correct some of the things that I have indicated, and many more. The harvest that we reap will either be a harvest of bitterness and contempt or a harvest of good will. I am certain that we could help if we approached it in the right way.
Sir JOHN WARD LAW-MILNE
I am sorry that the hon. Member did not have in his audience the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), who began by attacking my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Sir K. Craddock) for making an injudicious speech which will be repeated in India, with great detriment to the future peaceful government of that country. If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme had been here to listen to the speech that has just been delivered, I am sure, with his knowledge of and interest in the country, he would have deprecated that speech also, for a more distorted, and more exaggerated account of the conditions in India I have never heard. The hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) said he had not had the advantage of being in India. I think he would be well advised to get a little information from those who have been there as to the basis of the charges that he makes. For example, wages in India cannot be compared with wages in this or any other country. Unless one's criticisms in this matter are based upon a realisation of the entirely different conditions that exist as between India and this country, one is rearing an edifice for which there is no foundation in fact whatever and giving colour to a fiction which will do far more harm than any remarks that were made by my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities.
The hon. Member for Woolwich spoke as if you could translate the wages of Indian workers into sterling and then say that, because they compare unfavourably with those of Lancashire, the people of India were down-trodden, ground down and suffering in every way and under such conditions as would apply if Lancashire operatives had to live on sixpence a day. The situation, of course, is not in any way truly portrayed by putting forward such a proposition. If the hon. Member will turn to the last issue of the India Labour 1531 Office Report, he will find that the proportion of their wages spent by the Indian industrial operatives on all the ordinary necessities of life, apart perhaps from clothing, is almost precisely the same as that spent by the same class of workers in this country. It is not a question whether a man gets sixpence or £6 a day. It is a question how much that money will buy in the things that be requires and that are essential to him. A comparison of wages between here and India, like a comparison of conditions, is hopeless unless one realises first of all the foundation on which the whole industrial life is built up. Three times, I think, the hon. Member referred to the question of sanitation. At least 300,000,000 out of the 350,000,000 of Indians detest the sanitation of which he is so proud, and would have nothing to do with it in any circumstances. What is the use of talking about conditions of sanitation and comparing the conditions in India with those in a modern European city?
The hon. Member has painted a picture in terms capable of doing a very great deal of harm. While one may pay a tribute to his earnestness, he would be wise to consult with those who have some knowledge of India before he makes such sweeping statements. There is no doubt in the minds of any of us that many of the conditions of life in India are far from satisfactory. For instance, the hon. Member spoke of education. Everyone knows the tremendous difficulties of education in a country of the enormous size of India where, practically speaking, the engagement of any large number of female teachers is impossible. What would have been the conditions of education in this country, or in America, if it had been impossible to enlist the services of a vast number of female teachers? And so through all the charges which he has made. It is essential, if the situation is to be understood, that the foundations of the criticism should be examined most carefully.
I was only amused at one remark which the hon. Gentleman used when he said that the sun was the source of industrial power. If he will examine the reports of the 80 odd mills in Bombay, he will find that, far from using the sun, they are in fact more up-to-date than he imagines in using water power on a very 1532 large scale. The hydro-electric power which runs the Bombay mills is something in which Bombay, naturally, has a very great deal of pride. I am sorry to detain the Committee, because I had no intention of referring to these matters but I am incited to do so by the somewhat extraordinary speech to which we have just listened. The last remark I want to make regarding the statements made by the hon. Gentleman is that, having spent some years of my life on the Board of the City of Bombay Improvement Trust, endeavouring to secure better housing, which is as much required there as it is in this country, there are difficulties to be contended with of which he has evidently no idea. He will find slums in this country, however, just as bad as anything in the cities of India. No one will deny that better housing is required, but you will find from the reports of the governing bodies who have been actively engaged on this work for years past that one of the greatest troubles they encounter is the difficulty of getting people to occupy those better quarters. They do not all want to go into them because they are not able—it is the same trouble as is experienced here—to sub-let rooms and to make the same profits as they do in the older quarters which they have inhabited for so long. Also the difficulty is not one of shelter in a land where for nine or ten months of the year most of the people prefer to sleep outside rather than inside.
With apologies to the Committee for having dwelt for so long upon those matters, I turn to the very serious and comprehensive statement which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made to us to-day, and upon which I very heartily congratulate him. I entirely agree with the views which have been put before him by some of his Indian friends that the time of conference is at an end and that the time for action has come. I entirely agree with that. I equally agree that India has the right, having been fully consulted in those years, to know now exactly what the Government's intentions are. I, therefore, welcome very heartily the statement which we have heard to-day. India now knows clearly where she stands. It is true that my right hon. Friend was not able yet to announce a decision in regard to one very important question affecting future constitutional progress, and that is the matter 1533 of communal settlement. I entirely appreciate his difficulty, and I think that I am only echoing what has already been said, and in any case I am sure that it will awaken a response in the heart of every Member of the Committee, when I say that we do not envy him his task in having to make that settlement, because whatever happens he is sure to be blamed by someone. He cannot please everybody. As over and over again the different communities in India have been begged and prayed to make a settlement of this question themselves, as they have failed to do so, and as a decision is forced upon him and the Government, I would only say to him that when the time comes let him stick to his decision whatever happens, for it is certain that he will get no thanks in any case.
On the other two matters to which he referred, I want to say a word or two to the Committee. I very fully appreciate the situation in which the Government find themselves to-day on the question of the ordinances. There is no person who has followed the course of events in India who can positively say that the emergency has passed away, and that it is now possible to remove those ordinances and to trust that this gesture of good will will bring about peace and order. It is not possible to do so. Let us bear in mind that although we hear a great deal of the few who agitate so much and are so vocal in India, there are many millions for whom we are responsible and whose pursuance of their daily avocations depends entirely upon the order and good government which these ordinances secure. These people do not desire in any way to be interfered with but to carry on their work peacefully, and they are entitled to look to the Government to protect them. As long as that is the case and the bulk of the people are anxious to go about their affairs quietly and peacefully, they are entitled to look to the Government for protection. There is no question but that we cannot, unfortunately, say truthfully to-day that their is no chance of further trouble, and perhaps less to-day than most days, for if we read the evening paper, alas, there is yet again another outrage to record, This time it is a most deplorable and fatal attack upon an Indian district judge in Bengal. It is clear that as long as these outrages 1534 continue and there are people determined to try and bring down the Government by such action, neither this Government nor any other Government worthy of the name could take any other course than to fight them tooth-and-nail. Therefore, unfortunate as it is, we must face the fact that in the meantime those ordinances must be continued.
It is not to be forgotten, however, that a system of government by ordinances is a very unhappy one. It is one which nobody likes to see, and there is no question that we are more than anxious —everybody is anxious—that the moment should come as soon as possible when we can remove the bulk of those ordinances altogether. Although it is true that most of the people are quite unaffected by them, still you have perforce to put enormous power into the hands of a small body of men. That body—the Indian police—have given a marvellous example in the last year or two of loyalty and devotion to duty under the greatest difficulties and subject to continual attacks and misrepresentation from their own people. There is none of whom one can speak more highly. Yet they, like everybody else, must be anxious for the day when the exceptional powers which they have to exercise can be brought to an end.
Reference was made to-day to the statement that Mr. Gandhi had proffered from prison his desire for co-operation. Let us put the question plainly to Mr. Gandhi: "What do you mean by your desire for co-operation? Do you mean that you are prepared to co-operate in the scheme which the British Government have laid down, or is your aim still the complete independence of India? "Let us know precisely where we are. There are certain Members in this House and people in this country who hold the view that from the very beginning we have been wrong, and that we should never have worked for the self-government of India or for Federation, and that we should go back to the condition of things before the Montagu Report and the Act of 1919. They are entitled to their opinions, but let them come out openly and let us know from them also where we stand. I fancy that the bulk of the people of this country will be found to be behind the Government in what I may describe as the half-way method of procedure—half- 1535 way between the two extremes, on the one hand of those who say that we should go back to the conditions existing before the Act of 1919, and on the other of those who say that we should make terms with the Congress as soon as possible.
The situation really is that this country has not changed its intentions since the declaration was made in 1917. If we made a mistake, it was then. I can say so with the more freedom because I was the last witness before the Joint Committee on the Bill of 1919, and I said at that time, speaking for certain opinions held in India, that we thought that the reforms went too far and too fast. We were not against reforms and progress, but we thought at that moment that they went too far and too fast. That being the case, I say that those who hold the opinion that we went wrong then are quite entitled to say so, but they should make their position clear now. Those, on the contrary, who hold the view that the determined stand of the Government for law and order is wrong and that we ought to make almost any terms with Mr. Gandhi, should say so definitely and plainly. As far as the bulk of the people of this country are concerned—and I am sure the bulk of the House of Commons—they are entirely behind the Government in its declared policy. They are behind the Act of 1919 and all that it implies. We have accepted it, and it is being carried through constitutionally. That policy leads inevitably to the increasing association of Indians, as the Act said, in every branch of their administration, and, since the great change which took place at the first Bound Table Conference, it leads undoubtedly to the idea of a Federated India within the Empire provided it is a federation of all India, that is to say, provided that it has within it the Princes as well as British India. The change which took place at the first Hound Table Conference was a very startling one for many of us. Some of us had not expected it. It would not be in order for me to go into details of what happened there or to suggest that there were any special reasons why the Princes agreed to come in. It is immaterial now whether they came in for purely patriotic motives anxious to play their part in a future Federated India or whether they thought at that time—quite wrongly as 1536 it turned out—that this country intended to scuttle out of India. I do not think it is necessary for us to go into those matters now, although I may remind the Committee that there is a very well-known Indian proverb which says:He who lives by the river should make friends with the crocodile.7.0 p.m.
It may be that such a proverb was in the minds, at any rate, of some of those who brought about that great change at the Round Table Conference. However that may be, since then this House has followed clearly and definitely the line which leads to the Bill to which my right hon. Friend has referred as likely to be outlined in the near future. We are now entitled to say to those who do not agree that there should be a federated system at all that they should come out in the open and let us know their views. Clearly, also, we are entitled to say to those who believe that we should immediately negotiate with Mr. Gandhi and hand over India to his nominees, "Let us know where we are." The bulk of the Members of the Committee have no intention of being drawn either to one side or the other. They want to follow clearly the path laid down since 1919, and they contend that India shall in due course, when the Bill has been passed into law, take her place among the great self-governing bodies constituting the British Empire. That has been the declaration of every statesman who has had any connection with India since the days of the declaration of 1917. I have taken this opportunity of stating clearly my position to-day in this matter, because in the last five or six years we have had a good many Debates in connection with India, but in almost all of them the mouths of the bulk of hon. Members who were interested in India have really been shut. We have been told it would be undesirable that we should say too much. Conferences were going on, and it was not desirable that anything should be said which might possibly upset the negotiations. I think it is well now that both India and Britain should know exactly what we mean. After the declaration we have heard to-day, India has no reason to doubt the genuineness of our intentions. She has equally no reason whatever to make the suggestion that we are playing for time, or endeavouring to prevaricate, and that we have no intention of carrying out our pledges. She 1537 knows exactly where she is. We, on our side, have the right to say to India, "Do you intend to co-operate with us and to work the system we put forward, or is your aim and object independence for India? Because, if so, we cannot work with you. "We are entitled to ask India to declare herself to-day.
There are two points on which I should like to ask questions. One of them is the reference the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State made to the Consultative Committee which is to continue to sit in India. I did not quite gather how long that committee is going to sit, or whether there is any possibility of its deliberations postponing the next stage, namely, the invitation to both Houses of Parliament to set up a Joint Select Committee to consider the proposed Bill. As I understand it, what is envisaged is a definite statement regarding the communal question in the middle of the summer, and subsequently the request for the setting up of the Joint Select Committee of both Houses of Parliament to consider the Government's proposals which will not then be in the form of a Bill, but which will only be put into that form at some stage after the Joint Select Committee has been sitting. The matter was raised by an intervention from the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). It is I understand the Government's intention to set out their proposals and these will come before the Joint Select Committee, but I was not quite clear whether the right hon. Gentleman's references to the discussions of the Consultative Committee at Simla in any way made the introduction of the demand for the setting up of a Joint Select Committee dependent on results achieved at Simla. I should like to know exactly where we stand in that connection.
Secondly, I should like to ask him whether he can give us any information regarding a statement which recently appeared in connection with the position of Burma. He will, no doubt, have had it brought to his notice that at Karachi the other day the Indian National Congress passed a resolution, which, in effect, suggested that Burma should come into the new federation of India, and then at some future time make up its mind whether it was going to secede from India or not. I should much like to know whether there is any basis for a 1538 suggestion of that kind. I need hardly tell him that those who sat on the Burma Conference certainly held the opinion that the decisions they came to, whether they were fully approved by everybody or not, were to be binding on Burma to this extent, that she was to hold the election and then decide whether to join India or not. I would like to know whether that still holds good, and if the elections about to be held in Burma are to be final on this point or whether there is to be some new suggestion that they may or may not join India, but if they join they may be at liberty to at a later stage reconsider the matter of secession. I can hardly think that is so, but I would like to know from the right hon. Gentleman what the position is.
In conclusion, I think we have every reason to be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the very clear statement of the position, as he sees it to-day, in India, and of the programme which the Government have in view for the future. I think we are entitled to say that the Government has not only carried out its pledges to the full, but is giving India a clear and definite statement of what it intends to do, and when it is intended to do it. Therefore, there can be no further attack on us on the score of delay or dilatory action of any kind. On the other hand, I think this country is fully entitled to say to India, "This is our programme. You cannot accuse us of bad faith. You know exactly what we propose. Are you going to co-operate, or do you mean to continue a course of action which is bound to lead to further disorganisation in every branch of public service and further misery for Indians themselves?" The choice is before India to-day. She is at the crossroads, and she must make her decision.
§ Sir ERNEST BENNETT
I too should like to offer my congratulations to the Minister for his full and frank description of the Indian position and the difficulties inherent in it. If I have any slight regret at all in regard to his statement, it is based on the fact that I am afraid rather more delay may be occasioned before we see a printed Bill passing through its stages on the Floor of this House than I had hoped to see. The matter largely depends on the deliberations of the Consultative Committee at Delhi. I am afraid that my experience of India has led me to think 1539 that neither the genius of the Indian people nor the nature of their climate tend to promote speedy deliberations. It is true that the Lothian Committee did set up a very high standard of rapid and effective work, thanks to the benevolent despotism of an excellent chairman, and I can only hope that the effect produced by that will be felt. I have heard Indians on more than one occasion say they had never seen anything like the work of the Lothian Committee in India. I trust the influence exerted by that may hasten the deliberations of the Consultative Committee. Of course, that longed-for event, the decision of the Government on the communal question, must come along before very long, and what its effect on those deliberations may be I do not know. Whether it will accelerate them or retard them or— dreadful thought—extinguish them altogether, time alone will show.
I would like to-night to say only a very few things about a certain feature of the ordinances. Before I do that, may I hasten to reassure the hon. Member who, some little time ago, uttered a diatribe against the Government—I do not know exactly which Government— for the alleged refusal to deal with the question of the recognition of trade unionism in India. If he had taken the trouble to read the Lothian Report, he would have found that for the first time in the history of India, we have definitely proposed that the franchise should be framed as regards the workers of India, on the basis of trade unionism. That is clearly a great step, one which deserves credit and one which, I hope, the Government will put into the Bill. I am not here to discuss the theory and practice of the ordinances. They are sufficiently distasteful and disagreeable to any lover of freedom or democracy, and nobody likes them. My experience of India only confirms the belief I gained after reading about the subject, that as long as the Government of India was to go on, some such system would be an absolute necessity. No Government, west or east, could possibly tolerate within its area such an imperium in imperio as is exercised by the mass application of civil disobedience. If the Government wished to stop that, some system of coercion was necessary for the time being.
1540 There is one feature about the ordinances which causes me a good deal of misgiving. It is the fact—unless indeed it has been changed in the last few months—that at present a man or woman may be arrested in India on suspicion and incarcerated on suspicion, and then liberated with instructions to report himself or herself to the nearest police station daily. That is a very irksome thing for Indians in many cases. A man's residence may be at some distance from the police station and transport may be difficult or expensive. It may be that the person is ailing in health or an old man or delicate woman. It is very difficult actually to carry out the physical necessity of personal visits to the police station. In many cases the times for reporting are fixed, and one has to go to the police station at a time of day when nobody in India—Indian or European—would go out of doors if it could be helped—between 12 and 2.30 p.m. Many reports have to be made at 2.30 in the afternoon. That is irksome enough, but when I have talked this matter over with Indians I have found it is not so much the physical discomfort and inconvenience of reporting to the police daily that they dislike, but the absolute humiliation they feel in having to do such a thing.
Perhaps to a Western mind like my own it is difficult to enter into their feelings. I said to one of them who told me he expected to be arrested on suspicion and then liberated and told to report himself daily, "After all, is it not much better to have the discomfort of going to the police station and the humiliation than returning to the greater discomforts of incarceration in prison in the summer months?" He said it was not, and that he would prefer to give up his income for the time being—and he was a professional man—and part with the company of his wife and children and go back to rigorous imprisonment rather than put up with what, to him, was the terrible indignity of having to report himself daily to the police station. It is one of those ultimate facts which the Western mind is up against. It struck me as rather illogical, but there it was. It is not only going back to prison, but, in many cases, it means an inferior type of imprisonment to that which the man had before, for men go back to Class III imprisonment such as is 1541 experienced by the lowest prisoners and the more or less ordinary criminals.
I have learned by experience not to trust too readily statements about alleged grievances, and I should be the last person to consult certain Indian newspapers in regard to matters of this kind. I have taken pains to get together what I believe to be facts. May I say, in passing, that one of the most salient instance of these disagreeable incidents in India was the case of Mrs. Gandhi. I spoke to a very highly placed Englishman in India and he asked me what I thought were the reasons for the hostility and suspicion which existed against the British Government and against the Indian Government. I said that the one thing that I had noticed ever since I landed in India, and in my conversations with Indians, was the intense anger and indignation aroused by the re-imprisonment of Mrs. Gandhi, after she had been liberated. I think she had only been technically guilty in the orginal instance. I cannot remember whether she was arrested on suspicion or on a technical offence, but in any case she was let out and called upon to report herself in the afternoon at the police station, and on failing to do so she found herself back in gaol in Class C. I think that anyone will agree with me that if they had lived in India they would have felt indignation that a lady of that character, an old woman, the wife of a man who is a very great and important person, should be treated in that way. We may say what we like about Mr. Gandhi, and I certainly do not think that history will place him amongst the great statesmen of the world, but the fact remains that at this moment Mr. Gandhi can sway the emotions, purposes and actions, either for good or evil, of infinitely more human beings than can be swayed by any other person in the world. Therefore, he is a man of high position from that point of view, and a great deal of feeling was aroused by the treatment of his wife.
§ Mr. BRACKEN
Does the hon. Member suggest that Mrs. Gandhi should be placed above the law and be treated better than less notorious citizens?
§ Sir E. BENNETT
I do not suggest anything of the kind, but I do suggest that the answer is the answer that I gave to a gentleman who takes the same line as the hon. Member. He said: "The 1542 laws are there, they have to be obeyed, and if these people do not like to obey the law they must go back to prison." I said to him, in rather milder terms: "Well, even in England we do occasionally temper justice if not with mercy at any rate with common sense." I should like to quote a few cases that have been collected for me—not merely culled from newspaper cuttings and gossip—by a Moslem barrister. I had asked him to collect for me one or two definite cases. Here are three cases of men arrested on suspicion only, lodged in gaol and liberated on condition that they should report to the police. On their refusal to do so they were taken back to gaol, brought before the magistrates and sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in Class C.
There is the case of Mr. Motichand Kapadia, a well-known solicitor practising in the High Court of Bombay; Mr. Brelvi, a mussulman, Editor of the "Bombay Chronicle," and Mrs. Lilavati Munshi, wife of a leading advocate of the High Court of Bombay. I could give seven or eight cases of that type which to me seem to be extraordinarily severe treatment for the offence of only having been arrested on suspicion. There is one case which gives the situation in concentrated form. It is the case of Mr. Tricumdas, a barrister-at-law and graduate of Cambridge, who was arrested in January last on suspicion, and liberated on 27th February. He was liberated at 2.20 p.m. and was informed that he must report to the police officer at 2.30 each day, including the day on which he was liberated. He came out of prison at 2.20 and at 2.35 he had not reported. He was taken back and at 3 o'clock he was sentenced by a magistrate to two years rigorous imprisonment in Class C. In this country we often talk about the delays of the law, but I think that is about the world's record for magisterial expedition. I am both to say these things in the House of Commons, but I think they ought to be said from the point of view of all of us, who wish this new Constitution in India to be launched in waters untroubled by gusts of ill-will and suspicion in India. If these facts are still true, I submit that they are well worth the attention of the authorities in this country and in India.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
I must confess that I rise with the greatest timidity because 1543 on every hand the order of Debate has been that we should not say anything that would displease the Indian ruling class, that we should not criticise the British ruling class and that we should not excite the passions and demands of the Indian working class. Not having been brought up in the Secret Service I am unable to conform to the demands that have been put forward by Conservative Members. I am inclined to accept the statement made by one hon. Member some time ago that every Member of this House ought to express his or her point of view according to their own mind and conscience, but that hon. Member then proceeded to condemn all the persons who had so expressed themselves. I will follow the first part of the hon. Member's advice and attempt to condense my remarks according to my own mind and conscience. I do not mind whether it pleases or displeases. I only want truth and human justice for all concerned.
The Secretary of State made his statement to-day and part of his speech contained many veiled threats to the Indian people if they did not conform to his ideas of law and order. I took it to mean that the order from this House is that they must cease their agitation in favour of self-government for the Indian people. He also said that the Government have considered and were willing to grant certain reforms as to the form of government in India. I and my friends would like to examine in detail the suggestions made by the right hon. Gentleman for the government of the Indian people. He said that the reforms might require to be postponed if communal disorder in India did not cease. Is not that the old argument that was used about the granting of self-government to the Irish people? It was said that if the north and the south would settle down and come to an agreement the British Government would bestow upon them the Measure of self-government and freedom that they were demanding as an act of justice. In the end we granted a Measure of self-government to a certain portion of Ireland but not because we were anxious to grant the concession to them.
The right hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) said that the duty of the British Government was to confer self-government on its dif- 1544 ferent subject races and peoples, but my reading of history has been that in every case where self-government has been conceded it has been torn out of the hands of the British ruling class by activity of every kind within the confines of the particular country. Ireland had forced upon it, or had conferred upon it, a measure of self-government because one Sunday morning 22 British officers were done to death in hotels in Ireland. I only cite this as an example. I deprecate the use of the assassin's knife, or the use of the bomb or the bullet, but these are the effects of something that is unjust and I want to do away not only with the effects but that which is producing certain effects. If we have in India a certain amount of passion being aroused it is because of the growth of education and development that is taking place in India and elsewhere. Her sons and daughters are going to other parts of the world and going bank to India, mixing with the people and spreading education and they believe that they are competent to rule India much better than the country has been ruled by the British ruling classes, who have ruled it by the bayonet and the bullet in order to extract profits from the Indian workers. If the Indian working classes are to win independence for India they will only win it by showing the British ruling class that they are determined to have it.
The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne), in speaking of the Indian situation—I do not claim to have the wide knowledge of India that he has—said that the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) must not compare the western standards of life and wages with the standards of the people of India. I know a number of Indians, and every one of them can eat as good a meal, can wear as good, a suit of clothes or can lie on as good a bed as any Member of this House, and there is no reason why they should not. The hon. Member went on to say that he was interested in housing in Bombay and that they had the utmost difficulty to induce the Indians to occupy the houses. There are members of the British working class whom we cannot induce to occupy houses, and for the same reason as that which affects the workers in India and that is that they have not the wherewithal to occupy the houses. Therefore, at the present time, with the desires for better 1545 housing and better living, it is wrong for the hon. Member to attempt to make the working classes of the people of this country believe that the people of India have not the same desires for upward tendencies and progress as the people of Great Britain. I am not prepared to accept it. The hon. Member for East Woolwich castigated the British ruling class and the Indian ruling class for the conditions in operation in India. Another hon. Member asked how long we have been in India. We have been in India sufficiently long to extract a great deal of profit, and we might at the same time have conferred some social progress on that country. So far as the Indian people are concerned they are losing faith in all Governments in this country. All Governments have been trying to make them believe that they are in earnest in desiring to get a measure of reform and justice, while all the time they have been put off by a form of indecent conduct of which no Government should be guilty. No Government has ever been serious in its intention and desire to confer self-government on the Indian people. If they had been they would have said, "You have the right to run your own country; you can decide whether you are going to be part of the British Commonwealth of Nations; you have the right to set up a constituent assembly and give your people the vote on the basis of equality, which the British working classes enjoy; you have the right to work out your own existence." Could the Indian people have made a greater mess than the British ruling classes have made of this country. I cannot imagine it. The British ruling classes have brought the great mass of the people of this country into the gutter of poverty and destitution; and they talk about our beneficent rule in India and the reforms we have conferred upon the Indian people! I do not accept it. If I was an Indian I should be part and parcel of the working-class movement attempting by every means in its power to overthrow British rule and put India into the hands of the Indian people; to run their own country and manage their own affairs.
Let me give one or two cases which have come to me from a very responsible source. I want to ask the Secretary of State for India if he is aware that certain Congress volunteers attempted to hoist 1546 the national flag on the police station in Behar, were beaten, with iron-shod shoes until they fainted, and that when they refused to apologise pepper was rubbed into their eyes, and wind pumped into their nostrils. Is that the beneficent rule which we have conferred on the people of India? It is nothing but a veiled reign of terror from one end of the country to another by tie British ruling classes. The Secretary of State defends British rule in India. He is bound to defend it. One hon. Member has said that the officials in India do not want to see the development of any form of self-government in India. No. The slave owner and slave driver never takes kindly to the freeing of the slaves. History has taught us that, and the British ruling classes in India, British officialdom, look with no degree of comfort or joy on the prospect of the rule of India being torn out of their hands.
I should also like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that because of the congestion in gaols it has become a common practice for the police to detain Congress volunteers at the police stations for long periods without providing them with food or water, and then taking them out by lorry or train to some quarter in the open country and leave them to the mercy of the weather, without any means of buying anything to eat or drink, or getting back to their homes. Are these allegations true? I am prepared to give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of investigating the statements if he desires. I do not want to lay it down dogmatically that they are true, and I am willing to have them investigated. They are certified to me as being true by people on the spot. During the last Debate the right hon. Gentleman stated that he would attempt by every means in his power to speed up the trial of the Meerut prisoners. What has happened in connection with these prisoners? they have been kept in prison under the most vicious and horrible conditions for three years. At a time when we are claiming that we are giving beneficent results to the people of India, these prisoners are held in these prisons and being slowly done to death. Three successive Governments have been in office since their arrest and they are not put on trial yet. In the last Debate the right hon. Gentleman stated that the reason they were not put on trial was 1547 because they had been somewhat lackadaisical in regard to their defence. Various statements have been made in this House as to the reason why these working class political prisoners have not been put on trial, and I say that in the year 1932 it is an abominable scandal to think that these men are rotting in prison without being placed on trial for crimes which they are alleged to have committed. I see no hope for the Indian people at all unless they are able to get some form of self-government.
The right hon. Gentleman says that he proposes to set up a committee representative of the three parties in the House. Will he tell us what he means by the three parties in the House? I understand the three parties are the Members of the National Government, the Labour party, and ourselves, a small group of the Independent Labour party. Is it to be the three orthodox parties, the Liberal, Tory, and Labour parties? Are we to be excluded from representation on this committee? I want to know, because I say that the people of India have no faith in the Tory, Liberal or Labour party. The Labour party were responsible for running India for a period of two years. The Ordinances were in operation, and tens of thousands of people were thrown into prison during the period of office of the Labour Government. I have heard of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, but I have never yet heard of the Wedgwood Benn reforms for the people of India. I say with full confidence that every paper in India, every periodical, every representative statesman, has stated that they have no faith in any of the orthodox political parties in this country.
When the Labour party was out of office they spoke with the voice of the Congress of India, and when in office they spoke with the voice of the British Imperialist, the British ruling class. Therefore, we want to know whether the Indian people are to be represented by any person who has an independent mind and who is prepared to apply it free from the contamination and entanglements of office of the last few years. Finally, I say that I have no faith in any of the parties in this country conferring the right of self-government on the Indian people. My final words to the Indian 1548 people are: fight on for self-government; fight with every weapon in your power to take it out of the hands of the British ruling classes to rule your country and restore it to the people of India, who are capable of running India in a decent civilised manner. Get rid of the exploiter, the Imperialist, the rifle and the bomb, which rule India to-day. Go on struggling and fighting, because only by struggling and fighting and direct action has anything of real value been won for the working classes in any part of the world.
§ Mr. KIRKPATRICK
I only intervene for the purpose of congratulating the Secretary of State for India on the statement he has made to-day. As I understand it, he has suggested that a Joint Select Committee of the two Houses should be appointed to consider this question before a Bill is introduced. I believe it is unusual to have a Joint Select Committee before a Bill has been introduced, but it seems to me the best possible way to meet the present situation, and it is a suggestion which I believe will be acceptable in this country as well as in India.
§ Colonel GOODMAN
I want to congratulate the Secretary of State on his very clear and lucid statement. As one who has spent a considerable part of his life in India it is a great relief to me at last to be able to congratulate the British Government on the policy it is pursuing and the action it is taking. I am aware that this is not an occasion which permits me to go into broad questions of policy but one cannot escape the conclusion that the administrative procedure on the spot is largely influenced by the attitude taken by the home government and the government of India, from whom the administrator draws his power. There are in this country a large number of people, including some in very responsible positions, who have not the faintest conception of the difficulties and problems which face the Indian administrator. You have an amazing number and variety of races, an extraordinary label of tongues, and a very large number of Indian organisations, ranging from the highly efficient government of some of the Princes States down to the loose organisation of the more primitive villages. You have over a very large tract of country millions and 1549 millions of almost entirely illiterate people, people who are easily swayed by the orations, often tempestuous and fiery, of agitators; people who are easily preyed upon by people who go about the country under the guise of religious inspiration but actually doing their best to stir up trouble and political turmoil. Here let me say that the present policy of dealing promptly and firmly with these dangerous elements which have for so long inflamed the native population is one which is to be commended from every point of view.
It is not generally realised, but it should be realised, that people like Mr. Gandhi have come to be regarded by a very large section of the native population in India as something more than the leaders of a political faction. Actually, Mr. Gandhi himself is regarded by millions of people as being almost semi-divine, and he is generally considered to be beyond the control of the civil authorities. I do not think it is any exaggeration to say that millions of people in India believe that the prison has not yet been made which can hold him if he wishes to go free, and, therefore, I say that it is a very fine thing that there should be a practical and oracular demonstration that he is after all like ordinary people, and subject to the same penalties and punishments and restraints as people who walk about the streets in every day life.
Anyone who knows India at all must deplore the weakness, the tolerance and the forbearance which have been shown by former Administrations. In my view the heart-to-heart or man-to-man talk between the Viceroy and Mr. Gandhi was interpreted by Mr. Gandhi's followers only as evidence of recognition of the so-called supernatural powers of the Mahatma. The results have been very clearly shown by the direct entry of women, and in most cases very young women, into this campaign of violence and murder. It is such teachings as the teachings of Congress and the weakness of past Administrations that have been responsible for the tragic and dastardly attacks on British officials. Take the most recent attack on, and the eventual death of Mr. Stevens, and the attack on Sir Stanley Jackson, the Governor of Bengal. The girls who were concerned in those attacks should not by any means be regarded as 1550 dangerous lunatics suffering from a sense of personal injustice. We have evidence that these girls really believed that they were acting according to the highest religious impulse, and they saw no moral offence in wantonly attempting and taking the lives of men who were doing no more than their duty.
It is no use Members of the Labour party making sentimental speeches about the dumb masses and the rights of the people of India in cases of this kind. Such talk is extremely dangerous. Naturally, it can be interpreted by the leaders of the most dangerous section of Indian opinion only as meaning that if a change of Government takes place they will not only be permitted, but actually encouraged, to carry on the campaign which has up to now caused so much grave distress and brought chaos and havoc into the country. We know that at the present time a sincere attempt is being made to work out a Constitution which will enable the Indian people to proceed steadily towards self-government, but if the task is to be successfully achieved it can be done only if the Administration can succeed in keeping the country in a peaceful and orderly condition. The problem of India is a strange and complicated one, and it can clearly never be solved in an atmosphere of violence and disorder, or of open defiance of orderly government and administration. Therefore, I think that the recent evidence of a firmer tendency in the interior administration of India is one that we should all welcome, and upon which we should congratulate the Secretary of State and the Government of India.
§ Major MILNER
The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) was a little hard on one of my hon. Friends on the Front Opposition Bench in regard to matters affecting industrial life and conditions, about which my hon. Friend spoke. I would like the hon. Member for Kidderminster to know that everything which my hon. Friend said is set out most meticulously over the name of a former Speaker of this House and his colleagues who sat on the Whitley Commission. For months, if not years, the commission toured India to ascertain precisely what was the state of affairs there. I speak from my own personal experience when I say that my hon. Friend did nothing but set out details which are given in great particularity in the commission's report. 1551 In my view, and I hope in that of the House, my hon. Friend has rendered a service, however uncomfortable that service may have been to hon. Gentleman sitting behind me and opposite me, in bringing those facts to the notice of this Committee, in the hope that some steps may be taken to put matters right.
Something has been said about knowledge, or lack of knowledge, of India. I am not one of those who believe that after a tour of three or four months one is able to speak with complete authority, or anything like it, on every subject under India's blazing sun, but I do think that this is an opportunity of which advantage should be taken by those who have visited India quite recently, in order to put before this Committee their views, so far as that can be done within the scope of this discussion. In the first place let me say how pleased I was to hear what the Secretary of State said to-day. It is quite true in my view and in the view of my hon. Friends, and certainly in the view of many hundreds of thousands and indeed millions in India, that there are many things in the right hon. Gentleman's statement which are not satisfactory, a good many things which require explaining and elucidating, in particular the time and the pace at which these various steps are to be taken. Nevertheless I regard that statement as a distinct advance on the part of the Secretary of State, who has even to that extent departed from a condition which I thought had become almost static, the condition of masterly inactivity. For the last six months or nearly so the right hon. Gentleman has assumed an attitude of complacency. He has told us that all is well, that his plans were succeeding, that in the meantime committees were touring India, and that they would come back with evidence and information.
There can be no doubt that the course of conduct in which this Government and the Government of India have indulged in the last few months has resulted in two very strong and dominant feelings in the minds of all thinking and politically-minded Indians. There is not only the feeling that animates all classes, the aspiration for self-government, but underlying that the great majority of the people of India who have any knowledge of these matters are full of disgust on the one hand and distrust on the other.
1552 The disgust arises from the way in which the Ordinances have been imposed on the people of India, and the way in which those Ordinances have been operated. I am not one of those who would say that some steps, even some exceptional steps, might not be necessary here and there, in some places at some times, to deal with disorder or with breaches of law and order, but I do say without question that the Ordinances which have been in vogue for the last six months in India have been excessive, and that the powers given to the public authorities and to the police under these Ordinances have been exercised excessively.
The instances that one could give are almost innumerable. I am glad to be assured that some modification of the Ordinances is proposed. I am not clear as to the precise nature or form of that modification. I rather gathered that the intention was merely to confine the Ordinances to selected Provinces or parts of Provinces. I hope it may not only be possible to do that, but that it may be possible very considerably to modify the terms of the Ordinances themselves. The Ordinances give almost unlimited powers to public authorities and the police. There is no justification for these powers. There is no justification for many of the acts which have been carried out under cover of the Ordinances. There is no justification for the lathi charges which have been indulged in to a very large extent in some of the Provinces. There is no justification for policemen taking the law into their own hands, with the acquiescence or connivance of provincial Governments, and beating, as has frequently been the case, those who were picketing, or obstructing, or taking some steps of that sort.
I submit that the right course in circumstances like that, if there is a breach of the law, is to arrest those responsible, and to bring them in due course to proper trial. In the second place there is no justification for many of the savage sentences which have been imposed in some of these cases. In this I am glad to note that I have the support of the National Labour Member for Central Cardiff (Sir E. Bennett). I can add but little to what he said as to the anger and indignation which undoubtedly is felt by many thinking Indians regarding the administration of these Ordinances. The 1553 Secretary of State denied that there was any feeling of—I think he used these words—"sullen resentment." I can assure him that he is quite wrong. There are very strong feelings of anger and indignation and resentment. How can it be otherwise when on grounds of suspicion or on other quite minor matters or offences, men are arrested, taken to prison, kept there for some days or weeks, ordered to report, and on failing to report are arrested and committed for 12 months or it may be two years rigorous imprisonment? It must be obvious that all the friends, relatives and associates of those people, all who read of these incidents in the newspapers, must be full of resentment and indignation at the conduct of affairs in this way.
I ask the Secretary of State to be good enough to tell us precisely how it is proposed to modify these Ordinances, whether the matters of which I complain are to be modified and what precisely are the alterations that he proposes. I have one other complaint in regard to the administration of the Ordinances. I have an instance of a pleader who was convicted of the offence of refusing to report. He was sentenced by the court to two years' rigorous imprisonment and confinement in Class B. By order of the executive of the provincial Government he was put in Class C, which is reserved for the worst class of criminal. Representations were made. It was only at a later stage, in response to representations made by the man himself and not by outsiders, that the Government put that individual in the class in which he had originally been ordered to be imprisoned by the magistrate. I submit that it ought not to be within the power of the Government to alter the decision of a court of law, and to put a prisoner, whether rightly convicted or not, in a class other than that, or worse than that, to which he was originally committed by the magistrate. Then there is the difference to which attention has been drawn in previous Debates, between the attitude of the present Government and 8.0 p.m. that of the late Government in regard to these Ordinances. The contrast has been exemplified by what we have heard from the Secretary of State to-day. According to the information which I received in India, although Ordinances were in force during 1554 the tenure of office of the Labour Government, that Government and those who were then, carrying on the Government of India, were at all times ready and willing—were indeed looking for opportunities—to hold out hands to the Congress, and to conciliate, if you like, those elements in India with a view to bringing them into consultation and cooperation with regard to the reforms. What has been the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman? For the last six months he has refused to allow communications of any kind to pass with those who would have been willing to mediate, or who would have taken steps to bring together Mr. Gandhi and other representatives of Congress and the Government of India.
The attitude and action of the right hon. Gentleman appear to me designed to make it impossible for Congress to co-operate, or to put forward its views. Not only is he not seeking any opportunity for bringing about co-operation, but he appears to be taking every possible kind of action which will antagonise those elements in the population. It is true that the National Congress does not represent all sections and classes of India. I never thought so, even before I went there, but it does represent nationalist aspirations and all those people who, for any reason whatever, have complaints or proposals or desires which they want to bring forward. Congress is, so to speak, the spear-head of a movement which represents all those desires coupled with the nationalist aspirations for which particularly it stands.
If the changes which have been adumbrated are to have any chance of success, means must be found of bringing about some form of co-operation with the sections of the National Congress. The right hon. Gentleman might consider an alteration of his present attitude of refusal to permit friends on one side or the other to meet Mr. Gandhi and other leaders of the Congress Party. He might permit the Government of India—who in this matter are largely in the leading-strings of the right hon. Gentleman.—to take some steps in that direction. They are the men on the spot, and I have a great deal more confidence in the conduct of affairs in India by those on the spot than I have in the right hon. Gentle- 1555 man's conduct of them from Whitehall. One of the things which I was told in India was that there was not so much deal of objection to India being governed from India, but there was a great deal of objection to India being governed from Whitehall by people, who, as the Indians thought, did not fully understand and appreciate the Indian situation. Therefore, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman as one of the means of bringing to an end the present war of attrition will permit those who are willing to mediate to do so in the hope that something may come out of it.
The second dominant feeling in India to-day to which I have referred is that of distrust. "Hope deferred," we are told, "maketh the heart sick," and the delay which has taken place since the promises made in 1917–18 has led to that feeling. However successful, however desirous of being helpful, however expeditious may have been the innumerable commissions, committees and conferences to which reference has been made, the fact remains that the great majority of thinking and politically minded Indian people want to see deeds and not words. The right hon. Gentleman said that the time has come for decisions, but I want to see the Government do even more than take decisions. I want to see action on those decisions, and, in particular, I should like to know when that action is to be taken. The whole question of whether the proposals which the right hon. Gentleman has put before the Committee to-day are satisfactory or not depends on the pace at which the various steps outlined by him are to be taken.
He has told us that a communal decision is to be given this summer and, although the right hon. Gentleman was not specific upon the point, I gather that it is proposed to call the Consultative Committee together again—that committee now stands adjourned—in order to discuss the heads of the proposed Bill which it is intended shortly to bring before a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament. We should like to know when will this Committee be brought together, how long will they be given to come to conclusions on the heads of a Bill and how soon will the Joint Committee of both Houses have before it the draft proposals of the Government? It 1556 is only by promp action and by bringing specific proposals into the light of day, coupled with such action in the direction of mediation as I have mentioned, that we can hope for an early termination of our difficulties in India. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will bring forward these proposals, will set the consultative committee to work and will bring the whole or portion of the Round Table Conference to this country. I would remind him that the Prime Minister promised that the proposals would come before the Round Table Conference for final review. Is that still the proposal, or will the Government be content to have these proposals considered by the Consultative Committee and by certain individuals, no doubt with special knowledge, who will be brought over to this country to co-operate or to give evidence before the Joint Parliamentary Committee. Before we can appraise the value of the right hon. Gentleman's statement we must know all these particulars.
I understand that the Leader of the Opposition may seek—and I hope he will seek—another opportunity for discussing these proposals. It is essential both for us in this Committee, and for the people in India, in order to judge these proposals, to know when they are to be carried into effect. I was particularly pleased to hear the right hon. Gentleman's reference to the nature and extent of the proposed Bill. There has been a fear in many quarters that any Bill brought before the House of Commons at this time would merely include a reference to provincial autonomy. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has thought fit to accept some of the advice which I know has been showered upon him from many quarters and that he proposes to include in the Bill provisions for self-government at the centre. That will be a great encouragement to many moderate leaders of Liberal thought in India and will help them to continue to co-operate in the future as they have in the past. The right hon. Gentleman in previous Debates has taken credit for the co-operation on committees and so forth of leaders of thought and of parties in India, but he does not know what a sacrifice many of them have made in order to serve on those committees. I can speak from personal experience in saying that some Indians whom I have met, who thought they were doing the right thing 1557 and helping in the solution of this problem by serving on these committees, were ostracised and suffered odium by reason of their action. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, when paying tributes to those committees and their work, will not forget to pay a tribute to those of our Indian colleagues who have had to undergo that sort of treatment and yet have served well and helpfully on the Commissions which have recently been touring India.
In the course of this Debate views of all kinds have been expressed. We have heard the views of the hon. Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock), who, very largely repeated a speech which he made in the House of Commons a short time ago. He does not seem to have advanced at all. He does not seem to have any idea of the necessity, for our own safety, for the happiness of India and for the advantage of the Commonwealth of the British Empire, not only to implement the promises which have so frequently been made, but to take such steps at the earliest possible moment. We must re-member the many in India who want self-government, whose only thought at the present time is what steps can be taken to obtain that self-government, and who will not be satisfied until it has been conferred upon them by this country. I repeat, that the great necessity is that those steps should be taken without delay and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to let us know when ho proposes to bring the heads of the Bill or the draft, either before the House of Commons or before the Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament.
§ Sir ADRIAN BAILLIE
I rise with all those feelings of temerity and timidity which the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) manifested in his speech. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) that a visit of some two months to India does not confer upon the visitor omniscience with regard to conditions in that country. Nevertheless, I only venture to intervene in this Debate because I have recently returned from the territory which is under discussion. I had the opportunity while on business there of travelling up and down the country and of meeting representatives of varying shades and grade of opinion. I feel that as a recent observer of events in India I 1558 have at least retained some vivid impressions of the state of affairs in that country—impressions which may become dim or may even vanish with the passage of time.
I believe that I was in India at the same time as the hon. Member who has just spoken, and I agree with a great many of the points which he has made. At the same time, with these ideas still fresh in my memory, I would like to sweep away from the field of controversy what I might call the smoke-screen of Socialist sentimentality, and I would also like to discount the views of those Members of this House who take an entirely opposite view of the situation. I feel that equal harm is done to India and to British trade in India by what I have referred to as the sloppy sentimentalists, who seem to persist in thinking that the illiterate and inarticulate ryot or peasant is ripe for the possession of full democratic rights, and by the type of politician who refuses to recognise the importance of the educated classes in India, the type of politician who insists that those educated Indians are merely an irresponsible and unrepresentative minority.
I would like to dispose of both those extreme points of view. I feel that the person who may be described as the diehard in India, who has learned nothing with the passage of time, should, if he objects to the policy adumbrated by the National Government, be made to say what he would do to improve the situation in India at this time, and I think it passes the bounds of credulity to imagine that the people of this country would ever again tolerate the military subjugation of any of the dependencies of the British Crown. So far as the sentimentalists are concerned, during my sojourn in India I was forced to wonder whether some of the great admirers of the great Mahatma Gandhi, some of the most ardent protagonists of Swaraj, such, for instance, as the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) and others, really believe that, if you passed over the reins of government to Hindu politicians with a blue print of a Western democratic constitution, thenceforth the under-dog in India would be allowed to wag his tail, that the outcasts in India would become less of outcasts and less socially undesired. My impression of the 1559 Hindu politician was a very different one, and as a rule he was very frank. It was that he has not the slightest intention of passing over the government of the people, for the people, and by the people. That may take place, but, I suggest not within a hundred years, and for this extremely simple but cogent reason, that brotherly love, which is the essence of democracy and the real meaning, if there is a real meaning, of Socialism, cannot exist in a country and amongst a people upon which a rigid caste system has been imposed by religion for a thousand years or more.
While possibly my hopes and aspirations for India and our relationships with India and the Indians may be at variance with both these opposing schools of thought, it seems to me fairly obvious, and it has been stated in this Committee this afternoon, that His Majesty's Government, with the consent of the House of Commons, will shortly have to make a very fundamental decision in regard to the future Government of India and the relationships of that Government with the British Crown. The political situation in India, as I saw it, was just a mass of intricate problems, and problems which to a large extent were interdependent and, therefore, the more difficult of solution. I would like to suggest that perhaps a solution of the problems in India might be made a little more simple if we remembered the fact, which is so often forgotten or obscured, that we originally went to India to trade, that we went there for commercial purposes. We have been induced to remain there for commercial purposes, and I suggest that there would be no real incentive for the British or the British Government to have any further connection with India if we did not hope to foster bigger and better trade between this country and India in the near future.
I would like, in order to make that point clear—because it is so often pretended that we are in India merely for the good of India and for no motives of our own at all—to quote from a speech which was made in this House on the 10th July, in the year 1833, by Macaulay. I suppose that Macaulay might be considered among the men of his time to have had a more practical view of the extension of our Imperial policy than 1560 any other, and in reference to India this is the passage that I would like to quote:It would be in the most selfish view of the case—far better for us that the people of India are well-governed and independent of us, than ill-governed and subject to us—that they were ruled by their own kings and wearing our broadcloths and working with our cutlery than that they were performing their salaams to English collectors and English magistrates…. To trade with civilised men is infinitely more profitable than to govern savages.I think that puts the position fairly straight as regards our original intentions in going to India. It might seem from that dictum of Lord Macaulay felt that India would be better governed by herself than with our help. I do not say that India is well governed to-day, I do not say that India has been perfectly governed in the past, but I do feel that, leaving out of account the Mohammedans and all the important minority communal interests, what are known as the notoriously fissiparous tendencies of the Hindu would have made it absolutely impossible for that country to have registered any economic or social progress at all for the last hundred years.
On the other hand, things, as we know, move slowly in the East, and time is not an element of the contract. Nevertheless, no impartial observer—and in this matter I must refer again to the speech of the hon. Member for Shettleston, because he is not a first-hand observer of the country, and I do not think his best friends would say that he was impartial— could with any honesty maintain that in the years in which the British Administration has been looking after the affairs of India that Administration has not conferred to a considerable extent the mixed benefits of Western civilisation. I say "mixed benefits" because to some extent they are not always applicable to or appreciated by those who have been used to Eastern methods. I say furthermore that the British Administration, no matter what may have been said against it in this House to-day or elsewhere, has in point of fact prepared the way—I will not put it higher than that—for the economic participation of India in any future world boom that may take place.
The British administration has made railways, has dammed rivers, and has dug canals. The statistics of its record are not only interesting, but in many cases staggering. The British administration 1561 has tried, and is still trying, to teach India, the elements of hygiene and sanitation. What are the results of that campaign? By decreasing the mortality inevitable in seasonal epidemics British administration has succeeded in increasing the population of India in the last 50 years by 50,000,000. Unfortunately, it has not yet succeeded in increasing the material resources of the country upon which those teeming millions have to exist. I suggest, however, that British administration has at least gone very far to prepare the way for the economic betterment of India. So much for the past. It is quite clear, as has been brought out this afternoon, that the basic cause of the grievance of the peasant or ryot is an economic one, but surely no one will suggest that we are alone responsible for the slump in commodity prices. Unfortunately, it has not been at all difficult for Mahatma Gandhi to persuade his followers and the millions over whom he has influence that their present economic plight is entirely the responsibility of the British administration. From that I might be tempted to suggest that with a world rise in commodity prices the non-co-operative influence of Gandhi and his followers will, in the language of the hustings, disappear like snow before a burning sun. But I fear that that will not be the case.
With regard to non-co-operation, I would like to make a point which I do not think has been made, that there is a very considerable amount of social non-co-operation as between the British resident in India, be he civil servant or plain business man, and the educated Indian with whom he is in contact day by day. I feel strongly that unless the attitude of the British resident in India towards what should be his Indian colleague is changed, unrest among educated Indians against British rule will grow as facilities for education increase. I can give from my own personal experience an illustration of what I mean. I was met in Bombay by Parsee business friends. I was asked to join them at the Willingdon Club in the afternoon for tea. That club is probably unique in India in that it is the only club where Europeans allow Indians to be fellow members.
§ Sir A. BAILLIE
I stand corrected, but I said "probably." At any rate, it will be agreed that it is to some extent unique.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Sir A. BAILLIE
At any rate, my experience illustrates how Indians are treated when they get there. I was well entertained by my friends at the club. I was introduced to many of their friends, including Hindus and Moslems, and as the circle grew I had an uncomfortable feeling that the European members of the club were staring at me rather pityingly, as an older Member of this House might stare at a new Member for transgressing some old rule. Later I realised that my apprehensions were correct when British residents told me that fraternising with untitled natives was not really done. That is merely an illustration of the feelings in India, between British and European residents and the Indians themselves. Be that as it may, British administration has prepared the way for Indian participation in any future economic boom; at the same time, it is British administration and the example of British administrators that have given to the Congress leaders their home rule and national aspirations. There may be some among us who feel that when put to the test the vociferous leaders of Congress may crumble under the weight of responsibility. That remark should not, I think, be taken as a prejudiced observation, because we have had experience in this country in the last three years of politicians who are equally vociferous but who, under the restraint of responsibility, crumble—and they were politicans of considerable experience who had learnt nothing from their experience. These Hindu politicians have not been put to the test. The Legislative Assembly in Delhi, I understand, was originally created as a sort of training ground in responsibility, a training ground for Hindu politicians in the art of self-government, but in its somewhat limited constitution it has merely formed a training ground in irresponsibility.
I definitely feel that the policy adumbrated by the Secretary of State to-day should be supported. From the commercial and practical standpoint we should give these leaders in India, who are the 1563 only representatives that that country has, a chance to learn what they do not know in the art of self-government. It may be said that they have not in the past proved themselves to be leaders in progress. Let it not be forgotten that they have proved themselves to be effective leaders in the troubles that have occurred, and it should be our duty to try and transform those who have proved themselves to be so effective to destroy into fellow builders of this great Empire. I make a further appeal that the Committee, when it comes to deliberate on the future administration of India and on the future relationship of that administration with the British Crown, will be liberal-minded and, what is more, will be courageous and follow up this policy. It is a risky policy and a gamble, but I feel that there is no alternative. If the Government go forward and give to India that measure of self-government which the Indians themselves believe has been promised to them, and if all concerned are willing really to cooperate with the Indian administration and the educated classes in India, there is indeed a great future for the trade relations of this country and India. At the same time, the reverse of the picture cannot be considered with equanimity.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I listened with great interest to the outspoken and courageous speech of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Sir A. Baillie), and I wish that more of his colleagues could have been here to hear him. The statement of the Secretary of State was one of great importance, and the tense silence with which the Committee listened to it showed that they recognised its import. There were features in the speech which brought relief to some of us who have been watching the position in India with growing anxiety. There were other features about which we felt less happy. When the right hon. Gentleman told us that the Bill that is to be brought before the House eventually was to be a single Bill and not a double Bill, many of us felt that one of our greatest anxieties was relieved, because that announcement will bring home to the Indian public that there is no reality in the fear that undoubtedly so many of them have entertained—from many of whom one might have expected a greater 1564 understanding of what was in the mind of the Government—that the British Government intended to put them off with provincial autonomy and to defer indefinitely the prospect of a central responsible Government. The valuable effect of that announcement would be greatly strengthened if he would be a little more precise in his time-table. What he set before us was not so much a programme as a framework of a programme. Can he not fill in the contents a little more fully?
When may we expect the stage to be reached at which the Government will set forth in detail the proposals which it intends, as I understand, to submit first to the Consultative Committee and afterwards to a Select Committee of both Houses of Parliament here? Doubtless the Minister cannot say when he intends to submit that Measure, but he can at least say approximately when he hopes to do so. Will it be next autumn, next winter, or next spring? The date is of importance, not merely to satisfy idle curiosity on the part of this House. Let us be frank and acknowledge that, in spite of the optimism with which the Secretary of State spoke, there are systems of growing embitterment, unrest and suspicion in India, and that the sooner the next real step in Constitution building can be taken the greater the hope for a satisfactory response. He mentioned, only to dismiss as unjustified, the reports which he admitted had reached him from many quarters that there is a growing embitterment of public opinion in India. He referred to the remarks of persons who, he said, were really the intractable elements, those who were really in sympathy with Communists. I have here one or two extracts from the published letters of persons who can hardly be said to come within that description. Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru is a member of that Consultative Committee on whom the Secretary of State apparently relies mainly for testing Indian opinion with respect to his proposals. What does he say?Bitterness has increased tenfold and suspicion and distrust of Government is not peculiar to Congressmen, but is shared by non-Congressmen… I am as keenly alive to-day as I have ever been to the futility and folly of the course pursued by the Congress. But I am also equally alive to-day to the futility and folly of the course pursued by Government and of the exasperating nonsense that is uttered in 1565 Parliament with regard to the situation in India…. Bitterness and disgust are being noticed in all strata of society. … The youth of the country and the womanhood of the country have been embittered.Again, there is that great Indian the Eight Hon. V. S. Srinivasi Sastri, known and respected by everyone, who writes:Between the Civil Disobedience Movement of the Indian National Congress and the policy of harshness and cruelty adopted in reply by the Government the future of the country is in serious peril. One sometimes wonders whether revolution could be avoided.Mr. Venkatarama Sastri, formerly our Advocate-General and Law Member of Madras, writes:That the police are carrying out the intentions of the Government is the theory. That the police are terrorising and the Government have in every case to support them, whatever they may think in private is the fact. Bitterness and resentment growing everywhere is almost visible to me.I could multiply these extracts, but I will not detain the Committee longer. Who is right, the Secretary of State, sitting in London and drawing his information from those in official positions who are responsble for carrying out the administration which is here criticised and who, from the very fact of their official positions, are not in the best position to take the pulse of line rank and file among the peasants and intelligentsia of India, or the gentlemen whose opinions I have quoted? I submit that it is of very great importance that the programme which has been outlined to-day shall be carried through as quickly as possible, and that we shall know approximately, as far as the Government can possibly be expected to tell us, in what stages and at what periods they hope to carry out their programme.
We have been told that the Ordinances are to be re-imposed, with a few exceptions, but that they will be carried out sympathetically, understandingly and with discretion. We should like to know which part of the Ordinances are not to be re-imposed and which districts and provinces are to be exempt. May I mention briefly these features connected with the administration of the Ordinances, not inseparable from them, which appeared to me during my very short visit to India at the beginning of the year to be exciting the most widespread bitterness? I should hardly venture to express any opinion based on so slender a personal 1566 experience, but it has been confirmed by an overwhelming mass of testimony from those who have had much longer experience of India, and in correspondence both public and private. First, there is the policy familiarly known in Bombay as the "cat and mouse plan"; in a word, the plan of imprisoning men or women under the Ordinance that permits them to be imprisoned for a period not exceeding two months on suspicion and without trial or conviction, then, in order to evade that restriction, releasing them with an order to report daily to the police, and then almost immediately re-arresting them for disobedience to an order which they regard as insulting and sentencing them to long periods of imprisonment coupled with heavy fines.
It is not the mere inconvenience, not even the great insult of that procedure which is so bitterly resented, but the feeling that there is an unfair evasion of a restriction imposed by the Ordinance that men shall not be retained in prison for a longer period than two months without conviction. No doubt it would be very convenient in this country to shut up in prison for years together men who were suspected of being habitual criminals or of intending to commit a crime. I believe it is the case that the habitual criminals are very few in number, and I have no doubt that many of those responsible for the police administration in this country would warmly welcome a system which enabled them to get hold of those men and safely corner them in gaol without the necessity of proving or even alleging any specific offence; but public opinion here would not stand it, because it would be regarded as opposed to every principle of justice and open to the gravest abuse. Can we say that it is not so in India? I think it is not practised anywhere else than in Bombay Province. Is it really essential?
One feature of the administration of the Ordinances appears to provoke very great bitterness, which one heard of chiefly in Madras, but that, I fear, is very great in some other Provinces, is the practice by the police of beating peaceful picketers, sometimes men who are running away, and sometimes men who refuse to run away when they are engaged either on picket or in processions or meetings. There is the case in which it was acknowledged by the Government that the police had acted with unjustifi- 1567 able harshness in beating two men. That case proved what abuses are practised. Is it not practically certain, if that is proved in the case of one or two men here and there, men who have important and influential relatives who are able to get the cases fully examined, that there are probably tens if not hundreds of similar cases which never come to light? The police, when beating men who are in fear of their lives and are suffering under social boycott, sometimes may be tempted to give way to an impulse of vindictiveness and to excesses. Are they likely to do it where there are witnesses? Those who have studied the testimony which has been coming to this country from Englishmen and from responsible Indians, must acknowledge that, in comparatively mild-mannered Madras, where there has never been a terrorist movement, and where it has not even been thought necessary to impose the more oppressive of the Ordinances and only the Ordinances against picketing, there is very great bitterness brought about by the beatings practised by the police.
The third point on which I wish to speak briefly is closely associated with the last, and it is that there is a very widespread impression in India that a large part of the oppressive activity of the police, and especially the prohibition of peaceful picketing, is directed against the Swadeshi movement and Khaddar spinning, in the interests of the Lancashire cotton trade. The last speaker alluded frankly and reasonably to the real importance of our trading interests in India and said, more frankly than I think most of us would, that it was for trade that Great Britain came to India and that it is for trade that Great Britain remains in India. I do not agree, because I think there is a greater thing than trade for which we remain in India. Does not the fact that our trading interests are known to be so great and important and that there is a real clash between Lancashire's interest and the interest of the textile movement in India constitute the very reason why the Government should make every possible effort to make it clear that the Ordinances that are imposed, or the action under the Ordinances, are, for the maintenance of Law and Order and are not for the purpose of injuring the Swadeshi movement in the interests of our own trade. There 1568 can be no doubt whatever of the very widespread impression in India that the Government are not only doing nothing practical, but are definitely out against the Swadeshi and Khaddar spinning movements.
Are not these movements both innocent and lawful? Many of us may think that Mr. Ghandi attaches excessive importance to Khaddar spinning. It is one of his peculiarities, one of his foibles, which is apt to excite something like a smile, even in friendly and sympathetic circles. It is a fact that Mr. Ghandi and his followers attach enormous importance to the whole Swadeshi movement and especially to Khaddar spinning partly on the economic ground that it affords a means to the terribly impoverished peasants of adding a few weekly coppers to their small incomes and of providing a useful occupation for themselves during the hot months when the ground is too hard to till. They can clothe themselves and earn money by which to pay their rent and taxation. Even if we grant that Mr. Gandhi attaches an exaggerated importance to Khaddar spinning, what could be more harmless and valuable than that the Government should select Khaddar spinning as something by all means to be encouraged, and to take every means to guard against the suspicion, that when the police take action against picketers, they do it not because the men are engaged in picketing shops where foreign cloth or drugs are sold.
Have we not made terrible mistakes in the past by ignoring, in our stolid British way, the importance of symbols which mean a very great deal to the people of India? The most notorious incident is the case of the greased paper cartridges, that was the final thing that led to the outbreak of the Indian mutiny? When Mr. Gandhi went to the seaside to collect uneatable salt, was that not everywhere regarded as a theatrical gesture, an almost comic interlude in the Indian tragedy? Have its results been comic, and is it not a fact that that salt movement was the beginning of the Civil Disobedience movement which has given so much trouble during the last two years, and that the act did more than any one thing that Mr. Gandhi has done to strengthen his hold on the Indian public, just at a time when it seemed that the preceding years had relaxed that hold?
1569 I appeal to the Government and to the Secretary of State for India to consider whether here is not something that could be done to convince the Indian public that, even though the Government think it necessary to maintain the Ordinances, it desires to leave no stone unturned to remove the impression that the administration of the Ordinances is in any way hostile to the movement for encouraging home-made cloth and Khaddar spinning in India. Why should it not be possible even to go so far as to introduce Khaddar spinning as a subject to be taught in all primary schools? I know I shall be told that that is not a matter for the Secretary of State but for the school curriculum, that it is part of a transferred subject and is a matter for the provincial Government, but this Government can very well use its influence with the Government of India, both central and provincial, to get across any idea that it believed would facilitate its future path in India. Why cannot we take this question of home-spun cloth and Khaddar spinning as something in which we can snow a little sympathy in the handling of the Indian problem?
The last point I want to raise is the question of the consultations that have taken place in the stages of the march of our caravan in India. The right hon. Gentleman told us that when the Government had formulated its proposals, there were to be no more long and futile consultations with big committees.
§ Miss RATHBONE
He said that the next step was to submit these proposals to a consultative committee in India and to other representative sections of public opinion in India. I am speaking from memory, and I may have got his words wrong. Are those consultations with representative sections of public opinion in India to include, or are they not to include, any attempt to get at the leaders of Congress, or Mr. Gandhi himself? From the ominous silence of the Secretary of State on the subject, I conclude that they are not. What, then, is to happen? Opinion will be sounded in India, then the Joint Select Committee will meet, and then I suppose the Statute will be actually framed and will pass through Parliament and then it will come into effect in India. And what then?
§ Miss RATHBONE
I do not want to discuss the legislation itself; I was only going to ask, and I think it was part of the text of the Secretary of State's speech, what would happen if these consultations that are to take place in India did not include any kind of attempt to take the opinion of the Congress movement on those proposals. Let me read one other short extract from a letter from which I have already quoted, from Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru:I am absolutely certain that the sentiment of the people is decidedly anti-Govornment, and I have no doubt whatsoever that if Congress should decide to contest the elections they will sweep the board nearly everywhere.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I do not know, but I believe it is quite recent. Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru is not alone in that opinion. In India I constantly met men who were themselves in the Government as members of the Assembly or of Legislative Councils, and who expressed the same opinion, that the result of the first elections in India would be a tremendous victory for the Congress. Supposing that there is no attempt to gauge the opinion of Congress or of the more moderate leaders—say Mr. Gandhi himself—as to the proposals which are to be embodied in the Statute, what can we look forward to when the elections have taken place but a, repetition of the same kind of deadlock that occurred in Ireland, with this difference, that in Ireland at least the compromise on which the Treaty was based was a compromise in which nearly all the main sections of opinion in Ireland took part. If it is otherwise in India, can we look forward to a smooth working of the future Constitution in India if the body into whose hands the working of that Constitution falls has been left completely outside, if there has not been even an effort to gauge its opinion or to secure its co-operation in the final stages of constitution-building? I would ask the Secretary of State to tell us whether the Government, before that stage is reached, before the proposals of the Government are placed in detail before 1571 the Consultative Committee and afterwards before this House, cannot at least see their way, without in any way detracting from their authority or seeming to climb down before Congress, to try to build a bridge, so that the new Constitution may have a chance of being launched in an atmosphere of greater good will and greater desire to work the Constitution peacefully than would be possible if it were launched at a time when all the principal leaders of the strongest political party in India are still in gaol, and completely outside the final stages of the building of the Constitution.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Sir W. SMILES
I do not see the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Sir A. Baillie) here, but I should like to correct some of his remarks about social intercourse in India. In our clubs, in Assam at any rate, we accept and welcome, and indeed are honoured by, the membership of Indians, and in no clubs in the whole of Assam are Indians not welcomed. Some of my greatest personal friends in that Province are Indians, and I am proud to have them as such. I admit, however, that there is a certain amount of justification for what my hon. Friend said, because the town of Calcutta is known all over the world, I think, as one of the most snobbish of towns, and that sense of social superiority complex, or inferiority complex, applies not only to Indians, but to Europeans also, for it may be taken that members of some of the biggest drapery firms in Calcutta, men who would be accepted in almost any club in London, cannot, because they are connected with trade, enter some of the clubs in Calcutta. Therefore, it is not a question of Indian or European in that case, but, very often, a question of trade and commerce, which I admit is absolutely absurd. We tea planters do not recognise social distinctions of that sort.
In my opinion, the most dangerous shoal ahead of the Secretary of State is the same one in which most marriages are wrecked, namely, the question of money. I believe that many of these provinces will start their autonomous existence very short of cash. I have seen these Estimates before, and I believe that the Province of Bengal is likely to 1572 have a deficit, to start with, of 200 lakhs per annum, while Assam is likely to be minus 65 lakhs per annum. Of course this is only a question of procedure; I am not talking about legislation now; but the reason for this expected deficit in Bengal has to do with the export duty on jute. Practically the whole of the jute produced is produced in Bengal, but all the money from the jute goes to the Central Government, and I think that the Committee to which the Secretary of State has referred might take this matter in hand before they start, and see that some of these provinces start with the means of paying their way. As has been pointed out by the hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone), the first election is likely to be a very dangerous one, and, if these provinces start in a state of bankruptcy, it is certain that the Swaraj party will be returned with a big majority.
There is another reason for the big deficit of 200 lakhs per annum in Bengal, and that is the permanent settlement there. A promise was made by the British Government some 50 years ago that there should always be a permanent land settlement in Bengal, but, now that a new system of Government is being inaugurated, I hope that it will be in the power of the new Government to do away with that pernicious agreement. The British Government have always kept their promise, although they knew that it was a wrong one, and have allowed this permanent land settlement to continue. It meant that a man might be paying one rupee a year for an acre of land, for which, if he had been leasing it in the open market, he would have been paying about 200 rupees a year.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is now advocating measures which could certainly not be carried out without legislation.
§ Sir W. SMILES
I thought, as the Debate had ranged from social clubs to the murder of officers in Dublin, I might be in order if I mentioned the question of money in Bengal.
§ Sir W. SMILES
I apologise. I would also suggest that the Committee might look into the question of Income Tax before they consider undertaking any 1573 new legislation at all. Most of the tea companies in Assam are registered in Calcutta, which means that the Income Tax on profits, if any, goes to Bengal and not to Assam, although the actual work is done in that Province, and it might be a useful procedure—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think the hon. Gentleman means a useful change in legislation. It is, again, a matter that could not be done without legislation.
§ Sir W. SMILES
I was only pointing out some of the snags and quicksands before the Committee. I was not suggesting any legislation at all.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must explain to the hon. Gentleman that he must not deal with or advocate matters which could only be carried out by legislation.
§ Sir W. SMILES
The Secretary of State mentioned the question of relaxing some of the Ordinances, and one of the difficulties is likely to be where one Province touches another and the bad characters from one Province go into the other where the Ordinances may not be enforced. For instance, when Mr. Stevens, the political officer, was murdered at Chittagong, I believe some of the bad characters escaped into Assam, and there has been very great difficulty in rounding them up there.
This is a great day in view of the pronouncement that we have had from the Secretary of State. It is exactly 10 years ago since I went on to the Provincial Council, and ever since then we have expected that there would be a further extension of self-government. The rock that was ahead was this question of communal representation—what representations was going to be given to the Hindus and what to the Mohammedans. I am sure the various committees and the Secretary of State have had ample evidence, and it is now time for him to make up his mind. From what I know of the Indians, I feel certain that, even if it is left to a Committee of this House, the Secretary of State, and the Prime Minister to decide Province by Province —a very difficult matter—what representation the Mohammedans and the Hindus are to have, provided they know that the matter has been gone into fully and conscientiously and honestly, Indians will be prepared to accept the verdict.
Sir NAIRNE STEWART SANDEMAN
We have listened to-day to an extraordinarily lucid exposition of the position from the Secretary of State. He gave us a great deal of renewed confidence when he told us that the Ordinances are going to be renewed. Many of us were very much afraid of what was going to happen, because we believe these Ordinances are not such dreadful things as they are made out to be. Anyone who is law abiding and wishes to keep the peace need not be afraid of them, so why should there be any hurry to take them off when most people are quite satisfied with them? Another thing he inferred was that there were not going to be any more conferences. I am pretty sure everyone was thankful to hear that. We have had far too many conferences. We shall be very glad to see the Government taking up a line of its own and coming to decisions. What the people of India want is a firm lead, a firm Government, and a feeling of confidence.
I have never been in India, but I have had a great many relations who have been in the Civil Service and the Indian Army, and I have friends all over the place. As far as I can make out, three months, or three weeks, in India seem to equip one to talk on the subject. My feeling is that the longer the person has been in India the less does he seem ready to say what he thinks of the position and what the people there really want. We have any number of old Indian civil servants in and out of the House. We have plenty of people who have been in the Army and have served all their days in India, I very much wonder how much their advice has been sought. I fancy Rudyard Kipling knows a lot about India. I wonder if his point of view has ever been considered. A whole lot of people go to India for the first time and, to put it colloquially, I think they get their legs pulled. They may have got a word of advice from this side as to what they are wanted to say, but they listen to all the evidence and send us in these fulsome reports which people who were more prudent might be rather at a loss to know what to make of.
We talk about safeguards. I do not believe at all in safeguards unless you have something behind them. In 1922 1575 we were told that the position in Ireland was safeguarded up to the hilt. Was it? What about the Oath the other day? I am very glad I voted against the Statute of Westminster. I have no regrets about that at all. I believe, unless the people with whom you are making your bar gain know you are going to do it, a safeguard is hardly worth the paper on which it is written. We all feel very much afraid in Lancashire about these safeguards. Recently, when the duties on cotton goods were put up, we all understood that there was a power of veto by the home Government. That may have been a safeguard, but it was never exercised. A safeguard that is never exercised is no good to anyone. If we had the power to prevent these duties being put on, why did we not exercise it? A great many of us were led to believe they could exercise that power. Under the last Government deputations saw Mr. Wedgwood Benn on the subject, and he simply said he could not do it. That is one of the safeguards that were torn up. I would like to know if we are going to have this sort of safeguard or some sort that can be enforced, so that people in Lancashire may feel that they will not have extra duties imposed against them.
We come now to the other thing about which I am frightened—the communal question. The Prime Minister is about the only Macdonald I know who is forgiving enough, probably, to make friends with a Campbell. If you put a Macdonald and a Campbell into a volunteer camp, they have to be separated by Forbses and Mackinnons and all sorts of things. The only thing that could possibly unite Macdonalds and Campbells would be for someone to butt in and say they were going to have some law by which no Macdonald could fight with a Campbell again. You have exactly the same thing in Ireland between North and South. The only thing that could possibly unite them would be for the Government to say: "We are going to put you together." If you try to interfere in a fight between husband and wife, they unite to attack you. I am certain that you will get the same thing in India. It makes one wonder whether it is safe. I hope that it is safe, that we are not overrating what we can do, and that we are not being deceived into 1576 going forward with proposals which may unite the other people temporarily in order that they can all go for us and for our proposals.
I had much rather that the advice of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox) was taken. He suggested that we should not be in too great a hurry to get on with the Constitution for India. It is better to be certain of one step before you take another. It surely cannot be expected that in two or three paltry years we are going to bring out such a Constitution that it will unite the whole of India, and be right straight away. Why cannot we be satisfied with small beginnings, and be certain of one step before we take another? I wish my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State the greatest of luck in his efforts, and I do not want to say anything which would make it the least bit harder for those efforts to succeed. But I would express the view of a great many of my friends who have a feeling of disquiet that we may be hurrying things on, and trying to do too quickly something to which more time and consideration should be given.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Sir N. Stewart Sandeman) and I have one thing in common: neither of us has been to India. But if the hon. Gentleman and I discussed any of the many constitutional topics relating to India, I do not think that we should reach agreement upon a single point. The hon. Gentleman is a patriot, and a die-hard in politics. If he were in India, he would have been imprisoned long ago, and contemplating the ordinances from an entirely different point of view. The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Sir A. Baillie) and the hon. and gallant Member for North Islington (Colonel Goodman), who are not in their places at the moment, expressed very grave doubts as to the capacity of the Indians for self-government. The hon. Member for Linlithgow referred to the notoriously fissiparous tendencies of the Hindu, a very fine phrase, but if the hon. Member would travel nearer home he must know that Europe geographically is almost equal in extent to India and that the number of our people is about the same. Has the hon. Member noticed the fissiparous tendencies in Europe? How 1577 much agreement could one obtain in Europe to-day on any single topic? How extremely difficult it is to bring about European reconstruction, and how extremely simple are the problems of India compared with the problems of Europe, which hon. Members believe to be so much more advanced and highly civilised? The hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) always interests me with her sincerity and depth of feeling, and to-night I think that the Committee owe her a debt of appreciation not only for the sentiments which she expressed so well, but for her very clear grasp of the realities of the Indian situation.
It was our intention to discuss the economic side of the problem in India rather than the purely political side, but the Secretary of State for India gave us what I believe to be the most promising and satisfactory statement upon this question to which the Committee have listened for some time. While I have some questions in my mind, as had the hon. Lady, and have some doubts whether I should be allowed to put them, there are one or two questions I would put in a tentative way to the Secretary of State. I was left in some doubt as to whether the Select Committee of both Houses having been set up and in some way having been in consultation with the Department and the Government, and the single Bill having been drafted and put before the House, it is to be understood that the Bill will contain proposals for an immediate federation, or whether the federation which is adumbrated and which was hinted at in the statement this afternoon, is to be a thing to be carried through, perhaps a very long time after the passage of the Bill and the institution of responsible government in the Indian Provinces. It would be much more acceptable to the House, to the country and to India if a statement could be made upon that point.
I come to the statement of the Secretary of State in regard to what he called the "spectre of communal trouble." The Secretary of State, amiable as he is, and admired by his colleagues in the House, is a Tory, and Tories always suffer from an inherent disposition to see ghosts. They see ghosts everywhere. They live in contemplation of a ghostly past. They look towards a future which is never optimistic, but always a thing of pessimism. In this land of shadows, doubts 1578 and perplexities, the right hon. Gentleman, like other Tories, cannot rid his mind of the presence of those ethereal forms which prevent him from seeing the realities around him. The right hon. Gentleman this afternoon missed the opportunity of seeing the realities of the Indian problem because he saw, as did other hon. Members, a Gandhi having swollen to dimensions entirely out of his right proportions. I pay tribute to Mr. Gandhi for his simplicity and humanity, but I could not join the hon. Member for Linlithgow and the hon. and gallant Member for North Islington in what they attributed to him.
The right hon. Gentleman, I think, rather dwelt too much on that side of the Indian problem and too little upon the economic side of the real problem of India. India, as I see it, is a land of many separate communities—I think the figure was given as 700,000 villages— people accustomed to bad conditions of living, inured to centuries of dire poverty, a people, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) truly said, with poverty stalking them from the day of their birth until the day of their death, a people whose chances of life are very much less because of the terrible economic conditions with which they are confronted. This India, with a population, 85 per cent, of whom live on the land, accustomed to poverty, has been struck with the additional weight of the world depression and the fall in commodity prices which has brought so much poverty to other parts of the world previously in comfort as compared with India. The Indian peasant now suffers very much because of the enormous fall in commodity prices.
The Secretary of State, in a previous Debate, gave us some cheer when he referred with confidence to what appeared then to be a rise in commodity prices. I remember on that occasion the right hon. Gentleman gave some figures, but he spoke too soon and was too optimistic, because since that time prices of agricultural produce have dropped very much indeed. Take, for example, raw jute, which was 37 rupees per bale in September, 1931, and rose to 45 rupees in November, but which has since dropped to 30 rupees and is lower than it was 12 months ago. Tea was 7s. per 11 lbs. in September, 1931, and is now 5s., showing a drop of 2s., or almost exactly 30 1579 per cent. Wheat stood at 2s. 6d. per bushel in March, and is now 2s. 2d.; while linseed, which was 4 rupees 3 annas per 11 lbs., now stands at 3 rupees. This fall in prices has coincided with the fall in the value of the rupee, estimated to be 33⅓ per cent. Moreover, the figures show a considerable diminution in the value of the export trade for Bombay. The value of exports in April of this year, as compared with April last year, is down by 63 per cent., and as compared with April, 1930, by 80 per cent. That is due, in part, to smaller shipments, but it is largely due to the fall in the value of the shipments.
This economic depression in India can be traced. There are causes peculiar to India's economic life, such as wasteful methods of agriculture running back over a long period of three, or four centuries, deforestation, failure to maintain irrigation, exhaustion of the soil by want of manure—all those are explanations of the poverty of the Indian people, coupled with the fact that the population has gone up by 50,000,000 in the period of the British occupation. A previous speaker claimed either responsibility or credit for that, but there is the fact, that there has been this big increase in the population, while the means of subsistence of the people has not increased in proportion. Here is a fine opportunity. The Secretary of State would raise the esteem in which he is already held if he took advantage of this opportunity to strike a bold line of statesmanship in this matter. There are people who praise the Colonial adventure of previous centuries for which this nation has been responsible, and people who lament that the opportunities of new colonisation are not open to us. I do not think the opportunities have been lost—for colonisation possibly—but the opportunities for cultivation are improving all over the world.
Never before, with the aids which science has put into our hands, such as electricity, power of all kinds, improved sanitation, wireless, the telegraph, and all the means by which distance has been annihilated, have we been able to perform such miracles of colonisation and settlement, to which our forefathers could never attain. There is a great opportunity for the Secretary of State, the 1580 British Government and the British Raj to create respect and affection in India, and to add to the wealth-producing capacity of India in order that the people may enjoy the fruits of British colonisation and change that state of mind which leads them to believe that they are the victims of British Government. The report on labour conditions makes sad reading, and while I respect the candour and courage of its authors, I am sorry to think I belong to a nation which has failed up to the present to perform the duty of improving labour conditions in India. I am hopeful that we are not too late, and I should like to believe that the right hon. Gentleman is imbued with the spirit which should imbue the statesmen of the 20th century, for here is a great country where statesmanship must accomplish much more than it did in the last century if the world is to survive. Let the British Secretary of State and the British Parliament rise to the highest possible level, and they will find reciprocity in India. I read the following words in a letter published in the "Times" of 15th May from Sir Tagore Rabindrinath, a poet and a great man—one of the few great men of the world:We in India are ready for a fundamental change in our affairs which will bring harmony and understanding into our relationship with those who have inevitably been brought near to us. We are waiting for a gesture of good will from both sides, spontaneous and generous in its faith in humanity, which will create a future of moral federation, of constructive works or public good, of the inner harmony of peace between the peoples of India and England. … I feel called upon to appeal to all who have the welfare of humanity at heart to come forward at this critical hour and courageously take upon themselves the task of fulfilling the moral responsibility, which is before us, of building upon the bare foundations of faith, of acceptance of truth, in a spirit of generous forgiveness.There is much to forget and to atone for in our relations with India. Let us, before it is too late, make a generous advance towards India—the Indians we are keeping imprisoned, which is the soul of India, India now within the dark chambers of prison walls. Let us make an approach to India, and offer our best to her, for this day we have an opportunity of doing better for India, for ourselves and for the rest of the world. There is an chance of prosperity for Britain or a return of prosperity for Europe, or the possibility of using the 1581 scientific equipment which we have, without a considerable extension of purchasing power and consumption in all parts of the world. We have a chance of doing justice to India, of bringing contentment and satisfaction to India, and, at the same time, improving our own prospects.
§ Mr. HALES
I rise to-night to speak on this Indian question knowing that my words will be repeated in that country, and I shall be the last one to utter a word which will cause any delay in finding a satisfactory solution to these great problems. The Secretary of State in this National Government has the greatest responsibility on his shoulders that has been the lot of any statesman since Parliaments were instituted. India today is the keystone of tine British Empire as far as our commerce is concerned. To those who have never set foot in that country it may seem a matter of easy legislation to prescribe a solution which will bring about a satisfactory settlement there. I wish it were so. I shall endeavour to bring before the Committee the Indian point of view, which has been conspicuous by its absence during the whole of the Debates that have taken place. It is only by direct contact with all parts of the country and every community that one is placed in the position of seeing things in their true perspective and of originating a policy which, in the long run, will be satisfactory to all concerned.
I will go back to the Montagu-Chelmsford Report. Before that report the question of Home Rule was very much in the background. India was practically content, relying on government by Great Britain, trade prospered and we had not the great difficulties to contend with that have since confronted us. But after the introduction of the reforms and the holding out of the early possibility of self-government, the conscience of the country was awakened and each community was desirous of having a hand in the government, just as at home when the tariff was introduced, each community began to look out for their own safety and to get those safeguards which would make them secure. On the one hand the Hindus, numbering over 200,000,000, wanted a guarantee that they would not be overwhelmed by the warlike Mohammedans. The Mohammedans were aware that numerically they were only about 30 per 1582 cent. of the Hindus and that in most places they would be out-voted and would have no control of local self-government. The great untouchables of the various nationalities wanted a voice in their country and at once became coherent and demanded safeguards.
The Anglo-Indian community of about 120,000 people, scattered all over the' country, were immediately concerned for their very livelihood, for in the last few years there has been a steady cutting down of their employment in the post office, the telegraphs, and on the railways by about 10 per cent, per annum. The leader of that community made a special recommendation to the Simon Commission that they should be guaranteed their jobs for the next 50 years without interference by any Indian government. That shows the nervousness which was engendered immediately the question of Home Rule became very active. Then there came the Simon Commission which in the opinion of most people in India was the most satisfactory inquiry ever made into Indian conditions. It went out twice to India and it sent in its final Report. If that Report had been acted upon matters would have been solved very much earlier than will be the case. To the astonishment of everyone in England and India that final Report, that excellent dissection of every problem, was brushed on one side when the Round Table Conference came into existence, and the Leader of the Commission was debarred from its deliberations. There may be reasons which the man in the street does not understand why that course was adopted, but I have never heard, either in this House or elsewhere, any cogent reason why that action was taken.
The Round Table Conference was doomed from its inception for one reason only and that, was that every member of the Conference from India, every representative of each community, came armed with the irreducible minimum of the demands of his particular community. There was no margin of give and take. They were sent with the avowed object of achieving their minimum demand or of going home without anything being done. That was the result. It was my good fortune to come home last August with many of the members of the Round Table Conference, Dr. Moonje and others, and each day we had a miniature 1583 round table conference and many exciting debates. It was obvious that they were coming very largely out of curiosity and were convinced that no results would be obtained. They were coming for a holiday, and going back. Mr. Gandhi did not wish to come. He came for the simple reason that he did not wish it to be said that he had refused to take part in deliberations that might result in the solving of the great problem. He went back. They all went back. We spent thousands of pounds on a useless Conference that had better never have taken place.
I am not going merely to indulge in destructive criticism in regard to the greatest problem which we as a nation have to solve. I have suggestions to make which may or may not partially, because they will not wholly, solve the problem in front of us. This is the first time that I have spoken on India, but I may say without exaggeration that I am the best informed Member of this House on India. I say that not from any superior knowledge but from observations which I have been able to make for the last 15 years. I am practically the representative of the man in the street in India. My constituency runs from Calcutta to Peshawar and from Cape Comorin to the Himalayas. To-day, the great trading community of India are looking to me, ridiculous as it may seem, to solve these problems, because I have solved their problems there and they say that I can do it in Parliament.
To know India is to know the whole of Europe. There are 220 different languages. I well remember that in 1920 when the Indian National Congress was sitting in Calcutta and members got up to speak in their own vernacular there were shouts from that great assembly of 10,000 people: "Speak English." It was the English language that they all understood. That will show you the difficulty of getting a Parliament of all classes of Indians. You would have a modern Tower of Babel.
Some remarks have been made in regard to the cruelty and brutality of the British towards Indians. I may possibly be credited with being an average intelligent human being, and I have gone out of my way as far as possible, as a European, to enter into the mentality of the Indian. What is more, there are 1584 many Englishmen who have been in India for many years who do not yet understand India. [Interruption.] I have travelled with them in the lower classes on the railways, on journeys occupying four days and nights, sleeping in the trains and eating with them, and you can form a better opinion and a more correct idea of a nation if you live with them than by merely living in the European quarters. I have crossed that invisible line between the European and the Indians which enables me to speak here to-night with a definite understanding; to which I ask the attention of hon. Members. [Interruption.] Many a time in England have I been asked the question: what sort of a man is Mr. Gandhi? I am going to tell you. I have spoken on the same platform as Mr. Gandhi, I have visited him in this House, and I have been taught to spin on his Khaddar by his son because I wanted to know everything there was to be known about his mentality and what he really wanted. Mr. Gandhi is one of the cleverest lawyers; as clever as any lawyer in this House. He is also a very shrewd and capable bargainer in trade. He is an idealist, a believer in something which can never take place.
In 1923 you may remember that there was a great crusade to boycott British goods. There was a burning of British cloth. I went to see what they were doing, to view the proceedings. They provided me with a seat on the platform and placed a topee under my chair, and I was astonished that they also burned my topee as being a foreign article made in Calcutta. [Interruption.] I have waited for this opportunity for nine months, and I am exceeding my time limit of a quarter of an hour because I want you to listen to what I have to say. This is not a joke. You are dealing with the greatest problem which this generation has to solve. You are dealing with a nation. The last Viceroy, Lord Irwin, who was recognised throughout the world for his leniency, incarcerated more Indians than any Viceroy before him. He was forced to do it. We have been told that Great Britain has never done anything for India. The great Lloyd barrage which has been built in Sind has brought thousands and thousands of acres into cultivation, and you will there see some of the beneficent work which Great Britain has done in 1585 India. Famine a few years ago was a frequent occurrence, but it is now unknown. They have never known a whisper of such a catastrophe during later years, and India has to thank Great Britain for what she has done in regard to irrigation and for making the land fit to live in.
What are the troubles in India to-day? [Interruption.] What is the Indian complaint? I will tell you. [Interruption.] In the first place, they hold up to-ridicule the expenditure on military works, which is about 53 per cent, of the taxation. You may point out to them that it is necessitated by the unrest in the country but nevertheless they say, what is the need for it all, for no outside country can come near us with the British Fleet on the waters. Mr. Gandhi also says that he would prefer to go into chaos and be their own masters rather than have a paradise under an alien government. In regard also to the communal question, he says that he would rather see one or other of the communities extinguished, massacred, than have any outside settlement of the question. That brings me to the communal question. [Interruption.] Three months ago I warned the Prime Minister that any settlement of the communal question by Great Britain would be the greatest mistake this country has ever made. For ever and ever this communal trouble will exist, like a volcano which may burst up at any moment after being quiescent for hundreds of years. The religious question in India makes any settlement from outside utterly impossible.
I ask the Secretary of State: Has he a mandate from either or both those communities to effect a settlement? I say "No." It cannot be settled from outside. Let India first of all settle the communal question, as near as they can, or let them send a requisition to this country that it shall be settled or for ever afterwards you will be confronted with the fact that the massacres which may take place will be set at your door, and you will not be able to evade responsibility for what you have done. You may say that you have done it all for the best, but beware what I say: Keep your fingers off the communal question and do not interfere. I am speaking feelingly because I know what is going to happen. 1586 I arrived in Bombay on the 2nd January last year. [Interruption.] What did I find? I found the city almost in revolution, the military, the; police in the streets, tramcars stopped, bricks being thrown, every European store picketed and the whole place in chaos. There is not a Member of this House but what thinks that he can put the whole world right if he had the chance. [Interruption.] I felt that sort of impulse myself. [Interruption.] The laughter of hon. Members is all very nice, but there is a serious aspect of this question to which I am going to draw attention. I saw that unless someone dealt with the problem I would not like to say what would be the conditions in India a few months hence. I wrote to Mr. Gandhi and I will read you one paragraph from the letter:The condition of the country goes from bad to worse. Bombay, in particular, is distressing. Dealers, in their wish to carry out your wishes do so at the cost of their life savings, and they watch the destruction of their businesses, built up after years of hard work, with resignation to poverty in the future.Let me say frankly that the boycott has been the greatest weapon that India could ever have used against this country. It has paralysed trade; it has brought disaster to great trading communities there. But it is a boomerang or a sword with two edges. It has ruined the Indian dealer who has been trying to carry out the behest of Congress. I pointed this out to Mr. Gandhi and he replied:Dear Friend.—Thank you for your kind letter. In reply I can only say that I am straining every nerve to attain an honourable peace.I went further. I wrote in one of the leading Congress diaries these words on 2nd January:On 1st March, 1931, boycott will be finished with, and all well.On 3rd March that was done. I am not going to say that I saved the British Empire, but I do say that the condition of things in West India frightened me, and I am not easily frightened. Now we come to the question of what is my suggestion for a cure. The Secretary of State said that he did not believe in committees. That was the finest word he said. This Indian business cannot be settled in England. It can be settled only in India, and only by the personal touch of someone there who understands India and can interview the men who are 1587 in gaol. We cannot make a settlement of this problem with all the leaders in prison. I am not going to advocate the wholesale freeing of these men, but I do say that there should be some means of communicating with those in gaol, and that we should ask them to give an undertaking to cease civil disobedience and to co-operate with this country in giving them the home rule which we all desire. That personal touch will do more than all the committees that ever existed. I shall not shrink from doing what I can when I get to India at the end of next month in bringing about that consummation. I do not believe that a solitary individual can alter a nation, but I have the confidence of Indian leaders. I say to the Secretary of State: Do not attempt to force this communal question. Such an attempt would be fraught with disaster. It can achieve no object. Let the Indians, at any rate outwardly, deal with this burning question themselves. Let them send a mandate to us to take the necessary action. That will relieve Us of the responsibility of saying that we forced the solution upon them. Let us them make India what we always say it is, the brightest jewel in the British Crown.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The Debate which was opened by the Secretary of State has covered a very wide range of subjects connected with India. At this hour I do not want to do more than try to restate in as clear language as possible the view of my hon. Friends regarding the situation as we understand it. I apologise to the Committee and to the Secretary of State because I was quite inadvertently prevented from being present during the major part of his speech. But my colleagues have been good enough to give me a fairly clear record of the statement that he made. While one can join with the rest of the Committee in expressing appreciation of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman did what he always does, make his case ably and clearly, that does not at all remove the fact that to some of his statements at least we are at present unable to give our assent. As I understand it, the day of the Round Table Conference method is over. I understand that the Select Committee which is to be set up will be a committee of Members of this House and the other 1588 House, and to that committee certain specially selected Indians may come. I take it that other Indians, if they express a desire, may also come and put before the Select Committee their views on the proposals which the Government may set out.
In regard to that, I would like to make it quite clear that in our judgment that is a departure from the method that was inaugurated by the Labour Government, with the approval of the Conservative Opposition. We started on this business of framing a Constitution on the assumption that representative Indians, that is to say, Indians representative of the Indian States and of all parties in British India, should be heard, and should to the end assist in framing the Constitution. We understood also, from the statements made both by Lord Irwin in India on behalf of the Government, and by the Prime Minister, that the three pillars of a new Constitution were to be an All-India Federation, responsibility at the centre, with transitional safeguard. I think it was generally agreed that there was no question of starting India along the road towards responsibility at the centre. The idea was that responsibility at the centre was to be established first, and that what followed would be fuller self-government in the provincial centres. About that I think the Secretary of State cannot have any dispute. If at this time of day we attempt to establish the new form of Government, an extension of democratic government in the Provinces, without responsibility at the centre, we are bound to fail.
On that matter I should be perfectly willing as a mere Englishman to abide by the decision of those who represent India but, as I see it, the Indians are now, as it were, to be kept out. The right hon. Gentleman may tell me that there is a sort of Consultative Committee in India which is going to be consulted by the Government right up to the end and also that certain committees of Englishmen have gone out to investigate certain details, but that does not affect the basic principle of responsibility at the centre. The fact is that we started with the idea that representative Indians would be consulted all the way through. As I understand it, the Government have no representative of the Princes on that Consultative Committee. I am open to correction on that 1589 point, but that is my information, and if that be the case there is not even cooperative discussion on these matters at present. According to the right hon. Gentleman's statement apparently there is going to be no opportunity for that consultation in the future. We think that the right hon. Gentleman has departed entirely from the original arrangement which was suggested when the Round Table Conference was established.
There is another thing which we on these benches wish to make clear to the Committee and the Government. We have been told to-night by certain hon. Gentleman that, on our consciences, we ought to say what we really mean on this subject. I think that is right, and it is rather a relief to have heard from certain hon. and gallant Gentlemen their real views about Indian self-government and what they mean by responsible government in India. They do not mean what we mean, and they do not mean what we understood the present Prime Minister to mean. They mean that in some dim distant future, if the Indians behave themselves they may have self-government at the centre. We have placed on record our view and have fought during elections, on this principle, that the people of India have a right not only to self-government but to self-determination. That is to say they have an absolute right to remain in the British Commonwealth of Nations or to go out of it. I understand that that is the rock on which negotiations with Mr. Gandhi have broken down. I think the right hon. Gentleman knows full well that such is the case and those who know Mr. Gandhi know it. In this matter of admitting the right of a Dominion to go out of the British Commonwealth, if it so desires, is the real strength of our position for keeping them in the Commonwealth. Their position should rest on the exercise of their own free will. I want to make that point clear. When the Government's proposals for legislation come before the House of Commons or the joint committee we shall judge those proposals from that standpoint, and they will be found satisfactory or unsatisfactory, according as they square or fail to square with the principle which I am trying to lay down.
On the question of the Ordinances I have been very severely criticised for say- 1590 ing what I now repeat, that a Government has no option but to maintain law and order. About that there can be no question. Whether a Government is Communist, Socialist, Liberal, Labour or Tory it is obliged to do that, but having said so I want to add that if a Government is unable to maintain its position except by the use of powers such as have been described by hon. Members not on this side but on the other side of the Committee—if we can only maintain our position by the exercise of the sort of coercion which is being exercised in India, then of course we have no right there and we have no right to consider that we ought to remain as the rulers of that country. The present Leader of the House speaking from this side during a previous Debate on India said, very truly, that it was impossible to govern a country without the consent of the governed. Under the Labour Government; and previously, as well as under this Government, we had a long period of coercive measures, and the necessity for these has arisen solely because the Indian people do not believe that we intend to carry out our pledges and our promises.
Things are getting worse in that respect. One of the most serious sym-toms in India to-day is the fact that not only young men but young women, cultured young women, have adopted violent methods. I think that is a dreadful sign in regard to the administration of affairs in India. I do not think that any educated young woman in England, except under a burning sense of grievance, of national grievance, impersonal grievance, would ever dream of carrying through some of the terrible things that are now being done in India. I think just the same of the women in India. The right hon. Gentleman calmly tells us that this is a fight to the end, that one side has to win, that one side will have to give in to the other. I want to appeal to him and to the Committee. I want to ask whether the Committee will not say to the Secretary of State that we want him to rise above the spirit of mere conquest in this matter. If the right hon. Gentleman still says what he said previously, he does not deny that, according to their lights, Mr. Gandhi and Mr. Nehru are doing what any patriotic Englishman would do in. similar circumstances. They are fighting for what they conceive to be the best interests of their country and in doing 1591 so, they have come athwart one of the mightiest Empires the world has ever known.
None of us denies that you can probably beat the Congress. None of us denies that in all probability you can hold down tens of thousands of these people, but I ask the Committee, is it worth while? Should we not make one more effort? I understand it is said that, if Mr. Gandhi has anything to say he can say it, but why should not we have something to say? Why should not we, the stronger Power, go to Mr. Gandhi once more? [HON. MEMBERS: "No! "] The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), to whom I intend to allow a little time, the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), and the late Lord Birkenhead, to their eternal credit, called the Irishmen over here to this country in a worse condition of things than now, and without, I think, giving away anything they negotiated peace. There are 300,000,000 people in India, and you are holding in gaol, everyone knows, the best and the brightest of them. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I simply stick to my statement, but there are other people besides me who think that the right hon. Gentleman should take some step at least to try to bring about a different state of affairs. A letter has been seat to the Press signed by the present Archbishop of York, by Gilbert Murray, by the Master of Balliol, and by one other. It may very well be said that these people count for nothing, but I am quite sure that if they were supporting the right hon. Gentleman's policy they would count for a very great deal. I am sure that they are voicing the moral sense not only of this country but of the world.
In any case, I am standing at this Box asking that even to-day the right hon. Gentleman should either himself go out to India and negotiate once more with Mr. Gandhi on this matter, or should go out and once more try to find a solution. In any case, a solution some day has got to be found, and you will not be able to settle this without the Congress. You will not be able to settle India without the good will of the Indian people. I would remind the Committee that exactly the same sort of thing has happened, not once but many times, in the history of our relationship with Ireland, and always the ordinary people whom you tried to 1592 coerce have won in the fight. It has been said to-night that Great Britain has handed out democratic government to those countries that she has founded across the seas. We have not done it yet to the original inhabitants of any country, but we have the opportunity now, if we have the will, to do it for these great peoples in India.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I wish to intervene for a few moments, but I must leave time for the Secretary of State to clear up any points that may have been brought out in the Debate. I left my home this morning with some feelings of apprehension when I heard that a statement was to be made by the Secretary of State on a very important matter. I felt some anxiety, but I am bound to say that on the whole I feel very considerably reassured by the statement which he has made to us to-day. We know what his difficulties are, some of them left by his predecessors, but the bulk of them arising out of the incubus of the constitutional process which he has to carry out in India. He gave us an account, an encouraging account upon the whole, of the situation. He said that firm government and the assertion of law and order had succeeded in nearly every Province in India. Very good. He had stopped the no-rent campaign, and in practically every Province civil disobedience had broken down.
But my right hon. Friend then had to proceed to tell us the other side of the story. He had to go forward with his constitutional programme, and it is this constitutional programme which is adding to his difficulties, which is creating the very discontent and the very unrest which strong measures are required to allay. The constitutional programme marches forward. We have the Lothian Export. I do not know how many Members of the Committee have read that report or studied it with attention. It would not be proper to go into it in detail, but what can be a greater embarrassment to the administration in India than the bringing out of this report at this juncture? Look at the contradiction in terms presented by the policy of His Majesty's Government. There is the re-enactment of the Ordinances, which are extreme coercive measures of restraint, and at the same time there is flung out to all parts of India a report which says that 36,000,000 1593 people are to be enfranchised, and that they will be the foundation of the responsible authority which is to decide the future destinies of India. Imagine these two events, the one contrasted with the other. There are 31,000 people in prison in India at the present time. I do not suppose that half of them would have been there if law and order had been maintained by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor. They include all the active politicians. There is a great deal of logic in what, the Leader of the Opposition said, although I was sorry that in some of his speech he appeared to apologise for the murder of British officials by young girls.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The right hon. Gentleman has no right to say that. I sent a telegram to India of my own volition directly that happened, and I have done my best to say that murder and assassination are an abomination and will injure any cause for which they are used to forward. I am against not only that kind of murder, but all murder, whether it be war or anything else.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I know that in the moral aspect no one is better than the right hon. Gentleman, and no one can make any complaint against him. I have not the slightest doubt that he is revolted by such crimes, but there were many sentences in what he said which seemed to explain the actions of these high-spirited people. I know that this interpretation will be put upon them in other quarters. I was saying that he was quite right when he said that most of the active politicians were already in prison. The right hon. Gentleman is keeping order with one hand and with the other is preparing the way for these gentlemen to come out of prison, and to go from prison into Parliament. That is a contradiction in terms, an extraordinarily difficult policy which he is carrying out. Immense unrest is caused throughout India by the publication of a report like the Lothian Report. There are 450,000 villages in India, and only 11,000 odd have been able to evolve the simple organisation of a village council. Therefore, we cannot proceed on that line. Yet it is out of these people, who are not able to provide this simple homely organism in their villages, these primitive, illiterate and ignorant people—it is not their fault— that we are to try to lay the foundation 1594 of and erect, not indeed provincial government, but a united states of India— a vast structure of 40 or 50 nations, woven together, the size of Europe and practically the population of Europe. You are to try to build the kind of organisation which Europe struggles after, and will for generations struggle after in vain, upon these humble primitives who are unable in 450,000 villages even to produce the simple organisation of four or five people sitting in a hut in order to discuss their common affairs.
We cannot wonder that the country is disturbed. There is the right hon. Gentleman having to proceed with his task of keeping order on the one hand and at the same time encouraging the very subversives he has in gaol—not through his fault—by promising them that on a day which will not be distant 36,000,000 of electors are going to return the Congress party to Parliament. I cannot elaborate the arguments now, and I am sorry that I cannot, because I think this is worthy of the attention of the House —these people voting with their coloured tickets in coloured boxes, because they cannot read or write, and with every movement discerned by the eye of the only caucus in India, the machine of the Congress. All this fills the villages with apprehension.
I wish I had time to point out how many people have meddled in this Indian affair and given our interests a push downhill and then have faded out of the picture. There was Lord Reading, who made his speech at the landslide conference. He said that never would he agree to give them responsible government at the centre unless there was agreement between Hindus and Mohammedans. Where is that to-day? [Interruption.] There was Lord Shetland, who played a great part and who had great ideas about these village councils and so on. It is all swept away. All that has gone. We are now down to this Lothian Report, and that is nothing but the cheapest, chop-logic, crude, raw, semi-obsolete, half-distrusted principles of mid-Victorian Radicalism, dished up to serve the ends of India. At a time when all over the world, from China to Peru as they say, or from Japan to Chile, revolution and disorders are taking place, when three-quarters of the peoples of Europe are under dictatorships, these wretched people whom the right hon. 1595 Gentleman has administered and kept in order are to be disturbed by being told they are all to be plunged, into an election where 36,000,000 illiterates will vote by coloured cards, and where the Indian Congress will see that they vote in the right direction. I do not wonder at the difficulties of my right hon. Friend.
I am sorry that I cannot develop the subject. [HON. MEMBERS: "GO on!"] No, I must give the right hon. Gentleman time to reply, for he has great responsibilities, but I must just say this upon the question of procedure. The Prime Minister has decided to give the communal decision. I think it is terribly risky. In trying to please all parties he may easily please none. There is the Roman motto "Divide and rule." We have unanimously decided that that is an improper motto for us to follow, but do not let us fall into the opposite system— combine and abdicate. That, indeed, would be a great danger and a very great error into which we might very easily fall. Still, I must admit that the supreme responsibility rests upon the executive Government to pronounce in these matters finally, and therefore I am not in marked opposition to, indeed I am in considerable agreement with, my right hon. Friend and with the Government in the procedure which they have marked out. This procedure seems to me in the main to be a return to the old Birkenhead proposals, that there should be inquiries by the Government, by a statutory commission or in any way they like, consultations with all sorts and all kind of opinion, that at the end of those inquiries there should be a decision by the Government on the heads of their proposals and that, after that decision, those proposals should go to a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament. I think that constitutes a very remarkable change—I will not say "change," but a very remarkable development—in the progress of the Government. This Joint Commission of both Houses is one of the stages which was originally prescribed when the late Lord Birkenhead commenced, with the assent of all parties, his Indian policy. I hope that the Government will presume that a Joint Committee of both Houses will be fairly chosen, and that both sides will have their point of view expressed. There 1596 will be representatives of both sides in this case. The sides are united, and there are only those who differ from the Round Table policy and happen to be people who have either lived their lives in India or who know a great deal about it. I hope that all the points of view will be represented, and that the Committee will not simply be made up of the tame supporters of the Government and of would-be Ministers. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) has thrown many insults at me, and he has no right to say that I desire to be a Minister in the present Government.
I think that this Joint Commission constitutes a very great advance in the treatment of the subject. Not only does it secure the full power and the full control of Parliament, but, in addition, it removes this question from the hateful area of a negotiated treaty like the Irish Treaty, which the Round Table Conference put it into, and brings it back on to the broad platform that Parliament is responsible for the well-being of India, that nothing that Parliament has said can remove from it the responsibility for the good government and progress of India, and that we must, after all consideration has been exhausted, take our own decision and extend to the people of India such further devolutions of power from this House as we think are proper. I am grateful to the House for their great kindness, and to the right hon. Gentleman for allowing me this interlude. I am bound to say that, grievous as are the problems that confront us in regard to India, I believe that he has simplified them by the statement that he has made this afternoon.
§ Sir S. HOARE
We have had a very interesting Debate if for nothing else than for the speech to which we listened a few moments ago from the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Mr. Hales). He said he had been waiting to speak about India for a period of nine months—a very suitable period of gestation. He said that he knows the difficulties of the Indian problem. He said that he is going back to India and that he knows someone who will end all these troubles from which we have been suffering so much. I think we shall have no difficulty in recognising whom he means. I am grateful to the hon. Member and I shall have to consult him as to the next step.
1597 I have been asked by the Leader of the Opposition a number of questions. My answer bears definitely upon what has just been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). I hardly recognised myself this evening when my right hon. Friend, I will not say showered upon me so much praise, but, at any rate, vouchsafed to me a little praise for having apparently drifted nearer to the way of proper progress. The trouble as between my right hon. Friend and myself is this: I am very glad to have his praise, but I always feel that there is this difference between him and me, and I cannot too often define it to the House. My right hon. Friend believes in only one side of the Government's policy; I believe in both sides of that policy. It is clear to me to-night that my right hon. Friend would have been much happier if I had restricted my speech to the first part of it, namely, the part about the Ordinances, and if I had said nothing about the subsequent procedure of further constitutional progress. Where my right hon. Friend and I differ is in this, that I believe that these two sides of the policy are inextricably interconnected, and that it would be much more difficult, and not less difficult, as he has just suggested to the Committee, if we were only proceeding with the one. It is on the whole much better and easier in every way, when we are proceeding on this double front. As I have said, I regard these two sides of the policy as inextricably interconnected—on the one hand, the rigid maintenance of law and order, and. on the other hand, the steps towards constitutional progress upon the lines that we have described to the House.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition seemed to think that we had brought to an end the day of the Round Table Conference method. I do not blame him for his criticism. Obviously it is very difficult to realise the implications of a somewhat complicated programme when you hear it for the first time during an. afternoon's Debate. I would say to him that I would have been only too glad if I could have let him have a copy of the statement before this afternoon, but, unfortunately, communications were still passing between the Government of India and myself, and it was, therefore, impossible to let him have the statement of the programme in advance. I would, however, ask him not to form a 1598 final judgment upon it this evening. I can assure him that there is nothing further from our minds than to bring to an end this chapter of Indian co-operation. Our difficulties have been essentially practical difficulties. There is no ulterior motive in our minds. We have no desire to sidetrack the expression of Indian opinion at all. Our problem was to find some effective means that would enable us to proceed without unnecessary delay. I cannot help thinking that, when the right hon. Gentleman goes further into the details of the scheme that I outlined this afternoon, he will find that it is designed solely and expressly for the purpose of avoiding delay.
If we had embarked on another ceremonial meeting of the Round Table Conference, if we had embarked on another meeting of the Federal Structure Committee—a committee which I would remind the right hon. Gentleman, consists of from 40 to 50 members, and whose personnel anyhow would have had to be changed this year owing to the fact that it was essentially a Parliamentary representation so far as the British representation was concerned, and, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, his colleagues who were on the committee last year are no longer Members of the House—if he takes those facts into account, I think he must be driven to the conclusion that to have embarked once again on big meetings such as these would have put off the introduction of any constitutional measures, certainly for a year, possibly for even longer, and possibly for an indefinite time. I, therefore, hope that, when he goes further into the question, he will find that we are not putting obstacles in the way of a settlement, but are rather expediting a settlement, and I hope we shall find that Indian cooperation, the spirit remaining just the same although the methods are somewhat changed, will greatly help us in this last stage of our deliberations.
One of his hon. Friends on that bench made a very interesting speech and asked me the specific question whether this change in method meant any change in policy. I can tell him categorically that it means no change of policy at all. We shall proceed with the preparation of the Government proposals, which will be directed to the objective of a single Bill, and it is those proposals which the Joint Select Committee will be asked to con- 1599 sider. The Joint Select Committee will be set up upon a Resolution of both Houses. There will be a Resolution of both Houses, with the terms of reference as part of those Resolutions, and the names of the Members are by habitual practice included in the Resolution. I can, therefore, reassure my right hon. Friend and the other Members who have asked me questions on this subject, that they will have ample opportunity of judging whether the terms of reference are satisfactory and whether the representation on the Committee is truly representative of the main bodies of opinion in both. Houses. It is quite definitely the intention of the Government that this Committee should in spirit and in detail adequately represent the main bodies of opinion in both Houses.
The Leader of the Opposition raised a further point in connection with procedure. He suggested that our methods might exclude the representatives of the Indian States from further consultation. That will not be the case. Indeed, the methods I have described to-day are actually the methods that the representatives of the Princes particularly desired. We will certainly see that there is ample opportunity for the representatives of the Indian States to express their opinions at all these later stages of our deliberations.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
As I understand it, at present they are not represented on the Consultative Committee in India. I was wondering how they are going to be brought into consultation before you permit your proposals ever to be put before the Select Committee.
§ Sir S. HOARE
Their view at present is that they would prefer to start conversations at once with the Viceroy in India. Those conversations will start and we will see how they progress. It may well be possible, at the end of those consultations, that they may wish to send a delegation over to consult with us in London. In any case, we are going to keep in the closest touch with them with a view to bringing this all important-issue, which is essential to the whole scheme of federation, to a settlement at the earliest possible date.
I now come to one or two other very important questions which have been 1600 raised. I take, first of all, the very important question raised in the most interesting and helpful speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne). He raised the question of the offer held out by the Indian National Congress at Karachi to the people in Burma, that they might remain a part of India and retain the right to separate whenever they wished. It is the case that there is in Burma a party which advocates entry into the projected Indian Federation, in the belief, as I understand it, that, as the Congress resolution holds out, Burma would be able, at some later date, when it seems to her more convenient, to withdraw from the Indian Federation on her own terms. This view of the situation was indeed more or less openly expressed by such of the delegates at the Burma Conference as represented the Anti-Separationist Party. The Committee will remember that in the course of his statement at the close of the Burma Conference the Prime Minister remarked, and here I quote his words,If an Indian Federation is established, it cannot be on the basis that its members can leave it as and when they choose.It may be that the significance of the Prime Minister's remark has not been fully appreciated in Burma and in India, and I may perhaps usefully take this opportunity to say clearly that His Majesty's Government could certainly not contemplate the grant of the right of secession to Burma on entering an Indian Federation. Apart from the fact that the admission of any such right would be a negation of the whole idea of Federation, secession would be objectionable on account of its effects on such important and delicately adjusted matters as the distribution of representation in the Indian polity and the size of the Federal Legislature. Moreover, secession by Burma after an interval would reopen at that stage the whole question of the constitution of that country, the settlement of which would still remain a matter for determination by His Majesty's Government, and this is a contingency that His Majesty's Government are not prepared to contemplate. Burma will therefore be required, at the forthcoming election, to take her choice between two alternatives: either she can decide to separate from India 1601 and to pursue her own political destiny apart from India, on the basis of a constitution as set forth by the Prime Minister in his announcement at the close of the Burma Conference; or she can elect to enter the Indian Federation, in which case she will remain a province of India, will be treated in exactly the same way as any other province, and will not have secured to her by the Federal Constitution the right of withdrawing at will from the Federation.
I now pass to a series of questions which were raised on the Front Opposition Bench with reference to industrial conditions in India. I do not think that any Member of the Committee should resent the raising of such questions in the Debates of this Committee. I agree with the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks), who was the first to raise this question, that we often pay too much attention to political issues in India and not half enough attention to industrial and social questions. At this late hour of the evening I will not go into any detailed discussion with him about the many interesting questions which he raised. I will only say that I think— and I think that when he reads his speech to-morrow he will agree with me—he made a rather one-sided presentation of the British case in India. He pointed out to us the many regrettable features in the industrial situation in India, and he seemed to me rather to leave the impression on the Committee that that was all that the British Raj had to show in India and that we were chiefly to blame for those conditions. I do not agree with the hon. Member.
If I had the time, I could at some length tell him of the great benefits which we have conferred upon India in many fields of social activity, particularly in the field of health. What I will say to-night is that we are very much alive to the need for raising the industrial standards of India. Indeed, it was for that express purpose that Mr. Whitley made has very valuable inquiry into labour conditions in India in recent years. I am expecting a progress report as to what has happened since the issue of the Commission's report in the early autumn, and, if the hon. Member will allow me, I will communicate with him, and we can then discuss the question further. There is one other side of the problem that he 1602 very rightly raised, and that was the very serious question of the burden of private debts upon the workers and, indeed, upon everyone in India. There, again, I am in communication with the Viceroy on the subject. I will not disguise from the Committee the fact that it is a very thorny and complicated question, but I agree with him generally that the burden of private debt in India is now almost intolerable.
Now I come to a question that has very often been raised in this House before by hon. Members below the Gangway—the question of the Meerut conspiracy charge. The hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), who once again raised this question, seemed to think that we were denying the prisoners the right of trial. That is certainly not the case. Not only have we not been denying the right of trial, but the trial, owing to most regrettable delays, has been going on for years. I know that hon. Members below the Gangway think that we have been putting obstacles in the way of bringing the trial to an end, but I can assure them once again that that is the exact opposite of the truth. I have been doing everything in my power to bring the trial to a speedy end, and I was glad to be able to announce in the House this afternoon that the main procedure of the trial is now ending, and the judge expects to give his verdict towards the end of the summer. Hon. Members, I know, will go on thinking that we have been holding up the trial unless I can give them very definite evidence to the contrary. I will try to give that evidence this evening. I have here a copy of a letter that was written by one of the prisoners on trial to his father. This letter came into my hands in the ordinary course. Letters of prisoners, as every hon. Member knows, pass through a scrutiny, and it is by that means that this letter has come into my hands. Let me read one or two extracts from it:From the very beginning four or five of us, myself included, tried to convince others that by no means we should be the cause of the prolongation of this case…. Still the fact remains that Defence—that is, the defence of the prisoners—is also responsible for about a year, by making some useless cross examination and long statements, and it was not before the Statements were over, could those who are in jail realise the futility of prolonging our incarceration in jail for some baseless and imaginary hopes of amnesty, and after that 1603 we, in a body, with the Communists, could act accordingly. But then, still the problem remains that the interest of those who are on bail cannot be identical with that of ours. They are afraid of conviction and so want to remain out as long as possible. I must say that the present delay in finishing the arguments is being manipulated by them.I cannot give hon. Members any better or more specific evidence.
§ Sir S. HOARE
No. I will show the letter in confidence to the hon. Members below the Gangway. Obviously, one does not want to give the name, because it might be used against him. During the Debate there were a number of specific cases brought to my attention. I cannot go into them at five minutes to Eleven, but I can assure the hon. Members who raised them that I will look into them and if it seems that there is a bona-fide case for further inquiries I will make further inquiries into them. I was not altogether convinced by the evidence given this afternoon in connection with some of the cases but I will undertake to look into them.
Lastly, there was the appeal made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition for a move towards reconciliation. I have shut no door in anybody's face. In my last speech I made
§ it quite clear on behalf of the Government that we were ready to co-operate with anyone who was ready to co-operate with us, but not on any account are we going to enter into negotiations with people whose objective is still to smash the foundations of ordered Government. The door is open and it will remain open for those who wish to co-operate, but, as I have said, we can on no account begin bargaining and negotiating with people who still show no signs of wishing to cooperate with us. I gave the Committee this afternoon a number of instances that go to show that the motive forces behind the Congress are still arrayed against ordered Government in India. So long as that condition remains we cannot contemplate peace with them. Let them lay aside civil disobedience. Let them make it clear that they are prepared to cooperate with us upon the lines of the White Paper and we shall not be slow to co-operate with them. Until they definitely abandon the attempt to smash the machine of Government and to set themselves up as a rival organisation to the accredited Government of India, there can be no question of negotiations of any kind.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £81,010, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 28; Noes, 242.1605
|Division No. 259.]||AYES.||[10.59 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Hicks, Ernest George||Maxton, James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Milner, Major James|
|Batey, Joseph||Kirkwood, David||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Logan, David Gilbert||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Lunn, William||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. David|
|Daggar, George||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Edwards, Charles||McEntee, Valentine L.||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||McGovern, John|
|Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. John and Mr. Groves.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Chalmers, John Rutherford|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Bird, Sir Robert B. (Wolverh'pton W.)||Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Bossom, A. C.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer|
|Albery, Irving James||Boulton, W. W.||Clarry, Reginald George|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Clayton, Dr. George C.|
|Apsley, Lord||Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Colfox, Major William Philip|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Colville, John|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Brown, Brig.-Gen, H.C.(Berks., Newb'y)||Conant, R. J. E.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Buchan, John||Cook, Thomas A.|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Copeland, Ida|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Burnett, John George||Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Butler, Richard Austen||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Crossley, A. C.|
|Bernays, Robert||Carver, Major William H.||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Denville, Alfred||Kirkpatrick, William M.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.|
|Donner, P. W.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Leckie, J. A.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo|
|Dunglass, Lord||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Salmon, Major Isidore|
|Eastwood, John Francis||Leighton. Major B. E. P.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Levy, Thomas||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Llewellin, Major John J.||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Selley, Harry R.|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Mabane, William||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||McCorquodale, M. S.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||McKeag, William||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||McKie, John Hamilton||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||McLean, Major Alan||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Magnay, Thomas||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-In-F.)|
|Fremantle, Sir Francis||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Fuller, Captain A. G.||Manningham-Buller, Lt-Col. Sir M.||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Millar, Sir James Duncan||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Greene, William p. C.||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Milne, Charles||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fyide)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Milne, Sir John S. Wardlaw.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Molson, A. Hugh Eisdale||Stevenson, James|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B, Eyres||Stones, James|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Moreing, Adrian C.||Storey, Samuel|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Hales, Harold K.||Moss, Captain H. J.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Hamilton, Sir R.W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Munro, Patrick||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Hartland, George A.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||North, Captain Edward T.||Templeton, William P.|
|Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Nunn, William||Thomas, James p. L. (Hereford)|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Thompson, Luke|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Palmer, Francis Noel||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Henderson, sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Patrick, Colin M.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Peake, Captain Osbert||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Pearson, William G.||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Holdsworth, Herbert||Petherick, M.||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Hornby, Frank||Peto, Geoffrey K. (Wverh'pt'n, Bilst'n)||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Horobin, Ian M.||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Pike, Cecil F.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Howard, Tom Forrest||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Ralkes, Henry V. A. M.||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Ramsden, E.||White, Hanry Graham|
|Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Rankin, Robert||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Bring)||Ray, Sir William||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Hunter-Weston. Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Rea, Walter Russell||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham.-||Womersley, Walter James|
|James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Reid, David D, (County Down)||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Janner, Barnett||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Remer, John R,|
|Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Robinson, John Roland||Major George Davies and Mr. Blindell|
|Ker, J. Campbell||Rosbotham, S. T.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, and objection being taken to further Proceeding, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.