§ 3.36 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT
I beg to move,That this House, whilst keeping in view the ultimate ideal of a federal government of all India, is convinced that, in face of existing financial conditions and the inadequacy of the proposed safeguards as outlined in the last Report of the recent Round Table Conference, the transference of responsibility at the centre is inexpedient at the present time; it urges therefore that the first step should be the extension of self-government to the provinces and approves the Report of the Statutory Commission, subject to the temporary reservation of the administration of justice and public security; and this House further affirms its belief that, until self-government has proved effective in the provinces and the provinces with due experience are prepared to federate with the Indian States as partners of the British Empire, the bestowal of central self-government would be fraught with grave danger to the welfare of the 350,000,000 inhabitants of India and to the vast British interests involved in that country, upon which such large numbers of British workers depend for their livelihood.I move this Resolution with a full sense of responsibility as a Member of the Imperial Parliament, because I believe that this question, which we are called upon from day to day to consider, far transcends in importance any question which is likely to come before this Parliament, and possibly any question which in the lifetime of Members we may have to consider. It will be agreed that in considering this great revolution our task is rendered very difficult because the opposition is not using its usual functions of opposition and criticism in connection with these reforms. Instead of the proposals as they emanate from Round Table Conferences and other places being subjected frequently to searching inquiry from the official Opposition in this House, and instead of there being frequent demands, as in any other situation there would be, for Votes of Censure, the Opposition naturally are concurring because the policy emanated from their late Government.
There is the gravest anxiety, as I think my right hon. Friends in the Administration will admit, all through the country on this subject, more especially at this moment in Lancashire, whose views I trust may be heard in this Debate; and there is no doubt that in recent months there has been growing alarm amongst 1744 a very large number of Members who previously had taken no definite part, one way or the other, with regard to this all-important subject. I see on the Order Paper an Amendment in the name of my Noble Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), which advises hon. Members to do nothing, to wait and see until the White Paper is published and the Government has to that extent committed itself. I think it is fairer to the Government that those who have strong feelings on the question should indicate their views now and not wait until possibly we have slipped yet a little further along what I feel is the downward slope. There are many hon. Members who have been feeling that they are committed. I think I am entitled to say that no Member of the House is in any way committed. Fortunately we had recently, in another place, a speaker whose authority will not be doubted as representing the Government—the President of the Board of Education—and he told us that Parliament was absolutely free and unfettered. Let me quote his words, which went even further:We are not committed even so far in theory as we might be committed by the First Reading of an actual Bill.That will be a relief to every Member of this House. If we have doubts, therefore, we should be prepared to state them now. If we feel that the policy that the Government are pursuing is tending to go far too far, surely this is our opportunity and it is our duty, as loyal supporters of the National Government—I for one desire to see them remain in office to the end of their natural days—to state our feelings immediately. We are discussing, not a question of a small area or an isolated population, but the welfare of one-fifth of the human race—not a nation, but a conglomeration of peoples who are utterly diverse from each other in character, tradition, temperament, culture and breeding. I may add that there are also differences of religion and caste and other great differences. Those of us who had the honour of serving with or fighting beside Indian troops must have learned at once that the Rajputs, the Ghurkas, the Jats, the Sikhs, to mention but a few are far more diverse from each other, in character, physique, temperament and outlook than the most widely differing of the races of Europe whom we know close to us here at home.
1745 Although my Resolution goes a very long way on the lines of progress, I, for one, do not under-estimate the difficulties of any extension of self-governing institutions in India, nor do I fail to realise the immense gulf betwixt the Orient with its desire to be ruled—as I honestly believe—and the West where some of us are desirous of taking part in popular government. I remember that a day or two before Sun Yat Sen left for China on his great democratic mission, I had the interesting experience of discussing with him the object of his journey, and I had the temerity to ask him whether he really believed that Western ideals and institutions were suitable to that great people in China, with their age-long traditions, who for thousands of years had lived under a monarchical and autocratic government. He had no fears at that time. He was full of faith. I wonder, if the clock could be put back, would he have proceeded with his undertaking, in the light of the experience gained since in China and with the complete picture before him? Since the fall of the dynasty in China there has been incessant war, famine and disease? Death has been dealt out on a scale which I believe no man can calculate. Yet one would regard China as a simple proposition compared with India. There are differing races in China, but China has been one nation. It has been unified for aeons of time. It is not a multitude of nations such as we find in India. I would again ask the House, are we, who so light-heartedly undertake these difficult reforms in India quite sure of the step we are taking?
§ Sir H. CROFT
No, I would not apply that expression to my right hon. Friend, though I would apply it to a large number of Members of this House who say to themselves, "Well, I know nothing about it, and so I do not care to interfere." I beg my right hon. Friend's pardon if he thought for one moment that I was referring to him, because nobody realises more than I do the gravity with which he approaches this question. But are we sure that institutions which have been abandoned already in Italy and Germany and Russia constitute a system 1746 which we ought to impose upon our fellow- subjects in India?
These decisions are momentous and they are momentous not only from the point of view of industry and of the workers in Lancashire and elsewhere in this country. I do not belittle their importance from that point of view. I believe I am right in saying that something like one out of every five workers engaged in connection with our export trade have their whole livelihood bound up with our trade in India. Nor do I wish to belittle our invested wealth in the Indian Empire estimated at from £700,000,000 to £1,000,000,000. Nor do I under-estimate the great services given so freely to India in the past by thousands of the flower of our race. That, I think all sections of the House will admit, is something for which we have no reason to apologise. Our record in India is one of the finest pictures in the whole history of the march of civilisation. We ought to consider our vested interests in India, and in my own personal experience I have noticed that Indians in Kenya and Natal are very quick to proclaim their vested interests in those countries. Yet, I imagine, no one would suggest that their services in wealth, culture and scientific achievement in those countries are comparable with the wonderful story of our race's accomplishment in India.
I complain that too little attention has been paid to these matters by our constitution builders, but above all else I want the House to consider the 270,000,000 of our fellow subjects in India and also the 80,000,000 who live in the Indian States, whose welfare we are bound to watch with the greatest care. I think it will be agreed that we have imposed upon us probably the most solemn trust that has ever been imposed in history upon any country which under Providence has had to control the fate of vast masses of humanity. Time will not permit me to discuss details of the various proposals which have emanated from Round Table Conferences or from our itinerant committees. I do not go into the question of whether or not it is desirable to encourage the illiterate voter in India by the use of coloured ballot-boxes, presumably with animals depicted thereon in order that the voters may know the parties for which they are voting. Personally, I would always back 1747 the man-eating tiger to win and the jackal I think would forfeit his deposit. But there is no doubt that Parliament will have to allot a great deal of time— and rightly so—to those details.
At the moment, however, we cannot occupy ourselves with decisions as to the final decorations of the building and the nature of the roof to be put upon it. We are now concerned with the foundations. We have to ask ourselves whether the base is sure enough and strong enough to bear the great structure which it is intended to erect. I ask in all sincerity whither are we going? Have we considered all the immense consequences of being guided by our emotions in this matter? What is our objective? I submit that in our desire to endorse the hasty ideas of the late Government we have failed to face realities or consider what will be the logical conclusion if we persist in a policy which must mean the end of British rule and influence in India.
I must be a little retrospective but not with the retrospection of the Orient going back to things unchanged for a thousand years. I ask the House only to go back with me to the time when the Montagu proposals were first announced in this House in 191V. Those hon. Members who were here then will remember that the House at that time was utterly war-weary. We were filled with lassitude. When those discussions took place the House was almost empty and all the Members who knew anything about India, with the exception of three, were still waging war in one part of the world or another. We had no one here to advise us. Two main facts transpired at that time. First we had an idealistic Secretary of State whose brilliant career every one regrets was cut off in the prime of his life. He declared that he was determined "to stir the Indians out of their pathetic contentment."
The second great fact was this, that everyone in the House wanted to do something in recognition of the great services of the fighting races of India in the War, which were so fresh in our memories from day to day at that time. The late Mr. Edward Montagu succeeded in his aspirations, some of us think, perhaps too well. He certainly stirred India out of its contentment, and the fighting races, none of whom were politically minded, saw the reward given to those who had not fought. 1748 The fighting races had never asked for these reforms, and to this day the vast majority of them are not really concerned with them. None of the authors of these reforms, none of their predecessors as Viceroy or Secretary of State, no British Cabinet, up till the late Socialist Government had ever contemplated the possibility of granting self-government at the centre by Indians.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I am quite certain that the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) when he was a member of the Coalition Government, specifically declared at the Imperial Conference in 1921 that it was proposed to give Dominion home rule to India.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I said that no Cabinet ever contemplated the possibility of responsibility at the centre to-day or tomorrow, although it may have been the ultimate ideal, as it is mine. I will go further than that, and say that much less was Dominion status ever considered. In fact, may I not say that all the wisdom of all responsible men, from Morley to Montagu, expressly ruled out such a possibility? Lord Morley—I suppose I may quote him as perhaps the greatest Liberal authority on India and Indian reforms—speaking with all his impressive authority, said:Parliamentary institutions in India would be as much out of place as a fur coat on the Equator.Perhaps I might come to a later authority than that, Lord Birkenhead, who, in his "Last Essays," in "The Peril to India," said:I warned the Government of the madness of authorising the Viceroy to put forward in ambiguous language Dominion Home Rule as a goal. … Yet the Government in its folly authorised this foolish and deceiving declaration.He said later on:No honest English statesman can say that Dominion status for India is attainable in the near future. Why then lie about it?These are fairly eminent authorities upon the question of India, and that brings me to the Government of India Act, in which it was specifically laid down that we should proceed step by step, that there should be a gradual development by successive stages; and hon. Members will remember that the Act also laid down that at the end of 10 years there should be an inquiry carried out by Parliament 1749 in order to decide whether we should extend, modify, or restrict these reforms.
The Statutory Commission was then constituted and started on its great task, and I have never met anyone connected with any kind of service in India who denies that it was a masterly survey and description of the life and habits of the Indian people and of the difficulties which confronted them, or that in. Volume II there was no single proposition which did not fulfil to the letter any pledge or suggestion which had been made to India. The only criticism one heard of the Report was whether it was advisable that the administration of justice and order should be handed over until, in due season, the Provinces had proved their fitness for those great and vital duties. That Report, without any consideration whatever by Parliament, which had appointed the Commission and which had sent the most authoritative and brilliant representatives of all parties to give up two years of their lives, at enormous expense to the State—that Report was thrown into the waste-paper basket.
The Round Table Conference emerged. I think it had been called just previously, and it became a kind of over-riding authority, although I have yet to discover what place in our constitution that Conference will find. It seems to me very dangerous that, when you are trying to impose Parliamentary institutions on India, you should be so regardless of your Parliamentary and constitutional precedents in this country. The British delegates entered that Conference with no mandate whatsoever, either from Parliament or the nation, to go a single step further. Suddenly, almost in a night, because some emotional speeches were made, notably by the Maharajahs of Alwar and Kashmir, the British delegates were stampeded into federal discussions, with a kind of belief that there was a burning enthusiasm among the Princes of India for federal reform, a belief which they imagined, apparently, was held very widely. I want to choose my words very carefully on this subject, but I think that no one can now doubt that the Princes had given scant consideration to the proposals and did not understand their full implications.
The atmosphere was something like this: Grave anxiety among all the Princes. "The British Raj is on the run; 1750 if he is determined to quit India, it is imperative that we shall immediately endeavour to come into some new structure of government in order that we may preserve our position, which has been pledged to us through Queen Victoria for all time." Pledges were also made to this House that nothing should be done unless the Princes came in in a body—I think the first version was "unless all the Princes came in," but a second edition came out fairly soon— that nothing should be done unless Hindu and Moslem could agree upon a settlement, and that a communal settlement would not be imposed upon India. These stipulations, far from being kept, appear to me to have been flagrantly disregarded.
I look for one stipulation, one pledge, in vain, and that surely should have been the first, namely, that in any step forward in India steps would be taken to see that the trade and commerce between England and India should be on a basis of reciprocity, with the nearest possible approach to Free Trade between the two great countries. We profess very great interest in the unemployed on every occasion—it is a subject near to every man's heart—and I am surprised that almost your first pledge was not that you would see that their vital interests were not impaired, and I have always been surprised that hon. Members above the Gangway, who are so vocal in their championship of Labour interests, should not have been foremost in their endeavour to see that that was done.
May I, in passing, join with many others in paying a tribute, if he will not think it impertinent, to the Secretary of State for India for his wise administration since he has taken office? I congratulate him on the extraordinary change in the situation in India. It has always seemed to me as if he, coming along, saw a coach and four running away down a steep mountain declivity, and as it came by he leapt on the box, seized the reins, and steered the runaways with great skill round various curves in the road, yet all the time he must have realised that at the bottom of the hill, unless he could pull them up before, there would be a terrible smash at a right-angle turn of the road. Some of us who honour and respect the right hon. Gentleman are calling upon him to-day, as he goes by, clinging to the box, that there is a road half way which bifurcates to the Pro- 1751 vinces, where he can bring his coach to a stop.
As to the safeguards, we are told that all is well because the Viceroy, with his veto, is going to remain. How is the Viceroy going to operate under self-Government at the centre if that Government is composed of Ministers whose organisation has in advance declared its intention of thwarting every single safeguard which you debate so gravely round your tables? How long will the Viceroy last if his Ministers resign and are reelected, while he is deprived of all administrative machinery, and has only one argument left—the argument of British bayonets? We are told blandly that there will be financial safeguards. I want to ask my right hon. Friend, suppose Lord FitzAlan had remained Lord Lieutenant of Ireland with a British garrison in that country. Would my right hon. Friend honestly maintain that Lord FitzAlan could have collected the annuities? The position is parallel. Will the police responsible to Congress, controlled by them, defy their paymasters at the behest of the Viceroy?
The Secretary of State told us, in writing to his anxious constituents in Chelsea, that there is all the difference in the case of Ireland, because the Army will remain in India. As one who has tried to study a little as an amateur the tactics and strategy of arms, I would ask this question: How would you move your army when your railways, posts, telephones, telegraphs and civil administration are in the hands of people anxious to thwart our intentions? The Hindu rulers of Alwar and Kashmir might possibly be at variance with their Moslem subjects. To-day the British administration sends a few battalions under British officers and all is peace. You settle the dispute with benevolent advice. Could a Hindu Government send Hindu troops in order to subdue the Moslem population in Alwar and Kashmir? You would have civil war at once. Could a Hindu Government send Moslem troops with Moslem officers to those territories? Obviously, they would side with the population at once. I have a personal view, and it is that if you are going to quit India, a British Army in that country becomes an anachronism. Further, I think we have no right to risk the lives of our soldiers 1752 in these internecine disputes between unblendable forces if you have thrown over the responsibility of the government of that country.
If it is not certain that the Princes really desire this change; if the finances of India and the Provinces are such that they cannot stand any fresh burdens, and if the communal differences, far from having died down, are much greater than at the time of the Simon Commission, then I say we are forced back to the recommendations of the Statutory Commission, with temporary modifications as to the delegation of administration of justice and public security to each Province in turn—and one or two may be ready now—as it proves its fitness. I think that I may be acquitted of any lack of desire to see the Empire a success, and I confess to a dream of the day when the Provinces have graduated in the hard school of self-government, having learnt the arts of administration, having solved those age-long problems of religious difference, desiring to enter as well-affected partners in the British Empire, as in the Provinces of Canada and the States of Australia, desiring to form a Dominion under the British Crown, then I confess that that would be the coping-stone of statesmanship and the summit of our Imperial hopes. But none of those conditions exist to-day. The only organised political force in British India at the present moment is Congress, and if we blunder into self-government to-day, handing over the government of that great country to a political machine which is intent upon secession from the Empire, the driving of every white man out of the service, abolishing the British Army, repudiating debts and the complete elimination of all British goods. That is the position we have to face. The Secretary of State has said that we must not attach too much importance to Congress. But what about his Liberal moderate friends who said only last week that the Secretary of State ought to be abolished and let us have a federal arrangement and emulate the policy of Mr. de Valera.
The warnings of the back benches have not always been wrong. At the time of the Irish proposals, I ventured to say that, notwithstanding the sincerity of Arthur Griffiths and Michael Collins, in the course of time they would pass, and 1753 then you would be handing over the control of Ireland to a Government of Republicans, who would repudiate their oaths and refuse to acknowledge their obligations. How immensely greater is this risk you are running in India, where you have been told in advance frankly what are the forces to which you are yielding India to-day. If we must experiment let it be upon the provinces. Mistakes even in those vast territories can be redeemed. The National Government received an emphatic mandate to save the nation. They received no mandate to break up the Empire. With the most impressive majority of all history, we were told to repudiate almost everything the Socialist Government had done—not to don their old clothes.
I ask a final question. Is there a right hon. Gentleman sitting on that Bench who in his heart of hearts believes that the Indian ryot will be rescued from the extortion of the moneylender, the children from the practices of the temple, the widows from suttee, Moslem and Hindu from internecine bloodshed, and the Untouchables from the tyranny of the Brahmin if the British abdicate in India? Everyone knows that if you go out, it will not be progression but reaction. All that you have done will be thrown away, and you will see everything which British influence has done in this direction wiped out in a night. I cannot help asking: Are we weary of the white man's burden? Are our hands so palsied, our will so weak, that we, in this great Christian realm, are going to throw over our trust with our task half completed? Those may be the reactions affecting some, but they are not the voice or the spirit of England, and they are certainly utterly opposed to every tradition and ideal that Conservatives have ever held from Beaconsfield to Salisbury and from Balfour to Bonar Law. Go forward—yes, to the provinces. Abdicate from the centre, and your countrymen will never forgive you.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ Commander MARSDEN
I beg to second the Motion.
I want, first of all, to thank my hon. and gallant Friend for having introduced the subject at this time, and to congratulate him on his eloquent and courageous speech. I feel that I shall be rather an anti-climax after his concluding words, 1754 but I do think that this is the right moment to talk about India. We shall shortly have the White Paper, which will tell us what the Government intend doing, but we know it may be altered, and surely in this House it is far easier for us to speak openly and freely before rather than after, for, in my innocence, I have formed the opinion that the Government must largely make up their minds from the opinions of their supporters. I have also noticed that, having made up their minds, it is very difficult indeed to get those proud spirits to move from their entrenched position.
I could be far more fluent on this great subject if I had before me a map, because India is so vast that it is impossible to come to any sensible opinion about it unless one can take it all in, as India reaches from those snowy mountains in the north to those tropical shores on the south, extending from 60 degrees east to 105 degrees east, a country not one, two or three times as large as Great Britain but 20 times as large—in fact, as large as the whole of Europe, excluding Russia, and with a population of 350,000,000 people. It seems almost incredible that any Government at any centre could adequately control such an enormous place with such a large mass of people. India consists chiefly of agricultural labourers and people who work on the land, people who seem to be very inadequately represented at every Round Table Conference and every investigation that has taken place, and yet they are the people of India. They live in half a million villages scattered throughout the country. The only people they know are their head men, and, I regret to say, their moneylenders. Their pre-occupation in their daily toil, their ordinary task, how to live, even exist from day to day, their yearly troubles are, of course, the monsoon, which has largely been solved by or through our irrigation of the land.
There is one point which does stand out in all our history of India. Previously to our taking over the security of the frontiers, there never was a raid or invasion which was not successful. Since we have been there, not one has been successful, and so, at last, the peasant can carry on in security. Again, he had his troubles with famine and plague, and we have fought them, and, to a great extent, defeated them. Owing to our communications, where famine is 1755 in one place, there is frequently plenty in another. Owing to our tremendous irrigation schemes, they are not so dependent on the monsoons. Nine-tenths of the population does not know anything about legislative councils, Governors or Viceroy. The most omnipotent man on earth the peasant has ever heard of is the King Emperor, and the only man he is likely to see is the district officer to whom he goes for guidance and assistance on every occasion. Who are the district officers? The very best people we can send out, the pick of our public schools, passing the highest form of examination. How can they carry on if they have not the knowledge behind them that they have this House, this country, and this Empire behind them? Whatever form of government is outlined for India, it is only an outline sketched out. Every contingency may be thought of, every possibility arranged for, but what use is it if the administration is not right? I put it to the House that our administration in India surely has been good, sound and honest. If we were to go out of India, would India be worse off or better off? Would the administration be as good or worse? Would their army be as good, or not so good? If their army were as good, we should never be in India at all, so that it is a perfectly logical conclusion.
We have this tremendous question before us, and it is one which has been filling the minds of the Government. One of the biggest points upon which my hon. and gallant Friend touched was the question of religion, and we who know India closely, or have investigated it, whatever form of election there is, the result we know in advance. Whatever the religion of the majority, it will be successful. Where the Moslems are in the ascendancy, their candidate will win. Where the Hindus are in the ascendancy, they will win. Although the Hindus are in a majority or two to one over the Moslems, the latter are the stronger race. So, if we were to vacate India, we could be certain that in the end the Moslems would be on top. Hinduism is prevalent throughout India, and there, of course, is one of the greatest difficulties. This religion through its various grades, divisions and sub-divisions, runs into no less than 2,300 different castes. Not one of those castes can marry into another, and 1756 a person is born into a caste and cannot rise above it or sink below it. In this extraordinary mixture we propose to make changes, which so far have been successful.
In anything to do with the East there are certain things to be borne in mind. The first is that no man from the West ever knows the Eastern mind. You can only account for certain actions and reactions. What has struck me so much through all these investigations in India, in this House and in this country, is that while we have men with the most intimate knowledge of India, who have served India and been there all their lives, their advice does not seem to have been taken as much as I think it should have been. They cannot tell us what India will always think, but they can tell us how, given certain conditions, the Eastern is most likely to act. Their advice is always the same, and it is practically that which is contained in this Motion. We are giving up a lot, but generosity in the East has to be well timed. Generosity from a victor or a man in a strong position is correct, appreciated and recognised. Generosity from the vanquished or one in a weak position is not looked upon as generosity; it is looked upon as weakness. One way never to rule in the East is by weakness.
There is the great question of the native States. I think that my hon. and gallant Friend has said practically all that can be said about that. Let me visualise again their position. There are 600 of these native States and the biggest is as big as this country. They and their Princes are practically guaranteed by this country. We guarantee the security of their frontiers and the descent of their Princes. We guarantee not only peace in their own countries, but all sorts of things; and yet it is now suggested that those Princes may agree to give up that security. Whatever reasons may be given, there is only one logical conclusion to be arrived at, and that is that the Princes consider the security to be not quite so good as it used to be. Why should a man give up all these privileges and the knowledge that behind him is the full force of the British Empire to support him? Why should he surrender that for something not so strong, not so capable? Yet that is the suggestion. The native Princes 1757 do not seem so enthusiastic about Federation as they were a short time ago. At the last Round Table Conference, as far as I can see, they were not personally represented, but they sent their Ministers. Whatever conclusions they arrived at, it has nothing to do with us, but it seems to me that there is a lot of vagueness as to what measure of unanimity there may be among them. I understood my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to say that in the first instance they must all agree—
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Sir Samuel Hoare)
I never said that.
§ Commander MARSDEN
I said that I understood—rightly or wrongly. That was afterwards corrected, but we do not know now how it is to be. If you say "all the States," does it mean that every Prince has to agree? Is it to be taken by the amount of population or area of country? We do not know these things. We hope that we shall know what the intentions are when the White Paper comes out. I will not keep the House long, because the more outspoken opinions we get the better it will be for everybody, and I am sure that they will be appreciated by the Government. There are a couple of things that should be well borne in mind. One is that whatever is put in the White Paper will be looked upon by India as the bargaining point. They will consider, whatever we say, that we shall be prepared to give more; and we can take it that, whatever they say, they will understand that we shall demand considerably less from them. I respectfully submit, therefore, that whatever is contained in the White Paper will be of such an amount that we can add to it while the matter is going through the Select Committee, or through the House, or elsewhere, because it will be impossible to take anything from it. That is the basis of all forms of bargaining in the East, and I am sure that the Oriental will not look upon this as a different form of bargaining from that to which he is accustomed.
It is suggested that we should give to the East a greater form of Western constitutional methods than they have yet had. The Western constitutional methods surely cannot be inflicted on the East by the Easterns themselves. We must have a strong ground of Englishmen accus- 1758 tomed to that form of government to help them. In the administration of India 1,500,000 people are concerned. The number of Englishmen in that administration is only 12,000. Whatever the limit may be, it strikes me that we must be very near the limit now. If we get less than that, we shall be swamped, and how do the Government think that we shall then get the right type of Englishman to go out and carry on these administrative jobs? I hope that everybody in the-House has read the words spoken in the House on the 20th August, 1917. I was not even aware at that time that they were spoken; I was thinking of other things, as I gather that the majority in the House were too. They have, however, come strongly to my notice since. They are most striking words, and were spoken by Mr. Montagu:The British Government and the Government of India, on whom the responsibility lies for the welfare and advancement of the Indian peoples, must be the judges of the time and measures of each advance." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th August, 1917: col. 1696, Vol. 97.]That is the meaning of this Resolution— that we should go extremely slowly and step by step. We cannot say that we know anything. I have no doubt, whatever proposals the Government may make, that they will believe them to be right and that they will hope them to be right. We do not want these measures to be put forward until we know that they are right. Nobody can say they know until after the event, but the nearest you can get to that is to make experiments, and if the experiments are successful that is the best justification you have for going on. In seconding this Motion, I can only bring again strongly to the notice of the House that our intention is that before this full responsibility is given to the centre, experiments should be tried in the provinces on the same lines. Then, if the experiment is successful, the movement towards the centre may be made slowly. If, however, the Government think that they are going in their lifetime to set up a constitution for India which is settled and immovable, they make a grave error. I therefore respectfully submit that they should not fall into such a state of affairs, but should go step by step, satisfying themselves before taking the next step that the last one was justified. Even if my right hon. 1759 Friend and others may not agree with me, I am sure that they realise that the instinctive feeling of everybody is that, whatever we do, is for two purposes—to look after British interests and British prestige, and to do our best for the 350,000,000 people who live in India.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Lord EUSTACE PERCY
I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out from the word "House," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:considers it inadvisable at this time to make any declaration of policy in regard to the future government of India which might be interpreted either as signifying a change in its general attitude or as restricting its freedom to pass a considered judgment on the concrete proposals to be laid before it in the future.May I begin by assuring my two hon. and gallant Friends that I have not put down this Amendment, as the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) suggested, as a protest against Members of the House of Commons taking time by the forelock and letting their views be clearly known to the Government. I think that that is a wise precaution, and I do not think that anyone can complain that hon. Members should take the opportunity of the Ballot to put down Motions which enable them to express their views. My hon. and gallant Friend, however, is doing much more than that. He has told us, quite rightly, that we in this House are not committed to any particular proposals about the Government of India, and yet he is on a Wednesday afternoon seeking to commit us to the most definite proposals, to which I am sure he could not rightly commit even himself on the basis of the views he has expressed. That, I think, is a very dangerous procedure, and is not likely to create in India that impression of the Englishman with the capacity for clear decision, and is not likely to enhance the prestige of this House in dealing fair-mindedly but strongly with the whole problem of Indian government. It is for that reason that I put down the Amendment.
I hope that the House will be indulgent to me because this is the first time I have ventured to address the House on India. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth seems to have a curious idea of the feelings of those 1760 many hon. Members who have not yet spoken on India. He thinks that, because we have not yet spoken, we are rushing lightly, although we know nothing about it, into some very alarming course of democratic reform. I should not speak now if I did not want to express a point of view on this subject which I have never heard expressed in the House. Now certainly is the time when such points of view should be expressed. I do not think that hon. Members always realise that the vast majority of Members of the present House were not Members of the House when the Government of India Act was passed. I was not a Member at that time, and it has always seemed to me, and it must have seemed to other hon. Members, that at that time these Indian controversies got into a rut from which they have never yet emerged. Phraseology about responsible government had rather artificial meanings attached to them, and the controversy on the Floor of the House has always gone on from the starting point of that phraseology and run along in the old grooves.
To-day we have had from the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth a most impressive and most interesting speech, but running on those same old lines, the lines of reminiscences and going back to the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, the lines of the use of phrases about "self-government," "responsibility at the centre," and so on. Ever since this question began to be frequently debated in this House we have been, as Abraham Lincoln said on one occasion, "industriously plied and belaboured" with all these reminiscences, all these relics of the particular form which the controversy took in those early years, and I think many of us have come to feel more and more that the problem we have to deal with cannot be defined and the remedy cannot be expressed within the framework of those terms. We have to get away from phrases and get down to facts, and, if I may say so, I do not think that is what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth did.
§ Sir H. CROFT
May I remind the Noble Lord that I was quoting the law of the land? I quoted the phrases from the Government of India Act.
§ Lord E. PERCY
That is precisely what I mean. The hon. Baronet regards 1761 the Joint Select Committee which this House is about to set up as being a Committee to introduce Amendments into the Act passed in 1919, as being in some measure a tinkering committee to go a little further than we went then; but I assure him that there are a good many of us who feel quite differently. For years we have seen the moment approaching when this House will have to resolve itself into a committee to determine afresh what is the best form of government for India. Nothing less than that is the question which faces us. All these reminiscences of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, all the quotations from existing Acts of Parliament do not help us very much. Of course, the past and the present law must be taken into consideration in determining what we are going to do next, but the attempt to conduct a controversy on the lines of those old divisions of opinion is, I think, futile, for reasons which I hope to put before the House.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I want to start on the basis of all the facts about India which will be before the Joint Select Committee.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Then I gather that my Noble Friend does not consider that the Joint Select Committee should be governed by the conclusions of the Round Table Conference?
§ Lord E. PERCY
Of course, I say that this House, when it sets up a Joint Select Committee sets it up unbound and unfettered by any previous decisions. I have stated that I do not want this House at this moment to pass any Resolution which might be interpreted as signifying a change in its general attitude. The general attitude of this House I take to be this, that it has stated that it will consider strictly on their merits proposals for provincial autonomy and for the constitution of an Indian Federation; that it has expressed its willingness to receive from the Government proposals of that kind, and has even authorised the Government positively to bring proposals of that kind before it. It has in no way committed the Joint Select Committee as to the lines upon which those proposals shall be considered, 1762 and that Joint Select Committee a Select Committee of this Parliament, must, of course, consider those proposals without its consideration being fettered in any way by any pledges or statements given elsewhere. It has got to face the facts of the situation as they are.
If that is the appalling responsibility which rests upon us, let us see what the hon. Baronet asks us to do. He has put before us a scheme. The first point in that scheme is that he proposes, he says, to approve the report of the Statutory Commission subject only to the reservation about law and order. But does he really mean that? If so, I should strongly advise the House not to vote for this Motion. Take one complete chapter from the report of the Statutory Commission, the financial chapter. It has been blown out of the water long ago. Its authors would not say that it was anything but out of date. What is the good of putting before this House a Motion to approve the Statutory Commission's report including that completely discredited part of it? Then, again, are we prepared to say that we approve in principle the transfer of responsibility for the maintenance of law and order wholly to the provinces, after a temporary reservation? I believe as strongly as the Statutory Commission believe that we cannot have any real test of capacity for self-government unless that test includes responsibility for law and order. At the same time, I should be very sorry to commit myself at the present moment to the most difficult question of what in the future should be the respective powers and responsibilities of the Central Government and the Provincial Governments. That problem has never yet been fully worked out, and I would warn the hon. Baronet that to rush at that proposal and state it in general terms is very dangerous.
Secondly, the hon. Baronet says—and I really cannot understand this point at all—that in face of existing financial conditions, which is on? of the two reasons he gives, the transference of responsibility at the centre is inexpedient at the present time. That appears to me to be a complete non sequitur. I have often heard it argued by Indians, by Nationalists and by persons in this country, that if the financial crisis makes it impossible to give adequate financial resources to the provinces provincial 1763 autonomy is impossible; but that is the conclusion to be drawn from the existence of an impossible financial state. It is not responsibility at the centre, whatever its merits or demerits; it is provincial autonomy which is in jeopardy; and, therefore, that part of the Motion seems to be wholly inadmissible. But those are, perhaps, comparatively minor points.
Let me come to the main issue. What is the form of government which this Motion proposes to set up during the next five, 10, 15 or 20 most difficult years? It is proposed to have popularly-elected assemblies in the provinces. It is proposed that the governor should govern through ministers chosen from among the elected members of those assemblies, and that those ministers, advising the governor, should have full responsibility except for the administration of justice and the maintenance of order. Those Governments, then, will be the expression of a popular public opinion. The number of people who create political opinion in India may be very small—I am not disputing that—but the moment there is an elected assembly and a Government founded on that assembly that Government becomes the centre of a political opinion the strength of which is not proportionate to the number of people who vote or the number of people who hold those views. It is proportionate to the number of people whom the ministers in question can say have supported their views. We are politicians in this House, and we know how we wave an arm to indicate the mass of the people whom we represent.
Those Governments, popular Governments in that sense, are going to have programmes of expenditure. They are going to be extremely eager to spend money on "nation-building" services. Their present financial resources are admittedly wholly inadequate, even for carrying on existing services. Therefore, they will be clamouring for additional sources of revenue. Here is a point on which I can perhaps speak with a little authority. I assure the House that whatever may be the provisions in the constitution about the division of resources between the provinces and the centre, the provinces and the centre will have to share the same sources of revenue. In my judgment we 1764 cannot within any foreseeable future divide a source of revenue such as Income Tax and say that Income Tax shall go either to the units or to the centre. They will be sharing the same sources of revenue, as every federation in the world shares the same sources of revenue. It is the only basis on which any successful system of federal finance has ever been established. We shall have these popular provincial Governments clamouring for more money as against the centre—and who will there be at the centre to oppose them and insist on reserving sufficient sources of revenue securely to maintain the Army, the service of the debt, and so on? There will be controversy between a number of popular assemblies and popular Ministers and one isolated man —the Viceroy.
Everyone who has ever studied this question has regarded that as a possible position. The Statutory Commission did not believe that we could leave the existing constitution at the centre as it stands to-day. They proposed a solution very largely based on this financial problem. They proposed a system of indirect election to a new federal assembly representing the provinces. That had the objection that we might then get at the centre not any popular or semi-popular assembly with an interest in maintaining the revenues of the Central Government, but only a series of delegations from the Provincial Governments all extremely anxious to get a little more for their particular provinces. I ask the House of Commons to realise that that proposal is the crucial issue that we shall have to face.
My view, and the view of most people who have ever had any responsibility for running the Central Government under the existing Consitution, is that whatever happens you cannot leave the existing Constitution unchanged. It is there that I come up against this phrase about "responsible government," which has done more harm, as used by Englishmen, than anything else in the world. The people who are responsible for it are the drafters of the present Government of India Act and all those who prepared the way for it. What did you do? You established this doctrine, surely quite foreign to British ideas, that an elected member of a legislature cannot have two responsibilities. If he is responsible to his constituents he cannot possibly be 1765 responsible to the Viceroy. Therefore it was laid down, I think in Section 22 of the Government of India Act, that no elected member of the Legislature might become a member of the Viceroy's Executive Council.
Just consider what you did. You set up an assembly with a large elected majority, 100 out of 140. Having summoned to Delhi the 100 elected members, you then said to them, "Not a single one of you can hope to have any administrative responsibility unless you give up that elective status and become a nominated member." We set up a constitution at the centre which has this distinction, that it is worse in principle, and more unworkable in practice, than the constitution of the United States of America. This is the sort of thing which does not change with latitude and longitude. I have always been impressed with my own ignorance and the ignorance of many of my colleagues in this House about India, and the sense of my own ignorance was not dispelled by my short official visit to India. But I have sometimes thought that this House has dealt unwisely with India, not because it was ignorant of India, but because it thought that something which has never worked in the history of the world might work under the peculiar conditions of India. That is folly.
One thing that the experience of constitution builders has shown from the beginning of time is that an elected person is a public danger unless he has fairly imminently before his eyes the hope the prospect or the fear of becoming responsible for carrying out what he has talked about on the Floor of the Legislature. I say "responsible" in the moral sense that he has to take on the job. When you come to the constitutional question as to whom he has to be responsible, you get into a sphere where there are any number of solutions. His Majesty's Ministers are responsible to this House while being responsible to the Crown as His Majesty's servants and to their constituents. They never find any difficulty in bearing three or four responsibilities at one and the same time. They are responsible to this House, because the House fundamentally has the power of making any Government by those men impossible by the refusal of Supply, and by the refusal to pass the Army Annual Act. The degree of responsibility, in the constitutional 1766 sense, is proportional to the powers that you give the Legislature. Nobody has ever yet proposed, at any Bound Table Conference, to give the Central Legislature powers of that kind.
You can, on the other hand, enforce responsibility by some such provision as that which is in the Irish Free State Act, that affirmatively the executive must choose its ministers from among the elected members of the Legislature. I should feel very grave doubts about applying any such proposal to the Government of India. I am sure of this, that this question as to whom a Minister is to be responsible, is a very rarefied constitutional question which admits of many constitutional refinements. The one thing which we have forgotten, in all this talk about constitutional refinements, is that, if you expect any constitution to work, the elected man, while he is still an elected man, must be regarded as capable of being chosen for executive duties. If you do not do that, you will have a Government that does not work. The Government of the United States none of us think works very well, but it would be wholly and absolutely unworkable if it were not for one thing. The only thing that makes the Constitution of the United States work is the fact that the President is a party leader and has the party machine under his control. Clearly, you cannot make the Viceroy of India a party leader of that kind. These are the only two possible alternative ways of getting any Government to work: either you must make your executive a party leader, or you must give him the power to choose his executive Ministers from among the members of the Legislature.
These are the types of issues that we shall have to consider. Personally—I am taking, needless to say, a wholly personal view—I should approach the problem almost wholly from this point of view: What powers is it necessary to give the Governor-General and the Provincial Governors, in order to enable them, as the representatives of the executive power, to govern India beneficently? I should approach it from that point of view, and if I did, I should have to consider that what the Governors and the Governor-General require in order to govern India is certainly powers over the police and over the Army, powers to issue Ordinances in emergencies, and so 1767 on. But there is another class of power which it is necessary for them to have, and that is power to build up in their support a body of political opinion behind them. That is the power which, under our present Constitution at the centre, you make is absolutely impossible for the Governor-General to have.
I wonder how many hon. Members have ever asked themselves what powers of that kind the responsible Governors in India at the present moment wish for themselves. We talk of the absurdity of regarding those 350,000,000 of Indian people as having a political opinion, and of course that is true, but in any country-political opinion is not much more than the surface swell which reveals much greater economic agitation beneath the surface. There are in India economic questions and economic movements of the utmost gravity. The moment has just arrived which many people have foreseen, when the growth of population has, in certain parts of India, created a dangerous, I might almost say at first sight an insoluble, agrarian problem. There is no doubt about the liveness of the opinion in regard to their own interests among the peasants of the United Provinces. You could see that, a little more than a year ago, in what happened there. You have also a growing movement of industrialism, with all the social problems which it must inevitably bring in its train.
If you are to deal with those questions, you need something more than mere powers of administration. It would not matter if the district commissioners, the ordinary Englishman whom we send out to India, was, as some people seem to regard him sometimes, a kind of Mussolini, always willing to act drastically. We know quite well that that is not the case, but rather that British administration in India has been like a vast pacifying pool of oil in an agitated country, restoring order and administering equal justice but never able by its very nature to deal with, and unwilling and precluded by the very pledges that you gave to India, from dealing with, those tremendous, underlying economic problems. You must give your future Governors in India power to collect, and to rally to them, bodies of political opinion, in order to deal with those problems.
1768 Such I imagine to be the issues which will face the Joint Select Committee. The gravity of those issues is perhaps the reason why the younger Members of this House have been content during the last few years, to let the legions of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill)thunder past, and turn to thought again."We are now to assume our responsibility. Into the hands of this House is going to be given the law-giving for 350,000,000 people. We are passing from the stalls to the stage. We are taking out of the hands of the Government, as it were, the responsibility for formulating proposals. The Government are going to lay their proposals before us, and ours is to be the responsibility of expressing our opinion upon them. If we are to undertake that responsibility, let us not create in this House the impression that we have been so impatient at seeing created at Round Table Conferences, an impression of vacillation and negotiation, and of fear and hesitation and doubt. Let us rather resolve to maintain the reputation for those two qualities on which the whole of our rule in India has been based, a reputation for deliberate and fair-minded consideration, a contempt for phrases and an attachment to facts; and, secondly, a capacity for clear decision, and clear statement of our decision when we have made up our minds. Do not let us prejudge that eventual decision, or prejudge our fair-minded consideration of these proposals, by passing a Resolution of this kind which, as I have tried to show, cannot represent the lines of the future Government of India.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
We have heard two very eloquent speeches on the question of Indian reforms, by the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) and by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy). If I wanted to contrast those two speeches, I should describe the first as a broad but extremely shallow stream—a stream that moved along easily, and where there seemed to be no rocks in the surface of the bed of the river. On the other hand, when I listened to the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings, I seemed, as his speech flowed along, to see sticking out of the bed of the river all those very awkward rocks 1769 which we encountered when we served on the Indian Statutory Commission. I could see the financial difficulty; I could see the difficulties with regard to responsibility; I could see the difficulties with regard to the ranging of public opinion behind the Government; and I could see that the Noble Lord appreciated all those difficulties. I certainly did not gather that that was so in the case of the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Bournemouth, and I would say that the views which he put before us were certainly not the views which were put before me, when I was in India, by experienced administrators in that country. They seemed to me to ignore some of the prime facts of the situation.
The first fact that the hon. and gallant Gentleman ignored was that there is a definite pledge in existence, which we cannot disregard. It was obvious that he hoped that somehow or other we could go behind that declaration—the declaration which was made at Delhi by the Duke of Connaught on behalf of His Majesty the King, and which was reiterated quite recently by the Lord President of the Council. I will quote his reiteration. Speaking on the 7th November, 1929, he said:Can there be any doubt whatever, in any quarter of the House, that the position of an India with full responsible government, in the Empire, when attained, and whatever form it may take so far as the internal government of India is concerned, must be one of equality with the other States in the Empire?" —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th November, 1929; col. 1312, Vol. 231.]It is quite possible to say that there is a factor of time, that that relates to something very far off; but I do not think that, when that declaration was made— at a critical time, at a time when there was in this country a feeling of very great gratitude towards India, and not only to the martial races, but to the whole of the people of India—I do not think that this country was dishonestly saying, "We make a declaration to you, and we are going to put it so far ahead that it has practically no value whatever."
The second point that seemed to me to have been ignored by the Mover of the Resolution was the fact that you cannot work political institutions without politically minded people—that, after all, 1770 in India, whether you advance only to provincial self-government, whether you have some form of responsibility at the centre, or whether you have no responsible form of government whatever, India has been, will be, and must be governed through the medium of Indians. The number of Britishers is surprisingly —amazingly—small. We have governed India through India, and that can only be done with the good will of the Indian people. Therefore, in all considerations of reform, we are brought up to this question: "How are you going to get the necessary force of public opinion behind any government which you set up?" I thought that the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings brought out that point very clearly in his speech. Certainly, it was one which impressed the members of the Statutory Commission very much indeed when they were in India, namely, that you had there a form of government in which all the propaganda—platform, Press and everything —belonged to the opposition; that that was a quite impossible position; and that, somehow or other, you had to get a force of public opinion to work. The Noble Lord indicated that point again very clearly when he touched upon those economic problems which, as he very justly said, lie behind all political problems; and the same point was also made very strongly by the Indian Statutory Commission when they declared that the evils from which India suffered were such that they could only be remedied by the action of the Indian people themselves.
That brings me to my next point. The logic, really, of the hon. Baronet's position was that either you must give no self-government to India or you must give it complete self-government and clear out altogether. The hon. Baronet has a logical mind, and I confess that I have always experienced very great difficulty in finding a logical halting place. It is quite possible to get as far as saying that there shall be complete self-government in the provincial sphere; but, when you come to the central government, you are face to face with a number of extraordinarily difficult facts that you cannot get over. They are not facts due to the malevolence of the British people, or to any fault of the Indian people; they are simply the facts of the situation—the existence of the, 1771 Army problem, the existence of the problem of the Indian States, and so forth.
While it is extraordinarily difficult to find any logical halting place between complete responsibility of elected persons at the centre and no responsibility, you are faced with the fact that a Constitution in which there is responsibility in the provinces but none at the centre is extraordinarily difficult to work. The reason is that there are two different wills operating in these two different spheres, and the whole tendency would be to have the provinces being governed by popularly elected persons, but merely by way of a form of attack to capture control of the central government. I am not prejudging at all the question as to how that is to be settled, or how it should be settled; I simply point out this enormous difficulty. It was very apparent to the members of the Indian Statutory Commission. Frankly, I have always considered that, while there is no logical halting place, a halting place is only possible provided that both parties have the will to make it work, and I wish particularly to say to the Government to-day that, whatever form of government is made, the essential question is: Is it going to work with good will? I should like to quote from a late Member of this House of very great political ability, who had a very difficult situation to deal with, namely, Oliver Cromwell. Oliver Cromwell, when he was trying to work out a Constitution, made this very wise remark:It is not the manner of settling these constitutional things, or the manner of one set of men or another doing it; there remains always the grand question after that. The grand question lies in the acceptance of it by those who are concerned to yield obedience to it and accept it.That is the real question that we have to face in this Indian problem. It is not a question of whether you accept the conclusions, or any of them, of the Indian Statutory Commission; it is not a question of whether it is done by a Joint Select Committee or by this set of Indians or that set of Indians jointly with the Government; the vital point is: Are these reforms going to be accepted and worked?
I think that everyone who has studied the history of India since the reforms 1772 realises the extraordinary difficulties that the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms had to meet, owing, in the first place, to the fact that they came at a time of great political disturbance—a disturbance that affected not only the Hindus but the Moslems—and that there was an atmosphere of non-co-operation. In the second place—and I think the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings will agree with me in this—one of the greatest difficulties in the working of the Montagu-Chelmsford system was that it was introduced at a time of falling prices, and that every new provincial government found itself faced with difficulties in regard to finance, so that those who were trying to work the reforms could not bring the promises that they made to anything like fruition.
Now, again, we have the question of reforms being introduced at a time of very great economic difficulty, and, unfortunately, at a time of considerable political complexity. I want to impress upon the Government the importance, which I am sure they realise, of doing the utmost to get Indian opinion ready to work these reforms. We have had it from the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth that, if the Indians come to an election, the Congress party will be in power throughout India. I am not sure whether that is so or not; I should not like to be so dogmatic. I should not say that the Congress party was absolutely and entirely the only Indian political party. But I would say this, that through the whole educated Indian population, with varying degrees of intensity, there runs this national idea. To imagine that the Congress party are the only people who believe in Indian self-government is quite absurd. All the other parties do as well. So do many Indians who are in the Civil Service, and so do many Indians who are in the Army. So indeed did many of the Princes. I noticed recently some writings in the "Morning Post" on the subject of the Princes. I cannot think it is a very fortunate thing that a correspondent should write from India belittling every single Indian Prince who happens to be in favour of federation, saying, "This is a weak man, this is bossed by his Prime Minister, this one is no good," and so forth. I think we ought to be extremely grateful to the Princes of India for their action throughout these reforms. Certainly I was im- 1773 pressed by the grave difficulty of doing anything at the centre unless you had this co-operation of the Princes. As a matter of fact, the Round Table Conference is one of the results of the readiness of the Princes to come in.
You have this national ideal and you have to make terms with it. Everyone will agree that there are masses of difficult questions which divide Indians one from the other. Probably everyone will agree in disliking many of the manifestations of Indian nationalism. Indeed, I am not a whole-hearted admirer of nationalism. Nationalism, after all, may unite some people but it disunites other people. It unites people on that bench, but it disunited the Liberal party. Indian nationalism at present is disuniting Christendom at a time when it ought not to be disunited, but the only big force in India is nationalism. The only force that could work the reforms is the Nationalist movement and, if we wish there to come from these reforms, in whatever form it comes, a satisfactory progress towards Indian self-government, it can only come by the acceptance of that scheme and the working of that scheme by representatives of the Nationalist movement—I use the term in its widest sense. Although it is true that the politically-minded in India are few, the politically-minded are showing that they have power to move the masses. Wherever you have great economic evils, a small number of politically-minded people are able to move those masses.
It is entirely false to suggest that somehow or other you can govern India and disregard Indian nationalism. Besides Indian nationalism there is nothing but a welter of creeds, a welter of jarring strife of every kind, and, therefore, I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to remember, when dealing with this Motion, that the vital thing is his attitude towards the politically-minded in India. I believe the greatest thing for the success of the next stage in India is not the meticulous accuracy of the reforms in every detail, but a gesture on the part of the Government, the release of the political prisoners and a frank invitation to Congress once again to come in. Then you may have a chance of the next stage of this great experiment going forward in far happier circumstances 1774 than those that occurred at the time of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. HOLFORD KNIGHT
On several occasions I have had the privilege of addressing the House on this Indian business, and I should like to remind them of an observation that I made on a previous occasion, that the true audience of this Debate is not in this House but is in India. To an amazing extent words uttered in this House are circulated throughout India by means of the vernacular Press in such a way as does not occur in connection with any other Debate. I listened with admiration to the forceful opening speech of the hon. Baronet and I found myself little in agreement with him. With the greatest respect for his advocacy, which I myself have watched and opposed for a good many years outside the House, some of the expressions that he has used will have a harmful effect in India. The principal thing that we have to keep before our minds is not an examination of the powers to be conferred and an analysis of the reaction of those powers on a large electorate, but that no impression shall go out from this House to-day which will unsettle a widespread faith in our sincerity. I remember the Viceroy in 1920 in his remarks to the Indian people referring to the sword of justice which Great Britain had always wielded in that great country, and it is the impression that Great Britain stands for a system of justice which is the foundation of our power. We must not say anything to-day which will unsettle that confidence in our justice which is the standby of the connection between us. The hon. Baronet used an expression which gave rise to considerable disquietude in my mind, and, when reported in India, it will have the same effect. He said that we had never contemplated responsibility at the centre. Shortly afterwards he quoted some observations of Lord Birkenhead which I did not catch, but the effect of which, I understood, was to concur in that statement. May I direct attention to the Preamble of the Statute of 1919?Whereas it is the declared policy of Parliament to provide for the increasing association of Indians in every branch of Indian administration, and for the gradual development of self governing institutions, with a view to the progressive realisation of 1775 responsible Government in British. India as an integral part of the Empire.Any word used here which casts any doubt on the intention of those words and the regard which this Parliament is going to place on them will have a terrible effect in India. More than that, Section 41 of the Statute made provision for a Statutory Commission, and in terms put upon that Commission the duty of inquiring into the working of the system of government as set up by the Act, the growth of education, the development of representative institutions and matters connected therewithand the commission shall report as to whether and to what extent it is desirable to establish the principle of responsible government, or to extend, modify or restrict the degree of responsible government then existing therein.In face of those facts it is not open to any Member of the House, whatever his views may be, whether he approves of that Statute or not, to question that this House itself determined the government of India on the basis of the 1919 Statute and contemplated further extensions, or, at any rate, a review of the structure then erected. The Statutory Commission was appointed. No one who is interested in this matter will falter for a moment in paying tribute to the splendid work that the Simon Commission carried out. As was said by a previous speaker, the volumes setting out the results of that inquiry provide in a compendious form an accumulation of facts and considerations relating to India which constitute the finest piece of work ever performed on behalf of this House. It was said also by a previous speaker, I believe the hon. Baronet, that this big document has been cast into the waste-paper basket. I think the hon. Baronet was carried away by the fervour of his cause when he made that observation. The Simon Commission report has been a standby to all those who have given attention to this Indian matter. I regret indeed that anything should be said which would appear to throw any discredit on that great piece of work.
The Commission having reported, its work awaits the review of this House. In no single matter—a bold thing to say, but I say it with deliberation—to which this House at any time has addressed itself has such detailed consideration been given. The proceedings of the Round 1776 Table Conference and the various agencies which have applied themselves on behalf of the House to the Indian question are of such a considerable character that, when the House comes down to the task of setting up a Select Committee, there will be available for it an accumulation of work unparalleled in the history of any other inquiry set up by the House. The plea I want to make is that, having taken all these steps, I hope that no word is going from this House to-day to India to suggest that we regret the work which is being done and are prepared to go back on the commission which we gave, not only to the present Government, but to their predecessor, and by that means lend countenance to the fruitful suspicion which is always ripe in India that you cannot depend upon the British word.
This matter has been complicated by two sets of persons: One is Indian and the other is British. I came back from India convinced that there is a type of Indian who is constitutionally and temperamentally incapable of attributing justice to Great Britain. I came across many instances of this. It is a sort of treacherous subtlety in which they appear to agree with you and all the time intrigue to circumvent the assistance which you are prepared to give to their cause. I came to the conclusion that there is this type of Indian still abroad in India whose machinations we have to circumvent. No better weapon could be placed in his hands than is contained in the words, "What we have promised we do not intend to carry out." The other type—and I say this with the greatest possible respect—consists of a sort of pensioner on the Indian Funds who seems to apply the whole of his time to stirring up animosity against the people whom he formerly served. He embroils discussion of this matter in such a way that many people are disturbed and unnecessarily put about by the exercise of such intemperate propagandists. We in this House have to do our best to avoid the influence of those two types of persons. We have to apply ourselves to the task with all the ability we can command.
I apologise to the House for being so long, but my excuse is that I feel very strongly about this matter. The situation in India is very disquieting. I do not want it to be worsened by any indiscreet utterances here, and I have en- 1777 deavoured to avoid any such declaration which may cause trouble in India. The hon. Gentleman who has spoken on behalf of the Opposition has made a special plea with regard to political prisoners. The whole House watched the extension of the movement of civil disobedience with gathering anxiety. While the Indian Government had to originate and use powers unknown in this land to deal with civil disobedience, we came to the conclusion that the use of those powers was justified. I was much distressed in finding them being used against Mr. Ghandi, whom I have known for many years and whose confidence I enjoyed, and of whose sincerity and single Handedness I have no doubt whatever.
The hon. Gentleman asks the responsible Government of India to make an order for the release of those prisoners without any undertaking that they will not resume the disturbance which has brought about such arrests. He happens to be a member of the commission who travelled all over India. He has detailed knowledge of actual conditions in India which persons like myself, who have not been there in recent years cannot enjoy. He must know the field in which the movement of civil disobedience took place. He must be able to assess the consequences of that widespread movement. He must be familiar with the results of the movement, and must join with every responsible Member of the House in not desiring that those results shall be incurred again. Therefore, I would endorse' the appeal of my hon. Friend if he would couple with that appeal the condition that the persons desired to be liberated under the amnesty, for which there is a great deal to be said, should precede their release by a strict undertaking not to resume the activities for which they have been detained. Then, they can at last freely engage in all the energies now being applied in an attempt to bring about the honourable development of the obligations which we undertook in the Statute of 1919. I beg of the hon. Baronet the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), having stated his views, to be content and, in the interests of the future relations of Great Britain with India, not to proceed to a Division in this matter.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Mr. SOMERVELL
No one who rises to take part in the Debate or who indeed 1778 has paid any attention to this subject can fail to be impressed with the immense complexity and difficulty of the task which confronts His Majesty's Government. The Motion refers to the grave danger to the welfare of the inhabitants of India if there is, as it is said, central self-government. Some of us think that the course outlined in the Motion will be fraught with much graver danger to the welfare of the inhabitants of India. I will begin by saying a word or two about what I understand the words, "responsibility at the centre" to mean. It is impossible at the moment to anticipate in any detail the proposals which will subsequently be embodied in the White Paper, but it is obvious, I think, that one can, from the proceedings of the last Bound Table Conference, collect a body of proposals which it is the intention of the Motion to criticise and to ask the House to negative or cut down. There were certain observations made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Battersea (Commander Marsden) who Seconded the Motion which seemed to be inconsistent with the proposals to be found in the Bound Table Conference proceedings.
It is important that we should bear in mind the extent of the reservations and the safeguards which were outlined at that Conference. Defence and external affairs are to be wholly reserved subjects, and, therefore, when my hon. and gallant Friend contemplated a Hindu Government sending Hindu troops into a Hindu State in order to defend it, he was contemplating something which is certainly quite outside any proposal contained in the proceedings of the Bound Table Conference. We should be quite clear that defence and external affairs are completely reserved subjects, and I hope that the House will forgive me for reminding it of the other safeguards to be found in such proposals. A special responsibility is to be given to the Governor-General, with powers to see that that responsibility is carried out, in order that he may prevent the grave menace to the peace or tranquility of India, for the protection of minorities, for the prevention of commercial discrimination, for seeing that the rights of public services are maintained, for the administration of the reserved services themselves, and for the relations with the Indian States. That is the picture and I felt when listen- 1779 ing to the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), and the hon. and gallant Member who Seconded the Motion, that that side of the picture which we gathered from the proceedings of the Round Table Conference had been, to some extent, left out of account.
Not only do I suggest that there is danger in the line which this Motion asks the House to take, but there would be great danger in passing a Motion such as this at this time at all. Of course, Members of this House are not committed, but that does not mean that we have any right to be behaving as if we were unconcerned, and as if our past acts had not been observed when they were evolved. In December, 1931, this House, by an overwhelming majority, approved the line of conduct and the policy outlined in the White Paper and in the speech of the Prime Minister when the second Round Table Conference adjourned. That did not commit the Joint Select Committee, but that was the act of this House. It approved of the White Paper by an overwhelming majority.
The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth now asks the House to approve a wholly different document which would, to a large extent, negative and cut down the document which the House approved in December of 1931. I suggest that it cannot be said that anything which has happened in the meantime would justify a movement in the direction of the Motion. Everybody agrees that things are better because of the line pursued by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India and the Government which he represents in this matter. I have seen it stated that civil disobedience is in eclipse. That may be putting it too high, but the situation in that regard is certainly very much better. Feeling is better and, what is perhaps of the greatest importance, Indians in India anxious to co-operate with us and to assist us in getting this great change in the partnership between India and the United Kingdom successfully and faithfully accomplished, have been strengthened and encouraged by what has happened in the last year. Their task in India is not an easy one. They are working and supporting in the main the present policy of defending the safeguards and the reservations and they 1780 have to convince Indian public opinion that those reservations and safeguards are, as in truth and in fact they are, essential for the well-being and prosperity and development of India. That is not an easy task.
Those who have worked with us and are working to-day in India for co-operation with this country are entitled to ask this House for encouragement in order that their hands may be strengthened in the work they are doing there. I find it difficult to imagine anything more fatal to the work that they are doing than that this House should at this stage pass, or even show a substantial vote for, a Resolution negativing to a large extent, or cutting down, the Resolution which this House approved a little over a year ago. We ought not to be asked to commit ourselves to prejudge in half a day's discussion matters which we have pledged ourselves shall be exhaustively, impartially and fairly considered for months by the Joint Select Committee.
I should like to consider the matter on slightly broader lines and to take up the history—I do not want to go far back—at the point at which the anxiety that is obviously felt by many in this House is focussed. I mean the point when at the first Round Table Conference the proposal was definitely put forward to grant responsibility at the centre, subject to an All-India Federation, and subject to safeguards. We are now at a little distance from that occasion and certain conflicts which loomed very large then have to some extent passed away. There was great feeling in certain quarters with regard to the Simon Report when it was published, but many matters which loomed in the forefront then have passed away and we can now look at the step then taken and see it in its true perspective. I do not want to criticise, but it must be admitted that the Terms of Reference to the Statutory Commission were confined, narrowly, to British India. As a result of that, the Chairman of the Commission wrote to the Prime Minister asking that, if necessary, the Terms of Reference should be extended to enable them to explore the matter from the All-India point of view. That was granted, and the Report deals with that aspect of the matter. It is right to remind ourselves that the proposal of the Conference to 1781 representatives of British India and the States:for the purpose of seeking the greatest possible measure of common agreement.came to the Prime Minister from the Chairman of the Statutory Commission, and I deprecate very much, because I do not think it is in accordance with the facts, any attempt to suggest that the subsequent procedure by conference is something inconsistent with or in conflict with the recommendations of the Statutory Commission. At the first meeting of the Round Table Conference representatives of the Indian States and the Princes agreed to consider the possibility of federation, and a totally new situation arose. The Statutory Commission had looked forward to an All-India federal scheme and had indicated it as on the right lines towards which we should all work. They used these words:We desire in our proposals to do nothing to hinder but everything to help its arrival.At the first Round Table Conference representatives of the States said: "We are willing to consider whether it may not be possible to work up to federation and to a federal scheme in which we may be prepared to come." There can be no doubt that those who prepared the report of the Statutory Commission did not believe at that time that a movement of that kind would be effective at so early a date. I cannot but deprecate one or two of the suggestions made this afternoon as to the motives of those among the Princes who performed at that time what I believe to be a great act of statesmanship. Anyone who looks at the map of India and sees the States which we have protected and maintained, scattered like a great archipelago over the Continent of India, cannot but feel that any move towards an All-India Federation which will enable the whole of the sub-Continent to come under some system of unity in All-India matters, is a thing which we should welcome. Is it suggested that that gesture, that move having been made by the Indian States, it was practicable for us to say: "No, we will have nothing to do with it. Although that is the aim and object which we desire and although this is a great step towards it, we are afraid that it has come too soon. You must wait, five, 10, 15 or 20 years. We cannot allow you to go into this matter now."
§ Sir H. CROFT
Would it not have been possible to have given a few months to enable all the Princes to have become acquainted with it so that we might have a more or less unanimous view from the Princes?
§ Mr. SOMERVELL
The first Round Table Conference proceeded to do that, and no other course could have been pursued. They proceeded to sketch out the sort of things that federation would involve. What other course could have been adopted by this competent and qualified body than to sit down and say: "We will see what sort of thing is involved." Then they went on to indicate what would be a reserved subject, what would be safeguards, and so on. That is exactly what was done. The Indian States would have cause of complaint if those steps had not been taken to show them what sort of federation it would be when it came to be worked out in detail. I suggest that it is not practicable, and never could be practicable, to ask the States to come into a federation or to sketch the federation into which India would come unless you had some form of responsibility at the centre. I am speaking always, of the area outside defence, external relations and safeguards. The States are autonomous bodies with great traditions of relationship with the paramount Power.
How could you ask them to agree to the exercise within their territory of Federal jurisdiction and Federal Government unless you allowed the legislative body to which you are asking them to send members to have some control over the Executive? Unless you had responsibility at the centre in regard to the very matters on which you are asking them to federate, you would be asking them to transfer further powers to an irresponsible central executive. I suggest that the question of responsibility at the centre on the lines indicated and the possibility of an all-India federal solution are indissolubly bound together. You cannot have an organisation into which all the States are to come unless the legislature at the centre to which you are asking them to send representatives is a legislature which is in effective control over the matters of the central executive.
1783 There are some regrets for the steps which have been taken in the past in regard to this matter by this country. No doubt there is wisdom to be gained after the event, but it would be unreasonable to criticise our predecessors because, on the whole, I believe that the course pursued by this country since 1917 onwards, far from being a weak and an injudicious course has been a courageous course, a course in accordance with the traditions of British policy, and a natural development of our attitude and our pledges, certainly since 1861 in the famous Proclamation of Queen Victoria. The hon. and gallant Member who moved the Motion, in his moving peroration, said that a consideration of Conservative principles from Beaconsfield to Salisbury and from some other statesman to Mr. Bonar Law, showed that it was right to grant responsibility to the provinces but wholly wrong to grant any responsibility to the centre. I do not believe that a consideration of Conservative policy between the periods outlined by the hon. and gallant Member could lead to so simple a solution of the matter. I believe that the alterations we are making are alterations which will preserve the partnership which our predecessors have built up in the past. This House should give every encouragement to the Secretary of State in the path he has trod, and is treading to-day, in dealing with this very difficult and responsible matter.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. BERNAYS
The Motion has been moved in vigorous and provocative speeches, and my only quarrel with them is that they are 30 years out of date. They rest on the assumption that such changes as have taken place in India have merely been surface changes. With that view I profoundly disagree. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) spoke of the Indian soldiers who fought so gallantly in the War. They changed the sunbaked villages of India for the rain-sodden trenches of Northern France; and I suggest that they went back to India with a new outlook, and a new conception; a somewhat twisted conception of Western civilisation. That is one fact. There is another and a more prosaic fact—the motor omnibus. In the old days the newspapers were left 1784 along the Indian lines by train. Now they are carried to the remotest villages in motor omnibuses. The vernacular Press is almost wholly in favour of Indian nationalism. It goes to these remote villages. You may say that there is only one person who can read, the head man of the village, but they gather round him and in that way hear the news. I suggest that hon. Members who have moved this Motion envisage an old India which has passed, and my complaint about them is that they make so little attempt to understand the new India. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) in the course of the last 10 years has met a single representative Hindu. He jeers and sneers at Mr. Gandhi, but I doubt whether he made any attempt to have an interview with him when he was in this country.
§ Mr. BERNAYS
The right hon. Gentleman claims to be a great expert on India. I suggest that we should not regard anyone as a great expert on this country who had not visited it for 30 years and who had not even taken the trouble to meet one representative Socialist. [Interruption.] I am saying that the right hon. Gentleman claims to be an expert on India. The right hon. Gentleman has not been to India for 30 years. He has not taken the trouble to meet a single representative Hindu. What weight should we attach to the opinion of a foreigner on this country if he had not visited us for 30 years and had not taken the trouble to meet a single Socialist?
§ Mr. BERNAYS
I was there only for a few months. I do not claim to be an expert on India, but I claim that my knowledge is of the year 1931, whereas the knowledge of the right hon. Member for Epping is 1899. This Motion is based upon the idea that we are giving consti- 1785 tutional government to a dumb India. I suggest that they are not nearly as dumb as we think they are. We have heard a great deal about the risks of this new constitution. Suppose the Government accepted this Motion and returned to a system of government which it envisages, who would there be in India to work it? We should have against us the whole of the political Hindus, three-quarters of the Moslem world, a considerable part of the European community and, worst of all, a certain number, perhaps a large number, of Indian officials as well. We should have enemies in the actual workshop of government. We hear a great deal about the risks attendant on the Government's policy, but I suggest that they are nothing to the risks attendant on the policy of the right hon. Member for Epping, which involves nothing less than a return to the nineteenth century structure of government without one of the conditions which gave that structure stability.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I do not want to interrupt the hon. Member, but when he attributes to me a policy, may I say that the only policy to which I have committed myself is to rest within the ambit of the Statutory Commission?
§ Mr. BERNAYS
That is exactly the policy I am attacking. I am saying that such a Government cannot survive. It is not a choice between the Simon Report and the Government White Paper: it is a choice between the White Paper and military autocracy. It is suggested that we are handing over the Government to illiterate millions. To whom else are we to hand it over? The right hon. Member for Epping is in favour of some extension of self-government. To whom does he propose to extend self-government? To the landlords? A restricted franchise means a landlord franchise, and under the present proposals the views of the ryots will swamp the views of the landlords. The extent of the intended franchise is the surest guarantee that it will not be used for oppression.
The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth talked about the impossibility of parliamentary government. We are not imposing parliamentary government on India: we have been asked to give it. Educated India wants parliamentary government, and who are we to 1786 say that what has worked well for us will not work with them? In any case we cannot go back now. All the reforms in India for centuries have been constructed on the model of Western democracy. We have advanced too far to retreat now. Who will work the new constitution? That depends on the attitude of the Government. Obviously, there is an irreconcilable wing which nothing can win over, but there is a dominant section who genuinely desire peace, and I believe that a real, generous settlement will detach them from civil disobedience to co-operation. In fact, it is detaching them already. There has been a remarkable decline in the number of political prisoners this year compared with the number when the Labour Government were in office. In the case of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, Congress, again and again, refused to co-operate. For three years they kept out. Then they came in with the idea of smashing it, but failed to do so.
I suggest that when people of all sides look down at the abyss of anarchy which may result if this constitution fails, they will draw back. We on this side of the House shall vote this evening for the Amendment moved by the right hon. Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy). This is not the time to harry or badger the Secretary of State. A new picture of India is approaching completion. The Indian Constitution is like a great jigsaw puzzle. For six years successive Governments have been trying to work the jagged pieces into some coherent whole. This is not the time to jumble them together and start again, still less the time to follow the policy of the right hon. Member for Epping and upset the table. It is rather a time to proceed boldly and patiently to the completion of the task which we began six years ago.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Sir REGINALD BANKS
Like many other hon. Members I was deeply impressed and moved by the remarkable and forceful speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). I sympathise with much that he said, and he has done a service in using the opportunity which the Ballot gave him to inaugurate this Debate. He expressed doubts and anxieties which it is well that the Government should know. These doubts and anxieties have been growing, especially among Conservative Members, 1787 as the result, in my view, of a further study of this question, upon which it was high time to embark, and I know that the Government will sympathise with a frank and honest expression of these doubts, realising, as I hope they do, that Conservative Members, the most numerous and probably the most powerful group in the House, are by no means the least loyal of the Prime Minister's supporters to-day. It is true that we cannot claim a mandate for any India Constitutional Bill from the electors. I do not suppose it was mentioned even in a perfunctory way at the last election or the preceding one, nor do I suppose that more than a very small group of members have had the time to familiarise themselves with the proceedings of the Round Table Conference, and with the very complicated questions involved in the reports of the three different Commissions which have been sent out to India since then.
All these considerations seem to me to be good and quite sufficient reason why this House should not pronounce any premature decision on this subject this afternoon. We are asking the Government for assurances that we shall not be committed, and, if I understand the position, the Secretary of State has told us that the Round Table Conference was not regarded, nor did it regard itself, as a constituent assembly; that the agreements arrived at were necessarily provisional, and that the conclusions arrived at were not binding, either upon the Government, upon this House or upon the Joint Select Committee. As I understand it, the Joint Select Committee itself is to be free and unfettered to take whatever course it thinks best after further reflection. In fact, nobody was committed to any definite course of action until, sooner or later, the Government commit themselves by the introduction of a Bill. Should we not, therefore, in these circumstances maintain complete freedom of judgment and of action?
I believe that I and Mr. Gandhi are the only two genuine Die-hards in the world to-day. He would like to go back to 1758. I would rather like to go back to 1858, because I am not at all sure that we have not been travelling on the wrong path since then. I am rather inclined to agree with Mr. Gandhi that western 1788 ideas, social, political, economic and industrial, are not suited to the changeless East. The difference between us is that he thinks he can go back to 1758, and I know that I cannot go back to 1858. Indeed, I know that I cannot go back to 1928. There is the difference. I am sorry, personally, that in 1929 the Government of the day did not see fit to accept and operate the scheme suggested in the Simon Report. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), when he discussed the White Paper, made, as he always does make, a coruscating speech, with formidable arguments, but I am sorry to say that the conclusion he put before us was as futile as his speech was forceful. The only true conclusion to which his arguments would have conducted us would have been utterly to undo the past. You cannot undo the past. It is just like the progress we sometimes notice in a love affair—amorous glances, brushes of the hand, caresses, finally impassioned love letters imprudently committed to writing, and anyhow you have to marry the girl or face a breach of promise action and be cast in damages.
The vote that we passed in December, 1931, I supported. I said then, and I say now, that I did not think that the declaration of policy which was placed before us justified any Member of the House elected to support a National Government in parting from the National Government at that time. True, it was a declaration of policy. I think I am right in supposing that what we did then was to give a conditional approval to the policy in that White Paper. If I had thought that our approval was absolutely unconditional and irrevocable, I should neither have taken that course myself nor have recommended it to my friends. But I believe it was subject to conditions, and that is the key to my position to-day.
If I may, I respectfully advise the House to take this attitude: Let us say to the Government "We have not gone back upon the attitude that we adopted in December, 1931. All we ask you to do is this: Knowing that we are ultimately to decide we ask you to realise that it is not fair to ask us to pass any Bill unless we are satisfied that the conditions which you yourselves laid down are fulfilled." Those conditions, I apprehend, are mainly two. First of all the Simon scheme was abandoned, I under- 1789 stand, for one reason only, and that was because there was an affirmation by the Princes that they were ready to come into an All-India Federation. That was substantially an essential change in the position.
We know very well that there are some 680 States. We know that they are obliged, before definitely declaring their adhesion to the scheme, to satisfy themselves about their own condition in a multiplicity of ways—customs, finance tribute and all sorts of other matters which must be carefully deliberated by them. We do not ask the Government to say to us to-day or for some time that only a specific proportion will constitute a satisfactory proportion. I believe it would be bad diplomacy and bad tactics and would put us in a, weaker position if we tried to force the Government to specify any particular proportion of the native States which would satisfy their views. But we say "You are not to hold up this great scheme because of one squire—he may be a Prince, but his lands may not exceed the lands of some of the ancient families in this country—you are not to hold up the scheme because one or two feudal squires hold out against it, but you must not consider yourselves satisfied because a few prominent and important States have signified their adhesion. There is to be no federation at all until and unless in broad terms Indian India signifies its readiness to join with British India."
The second consideration or condition was solvency. I am not going into that extremely complicated question, nor do I wish to say anything indiscreet about the position as it is to-day, but we know there are difficulties; we know that some of the provinces have difficulties from a financial point of view. Certainly I am confident that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would not desire to erect this great building upon a foundation of bankruptcy, like one of those grandiose luxury hotels that are put up at an enormous expenditure of capital and are generally being run by a receiver about two months later. So the adhesion of Indian India and the solvency of the provinces and of the centre are the conditions upon which we sincerely hope that the Government will satisfy us.
Another condition is this: We ask the Government to remember that we are not bound to support any Measure which does 1790 not provide for effective safeguards upon those lines which the Government themselves consider it necessary and wise to impose. I have read with the greatest care the pages in the report of the three Round Table Conferences in which these safeguards are enumerated and explained, and I would like to say as a lawyer that I could not possibly advise better safeguards than I find there—on paper. The Viceroy is given immense powers—on paper. The Governors are given much greater powers than they possess at present—on paper. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for a triumphant victory over those who would have abated his views—on paper. But, if I may speak epigrammatically, there is a difference between powers and power.
Assuming that all is happy in India and everybody is trying to co-operate, obviously you do not require any safeguards at all. Assume the contrary, and then it is no use shedding ink unless you are prepared and able to shed blood. Let me put the matter in another way. Assume a Cosgrave and your Treaty is observed and your annuities are paid. Assume a de Valera and your Treaty is rubbish and obligations are repudiated. I am afraid that the de Valera type of mentality is rather more prevalent than the other among the politically-minded in India. Take a concrete example. Imagine some general attempt on the part of a recrudescent Congress to force the Viceroy's hand for some ulterior object like the immediate Indianisation of the army. Take any step which the Viceroy regards as premature. Imagine widespread disaffection in India. Imagine the Ministers in charge of the police or transport or posts and telegraphs, against the Viceroy. Imagine the Viceroy refusing to take their advice, disaffection amongst the police, and it may be an army which in those days he will not find so utterly loyal as the army to which he has been accustomed.
In those circumstances what is he going to do? He has the Army, we know. But calling out the troops is a thing that no Executive does except in the last resort. We all know what it means. You rely on the police wisely—and generally your reliance is proved well founded—to deal with disorder in the first instance. Of course the Viceroy may pass a Governor-General's Act over the heads of 1791 his advisers. If he wants extra supplies of course the may make a Governor-General's tax. Of course he may call on the Provincial Governments to exercise their special powers to supplement and complete his own. But what machinery will he have? He must in the last resort have human brains to study his plans and human hands to execute his orders. It is no use being given a latch key if the people inside bolt the door. It is no use having a symbolic cheque if the bank will not pay the money over the counter.
Those for whom I speak—I know they are loyal members and I believe they are numerous members—do desire the Government by some means or another to make these safeguards effective. I cannot ask the Secretary of State for a solution to-day. It is no doubt a very complicated matter. There may be many devices which he will find out as time goes on, but I am positive that the Secretary of State himself and those associated with him have not been foolish enough, after sad experiences in other parts of the Empire, to write these words and print them in that Round Table Report without having a sincere desire and resolution to make them effectual. If that is so let us to-day, after this discussion, go home without prejudicing the situation by any ill-advised and premature action, reserving to ourselves the right to be satisfied in the long run, that what we are doing is in accordance with our own consciences and in the best interests of the Empire. That solemn responsibility will fall upon us then. It is totally Unnecessary that we should anticipate it to-day.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Sir A. KNOX
I rise to support the Motion of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). Although many speakers have attacked the Motion, I think it is a matter for congratulation that it has been moved to-night. I hope that it will be some indication to the Government who are deciding our future policy towards India, of the depth of feeling in this House regarding our commitments and our policy in India. I would point out to the Government that the Indian experience of those who are most concerned as to the Government's Indian policy greatly exceeds in length of time the Indian experience of those who would 1792 light-heartedly enter into this scheme of reform. We, who have been in India, perhaps many years ago, can claim to know something of the natives of India. For myself, I spent five months in a walled-in post on the Indian frontier where I had no Englishman near me. I had Sikhs and Jains and Mohammadens, and I had to speak to them in their own language or not speak at all. In situations like that one gets to know something about the feelings of the people and when young Members of this House tell me that we, who were in India 20 or 30 years ago, know nothing of the new India I absolutely deny the statement. The young Member to-day goes out like a sort of "Paget, M.P." and becomes acquainted with a few politicians there, but what does he know of the cultivators who are 90 per cent. of the population? What does he know of their feelings and their fears? I am frightened lest the Government do away with the white autocracy and put in its place a brown autocracy.
§ Mr. BERNAYS
As the hon. and gallant Member asked me when I was last in India, may I now ask him when he was last there?
§ Sir A. KNOX
I was last in India in 1921. I spent 11 years in India and I can talk with the natives of India in their own language. I am not dependent upon conversations with Anglicised Indians or on conversations with the ryots only through the medium of interpreters. If we were to accede to the Amendment of the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), it would tend to muzzle the House of Commons. We want to bring pressure on the Government and to let the Government know, with all due loyalty, what we feel about India. While we may support the National Government and while I believe a National Government to be necessary in this country, I should throw over the present National Government rather than risk the safety and permanency of our rule in India on which depends the livelihood of 350,000,000 people.
I find a great deal more to agree with in the speech of the Mover of the official Opposition Amendment. If you are to bring in these reforms, then surely some time you will have to open the gaol gates and let out the people who are now in 1793 prison in India. What is going to be the result? It is impossible, if you are going to inaugurate a great scheme of reforms in India, that you should have 6,000 or 8,000 people in the gaols, and when you free these people what action are they going to take? The only organised party in India is the Congress party, and at the recent Round Table Conference one of the Indian delegates expressed the opinion that, at any rate, in the first two elections the Congress party would be certain to gain a majority. What will happen then? What use are your safeguards going to be?
The hon. and learned Member for Swindon (Sir R. Banks) asked whether the safeguards were to be only paper safeguards and I wish to ask the Secretary of State one or two questions about those sagefuards. At a meeting of the Conservative and Unionist Associations on 30th June, 1931, the right hon. Gentleman supported a resolution to the effect that certain essential safeguards must be real and permanent and capable of being exercised by the Imperial Parliament in the interests of this country no less than those of India. The right hon. Gentleman at that meeting added that he took his stand on a dispatch of the late Viceroy in which were enumerated no fewer than 11 subjects on which we should have adequate safeguards. At the Round Table Conference we find that only three subjects have been reserved, namely, defence, external affairs and ecclesiastical affairs. Other such important matters as the defence of minorities, and the prevention of unfair trade discrimination are to be the special responsibility of the Viceroy.
What machinery has the Viceroy to deal with those special responsibilities? If you place special responsibilities on the unfortunate man who is going to be in a position of Viceroy when these reforms are introduced, remember that he has only the army on which to depend. I am the last person to depreciate the effect of an army but an army without police is of no use whatever to keep internal order and it is proposed to hand over the police and judiciary to the provincial governments. How is the unfortunate Viceroy, sitting up on a peak in Simla, with the army scattered over India—but chiefly concentrated on the North-West frontier to prepare for that Russian invasion—to get in touch with 1794 the army and use the army for the purpose of keeping order. At the Round Table Conference the Secretary of State expressed the hope that these safeguards would only be ultimate safeguards, probably never to be used. We all share that hope but in these times we have to look at the realities and try to find what is likely to happen.
Our experience in Ireland does not give us much hope as to what is going to happen in India. What use have the safeguards in Ireland been? I was not in this House at the time, but I would like to recall what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) regarding the Irish Agreement. He said that that agreement "made us full of hope." He said, that, by it we won "a deep, abiding and passionate loyalty." He said that as a result of it "our peril will be her danger; our fears will be her anxiety and our victory will be her joy." If you are going into this new resignation of Empire, this abdication of Empire, in that sort of spirit, I only hope that you will have your eyes opened and that you will provide real safeguards and not merely paper safeguards. The hon. Member for Crewe (Mr. Somervell) dealt with the Round Table Conference and with how the idea of Federation arose. He said that the Chairman of the Statutory Commission had written a letter to the Prime Minister asking the Government to have consultation with the representatives of the Princes to see if they could be brought into the picture.
§ Sir A. KNOX
And the representatives of British India. But I submit that it is very unlikely that if the Chairman of the Statutory Commission knew that these Round Table Conferences were to be made the excuse—as they have been —for shelving the whole of his Report, the labour of three years, he would have penned such a letter. I would like to quote the exact words of the letter:It seems to us that what would be required would be the setting up of some sort of conference after the report of the Statutory Commission has been made, considered, and published.Now the Report of the Simon Commission has never been considered. I think that in the long history of Parliament 1795 this is the only instance of a report of such importance to which prominent men have given years of their lives and the utmost labour and ability, never having been considered at all in this House. At the first Round Table Conference, in November, 1930, a few Princes, who really had not a mandate from their fellow Princes, said they would come into a scheme of Federation for all India. At the last Round Table Conference we learned the history of how that proposal came about. That prominent member of the Conference Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru explained that he saw the Princes and that it was his suggestion that they should make that proposal to the Round Table Conference. Lord Reading, who was, I believe, the head of the Liberal Delegation, immediately accepted, and thus we had the idea of Federation.
Apparently, this is to be the first instance in history of Federation being started before the constituent parts have had any real practical experience of self-government. There have been federations such as the Australian, the South African and the Canadian, but in those cases the units had all been self-governing before they came into the federation and they were countries inhabited by people of our own blood who have a genius for government or rather, I ought to say, a genius for standing governments which you do not find in many other nations and much less in a sub-continent like India. There is the great federation of the United States which, I believe, began in 1787, but the 13 States who came into that federation originally had been independent for four years previously. They came in of their own free will and abdicated such powers as they thought should belong to the central Government. In spite of that fact one of the bloodiest civil wars of history was waged in America from 1861 to 1865 in order to keep in some States which wanted to get out of the federation. We know that federations have not worked very smoothly in Australia, though we hope for the best.
Compare the position in India. The Provinces which you are going to bring in have never had any real self-government. They have been nursed either by British-trained Indians or by the British themselves. They have not reached a 1796 point at which they can say whether they would willingly join a federation or not. On the other hand, you are going to have 600 or so Indian States alike in only one respect, namely, that they have no democratic form of government whatever. You are going to bring these Indian Provinces which thirst for this thing called democracy into the same federation with Indian States which are purely autocratic. It seems to me the most extraordinary scheme ever suggested.
I would like the Secretary of State to tell us something about this pressure which is being put on the Indian States to come into the federation. It is true that a few States said at the first Conference that they were in favour of the federation, but at the last Conference we found that constant pressure was being put on the States to come in quickly. They are not being treated any longer as sovereign Powers. I do not blame the Secretary of State so much for that. He pointed out to Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru that it would be necessary to wait, that he could not present an ultimatum to the States because they might take it badly and it might cause a reaction against the idea of Federation. But we find the representative of the State of Hyderabad, Sir Muhammad Akbar Hydari, stating:His Majesty's Government is slowly but surely pressing us into the federation.Then we have the Lord Chancellor saying:Gentlemen of the States, India is thirsting. India is calling. You have put the cup to her lips. Do not delay her drinking it. You have excited the hopes of India and hope deferred maketh the heart sick.'I ask hon. Members, can they imagine any worse I India is thirsting. Why, it is not even the hot weather. Probably in the 350,000,000 of the Indian population there are not 500,000 who know anything about these reforms. What a misnomer for a man in that position, in the circumstances, to talk about "India thirsting." It is really raising false hopes. But that is what happens when people get into that atmosphere of mutual admiration in the Robing Room where they spent three weeks exchanging compliments. We want to get back to reality and to have some scheme of reform which will give the Indian ryot a chance. The people who know India and love India are frightened lest the Government go too far and produce a scheme which will break down and cause chaos in India. 1797 We do not want to see India in, the state in which China has been since the so-called reforms were established there. The last speaker seemed to think that it did not matter how many States came into Federation. The States altogether have a population of some 80,000,000. Supposing 40,000,000 came into Federation and 40,000,000 stayed out. How are you going to run customs and railways and services of that sort? Will it not lead to terrible confusion in the government of India?
On one occasion, I believe it was 27th June, 1932, the unbound copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT reported the Secretary of State as saying that all the States should come in to make Federation possible. Then we had the bound copy which came out a few weeks later in which the word "all" was omitted and it simply said that the States should come in to make Federation possible. That correction was not made, the Secretary of State tells us, by his authority. The last remark of the Secretary of State on this subject was at the Round Table Conference. That was on Christmas Eve, and he considered then that half the States would be sufficient if they came in, "as at present advised." That "as at present advised" is the sort of political loophole that we unfortunate back benchers are afraid of. We want to know what it means. Can we have a statement that in no circumstances will he accept as a mandate for Federation less than half the population of the Indian States?
We had this wonderful report on the franchise by a Noble Lord and a young committee who went to India. They spent, I suppose, about three months in India, examined some 315 witnesses, and came to a definite conclusion as to the political capacity of 350,000,000 Indians. They allowed that perhaps they were not politically minded yet, but they said that, after all, that modern invention, the loud speaker, would do all the rest. You could have a loud speaker in every village. There are some 750,000 villages in India, and you can imagine what an expense it would be to the Government to have a loud speaker in each. You can imagine the local schoolmaster, if there is one in the village, and what kind of interruption he would make when any political opinions came through that he did not like; and you can imagine the villagers' keenness in listening to politics 1798 from loud speakers. Are we keen when Members of the Government or of the Opposition discuss politics over the loud speaker? Do we not switch them off at once and turn on some jazz?
There has recently been an election in Burma which ought to give us some realisation of how far our Oriental fellow-subjects are politically minded. I may say at once that the people of Burma have a larger percentage of literacy than the people of India; there are more of them educated. In that election we had some propaganda, in which it was proclaimed that if Burma were separated from India, it would become a Crown Colony of Great Britain, "entailing dreadful consequences." Those consequences numbered no fewer than 23, and here is one of them:Christian ministers shall preach every day except on Saturday and Sunday at every street.Imagine how the Buddhist priests would use their influence against that kind of thing. Here is No. 10:In every house there shall he a lavatory … and every lavatory shall be inspected by a Government servant three times a day. A tax shall be levied on every lavatory.No. 20 is as follows:Meat of animals which died of old age or disease must not be eaten.Imagine this sort of thing being put over as propaganda. We are accustomed, many of us, to unscrupulous propaganda at elections in this country, but how will the poor ignorant ryot, who cannot read or write, be able to contend with it? And these 36,000,000 are going to have the vote.
§ Lord E. PERCY
In other words, against the propaganda that the hon. and gallant Member has read out?
§ Sir A. KNOX
No, on the contrary; the Noble Lord is wrong. One hon. Member spoke about the difficulties of finance, and they are very real. It is perfectly true that when the Montagu reforms were introduced, the success of those reforms was endangered by lack of finance, and now the financial position in 1799 India is infinitely worse. I have seen it stated that the cost of running the Montagu reforms in India increased the expenditure of the Central Government by no less than 41 per cent., and the man at the plough has to pay that. My time is up. I hope my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth will push this Motion to a Division in order to give the Government some idea of the strength of feeling and anxiety among their supporters in this House.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Sir S. HOARE
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) enjoys a well-deserved reputation for speaking his own mind with absolute sincerity and courage. He made to-day, if I may say so, a speech typical of his whole career in this House. He made a speech which seemed to me to show that in his heart of hearts he disapproves of the course of policy that has been adopted towards India for many generations. He seemed at any rate to show that, so far as these latter years are concerned, he has a profound apprehension of the course that has been adopted in the last two years. I do not in any way blame my hon. and gallant Friend for having his doubts and anxieties upon these very complicated and serious questions. There is no part of this Indian problem—that is its great difficulty—to which any simple answer can be given. Still less do I question my hon. and gallant Friend's good faith in moving this Motion. All that I would ask him to-day is to give us who disagree with him credit for as much sincerity as he himself possesses.
He may think that the course upon which we have been proceeding now for many months is a very dangerous one, but I can assure him that we, like him, have not the least intention of abandoning our Indian obligations; we, like him, have not the least intention of taking any action that is going to lose India to the Empire; we, like him, are neither opportunist time-servers nor nerveless officeholders; and we, like him, have, through the whole existence of this Parliament, adopted a perfectly consistent line of action. Why, Mr. Speaker, with a dull monotony that must often have bored many of my hon. Friends I have gone on during this Parliament making the same 1800 speech and maintaining the same course of policy. To-day I claim that there is no change in my position, no change in the position of the Government, no change in the position of the House, compared with the position that the House took up in December, 1931, when, by an overwhelming majority, it gave general approval to the line that the Government then proposed to adopt.
Perhaps I should say that with one exception the position to-day is as it was in December, 1931. The one exception is that the state of affairs in India itself is much better than it was 18 months ago. Law and order have been substantially restored, boycotting has been effectively crushed, two-thirds of the civil disobedience prisoners have been released, and no serious results have ensued; and perhaps most notable of all have been the evidences of a better state of feeling in India. The Assembly, by an overwhelming majority, ratified the Ottawa Agreement, and together with the Provincial Councils, has of its own free will, without any external compulsion, passed legislation by the ordinary constitutional procedure that armed the Central Government and the Provincial Governments with powers to deal with any renewed threats against established order.
I ask the House this evening, at a time when in almost every part of the world and when here in Europe the state of affairs has been deteriorating during the last 12 months, when great parts of Asia have been drifting deeper into chaos, is it not a significant fact that affairs in India have been steadily improving, is it not significant that they have been improving at the very time when we have been discussing these constitutional changes, is it not significant that they have been improving at the time when we have been engaged in carrying out a dual programme of order on the one hand and constitutional advance on the other? Sir, if this be the state of affairs, what reason can the House of Commons have to-night for changing the course in which it encouraged the Government by an overwhelming majority 18 months ago, and in embarking on a new programme totally different from the programme that was then before the House?
Duchess of ATHOLL
I am sorry to interrupt my right hon. Friend, but when 1801 he says there has been no change in policy on the part of the Government, I wonder whether he will make clear to the House two matters in which there has been some change of policy. The first is that we understood from him in June last that a considerable number of—
§ Sir S. HOARE
If my Noble Friend will allow me, I have only a little time, and I am going to deal with all those points in my speech. I claim that nothing has happened during these months that would justify the House of Commons in altering its general attitude towards Indian reform now. I am aware that my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) has the lowest opinion of the actions of the Government in the field of constitutional reform during these anxious months. He made a speech at the end of last week in which it was clear that he was under the impression that we, the Government, and the great majority of our supporters have slavishly accepted the Socialist programme. Let me, if I may, remind the House of the words he actually used:Yet upon the morrow of their great victory they found the Tory party, with its overwhelming Parliamentary majority, so cowed and muffled that it was almost afraid to mention its own name. The representatives of the great party which did all the work, bore all the responsibility, and would incur all the unpopularity, sat silent dumbfounded, gripped or bewitched by the old gang and the party machine. It is under these conditions that we come to the discussion of the tremendous problem of India. The Tory party has swallowed, lock, stock and barrel, the policies of the late Socialist Government about the Indian Constitution.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I was thinking in particular of my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) sitting "silent and dumbfounded, gripped by the old gang and the party machine." When I read that description of our Indian policy, I am reminded of what Gibbon in his autobiography said of Pope's translation of Homer.It was a portrait endowed with every merit except likeness to the original.So far from adopting the Socialist programme, it is clear from the Amendment on the Paper that there are considerable points of difference between the Opposition and ourselves.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I meant the programme of the late Socialist administration—of the present Prime Minister and the late Secretary for India, Mr. Wedgwood Benn.
§ Sir S. HOARE
So far from adopting this Socialist programme, even at that time, we, the Members of the various delegations went into the first conference and reached our conclusions, not because proposals came, or did not come, from the Socialist Government, but because we thought that on the merits of the case, and the actual circumstances, they were wise proposals we could adopt. It is clear to-day that the programme on which we are engaged does not fully meet with the approval of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench. We have had an interesting speech from the hon. Member for Lime-house (Mr. Attlee). He made an appeal that we should release the civil disobedience prisoners and, by a gesture, enlist the support of new bodies of opinion in India. I am afraid I have nothing to add to what I said on this subject in answer to a question the other day. We are genuinely most anxious for co-operation with every section of opinion which is willing to co-operate with us, but we are not prepared to take risks. We are not prepared to repeat the experiment, which did not altogether succeed owing to the action of Congress two years ago. We cannot contemplate any release of that kind until we are really satisfied that civil disobedience will not break out again, and the risks are no longer serious.
I come to the actual Motion which the House is asked to consider to-day. My hon. and gallant Friend makes a series of proposals in that Motion. First of all, his Motion rejects responsibility at the centre on the grounds, first, that there is not enough money and, secondly, that the proposed safeguards are not adequate. He further proposes that the first step should be the extension of self-government in the Provinces and approves the report of the Statutory Commission subject to temporary reservation of the administration with regard to law and order. Further, he proposes that federation should be contingent upon the willingness of the autonomous Provinces to federate with the States as partners in the British Empire. Before I deal in detail with this, let me make two general 1803 observations. Let me first point out to the House that so far at any rate as the Provinces are concerned, my hon. and gallant Friend appears to be ready to impose Western institutions upon our Indian fellow-subjects. I notice, in the speech which I have just quoted, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping condemned in very forcible language any such attempt. If he is prepared to vote for the Motion this evening is he prepared to impose upon the Provinces this experiment of Western institutions?
§ Sir S. HOARE
The other observation I will make to-night is that the time really to discuss details of the constitutional proposals will be, first, in the Debate on setting up the Joint Select Committee and, secondly, in the Joint Select Committee itself. When I say that, I do not mean to say I will not give a general answer to-night to many of the questions raised in the Debate, but I do say that the time for detailed discussion is not to-night but on future occasions when the Joint Committee is set up and the Bill actually introduced.
§ Sir S. HOARE
Having made these two general observations, let me take my hon. and gallant Friend's points in order. He says, first of all, that the state of Indian finance will not admit of setting up a Federal Government at the centre. I agree with him that the state of Indian finance, much improved as it is, is not yet as satisfactory as we should desire. I agree with him further, that if an attempt were made here and now to finance the Federal centre, and finance at the same time autonomous Provinces, it would be very difficult to find the money. I do further say that it is impossible for us to-night to forecast the exact position when the act of Federation takes place. I further say to him, and I hope this may to some extent reassure him, that I do not suppose anybody here, or indeed in India, will be prepared to bring Federation into being if it is quite obvious that the Federation will be insolvent. My own view, which is supported by many of 1804 my expert advisers, is that the Federal Government would not cost substantially more than the existing Central Government, and that the problem of adjusting finances between the centre and the Provinces is much the same whether Federation is set up, whether Provincial autonomy is started, or whether we keep the centre as it is now.
I come to the second of my hon. and gallant Friend's contentions. In the first place, there must be adequate finance and, in the second place, adequate safeguards. To-night I have no intention of going into detail on the safeguards seriatim. The time for that discussion will be when the White Paper is actually produced, when they will be set out in precise form so that every Member can judge whether they are adequate or not. I will only say, first of all, that neither I, nor the Government, have receded from the position we have taken up about safeguards from the very start of this discussion. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member who spoke last is misinformed when he suggests we have watered down the safeguards from 11 to 3. The safeguards to-day are substantially the same as the safeguards we always discussed from the very beginning, and the methods for dealing with them are substantially the same. I can assure my hon. Friends in every part of the House that they will find that that is the case when the White Paper is produced. In the meanwhile, let me say that I entirely agree with what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Swindon (Sir R. Banks) said in a very remarkable speech, that the safeguards are the very essence of the problem; that it is not sufficient to have safeguards on paper. These safeguards, if need arises, must be capable of being put into force. I would ask hon. Members to suspend their judgment upon the safeguards until they see them set out in precise form in the White Paper. I am perfectly ready to accept the condition suggested by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Swindon that the question of safeguards is one of the test cases in the whole of this constitutional problem.
I pass from the question of safeguards to another series of questions raised by my hon. and gallant Friend, and also by the hon. and learned Member for Swindon, namely, Federation itself. I agree with my hon. and learned Friend 1805 that, at this moment, it is unwise to state explicitly the exact number of States, or the exact proportion of population, without which we should not regard Federation as an effective Federation. But I can assure him that we do regard the existence of an effective Federation as a basic condition of our proposals. By effective Federation I do not mean the accession of two or three great States, nor do I mean the accession of a large number of small States without the great States. I mean by an effective Federation a substantial representation of the main body of the States in India. There, again, I would ask the House to wait for the details until we actually produce our White Paper.
I come now to the third part of my hon. and gallant Friend's Motion, that dealing with Provincial autonomy. In that respect my hon. and gallant Friend says that he accepts the Simon Commission, but he makes so extensive a reservation as to make his acceptance of the Simon Commission of very little value. He makes the exception of law and order. I know, perhaps, as much as any Member of the House the great difficulty of the problem of law and order, and I can sympathise with my hon. and gallant Friend's anxiety. He looks at some of these Provinces and sees the chance, it may be, of a Congress majority, and he thinks quite justifiably what is to be the effect of a transfer of law and order from a splendid service like the Indian police. I share many of his anxieties, but I can assure him that we are giving very close attention to this question, and particularly to the position of the police. While I am not prepared to go into details this evening, I can tell him that within the limits of the transfer of law and order—we do regard that as essential—we are taking every possible step to safeguard the future of a great service to which we are under perpetual obligations from day to day and from month to month.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Did the right hon. Gentleman say "within the limits of law and order which we regard as essential to transfer"? Are we to understand that a decision has been taken to transfer law and order to the Provinces?
§ Sir S. HOARE
I was just coming to that point. I say that we were fully aware of the gravity of the question, 1806 and that, having considered it from every angle, we have been driven to the same conclusion as was reached by the Simon Commission, namely, that without a transfer of law and order Provincial autonomy is really a contradiction in terms. I myself am quite sure that without a transfer of law and order Provincial autonomy cannot work. I am sure that you would get the worst features of dyarchy, and the most extreme kind of irresponsible criticism of the Government; and that you would really get the worst of both worlds. I am certain from the many conservations that I have had with Indians of every school of thought that in no Province of India to-day would you get any substantial body of opinon to work Provincial autonomy if law and order were not transferred. These were the arguments that the Simon Commission considered at, great length, and we, like that Commission, have come to much the same conclusion.
I go so far as to say that my hon. and-gallant Friend's Motion is really, in practice, no alternative to the Government's proposal at all. I am sure that it would not work, and that the certain result would be to drive every political section of Indian opinion into non-cooperation. It is a platitude to say so, but there are really only two Indian policies; there is the policy of co-operation, and the policy of non-co-operation. I would not say that I should ever support anything in the nature of abdication of government, but I would say that my hon. and gallant Friend's plan, if it were carried into effect, would drive every politically-minded Indian into non-cooperation, and we should then be driven back to an avowed policy of non-co-operation. There may in certain circumstances be something to be said for a policy that imposes the will of the Government on the people, but the question I would ask my hon. and gallant Friend and his friends who think with him is whether they are likely to be able to carry out a policy of that kind for a sufficiency of time and with an effective continuity that would enable us to succeed in India in very much the same conditions as we failed in Ireland. With the vicissitudes of party politics here I see no likelihood of any length of time in which such a line of policy can be successfully maintained.
1807 If that be the case, surely the wise course is to follow the line that we have been adopting during the last 18 months, of trying as far as we are able to cooperate with Indian opinion. I own that it is not always an easy task. I own that a section of opinion represented by Congress refuses in certain conditions to co-operate. None the less, I do say that we have not altogether failed in our attempt during the last 18 months. We have now many friends in India; we have many more friends than we had a year or two ago. We have large sections of public opinion in India with us in the general line that we have been adopting. I do urge that it would be disastrous if to-night, with the work that we have done during these difficult months and with the success that we may have achieved in enlisting the help of large bodies of opinion, the House should take any action which seemed to show that it was vacillating in the decision which it made 15 months ago. I am the last Member of the House who would press that decision too far. I agree with the general description of it that was given by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon. It was a general line of advance rather than a detailed programme, and I fully agree that the last decision must be with the Government in their final preparation of the Bill, and also with Parliament in the attitude which it takes to that Bill.
It is because we hold that view that we have proposed a procedure unique in our constitutional history, namely, that our proposals in detail are to go to a Joint Select Committee representative of the big bodies of opinion in both Houses of Parliament before the House is committed even by a First or Second Reading. I think, therefore, that the House to-night need have no anxiety that anyone on these benches is trying to repeat the Irish precedent, or that the House will be faced with the dilemma of accepting a document or repudiating a pledge. The position is exactly as I have stated it. In the course of a few weeks' time we shall circulate our proposals in a White Paper in great detail. The White Paper will go to the Joint Select Committee. The Committee will, we hope, have the power of conferring with Indians; it will be the master of its own procedure, and it will not be 1808 restricted in such a way as to prevent it making any proposals which it may desire to make.
§ Sir AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Do the Government propose to allow the House to discuss the White Paper before it goes to the Select Committee?
§ Sir S. HOARE
In answer to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth I cannot give that pledge, but here and now I can say to my right hon. Friend that certainly there will be a full Debate upon the Motion setting up the Committee, when the White Paper will be in every Member's hands. I hope that I have said enough to convince the House that it would be not only unwise but disastrous to take any action to-night that implied that the House was reversing the policy generally accepted by a huge majority 15 months ago. I would appeal to hon. Members on all sides of the House to keep their heads cool, to look at the proposals that we shall make with impartial minds and to satisfy themselves as to their wisdom; also, to look at the proposals with warm hearts, remembering that the British on the one hand and the Indians on the other are not rival nations fighting for supremacy, but the representatives of two great civilisations, which, if they hold together, may confer a benefit unprecedented in the history of the world and of the British Empire. I hope that I have said enough to ensure the rejection of my hon. and gallant Friend's Motion. I shall be glad to see a Division taken and the House once again reaffirm the position adopted 15 months ago.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I agree with my right hon. Friend that this Motion is not an alternative to the Government's policy.
§ Sir H. CROFT
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put", but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
Duchess of ATHOLL
We have to await the presentation of the Government's policy which we may expect in a few weeks, and it will be 1809 premature to express an opinion in favour of any other policy before the White Paper has been presented and thoroughly examined by the Joint Select Committee. Any of us who are loyal supporters of the Government feel that we shall want to subject that White Paper to the most severe and meticulous scrutiny, particularly in regard to safe guards. I want to refer to what was said by my right hon. Friend as to a decision having been taken in December, 1931—
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 42; Noes, 297.1811
|Division No. 51.],||AYES.||[7.30 p.m.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Rankin, Robert|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Greene, William P. C.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Scone, Lord|
|Bracken, Brendan||Hartington, Marquees of||Slater, John|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Hepworth, Joseph||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Kimball, Lawrence||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E.A. (P'dd'gt'n, S.)|
|Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Knox, Sir Alfred||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Levy, Thomas||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Denville, Alfred||Purbrick, R.||TELLERS TOR THE AYES.—|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Brigadier-General Sir Henry Page|
|Croft and Commander Marsden.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Carver, Major William H.||Fleming, Edward Lascelles|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Castlereagh, Viscount||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)|
|Albery, Irving James||Castle Stewart, Earl||Forestler-Walker, Sir Leolin|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Fremantle, Sir Francis|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. Sir J.A. (Birm., W)||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Gibson, Charles Granville|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Gledhill, Gilbert|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Christie, James Archibald||Gluckstein, Louis Halle|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Clarke, Frank||Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Goldie, Noel B.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Colfox, Major William Philip||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Colman, N. C. D.||Granville, Edgar|
|Balniel, Lord||Conant, R. J. E.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas|
|Banfield, John William||Cook, Thomas A.||Graves, Marjorie|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Cooke, Douglas||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Cooper, A. Duff||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Cranborne, Viscount||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Cripps, Sir Stafford||Griffith, F. Kingley (Middlesbro', W.)|
|Belt, Sir Alfred L.||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Grimston, R. V.|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Groves, Thomas E.|
|Bernays, Robert||Cross, R. H.||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Crossley, A. C.||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)|
|Borodale, Viscount||Curry, A. C.||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Daggar, George||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Ztl'nd)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hanbury, Cecil|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Harbord, Arthur|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Harris, Sir Percy|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Dickie, John P.||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Doran, Edward||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Drewe, Cedric||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Buchan, John||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Dunglass, Lord||Hirst, George Henry|
|Buchanan, George||Eady, George H.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Eales, John Frederick||Holdsworth, Herbert|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Edwards, Charles||Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge)|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Hopkinson, Austin|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Elmley, Viscount||Hornby, Frank|
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Emrys-Evans, P. V,||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Entwistle, Cyrll Fullard||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.|
|Cape, Thomas||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Maxton, James||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Milner, Major James||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)|
|Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Sinclair, Col T. (Queen's Unv., Belfast)|
|Iveagh, Countess of||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-in-F.)|
|Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H.||Moreing, Adrian C.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Jamleson, Douglas||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Jenkins, Sir William||Morrison, William Shephard||Soper, Richard|
|Jennings, Roland||Muirhead, Major A. J.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Munro, Patrick||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Nathan, Major H. L.||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Ker, J. Campbell||Normand, Wilfrid Guild||Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)|
|Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Nunn, William||Storey, Samuel|
|Kerr, Hamilton W.||O'Connor, Terence James||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Kirkpatrick, William M.||Ormiston, Thomas||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Knebworth, Viscount||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Knight, Holford||Owen, Major Goronwy||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Palmer, Francis Noel||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Parkinson, John Allen||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Law, Sir Alfred||Patrick, Colin M.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Peake, Captain Osbert||Thompson, Luke|
|Leech, Dr. J. W.||Pearson, William G.||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Peat, Charles U.||Thorne, William James|
|Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe.||Penny, Sir George||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Percy, Lord Eustace||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Lloyd, Geoffrey||Petherick, M.||Train, John|
|Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd. G'n)||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'ndsw'th)||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Power, Sir John Cecil||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Logan, David Gilbert||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Price, Gabriel||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Lunn, William||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Mabane, William||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Warrender, sir Victor A. G.|
|MacAndrew, Lt.-Col C. G. (Partick)||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Ramsden, Sir Eugene||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Rathbone, Eleanor||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Rea, Walter Russell||White, Henry Graham|
|McEntee, Valentine L.||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|McKeag, William||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanclly)|
|McKie, John Hamilton||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Ropner, Colonel L.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|McLean, Major Sir Alan||Rosbotham, Sir Samuel||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Runge, Norah Cecil||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Withers, Sir John James|
|Magnay, Thomas||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Maitland, Adam||Salt, Edward W.||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Mander, Geoffrey Ie M.||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'oaks)|
|Martin, Thomas B.||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Mr. Blindell and Mr. Womersley.|
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Proposed words there added.
That this House considers it inadvisable at this time to make any declaration of policy in regard to the future government of India which might be interpreted either as signifying a change in its general attitude or as restricting its freedom to pass a. considered judgment on the concrete proposals to be laid before it in the future.