§ Again considered in Committee.
§ [Captain BOURNE in the Chair.]
Postponed Proceeding resumed on. Question proposed on consideration of Question,
That a sum, not exceeding £95,695, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1934, for a Contribution towards the Cost of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for India in Council, including a Grant-in-Aid.
§ Question again proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £95,595, be granted for the said Service."
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. E. WILLIAMS
I was saying when our proceedings in Committee were interrupted that I had no desire to deal with the constitutional question, but I wished to emphasise the appeal made to the Secretary of State by the Leader of the Opposition in regard to the Meerut prisoners and also with regard to the desirability of some attempt on the part of the Government to meet the leaders of Congress. It is to be hoped that some way will be found whereby the Government, through the Viceroy, will be able to meet Mr. Gandhi and discuss whatever overtures he has to make in order to establish peace. I rise, however, primarily, to deal with wages and labour conditions in India. The Whitley Report which was presented a, few years ago contains a number of recommendations regarding the length of the working day and the working week, wages rates and the principle of indebtedness. These and other economic and social factors are dealt with at length in the report, and one of the recommendations is that instead of the 60-hour week which now obtains throughout most of India, a 54-hour week should be established. Has anything been done by the Minister through the administration to see that that recommendation will shortly become effective?
With regard to the question of indebtedness, it is known that throughout India wages are not páid weekly but monthly, a system which leads to an enormous amount of bribery and to a. substantial amount of borrowing from 1612 moneylenders, who thrive on the misery of the people. The workers are obliged to work sometimes for six weeks before obtaining any wages. They are compelled to borrow from moneylenders or to obtain their provisions from what, we used to call in this country company shops. They become tied either to the moneylenders or to the company shops, which are shops promoted, owned and controlled by the companies. If a system of weekly payment of wages were established many of these evils would automatically be obliterated. In the report published by Mr. Whitley he instanced the fact that moneylenders were actually extorting from the people 30 per cent. to 75 per cent. interest for the loan of money during the period when no wages were paid. The people had to contract these loans in order to purchase provisions. He also cited instances in which moneylenders were obtaining from 150 per cent. to 325 per cent. from people for loans for just the few weeks prior to the payment of wages by the employers. We should like to know whether the Government intend in the immediate future to put into operation some of the recommendations contained in that report to deal with very glaring cases of that kind.
I question whether the Government have any desire to do these things, and I question that particularly after hearing the speech of the hon. Member who said that the people of India apparently loved to have the foot of Britain upon their neck. That is a philosophy to which we on these benches could never at any time subscribe, yet that seems to be the philosophy that permeates the administration of the Government. We have to admit, in dealing with the political situation, that Congress and Congress leaders are not as vocal as they have been, but that is because they cannot be. It is true that while 12 or 18 months ago there were from 30,000 to 60,000 persons in prison in India, there are now, I am informed, not more than from 10,000 to 15,000, but it is an admitted fact that there would still be a substantial number of persons in India prepared to go to prison if they could obtain some maintenance for their wives and families. It is not that they have given up the battle.
I am rather surprised that the. Members of the Government fail to appreciate why the Indians are clamant for self-govern 1613 went. Indians were brought into the Great War ostensibly, if we have to accept what the Press says on such occasions, to fight for self-determination for the small nations. Certainly none of us on these benches, nor, I should think, the lion. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), would be deceived as to the purpose of the Great War, but in order to obtain recruits, those are the things that, were placarded in practically every country involved in the War. Indians were brought in and played their part. They went back to India and they expect to have for India that for which they were fighting on behalf of other nations. Obviously, Indians coming to this country, graduating at the universities, and returning home, believe that they are as competent—it is difficult for us to say they are not as competent—as the politicians in this country to run their own country, so that, although Congress may seem to be stifled, although it is not vocal and is unable to ventilate its opinion, the Government should not be led to believe that the desire underlying self-government has been completely obliterated.
If the Government would do the big thing, it would meet the people whom it considers to be defeated through their representatives, their Congress leaders, and heed the statement that was read by the Leader of the Opposition, not from Gandhi in particular, but from other eminent Liberal Indian politicians, in order to establish something that would meet the desires of the Indian people. I want to back up, if I may, the appeal that was made by the Leader of the Opposition and by the hon. Member for Bridgeton with regard to the Meerut prisoners, and also with regard to the Minister appreciating that although Congress may be defeated, a people that is down in the depths of destitution will rise in revolt against economic conditions or against any political power that endeavours to keep it in its place. I am anxious that the Minister should rise to the occasion and should permit the Viceroy to meet Gandhi, to hear what has to be said, and not heed the statements that are published in the Press from time to time.
I am also anxious that the Government should observe some of the other recommendations contained in the Whitley Report, particularly with regard to educa- 1614 tion and public health. We have to presume that the reply that we should get from the Minister, if we discussed the expenditure of more money upon public health, education, and social reform generally, would be that it cannot be done because we cannot afford it. I have a few figures here, and I find that out of a Budget total of £58,430,000, £34,650,000 was for military expenditure alone. The Simon Report, in its second volume, pointed out that there was hardly any country in the world which spent so much on defence and so little upon agriculture, public health, education, and other constructive activities. In the latest Budget of the several Provinces in India, out of a total expenditure of £59,840,000, education accounted for only £8,860,000, medical and public health for £3,920,000, and agriculture and industry £2,170,000, while police accounted for £9,280,000 and prisons and justice £5,750,000. These figures are taken from Sir Malcolm Hailey's Memorandum submitted to the Joint Committee on the White Paper and printed as Records No. 1 on 6th July, 1933.
There is something utterly wrong in a system of administration in which so much is needed for defence and police and so little is available for education, agriculture, public health, and so on. While it is satisfactory that India has met her financial difficulties so far, the Government cannot view the future with any feeling of assurance. India has maintained her financial security during the last two years by the export of large quantities of gold, amounting to £58,000,000 in 1931–2 and £65,000,000 in 1932–3. In other words, India can meet her immense obligations in this country such as pensions, payment for services, &c., by drawing upon her gold reserves, but how long can she afford to do it, and what will her financial position be when her gold supplies are exhausted? These are questions that I submit to the Under-Secretary of State for reply when he winds up the Debate. While I support the appeals that have been made by other Members in opposition to the Government, I want the Government to realise that the recommendations in the Whitley Report should have very careful consideration and should be applied as speedily as possible through some form of enactment.
1615 Particularly do I stress the question of the payment of wages. Most of the evils from which the Indian workers suffer are attributable to the fact that they are not immediately paid for the work that they do. The fact that from the time they commence to work they have to wait so long before they are actually paid for that work means that they have to become dependent upon creditors, who charge them immense sums in interest, and they are tied to those creditors all their life long. If the recommendations of the Whitley Report in that regard were carried out, much would be done to abolish the moneylender, and we certainly ought, from our experience in this country, to do something to prevent the employers themselves deducting from the wages of the workers the amount of money and interest borrowed by the workers from the moneylenders. That is one of the most vicious systems that one could possibly conceive, and yet that is a common practice throughout the whole of India.
One could also deal with the amount of wages paid to the Indian workers. During the last 12 months, through Japanese dumping, wages have been brought down, particularly around Madras, from 60s. to 65s. per month to 32s. to 35s. per month. Factories have been set up by reducing the costs of production, mainly through wages costs, in order to enable them to compete more effectively with Japanese goods. It is almost impossible for that to be done. The goods that are coming into India and other parts of the world from Japan are produced upon a seven-day working week, with 12 hours per day, and the average monthly wage paid to the girls employed in Japanese factories is from 18s. to 22s. They are living like slaves in dormitories, and the goods they produce are being dumped into India in competition with Indian textile goods and Lancashire goods. The Indian employers are trying to meet that competition by reducing the wages bill of the textile workers and by stifling organisation. Trade union organisations that have been formed in an endeavour to maintain the standard wage have actually been crushed by the employers, and when trade unions have appealed under the Trade Disputes Act for arbitration, the Government have refused to enforce the 1616 provisions of the Act. The trade unions have to all intents and purposes been obliterated, and that of itself is causing a substantial amount of restiveness, which is fomenting discontent.
We are placing these economic factors before the Secretary of State in order that he may visualise what may be the culmination. The workers should be as free to organise as the employers, and there is no reason why the Indian worker should be crushed to lower levels of subsistence in order to meet, Japanese competition in the way that I have described. I place these matters, which are more or less of a propagandist nature, before the Secretary of State in the hope that something will be done. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition and the hon. Member for Bridgeton that we are in India purely to exploit the people. We are there for the purpose of obtaining unearned increment. Many good things may have been done, but apparently the only good thing which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) could see was that during the British regime the population has increased by 100,000,000. That might be said of Japan and of all nations in the world where Britain has played no part. We do not believe that the people of India will be content with a philosophy which implies that private enterprise is the best of all possible systems, or that it can bring hope and comfort to the inhabitants of that land. I submit that the Government should review again such reports as the Whitley and Simon Reports, which were drawn up in order, I trust, that their recommendations should be put into operation. I hope that the Government will endeavour to put some of the recommendations into effect.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. SMEDLEY CROOKE
I am one of those who think that while the Select Committee is considering the matter we should not discuss the Constitution of India. We ought to wait until the Committee's conclusions have been arrived at before we form any judgment; otherwise, we might be doing more harm than good. I should not have taken part in this Debate but for the fact that to-day I have had placed in my hand a letter from a citizen of Birmingham, a man in a large way of business who holds a 1617 high position and is chairman of the Birmingham Rotary Club. The writer is the author of several books on economics, and the Committee and the Secretary of State may be interested to hear what he says with regard to our relations with India: He writes:There is one aspect of the Indian agitation of which the Government apparently takes no notice, that is its effects on the sales of British goods in India. For most of 11.3 the outstanding problem is not political but economic, and the economic situation the Government simply does not seem to care about. If instead of arguing about civil disobedience the Government had the courage to insist on free import of British goods into India in return for the considerable amount that we purchase from India; and heavy tariffs against countries like Japan, who, by their own tariffs made it impossible for us to sell in their markets, it would he really tackling the problem in a useful way and helping employment this country.The trouble is we have a lot of people in Parliament who do not understand the point of view of those who have to work for their living. All they know about unemployment is what they read in textbooks. All they know about India is what they read in travel stories. What they seem to be utterly ignorant of is the necessity for increasing our export trade with our own Colonies and Dominions in view of the way in which the rest of the world is closing its markets to us. A heavy tariff on foreign goods and free admission of British goods into India would be a much more effective argument than anything we can do in the way of political discussions or even with armed force.I thought that the Committee would he interested, in a discussion of this kind, to know the opinion of a Birmingham manufacturer. I do not think that it needs any comment of mine. There may be something in the letter that is worth noting, and I hope that the Under-Secretary will bring it before the responsible Minister.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Mr. HICKS
I think that we are entitled to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India on his speech introducing the Debate, but, if I express at the same time our dis-appointment at the range and depth of his survey, I am sure that he will not misunderstand our point of view. I was particularly interested in the fact that he said he felt that the main question that would be occupying the minds of most people in India to-day were social and economic questions, which, in his opinion, were transcending in importance the poli- 1618 tical agitation. He also mentioned that every effort which had been made by individuals to bring about any improvement in India redounded to their credit and that India was enriched as a consequence of their act. We subscribe to that view for we give full credit to every effort that has been made either by individuals or by the Governments of particular States. The fact that 40,000,000 acres of land would be brought under cultivation and not liable to suffer from the effects of drought when the scheme of irrigation is completed interests us all. We are glad that such a thing has been done. At the present rate of progress, however, it will be another 100 years before measures are taken to prevent the whole of India suffering from drought.
The right hon. Gentleman also said, quoting from the senior trade commissioner, that the boycott has spent itself. If it has spent itself in India, it has not apparently spent itself in this House, for, judging from the attendance of hon. Members it looks as if Members of the National Government are boycotting this Debate. With a country of such enormous potentialities and of such importance not only to great Britain and the Empire but to the world, one would have thought that a Debate of this character would have attracted much more attention than it has done, and that hon. Members would have done something more than just come in in a flashy way to take part in the Debate and then leave the Chamber and apparently take no further interest in it. The absence of concentrated attention has been positively scandalous for the hopes of many millions of people are centred on a Debate of this kind. I said in the Debate last year that I had never visited India, and that consequently I was not able to speak with that detailed knowledge which comes from actual experience such as other Members would have been able to do if they had been present. The people of India will read the Minister's statement and other speeches in the Debate with great interest to see whether it contains any germ of hope of release from the present highly undesirable state in which the millions of people in India find themselves.
While thanking the Minister for his statement, I feel that his examination of the position was largely superficial and did not get down to what I would regard as the economic reasons for the condition 1619 of India. Such an examination would have been a first step, at any rate, to understanding the great problem with which the Minister and the Government of India are beset. Everyone with a knowledge of affairs must be aware that vast changes are inevitable in India. Whatever immediate political changes are effected, whatever revisions are made in the Indian Constitution, and whatever reforms are granted, they can only be of a temporary character. India is in a stage of speedy transition, as is the whole world. World progress is certain to be more dynamic and more revolutionary, and India will be unable to escape the effects of world progress.
India is a vast peasant country and is sure to feel the impact of world progress more than countries which have passed from the stage of being predominantly agricultural. In India there are 700,000 villages, where 90 per cent. of the population dwell, winning a scanty existence from the soil by almost prehistoric methods of cultivation. Therefore, we can judge of the impact which world progress will have on India. With the World Economic Conference in our minds we are all conscious that the world is growing smaller. The world is knit together in a thousand ways by railways, by ships, by aircraft and by trade and commerce. Sometimes I think the House is too much immersed in local and national affairs, and that the economic developments going on in the world are apt to be overlooked.
We ought to look at India with the object of noting where she has been, where she is to-day and what her future will be in the mosaic of world economics, and ask ourselves what part she is going to play to-morrow. All the little things we have been talking about to-day are relatively superficial by comparison with the question of the economic position of India, which will command ever increasing attention not only in this House, but in other parts of the world. When we say that no country can live unto itself to-day because it is part of the larger world economic problem, that is particularly true of India. India is subject to world conditions. There are no Chinese walls around India. Even her most formidable geographical barrier, the Himalaya range, has been flown by our intrepid airmen. India cannot be isolated 1620 from the world. The economic, social and political factors in the modern world have penetrated into India and they will penetrate still deeper into India, and the character of India will change with the degree of penetration.
Modern capitalism has taken firm root in India and is spreading. In Bombay, Calcutta and Cawnpore modern textile mills have been established, and all over the country modem industrial undertakings have come into existence—factories, workshops, mines and mills, all the agencies of the highest expression of the civilisation we have to-day. Modern ships trade at her ports, modern railways connect her principal towns. I felt very sad when I heard the Noble Lady the Member for Perth (Duchess of Atholl) referring to the railways of India and connecting them up with the movement of troops. I thought it was a tragedy to hear references to her internal means of transport connected up with troop movements. I should have thought she would have seen in them rather the means for the development of trade and commerce and the bringing about of a higher standard of civilisation. Already in India the basic economic foundations have been laid for a new social and political superstructure. More and more as the days go by will the old superstructure in India demonstrate its incapacity to fit in with modern economic and social developments. Therefore, I repeat what I said a moment or two ago, that whatever is done in the way of bringing about constitutional changes in India the speed with which India will develop will be conditioned very largely by world influences. Her industrial population numbers about 18,000,000—those working in factories, in workshops and engaged in transport and at the docks. It is as large an industrial population as is to be found in several of the great capitalist countries of the world.
The Committee should realise the significance of these facts. If we did realise the full economic significance of India's development I am sure that greater importance would be attached to the Debate, and it would not become an occasion for attempting to score debating points First things first. The basic facts are the economic facts, and they demand our consideration. It does not matter how inherently conservative India may be. However much the Indian 1621 people may try to hang on to their traditions and customs, the inexorable economic conditions of the world will force them to change and to adapt themselves. The economic and political structure will conform to that progress. Modern industrialism will grow, modern capitalism will develop, in industry, in agriculture and in commerce. It is impossible to withstand it. The industrial populations in the towns will increase and mechanised agriculture will transform the countryside. The countryside as we know it to-day will appear very primitive by comparison with what it will be in a short time as the result of mechanised agriculture. I submit that that is the essential matter for consideration. A striking indication of the rate of progress was given the other day by a gentleman by the name of Mr. K. M. Purkayastha, secretary of the Merchants' Chamber of the United Provinces. He said on 10th July—it is reported in the "Manchester Guardian" of 11th July—I am afraid the textile trade in India is posing for ever from English hands—with the exception of certain luxury articles for which we in India have not the necessary machinery. Every province in India is trying its best to develop a textile industry of its own, and in this sentiment and local patriotism play au almost incalculable part. The industry which was formerly centralised in Bombay has now spread outwards all Over the country. There has been a marked tendency, too, even amongst the smallest industries, to abandon the manufacture of the coarser goods for that of the finer, but for this foreign cotton has to be imported. England's hope of trade with India in the future must largely lie with the heavier industries, such as machinery, heavy chemicals and certain specialised forms of tools and implements. England, as I see it, must give up the small trades to the Indians themselves, and by concentrating on the larger industries she will meet the new conditions that new prevail in India. It is impossible any longer for Britain to swamp Indian markets.This economic development, accompanied with the other appurtenances of economic development and of innovation the Western world, such as the modern newspaper, motor cars, pictures—if you like—wireless and aircraft, is being introduced with increasing momentum at the present time. It is in this direction that I should like to direct the attention of Members of the Committee, and especially to the kernel of the matter, Indian agriculture and the Indian peasantry. That is where, I think the Committee could very pro- 1622 fitably spend its time and its examination. It may be that, my voice is a plaintive appeal among the advisers of the Government and of the Minister. I have never been to India, but I have tried to understand the problem and to understand the economic structure. I have tried to put my views as clearly as possible, in the hope that some of them at any rate will receive attention and may perhaps assist in formulating policy.
A vast and menacing difficulty is bound to develop with the inevitable introduction of mechanised agriculture. The modern system of wealth production strikes at the very root of the old peasant economy. Ninety per cent. of the 300,000,000 people in India to-day come under the heading of peasants. Capitalist production imparts to the very land the character of a commodity and, consequently a value which is not determined by the number of inhabitants which the land nourishes, but by the surplus which it yields. That is a particularly important fact. The smaller the number of cultivators in proportion to the yield of the land and the less pretentious their standard of life, the larger the surplus and the greater the value of the land. That is totally the reverse from what happened under the old feudal system in this country. The feudal lords and barons tried to get as many people as they could upon the soil for the purpose of assisting them to produce in order to pay taxes and the rent for services, and also in order to employ them when necessary for the purpose of fighting. Modern agriculture does not consider how many people can be employed on the land. Capitalism is not engaged in agriculture in order to see how many people it can nourish, but is engaged in mechanising agriculture in order to see what surplus it can produce. The smaller the number of people engaged on the land, the greater the value. The fewer the number of people engaged, the greater will be the income.
That is the change that will take place in India. That is the fundamental economic change, and is the reality. The political superstructure is conditioned by the economic reality. You think you can introduce Western ideas into a country with an Eastern background, but it cannot be done unless the economic conditions of the Eastern country have evolved to a position comparable with 1623 those of the Western country. All these things are not at their finality. Constitutional reforms, useful as they may be, are only a stepping-stone, and will only be of a temporary character. When we think of China to-day, it is of a country which, for the past decade, has been largely subject to bandit generals, whose enormous armies have been recruited from landless peasants. We are going to create landless peasants by the hundred thousand, and eventually by the million, by the industrialisation of India. In China, landless peasants have either to be soldiers or robbers; there is no other occupation for them. When we think of Russia to-day, we think of peasant communities which have been absolutely revolutionised by the introduction of the tractor, the harvester, the combine and the latest machinery of agriculture. When we think of China it is of a picture which, as I put it to the Committee a few moments ago, is, I suggest, not overdrawn. When we visualise those, we can visualise what is to happen to the 300,000,000 peasant population in India? That is the problem, and it is down to that that the Government of the day have to get their noses and their minds, and on that that they have to concentrate. There are no Chinese walls around India to bar the entry of 'Western progress. India cannot be shut away from the rest of the world. Even if it could, capitalism is already rooted within India and the process of disintegration of the old order is already widespread. Problems will come up in increasing quantities. Whether we like it or not, India to-day is in the rapids of social change. I do not think that it would be wrong to say that India is in social revolution.
India is in the process of rapid social change. There are no frontiers to science and invention, to knowledge or to economic advance. Capitalist dynamics, already existent in India and forced from the outside, are pulsating through the entire fabric of Indian social and political life. The essential grasp of Indian problems is determined by the extent to which the realisation of that situation is at the back of our minds. We have to think of India, firstly, as being subjected to the impact of mechanised agriculture. When one remembers the prehistoric tools which are employed there to-day in 1624 agriculture, and, on the other hand, remembers what mechanised agriculture is able to perform, one realises that the revolution will be of a colossal character. I think sometimes of those 300,000,000 peasant folk, scraping a famished existence, who have not yet, established such a condition of life that they can be assured of one good meal per day. What a criticism and what a condemnation of our rule.
Then I think of what modern means and methods can accomplish in respect of agriculture, and of the plight of the farmers in this country and of the farming community of the United states of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. I would like to illustrate the point in a very short quotation from that very gifted Secretary of the International Labour Office, Mr. Butler, who said quite recently in regard to Canada:Mechanisation has already diminished the amount of labour required on the farm in astonishing proportions during the past few years. In Canada, it has already created a considerable amount of unemployment by eliminating work on which large numbers of men formerly relied for wages to help them through the winter. The invention of the combine,' a machine which both cuts and threshes the grain, and which, operated by two men, can harvest as much as 40 acres a day, has been mainly responsible for this displacement of labour. A large farm which formerly took on 30 men in the spring, and a further 120–150 during the harvest, now only employs 14 men throughout the year. An average small farm will employ 2–3 men instead of 8–10. These are just typical cases, which could be multiplied indefinitely. Roughly speaking, every combine deprives at least five men of a harvest job, so that the average expectation of harvest employment is 20 days in the year instead of 50–60. As a consequence, whereas the railways used to transport thousands of men annually from the Eastern cities to reap the crop on tie prairies, no harvest trains have been run during the last two years, though the crops were up to the average level. As the Minister of Labour of one Province put it: 'We have now too many people, because there is no work for them,' and that in a territory of great wealth, with a population of little more than two to the square mile.If mechanised agriculture is able to create that condition of affairs in Canada, what is it likely to do in India? The spectre of famine and death is stalking through India. The Secretary of State, commenting on the measures which are being taken to save the lives of victims of malaria, told us that roughly 10,000,000 people were 1625 affected by malaria every year, of whom 2,000,000 died, and that steps are now Toeing taken, by means of a new drug, to diminish the death rate. We thank him for that, and we thank medical science for it, and we hope that progress will be made in the elimination of malaria as far as possible from India.
Beyond that there is famine, due to the terribly low standard of the people's existence. Some of my hon. Friends have referred to the fact that in certain mills which were moved from the Northern part of India to parts further South, the wages had dropped to about 15s. or 20s. a month for female workers, and in the case of the males to about 25s. or perhaps 30s. In addition to the wages being so low, there is the absence of prompt payment. Men have to borrow, first of all for the purpose of bribing someone to get them employment, and then, when they have worked a month and their wages are delayed, sometimes as long as two and three weeks, they again have to borrow money from moneylenders to tide them over, and they get into such a state of debt that it is impossible for them, whether in employment or out of employment, to escape from it; death brings them the only possible release from their liabilities. I am told by my hon. Friend the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) that, low as these wages are, they are four times as high as those of teachers in Bengal, who, as is stated in the Simon Re port, get something like 7s. a month. It is no wonder that the Minister was speaking about terrorism in Bengal. God knows what people would be like if they did not revolt against conditions of that kind. This Chamber ought to be filled with interested Members making themselves acquainted with these facts, in order that they might arouse the country and the world by speech and pen to a realisation of these terrible conditions, with a view to getting them remedied at the earliest possible moment.
It has been said by a number of speakers and writers on social subjects that there are something like 40,000,000 unemployed to-day in India. This would mean, I suppose, that, including their families, something like 100,000,000 are affected. The pressure of these vast numbers upon the factories must be enormous. It is no use hon. Members saying that India is different. No country 1626 is different to-day, with our modern scientific methods, our large-scale methods of production, in agriculture no less than in industry. The newest, best equipped, and most up-to-date mills, factories and workshops are being introduced at an increasing rate into the ancient economic life of India. Our primary problem seems to me to be to conduct our legislation and administration with the consciousness that millions of the people of India are being drawn into the latest phases of capitalism, are being transformed from peasants and primitive craftsmen into wage workers—landless proletarians. They will no longer have the land to go back to; it will be taken away from them; the land is bound to be denuded of workers by agricultural mechanisation. That is the real background of the question of India's future.
In the grip of capitalism—some British and some Indian—this infinitely cheap, poverty-stricken labour is being ground down in the profit-making process, with the same terrible indifference and abandonment that operated in this country 150 years ago. Wages are being driven down, and strikes are taking place. My hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown) referred to the passing in 1926 of an Act of Parliament making it possible for trade unions to function, and laying it down that 50 per cent. of, their executives must be people actually engaged in industry; and the fact is that, when strikes took place, so far as our reports go, these persons were immediately discharged from their employment. In these industrial disputes, so far as we can gather, the Government have not taken any steps to assist in promoting a settlement, either before a strike or when a strike has occurred, or to get the matter referred to arbitration. If such steps have been taken we shall be glad to hear of it, but, so far as our information goes, the reverse is the case.
Our first duty should be to the great toiling masses of the peasants in the country and the workers in the towns, who constitute the bulk of the population. Much of our work in the past has been window-dressing. It is all very well for us to be bedecking Princes and Rajahs with honours and orders. I do not object to that, but I object to it being our main function. We can go on creating franchises and privileges for 1627 the wealthy and educated class, and we can compromise with the trading and commercial class, but we do not appear to touch the problem of the working people, who have been denied opportunities of education and are living under such terrible conditions. If you could guarantee another meal a day to the mill workers of Bombay, Calcutta and Cawnpore, to the workers on the railways and at the ports and to the ryots in the fields, assuage the hunger that dogs them through their lives, make some provision for the unemployed and check the frightful starvation of the masses, more would be done for India than all the constitutional reforms.
You have teachers getting a salary of 7s. a month in Bengal and women working for 15s. a month in the mills in Southern India, and they have to pay someone for the privilege of being employed. It is a pity that some of the recommendations of committees that have been set up in favour of the establishment of Employment Exchanges have not been adopted so that the unemployed workers could register and not be the victims of those who demand payment and hold them in financial bondage by crediting them with money. That would benefit them much more than constitutional reform. I am not against constitutional reform, but I consider that a good deal of this discussion is superficial. It lends itself more to spectacular debate than to tackling the root economic problems that are responsible for conditions in India. The facts are now widely known through the Whitley Report. I read that up very seriously last year, and I have been reading it again this year. It called attention to many evils and many wrongs. When I spoke last year, a number of Members who had been to India questioned my facts. I do not think they would question them to-day and, when we are discussing the problem in 12 months time, what I am saying to-day will be agreed to. No one who goes to India from any party, whether sent by the Government or by the Trades Union Congress, can deny that the conditions of the people are appalling. Wages are desperately low and the mill-owners are reported to be endeavouring to reduce them.
1628 It may be said that the cost of living has gone down. In a country like ours, where wages are paid every week, they can get the advantage of a drop in the cost of living. In India a supervisor in a factory goes out and says there is room for one, two, three or four people, and they have to pay him 10 or 15 rupees to get a job and they have to borrow the money. Then at the end of the month they do not get payment promptly. I understand the Government are introducing a Bill to ensure prompt payment. In these circumstances, the worker cannot get any advantage from a drop in the cost of living. His money is swallowed up in paying back what he has borrowed at rates of interest varying from 70 to 300 per cent. You should get right down to these facts and take steps to relieve people so situated from the haunting misery that surrounds their whole life. When they attempt any action to resist the lowering of their miserable standard of life, the police are brought in. So long as they are acting within the Constitution you should assist them. I have taken part in a number of strikes and in thousands of negotiations where strikes have been averted, but sometimes, with the best will, the negotiators are unable to prevent the pressure of one side or the other. The workers resist any attempt to lower their standard of life, or, if they see that there is prosperity in their industry, they wish to take advantage of the improvement to increase their standard of life.
Wars sometimes have taken place when all other means have failed. This kind of war is perfectly right and proper. It may be irritating, but no progress would have been made without it. I do not remember any instance where directors have come to workmen and said, "In consequence of your efforts, together with the general state of trade, we have enjoyed prosperity, and we ask you to share it with us." It is only by threatening to withhold their labour that progress has been made. When these standards are legitimately challenged in India, you ought to see that the police are not brought in for the purpose of smashing those who are endeavouring to improve their lot. They ought to be given a fair opportunity. Trade union organisation is the only method by which they can improve their standards. Trade unionism, legally 1629 recognised and allowed to function freely, would do more for the welfare of India than any factor of which I can conceive. It would enable the claims of the Indian masses to become articulate. How can they make their claims at the present time? It is all very well to say that there is not much trouble in India. If you suppress trouble you may very well say that there is no trouble, but we know that at the present time there is trouble, and that the Indian workers have grievances. Give them the chance to make their grievances articulate through the trade unions as in this country, and it will be all to the good. They should be enabled to organise and to give expression to their troubles and difficulties, so than ameliorative action could be taken to put them right. Last year I complained about the miserable wages paid in India com pared with the wages paid in Lancashire. Hon. Members did not regard my observations too friendly when I said that our people in Lancashire required something more than a handful of rice and a loin cloth to sustain them. I know that in India the cost of sustaining the physique of the workers may not be as great as it is here, but I am concerned about the unfair competition.
My hon. Friends have referred to the Meerut trial. I regret that for nearly four years these men have either been in prison or on trial, and that during the process one of them died. The administration of British justice in India is one of universal contempt rather than of respect. I know of no parallel in any part of the world where men have been held in prison for so long. Although the assessors appointed to help the judge unanimously declared the prisoners to be not guilty, sentence was passed. I hope that something will arise, at any rate, which will give these men their freedom. The trial has not settled the discontent of Indian labour, solved any problem or done any good. It has done nothing but invest Communism with the sanctity of martyr dom. That is the chief thing it has done as far as the trial is concerned. Everywhere, all over this country and throughout the world, stories have reverberated about the Meerut trial. Instead of repressing trade unionism, the Government should encourage it. A vigorous trade unionism in India, would prove the most beneficent power to real progress.
1630 The Whitley Report on Indian conditions was published in the summer of 1931, and there has not been much action taken upon the important recommendations. India has a 60-hour week, and the Whitley Commission recommended a 54-hour week, and, as far as I know, there has been no inquiry into the matter. There was a recommendation that consideration should be given to the question of social insurance. Although it might cost a good deal of money to initiate a social insurance scheme, and the Government might legitimately say to-day that they cannot afford to recommend it, no steps have been taken to consider whether such a scheme is possible. It is a question which affects millions of people who give life and purpose to India. There has been considerable unrest among railwaymen in India mainly because of large numbers of them being thrown out of work. The railway unions have asked on several occasions whether they might not consult with the companies as to the best way in which the hardships might be minimised. Every appeal which has been made has, apparently, been turned down abruptly.
A big strike took place on the Madras and Southern Railway and lasted about two months. The union, which was registered under the Trade Union Act and federated to the Indian Railwaymen's Federation, applied for a court of inquiry on the matter, but could not secure it. Another instance was that of the Madura Textile Workers' Union, also a registered union. The workers were asked to dissolve the union, or to face a lock-out. The lock-out lasted from the 20th March to 3rd May, 1931. The workers applied to the Madras Government for the appointment of a board of conciliation and the application was rejected. The final settlement was at the instance of the Madura Municipality, whose report was unanimously in favour of the workers. How can one expect the people to be pacified in the face of such experience? Is it right for the Government to allow the workers in India to feel that they can expect no assistance, and that the help of the police is at the disposal of the employers? That is not an atmosphere which ought to be cultivated. It is the opinion of the workers that whenever they attempt resistance to the imposition of hardships in their conditions of life and legitimately withhold their labour, 1631 they are beset by the police, and not helped as they ought to be. The police should exist as much for the assistance and protection of the workers as for the employers or capitalists. The capitalists should not always have the police at their disposal. Everyone of the workers in the Madura Textile Union who has been on the executive of the union has been dismissed, and the Madras Government have done nothing to protect those workers.
The housing conditions of the people beggar all description. I must read to the Committee what appeared in the "Daily Herald" the other day. It is a quotation from a report dealing with Bombay. It says:'Bombay's housing is more suggestive of the Black Hole of Calcutta than of any modern city pretending to sanitary living conditions.'This is the declaration of the just published Bombay Census Report, which presents a horrifying picture of India's greatest city. Only 4 per cent. of the population of Bombay, it is stated, know what it is to have a room to themselves. Housing is so inadequate that thousands are compelled to sleep in the streets, and the average number of people occupying a room sized 10 square feet is five. Sixteen thousand living rooms are occupied by more than 20 people each.When we hear of terrorism, the Congress, upheaval and unrest, we ought to encourage them, in view of such conditions. We ought to feel ashamed when we attempt to suppress them. We ought to remedy their grievances.
One hundred thousand people are living from 10 to 20 in a room, and 250,000 inhabitants live from six to 10 in a room. There are 200,000 tenements in the city which consist of only one room. Whole families have to share water taps and sanitary accommodation. It is impossible to view the situation with complacency.I should think so. These are some of the conditions which exist in India at the present time. When I began my speech I said that I thought the Secretary of State had not gone deep enough. I thanked him for his survey, but I felt that it was too superficial and that we were dealing with things that were responsible for much of the unrest in India. The House must understand that modern industry in India, modern capitalism, implies the complete economic, social and political modernisation of that vast territory. All these things must come in the wake of the 1632 industrialisation of India. More than all that, it implies great social measures for raising the standards of the people. We have to visualise great measures of education and public health, great measures relating to agriculture, great measures for the advancement of the communities.
To the degree that this House promulgates and assists these measures it will prove realistic and helpful to India; to the degree that it neglects, retards or hampers such measures it will hasten calamitous, revolutionary disturbance. The Government must give heed to the lamentable conditions of the working class in India. It must provide protection in regard to working-class organisation and must do everything to ensure that the tragic standard of living is not further depressed but radically altered for the better.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Butler)
I feel sure that the Committee will join with me in congratulating the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) upon the serious attention which he has paid to Indian affairs. I am sure that we have listened with great interest to his speech, and if he will give me an opportunity I shall attempt to deal briefly with some of those social problems which he has raised. First of all, may I thank him for referring to that modern development in the world which has come so suddenly upon India. He referred to the magnificent flight over Everest, conducted by our hon. Friend the Member for East Renfrewshire (Marquess of Clydesdale). The Committee will wish to pay a tribute to that great achievement, which has enriched the annals of aviation, as have the recent examples of daring which we have seen in the crossing of the Atlantic by the Italian airmen. We in this country have many things to be proud of, and I think we should lose no opportunity of paying tribute to the youth of this country when it undertakes ventures of this sort.
The Committee will also wish to pay tribute to those many people who interested themselves in the Everest flight and helped it forward, the great landowners of the district, the district officials, and in particular the Prime Minister of Nepal. The Committee will wish also to pay tribute to the memory 1633 of the late Prime Minister of Nepal. He was always a great friend of this country, a great patriot and statesman and had many reforms to his credit, notably the abolition of slavery. The Committee will remember the great services which Nepal renders to the Indian Army, owing to the fact that so many intrepid soldiers and workers hail from that district.
My hon. Friend who referred to these great developments will be interested to hear something about the development of civil aviation in India. India is developing along modern lines. There has been a notable advance in civil aviation during the past year. Branch services are now working connecting the Croydon-Karachi service with Delhi, Bombay and Madras. The Madras extension is notable for the fact that it has been started without Government subsidy, on the basis of a 10-year contract. As regards the main route, an arrangement has been arrived at whereby Imperial Airways shall operate, jointly with an Indian company, the Karachi-Singapore link of the England-Australia service. The first section of this Jink was successfully flown for the first time by a plane leaving Croydon on the 1st July. On the 11th July the first plane of the new service left Calcutta with a much larger weight of mail than had been anticipated. The extension to Rangoon is to follow after the monsoon, and that to Singapore in the new year.
My hon. Friend was justified in saying that India is being linked up with the rest of the world. My right hon. Friend a short time ago opened for the first time telephonic communication with India, which was inaugurated in May last. The main Indian centres will now be connected with Great Britain. This service places India in radio-telephonic communication with the chief centres a Europe. Connections have also been established with Canada, Australia, South Africa, Egypt and the United States of America. Those who see romance in the development of communications may well say that in this matter India has taken an epoch-making step forward.
My hon. Friend referred, as did his leader, to the social and economic conditions in India. It may perhaps now be convenient if I leave flights of fancy, if I leave my right hon. Friend on the telephone, and my hon. Friend's flight 1634 over Everest, and come down to those social and economic facts to which my hon. Friend opposite attached so much importance. If I deal in some detail with the points raised in the Debate the Committee will sympathise with me and feel that it is perhaps the lot of an Under-Secretary to give to the Committee the information which he has at his command. The hon. Member end the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition wished that in our administration in India we might give some hope to the millions of agriculturists and peasants who, they declared, were completely without hope under our Administration. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said that there were masses of them upon the brink of starvation, and he made the point that we in England are interested either in carrying our money back home for our own people or in erecting vast and costly monuments of capital either at home or in India. I think that I am interpreting his views correctly.
§ Mr. BUTLER
If hon. Members had paid some attention to the introductory speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, they would have realised that in most cases British administration in India strives and works unceasingly for those masses who are under our control and who look to us for help and assistance. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition referred to certain costly buildings. Did he refer to one of the most ambitious, and perhaps costly, buildings in the world; the Lloyd Barrage in Sind, which will bring water to a thirsty land and do for that Province what we have already done for Egypt and the Sudan 7 That has always been regarded as one of the triumphs of our Imperial policy, and it is a pity that the right hon. Gentleman should give some examples and forget others. Does he forget, too, that some of the finest examples of development in India have been achieved under the transferred side of government; that is, under Indian ministers? Does he remember,; hat what will one day be the largest hydro-electric scheme in the world, in the Punjab, was started and has been administered by Indian ministers? It will bring all the benefits which such a development brings in its train to the 1635 people of that Province. It is right to remember what we have tried to do.
Although we mention specially some of these greater schemes, it is important to remember that land revenue, as the Moguls found, and as all administrators in India have found since the beginning of its history, is the basis of the prosperity and happiness of its people. I refer the right hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition to the many instances of remissions of land revenue which have been given in these extremely difficult times by several Provincial Governments. A proper administration of land revenue is the best way to encourage the prosperity and happiness of the working masses in the fields. There has been much talk about the sufferings of the peasants in India, and it is pertinent to remark that, thanks to the administration not only of the finances but of the services of the country under the present Administration, India has been saved some of the shocks and panics which other countries of the world have undergone. Had it not been for wise administration we might have seen one of the greatest cataclysms of modern times in the East. Under the wise guidance of the Government of India this has been averted; I hope with the aid and assistance of His Majesty's Government at home.
Hon. Members opposite have referred to the need for social development and labour legislation. It will be opportune, I think, if I give the Committee some idea of what the Government of India are doing in the matter of labour legislation. In the Central Legislature four main Acts have already been passed on the subject of labour legislation. They are the Tea Districts (Migration of Labour) Act, the Trades Disputes (Amendment) Act, the Employers' and Workmen's (Disputes Repeal) Act and the Children Act. These four Acts are actually on the Statute Book, and when hon. Members realise that the Tea Districts (Migration of Labour) Act has introduced a new system of control over recruitment for Assam and provided rights for arbitration for labourers, they will see that the Government of India has not been idle in its labour legislation. Besides this there is a, Bill which will completely revise the Workmen's 1636 Compensation Act, and a Bill to amend the Land Acquisition Act will go through all its stages and be passed in the August Session. There is also a Payment of Wages Bill—considerable reference has been made to wages in the course of the Debate—which represents the first Indian Measure relating to truck. These are definite answers to the points which hon. Members have conscientiously raised on the question of Indian labour.
In addition, it may satisfy hon. Members to know that the Government of India are canvassing, or have already canvassed, opinions on the subject of many other proposals contained in the report of the Whitley Commission, such as factory legislation, mining legislation, imprisonment for debt, and other questions affecting indebtedness, which has been rightly referred to as the scourge of India. Finally, I am able to say that the Government of India are now actively considering the preparation of a new Factories Bill which will replace all existing Acts, and which will be on the general lines suggested by the Royal Commission on Labour. Hon. Members opposite have made one or two gibes about the interest which supporters of the National Government pay to Indian affairs. I only ask those hon. Members who have raised these questions about labour legislation to remember that we have placed in the Library of the House an important document which refers to the steps the Government of India have taken on the recommendations of the Whitley Commission, and a great many of the points which they have raised find their answers in this document; which, I think, they might have studied. It is always our wish to keep the House well informed on these subjects.
Some hon. Members have raised the question of unemployment in India. If they would turn to page 80 of this document they would find that the provincial Governments, when circularised on the question of industrial and other unemployment replied that it is difficult to say that there is much unemployment in the main provincial centres of India. Hon. Members will realise that to talk about unemployment in India in the same terms that we talk about it here is impossible. Owing to the migration from the towns to the country and the joint family 1637 system which prevails in many parts of India, and owing to the vastly preponderating agricultural element in the population such a generalisation as that to which we have listened, that there are 40,000,000 unemployed people in India, is a gross exaggeration. I feel sure that there was no intention to exaggerate on the part of the hon. Member, but it is important, especially when one has studied the answers given by various Provincial Governments on this point, that such a fact should not find currency in this island. Before leaving this question I should like to add that the Provincial Governments have been somewhat hampered in labour legislation by a lack of funds in this time of exceptional economic depression. It is, however, possible to say that many Governments have adopted a clause in public contracts designed to check child labour and to secure fair wages, and are taking steps for the medical supervision of large public works. In fact, the co-ordination of the health services to which hon. Members attach so much importance, is already receiving the earnest attention of the Government of India, and I have already given cases showing that the Provincial Governments have given it their attention.
When hon. Members refer to the grave and increasing troubles of the Indian peasant, it is perhaps pertinent to take a statistic which never fails in its accuracy, the returns for railway freights. Hon. Members will be glad to see that, in the estimates for traffic receipts of the railways in the current year, an improvement of one and three-quarter crores has been estimated, and to hear that there has been a, definite rise in railway freights. That is an example showing that India is standing this depression as well as, or better than, any other country in the world. I am confident that that will be followed in due course by an increase in the passenger receipts on the railways.
Hon. Members have referred in some detail to the Meerut trial. The best course on this occasion is to adhere to the statement made by my right hon. Friend in his intervention earlier in the Debate when he said that this matter is under appeal, and therefore may be said to be sub judice. I do, however, think it important to answer two points which have been referred to in somewhat exaggerated terms by hon. Members 1638 opposite. The first is that this has done great harm to Indian labour conditions and to the development of Indian trade unions. On that point it will be valuable for me to read a short extract from the report of the findings of the Sessions Judge, on page 300, in which he said:All this evidence is put forward as material on a fair construction of which it wos reasonable to infer that these activities were not merely ordinary trade union activities, but that the accused concerned in them were using them for the purpose of furthering a Communist conspiracy and with the ultimate object of bringing about a revolution.That was, indeed, the object of those who have now been convicted, and I think it a great pity to mix up these objects with the objects of legitimate trade unionism in India with which we all agree. The second point I wish to answer is one that has been answered before—the time this trial has taken. There is no one who does not regret the time, but I wish to read from page 674 of the judgment and give the Committee one of the main reasons why the trial has been so protracted, namely, that the defence themselves have in certain instances deliberately protracted the proceedings.The upshot of the whole matter is that, out of a period of three years and 10 months during which the accused in this case have been detained in gaol or out on bail as under trial prisoners, a period of at least one year could certainly have been saved, if not much more, had the accused not definitely laid themselves out to delay the case whenever they thought it safe to do so. In this connection it will be noted that the majority of the delays are due partly to the nature of the case and partly to the use made by the accused of the ordinary rights given by the C.P.C. to the accused person.
§ Mr. HICKS
The hon. Gentleman has referred to the comments of the judge in connection with the actions of these individuals as being against the general principles of trade unionism. Does he not attach some importance to the opinion of the assessors which were appointed to assist the judge, all of whom declared the prisoners, except in one instance, not guilty?
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
Is it not a fact that the judge himself took six months in which to prepare his judgment?
§ Mr. BUTLER
If hon. Members had waited for the second reason I was going 1639 to give for the length of the trial, they would have realised that, owing to the immense ramifications of this conspiracy and the immense documentation that was necessary, it naturally took much longer than many of us would have desired. As regards the intervention of the hon. Member for East Woolwich I do not think the opinion of the assessors has anything to do with Indian trade unionism. The judge gave full consideration to the opinion of the assessors and if the hon. Member will study their opinions in detail, he will see there was a definite difference as in many cases the assessors came to different conclusions. I would conclude my remarks about the Meerut trial by saying that I very much regret and resent the attack of the Leader of the Opposition on justice in India. We on this bench receive a good deal of criticism from some of my hon. and right hon. Friends on constitutional matters, but they always tell us of the excellence and purity of British justice. I, myself, agree with them on that point. If I may refer to my previous remarks, I would say that there is nothing the ryot morn appreciates in India than the administration of British justice, which is rightly one of the finest in the history of the justice of the world.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Can the hon. Member tell us when the appeal is going to be heard'? Has a definite date been fixed, and have the men had adequate opportunities of preparing their defence?
§ Mr. BUTLER
The appeal will take place certainly during the next few days, and I would hazard the opinion that it will be within not more than a fortnight. As to opportunities for defence, I need only remind the hon. Member that the prisoners have already been transferred from one class to another class in order to give them an opportunity of preparing their appeal. I am satisfied, from the investigations I have made into the case, that they have been given every facility. They have been moved from one goal to another nearer where the appeal will be heard, and have been given every facility for their case. Nine prisoners have been released on bail pending the appeal.
The hon. Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl) raised two points 1640 which lead me to the consideration of service questions. The first was the question of Indian hospitals and the provision of English doctors where possible in Indian hospitals. It will be a source of some satisfaction to the Committee if I give the figures of recruitment to the Indian Medical Service. There has recently been a definite improvement in the recruitment of Government officers so far as numbers are concerned and, on the whole, the quality of the candidates has also improved. The number of European candidates has increased from 13 in 1931, to 23 in 1932, and during the first six months of the present year 27 have already been appointed. To those who are pessimistic on this point, I would draw particular attention to those figures, and there is every prospect of a larger recruitment this year than during any year since the War.
As regards the recruitment for the other services, I am glad to say that for the Indian Civil Service from the open competition of 1932, 14 Europeans and 16 Indian recruits were obtained. Ninety-nine European candidates have entered for this year's examination, which is practically the same within three or four of the numbers entering in the last few years. There is no reason to think that a sufficient supply of European candidates to fill the vacancies available in the Indian Civil Service is no longer forthcoming. As regards the Indian police, there has been no difficulty. It has been found easy to find the right type of police officer to enter the Indian police. No difficulty at all has been experienced in obtaining an adequate supply of suitable European recruits. The number of candidates at the London competitive examination has actually risen in the last few years. I think the Committee will attach proper importance to this information. On this last subject of the police I am also able to say that the candidates are of exactly the type that have maintained the high traditions of the Indian police in the past, and they will, I am convinced, do so in the future. My Noble Friend made one other point which I do not wish to leave aside, on the question of defence and the railways. I can only say that the Government of India is satisfied that the safety of the administration of the railways is in no way endangered by the facts which my Noble Friend set out in her interesting question.
1641 I think that I have dealt at sufficient length with some of the many points that have been raised in the course of an interesting Debate. It only remains for me to deal with the question of civil disobedience. In reality I think it has been sufficiently explained by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, and I cannot myself usefully add anything to what he has said on the subject. We have had appeals from the Opposition side of the Committee that we should not base ourselves merely on Press reports of the recent Poona Conference. My right hon. Friend has said that if Mr. Gandhi thinks that the reports of the Conference are inaccurate and do not represent his views, he has only to issue a denial and proper attention will be given to the denial.
I would thank the hon. Member for Bristol, North (Mr. Bernays) for his speech from the Liberal benches. I think he is quite right to remind us that we must not forsake our old allegiance to those men who have stood by us in this time of doubt and difficulty. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), who very courteously gave me notice that be was unable to return this evening, referred in a playful speech to the attention that we had given to his advice on the question of administration, and besought us to follow his advice on topics which it would not be in order for me to deal with in this Debate. I would remind him that ours is a twofold policy—a policy of order and progress. We have, we believe, kept the allegiance of the magnificent services, those who carry on the British administration in India, and of law-loving citizens of India, by the first, and we are convinced that we shall keep the confidence of all moderate men in India if we proceed with the second.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
There are two or three things that I would add. First, in regard to the statement of the Under-Secretary as to my attitude towards Indian justice and the administration of it. It is never worth while repeating more than one can help one's view about either the goodness or the badness of people, but at this Box and on the benches behind I have often said my say as to the good things that have been done in India by British administrators. On this question of justice, certainly with 1642 regard to the Meerut prisoners or any persons charged with sedition, I am in exactly the same position with regard to Indian justice as I am in with regard to British justice. It has been my lot twice to be charged in this country, and I have never considered that I had a fair trial or a fair deal. It is the rule in any country, and it is not the fault of the Judges, that the established order is right and that those who challenge it are wrong. I have never accepted that view. But that statement does not mean that I think the men who administer justice are dishonourable. I do not think that right hon. Gentlemen opposite are dishonourable because I differ from them. That is my judgment.
When a person is charged with sedition the whole balance of the court is against him immediately. It has been against me on two occasions, and I have witnessed it in regard to other people. That is one thing. I say definitely—and I do not want to be told that I have said something different—I do not charge anyone with dishonourable conduct in India. I have the highest respect for many of the men who are carrying out a very difficult task in that country, although I profoundly disagree with the policy which they are administering.
With regard to the Meerut prisoners, the Under-Secretary in his extremely able speech has not attempted to deal with our fundamental objection, and that is that, whatever may be said about criminal conspiracy, not a single iota of evidence of a. criminal conspiracy, except pamphlets and leaflets and the sort of thing that would never hold water in a court of this country, has been brought against them. No overt act has been charged against these men. That being so, we do not understand why they have been sentenced, one to transportation for life and others for very terrible periods. When I say "no overt act," I mean that no act of violence has been charged against any of these men. The Under-Secretary has simply repeated the statement of his chief, that with regard to civil disobedience nothing more is to be said. I regret, first, that the Government do not see their way to cut the knot. The Under-Secretary told us how long a time the prisoners wasted during the Meerut trial, but he knows how much time the judge and the prosecuting counsel wasted also. The bald fact is 1643 that the prisoners have been four years in charge of the authorities, sometimes on bail and sometimes in prison. We thought that this would be an opportune time for the Government to recommend that the whole business should be washed out.
With regard to Mr. Gandhi, we are all extremely sorry that the Government sticks to its position. It is not Mr. Gandhi's business to contradict everything that a newspaper says. We ask that he should be judged by what he
§ said in his telegram to the Viceroy. It was quite an ordinary statement, asking that he might have an interview in order to discuss the questions at issue between them. We think that the strong, powerful Imperialist British Government, having used its power to the fullest extent, might have met the request made by Mr. Gandhi.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £95,595, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 32; Noes, 186.1645
|Division No. 271.]||AYES.||[9.45 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Mainwaring, William Henry|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvll)||Maxton, James.|
|Bonfield, John William||Hicks, Ernest George||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hirst, George Henry||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Brown. C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Slivertown)||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Buchanan, George||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Kirkwood, David||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Daggar, George||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lawson, John James|
|Dobble, William||Leonard, William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Edwards, Charles||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Mr. D. Graham and Mr. Tinker.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||McEntee, Valentine L.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Eillston, Captain George Sampson||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (L'pool, W.)||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Jamieson, Douglas|
|Applin. Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merloneth)|
|Baldwin-Webb. Colonel J.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portem'th, C.)||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Fleming. Edward Lascelles||Knight. Holford|
|Bernays, Robert||Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Fraser, Captain Ian||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Blindell, James||Fremantle, Sir Francis||Lindsay. Noel Ker|
|Bossom, A. C.||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest|
|Boulton, W. W.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Llewellyn, Major John J.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Goldie, Noel B.||Lloyd, Geoffrey|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Gower, Sir Robert||Lyons, Abraham Montagu|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Graves, Marjorie||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)|
|Buchan, John||Greaves-Lord. Sir Walter||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Burghley, Lord||Greene, William P. C.||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||McKie, John Hamilton|
|Burnett, John George||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||McLean. Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)|
|Campbell, Sir Edward Taswe H (Brmly)||Hales, Harold K.||Macguisten, Frederick Alexander|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Magnay, Thomas|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Mallalleu, Edward Lancelot|
|Cassels, James Dale||Hanley, Dennis A.||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Harbord, Arthur||Martin, Thomas B.|
|Clarke, Frank||Hartland, George A.||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Clayton, Sir Christopher||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Heilgers. Captain F. F. A.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Copeland, Ida||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale|
|Craven-Ellis, William||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hornby, Frank||Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Horobin Ian M.||Morris, Jana Patrick (Salford, N.)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Horsbrugh, Florence||Muirhead, Major A. J.|
|Curry, A. C.||Howard, Tom Forrest||Munro, Patrick|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Howitt, Dr. Allred B.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Normand, Wilfrid Guild|
|North, Edward T.||Runge, Norah Cecil||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton|
|O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Patrick, Colin M.||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Penny, Sir George||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Perkins, Walter R. D.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Potter, John||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Wallace, John (Duntermline)|
|Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Slater, John||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Rankin, Robert||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Rea, Walter Russell||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Somervell. Donald Bradley||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Soper, Richard||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Rentoul Sir Gervals S.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)|
|Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.||Womersley, Walter James|
|Rosbotham, Sir Thomas||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Storey, Samuel||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Strauss, Edward A.||Major George Davies and Dr.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.—[Captain Margesson.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.
§ The remaining Government Order was read, and postponed.