§ 3.20 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Sir Samuel Hoare)
I beg to move,That, before Parliament is asked to take a decision upon the proposals contained in Command Paper 4268, it is expedient that a Joint Select Committee of Lords and Commons, with power to call into consultation representatives of the Indian States and of British India, be appointed to consider the future government of India and, in particular, to examine and report upon the proposals in the said Command Paper.Truly the lot of the Secretary of State for India is a very unhappy one. Everything that he says is taken down in evidence to be used against him. If he says something to reassure his friends in England he creates suspicions in India. If he says anything to show his sympathy with Indian aspirations, immediately he disquiets many of his friends in this country. Indeed, during the last 18 months I have been trying to emulate the delicate walking of Agag, no doubt with very poor success, and attempting, I fear very clumsily, the balancing feats of a ballerina or a skating champion. To one body of people I am a tyrant, to another body a traitor. Let me give the House one or two illustrations from my recent correspondence of the truth of what I am saying. Here, for example, is an extract from a letter from a British correspondent who signs himself "One of your former admirers":As you are admittedly a traitor, it would be advisable for you to blow out your brains before rather than after your surrender.Here are one or two of the more elegant extracts from the Indian Press:Everything that matters is in the pockets of Sir Samuel Hoare. Everything that does not matter will come to India.Sir Samuel Hoare is acting with the ruthlessness described as his characteristic by Mr. Churchill.And I would also add, as apparently great minds work together, by Mr. Gandhi as well. Particularly at the present time am I the isolated target of a plunging fire from two flanks. Here is what some of my friends think about the White Paper. I begin with an extract or two from the British Press. This is from the "Morning Post": 696Under the disguise of all its smooth reassurances, this White Paper is in essentials not a deed of partnership, but an instrument of abdication.Here is an extract from the "Daily Express," which will equally please my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill):The White Paper on India is the official hoisting of the white flag by the British Government over the Indian Empire.But some things strike different people differently. Here, for instance, is what the Indian Press think about the White Paper:Responsibility offered is like a card house behind which stands a menacing giant armed with autocratic powers of a hundred Hitlers and Mussolinis.Had India presented a united front to the enemies of her aspirations, it is inconceivable that an offer so offensive to her patriotism and entirely galling to her self-respect could have been made.There is not a single point in which the White Paper has even partially conceded to the Indian point of view.Here is my last extract, and I would draw the special attention of the House to it:If Churchill and the men of his group had been entrusted with the framing of the Constitution, they could not have improved on Hoare's performance.By one side it is said that the White Paper is the white flag of surrender; on the other side it is claimed to be the red flag that flouts Indian nationalism. Amidst this diversity of tongues and, perhaps I might also say, amidst this extremity of abuse, I am inclined to comfort myself with two reflections. First of all, both these lines of criticism cannot be right. Secondly, I am able to-day to put before the House the Government's proposals, and to ask hon. Members, in whatever quarter of the House they sit, to bring their minds to bear up-on them, to test them whether they are sound or whether they are not sound. To-day I do not ask the House to go any further than they have gone in the previous Indian Debates in this Parliament. I do not ask them to come to any decision upon the merits of our scheme.
On the day that I went to the India Office I realised that most of the problems with which I was faced were almost insoluble. I realised that questions connected with the Indian Constitution were 697 certain to excite controversy in India. I realised that they were equally certain to start political controversy within the ranks of the parties at home. From the very first I realised the complexities of every one of these problems, and I tell the House to-day that I have shared the anxieties, felt, I believe, by every hon. Member of this House. Feeling these doubts, realising these difficulties, sharing these anxieties, I would say that it would be altogether unfair, it would be almost criminal, to ask the House, and indeed to ask Indian public opinion, to come to definite decisions after two or three days' Debate, after a series of speeches, however important those speeches may be, during the next few days.
it is on that ground that I am proposing to the House, the unprecedented procedure under which a Joint Select Committee of inquiry is to be set up before any decision is taken. The Government and I wish at the earliest moment to ask for the co-operation of Parliament in our difficult task, to put our proposals before them, and to ask the Committee of both Houses to give us the great value of their advice, before we ask the House to come to a final decision. That has always been the intention of the Government. As long ago as last June I described it in some detail to the House and the procedure which I propose to-day is exactly the procedure that I outlined last June. The Motion is exactly the type of Motion I have always contemplated, and it is all moonshine to suggest that the Government have, in any way, altered their general line of policy, or have in any way modified their proposals for procedure, as a result of pressure from this or that section of the House.
If I know anything of the House, I guess that it does not want to-day a historical lecture or a constitutional lesson in the details of the White Paper. I propose not to deal at any length with past history, not to go into great detail over the wide field covered by the White Paper, but rather to sketch to the House the background of our proposals, and the reasons that have prompted us to make them to Parliament. As to the past, I need make only two observations, and they need not be long observations. For the best part of 100 years, ever since Macaulay with that beaming 698 optimism which characterised early Victorian Liberalism, declared that the English language was to be a bridge between Asia and Europe, and that, by 1860, to use his picturesque phrase, "there would not be a single heathen in India," rightly or wrongly we have led India along Western lines and made every responsible public man in India believe that Western institutions and particularly British institutions are suited to Indian development. That is a fact that we may or may not deplore, but it is a fact that we cannot ignore.
To-day, I venture to press it on the House, even more strongly than I would press upon the House any explicit pledge in an Act of Parliament. The pledges of the past leave full liberty to Parliament in the choice of the time and manner of constitutional advance. I accept this principle. Although it was Lord Curzon who with his own hand wrote the words about responsible Government into the Declaration of 1917, our hands to-day are free to take what course Parliament in its wisdom thinks proper in pursuance of that declaration. I submit that Parliament would be most unwise if it failed to take into account the continuous history of the last century and the fact that, year after year, we have led India to believe in the continuous bestowal of new instalments of constitutional progress.
When I think of these moral obligations rather than explicit pledges, I am reminded of the story in the Arabian Nights of the man who made a regular practice of giving presents to his friend. A. time came when he ceased that practice and the friend complained to the court of conscience that, owing to the regularity of the gifts, he had become so habituated to these grants that there was a moral obligation on his friend to continue them. The court of conscience gave the case against the man who had made the gifts on the ground that his constant practice had created a moral obligation. Our case in India is not altogether dissimilar to the case of the man and his friend. I want to emphasise to the House, and, this is the first point to which I would direct its attention, that it would be most unjust and most unwise to ignore this long continuous history and the moral obligations, if not explicit pledges, into which, time after time we have entered.
699 The only other observation I would make about the past is this. We cannot isolate these Indian questions from the whole field of Asiatic questions. India is not isolated from the rest of Asia. Hon. Members would be very unwise if they approached this question without reminding themselves of what has been happening from one end of Asia to the other in the years since the War—if, for instance, they failed to remember what is called the new tide in China, if they failed to remember, again, the efforts which Turkey is making to establish itself as a modern progressive Power, if they failed again to remember the events of only the last few weeks in which Japan has been challenging a big body of European public opinion. What wonder when all this ferment is going on in Asia from one end of that Continent to the other that India should be raising its voice for recognition, and that India should be making a demand for a greater share in its own government.
I hope that these two observations are sufficient to show why it is that almost universally the demand is being made for great changes in the government of India. After all, the demand for change was the very motif of the Report of the Simon Commission. The Simon Commission made the most notable and valuable survey of Indian problems that has ever been attempted. There was not a phase of Indian life, there was not an Indian political movement, that the report did not cover in its majestic sweep, but the one conclusion that stood out above any other—I will say a word or two about the details in a later part of my speech—the one main conclusion that emerged more clearly than any other, was the acceptance of the fact that great changes are now inevitable in the government of India.
The question, therefore, which I venture to put to the House is not whether changes are necessary, though I believe that every hon. Member admits that changes are necessary, but rather what those changes should be. The Government have put their proposals in the White Paper. None of those proposals is new. Anyone who has read the proceedings of the various Round Table Conferences will agree with me that there is nothing in these proposals, nor can there be anything in these proposals, that 700 has not been fully discussed during the last two years. They are not new proposals. They are proposals that I imagine almost everyone who has been following the Indian problem for the last two years has expected the Government to make. But before I deal with some of them, let me make an over-riding contention, or rather an over-riding test, that I would desire to see applied, not only to these proposals, but to any alternative proposals that may be made.
It is quite essential that no changes that we propose, still less any changes that Parliament enacts as the statutory law of the country, should go to weaken the Indian Executive, either in the centre or in the provinces. Do not think that we have been blind, we Members of the Government, to what has been going on in the world in recent years. We have marked as clearly as any hon. Member in this House the way in which Government after Government, Constitution after Constitution, in the East as well as in the West, has foundered owing to the weakness of its executive. I believe it will be found, when hon. Members have had a fuller opportunity of investigating the details of our proposals, that we do not propose to weaken the Indian Executive, either in the Centre or in the provinces. What we do propose is to concentrate upon the essentials and to define responsibility, and we believe that by concentrating upon the essentials and by defining responsibility we shall actually remove certain of the causes that now weaken government in India, both in the centre and in the provinces. Be that as it may, I would welcome the criticisms, if need be, of hon. Members upon this all-important point. We agree with every hon. Member in this House that it is essential that the Executive Government in India, both at the centre and in the provinces, should be a strong one. Everywhere anarchy is one of the greatest disasters in the world; in the East it is the unforgivable sin.
Let me now come to the White Paper itself, and let me at once draw the attention of the House to a point that I feel sure most hon. Members have already noted, namely, that the White Paper includes a very comprehensive scheme, a scheme that covers the whole field of Indian Government, both at the centre and in the provinces. There were two 701 alternatives open to the Government. There was the alternative of making proposals that would proceed by stages, proposals that would bring into operation Provincial autonomy first and afterwards perhaps, at some indefinite time, would deal with the centre; and there was the alternative of dealing with the whole body of the Government at once. It was not a question of ignoring or accepting the Simon Report. There were factors which we had to consider that were unknown to the Commissioners at the time that they made their report. There was the factor, for instance—to many, perhaps, a very unexpected factor—of the attitude of the Princes towards All-India Federation.
It was not then a case of ignoring the Simon recommendations. It was rather a questoin of weighing the advantages and disadvantages of both alternatives and of taking into account the new factors as well as the factors that guided the Statutory Commission. It was one of the most difficult questions that the Government had to decide. There were obvious advantages in each course. After very careful consideration, we came to the view that it was both wiser and safer to make proposals that would cover the whole field, and we took that choice for two reasons. First of all, we do attach very great value to the accession of the Indian Princes to any system of Indian Government. I shall deal in a minute in somewhat greater length with the conditions of that accession, but, so far as our proposals are concerned, we attach great value to the Indian States being represented in the central Government—the Indian States with their long and hereditary experience of government, the Indian States, who, however much they may disagree among themselves on minor issues, are at any rate unanimous on two fundamental conditions: first, their support of stable Government, and second, their determination to rest within the British Empire. The Indian States through their representatives made it clear to us that they were not prepared to enter any Government that was wholly under the control of Whitehall. If therefore we are to have this valuable support of the Indian Princes it is necessary for us to embark on comprehensive proposals that will cover the centre as well as the Provinces.
702 But there was another reason that decided us to proceed by a comprehensive scheme. Being politicians, we could not be blind to the fact that political opinion in India was almost unanimous in favour of a comprehensive scheme. Being politicians, and being I believe, like every hon. Member of the House, very anxious to see political autonomy started in the provinces, we were driven to the conclusion that the re was little or no chance of provincial autonomy starting in a reasonable atmosphere of good will if we did not at the same time make proposals that covered the federal centre. These were the reasons that prompted us to take this decision. Hon. Members may or may not agree with them, but I hope that every hon. Member will see that our reasons were not prompted by idle sentiment. They were not the reasons of theorists who wish to make up a nice neat paper scheme covering the whole field. They were the actual reasons derived from the hard facts of the situation that made us take the decision that we took.
Our scheme, therefore, as the House will see, is a comprehensive scheme covering both the centre and the provinces. As the House will also see, it is a very complicated scheme. I suppose that it is the most complicated scheme that has ever been proposed as the constitution of any country in the world. It bristles with complexities, it is filled with difficulties, and it is filled, no doubt, with many anomalies, but I say to the House that if it did not bristle with difficulties, if it were merely a simple scheme that did not deal with all the difficulties, it would be a purely artificial scheme and worth nothing at all. It would be a worthless scheme for the very good reason that the Indian factors are so complex that no simple scheme could possibly deal with them. We have tried to face every one of those difficult factors and if our scheme is long, complicated and intricate, the reason is not the muddleheadedness of the Government but the complexities of the Indian problem.
Let me suggest some of the complexities which we have had to take into account. Let me suggest the main interests in this veritable jig-saw puzzle that we had to attempt to fit together. First, there is that whole body of interests that come about as the result of the long partnership between India and Great 703 Britain. Next, there are the exclusive interests of India itself. There are the interests of the Indian Princes and of the Indian States. There are the interests of British India, and particularly the relations of the centre to the various British Indian units; and there are the interests of the communities and religious minorities. No scheme that does not honestly face all those problems and make a serious attempt to reconcile those interests—quite often conflicting interests—is worth the paper on which it is written.
Let me suggest in broad outline the way in which we have attempted to reconcile these main interests. I begin with the main Indian interests. There our object has been to give Indians the widest possible opportunities for their own self-government and self-development. The safeguards that necessarily take so prominent a place in the White Paper are designed just as much in Indian interests as in British interests. Indeed, one of the most significant facts of the proceedings at the Round Table Conference last September was the demand of Indians themselves for safeguards. There day after day Hindus or Sikhs in the Punjab were demanding safeguards for their minority communities; Moslems were demanding safeguards in the Hindu Provinces; the Depressed Classes were demanding safeguards in their interests in Provinces where there are many members of the Depressed Classes. Take another instance—the demand reiterated by all the Indian minorities for a declaration of fundamental rights in addition to their demands for safeguards. I state these facts to-day to show that these safeguards are just as necessary, and just as strongly demanded by Indian public opinion as they are by British public opinion here.
As I say, in approaching the question of Indian interests, we have attempted to give the fullest possible scope to Indians to develop themselves on their own lines. We have tried to give the fullest possible scope to Indian aspirations, and if we have introduced safeguards, it is because we believe that those safeguards are necessary if stable government is to continue. It is said in India that the proposed transfer of responsibility to Indians amounts to little or nothing. Let Indians look at the 704 question from the point of view of the 230,000,000 people, who live in the villages of India and make their living upon the land. Practically every single matter that affects them from day to day and year to year it is proposed to place under the direction of an Indian Minister depending upon a Legislature elected by Indians on a wide franchise, and a franchise made wider than it is now for the express purpose of giving the agricultural masses a chance to make their voices heard, for the express purpose of protecting the poorer and less influential minorities.
Let the House look at the exclusively provincial subjects in the White Paper, all of which will be under the direction of an Indian Minister. What is the cultivator interested in? The rent he pays for his holding, the state of the roads by which he takes his produce to market, his water supplies, the watch and ward which protects him from the criminal, the education of his children, public health, the protection of his cattle from disease, the improvement of his seed, the provision of his credit—all of these things, and there are many more—there are 77 important items in the list of provincial subjects—all of these will in future be controlled and directed by a Government responsible to himself and his fellows. Thirteen years ago—a very short time—all these things were under the control of an official Government. No such change has ever been proposed by constitutional methods in the Government of so vast a country in so short a time.
I pass from the interests of British India to the interests of the Indian States. The House will see that in the White Paper there is nothing said about the relations of the Indian Princes with the Crown. There is nothing said about those relations, for the very good reason that the broad question known by the all-embracing term of "paramountcy" does not enter into the federal scheme at all. Princes do not enter into the federal scheme at all, except in so far as they themselves agree to modify their treaties upon their entry into federation. Subject to this, the treaties and agreements will express direct relations between the Princes and the Crown. As to the federation, the Princes will, of course, be free to enter or not as they wish. As, however, their accession in sufficient num- 705 bers is a fundamental condition of our proposals, we have to make provision that will ensure a sufficiency of the Indian States entering the federation if we are to obtain the advantages that we desire from that accession.
The House will see that the test which we propose is the test of the entry of Indian States, representing half the population of the States, and half the States entitled to seats in the Upper Chamber. At first sight, hon. Members may think that that test is too low a test. I think if they will analyse and take into account, first of all, that there are a good many minority States, and those States cannot enter into the federation; and, secondly, if they take into account the further fact that only the more important States will have seats as of right in the Upper Chamber, they will see that if 50 per cent. of these States, representing half of the population of the Indian States actually enter the federation, the federation will, in practice, be an effective All-India Federation. This question is, as I say, of vital importance. The effective accession of a sufficient number of States is a fundamental condition of the whole of our proposal.
Let me pass to another factor of the federation. Hon. Members will remember that, speaking generally, there are two types of federation. There is the federation which retains predominant power at the centre, and there is the federation which moves the balance of power to the federal units. Deliberately and designedly we have chosen the second of these types, namely, the type of federation which transfers the main balance of power to the federal units. We have made that choice for the very obvious reason that the great sub-continent of India, with all these increasingly difficult problems, is much too big and much too diverse a unit to be managed by a highly centralised Federal Government. On that account, the basis of our proposals is that for the Federal Government there should be a definitely limited field of activity confined to the specified federal subjects, and the Federal Government should, of course, have sufficient revenue to meet its federal obligations, and that the provinces should be given the fullest possible field for autonomous development. I am inclined to think that one of the great advantages of a 706 federal scheme for India is the opportunity that it is going to give to those great provinces, some of them—one or two of them—as populous as the United Kingdom, to develop on their own lines. I am inclined to think that we have pushed centralisation too far—at any rate, too far in recent years in India.. Centralisation was possible when problems of government were comparatively simple. Centralisation will more and more break down in India in face of those increasingly difficult Indian problems, and I should hope 10 see development in India very much on regional lines with some of these great provinces working, it may be, in close association with the States which border upon them. I believe that this decentralisation may well be a proposal that will give a great body of new life to Indian development.
In any case, we have chosen deliberately and definitely the kind of federation that gives the fullest, freest scope to the Provincial units. I know that there are several hon. Members in this House who will be saying to themselves, even while I am speaking, "That sounds a very excellent scheme. It sounds as if the Government have held the balance between British interests and Indian interests—the interests of British India and the interests of Indian India. But what guarantee is there that an extremist majority will not hold the power in the centre and, it may be, in several of the Provinces, and smash your scheme altogether?" I do not wish to make prophecies about the future, least of all the Indian future. But I would ask hon. Members to look very carefully at the proposals which we have made in the White Paper for the constitution of the Federal Legislature and of the Provincial Legislatures, and if they analyse those proposals, I think they will agree with me that it will be almost impossible, short of a landslide, for the extremists to get control of the federal centre. I believe that, to put it at the lowest, it will be extremely difficult for them to get a majority even in a Province like Bengal. No doubt, there are these questions to which, rightly, the Joint Select Committee will give their careful attention. But I can say that, so far as Indian interests are concerned, we believe our proposals safeguard them, and we believe they do the fair thing between the centre and the Provinces, and 707 between the centre and the Indian States.
I comp now to a more difficult question, the question of the joint interests of Great Britain and India. Sometimes these are called British interests. I will not admit that they are exclusively British interests. I would never define British interests in India as being solely the interests of the British Government, or the British bondholder, or the British trader. I put a much wider interpretation upon our interests. I put so wide an interpretation on our interests in India that I claim that they are joint interests between ourselves and Indians. After all these long years of partnership we, the Government, could not agree, and Parliament would never agree, to a repudiation of all these obligations into which we have entered for protecting the weak from the tyranny of the strong, avoiding anarchy and defending religious minorities from persecution. All these obligations I claim to be included in the general term "joint British and Indian interests." These interests are the interests that we propose to safeguard in the manner set out in the White Paper. These are the interests that are set out in great detail in the White Paper. It is much fairer, it is much more honest, to set the list of these safeguards out in full and in detail. We desire no misunderstanding about them, either here or in India. Naturally they are complicated, they must be, and they take a very prominent place in the proposals we are making.
Naturally, also, they are open to attack from both sides; they are bound to be open to attack on both flanks. The Indian says they amount to so much that the responsibility becomes a sham. The critic in this country says that no safeguards are any good at all. We often have heard these criticisms stated in the form of a dilemma. If the safeguards are effective responsibility is a sham; if responsibility is effective the safeguards are a sham. Fortunately, the world is riot run on a rule-of-three of this kind. Fortunately, great affairs are not susceptible to dilemmas of that kind. If this were a true dilemma, it would mean one of two things. It would mean either that there could never be responsibility in India, or it would mean that if there 708 were responsibility it must be responsibility without safeguards. I claim that no serious body of opinion either in this country or in India is prepared to accept either of those alternatives. I do not believe any substantial body of opinion is going to state that at no time and never can there be responsible government in India, nor do I believe that there is any substantial body of opinion either here or in India that considers that safeguards of some kind are not necessary in the interests of Indians themselves. Certainly, among the first to protest would be some of those representatives of the Indian minorities that made their voices so powerfully heard at the Round Table Conference last autumn.
Let me at this point deal with a series of arguments that we have all of us so often heard against what is called responsibility with safeguards. "Look at the Irish Treaty," say many of my hon. Friends. "What use were the paper safeguards in the Irish Treaty? What use was even the signature of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping? What use were those safeguards even to a great country like ours, dealing with a small country like Ireland a few score miles from our shores? If the Irish safeguards were of no avail, what is likely to happen to these Indian safeguards when we are dealing with a country not a few score miles away, but with a great Continent 6,000 miles away?" My answer is a simple one. There is no similarity whatever between the Irish and the Indian case. The Irish Treaty broke down not because of safeguards but because there were no safeguards. I do not criticise anyone who made the Treaty in the difficult conditions in which it was made, but, the fact does remain that in the true sense of the word there were no safeguards included in the Irish Treaty.
Compare the Indian position with the Irish position? In India the Governor-General, the Provincial Governors and other high officials are still to be appointed by the Crown. The security Services, the executive officers of the Federal and Provincial Governments, are still to be recruited and protected by Parliament. The Army, the ultimate power in India, is to remain under the undivided control of Parliament. Those are no paper safeguards. Here are the heads of Government endowed with 709 great powers and given, as I shall show a few minutes later in more detail, the means of carrying those powers into effect. These questions are all important, they are the key questions of the Government's proposal, and I would venture, because they are so important, to make a somewhat more detailed analysis both of the safeguards themselves and of the machinery with which they will be brought into operation.
The effect of these provisions is, broadly, this, that when in the exercise of his responsibilities a Governor feels constrained, for example, to differ from his Ministers the orders which he issues to the Services will be no less the legal orders of the Government than if they had resulted from his Ministers' advice.
This being so, the criticism of the effectiveness of the safeguards reduces itself when examined to two propositions. The first is that the Services will blankly refuse to obey orders. I need but to state that contingency for every hon. Member to brush it aside. With the record of the Secretary of State's Services, surely there can be no suspicion that they will not carry out the accredited orders of authority. With the provincial services, there, again, with their splendid record of loyalty, often in the face of difficulty and danger, I have no doubt that they will loyally carry out the orders of accredited authority. Moreover, they will have as their protection the Public Services Commissions and other means of making their complaints to the Provincial Governments. I cannot contemplate a situation arising in which the Services will refuse to carry out a Governor's orders, even if they are given at his own discretion and without the advice of his Ministers.
There is a second contingency that may be in the minds of some hon. Members. They say to themselves, "How will a, Governor be really able to carry these powers into effect when his Government threatens to resign and he may be left without a Government at all?" No doubt an extreme contingency of that kind might arise, but I do not believe it is so likely as some of my hon. Friends think. I do not believe that politicians in India are very different from politicians here, and I do not believe that the contingency is often going to arise in which it would be impossible for a Governor to find an alternative Gov- 710 ernment. After all, the Governor, in exercising his special powers, will very likely be exercising them in the actual interests of a substantial body of the population of his own Province, for instance, one of the Minorities; and I think it will be very rare in actual practice that a Governor will not have behind him a substantial body of public opinion in a political crisis of that kind.
§ Briģadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT
Does my right hon. Friend suggest that the minority could then form a Government and carry on?
§ Sir S. HOARE
If my hon. and gallant Friend will let me finish this part of my speech—I do not in the least criticise him for asking that question—
§ Sir S. HOARE
It was a very pertinent question, and I am now going to deal with it. Suppose, as my hon. and gallant Friend says, that he cannot find a Government to carry on, then his course is perfectly clear. The Constitution has broken down, and he assumes the full power of the Government, and. Parliament once again becomes fully responsible here. My hon. and gallant Friend will find in our proposals a, series of explicit provisions meant to deal with a situation of that kind, in which the Constitution has actually broken down and in which, once again, the Governor-General on the Governor, with Parliament behind them, assume full and undivided powers of administration.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I have stated the two contingencies that I know have been in the mind of many hon. Members and that have led them to believe that in actual practice it would never be possible to put the safeguards into operation. One of my hon. Friends says that there would be no machinery. I am afraid that I have not made myself clear. There will be a very effective machinery. The Governor's order will be the accredited order of the Government. The officers to carry out that order will be the Services, both central and provincial, and, in the last resort—I hope a resort that will never come into actual being—there is the Army behind the Governor- 711 General and the Governor, in the undivided control of Parliament. I hope that I have said enough to show that our proposals contemplate not paper safeguards, but safeguards that, if need be, can be carried into full effect. There are, however, three particular safeguards about which I ought to say a word.
But perhaps before I come to them I ought to deal with another line of argument that I have heard constantly used during the last few weeks. It is made by many public men who are well entitled to speak from their own experience. It was suggested the other day in a letter to the "Times" newspaper by so distinguished an ex-provincial Governor as Lord Zetland. These men say: "Your safeguards may be all right on paper; your machinery may be all right, but it will need a veritable superman as Governor-General, or as provincial Governor, ever to carry them into effect." These criticisms deserve to be carefully weighed and to be definitely answered. Let the House therefore observe concrete facts and try to see what is likely to happen.
I take the case of the Governor-General under our proposals. As matters stand, there are 47 central subjects, including such matters as railways, aircraft, shipping, posts and telegraphs, Customs, currency, public debt, civil and criminal law, commerce, emigration and immigration, for the due administration of all of which he is responsible as the head of the Government of India, and no one with the slightest knowledge of Indian administration supposes that the Governor-General at present is a mere figurehead. He holds one of the most arduous and responsible offices in the Empire, and, besides his direct responsibility for the affairs of the central Government, he is responsible for the superintendence, direction and control of the important reserved subjects of the Provinces. On top of all that, though it is no part of his duties as laid down in the Act, there falls upon him the difficult and exacting political work involved in his relations with the two Houses of the Legislature. His responsibilities are at present overwhelming, and they are all-pervading. In future, I agree, they will be very heavy, but at any rate they will be strictly limited and defined. I have discussed this question with the Viceroy, with ex-Viceroys and with several Pro- 712 vincial Governors and they all take the view that, upon the whole, the responsibilities of the Governor-General will be less rather than greater in the future.
Let me now come to what I said just now about three special responsibilities, about which I want to say a word. They are the special responsibilities, imposed upon the Governor-General, of finance, for the prevention of commercial discrimination and to prevent any grave menace to the peace or tranquillity of India. Let me say a word or two, which will be short, about each of these special responsibilities, and first of all, about the special responsibility connected with finance. One of the most difficult questions that we have had to discuss has been the question connected with Indian finance, and particularly with the safeguards necessary for ensuring the stability of Indian credit. Our difficulties were made ten times worse by the financial and economic crisis through which the world has passed. In a sentence, the problem was this: On the one hand, if the Federal Government was to have any real responsibility, it was almost inevitable that there should be a transfer of the financial portfolio. On the other band, it was equally necessary to take no action, however excellent it may be in itself, that would endanger the very foundations of Indian stability, Indian credit. The House will see, in the proposals dealing with finance, how we suggest dealing with this difficult problem, and will see set out in great detail the financial safeguards that were considered to be necessary.
We believe that, so far as we could in the very difficult circumstances confronting us, we have held the balance between these two needs, the need of transfer on the one hand and of financial stability on the other. I believe that there is no reason why any of our proposals should in any way diminish what is one of the greatest assets that the British connection has given to India, the stability of Indian credit. I deplore an attempt that seems to have been made to shake confidence in Indian stocks. In the first place, the White Paper provides for the faithful and punctual observance of India's financial obligations, and it must be obvious that it will be an essential condition of the success of the federation, which every Indian investor will have at 713 heart, that the credit of India should be maintained. The House will realise that something like half the debt of India has been raised in India. Lastly, the investor may rest assured that Parliament would never accept our proposals if there was justification for gloomy forecasts of India's financial future.
Let me now say a word about the commercial safeguards, namely, the safeguards designed to prevent commercial discrimination, a part of our proposals that I know excites and rightly excites the keenest interest in business and trading circles in this country. The House will see that we are proposing to deal with the question of commercial discrimination upon the simple basis of reciprocity. Put into a single sentence, our proposals are that anything that we do for Indian traders or for Indian professional men in Great Britain, Indians should do for British traders and British professional men in India. That is the basis of our proposals for the prevention of commercial discrimination. Obviously, they make no change in what has come to be known as the Fiscal Autonomy Convention. I am one of those who believe that the commercial relations between India and Great Britain are much better settled by agreement, if they can be settled by agreement, and it is indeed a satisfactory augury that the Indian delegates at Ottawa were able to make a satisfactory agreement, at any rate on a part of the field, with the representatives of Great Britain and the rest of the Empire, and that that agreement has been ratified by a huge majority in the Indian Assembly. To-day I say no more about commercial discrimination—not that I do not regard it as quite one of the most important questions that we have to consider. I must pass to the last of the safeguards, which we propose for the prevention of any grave menace to the peace and tranquillity of India.
This safeguard immediately raises the very difficult question of the transfer of law and order to responsible Indian Governments, one of the most difficult questions that not only we had to consider, but that the Statutory Commission had to consider. On the one hand, there is the need for making provincial autonomy real self-government, and the virtual impossibility of making provincial autonomy real self-government if law and 714 order are not transferred to an Indan Minister. On the other hand, there is the essential need for taking no action that will shake the morale of the police or that will endanger the Indian spirit. This was an extraordinarily difficult dilemma facing both us and the Simon Commission. We are just as conscious of the anxiety felt by many of my hon. Friends as anyone in this House; but, setting on the one side the advantages of a transfer, and on the other side the disadvantages, we came to the same conclusion at which the Simon Commission arrived, namely, that it was both safer and wiser to make this transfer.
When one comes to that decision, it necessarily follows that, if you make the transfer of law and order to a responsible Indian Minister, you cannot withhold from his control the administration of the police. I think it goes without saying that a Home Secretary without the power to order police to this or that point would be a Home Secretary without effective powers. Therefore, it seemed to us essential, in making a transfer, to make the transfer of the police administration. When I say that, I do not on any account mean that we leave the question there, and that we provide no protection for the police against the possibility of undue influence or victimisation. Let hon. Members look at the provisions that we make in this respect in the White Paper. We do not intend, nor do Indian public men intend, that the Minister should himself interfere arbitrarily with promotion, postings and discipline. All these matters will be primarily for the executive head of the Service to deal with. The officers at the top, who have been and will continue for a time to be, appointed to the Service by the Secretary of State, will have their main conditions of service regulated by him, and will have a right of appeal to him. Deputy superintendents, that is to say, the provincial police service proper, will have the protection of the Provincial Public Service Commission, and there will, we hope, be strong selection boards for appointments and promotions in the subordinate ranks. It is to such means that we look for the security of the police from deterioration.
But the morale of the police is of importance in emergencies beyond that of any other Service, and the White Paper 715 has taken account of this. The work of the force will—let there be no doubt on the matter—be the responsibility of the Minister. If for no other reason, the Minister will be deeply concerned in its efficiency, because at every point its work will be subject to criticism. The Governor is given, as the House knows, special responsibility in case of any grave menace to the peace and tranquillity of the province, and the instrument of instruction will direct him to have regard to the close relation between this responsibility and the internal administration and discipline of the force. I want to make it clear that this is not intended to imply that the Governor is to intervene in the day-to-day administration of the force, much less in its work, but is intended to enable him to secure, if need arise, that he shall be in a position to discharge the responsibilities specifically assigned to him by the Constitution. These proposals we have discussed over and over again with experienced administrators, with the Viceroy and with, I think, every Governor in India at the present time, and they are all unanimous that, in the difficult conditions which confront us, they provide, on the whole, a sound and workable scheme, and that in any case they are much the safer and the wiser of the two alternatives to which I have just alluded.
§ Sir ROBERT HORNE
As this is very important, may I ask my right hon. Friend two questions? In the first place, is there any limitation of time during which the Secretary of State will exercise his discretion in the appointment of the police; and, in the second place, to whom will the police report?
§ Sir S. HOARE
I am very glad that my right hon. Friend has asked those two important questions. In answer to the first, there is no limit of time. Our proposal is that after five years there shall be a statutory commission to inquire into all the various problems connected with the recruitment of the Services.
§ Sir S. HOARE
Certainly. I do not suppose that I shall be in my present place, but I can assure my hon. and gal- 716 lant Friend that my successor—probably a worthier successor—will certainly take such advice into account. In reply to the second question of my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), the Governor will have a discretion to say in regard to police reports how much of the material shall be supplied to him, and what his relations should be to the police. It is very difficult here and now to make a rigid definition. But I can assure my right hon. Friend that the intention is to leave the Governor the widest possible discretion in giving instructions as to what reports he should or should not receive.
I have dealt, I am afraid at very great length, with the main background of our proposals, and with the reasons that have prompted us to make them. I hope I have said enough, even though I may not have convinced all hon. Members of their wisdom, to show that we have at least attempted to face the facts and to ignore none of the difficulties. I think there is no ineluctable fact that we have not taken into account in making our proposals. In the words of William James, we have forged every one of our proposalsin the teeth of irreducible and stubborn facts.Many have helped us in arriving at these proposals; of Englishmen, perhaps, most of all, the members of the Statutory Commission. In all these long and difficult discussions during the last two years, we have found in the Simon Report a, perfect mine of knowledge, without which it would have been impossible for us or any hon. Member in this House to see the picture as clearly as we see it to-day. Of Indians, we are particularly indebted to the members of the various Round Table Conferences, who, year after year, often in the face of great criticism in India, have come over to discuss these difficult questions with us. I am inclined to think that, when the Joint Select Committee is set up, their experience will be very much the same as ours has been. I believe that time after time they will be indebted to the Simon Commission; I believe that time after time they will be indebted to the Indians whom we hope to see taken into consultation with the British members of the Committee.
To-day I make my appeal to the moderate men of good will and common sense, both in England and in India. I 717 have often, during the last 18 months, wondered whether the task upon which I was engaged was not a hopeless one—whether it was possible to produce a scheme of government for India, and, if it was possible to produce it, whether it was likely that Parliament would pass it. That was not so much because I believe that people over here or in India are actually opposed to this or that proposal, but rather because the complexities of the problem are so great as to make it almost impossible to see a way out. Parliament here, 6,000 miles away, attempting to make a very complicated Constitution for scores of different Asiatic races and religions, and making that attempt with an alert public opinion, both here and in India, willing and able to pick out the innumerable points for criticism, willing to negative almost every conceivable proposal! In view of these difficulties, I have often, since I have been at the India Office, felt almost hopeless; but I have comforted myself with two reflections. First of all, try as I will to consider every possible alternative, as I have considered every possible alternative, I can at present see no better scheme. I ask my critics to-day not to be content with a mere negative to these very complicated proposals. Let them face the facts, as we have faced them, and as I have described them this afternoon, and let them produce a better, a more workable and a safer scheme.
I know that there are many who are well qualified to speak who are nervous about these proposals. There are men who have served India and the Empire well in the past and whose opinions deserve to be taken into account by every Member of this House. Let us take those opinions into account, but let us take also into account the unanimous opinion of every responsible British official in a high post in India to-day. To put it at its lowest, the administrator of to-day has an equal right to be heard with the administrator of yesterday.
But I have comforted myself most of all by feeling that here, particularly in Parliament, the innate good nature and common sense of the British people almost always makes itself felt. As one who has been a good many years in this House, who believes, even after that long experience, in the ultimate sagacity of Parliament, as one 718 who is convinced that the British people, if they make up their minds, can do anything, even though it looks to be impossible, I. commend the proposals of the Government to the House and I ask the House to give the Government their help in setting up a strong and wise committee to test the truth of what I have urged this afternoon and to help us to frame a scheme which will take the Indian question out of the welter of party politics for a generation, which will safeguard both Indian and British interests and will unite India more strongly than ever to the British commonwealth of nations.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I am sure I shall be expressing the unanimous view of this House in congratulating the Minister on the extremely able and interesting statement to which we have just listened. He had a very difficult task. He had to deal with a subject of enormous complexity, and he had to address himself to two Continents at once. He was speaking to the Members of this House, but he was also speaking to India. He had to select exactly those points in a very large scheme upon which it was essential to speak. In fact, he had to make a Second Reading speech and not be led off into Committee points. I think he accomplished that task extraordinarily well. I should have liked the Leader of the Opposition to be in my place to-day. The House knows the reason why he is absent. I should like on his behalf, before dealing in more detail with the proposals of the White Paper and the Minister's speech, to make a statement laying down the exact attitude of the Labour party on this matter. It is a very important matter. The whole question of Indian reform has been a long record of dealings by all parties, and I desire to set on record exactly the attitude that we take. Since the commencement of British control in India in. 1857, successive British Governments have given pledges to the peoples of that country. The Labour party desire to see those pledges honoured, and we stand by the declaration made at our Blackpool Conference in 1927 to the effect thatWe reaffirm the right of the Indian peoples to full self-government and self-determination and, therefore, the policy of the British Government should be one of continuous co-operation with the Indian people with the object of establishing India, at the earliest possible moment and by her 719 consent, as an equal partner with the other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.The Labour party believe that, as stated by the Statutory Commission, the new Constitution should contain within itself provisions for its own development. We think the new Constitution should contain the principle laid down in the Irwin-Gandhi Pact, that such safeguards as are necessary should be in the interests of India, and we think they should be agreed on in co-operation with the leaders of Indian opinion. The new Constitution should adopt the principle laid down by the Labour Government at the first Round Table Conference and repeated as their policy by the National Government at the second Round Table Conference, that the reserved powers should not be such as to prejudice the advance of India through the new Constitution to full responsibility for her own government. The Labour party stand by the principle that no settlement can be reached without the co-operation of all sections in India and with their consent, and therefore ask for the immediate release of all political prisoners not guilty of violence. If a Joint Select Committee is set up, the party will nominate representatives to serve, because it is our duty to serve on such a body representative of the two Houses, and we will do our utmost to get our views discussed and incorporated in the Committee's report.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in thinking that this is no occasion for a historical retrospect. On the other hand, it is idle to deny that this matter must be looked at in the light of the past, and particularly in the light of the declaration that has been made to India. I do not want to go back to the declaration made in 1837 or to trace the conception of Indian self-government right through the declaration made by the Duke of Connaught at Delhi and the various declarations made since. I should agree with the Secretary of State that everyone must remember that those declarations made on behalf of this country are part of the facts of the situation. You cannot escape them. No contribution to this discussion is of any use at all which does not take those declarations into account. I am going to quote only one, and that is the declaration 720 made by the Prime Minister at the end of the second Round Table Conference on 19th January, 1931, when he said:I hope and trust that, by our labours together, India will come to possess the only thing which she lacks to give her the status of a Dominion amongst the British commonwealth of nations—what she now lacks for that—the responsibilities and the cares, the burdens and the difficulties, but the pride and honour of responsible self-government.That was an important statement made by the head of the Government to the assembled delegates from India. The policy of the Labour Government was reaffirmed by the Prime Minister as head of the National Government. The policy adopted by the Labour Government was one of co-operation. It was one that laid it down that the decision on these constitutional matters must be had by free discussion, co-operation and agreement with the representatives of Indian political thought, and to that end the Labour Government went to what some people thought very great lengths of conciliation, and they did achieve a very remarkable triumph when Congress representatives were present at the Round Table Conference and when, in fact, the whole range of Indian political opinion was called into co-operation. But there then ensued a change. The Round Table Conference was dismissed and, although it was dismissed with the specific assurance that in the end that Round Table Conference would meet again for a final review of the whole scheme, it never did meet again, and from that point we mark a very great change in the whole situation. The Round Table Conference was dismissed. An era of repression against the Congress started in India. The whole laborious structure of conciliation and co-operation which had been built up was shattered and the third Round Table Conference, when it was summoned, contained a small number of hand-picked, unrepresentative delegates, and those delegates, when they assembled, were not regarded in the same way as their predecessors. They were there much more to give advice and to make suggestions, while all matters of decision were left to the Government.
I will not go at length into what I consider the most disastrous results of that policy in India. I think that policy was a mistake. I think it was an entirely false idea that you could smash the Con- 721 gress by force, that you could brush it aside, that you could deal with a few Indian representatives and come to a satisfactory agreement. I think the fact was that the Prime Minister was the prisoner of his majority. He was in the position of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) at the Peace Conference. Each one of them had raised a Frankenstein that he could not control, and the result is that we have this White Paper, which seems to me to be in direct conflict with principles and with pledges. I am sure the Secretary of State has tried hard to hold the balance, in fact his speech was directed mainly to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and his friends. The greater part of the time was taken up in explaining to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping and his friends how safe was the whole matter, and how strong were the safeguards. The difficulty in this matter is that you have to deal with two sets of people who, I am willing to grant, are unreasonable—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping and his friends, and the members of the Congress party, or many of them, in India. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman is trying to steer a very careful course between the two, but, in our view, the White Paper really sets up a state of affairs which should have entirely satisfied the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping and the "Morning Post." I cannot see of what they have to complain when one really examines what the White Paper does.
I am not going to suggest—I should be the last person to do so—that there is an easy way out of Indian constitutional difficulties. It is not an easy question. It bristles with every kind of difficulty. You have, on the one hand, certain facts of the situation which make it impossible to establish full self-government on the Dominion model immediately; secondly, you have the people who demand that that should be done; and, thirdly, you have the difficulty of finding some halting-place between complete responsibility and complete irresponsibility. The White Paper tries to find that place. It tries to give a limited degree of responsibility subject to safeguards. I maintain that the only possible way in which you can get a halting-place 722 between irresponsibility and responsibility in the central government in India is by consent. You cannot set down some logical arrangement, because no halting-place is a satisfactory one unless the people who are to abide there are prepared to show approval and to work the arrangement.
I think that the difficulty of the Prime Minister, and of the Labour Government when he was Prime Minister in the Labour Government, was in recognising the fact that whatever you did on paper was no use whatever unless you could get politically-minded people in India to work it. I very much fear that there is very little hope of getting full co-operation in India on the basis of the proposals of the White Paper. You have there a Constitution in which, at the centre, it is proposed to start a limited amount of responsible government, but it is hedged about by safeguards, and the difficulty I have is in finding responsibility underneath the safeguards. It was notable that when the right hon. Gentleman came to discuss safeguards, he told us that safeguards were wanted for various purposes, but he put the interests of this country first in the order in which the right hon. Gentleman discussed them. He said that the first safeguards we had were for our own people.
§ Sir S. HOARE
This is rather important. I took the joint interests, the interests of the partnership first. I particularly said "joint interests," and I then went on to the Indian interests.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I withdraw at once. I will leave out the point of the right hon. Gentleman about that matter. But the safeguards which he has here are predominantly safeguards for the interests of this country. It is possible to read into them, if you like, and to say that the interests of this country are the interests of India, but, in my view, the safeguards here go far beyond what is required in the interests of India. I will say something more about those particular safeguards a little later on, but I want, first of all, to come to one or two essential points about these proposals. The first thing is, that the whole idea of Dominion status has entirely gone. It was laid down definitely as a goal. It was laid down by the Prime Minister, and it was explicitly stated by the Prime Minister at 723 the Round Table Conference, but the whole idea of Dominion status entirely disappears from the White Paper even as the ultimate goal. The second thing which entirely disappears is any idea of a progressive advance to full responsible government.
The Sankey Commission, among other things, definitely laid it down that the Constitution should contain within it the seeds of growth. In the White Paper we have one mention, and one only, of an Interim Constitution before the final Constitution, and thereafter the whole transitional aspect of these proposals disappears altogether. In the whole of the proposals there is no suggestion of growth. There is no suggestion that at any time, or on any occasion, will the powers of the Governor-General be relaxed. There is no suggestion that at any time the power of the Secretary of State, and of this House, through the Secretary of State will be relaxed. There is no hint of time. Perhaps you may say that you cannot put in a time. There is no hint of any occasion. There is no provision for any machinery whereby there will be any change whatever from the position at the centre as laid down in the White Paper. There is no suggestion that the financial safeguards will be relaxed.
There is no suggestion as to when the Indian Army will be Indianised, and, indeed, no provision whatever with regard to the Indian Army beyond leaving it in its present position. Anyone who has studied Indian constitutional matters knows that the biggest obstacle to self-government is the existence of the Army in India, and one would have thought that he would have found some suggestion whereby the Army, which is now to be kept out of the control of elected representatives altogether, somehow or other, would be transformed, and that at some time or other, however distant, Indians might look to controlling their own defence. That is not contained in the White Paper. There is, in fact, no indication that these proposals are transitory at all. The next thing which strikes one is the extremely vague time at which the Constitution at the centre is to come into force. It may well be that you have to get your provincial reforms into force before you reform at the centre, but I have never seen such an 724 extraordinary series of obstacles put in the way of these reforms. There is an optimistically headed paragraph on page 8:The Date and Conditions for the Inauguration of Federation.Let us look at the obstacles. There is, first of all,which must inevitably occupy some time—the preparation of new and enlarged electoral rolls for the Provincial and Federal Legislatures, and the demarcation of constituencies—and so forth. That is the first, hedge. The next hedge consists of the adhesion of the States, and then there come a surprising number of prerequisites of a financial character. These are something quite new to me. I believe that they appeared at times at the Round Table Conference, but they are certainly new to me in the Simon report. We find that there is to be a Reserve Bank, that you are to have a, balanced Budget, short-term credit must be reduced, a surplus must be accumulated, and the export surplus restored. Why has India to pass this extraordinarily hard examination which, probably, no modern State at the present time could possibly get through? It is an amazing thing. When you come to examine these proposals not one is in any way essential for starting the new constitution. It really suggests that the Bank of England is to-day a separate party in the State with these financial securities embodied in it before this can go forward. Finally, when we have got through the difficulty of the provincial constitution and through the adhesion of States, and passed the final examination, there is a final veto left in the hands of both Houses of Parliament, and even then it is not to come into force until both Houses of Parliament have presented an Address to the Crown. Therefore, we are left with the possibility, or even the probability, of a very long period elapsing between the passing of the Act and even the setting up of a provincial constitution and the final form of a federation.
As everybody who has had anything to do with Indian politicians knows, the point which they have insisted on time and time again is that you should not have your provincial reform coming first and a long delay before your reforms at the centre. They have been met with the fact that the two reforms are to be put into one Act. But it will certainly be 725 necessary that the date and conditions for the inauguration of federation should be made a great deal clearer and nearer than is the case at the present time. Suppose all those obstacles have been surmounted, what kind of responsibility are we to get at the centre when in effect you are only going to get diarchy? It was my business as a member of the Statutory Commission to examine dyarchy, and my colleagues and I were all completely agreed that diarchy was a most unfortunate system. In fact, we stated most emphatically in our report that the one thing you did not want was diarchy at the centre. This is precisely what you are to get. You are to get two wills operating, one, that of certain Ministers who are to be responsible to the Assembly and the Council of State, and the other, that of the Governor-General, who is responsible to the Secretary of State, and, through the Secretary of State, to this House. You are to have Ministers in charge of certain departments and you are to have reserved departments, the Army and external affairs, which are entirely under the Governor-General. But when you look at what are the powers and duties of the Governor-General, you find that his power is bound to extend right throughout even the transferred subjects. Look at the list of safeguards:The prevention of grave menace to the peace and tranquility of India.That is a necessary and extremely wise safeguard.Safeguarding of the financial stability of the Federation.Imagine making the Chancellor of the Exchequer responsible for the Budget in this House while somewhere else there is someone, sitting with a separate financial adviser, who is responsible for financial stability. What sort of position would the Chancellor of the Exchequer have? You might say, if you like, that there have been Chancellors of the Exchequer who have seemed not to have much of a position in these days, and that there has been some other power sitting in the City of London who has ruled. Then there isthe safeguarding of the legitimate interests of the minoritiesandthe securing to the members of the Public Services of any rights provided for them 726 by the Constitution and the safeguarding of their legitimate interests.That is pretty wide. The Public Services are given extremely wide rights. They will be entirely free from control by the Ministers. They are under the actual control of the Governor-General. You then havethe prevention of commercial discriminationand you haveany matter which affects the administration of the Reserved Departments"—the services of the Army which depends upon communications, the railways and so on. When you have taken into account all these powers you find that there is no sphere in which the Governor-General's power does not enter. The Governor-General is to have two Cabinets—one a body of Ministers, and his three advisers. He is to consult with them. That is what they propose in diarchy. There you had two advisers and the Ministers, sometimes acting together like a Cabinet and sometimes separately, and all the time you had happening what it is suggested must not happen in the present case, but what inevitably will happen, and that is, a blurring of responsibility throughout.
In my view, a dyarchy so far from being an opportunity for learning responsibility is a lesson in irresponsibility. Anything that a Minister thinks may be unpopular he can get out of doing by getting it done through the overruling power of the Governor-General. That is not imagination. That is what actually happens in the provinces. In many of the provinces, not in all of them, dyarchy is the greatest lesson in irresponsibility that could have been given. The position of the Governor and the official members of his Council under that system became, like that of the Secretary A State, an unhappy one, and also like that of the policeman, whose lot was an unhappy one, because in effect they became policemen and had to do all the unpopular things, while the loaves and fishes went to the Ministers of the dyarchy. It is a terrible position to try to set up dyarchy at the centre, when it has been so discredited in the provinces. What sort of a government can that be 4 The powers of the Ministers under the scheme are extraordinarily small. The railways come under a board. There may be something in regard to 727 posts and telegraphs, but most other matters are provincial and in everything finance is paramount. We all know the power of finance in this House. If you set up a Government, and its finance is in the hands of somebody else, it will be a very weak Government. I think this scheme is a frank recognition of what is the real power under capitalism, namely, the position of power given to the bank and the position given for the protection of the rentier. What puzzles me is why the "Morning Post" should be disturbed. So much for the Central Executive.
Let us see what kind of Legislature is set up. We have two Houses set up, of equal power, and we have the most reactionary Council of State. The Council of State to be set up is to be representative partly of the rulers of British India and partly of the provinces. It will make things safe for property and privilege. It will be a wonderful pillar for the vested interests, elected as it will be on a narrow franchise. I cannot see—here I agree with the Secretary of State—how any extreme force is ever going to get expression in the Council of State, except an extremely reactionary one. Then you have the Assembly. The Assembly, again, is on a narrow franchise. I think it is an utterly impossible body out of which to make some kind of a Parliament. You have a most impossible system of representation. When we considered this matter in the Report of the Indian Statutory Commission we came to the conclusion that representation in a Parliament or an Assembly could only be really effective if there was a proper contact between the electors and the elected. That cannot be so if you are going to have constituencies representing a million people. Let me give one example. Take the great Presidency of Madras. They are to have 19 general seats, and as there are to be four reserved for the depressed classes you must have four-member constituencies and five-member constituencies. Therefore, the smallest constituency must be a four-member constituency. If you take the most favourable place for that, the six Southern districts of Madras, there is a population of 8,000,000 or 9,000,000, and there is an electorate of between 200,000 and 250,000, spread over a population of from 8,000,000 to 10,000,000 and scattered 728 over an area equal to England, less the six northern counties. An election in those circumstances is an absolute and utter farce. You will have no real representation, and you will have no real Parliamentary government.
Coming to the composition of the Assembly, I think it is most reactionary in the representation given to working men and in the representation given to women. When you have this mixed body, drawn partly from the States and partly from British India, you will have a caricature of Parliamentary institutions, with no real responsibility and no real representation. What you will get will be an irresponsible central body. When you turn to the provinces, I think the position is a great deal better. There is some danger in the Governor's powers but, of course, the Governor must have power. Here I would make the point that it seems to me, from these proposals, that an essential point has been lost sight of in regard to reserved powers, and that is that reserved powers should be used only in a state of emergency. If you want responsibility, that responsibility means the possibility of not making mistakes and not being picked up every time you slip. It seems to me that in this Constitution every effort is being made so that the Governor-General may constantly step in if any Minister is going to make a mistake. I agree that you must have emergency powers to prevent everything from going to rack and ruin, but there should be a serious line of demarcation between responsibility and emergency powers. Do not blur the two by giving responsibility but allowing that responsibility always to be escaped by falling back upon emergency powers.
I do not want to go into details at this time, but I think it is a great pity that the franchise in the provinces is not wider, especially in regard to women. I deplore the setting up of Second Chambers in the most landlord-ridden provinces, and I deplore the giving of special seats to landlords. The Indian Statutory Commission was of the opinion that landlords were over-represented already throughout India in all the provinces. We were told that the landlords had enormous political power. I think they divided the political power with the moneylenders and the lawyers. On the top of that, the landlord is to be given special powers in those very provinces 729 where there is most need of agrarian reform. I am glad that the Government have stood firm on the question of handing over the police and what is generally called law and order. Those who seek to reverse that, do a very grievous disservice to the British civil servants, the British police and the British officials throughout India. The suggestion that the English should be retained in India to keep order and collect taxes while everything else is to be handed over, is asking too much of Englishmen.
Here I should like to refer to a point made by the Secretary of State when he said he was in favour of strong government. He said that times were dangerous and that strong government was necessary. I never met anyone in India who was not in favour of strong government. Of course, their Governments were of different sorts. The question is, what is meant by "strong government"? You do not get a strong Government because you give it strong powers. You only get a strong Government if you have the consent of the governed. That is what, I fear, you will not get. Your provincial Government will be weakened because Indian nationalists will use the Provinces merely as strongholds to attack the centre. You will not get a strong Government at the centre because there is a definite reaction in the way the central legislature has been formed; you endeavour to form a strong Government by resting upon privilege and property. It has been a disaster to our rule in India for many years that we have tended too much to stand by vested interests, which were on the backs of the peasants, because we have considered that forces like landlordism were the supports of our rule. If we go in for these vested interests we shall not support, but weaken, our rule in India, and arouse against us everything that is vital in India.
I want the Secretary of State to understand that if I criticise it is not because I do not know the difficulties. It is perfectly easy to criticise every kind of Constitution or proposal, and I know that critics of Indian matters are singularly lacking in constructive suggestions. But you are here making the worst of affairs in your proposals for the centre. The only possible basis for an interim Constitution is complete agreement with the people who are to work it; and those are 730 the politically-minded people in India. It is no good suggesting that the politically-minded are seditious, are of no use, and that you admire the peasant. You rule India to-day through the educated classes, whether they are politicians or civil servants and the strain of nationalism runs through. We on these benches demand self-government for India, not on abstract lines, but because of the economic and social condition of the masses.
I recognise quite clearly the point of view of civil servants who fear that if the peasants, the workers of India, are handed over to an entirely Indian Government, they will be exploited. I have great sympathy with that point of view, but as a matter of fact when once you have a nationalist movement, such as we have to-day, it is impossible to continue on the old lines in which you had one person, an impartial benefactor, helping the people of India in their distress and protecting them from the oppressor. The evils from which India is suffering to-day can only be remedied by Indian action. Let me quote again from the Statutory Commission's report:Until the demands of nationalism have been reasonably met the enthusiasts for various reforms make common cause with every discontented element and attribute all the evils which they attack to the absence of self-government. In our view the most formidable of the evils from which India is suffering have their roots in social and economic customs of long standing which can only be remedied by the action of the Indian peoples themselves.Nationalism appears to be the one force that may perhaps contain within itself the power to overcome the deep and dangerous cleavages which threaten its peace.I have no illusions on nationalism, Indian or otherwise, but the nationalism of India is a force which you cannot ignore. I should describe nationalism as the illegitimate offspring of patriotism, out of inferiority complex. It is nourished on repression; the more repression there is the more it grows. It is nourished on alien rule. Only responsibility and freedom will get rid of nationalism. Nationalism dies when repression ceases, and alien rule ends. I claim that the proposals in the White Paper do not provide a condition for the supersession of self-conscious nationalism by a self-respecting patriotism. They do not provide conditions under which we shall get young 731 Indians to work at the reforms which really matter. Those reforms of the whole system of society, bound up with social and religious customs to such an extent that no outsider, no alien, can possibly touch them. You have only to read the correspondence and the newspapers with regard to the Untouchables to see how difficult it is for any alien to deal with them. We want to set free the forces of young India. This Constitution will not do that. There is no real responsibility at the centre. I agree that you cannot expect full responsibility in an interim Constitution, but there is no suggestion of any progress towards full responsibility; there is no relaxation of the control of this House or the Secretary of State; there is no approach whatever, therefore, to Dominion status. On the other hand, in the proposals for the central government, every vested interest is protected.
If we really made progress under this Constitution, if we left representation at the centre as it is to-day and quite free of British control, India would be tied to the moneylender and the landlord. The banker will rule in Delhi, as he does in Downing Street; the landlord will rule in the Council of State as he does at the other end of the passage. The Government have sacrificed the possibility of good will and co-operation, sacrificed everything, for timidity, for fear, for insistence on safeguards. The Secretary of State has suggested that this is just the time to debate the dilemma as to whether, if you have safeguards, there should be responsibility, or whether, if there are no safeguards, there should not be responsibility. There must be some balance in this matter, and it is undoubted that the more safeguards you give the less really becomes your responsibility. As a matter of fact, your safeguards are utterly useless unless you have good will and co-operation. Often and often we were asked, as a Commission, whether an elaborate system of rights for minorities could not be embodied in the Constitution. You have only to look at the Continent of Europe to find out how much good they are to minorities. They are utterly useless unless you have the spirit behind them.
I feel that in the last 18 months the state of affairs in India has definitely 732 put back that co-operation which we might have obtained. The Government to-day is tied to the forces of privilege and reaction. I am not going to suggest that there are not things of value in the White Paper. There are. There is the conception of Federation, there is the freedom of the provinces from the centre, but in the essentials, which are those which are going to call for Indian cooperation, this document, to my mind, fails. We shall serve on a Joint Select Committee and do our utmost to contribute to a solution of this problem, but we cannot accept this as a solution. We shall work, as far as we can, to see that those who speak for India shall have a chance of putting their points to the Select Committee, but unless great alterations are made in this document I very much fear for the future of peace in India.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
The hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) has engaged in many criticisms but he has not made one that has been advanced elsewhere against the form of the Motion. It has been suggested, wrongly I think, that because the Motion does not ask the House in terms to approve of the proposals of the White Paper, therefore it is a weakening of the position of the Government with regard to Indian reform. It has been suggested that because the Motion asks the House to suspend its opinion on the proposals until after the Select Committee has been appointed and has reported, that is a yielding to the representations of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and those who act with him. That is not so. The form of the Motion is right. It would not be reasonable, if it is proposed to set up a Joint Select Committee, to ask the House to decide the question first and set up the Committee afterwards. Consequently, the Motion in its present form is one which commends itself to my friends and myself on these benches. The hon. Member for Limehouse, however, has engaged in almost every other possible criticism. As he has said, criticism is easy, but if he and his colleagues were to-day on the Treasury Bench and were called upon to deal with the problem of Indian government, taking into account the general conditions in India, in British India and in the States, and taking into account the 733 political conditions here as well, they would, I think, find themselves compelled to lay before Parliament conclusions approximating to those which have been approved by the Round Table Conference and are embodied in the White Paper.
Many criticisms have been made against them, in India as well as in this country; in India, not only by the Congress, but Indian Liberals find many reasons for objecting to the limitations embodied in these proposals. The Moslems object and many of the Princes demur, from entirely different points of view, to these proposals. Here each section of the House will have its own criticisms to make. Certainly when the Measure is before the Joint Select Committee we shall have several suggestions to propose, but at this stage I submit that it is the duty of the House of Commons to show that the solid mass of responsible British opinion is behind these proposals in the main, and that the House of Commons will help the Government to get them through. The complexities are very great, as the Secretary of State has said—complexities arising from the constitutional relations between the States and British India, between the centre and the provinces; from the variety of religious communities; from the conflicts between the higher castes and the depressed classes; problems of finance, problems of defence.
As the right hon. Gentleman has rightly said, no Government, no Legislature, has ever had to face more difficult, more complicated or vaster problems. We are exceedingly fortunate as a Parliament to have had the guidance of the Round Table Conference, which has given to all these matters prolonged and careful consideration. It is most remarkable that any consensus of opinion should have been reached in a body such as the Round Table Conference, representing so many diverse elements. The fact that substantial unanimity was reached is a tribute to the tact and skill of the Secretary of State himself. The Secretary of State to-day said that he felt like Agag, walking delicately. I sincerely hope that he will not be subjected to the fate that was meted out to that king by my ancient namesake: to be hewn in pieces. On the contrary, we ought to be grateful to him and honour him for the sincerity, the tenacity and the courage with which he 734 has faced all the difficulties which surround this problem, and has at last reached the results that were achieved at the Round Table Conference. The Liberal party, also, may claim to have contributed to that end in the assistance which was given by Lord Reading, by Lord Lothian, by my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. I. Foot) and by other hon. Gentlemen sitting around me to-day.
Many hon. Members of this House are nervous that we may be going too far; that perhaps these steps that are being taken are too dangerous to be accepted. Let them be guided by the knowledge that European opinion in India—nonofficial European opinion: mercantile and professional, for instance—is in the main in favour of these proposals. That is a very important factor. Such authorities are not to be accused of ignorance of the situation; they know it well and not from without, and would not be prepared to support, as they supported through their representatives at the Round Table Conference and in other ways, the general purpose of these proposals, unless they felt quite sure that, on the whole and on balance, this was the right course to pursue. We have the results of the Round Table Conference, which included their representatives, and they have made proposals substantially similar to those now before you. I suggest that it would be a profound error to reopen the whole matter and, as the right hon. Member for Epping and his friends propose, for a Round Table to substitute a melting pot.
Let it be remembered that this House is in a very anomalous position indeed with this great issue. We here, sitting in Westminster debating in these days the future Constitution for 350,000,000 of people thousands of miles away in Asia, are so accustomed to the position that it does not seem strange to us. But it would be a great lack of imagination if we did not realise that to the Indians it must seem strange that we, the Imperial Parliament at Westminster, should be legislating for them, and that not one of them is represented here by a single Member. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are here, but India is not here. My right hon. Friend below me speaks for 100,000 of the population in the Epping Division of Essex; but who 735 speaks here for the fifty millions of Bengal? I am one of 66 Members for Lancashire, but where are the Members for Madras, or Bombay, or the Punjab, or the United Provinces? It is the fact that the destinies of an ancient, a proud and a most populous nation are being decided by a, legislative chamber in which it has no single representative, a majority of whose Members have never set foot in its country. We have imposed upon us by history and circumstance the duty of so legislating, but let us be restrained and remember our disability in that regard.
I always thought that it was a deplorable thing that the Statutory Commission which was appointed to deal with this matter should have consisted only of Members of our two Houses of Parliament. It was severely hampered by that fact, and the hostile reception which it received from the mass of Indian opinion when it reached that country was due to the fact that the self-respect of the Indian people was hurt; they felt that they were not allowed to be in any degree judges of their own case, but were merely being summoned as witnesses to appear before alien judges. Although an attempt was made to associate with this Statutory Commission a body drawn from the Indian Legislative Assemblies, it was too late, and the initial impression could not be overtaken. Afterwards, the mistake was to a great extent redressed by the fact that the Round Table Conference consisted both of British and of Indian representatives, sitting together on an absolutely equal footing. We were most fortunate to secure the attendance here of so many Indian representatives of the highest character and ability, who consented to come so great a distance for so long a time and to share in those deliberations.
I cannot understand the position of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping and some of his friends who seem to demur at the suggestion that when a Select Committee of both Houses has been appointed to go further into the matter, representatives of India should be called upon to associate with them. That is the least that we can do. Our constitution does not allow us to go further. But at all events we should invite them to come here to advise, to consult, to state their point of view, in order that 736 the tribunal which is adjudicating should not be entirely a foreign one. While we are settling the terms of the fundamental Statute under which their people are to be governed for generations, they should not be regarded as wholly outside the doors and no parties to the Measure. The attitude taken by those who object seems to me unwise, unjust, and ungenerous.
The real opposition to the Government's proposals does not come from the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken and his friends, or from their point of view. The really formidable opposition in this House, the other House and the country, comes, of course, from the right hon. Member for Epping and his friends, and principally from himself. If he were not there to give leadership and energy and to form a centre for this movement, I believe that very little would have been heard of it from the beginning. He has thrown the whole of his energies into this controversy. He has left no stone unturned; one might almost say that he has left no stone unthrown!
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
My right hon. Friend can hardly say that, because he said that in the country last night!
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I was unaware that that witticism had been reported, or I should not have repeated it. I hope that my right hon. Friend has never been guilty of the grave error of mentioning twice a jest which he may have made at the expense of some opponent. My right hon. Friend, of course, makes many brilliant speeches on all subjects, but that is no reason why we should necessarily accept his political judgment. On the contrary, the brilliance of his speeches only makes the errors in his judgment the more conspicuous. I do not think that during the last 10 or 15 years his advice on public matters, whether military, financial or political—[An HON. MEMBER: "And betting!"]—has really been very helpful to the nation. The House loves to listen to his speeches; he prevents our Debates from being dull. But whether he helps to make our decisions wise and fruitful is another matter. I feel inclined to say of him what Bagehot wrote of another very distinguished Parliamentarian: "His chaff is excellent, but his wheat is poor stuff."
After all, what alternative does he propose for a Measure such as that which 737 is now being presented to us? Like many orators, he emphasises the strong features of his own case, but he passes over in complete silence the stronger features of his opponent's case. That may be very effective at the moment in a representation assembly, but it is unconvincing in the long run. Are we not pledged to promote, to the utmost of our power and to the furthest limits of safety, the growth of Indian self-government? Ever since the days of Queen Victoria's pronouncement, and still more in the solemn declarations of 1917, that has been a pledge given, and it is no use making clever and specious endeavours to conform to the letter of that pledge while you are breaking it in spirit. It must be kept in its full spirit and meaning. We must genuinely do our utmost to promote full Indian self-government. If we do not do so, the Indian people will never be able to believe our word again. What is the right hon. Gentleman's proposal in that regard? Secondly, is it not obvious that the government of India cannot, in fact, he carried on without a very large measure of Indian cooperation? That is obvious, and every one must agree that such co-operation is essential. Yet my right hon. Friend's policy of coercion and repression—because that is the inevitable result of the course which he is endeavouring to pursue—
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
My right hon. Friend has no right to say that. He is inventing it all as he goes along. Why should he say that the Report of the Statutory Commission is coercion?
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
The right hon. Gentleman does not even go as far as the Report of the Statutory Commission, because he withdraws from one of the most essential features of it, namely, the transfer of the responsibility for law and order in the provinces to Indian Ministers. Even the Statutory Commission would very likely not secure the co-operation of politically-minded India. I am not speaking merely of Congress, but of all the middle, the central elements of Indian opinion. If they were to boycott the Constitution and to refuse unanimously civil co-operation, it is possible that the English in India would be able effectively to carry on the administration of that country? If not, they would be obliged to have a system of coercion and 738 of repression in order to maintain any form of government. Success is not certain for these proposals, but I am sure that failure is certain for his alternative.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
The right hon. Gentleman has made so many eloquent speeches in this House and in the country that I think most of us have an idea of the poor thing that his alternative is.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I trust that tomorrow, or on the following day, he will define it more specifically. As to the parallel which has been drawn with regard to Ireland and the suggestion that the example of Ireland in recent years shows how unsafe it would be to embark upon an experiment of this character, the Secretary of State has given already one answer to that, in showing that the conditions now are in many respects entirely diverse. Apart from that, I suggest to the House that we are now, in relation to India, very much as Great Britain was in relation to Ireland when self-government was first proposed in 1886. I believe if that opportunity had been taken at that time, and if some form of self-government had been established then, later difficulties would have been avoided.
Miss this opportunity now, and in a few years' time we may find ourselves in the far more difficult position of the Government of which I was a Member when it had to deal with the Home Rule Bill of 1912. Miss the second opportunity and you may have rebellion, as in Ireland, and bloodshed, and all the bitter enmities and violent hostilities which bloodshed on a large scale inevitably involves. Let further delay take place and you may have a similar situation to that in which the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping was a Member found itself in 1920–1922, and you may have to meet the far greater difficulties with which that Government had to cope, resulting in the present difficulties which we see in Ireland. It is not the grant of self-government to Ireland which has given rise to 739 difficulties, but the delay in granting self-government, and similar results would have ensued if the same policy had been adopted in any of our Dominions, in Canada, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa. Therefore let us take the matter in good time. It is already somewhat late. The delay has already been too long. To postpone it further, would create difficulties for the future and not avoid them.
When the right hon. Gentleman and his friends say that the problem in India is particularly difficult because of the hundreds of millions of the population, a large majority of them illiterate, subject often to priestly influences, with the caste system and many other social customs which give rise to political repercussions and dangers, all that is quite true. But let it be remembered also that in India there are to-day, happily, great numbers of experienced men and a certain number of experienced women—administrators, educationists, lawyers, doctors, merchants, manufacturers and scientists. In the Indian universities to-day there are 100,000 students, or twice as many as in Great Britain, and millions must have passed through those universities in days that have gone past. If there is not a larger proportion of men with these gifts and characteristics in India, if the standard is not even higher than it is, may not the reason be that there, as elsewhere, when the rulers are foreign native genius is stunted? True, there are many evil social customs, but only a larger measure of self-government can effectively open the door to social reform.
I agree with my right hon. Friend that present conditions compel restriction in the giving of self-government, but that is embodied in the proposals in the White Paper. In the Provinces, the electorate is to consist only of 14 per cent. of the population, and in the centre only of 2 per cent. to 3 per cent., and the representation of women has been cut down to what seems to many of us an unduly low figure. I hope that that is a matter which will receive the consideration of the Select Committee. If we need social progress, if we need to help the Indian people to free themselves from bad conditions, we should strengthen elements, such as the women's electorate, which are likely to contribute to that end.
740 Safeguards there must be. The dangers in the future are real as the Secretary of State has explained. I am one who believes strongly in the principle of democracy but who realises very fully that democracy always has risks and dangers. It is true, as the Secretary of State said to-day that it may fail through not creating executives sufficiently strong and effective. You may get, especially in Eastern countries, nepotism, corruption, mass bribery, bad legislation of a certain kind—and not only in Eastern countries—financial mismanagement. Law and order may be undermined and as a result the strength, authority and prestige of the State may not be maintained. The example of China is not merely a bogey, it is a real danger and there are similar examples of the failure of democracy much nearer home.
With an untrained electorate and an irresponsible press the dangers are real. Complete democracy may lead to breakdown in practice. That is why this country, which for two centuries has been charged with the great duty of the trusteeship of India, has still the duty of seeing that the transition of India to a fuller measure of self-government is made with dignity and order, and that India does not tumble into self-government in haste and compassion. If that were done, certainly there would be a reaction. I think it would be, if I may respectfully say so as a friend to India, the truest patriotism for Indians themselves to recognise that, and to realise that any Government, even if it is partly foreign, is better than anarchy, even if it is purely native. It may be that students without political experience, or enthusiastic delegates at conferences, think that the tasks of Government are easy. They are very, very hard, and history has innumerable examples of men with the best intentions and the highest purposes making very great mistakes. Those Indians are serving their country best at this juncture who have the moral courage not to allow themselves to be swept along by others who have less foresight than they.
The hon. Member for Limehouse minimised the advance towards self-government that is being made. I regard it as a great advance indeed. I do not agree with him that Dominion status dis- 741 appears, even as an ultimate goal. On the contrary, I think this Measure will bring Dominion status very close. The hon. Gentleman also stated that no reference is made to any further advance towards fuller self-government. That will come by experience and according to the working of the new Constitution. I believe that it will work with success and, as it works with success, so the safeguards will disappear more into the background and fall into desuetude, and a further advance will be made towards a fuller measure of read self-government.
The safeguards, in my view, are ample. If there is any error it is rather on the side of over-insurance against the dangers that may face the new Constitution. I earnestly hope that the Select Committee will not recommend any increase of the safeguards or any cutting down of the degree of liberty that has been granted. There is embodied in this White Paper one factor which, in my submission, gives cause for great concern, and that is the long delay that may take place before these measures are put into full operation—a delay largely on financial grounds. I hope that the Select Committee will do nothing to postpone but will rather expedite the full establishment of this Constitution. We wish it well. We shall support the Government in their efforts. We regard this Measure, not as a surrender of Britain's task in India, but rather as its consummation and its crown.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Sir REGINALD CRADDOCK
I am speaking with a deep sense of responsibility such as the conditions of the service to which I had the honour to belong, dictate. I have been told sometimes in the Indian Press that I am untrue to my salt. On the contrary I am true to my salt, because I did not eat the salt of only one section of the people of India—and that the noisiest one. I ate the salt of the whole mass of the people, and it is for that reason that I speak here as I do to-night. Those who have served abroad for some time and have then retired, if they do not agree with everything that is put forward, are called "diehards," and when that expression is applied to them it seems to be taken for granted that one need not trouble any further to disprove their facts or to answer their arguments. They are 742 swept aside as so many Rip Van Winkles who have been slumbering ever since their return from abroad. I resent that term, as applied to myself, if it means that I am just a blind reactionary. On the other hand, if it means that I stick to my principles and to the facts which I have acquired during many years of service, I do not object to it at all. I had sooner die hard on terra firma than tumble as some of the idealists will, from a castle in the air.
In the course of my service I warmly supported the first reforms of Lord Minto, so much so that a paper of mine on the subject met with the commendation of a Radical statesman, Lord Morley, and when my provinces, the Central Provinces, were left out of the Morley, Minto scheme, I was the first to protest before any of the politicians raised their voices at all. At a later period I signed a despatch on the ultimate goal of self-government for India, but I was not so rash and never have been so rash as to suggest any form of democratic government for a country with so many warring races and jarring creeds. Democracy in India is a double sham. It is a sham because the people are totally unfit for expressing their opinions. They have no opinions on any question outside their immediate vicinity. It is also a sham because it gives a handful of men, of one section and class, the power to say, when they exercise their authority on councils, that they represent the people.
The Indian Press always attacked me, not so much for things that I had not done, as for the way in which I could never tolerate dangerous sedition, and it was my policy, wherever I was and where it lay in my power, to crush such sedition whenever it showed its head, for I knew very well that otherwise it would spread like a noxious weed and would choke the progress of the crop of prosperity and contentment, upon which India's happiness and progress depend. If I am not so enthusiastic about Indian politicians as I may have been in those days, and as is shown by certain extracts from my reports brought out by present-day Indians to justify their ambitions, it is because I learned by experience. I saw which way those early reforms were going, that the men into whose hands the power would fall were misusing it to their own benefit, that they did not care about 743 the interests of the poor, however beneficent their statements might be.
In changing my mind, I did exactly what that indomitable patriot, the late Lord Sydenham, did when he changed his mind. It may not be remembered by the House that in the early days of his Governorship he was constantly accused of being ultra pro-Indian, of being far too conciliatory, of neglecting British interests, and so on. Half way through his Governorship he learned by experience that it was perfectly useless to attempt to placate the extremists, who were implacable and who used every conciliatory act in order to base upon it new and arrogant demands. Then I had my last 20 years' experience when I was in the thick of Indian politics. I was home member for over five years, of which three years were years of the Great War, so that I had experience of both sides of the shield, both as Governor under the Government of India and as a member of the Government of India over the Governors.
I suppose I shall be told that since I left India the cobra has lost his venom and the tiger his teeth and claws. No, the change has not been in the tiger and the cobra; the change came in the unfortunate British lion. The British lion began to suffer about 1927 to 1931 from a severe attack of neurasthenia, and during that time he was unable to assert the influence to which the people of India had been accustomed in the past and which they welcomed; and now, when I see this White Paper, I fear very greatly that that noble beast may have a severe relapse of the neurasthenia which before afflicted him. I hope the disease may not prove fatal. I am, however, able to give this much thanks to the Government, because I find from the White Paper that what I had anticipated would be a political Bible for India has, at all events for the moment, been relegated to the status of the Apocrypha.
I sympathise very greatly with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I am glad, and I fancy every Member of this House is glad, not to be at the moment in his shoes. He is in a very difficult position, and it was not exactly of his own creating; he was forced into it by the policy that had been followed by his immediate predecessor. The policy that he had to follow was a dual 744 policy, the policy of advancing with a big stick in one hand and a bag of sugar plums in the other, and he was obliged to follow that policy simply because no other policy for the time being seemed open to him. But in many respects that dual policy was self-destructive. I am afraid that a great many of those to whom the sugar plum is being offered shrewdly suspect that it may end by making them deadly sick, and, on the other hand, those who are beaten by the big stick will eventually get the most out of the bag of sugar plums, and the acquisition of power will be used by them both to avenge their beating and to get hold, not merely of more bags of sugar plums, but of the whole sweet-shop.
We are told, and we see for ourselves, that the White Paper bristles with safeguards. Well, safeguards do not always work. The ill-fated R.101 was simply full of safeguards. But in spite of what the Secretary of State has said about the safeguards and the strengthening of the Executive which will accompany them, I feel that the position is not quite as he has described it, because one requires experience of the working of these things in the districts, the divisions, and the Provinces before one realises what assaults are made on the Executive. It is as if a great masonry dam had been built across the valley, confining the waters of the stream, with its great sluices distributing prosperity and contentment to those below, and its waste weirs disposing of the surplus water due to the storms and floods; and it is as if that masonry dam were now to be destroyed by the action of the people who made it and who have maintained it, and that, to the expostulations raised, the answer is, "Never mind, we are making temporary mud banks higher up the stream, and they will serve to stem the flood when it arises." The mud banks are temporary, mind you, because we hear that all these safeguards, and even the reserved subjects, are merely for a period of transition, whatever that may mean. It is a dangerous, a fatal phrase, because no one knows what a period of transition is, and it is open to anybody to argue that the time has come to end that period of transition and to bring pressure on the Government accordingly.
That great dam or barrage which has stood all this time has stood firm against 745 many assaults, seditious movements, mutinous movements, revolutionary movements, anarchy, non-co-operation, and the violent manifestations of non-violent civil disobedience. It has stood against all those, and we are now demolishing that dam and are imagining that we shall have the same power as when that dam existed. Take the security services which made the strength of that dam. They have to be made secure themselves, and the Secretary of State believes that he has made them secure. He has proposed a number of safeguards which are apparently meant to make the services as secure as they were formerly, but the services do not feel that security. Hitherto, the security of the services has been based on the fact that everyone recognised confidently, quietly, and with peace of mind that as long as he did his duty honestly, he would have the support of the Government. Once that confidence is shaken—and it has had some rude shocks already—the whole of that belief of security of the services melts away.
Take the case of the Governor-General. Under this scheme he has lost his home department, that important department which was the repository of all the information about movements below, underground, overground, which kept watch over movements like non-co-operation and civil disobedience, which was the watchdog over the rights and the duties and the protection of all the services. That has all gone, so far as I can see. Gone also is the Central C.I.D. organisation, which had control, not only over conspiracies in one Province, but over their ramifications throughout the country. That is an essential safeguard for the Government of India and the Governor-General, if they are to exercise those special responsibilities. Above all is the fact that the Central C.I.D., in conjunction with the provincial C.I.D's., co-ordinated and looked after the constant attempts made to interfere with the loyalty of the Indian Army. The Army, of course, has its own intelligence branch, but the difficulty is that it is not a case so much of dealing with men who come within the lines of the troops, as of protecting the Indian soldiers on furlough. That is the opportunity which the agitator enjoys and which it requires very alert and zealous police, both ordinary police and C.I.D. men, to deal with.
746 The Governors, then, have no experienced administrators as their advisers. A Governor may go fresh from England knowing nothing of the country and he has only the Ministers to advise him. They may not be too friendly; they even may be anti-British, or they may be timid or irresolute and the Governor has only their advice to depend on. There will, of course, be the secretaries of the local government in each case, and they will have to be chosen by the Minister. Otherwise you will not give responsibility to the Minister. The secretaries therefore owe some little loyalty to the Minister who selects them, and it is not possible for the secretaries constantly to go tale-bearing to the Governor about the intrigues of the Minister under whom they are serving. Moreover, these secretaries may make themselves obnoxious and be removed to the districts. The Governor cannot interfere with that under a scheme of responsibility. Experience shows that a Minister is able to transfer a man or to make it justifiable that he should be transferred on various pretexts.
The position in which the three Round Table Conferences and the two White Papers have put us is this: it appears to us to be disastrous to advance so far, but we are told in effect that it is dishonourable to retreat. That is the position in which we who object to going so fast and so far in this brief interval find ourselves. What was it that Mr. Montagu anticipated? He must have had some idea of the rate of progress. He was extremely disappointed at the reaction to his liberal reform, and what he anticipated is perfectly clear. There was to be a Statutory Commission after 10 years, which was antedated in this case by two years; further than that, every 12 years there was to be a further Commission to examine into the question of Indian progress. That was supposed to cover 36 years and here we are, in 14 years from the last Government of India Act, suggesting an advance of Parliamentary institutions which it took us nearly 600 years of progress in this country to attain. How did we come to this pass? Nobody anticipated this extraordinary jump in 14 years. When Lord Reading laid down his office in 1926 he certainly did not anticipate it. Directly the announcement of Dominion status was made in 1929 Lord Reading 747 was surprised and was one of the earliest to make a protest. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) did not expect it either. He described the proposed Constitution-making as jerrybuilding for a crash. I do not know what the views of the right hon. Gentleman may be now, but that was his view in 1929.
I am the last person to want to say anything in disparagement of the high qualities of the late Viceroy or of his sincerity and deep conviction, but the rot set in when he first became convinced to a headstrong degree that he could conciliate what everybody knew were implacable elements by his great trust and confidence. There is no race or sect in the world that so closely compares with the Pharisees of old as the Brahmins, and their daily song might well be, "Oh, God, I thank Thee that we are not as other men are." We have the highest possible authority for not trusting the Pharisees. In spite of that, Lord Irwin came, he saw, and he thought that he could win by trust, but in the opinion of all India, at all events, it was not he but the Pharisees who conquered.
What is this Congress of which we hear so much, and of which a great many know so very little? I feel that I cannot explain my attitude in this matter without a few words on the subject of what the Congress is and for what it stands. The Congress was really started by an Englishman in 1885, and continued for a great many years to have its annual meeting about Christmas, and to pass a bundle of resolutions, not very serious, but most of them impracticable. It was quite a loyal body and kept up the practice for a long time of ending its proceedings with three cheers for the King. That went on without much happening until 1905, when the Bengal partition exacerbated the Congress. It was then that anarchy started among the Bengali youths, and the newspapers at that time were full of talk not about the Indian nation. The idea that they were one nation had never dawned on them; the Bengali nation was the only nation they thought of. In 1906 the Congress first put before itself a definite goal, of what was then called Swaraj on the Colonial system. In 1907 the extremists got out of hand and there was a free fight in Congress; 748 and it is interesting to note that the moderates won and the extremists were not allowed in the Congress and did not recover their place for eight years.
As it was an Englishman who started the Congress, it was an English woman who started the Home Rule outcry in advance of the Indian politician of that time. Her paper gave great trouble, and in 1927 she was interned. That was just a little before Mr. Montagu made his famous announcement, and as a measure of conciliation he ordered the release of Annie Besant. The general result, in spite of what was supposed to be a calmer atmosphere, was that extremism greatly increased. In 1919 and 1920 the Congress became openly seditious, and in 1928 came that insolent ultimatum demanding that if full Dominion status such as was enjoyed by the Dominions were not given by the end of the year, Congress would declare absolute independence and would enforce that demand by wholesale civil disobedience. The Viceroy and his Government made no answer to that ultimatum except to pursue more zealously than before the policy of conciliation. This policy was again stultified by the fact that the next thing that happened after the announcement of Dominion status and of the Round Table Conference was the dastardly attempt to murder Lord Irwin himself, the chief conciliator, and the revolutionary Congress of 1929 in Lahore.
The year 1930 was the real period of humiliation for the Government. It was time given to the seditious and the revolutionaries to spread their organisation and to collect their funds, and even when they made their outburst there was very little done. At last action was taken somewhat apologetically, but the whole good that had been done was once more undone by a fresh gesture to promote a calmer atmosphere by releasing all the rebels in the country, including the firebrands of the North-West Frontier and the Gurkha officer who had been interned for tempting troops to mutiny. The result of all that was a renewed outbreak of civil disobedience, which was not finally dealt with properly until Lord Willingdon became free from the effects of the Irwin-Gandhi pact. It fell to him to destroy the violent Congress movement and to restore once more that confident trust in the Government which 90 per cent. of the people always had and still possess. The Congress was 749 scotched, but it is not yet killed and may revive, if more "calm atmospheres" with similar releases of rebels should follow now.
The Congress as it is now has three sections. There is the extreme left wing which consists of the Bengali youths party, a murder gang whose objective is to drive us out by terrorising our officers and intimidating the Government. Then there is the ordinary central party which consists of those people who are revolutionary in name but pretend to be non-violent, and who think they can sweep the Government out by a campaign of civil disobedience which will paralyse all the Government's powers. Then there is the right wing which is nominally not inside it. It consists of people who have exactly the same aims as Congress, and who call themselves Liberals. The Liberal politicians have exactly the same objective in front of them as the centre of the National Congress. Their idea is by craft, and by the hoodwinking of the British nation, to attain those powers at which the Congress is aiming by other methods. I want to make a few remarks about the origin of the Federal scheme. I do not think many hon. Members remember Lord Irwin's despatch on the Simon Commission's proposals. In paragraph 16, All-India Federation is commended as an ultimate objective, but is dismissed asan ideal that is at present distant and cannot be artificially hastened.In this they agreed with the view of the Simon Commission. Paragraph 212 is headedThe Federation of All India a Distant Ideal.It ends with the following words:In short, the time has not yet come, for a choice to be made. A Federation of all India is still a distant ideal and the form it will take cannot now be decided. The duty before us at this stage is to assist in arranging the preliminary setting and in removing obstacles from a still untrodden path. Without indulging in remote speculation, we think it more profitable and necessary to examine the concrete proposals which the Commission make for immediate action.These quotations show one of two things—either that the Viceroy and his Council, who were most interested in this subject, were kept ignorant of the adherence of the Princes to the Federal 750 scheme—that it was a sort of dark secret not disclosed to them—or that the whole scheme was hatched on the voyage home. It is an admitted fact that Lord Irwin, with all his councillors to help him, was ignorant of this magic move. How will Governors-General of the future be able to get information in time of political movements and objectives? Now the explanation of that somewhat dramatic announcement is also clear. It must be remembered that at the time the Princes were sailing, and the delegates arrived in London, there was no idea of responsibility at the centre. The Simon Commission had not recommended it. Lord Irwin's Government had not recommended it. The European Association in Calcutta directed its own delegates to resist that to the last. What happened? —this scheme of the pundits. They wanted to get round that objection to responsibility at the centre. The only way they could make an assault on that wall was by invoking the aid of the Princes and making this dramatic announcement about the Federal scheme.
The Princes became almost lyrical over this new idea. The pundits cautiously approved it, and some of them pretended to be recent converts to the idea. It was got up with that objective, and that is proved by Lord Irwin's entire ignorance of all that was going on, although he was in close touch with the politicians. There was still something more wonderful. For some reason I do not pretend to explain, Lord Reading made a sudden announcement that in these circumstances he would accept responsibility at the centre and the Federal scheme. How he came to make that announcement, and how many of his fellow-British delegates he told and explained it to before he made the announcement, is difficult for anyone now to decide. In yesterday's "Observer" Mr. Garvin, who is a friend and admirer of Lord Reading, said:All former engagements were superseded at the Round Table by Lord Reading's formula of Parliamentary Federalism with a powerful Executive.I agree that that has been the effect of Lord Reading giving up the pass. I do not think it has made the executive more powerful: it has utterly weakened the executive. Wonder of wonders! No sooner had this speech been made than the Prime Minister, the Lord Chancellor, 751 and then the Secretary of State and a number of British delegates, fell down and worshipped this new image which the Noble Marquis had set up. The right hon. Gentleman, who is now the Secretary of State, hesitated. Its feet were shrouded. He said he would like to see the image more closely before he became one of its worshippers. He rather expected that close scrutiny would disclose that the image had feet of clay. Apparently he is reconciled regarding the feet of the image. He has not only become a worshipper, but invites the whole House to become worshippers with him.
Many things have happened lately. There is hesitation among many of the Princes. They cannot make up their minds whether the hidden dangers through entering the gate are greater than the hidden dangers if they stay outside. That rather triumphant, lyrical song which they sang is rapidly becoming a dirge. It is impossible for us at this moment, and I think it is even impossible for the right hon. Gentleman himself, to say what the final result will be with regard to the Princes. We may be going on with this discussion while the Princes have not decided anything? For them the way is still open until the Bill has been finally passed into an Act, and they have signed their engagement whereby they hand over powers of various kinds to the Governor, in order that he may hand them over to a Federal Assembly of politicians.
There is another matter which requires some comment. We are told that the present administrators most heartily approve of the policy of provincial autonomy, accompanied by responsibility to the centre. It is very difficult to find what are the real opinions of people in the Services. They are almost muzzled by the conditions in the Services. If they say anything at all, they must speak in favour of the reform. When the Secretary of State and the Governor-General have laid down a, particular policy, how can a Governor get up and make a speech doubting its validity? Many of the Governors, and many of the ranks of the Services, were disheartened and disgusted by the terrible degradation and humiliation of the British Raj in 1930–31. A number said: "We have not long to wait; we have got to the end of our 752 service; we have run down this slope and there are no means of getting up it again. We have got so far and we had better go on." Whatever they may say, none looks forward to the future with the slightest confidence. The right hon. Gentleman himself made an announcement which told the Civil Service that there are to be opportunities to retire on proportionate pensions. That is a very necessary step to restore confidence in the Service. They will not have to stay in the Services they find intolerable. At the same time, the fact that you have to given a pension and special bonus to those getting out of the Services because conditions are too unpleasant, is a terrible discouragement to new recruiting.
It is a little rash to assume that the rank and file have decided for reform. Would any Minister suggest that, by reason of their silence, the whole of the Civil Service turned Socialist when my friends on the benches below me were in power? Why should it be assumed that the people in India warmly support the policy of the White Paper? I have seen, under a pledge of secrecy, letters from men in the Services which show that the iron has entered into their souls. They have expressed their view to their wives, mothers and other members of their families. Some hon. Members have seen letters of that kind under a pledge of strictest confidence. We do not know what will be the future of the Services. I hope that whatever happens they will not turn in to positions for people who go out to shake, if they can, the pagoda tree—to try to make as much money as they can in a short time and return to England to spend it. Many persons have said they fear that is what will happen to the Services. If there is any risk of that happening, I would rather that the Services came to an end with all their traditions and fine reputation intact than that men should go out in the future as adventures, and in search of their fortunes.
There are a few things I still wish to mention, because I can perhaps give knowledge which is not otherwise available to the House. There is a statement which I have often seen made in the newspapers that all classes of people in India are demanding this scheme of reform, and that they want self-government. That statement is not strictly true. A great many people will say that 753 who do not mean it. They think they ought to say it because they are poor people, and it is the policy of the Government to hand them over to "these Pharisees," and they had better say the same thing. Though it is quite true that Moslems want equality with Hindus, the Moslems never joined the Congress, and the only demand they ever made for Home Rule did not occur until 1916. Then all they asked for was an ultimate goal of suitable self-government, by which they meant a Government which would suit an Oriental country, but when they found that the Government scheme, with the Constitution which it proposes, was likely to put them into the power of the Hindus, whom they entirely despise, and from whose religion and creed their own religion is absolutely poles apart, they naturally said, "We must have the same powers as you give the Hindus." They looked to having those powers and exercising them, especially in the provinces where there are Moslem majorities. That is exactly where the Hindus do not want such powers to be given to the Moslems, because the Hindus will not be in the majority there. The Hindus do not want the powers given to the Moslems in the Moslem provinces, and the Moslems do not want the powers to be given to the Hindus in the Hindu provinces. The Sikhs are disgruntled now. They want Sikhraj. I think that almost every other class, those three excluded, do not want Swaraj. It is not that for which they are asking, they want safeguards. They say, "If you are going to give those powers, for God's sake give us something to save us; if you are not going to protect us as you did before, give us some way or other of holding our own."
The Artisan Association in Madras, which purports to represent 30,000,000 or 40,000,000 people, who are non-Brahmins, workpeople of all sorts in the arts and crafts, and the lower classes as well, put before the Simon Commission a somewhat elaborate proposal. It was in the form of a Bill to grant them Dominion status under the name of "Home Rule" —to make them a free state. Five stipulations were attached to that Bill. The first was that the British Parliament should continue to exercise exactly the same control as it always had done—in spite of their having Dominion status. The second condition was that the British officers in the Indian Army should remain 754 in the same proportions as at present. The third condition was that the British officers in the Indian Civil Service and in the Civil Services should remain as they were then and should not be reduced. The fourth condition was that the Executive Council should continue, the Europeans to have either two or three seats, about one-third of the seats on the Council, and there were to be no seats at the disposal of the Brahmins. The fifth condition was that the Viceroy was to have the power to nominate as many aristocrats as he chose to his Senate in order to check the tyranny of the elected members, a suggestion that might be considered by the House of Lords.
I would point out to the House the way in which the Gandhi fast has done away with much of the benefits of the representation of the depressed classes. At the Round Table Conference they were given their communal seats, which assured to them that they would be elected by their own people. As a result of the Gandhi fast, and under superstitious pressure of his fast, there has been an agreement under which the representatives of the depressed classes, in exchange for more seats, agree to be elected by the general electorate from a panel and to give up their communal election. They were, in fact, "done in the eye" over that, because any future members of the depressed classes will be elected not by their own representatives but by the general electors, in which Hindus predominate. The Brahmins were getting alarmed lest with all these separate electorates they might not be able to get the majority they desired against the Moslems and they saw that they must get the depressed classes on the Hindu side. I do not suggest that the Government gave in through being afraid of becoming an object of Divine displeasure which might reflect unfavourably on their future life in another world, but as a matter of fact the Gandhi fast broke the Indian penal code, on the principle of "sitting dhurea" as it is called, by which you frighten someone into conceding something which he otherwise would not agree to. The position is that if you do not give the concession the man will fast, his death will be on your head and on your children's, and in an extreme case your future in the next incarnation will be to become the lowest creature that it is possible to con- 755 ceive, which is generally described as a maggot in Hell.
We are told by Lord Lothian that the only cure for irresponsibility is responsibility. That is a very specious phrase. The only cure for unemployment is employment, but that does not get us much further. It all depends on whether the people of whom we are talking have really a sense of responsibility or not. Sir Basil Blackett, a distinguished member of the British Civil Service sent out to India to manage the finances, a task which he accomplished with signal success, was for six years in the Legislative Assembly. Certainly one could not say that it had no responsibility, for it dealt with the Budget and could carry legislation or not as it pleased, but Sir Basil Blackett said of the Legislative Assembly in his final speech:My difficulty to-day is that I feel that at every turn this Assembly is to all appearances trying to commit political suicide. Every opportunity that is given to it of showing that it has a responsibility and can use it is taken to prove that it is irresponsible.We have had municipalities and local boards in India for 50 years, and they have had, especially in the last 10 or 15 years, any number of responsible powers and they have been literally almost noricontrolled—there is less control over them than similar bodies in this country. Almost all the control has been removed. In the Bombay Government's report before the Simon Commission there was a little table at the end dealing with municipal management. This table disclosed that embezzlements of local funds numbered between seven and eight a year before the reforms and had risen to 51 a year in 1925, that is, in a period of five or six years. The arrears of revenue in municipal towns during that period had mounted from three lakhs to over 11 lakhs. The number of municipalities with a bad record of collections had risen from seven to 64, out of a, total of 155. Lastly, the Bombay Government added the information that in 1924 the municipalities in which councillors had refused to pay taxes or evaded payment numbered 10, and in 1925 there were 27; that is, in one-sixth of the municipalities councillors had refused to pay their taxes. The Behar Orissa Government made a report to the same Commission that the elections were not based on anything 756 except appeals to pecuniary and religious motives, and they stated that the misappropriation, of public funds was generally regarded more as a subject of mirth and envy than as one for reprobation. That was the spirit in which these people had acted.
The time is short, but I want to say a few words on the atmosphere in which we are introducing this new Constitution. In the case of agriculture money prices and money values have been halved. The industrial people, the mill-hands, have been threatened by red flag agitators, who merely made temporary terms with Congress but promised that later they would resume their activities. Only some major prophet like Isaiah or Daniel could prophesy what will come to pass. Certainly no one now alive in India or in England can possibly prophesy the course of events. There are pools which may become maelstroms, and currents which may go in unexpected directions. We are taunted about not producing alternatives. Most of us have produced schemes at various times, but they were not listened to, they were thrown aside, and that before the Government or the parties concerned were committed. In fact, what has happened is that because the Government proposals lead into an abyss they will accept no alternative from anyone unless it leads into the same abyss. That is preventing many alternative proposals being put forward.
The Government should never have departed from the principle of executive councils, which is the form of council best known in India, and has stood many tests. Also, responsible Ministers were not wanted; but there are many persons in India who are rubbing their hands at the prospects of the rich harvest that will be within their grasp when they get law and order handed over to them. What is the alternative? Is it machine guns? Machine guns have never been used against the civil population in India, although they may have been against turbulent tribes. There has been rifle fire, but never machine guns. I see no reason why machine guns should be used. One who puts that point never tells you against what people machine guns are to be used. If they are meant to be used against the politicians, no politician will come within miles of machine guns. The turbulent races will have to be dealt with 757 as they have always been dealt with before by the police, provided that there are some trusty European sergeants behind them.
What are we going to do? About the only thing that we can do is what the Simon Commission recommended in the matter of provincial autonomy. And in the case of law and order, at least we should revive their proposals to have official ministers chosen for their administrative ability. The Governor must have some adviser and must have someone behind him to help him to carry out his special responsibilities. How is he going to get the advice of the Ministers over whose head be is acting? That does not mean that we shall have responsibility at the centre. The Simon Commission were against it. The federal scheme is still a thing of the future. It will have to be considered on its merits when it occurs. Very few are in favour of it. There is an old quotation that I should like to read to this House before I close. It comes from one of the essays of Carlyle and it is entitled: "Shooting Niagara and after." He wrote:All the millenniums I ever heard of heretofore were to be preceded by 'a chaining of the devil for a thousand years' laying him up, tied neck and heels, and put beyond stirring, as the preliminary. You too have been taking preliminary steps, with more and more ardour, for a 30 years back; but they seem to be all in the opposite direction; a cutting asunder of straps and ties, wherever you might find them; pretty indiscriminate of choice in the matter; a general repeal of old regulations, fetters and restrictions (restrictions on the Devil originally I believe, for most part; but now fallen slack and ineffectual), which had become unpleasant to many of you—in the loud shouting from the multitude as strap after strap was cut, 'Glory, glory, another strap is gone! '—this, I think, has mainly been the sublime legislative industry of Parliament since it became Reform Parliament,' victoriously successful; and that sublime and beneficent by some, so that now hardly any limb of the Devil has a thrum or tatter of rope or leather left upon it.That was what Carlyle said about Democracy, and it applies with great force to what is proposed in India. I implore the Government to take heed before they commit themselves to a policy which riot merely surrenders British interests and obligations, but may prove a great betrayal of a sacred trust that has been committed to us almost, you may say, by Providence.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Miss PICKFORD
I feel very much my inadequacy in addressing the House after my hon. Friend the junior Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock), who has such a vast experience and who has served India with so much distinction. I could wish that in the speech that he gave us of destructive criticism he had done more, just at the very end than rather half-heartedly to suggest as a constructive alternative that we might return to the Simon Commission's Report. That is to return to a position which no longer exists. The Simon Commission recommended that a Federal Government should be the ultimate goal and that a conference should be summoned to deal with the question of federation; therefore to set up for British India alone the Constitution which they suggested is a policy which no longer has any reality. It is not with that question that I wish to deal at the moment. I want to say something about that part of the White Paper which deals with the franchise proposals, because that part embodies in general effect the recommendations of the franchise committee of which I was a member. The report of that committee was in the hands of the House some nine months ago, and no doubt has led to a great deal of criticism, some of which has been misinformed. There has not till now been any opportunity of speaking in this House on those proposals. Although the question of the franchise does not take up a very large part of the Government's proposals in the White Paper, yet that question must form the basis of any system of responsibility, whether in the provinces or in the centre. Therefore, the question of the franchise is of some considerable importance. It may be generally agreed that the existing franchise under the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, which enfranchises some 6,000,000 in the provinces, or rather less than 3 per cent. of the population, and which enfranchises for the Federal Assembly only a little over 1,000,000, is too narrow a basis and too small a foundation for responsible government, and therefore some extension of that franchise is essential.
The problem that lay before the franchise committee was, how best to increase that franchise. Three courses 759 were open: To extend the existing system of the direct vote and direct representation; to introduce in its place some form of adult franchise based upon indirect election; to combine the two methods, leaving to the existing voter his direct vote and bringing in the rest of the population by some indirect method. It has been urged that since the panchayat system was indigenous in India that something of that kind might have been utilised for building up an Indian system of voting, and that that would have been more suitable for the oriental mind and custom. It is doubtful whether the panchayat system ever existed throughout the length and breadth of the country and it certainly does not so exist to-day; there are panchayats in less than 12,000 out of 458,000 villages in India. Some system of group election was proposed by which we take groups of 10, 25 or 50 voters and they choose a representative. Those secondary electors in their turn choose a representative for a provincial council. That was the system which had been discussed at the franchise sub-committee of the Round Table Conference and to which our Committee was directed to pay very special attention. When we came to consider this matter in detail, which we did at very considerable length, we found two great difficulties. First of all, generally speaking, the offiical opinion was against the adoption of such a system. It was felt that unless the relatively senior officers of higher rank dealt with the primary elections, there would be a good deal of jerrymandering. Against that, it was pointed out that it was not possible to spare the time of senior officers from their other important tasks for what would be the greater part of the cold weather, before the general election took place. Official opinion was that they were only prepared to try it to a limited extent for certain classes of the population as an experiment.
That was not the only thing. We have set out at some length in the report that Indian public opinion was against any indirect system or a hybrid system, partly direct and partly indirect. Apart from the other reasons, with which I will not weary the House because they are set out in the report, the general public opinion was that the method would be 760 considered in India as reactionary, that India had enjoyed direct election and that that was the system which obtains in the West and in this country. It was stated that to suggest that they should adopt the indirect method would be to ask them to adopt some system which we did not enjoy here. The argument used frequently was, "If you consider indirect election so good, why is it that you have direct election in your own country?" That might not appear to be a very powerful argument. But it must be remembered that India has been led to believe in the general goodness of Western, and particularly of British, institutions. There is no doubt that even those Indians who are least friendly, or perhaps I ought to say most hostile, to British rule, have a faith that is almost pathetic in the perfection of British institutions. That is a fact of the situation, quite as much as the other facts, such as the communal question and the general illiteracy of the country, that affect the questions with which we are to deal.
The Committee as a whole, both the English members and the Indian members, felt that the best thing was to extend, so far as was reasonable and practicable, the system of the direct vote. The Simon Commission had recommended as a general guide that the percentage should be increased from rather less than 3 per cent. up to about 10 per cent., and the Franchise Sub-committee of the Round Table Conference had suggested not less than 10 per cent. or more than 25 per cent. It should not be thought that in working out our proposals we worked to any particular percentage, or that we felt that it was necessary to raise the numbers to any artificial figure of that kind. What we did was to take, in each province, the official opinion from those best able to give it—officials who had themselves worked elections—to find out what number they felt was reasonable in order to ensure the efficiency of elections, and, within those figures, to find out what number we could bring upon the electoral roll.
We had also to have regard to the instructions laid down in the Prime Minister's letter, which formed our terms of reference, that no important section of the community should be left without the power and means to make its 761 opinions felt. We therefore tried to see that no important section of the community was left out. Under the existing practice the towns are rather heavily weighted as again the country districts, and the Southborough Commission accepted that deliberately, saying that they had done so because of the greater intelligence of the people in the towns as compared with those in the country. We, on the other hand, felt that it was our duty to try to adjust that balance, and to give, so far as we could, a fair proportion and an even percentage of votes to both town and country, because, after all, more than 90 per cent. of the inhabitants of India are dwellers in the country villages and small towns.
We tried, further, so far as possible to enfranchise those who had had some previous experience of voting. For instance, in Madras, the proposals put forward by the Madras Government and the Madras Provincial Committee working together—proposals which, with very small modifications, are incorporated in. the White Paper—were to enfranchise for the Provincial Assembly the people who had already the vote for local elections, and who, therefore, had experience of voting and knew what they were about when they voted. It was not possible to adopt that system entirely in other provinces, but in many cases those who will be enfranchised under the proposals put forward will be those who already have the vote for local elections, and who, therefore, will have had some previous experience. The result of the proposals which we put forward, and which have been in the main adopted, would have been to enfranchise about 14 per cent. of the population, but those proposals have been to some extent modified, and not such a large number will be enfranchised. Therefore, I think that the White Paper is somewhat exaggerated in saying that about 14 per cent., or 27 per cent. of the adult population, will be enfranchised under these proposals. I do not think that the number will be so large. The number, taken throughout the provinces of British India, will amount to some 35,000,000 or 36,000,000, and on this point I think there has been very considerable misunderstanding. It has been put forward in the Press and elsewhere that these absurdly Radical proposals of ours are going to produce an electorate of 35,000,000 or 36,000,000. That, quit 762 clearly, is a misrepresentation of the fact, because the 35,000,000 is not a single electorate, but is the sum of all the electorates in the provinces of British India. In no one province will there be an electorate of more than 8,000,000.
In Bengal, which will have the largest electorate, the number will be between 7,500,000 and 8,000,000. Moreover, even at present, and still more under provincial autonomy, the issues before the different provinces will be very different. For instance, in the Punjab, probably for some generations to come the political issue will be between the agricultural and the non-agricultural tribes. In Bengal, with the Permanent Settlement, very probably the main political issue will be between the landlord and the tenant. There will be very different issues in different provinces. Assam, with its electorate of something over 1,000,000, will neither know nor care on what issues Madras is voting. It is a complete misrepresentation to suggest that there will be, for the provincial assemblies, an electorate of 35,000,000; there will be a number of electorates no one of which will exceed 8,000,000. Surely, as the Secretary of State said, it is all-important that under provincial autonomy there shall be built up within each province its own political consciousness and its own particular aims which are laid before its own electors, and that it shall not be necessary, as at present, that matters which are peculiar to each province shall have to go to the centre for settlement, but rather that each province shall work out its own salvation.
Before I pass to the question of the franchise for the Federal Legislature, I want to say a word on one detail in connection with the provincial electorates, and that is on the question of the women's franchise. This was one of the most difficult problems with which our committee had to deal. I need hardly remind the House that at present women have the same electoral qualifications as men, with the result that to every 20 or 21 men only one woman gets the vote, because the franchise is at present, and will be in the future, based primarily upon the property qualification, and Indian women, particularly Hindu women, do not hold property. It was therefore necessary, if we were to adopt the recommendations of the Simon Commission and also to fulfil our terms of 763 reference, that we should look for some special qualification in order to bring more women upon the electoral roll.
We followed, to a certain extent, the recommendations of the Simon Commission by bringing on to the electoral roll the wives of a certain class of electors with a rather high property qualification. But there was a further proposal, namely, that, instead of having the same educational qualifications for men and for women, the qualification for men should be, so far as was possible, the upper primary standard, but that for women the qualification of literacy should be sufficient. That proposal does not appear in the White Paper, and I think I may say it is the only substantial proposal put forward by our committee which has not been adopted. I fear that its non-adoption will lead to very great disappointment among the women in India. We must frankly admit that there is not unanimity about having a special qualification for women at all, either among the men or among the women; but as regards this qualification of literacy there was almost complete unanimity. It is, perhaps, the one point on which the women throughout India are substantially agreed, because it does give a chance to the woman who has been educated at home, and it is a direct encouragement to proceed with education among women. It is not only that the non-adoption of this qualification will reduce the numbers by probably about 1,250,000, but the ratio of women to men voters will be reduced from one to about four or five under our proposals to one in seven under the proposals of the White Paper.
Furthermore, it is suggested that, in the case of those who have only the educational qualification, both men and women, and in the case of the women who are qualified in respect of their husbands' property, their names shall not be placed on the roll by the official responsible for preparing the roll, but that they shall have to make application in order that their names may be placed on the roll. That, again, will undoubtedly diminish the number of women who will come forward. Those who are keen will do so, and, undoubtedly, some would not exercise their vote even if their names were on the roll, but it will diminish what is probably the most important 764 class, namely; those who are s little doubtful, who would vote if they had a right to do so, but who very probably would not take the initiative themselves, because they would receive considerable discouragement from their own friends and relations. Even if it be necessary, for administrative reasons, to lay it down that application must be made by these classes of voters, I think that the argument against the difficulty of the literacy qualification entirely disappears, because, if the woman has to make application herself to the responsible authority in order that her name may be placed on the roll, there can, I should have thought, be little or no difficulty in putting her through some simple test to see whether she is able to satisfy the qualification of literacy, that is to say, whether she can read a letter and write the reply. Therefore, I hope very much that when the Joint Select Committee consider the proposals, they will bear these points in mind, and will realise the very great disappointment that will be felt and, I hope, voiced in India at the disappearance of this qualification, which would have helped women very much and which was the one to which they attached the greatest importance of all.
Coming to the qualification for the House of Assembly—the lower House of the Federal Legislature—the qualification there will be the existing qualification for the provincial assemblies as they stand to-day. That, therefore, will secure that those persons who in future will vote for the Federal Legislature will be persons who have had more than 10 years' experience of voting. They will be a category who have for more than 10 years enjoyed the vote, and will have had experience in exercising it. Added to them will be a class qualified under an educational qualification, namely, the matriculation standard, and who, therefore, even though they may not have had previous experience, will by their education and ability be in a position to inform themselves on the questions on which they are asked to vote, and to form an opinion on those questions. Something has been said about the electoral methods which we recommend, and a certain amount of scorn and derision has been poured on the suggestion of having coloured ballot boxes and devices of that kind. These are not suggestions which have been put forward for the first 765 time by the Franchise Committee. What the committee did was to examine the existing polling methods, which vary enormously from province to province. In some places they are unnecessarily complicated, and in others they do away entirely with the secrecy of the ballot. After examination, we came to the conclusion that the system of coloured boxes, which already obtains in at least two provinces, was the best, for the reason that it was simple administratively, that it was useful for the illiterate voter because there was no necessity to mark his ballot paper, and because it preserved absolutely the secrecy of the ballot. It is the system which obtains in Ceylon, where there is practically adult suffrage.
Where there is a multi-member constituency and, therefore, a large number of candidates, it is perhaps not always possible to have a sufficient number of boxes of really distinct colour so that the voter will be able to distinguish. In those cases, and where voting is taking place for both the Provincial and the Federal Assembly at the same time, some system of symbols, as explained by the Simon Commission, may be better. The symbol system already obtains in the Province of Bombay, and not only there but in the greatest country of the world which enjoys a federal form of government, the United States, the symbol system is in use although there is compulsory education and there can be few illiterate voters in that great country. So, though I am sorry to deprive hon. Members of a source of innocent merriment, I do not think there is anything very novel or peculiar about the coloured box method of voting.
May I say a few words upon the broader and more important issue as to whether this franchise will be the basis for responsible government? It must be admitted that there has been in the minds of many Indians suspicion of the good faith of the Government. Many have thought, in spite of the talk of responsibility as the ultimate goal, that there was very little intention of implementing those promises. I believe those suspicions to be absolutely without foundation, but we must recognise that they exist. The policy that has been persistently pursued since the present Secretary of State has held that high office has been the dual policy of maintaining law and order while continuing constitutional advance. The civil- 766 disobedience movement struck at the root of government and, therefore, had to be met and defeated and, if it could not be defeated by the ordinary law, it had to be defeated by special methods. No Government worthy of the name would not have met that challenge. In January of last year over 3,600 persons were convicted under the Ordinances, no fewer than 1,200 of them in the United Provinces. In the following month the number rose to nearly 5,000, of which 1,500 cases came from Bengal. That was evidence that the Government intended to preserve law and order. At the same time, the arrival of these three committees was an ocular and a tangible proof that the Government also intended to continue constitutional advance. After February the figures of convictions for civil disobedience fell month by month throughout the year, and in January of this year the number of persons throughout the length and breadth of India who were undergoing a term of imprisonment either under the ordinary law or under the Ordinances was less than 14,000, a proportion so small of the population of British India that it can only be expressed in a percentage in three points of decimals.
That is a proof, I think, that the dual policy has succeeded. But if, after the success of that policy, Parliament should now say, We cannot consent to any form of responsibility at the centre; we cannot consent to the handing over of law and order in the provinces," can we think that the suspicions of those Indian politicians would not have some foundation? Is it likely that, after that, the good word of an Englishman would be believed as it has been in the past? There is a situation to-day when moderate opinion is prepared to co-operate, when a section even of the Congress party realises that it will be better to abandon civil disobedience and to co-operate in the reforms. If now Parliament should say, "This is the time to draw back," not only would those members of Congress take up again civil disobedience but all the more moderate elements which have legitimate national aspirations would be thrown into the hands of Congress, and probably the Moslems as well. It has been said that to give way to public clamour is a sign of cowardice, but surely the grant of a measure of self-government to those who 767 have genuine national aspirations is the height of political courage and is in the best Imperial tradition. One of the wisest and most long-sighted Indian statesman, who was over for the Round Table Conference and who was also a member of our Committee, said: "Make your safeguards as real and as effective as you can, because it is our intention so to govern that they need not be used." Surely we can reply in the same spirit; "We intend to make those safeguards as real and as effective as it is possible to make them because, if you govern in the spirit and the letter of the constitution, these safeguards will be no hindrance to you in your government, but they will be a security both to us here in this House and to the British people outside, who still have a legal and moral responsibility for good government in India, that good government will be continued and it will be a security that you will continue to enjoy the good government which British rule has brought."
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Mr. HALES
The Secretary of State, at the commencement of his speech, made the very serious remark that he sometimes thought a solution of the Indian problem was almost hopeless. I can well understand his giving vent to that opinion because, being so intimately connected with India as I am and have been for 16 years, I can thoroughly understand the many and diversified factions that he is up against. To bring them all together and to satisfy them so that we can bring a working constitution into being will be, if he succeeds, well nigh a miracle. It is very easy for one who was in India, say, 20 years ago to visualise what it was then, but it is a very different matter to bring yourself up-to-date, so to speak, and to speak of India as it is at the present moment. I was in India three or four months ago, and I found a totally different India from what I left the year before. The term "unchanging East" has lost its meaning. India is slowly but, surely awakening to the fact that she must now take her destiny into her own hands. Even Mr. Gandhi said, about a year ago, that he would prefer to bring India to chaos under her own rule than have a perfect Government under alien rule.
It will be as well to go back a little to see the events which have led up to the 768 present state of affairs and to go back to the Simon Commission, which has been admitted on all hands to be the most thorough and fair examination of the Indian position that has ever been made. It had one defect. It contained no Indian members and, while that may have been justified from the standpoint of Great Britain, it was looked upon as a slight to India. Then you had the Round Table Conferences. They were damned from the very inception by the fact that each member of the Commission was furnished with an irreducible minimum of demands from his particular community and that he could on no account take less. Naturally, the minimum could not be given, and the Committee went back with very little accomplished. As time went on, and India found that this new Federation was to be established, there came the scramble for power, each community saying that it must take care of itself. We found the Anglo-Indian community making representations to the Simon Commission that their members must have 50 years' guarantee of their present occupations. You had the Moslems afraid of the superiority in numbers of the Hindus, but the Hindus, on the other hand, knew perfectly well that if it came to force of arms the Moslems would be victorious. The Untouchables felt that they were being neglected entirely and would be literally the submerged tenth. Every community in India at that time was trying to force its claims upon the Commission so that it would not be submerged when the Federation came into operation.
We have to consider, firstly, whether the White Paper contains what the Indians want. Is Western democracy such a success in Europe that we can safely apply it to an Oriental race? We see at the present moment Europe as an armed camp, with the distrust of one country towards another, and fast drifting into dictatorships, as you see in Germany and in Italy. India, in my opinion, is the last country in the world that will adapt itself to Western democracy. It has always been under a dictator, and further—this will not be palatable to Members of the House—I do not consider that any government forced upon India will be satisfactory unless you obtain the good will of the Congress party. Their leaders are now in gaol. 769 If this proposal comes into operation, what will be the position when they come out again? Will they work it, or shall we have a repetition of the boycott which has played such havoc with our trade for several years past?
The time has come when both sides are weary of this interminable struggle. India generally is suffering from a mistaken idea of injustice, that she is being exploited, and that her money has been squandered by the million in unnecessary works. I would mention the building of new Delhi. In contrast to the mercantile community throughout India, who remain in the plains the whole year round, the officials at Delhi migrate to Simla for seven months in the year, and for the rest of the time the place is like a deserted village. About£100,000 is spent upon that migration. The Indians ask, "Why is this done? Why cannot they work like we do in the plains without this migration every year?" That is one grievance.
I will try to give, as far as I can, the Indian feeling as it exists to-day amongst the great trading community with whom we in England are chiefly concerned. I do not speak of the agriculturists, because I know very little about them, but I want to give the feeling which exists among the trading community in the bazaars, and among the people one meets every day in the streets. When I got back to India on the 4th August the communal award was just about to be made. It may be remembered that I had expressed the opinion that the Government were making a mistake in forcing the communal award on India, and what I anticipated proved to be the fact. When, on 17th August, the award was published throughout India and simultaneously in England, the whole of the country was in an uproar. Every newspaper was complaining of the award, which was looked upon as a diabolical plot of the British Government to split up India into watertight compartments and to prevent any real nationalism of the country.
Immediately I landed I could see that, although I had no right or authority to speak for the British Government, there was something which I could do as a private Member in the way of trying to remove the mistrust and misconception which no doubt existed. The next day 770 I saw Mr. Jayakar, one of the leading Liberals in India, and asked what it Was they wanted. He said: "On no account, Mr. Hales, will we co-operate with your Government unless we have a fair Round Table Conference in London." That was his message in short after a two hours' conference. That being the case, and thinking that it would make matters easier, I wrote immediately to the Secretary of State for India. Three weeks later this was agreed to. Whether my letter ever reached him, or whether it was acted upon, it is not for me to say. I wanted to show the people of India that the National Government, although chiefly composed of Conservatives, were absolutely anxious and desirous of giving India that for which she was asking.
I arranged to address a series of meetings and also wrote to the papers throughout India. Later a rather curious thing happened. On 27th June last I said a few words in an Indian Debate, and the Secretary of State for India, at the close of his remarks, said he welcomed the contribution from the hon. Member and he would consult him as to the next step. The Secretary of State for India, of course, is of such a disposition that whatever he says must be taken at its face value. On no account could he ever be accused of facetiousness or sarcasm. I found that this had been telegraphed to India and that I was looked upon as the unofficial spokesman for the Government. That was really a great advantage to myself, the Secretary of State for India and the Prime Minister. Believe me—I say it seriously, and without speaking in any light manner—the Prime Minister and the Secretary of. State for India will be everlastingly indebted to me for what I did for them in India. I had some magnificent meetings there. I wish that the Lord President of the Council had been there. He would have appreciated me a little bit, because it will be remembered that when I first came into this House I asked him to wear a different coloured tie so that we should not get mixed up in the Division Lobby, as we are very much alike.
I found that in India the Secretary of State for India and the Prime Minister were looked upon as the villains of the piece, who are out to ruin this poor nation. The very first words I heard when I spoke was, "How can you, a 771 Conservative Member, have any sympathy with India?" That was the trouble. Rightly or wrongly, the Conservative or National Government are looked upon as not being willing to do anything for India unless they are compelled. I can assure the House that at meetings at Madras, Calcutta, Bombay and other towns I had great trouble in persuading them to show confidence in the Conservative Government. They told me that they were looking to the Socialists to give them their rights. I said to them: "Looking to the Socialists! Why? The Socialists directly they get into power either become good Conservatives or go to the House of Lords. What possible chance have you in looking to the Socialists, when we shall be in power for another three years? Put that clearly out of your mind. Do not think about it." I say this with no disrespect to the Socialists who sit on the Front Opposition Bench. There are some of the finest intellects in the House to be found there, and it is a treat to listen to them. Sometimes I feel very much inclined to walk into their Lobby, if only they were right on the tariff question. I have great respect for those hon. Members. The point that the Indians made to me was summed up in the question: "What are your Government going to do for us?" We have to deal with a problem which is Almost beyond the wit of man to solve. I have said before, and I was laughed at for saying it, that I know India probably better than any other man in this House. That is true. I have lived there for 16 years and I am in constant touch with India. The moment the long Recess comes along I shall go out to India by aeroplane and stoy there for three or four months. To understand India thoroughly you must keep in touch with it. It is no use looking at India over a space of 6,000 miles without direct touch, and then claiming to speak with authority about it.
I asked the Secretary of State for India to allow me to see Mr. Gandhi. No. Keep off. If he had given me that permission I could have done some good. The time has come when the personal touch only is the solution of your problem. In Calcutta, I interviewed Malavayi, the leader of the Congress party since Mr. Gandhi has been in 772 prison. I had 2½ hours' talk with him in Calcutta. He was very sincere. He was distressed almost beyond belief at the way things were going. To make matters worse, Mr. Gandhi announced his fast. To emphasise my reason for saying that we must deal with the Congress, if we are to have a final solution, I would point out that immediately Mr. Gandhi announced his fast the whole of India was in an uproar. If Mr. Gandhi had died, I do not like to think what the possibilities would have been for the continuance of British rule in India. Although he is an idealist, and although he is impractical in his ideas, he has the confidence of the great mass of his fellow-countrymen, although it is perfectly right to say that he does not represent India. If hon. Members will imagine the Members of the Front Treasury Bench all in gaol, which is the position of the leaders of Congress in India, and the Prime Minister, the trusted representative of the nation, confined within four walls, they will realise what is the position in India to-day. What should we say if all our leading statesmen were voiceless and not allowed to contribute to the discussions in connection with the formulation of our Constitution? I know that in what I am going to say I shall tread on some corns and that I shall be very unpopular, but I did not come here to be popular. I came here to give of my best and to tell what I have seen and heard while I have been in India.
I made an attack on the extremist Press. I interviewed their editors. I interviewed the editor of "The Hindu," the most powerful journal in Madras. We had some good solid talk, with the result that next day instead of having four or five lines in the "Times" I had a whole column of leader, saying at last here is an Englishman who understands India. I am glad that the Prime Minister is now in his place, because really his stock is far higher in India than it was when I went out. They are beginning to understand him. They are suspicious of this country. They think that it was only when everything else had failed, when they could not come to a settlement among themselves, that we reluctantly, after exhausting every other means, finally decided that some steps must be taken to give India self-rule, and that we had to make the communal award as the 773 best thing we could do in the circumstances. That is the position to-day.
I am going to make some constructive suggestions. If I as a trader in India go down, this country goes down too. I am only one unit of the many units which represent British trade with India. I represent 30 manufacturers, but I am not speaking of myself but of business. When you take away all the froth, we want India for the salvation of our trade. If we lose India, we become a third-rate nation. Nothing can save us if we lose the Indian trade. I believe really and sincerely that if you will only take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and go out there you can settle matters. There will be no settlement of India in England. It is the personal touch that is required. If the Prime Minister thought it was necessary to go to Italy and France, I say that it is a thousand times more necessary to go to India. If he went out there, and if the Prince of Wales and the Lord President of the Council went and interviewed the leaders, we should have a settlement in a month. It can be done. I was almost going to say that I could do it myself if I had the power. I have known these people for 16 years. I have travelled all over the country and I have lived with them and know them very intimately. They know me well enough to come and borrow money from me. That is the greatest test of friendship. Traders come to me and say, "Sahib. Do tell your people at home that we want fair play. We want to give you our trade. We want to open our hearts to you and we want to cement our friendship."
I should like to tell the House something about the 10 per cent. preferential tariff. India was dead against that preferential tariff. They think that everything we do is in our own favour. They are suspicious of every move that we make. I got hold of the leaders. I interviewed Sastri, Mallavayi and the different leaders. I did a good deal of work for which I am not making any charge to the Government. I earned my salary in India. That 10 per cent. preferential tariff has been given to England not because of the benefit that India is going to get, but because, as I put it to them: "Show them a gesture. You have never made a move to show that you wish to co-operate. Let it be hands across the 774 sea, and it will settle the communal question and bring the two nations together as never before." One man said to me: "Sahib. If they were all like you!" I am not joking about it. Of course, there are black sheep in India just as there are black sheep in England and elsewhere. They are tired of the fight in India. They want to come across with us into friendship, and if we can only leap the gulf we can get a settlement. Let us show that we trust them.
On the other hand, we want to be sure that there will be no repudiation of debt. The Indian is a most trustful man if he gets your confidence. One of the firms which I represent sent out the son of one of their directors to develop their trade. My customers looked upon it as an insult. They would have nothing to do with him; they thought he was there to take away my trade; and he was frozen stone dead. They would not look at him. They said: "We know you; you are our friend. We do not want him. Send him home." I have their confidence. You can get their confidence; but you must go to India. They have a feeling that whenever they come here they are being juggled with, mystified; and it is most difficult to remove that impression.
Now about this Select Committee. It is expected that the persons who will be appointed on the Select Committee will be in inverse ratio to what they know about India. It is no use sending out committees to India with young persons on it. They may be well connected and capable, but to send out young men is looked upon as an insult by Indians. Age counts in India. The filial piety of children to their parents is one of their characteristics. If you send men to India you must send older men, men of mature judgment, not send what, I think, the "Morning Post" described as "frightened innocents." To send out to India to solve the greatest problem in the British Empire young fellows of between 23 and 25 years of age is asking for trouble. Indians feel insulted, and ask: "Are these the men who are coming out to solve our problems?" It is a mistake.
The country to-day is dissatisfied with the National Government. Close this House for two weeks, and let every Member go back to his constituency and the Members of the Cabinet to the distressed 775 areas. If the Prime Minister will do that, then I say that the stock of the Government will go up 100 per cent. But that is by the way. We on the back benches have a little bit of truth and common sense among us sometimes. That is what should be done, instead of our having to go back to our constituencies and apologise for the Government. With the greatest majority ever known in this House we are disappointing the nation. Let us give confidence to the people at home as well as in India. The man who will take his courage in both hands and save England is going to be the finest man who ever sat in the House of Commons.
I hope that the Government will listen to the advice of a man who has been on the spot and who is in close touch with India continually every week. Send your Select Committee to Delhi. The Round Table Conference at Allahabad was my doing. I said to Malaviya, "Work out your own salvation. Bring wour own scheme before the British Government, and they cannot refuse you." They went to work immediately, got together; and the Allahabad Conference was the direct result of my talk with Malaviya. I have said all I want to say. I want to get the Government to realise the magnificent possibilities. You must pick your Select Committee carefully, and put upon it people who know India. Do not do the work in this country; do it in India, and you will solve your Indian problem and furnish the greatest and most brilliant piece of legislation that has ever been written on the Statute Books of this country.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. MOLSON
The House has been privileged to receive a report from one who appears to have constituted himself the unofficial but extremely successful ambassador of this country to India. He will excuse me if I do not follow him further in his speech, because we have heard to-day two speeches in criticism of the White Paper to which I should like to refer for the few moments at my disposal. In the first place, may I say that I listened with great regret to the statement made by the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) on behalf of the official Opposition. In the past it has always been the desire of political par- 776 ties in this country to keep India out of party politics, and the hon. Member was one of the selected representatives of his party on the Simon Commission and signed their report. Since that time the National Government, following the general lines of the Government of which the hon. Member was a Member, have, owing to the proposal of federation by the Indian Princes, been able to go a great deal further towards meeting the aspirations of Indians. It was, therefore, with some surprise that I found the hon. Member on behalf of his party disassociating himself from what had been the agreed policy of all parties and criticising in detail some of the provisions of the White Paper, which in themselves go a great deal further than the Simon Report.
I had thought that we should not hear anything from any member of that commission about Dominion status. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that India has enjoyed Dominion status for the last 10 years. What she has not enjoyed is responsible government, and it is a complete mistake, as I thought was generally recognised by Indians and Englishmen, to talk about Dominion status for Indians are concerned with the kind of internal government which they are going to get. The hon. Member referred to the proposals in the White Paper as putting vested interests in a privileged position. I could not quite follow how he reconciles that with what he said about the need for meeting the aspirations of educated Indians. Reference has already been made to the importance of the toiling masses of India; but it is the Socialist party which, quite rightly, always emphasises the fact that where you have a nationalist movement it originates and begins in the educated classes. If you are going to introduce reforms in order to meet their aspirations it is illogical to complain at the same time that you are putting vested interests in a privileged position, because, after all, it is the wealthier people who are educated and the leaders in a nationalist movement.
I wish this evening to refer chiefly to the criticism of the White Paper which comes from the extreme right wing of the Conservative party. At the end of a long survey of the past and present history of India, the hon. Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock) told us that his constructive suggestion 777 was that we should return to the Simon Report. But they are not prepared to carry that out to the full because they object to the transfer of law and order. If I may weary the House for a few minutes, I should like to give an explanation of why it was that the Government of India, in its despatch upon the Reforms, was unable to accept the recommendations of the Simon Commission in regard to the Centre. The Simon Report is now regarded by many people who have never read it as verbally inspired, a claim which has never been made by its signatories. When the Simon Commission came out to India the Associated Chambers of Commerce made their representations to that body, and when referring to the Centre they pointed out that the position of the Government was almost intolerable, in that it was charged with the responsibility of governing India and was required to pass all its legislation and its budgets through an Assembly in which it had no stable majority. It was President Lowell who said that an irremovable Government and a popularly-elected Assembly were a contrivance for causing friction and perpetuating it.
That is the position in which the Government of India has been for the last 10 years. It has on some occasions actually admitted that certain amendments to the law were desirable; yet it had not dared to introduce legislation in order to carry those amendments because when once a Bill dealing with the matter was introduced into the Assembly there was no guarantee that it would not be so amended, against the wishes of the Government, that the final state of the law would be worse than at the beginning. So the Associated Chambers of Commerce and a number of other bodies also represented to the Simon Commission that with regard to the Centre there were two things that could be done and one thing that could not be done. The Commission could either go back and give the Government of India a stable majority in the Assembly, so that it would be able to make its view effective, and effectively to discharge its responsibilities for governing India; or, on the other hand, the Commission could go ahead, make the Government of India responsible to the Assembly and impose upon the Assembly the responsibility of maintaining a Government in power and of giving that Government the legisla- 778 tion that was necessary for it to discharge its duties. What we maintained could not be done was to leave the position as it was: where the Government had to resort to every form of wheedling and cajoling in order to get its budgets passed, obtain its votes of supply, and get its legislation through.
What the Simon Commission actually recommended was not only that the constitutional position should be left very much the same, but that the 25 nominated officials should be withdrawn from the Assembly. I think that the Government of India was to blame in its evidence when it emphasised to the Simon Corn-mission that in spite of the fact that it was without a stable majority in the Assembly, it had on very few occasions had to avail itself of the Viceroy's power of certification. What it ought equally to have pointed out was that as a matter of fact it had frequently only avoided that deadlock by not introducing controversial legislation, and that, when it had introduced such measures, there were very few important divisions in which, on a controversial measure, it had a majority as much as 25. With the withdrawal of the only 25 votes in the Assembly upon which the Government could always rely, instead of always facing the possibility of a Government defeat, it would have been confronted with a certainty of a defeat on almost every occasion. It was for that reason that the Government of India, and also nearly everyone who had any experience of the working of the Government of India and of the Legislative Assembly, felt that the recommendations made by the Simon Commission, as regards the Centre, would make a difficult and embarrassing position an absolutely impossible one.
That fact was, in a way, recognised by the Simon Commission. At that time the Commission was confronted with this dilemma: it, either had to go back, which many people felt was quite impossible and would certainly be very dangerous; or to make the Government of India responsible merely to British-Indian politicians—and everybody recognised that that would be merely a leap in the dark, and that there was no certainty at all that the experiment would be successful. The whole situation underwent a very great change when, at the first Round Table Conference, the Princes made that offer to come into a Federa- 779 tion which the Simon Commission, with extraordinary foresight, had regarded as the only ultimate solution of India's political problem. It was from that time onwards that the possibility of giving responsibility at the Centre became a reality. When my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock) refers to the opposition which existed in the European community in India at that time against giving responsibility to the Centre, he should have said that it was an opposition to transferring it entirely to British Indian politicians. When afterwards the Princes came into this great adventure, came as ballast and as centre-board into the ship of State of India starting off upon a new voyage, then the position underwent a great change. To-day in India the Associated Chambers of Commerce, the European Association and the Royalists are all behind the Government in supporting the general principles of the White Paper.
The hon. Member made the statement that Governors who were now holding office were not in a position to criticise the Government's proposals. I know very well that when he was a Governor he did not hesitate to express his doubts about the Montagu-Chelmsford proposal. It is known as a matter of fact, and he knows also, that Governors as distinguished as Sir Malcolm Hailey have constantly been advising the Government from the very beginning. Now Sir Malcolm is coming home once more in order to assist the Joint Committee.
Since we have had all these statements about what the attitude of the Civil Service is, perhaps I may be allowed to inflict upon the House a very short quotation from an Indian Civil Servant, a judge in Bengal, with whom I have been in correspondence ever since I met him in India,. He wrote to me the other day upon this subject:It is all very well for the Churchill group to fulminate against the Round Table Conference. Are they prepared to come out here and run the country? That is the acid test. Civilians are not all fools; indeed, we are usually possessed of fairly good brains—to begin with, whatever they may become later—and we have not been let down by the politicians all the time. ֵ I should like to hold out this warning to the Conservative Members who follow Churchill. If their policy were realised, they would paralyse the administration of India, 780 send into the opposite camp thousands who now trust England, and condemn to death civilians and police officers who are trying to help. England has moved since 1918, and India has not stood still.The Conservative Members of this House who are opposing these proposals attach a great deal of importance, and rightly so, to the transfer of law and order. Anyone who takes the trouble to read the Simon Report will see that of all the questions which came before them there was none to which they gave longer or more anxious consideration than the question of whether it was or was not possible to transfer law and order. I am not surprised that the Government have come to the same conclusion as the Simon Commission. To give so-called provincial autonomy without transferring law and order would mean giving a mere sham. We have heard a great deal about the destruction of the morale of the police if they are transferred. I suggest that one of the great difficulties in the past has been that Indian politicians have not been responsible for seeing that the Indian police were supplied with adequate money. They have always been able to pass "cuts" on the police and pander to the general hostility which does exist in India towards the police. They have always been able at the same time to rely on the power of certification of the Governor in order to make certain that the police were maintained.
If the police are transferred they will no longer appear in the unpleasant light of minions of an alien bureaucracy. The Indian politicians will have to accept responsibility for supporting the police and enabling them to carry out their duties and seeing that they are supplied with decent barracks and proper living conditions. It is all very well to say that it is only a phrase but it is true that the only way to curb irresponsibility is to impose responsibility. I believe that the police, when they have been transferred to the Indian ministers, will be spared a great deal of the opprobrium which exists at present when the administration of the police is a reserved subject.
At the same time, I am just a little uneasy at the rather vague language of the safeguard in the White Paper. The Services Sub-committee at the first Round Table Conference referred to the need for protecting the police against 781 undue interference by politicians and the possibility of retaining the Police Act of 1861 which gave Inspectors-General in the Provinces certain powers of administering police without interference from above. I hope that the Joint Committee will carefully consider whether it is not possible, without unduly withdrawing the police from political control, to make certain that there shall be no undue interference. I ask therefore that the Joint Committee should consider the possibility of tightening up that safeguard.
There is another safeguard, as to which I wonder whether it is really necessary for the Government to insist upon it. I refer to the requirement that the Governor-General should give his previous sanction before the introduction of any legislation dealing with currency and exchange. It would be rash and unwise for any Government to introduce legislation dealing with those subjects and I feel that as this question can only arise after the Reserve Bank has been set up and is in operation, it is unlikely that any Indian Government would introduce legislation of that kind against the advice of the Reserve Bank and the Viceroy's financial advisers. But even supposing that were done, the Viceroy would still have the power of veto and he could announce in advance, and would no doubt make it clear, that he would not allow legislation of that kind to be passed. I am anxious that the safeguards which are necessary should be strong and effective but I hope there will be no safeguards which are not essential.
I apologise to the House for speaking at such length—although I am only following the example of some of my predecessors—but I should like to refer to the question of second chambers before I conclude. It is a remarkable thing that the White Paper only proposes second chambers for three of the provinces yet it is on record in paragraph 381 of the Lothian Report that in five provinces, both the Governments and local committees were in favour of setting up second chambers. We are making a vast change. We are transferring almost entirely the responsibility in the provinces to Indian politicians and a new and untried electorate. I hope that hon. Gentlemen on the Socialist benches will not think I am actuated by a desire to 782 entrench for ever vested interests if I say that, when you are starting an experiment of this kind, it is important to have a chamber in which the older and more substantial public men of the province may be able to have seats and exercise some restraining and controlling influence.
I have read with great care and attention the proposals of the Government with regard to commercial discrimination. I hope again that the joint committee will give that matter careful and anxious consideration. It is one of the most difficult of all these problems. It is of vital importance not only to the trade of this country but to the future prosperity and welfare of India that India should continue to be regarded as a country in which trade and enterprise can look for fair treatment and can in the future, as in the past, expand and develop the natural resources of the country.
In conclusion, I must express my disappointment that the response which has so far come from India to this White Paper is less warm than I think the Government were entitled to expect. There is an Amendment dealing with the release of Mr. Gandhi and other leaders in the civil disobedience campaign. We are all united in regretting that, at a time like this, when great changes are being brought about, Mr. Gandhi, so long a leader of Hindu opinion, should be in gaol. I would join with those who appeal for a change of heart, but on whose part? Mr. Gandhi is not kept in gaol by the Secretary of State or the Government. The doors of his gaol are open provided he will recognise the indisputable fact that the Government, having been forced to take up the challenge of civil disobedience, have broken that campaign. If only he would now turn his mind to constructive work and call off the civil disobedience campaign, he might render great services to his country.
Even among those who have cooperated with us in the past, and still intend to co-operate with us in the future, I am sorry to see that this White Paper has been criticised. Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru has said that it is not in accordance with the recommendations of the Round Table Conference. That seems an extraordinary statement. I 783 have compared the two carefully, and, with one possible exception, I am unable to find any difference between the proposals which the Government are now putting forward and those agreed upon at the Round Table Conference.
Now that we have abandoned the old position of domination in India I hope that our Indian friends will not go to the other extreme. After all, we are still entitled to be called partners and to have some voice in determining the future constitution of India. I am sorry when the Secretary of State has during the last few months had to face misrepresentation and opposition from certain Tory extremists in this country, that those for whom he has been labouring and with whom he has been cooperating should not express greater gratitude for what has been done. If one throws one's mind back two years, to the first Round Table Conference, it will be seen that the Conservative party and the Socialist party and this House generally have all taken a very great step forward. If the present proposals had been put forward then, although they could not have been, because they were not then prepared and the ground was not explored, they would have far exceeded anything which Indian opinion at that time expected.
I trust and hope that in the deliberations of the Joint Select Committee, which I am glad to think will have the benefit of the assistance of members of the Socialist party, it will be possible so to examine—in co-operation with Indians and, if necessary, in small matters to amend—this White Paper, that upon it may be framed a Bill which will satisfy the legitimate aspirations of India and will, at the same time, afford effective and ample safeguards for all the minorities and all the interests in that great sub-continent, and that this Parliament and this National Government may be found to have been the parents of a permanent and stable future constitution for India.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Major-General Sir ALFRED KNOX
I have been much interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson), who has spoken, as he always does, as a consistent supporter of the Government policy in India. I was 784 particularly interested in the quotation which he gave from a letter from a friend of his, a judge, in Bengal. I gather from that letter that he wanted to give the impression that the officials of India were entirely in agreement with the Government policy. Certainly the officials of India must have changed. I have here a quotation from a book published only the other day by one of the members of the Simon Commission, who writes this:Not a single authority, British or Indian, whose advice we could respect and rely upon, in all our extensive experience, ever spoke with any degree of optimism on the rapid and spectacular advance; on the contrary, one and all counselled caution and restraint.Certainly this White Paper constitutes a spectacular advance. Of more recent interest is the fact that last Friday I went to a small meeting in my constituency and was introduced to an Indian civil servant. I asked him if he had retired, and he said "No, but I am going to; it is hopeless to go out there again." He came from Lahore, and he said, "Our position is impossible." I do not know what his politics are, and I have never seen him before and do not know his name. I spoke to his wife, and I said, "You were in the Punjab. Have you ever met any of your friends who were in favour of the Government policy?" At first she said, "No"; then she said, "Yes, one man." I only give that for what it is worth. The other day there was a dinner of the European Association in Bengal given to the Governor, Sir John Anderson, and at that dinner Mr. Carey Morgan said he had sent round a plebiscite to all the members of the European Association in Bengal, asking whether they were in favour of delay or advance. The unanimous opinion was in favour of delay. That is very recent, about two months ago.
I would like to make some remarks now about the most excellent and lucid statement of the Secretary of State. I think he is very practised in this work of Agag. He is in a very difficult position. When he is speaking to us, who are called extremists because we dare to say what we think about India, he has to address himself at the same time to the people of India, who are, some of them, politicians with the opposite point of view. He made two general reflections. The first was that ever since the beginning of the 19th century we have been 785 promising self-government to India. Yes, but only in a very modified form. That proclamation of Queen Victoria's in 1858 only promised the Indians an increasing measure of participation in the government of the country. We have never fixed any date, and certainly there has never been any excuse for the landslide of the last three years. In the last three years we have been proposing to go further than the people of this country went in about 500 or 600 years.
The right hon. Gentleman's second reflection was about the new tide in China and about general feeling in India and Asia moving towards democratic Government. But what democracies are there in Asia? I think he mentioned Turkey, but if my memory serves me rightly, the head of the Turkish Government on one occasion executed some of the opposition. That is hardly what we would consider to be democracy. Then there is Persia, but I do not think the Government of Persia can really be called democratic. There is also unfortunate China, which was infinitely more happy under the autocracy of the Dowager Empress, which ceased in 1911, than she has been ever since. There is one town in China, I believe, that has been looted and counter-looted 72 times in one year. If that is democracy, God save us from it.
To what extent, after all, is there a democracy in India? I would like to quote Lord Snowden, not as he is at present, but as a Socialist. He wrote, in 1927:There is no such thing as a democracy in India. There are 300 millions of people in India who are illiterate, who know nothing about political government, and whose training for self-government must necessarily be a slow process. The people who now speak in the name of India, or in the name of any of the various races and religions and castes, are an oligarchy of wealthy and educated people, comparable to the classes which governed England until the latter part of the last century.If they only had the moral stamina and the patriotism of our great families, who governed this country till democracy became ripe to take it over, I should be in favour of giving them self-government with both hands, but it is the lack of moral stamina in India and of the courage to stand up to an adverse opinion which makes me so doubtful about this whole experiment.
786 To-day we have to consider the setting up of a Joint Select Committee, but it all depends on what the composition of that committee will be. We are to discuss that question on another Motion, I believe. I remember that I spoke to two members of the Joint Select Committee on the Montagu reforms, the late Lord Sydenham and the late Sir Henry Craik, and they both told me that their work was perfectly hopeless, that they could not do anything. They could put their point of view, but what does that amount to when you are out-voted always? As to Indians being brought into consultation, everybody knows that it is difficult to get a really honest opinion from Indian witnesses when other Indians are present and that is the great obstacle. I have been told that Lord Birkenhead advised this procedure, but he never in his wildest moments imagined that there would be three sessions of a certain thing called a Round Table Conference, at which all the Indians would say what they wanted to say and a mutual admiration society would go on for weeks.
Then there is the question of setting aside the Simon Report. It is always put, I think, somewhat dishonestly by Government spokesmen that the origin of the Round Table Conference was a letter written by the Chairman of the Statutory Commission. But the decision was made much earlier. It was made by the late idealistic Viceroy who got the idea from that white-headed boy of the round table conferences, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, and a few Princes were set up to say that they wanted Federation. Then Lord Reading, as a real Liberal leader, was attracted by the Princes because they were Conservative units. He said, "Here are Conservative units; they will make the whole Government stable." But what stability will remain when the Great British Raj is driven out of India by the force of Indian propagandists? How long will the poor Indian Princes stand that? They will be pushed aside, and they should in their own interests understand that their only hope of safety is in helping us to prevent this abdication of British authority.
The White Paper has not had a very good Press in India, and one gentleman on his way to that Mecca of the enemies of Britain, Dublin, calls it 787 "a damnable piece of British villainy." I find that the Indian Princes are not very satisfied, and one of their number was rather snubbed by the Viceroy because he ventured to put the point of view of the Princes against it. I suppose that it is the new democracy in India that a poor Prince is not allowed to give his case.
The White Paper makes one great assumption:The proposals have the basic assumption that every endeavour will be made by those responsible for working the Constitution to do so in a spirit of partnership in a common enterprise.If that be true, why have any safeguards? If we are all going to be splendid partners and do what the other person wants, why have any safeguards? We are going to have a Viceroy and 11 Governors of provinces. I wonder if even among the soft characters of post-War politicians in this country you would get enough wheedlers to fill those positions? You want the Viceroy to kow-tow to everybody, and you want the Governors to do the same. Will you get people with patience enough to undertake those thankless jobs?
The Secretary of State said that Lord Zetland wrote an interesting letter to the "Times" pointing out the difficult position that the Viceroy would have with nothing except three councillors to depend upon. I was surprised at the "Times" putting that letter in such a leading position; it seemed against their usual policy of putting any letter which is against ideas of abdication in India at the very bottom of the worst page. However, the position of the Viceroy is comparatively happy. After all, he has three councillors and also a financial adviser. But think of the position of the 11 governors in the provinces. So many Robinson Crusoes, as somebody put it, marooned without a single Friday. They have no one to depend upon at all. We have been told by the Secretary of State and by other people that the Government have followed in the Provinces the recommendations of the Simon Commission. Why do they not follow the recommendation on page 48 of the second volume of the Simon Commission's Report? There it says:We are unanimous in presenting the view…that the Statute should be in such 788 form as to make it possible for such a Government"—that is, provincial governments—to include an element drawn from official or other non-elected sources.There, I suggest, you have a possible solution of the problem of this handing over of law and order. If you go back to the Simon Commission and give each provincial governor the power of appointing one or two official or non-elected members, and give him the possibility, if he wants to do it, of placing the police under such an official, you might solve the question of handing over the police. I do not think it is fair to talk as if we were going back to the Simon Commission in the present proposals as they stand.
The Secretary of State said that it was practically impossible to have a Congress majority at the centre. I allow that that is true, if you go on the principle that all the Moslems and all the representatives of the Indian States are invariably going to be on the Government side. I do not know what ground there is for assuming that. In the Bengal Council of 1924 the 47 Swarajists included no fewer than 21 Moslems. A large majority of the rulers of the Indian States are Hindus. Can you guarantee that they are invariably going to be on the Government side? I allow that they will cut each others throats when they get into the bazaar, but the joy of attacking the Government brings together people who otherwise would be enemies. In this country, for instance, we remember how the bookmakers and the Nonconformist preachers came together over the Betting Tax. The same thing will happen in India. You will have Moslems and Hindus co-operating against us.
As to safeguards, the White Paper provides for a general breakdown of government. Suppose we have a repetition of the position which led to the frightful massacres in Cawnpore. We remember how the last Viceroy communed for 10 days with Mr. Gandhi, resulting in what is called the Irwin-Gandhi Pact, and how a lot of enthusiastic Members of this House sent him a telegram of congratulation. The Viceroy with proper modesty replied that, at any rate, the atmosphere was "somewhat sweeter". 789 Five days after that sweeter atmosphere set in, we had the massacre at Cawnpore, when officially 500 Moslems were murdered; unofficially, it was stated that 2,000 were murdered.
When these reforms are working, people tell me that there is likely to be a Congress majority in the United Provinces. Suppose that in Cawnpore after the introduction of these reforms the Hindus commence a massacre of the Moslems. The Minister in charge of the Police happens to be a Hindu. Will he take sufficiently strong measures to nip the massacre in the bud? If he does not, the disorder will spread to Lucknow, Delhi, Agra, Allahabad. It is quite true that in the case I have quoted a couple of years ago an Englishman was in charge but he knew that strong initiative was not likely to be smiled upon in Simla. Under the reforms, if the disorder spreads, the unfortunate Governor, who will probably be a sentimental Radical politician, will no doubt do all he can to put gentle pressure on his Minister, but if the Minister does not respond, what will happen? The Governor cannot move troops. Even if he had enough backbone to order them out, he has to apply to the Viceroy first. Before he is able to do that thousands of innocent lives will be lost.
Suppose in a place in the provinces or in Bombay there is a general strike—a general strike, not run by the Trade Union Congress as here, but by your Government. What is the Governor going to do? You may have members of the Indian Civil Service going to the Governor to point out actual conditions, but if he is carrying out his proper constitutional functions he should only talk to his Ministers. It would put the Ministers in an impossible position if he listened to stories brought in by civilians, compatriots of his own whom he trusts. He cannot do that. He must work through his Ministers. Suppose that the Ministers join in the whole thing and carry it on? You suspend the whole Constitution and you order a dictatorship. That proclamation is laid on the Table of the House of Commons. Imagine the opposition in this House, whichever side is in office—if it is a Socialist Government in power the opposition will come from our side—attacking the Government for this brutal militarism of 790 the Governor who has suspended the Constitution. You will only just have given this power to the people, a taste of freedom; the cup is put to their lips, and you are dashing it away from them.
For that reason I think the safeguards are bound to break down. The Secretary of State spoke of Ireland. He said no one could compare Ireland with India. But Ireland is far easier. England is the only market for Ireland, and with our Customs duties we have her in the hollow of our hand. How are you going to deal with India like that? You may say you are leaving the Army. Nothing would induce me to reflect upon the value of an Army in which I have spent 29 years, but the Army in a civil situation of that sort would be useless. The responsibility will rest with Indian Ministers and the Army without the police will he helpless.
I want to say one word about the cost. The main thing about India is that it is a very poor country. You will have a multitude of these Ministers, and they are going to cost money. With only three Upper Chambers you will have 2,620 useless politicians getting salaries and allowances. Bombay, Bengal and Assam are already in debt. You are going to have a Federal Reserve Bank, a Federal Supreme Court and general elections, but all these things must cost money. Democracy is a very pretty thing, but it costs money, like everything else. India is an agricultural country, with something like 90 per cent. of her population in that occupation, and unless you change the whole character of the country and make it into an industrial country it cannot afford any system like this. The country is over-governed as it is. What you want is to concentrate on helping the people to some sane kind of agriculture, and teaching them how to run it, and starting some kind of social service. You do not want these expensive systems of government which are totally out of place.
May I say this word in conclusion? The Government is sure of the support of the Liberal party in this House, and it also has the support—but not a very good support—of the Socialist Opposition. The opposition to these proposals comes from within the party, which accounts for 460 Members in this House, and it is this Conservative party which must bear the whole stigma of the failure of these reforms, as fail I am sure they will. We, 791 for our part, are determined to oppose this abdication of authority in the centre by every means in our power. If the Joint Select Committee, in its final conclusions, says it agrees, we will go on fighting. We will try to rouse the nation and the country against it, because we believe it is not in the interests of the people of India or in the interests of this country.
After all, what is the main question You have to consider not what the politicians of India want, but whether this is going to make for the happiness and contentment of the people of India as a whole. By the people of India I mean her 353,000,000 inhabitants, of whom 230,000,000 live in the villages. These people, under this scheme the Secretary of State boasted, will be handed over to the Indian politicians. Will that make for their comfort or for the absence of corruption or for greater efficiency? Is it a thing for their improvement or not? The other day a Conservative politician who, perhaps more than anyone else, has misled our party in this matter, spoke on the experiment with India as a great act of faith. Last week I committed two acts of faith. I backed horses in the Lincolnshire and in the Grand National, and I lost my money in both. It was a gamble and a silly one, but this so-called act of faith is a gamble which is wicked and dishonest.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ Mr. R. LAW
The hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox) has given us a consistent, downright and forceful speech. I have always marvelled at the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who seems to start always from more or less the same premises as I do myself, and to end up always with such diametrically opposed conclusions. On this subject of India I think I have far more in common with him than I would suppose from listening to his speech. For example, I expect both he and I will agree that during the last 120 years the peoples of India have enjoyed a more stable and more beneficial Government than they had ever enjoyed before in their long history. I believe he will agree with me, too, that the policy which was adopted by this country in 1919 was in some respects a mistaken policy.
792 I expect he will agree also that if the proposals embodied in the White Paper are put into effect there will be no sudden and immediate improvement in the conditions of the Indian people. But the consideration which the hon. and gallant Gentleman mentioned towards the end of his speech, when he said the one consideration which should guide us was the consideration of what was best in itself for the people of India, is not, I believe, the only consideration which should weigh with us. There is another consideration which, to my mind, is equally important. We must not only decide what is best; we must also decide what is possible. I believe that the attitude of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, sincere and reasonable as we may all admit it to be, is an attitude which it is really impossible to maintain in this brave, new world in which for our sins, or perhaps for the sins of our fathers, we find ourselves living.
I have tried, therefore, to study this White Paper in the light of what is practically possible, and I believe that the possibilities of the situation are governed by certain quite definite and fairly easily ascertainable facts. One of these facts, and the most obvious of them, is the pledge which this country has given to India not only since 1917 but during the hundred years or so before that date. The House will very well remember that some 18 months ago the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) made a most brilliant speech in which he proved, with a subtlety which I think a Kashmiri Brahmin might envy, that we were, in fact, bound by no pledges at all. The right hon. Gentleman must have convinced himself on that point, but certainly he did not convince me, and, if I may say so with all respect, I very much doubt whether he convinced the House.
§ Mr. LAW
I am aware that the Secretary of State said that, but he also, I think, stated that we were bound not perhaps by anything so definite as a pledge but that we were morally bound by an attitude. We are bound by that attitude and we are bound not only by considerations of honour but by considerations of expediency, for if we give 793 the impression to India that we are in fact going back on pledges which they may think we have given, even if we think we have not, we are depriving ourselves of the most powerful instrument of Government which we possess, and that is the belief of the Indian people in the good faith of our race. There is one other fact which it seems to me should especially govern our consideration of the possibilities of the situation to-day, and that is the condition of the world as a whole. The state of the world has changed very much indeed since the time of the Indian Mutiny. In those days we were perfectly entitled to regard the Indian problem as a problem isolated, by itself, and we could regard India as a sort of private estate in which we tried to be the good landlord. But I believe that time has passed. The world has grown very much smaller and we can no longer adopt that attitude. We can no longer confine our activities in India to within the borders of India.
I ask the House to look for a moment at. the position of Germany to-day. There in Germany is a Government which is pursuing a purely domestic policy within its own borders and yet that domestic policy seems, as far as one can tell, to be arousing the most fierce resentment in nearly all parts of the world, and as such it must inevitably have the most damaging repercussions upon German interests wherever they may be in the world. I think we shall find ourselves in exactly the same position in India. We cannot confine our policy to within the borders of India, any more than the Germans can confine their German policy to within the borders of Germany. So, when I hear speeches like that of the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe and the hon. and gallant Member for the Combined Universities (Sir H. Craddock) I am inclined a little bit to distrust them. That is not because I distrust their knowledge of India, I do not deny that they have a most complete knowledge of their subject, but what I do say is that there is a possibility that their knowledge may be too complete and that they may be concentrating upon India too exclusively and ignoring the possible reactions of the policy they advocate upon our interests in every other part of the world.
I would like to say a word or two about the question of law and order. Law and order seems to be a very good instance 794 of the kind of thing on which we should try, if we can, to avoid giving a false impression. We are not bound to give control of law and order to the autonomous provinces, but, equally, it is certain, I think, that Indian opinion considers that we are bound to give it. And if we refrain from giving it we will, in fact, antagonise Indian opinion, and Indian opinion is very vocal not only within the boundaries of India; it is a great sounding board which sounds all over the world, and if we give the impression to Indian opinion that we have betrayed them, that impression, I think, will inevitably permeate throughout the whole world with the most damaging effects to our interests. I believe that if the House considers this matter it will come to the conclusion that it must, simply must, give control of law and order to the Provincial Government. If that is so, what is the position as regards the question of Central responsibility?
My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping has made many most brilliant speeches on India since I have been in the House and I, like the rest of the House, have been attracted and almost mesmerised by those speeches. On the other hand, my Noble Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) has made only one speech on India during that time, and yet that one speech wiped out from my mind the effects of all the other speeches from the right hon. Member for Epping. I would like to quote one passage from the speech of my Noble Friend the Member for Hastings. He was considering the question of responsible autonomous provinces combined with an irresponsible centre, and he said, what I think most of us must agree with, that such a position was really an impossible one. I think these words were his words: "That it would only mean a succession of struggles between popularly elected assemblies and popular Governments against one lonely man, the Viceroy." That obviously is a very unsatisfactory position and a very dangerous position; and if we consider the position in which independent provincial Governments have got control of law and order it might be a very dangerous position indeed. We might very easily have a situation amounting almost to civil war, a situation in which the Viceroy and the British Army were opposed to the popular Governments in the provinces backed by the 795 police. That would be a very dangerous situation and one which, I think, would be very likely to come about if there were an irresponsible centre combined with responsible Governments in the provinces.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
By an irresponsible centre my hon. Friend means a centre responsible to the House of Commons, to the British Parliament?
§ Mr. LAW
Yes, I mean a centre responsible to the British House of Commons, but the House of Commons is here and the actual Executive Government in India would be 6,000 miles away and the Viceroy would still be, as he was described by my Noble Friend a "very lonely man."
I would like to say one or two words about safeguards. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred this afternoon to the ordinary dilemma with which we have become very familiar, the dilemma that either safeguards or the responsibility must be unreal. I think he showed that that dilemma was not a very real one, and I would add that it seems to me to be based upon a false assumption. It is based on the assumption that these safeguards, these emergency powers, are part of the normal machinery of Government which will be functioning all the time, instead of being special powers, which will only be called into use in emergency and might never be called into use. So long as Indian Assemblies and Indian executive Governments show themselves capable of responsibility, those safeguards will, practically speaking, be non-existent. I would like to suggest this to the House: It does not necessarily follow that government at the centre, responsible to this House of Commons, and not responsible to a central Assembly, will be a strong Government. It does not follow that a Government at the centre, which is responsible to an Assembly at the centre, will be a weak Government. The Secretary of State pointed out that by the terms of the White Paper, and the constitution of the Assemblies at Delhi, it was most unlikely that there would be an extreme majority in the Assembly.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke before me disputed that, but it is clear from the White Paper that what we might call the Conservative element 796 in the Assembly will be on the side of the Viceroy rather than on the side of the extreme Congress party. One of the fundamental causes why the Congress party has the hold on India which it has at the present time, is that the Viceroy and his Government were fighting against the Congress party absolutely single-handed. But if you have responsible Government at the centre, responsible to an Assembly at the centre, the Viceroy is immediately given allies, because it is to the interests of the members of the Assembly and, for different reasons, equally to the interests of the Viceroy, to see that the extreme wing does not get control of the Assembly, of the Government and of the country.
For these reasons, which I have tried to express to the House, I am not alarmed by the White Paper which the Secretary of State defended in so able a speech this afternoon. I do not say that that White Paper embodies an ideal policy. I believe that it embodies the best possible policy at the present time. For that reason I earnestly hope that the Government will go ahead with the policy which it embodies in the White Paper with courage and determination, and that it will not be too overawed by the very vocal expressions of opinion which come from time to time from sections of the Conservative party.
§ 9.49 p.m.
§ Mr. CADOGAN
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) announced earlier in the Debate that he and his party were going to vote for this Measure. I was not aware that there was a Measure before the House. That is counting the Government's chickens before they are hatched. I hope that this solecism is not indicative of any prejudice which he and his party are likely to import into the deliberations of the Joint Select Committee. The Secretary of State's proposal is a much more modest one, to set up a Joint Select Committee. The Secretary of State has been so overwhelmed with felicitations during the last few months on the skill and dexterity with which he and his colleague have conducted the proceedings of the Round Table Conference, that I will forbear to cause him any additional embarrassment in this respect; but I cannot refrain from paying a tribute on another account. He has made it manifest 797 that he gives ample credit to all those who, like myself, are not prepared unhesitatingly to accept the proposals in the White Paper, for our sincere and conscientious ambition to do our best for the welfare of the Indian people. Far from deprecating our attitude, he welcomes the most searching analysis and exhaustive scrutiny of the Government's proposals on every opportunity afforded to us for this purpose. I should like to go further and to say that if I were in his place I should regard any hon. Members who accepted these proposals precipitately, without any apprehension or demur, as those who could not be aware of the formidable responsibilities that a reconstruction of the Indian Constitution imposes upon them.
The issue which this White Paper raises differs in one important respect from the major issues which come up for discussion and decision in this House, and that is that it is impossible for any hon. Member to claim that there is a widely-expressed mandate from the electorate to guide us in the course which we should pursue. My experience has been that the average elector, far from evincing any disposition to dictate to us, if he is not actually hostile is in a state of mild bewilderment over these proposals, a condition of mind from which I should imagine the White Paper is hardly calculated to release him. It might be urged with some plausibility, and the right hon. Gentleman has urged it, that we have a mandate from the people of India. By what process the will of the people of India can be ascertained passes my knowledge to determine. That mandate is an oft-reiterated pledge, rènewed by successive Governments at various times and in various places, but I venture to point out to hon. Members that this pledge is vague and indeterminate. The Secretary of State earlier in the evening said, "Yes, but we have a moral obligation." A moral obligation to the Indian intelligentsia? The moral obligation is also to the vast millions for whom we are the trustees.
Therefore I maintain that in spite of the fact that ultimately the Whips will, no doubt, have instructions to make up our minds for us, we shall come to a decision on the merits of the proposals which the Government have placed before us. The Secretary of State has, on several occasions, dwelt upon the importance of 798 the co-operation of politically-minded Indians and upon the necessity of creating an atmosphere of good will. No one has contributed more to that end than himself. That is the real motive which urges the Government to what I regard as such hazardous lengths. That is the motive which induces many hon. Members and many people outside to support the Government, many people who two or three years ago would have deprecated in no unmeasured terms so rapid an advance. It is, of course, vital that we should retain the good will of the Indian people, but to take it for granted that these proposals, when they come to be carried into practice, will sustain that good will, is a very broad assumption.
Dyarchy in the provinces would have worked much more smoothly and successfully if we had had the co-operation of Indians to assist us in the practical work of government. Examining the Government's proposals in the light of the past history of the reforms, I should say that it seems more than probable that at the moment of crisis when the united strength at the centre is most needed, and when we most require the co-operation of Indians in those reforms, that will be the moment when they will be most lacking. We are all most anxious to create an atmosphere of good will in any reforms that we may decide upon. I appeal to hon. Members who are supporting the Government merely to enlist the good will of Indians, to examine the proposals from that angle, and to examine whether the reforms will amount to very much, and whether they will give to the centre that cohesion without which provincial autonomy will be nothing short of disaster.
At this point it might be well to ask ourselves how far these proposals are acceptable to the main body of Indian political opinion. I am not at all clear how far the delegates who came to the Third Session of the Round Table Conference were able to speak for those who may be in a majority in the Central Legislature, and, therefore, in a position either to frustrate or to facilitate the operation of the reforms. It is significant that, when what used to be called the only effectively organised party in India was requested to serve on the Round Table Conference, the proceedings were comparatively unfruitful, while, when it was excluded, a measure of agreement 799 was achieved. Only three or four years ago we were told that the refusal of the Congress party to co-operate with the Statutory Commission rendered the labours of that body nugatory. Now we are told that the Congress party is of no account, and can be safely ignored. I would point out to the House that those two statements are mutually exclusive. Presumably we should have to wait for a general gaol delivery before we could appreciate what the situation would be.
An ominous silence has brooded over India in the most recent stages of the preparation for the reforms. I am afraid that this is an exception to the rule that silence means consent. I am not stressing that point, but I wish to point out that we are told that the Indians will not accept any alternative to this scheme. I think we should make quite sure that they will accept the scheme that we are offering. The Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) made an appeal to us on the last occasion, to which the hon. Member who has just spoken alluded, that we should clear our minds of phraseology about responsible government and the form of controversy which used to take place in former days, and that we should address ourselves to devising a new scheme of government altogether for India. That is exactly what the Government are precluding us from doing. We are being asked to build upon a by no means original model, which was largely borrowed from by the joint authors of the Montagu-Chelmsford Report when they laid the foundations of the structure which we are now erecting. We are asked to build the edifice with material provided by Royal Commissions, fact-finding Committees and Round Table Conferences; but, for good or ill, we do not seem to be able to get away from the plan of a Western democracy, and so it is our exclusive task to make democracy as safe as we can for India. The main discussion will centre, not upon whether this plan or some other plan is the best, but on the basis on which we build, and whether we are hastening to build the building before the foundations are secure.
I should like to refer to the Statutory Commission. In order to ensure that the foundations should be capable of bearing the weight to be superimposed upon them, we suggested testing their capacity 800 as a preliminary to the completion of the structure—a not altogether unwarrantable precaution. A Member of the Cabinet, addressing a Conservative mass meeting recently, observed that to pursue a standstill policy—the grammar is his, not mine—was an impossibility. No one would be disposed to take exception to that observation. But he more than hinted that those who criticised the Government's plan were those who had no alternative except to do nothing at all. While I am not at the moment suggesting any alternative to or modification of the Government's plan, I must protest that, for instance, to call the recommendations of the Statutory Commission with regard to provincial autonomy and the transfer of law and order a standstill policy is simply fantastic. Government representatives crowding over conference tables in royal palaces in London, remote from the exigencies and realities of the situation in India, have surely lost all sense of proportion. Three or four years ago, the recommendations which had been made were regarded by all those whose opinion was respected as being of so hazardous a nature, and attended by so many and such grave risks, as hardly to justify our making them. Now they are called a standstill policy. Let us recapture our sense of proportion. Let us regain our balance and address ourselves to realities.
We are also told that it is without precedent and impracticable to establish provincial autonomy and to allow the Centre to develop before bringing federation and responsibility into force at the Centre. Apart from the consideration that on page 9 of the White Paper it is more than hinted that provincial autonomy would have to function for a period in advance of reforms at the Centre, and before the accession of the Princes, that statement has no sanction from history, even in our own Empire; and, as to its being an anomaly, I would reply to the constitutional purists that we on the Commission were presented with a set of conditions and circumstances which were without analogy or parallel in the history of the whole world. We had odds and ends which seemed to have no affinity, and to be incapable of being welded into any coherent whole. Therefore, to call our recommendations anomalous is the merest cant.
801 The whole of India is one vast anomaly. What could be more anomalous than the scheme with which we are presented to-day—a scheme which, while affecting to give responsibility, withdraws all responsibility just at, the moment when the supreme test of whether Indians are capable of bearing responsibility must be applied, which involves a member of the legislature representing a constituency the size of Scotland, and which places the Governor of a province in splendid but most embarrassing isolation at a moment of crisis which, in spite of what the Secretary of State said, postulates for the office of Viceroy an individual with the versatility of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) combined with the temperament of the Archangel Gabriel? I am not for a moment criticising the Government's proposals on these grounds. I should certainly never condemn any solution which, while it did not conform to the standards to which we are accustomed, at any rate was capable of being translated into the terms of India's peculiar needs; but I claim the same indulgence when the findings and recommendations of the Statutory Commission are attacked as being anomalous and without precedent.
The worst of a paper constitution is that we are apt to test it by purely academic standards. Judged by that criterion I am prepared to admit that the proposals of the White Paper are unexceptionable, but that is not the end of our task. What we have to assure ourselves of is that the real and actual circumstances of India have been taken into account, and, judged by that standard, the problem becomes much more difficult of solution. It is that consideration which makes many of us hesitate before accepting these proposals without very full discussion. In connection with the circumstances of India, I would like the House to bear in mind one point which is of supreme importance. We must not look upon these reforms in terms of legislation. The government of India is essentially one of administration. In no other country in the world does the population depend so much on the efficiency of the administration. The peculiar circumstances of a country mainly composed of indigent smallholders render it imperative that administration should take the place of private enter- 802 prise at numerous points where, in other countries, private enterprise operates exclusively and without interference from the administration. The work and responsibilities of administration touch the life of the inhabitants of India at every juncture in the normal routine of human existence. Therefore, any constitutional change which affects the administration should only be embarked upon with the utmost caution. A breakdown in administration would be visited with the most appalling consequences to millions of the inhabitants, and that is the reason for advocating a gradual change, and that seems to be the chief merit of the recommendations of the Statutory Commission.
Let me take the argument a step further. I should like to ask whether those safeguards are so effective that a breakdown of administration is insured against, because that is the supreme test of whether we can accept them with a clear conscience. What are the circumstances which render safeguards so essential? I should like to illustrate my argument with one or two incontrovertible facts. One section of the population depends upon land which owes its fertility to a most elaborate system of irrigation, a system which depends for its smooth operation upon a cadre of officials of tried experience and unquestioned integrity. Another and a larger portion of the population depends upon land which, if the monsoon fails, yields no subsistence whatever. Then famine can only be averted by the most elaborate system of transport and of rail-roads. Again, the pestilences which devastate the land periodically can only be held in check by the vigilance, the energy and the resource of the officials concerned. I should like to ask, Does this scheme which we are now examining ensure the continuance of a sound administration and an efficient personnel? Surely these considerations—there ate many more that I could adduce—demand caution and a gradual advance.
It might be legitimate to ask me why, if I am so solicitous about the efficiency of the administration, I was one of the signatories of a recommendation to transfer the reserved departments in the provinces? I can only reply that we made those recommendations on one condition, and that was that the Government at the centre should be unitary. There is no 803 passage in the whole of that report which is more emphatic. We laid down without hesitation the proposal that dyarchy at the centre, or any system of divided responsibility resembling dyarchy, is quite impossible. Unity in the central executive must be preserved at all costs. We laid that down because we thought that only with unity could we ensure that administration should continue to be efficient. It is true that it is in the provinces where the administration is at stake, but it is the central Government which is responsible for the ultimate conditions of internal security throughout the country. It is the central Government that is responsible for tile amount and the disposition of the military forces that are required. It is the central Government that keeps intact the general structure of criminal law and procedure, and it is the central Government which co-ordinates information and policy with regard to subversive movements. I am not saying at the moment that our recommendations were right or wrong, but I am pointing out why it was that we made these recommendations, which seemed so hazardous to so many at the time, because we believed that, so long as there was unitary government at the centre we could safely make those recommendations. I am convinced that the safeguarding of the administration is of supreme importance, and it is that consideration which will, I hope, never be lost sight of during the protracted process of examination of these proposals.
Is this scheme for the centre sufficiently gradual to ensure the continued efficiency of the administration during the transitional period? I notice with some misgiving that the recruitment for the All-India services by the Secretary of State, which I regard as the lynch pin of the safeguards and which Sir Tej Sapru regards the the ugliest, most reactionary and indefensible feature of these reforms, is to come up for review in five years' time. In the nature of things the Governor-General's special powers can only be exercised when there is an imperative need, and the imperative need can only be recognised probably when the administration has already begun to deteriorate. It is not enough that we on our part should recognise that the safeguards must be real and effective. 804 We must convince ourselves that the Indians do likewise. On a perusal of the Round Table Conference report it is clear that the British and Indian delegates are putting a perfectly different interpretation upon what many of us regard as the main, essential condition upon which any advance can safely be made. Take, for instance, the question of defence. The Indian very properly argues that responsibility at the centre is impossible unless and until the Legislature can withhold or grant supplies to that service, and there is a Minister for Defence responsible to the Legislature. That is a perfectly feasible proposition on paper, but how can we correlate it to the actual circumstances and conditions of the defence servies of India to-day? It is essential, so long as the British Army remains in India, and so long as the Indian Army is not competent to undertake the service of internal and external security, that that department must be reserved to the Governor-General, but the Indians, apparently, are chafing under these reservations and pressing for a time table which shall determine the actual date upon which those safeguards shall terminate.
There are many other evidences that the minds of the English and the Indians are not ad idem on the subject. It is imperative that we must make it clear beyond equivocation that the safeguards are not merely going to be effective but that there is no chance of their being removed for some time to come. They are also necessary, not only, or even especially, because a type of Indian politician has arisen since the institution of the reforms who demands to be trusted, and in the same breath threatens to penalise all the institutions of government. Even if all Indians were favourably disposed towards co-operation in these reforms, the safeguards would be indispensable. There are, it is true, many Indian leaders, statesmen of the highest order and the widest experience, men who certainly are qualified for the highest posts in the executive or the administration. Doubtless, too, there are many untried hands, not of equal experience but of equal abilities, who, in time to come, will prove that we have nothing to fear from the Indianisation of the Services provided they will consent to pass through a period of proba- 805 tion which, in view of the responsibilities incidental to their trust, must be a protracted one. That there will ultimately be no shortage of Indians who are capable of shouldering the responsibilities of government when the final stage of self-government is reached there can be no doubt, but at present there is one over-riding obligation for the British which excludes any idea of prematurely dispensing with the safeguards.
We have heard a great deal about this dilemma. As to whether it is a true dilemma or not, I am not prepared to give an opinion beyond saying how we can reconcile responsibility with safeguards, how we can ensure that those safeguards will be effective and will endure until such a time that there will be no risk of a catastrophic breakdown in the administration, I for one cannot appreciate. The onus is upon the Government to furnish us with an explanation and, until it is forthcoming, neither the seductive blandishments of the Secretary of State nor the eloquent rhapsodies of the Lord Chancellor are going to avert my attention from those inexorable facts which make our task one of such unparalleled difficulty. For the moment I am content, as I have no doubt most hon. Members are content, to allow the Joint Select Committee to lend a hand in the elucidation of one of the most complex problems which the Imperial Parliament has ever been called upon to solve.
§ 10.16 p.m.
§ Major MILNER
Time rolls on his ceaseless course and we have reached the first day of a Debate which is likely to lead to one of The most momentous decisions which this House has ever taken. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan), who has very great knowledge of the Indian problem, will forgive me if I do not follow him into all the intricacies of the subject of which he has spoken and the matters of detail to which it will be right and proper for the Joint Select Committee which it is proposed to set up to address itself. I hope that the Joint Select Committee will have the advantage of the presence of the hon. Gentleman maybe as one of the members of the Committee.
My party, however, are of the opinion that the House must speak in no un- 806 certain voice in approving the Motion on to-day's Order Paper. We believe that the Joint Select Committee should be set up, in the first place, because we are pledged in favour of proceeding towards responsible Government. On my return from India after a short stay there as a member of the Franchise Committee I had not the best of impressions of the tenure of office of the Secretary of State for India and of the matters for which, in part at any rate, he had been responsible in India. But I am bound to say that since my return, with the knowledge I acquired there and the interest I have since taken in Indian matters, although the Secretary of State may in many matters be mistaken and wrong, and he has committed errors of judgment, I cannot do other than pay a tribute to his straightforwardness, sincerity and, downrightness in the views he has expressed to the House, and to his actions generally in regard to Indian matters. It is proper that I should pay that tribute to him when at one time I entertained rather different views.
Something was said by the hon. Member for Finchley, and also by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox), as to Indians desiring self-government. One of the objects of the Committee which we are hoping to set up as a result of this. Debate is to give representative Indians a further opportunity of sitting in consultation with members of the Committee and giving their views of the precise details put before them in the proposals which we are considering to-night. They have not had these precise proposals in terms previously. It is for representative Indians to decide for themselves which of the proposals they approve and which they disapprove. It is also essential that. we should pass the Motion by an overwhelming majority because of the great necessity of carrying not only our own people in this country but the greater proportion of thinking Indians with us in regard to this matter. We must show them by our vote on this Motion and by our vote on the Bill which will eventually come before the House, that we are determined to go forward and carry out the pledges, whether they be moral or legal pledges, which have so often been given by the representatives of succeeding Governments in this country.
807 We have had to-day opposition in the main from an hon. Member who has had special experience as a civil servant in India, and the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe. As a younger man following the hon. Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock), of whose constituents I am one, I cannot but feel that he does not represent the views of his constituents. It is a little difficult to follow him in many of his observations. As I understood him, he is of opinion that this Government and preceding Governments have suffered from neurasthenia. It seems to me that the hon. Member himself has an attack of neurasthenia or the nerves on this particular matter. If he will forgive my saying so, I think that he has allowed it to prey a little too much on his mind. I do not think that his objections are relevant to the proposals in the White Paper. He seems to disregard the lessons of history and to disregard also the developments in our own country and our own Dominions who, in a short space of time have passed from complete dependence to complete autonomy. He seems to disregard the wave of nationalism which has come over the countries of the East, and he seems also to disregard the matter which was gone into in some detail by the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) as to the deferred grant of Home Rule for Ireland, which was given as a result of force rather than as a voluntary right willingly granted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. He also seems to disregard the pledges to which I have referred, which our honour not less than our own self-interest demand that we should keep.
Much has been said about alternatives, but no alternative has been volunteered to the House by the hon. Member for the English Universities or the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe, or by any other hon. Member who has spoken. Those who oppose the proposals in the White Paper on the ground that they go too far appear to me to wish grudgingly and parsimoniously to grant some small measure of power to India. They seem to desire that the Indians, who number one-fifth of the whole population of the globe, should be kept in an undetermined period of tutelage and a period of ever present and little less than continuous insult to the honour and 808 self-respect of all thinking people in India. I cannot accept the views expressed by these two hon. Members as representing a large body of opinion in this country, or indeed a large body of opinion among civil servants and officials in India.
A year ago, when some of us were in India, these matters were largely discussed, and my impression as to the feelings of the great majority of civil servants was that while naturally, seeing the possibilities ahead, they demurred a little at proceeding with responsible government, they recognised the justice of the claim which Indians made and also the propriety of the action taken by this House in advancing the cause of responsible government. On many occasions they said to me that the matter having gone so far the only course, and the right course, was to proceed with such speed as was possible and with such reasonable safeguards as were thought proper, and that they would willingly fall in and help on the work. I found no such strong opposition as has been suggested from officials or civil servants of any class. One very high civil servant said to me at the commencement of the travels of the Franchise Committee, "I am an optimist; you go ahead, and push the other members of the Committee as far as you can." To the best of my ability I followed that advice, and I am sorry that the Government in some respects have departed from the recommendations of that Committee.
My hon. Friend has read the declaration of His Majesty's Opposition in regard to the policy which they think should be pursued. That policy goes much further than the proposals in the White Paper, but there are others in India, and some in this country, who are not even satisfied with the proposals of the Labour party. I refuse to allow myself to be blinded to the facts of the present situation. I am not going to refuse half a loaf because I cannot at once have the whole loaf. It was Burke, I think, who said that all Government depends on compromise. While I do not agree with everything that Burke said, there is a considerable amount of truth in that statement. The proposals in the White Paper contain many disappointments, many omissions. They lack imagination and faith, and they lack 809 generosity, in my judgment, in many respects, but they do make a definite advance towards the full pledge of responsible government. We on this side of the House shall fight by every constitutional means in our power for those changes and amendments to the present proposals which we believe are just and right, but when, in fact, decisions have been taken I hope we shall assist in working the constitution which is set up until other changes take place. If that is done by all concerned then, if I know the people of this country, they will not be slow to respond and that earlier rather than later, at no distant date, all things will be added unto India.
I was much impressed on reading the of her day some words of Benjamin Franklin's at the time of the signing of the newly-framed American Constitution. I hope the House will forgive me if I read them:I confess that there are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them. For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information or fuller consideration to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, hut found to be otherwise. It is, therefore, that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others …I doubt…whether any Convention we can obtain may be able to make a better Constitution.…Can a perfected production be expected? I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded, like those of the builders of Babel. …The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad. Within these walls they were born and here they shall die. If every one of us, returning unto our constituents, were to report the objections he had to it, and endeavour to gain partisans in support of them, we might prevent its being generally received, and thereby lose all the salutary effects and great advantages resulting naturally in our favour amongst foreign nations as well as amongst ourselves from our real or apparent unanimity. …I hope, therefore, that for our own sakes, as a part of the people, and for the sake of posterity, we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution…wherever our influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts and endeavours to the means of having it well administered.To the Government I should like to make an appeal. They know that 810 "righteousness exalteth a nation." It must be apparent to all quarters of the House that the first essential to both the consideration and the eventual success of these proposals is the willing co-operation of the whole of the people of India. To obtain that is the essential preliminary. I care not whether it is called a gesture or what it is called, but I urge the Government to take some step towards releasing Mr. Gandhi and such political prisoners as are not guilty of violence with a view to obtaining their co-operation in the work of the Joint Select Committee. Whatever our views may be, human nature itself is such that if any of us who hold views of our own were prevented from taking part in, considering or coming to decisions upon those views, human nature would cause us to oppose the decisions arrived at by others. For that very reason it would be wise in our own interests to perform some act—I care not how that act be done, by mediation, negotiation or in any other way—to put an end to the present state of affairs.
I also hope that the Government of the day will realise its responsibility with regard to the Joint Select Committee and will see that Indian labour is represented amongst those invited from India to consult with the committee. Our great concern on these benches is not only with the nature and extent of the transfer of power, but with the persons or classes to whom that power is going to be transferred. It is of no advantage merely to substitute an Indian autocracy for the present British autocracy. Power must be transferred to the representatives of the masses of India, and for that reason I urge the Government to invite to the committee Indian Labour representatives, who have hitherto sat in the Round Table Conference—in small numbers, it is true. There are many other reasons why Indian Labour should have representatives. Every subject concerning India that comes before this House—finance, taxation. or social services—vitally concerns the masses of India.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lime-house (Mr. Attlee) dealt with the objections which we have to the White Paper, and it is not necessary to repeat them in detail. But some stress must be laid on the necessity for giving some indication of further progress in the direction of real self-government. I am sure that 811 Indian opinion will not be satisfied unless, at no distant date, some definite indication is given, such as has always been anticipated, that the way is clear for such progress, an indication not merely of the probability or the possibility, but of the certainty of Dominion status or full self-government in some other form. I believe that that would be most valuable in obtaining the co-operation of Indian representatives.
With regard to the safeguards, at first glance I must confess they seem to be the very negation of self-government, and I think there are too many, but one who has been in India must recognise the many competing forces there which have to be considered. One must also recognise that the value, strength and effect of these safeguards entirely depend on the extent to which and the way in which they are operated. If they are operated in the interests of India, then there may be no great harm done in the last resort and I hope that they will be so operated. I regret to see that the franchise proposals, particularly in regard to women, have been so much reduced as compared with the recommendations of the Franchise Committee. I would have preferred had they been largely extended and I put in a Minority Report containing a recommendation to that effect. I hope the Joint Select Committee will have regard to that matter. I notice that for some reason the Government state that the question of the franchise in regard to labour is as yet undecided and it is, presumably, under consideration. Perhaps before the Debate ends we may know whether there is any serious conflict of opinion on that subject.
These are, I must admit, largely Committee points. We of this party hope that the Motion with our Amendment will be approved, and that the deliberations of this Joint Committee will result in the transfer of real power to the Indian people. If we in this House are sincere in wishing India to be a partner with us, in the fullest sense of the term, in the British Commonwealth of Nations, with the right to work out her own destiny, then we ought to take our courage in both hands. We ought to scorn selfish and material ends and make the new Constitution a living proof of our desire, not to continue to dominate 812 India, but to liberate her and to make India, not merely the brightest star in the British Crown, but the crowning monument to our boasted love of freedom not only for ourselves but for all peoples.
§ 10.40 p.m.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I, unlike some hon. Members who have taken part in this Debate, cannot claim any intimate knowledge of the great sub-continent which we are debating. I am in the position of a great many other hon. Members of this House who have the terrible responsibility forced upon them of having ultimately to give a vote on this question, and we cannot escape that responsibility. The issues are so great that we cannot leave the responsibility to others. This is a matter which has to be decided by the laity of the House of Commons, the non-experts. If it had been left to the experts entirely, I venture to say there never would have been a White Paper, but upon the rank and file of the House of Commons is cast the terrible responsibility of giving a decision in regard to the fate of 350,000,000 of our fellow subjects in India.
In studying the White Paper which the Government have prepared, I should like to pay a tribute to the enormous amount of work that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has put into this business and to his most able able speech this afternoon. It seems to me that the White Paper contains every possible safeguard that he can put upon paper, but when I had read the White Paper and tried to visualise in my mind how these safeguards would work, I could not possibly see that they could work without landing this country and India into the most terrible difficulty and disaster. What I want my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Government to explain to us is how Parliamentary government can possibly work with safeguards such as he has put into this White Paper, and I want him to tell us where Parliamentary government has worked under such conditions. I agree with a great deal that fell from the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) in that respect, and I believe that the Government, in setting forth these proposals, are attempting something which is essentially imcompatible and must essentially fail and land us in greater difficulties than those from which we are trying to escape.
813 When I read the White Paper I could not help being reminded of a very interesting book that I read last year, and that I expect a great many other Members of this House read, and that was the "Life of Charles II." You had there a constitutional position in many respects analogous and similar to what the Government are now proposing. The evolution of the English Constitution in the reign of Charles II was something very like what the Government are now proposing in the White Paper for India; that is to say, that you had Parliamentary government admitted as a fundamental principle of the Constitution. But it was also part of the Constitution that the King had a policy of his own. King Charles had a foreign policy. He had a religious policy. He tried to protect minorities—the Roman Catholics—and in doing all these things he was acting entirely within the British Constitution as it then stood. Nobody accused him of illegality, but the experiment broke down although it was tried under the most favourable circumstances. We had, in the first place, a King who was a man of exceptional ability and enormous personal popularity, a man who, if ever there was one, was qualified to play the part of a patriot King.
The experiment, however, was a hopeless failure, and as soon as the Throne was occupied by a less able man there was a revolution. It appears to me that that was so for fundamental reasons, for where you have a, Parliamentary Government, the whole working of the machine depends upon the fact that there is an Opposition able to take office the moment the Government loses its popularity. Every Government in time loses its popularity. Every Government, in the end, in the Parliamentary system, is defeated and has to be replaced. The swing of the pendulum is the great safety valve of our Constitution, but once we identify the Sovereign with the Government of the day, the swing of the pendulum necessarily knocks the Sovereign off his Throne because it brings him into unpopularity and forces the whole issue to a revolution. That was what happened to the Stuarts, to King Alfonso of Spain, to the Kaiser, and in every case where they tried a form of Parliamentary Government in which the Sovereign was personally identified with the responsibility for policy.
814 Yet that is the type of Constitution you are now trying to impose upon India. You are giving the Governor, responsibilities and rights and privileges which will inevitably bring him into conflict with his Parliament. You are also giving the Governor something which the Stuart Kings never enjoyed, which even the other foreign Kings to whom I have alluded never enjoyed. You are giving to the Viceroy an army from England and the right within the Constitution of raising taxes and enacting laws. But what a vista that opens up. Directly the Viceroy employs any one of those safeguards it will antagonise Indian political opinion a thousand times more than it has been antagonised yet. You are going to give them the form of power and responsibility; you are telling them you are giving them responsible self-government and leading them on to Dominion status, but the moment there is a serious conflict with the Viceroy with regard to one of the reserved subjects or one of his special responsibilities, they will find that responsibility is filched away from them.
Just conceive what state of affairs will then exist. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the spirit of partnership, but the spirit of partnership will he shattered into a thousand fragments. You will arouse bitterness through disappointment and disillusion. We should be accused of having played false and having broken our pledges, and roused false hopes. We shall not find a friend to defend us in India, and we shall arouse the antagonism of constitutional Liberals who are without political experience to be able to follow the Viceroy's action, and they will feel that their whole constitutional dignity has been outraged. The Secretary of State to-day drew a, contrast between what he is now proposing for India and what was enacted for Ireland in 1921. He said he had every safeguard in his Constitution, and that in Ireland there were no safeguards; but I should like to ask him how would his safeguards have worked in Ireland if the Viceroy of Ireland, Lord Fitzalan, or whoever he was at the time, had tried to employ the safeguards which my right hon. Friend has put into this Constitution? What would have been the result? You would have had an impasse at once, with the British Army being used, and how much 815 further would you have got with a settlement in the Irish question? Try to translate the situation which would then have arisen into the vastly greater and more complicated field of India, and you will see where you are leading the people of this country. We shall be put in the position of the man in Stevenson's story who had unloosed a bottled imp—a spirit of democratic responsibility—and then will find that it has got entirely beyond control.
You cannot combine safeguards with Parliamentary Government. Parliamentary Government means one thing and government by the Viceroy means another. That was very clearly pointed out by the Simon Commission itself. The Commission condemned dyarchy in the most outspoken terms, but you are instituting dyarchy at the centre in this Constitution. All the evils of dyarchy which the Simon Commission pointed out will inevitably arise under this Constitution. The first and most obvious bone of contention is the division of opinion as to how much money should be spent on the Army and defence. Directly the Viceroy insists on proper provision being made for the Indian Army, you will have exactly the forces put into motion and processes put into operation which the Simon Commission have so eloquently portrayed as obtaining in the provinces.
We have seen what Lord Zetland thinks about the difficulties of the Viceroy. I will not repeat them, but merely remark that an opinion like that, coming from such an authority, is not one that ought to be lightly weighed by Members of this House. There are a great many of my hon. Friends who seem to think that the whole nature of the problem has been entirely changed and revolutionised by the idea that the Indian Princes will come in and give you a working majority in your central Assembly. Upon my word, the idea that the British Raj should hide behind the petticoats of Indian Princes is to my mind the most humiliating argument we have ever heard. If we have not got, I was going to say the "guts," but possibly that is not Parliamentary—if we have not got the stamina to stand up against agitation in India, what right have we to get the Indian Princes to act as a buffer for us? I believe that any plan, let alone any Constitution, built 816 on the notion that we can get those Indian gentlemen to shoulder responsibilities and to face unpopularities which we are afraid to face will be a Constitution built on more than shifting sand. I would remind my right hon. Friend of the words of the Earl of Strafford on the scaffold: "Put not your trust in princes."
It is for these reasons that these proposals seem to me to be the most appalling gamble with the future of 350,000,000 of our fellow creatures, and, unless I am converted in the course of the next few months, I could not possibly make myself responsible for any such proposals in their present form. The gravity of the issue is so great that it far transcends any question of party loyalty, and imposes an obligation upon every one of us to come to what we think is the right and the safe decision, and to act accordingly. My hon. Friends may ask, I think anyone is entitled to ask, "What is your alternative in the circumstances?" I do not wish for one moment to ignore all that has gone before. I do not wish to ignore the path down which we have been led, however much I may resent the way in which, I believe Conservative principles have been betrayed. We cannot ignore what has gone before, but it has been emphasised again and again this evening that the House of Commons, as far as the White Paper is concerned, and as far as the new Bill is concerned, is uncommitted, and therefore we are free to take a decision without breaking any pledge provided that decision is a step in the process of the education of India in constitution reform.
It does seem to me that the wise and the proper thing to do is to take the advice of the Simon Commission fully. I would carry out every one of their recommendations with regard to law and order, and all the rest of it, but I would make the experiment in one or two provinces first. After all every one of those provinces is bigger than England. [An HON. MEMBER: "Bengal."] An hon. Member says Bengal. All right, Bengal. If the thing is not going to work in Bengal, what right have you to apply it to the whole of India? I would not be in the least afraid of trying the experiment in Bengal. I would much rather it was tried first in Bengal than 817 in the whole of India. I would try it on one or two provinces, I would give them the fullest powers, let them have the fullest responsibility, and then, at the end of 10 years or any other such period, I would appoint another commission and have another inquiry to see how that reform had worked.
It seems to me that the issues are so very grave that in a matter like this we ought not to allow ourselves to be hurried. What are 10 years in the life of a nation? The right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) spoke about any- thing less than the White Paper not meeting the views of Indian political opinion, but that is not our conception of our trust. Our trust is to propose for India what we believe will work. We have got no right to vote for something merely because it will gain the consent of 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 inexperienced politically-minded Indians. What we have got to vote for is something which we believe will work and will bring improvement in or maintain the present state of prosperity of the peasants of India. We have got to avoid bringing political disaster on that country, and that is a consideration which comes long before any question of satisfying Indian opinion.
§ It being Eleven of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.