Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [27th March].
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."—[Sir S. Hoare.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ 3.18 p.m.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Butler)
Many a time I have sat in the jungle in Central India watching a bait, in the form of a bullock or calf tied to a tree, awaiting the arrival of the lord of the forest, and put there as a trap to entice him to his doom. On this occasion, I have exactly the same feelings as those of the miserable animal whom I have so often looked upon in that position, and, if I compare myself to that bait, I may compare my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) to the tiger. I hope that hon. Members and the right hon. Gentleman himself will remember, however, that there is waiting for the tiger a pair of lynx eyes and a sure and safe rifle to ensure his ultimate fate. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred to the difficulty which he had in keeping two points of view in consideration, and I have exactly the same difficulty on this occasion when I reflect that the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones), who is to speak on behalf of the official Opposition, is also prowling in the neighbourhood. In fact, I am in between those two noble mammals. If I restrict myself solely to facts and not to fancies in the few remarks that I have to make, it will be because, in the very near future, we shall have so much fancy coming from the bench on my right.
The Government on this important occasion have adopted a procedure which is very often adopted with the best pieces of British mechanism. I believe it is a fact that when any Rolls-Royce car is made, it is the habit to run over 1012 the machinery in the shop and then to run it on the road before it is handed over. When we are dealing with one of the most complicated pieces of constitutional machinery that this country has invented, we propose to adopt exactly the same procedure as is adopted with the best types of British mechanism, and we propose to send these proposals to a Joint Select Committee of both Houses of Parliament, in order that they may be severely and closely examined, so that when we hand over this conveyance to the peoples of India it may carry the millions confided to its care in the same way as that piece of British mechanism to which I have referred.
The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), speaking on behalf of His Majesty's Opposition, asked us whether our policy involved the consideration of any substantial changes in the Committee or whether it would consist only of adjustment of details. I think the best course that I can take in reply to that question is to refer the hon. Gentleman to the Motion which I am supporting this afternoon. He will see that the terms are, as have already been read by you, Sir, from the Chair:That a Joint Select Committee…be appointed to consider the future government of India and, in particular, to examine and report upon the proposals in the said Command Paper.I think that no words of mine can improve upon the wording of that Motion. We have heard from both benches the further criticism that these proposals have no clause in them which implies that the safeguards, for example, are only for a transitional period. I would answer that Parliament on this occasion has as large and important a responsibility as it has ever had upon any question. We have, in fact, a serious enough decision to take already, and it is true that it is our intention that any Amendment of this Act of Parliament should be by a further Act of Parliament, except in so far as any Amendment to the Constitution could be effected by an Amendment to the Instruments of Instructions. These Instruments, if amended, I would remind hon. Members, must be submitted to both Houses of Parliament. The fact, therefore, is that Parliament, which has proposed the scheme, must take the responsibility and will have the responsibility for any alteration in the scheme, which I think is a fair constitutional procedure. 1013 Further, when we consider the stability that it is necessary to give for the many diverse elements in India, I think we shall agree that this is the wiser and the better course.
My hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan) raised a question about the future recruitment of the Services. The decision, as announced in the White Paper, that this matter will be open for consideration after five years in no way prejudges the issue of the future recruitment of the Services, and in this matter, as in the matter to which I have just referred, the ultimate authority will be in the hands of those of us in Parliament who have fashioned this scheme. A further criticism that has been put forward by hon. Members opposite is that we should have seen that the assent of Indians was required for this scheme. We have throughout taken every opportunity of consulting India. We have conducted our procedure in order that in this immense problem we shall have all the advantage of the advice of Indian statesmen on these questions, and I can only say that so carefully have we considered the point of view of India that we have even come up against criticism from the other side on this very point. I would remind hon. Members that it is our intention, as the words of this Motion imply, to empower the Joint Select Committee to call into consultation representative Indians; and I would reply to the hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Hales), who asked us to take every opportunity of consulting Indian opinion, that we realise the value of his services in this connection, and that we have not lost that point from our minds.
These are mostly questions of procedure, and I would like now to consider various points which have arisen in the Debate as being points in the proposals and as to whether the proposals are worthy to send to a Joint Select Committee. My hon. Friends on the Opposition Benches have objected to the severity of the financial and economic pre-requisites to federation which are included in the pages of the White Paper. I would only remind them that these find a place in the Financial Safeguards Committee's report to the Round Table Conference, and I would wish to say, with all responsibility, that we cannot contemplate setting up new Governments in our scheme unless they are endowed with 1014 adequate resources to ensure solvency. It is a primary consideration which, I feel sure, has been realised by bon. Members opposite.
On the question of the financial safeguards themselves, as apart from the financial and economic pre-requisites to federation, I would remind hon. Members opposite that on the 12th March, 1931, the Secretary of State in the Labour Government announced thatthe safeguards referred to by the Federal Structure Committee, including the powers of the Governor-General in relation to currency legislation, are essential and cannot be abated if we are to set up a new Constitution with success."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th March, 1931; col. 1432, Vol. 249.]Further, there must be many investors, British and Indian, who on the inception of great constitutional changes demand that the stake they have in the stability of India should be safeguarded. It is not necessary for me to discuss in detail the exact nature and extent of those safeguards, but it is sufficient for me to state that their objective is the maintenance of the credit and stability of the Federation and that the provisions enumerated in the White Paper are designed to provide re-assurance, if that should be needed, that the future Indian Ministry shall be able to maintain a high credit in the financial markets of the world. It is our confident hope that the future Indian Ministry will jealously protect the credit of the Federation, and we are sure that, like other Governments, the new Indian Government will recognise its vital interest in so doing.
Besides these criticisms of financial matters, we have heard considerable criticisms of our proposals for representation in the Legislatures, and I refer in particular to the question of the franchise. I remember that before I went to India on the Franchise Committee I was profoundly affected by a speech by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), in which he advised us to build up the future representation of India on the old system of the Panchayats, and I went to India inspired by his remarks. Unfortunately, on our arrival in India we discovered that these village organisations, indigenous as they are to India and to her history, have lapsed at the present time. But as the hon. Member for North 1015 Hammersmith (Miss Pickford) remarked, there are at present only 12,000 Panchayats out of 458,000 villages in India, and these Panchayats are at present very largely kept in being with the help of British administrators. We inquired very closely into the possibility of using these Panchayats or village boards as the basis of a system of indirect election, and it was only after mature consideration that we were finally convinced that the system of election in the very few Panchayats that exist among the myriads of India's villages did not form a suitable basis of election or of a system of indirect election. This question of the relative merits of indirect and direct election is one which will surely form one of the most valuable points for the consideration of the Joint Select Committee. I will say no more on this point, except that those of us who went there were convinced that direct election was the better system.
We have further been criticised because it is said that, without paying due regard to those many millions of agriculturists who form the majority of India's population, we are willing to hand over to a small urban majority and to a number of lawyer politicians in particular the whole Government of India. When you reflect on the basic nature of the franchise which we have suggested you will see that that lack of balance which existed in the Franchise Report of the Southborough Committee between urban and rural interests has been readjusted in our recommendations and accepted in this White Paper. It may confidently be said that the franchise is based, as it should be, on an equal distribution between the ryots and the small cultivators, who under our proposals will form the backbone; and the urban interests which previously predominated in the franchise. It has been a proud boast of our Imperial policy that we have never neglected to build up our Imperial structure upon a happy and contented peasantry. I have often been told that the finest moment in our Imperial history was when Cromer built up the constitution which he did in Egypt on the basis of a contented fellaheen. In this case, we have tried to see that the representation in the Legislatures shall be based upon prosperous and contented cultivators.
1016 We have been very much criticised over the women's franchise. That is a point with which I should like to deal at some length. I think that those who have criticised us so much in this House for not further increasing the women's franchise are not necessarily doing the women of India a good turn by the criticisms that they make. If you consider the fact, you will find that the opportunities for women have been enormously increased by our proposals. We propose that there shall be nine seats for women in the Central Assembly. It is the first time that women have had representation in the Central Assembly of India. It has been said that the proportion of men and women voters has not been improved, but I would remind the House that the numbers of the women electorate have been increased from 55,000 to 365,000 at the centre.
The White Paper says that there will be no increase in the women voters for the Federal Assembly.
§ Mr. BUTLER
I am glad to have given the Noble Lady an opportunity of making a point on which I know she feels keenly, but the position is, as the White Paper states, that the proportion of men to women voters is not increased. I have said, however, that the actual number of voters has been increased by seven times. Further, in reply to the apprehensions of the Noble Lady, I would say that in the White Paper we have purposely put a phrase which shows that we realise the importance of this point and hope that it will be further considered by the Joint Select Committee. In the Provinces for the first time there are to be 41 seats reserved for woman and the actual extent of the franchise has been increased to just over 6,000,000 for women alone. I think, therefore, that it is a slight exaggeration to say that opportunities are not being given to the women under our new franchise. If I may borrow an offensively male term in this connection, I would ask the women of India to set about "manning" the seats in the Provincial Legislatures and in the Centre. If they will do that they will find that they are having increased facilities in the government of India.
The hon. Member for North Hammersmith referred to the dropping of the literacy qualification. In this we have followed the idiosyncrasies of each indi- 1017 vidual province, and where the administrative machine of a province could manage the literacy qualification, as in Madras, we have approved it. We have based our proposals upon that test. A further point arises here. There has been criticism that the women's vote, especially in regard to wives, should be made on application. There has been opportunities for discussing this point with the authorities in India and the Government at home has had the chance of considering it in detail. Our experience has gone to show that it would put too great a burden on the administrative machine, and would make it too responsible a, task to ask the administrative machine in India to put all the wives on the roll, in fact, we have found that social questions of very great severity would arise and that many of the men voters would find it extremely unpleasant, and in fact repugnant, if we asked for the names of their wives at all. In particular, I would remind the House that the choice of the wife is always a very difficult problem. The system of application is an easier way out of the difficulty. I would reassure the Noble Lady on this point, for the White Paper again shows that we appreciate the importance of this point for the women of India. We have inserted a provision which says that if necessary after the first two elections provincial Legislatures shall be allowed to alter this point and to insert women on the roll in the first instance. I hope that that will be some satisfaction to the hon. Member. Like her, I believe that the social position of women in India is one of the most important points that the Indian Constitution has to take into consideration.
Hon. Members opposite asked about the representation of labour. I would reply that labour is to have 10 seats reserved for it in the Central Legislature and seats reserved for it in the Provincial Councils on a basis which is in advance of anything that was given to labour before. In answer to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner), I would only say that my memories of working with him in the interests of a proper representation of labour in India have been fulfilled in the terms of the White Paper. I would like to thank him for the terms of his speech and to say that I hope it will be to his satisfaction that labour in India will start on the right lines. 1018 The hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox) raised a point about Europeans, and referred to a dinner in Calcutta a few months ago at which a speech was made by Mr. Carey Morgan. I am able to say that my right hon. Friend has received a letter in the last day or two from one who is entitled to speak on behalf of the European commercial community in India. This letter says that cables have been received since the publication of the White Paper from the Associated Chambers of Commerce, the European Association and the Royalists giving full general support to the proposals outlined in the White Paper subject to amendment of details and to the conditions prevailing at the inauguration of the new constitution. I would also refer to a speech made by Sir Edward Benthall in the Assembly, in which it was said that if India was going to have a federation with responsibility the sooner it was brought about the better. I think that answers the points about Europeans raised by my hon. and gallant Friend.
The hon. Member for Finchley raised one of the most important points in our Debate. He said, with all his knowledge of India, and in language which he alone can command, that it is vital to the future of India that the administration shall not run the risk of breaking down, and he put in the forefront of his remarks the question of irrigation. Irrigation, under the proposals of the Simon Report, and under our proposals in this White Paper, was and is to be a transferred subject. I would like first to answer his point by reference to the manner in which transferred departments have been conducted by Indian Ministers since the inauguration of the reforms 14 years ago. The largest hydro-electric scheme in India at Mandi in the Punjab has been administered by the transferred departments of the Government of that province. The installation at, first has a capacity of 64,220 horse power, and when the third and last stage is completed it will give 161,000 horse power. When it is finished it will be, I think, the largest hydro-electric scheme in the world. The urban population for which it provides numbers one and one-fifth millions, and the water has to be brought in a tunnel nearly three miles long from the mountains to serve the populous districts of the Punjab with 1019 power. I have taken that scheme because I believe it to be an instance of the success with which Indian Ministers have carried out a magnificent and comprehensive undertaking for the people of India. They themselves would be the first to acknowledge that they have done this with the aid of European advice, and I can only hope that this scheme, being as it is an example of many schemes of development in other Provinces all over India in which there has been collaboration between our two races, will be a happy augury for the future administration of the departments reserved at present.
The hon. Member referred in particular to irrigation. We have had a particular problem in connection with, perhaps, the largest scheme of irrigation in India, the Sukkar barrage, owing to the special position of Sind and its financial obligations. Although this scheme will be administered by an Indian Minister we have thought it right that a special responsibility in regard to its administration should be given to the future Governor of Sind. Although we hope the scheme will be administered in exactly the same way as other departments, owing to the special financial conditions in that Province we have made that special provision.
The hon. Member for Finchley also referred to the importance of having a strong central government, and to apprehensions which are undoubtedly in the minds of hon. Members about the need for trying an experiment in the Provinces first. From my contact with Members I find that to be a matter on which they feel very strongly. As we have touched upon the matter of the transferred departments I think it would be wise to pose another dilemma in addition to the dilemma that some Members feel about the difficulty of reconciling responsibility with safeguards. The dilemma is this—if you accept, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said in his opening remarks, that the future of India should be built up on the principle of provincial autonomy, or decentralisation, it is surely impossible at the same time to institute a government at the centre which will be interfering with the administration of transferred departments in the Provinces. It 1020 is a dilemma just as important as the previous one. But I sympathise with those hon. Members who feel that in a period of emergency it is important to have a strong hand ready to intervene. Our scheme avoids the dilemma of perpetual interference by the central government in the affairs of an autonomous Province, but it emphatically provides, by the proposals in the White Paper, for the ultimate control of Parliament in any question of emergency arising under the special responsibilities. I therefore maintain that we have faced that dilemma, with success. Take the question of discrimination and the minorities and the difficulty there might be in a central government intervening in the affairs of a minority, whatever its complexion, religious or otherwise. If hon. Members consider our proposals they will find that if the special responsibility of the Governor is invoked, the chain of responsibility will go through the Governor-General in his personal capacity and come ultimately back to the Imperial Parliament, which has been the author of this scheme.
It has astounded me that people should have regarded this question of the setting up of Western institutions in India so entirely through Western eyes. A system of government has grown up during the last 14 years in India which is worthy of study. There are certain Oriental features already developing in the government of India as it has been conducted in the Provinces. For instance, we have put in this White Paper a provision that the Governor can at his discretion preside at the meetings of his Council of Ministers, and there is provision that a member of minority communities may be included in the Cabinet. When hon. Members reflect upon these provisions, which are not similar to our conception of western responsible government, and consider also the future government at the centre in India, which will consist of representatives of the Princes and representatives of British India working together, they will realise that new philosophies will grow up in those conditions, and that in our proposals we are actually combining the best of the East and of the West. The hon. Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) seemed horrified that the executive should associate itself with patty politics. We maintain that in our proposal it may 1021 be a happy feature of the future of government in the Provinces that the Governor should be in close association with his colleagues in the Ministry, and we wish to encourage it. It is difficult to deal in generalisations when thinking about India, and I think if hon. Members study the details they will find that this Constitution has in it the germs of what will best suit East and West.
In conclusion, I would like to say a word about the States. As regards the Princes, my information is that the general body, including a number of important Princes who were not associated with the recent proceedings in the Chamber, stand by their previous declarations in favour of federation. At the meeting of the Chamber of Princes last week at Delhi, a resolution was passed in favour of the continuance of the discussions with accredited representatives of the Princes for securing the stability and smooth working of the proposed Constitution. The best answer to any criticisms that have been made in this Debate as to the administration of the States themselves, is the example of their form of government.
This plan is not born of expediency or fashioned in haste, or the result of any political compromise. As we have worked upon it, we have come to know and to believe in our hearts that it is the best. It combines in a practical manner the two ideals of British Imperial policy described by Lord Lloyd, responsibility for the welfare of the people, and evolution towards self-government and ultimate political independence. As one of a generation who may have to help to work this plan, I would only say that India has provided this country with some of the most coloured pages in our history. It is not our wish to indulge in perorations or that the future Constitution of India should be bedecked with a profusion of political oratory or enter thus into the arena of party politics. There is a generation of young men in India—Assistant-Commissioners in the Indian Civil Service, District Commissioners of police, young partners in business and officers in the Army, among whom, I may say in passing, I have many friends and some relations—and I cannot believe, as the hot weather is coming on, that they will wish me to indulge in perorations or in any form of political 1022 sob stuff. I believe that what they will want is that we shall go into this plan in a thoroughly businesslike way. That is the suggestion of the Government. We propose that this matter shall be considered in exactly the same manner as the piece of English mechanism that I have already described, and we are confident that young England will work with young India in bringing this plan to some successful conclusion. I think the best way that I can conclude my remarks is by taking a quotation from that master of the English Constitution and of constitutional machinery, Stubbs, in which he says:We trace the gradual wear of the various parts of the machinery until all roughnesses are smoothed away and all that is superfluous entangling and confusing is got rid of, the balance of forces is adjusted and the power of adaptation to changing circumstances is fully realised.That, as he says,is the story of later politics, of a process that is still going on and must go on as the age advances and men are educated into wider views of government, national unity and political responsibility.
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I beg to move, in line 5, to leave out from the word "particular," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:to devise a scheme which, by giving effect to the repeated pledges given by His Majesty's Government to raise India to the status of an equal partner in the British Commonwealth of Nations, will command the assent of the people of India, and to this end this House is of opinion that, in order that the representatives to be consulted should include representatives of all sections of Indian political opinion, persons now under arrest in India for political offences involving no moral turpitude should be released.I feel sure that the whole House will join with me in offering to the hon. Gentleman who has just resumed his seat our most hearty congratulations on a speech which—if he will allow me to say so—was most felicitously phrased, and was delivered in so agreeable a maner as to commend itself to every Member of the House. He charmed us by the way in which he developed his argument. In drawing the attention of the House to this Amendment, after two days of general discussion on the Motion, I would like to recall to the memory of hon. Members the concluding sentence of the 1023 speech which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) on Monday afternoon. He used these words: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th March, 1933; col. 732, Vol. 276.]In addition to that, the House will recall that the hon. Member for Limehouse had read out in the earlier stage of his speech a carefully-prepared declaration on behalf of the party to which we belong. I should like to remind the House of the exact purpose with which this Amendment is presented and the object also of making the declaration which was made on Monday. We are extremely anxious that the frame of mind in which this party approaches this problem shall be clearly apprehended by all Members in all parts of the House.
We do not desire that at some future date when, presumably, the record of the work of the Joint Select Committee is available to the public and the conclusions of that committee are on record, that this party shall be told: "You joined the committee; you must therefore bear responsibility for this, that or the other conclusions of that committee." I wish to make it abundantly clear to this House now, before we enter that Joint Committee, that we enter it with the declaration which we made on Monday, and with the Amendment which I moved to-day, clearly in our minds. It follows from that that I may make this further point: That this party, in accepting entry into that Joint Committee, enter it entirely unpledged and entirely uncommitted, so far as the Government is concerned. There is no obligation upon us, implicit in our joining in this Joint Committee. Our hands therefore must be regarded as being entirely free—with one limitation only. That limitation, as I conceive it, will be this: That the representative or representatives of this party upon that Joint Select Committee will participate in its work with every possible desire to assist the work of the committee, but keeping clearly in mind— 1024 my Amendment draws the attention of the House to this point—not only the repeated declarations of this party concerning India's right to self-government but also, I would remind the Secretary of State for India, the repeated declarations of successive Governments on that matter as well.
Those who represent us on the committee will, I trust, hold up to the Government and those who will sit upon the committee these officials declarations on behalf of successive Governments, as well as our declarations, so that, in the ultimate result, as close an approximation as possible may be achieved to the ideal which we have held before our eyes for very many years. Having indicated, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lime-house did on Monday last, our readiness to participate in the work of the Joint Committee, I think it will be conceded to us as a right that it is our duty to call the attention of the House to what we would regard as desirable conditions for making the work of the Joint Select Committee as effective as possible. It is a truism, surely, that our main concern in this discussion this afternoon, as it will be of the Joint Select Committee when it meets, is the well-being of India and of Indians. Indeed, that point is conceded by implication in the fact that we have been informed that representatives of Indian opinion will be invited to London in order to participate in some way or other in the deliberations of the Joint Select Committee. But I would remind the House of words which the Secretary of State for India used on Monday last. I quote them in order to bring them to bear upon the point I am about to submit:No scheme that does not honestly face all those problems"—That is, the problems of British India and of the Indian States,and make a serious attempt to reconcile those interests—quite often conflicting interests—is worth the paper on which it is written."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th March. 1933; col. 703, Vol. 276]I submit to the House, quite seriously and quite honestly, and not in order to make a debating point at all, that it really is no good suggesting that you have a favourable atmosphere in India for the discussion of these proposals until all people who represent all shades of opinion 1025 in India are free to discuss them among themselves. I dwell for a moment upon this point because it is rather vital. As everybody knows, there are thousands of people at this moment in gaols in India. It is also well within the knowledge of the House that large numbers of these people—probably the majority—belong to the most influential body of organised opinion in India. Whether it is opinion which is commended by this House or is not commended, it is the largest body of organised opinion in India, and its leaders, the people who are largely responsible for moulding the opinion of that organised body, are at this moment in prison.
We are told, and have been told by the right hon. Gentleman frequently, that the attitude of the Government is that before there can be any consideration of release for these people, there must be a declaration that the policy of Non-Co-operation has been abandoned. How does the right hon. Gentleman propose to put that to the test? Does he honestly expect those people individually to tell him, "We have abandoned Non-Co-operation"? Next Friday, I believe, there is to be a conference of the Congress party in Calcutta. That Congress assembly has been banned by the authorities in India. I submit to the right hon. Gentleman as a fair proposition that if he wants these people to make a declaration that they have abandoned Civil Disobedience or Non-Co-operation, the only way he can expect it is to allow them to have an opportunity to discuss the matter in general conference, and he is really asking too much when he invites them individually and severally to abandon the Civil Disobedience Movement, without giving them an opportunity to consult with their colleagues in the movement. I want to show how really big a bearing this has upon the measure even of consideration which these proposals will have in India. Sir Tej Sapru, speaking at the last meeting of the Round Table Conference, about Christmas last, used these words:We feel that it is not merely our duty, but it is also your duty to mobilise public opinion in favour of that Constitution in my country. And I do suggest that unless we are able to convince the political classes which have been taking deep interest in these matters—classes who have been a source of trouble to you and of trouble some of us—unless we are able to convince 1026 them, the chances of the Constitution making a wide appeal to the country are of a very limited character. May I say in all sincerity that there are some matters on which I very radically differ, and have differed, from the Congress in my country.And will the House mark this sentence?But with all my difference from the Congressmen, I hold that so far as Mr. Gandhi is concerned, he sums up in his personality the highest degree of self-respect of India and of the highest degree of patriotism in the country.That is not the view of a Congress man. It is not the view of a Labour man. It is the view of a person who, politically, has found himself in conflict with Mr. Gandhi and his friends in India, and yet he submitted to the Government before Christmas that there was no chance of these proposals even getting consideration without Mr. Gandhi and his colleagues being free to discuss this matter in consultation with their political friends. I will not press the matter further, but I had to discuss it, because it is the second part of the Amendment which I am submitting to the House.
I merely want to add this last word. What the. obstacle to this may be, I really cannot tell. Whether the obstacle is here, at home, or whether the difficulties are mainly being raised in India, I cannot tell. But if this House is called upon to take the responsibility for endorsing these proposals or otherwise, no one, however highly placed either in India or here, has a right to put an obstacle in our way in securing complete consideration for these proposals in India, and I submit that it is hardly playing fair to the House of Commons to ask it to accept proposals of this sort unless the proposals that are to be presented shall be discussed in an atmosphere as free from bitternes and prejudice as it is possible to secure.
I have dealt with the second part of my Amendment first. I now turn to the first part. It says:to devise a scheme which, by giving effect to the repeated pledges given by His Majesty's Government to raise India to the status of an equal partner in the British Commonwealth of Nations, will command the assent of the people of India.This portion of my Amendment calls attention to "repeated pledges," and there is no one in this House who will controvert the proposition that pledges have been given by Government after Government, and they have not been 1027 entirely indefinite pledges. The words used have been so explicit that it is almost difficult to believe that any interpretation but one could be given to the words used. We are asked this afternoon to implement one step further the proposal that Indian people shall have a larger share—if I may use a noncontroversial term—in the government of their own country. No one will deny that in the Government of India Act, 1917, there were clearly-used words which have been interpreted by the Indian people ever since as implying that the Government of Britain intended that India should enjoy a measure of self-government within a fairly decent limit of time.
I dwell for a moment upon this point, because it really will not do for same of the critics of the Government who are in the House at this moment to cavil at the demand for a larger share of self-government for India, seeing that from 1917 to 1922 there was a Coalition Government in office in this country, and in that Coalition Government there were four present Members of this House who were influential members of that Administration. They were the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). All four were members of that Coalition Government. I have called attention before to an act which took place in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping himself participated in 1921. I turn aside for a moment to say that the right hon. Member for Epping was kind enough to explain to me privately in what sense he acted on that occasion, and I would not for all the world like to do violence to his interpretation of his action on that occasion. But, with all respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I really must press this point, because the Minister, highly placed as he was on that occasion, did not act in his private capacity. He went to the Imperial Conference in 1921, and there, speaking not in his private capacity, not for himself but for the Government of which he was then a member, he used the phrase of which Lord Irwin reminded him in the "Times" of 24th November, 1931, and he reminded him of 1028 it for the reason that the right hon. Gentleman had used this phrase in the House:Now that they had before them the actual legal provisions of Dominion status, was there anyone who did not see the folly and the wrong of declarations that excited the hopes of the Indian political classes that, after a brief period of transition, full Dominion status would be conferred on an Indian Central Legislature?The right hon. Gentleman was shocked that people should be so shamefully misled. Lord Irwin reminded him of a sentence from a speech of his own in 1921. These are the words:We well knew how tremendous was the contribution which India made in the War in 1914.Then there are some intervening words, and he went on:We owed India that deep debt, and he looked forward confidently to the days when the Indian Government and people would have assumed fully and completely their Dominion status.I am afraid this is not the first time I have suggested that a retrospective glance at the right hon. Gentleman's record would not do him any harm in this matter. I did so on a previous occasion, and the right hon. Gentleman told me then: "Oh, I used the phrase 'Dominion status' on that occasion in the ceremonial sense." What this ceremonial sense really means, I cannot tell. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will define it when he speaks presently. Now we come to 1926, when the late Lord Birkenhead, speaking in the House of Lords on the 7th July, said:We no longer talk of holding the gorgeous East in fee. We invite, in a contrary sense, the diverse peoples of this continent to march side by side with us in a fruitful and harmonious partnership, which may re-create the greatest and the proudest days of Indian history.I do not know what sort of partnership he had in mind, but I cannot see them marching side by side in a harmonious relationship shackled by the provisions of this White Paper. They wiil not march very far, certainly. Then I would recall to the House the recommendations of the Simon Commission, which are well known to everyone, and I would again recall to the House the declaration of Lord Irwin, speaking, not as a private individual, not as an insignificant member of any party, but speaking with all the authority of a Viceroy of India. These were his words: 1029I am authorised on behalf of His Majesty's Government to state clearly that in their judgment it is implicit in the declaration of 1917"—made by Mr. Montagu, when Secretary of State for India in the Coalition Government, in the House of Commons,that the natural issue of India's constitutional progress as there contemplated"—I would ask the House to mark these words—is the attainment of Dominion status.The right hon. Gentleman, I think rightly, complained on a previous occasion that we often used these phrases somewhat lightly. Very good. I overlook his own lapse from grace in that matter. It is quite true that, when we are talking to these people in terms of the future relationship of themselves with us, it is important that precise language should be used, and that we should not deceive them even by a syllable. I submit that I have proved, by references to other Governments, that this House, through its Ministers, is overwhelmingly pledged to the proposition that the Indian people shall possess Dominion status through the medium of a legislature of that sort. But what am I to say of this Government? The right hon. Gentleman became Secretary of State for India immediately after this Government came into office, and in December, 1931—I think he was in office then—there was issued a White Paper containing the most explicit statement as to the conceptions of the Government concerning the future legislature of India. Let me read the words of the Prime Minister himself. To be precise, I will read the whole paragraph. He said:At the beginning of the year I made a declaration of the policy of the then Government, and I am authorised by the present one to give you and India a specific assurance that it remains their policy. I shall repeat the salient sentences of that declaration. The view of His Majesty's Government is that responsibility for the government of India should be placed upon legislatures, central and provincial, with such provisions as may be necessary to guarantee during a period of transition the observance of certain obligations and to meet other special circumstances, and also with such guarantees as are required by minorities to protect their political liberties and rights.I would direct the attention of the House to this next paragraph:In such statutory safeguards as may be made for meeting the needs of the transitional period, it will be a primary concern 1030 of His Majesty's Government to see that the reserved powers are so framed and exercised as not to prejudice the advance of India through the new situation to full responsibility for her own government.I ask, in all good faith, how does this White Paper square with the most explicit promise made, not merely on behalf of the Labour Government, but on behalf of this Government, including the right hon. Gentleman? How does he square the White Paper with this declaration?
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Sir Samuel Hoare)
They are substantially the same.
§ Mr. JONES
We shall see presently, if the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to go ahead. I ask that question rhetorically, if I may say so, at the moment. I shall come to it a little more closely presently, because I submit that there is a vital difference between the significance of this White Paper and the declaration of the Prime Minister. Before I go on, let me now turn to some other words used by the right hon. Gentleman. They are in Command Paper 3772. That was in January, 1931, before the present Secretary of State was in office. I ask the House to listen to these words:"What have we been doing? Pledge after pledge has been given to India that the British Raj was there not for perpetual domination. Why did we put facilities for education at your disposal? Why did we put in your hands the text books from which we draw political inspiration, if we meant that the people of India should for ever be silent and negative subordinates to our rule? Why have our Queens and our Kings given you pledges? Wh4y have our Viceroys given you pledges? Why has our Parliament given you pledges?
§ Sir S. HOARE
I am afraid I do not recognise that quotation. I do not object to anything that is said in it, but the style seems to be much more eloquent than my own.
§ Mr. JONES
It may sound a little more verbose than the right hon. Gentleman's speech, but I submit to him that I did not read it as being his. I was speaking of a gentleman who really is capable of this eloquence, namely, the Prime Minister. He was speaking on the 19th January, 1931, and the words are his. I have quoted them textually from the document. What is the answer to these questions? Why have we given all these pledges? Why have our Kings and 1031 Queens used these words? Why have they spoken in these prophetic terms of the Indian people? Why has this Parliament given pledges of various sorts? Can it be assumed or pretended that this White Paper is a redemption of the pledges to which I have referred?
§ Mr. JONES
I have heard it called a first instalment, but the second and last instalment would seem to be very long in coming. We are told that these proposals are the effort of the Government to redeem those pledges, but they are so circumscribed. I do not want this afternoon to go into a detailed discussion of the safeguards, because they have already been discussed by my hon. Friends on this side. I merely say that I subscribe entirely to the criticisms which my hon. Friends have advanced against these proposals, and especially as regards the safeguards. There is, however, one sentence to which I would like to call the attention of the House. Perhaps it is not always fair to take a sentence out of the context, but in this case I do not think I am doing injustice to the Secretary of State's speech by taking this sentence out of its context. I think the point is still quite clear. The right hon. Gentleman said, in order to give comfort to the critics of the Government's policy. "Do not be alarmed. These safeguards, I assure you, are quite effective; they are not paper safeguards; they are really effective." And, by way of showing how effective they are, the right hon. Gentle man used these words: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 Legislature; and, if they analyse these proposals, I think they will agree with me "—I ask the House to mark these words—that it will be almost impossible, short of a landslide, for the extremists to get control of the federal centre.Then he went further, and said:I believe that, to put it at the lowest, it would be extremely difficult for them to get a majority in a province like Bengal."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th March, 1933; col. 706, Vol. 276.]There may be a case for taking steps—I do not subscribe to it, and I do not 1032 admit it—there may be a case, from the right hon. Gentleman's point of view, for erecting a barricade to prevent what he calls extremists from arriving at a position of power; but there is no case in favour of pretending to erect a legislature and then saying that that legislature is so carefully safeguarded by a barbed wire of safeguards that no one whom he regards as an extremist has a hope of ever having a majority inside it. The right hon. Gentleman and his friends—and in this matter I associate myself with him—and some of my friends on this side, agree to support the constitutional methods of development in our land, but I wonder what the right hon. Gentleman would think, supposing that we, some day, having secured a Parliamentary majority in this House, proceeded to carry a Bill through the House to make it impossible for extremists like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping ever to have a majority. Surely, if there is any merit at all in your Legislature, it ought to be that it is a reflex of the minds and aspirations of the people at large. If you take steps to bolt and bar the door against a large section because you call them extremists, clearly your Legislature is in danger of becoming a mere sham and a fake.
Let me take one safeguard alone—the Army. The right hon. Gentleman flatters himself, I think with truth and propriety, that in the long run, whatever happens, there is an Army. Let me see what he says: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 great powers and given, as I shall show a few minutes later in more detail, the means of carrying those powers into effect. 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th March, 1933; col. 709, Vol. 276.]What sort of Legislature do you call this, a Legislature which knows, to begin with, 1033 that the largest section of organised opinion in India has no hope of securing a majority inside it? What sort of Legislature is it where the most highly placed officer of the Crown can forbid the introduction of a Bill, can order the alteration of a Bill, and, when the Bill has passed the Legislature, can even withhold his signature from it? This thing is a sham. The safeguards simply hamstring the progressive forces of India in that sense. Take the question of finance. What sort of Parliament would this be if it had no right to determine how its taxes were to be levied, how they were to be spent, how much was to be spent upon this department and upon that? Some centuries ago one of your predecessors, Sir, was held down in the Chair because Parliament insisted upon the right of this House to determine how taxes should be levied, and yet here is this Parliament more than 300 years later declaring to the Indian people that they can look after waterworks and sewers. But control finance? No. Control the Army? No. What sort of Government is it which has not the power even to appoint its Civil Servants? It has not as much power as a glorified county council in England.
We are told that we have a right to make these reservations because of our interests in India. I should be the last to deny that we have the most intimate interests in that vast sub-continent, but, however important may be the case for safeguards, I ask this question still. In view of the enormous powers with which these Governors and the Governor-General are endowed, is there not some safeguard necessary for the Indian people? In Ceylon, for instance, there has been a change in regard to the electoral system. The system there has worked very well. The trouble in Ceylon is the interferences which the Governor has undertaken with the activities of the local Legislature. If this kind of procedure is imposed upon the Indian people it will have two effects. It will endow the Governor-General and the Governors with authority which they ought not to be endowed with and the fact that they are so endowed will reduce the measure of responsibility which the people of India will themselves feel for their own self government.
I have tried as best I can to present the case in support of my Amendment. It contains two points. One is an appeal 1034 for the amelioration of the relationship between ourselves and the Indian people by a consideration once again of the liberation of the incarcerated prisoners. I am sure that these proposals cannot be properly considered in an atmosphere of bitterness and prejudice such as this situation creates. The other is this. I think I have shown that the Government, this Parliament and Members of this House are already committed up to the hilt in pledges in respect of India's development towards self-government. India is not to enjoy it. Clearly she is to be kept down by force. The Government relies upon its Army. The Government relies upon its superior strength. May I recall to the House the words of one who tried force fairly extensively in his lifetime. Napoleon, looking at the wreckage of his Empire from the rocks of St. Helena, contemplating the disaster which had overtaken his life and his efforts, used words something like these—I am speaking from memory: "Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and myself all founded Empires. Upon what were our Empires based? Upon force. One conqueror there was who founded an Empire upon love. He placed it in the hearts of men, far beyond the limitations of time and space, and to this day millions would willingly die for him." I desire my country to engender a love of that sort amongst its political associates. I should like the people of England and of India, and of all other parts of the world for which we are responsible, to keep the name of our country dearly in mind not because of our imposed will or superimposed force but because of this fact, that England trusted them and, in trusting them, endowed them with the means to govern themselves.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The two able and informing speeches to which we have listened are fitting elements in the introduction of the third day of this important Debate and, indeed, the whole character and quality of the Debate has shown the keen interest that the House has taken in the subject of Indian constitutional reform. That is as it should be. Our ancestors never grudged attention to Indian matters. Read the great Debates on the impeachment of Warren Hastings, or the Indian Bill of Mr. Pitt or Mr. Fox, or the Debate upon the assumption of the Imperial Crown by 1035 Queen Victoria, or the Debates of 1919. All these fill our Parliamentary records. And yet I think the Debate that we are engaged in may well be mare important not only than any but perhaps than all these foregoing Debates put together. Whereas all these discussions in the past were the slow, gradual, steady building up of a great structure of peace and order in India and increasing the authority and vigilant attention of Parliament over all the Indian scene, we are now confronted with proposals which mark the definite, decline, and even disappearance, of our authority in India, which proclaim our disinteresting ourselves in the welfare of its people and our readiness to hand over, after 180 years, India's fortunes to Indian hands.
We are to do this at a time in the history of the world when the processes of Parliamentary government and electioneering are becoming increasingly distrusted and discarded throughout the Western world. We are to do it at a time when the struggle for national existence and for the maintenance of secure, firmly attached markets is becoming ever more fiercely intensified and when we see the most powerful, the most civilised, and the most modernised countries resolutely seeking to hold, to acquire or to regain oversea possessions and without the slightest compunction claiming and asserting the rights of colonisation and the rights of conquest. When you think of what we are discussing and of the situation of the world, surely, it is not too much to say that this Debate is fraught with memorable consequences both to the people of Great Britain and to the numberless peoples of Hindustan.
We are approaching the end of this Debate, but it is only the beginning of what may be one of the most serious controversies of British politics. It will be a painful controversy, because it must necessarily largely be conducted against friends or former friends. It will be a long controversy, because the procedure which is prescribed makes it impossible that the Bill to be founded upon the White Paper can become law for 15 or 18 months, and, as I gather, three or more years may elapse after that before the system of Federal Government responsible at the Centre of India can be brought into existence.
1036 Let me, then, survey the whole scene, and I begin at the turning point with the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms. The Montagu-Chelmsford reforms have failed. They were an experiment, admittedly hazardous and doubtful, made in good faith, but they have failed. They have failed by every test, moral and material, which can be applied. Every service which has been transferred to Indian hands has deteriorated markedly. Nepotism, corruption, inefficiency, general slackening, a lowering down of the Services has invaded and infected all the departments which have been experimentally handed over and which, I may remind the House, are of such vital consequence to the daily life of the masses of the Indian people. Instead of increasing contentment, these reforms have aroused agitation and increased disloyalty. Instead of bringing peace between jarring races and rival religions, they have only awakened old passions which were slumbering, and slumbering profoundly, under the long Pax Britannica. These reforms have concentrated the mind of India so far as it is conscious and vocal during the whole of this period upon political and constitutional change, and diverted the energies of the country from all those important material and administrative improvements which are really the main interests of the Indian peasant and of the Indian workman. They have not even contented those political classes for whose satisfaction they were originally conceived.
I do not wish to make this statement too sweeping, because, no doubt, a lot of good work has been done, and will be done, but still, in the main, the first fact on which we should stand to-day is the failure of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms. I say they have failed. I dare say that my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), who I am told has a rifle carefully loaded for me, will say that I shared the responsibility for them. I will not disclaim any responsibility. I was not, in fact, a member of the War Cabinet which continued to rule until November, 1919. When the regular Cabinet was restored and for the first time I was asked, officially or unofficially, to express an opinion upon these matters, the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms had already been read a Second time in both Houses of Parliament, and had come to us with 1037 the unanimous recommendation of the Joint Committee of both Houses, or almost unanimous. But, still I was a member of the Government, like my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council. We were both members of the Government, and, I have no doubt, made speeches in support of the Administration and its general policy, as others have done before and will perhaps do hereafter. Here I am going to defend my right hon. Friend as well as myself, and carry him along with me under my aegis. We shared our responsibility with all the Members of the House of Commons at that day.
The great scheme of Mr. Montagu and Lard Chelmsford passed through Parliament without a single division. We may well ask why the Members of those days, many of whom are in the House to-day, behaved in this manner, and what were the reasons which led us to this supine neglect? I suppose that we thought, "It must be all right." We thought, "The India Office have approved the plan and all the details have been carefully discussed with the Government of India. The 'Times' newspaper writes able articles in its favour." So we thought, "No doubt the Secretary of State is a very nice fellow, has taken immense pains, and has set his heart on the scheme." No doubt we thought 10 years ago: "We must not add to the difficulties of the Prime Minister whose burdens are so heavy and who has to go abroad so often. We must back up the National Government which has just been returned by so large a majority." I suppose that we thought all those things, and with a little assistance from the able Whips the scheme was allowed to pass through without even any serious examination by Parliament. We are all to blame.
I remember seeing—I do not think that I attended those Debates—on one occasion an elderly member of the Conservative party standing up there—Colonel Yate—apparently very excited and making frantic gestures of warning, but we all said: "Oh, he is only one of those die-hards. Some fellow who has been a lot in India and consequently cannot know anything about it." I am glad to revive his memory to-day. Although we Members of that Parliament may he all to blame, to-day we are deal- 1038 ing with issues which far exceed in importance the mere awarding of praise or blame to individuals. Let no one who sits here, or wherever he sits, delude himself by supposing that he can escape responsibility for what is now proposed by casting the blame on the past. Here we have to deal with the present and with the future, and every one, from the youngest Member to those who have longest borne the burden of affairs, is accountable to the nation and to history for speeches, votes, action or inaction now and in the critical months which lie before us. If mistakes were made in the past, do not repeat them now. If there are elders in this House who look back with remorse to decisions with which they have been associated in the past, let not those who are more happily situated prepare for themselves sombre self-reproaches in the afternoon or evening of their lives. Blame me if you will, blame the Parliament of those days if you will, taunt me if you will, discount my opinion, as you are entitled to do by any words I have spoken before, if you will; but in your hands, and on your heads lies the responsibility of what you yourselves are now about to do.
The conditions of the last General Election were very exceptional; probably they were unique. Very large numbers of Members are here who have not been here before, and who did not, in many cases, expect to be called upon, and all the more credit to them for coming forward to face the task of fighting an election with no hope or ambition. It is to those Members I particularly appeal. Let them take warning from what has happened in the past. Let them be careful. Let them beware that in years to come when another House of Commons will be here and perhaps other trains of thought will rule our minds, they do not find themselves sitting by their own firesides when across the dark distances from India, to quote a celebrated phrase of John Morley, they hearthe dull roar and scream of carnage and confusioncoming back to us. Then bitter will be their feelings of responsibility and of agony when they feel that they themselves played a part in bringing about a situation of such frightful disaster. I appeal to them to discard altogether the 1039 mere recriminations about what happened in the past. They cannot throw the blame upon the past nor can they throw the blame upon the people. What more could the British democracy have done than give the majority which they gave at the last election? Never was there such a vote in favour of the greatness of Britain. Some may say mistaken in some way. I am not arguing that. But everyone knows that the impulse which brought all those millions of very poor people was the strength, honour, and endurance of our country, and its greatness among the nations. It is no good saying that democracy is doing this. If any failure occurs, it is in the respresentatives which democracy has chosen, or in those who have the power to direct their actions.
The first question which we should ask ourselves and which was touched upon by the right hon. Gentleman, is: Are we free to decide, are we free or are we pledged; are we free or are we bound, and to what extent are we bound? We cannot be bound by individual speeches. They may reflect upon the individuals who make them, or may not, but the policy of the State must be determined only upon legislative action and solemn declarations made by the Sovereign on the advice of responsible Ministers. In these days, when so many speeches are made by all people who take part in politics, it would be most dangerous to admit for a moment that speeches even of Ministers and Members of the Government can be taken as pledges and as bonds which fetter the power of Parliament and the representatives of the nation to deal with the great problems of the day as they think right and best. Happily there is no dispute whatever between me and the Government about that. I have always taken my stand on Clause 41 of the Act of 1919. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State read out a passage, carefully prepared, every word of which had been carefully weighed, on Monday last to prove that we were not bound, or pledged, or committed in any way except in so far as you may say by way of moral obligation, the general trend of our institutions, and the growth of opinion in India. Therefore, I say that we have a right to decide.
1040 Let me ask: have we the power? During the last Parliament, under the late Viceroy, very serious disorders broke out all over India. There were religious massacres of Moslems by Hindus, and there were reprisals. There were perpetual riots in Calcutta and Bombay. We saw the Congress burning the Union Jack at Lahore, with impunity. We saw prolonged paralysis of Government around Peshawar. We saw Lord Irwin negotiating with Mr. Gandhi. We saw the Indian Congress hoping to establish itself as a parallel Government in India and presuming almost to stand between the Government of India as an interpreter to the people of India. Side by side with all these events we had the undermining perorations of the Round Table Conferences, leading Indians to assume, without any warrant from Parliament—because we know that Parliament is free—that they would very shortly be called upon, after a brief period of transition, to assume responsible Government in India. When I protested against this state of affairs, against these tendencies, when I urged that it would be necessary, sooner or later, to break the Congress and Mr. Gandhi and all that his movement stood for, the late Secretary of State, Mr. Wedgwood Benn, and his like, were accustomed to reply that I sought a reign of blood and terror in India, that artillery and machine guns would have to be used ruthlessly, that large reinforcements of troops would have to be sent from England into the country. All these hideous nightmares were paraded for our warning and alarm.
The present Government, the present Viceroy and the Secretary of State, who both share the credit, have acted as I then advised, and what has been the result? Order has been largely restored throughout India. The Civil Disobedience Movement is broken. Mr. Gandhi, upon whom the Prime Minister and Lord Irwin lavished their caresses, has been in prison—I am sorry for it, for many reasons—for more than a year, together with a very large, but happily diminishing, number of his followers. Hardly anybody has been killed or severely hurt. Not a single British battalion has been employed except on the frontier. Very few collisions have taken place of a serious character between the police and the rioters. The decision of the Government of India to enforce the law with- 1041 out fear or favour has been instantly accepted throughout India by the overwhelming mass of the people. I believe, therefore, that there is no doubt of our ability to govern India justly and wisely, in our own way, and to entrust able, educated Indians, with whom alone the Government of India can be conducted, with an ever broader share of responsibility in the administration, as and when we think fit.
I reject, therefore, the defeatist argument that we have not the power. We have the power, and we have the right to decide. I know that the Secretary of State will tell me that the mere enforcement of law and order would not have produced peace unless accompanied by the kind of proceedings in which he has been indulging at the various Round Table Conferences, and that it is the hopes excited by Ministerial speeches about the advent of central responsible Government in India which have calmed the passions which had formerly been rife. There I differ from him entirely. I believe that is the reverse of the truth. Just as the disorders in India under Lord Irwin arose largely from the rumours that the British Raj—to quote a term well known now in our controversies—was coming to an end and that the Gandhi Raj, or the Congress Raj, would succeed it; just as these rumours promoted the disorders under Lord Irwin, in the same manner these same rumours have hampered the restoration of order, have delayed the revival of confidence, have made the officials less sure of themselves and have spread that feeling of unrest and approaching change among all political classes. The achievement of my right hon. Friend and of Lord Willingdon, who both deserve credit, is remarkable, and it is the more remarkable that they should have so easily restored order in the face of all this continuous undercurrent of political and constitutional insecurity.
If, then, we have the right and power to choose freely, what should our choice be? We are often taunted by those who say: "What is your alternative? I do not think that is a very fair question to ask. You have a great Government in power, with all the resources at their disposal, who, after these many years of labour, have produced this White Paper and their scheme of 110,000 words. Why should they say to a few poor gentlemen 1042 who represent the Conservative party—[Interruption.] If the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) will go to her constituency, she will find out who represents it. Why should a few of us be expected to present another complete, brand-new, elaborately-worked-out system? We in this matter have the great advantage that we employed a Statutory Commission, which for three years travelled about the length and breadth of India and presented a report, unanimously agreed to by all parties, and we, in our humility, think we are in the first instance entitled to rest ourselves broadly and confidingly upon that. I have never considered the Report of the Simon Commission—I do not know that I ought to call it that any more; I think I had better say the Report of the Statutory Commission, not wishing to embarrass my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary —I have never regarded the Report of the Statutory Commission as if it were a final revelation, sacrosanct, incapable of modification or amendment of any kind.
In particular, many of us have argued that the police should not be handed over to the provinces, and we will argue that as opportunity occurs on the Floor of this House. To do justice to the Statutory Commission, they did not say that the police should be handed over in this crude manner. They used a lot of arguments, some of which we heard yesterday, about the only way to stop the police being abused is to put them in the hands of the people who are abusing them. But when it comes to their actual recommendations there is a very hopeful and very helpful recommendation, namely, that one or more—that is better still—nominated Ministers should be attached to the Governor of every province. Obviously, if that were so, the Governor of any province where the conditions rendered it necessary could entrust the portfolio of the Home Office to one of the nominated Ministers who enjoys his confidence. I say this to show that, while we do not accept the Simon Commission as the final word, to be accepted exactly as it stands, it might well be taken as the basis for Parlia mentary examination. We have contended that it should be so taken and that its members should carry special weight in our debating and should have 1043 been used in all the subsequent negotiations and consultations with the Indian delegate.
That seems to be a not unreasonable position for private Members to assume in this matter, but the Secretary of State twists our attitude to suit his own contention. He made a speech the other day in which he taunted those who said that they supported the Simon Commission as a basis, with being prepared to force democratic Government in India upon the provinces. He argued, in effect, that by adopting the proposals of the Simon Commission as the basis of discussion we had stultified ourselves in opposing the application of the same principle or of the same system to the Central Government of India. That is another warning to the House of the advantage which will be taken—I am sorry to say it—by the Government, by those I will call the Round Table-ites, of every step taken by their opponents towards compromise and agreement. Only two days ago the Secretary of State said that practically everyone in the House was eager for the setting up of provincial Government in India. I will therefore declare quite plainly, speaking entirely for myself, that while for the sake of agreement between all parties I attach the greatest importance to the recommendations of the Statutory Commission, and many of us are willing to see further experiments made in the provinces, it does not follow at all that we think that that experiment will succeed.
I think that in many of the provinces responsible Government will only accentuate administrative deterioration, racial and religious unrest and political tumult, which have been the fruitful results of the Montagu-Chelmsford scheme. Far from advocating such a scheme, or forcing such a system upon the people of India, or being eager to do so, I wish sincerely that matters had not been handled in this way or had come to this pass; but for the sake of agreement, despite our misgivings—you cannot stop the progress of the world because of misgivings—I should be quite ready to make it clear, by all practical tests, that we are sincere in doing all in our power to help Indians to a greater share in the responsibilities of Government—I think we might well begin in some of the provinces, as was suggested by a Noble 1044 Lord yesterday—provided, of course, that the power which is given, the delegated power, can be resumed without serious disturbance if it is found to work to the injury of the people of India.
If we thus agree to provincial self-government, it is not because we are forcing it upon anybody, it has been forced upon us; it is not because any of us think it will succeed, it will most likely fail, but if it fails at least the disaster is local not general, it is subordinate not supreme; and, as long as the central Government of India is intact, secure, or to quote the jargon in this matter in India—unitary—it will always be possible to help a province which has fallen into disorder or in which the administration has scandalously degenerated, whose people are suffering from a failure of essential services; it will always be possible to help them back to such poor structure, poor but precious, of justice and civilised organisation which we have hitherto been able to erect in India. If, on the other hand, the provincial experiment succeeds over the whole of India or in a particular province, or in some provinces, we shall have to admit that a tremendous argument has been established, an argument of facts, not of words, an argument of achievement not of aspiration for a further advance. It we were provided after 10 or 15 years with a considerable number of prosperous, orderly, contented, loyal provincial units, nothing could stop an arrangement being made to weave these units into the higher synthesis of a Federal organisation.
There are two contentions of His Majesty's Government to which I must refer. The first is that none of the Liberal elements in India, on which they are relying, will take part in provincial autonomy unless they have the police handed over to them and unless Federal government is set up at the centre. All I can say 'about that is that it is not an argument which should weigh with us. We are here to give what we consider right and wise, not to give what we consider wrong and unwise because it is the minimum necessary to satisfy some not very representative Indian political groups. The second point was contained in the speech of the Foreign Secretary yesterday. He used what I think is an even more questionable argument in his 1045 guarded, balancing, lukewarm but brilliantly ingenious speech with which he regaled us, and I could not help thinking as I listened to it of the cynical remark, "Distrust first thoughts; they are usually honest." I think we all understand, anyone who lives long enough in this House and who has experienced the vicissitudes of going in and out of Government will realise, the difficulties with which he had to contend and will admire his craftsmanship in dealing with them. On these occasions the skilful advocate will always look for a new fact. When a search is being made for reasons for a change of opinion the first thing is to search for a new fact, and the right hon. Gentleman produced a new fact; that the Princes of India offered to come into Federal government only if it was to be upon a responsible basis.
Is it possible that the right hon. Gentleman does not know, has he never heard, of what lay at the back of that extraordinary stipulation on the part of the Princes? I have heard on fairly good authority that the disappointment of the Princes, their alarm at the announcement of Lord Irwin that Dominion status was brought to the fore again, made them feel that they must look to their own future, secure their future under a totally different order of things. Then members of the Congress party discussed with some of the Princes, and an arrangement was made very much on the basis of what my right hon. Friend opposite would denounce—if you will help us to gain more power at the centre we will see that you keep your full rights over your own subjects in your States. That is the only reasonable explanation of such a stipulation on the part of the Princes.
I confess that I am not attracted by any part of that argument. I am not particularly anxious to see the Princes at this juncture brought into the Central Government of India, nor am I anxious to set up a Federal system in India. I am not at all induced by the argument which suggests that we should do something which we do not like in order to accomplish something which we like still less. In this Debate His Majesty's Government have been very apologetic. Perhaps that is too much to say; at any rate, they have been very deprecatory. The Minister of Health, who I do not see in his place, went even further in 1046 humility and moderation, in the moderation of his enthusiasm for the Government's proposals, than anything I have heard said in this House. Speaking on Saturday in his constituency, in contact with the opinion of his constituents, he said of the White Paper thatIt was in the first place only a suggestion.This product of so many conferences, inquiries, discussions, debates, the labour of the East and the West, this White Paper, for which we were told to wait and not prejudge the issue before it came out, the Minister of Health now says is "only a suggestion." I think that is going too far. We should really have a little stiffer attitude from the Government about their own proposals because they are every day engaging great masses of opinion in support of them. But they have been apologetic, and no one can say that the Motion which we are to vote upon now is not very cleverly and very adroitly framed, obviously with the intention of dodging a Division and confronting Conservative opponents of this policy with a proposition which they cannot possibly resist. Who can resist a Motion which begins by stating that no decision is to be taken by this House? Who can resist a Motion for appointing a Joint Select Committee, not in substitution for the ordinary Committee and Report stages in this House but in addition to those stages, and as preliminary to the Parliamentary procedure involved in the passing of a Bill? Certainly no one can vote against such a proposal. I think it is our duty to give the Government all possible support in repulsing the extremist Motion put forward by the official Opposition, and I shall certainly contribute my vote to what I trust will be for them a thoroughly satisfactory majority.
But do not let the House delude itself by supposing that the dangers of this question are passing away. On the contrary, this Committee which is to be appointed is appointed by a Government which will have an overwhelming majority upon the Committee and which, in addition, to its own majority will have all the support of the Socialist representatives and all the support of the Liberal representatives. The position of Conservative Members on that body, those who are not addicted to, or affected to, the Gov- 1047 ernment will, indeed, be forlorn. They will sit hemmed in on all sides by men pledged to secure the triumph of the Government policy or even to carry it further, and then after prolonged discussions have taken place and these unfortunate representatives have been voted down time and again by the machine, the overwhelming machine, at the disposal of the Government, the Government will present to Parliament a Bill which they will say is based upon the report of an impartial Select Committee which they appointed for that end.
I think that the Conservative party is asked to take an immense responsibility. Every party in this country has its own function. The Labour party is concerned with the minimum standards of life and labour. The Liberal party have their liberty, and it is an honourable charge, but the Conservative party have always had the duty of holding together the strong body of constituted authority in the State and the possessions we have throughout the world. It has always been their duty to view with great caution and in a critical faculty widespread proposals for constitutional change. Now you see what happens when the Conservative party, instead of putting its hand on the brake, is led to put its foot on the accelerator—the whole balance of our public life is destroyed.
I invite hon. Members to see how events develop. The Conservative party controls this House of Commons. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ought to do so!"] And Parliament controls the Viceroy and the Government of India. These in their turn come into play. We see the strange and unnatural spectacle of the Imperial Government turning its strength against its own interests and rebuking its own friends. We see the pressure which is put on the Princes. We read the extraordinary incident referred to by the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) of the altercation, or discussion, between the Jam Sahib and the Viceroy only the other day. We do not see so closely the pressure which is put on the officials. For five years past the high personnel of India has been arranged, continuously arranged, with a view to securing men who will give a. modern and welcome reception to these sort of proposals. It is one of the greatest evils 1048 of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms that throughout the Service the path of promotion has tended to be more easy for those who readily throw themselves into what are regarded as the irresistible moods of the British nation.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I say that the officials ought not to have been quoted by the Secretary of State. I did not introduce this topic. The hon. Gentleman who is so ready to act the bully—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw"] I have a very difficult task. I do not wish to have any quarrel with my hon. Friend, and, if I said anything discourteous to him, I am sorry. But I am bound to say that I am stating a case with enormous forces ranged against that statement, as I see, and therefore it is not, perhaps, particularly valiant for an hon. Member to leap up in that way.
§ Sir J. WARDLAW-MILNE
On a point of Order. Is the right hon. Gentleman entitled to make statements like that when he is asked in a very courteous way if he has any proof of his statement made against the Indian Civil Service, a most sweeping statement made against the whole of the Indian Civil Service?
Mr. CH URCHILL
I am replying to the statement of the Secretary of State that practically all the high officials in India were in favour of this White Paper, and I think it is perfectly fair to say, in view of that, that during the last five years, and even during the last 10 years, the kind of opinion which has been promoted to leading positions throughout the Indian Civil Service has been that of people who are supposed to be modern-minded and acting in the spirit of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I will never withdraw a statement which I am certain is founded on fact. Then the Secretary of State claimed all the commercial classes. Of course, when the Conservative party 1049 of this country is known to have thrown its weight behind a scheme of this kind—this has been going on for the last three years—the commercial classes in India have despaired, and their despair is now quoted as if it was their approval. When the Prime Minister emphasises the safeguards, when the White Paper emphasises the safeguards, they are, of course, magnified for British consumption, and when it comes to India the opera glasses are turned round the other way. There are two audiences and two voices. We heard that the Government was confronted with the dilemma—either the safeguards are real, in which case responsible government is a sham; or responsible government is real, in which case the safeguards are a fraud. There is another dilemma into which we must ourselves be careful not to fall. That is, are we opposing this scheme for what it concedes or for what it withholds? Let me say that I think we ought to condemn it both for what it concedes and for what it withholds. The greatest objection to the scheme is that it neither gives nor withholds on any coherent or workable plan. On the one hand it offers autonomy in the most sweeping terms; on the other it sets up autocracy in an extreme form. It leaves these two opposite principles to struggle together within the heart and brain of the government of India.
It is a perfect plan for inaugurating an era of ceaseless strife, and the contending forces are evenly balanced. Both are armed with great power and great facilities, so that their warfare will be long, exciting, equal and calamatous; but I cannot conceive a scheme of which it could more properly be said that it comes "not to bring peace but a sword." The Viceroy or Governor-General is armed with all the powers of a Hitler or a Mussolini. There is practically nothing that he cannot do in the sphere of the Army and foreign affairs. He has the power to tax apart from the Legislature; he has the right to safeguard minorities; he has the right to safeguard the interests of the Civil Service; he has the right to safeguard the interests of the native States; he is authorised to prevent commercial discrimination. All these great powers are confided to him. By a stroke of the pen he can scatter the Constitution and decree any law he pleases, or 1050 martial law, which is no law at all. Of all these he is the sole judge.
Such a functionary is a dictator, and he has behind him a very powerful Army. Yet at the same time he is instructed to work a democratic Constitution tactfully, and to govern by consent, when consent is not forthcoming. I pause to ask, have such opposite qualities ever been united in the breast of a single human being The phlegm of Bismarck, the energy of Mussolini, the special knowledge of Colonel Lawrence, the high ideals of Mr. Gladstone, the deft persuasiveness of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George)—all would seem to be needed in the functionary who has to discharge these opposite tasks and with so much thoroughness. The Secretary of State said yesterday that the Viceroy would have less to do than he had to do now. I should have thought that that was an absolutely absurd contention.
Let me look at the constitutional aspect. All these safeguards which are placed in the hands of the Viceroy are not new; they are not new creations of the Government. They all reside at the present moment in the structure of the Government of India, in the Viceroy and his Council, in the Secretary of State and his Council, in the great Indian Departments, and in this House. They are all there. But what we are doing now, and I think it singularly unfortunate, is to pick out all these essential safeguards and to set them out in a row, in a category, to be the target of every kind of criticism, and to place the Viceroy in a position where he, the representative of the King-Emperor, is responsible and can be made responsible and blamed for almost everything that takes place in this vast Empire.
But there is one notable omission from the Viceroy's powers. He is removed from the people he has to govern. The only functions of Government, practically, that are outside his jurisdiction, are those which concern the daily welfare of the masses, their education, justice, hospitals, their railways, their engineering works, the care of their forests and natural resources, the weight of taxation. He can, I gather, increase taxation, but not diminish it. All these things are beyond his sphere. We have a superman, not yet found, who has everything laid upon him except to mitigate the lot of the common 1051 people. That is judged unworthy of his attention; that can be safely transferred and handed over. I even heard the Secretary of State boast, glory in the fact that the affairs of 230,000,000 people were handed over freely, lock, stock and barrel, to these new legislatures, untrained and untried, which in all other respects are to be carefully controlled by safeguards.
I hope the House was stirred by the very powerful speech of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). He certainly struck a new note in this controversy. The powers of the Viceroy and the Governor-General, immense as they are, are counter-worked, to make things equal, by other provisions of this Constitution. The holder of these great powers is rendered virtually impotent. For his information he has to depend upon responsible Ministers; he has to work through them and the departments which they control. The police, 180,000 of them, in five years are possibly not even to be recruited by him. Even the Army is spoken of as a force which is to be transferred some day to Indian hands. All the great services which make the life of the Indian superior to the life of the Chinese have been taken from the purview of the Viceroy. The British officials are provided with an emergency exit so that they can throw up their jobs, should their condition become intolerable. The lonely Satrap has all the power, but it is blind power. He has no means of acting upon the hundreds of millions of people he controls, except by troops. His position is very similar to that occupied by the Tsar of Russia before the Revolution, with immense power, immense ceremony, mighty military forces, but no real contact with his people.
Where, I should like to know, would a general be without his staff? Where would a Member be without his local organisation Where would a Minister be without his Department? Where would a Government be in times of distress if the police were withdrawn from the control of the Executive? Such is the position of the Governor-General. He can tax, but who is to collect the taxes? He can overrule an Act of commercial discrimination, but if there is a boycott to effect the same purpose as the Act would have done, he must go to the very 1052 Ministers he has overruled and ask for their support in controlling the boycott. He can protect the rights of the Civil Service, but their appointment, their treatment, all their daily affairs, will be in the hands of responsible Ministers, who, I cannot help feeling, will increasingly wish to get a very large reduction in the number of white officials. Why should they wish these officials gone? My right hon. Friend has made it abundantly plain. These British officials are to be the cadre, the steel framework upon which this country has to rely to enforce all the safeguards.
Of course, the position of these officials will be very invidious. You cannot consider the state of the Indian Services as they are to-day; you have to consider the state in which they will be in four or five years' time, when they have been under responsible native administration. They will be an organism of Indian life, and it is by no means to be taken for granted, indeed it is even improbable, that these great departments can be taken over at a moment's notice by the Viceroy or by the Governor-General simply by an act of power at a time when probably there is a great Nationalist movement in progress in India, and when he is overruling and dismissing the responsible Government which has been set up. Why should Indian officials risk their livelihood and their careers against their own fellow-countrymen in an emergency of this kind, for the sake of an Imperial Power—an alien Power I think the Foreign Secretary said they called it—which has declared itself in process of liquidation and is actually in train to hand over its authority to a new regime? My right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead quoted a statement from Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru yesterday, but he left out, by accident, a very important passage which I must read to the House:The Constitution, however, places such a powerful weapon in your hands that if you can send into your legislatures the right sort of men, I have not the least doubt you can achieve all you want probably much quicker than you imagine, because the cumulative weight and effect of these changes will be such that they dare not resist your demand for the further expansion of the Constitution, its natural and logical evolution being Dominion status.A little further on he said to his colleagues: 1053I would advise you all to grasp power, for it is far better that you should send those who oppose you to gaol than suffer yourself to be shut up. I therefore say it is the duty of every one of you to capture the machinery.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Yes, and that is very like the doctrine which the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) unfolded the other day. Proceed by constitutional measures until you get control of the police and the Army, and then go ahead with your revolution. But I am bound to bring these points to the House although they are by no means in harmony with the mellifluous language which is usually employed on these occasions. If this is the position of the Viceroy, with all the power and, as I say, without the executive machinery to exercise that power, look, on the other hand, at the position of the Indian Parliament. They would have all the constitutional title-deeds. There is no constitutional argument that will not be at their disposal. They will be able to claim that they are the elected representatives of the people. They will have control of the party machine, of the organisation of elections, and so forth. They will have the great bureaux in their hands. They are told that they are responsible for the well-being of the nation. Endless means of friction will arise between the responsible officials and the Government or the Governor-General and they will have a hundred means of making their pressure constant upon those harassed functionaries. I am amazed at the perverted ingenuity with which the Government have arranged a grievous and a certain struggle, very similar, as my Noble Friend the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) has said, to that which convulsed England in the struggles between Crown and Parliament during the whole of the 17th century.
I shall endeavour to curtail my remarks as much as possible, but I am anxious to conclude the argument which I am putting before the House. The case of the Governor-General will apply, on a smaller scale but more crudely and directly, to the Governors of the provinces. Eleven potential dictators—11 hopeful and aspiring Parliaments! And this warfare in the provinces will proceed simultaneously with the graver disturbances at the summit. Then, when 1054 this is occurring, you will perhaps learn the wisdom of the Statutory Commission's remark, that unitary government at the centre was most important during the development of the Provincial Legislatures.
I will examine only one other element in the Constitution—the Senate or upper Chamber at the centre. A great deal of fine filigree work has been put into that. There are Princes, Moslems, representatives of the landowners, certain official representatives and so forth. There is some provision, I believe, for a two-thirds majority and so on, and I am ready to admit that the character of that assembly will be such that it will have very stiff opinions about the rights of property. I have not the slightest doubt it will be very careful to protect the rights of property, the rights of the landlord, or of the moneylender, or of the Ahmedabad mill-owner, or, no doubt, of orthodox religion. In that respect it may be a highly Conservative chamber, but not in the best sense of the word. But when you come to the kind of question with which we are concerned here, issues which arise between Parliament and the Crown, issues which arise between India and Great Britain and which will be fought out, then it seems to me that you may very easily find that these forces, on which you are so trustfully relying at the present time, may be actuated by quite different motives from those which you attribute to them.
How can Hindu Princes—and are they not seven-eighths or nine-tenths of the whole—be expected to stand against the movement of Hinduism throughout the whole of India? How can they be expected to stand against that movement when Congress will have means of causing disorder in any one of their States? How can you expect Moslems to show themselves less forward in advocating what is called the national cause than their Hindu fellow-countrymen? No, Sir, it may well be that while you will have, for the purpose of the maintenance of Indian property rights, and Indian trading interests, a very strong, firm, oligarchy, there is not the slightest guarantee that the whole of them may not be ranged on nationalistic lines against the Viceroy and this country in any serious constitutional dispute.
1055 Evidently Ministers do not believe that this situation is one that can last, and it seems they have no doubt how it will eventually resolve itself. Hence all these safeguards arranged to satisfy British opinion. But they are all placed in the Instrument of Instructions and not in the Constitution and thus can be discarded by a simple resolution. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Certainly, they can be discarded by simple resolution and not by the process of a Bill.
§ Sir S. HOARE
In the first place, the special responsibilities will appear in the Bill itself. The Instrument of Instructions will merely be an additional guarantee.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
But those which are in the Instrument of Instructions can be varied by a simple resolution, and that is the most serious flaw in the right hon. Gentleman's elaborate scheme.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman again, but this is very important. The special responsibilities of which he is speaking will be in the Act itself and they will have statutory authority, in every important case, anyhow.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I am glad of that, but I say that the Constitution itself, the bringing into power of the Federal Constitution, does not depend upon a Bill. That is to be brought into operation by a simple resolution. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend who is it, what force is it, which really welcomes the Constitution he has put forward. The Indian Congress denounce it in unmeasured terms. Indian Liberals say they will use it only as a tool to extort further favours. As to the Indian Princes, you have great doubt whether you can coax, cajole, persuade or coerce even half of them to come in. I very much doubt whether any Conservative Government could be formed which would endorse such a Constitution. The Socialist party, as the official Opposition, have shown by their Amendment that they will only take this Constitution, which you are regarding as a most audacious adventure, as a starting-point for a further departure. Nowhere, here or in India, is it a national policy, or accepted as a national settlement.
1056 I must draw the attention of tile House to the insidious way in which this Federal scheme is being brought into operation. It is to lie in the Constitution Act and to be brought into operation by resolution. There is no date assigned on which it is to be brought in and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State gave a very naive reason why no date should be assigned. He said to the Round Table Conference at the end of the year:The machinery of the Constitution would be of a complicated nature, and Parliament, if it were confronted with a definite date, might be much more cautious in the delay and the provisions of caution that it might demand than it would be without a dateThat shows what the right hon. Gentleman thinks of us. It is as if you were to say: "The poor silly Members will not worry about it so long as there is no date, because they will say that it will not happen for some time; but if there is a date then they will boggle about it and make a lot of awkward objections." But what is going to happen when we are confronted with this Bill eventually? Then, the Federal Constitution will dominate Indian affairs, and to bring it into operation and at the same time to attack the safeguards will be the desire and the effort of all classes of Indians. This pressure will continue and when there is a Socialist Government in power, as there may be some day, how easy it will be to remove the safeguards which stand in the way. How easy it will be to sweep away or to slur over the conditions which you claim should be established in the setting up, say, of your Federal Bank or in other provisions of that kind.
Where will the Conservative party be then? Where will it stand then? It will not be the Government, but will it be the Opposition 7 It will have conceded every single principle, and stripped itself of the protection of constitutional procedure when these violent changes are to be brought into play. I can anticipate the speeches that will be made by a Labour Secretary of State in some future Parliament. Mr. Wedgwood Benn or some other able gentleman will say: "We are bringing the Federal Constitution into operation now. True, all the conditions have not been complied with, but this is a policy, in principle agreed 1057 between all parties. This is a policy which a Parliament containing an overwhelming Conservative majority approved, and we are only carrying it into effect with some minor alterations in detail. There is no serious opposition to this policy." Then you will find, in resisting that process, which can be achieved by a single simple Resolution of both Houses, that either it will have to go through and that this vast edifice can be set, up without proper precautions or conditions, or else you will have to throw a burden upon the House of Lords which, in its present unreformed condition, I think would be grossly unfair and extremely unwise.
Since the year 1927, when the Simon Commission was first appointed, all India has been agitated by constitutional change. There has been no breathing space. I was hoping that the Government would find it possible to take some decisions which would give, at any rate for a spell, a pause to constitutional agitation in India. Surely the administrative apparatus, which in India is 20 times more powerful and more important to the people than these political and constitutional changes, should be given a chance to work. Surely we ought not to complicate the already hazardous departures which are proposed by the Simon Report by vague, hypothetical, and much larger departures for which the conditions have not yet been established. Surely Parliament should have the manhood to say, "We will give what we can give now, freely and boldly. We will not promise to go further until we see what the results of giving all that we now can give have been in practice." Surely that is a faithful, a sensible, and reasonable policy for our country to pursue and for an Imperial Government to advise, instead of adding, on the top of all that is now proposed, this scheme, for which you admittedly have not got the conditions yet established, and which will continue to keep India in a ferment and in a turmoil until it has eventually been achieved or until it has finally been discarded.
I thank the House very much for having listened to my statement. I have trespassed, I fear, at undue length upon it, but I have only this to say at the end. It is a tragedy that the greatest gift 1058 which Britain has given to India was not the gift that India needed most. During the last 50 years the population of India has increased by 100,000,000. The prevention of wars and famines and the control of infanticide and pestilence by British rule have brought that enormous accession to mankind. It would have been far better if the exertions of our devoted men and women in the East could have emerged, not in a mere multiplication of teeming humanity upon the very lowest level of subsistence, but in a, substantial raising of the standard of life and of labour of a smaller number. But that has not been within our power. The 100,000,000 are here. The 100,000,000 new human beings are here to greet the dawn, toil upon the plains, bow before the temples of inexorable gods. They are here. You cannot desert them, you cannot abandon them. They are as much our children as any children could be. They are actually in the world as the result of what this nation and this Parliament have done. It is impossible that you should leave them to be diminished by the hideous processes of diminution which keep the population of China in check. It is impossible that you should hand them over to the oppressor and to the spoiler, and disinterest yourselves in their fortunes. By every law of God or man Parliament is responsible for them, and never could we hold an honourable name among the nations if we pretended, by any sophistry of Liberal doctrine or constitutional theory, to cast away our responsibility, so vital and grave.
But here in our own island we have a very similar situation. Our population, too, has rapidly expanded. There are perhaps 15,000,000 more people here than could exist without our enormous external connections, without our export trade, which is now halved, without our shipping, which is so largely paralysed, without the income from our foreign investments, which is taxed to sustain our social services. I suppose some 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 people in this island get their livelihood from beneficial and honourable service interchanged between us and India. We have some 3,000,000 unemployed now, and this is no time for us to divest ourselves of rights and interests, which we have lawfully acquired, and to expose our population in the years that are to come to a steady, grinding contrac- 1059 tion in the standards of their life. I pray that the people of Britain may be awakened to a sense of their danger and to a sense of their duty before it is too late.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I am sure the House will sympathise with me, not in having to reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) because that, I must say, after the speech which he has just delivered, is a less difficult task than I thought it would be, but in the fact that in a moment or so we shall have one of those annoying interruptions of business, to which it would not be in order to refer, but which will necessitate the House rising for 10 minutes or a quarter of an hour. I venture to break all etiquette by saying that I hope some of my hon. and right hon. Friends will, return to hear the answer which I propose to make to the extraordinary case which my right hon. Friend attempted so elaborately to build up in the speech which he has just delivered to us. May I say, in the first instance, how much I regret, on both personal and political grounds, to find myself in disagreement with my right hon. Friend?