§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Butler)
I beg to move,That, before Parliament is asked to take a decision upon the proposals contained in Command Paper 426S, it is expedient that a Joint 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.2.55 p.m.
It is my privilege and duty, on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, to move this Motion, which asks this House to re-constitute the Joint Select Committee on Indian Constitutional Reform. The last Joint Select Committee was dissolved on the Prorogation of Parliament, and it presented a Report, which puts tersely and concisely the present position. With the permission of hon. Members, I will read the relevant sentences for their consideration:The Committee have been unable to complete the inquiry. They recommend, therefore, that the work should be continued by a Joint Committee to be appointed in the fortcoming Session.Hon. Members may ask why we have adopted this unusual procedure of interrupting the Debate on the King's Speech in order to move this Motion. The passage of the necessary Motions in this House and in another place takes several days, and it is our wish that the Committee shall be re-constituted with the least possible interruption, if the House so desires, in order that they may make the best possible use of the valuable but all too short time which still exists for their labours before Christmas. I dare say hon. Members have read with care and attention the long proceedings of the Committee. I have had statistics submitted to me, which show that these proceedings run into well over 1,000,000 words. It therefore wants very few words of mine to be added to that large number in recommending this Motion to the House Perhaps it would be wise, however, if I gave a short account of the stewardship of the Committee, and I will, if I may, strike a balance between a funeral oration and a hymn of resurrection.
90 The 70 meetings included 55 which were devoted almost exclusively to evidence. Out of the 120 witnesses which the Committee heard, there were those of representative Indian bodies and British organisations interested in the work of the Committee. Besides these, we had the privilege of hearing several private individuals, both British and Indian, among them one or two Members of this House. There were also included among the witnesses many who gave evidence at considerable length whose views cannot be said to tally with those of us who support the White Paper. I think hon. Members will find it difficult not to acknowledge that the Committee has, therefore, up till now listened to every point of view. Among the many questions which were put to witnesses, which number, I am informed, some 20,000, over a quarter were directed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. When I tell the House that my right hon. Friend was actually in the witness box for a period of something over 75 hours, they will appreciate the physical and mental ordeal through which he has been, and I am sure they will be ready to pay a tribute to the work he has done and the help he has given to the Committee. He has not only helped the Committee, but I think I may say that he has placed a new record upon the annals of Parliamentary procedure. I think perhaps the decision of the Secretary of State to appear before the Committee will show to the House, as it showed to the Committee, the determination of the Government not to conceal anything from the public or from public inquiry. The fact that he was willing to stand there and be cross-questioned on any subject is, I think, convincing proof of that statement. I think also that the diversity of evidence that the Committee heard must be proof of its determination not to leave a stone unturned to arrive at the truth of this vast and important problem.
The majority of the evidence has been taken, but there remains the important problem of Burma still to be considered. When that has been concluded, the Committee will have to prepare and consider and present their report to Parliament in the normal and proper manner. When one considers a Committee such as this with so vast and complicated a subject to discuss, when one considers that there were 32 British members and 27 Indian dele 91 gates, I think it is right to pay a tribute to the unfailing tact and courtesy with which the Lord Chairman has conducted the proceedings of the Committee. I think that the best tribute to him is that any long-suffering publicist who was obliged to read through the many printed papers of the proceedings would have looked in vain for any sensational incidents or scenes in the course of the deliberations. A tribute is due to the industry of the Committee and in particular to the members who were appointed by this House. Many, such as my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), to take one example, have many public duties outside the duties that they perform on the Committee, and we should pay a tribute to their remarkable record of attendance. Their mastery of detail has been a lesson in exactitude, and the way they have applied themselves to this problem, which in complexity and extent and responsibility probably exceeds any other that has ever been submitted to a Committee of Parliament, is, I think, truly remarkable.
I should also like to express appreciation of the manner in which the Indian delegates helped and forwarded the work of the Committee. They have most of them for the past three years been separated for the greater part of the time from their homes and their ordinary business and other interests. They have constituted themselves ns golden links between this country and India. The more they have been weighed in the balances, the less they have been found wanting, and those who had the opportunity of deliberating and consulting with them will he grateful for their aide experience and will remember the lively colour with which they illustrated their points of view. There is one other memory which lingers in my mind, and that is a phrase used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), who thought fit to come and give evidence before the Committee which we all appreciated. Re used a phrase that he thought it was wrong to leave one-sixth of the human race dangling between heaven and earth. If I may use his own metaphor, may I say that I hope this House will not, leave the Joint Select Committee dangling between heaven and 92 earth, but will allow it to proceed upon the great work which it has still to do.
§ 3.4 p.m.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
If I could be perfectly sure that at this time next year the Under-Secretary in the same terms would propose the reappointment of this Committee, I should not be opposing it this afternoon. I am opposing it because I think the Committee will come t, a decision on inadequate evidence. The hon. Gentleman has referred to the number of witnesses who were heard by the Committee. My own experience was that no witness was heard a t all when the meetings were held in a room where hearing was impossible. Certainly in normal circumstances I think that this Comittee has a certain value. It has an educational value. The more this scheme is discussed, the more people, not only on the Committee, but outside, come to understand it, the less it is liked. Today we are considering this matter in an entirely different position from that which occupied us and our minds a year ago. Now we know that this scheme has no friends save in the India Office and possibly among the ex-Viceroys, but no friends even in India for whose benefit it is supposed to be devised. They are learning, and I am not certain but that the members OF the Committee are learning also. I noticed that it seemed to come as news to one of my colleagues on that Committee to discover that while Indian Princes are coming m to govern India, yet they themselves were to be exempt from any of the taxation they might impose and from any legislation they might pass. It is just as well that people on the Committee should realise that.
I think that the advantages from an educational point of view of the setting up of this committee are perhaps outbalanced by drawbacks even now. Those who read the evidence will notice that the representatives of India on the Joint Committee were overwhelmingly composed of those who were interested solely in the centre, that is, in the Assembly at Delhi, who saw little niches for themselves in that Assembly when it was set up and an all too small degree of people who had experience of local government in India. The questions as well as the evidence were directed almost entirely to the question of the central government. To my mind that is entirely 93 the wrong way of approaching the Indian problem. The only way to teach Indians self-government is to begin by local government, to discuss the question how best to manage the village, the district board and the provincial council, and, when we have got them working satisfactorily, then to proceed with the far more difficult question of the control of the centre at Delhi. The evidence overwhelmingly dealt with the centre, and I do want in this little effort of opposition on my part to impress upon the Secretary of State for India and upon the committee as a whole the real desirability before they come to their decisions as to what is to be done for. India, to consider, even if it involves another visit to India, this question of self-government on which everything else must depend.
I remember the original scheme of Mrs. Besant; and, after all, she had a great deal to do with the extension of democracy in India; her scheme, which was approved by most of the liberal-minded Indians was a scheme which began with the Panchayat, a small electorate seeing the actual results of their Acts, and working up through that, through the district hoards, to the Councils by a system of indirect election, so that every Indian should have a voice in the government of his own locality, even, if indirectly, in the government of the Province. With the gigantic and uneducated electorates of India there ought to he indirect election from the villages to the district boards, from the district boards to the provincial councils and from them to the Assembly at Delhi. In view of the lamentable ignorance of self-government in India, before the Committee come to a definite decision to set up this fancy body at Delhi, to rule 350,000,000 people, they ought to consider whether they should not build up first, before it is too late, some system of local government. The whole question is being discussed and agitated in India at the present time. A scheme has been put forward, principally in the Central Provinces, by Professor Raju, who has never even been called before the committee, although his book is probably well known to a good many in this House. That is the sort of thing I would have this reconstituted committee consider; that would justify its being set up again. We are not justified in setting up 94 a committee to deal solely with the matter in the White Paper, disregarding altogether the question of provincial and, more particularly, local government of smaller areas.
The chief problem in establishing democracy in India is the gigantic mass of the population and their lack of education, because to get any sort of assent from the rich in India you have to limit the franchise and confine the voting power to the rich. That situation can only be met by indirect representation. The report of the Simon Commission, when dealing with this question of representation at the centre, advocated indirect election by the councils, so that we might have in the Assembly at Delhi not people elected for their extremist nationalist views but representing to some extent practical experience in government and chosen ultimately by the much wider electorate of the provincial councils. That was a proposal of the Simon Commission, and there has never been any adequate reason put forward for dropping it. The real objection to it is found in the Indian leaders—well, self-constituted leaders, who prefer the method of direct election, because in that way they may get to Delhi, whereas they would never be elected by the provincial councils, and do not desire to do the humdrum work,. the constructive work, on those councils as a preliminary to serving in the Assembly.
Local government has not been considered; but I wish the House to consider here, where we are still responsible, some of the new features—new since last year. There are three of them. The first of them is the unanimous Hindu opposition to the White Paper policy. A year ago it was not conscious, it was not united, it did not understand. Now it does understand, and here am I, going to-morrow afternoon to speak to a meeting called by the Hindu organisations here against this White Paper and to support their view that the White Paper will produce a system worse than that which India has to day. [Laughter.] Hon. Members, and especially right hon. Members who are on the Committee, may jeer at that. It comes particularly ill from a man who has throughout supported the Moslem minority in their desire to dominate over the Hindus. We all remember the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham 95 (Earl Winterton), when he was Secretary of State for India. Never was Secretary of State! Well, we all thought he was.
This Hindu opposition really must be understood by the House, and I beg the right hon. Gentleman to consider their point of view. To begin with, they are the majority of the people of India, and now, in order to placate the minorities in India—principally the Moslem minority, but I regret to say now every other minority—we have grafted on to this so-called democratic constitution a principle which is utterly repugnant to all those who understand how it works. I refer to the system of communal representation. There is not a man in this House who supports communal representation—well, not for England. For India, yes—the right hon. Member for Horsham. The inevitable result of having these separate religious electorates for central or local government is that we shall have elected only those who hold the view that everybody else is wrong and bad. You cannot get the public interest represented by a system of communal representation. The only way for a man to get back to the Assembly or on to the councils would be for him to please a narrow circle of communal friends, and the best way to do that would be by showing bitter hostility to everybody else.
This is a, commonplace and I ought not to be talking it in the House of Commons. Every right hon. Member on the Treasury Bench knows that what I am saying is true. In dealing with a similar position everywhere else the British Government have resolutely set down their foot against any attempt at building up a communal system. Obviously if we had such a system, in this country democracy would he in infinitely greater danger than it is to-day. This communal system—I did not appreciate it a year ago—has been made infinitely worse by the White Paper proposals. I believe these new proposals in the White Paper have been orginally asked for by the communities in India with a view to preventing constitutional change. It is common knowledge that the Mohammedans do not look forward to democracy, and the safeguards they have stipulated for have been included in the White Paper. Let me show the House one of these 96 safeguards. It is that in the four Provinces where the Mohammedans are in the majority there shall be communal electorates and no Hindu shall vote for a Mohammedan. Why? The Mohammedans are in the majority in those Provinces, and they have provided that the Hindus shall be, now and ever, always in a statutory minority. No matter how badly the majority conduct the government of those provinces; no matter what invidious legislation they pass; no matter how they trample upon justice, the minority have no possible remedy. They are always in a minority.
Already in the Punjab the Mohammedans are in a majority, and they speak openly of the Hindus as the Jews of the Punjab. Hitler's counterpart in the Punjab has a permanent statutory majority. No amount of oppression can upset him. In the White Paper is provision that there shall be no discrimination between the various races, except of course the discrimination that there is already. In the Punjab the Hindus may not buy land from the Mohammedans. We admitted that. It is just that sort of discrimination of which we shall see more. The police are to be in the hands of the provincial councils, and under the orders of the permanent Mohammedan majority. What sort of justice are you going to get, and what sort of police will you have? In the Punjab provinces—I speak under correction—there are 30,000,000 of people. It is worse in Sind, where the Mohammedan majority is vaster and the position of the Hindus more hopeless. In the Punjab, the Mohammedans are not even in a majority. They are given a statutory majority by the scheme. In the North West frontier provinces, where the Hindus have been the victims of outrage, within my memory over and over again, the same system is carried out; and above all in Bengal, with its 45,000,000 inhabitants, you have this system of statutory and permanent majority for one section of the population.
Let the House consider what must inevitably result from this. Everything done against the Hindus in the Punjab will be known all over India better than it is known here. It will be known even in far Madras, where the Mohammedans are a small minority, as the Hindus are in the North West Provinces. Do you 97 think that there will not be retaliation Cannot you see the great wave of religious hatred which is being built up under this system of statutory majority and statutory minority? You who are uniting a federal India are, in this system, giving birth to a disunited, warring continent.
I will give another illustration of what has been concealed in the White Paper but is gradually becoming known, and which is more and more filling every Hindu in India with dread of the prospect. Another new fact has become visible, both here and in India, and that is that, behind this scheme of getting rid of English control and of the British Parliament and substituting the Princes and millionaires of India, there is a nefarious, most sinister agitation carried on by some of the ex-Civil Service of India. Who is the man who is most anxious for the White Paper to go through? Sir John Thompson. I remember a time when the Secretary of State for India got up from his seat on the Government Front Bench and censured Sir John Thompson.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Sir Samuel Hoare)
I have never censured him.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
No, not the right hon. Gentleman, but the right hon. Gentleman need not tell me that he does not know that Sir John Thompson was censured for his conduct in the Punjab.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Censured by Mr. Edwin Montagu, the Secretary of State for India. I think that there would be considerable interest, among such people as that, in getting rid of Parliamentary criticism and Parliamentary control, and substituting for it their friends, the people whom they can understand. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India perhaps has not read all the correspondence in the Press on this subject. Let us beware of shaping our policy in this country on views which are frankly Fascist in origin. The hatred of Parliament is not confined to a few maniacs in this country. There is a widespread feeling, which is felt all the more by those whose work is constantly criticised 98 and kept up to the mark by the British Parliament and by, I am glad to say, British Secretaries of State. Those people do not like Parliament, and they would like to get rid of this control. They would like to substitute a Parliament such as you are setting up at Delhi under this White Paper. The more that Indians come to appreciate who is at the back of the White Paper the less—not only Hindus but others—do they like the paternity or the offspring.
The objections to the White Paper are not only to these ideas and these new revelations, but to the whole idea of the communal system, which is seen now in India to be an attempt to divide the people of India, to destroy any chance of an Indian nation evolving, to make permanent for ever the gulf between two people who at present do not intermarry or intermingle, but who would be brought together in a genuine democracy. More and more people here and there are realising that the paper safeguards in the White Paper are not the ones upon which the Government rely, but that the chief safeguard upon which they rely is the presence in the assembly at Delhi of the Indian princes, who are the permanent, sound conservative element of stability in the new constitution and that we have got them in for what we can get out of them. If at any time it ever becomes necessary, I hope to say a few things about these Indian princes, about the people whom you are substituting for the British House of Commons. I do not believe that their acts are very popular even on that Front Bench—for example, the man who roasted his polo pony alive. These are the sort of people whom you are going to put instead of us. Well, the Indians do not like it any more than we do.
To my mind you are wholly mistaken. You want safety. Does anyone on that Front Bench honestly think that you can get safety by putting in charge of India the millionaires, the Princes of India, whose one desire will be to retain their positions by conducting a popular campaign against England, whose one fear will be, not displeasing England, but the rise of the working class, of the communist spirit? They are afraid, and I think they have every right to be afraid. They have held the working class down long enough in India. Anyone who knows the chawls of Delhi, anyone who has 99 studied the wage schedules in the pits of Bengal, must realise that those people who live on this have a right to be afraid. But the only way in which they can prevent danger arising to them will be by putting everything down to the Satanic British Government. Everything that goes wrong after this scheme will be due to the right hon. Gentleman. At present it is all bouquets, but it will not be so for a moment after they have got this handle to deal with the British Government. I think that this scheme might perhaps be supported unwittingly by Liberals and Labour people but for the way in which these people whom you propose to put for ever in charge of India—for this is the final step henceforth we can do nothing in the matter—have ruled India for the last 12 years, and have avoided, as their successors under this scheme will avoid, the carrying out of any reforms, in the interests of the working class—or of widows, or women, or education, or anything else. They have had the power in their councils to do all that we know they should have done if they had been people to whom you can entrust 350 millions of helpless souls. I think that no man can honestly support this scheme as being in the interests of the Indian people.
Many people here regard this as a matter which concerns England only. There are now, I know, safeguards to safeguard everyone who has any sort of interest in India, but this concerns the Indian people far more than the English people. Let those people who consider that these safeguards—these paper safeguards—are of any value, consider what happens to safeguards in other countries. We had safeguards in Ireland; we had safeguards in South Africa. Of what use are paper safeguards when obviously you have the sole interest of the new governing class in India directed towards finding in the safeguards the cause of every sort of blame which otherwise would fall upon them? Paper safeguards are of no use. Do let us think whether we could not provide a more genuine safeguard against these risks. Perhaps I might quote a few words from a paper in India which I always read, and which I think is the best paper produced in India—[HON. MEMBERS: "What paper"?] The "Servant of India," published at Poona. In the 100 course of a long and very friendly article it says:Few individuals, and certainly fewer organised nations, will be too eager to keep moral obligations at the sacrifice of material interests. But once in a while the improbable happens, as under Lord Ripon and Mr. Montagu. Britain more than any other country has had such moments of moral elevation.That I regard as the quintessence of what we want to say in India. This is how the same article ends—the whole article, of course, is damning the White Paper:The right and prudent course seems to be to make it clear that the Hoare constitution is wholly unsatisfactory, that the agitation for Swaraj will not abate a jot because of its enactment, that it will continue with ever-increasing strength until the demand is fully satisfied, and that, whatever constitution is enacted in the meanwhile, it will be utilised to the full only to forward the cause of Swaraj.That is a most remarkable statement. Is it not obvious that the safeguards are of no use, and that you are forcing upon these people an act which they loathe, and quite rightly, for reasons which every Englishman will appreciate?
I ventured to put before the Committee my own ideas of what should be done, and, if the House will tolerate it for one moment, I should like to outline it. I do not think much of paper safeguards. I want the Assembly at Delhi to be a temporary body, which will give us the opportunity of taking the next step forward later on. I want it to be composed, in the first place, of people elected by proportional representation, or otherwise if the Prime Minister so desires—to be elected by the provincial councils. The provincial councils would, in general, delegate one of themselves. Above all, I would put an end to the absurd provision in the existing law that a provincial councillor may not be elected to the Assembly. I want to get into the Assembly people who are not elected as extremists, but people who have experience of work and who will voice in the Assembly the interest of their Province, and not the anti-English policy which too often becomes the sole stock-in-trade at Delhi. Then I want, in addition, to have on this new body representatives of those Indian States, but only of those Indian States which have some form of representative government, whereby the members of 101 the Assembly could be voted for and elected by a representative body instead of being nominated by the Prince himself. It is true that that would only mean a few, a mere handful at present, but when the advantages of being represented on the Assembly have become obvious we might have a legitimate lever to increase the number of States with something in the nature of representative Government. There is not a single native State where they have responsible Government. All that we ask is that those States where they have some form of representative Government may then elect people on to the Assembly, at Delhi. Those would be the only two elements in the new Assembly that I would have permanetitly—the rest temporarily—temporarily until the idea of communal representation was dead. Temporarily I would have on that Assembly at Delhi nominated representatives of each of the communities nominated by the Viceroy on his responsibility. I should prefer them nominated and not elected for two reasons. Owe they are elected they become more important and more permanent, and the ultimate control of that Assembly must depend upon the Viceroy's power of dissolving it if the nominated men vote against him, and being able to reconstitute a new Assembly with more suitable material. You must have control over the Assembly during this transition period and that would give you control.
But far more than that, the vital item in my scheme is that we should have in the Assembly men elected by this House of Commons and by the House of Lords. Fifteen men from the Commons and 15 from the Lords would give you 30 Englishmen, who would be the very best safeguard and a far better safeguard than the Princes. They would not look at everything through official eyes. They would look a t matters through the eyes of the people who elected them to this House. I would combine that with representation here of an equal number of Indians. I wish hon. Members would believe me in this: The real difficulty in India is not that they want self-government. What they want is respect and equality. The whole of Gandhi's life has been directed towards putting an end to this horrible caste system, the caste between white and coloured and the caste between every other brand of Indian.
102 The elimination of caste, he says, is the salvation of Iildiall man and woman; and, by putting Indians here beside ourselves, above all, by putting Englishmen in the Indian Assembly with the good will of the Indians, we should be doing more to bridge the chasm between Englishmen and Indians than by any amount of infusing the civil service of India with Indian-born people. Once put all of us together on these benches and there are no caste distinctions.. Once put the English and the Indians on the same benches in Delhi and you will get the real co-operation of India and you will get the best possible education for democracy and self-government. I have always been an advocate of sending to govern the various provinces of India Members who have had experience in this House. I think it does some good. They have a wider spirit when they gee there, They are better than Government-promoted officials.
This might really be the beginning of a real Imperial Parliament. I cannot think why the opportunity has been missed, if it has been missed, in the case of Nrwfoundland. Now, when we are taking away self-government frcm Newfoundland, could we not have a Newfoundland representative in this Parliament? India is far more important. There yon have the alternative of two countries drifting permanently apart, as we have drifted apart from Ireland. That is the alternative of the White Paper. On the other hand, you have the chance of real co-operation, not only in India but here as well. The right hon. Gentleman talks about missing the omnibus. The omnibus was missed long ago. This is the only chance we have of building a new one to travel towards an allied democracy. I have urged this scheme upon the Committee but not the slightest notice has been taken of it except in India, and there it has met with unanimous approval as far as the Press goes. Everywhere they say how much better i t would be than the right hon. Gentleman's proposal.
§ Earl WINTERTON
Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman quote the name of anybody in India who has supported it?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I rnnnnt tell you anybody, but I have talked with a good many people, and I have rend all the extracts is the Press. I have also taken the trouble to write to Gandhi who, 103 after all, is doing the same work in India as I am trying to do here. I sent him my evidence. I said, "I know you cannot reply." No Indian leader can afford to back any scheme to-day. "I know you cannot reply. If you want me to stop let me know." I have never had a word from him. The one thing that he regrets in his life is that he ever came to the Round Table Conference and apparently sanctioned such a scheme as this. I think the right hon. Gentleman and his Committee might consider an alternative which would give far greater satisfaction and greater security to the interests of this country and India and might lead in the future to the establishment of a real Imperial Parliament containing representatives from other Dominions, which would be something worthy of a National Government, instead of this scheme which this Committee is going to discuss and which has the honest support of so few in this House or in either country.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Sir ADRIAN BAILLIE
I have listened with careful attention—the careful attention which it deserves—and more than usual interest to the speech which has just been delivered by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). He has ventilated some of his own views in regard to the policy contained in the White Paper. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman made a few suggestions as to how he personally would like to have the assemblies at Delhi constituted, but it seemed to me that, in the course of his remarks, he gave some hint that he thought that some of his suggestions were not entirely practicable. The general arguments in support of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's views disagreeing with the Government's policy in the White Paper are also familiar to us, even if they are refurbished from time to time and delivered with disarming eloquence.
I asked myself what was the real purpose of this Debate this afternoon? Why was it that a whole day was to be allotted to discussing as to whether we were to give our authority to re-constitute the Joint Select Committee. I should have thought that the result of the meeting of the Central Council of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Asso- 104 ciations at the Friends' House on 28th June last, would have been sufficient to have convinced most people that the Conservative party, at any rate, was not prepared to prejudge the issue while the policy of the White Paper is sub judice. I take it that the House of Commons, being n responsible assembly, will be equally unprepared to commend or to reject the work of the Joint Select Committee, when, as far as I know, they have put no recommendations on paper. I take it, therefore, that the best that can be hoped of this Debate this afternoon is that it will be a cheap sounding board for those who are opposed to the policy of the Government contained in the White Paper. I have observed and noted one or two of the main points sanding out in the propaganda which is being directed not only in this House but around the country against the White Paper.
It is said that when democracy is breaking down in the West, and is giving place to the strong hand of dictatorship, surely, it is extraordinarily foolish for us to propose to hand over a democratic constitution to an oriental government; an oriental country entirely unversed in the traditions of democracy, whose people constitutionally and temperamentally, would be entirely unable to work such institutions even if they were versed in such administration. I agree. I think that is a very powerful argument, but, as a powerful argument, it will be equally effective if used against provincial autonomy or any other form of democratic government or the recommendations of the Simon Commission. In the speech just delivered by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, while he tiraded against the policy of the Government and generally deplored the stupidity of handing over this form of democracy to India, nevertheless he said—I think I am right in saying it—that the only hope of India was genuine democracy. I am really at this moment unable to make such a fine distinction. In a speech which I made in a similar Debate in this House on 28th March last I pointed out that the official Opposition seemed to think that we had only to hand over what I called the blue-print of a Western democratic constitution to India and that thereafter the Hindu politicians would promptly put it into effect, to the great 105 advantage of the Indian masses in their millions. At the time I evinced considerable doubt as to that result. I have no doubt when this constitution is passed over to India democracy, as it will be worked out in India, will be something very different from what we are used to in this country and in the West.
I do not believe that the possibility of relatively slight and possibly transitory backsliding in the status of the masses of India is a sufficient reason for us in this House turning down in its entirety the proposals and the policy contained in the White Paper. I do not believe that that is a, sufficient reason in itself for us to reject the work which has been done by the Joint Select Committee. Such rejection would, in my opinion, jettison for a long time to come our position in India and our trade relations with India. I would like to remind hon. and right hon. Gentlemen that upon the success, maintenance and increase of our trade with India depends the livelihood and happiness of thousands of our own men and women in this country. The India Defence League stressed the Missionary role of our position in India. As in the past they say we have made it our business and mission to look after the Indian masses in their millions, so we must continue for an indefinite period to look after those masses and protect them against their rapacious and autocratic political and religious leaders. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme made a lot of this point in the course of his remarks, and, in a speech which he made in this House on 28th March last, he put that point of view with considerable force and imagination. He said that he disliked abdication in any circumstances, but thought that this was worse than abdication—it was cowardly abdication, and cowardly as well as futile.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman at that time, and again to-day, showed that he was incensed by the fact that the Indian princes had been encouraged to federate. He did the Tory party the honour at that time of saying that everybody knew that one Tory Member in this House was worth six Indian princes. If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had visited recently some of the more progressive and larger States in India as I recently have had the pleasure of doing— 106 States such as Mysore and Hyderabad—I think that he would have appreciated and would have seen for himself the very high standards already achieved and the real progress that has been made in some of those States—the ones I have mentioned—in health and education. I am sure that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman with his usual courtesy, would he the first to qualify his entirely sweeping condemnation of the princes as a whole. While the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and the Indian Defence League seem to be of one mind and feel very sincerely that the policy of the Government contained in the White Paper is one which is ruthlessly sacrificing the Indian masses, we also have the official Opposition who always tell us—we believe them—that they have the interests of the poorest of the poor nearest to their hearts, but the official Opposition advocates, so far as I know, unqualified abdication.
Thus in this House, we are confronted by two parties both apparently having the same objective, but their methods of reaching that objective are diametrically opposed. The Labour party emphasises the fact that we have been in virtual occupation of India for 150 years, that there have been /5 years of promises and that India is still one of the poorest countries in the world. Maybe that is so, but, to use an old saying, "You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear," and it would be idle to suggest that occupation and the Government of India. by Great Britain have not conferred upon that country considerable benefits such as up-to-date methods of transport, vast irrigation schemes, the teaching of hygiene and sanitation. By one means or another we have been able to decrease the mortality rate which had been growing year by year through pestilence and droughts. In the past 10 years the population of India has increased by 34,000,000, or 10 per cent. The increase for the last 50 years is 38 per cent., equal to the total population of France, or Italy and greater than that of Poland or Spain, and yet the Census Commissioner, in commenting on this increase in the population, says that it is no cause for satisfaction, but rather one for alarm. Thus the irony of the situation seems to me that while we have made it more difficult for the Indian to die, we have. riot made it much easier for him to live.
107 By putting a stop to perpetual internecine warfare, we have given India economic unity. We have educated Indians in our universities, they have learnt our ways, and we have encouraged them to look forward to the time when they would rule themselves. Wisely or unwisely, those are the seeds which we have sown, and now India is asking for more than economic unity. It is asking for political unity. India has learnt one other thing from this country. India has learnt the power of mass demonstration, of mass agitation. Her methods are not always the same as those in this country, but Mr. Gandhi has discovered and capitalised the real genius of his race, and that is passive resistance. If he was unable to get his followers to rise up in revolt, he has found it perfectly easly to get them—both men and women—to lie down and obstruct. Passive resistance boycott, terrorism, we know how those have frustrated our efforts since the War, and we know the damage that has resulted to our trade; but it seems to me that in the last year or two the situation has changed rapidly and for the better. There is plenty of evidence to support that statement, but I think it is apparent that the power of Congress is waning. No greater evidence in support of that statement could be produced than the tale told by the gaols of India. I see that for July last the number of prisoners in Indian gaols for political offences had dropped by 70 per cent., and that the number of actual convictions in that month was insignificant.
All those who read it must have appreciated and been impressed by the agreement which was signed in October last between the Bombay Mill-owners' Association and the Lancashire Textile Delegation. Sir William Clare Lees, the chairman of the Manchester Textile Delegation, before leaving Bombay, made a statement in which he asked all those of good will in India to lend their sympathy and support to this new basis of trade relation which had been initiated. I have had some small personal experience of business in India and business with Indians in this country, and I have always thought that the real hope for the future of this country in India must be based on an establishment of good will, not only in business, but also in the social and political sphere as well, but I also realised 108 that unless there was good will in the political sphere, it would be increasingly difficult to get good will in the business sphere.
I have recent information that the feeling of India is changing, that India to-day is prepared to accept the policy of the White Paper, provided that it is recognisable when it appears in the Bid before this House, having been through the mill of the Joint Committee. India is tired of what has gone before. The business man who previously financed and supported Congress, realises that while he may have got some advantage out of passive resistance and boycotting, nevertheless, to some extent, he was cutting off his nose to spite his face. But I am also informed that time is an element of the contract, and I would like to see the Joint Select Committee re-established as a result of this Debate, and to see their deliberations terminated with the utmost expedition.
§ 4.8 p.m.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I do not wish to continue the Debate upon the merits of this immense topic which has been opened to us this afternoon in two such pregnant speeches as those to which we have just listened. I say "pregnant" because they contain very much matter and many statements with which all of us could agree or disagree according to our views. But I do not propose this afternoon to go into those large issues, because when we have this matter on the Floor of this House in the long stages of a Bill, we shall have lots of opportunities to thrash out every detail and every aspect.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman knows a great deal about India, but I have lived a long time in the House, and I certainly am of opinion that we shall have opportunities of debating this matter very fully. Therefore, I do not propose this afternoon to go at all over the ground which I, personally, endeavoured to explore and to illuminate when we last discussed this subject. Neither do I propose to object in any way to the reappointment of the Committee, and I should like to associate myself with the tribute which was paid to the Committee yesterday by the Prime Minister for its patience, courtesy and zeal in its protracted task. I think 109 it is a great pity that the Government packed the Committee with such an overwhelming majority of their own supporters who had already made their views publicly known in favour of the White Paper. If the Secretary of State had shown a larger sense of tolerancce and of fair play, and a greater detachment from his own schemes, I believe that he could have created a body whose labours would have been a real help in solving these profound Indian problems, or might, at any rate, have made some valuable contribution thereto. It was a great chance which my right hon. Friend threw away through being too greedy. But at this stage in the proceedings, after the Committee have sat for so many months, after they have examined so many witnesses, and, as I can testify myself, with inexhaustible assiduity and patience, and now that they have begun to consider the result of all their evidence, and now that there is nothing left for them to do but to disagree upon their report, I think it would be a great pity to make any effort to change the personnel at the present time.
Therefore, I make no complaint at all of the Motion which the Under-Secretary made to us in his speech, which, unhappily, I did not hear, but which. I am told, had at any rate the merit of Brevity. The point I wish to complain about this afternoon is not the appointment of this Committee nor the character of the Committee. My complaint—it is very largely a Parliamentary argument and a political argument, not roaming off into the far spaces of the East, but very much directed to our own affairs at home—my complaint is directed to the fact that His Majesty's Government, while constantly assuring Parliament and the Conservative party, who, after all, are the bulk of their supporters, that we are not committed in any way beyond the Act of 1919, and while appealing to us on all occasions to wait for the Report of the Joint Committee, are, in fact, doing everything in their power to drive forward the White Paper policy, and to make it impossible for Parliament to recede from it. That is the proposition I propose to develop and examine, with the patience of the House, this afternoon.
I say that for this purpose the Government speak with two voices—one voice 110 for home and the other for India, and very often one voice for one audience at home and another for a different audience. What is the salient fact in the tactics of His Majesty's Government? It is very remarkable, when you consider how long this matter has gone on, that they have never openly sought a vote in favour of the White Paper policy. Nothing could exceed the modesty and the meekness of the Motions which the Government arrange to have proposed in their support. Every direct issue has been avoided, whether in the House of Commons or in the party conferences out of doors. The Government have never dared—I make no reproach upon their courage; it is not a question of courage, it is a question of their knowledge of the political forces at work—to ask plainly for approval of their Indian policy. They have a stock Motion which they introduce on all difficult occasions when they are brought into contact with those to whom they owe their political authority. I must read it to the House. That stock Motion is to this effect:Approves the caution with which the Government is proceeding in framing its proposals for a new Constitution, and believes that this country should not come to any final conclusion on the matter until the Joint Select Committee now sitting, which consists in the main of men with a wide experience of Indian administration, have finished the hearing of evidence and made their recommendations.That seems very reasonable. Nobody could find much fault with that, but it is hardly an heroic and confident statement of the issues which the Government are putting before the country. I notice that even Ministers of the Crown have been quite ready to support a Resolution of this kind, congratulating the Government and enjoining upon the Government—that is, upon themselves—extreme caution in the development of their Indian policy. Nobody would complain of that kind of self-discipline, which may be extremely necessary.
From the beginning we have been assured that we are not committed by anything that the Round Table Conference have done to any new position in regard to India. At every stage we have been urged to wait for something that is going to happen. For a very long time we were told to wait for the White Paper. Then we were told to wait for the appointment 111 of the Committee. Now we are told to wait for the report of the Committee. When the report of the Committee has been presented we shall be invited to wait until the Government decide upon the main headlines of their Bill, and after that we shall be told to wait until we see the actual text of the Bill. At every point we are being invited to wait, and side by side with it there goes on an insidious propaganda to this effect: "After all the expectations that have been aroused in India we cannot go back on the work of the Round Table Conference."
I am going to repeat some of the assurances that we have received. They are familiar to the House, but there is no reason why the country and the House should not be reminded of them. The earliest of them was given by the Prime Minister, in reply to a letter addressed to him during the late Parliament by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, who asked him some very pointed questions. The Prime Minister replied, on the 11th November, 1929:The answer to both parts of the question as to whether the Viceroy's (Lord Irwin's) Declaration implies any change in the policy hitherto declared or in the time when this status may be attained, is, No.Then there was the celebrated statement of Lord Hailsham, in December, 1931, in the opening Debate of this Parliament:You are not pledging yourself to support any Bill when it comes before this House. You are committing yourself to this, and to this only, that you endorse the action of the Government in going on with their inquiries and negotiations, in sending out their Committees, in seeing the Ruling Princes and in endeavouring to find a solution on those lines, but you reserve to yourself full liberty if, when the solution is brought before you, you think it does not meet the conditions laid downThat was the statement made by Lord Hailsham in the House of Lords. Lastly, there is the statement of the Secretary of State for India, in the House of Commons on the 27th March of this year:The pledges of the past leave full opportunity to Parliament in the choice of the time and manner of constitutional advance. I accept this principle."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th March, 1933; col. 697, Vol. 276.]Those are the assurances. Let us look on the other side. Look at the propa- 112 ganda. My right hon. and gallant Friend opposite has referred to Sir John Thompson and Sir Alfred Watson, two gentlemen who have lately obtained some prominence through being particularly noticed by the "Times" newspaper. I am not aware of any other claim they have to special attention. They are the chief organisers of the Union of Britain and India, which is the propagandist society which has been set up to advocate the White Paper, and which is cherished, and I think I might almost say, though I do not say it, nourished by the Conservative Central Office. Let us see what these two gentlemen, who are conducting the propaganda of the Government and who, so to speak, are the advance guard of the Government in their Indian policy, have to say. Sir Alfred Watson wrote in the "Times" of the 10th June, 1933:Whatever validity attaches to the Montagu pledge, it has been reinforced, if not superseded, by a pledge of far more significance. In December, 1931, both Houses of Parliament approved by overwhelming majorities the policy outlined in the Indian Round Table Conference, Command Paper No. 3972. That Command Paper declared for provincial autonomy, for a Central Government with responsibility on a Federal basis, and for safeguards. The Prime Minister stated that, In order to give this declaration the fullest authority' he was asking Parliament to approve it.Sir John Thompson, on the 15th September, also in the "Times" newspaper, said:Parliament has already expressed its approval of the triple basis scheme which is now before the Join Committee, that is, provincial autonomy, federation and partial responsibility at the centre.What is the relation of this insidious propaganda to the perfectly definite pledge of Lord Hailsham in the House of Lords when the Resolution was being passed, and to the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman in the House so recently?
There is a much more important declaration which. has been recently made, to which I must invite the attention of the House. I mean the declaration of the Viceroy upon the question of Dominion Status. The phrase "Dominion Status" was loosely used 10 or 12 years ago and all who were concerned in that, however unwittingly, are blameworthy.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I am glad to find that my words for once have won the agreement of the Noble Lord. I am glad to find that on one point, at any rate, I am at one with him. Many things have happened in the last 10 years. The whole of this constitutional field in India has now become an area of the most closely examined and meticulously scrutinised constitutional argument, and every point, every phrase is now looked at not with the sentimental interpretation which might have been put upon it but with the exact meaning. Moreover, as the Noble Lord might remind his constituents at Horsham the next time he has the courage to face them—the Statute of Westminster has been passed in the last two years.
The House is familiar with all the details of the Statute of Westminster. The changes which that Statute made in Dominion Status are overwhelming and measureless. The changes which it made in the letter of the law of Dominion Status are overwhelming—tne right to secede by mere votes of the Assemblies, the power to disallow any Imperial Acts, even the Acts which constitute the instrument setting up the Dominion, and many other points of the utmost significance which had been a dead letter between us and the self-governing Dominions but which carry great validity in regard to our relations with India. All these powers have been introduced to the Statute Book as a result of the Statute of Westminster, and I do not imagine that the Indian politicians are not fully alive to all this. We all remember Mr. Sastri's attempt to commend the White Paper to some of his friends, when he pointed out that Dominion Status included the right to secede from the British Empire, and therefore it was more acceptable than it otherwise would have been.
When this Parliament began, in its callow youth, when it first arrived here full of enthusiasm and wondering what great things were going to happen, I raised this question of the effect of the Statute of Westminster upon the proposals of the White Paper—not the last White Paper but the first White Paper of two years ago; the Prime Minister's valedictory address to the Congress delegates. What did the Secretary of State say? He said that the Statute of Westminster had no more to do with the 114 statement of Government policy than the man in the moon.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Very well. I am very glad to hear that. I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman is still standing by the man in the moon. But what does he think of this statement of the Viceroy, reported in the "Times" of the 29th August of this year, in which he claimed thatHis Government's policy had been completely consistent with two main facets and the first was to push on with the reforms as hard as they could go so as to help India forward to Dominion status and absolute equality with the other Dominions.What has the right hon. Gentleman to say to that? While he declares that what he has in mind has no more to do with the Statute of Westminster than the man in the moon, the Viceroy, with whom he is in the closest accord, speaking in India, to another audience, says that he is working up to absolute equality—note the phrase—with the other Dominions, and he uses that expression at a time when the politicians in India attach importance to the expression "Dominion Status," because they know that under the Statute of Westminster it gives them the right inter alia to secede from the British Empire. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will explain this position when he speaks this evening, but it is very difficult to reconcile this kind of double policy, the man in the moon here, and absolute equality at Delhi with that fair dealing which we have always associated and which I hope we shall always be able to associate with those who sit on that Front Bench.
There is another aspect which illustrates the point that I am making, namely, the concealment of the issue here while all the time a march is being stolen elsewhere. That is my point. There is another aspect, and perhaps to some extent something of this might have been inevitable, but I want the House to examine it. While the country is assured that nothing is happening and that we are altogether uncommitted, step by step His Majesty's Government are advancing towards their goal. While the nation is soothed and chloroformed here, every preparation is being made to bring the policy into actual effect in India. Indeed, it is taken for granted by the Government of 115 India in their every act that this policy is going through. A law has been passed empowering Governors to prolong the life of various local legislatures, and in view of the constitutional changes which it is assumed are going to take place governors are being appointed who are ardent supporters of the scheme. That is not unnatural, because one would hardly expect the Government to appoint opponents of their scheme.
The Civil Service have been offered the right to retire on proportionate pensions if under the new scheme they feel that they have no longer a reasonable and hopeful sphere of usefulness. This is a curious provision which does not seem to suggest any great enthusiasm on the part of the Civil Service for the new method, but it is no bar to the Government claiming that the great bulk of the Civil Service are supporters of the scheme. Contributors to the Indian military widows and orphans pension fund have been told, rather callously, that if they care to bring their funds home they can, but, naturally, their pittance will be less at home because of the lower rates of interest. We are told that it is derogatory to the Indian Government to offer any British guarantee for the payment of pensions due. The naval and military authorities have been reassured by the proposed detachment of the fortress of Aden from the control of future Indian Governments. Aden is to be saved from the wreck. It is a measure of prudence which must commend itself, but it is rather a strange mark of confidence. All this shows how constantly and by every channel the Government are proceeding as if the Report of the Committee were a foregone conclusion, as if the decision of this House and the other House were a foregone conclusion, and that the whole scheme would come into complete operation. While anxieties at home are lulled and the direct issue avoided we are every month becoming more deeply compromised by arousing Indian expectations, and at the same time His Majesty's Government, ruthlessly, behind the scenes, are making every preparation for carrying their policy into effect. They have already gone a long way.
Among all the continuous preparations which they are making and the propaganda which they are conducting behind 116 the scenes in all the vast administrative sphere under their control, nothing is more prominent than he pressure they have put on the Princes of India. The word "pressure" is difficult to define. Pressure is difficult to prove. I am told that sometimes the Whips put pressure on hon. Members in the Lobby to vote in a particular division, but it is difficult. to prove as, in the first, place, some of the language used would not, I am told, be suitable for reproduction on the Floor of the House, even if it were not already safeguarded by being private conversation. Therefore I have to rely on public statements which are quotable. There are several which are quotable. I am not going to say anything about patronage. Since I referred to it in the Debate in the summer I have had a, great deal of material put before me, but it is a matter which cannot be dealt with properly because it involves dealing with individual cases, and would be very painful and vexatious to the individuals concerned. Therefore, I shall not attempt to deal with this very large and obvious sphere of patronage. But let me take a statement made by Sir Akbar Hydari, the representative of the Nizam in this country. On 23rd December, 1932—he asked this question:Is it not the fact that the Secretary of State and His Majesty's Government have slowly but surely pressed us into the Federation? No one who has watched the Secretary of State and his colleagues ruthlessly holding us to it, can doubt that it is an All-India Federation that they want, and no lesser substitute.Apparently this ruthless pressure had some effect on Sir Akbar Hydari, because when I was a witness before the Joint Select Committee he said this:May I also state that so far from there being any pressure from the Political Department of the Government of India on the different States in favour of Federation, I believe British India, at any rate, was afraid that the pressure would he exerted the other way in tearing up the Federation.Whatever pressure has been at work on the mind of this eminent and distinguished Indian gentleman it has certainly been effective; it has produced a complete change in his statement. Then there was the exhortation, the warning, with a menace in it, given to the princes of India by the Lord Chancellor in winding up the third Round Table Conference. He said: 117There was only one thing which could dim the lustre of their statesmanship, and that one thing was delay. India is thirsting … you have put the cup to her lips—do not delay her drinking it.I say that it is pressure when one of the leading Members of His Majesty's Government says publicly to the princes of India that they will be responsible for denying to India the cup for which India. is thirsting. There is also the incident of the Jam Sahib at Delhi, who was interrupted by the Viceroy and made to discontinue the speech he was making on the dangers of federation. It was explained to me by the Secretary of State, when I attended the sitting of the Joint Select Committee, that this was merely that the Jam Sahib was out of order, the topic was not on the Order Paper for that day, and that all the Viceroy did was to call him to order. That is not at all a complete representation of what took place. The greatest pressure put on the princes of India is the pressure of their own loyalty to the Crown, to the British Government, and to the Viceroy as the King Emperor's representative. When it is clearly shown what is the view of the Government it undoubtedly tends, through the whole of the great congregation of Native States, to make them desirous to meet the wishes of the supreme authority, of the King Emperor and his Government. One of the most pathetic features of this story is the malversation of loyalties to the British Empire, which we have by our past conduct deserved and won, and which should have been our defence and support.
I am not making any assertion but I would ask the Secretary of State to enlighten us on this matter. I have seen it stated that the residency areas at Bangalore and Hyderabad are being handed back to the Governments of Mysore and Nizam respectively. Is that so?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I am glad of that, that is perfectly right and proper. The right hon. Gentleman cannot say "no" right away, and he is entitled to make his answer in the form he likes at a later stage. There is the question of the Berars. This is an important point: I am subject to correction on this matter.
118 The Berars are a district in the northern part of the State of Hyderabad which have been administered for a long time by the British Government. The Nizam and his advisers have been anxious to have them back under their own government, an anxiety not entirely shared by the population of the district. This is what the Secretary of State said on the 15th of December to the Hyderabad Delegation at a dinner reported in the "Times of India" on 17th December. It was not reported extensively in this country, but the text is taken from the "Times of India," on which I am entirely dependent as my authority. If it is not correct then my argument, so far as it rests on this report, must be withdrawn. This is what the right hon. Gentleman is reported to have said:We have had one or two difficult questions; to take the single instance connected with the future of Berar, a territory that is part of Hyderabad but none the less administered by the British Government. Obviously, that dual arrangement might make for considerable difficulty in the way of a Federation, if there was not willingness to make an agreeable settlement on both sides. Sir Akbar"—that is the gentleman whose opinions underwent a transformation—and I have discussed the question at some length, and I venture to say that the discussions all go to show that with good will on both sides—and it is quite obvious that good will exists on both sides—more detailed negotiations that are to occur in India in the next few weeks will certainly succeed. I see no reason, and I do not think that Sir Akbar sees any reason why the complicated position of Berar should in any way he an obstacle in the way of the entry of Hyderabad into the Federation.That is an important concession made to one of the most important, perhaps the greatest, Prince of India, not, of course, as a bargain, not, of course, as a quid pro quo, but simultaneously with the vigorous exertion which he and his representatives are making in favour of the establishment of a federal scheme. There was the incident which fell under my own notice at the time when I visited the Joint Select Committee. There was a question from Sir Manubhai Mehta, who is the representative of Bikaner. He was examining me, and after pointing out that the Indian States had great financial grievances against the Indian Government and that they ought to have large financial concessions, he asked this question: 11915,184. Are you aware that the Davidson Committee also reported that many States had not been fairly treated, and large financial sums were due to them and they would be paid to them only if they entered the Federation. You now stop the Federation. What becomes of their financial claims?Whether he asked this question by accident or design I cannot tell, but I wish hon. Members had been present to see the effect it produced on the Secretary of State for India and upon the Chancellor of the Duchy. Hon. Members have no doubt. seen a hen suddenly disturbed when sitting on eggs and the Chancellor of the Duchy, the Chairman of the Committee, came clucking and cluttering up. Observe what happened. Here is a Committee presided over by the Chancellor of the Duchy, which has been dealing with the question of the sums paid by the native States to the Imperial Government in consequence of the protection they receive from British forces and for other reasons, going into the whole of this matter; and here are the States which are all complaining, as everyone does complain, that the Government ought to make large financial concessions. Here are the Government very anxious to get the States to come into the Federation, to work up to the 50 per cent. which is now all they hope for in spite of the inducements and pressure. And then comes my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy with his report. I do not suggest for a moment that he had any intention of offering any inducement in the report, but it presents the situation that if they do come in they are going to get large financial concessions, and that if the Federation does not go through they are not, as far as we know now, going to get them, or are not going to get them in the present form at the present time.
There, is an instance of pressure, of financial pressure. I am willing to accept. any statement as to the good faith of the Government in the matter, though the point is not what the Government meant. The real point is what is the impression produced upon the Princes of India and the native States by the way this matter has been handled? There can he no doubt, if you read what Sir Manubhai Mehta said, what that impression was. In spite of all these inducements, it really is remarkable that the 120 Government have had to reduce their expectations of the Princes who will come into the scheme down to as low as 50 per cent.
I have definitely limited myself to this one point, which I have tried to approach from various angles. It is not only the right but it is the duty of a Government to have a will of its own and to have a policy, and to declare that policy. I do not accuse the Government of being without a will of its own, or without a policy on India. On the contrary, I think that the Prime Minister and the Lord President of the Council have never changed their policy in any way since it was formulated around Christmas of 1930. Then the Prime Minister, head of a Socialist Government, as we know from the testimony of the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. M. MacDonald), definitely decided in favour of a federal system for India, with responsible government at the centre. Since 26th January, 1931, when my right hon. Friend the Lord President, then the Leader of the Opposition, openly declared his intention to support and implement—that was the word—the proceedings of the first Round Table Conference, these two powerful politicians, who control in one way or another an enormous part of the agencies and facilities of our public life and discussion, have steadily driven their policy forward by every means in their power, and such has been their ardour that they have subordinated almost all other considerations to their main purpose. I have no doubt—I give this as a matter of personal judgment—that their agreement upon the subject of India played a definite part in bringing about the great convulsions in our political and party life which occurred at the end of 1931.
During the whole of this long period, more than three years, they have never in my judgment changed their policy. The policy is exactly the same now as it was when the Prime Minister planned it as head of the late Government. The White Paper embodied that policy. The Joint Committee was selected to make absolutely sure that it should be supported. And every step has been taken since which forethought and calculation could suggest in order to bring it to fruition. We see infirmity of purpose, inertia and lack of energy and conviction in many directions in our affairs, but we 121 must recognise the persistency and resolution and. activity which have characterised the action of the Government in this Indian sphere. There is no complaint of that. They have as much right to press their views as some of us have to oppose them.
My complaint is not that they are pressing their views by every means open to them. My complaint is of the discrepancy between their action and the assurances which the leaders of the Conservative party are constantly giving to the public that no one is committed, that the whole matter is sub judice, that the. Lord President is only considering the matter in all its bearings, that all is entirely open pending the report of the Joint Committee, and that all we are engaged in is inquiry and examination. That is the discrepancy to which I have directed the attention of the House this afternoon. It is a discrepancy which I think is unfair—I will not say wilfully unfair, but in fact naturally unfair to the Conservative party and the country, who have a right to be told with candour whither it is proposed to lead them, instead of being baffled and hoodwinked by endless evasions, when all the time every possible step is being taken to prejudice the decision beyond recall.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
I have listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman she Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). I also heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman yesterday afternoon. Having regard to the criticism he has made of the Government I have only one suggestion to make to him, and that is that he should cross the Floor. If I felt under an obligation to make such criticism of a Government that I professed to support, as conveyed not merely in his speech of to-day, but in his remarkably bitter speech of yesterday against the Prime Minister, I should think it would be very much better to make that criticism from this side of the House rather than from that on which the right hon. Gentleman sits. I remember the speech that the right hon. Gentleman made in this House on the first King's Speech after the present Government was formed. On that occasion he said that his relations with the Front Bench continued to be friendly. Those relations can hardly be considered friendly now.
122 I remember another occasion when the right hon. Gentleman compared my right hon. Friend to Naaman raising difficulties in the house of Rimmon. I think that other Biblical parallels could be found for the right hon. Gentleman. He said this afternoon that the Government had packed the Joint Committee. But surely it was the duty of the Government, if they had decided on the general policy-of the White Paper, to see that in the formation of that Committee they could get some general support of their policy. I think the accusation of packing the Joint Committee is entirely beside the point. As soon as the Government came to the conclusion that the White Paper proposals broadly represented their policy, surely it was their obligation to see, in setting up the Committee, that that policy should be generally supported.
The right hon. Gentleman should be the last man to make complaint as he was offered a place on the Select Committee. Re said that the Government had had a great chance and had thrown it away. The right hon. Gentleman has had a great chance and he threw it away when he declined to serve with the rest of us. He did us the honour of coming before the Joint Committee on three succeeding days, and I understood he stated to some friends that he had had an exhausting experience. He can, therefore, appreciate the exhausting experience of some of us, day after day, sometimes four and five days a week. It would have been a lessening of our burden if we could have shared it with the right hon. Gentleman. Surely the views that the right hon. Gentleman has expressed with such eloquence here today would have been very much better expressed there. It was very remarkable that he should have referred in such a scoffing manner to Sir Akbar Hydari, when as a matter of fact he was very modest and mild in the presence of that gentleman himself. The right hon. Gentleman when he came before the Committee found himself face to face with some of the people whom he had dealt with in the past. Let me quote from one of his earlier speeches outside this House. In the Albert Hall a few years ago the right hon. Gentleman said:It is a hideous act of self-mutilation, astounding to every nation in the world. The Princes, the Europeans, the Moslems, the depressed classes, the Anglo-Indian—123 none of them know where to turn in face of their apparent desertion by Great Britain."
I have no doubt that that statement got the like cheers at the Albert Hall. But the remarkable thing was that when the right hon. Gentleman came before the Joint Committee and was face to face with the representatives of those very classes, face to face with the representatives of the very communities to which he had referred, the representatives of the Princes and others, there was no one of them who did not dissociate himself expressly and categorically from the scheme suggested by the right hon. Gentleman. At the Albert Hall the right hon. Gentleman was the champion of the Europeans. On the Joint Committee we had before us the representatives of the European Association. They had come many thousands of miles to speak to us and to give evidence. They gave their evidence on 4th July. The right hon. Gentleman has said that they were astonished in India at this great act of betrayal by the British Government. They gave their evidence and were questioned upon it. They represented the European industrial interests in India; they were Englishmen, with all their stake in that country, so that if things slithered down to chaos and ruin, as the right hon. Gentleman has suggested, they would be the first to lose, their interests would be the first to go. The question was put to their spokesman as to what would happen in India if the White Paper proposal, or something on those lines, was rejected, and the answer, given by Mr. James on behalf of the Chambers of Commerce of India and the European Association, was:I think that I can say this fairly, that the Association would view with grave misgivings the position which would arise in India if reasonable expectations of political advance were now disappointed by the rejection of the White Paper proposals. This would, in our mind, lead to serious consequences, and it would be almost impossible, in our view, to re-establish that co-operation between British and Indian leaders which has characterised the Round Table Conferences and has brought the whole question to its present stage. The view of the Association generally is that it is not practicable to go back behind the present Government of India Act. It is not possible 124 to stand still, and the White Paper proposals, subject to such modification as we are asking the Joint Committee to consider, do offer a reasonable and cautious advance towards the ideal of a federated India. I am glad to make that perfectly clear.I have always said that this is the fairest Assembly in the world. Who is better qualified to speak for these European interests to whom the right hon. Gentleman referred in his peroration at the Albert Hall? I suggest that it is not the right hon. Gentleman who admits that he has not been in India for a great many years like many of the rest of us. But we had the advantage of the evidence of men whose business interests are in India today and who state virtually that unless we have a policy which is generally the policy embodied in the White Paper they believe that conditions in India will go down to chaos and disaster.
§ Sir WILLIAM DAVISON
On a point of Order. I did not interrupt the hon. Gentleman until he had completed that line of argument. I now desire to ask you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether it is in accordance with the practice of the House for Members to take part in a Debate the object of which is to consider whether they should be reappointed on a Committee or not.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
The hon. Member is under a misapprehension. This Debate is to decide whether or not a Message shall be sent to another place recommending that a certain Committee be appointed. The question of the personnel of that Committee will arise, if and when the recommendation of this House is agreed with in another place.
§ Mr. FOOT
I would ask my hon. Friend the Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison), with whom I have, generally, the happiest relations, to remember that I have not in this Debate supported the White Paper proposals. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I have not, and I ask hon. Members to refer tomorrow to the official report of what have said. I am dealing with the claim made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) to be the spokesman of these people.
§ Mr. FOOT
I will quote again the right hon. Gentleman's own words:It is an … act of mutilation astounding to every nation in the world. The Princes, the Europeans, the Moslems, the depressed classes, the Anglo-Indian—none of them know where to turn in face of their apparent desertion by Great Britain.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Surely it is perfectly possible to state facts, and matters of opinion without claiming to be the representative of all those classes.
§ Mr. FOOT
If the right hon. Gentleman now says that when he made that statement, he was ignorant of their opinion and had no authority to speak on their behalf and had made no inquiry, then it shows what weight we are in future to attach to speeches made. by him on this question. He said that these people did not know where to turn in the face of their apparent desertion by Great Britain. He referred to the Moslems in that connection. In the Committee itself, and it is upon record, the leading representative of the Moslem community in India, the head of the Indian Delegation asked if the right hon. Gentleman would not be prepared now to withdraw his own scheme which had no support as compared with the scheme of the White Paper, and the scheme of the White Paper, he then stated, had the support of every substantial body in India. In the Committee the representative of the depressed classes showed that he was not in fear of this suggested absolute surrender and abandonment.
One of the advantages of the right hon. Gentleman's appearance before the committee was that he was brought face to face with these gentlemen, and that is what took place. It is all very well for him to make speeches in this House and to submit a memorandum, as he did, to our committee, but I was astonished by his lack of courage. It is the first time I have seen any sign of that lack of courage. He submitted a memorandum when he came before the committee, but left out what has always been very largely his contention, namely, that by any alteration in the government of India on the lines of the policy which is now proposed, we should strike a blow at the British prestige. I wanted him to say that before the committee. Why did he not include these words that were used by him a few years ago—words which he will remember, because he not 126 only used them in the Albert Hall, but published them in a book afterwards:Is there any other country in tree world which would tamely submit to be pushed out of its rights and duties in the East? Would France be chattered out of Indo-China? Would Italy relinquish her North African possessions? Would the Dutch give up Java to please the Javanese? Would the United States be hustled out of the Philippines? Ali these countries assert themselves and insist that their rights and wishes in their own spheres shall be respected. We alone seem to be afraid of our own shadow. The British lion so fierce and valiant in bygone days, so dauntless and unconquerable through all the agony of Ammageddon is now to be chased by rabbits from the fields and forests of his former glory.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I think my hon. Friend is straining that courtesy and good manners upon which Liberalism has always plumed itself. Why should I repeat everything I had ever said, before this committee? Why he should expect me to go there to insult Indian gentlemen for whom I entertain personal respect I cannot imagine.
§ Mr. FOOT
I do not understand the right hon. Gentleman. Is he not aware that his words are of importance, leading as he does a potential Opposition party? Is he not aware that his words, uttered upon the platform of the Albert Hall, may have their reaction in the bazaars and back streets of Agra and Benares, Does he not know that? If it was an insult to make those statements to Indians in their presence, was it not an insult to make those statements in the presence of his own supporters in the Albert Hall?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I am really quite unable to appreciate the hon. Gentleman's complaint. To suggest that because I have, in discussion in this country, expressed, as is my right, my opinion on various matters, I should therefore have gone and said harsh words to these Indian representatives in this Committee is most unreasonable. To suggest that it was due to the fact drat I was afraid is really not true. I think it would have shown extremely bad feeling on my part to have said that to them in the Com- 127 mittee. On the other hand, I adhere most strongly to my opinion, of which, as the hon. Gentleman says, they are well aware.
§ Mr. FOOT
If they are aware that that is the right hon. Gentleman's view of our fellow-subjects in India then I would suggest to him that in future he ought to weigh his words, remembering how far they will go. I suggest that this Debate cannot lead anywhere. I do not know why such a Debate has been raised in the House in time which ought to be given to the Debate on the King's Speech. The right hon. Gentleman, the leading spokesman of the section of the House chiefly concerned, comes into the House after the first speech has been made by the Under-Secretary and makes a reference to the brevity of that speech, which he did not hear. Having referred to that quality—which does not always mark his own speeches—the right hon. Gentleman then treats us to a speech which was prepared long beforehand regardless of what the Under-Secretary might have had to say. Why should we be kept this afternoon discussing this matter when the right hon. Gentleman himself admits that we must go forward?
I can give him this assurance, speaking for the Committee of which I may not be a member again, that that Committee will weigh his evidence very fairly and give it all the value to which it is entitled. The right hon. Gentleman's evidence and the evidence of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) has been taken but has not yet been considered. The weighing of that evidence, the sorting of that evidence and the balancing of the various representations is work which has to be done later.
It would be unspeakable disaster if the House came to the conclusion that this Committee should stop its work at this point.
§ Mr. FOOT
If the House is agreed that the Committee should be appointed, why cannot we get on with the ordinary business? I am not afraid of this Debate myself, and I do not think I have suffered very much in this Debate. I only intervened because of the extraordinary attack that was being made by the right hon. 128 Gentleman. But it is absolutely essential, if we are to keep faith with India, that this work should proceed, and should be carried through with the least possible delay. It is not fitting that anyone who is taking part in the work of that Committee should express a final opinion.
§ Mr. FOOT
There need be no doubt whatever, and the hon. Member for North Paddington (Mr. Bracken) I am sure has no doubt, from previous speeches I have made in earlier years, as to what my position is upon India. It is my desire to see such arrangements made as shall enable us to have an honourable partnership between this country and India. No statistician can calculate the difference it will make to us in generations to come, whether we have to do with a friendly or an alienated India. My opinion has already been expressed upon that question. I simply ask now that there should not be any further delay, but that with the greatest possible speed, consistent with full and careful inquiry, we should get on with our work. I hope, whatever may be the ultimate decision of the Committee, the collective wisdom of this House when it pronounces on the Bill will help to ensure that long continued and honourable partnership between the Indian people and ourselves which we-all fervently desire.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I do not rise to take part in the exchanges which have been going on between the different elements which helped to return the National Government. I only rise to state the position of the Opposition. We made it plain when the original proposal to appoint this Committee was made that we were prepared to take our full part in the work of the Committee. We also made it abundantly plain that we were in no way bound or tied to the White Paper proposals. Having served on that Committee I do not propose to express any opinion for or against the White Paper. I think it a grave mistake to suggest at this stage that the Committee has made up its mind irrevocably one way or the other. The Committee has not yet completed the taking of evidence, and I do not think that anybody is hound in any way. Speaking on behalf of Members on this side I wish to say that we are entirely 129 free, but we support the appointment of the Committee to continue this work because it is work which has to be done. I can see no good in further debating the matter unless it, is suggested that, having put our hands to the plough, we should now turn back.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Viscount WOLMER
The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Foot) asked why there should be this Debate on the appointment of the Joint Select Committee. I assure him that, as far as I know, no Member of the House is going to vote against the Motion but we have a constitutional and Parliamentary right at this point to review the whole question as we reviewed it last March. In the circumstances I do not think it in the least improper, but, on the contrary, I think it quite right that the House of Commons should take every legitimate opportunity of discussing, reviewing and debating the intensely difficult problem with which we are confronted in India.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I cannot conceive a more appropriate Motion than that which we are discussing, on which we can have a free discussion in reasonable time; and I only hope there will be no Division. May I say that I am very sorry that my lion. Friend the Member for Bodmin imported a personal note into his speech and made a personal attack on the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). It is particularly unfortunate, as we all hope to see the hon. Member for Bodmin sitting in judgment on this question, on which the right hon. Member for Epping has been one of the witnesses. I can assure him that it is not a very edifying spectacle to see one of the judges making a personal attack on one of the witnesses in a case of very great difficulty which they are consider- 130 ing. My hon. Friend, I hope, will not bear me malice for having said that. I do not want to import. any heat into this Debate, because the subject is, after all, sufficiently difficult for everybody in India and England to make it unnecessary for us to add to those difficulties by adding to the heat of the argument, but we are entitled to review dispassionately the White Paper as it appears, not to the judges, but to us laymen outside, after six months of the very arduous work of the Joint Committee.
The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, speaking at that Box yesterday, said: "I stand by the White Paper." He stands by the White Paper. Then we are entitled to ask and to examine how that White Paper has emerged from the scrutiny of Indian and English opinion during the six months that it has been under review. It now appears that there is not a single responsible section of opinion in India which is prepared to echo the words of the Prime Minister yesterday, when he said: "I stand by the White Paper." There is not a single organised, responsible section of opinion in India, which is prepared to assume any responsibility for the policy of the White Paper. It has been attacked by Hindus, by Moslems, by Congress and by the Nationalist party, and the Princes have never declared their adhesion to it. In that connection, I must say that it seems to me extraordinary—and I think it must seem so to a great many people—that the Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes has never been invited to give evidence before the Joint Select Committee. The Princes are always being quoted, but they have made no binding declaration in regard to the White Paper, and the Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes, the Maharajah of Patiala, has never been invited to give evidence before the Joint Select Committee. That is a very extraordinary thing, which has been noted in a good many quarters.
But the point that I was making is that of all those great forces in India, not a single one is now prepared to say, as the Prime Minister says, "I stand by the White Paper." The White Paper remains, as it always has been, an imposed solution of the Indian problem, a solution imposed by this Government, by this Parliament if it endorses the policy of the Government, on the sub- 131 continent of India. I do not complain of that. I do not complain of the Government having a policy and pursuing every legitimate means to carry it through, but I want to point out, as my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) pointed out, that if anything goes wrong in the working of the White Paper, it will be this House, this Parliament, and this country that will be held responsible. We are starting it in India without a single one of the people who are going to work it taking any responsibility at all that it is going to work. That, I think, is a fundamentally important fact that has emerged in the last few months.
When we come to examine the policy of the White Paper itself, surely there has been some very damning evidence given before the Joint Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin quoted the European Association, but the exceptions and qualifications that were made by the European Association cut at the very roots of the policy proposed by the White Paper. Of course, if you invite a layman, not a professional politician, to say whether he is in favour of this policy or that, he gives you a general answer, and when you proceed to cross-examine him and you find that he makes certain vital reservations, that does not mean that he is insincere or even muddleheaded, but that he has not had to think the thing out as a. policy in tile way that we are accustomed to do in regard to all legislative matters in this House; and nothing has emerged more clearly from the evidence given before the Joint Committee than the number of witnesses who were prepared to come forward and say that they supported the White Paper policy generally, but always subject to certain reservations which they regarded as vital and whose cumulative effect is absolutely destructive of the whole structure of the White Paper.
Even Sir John Thompson, President of the Union of Britain and India., said that if you handed the Intelligence branch of the police, the Criminal Investigation Department, over to a Minister responsible to an elected assembly, that whole service would dissolve. He said that before the Joint Committee. That statement is in itself absolutely fatal to the whole 132 policy of handing over law and order in such Provinces as Bengal—I think Sir John Thompson was referring to Bengal—to Ministers responsible to an elected assembly. I ask the House to remember also the articles published in the "Times," the long and very interesting articles from the pen of Sir Alfred Watson, on the Terrorist movement in Bengal, and I would like to ask any hon. Member who read those articles how, accepting those facts, which are indeed irrefutable, he could possibly sanction the transference of the service of the police to Ministers responsible to elected assemblies under the conditions that Sir Alfred Watson gave.
Then we come to the question of finance, and surely the evidence before the Joint Committee there has been exceedingly illuminating. As I understand the evidence of the Secretary of State—the Under-Secretary of State will correct me if I am wrong—the costs of the policy proposed by the Government come to over £6,000,000, which have to he added on to a deficit in the present Central and Provincial Budgets of £1,500,000, giving a total deficit of £7,500,000. That figure, as I understand it, is made up of £1,000,000 the cost of two new Provinces, Sind and Orissa; then the loss of Burma would cost India 3,000,000; the loss of State contributions would cost £500,000; the additional cost of setting up the Federation would be in the neighbourhood of £750,000; and the loss on the Indian Exchequer through setting up a Reserve Bank would be another £750,000. That gives you a total cost of £6,000,000, which, as I say, added to the present deficit in the combined Central and Provincial Budgets of £1,500,000, gives an additional £7,500,000 to be found. That, in a country which has already increased its taxation to breaking point, a country which is one of the poorest countries in the world, where the services on the Army and on the railways have been absolutely cut to the bone, and great arrears of expenditure have accumulated—the addition of this very heavy proportion of the total Indian Budget on to the Indian finances surely postpones the whole Federation plan for many, many years.
I am told that a Member of the Government said to another Member of this House the other day, "Do you realise that the whole of this Federation scheme 133 cannot possibly come into force for another 10 years?" If that is really the belief of the Government, I suggest that it would be candid and honest for them not merely to whisper that in the Lobbies of the House of Commons, but to tell the people of India plainly so now, and it would not only be candid and honest, but it would pay them in the end, because nothing will pay us worse than leading the people of India to suppose that they are going to get one thing when really the scheme as devised by the Government will bring about something totally different.
I would again remind the House of the fundamental difficulty in which the whole Government policy is placing those Members of the Conservative party who have distrusted this movement, I admit, from the beginning, but who have nevertheless endeavoured to follow the evidence before the Joint Select Committee with the greatest fairness that they can. A point which has never been answered by the Government, but which is emerging like a rock above the whole sea of controversy, is the impossibility of establishing a system of diarchy at the centre—the very thing that the Simon Commission warned us against. The Government quote the Simon Commission when it pays them to do so, but not only have they adopted a totally different plan from that recommended by the Simon Commission, but they have flown in the face of some of the fundamental recommendations of that Commission's report. With the utmost clarity the report points out that diarchy has never worked well and never can work well. Yet they are deliberately setting up, not in the Provinces, but at the centre, a system which our own Commission, composed of eminent Conservatives, Liberals and Labour men, unanimously reported could not possibly work with success. As I reminded the House just now, not a single party takes any responsibility for this constitution, so that if it fails to work well we and we alone will be held responsible for it.
The point that my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme made is also of fundamental importance. The Simon Commission pointed out that for Parliamentary Government to be a reality there must he some touch between the representatives and their constituents and that the huge constituencies in some provinces made 134 that representation almost a farce. When it came to the centre Parliament, the vast constituencies enforced through the communal system and the great geographical areas made the whole connection between member and constituency something totally different from what any of us have in mind when we talk about our constituents. That report points out very lucidly how fundamental that is to the whole system of Parliamentary Government, and therefore they recommended indirect election to the centre. That has been scrapped in the White Paper in face of the recommendations of the Simon Commission. I venture to say that the evidence before the Joint Committee in the last six months has gone to show how impossible it will be to have any form of Parliamentary Government as we know it in the centre with such a vast area as India.
I want to ask my right hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench what they really expect to get out of this plan on which they have lavished so much effort, care and authority. Do they expect to get peace in India? I do not believe there is a man who knows India who will say that this policy can possibly bring peace. It is one of the most tragic features of the whole situation that, whatever happens, it seems almost inevitable that there must be great disturbances in India occasioning much bloodshed during the course of the next few years. We have got ourselves into such a position that a peaceful exit seems to be now almost impossible. Do they expect to get any improvement in the condition of the Indian people as a result of these constitutional reforms'? That claim is never advanced by the Secretary of State. I hope that I am doing him no injustice, but in all the speeches I have heard him make on this question I have never heard him address himself to that side of the problem. We ought to think, not once or twice, but many times, before we do anything which will lead to a deterioration of the conditions of livelihood of those vast masses of loyal subjects of the King who rely on us to give them justice, prosperity and peace.
Why, then, do the Government insist on going on with this plan? Is it a kind of homage at the shrine of democracy I That seems to be the only possible explanation. If it is, one would say that when they 135 get there they will find an exceedingly small congregation. Democracy depends entirely on the character of the people among whom it works, and we all know perfectly well that it is easy for a well organised determined junta to capture the Parljamentary machine under the cloak of democracy. Many juntas will be found ready to oust the British from their authority. Take the example of such places as Ceylon, or, more recently, Malta. Is it not the height of madness to put ourselves in such a position that in this vast Continent of India we can be manoeuvred and jockeyed out of our authority by any Parliamentary clique that is able to carry the insignia of democracy through the machinery we are placing at their disposal I really want to ask my right hen. Friends if they still believe in our moral right to govern the Empire. That is a question that the whole people of England have to ask themselves. Do we still believe that we have a moral right to govern those portions of Asia and Africa for their own good as our predecessors have governed them in the past? I maintain that we have not only that moral authority, but we still have the moral duty. By the work that we have done in India, in Africa and in other parts of the world the British Empire has shown itself to be the greatest force of progress in the world next to the Christian Church. I believe that absolutely, and I am sure that the people of this country really believe it.
What we are doing in this White Paper is to create a machine which admittedly is not going to improve the welfare of the people who actually live in India, but which will allow ourselves, under the cloak of democracy, under the pretence of a democracy, using the labels and forms of democracy, but never for one instant the realities of democracy, to be edged away, to be manoeuvred away from that position which we have been holding, not for our own benefit and profit, but for the immense benefit and profit of the people of India. Hon. Members may ask, then, what we want. Do we want to do nothing Far from it. We want to follow and to take as a basis the Report of the Commission sent out by Parliament to hold an impartial inquiry into the whole problem. We want to take the Simon Report as a basis for the Bill and 136 to try it, under the conditions that they stipulate, in certain selected Provinces. Then we can see, by taking the easiest Provinces, whether it is safe to hand over law and order and whether the sense of corporate responsibility can be inculcated in Indian administrations if they are given the powers recommended in the Report.
We can do that without losing our card of re-entry in the way fiat we lose it if the White Paper is carried out. That, I maintain, is common sense and the sensible method of constitutional advance. We would never have got into this position at all if the Prime Minister had not thrown the whole Simon Report out of the window in deference to the clamour of Nationalist extremists in India and collected round him at the Round Table Conference a lot of men well-meaning but wholly inexperienced in constitutional government; if he had not devised a formula just as if he were settling a strike and substituted that formula for the carefully thought-out constitution proposed in the Simon Report. I say that the Prime Minister in pursuing these methods has landed this country in this mess from which it seems almost impossible that we can ever issue without bloodshed, just as he landed this country in a mess in 1931 in connection with financial policy. He is Prime Minister today because he had the courage to recognise the false steps he had taken which landed this country into its financial position. People talk about it being too late to go back and about opinion in India and in England not tolerating anything less than the White Paper proposals, but I say that that is an entirely wrong way to look at the problem.
Our duty is to pass a constitution that has a reasonable chance of working and to try great experiments on as small a scale as possible. To try and settle this sort of thing by vague formulas passed by wholly unrepresentative individuals is to steer the whole of that great sub-Continent to a great constitutional disaster. It is because we feel we are being led step by step down this path, every inch of which we mistrust, which the whole of our political experience as well as our political instinct tells us is a mistake, that we will continue to fight this proposal to the utmost of our power. What the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme has 137 said about the welfare of the masses under this constitution is perfectly true, and I am amazed that any representative of the wage-earners of this country could be so short-sighted as to be misled and fooled by the label of democracy to support something that has no democratic character at all, but is one of those make-believe constitutions which is bound to lead to friction, because it is understood in totally different ways by different people and cannot achieve any benefit for the people of India.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I do not wish to detain the House for more than a few moments on the question of whether the committee is to be re-appointed. I do not wish to quarrel with the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer), because I do not intend to debate the larger issue it has raised, other than to say that I listened with a great deal of agreement to his attack on the Prime Minister. The Labour Opposition and myself will be united in approving his criticism of the Prime Minister. He does not know all, or his criticism might be much worse. In what he said about the Prime Minister and the financial crisis he paid him a greater compliment than is deserved. Looking over his career, one could point to even more peculiar things, if one wished to bother about it. I have seen him lead a General Strike and I have seen him not doing that—changing his mind. I have seen the poor people who followed those leaders treated in a most cruel way, whereas they were not the criminals; if there were criminals at all, they were the persons who led them.
As one of the few who voted against the White Paper, I want to say that we in our party—there are only three of us—have decided that we are not going to divide against the re-appointment of this committee to-day, not because we do not oppose it but because we believe, from the point of view of facilitating work in the House of Commons, that it is no use, when there are so few of us, constantly to put a large number of men to the trouble and worry of voting. When once we have registered a protest, it has to stand. We take the view that India ought to be left entirely alone. It is our view that this country should not remain in India. We would leave the Indian people to do what they like. I felt the 138 Noble Lord was being cynical when he said that we went to India for India's good—India, the brightest jewel in the Crown. We went there because India had potential wealth, and made white men richer than they were before.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
It may incidentally have done that. When a man starts a shipbuilding yard the motive behind him is not regard for the well-being of the wage earners but making a profit from the enterprise. It is the same with India. Industrial enterprises may incidentally bring benefits to the great masses of the people, but the motive of benefiting them is not that which prompts those who start those enterprises, but the motive of greater enrichment.
To come to the actual Motion before us, I must say that I cannot understand the attitude of the House of Commons towards many of these issues. I remember opposing the Simon Commission. I was then in the Labour Opposition, and was one of some six who opposed the setting up of the Commission. Those who look over the speeches of the Prime Minister, who was then Leader of the Opposition, and of the Prime Minister of that time will see that the idea of setting up that Commission was that it should produce certain recommendations on which legislation could be based. We got a unanimous report from the Commission, but in spite of that the Government proceeded to put out its own plan in the form of a White Paper, and then appointed this Committee, composed of a lot of diverse elements. They put on the Committee the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) and the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac. Foot). Both are men of great capacity. There is no man in the House, possibly, for whose capacity or courage I have a greater regard than that of the hon. Member for Bodmin, and the same remark applies to the Noble Lord. There also appear on the Committee, Members from the Labour benches of great capacity and with great honesty and courage. An effort was made, indeed, to extend the diversity of the elements on the Committee by including the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). They in their turn will examine the White Paper and make a report, but is there anybody 139 in his senses who does not know that the same position will arise after that report has been received as arose at the end of the Simon Commission? I repeat that for my part I would leave India alone. I would ask the Noble Lord: Who is it that keeps India for us? Under his regime there is only one set. We rely on the law of force, on arms.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
My point is: Who keeps it? We keep it by the law of force. It is the soldier who keeps it. Who is the soldier? Leaving out of account the colonels and the captains and the others of the officer rank, who belong to the comfortable section of the people, India is kept for us by the poorest section of our population. It is upon them that the brunt of any fight must fall, and I say that the great mass of the people, to many of whom we deny the comfort of a home, ought not to be called upon to fight for the preservation of India. I would say to the ruling classes, "India is yours and if you want it fight for it." In so far as the working people of this country are concerned, no man ought to take part in a struggle to subject India for the sake of a ruling class who will go on ruling it as they have done.
The setting up of this Joint Committee is a typical manoeuvre of the Prime Minister. He has set up joint committees on unemployment insurance. Anybody who knows anything about it knows that it was done merely to gain time—or to waste it. He has set up commissions or committees on every conceivable subject, and I think it is perfectly open to us to say that this Committee is being set up to gain more time. The Simon Commission went out to India, and the hope was that when they came back the Indian problem would be dealt with in some way or other. Now we are wasting another year or two with this Committee, in the hope that at the end of that time something will have happened and the problem will be solved. When the Committee have finished we shall have one of two things happening. We may have the leader of the Committee presenting a report, accompanied by three or four minority reports; or, if we get a unanimous report, it will really be of very little value, because owing to the diversity of views among the mem- 140 bers of the Committee they will be unanimous only on a hotch-potch policy which really represents no one view.
I say to the Government, "Why do you not go ahead and do what you are going to do? If the White Paper policy represents your view, why do you not go ahead and do what you want to do? Why ask the advice of the noble Lord the Member for Horsham or the hon. Member for Bodmin Have you not got all the civil servants to advise you; have you not got volumes. and stacks of evidence? Why wait? Are you not the Government? Are you not the body which ultimately has to say what has to be done? Why do you not say it now?" The Government have got all the evidence they need. I do not claim to have gone into all the details of the evidence, but I have read it in a casual way, and I would ask any Member who has read it fully, "Has anything new about India been said before the Committee?" My great indictment of the Committee is that it is being set up to gain time and not to gain information, for this Government or any other Government. It is a mere expedient, and a common expedient of the Prime Minister. It is his oldest expedient, the one he has always used, the favourite way of gaining time. After all, he may not be the next Prime Minister. I hear an hon. Member say, "I hope not." I do not think he has any chance of being the next Prime Minister. The country has done many foolish things, but I do riot think it is prepared to have him as Prime Minister again, and it is my own view that the appointment of this Committee will be a means of delaying the handling of the Indian problem. The next Prime Minister will have to do it starting all over again, and I have no doubt the present Prime Minister will stand afar off and say, "Ah, my friends, if you had only sent for me how well I would have done it." This Committee will just carry it over for him, so that the job may be delayed, and he may not be there to have to do it. The small group 1 represent will not divide the House, for the reason that we do not wish to inconvenience our colleagues, but, nevertheless, our opposition to the re-appointment of this Committee remains, because we think the Indian people should be left alone to govern themselves in any way they like.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Mr. MOLSON
The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) will excuse me if I do not deal with any other points which he has raised save his remark that the appointment of the Committee was a mere dilatory expedient on the part of the Prime Minister. I would remind him that it was appointed in fulfilment of a promise made by the late Lord Birkenhead when he was Secretary of State for India.
I think that this Debate has been of great value from one point of view, and that is in the admission of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) that there has been complete consistency in the policy of the Lord President of the Council and the Secretary of State for India since the conclusion of the first Round Table Conference. In view of the fact that the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) and the India Defence League have made the allegation that at the last election no one knew what the attitude of the Conservative party would be towards the Indian question, the admission by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon is both of the very greatest interest and the very greatest value. I will confine myself to giving one authoritative quotation to show the attitude the Lord President of the Council took up during the time he was in Opposition. It was after he had made his position perfectly clear in this House, made it so clear that the right hon. Member for Epping had dissociated himself from the Conservative party and the Lord President by resigning from the Business Committee. The Lord President attended a meeting of the India committee of the Conservative party upstairs, and in a public statement issued to the Press he was reported to have said:The result of the Round Table Conference had been to substitute the idea of an all-India federation for a British-India constitution and the Conservative party welcomed this development, the principle of which had been already forecast in the report of the Simon Commission, and we are fully prepared to co-operate in its further investigation. He further emphasised that the party remained entirely uncommitted to any specific proposals.In view of the allegations, which I can only regard as allegations of bad faith against the Leader of the Conservative party, the fact that one who has been so prominent in opposing the White Paper 142 policy should have admitted, as he did in an article a fortnight ago, that the Leader of the Conservative party has been completely consistent in the attitude he has taken, is, I think, of very great importance.
He went on to deal with the question of whether, since this Parliament has been in existence, the Government are committed to any special proposals and whether Parliament is committed or not. It is quite clear that the. Government might well be committed, although Parliament was not. It is surely fanciful to suggest that anything which has been said by the Secretary of State or by anyone else to that effect, means that the Government are not committed in general principle to the policy of the White Paper and that that policy is capable of being dropped.
The first Motion on this matter was put before this House on 2nd December, 1931, when the Prime Minister said explicitly:The statement which I made to the Round Table Conference yesterday had the full authority of the Cabinet, and we now wish, having communicated that statement to the House, to ask the House by its vote to associate itself with that policy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd December, 1931; col. 1101, Vol, 260.]I cannot imagine any clearer or more definite way for this House to commit itself to the general principle than by the two-day Debate, during which we were most explicitly warned by those who were opposed to the principles of the White Paper that we were committing ourselves. In spite of that warning, the House passed that Resolution by a very large majority.
It has sometimes been said, and I think it has been said by the Noble Lady the Member for Kinross and Western (Duchess of Atholl) that whatever may have been the position in regard to this House, at any rate in the House of Lords, Lord Hailsham, when confronted with great difficulty in getting the Resolution passed, speaking on behalf of the Government, gave an undertaking that the House of Lords was not committing itself to the principles of what are now called the White Paper. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping quoted that statement this afternoon and I think that certain sentences were omitted—I do not suggest deliberately. I have looked up what Lord Hailsham said on that occasion. I would apologise to the House 143 I am to give rather a, long quotation, but this 'matter has been raised in this House and in the country. Lord Hailsham was asked by Lord Salisbury:Does my noble Friend say that in voting for this White Paper to-night this House would not commit itself to an Indian executive responsible to an all-Indian Legislature?Viscount HAILSHAM: I am glad to answer that question at once. If this House votes this evening it will not commit itself to an Indian executive responsible to an all-India Legislature unless that executive is part of a Constitution which contains safeguards which satisfy' this House that the matters set out in the White Paper as needing safeguards have been adequately protected. What this House is asked to say is that provided we do bring forward, in the form of a Bill, a scheme under which an all-India Federation is set up, with an all-India executive responsible to an all-India Legislature, and provided we are able to incorporate safeguards which this House is satisfied adequately protects the various matters set out as needing protection, in that event they will not say that they are opposed to federation in any form and therefore will not look at any scheme.
Duchess of ATHOLL
Would the hon. Gentleman allow me to suggest that if he looks at the peroration of Lord Hailsham's speech, he will find it reads exactly as my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) quoted it.
§ Mr. MOLSON
I was not suggesting that the right hon. Gentleman had misread it. It is an explicit and carefully-worded reply to a question put explicitly by Lord Salisbury in the House of Lords. I am sorry that I cannot follow this through in the middle of my speech. I think that the Noble Lady will find that it is the clearest exposition by Lord Hailsham of exactly what the position was. I will put his statement in these words: We are pledged, provided that the safeguards can be found to be adequate. It is perfectly clear that, at the present time, the House is free to express its opinion with regard to any particular safeguard, and to say that the safeguard is not adequate. Therefore, to that extent, we do reserve our freedom of action. If the safeguards are such as appear to us to be reasonable, then it is no longer possible, either for the Government or for Parliament to say, adequate though the safeguards are, we are still fundamentally opposed to the transfer of responsibility at the centre.
The point is that the Joint Select Committee was set up so that changes and 144 amendments might be made in the details of the White Paper. The Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) was, if I may say so, a little unreasonable in what ho said in regard to the attitude of the European chambers of commerce. It is a matter of great importance to this House, and to the people of the country, what the attitude of our fellow-countrymen in India was to these proposals, because their lives and fortunes may depend upon the future of that country. The Noble Lord made the point that, while they gave general support to the proposals of the White Paper, they went on to propose such amendments and modifications, that their support was not very substantial. The Noble Lord, like the Noble Lady, does not seem to have studied the evidence with sufficient care. Perhaps he relies a little too much upon being briefed by the India Defence League. If he reads the Memorandum to the end, he will find that, after expressing the opinion that certain amendments should be made—and to make amendments is the express reason for which the Joint Select Committee was set up—they reiterated their general support. Let me read a sentence at the end of the concluding paragraph of the Memorandum:The concentration al their evidence on the aspects of safeguards must not be allowed to obscure the fact that they give general support to the White Paper proposals. The Chambers are"—I think I have left old, a. sentence, but it does not matter—not blind to the risks involved in the transfer of responsibility in financial and commercial matters, but they believe that the risks have to be faced in the larger interests of Great Britain and India and that, subject to the points raised in this Memorandum being satisfactorily dealt with the proposals of His Majesty's Government are such as to enable British commerce in India to face the risks with a fair measure of confidence.Let me turn from that interesting question, to that of the election of the central legislature by direct or indirect methods. It is a question which the Joint Select Committee might very well consider, in view of the fact that Members of all parties, including the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee), are all of the opinion that it will be in the interests of India that the central legislature should 145 be elected by the provincial councils and not by these large and almost fantastic constituencies which are now proposed. It would be interesting if the Joint Select Committee of 1933 proposed a return to indirect election, because it was in the Joint Select Committee of 1919 that a change was made in the Government's proposals from indirect to direct election. It was intended in the Montagu-Chelmsford Report that election to the central legislature should be indirect, and it was a Joint Committee of this House that, on that occasion, decided to substitute indirect for direct election. Surely matters of that kind are those with which the Joint Select Committee is there to deal. They are an expert and highly responsible body.
As I understand the attitude of the Government, on matters of that kind they will be prepared to accept the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee on questions of machinery and method. To suggest that it is possible for this Government, and especially for this Secretary of State for India, to remain in office if the Joint Select Committee should turn down completely the whole of the principles upon which the White Paper is based, seems to me to be quite absurd. For this House, after the vote which it passed in 1931, to say that it is not merely concerned about improving and tightening up the safeguards, but that it also fundamentally rejects the whole idea of introducing a constitution upon the most general lines of the White Paper into India, would, I suggest, be a complete breach of faith.
The right hon. Gentleman referred in particular to improper pressure having been brought to bear upon the Indian Princes. I notice that there has been a change in his attitude there. He says that it is difficult for him to produce any concrete evidence. The wilder statements which were made in the past have, apparently, now been abandoned. Perhaps that has something to do with the letter which was published in the "Times," I think it was in June last, over the signature of the representatives of a number of Indian States, in which they expressly denied the truth of the allegation which at that time was being made on public platforms. I venture to remark that the original suggestion of federation, when it was made by the Princes at the 146 First Round Table Conference, not only took the British Government but the Government of India, and those who were well informed upon Indian opinion, completely by surprise, so that there could be no possibility, at that time, of any pressure having been brought to bear. Now we are told that the Indian Princes are being offered certain financial and other advantages, if they come into the Federation. In view of the strange reasons which have been given why the Indian Princes made the offer of federation in 1931, I would remind the House that for a very long time they had been bitterly opposed to what they regard as the encroachments of the Government of India into what they believed to be their existing treaty rights. I express no opinion as to whether they were right or wrong, but such was their sense of injustice that they persuaded the late Lord Birkenhead to appoint a committee to go into that very question. It was after they had been extremely disappointed by the report of the Butler Committee that they thought that the best way to prevent the political department of the Government of India from interfering, in a way in which they thought was unjustified in their internal affairs, was for them to obtain some control over the Government of India and its political department.
The other motive was a perfectly obvious one. It did not matter to them very much that the Customs levied upon goods which were passing through the Indian States should be taken by the British-Indian Exchequer when the Customs were low. Since the War however, these Customs have been raised from about 15 crores to 50 crores. It was quite obvious that their States were being taxed partly for the benefit of the British Indian Treasury, partly in order to foster British Indian industries There was therefore a distinct advantage to be derived by the Indian States by entering into the Federation. This question was considered by a committee presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. It is quite obvious that the changes for which the Indian Princes have been pressing ought to be made as a quid pro quo, when the constitutional position of the Indian States was changed upon their coming into the Federation, upon their beginning to bear an equal share of the 147 responsibility for the general administration.
Again, the strange allegation was made against the Joint Select Committee that the Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes had not been asked to give evidence before the Committee. I understand that no one was invited to give evidence before the Joint Select Committee, but, as a matter of fact, the Chamber of Princes as a whole sent representatives, some of whom were delegates sitting with the Committee, and some were representatives who gave evidence before the Committee and the Prime Minister of the reigning Prince who at the present time is the Chancellor of that Chamber was himself one of the delegates who sat with the Joint Select Committee.
I do not know whether this Debate will have done any great good. That it should have arisen at all was, I think, to many of us a matter of surprise. But, if every opportunity is to be taken of raising the Indian question and putting forward the point of view of those who are opposed to the whole of the principles upon which the Government policy stands, it is only right that those of us who support the Government's policy should make some answer to the criticisms offered. In conclusion, I would only say that, if propaganda is being carried on in the country by those of us who support the Government and by the Union of Britain and India, it has been necessitated and indeed made inevitable by the attitude of those who are opposed to the White Paper. Moreover, they have the tremendous advantage that, because they were unwilling to accept the responsibility of helping to shape the policy of the State, they are free to travel up and down the country and criticise the policy of the Government, while to a certain extent the responsibility for defending the attitude of the Government has fallen upon more junior members of the party, who are not such competent propagandists as the well-known gentlemen who are attacking it.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. DONNER
Although this is far from the first Debate on India that we have had in this Parliament, I should like to suggest that it may not be entirely fruitless if we can focus attention to-night on the most important aspect of this 148 problem. I should like to ask this question: As no paper Constitution has ever worked out in practice quite as its framers intended that it should, how is India going to fare under the new Constitution? Are these proposals for the better government of India or are they not? The noble Lord, the Member for Aldershot (Viscount. Wolmer), in the speech which he has just delivered referred to this vital question: Will her new Constitution ensure for India an administration superior to the one that she at present. enjoys? I should like to have art answer to that question before it is too late, because many of us fear that the answer is in the negative. Whatever the merits of these reforms may be, the knowledge that they have no root in the soil of India does not quieten our fears or allay our misgivings. Is it claimed for these proposals that they will be for the greater advancement and welfare of the peoples of India? What is it, after all, that the masses of the Indian peoples want and are entitled to receive at our hands? The our tenets of sound government have always been understood to be external and internal security, impartial justice, efficient and progressive administration, and low taxation. Will the White Paper give to the masses of the people of India these benefits to a greater degree than at present?
I have heard these questions asked before, but have never heard them answered. Clearly, there is no need for the Secretary of State to answer any questions put by a private Member, but one thing is certain, and that is that, unless these questions are answered, the grave misgiving and deep anxiety which many of us feel will not be allayed, but will he greatly increased. The Secretary of State, in reply to a question put to him earlier in the Debate, said that he would answer questions in his own way and at his own time. I can only say that, if the questions I have ventured to put just now are never answered on the Floor of this House, the opposition to the White Paper will certainly continue and grow, both in this House and in the country. If the right hon. Gentleman is not in a position to give these assurances for which we have asked, some of us would like to know on what grounds the Government are proceeding with these proposals, particularly when we bear in mind the fact that the Government and 149 this House are in the position of trustees for the future welfare and security of 350,000,000 people. As trustees, it is surely the duty of this House to proceed with these reforms with the utmost caution, as our obligation is to the masses of the Indian peoples, whose interests, whatever happens, must never be subjugated to the noisy urban politically minded minority, however well organised they may be. Naturally enough, the official Opposition support the Government in telling us that the safeguards are more than ample—
§ Mr. DONNER
I am very sorry if I have misinterpreted the situation, but I always understood that the Government had the support of the official Opposition on the general lines of the White Paper.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I am afraid that that is quite wrong. When this matter was brought up, the Opposition took no responsibility whatever for the White Paper, and held themselves entirely free to take whatever course they thought fit.
§ Mr. DONNER
I quite remember that, but I also distinctly remember speeches in which hon. Members opposite said that the White Paper was bristling with safeguards, and they criticised it on those grounds. [Interruption.] I have never interrupted Members of the Opposition, because they are a minority, just as we, the critics of the White Paper, are a minority, and I hope, therefore, that they will extend the same courtesy to me. Some of us have little faith in safeguards. Some of us go so far as to believe that no safeguard is worth the paper on which it is written. Ater all, we have seen what has happened in Ireland. Lord Carson offered a grave warning when he reminded us thatnever was a safeguard yet invented which could possibly put down a Government created by a franchise which you yourself have given.When dealing with these difficult and intricate problems, we naturally look for a lead from the Prime Minister. As a supporter of the National Government, I also looked for guidance from him, and am glad to say I was not disappointed. I cast. about and made inquiries, and found that the present Prime Minister 150 made a speech on the Irish Home Rule Bill on 11th April, 1912, in which he gave a very direct lead and guidance on this very subject of safeguards. This is what he said:I am bound to confess that I am one of those who do not believe that safeguards of any certain efficiency can ever be put into an Act of Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th April, 1912; col. 1454, Vol. 36.]Who am I, a mere Tory back bencher, to question the judgment of the Prime Minister? Of course, we have an inkling as to the nature of the Government's reply to-night. They will say, "Do not prejudge the issue; await the verdict of the Joint Select Committee." It seems to some of us that we have heard that cry before; in fact, it carries with it quite a familiar ring. But many hon. Members now present will remember that the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, at the recent Conference at Birmingham, said:I am convinced that these proposals are the best possible prospect of increasing British trade in India.I understood that the Government's whole case was that we should not prejudge the issue, but where is the suspension of judgment in the words "I am convinced"? Then, on the 17th of this month, the Lord President of the Council made a speech at Edinburgh, in which he is reported to have said that he wasglad to think that many of our party are suspending their judgment till they get all the facts before them.Are we, then, to understand that the Lord President of the Council does not include the Chancellor of the Exchequer among those in the Conservative party who are still keeping an open mind on this issue? The point I wish to make is that it seems rather hard if the critics of the White Paper alone must not make up their minds, while members of the Cabinet are apparently free to do so. The Chancellor of the Exchequer held the view at Birmingham that the proposals are the best possible prospect of increasing trade in India. "You cannot," he said, "force a people to trade with you against their will." With the greatest possible respect, I should like to suggest that trade does not depend entirely upon good will. Surely trade depends on purchasing power, and if, by handing over the law courts and the police, law and 151 order were to break down and chaos and pillaging were to take place in one or more Provinces, no amount of good will would enable the wretched inhabitants of those Provinces to purchase British goods, or any great volume of goods at all, whatever their origin. We cannot get away from the evidence which has been submitted to the Joint Select Committee in this regard. It has been very serious indeed.
If we consider the possible effect on India and on this country of any failure of British state-craft in relation to these new proposals, imagination itself is paralysed. That is why some of us urge the greatest caution. By caution we do not mean a plethora of inquiries and of committees, select or not so select, or of conferences where the members are seated at round tables, or triangular tables, or globular tables, or tables of any other shape. What we mean by caution is proceeding slowly with these reforms. The granting of self-government to Provinces not yet autonomous is in itself a tremendous experiment. No one can yet say how it will turn out. We cannot, however, very well be asked to overlook the fact that municipal bodies in Bengal, and I believe throughout India, which are examples of self-government on the smallest scale, do not augur well for the success of provincial autonomy. If an example be needed, Benares is a glaring one. Even on the largest scale where municipal government has been practised in India, as, for instance, the Calcutta Corporation, gross mismanagement has taken place. I believe that the Government have only to ask any district officer in Bengal to obtain verification of the statement that the overwhelming majority of municipal governments have not carried out their responsibilities efficiently. If the Government are bent on this dangerous experiment the risks will have to be taken. But why weaken the Centre, hand over the law courts and the police, and attempt an all-India Federation at one fell blow?
Where is the racial tradition for Federation in India? To put this question alone suffices to show the futility of attempting anything of that nature at the present time. One can understand that a case can be made out for some advance 152 towards provincial autonomy, but why impose Federation at this juncture—a form of government and administration alien to the whole sub-continent, without regard to the genius of the races and the history and circumstances of the peoples of our Indian Empire? This application of rule based upon theory threatens in itself an early breakdown. Mere words, even from the Secretary of State, will not dispel our fears that the proposed Federation between autonomous Provinces and autocratically-governed States is impracticable at the present time. In this connection it would be interesting to know whether the right hon. Gentleman has any reason to believe that even those Princes who agreed to federate are willing to do so permanently without more substantial safeguards than those indicated in the White Paper. I submit that federation as at present proposed should not be lightly regarded as a practical possibility. It has been suggested in evidence before the Select Committee that. Federal Government as such is apt to be weak and dilatory in action, and that even the adhering States are to be allowed to retain their land and sea customs—a system contrary to the first principle of Federation. Nor can we forget, as that great pro-consul, the late Lord Sydenham, pointed out, that it was precisely a matter of state rights which imposed a four years' war on the American people. Federation was difficult enough to achieve in Australia, where you were dealing with a single people. In India we are not dealing with a single people but with a Continent divided and innumerably subdivided in race, language, religion, caste. tradition, history, marriage laws and custom. Parliamentary Government in this country has taken 700 years to evolve. Politicians hail it as a success. Quite a number of people who are not politicians condemn it as a costly failure, but whether successful or unsuccessful, parliamentary government in this country has roots deeply buried in the tradition and history of our country and race. It is an organic growth. There are no such roots, no such traditions, no such history in India, and yet these reforms are to be forced through, and even the law courts and the police are to be handed. I would remind the House that over the police in India are more than the eyes and ears of the Army; they are the 153 very dykes which protect the civil population from the flood of religious turmoil and anarchy. If by banding over the police to a Minister responsible to an elected assembly and communal feeling were to appear in the ranks of the police, no one can estimate the ultimate damage to the effectiveness and morale of the force. Surely at this critical hour there can be little excuse for failure of statesmanship when we are in a position to absorb the lessons of our experience. Ireland has been the Achilles heel of the Empire, Egypt is a warning, Chinese chaos the writing on the wall. I would beg the Government to remember that the rural masses, for whose welfare and security we are responsible, are defenceless not only against any mistakes that we may commit in this House, but also against those in India who would exploit them if given the opportunity. Our misgivings as to the fate of the rural masses are deep because we realize that under the guise of partnership, the White Paper, furtively, almost, sets about to eliminate the British element which has made India what it is to-day. A well-known champion and defender of the White Paper whom the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping has described as a notorious propagandist, admitted only the other day that, if these reforms come to pass, there will be trouble in India. He went on to say:In some Provinces we know there will be trouble, but British bayonets will still be there in the background as we want them.
§ Mr. DONNER
Mr. Villiers. Country after country in Europe with no such difficulties, religious and racial, as in India, is abandoning democracy as an unworkable form of Government under modern conditions. Are we now at the point of the bayonet to force new wine into old bottles, use military power to pour the wine of Western civilisation, the flavour and essence of which is change—which Radicals sometimes call "improvement" and sometimes "progress"—into the ancient bottle of the East, whose spirit is fixity, and still remains in contrast to the West, comparatively speaking, unchanged? In my view, and, I believe, it is shared by many here, our duty is to the masses of the people in India, to the hardy, patient, but 154 inarticulate folk, the peasants, who are the real India. These men are loyal, and will remain loyal to those who know how to command their loyalty. This ignominious White Paper appears to have forgotten our duty to them. The White Paper at any rate clearly shows that those who framed it have lost belief in themselves, have lost confidence in the genius of the English race to govern with that impartiality and integrity which has made the name of England fair and honoured throughout the world.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Sir S. HOARE
Every Member of the House has the right, and indeed the duty, to express his views on these grave and difficult issues. On that account I do not in the least resent the greater part of the criticisms which my hon. Friend has just directed against the White Paper. He will, however, allow me to say that I did regret two passages in his speech. I regretted, first of all, the covert attacks that he made on the Prime Minister, and I regretted the suggestion, which consciously or unconsciously he seemed to make, that I do not answer questions when they are asked. I leave the answer to that suggestion in the hands of my colleagues in the House. I do not suppose that any Secretary of State at the Table of this House week after week has answered more questions, or attempted to answer questions, with a more complete absence of reservation and with a most sincere intention to put his views clearly and directly before Members of the House.
I pass from the hon. Member's speech to the subject of the Debate. I should have thought that at this stage in our proceedings we might have been spared a long discussion of all these Second Reading issues, and that we might without further delay have done what, apparently, everyone wishes us to do, namely, reconstitute the Joint Select Committee. More than one Member has spoken of the work of that Committee. I would only add these observations to what they have already said. I suppose there never has been a Joint Select Committee in the long history of the British Parliament which has devoted itself more continuously and more unselfishly to its work, or has shown greater willingness to hear evidence of every kind and to consider proposals from whatever quarter 155 they might be brought. In all the long days that we spent in hearing evidence and discussing these grave questions, we have been continuously helped by the skill and the knowledge which have been devoted to the task by the Indian delegates. There was some doubt at the beginning of our proceedings as to what should be the relations between the British Members of the Committee and the Indian delegates. But in actual practice no difficulty ever arose. Never did we have an awkward moment. From start to finish the discussions proceeded peacefully and straightforwardly. Neither side disguised its view from the other side, and I suggest to Members in all parts of the House that the precedent that we set up of taking into consultation colleagues from another part of the British Empire and of attempting to build up a constitution not by coercion but by co-operation, by a system of cross-examination and concrete discussion is one that might find a permanent place in our annals, and might well be adopted in other cases in the future.
I think better than any Member of the Committee I can assure my colleagues in the House that no single issue has been ignored during the course of the evidence or during the discussions that have taken place. Every one of the questions about which we have heard to-day has been discussed from almost every angle in the Joint Select Committee, and on every one of them we have received evidence from many different points of view. I have a right to make that statement. I suppose during the 19 days on which I gave evidence there was not a single one of these issues upon which I did not have to answer dozens of questions, both from my British colleagues and from the members of the Indian delegation. I do not suppose any of my hon. Friends in this House have ever been in the dock. If they have, I think they will agree with me that it is bad enough to deal with one or two examining counsel, but in my case I had to deal with 60 cross-examiners. There was very little chance of getting away with anything. Time after time I felt that an answer had satisfied a questioner, British or Indian, but almost inevitably one or other of my 59 colleagues took up the point again. There was not 156 a single one of the issues that we have discussed to-day which was not investigated in cross-examination to the utmost limit. I can also assure my hon. Friends who have once again raised the big issues in this controversy that all these issues, most of all perhaps the welfare of the Indian masses, have been constantly in the mind of every member of the committee, perhaps most of all in mine, and I resent the suggestion which is very often made that the Government, in preparing the proposals in the White Paper, have ignored the welfare of the Indian masses.
As I say, I should have thought, in view of this meticulous examination that is taking place day by day by a very responsible body of public men, and by a very independently-minded body of public men, the great majority of whom will take nothing on trust, the great majority of whom are determined to look at these issues with an impartial and an open mind, we need not once again have gone over all these points of controversy, all these issues which. have been discussed time after time in the last year or two. and we might once again have set up the Joint Select Committee without further delay and have waited here before we express our final judgment until the actual report is published.
§ Sir S. HOARE
Certainly. Before I finish speaking this afternoon, I will answer some of the criticisms made by my right hon. Friend suggesting that we are exercising undue pressure while the Committee is still sitting. In spite of the fact that every one of these issues is being considered in all its aspects, such is the hate of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) of the National Government and al! its Members, that he feels that he must come to the II ouse—is it going to he every day this Session; yesterday, to-day and I wonder if it will be to-morrow—and make an attack against us and all our works—
§ Sir S. HOARE
Certainly not—with a speech, the only conclusion of which is that, first of all, a Joint Select Com- 157 mittee should never have been set up, and, having been set up, although apparently he is not going to vote against it this evening, there is no use its going on. These great issues I should have thought would much better have been dealt with on another occasion, but as they have been raised to-night I am going to deal with several of them. I will begin with the curious but, none the less typical speech addressed to the Rouse by the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood).
§ Sir S. HOARE
Every speech which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman makes is curious, but I do not say that on that account it is less attractive, but I will tell him why I think that his speech to-night was particularly curious. After all, the right hon. Gentleman was Edwin Montagu's right-hand man a: the time of the 1919 reforms. He has gone a long way towards changing his mind since 1919.
§ Sir S. HOARE
The right hon. Gentleman was a Member of the Socialist Cabinet, which, I would remind him, welcomed, and, I think, very wisely welcomed, the offer of the Indian Princes to enter the Indian Federation.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Certainly not. But when I was a Member of the Socialist Cabinet the question of federation with the Princes had not been dreamed of, and would not have been tolerated for a moment.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I accept the correction. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman was no longer a member of the Government. Anyhow, the single instance of his changed mind from 1919 until now is sufficient to show how curiously his mind changes. According to his present views we must have no kind of advance on the lines along which we have been advancing continuously for 20, 30, 40 or 50 years. hut that we must go back to a programme which, as far as I remember, was only started in the discussions of the Round Table Conference by Mr. Gandhi. Knowing the proposals which Mr. Gandhi made at that time, and having the right hon. Gentleman's support of them to-day, I was the more sur- 158 prised to hear the wide measure of applause which they excited in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping. I felt that here, at any rate, was an alternative Government being formed—Lord Lloyd last night, the right lion. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme this afternoon, applauded by my right hon. Friend, and then, still more strange, finding an unexpected ally in his dislike of the Joint Select Committee in the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan).
I come to the chief of the items about which we have heard so much this afternoon. I begin by saying that several of them are nothing more than mares' nests. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping has really a wonderful assiduity in discovering mares' nests. Take, for instance, the Debate this afternoon and the criticisms which he raised about the chapter of questions concerning the Princes, the pressure which has been put upon them, and the financial inducements which have been held out to them with a view to attracting them to enter federation. Let me take the second of these points first. The right hon. Gentleman—and I am giving away no confidences of the proceedings in public—was delighted the other day in the Joint Select Committee that he felt that he had made a great new discovery, namely, that under the federation proposals what are known as tributes now paid by certain States are to he remitted. It is very curious that he should have made that discovery a fortnight ago. It is a question which we have been discussing for two or three years. Indeed, it is a question which has been discussed much longer, for it is a part of the general question of the relations between the Princes and British India which formed the main subject of the Harcourt Butler Inquiry in 1928. Since then my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy, two years ago, went to India with an expert Committee to advise the Government, both here and in India as to the future financial relations between the Princes and British India. There was no secret about this. My right hon. Friend published his report now two years ago, and I think that upon all sides it is considered to be a very reasonable and fairly balanced document.
These tributes really are historical survivals. The greater part of them are 159 very small sums paid by this or that State for historical reasons. For years past they have been considered by many people to be anomalies, and it was inevitable, when we were considering the issues of any future Indian constitution, that these anomalies must be taken into account. It was considered that the wise way to deal with them was as a part of the general financial adjustments between the centre and the federating units. The adjustments propose to remit in certain conditions Income Tax to the Provinces, and so it is intended to remit these tributes pari passu to the States—a very fair and reasonable proposal, but one which, for the most part, involves such small sums, sometimes a few hundred pounds, and sometimes even less, that on no account could it seriously be considered by any impartial investigator to be anything in the nature of a bribe to this or that State to enter a Federation.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The right hon. Gentleman surely must know. Is it £100,000 or £200,000, or what is it?
§ Sir S. HOARE
I think it is £150,000 in the case of Mysore. If my right hon. Friend really studies this question he will find that, as a condition of the remission of these tributes, there is also to be a withdrawal of certain immunities which we actually make to the States. I can assure my right hon. Friend that the discovery which he has made is the discovery of a mare's nest and a very old mare's nest, terribly antiquated—two or three years old—and really not worth the time and trouble he seems to have devoted to it.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Will the right hon. Gentleman say who is to get the money; whether the Princes or the people?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I want to know whether it is to go to the Princes or to a State which has a civil list.
§ Sir S. HOARE
There is no distinction drawn between this State or that. Tributes would be remitted on the lines I have suggested. They will be remitted pari passu with the remission of the separate benefits which the States have now received in the way of immunities. I come to the second of the charges of my right hon. Friend, namely, the pressure that we are supposed to have been putting on those Indian Princes. What a black story he suggested to the House this afternoon. This unscrupulous Secretary of State speaking with one language in India and with one language here. It seemed to me in the course of the subsequent discussion, particularly in the speech addressed to the House by the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot), that the right hon. Gentleman himself sometimes speaks with two tongues; not one in India and one here, but one at the Albert Hall and one at the Joint Select Committee.
Let us look at this question of pressure and see to what it really amounts. I would remind my right hon. Friend that the first offer of federation came, not from the Government here—it did not even come from the Socialist Government which he is so fond of criticising—but from the Princes themselves. No pressure was put upon them of any kind and no pressure has been put upon them since that time. They have been perfectly free to consider their advantage from every conceivable angle, and they have come to the conclusion, in the great majority of cases, that it is wise on their part to enter a federation, if a federation is set up, and so far from receding from that position, they have, tune after time in the course of the last six months, reaffirmed clearly and definitely their ahherence to that view. The Prime Minister of Patiala, namely, the Prime Minister of the Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes, speaking at the Joint Select Committee, reaffirmed that view on behalf of the Chamber of Princes in the summer, and only in the last fortnight, as the right hon. Gentleman himself admitted this afternoon, the Prime Minister of Bikaner, speaking for a large number of influential Indian Princes, again affirmed that 'adherence; so also 161 has the chief Minister of the Nizam of Hyderabad. Let me remind hon. Members of the words they actually used. I asked this question:Would the representatives of the Princes here substantiate what Mr. Churchill has just said, namely, that the action of the Princes was due to pressure, direct or indirect, from here?You could not have a clearer or simpler question than that—"pressure, direct or indirect, from here."Sir Manubhai N. Mehta (Prime Minister of Bikaner). '15,192. We deny it absolutely, categorically, as quoted by Sir Akbar Hydari from Sir John Simon's report. His Highness the Maharajah of Bikaner, several months before the Round Table Conference, anticipated that there would be the only solution which was the Federal solution, and he advised his friends that Federation must be accepted. That was the only destiny for the Princes, and Federation had no fear or threat for them. Notwithstanding that, I cannot understand why it is repeatedly said that pressure is being exercised upon the Princes by the Government.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Is this the same Sir Manubhai Mehta who said that large financial sums would be paid to them only if they entered the Federation, so what would become of them if they did not
§ Sir S. HOARE
There is only one Sir Manubhai Mehta, as anyone would know who has had any dealings with the Indian Princes.
§ Sir W. DAVISON
Would my hon. Friend read the question that was put just before:Sir Manubhai Mehta; 15,189. If Federation is nut brought about, where is the money to pay the financial claims of the States?It seems to me very material.
§ Sir S. HOARE
It is not only not material, it is very irrelevant. Let me come to what. Sir Akbar Hydari said:May I also state that, so far from there being any pressure from the political department of the Government of India on the different States, in favour of Federation, I believe British India at any rate was afraid that the pressure would be exerted the other way, in tearing up Federation, and that was what I was referring to in my speech. I think that the Government of India in this matter have really … behaved with absolute impartiality in their political department as trustees of the Indian Department, as they have always been, and as advisers when advice was sought.162 Could you have a more categorical denial by the most representative public, men connected with Indian statesmanship that this unfair pressure, of which we have heard so much this afternoon, has been applied to any of the Indian Princes?
I come to the next of the right hon. Gentleman's mares' nests: his observations about the Viceroy's recent speech.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is going to deal with the question of Hyderabad and the Berars.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for reminding me of the omission. I have a note of it here. I will not miss anything, if the right hon. Gentleman will remind me in the course of my speech to satisfy his curiosity. The right hon. Gentleman asked me about Hyderabad and the Berars. The position, in a sentence or two, is this. The Berars are a part of Hyderabad, under the sovereignty of the Nizam. They have been administered by British India for a considerable period of time. Obviously, supposing that the federal scheme comes into being, the constitutional status of Berar must be defined. The conversations that have been taking place between the Government of India and the Government of the Nizam have had that objective, namely, to define the exact position that the Berars would take finder a Federal Constitution.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
But what is the position that they are going to take under the Federal Constitution? Are they going to be subject to retrocession?
§ Sir S. HOARE
There is no question of retrocession at all. The purpose is to define what shall be the position of a territory whose sovereign is an Indian Prince but whose administration is the Administration of British India.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Will the position of the inhabitants of the Berars be the same under the new Administration? Will they forfeit any rights which they had enjoyed as British subjects
§ Sir S. HOARE
The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I am dealing as best I can with a series of very difficult constitutional questions. I say to the hon. Gentleman opposite that when these negotiations are so completed, I will make a full statement in this House. In the meanwhile there is no question of the retrocession of territory now being administered by British India.
Now I come to the other point of detail raised by my right hon. Friend—the question of the Residency in Mysore. This, again, is a question that has been under discussion for years. It has, rightly or wrongly, stirred up a considerable amount of feeling in Mysore itself. The position is that in the middle of Mysore there is a. small enclave for the British Resident and the British cantonments. Here, again, we are discussing the future of this enclave quite unconditionally, so far as the Federal Constitution goes, and I should be perfectly prepared, when the negotiations have come to an end, to make a full statement upon the subject to the House. I believe that you will find then that it has not loomed largely—as the right. hon. Gentleman seemed to think—in any negotiations that have been going on about Federation at all. It is one of those questions which, whether there is a Federation or whether there is not a Federation, has got to be settled, and the sooner it is settled the better for the relations between the Government of India and the great State of Mysore.
Now I pass to the passage of his speech that dealt with a recent pronouncement of the Viceroy. The Viceroy was bold enough to mention the terrible words "Dominion status." I believe that the right hon. Gentleman is the last man in the world who ought to criticise anyone for speaking about Dominion status. Be that as it may. I should like to make it quite clear to the House that I have the greatest confidence in the Viceroy. I believe in trusting the man on the spot, and I am not prepared to censor any speeches of the Viceroy either before or after their delivery. The Viceroy has a very good record over the last two years—civil disobedience almost ended, the boycott finished, the better feeling shown by the Ottawa Agreement, the better feeling in the political atmosphere shown by the fact that for the first time in recent history the Assembly and the 164 Provincial Councils in all parts of India have been ready to pass of their own free will legislation putting down terrorism and civil disobedience. Those facts surely justify us in this House in placing some faith in the man who is chiefly responsible for these very conspicuous improvements. Let us look at the Viceroy's actual words. My right hon. Friend quoted them in the course of his speech, but let me quote them again:This Government's policy—That was the Viceroy's Government's policy—has been completely consistent with two main facets to push on with the reforms as hard as they could go, so as to help India forward to Dominion Status and absolute equality with other Dominions;
§ Sir S. HOARE
"With the other Dominions"; let us be meticulously correct:secondly, to insist on order and obedience to the law of the land.This statement, be it noted, was made at a private dinner given by the President of the Legislative Assembly. The passage did not go beyond what many others had previously said; it did not treat Dominion status as the next step or the next step but one in fact, it does not bring Dominion status any nearer than it is already. It states what I should have thought was the obvious truth that unless a status of subordination is always to remain, being maintained if necessary by force of arms, full responsible government and all that if involves is our ultimate objective. Fortunately, whatever misunderstanding there may be in the mind of my eight hon. Friend, there is no misunderstanding about this speech in India. Every Indian now knows perfectly well the limits to which the Government are prepared to go. The White Paper is there to make the Government's intentions perfectly clear. My right hon. Friend said in the course of his speech that there was a great difference between the reference to Dominion status now that the Statute of Westminster is upon the Statute Book, and the reference to Dominion status when he used those words 10 years ago. I disagree. The great difference is that the White Paper is in existence, and the 165 White Paper clearly and conspicuously defines both to Great Britain and to every Indian in India the limits to which we are now prepared to go.
I pass from Lord Willingdon's speech to the charges that have been made upon these lines: that, while the Joint Committee is sitting, we members of the Government of India and our supporters in general are forestalling the situation that may arise when the Committee reports, and that we are using undue influence to force public opinion here upon the lines of our scheme, that we are exercising pressure and that we are sinking to low depths of propaganda. Who are our critics who make these charges? Does the right hon. Member say that we have not the right to make quite clear our views and support them as best we can by argument? Have we not a right to take what action we think is justifiable to make our case heard? I remember very well, when I was quite a young man, I was private secretary to Mr. Alfred Lyttelton, who was then Colonial Secretary of State. I remember coming down here one night during a Debate on Chinese slavery, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping was so anxious that the other side of the case should not be told that he and his friends made such a scene in this House that my chief, the Secretary of State, was not allowed to say a single word during the whole course of that evening.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The right hon. Gentleman has no right to make that charge against me. I had absolutely nothing to do with the shouting down of Mr. Alfred Lyttelton nothing whatever. I have always disapproved of the barracking, of individuals, and I have good reason to disapprove.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I remember very well the active part that my right hon. Friend took in the course of that Debate. I remember him rushing from one corner of the House up to Mr. Speaker and waving an Order Paper in his hand.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I understand that the right hon. Gentleman withdraws his suggestion that I took part in a conspiracy to howl down Mr. Alfred Lyttelton.
§ Sir S. HOARE
Certainly. If the right hon. Gentleman says that he did not do 166 so, I would not doubt his word for one moment. Let us get back to the question of propaganda. I have something more to say about propaganda. Who was it that started this propaganda? Some of my hon. Friends this afternoon have talked about an organisation called the Union of Britain and India. They have tried to throw aspersions upon very prominent; civilians and public men, who are taking part in a campaign which they believe to be a right one. My right hon. Friend and his friends, who started this campaign of propaganda, would do well to ask themselves when was it that this organisation which they seem to dislike so much, came into existence. It was many months after my right hon. Friend and his friends had been busy criticising my action and going from one end of the country to the other, going to Conservative caucus meeting after Conservative caucus meeting, and holding us up as most miserable, boneless, invertebrate people, who were surrendering the Empire, in fact the rabbits, to whom my right hon. Friend alluded in the passage which was quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin this afternoon. Surely, my right hon. Friend would be the last man in the world to say that when we were attacked in this way we have not a. perfect right to retaliate.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
My right hon. Friend entirely misinterprets the point that I was putting. I am not objecting to his embarking upon propaganda; he has as much right to do it as anyone else. What I was pointing out was that the propaganda—which I gather he now admits he is concerned in setting on foot—is laying down an entirely different theory from that which we have received by way of assurance from himself and the Lord President of the Council, that we were uncommitted, whereas we are assured to the contrary in that propaganda.
§ Sir S. HOARE
The right hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. The propaganda of the Union of Britain and India is not my propaganda. I have no connection with it. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest in his speech that that organisation was receiving money from the Conservative party funds. If he wished to make that suggestion, I can say that it is entirely without foundation. What propaganda they do is their 167 affair. What propaganda my right hon. Friends and I do is our affair. I do resent intensely this sanctimonious attitude on the part of those people who say: "Look at these terrible members of the Government, daring to defend their own proposals. What an iniquitous prostitution of the power of the Press and party organisation," while at the same time the right hon, Gentleman and his friends are going through the country making all these irresponsible charges against us.
§ Sir JOSEPH NALL
May I ask a question? Is it not a fact that one of these two societies is anathema at the Central Office, while the other is assisted by the Central funds?
§ Sir S. HOARE
I do not know what the hon. and gallant Member means by assisted by Central funds. I am not responsible for the Central Conservative Office, but I have made inquiries and there is no question of any funds going from the Central Office to any society.
§ Sir J. NALL
I do not wish in the least to suggest that any funds have been used, but is it not a fact that personnel and names of people have been supplied by the Central Office?
§ Sir S. HOARE
I do not know to what the hon. and gallant Member is referring. In any case, I am not responsible for the Central Office. Let me make a suggestion to my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping. I have read with very great pleasure his book on Marlborough. If I may say so, it is a very brilliant book and one which attracted me very much. In a small way I have always been a student of 18th Century history. I suggest to him that in the next volume, to which I look forward with so much anticipation, he should devote a chapter to the other great commander of that period, the Earl of Peterborough. I have always thought that the Earl of Peterborough was one of the most brilliant and wayward leaders of any period of military history, and I want my right hon. Friend when he deals with that great leader to compare Lord Peterborough's chief characteristics with some of his own. I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman remembers the observation Swift made about Lord Peterborough. I have always 168 regarded Swift as one of the most brilliant of British writers. Let me remind the right hon. Gentleman of the words with which Swift described Lord Peterborough:A person of great talent, but dashed with something reckless and capricious. The sort of person who might give good advice but which wise men might reasonably refuse to follow.I would commend that quotation to all quarters of the House, particularly at a time when we have just listened to my right hon. Friend's observations upon the Indian constitutional problem.
Let me come back from the 18th century to the present clay. Let me say in conclusion that, whatever may be our individual views about this or that detail of a new constitution for India—
§ Sir S. HOARE
I prefer to deliver my speech in my own way. All that I will say about communal representation is that I am quite sure that, whether we may approve of communal representation or whether we do not approve of it, no kind of constitutional advance is possible in India that does not recognise the existence, unfortunate though it may be, of the communal controversy. Upon the lines of my right hon. Friend's speech this afternoon we should not have a single friend left in any part of India. As my right hon. Friend has interrupted, let me say that he is completely misinformed when he says that the whole of the Hindu world is against the White Paper proposals.
Let me now come back to the final word that I was venturing to address to the House. I was saying that here we are faced with, I suppose, the most difficult, complicated problem that has ever faced a British Parliament or has ever faced any Government in any part of the world; a problem that bristles with difficult issues, a problem that is bound to give rise to controversy after controversy, doubt after doubt, anxiety after anxiety. Difficult and complicated as the problem is, let us face it as a great Imperial, responsible tribunal. Let us not attempt to confuse the issues or impede the progress of the inquiry by the kind of criticisms to which we have listened this afternoon.
169 Let us rather take the course of practical men dealing with the facts as they are, practical men of good will, who are anxious, if they can, to proceed by cooperation and not by coercion. Having set up a Committee of many very responsible and experienced public men, and having set up that Committee by an almost unanimous vote of this House, let us now let them get on with the business, let us let them, unhampered by a running fire of partisan criticism, complete their labours and in due course bring their report to this House. Then, I may tell my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping, we shall welcome the opportunity of taking a direct issue in the Lobby of this House.
§ 7.30 p.m.
Duchess of ATHOLL
Before I endeavour to deal with some of the points raised by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, I wish to remind my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson) that Lord Irwin, on the 7th February, reminded the Peers of Lord Hailsham's declaration during the first White Paper Debate, and said that as a result Parliament was free and unfettered in regard to this question.
May I also remind the hon. Member that the Chambers of Commerce of India after giving evidence to the Simon Commission, by a majority in favour of the transference of law and order, by a majority rescinded that evidence, and informed the Simon Commission to that effect. For some reason, however, the representatives of the Chamber seemed to be unaware of the fact, when giving evidence before the Joint Committee. If the hon. Member asks for proof of my statement, he will find it in a letter from the Secretary of the Bengal Chamber to Messrs. A. Main and Company, Limited, of Calcutta. The letter, I believe, was circulated to all members of the Joint Committee. My hon. Friend can assure himself of the accuracy of my statement if he applies to the Secretary of the Committee.
§ Mr. MOLSON
I was fully aware of that particular matter and of the evidence given before the Simon Commission, because I was the political Secretary of the Chambers of Commerce on that Commission. Interesting as it is as an historical fact, 170 it has no bearing at all on the attitude now taken up by the Associated Chambers of Commerce to the White Paper before the Joint Select Committee.
Duchess of ATHOLL
There may be two views about that, and if the hon. Member was so closely associated with the Chambers of Commerce it is a little odd that he did not inform the House of their change of view.
Duchess of ATHOLL
Now to turn to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. He referred to my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) as raising a mare's nest. He would have done more to allay the fears widely expressed this afternoon and genuinely felt in many parts of the House and in the country if he had devoted himself a little more to the merits of the case rather than provide us with reminiscences of past utterances of the right hon. Member for Epping or with references to his literary achievements. The Secretary of State referred to the Davidson financial proposals in regard to the Princes. Is it not the fact that, although the question of the tributes paid by the Princes was under discussion by the Butler Committee a few years before, it was as a result of the discussions at the Second Round Table Conference, and, in particular, as a result of a resolution of a sub-committee, to the effect that the tribute from the Princes was feudal in nature and should be got rid of, that the committee presided over by the Chancellor of the Duchy went out to India? Again, the Secretary of State, in talking about the recommendations of this committee to which effect has been given in the White Paper, ignored the further inducements to be offered to the Princes in the shape of payment for territories ceded some of them as long as 100 years ago to the British Raj. He also omitted any mention of the formidable financial total to which these various payments amount, a crore, or £750,000. It is perfectly obvious, therefore, that there are financial inducements which will accrue to certain Princes, particularly to one very important Prince, if they enter Federation.
Then, in regard to what the Secretary of State said about the evidence given 171 on behalf of the Chamber of Princes: Is it not a fact that any support given by the Chamber of Princes to the White Paper was conditional on many modifications they demanded, two of them very important ones? It is therefore not consistent with the facts to say that the evidence given on behalf of the Chamber of Princes was in support of the White Paper as it stood.
The Secretary of State then dealt with what the right hon. Member for Epping said in regard to the pressure put upon the Princes, but he seemed to think that the right hon. Gentleman suggested that pressure was put on the Princes before they made their declaration at the First Round Table Conference. That is not the suggestion. My right hon. Friend was speaking of the pressure put upon the Princes in the last year or two, a pressure to which Sir Akbar Hydari referred at the last Round Table Conference, a statement which the Secretary of State has been quite unable to deny. Again, can the Secretary of State deny that the negotiations proceeding between the Government of India and the Nizam of Hyderabad, although they may not involve the transference of the Berars to Hyderabad, are proceeding on the basis of some added prestige which will accrue to the Nizam if these negotiations are successful? Unless he can deny this it is obvious that the negotiations which are proceeding will supply a further inducement to the ruler of that great State.
Now in regard to the question of propaganda, no one has made any suggestion that financial assistance has been given to the Union of Britain and India from Conservative headquarters, but I most definitely say from my own personal knowledge that from the central office of the party in Scotland speakers connected with the Union of Britain and India, well-known speakers and promiment members of the Union, are being offered to constituencies as speakers. I know of two cases in which such speakers were offered and no indication was given as to the point of view from which these speakers would address the meeting. Their names are not well known in Scotland, and a constituency association may well have arranged meetings for a union of Britain and India speaker without having any idea of the point of view 172 he was going to put forward. I say that there is a wide discrepancy between sending a Union of Britain and India speaker to constituencies by headquarters in Scotland and what we are always told of the neutrality of the central office. I contrast the sending of these Union of Britain and India speakers with the fact that when an hon. Friend representing a Scottish constituency wished me to speak on this subject in his constituency he was told that if he did so he would incur the severe displeasure of the Western office in Scotland. I have endeavoured to get tale veto removed, but I have not been successful yet. It is perfectly clear that there is a serious discrepancy between the attitude alleged to be taken by party headquarters and their actual action in the matter.
§ Sir FREDERICK THOMSON (Treasurer of the Household)
May I, as Chief Scottish Unionist Whip, point out to my Noble Friend that she has actually spoken up and down the country in Scotland giving her views on the White Paper, and that she actually spoke in my own constituency without communicating with me?
Duchess of ATHOLL
My hon. Friend knows that I went to speak at Aberdeen at the invitation of his neighbour the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Burnett), and I think he knows me well enough to know that I have not spoken at any public meeting in any constituency represented by an hon. Friend except with the consent of that hon. Member.
§ Sir F. THOMSON
I must repeat, the Noble Lady spoke in a hall in my constituency without communicating with me at all.
Duchess of ATHOLL
The hon. Member knows that in a large place like Aberdeen the halls are treated as joint halls. Let me now come to the main subject upon which I desire to address the House; the work of the Joint Select Committee. The Secretary of State has told us that the Joint Select Committee has heard everything that could be heard about every subject mentioned here today. The subject, however, is such a tremendous one that it is not possible to deal with all the questions involved in the course of a few hours' Debate. But there is one subject which has been conspicuous by its absence from our discussions and from the discus- 173 sions of the Select Committee; and that is the question of the departments transferred to Indian Ministers under the 1919 Act. Under the preamble to that Act the decision of Parliament to transfer any further powers is made conditional on the sense of co-operation and responsibility shown by Indian Ministers, and I submit, therefore, that before a decision is taken to transfer further powers the Joint Select Committee should acquaint itself fully of the use made of the powers which have been already transferred. I do not wish to blame the committee, but it is a fact that so far out of 48 days on which the committee has sat only half a day has been given to the consideration of one of these transferred subjects. On this half day the committee heard something about the transferred medical and public health departments, and they were told that grave deterioration had taken place since this subject was transferred. They were also told by two medical officers how very often extraneous considerations entered into a minister's medical appointments. An ex-principal of the medical college in Lahore told the committee that in his timeprofessors were appointed who had no claim to such posts. As an example, the present professor of physiology was selected in spite of my expressed opinion in writing that he was totally unfitted for the post. He had never acted as a demonstrator and had no qualifications to teach the subject. He was put in just to officiate and when I saw him he informed me that he knew nothing about physiology except what he had learnt many years ago in his ordinary medical course, and would have to start to read it up.Another time an officer was sent to officiate for 12 months as professor of midwifery and gynecology. The gynecological operations, of which many are performed in the Lahore college hospitals, are mainly abdominal, this officer had no knowledge of the technique of abdominal surgery. He admitted that he had never done an important abdominal operation. The result was that he had to leave most of the operations to his house surgeon and when he himself operated the house surgeon had to supervise and give advice; and the holder of this appointment is the specialist for the Province.I cite these as illustrating the very serious deterioration that must be taking place in this important department, wherever Ministers have allowed themselves to be actuated by entirely extraneous considerations. Then there is the Department of Education—
§ Sir REGINALD BANKS
The Noble Lady has referred to the transferred service of public health. Is that the only transferred service about which evidence was given before the Joint Select Committee?
Duchess of ATHOLL
I should like to make it clear that the Joint Select Committee has heard no evidence about any subject transferred 12 years ago to Indian Ministers except for two and a-half hours last Tuesday, when they heard three medical officers from two provinces. I have had statements largely similar in character from medical officers in other parts of India; and the Committee, I venture to say, is bound to satisfy itself as to the conditions in these transferred services generally, in all Indian provinces, if they are to make good the interest in the welfare of the masses, to which The Secretary of State referred.
Education is another subject which was transferred 12 years ago, and I need not stress its importance. The House will remember that the Simon Commission appointed a special committee to investigate it, and that this Commission showed a very serious state of affairs. Recent reports of provincial education departments show little or no improvement on the very gloomy picture drawn by this committee, and only last eek I read certain cuttings from a Madras newspaper which showed that some local authorities are in arrears for four or six months with their teachers' salaries. That will give an idea of the chaos that there is in some parts.
Then there is the work of local authorities. The Simon Commission spoke of the deterioration which had taken place in many of these bodies since transference. Since the Simon Commission reported deterioration has continued, and numbers of local bodies have been superseded, including those of such important towns as Patna and Benares. Public works were also transferred 12 years ago and both the Simon Commission and the Linlithgow Commission on Agriculture heard evidence as to the serious deterioration of the roads. Nothing has been heard about this by the Joint Committee. No one wants to be looking about for holes to pick, but the question of efficiency is absolutely vital in the matters that the Joint Committee have to consider.
175 Then I submit that the Joint Committee should not only hear evidence about every one of the services transferred 12 years ago, but also about every one of the services that they propose to transfer, whether provincial or central. In particular, I plead that they hear very full evidence about the service of irrigation, which is of such enormous importance to millions of small cultivators, whose land produces nothing unless the water to which they have a right and for which they pay comes to them regularly and sufficiently. The chief engineers of important irrigation works, among them the chief engineer of the Sukkur Barrage in Sind, told the Simon Commission that they had an unceasing fight against corruption in their service, against the efforts of the wealthy cultivators to bribe irrigation officers to give them more than their share of the water. If wealthy cultivators succeeded in such efforts it meant that the poor man had to go without his water. They said also that the British officer was more insistent than the Indian officer in the fight against corruption. They did not say that they got no help from Indian officers, but they said that there was a point at which the British officer "stuck to it" more, in the endeavour to see that no bribery took place. I am therefore filled with the greatest misgiving as to the welfare of thousands, and it may be millions, of small men, if this subject is transferred and there is no further British recruitment for it, as the White Paper proposes.
There is another point to which I hope the Joint Committee will give most serious consideration. At present irrigation works are regarded as so valuable and important that, though they are a reserved subject in the Provinces, the reserved side of the provincial Government is not completely trusted in regard to the approval of important schemes. A Governor has to obtain the sanction of the Secretary of State through the Government of India, for any irrigation scheme estimated to cost more than 50 lakhs. But as irrigation water supply and water power appear in the list of exclusively provincial subjects in the White Paper, presumably an Indian Minister will have unlimited control of all proposals and estimates for great irrigation schemes. I ask whether that does not mean opportunities for concession- 176 hunters ready to explore India's precious water, and India's minerals, which also are to be transferred, in a way that has been quite impossible up to now. When I touch on this subject I remember how very sensitive the Arab population of Palestine showed themselves about the concessions given a few years ago to an international financial group to develop the water power and potash of the Dead Sea. It seems to me that in view of all the bitter communal feeling there is in India you may very well get acute racial or communal trouble resulting from any attempt by an international financial group to secure control of the precious water supplies and mineral wealth of India.
Forests are another subject of great importance about which the Joint Committee have not heard evidence. I saw the other day that a witness denied that this service was unpopular with Indians. But every witness from the Forestry Department heard by the Simon Commission told of this, and have heard of deterioration that has already taken place in some of India's forests on account of the rapid Indianisation of the service resulting from the recommendations of the Lee Commission. I stress the importance of forests as a means of lessening the menace of floods. They therefore concern not only India's material resources, but directly affect the welfare of the masses of the people. So I ask that the Joint Select Committee, however long it may feel that it has sat, will not shrink from hearing full evidence on every single service which it is proposed to transfer. They should hear evidence from expert heads or retired expert heads of every Department.
Then I am sorry to draw attention to it, but I feel it is my duty to say that I think there is need for careful examination of some of the statements made in evidence to the Committee. On the 22nd day, for instance, Lord Salisbury put a question to Sir Malcolm Hailey in regard to the power that the White Paper will give to provincial legislative councils to vary the jurisdiction of the provincial high courts in respect of 76 out of the 77 subjects which the White Paper puts in the "exclusively provincial" list. One of these 76 subjects is "Prisoners." Lord Salisbury put this question: 177Prisoners is particularly wide, because am I not right in saying that that would involve the whole question of the liberty of the subject in India?Sir Malcolm Halley's reply was:No, it only refers to what I may describe as action taken under our Prisons Act, which merely refers to the treatment of prisoners when actually convicted.But if we turn to the actual list of subjects which are to be exclusively provincial we find "Prisoners ' as a heading entirely separate from "Prisons." Heading 59 of the list consists of "Prisons, reformatories, Borstal institutions, and other institutions of like character," and that, it seems to me, was what Sir Malcolm Halley referred to. No doubt those institutions are conducted under regulations corresponding to those of our own Home Office here, for the treatment of prisoners when duly convicted. But in the list there is an entirely separate item, No. 60, of "Prisoners." I am sorry that the Secretary of State is not present, but I hone that the Under-Secretary, when he replies, will tell us what this item, No. 60, "Prisoners," includes. It seems to me obvious that it cannot include what it was stated by Sir Malcolm Hailey in Question 7923 to include.
I ask whether it does not make it possible for a provincial legislature to prevent an appeal being made to a High Court by a prisoner who may have been wrongfully imprisoned? If this power is to be given to the provincial councils, it will make it possible for them to strike at the root of the earliest and greatest of our liberties, the liberty which was won in Magna Charta and has been extended to all our fellow subjects throughout the Empire, whatever their race or creed. And the bitterness of communal feeling may make a. communal majority in some provincial council to desire to get powers of this kind into their hands, and so to remove this subject from the jurisdiction of the High Court.
Then in his answer to Question 7947, Sir Malcolm Halley denied that there had been any attempt on the part of the provincial legislatures to cut down the maintenance expenditure of the High Courts. He was being pressed about this by Lord Salisbury, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, in supporting him, said that until Lord Salisbury had mentioned the matter he had 178 never heard anything about it at all. I can only say that neither my right hon. Friend nor Sir Malcolm Hailey can have read, or if they have read they must have forgotten, the Memoranda submitted to the Simon Commission by no less than three of the provincial High Courts, which complained very strongly of how already they had suffered and how their independence had been impaired by the criticism to which they had been subjected since the 1919 Act had obliged them to go to the provincial councils fur approval of their maintenance expenditure. The Chief Justice of Madras also made representations to the Simon Coin mission to the same effect and if no one at the India Office is afraid of the High Courts suffering, in respect of their maintenance, from captious critics in the provincial councils, why is it that the White Paper, or rather Record No. 3 as submitted to the Joint Committee, proposes to give power to the Governor to certify the maintenance expenditure of the High Courts? The record states that they will not be removed from the criticism of the provincial councils, but that the Governor may certify what he considers necessary for their expenditure.
Then in Question 7967, in regard to the appointment of judges subordinate to the judges of the High Court, Sir Malcolm Hailey informed the Archbishop of Canterbury that in provinces other than Madras "the case may be that though nominally they "—judges subordinate to the judges of the High Court—" are appointed by the local government, yet by convention they are always the nomination of the High Court, sent to the local government and accepted by it. "And in Record No. 3 the Joint Committee were told that in the Punjab in particular the High Court is given power to nominate persons for approval as subordinate judges, which nomination must be accepted by the local government.
That statement leaves out of account the fact that, in the Punjab, rules have been drawn up by the Provincial Government which severely fetter the judges of the High Court in making their nominations. The judges of the High Court have charge of the examination and passing of candidates, but under communal pressure the Provincial Government has drawn up rules which require the judges 179 out of every 11 subordinate judges to nominate four Hindus, four Moslems, two Sikhs and one Christian. Further the rules require that out of every 10 non-Christian judges nominated 50 per cent. shall be members of agricultural tribes. The result is that the judges may have to go very far down the list of candidates to find those who are of the right community and tribe. If I am asked for proof of that statement I would refer the Under-Secretary to the "Civil and Military Gazette" of Lahore of, I think, 1st August last, which reports the Chief Secretary for the Punjab as assuring the Council, in reply to some question or criticism, that these rules had been duly observed during the period in question. He added, what is perhaps not pleasing to Christian ears, that in order to fulfil the rules about the appointment of one Christian judge it had been necessary to go down to the ninety-first place on the list. I cite that case to show how far the judges of the High Court in the Punjab are from having that complete power which they are said to have. The lapse of memory in regard to this matter on the part of Sir Malcolm Halley seems to me all the more strange because I understand that these rules were in operation when he was Governor of the Punjab.
I would also remind the Under-Secretary that only one judicial witness was heard by the Simon Commission and that that witness referred to rules made by the Bengal Government in regard to this question, but no one questioned him on this point. Nor did any member of the Commission ask him what he thought of the proposed transfer. Therefore—and this is a very important point to remember in considering the White Paper proposals—the recommendation of the Simon Commission to transfer law had no expressed judicial opinion from India behind it. In this connection I shall be obliged if my hon. Friend will tell the House how many chief justices or high courts in India have expressed approval of the proposal in the White Paper that they are to be dependent on the provincial councils for their maintenance expenditure. Is it not the case that several of the high courts or chief justices have asked that the high courts should be a reserved subject under the Governor- 180 General as the only means of preserving them from political or communal influence?
Again, I was surprised to find when my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping was being examined that there were lapses of memory on the part of more than one member of the Committee. My right hon. Friend was pressing the point that we should have power to revoke any transferred power which had been seriously abused—a very important constitutional point. My right hon. Friend himsel seemed to forget that we had this power under the 1919 Act or more correctly under Devolution Rule No. 6 made under that Act. This gives power to the Governor-General in Council, with the previous approval of the Secretary of State for India, to suspend or revoke any transferred powers which have been abused. But a more extraordinary thing was that the Secretary of State, when questioning my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping, seemed to have forgotten it also. It appeared to him a very strange idea, and he asked my right hon. Friend how he proposed to give effect to his suggestion and if it would require. a new Act of Parliament. The Noble Earl the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), who was Under-Secretary of State for India for several years, also seemed to forget the special power which had been reserved under Mr. Montagu's Act. Strangest of all, Lord Lytton, another distinguished member of the Committee, while recalling that the power to suspend abused powers had been retained—he himself exercised that power when Governor of Bengal—forgot apparently that the power to revoke also existed. That is a very important point and it shows how much reason there is for further examination of some of the questions already before the Committee.
§ Sir R. BANKS
Do I understand the power to which the Noble Lady refers in the Devolution Rules to mean that, if it is found by the Governor that the Minister of Public Health, for instance, is not carrying out of his duties properly or if corruption is found to exist, the Governor can then say that that subject is to be taken out of that Minister's hands and replaced in the category of reserved subjects?
Duchess of ATHOLL
The power does not rest with the Governor but with the Governor-General in Council with the previous sanction of the Secretary of State. I think that is the phrase used. It is a power which has already been exercised as regards suspension, but there is an absolute power of revocation under No. 6 of the Devolution Rules under the 1919 Act.
On another and earlier occasion a wrong impression was given to the Committee in regard to the prevalence of nepotism in regard to public appointments. Because three distinguished ex-Viceroys when appealed to could say that they had not found any instances of this among the Indians who were members of their Councils, a general impression was created that probably very little was prevalent. The Committee now have before them very strong statements made by two medical officers last Tuesday as to the extent of the extraneous considerations which influence public appointments in India both important and unimportant. If we remember the very generous view of family responsibility which is enjoined by the Hindu religion; and if we remember that there is no system of public assistance in India, it seems inevitable that Indians, particularly Hindus, who are in public life must have pressure put on them by relations and friends who wish to secure public appointments. Indians, generally, in public life, owing to community or caste feeling and to this very generous view of family responsibility to which I have referred, must be subject to pressure of a kind we do not know in this country, and which many of us, I think, would find it difficult to resist if we were subject to it. This question seriously affects the efficiency of public departments and is therefore of vital importance in considering any further grant of powers.
Finally, I must express some doubt as to whether this country is as well-informed as it ought to be on some aspects of administration in India. Take the case of the medical department which was transferred in 1921. I find the reports of the provincial medical departments very scanty; they are only issued triennially and they contain little or nothing bearing on efficiency. The Government of India's "Moral and material Progress of India" is equally meagre in what it says in regard to health and 182 education. I cannot help thinking that it is because of the meagreness of the reports dealing with the medical service that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State speaking in July last on the Estimates committed himself to the statement that we had a very fine record in the health administration in India. The Simon Commission only heard one medical witness. It therefore did not go as thoroughly into this question as it did into others and not nearly as thoroughly as the importance of the subject would seem to require. But at least they had very frank statements from six provincial Governments as to the health services and my right hon. Friend's advisers might have reminded him of these statements before he made the statement to which I have just referred.
I also fear that the India Office is not getting all the information it ought to get in regard to another very important question. When a witness in the summer spoke to the Joint Committee about the prevalence of corruption among local authorities in the Punjab the Secretary of State intervened to say that he had had no complaints since he had been at the India Office. That intervention conveyed the impression that there was very little in what had been said. A week or two later I put a question to the Secretary of State about the recent dismissal of three magistrates in the Punjab for proved bribery in the discharge. of their judicial duties. The reply was that the Secretary of State knew nothing of these dismissals; he had to communicate with India and was not able to give me an answer for a month or two. When I got that answer, during the Recess, it completely vindicated the question. It is. therefore obvious that these things are not being reported automatically to the-India Office.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I am afraid that is a possible explanation. It is however something which we cannot regard as satisfactory. We do not wish to condemn anybody for it but we say that this again is a matter which is vital to the efficiency of government and therefore must be considered in relation to the question of granting further powers. A week or two after I put my question about these 183 magistrates, the Finance Member of the Punjab Government said in the Provincial Council that bribery was an evil pervading every sphere of life and he feared that it was actually on the increase. I feel therefore that there are many more subjects about which the Joint Committee should hear very full evidence and some already touched on about which they will require still further evidence, before they are in possession of the facts which will enable them to arrive at wise recommendations on this tremendous question.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Miss RATHBONE
In listening to the speech of the Noble Lady I have been wondering whither her argument tends. If what she said proved anything, it was that the present administration of India is working so unsatisfactorily that the obvious remedy is to go back, not to the proposals of the Simon Commission but to the era before the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms and to de-Indianise the services and to retransfer them. But as I understand the attitude taken up by the group with which the Noble Lady works, that is not a proposal which they consider possible. I do not think that anyone who is acquainted with opinion here and in India can consider it to be possible. I think there is much common ground between the Noble Lady and myself as to the grave anxiety existing with regard to the future of the people of India under a reformed Constitution, in all the respects upon which she has touched, such as health, the administration of justice and education. But the conclusion I suggest to the House is not that we should go back. I submit that we have arrived at a point in the constitutional development of India, at which it is essential to go on but, in going on, we must have greater regard than I fear we can see paid in the White Paper, to safeguards for the well-being of the common people of India.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I did not mean to suggest that the Noble Lady had suggested that we should go back, but that that is the legitimate conclusion from her argument, because she was striving to prove, not that the future under the White Paper proposals was bad, but that the present is bad under the system of administration as we see it now and as 184 it has been in existence since the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms. The deduction that I draw from the same unsatisfactory facts that the Noble Lady has been considering, or from similar facts, is different. I draw the deduction that the present regime in India is unsatisfactory, that we cannot go back, that, we must go forward, but that it is essential that we should go forward in a way that would enable us to keep some control over the future, and provide, for the present, greater safeguards in certain respects than the White Paper proposals allow.
There is one particular point which arose in the Joint select Committee's discussion to which I think inadequate public attention has been directed. It is not a point that occurs in the White Paper itself. It occurred in the discussion on the franchise, and I beg the attention of the House to the expression of opinion that the Secretary of State put forward. Discussing the future of Indian franchise, he said, concerning the reform of franchise proposals:I would have thought the wiser course was for us to insert in the Constitution Act a definite period during which no franchise alterations could take place at all. I think that is necessary in We interests of stability. I think after that period those questions are essentially questions for the Federal Government and for the Federal Legislature, and I would rather leave the subsequent period in their hands.Later on, he implied that with regard to the provincial electorate he held the same view. I suggest that that is a very important statement and that it has very wide implications. A subsequent speaker drew his attention to the fact that the Simon Commission had taken a very different view and had said, with regard to the future of the electorate:This is a matter as to which the British Parliament cannot remain indifferent. If a new Act of Parliament is to confer powers of self-government on the provincial councils, it should at the same time provide means for securing that these councils will in time rest on wider popular support than they can at present, so that the transferred powers may not remain in the hands of an oligarchy.The point which has brought me to my feet to-day and on which I wish to speak for a few minutes is this necessity of ensuring, in the proposals, that we do not leave control altogether out of our hands, and that if the franchise particularly is to be on as narrow a basis as is pro- 185 posed, the British Parliament should retain the power of seeing that it can be extended.
The Simon Commission is perfectly right. The kind of authority to which we are going to hand over power in India is not the authority of the whole Indian people, but it is the authority of an oligarchy, in which it will be quite possible—I do not say that it will happen—for the rich to oppress the poor, for the higher class to oppress the lower class, for the landlords to oppress the peasants, and for the men to oppress the women. I do not say dogmatically that it would be possible here and now to carry out a complete system of democracy based on adult franchise in India—there are very obvious obstacles—but I do say that if it is proposed to transfer the Government of India to so narrow an electorate as is proposed in the White Paper, especially with regard to women, it is essential that the British Parliament should not only retain its control over the future extension of the franchise, by, as I think the Secretary of State suggested, powers of intervening in the case of obvious proof of unsatisfactory working, but should make such a definite arrangement as the Simon Commission propose, that if the franchise is not further extended within the said period, some form of committee or commission should be set up to go into the question and see that it should be further extended.
In order to bring home to the House some of the reasons why that is necessary, may I remind them of the kind of conditions under which, in the White Paper proposals, we are handing over our trusteeship for the common people of India and the women of India to a relatively narrow electorate and to elected bodies responsible to that narrow electorate? I have been reading recently the volumes of the 1931 Census Report. The main Census Report only. reached England a few weeks ago, and it is a terribly gloomy document in many respects. I will summarise a few of the particulars that I have noted from it, especially with regard to the women's conditions, because it is those that I have made my special study. The Census Report reveals, for one thing, that the disparity between the numbers of females and males in India has been steadily in- 186 creasing, not during the past 10 years—I am sorry the Noble Lady is no longer in her place—while the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms have been in operation, but during the last 30 years, since the 1901 Census. That disparity is a very serious fact, because it is attributed by the Census Report—and, I think, by every other authority who has written on the subject—to the thoroughly unsatisfactory conditions which take so terrible a toll of the life of young girls. It is not a satisfactory reflection when we are handing over our trusteeship to this oligarchy, that the conditions subsisting under our rule should be resulting, not in an improvement in the vital statistics as regards women, but in a steady deterioration.
Take one or two other points. Take the question of child marriage, the most generally acknowledged and notorious of the evil conditions affecting women. I would like the House to listen to some details of the story of child marriage, because I think it is the best illustration that I could take of the double point that I want to make to-night—that conditions at present are thoroughly unsatisfactory, but that that is not an argument for maintaining the present régime, but for retaining sonic kind of control of the British Parliament over the future régime. Child marriage has been a recognised evil for nearly 100 years in India. The Government, during those generations when we have almost held autocratic control—those generations to which those like the Noble Lady who has just spoken look back as to a sort of golden age—made three attempts to deal with the problem of the early consummation of marriage, all so completely unsuccessful that the Committee appointed a few years ago to investigate the whole subject thoroughly found that the laws that had been passed were completely unknown to anybody but a handful of lawyers and educated people. No trouble was taken by the autocratic Government of that day to make the provisions of the law known. After an exhaustive inquiry some years ago, the well-known Sarda Act was placed on the Statute Book with the strong support and enthusiastic sympathy of the representatives of the Government in the Assembly and of the Central Government of India.
187 What trouble has the Central Government of India ever taken to see that that Act was effective or, if ineffective, was amended 1 In the first place, the Act was placed on the Statute Book in a form so completely weakened to placate the opposition that it has proved almost unworkable. Secondly, a period of six months was allowed to elapse between the date when the Act was put on the Statute Book and the date when it was proposed to become operative. During that six months the Government did not take the steps which they had been recommended by the authoritative Committee which made the inquiry to take to conduct propaganda in favour of the Act or to make its provisions known. Its opponents did, however, take action, with the result that in that six months something like 4,000,000 children—girls alone, not counting the boys—were hustled into matrimony, so that the number of wives under 14 in India has risen from 8,500,000 at the census of 1921 to something like 13,500,000 at the recent census, and the number of child widows under five years of age has increased from 15,000 to roughly 30,000. That was the result of that fatal six months.
One would have thought that that terrible result would at any rate have made the Government anxious to take every possible step to prevent such evils in the future, but what has actually happened? A good deal of opposition had been expressed to the Act and the Government was so intimidated by it that when, for the first time, a prosecution under the Act was undertaken in the Punjaub, and the offender, who had been warned against marrying his 10 years old daughter to the village headsman, was sentenced to a month's imprisonment, the Government of the Punjaub immediately telegraphed to order his release. That was widely reported over India, and of course the hint was taken. Four days after the Act was to become effective there was in the Moslem Mosque in Delhi, at the very centre of government, an assembly of 1,200 people to witness the marriage of a 10 years old child. Though there was a petition to the courts to prosecute all concerned, no prosecution took place. In a case in Madras, where a, man was convicted, the collector dismissed the man who was his junior 188 official, but higher authority immediately intervened to secure the reinstatement of the official in his position after he had violated the Act.
The courts, taking their lead I suppose from the Government, have through out imposed ridiculously low penalties. Let me take a single example. Two well-to-do Moslems in Bengal, men of 50 and 60, who were convicted of marrying their wards aged two and four respectively in order to get final possession of their property, were sentenced to a fine of 150 rupees each. The Census Commissioner dryly remarks that it was not a verysevere penalty, bearing in mind that the men had succeeded in getting their main object, which was to obtain complete control of their wards' property. Again: 12 times in this House I have asked questions for the purpose of discovering whether the Government intended to carry into effect the principal administrative provisions which were recommended by the Age of Consent Committee which led to the Sarda Act as absolutely essential to its effective enforcement. Among others were a campaign of publicity, better registration of births and marriages, the use of women in inquiries and prosecutions, and common sense provisions of that sort. I have never been able to get any reply except that the provincial governments are considering the matter, and I now understand that they have decided they can do nothing.
I have been giving these facts in some detail to show what kind of handling we get from the present regime in India with regard to a question that vitally affects the health, the happiness, and the very lives of that minority of India's women—a minority because of those forces that are causing the deaths of innumerable young girls. Those forces result, according to a figure given in the recent census, in 200,000 deaths of women in childbirth every year, or something like 20 every hour of the day and night; and in 100 out of every 1,000 girl brides dying in childbirth before they finish their period of child-bearing. The moral I want to draw from this melancholy tale of the Sarda Act is this Is it much use asking us to retain the present regime if that is all that it is able to do for the most inarticulate and helpless of all sections of the Government's trustees in India.?
189 If we have to go on, as I believe we have to go on, and transfer a large portion of our remaining responsibilities to India's hands, should we not at least see that those to whom we transfer those responsibilities shall have imposed on them every safeguard that we can impose to see that they look better after the helpless people that we are committing to their charge than we have been able to do during the century and a-half of our rule?
What kind of safeguard is provided in the White Paper proposals for the women of India—the women of a country where a large proportion of those who suffer from evil conditions cannot even speak to a man or look him in the face, and in some cases cannot even have their names mentioned to a man. Yet almost no use has been made in the administration of the services of women who can survey and report on the needs of their own sex. We have in India, no doubt, a considerable number of women who are doing valuable work as heads of hospitals, schools and colleges; a handful of inspectors; and one woman in each provincial assembly nominated by the Government, but not a woman in the central assembly, although it was within the power of the Viceroy to nominate one. There is scarcely a woman in a position to report with some sort of official authority and backing upon what is needed for women; and there is a negligible minority of women voters.
The White Paper proposals do at, least suggest that the woman electorate should be extended, that there should be a handful of reserved seats for women in every provincial council and in the Central Legislature. Is the proposal sufficient? The Simon Commission proposed a form, of franchise for women which would have enfranchised at least one woman to two men. The Lothian Committee proposed a narrower form of franchise, giving the vote to one woman to four and a half men. The White Paper cuts down the franchise for the Federal Assembly to less than one woman to 20 men, although in the future the Federal Assembly will have the power to deal with questions like that of the age of marriage and the custody of children, among other questions which are of vital importance to women. For the provincial assemblies it proposes, nominally, to give the vote to one woman to every seven men, but imposes the condition that women must 190 apply for their votes. Many of the women are illiterate and live in country districts where, on the average, the distance to walk to the polling district is five or, in some cases, 10 miles. Under those conditions the actual proportion of women voters will probably be very little better than at present.
I am perfectly aware that the Joint Select Committee is going very carefully into all these facts. I have had the privilege of giving evidence before that Committee on matters affecting women's franchise, and I have never studied the proceedings of, or appeared before, a committee which seemed to give such a patient and courteous hearing to all witnesses; but we have to recognise that the Committee is largely influenced on all these questions by the opinion of the provincial governments and provincial legislatures. By the White Paper proposals it is proposed to hand over the women to the future control of these provincial governments and legislatures, with no better safeguard than the kind of franchise I have described, and then, by the proposal of the Secretary of State, these same provincial governments and legislatures are to have the whole say in the future as to whether the franchise and the other provisions for the women and the unenfranchised classes are to be further extended. What have the provincial governments or legislatures or, for the matter of that, the central Government of India and the central legislature, ever done for women in the past that we should put such complete control into their hands; so that in future it will not be possible to ask a question in this Parliament about any of the services so transferred?
In some respects I am widely divided in my outlook on this question from the noble Lady the Member for Perth (Duchess of Atholl), but I agree with her and with the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) and the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) in this, at least, that we are taking a very grave responsibility indeed in handing over our trusteeship. The solution I suggest is not that we shall go back where no going back is, in fact, possible, and not that we shall stand still where conditions existing at present are very far from satisfactory, but that we shall 191 go forward, only making sure that whatever steps we take shall be such that we can be quite certain that if not immediately, at any rate in the near future, the people to whom we are handing over control shall be the whole people of India. We should not complete the transfer of responsibility until we are certain the changes we are making are working for the good of the whole people—not for the good only of the Princes, not for the good only of the European community, not for the good only of the Moslems and the higher castes and all those whose approval of the White Paper proposals we have been assured of to-day by several speakers, but for the good of the whole people, and with the provision that the bodies that hold power, the administrative and the elective bodies, shall be responsible to the whole people. Then, and not till then, can we afford to say to India, "We have done our task, we have handed over our responsibility, the future lies in your hands and in your hands alone."
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. ANNESLEY SOMERVILLE
The hon. Lady for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) has drawn up a formidable indictment against the White Paper. She has said, and I quite agree with her, that under the White Paper we are handing over our trusteeship to an oligarchy. She agrees with the right lion. and gallant Member for Newcastle under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) and with many other competent critics of the White Paper. We are offering to India a pseudo-democratic form of government for which, in my opinion, India is totally unfit. This afternoon I heard two distinguished representatives of this country and France discussing, in a most attractive way, the fate of democracy in the world, and congratulating one another that their countries were the only two in which the principle of democratic government was still honoured. And then I came into this Chamber and I found the Secretary of State, on behalf of the Government, counselling this House of Commons to give to India a form of democratic government for which India has as yet not shown herself fit.
In the course of this Debate propaganda has been mentioned. We have been advised by the Government to wait and see. We have had to wait and 192 see. Of course, we had the White Paper, a set of concrete proposals on which we were perfectly capable of forming an opinion, but we were told, "Do not form your opinion, wait till the Select Committee reports." have the Government adopted that policy of "wait and see"? Those most nearly connected with them have been going up and down the country carrying out an active propaganda in favour of the White Paper. One of the defenders of the White Paper in the early part of this Debate, the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Sir A. Baillie) said it had been urged that India ought not to be given democratic government when democratic government was breaking down all over the world. He pointed out, and it seems a powerful argument, that if that were true with regard to the central government it was also true as regards the provincial governments, and was also fatal to provincial autonomy. The answer to that, I think, is that if we give responsible government to the centre we can never withdraw it, but if we try provincial autonomy and the results are bad it can be withdrawn without the terrible upheaval that would attend any attempt to withdraw it from the centre.
The Secretary of State has told us of the difficulties of the position, and they are enormous, and has asked for patience. But the difficulties are largely the creation of those Members of the Government who scrapped the Simon Commission. If that had been acted upon we should not find ourselves in the position in which we now are. We are told to wait and see. The Prime Minister yesterday said that the Government stand by the White Paper. What does that mean? In what sense do they stand by the White Paper? If that means that the Government are determined to put the White Paper through as it stands, what is the good of appointing a Select Committee? The Government took care to insure themselves to a large extent in the appointment of that Select Committee, and the opinion of the Select Committee would early very much more weight if the large majority of its members had not committed themselves to strong approval of the White Paper before they were appointed. It was a sad beginning that the Government did not appoint an independent chairman who had not committed himself. The chairman is a distinguished nobleman who 193 committed himself almost irretrievably to the White Paper just before he was appointed chairman of the committee. I submit that there is not a sufficient supply of independent opinion upon the committee to persuade the country to have full confidence in the committee.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
Certain of the critics did not accept the invitation to go on the Committee for definite reasons. Lord Lloyd gave his reasons, and they were good ones. That did not relieve the Government from the duty of seeing that there was a, full representation of independent opinion upon the Committee. What does the Prime Minister mean by saying that the Government stand by the White Paper? Suppose the report of the Joint Committee is in accordance with their terms of reference. I may remind the House that those terms recommend them to consider not merely the White Paper, but the whole question of the future government, of India. If their report is such as to modify the White Paper in principle and in detail, as it may well be—because, although a considerable majority of that body committed themselves before they became members of the Committee to approval of the White Paper, they are honourable men, aria they have had a considerable quantity of evidence before them, although not very much considering the vastness of the subject—what is to be the fate of the Report of the Joint Committee I should like an answer to my question from the Under-Secretary of State for India. Is the Report to meet with the same fate as the Report of the Simon Commission? Here was a Commission, composed of men of all parties, that spent more than two years in producing that most valuable report, to which no heed was paid.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
To a certain extent, but the principles of it were not adopted in the White Paper. The principle of central, responsible Government is not recommended in the Simon Commission's report.
§ Mr. FOOT
The hon. Member will, of course, have regard to the fact that, after the Simon Commission had reported, the 194 opportunity arose for the federal proposal to be considered, as a result of the Princes' intervention at the first sitting of the Round Table Conference. That matter was only on the horizon when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) and his colleagues made their report.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
It was widely said that the intervention of the Princes had changed the position. Undoubtedly it did modify the position, but it was much too vague to justify the drastic action that was then taken by the Government. The action that ought to have been taken at that time was definitely to ascertain how many of the Princes would come into the Federation, and to what extent. The Princes saw how the wind was blowing, and they were afraid of being left out of the new order. They had to consider such matters as Customs duties, transport and so on, and they wanted to leave the way open. Are we to look forward to a report which may, to a large extent, condemn the principles of the White Paper, and to that report then being scrapped by the Government, who will drive a Bill through this House, founded on the White Paper? I have no doubt that they can do it, because there is more support in this House for the White Paper than there is in the country. Who are the chief supporters of the White Paper? The Socialists, who sit opposite me, and those who occupy the bench which is now adorned by the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) and his friends.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
If the hon. Member will be good enough to look at the report of the Debate upon the White Paper, he will see that he is not entitled to make that statement in regard to the Socialists.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
The Socialist benches support the White Paper as far as it goes, but they are not satisfied with it, because they would clear out of India altogether.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
Quite. I agree, but I should like to know how far hon. Members upon the Socialist benches agree with the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), who would clear us out of India altogether? Are they prepared to do that? I doubt if the hon. "Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) would be prepared to accept that solution. I was speaking of the supporters of the White Paper. The Socialist benches support it as far as it goes, and the Liberals support it—of course they do. They are in the natural succession of the MintoMorley Montagu-Chelmsford reforms. If those reforms had never been made, India would have been much happier, and the present questions would never have arisen.
Who are the other supporters? There are a certain number of luke-warm supporters in this House. We find a large number of very anxious Members here who do not believe in the safeguards, and who do not see how they can be implemented because those safeguards are regarded as window-dressing. We have a number of Members who are convinced that we are taking a very dangerous leap in the dark and they are opposed to the pace at which the so-called reform is going. I would ask the Government, and particularly our Leader the Lord President of the Council, to remember that there is a real opposition in the country to the White Paper and that it is in the political bones of the Conservative party that the White Paper proposals involve the surrender of our Imperial responsibilities. It is said that the answer to that is, "Who really understands this question?" The electorate do not understand the details of it, but they can quite understand the point that we are trying to force upon India something which no responsible body in India is asking for or is satisfied with. We are giving to India a form of democratic government at a time when democratic government is crashing all over the world.
The electorate can also understand this general consideration: The Simon Commission reported that dyarchy had failed in the Provinces, and they recommended a change. Is it a remedy for the failure of dyarchy in the Provinces to establish dyarchy at the Centre? These are two practical considerations that the country can understand—the giving of a form of 196 democratic government to India at a time when democracy has failed in a large number of the leading countries of the world, and the attempt to cure the failure of dyarchy in the Provinces by establishing dyarchy at the Centre. The people say, "Would it not be more sensible to say to the Indians, ' Try to govern the Provinces; test their power of government and, if you succeed, we will give you responsible government at the Centre? "We are proposing to give responsible government at the Centre when there is no real proof—when, in fact, there is proof to the contrary—that that government will fall into the hands of men who can govern. They can talk, and very cleverly, but can they govern? Let it be remembered that we are trustees for the good government and welfare of 350,000,000 people in India, and, if we make a mistake in changing the form of the government of those millions of people, we shall be unworthy of our traditions, unworthy to be called an Imperial people.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Sir EDWARD CAMPBELL
I think we are all agreed, whatever side we may take, that to-day we are discussing a very important issue, which is going to decide, in the long run, the future of India, and to a great extent the future of this country. I cannot agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville) that we are surrendering India. In 1919, in the Montagu-Chelmsford Agreement, we made definite promises, and Lord Birkenhead, for whose foresight I think all Conservatives, and certainly my hon. Friend, had a great deal of respect, appointed the Simon Commission. It was he, therefore, who started the present scheme of things—
§ Sir H. CROFT
I am sure my hon. Friend would not wish to make a statement which is not one of actual fact. Lord Birkenhead, as Secretary of State for India, had to send out the Simon Commission because it was so provided in the Act of Parliament of 1919.
§ Sir E. CAMPBELL
He sent out the Commission in fact before its time, but as a result of the Montagu-Chelmsford agreement, which said definitely that within 10 years we should reconsider the whole situation. Lord Birkenhead, in 197 appointing that Commission, was following up the Montagu-Chelmsford agreement. Personally, as I have always said, I deeply regretted the Montagu-Chelmsford agreement, but it is past history now, and at the present moment our duty is to see what we can do in fulfilment of these past agreements and yet do our best in the interests of India. Therefore, I would merely say that we are giving India a further measure of self-government, but we are not necessarily, and to my mind not at all, surrendering India; we are merely fulfilling the promises of our predecessors and of some of us in this House.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir WALTER SMILES
In the Preamble to the Montagu-Chelmsford Report it was stated that at the end of 10 years the matter would be reconsidered, and we might go back and not forward.
§ Sir E. CAMPBELL
I quite agree, but my hon. and gallant Friend was in India for so many years that he knows that, when once a white man has given a kind of promise to an Indian, the last thing he ever thinks of doing is to go back upon it. These gentlemen, for good or for ill, are under the impression that, after 10 years' trial, they are going to be given a further trial. I myself, although I have no experience of India, resided in Eastern countries for 21 years, and I think we shall all agree that, whenever an Englishman tells anyone of Eastern race that such-and-such a thing will happen, the last thing in his mind would be to go back upon it. That would not represent the word for the deed of a white man.
I am very sorry to find that a great deal of the criticism on this matter—I am glad that it has not appeared so much to-night as it has outside the House—is also general criticism of the whole policy of the National Government. I am sorry for that, because I think it is not fair to India, even if it were fair to the National Government. Although many of us have given our blessing to the White Paper, because we believe in the principle therein laid down, and believe that the White Paper is, as my hon. Friend said just now, the term of reference for the Joint Select Committee, we nevertheless believe that there are certain criticisms which are right and just.
198 I have never made any bones about it that I have several very severe criticisms to make. I have criticised, as I did in March last, the question of the handling of the police; I wish to see them more in touch with the Governor. I have criticised the paucity of Europeans in the legislative councils, and I have made other criticisms of the same kind. I do not withdraw those criticisms to-day, but I do say that the majority of the criticisms which have been made on the Floor of the House to-day, as well as my own criticisms made some months ago, either have been or will be placed before the Select Committee, where they are to be represented by critics with a great deal of knowledge of the subject. Surely, nobody will imagine, and I am rather surprised at my hon. Friend imagining, that a Government which set up a Joint Select Committee, with all the trouble that it has taken, and all the expenditure of time, all the cost, and all the difficulty of Indians coming over to this country, will simply say, "Well, you have all been over here; we have heard what you have to say; but there is the White Paper—take it or leave it." Surely, my hon. Friend cannot, in his heart of hearts, think that any Government, let alone a: Government of which he is an honourable supporter, would do a thing like that.
§ Mr. A. SOMERVILLE
The Prime Minister said yesterday that the Government stand by the White Paper, and I think we are entitled to know what exactly that means.
§ Sir E. CAMPBELL
Naturally, I could not presume to speak for the Prime Minister, more especially as he is of the opposite kind of clan to myself, but, at the same time, I am perfectly convinced that he had in mind, as I have, the general principles of the White Paper. Naturally, amendments may be made. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has replied to I forget how many thousands of questions, and, surely, that process would not be gone through by the Government unless they were going to amend something. For my part, I feel perfectly convinced that, with the committee constituted as it is, all these proposals and suggestions which the various witnesses have brought forward will be very fully considered.
199 I was rather intrigued by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor—I hope he will excuse my mentioning him so many times—because on 99 things out of 100 we are agreed. But he first of all criticised the various members of the Committee and he ended up by saying—it is a pity that he did not say it before—that they are all honourable gentlemen. If they are all honourable gentlemen, what does it matter what they said beforehand? They are at present judges listening to the views of the various witnesses and, when the time comes, they will doubtless give their decision. I feel sure that, though they may not necessarily fulfil our wishes, they will take them into consideration in making their final proposals. I only regret that some of those who are criticising the members of the Committee, who have already done wonderful work and I am sure are doing their very best in the interests of India, are not there to help the Government and their colleagues to hear what the witnesses have to say and to cross-question them, because it is a very easy thing to criticise but it is not always quite so easy to do a thing. In principle I am entirely with the Government. It is quite necessary to make some gesture to India. I agree, on the other side, that we must not be too hasty, that we must go step by step, and the only thing that lies between my hon. Friend and myself is whether to take a long step or a short one. I am sure the Government are quite as cautious as any of the Opposition are though they do not express it in the same terms.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel APPLIN
I was very much astonished to hear the hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) make a statement which she assures me she has authority for but which I cannot let pass without saying something, that she knows a large number of cases of Moslems marrying infants—not infants in the legal sense but children of two or three years old. To the best of my belief it is against the Mohammedan law for a Moslem to marry anyone under the age of puberty and to say that one of those marriages was performed at the great mosque at Delhi seems to me to require a certain amount of confirmation. I cannot be 200 lieve that it would be tolerated for a moment if it came to the knowledge of any Imam of any branch of the Mohammedan faith.
I supported the appointment of this Committee in the first instance and I shall, of course, support its reappointment, but there are one or two points that I am very much exercised about in relation to the Anglo-Indian community. That community is so small that it is likely to be lost sight of, but we in this Parliament are actually responsible for its existence. When we sent our Army to India 100 years ago there were nothing but sailing ships. It was quite impossible to bring our soldiers home again. Even the officers could not come home oftener than once in six years and sometimes not for many years. We encouraged in every way marriages between officers and men and the women of India. They were regular marriages, and special encouragement and official allowances were given, and it is to these marriages that the existence of the present Anglo-Indian community is due. We have a special responsibility to see that, whatever we may be doing, and whatever our plans may be for the future of India, we safeguard the rights and the livelihood of these people for whose existence we are responsible. One of the main points to remember is that Anglo-Indians are not as a rule traders or agriculturists. They are mainly small Government officials. It came about from the very fact that they were the sons of soldiers or officers that they got some Government posts and in that way they have almost a vested interest in the various Departments of State. There is very little doubt that, unless we have some very definite pledge that the Governor-General is given special power to see that these people get a proportion of the posts which they have held in the past, they must inevitably starve and go under.
I know it is asking a very great deal, but I am going to ask the Secretary of State if he will take into consideration our interests as well as those of the Anglo-Indians. We are responsible for defence. We are responsible, if the eventuality occurs, for the movement of troops, and it is impossible to move troops unless you have two things in your hands, the railways and the telegraphs. You cannot move without communications and without information, and both those 201 services in the past have been mainly in the hands of Anglo-Indians. The Anglo-Indian is loyal to his own India, but he is absolutely loyal to this country and, therefore, it would be to our own interest in the event of trouble occurring that Anglo-Indians should be in the various positions in the railways and telegraphs which are vital to these communications. Then and only then will a general be justified in going into the field feeling that he has his communications and his information in his own hands. There will lie the future of the Anglo-Indians if we take the right steps now. I beg the Under-Secretary to see that, whatever happens, these people are safeguarded and that at the same time our troops are safeguarded by having their communications and their information in the hands of their own people.
I think many people do not know the history of the civil and military station of Bangalore. There is a sort of idea that it belongs to Mysore and should be handed back. The history is a very simple one. A century and a half ago there was no Mysore. In other words Mysore was in the hands of a conqueror—of Tippoo Sahib—the Hindus had been practically wiped out and with them the Royal Family of Mysore. When we re-conquered Mysore we found in the bazaar evidence of still one legitimate descendant of the Maharajah. We took him out, educated him and placed him on the throne which his forefathers had occupied, and the present Maharajah is his son. Therefore the civil and military station came about and actually was made by us for our troops. It was made into what is known as the Garden of India. The point I want to bring to the notice of the Secretary of State is that the civil and military station at Bangalore is very largely the home of a large section of Anglo-Indians. They own their houses and gardens and land there. They have developed the country there, and to abandon the civil and military station would be to abandon a very large number of Anglo-Indians who have been there for many generations, ever since we have had a station there. The station is a British station and one of the most beautiful in India, and it would be a tragedy if we abandoned it.
I think that with regard to the White Paper we have gone 100 years in front 202 of our time and that we are making a colossal error in attempting to begin at the wrong end of the stick. I cannot conceive that history has taught us that it 'is possible to have a federal government at the centre. We did not have it in our own colonies. Australia was years and years after her great self-governing provinces before she federated the whole country. I cannot see why you should begin by federating India before you really have anything to federate. Surely, it would be wiser in the eleventh hour to try this great experiment upon two or three of the big provinces, possibly larger than Great Britain and with a larger population, leaving the Government in our hands until such time as those provinces had shown that they were capable of self-government. If they were capable of self-government we could extend it one after another to the whole 13, and then it would be a very simple thing to federate them as we have federated in Canada, Australia and South Africa. We could federate India on the same principle. That is a thoroughly logical way of going to work, but even so we should require very great safeguards.
I fancy that we are making a vast mistake. We are taking our great oak tree, that great constitutional British oak, and we are trying to graft it on to a mango. I believe that the result of that will be complete failure. We cannot do it. It is an impossibility. I feel that this experiment is one with which we should go forward with the greatest possible caution, because—and this the House must remember—if in a few years' time it fails we in this House will be asked to take steps to put the thing right again, and those steps must inevitably mean troops, bloodshed and horrors of every sort or kind. Then another generation will look back and say, "How can those people have been so foolish in the past by rushing into this wild experiment without attempting to see that, in the first place, the experiment was tried on a small scale where they would have been able to control, watch and water it and see the plant grow." I am going to support the Motion because the Joint Committee has already done a great work. It has shown, by the evidence which it has taken, the enormous difficulties which face us in India. Every time that witnesses have been before the Committee it has shown more and more 203 the difficulty, and I was almost going to say the impossibility, of the task. Therefore, if the Committee meets again and takes further evidence I trust that the time will come when even the right hon. Gentleman himself will be convinced that the White Paper as it stands goes much too far, and that he will be able to moderate it and so cut it down, that we try the experiment on a small scale at first and then later on possibly extend self-government to India at the centre.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ Wing-Commander JAMES
It is a pity, but I suppose that it was inevitable that the Debate this afternoon should really resolve itself into an attack upon the Joint Select Committee. Taking the speeches of the opponents of the Government and also that of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) they really amounted to a gross attack upon the Joint Select Committee, because if they meant anything at all they implied that the Joint Select Committee was a mere puppet subservient body doing exactly what an unscrupulous Secretary of State told it. The Secretary of State is clever and unscrupulous up to the point where he is entirely dominated by the Prime Minister, who, the right hon. Member for Epping is constantly telling us, is quite incompetent. I do not see how he can reconcile this incompetence with the ingenuity with which he presses forward the Secretary of State on his monstrous course. The Joint Select Committee has, in point of fact, been carrying out an extraordinarily difficult task extremely well. I do not know whether the people who criticise its work have taken the trouble to read the Minutes of Evidence which have been published. I was fortunate enough to be allowed to give evidence before a subcommittee of the Joint Committee on a subject on which few Englishmen, and I think no politically interested Indian person take very much interest. But notwithstanding that the subject was unimportant relatively, I found that the utmost care was taken. I read before going there a great deal of the evidence already given to see what bearing it might have on my particular subject. I read the evidence of the Secretary of State on the same subject, for this one unimportant detail was examined with extraordinary thoroughness by this Committee.
204 I think that so far the general basis of the White Paper remains entirely unshaken by the evidence submitted to the Committee. I wonder whether possibly the bitterness evinced by the right hon. Member for Epping may not to some extent be due to the feathers that he lost when before the Committee. May I indulge in one note, not of criticism because I do not think that this is the time for criticism, of mild apprehension? The Secretary of State has performed a prodigious task. We all know that he has achieved an extraordinary personal triumph before the Committee. How he stood up to the strain of all those days and of those 2,000 questions I simply cannot conceive. Two hours in front of a kindly sub-Committee reduced me to absolute pulp. How he stood all those days before the Committee of 60, Heaven only knows. But because the right hon. Gentleman has achieved this great personal triumph I hope that he will not attempt to give undue weight to purely political considerations. I am not suggesting, as my hon. Friend below the Gangway from time to time suggests, that the issue lies solely between the Ryot and the Raj, and that political instincts are to be ignored or are unimportant. But inevitably the evidence given before the Joint Select Committee has been either by those representing political bodies or has been tuned in the political atmosphere of the Committee. There exists in India, as everybody who has been in India knows, an extraordinary gap between the mental outlook of Delhi and the mental outlook in the districts. There is a gap comparable to that existing during the War between the General Headquarters and the men in the line. The Secretary of State must inevitably see the situation, not merely via Delhi, but via Delhi and via the India Office. The gap is increased, and I am a little apprehensive that he may possibly give rather more weight than is always justified to purely political considerations. I am a little apprehensive that for this reason certain non-vocal interests that I have in mind may be, to some extent, squeezed out. With that one small expression of apprehension—not criticism—I should like most heartily to support the re-appointment of this Committee.
But for a pure chance, I should be a devoted supporter of the right hon. 205 Gentleman the Member for Epping. was brought up in a family with strong Anglo-Indian traditions on both sides. Those traditions were largely gathered in the golden age at the end of last century when the right hon. Member was collecting those impressions which he has stored up in his wonderful brain and now produces so fresh and ready for his supporters. But for the fact that I happened to be sent to India on service after the War I should be in the same position of opposing the White Paper policy and supporting the right hon. Member. I have changed merely because I have been to post-war India and happened to make many contacts there with people now serving, with whom I am still in constant correspondence. My experience has convinced me that the right hon. Member is wrong and that the present situation can only be met by the general policy of the White Paper.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ Mr. GRIMSTON
I have followed most of the Debate to-day, but I do not propose to follow it in so far as it refers to the merits or demerits of the White Paper. I wish to make some observations from the point of view of one who does not know India and, in the time available, will not have the opportunity of making himself sufficiently acquainted with all the problems of that great country to form a sound judgment on his own. The position in which I find myself is that of having to take, on this matter, the advice of those whom I consider to be the best qualified to give it. I go further and say that mine is the position of many hon. Members of this House, of many members of the public, and indeed of some members of the India Defence League and of the Union of Britain and India. What anybody in my position has to do is to decide who is best qualified to give advice and to render judgment on this problem.
Before I proceed to make this choice, I wish to refer to an overriding consideration. We have to look at this problem from the position in which we find ourselves to-day, and not from the point of view from which we might look at it could we go back over history and re-write what has been done since 1917. In other words, we have to look at the position as it is to-day and not as we would perhaps like it to be. I do not 206 think I shall be contradicted by anybody when I say that nobody says we can stand still with regard to the future government of India. I have heard no responsible opinion in any quarter, or in fact any opinion at all, to say that we can go back. The question, therefore, resolves itself into the method of going forward. I am now going to make a few observations on whose advice I consider to be the best to follow in that respect.
The White Paper is being produced by the Government, and the controversy narrows itself down to this: are we going to follow the Report of the Joint Select Committee or the advice of those who march under the banner of the India Defence League? Let us, quite briefly, examine the qualifications of those two sources of advice. The terms of reference of the Joint Select Committee are completely open. It can modify the White Paper, scrap it, improve it, or do anything it likes. That is categorically laid down by the Secretary of State, and if if am wrong he is sitting on the bench opposite and will correct me. It will have to listen, and in fact has listened,. to a mass of contradictory evidence. You may, in reading a report afterwards, read two completely opposite statements; you have not the least idea which of them is correct, but if you have heard those statements made you will very probably have been able to make up your mind who is correct by the demeanour of the witnesses when they were giving their answers. That is an advantage which the Joint Select Committee have, and which nobody else has who has not sat on that Committee. The opponents of the Committee start, therefore, with an immediate disadvantage inasmuch as the evidence has not been given in their presence, and they can only read it afterwards.
The case for the Joint Select Committee is made far more powerful when one looks at the attacks which have been made upon that body, and of which I have had an experience lately in my own constituency. A word or two about the value of the opinion of those who follow the India Defence League. In the first, place, some of them were invited to serve-upon the Joint Select Committee. They-refused, and the two reasons which, an far as I can make out, are given are, first, that the Committee was packed; 207 and, secondly, that the majority of its members were pledged to the proposals of the White Paper beforehand. Let me deal first with the question of packing. Anybody who refused to serve on the Committee because it was packed—and I am not subscribing to the view that it was packed; it is not part of my argument—suffered immediately from an inferiority complex. In other words, he was afraid to stand up in the Committee to people who would probably know as much about the subject, or more about it than himself. He preferred to preach his doctrines to the uninitiated. That is not a very heroic attitude. It does not matter if the Committee is packed or not; if you have a good case, make it against your peers: if you have a good case and can put it, you will probably convert a great many of them. Another consideration when we talk about packing is that Parliament has set up this body and trusted it to make a report upon the future government of India. Any suggestion that the Committee is packed with previous opinion calls in question the integrity of the members of that Committee. There is not the slightest doubt about that.
The other reason which is given for not joining the Committee is that the members of the Committee were pledged beforehand to support the principles of the White Paper. That statement is open to two interpretations. One is that a pledge was exacted from the members of the Committee before they took their places on it. That has been actually alleged. It has been completely denied by the Secretary of State: no pledge was exacted from anybody before he joined the Select Committee. The other inference is that members had pledged themselves, by speech or by opinion expressed beforehand, to support the White Paper. I do not think so little of those whom Parliament has asked to consider this question. It is tantamount to saying that a judge, before he hears a case, has pledged himself to give a verdict one way or the other. Any insinuation that the members of the Committee are pledged impunes their integrity. I have looked through the list of the names of those who are serving on the Select Committee, and I do not think that anybody las a right to say that they are not all 208 honourable men. To suggest that they are pledged beforehand is to suggest that they are not honourable. If having accepted from Parliament office on a judicial body you make the allegation that they have pledged themselves beforehand it is tantamount to saying they are dishonourable.
I now turn to one or two of the remarks made by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). The odds against a back bencher catching Mr. Speaker's eye and the right hon. Gentleman being present at the same moment, are enormous. The right hon. Gentleman twitted the Government on never having openly sought a vote in favour of the White Paper. Supposing the Government set up the Joint Select Committee to report upon the White Paper and at the same time asked the House to give a vote in favour of it, I can imagine the picturesque verbiage which the right hon. Gentleman would use in denouncing the Government for seeking a vote on an issue which they had asked the Joint Select Committee to judge. The right hon. Gentleman has done one thing. He has, at least, produced a scheme, which is more than has officially been done by the India Defence League. He put that scheme before the Joint Select Committee and we have been told that they will in due course give that scheme their consideration. The right hon. Gentleman was hopelessly handicapped by the fact that he was not a member of the Joint Select Committee. If he had been on the Select Committee his scheme would have been worth far more, because he would have had the benefit of all the evidence given before the Committee.
When the right hon. Gentleman goes so far as to say, as he did al Chingford the other day, that the Lord President of the Council was not fit to lead the Conservative party unless he agreed with the right hon. Member for Epping about India, he went a little too far. That is, in effect, what he said the other evening. I have not the flair for the coining of quip and sally with which the Almighty has endowed the right hon. Gentleman, but if I described that statement as the most lamentable egotism, it would not be far short of the mark. When one has to decide which is the soundest judgment to follow in this great question the case fro following the judgment of the Joint 209 Select Committee is absolutely unanswerable. The burden ol responsibility which has been laid upon them is great, but in our past history we have always found men of integrity, ability and uprightness to discharge the many duties that fall to the lot of a great Imperial people such as we are, and when I look through the names of the Joint Select Committee I have no reason to doubt that they will fall short of the standards which have made us great in the past. I think this House should speed them on with their job, tell them it gives them its trust, ask them to discharge their task and, if it thinks fit, it might even conclude with the words we heard yesterday at the end of the Gracious Speech from the Throne.
§ 9.38 p.m.
§ Sir W. SMILES
I do not think that any of us have a word to say against any of the members of the Joint Select Committee because of their actions. Those who have studied the reports of the evidence must have realised what a great and heavy responsibility rests upon the Committee, but what I and most of u, are concerned about is not the personnel of the Joint Select Committee but what is going to happen to India in the future. The Joint Select Committee of itself is a very small thing. Already I believe the names of those who served on the Simon Commission are almost forgotten, and in a very few years the names of those who have served on this Joint Select Committee will be forgotten, but the results of their actions will remain.
The first speech to which I would take objection was that of the Noble Lady the Member for West Perth (Duchess of Atholl). She expects far too much. She expects far too high a degree of efficiency in India, and it is most unfair to expect that. My close friends among the Indians do not expect a great degree of efficiency immediately. They have often said to me: "Good government is no substitute for self government." That is the line they take. They do not expect efficiency and it would be unfair for this House to expect it either.
Only the other day—I am sure the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary must remember the case—a man in Assam who occupies exactly the same position there as the Prime Minister does here was concerned in a certain case. There was a police court 210 case in which a relation of his was found smuggling opium and letters were discovered from the Assamese gentleman who occupies the same position as our Prime Minister, in which he wrote to his cousin, who was later charged with smuggling: "I will arrange matters for you," or some words to that effect. I admit that in England it would be a terrible thing if letters from our Prime Minister were found by the police addressed to, perhaps, the Prime Minister's cousin, who had been engaged in smuggling whisky or cocaine into England, and the Prime Minister had written saying that he would cover up his tracks. It would be a serious matter for this House, but the hon. Member for West Perth seems to expect too high a degree of efficiency immediately in India. It is grossly unfair to expect it too soon. In my own cognisance there is a small town only about 30 miles from where I lived and the municipality there got into bankruptcy. A deputy commissioner bad to be sent to take over the administration and it was found that often as soon as a man was elected to the municipality he ceased to pay rates. I admit that in my own constituency and in the constituencies of other hon. Members such a thing would not be approved of and the other ratepayers would disapprove, but it is grossly unfair to expect such a high state of efficiency immediately in India.
The hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) also expects a high degree of efficiency in the medical department. It is highly probable that when the medical department is completely transferred the death rate may increase, which in some ways may be a matter for congratulation. Parts of Bengal, for instance, are the most thickly populated place in the world, even including China. If the death rate was high the pressure of people on the land would not be so great. There are hundreds of thousands of migrants pushing out of Eastern Bengal into Assam and taking up land there, about which the Assamese are very much concerned. If we had not such a good medical service this immigration and pressure upon the land would not be so great.
I am one of those people who wishes to press forward in India. I am a supporter of further self-government for India. I expect to see a considerable degree of self-government given to the 211 Provinces, but I candidly admit that I am not as courageous as some people. I am afraid of giving the whole thing at once, and would like to see provincial autonomy a success before taking risks at the Centre. There are some Provinces in India in which I would adopt the experiment of transferring the police, like Madras and Assam, but I would not transfer them in some of the worst provinces, like Bengal.
I am now speaking on behalf of the people amongst whom I lived for over 20 years, the people of Assam. I have had a great many letters, sometimes two and three in a week in which they complain that no representative of Assam has been invited to co-operate with the Joint Select Committee and that no witness from Assam has been invited to give evidence. I may be told that that is a matter for the chairman of this Joint Select Committee, but I hope the Secretary of State will assist me in this appeal. I have approached the chairman and asked him to call for a witness from Assam. If this was done it would give great satisfaction to everybody. My right hon. Friend has only to turn to the speech which Sir Michael Keane made to the legislative council in Assam last spring, when he spoke about the necessity for extra finance for the province and to a letter of an ex-Governor, Sir Laurie Hammond, in the "Times," both of which point to the necessity of Assam being represented before the Joint Select Committee. I have an Indian friend on leave at the moment, who is an expert on the subject. I do not ask that a European should give evidence before the Select Committee, but I think they might spare an hour or two in order to receive expert evidence from an Assamese representative. I hope the Secretary of State will help in this matter. I congratulate him upon the able way in which he gave his evidence and the way in which he has assisted the labours of the Committee up to date.
§ 9.47 p.m.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I am rather amused at the Debate and the ignorance which has been shown in regard to the question now before the House. The question before the House is that of Indian Constitutional Reform, but many of the speeches to which we have so far listened 212 would in my opinion have been appropriate if they had been made after the report of the Committee had been presented to Parliament. Hon. Members in some cases have been impugning the honesty of members of the Committee, that is if words mean anything at all. If they do not mean that, then I take it it is a question of intimidating the members of the Joint Select Committee. In the government of India, with its great many peoples, we are confronted with a task of great difficulty. In the differing religions and castes there is a problem second to none with which this Empire has to contend. For the management of Indian affairs the Government is responsible, and although I hold no brief for the National Government I say that when the National Government, with a sense of its responsibility, asks us to-day to set up a committee to look into all the details and intricacies of the problem we should support them. Much of the criticism we have heard to-day appears to me to be entirely irrelevant. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) pops in and out of this House like a jack-in-the-box. He pays us a visit about once every three months, makes a speech on some topic, and then clears away. The right hon. Gentleman has a great knowledge of India after spending about three months in that country, not much more, and that was some eight or ten years ago. [An HON. MEMBER: "Thirty years."] In that case he is quite up-to-date, and he tells us what we are going to lose if a measure of reform is given to India. I ask those who are anxious to follow the right hon. Gentleman, he is a wonderful leader, what will be the responsibility of any Government of this country in regard to India? There is a spirit of unrest abroad in the world and if England is to lead she must solve the problem of India, and so increase the prestige of the British Empire.
We are not committed by this Motion. It does not commit anyone to any line of action. We are only setting up a committee to consider this subject, and we shall have to determine in the future the question as to how India shall be governed. India, with so many nations, so many creeds and castes, presents a more complex and difficult problem than any other nation in the world. As a student of English history I do not know 213 any other nation which would have been able to govern India and keep her together in the way as the British nation. When we have to decide the question of India on the Floor of the House the policy will be known. It is somewhat nebulous to-day. At the present time no critic ought to attempt to destroy any constructive work that is being done. If unity is wanted it is wanted particularly in regard to any questions which affect our Indian Empire. I feel that some of the criticisms we have heard to-day would have been more suitable for the Debate when the constructive policy of the Government is presented to Parliament. The duty of the National Governmentto-day is great, and men of goodwill in all parts of the House will agree that if this problem can be solved we shall have solved one of the greatest problems with which this county has ever been confronted. I trust that the Joint Select Committee will be formed, and that with every assistance, with honesty in debate and without suspicion, it will be able to arrive at a true solution to be presented to this House which will redound to the lasting prestige and goodwill of the British nation.
§ 9.55 p.m.
I regret very much that I have not been here the whole afternoon to hear the speeches. I do not regret having missed the speech of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), for we all knew more or less what he would say and why he would say it. I agree with the Lord President of the Council that "oratory is the harlot of the arts." We in this House are not in the least impressed by these occasional orations, particularly when they lead nowhere. I am a little hesitant in speaking about India at all. I rose to add my voice to that of the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) in begging the Government to give adequate franchise to the women of India. Those super die-hard members of the Tory party who are fighting against the White Paper are dead as far as vision is concerned, and certainly dead as far as leadership is concerned. Women are the key to progess in India. The Simon Report had a plan for one woman to have a vote for every two men. The Lothian Committee found that that was not practicable, and recom- 214 mended the proportion of one woman to every four-and-a-half men.
I have been around the country talking about this subject, and it is the one thing that can arouse the women of England. We all know that certain reforms are more needed for the women of India than for any other section of the population. Under a semi-democratic government, unless women have the vote, nothing can be done. In the 10 years before women had the vote in this country five Measures affecting women were passed, but in the five years after the granting of the vote to women 21 small Measures affecting women became law. It is even more necessary in India for women to have the vote. I beg the Government not to be blind to that side of the question, but to give the women adequate representation as recommended by the Lothian Committee.
I am amazed that the Noble Lady the Member for West Perth (Duchess of Atholl), who speaks so eloquently about India, should take the line that she has taken. I am astounded that anyone who has not been in India in the last three or four years should dare to go 'against the opinions of those who have studied the question thoroughly. I can assure the Government that most women are far more likely to follow the advice of the hon. Member for North Hammersmith (Miss Pickford), who has been to India and studied this question, than the advice of the Noble Lady, who has never been to India. The Noble Lady is just as much worked up about India as she was about Russia, and if she is as wrong about India as about Russia we would do well not to take any notice at all of her advice. Then there are the super-Conservatives who want to turn out the Lord President of the Council. I do not think we need be at all nervous about them. We are all most grateful for the work the Government have done in regard to India. Women are the key to progress there. We want the franchise to be adequate, so that those who have to use it can progress.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I congratulate the Government on their latest champion, who with her usual fearlessness has entered the lists. I hope the Government may take seriously what the Noble 215 Lady has said. I am inclined to think that if there was a general demand in India that all women should have the vote, that is a question which might suitably be referred back again to India, and in the meantime the Joint Committee might adjourn in order to see what the Indian people think about such a suggestion. The Noble Lady would be content, I believe, with one vote for every woman.
§ Sir H. CROFT
Then I made a mistake. I recommend the Noble Lady, since she has become such an ardent student of India, to read the works of the great ex-President of the United States, Mr. Roosevelt, and of the late Price Collier, and even the works of Katherine Mayo, or Patricia Kendall. The hon. Member for Bromley (Sir E. Campbell) staggered me when be brought in the name of the late Lord Birkenhead. He seemed inclined to imagine that the Simon Commission went to India because of some bright thought of Lord Birkenhead's. The fact is that according to the Government of India Act of 1919 a Commission of Inquiry was to be undertaken within 10 years in order to decide whether this House in its wisdom should extend, modify or restrict the enactments of that Act. The hon. Member will not deny that that is a fact In the last conversation I had with Lord Birkenhead he told me that he thought we were entering upon the most awful gamble in the history of this country. He said, "I can only hope that this great leap in toe dark will not be taken, and that if we are to go forward it will only be step by step."
The hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston) made a very eloquent speech, and was very passionate in his attack on those of us who belong to the India Defence League. We have heard very frequently the argument which he applied to the wrong doing of those who did not join the Select Committee. I think that even the right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Front Bench must be tired of their supporters getting up and saying ditto, ditto, time and time again. I beg the hon. Member to realise that not a single friend of mine has ever said one 216 word against the integrity or the honour of the men who joined the Select Committee. What we have said, and what we have a right to say, is that if you set up a Select Committee, composed overwhelmingly of honest men who are committed to a certain definite line of thought, from the nature of the case those gentlemen are bound to be somewhat biased in their minds and in their judgment of the case.
§ Mr. GRIMSTON
For the hon. Baronet's information may I refer him to a speech delivered by Lord Lloyd the other day in which he attacked the integrity of the Joint Select Committee?
§ Sir H. CROFT
I venture to think, however, that the hen. Member made a sweeping charge against those in this House who have ventured to offer criticism. The question which I beg him to consider is this. Suppose that in years to come a Select Committee were set up under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Foot) to decide whether this country should revert to a Free Trade policy or not. Suppose that out of 36 members of such a committee 26 or more were committed by speech or pen to an undying faith in Free Trade. Would it then be unfair to say that such a committee, from the nature of the case, could not be expected to bring an entirely fresh and judicial mind to bear on the problem. When the late Socialist Government first promoted this Indian policy they were inspired by certain motives. There was idealism. There was a feeling that they wanted to be generous to the Indian people. There was democratic fervour and in some cases, undoubtedly, there was fear. Few of us at that time had made any study of Indian history or Asiatic mentality. Our leaders—I say this in no offensive spirit—with splendid arrogance declared: "This democratic system built up in this country during 500 years is good enough for Britain and is therefore good enough for you Indians, and we are determined to see that you get this kind of reform and nothing different from it."
217 Two or three years have passed and we have all, I think, gained knowledge. We all realise how vital this question is to the future of the Empire and we have come down from the clouds to confront realities. The greatest reality with which we are confronted is the fact that wherever a similar system has been tried in Eastern countries even in the last few years it has broken down. It has been shown that such a system cannot last in those countries. But to start nearer home, in the British Empire, right at our own gates, I take the case of Ireland. There it will be agreed that such safeguards as we were supposed to possess are at this moment useless. We have repudiation and violation of the Treaty; legal obligations have been dishonoured and, what is worse, the whole spiritual and moral understanding on which those who signed the Treaty acted, has been shattered. All the good-will and co-operation hoped for by those who believed that by surrendering we would get an immediate response, has evaporated. In Ireland we have an outstanding lesson, which is that by betraying your friends in order to placate your enemies, you do not bring peace. You are more likely to bring agitation and economic disaster. Yet Ireland was quoted in Debates on India in this House and elsewhere as an almost heaven-sent example, and we were urged to do likewise in India. I admit, of course, that the question of the land annuities, the Privy Council, and the Governor-Generalship had not then arisen.
Then there is the case of Ceylon. Since our newly created democratic Government in Ceylon the whole body politic in that fair and once contented island has become absolutely corrupt. You cannot find a man or woman coming from Ceylon who will not tell you that tragedy has befallen that country. The hopes of the people of Lancashire have vanished. Ceylon stood right out of the Ottawa Agreements and the link of the Empire with that country is weakening daily. Then there is Malta. The very Government which proposes to set up new democratic institutions in India has had to suspend the Government in Malta during the last week or two. That is a compact little island where there are none of those great complexities of race and caste which have to be faced in India. I cannot go through the whole list of examples, but 218 in Egypt the democratic institutions which in our wisdom we decided to force upon that people have been abandoned in favour of some dictatorial arrangement. Go to the Assyrians and ask them if they are happier since Britain abdicated her mandate and her power in Iraq. [interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) has done all he can to keep us out of Egypt. What I am trying to do is to see that we remain in the country and that we do not go out because half a dozen youths get behind a band and frighten the administrators and the Government of this country. Travel further east and what do we find in China? Does anybody deny that democracy has destroyed China. Japan may be cited as an example of a firm and strong democratic Government, but even Japan had its lesson for us. The Japanese are a democratic people. Indeed their democracy is so martial as to be almost unpopular with the right hon. Gentleman who leads the Opposition.
With all these lessons before us it is hardly encouraging to pacifist internationalism to go on with these experiments and pacifist internationalism undoubtedly was the mother of reform in India. Have we learned everything which we can learn from these great episodes? Are we unable to see the writing on the wall? Why bring upon India disasters which even the blind can see have occurred in all those countries where we have tried to do the hopeless thing, to blend East and West and to try to force upon Eastern people the ideas of the Western world. There is another argument which I think has fallen to the ground. No one will deny that the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal is honest in his view. Whatever one may feel about Indian difficulties everybody knows that the right hon. Gentleman never makes a statement in which he does not believe and he will understand that I am in no way criticising the sincerity of his statements. He told us—I am not now quoting his exact words—that the men on the spot practically all favoured these reforms, and the right hon. Gentleman at the Friends Meeting House made the following statement:You get a clear idea of the opinion among the most responsible members of the 219 Services when you study the list of names who are supporting the Union of Britain and India.This body, the Union of Britain and India, is a body which has desired to promote Home Rule. The speech went on:Most of them are men who have recently retired from high posts of responsibility, and they have had years of experience since the Montagu-Chelmsford Report—I repeat, since the Montagu-Chelmsford Report. Those who are aware of what those names stand for in the administration of India in recent years, know that that list is conclusive as to the attitude of those who have modern experience of Indian affairs. I challenge anyone to produce a comparable list in support of a different opinion.I accept that challenge, and I state that within something like a month the India Defence League, which was attacked by my hon. Friend behind me, published a list of opponents, which I have in my hand, far more weighty, far more conclusive, than the list which was published by the Union of Britain and India. In this list there are 77 names of most distinguished men who have served the British Empire in India since the introduction of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, and who oppose the White Paper. But we have further evidence than that. I am not exaggerating in any way—it can be borne out by the Noble Lord opposite—when I say that thousands of gentlemen who know India and who are associated with India have joined the India Defence League. What is more, a very large proportion of those who are now leaving India are joining it every day. We have a mass of opinion in front of us, and I think I am expressing the sincere view of those of us who have studied all this correspondence when I say that, with the exception of the men on the top in India, men whom I might describe almost as on the steps of the House of Lords, we do not believe that the British in India really desire these reforms. In fact, I have had a very heavy correspondence from 10 gentlemen who are keeping me informed every mail, from every part of India, and who are consulting all their friends, and these phrases—I am only going to quote the more polite phraseology which occurs in their letters—occur again and again: "It is madness," "It is utter folly," "It is suicide."
§ Sir H. CROFT
The White Paper. It is an absolute fact that in two or three of the great cities of India—if the Noble Lady behind me will allow me to proceed; it is difficult to compete with a running commentary.
§ Sir H. CROFT
Then it was entirely on the part of my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot), who sits immediately behind me. It is perfectly true that in two or three of the great cities of India European traders to a very large extent—probably a considerable majority—have stated that they support these reforms. But let us be honest with ourselves. Why do they support them 7 Because they feel that when the Viceroy, the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State, and the leaders of the Conservative party have, as they say in their letters, "apparently hauled down the flag, what can we do but make friends with those who are going to be our future rulers, if we are to retain any business connections at all?" Apart from a few men at the top and these European business men in the great cities, I declare that of the men who are building India and maintaining India, civil servants, men in the Irrigation Department, men working on the roads, men in public utilities, on the railways, in the medical service, the Army, the police, and the woods and forests, as far as one can judge dispassionately, the overwhelming majority believe that this scheme is fraught with very great danger, not only to Britain and the British Empire, but to the Indian people among whom they dwell and work. The Indian Civil Service are, of course, muzzled; they stated that they could not give any evidence on the political aspects, but they did say that it was impossible to exaggerate the feelings of apprehension and anxiety with which this momentous change was regarded by many members of the Service. The police evidence and the suppressed 221 telegram are too fresh in the mind to repeat, but I would remind the House of the words:The transfer of law and order involves the gravest risk to our men and all that they stand for.It may he truly said that no section of British opinion is not anxious—more than anxious—at the idea of the transference of law and order; and as for the people in Bengal, I cannot find one who does not feel that it is a terrible gamble with their fortunes to go forward with these proposals. Something was said about my right hon. Friend's association with Mr. Montagu, but I would remind the House that Mr. Montagu said in his diary that if we were to transfer law and order before the Indians had progressed and graduated in political experience it would bring chaos and anarchy to India. These being the facts, I think that we are entitled to utter our word of warning again. People say that we really ought not to have a Debate because a judicial committee was sitting. It is not a judicial committee. It is a Select Committee of the two Houses of Parliament on this vital matter, and are we not, when we have to consider this question once more, entitled to give our views on this great subject? Surely we should be utterly failing in our duty if feeling the anxieties that I feel we did not put them before our fellow-countrymen.
The Secretary of State in his speech—I am sorry for the note upon which he ended—said there had been a running fire of partisan criticism. I only say to that that I can hardly believe that in his heart of hearts he thinks that men who disagree with him and criticise his policy, and believe that it means the end of British rule in India, the lynch-pin of the Empire, that it means dividing the whole Empire in half and cutting us off from Australia and New Zealand—that we who criticise are actuated by partisan motives. I hope not. I do not know if he imagines that everyone of us who feels deeply on this subject is desirous of becoming an Under-Secretary or something of that kind. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give us credit for the attitude we have taken because let him understand this, and it is well the Government should know now. There are thousands of people in this country who are determined to resist this thing and to fight it to the end. We are 222 utterly oblivious of our political careers. There are men sitting in this House who know that they are throwing away their seats because they are not supporting the Government, and we give them every credit for their courage. They are not seeking careers; they are only seeking to do their duty to the country.
The right hon. Gentleman told us that at the Joint Select Committee he was subjected to a very long cross-examination and that he was cross-examined by, I think, 60 distinguished counsel. He omitted to tell us that of the 60, only eight or 10 could in any way be opposed to his views. He did not tell us that nearly 50 of those distinguished people wanted to acquit the criminal and to get him out of the dock. I have no doubt it was only a slip of the tongue, but I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that he opened his remarks by describing these gentlemen as delegates.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I am sure I did not. I spoke of the Indian delegates, which is the correct term, and of the British "members" of the Committee.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I beg pardon. Of course, the House will realise that they were not delegates in any sense or form, but specially chosen or nominated by the right hon. Gentleman to come here and sit around—
§ Sir H. CROFT
The right hon. Gentleman perhaps misunderstood me, but he used the words "Indian delegates." I only want to emphasise the fact that they were nominated by the right hon. Gentleman, and to that extent there was on the Committee an overwhelming number of persons who were predisposed to the White Paper.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I am sorry to interrupt. They were not nominated by me, but invited by the Committee.
§ Sir H. CROFT
Well, they were invited by the Committee, but let us take it for granted that the Committee knew these gentlemen by name and all about them, and perhaps suggestions had been made to the Committee about the list.
§ Sir H. CROFT
If the hon. Gentleman means by that that I meant they were hopelessly committed to the White Paper before ever they joined, yes, he is perfectly right.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I have tried to explain, but not being dependent upon an Irish vote I cannot explain it any better than that. The argument has been used more than once that these reforms are necessary because, unless they are brought about, we cannot hold India. This is the anniversary of the death of Clive. Clive, with 2,000 British irregulars, was fighting the French, and I am not sure that he was not fighting the Portuguese and the Dutch, at the same time that he was fighting many of the greatest Rajahs in India with their mighty armies. But did he send telegrams—well, I do not think there were many telegrams in those days. He did not send messages home to this country to say, "I cannot keep the foothold I have won in India." I venture to think there are very few people—very few whom I have consulted among the leading officials either in the police world or in the military world in India—who really believe there is any fear that Britain can hold India so long as she pursues the normal course of justice, and holds the scales evenly between the various communal divisions of India.
§ Sir H. CROFT
Clive was a very great Englishman, and on this anniversary of his death I am not going to allow anyone to suggest that he was not a. brave and fearless man. I go further, and say that as Clive won his way—and it is true he had to use his sword—he won the hearts of the Indian people; and so long as British soldiers and administrators in India are of the same character as Clive we shall not lose the confidence of the people in that sub-continent.
224 In conclusion I wish to say a word about Indian opinion. We were told by, I think, the Lord Chancellor that we had dashed the cup from the thirsty lips of India. I want to examine this thirst. We are told that India has a thirst for British political institutions. How many people in India can read or write the British language? Out of 350,000,000 people in that great. country, there are, according to the census, only 2,000,000 Indians who can understand the English language. The Secretary of State for India may say that the rest of them may have read about the British Constitution in various languages, but since 93 or 94 per cent. of the Indians are illiterate, how is it possible that I hey could have read of the great British Constitution?
Of 36,000,000 electors, 25,000,000 can neither read nor write, and are illiterate; yet we are to hand over the government of a country that is as large as Europe, excluding Russia, into the hands of that very extraordinary electorate because, forsooth, Indian opinion demands the same democratic constitution as we have in this country. I would remind the House that we have had the most extraordinary statements from different quarters. We have had, for instance, Sir John Thompson admitting that the finances cannot work. When he was asked, "Do you think India at this moment can stand extra taxation?" this bold evangelist of the union of Britain and India said: "I think the important thing is to go straight ahead with the scheme, and to decide later on." Lord Salisbury interjected: "Whether you can pay for it or not?" He said, "Yes." This is the gentleman who has been lecturing Conservative associations and area conferences, and who, I believe, is going to visit the Conservative school at Ashridge.
The Government are trying to make the best of both worlds. They come here and tell us that they are transferring as little as possible. On the other hand, it has been suggested—I will not say by themselves but by others—that we are transferring to Indians everything that matters. I make one more appeal. Why is it necessary to make these appeals? Why not wait till the Select Committee reports? The answer is that the right hon. Gentlemen who are responsible for the government of this country are committing themselves again and again, and 225 are, to that extent, committing some of those around them. Therefore, I say once more, they had better consider whether it is not right to go ahead with the reform and establish provincial government in the Provinces, giving the ultimate pledge to India that, if they will make provincial government a success, we will go on with responsible government at the centre.
For heaven's sake do not exceed what Mr. Montagu, even in his wildest moments, urged you to do—to go step by step and prove the success of your policy at each step before you go any farther. There is yet time to prevent what may be one of the gravest blunders in British history, and to prevent a grave blow to the trade of our people. There is yet time to save the teeming millions of India from What may turn into a great tragedy. I hope that we are going to get rid of the palsy which has led us along paths of political compromise Which are not favoured by the people of this country at large. I hope that this country, and this assembly in particular, may draw inspiration from the sacrifices of our ancestors, in pouring out their blood and their treasure to perform the miracle of the Pax Britannica in India as we know it to-day. I beg that we shall not be afraid, that we shall have the courage not to be afraid of our responsibilities, and that we shall not always be wondering whether the task is so difficult that we cannot continue to perform it. To quit from our trust and turn to one side because of difficulties, or because the heathen rage furiously together, is surely not worthy of British tradition. I believe you will win the confidence of this country once more—because at the moment you have not got it in full measure—when you give back to the people of England the soul of statesmanship, and when you recapture the faith of a great ruling race.
§ 10.36 p.m.
§ Mr. BUTLER
I ask the permission of the House to address it again in answering several questions which have been put to me by hon. Members. As far as I can see, we have already raised in the course of the Debate a most wonderful mixed hag of different questions and problems, and it is really quite a problem for anyone who is answering ques- 226 tions in this Debate to be able to deal with every one of them seriatim. I will, if I may, deal with some of the general points, and also apply myself to some of the particular points, such as those which were raised by my Noble Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl).
Before I do that, may I say that I think the Debate has shown a vindication of the Government's objects in moving the Resolution which stands in the name of my right hon. Friend I There seems to me to have been a general consensus of opinion that the Joint Select Committee should proceed upon its appointed task and report to Parliament in a normal and proper manner; and I was very glad to hear my Noble Friend the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) tell us that he does not intend to divide the House on this occasion. It is indeed difficult, as so many speakers have said, to find the reason for holding this Debate at all. I will confine myself merely to answering the points of misapprehension or requests for information that have arisen, and will not apply my mind any further to that first problem. I would like to safeguard myself by saying that, at a moment like this, when one is between life and death, or death and a renewed life, and one has had the proud privilege of serving on the Joint Select Committee, although some of one's remarks may appear partisan, that is because one wishes to answer points on the Government plan which was submitted to the Joint Select Committee.
My Noble Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross raised some very important subjects in connection with the evidence that the Committee has heard She said, for example, that only one half-day had been devoted to the very important question of the transferred subjects—the departments, that is to say, that have been under Indian control since the Montagu-Chelmsford Report. I would only reply that that very valuable half-day which was devoted to the health services of India—which I agree are of paramount interest and importance—was not the only occasion on which the transferred subjects were referred to by the Committee. I need only remind the House that public notices were issued by the Committee, at an early stage in their proceedings, asking for witnesses either 227 to come before the Committee or to submit memoranda. Every opportunity, therefore, was given for witnesses to come before the Committee—
Duchess of ATHOLL
Does my hon. Friend intend to convey that any other witnesses have been heard who served in transferred departments?
§ Mr. BUTLER
I was trying to compress my remarks as much as I could, but I will now proceed to that subject. The position, as I was about to explain, is that there was a full opportunity for any witnesses to appear before the Joint Select Committee, and for any member or delegate to ask questions of the right hon. Gentleman on the subject, and many such questions were asked. Also one of our most distinguished visitors, one who, we were informed, and who I sincerely believe is thoroughly versed in this subject of the transferred departments and the question of land revenue, irrigation, public health, education and so forth, Sir Michael 0 Dwyer, was beard at great length. I would also inform her that the Simon Report, which is sometimes said not to be receiving the consideration that it deserves, has also been before the Joint Select Committee in its deliberations. The Simon Commission, when it visited India, heard many witnesses and received memoranda from provincial Governments on the subject of the transferred departments. I should like to pay a tribute, which is not paid often enough, to the work that the Simon Commission did and the attention which every member of the Committee has paid to the report and to the evidence that it took. I am also convinced that the Simon Commission heard enough evidence to enable them to make up their minds whether it was safe to recommend a further transfer at present.
Duchess of ATHOLL
Is it not the case that the Simon Commission only heard one medical witness and one judicial witness?
§ Mr. BUTLER
I am informed that it heard ample evidence on the subject and if my Noble Friend, with her great knowledge of blue books and her great aptitude for reading up figures, will refer to the reports of the provincial Governments and the evidence given in them, 228 she will find ample material for study on this very point.
Duchess of ATHOLL
The hon. Gentleman has not denied what I said, that they heard only one medical witness and one judicial witness.
§ Mr. BUTLER
According to the information supplied to me, the Simon Commission, whose labours have always been acknowledged by the House, went into this subject with extreme care and in extreme detail. My Noble Friend then referred to the question whether the Committee had heard sufficient evidence about the services. I would refer her to the published records, in which she will see that the services were heard through their own associations. The Indian Officers' Association was heard, and we had opportunities of hearing the representatives of the police, some of whom appeared before us only a few days ago. Every attempt has been made to hear such officers of the services who wish to place their case before us with regard to important points concerning their future.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I referred not to the services but to the Government Departments—irrigation and so on.
§ Mr. BUTLER
My Noble Friend's further points related to the all important question of what regard the Government and the Committee have had for the future of the Indian masses. I fully sympathise with those fears and feelings, which are held in many quarters of the House, about the future of the Indian masses under such proposals as are being considered by the Joint Select Committee, and I am glad to be Ale to report that the Committee have given every possible attention to the future position of the masses. A matter which has always surprised roe extremely is that those who criticise us on this point are the very first to deny to the small cultivator, the man in whom the Conservative party should take an interest, the modest and simple right of having a vote. Those who criticise us most, and thereby wish to deprive the small cultivator of a vote—and our proposals for the franchise do not go much below the small cultivator—are the very people who in the same breath accuse us of paying no attention to the masses of India.
229 This seems a typical example of the sort of dilemma in which critics of the Government and of the committee are perpetually placed. Another is this. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) referred just now to the difficulties and dangers of applying a democratic constitution to the East, and yet in the course of his remarks he said "Try the experiment in the Provinces, and when you have tried the experiment in the Provinces try it elsewhere." It is precisely if this experiment succeeds that the main issue of the future of democratic government in the East will be tried out. Hon. and right hon. Members who have criticised us on these subjects have been the first to refer to the vast populations which there are in any Indian Province, many of them the size of European countries. They are willing to try these democratic experiments in these vast countries, and yet they are not willing to come with us when we wish to proceed on similar lines in regard to the future of India. These dilemmas are ones into which they perpetually fall, and are questions to which they should apply their minds and give proper consideration in the future.
I should like to deal with some of the smaller points raised by my Noble Friend. She referred to the point about the liberty of the subject and the question of item 60 in the provincial list which covers prisoners. My Noble Friend implied that those who answered criticisms were not quite sure of their ground. She is bolder than I would care to be in criticising those who spend a large proportion of their lives in India and occupy positions of tremendous importance under the Crown and are in touch with the problems. I sympathise with her natural anxiety to be informed upon this subject. The question of the liberty of the subject will be found under item nine on the Current List, which, as she knows, deals with subjects which may be said to be divided between the centre and the Provinces, and therefore that question is subject to the safeguard of the preliminary consent of the Governor-General before any provincial legislation can be passed or any Provincial Government can alter a law in that connection. She referred to the subject of the future of the High Courts and whether the maintenance and expenses of the High Courts ought to be 230 submitted to the Provincial Assembly. I think that perhaps she has not read the White Paper as carefully as she has read a great many other public documents, but if she will refer to proposal 98, under subhead 3 she will see that the expenses of these courts are actually non-votable, and so from her point of view there is an actual improvement in this connection on the detailed point she raised.
§ Mr. BUTLER
I should like to deal with some of the points raised by the hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) and the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) in their natural solicitude for the future of the women of India. The women in India have been a problem in the past, and we in the Government, and I am sure the Joint Select Committee, are fully aware of the anxieties of the Noble Lady and her friends on this score. It is for that purpose that we have included in the White Paper the sentence which I have previously read to the House and which the Noble Lady knows about, and which says we shall, if possible, make franchise arrangements in the White Paper suitable for Indian women. I can only say that this matter, like so many other matters, is one to which the Joint Select Committee will attend and give very serious consideration, and I should like to reassure her on that subject.
I will refer also to a point which was raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Enfield (Lieut.-Colonel Applin) about the Anglo-Indians, who are a community probably deserving more attention at the hands of this House and of the Joint Select Committee than any other community in India. We have been fortunate in having Sir Henry Gidney upon the Select Committee. We have not only had the benefit of his advice throughout, but we have also had the benefit of his evidence before the Committee. I hope that will reassure the hon. and gallant Member for Enfield that the Joint Select Committee is paying due 231 and proper attention to the problem of the Anglo-Indians.
I should now like to turn to one or two points raised by the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) in the Debate on the question of finance in the future Federation. I do not propose at this late stage of the night to go into the exact details of his figures; I will only say that I appreciate the fact that these figures are somewhat difficult. I cannot, however, follow, in the figures which he presented to the House, the exact figures that His Majesty's Government have presented to the Select Committee in Records 1 and 3. If the Noble. Lord will turn to Record No. 3, he will see that the actual new recurring expenditure in the new Constitution amounts only to a little over £1,000,000; I think that the exact figure is £1,900,000.
§ Viscount WOLMER
The hon. Member has not mentioned the cost of the separation of Burma and the creation of two new Provinces.
§ Mr. BUTLER
I was coming to them. If the Noble Lord will refer to the other charges which he mentioned he will find, set out in Record No. 1, page 23, in the last paragraph, the Secretary of State's comments before the Joint Select Committee on the remarks of Sir Malcolm Hailey, with the exact amounts and figures. If he will refer to them he will see that his figures are not exact, and that the Government have made no attempt to conceal these facts from the committee or the public. He made a general appeal to us to he straightforward and, if we thought that Federation could not be achieved, to tell the public so. He made, however, some general allusion that a Member of the Government had privately been saying that he did not think that Federation would come into being in 10 years. I do not wish to follow him into an inquisition on this point; I would only refer him to the published statements of the Government upon which the Government stand. They can be best understood if the Noble Lord will turn to the Introduction to the White Paper, paragraph 32, where he will see that the financial prerequisites for Federation are fairly set out; His Majesty's Government have always said that they insist on these financial prerequisites.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I thank my hon. Friend for the candour of his reply. May I take it that he does not challenge the substance of the comments I made?
§ Mr. BUTLER
I have already said that I could not recognise in the figures of my hon. Friend the exact figures I find in these documents, and I therefore referred him to these documents in order that the next time he addresses us he may be more accurate in his observations. As regards the position of the Government, I am referring to the printed statements of the Government on which the Government stand, and I have also reinforced my observations by saying that this Government has taken every opportunity of placing the exact facts before the Committee and before the public, and I do not see in my Noble Friend's observations that exactitude which the Government have always shown in their statements.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I quite agree that my hon, Friend put the figures before us. I was attempting, perfectly generally, to point out to the House what they involved. I want my hon. Friend to tell me where my conclusion was wrong and if it was wrong. That he has carefully refrained from doing.
§ Mr. BUTLER
I am sure that my Noble Friend will take my advice and study the printed documents to which I have referred to-day. I am sure that if he studies them he will be perfectly satisfied that the Government have put the problem before him in a frank and open manner. I have nothing to add to that.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth, in one of his moving perorations, referred to the great tradition which we have in India. I have no reason to think that I feel that position less than he does. I am proud that I have been connected in various capacities in India for many years. We have a direct and true responsibility not only for India's masses but also to lead India toward the path of self-government. I was very struck by Lord L'oyd's recent book on Egypt, in which he quoted Lord Cromer and drew the general inference that there were two objectives of British policy, one to look after the masses of a country and to promote their welfare, and the other to lead them forward to 233 future self-government. Those are the two final objectives of British policy in the East, as I see them. I believe that if Clive was living to-day he would have no reason to be dissatisfied with the effect of our administration of India during the many years since his death.
§ Mr. BUTLER
With reference to the interruption of my right hon. Friend, I feel certain that if Clive or Warren Hastings had been living to-day they would have accepted an invitation to serve on the Joint Select Committee, and would have been gratified to see the effect of our administration of India and the success with which the Indian people have followed our lead towards self-government. I am convinced that the plan which His Majesty's Government have submitted to the Joint Select Committee is in the right tradition of our Indian policy and of our Imperial policy and that if we proceed along those lines it will not mean the form of secession to which my right hon. Friend and other hon. Members have referred, but that in future India will take her right and proper place in the British Empire and 234 in the Commonwealth of Nations of the British Empire, and that those who have led us in the past would have reason to be proud of the way we have discharged our trust.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That, before Parliament is asked to take a decision upon the proposals contained in Command Paper 4268, it is expedient that a Joint 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.
§ Message to the Lords to acquaint them therewith.
§ The Order of the Day was read, and postponed.