§ 3.40 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Sir Samuel Hoare)
I beg to move,That this House accepts the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Indian Constitutional Reform as the basis for the revision of the Indian Constitution and considers it expedient that a Bill should be introduced on the general lines of the Report.The report which I have moved is by no means the first of its kind that has come before this House. A century and a half ago there was a similar Debate on the report of a Joint Select Committee on the Government of India. A right hon. Gentleman—I think he must have been the prototype of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill)—accused the Committee of "prejudice and preconceived opinions." It was Edmund Burke, who replied to the accusation in these words:Their conduct has been an instance of the most extraordinary perseverance and the most steady and patient assiduity that perhaps ever had occurred.A century and a half has passed since Burke used those words of that Joint Select Committee on the Government of India, yet such is the strength of our Parliamentary traditions and of our feelings of Parliamentary public service, that no better words than those can be used to-day to describe the report we have to consider this afternoon. "Their conduct and assiduity"—I do not include Members of the Government; it is part of their official work; I am thinking rather of those other Members of this House fully engaged with other work who for almost two years devoted their time, energy and abilities to this long and often thankless task.Their conduct has been an instance of the most extraordinary perseverance and the most steady and patient assiduity that perhaps ever has occurred.When Parliamentary institutions are under a cloud in many countries in the world and when constitutions at the present time are often dictated by ruthless autocrats, Parliament should be proud of its Members of all three parties—Conservative, Labour and Liberal—for their attempt to build up, in consultation with representative public men of India and Burma, a constitution by agreement and free discussion.
46 In the course of the eighteenth century debate Burke made another observation which is not inapplicable to our present discussion. He described himself asa Member of Parliament who has supplied a mediocrity of talents by the extreme of diligence and who has thought himself obliged by the research of years to wind himself into the inmost recesses and labyrinths of Indian detail.Could you find a better description, not so much of the great Parliamentarian Edmund Burke, but of a much humbler individual who is now Secretary of State for India—"a Member who has supplied a mediocrity of talents by the extreme of diligence and who has thought himself obliged by the research of years to wind himself into the inmost recesses and labyrinths of the Indian detail."
I will make the confession to the House that, in opening this Debate to-day, I am almost overwhelmed by two difficulties. How can I deal with this immense subject without avoiding the dilemma of vague generalisations, on the one hand, or such great detail, on the other, as to weary the House and take up excessive time for one particular speaker? How, again, can I, in my attempt to make clear to the House the strength and the stability of the Constitution that is being proposed, avoid being misunderstood in India and the impression being created that the self-government we are offering to India is nothing more than a sham and a delusion?
It took me 19 days in the witness box in the Select Committee and many thousands of questions to explain the details of this complicated scheme to the Members of the Committee. If I made a similar attempt to-day, not a Member would be left to listen to me in this House. Perhaps the best course for me to take is the simplest course, to avoid detail and to concentrate upon the main features of the scheme, and not in any way to shirk the difficulties, particularly connected with the reservation and the safeguards, and to make an appeal to men of good will in this House and in India to take the scheme as a whole and to believe that it is the intention of the committee, and of the Government in supporting the report of the committee, to offer to India the widest opportunities for self-government and to propose to this House a scheme which we believe will help to keep India for all time a partner 47 with Great Britain in the Empire, and a scheme which, at the same time, as the committee and we believe, contains in it the seeds for wide extension and development in the future.
From the hundreds of meetings held by the committee, the volumes of the evidence that they have received, the mass of memoranda that they discussed, and the long discussions that they held with public men from India and Burma, there emerge three broad conclusions—Provincial Autonomy, All-India Federation, and Responsibility with Safeguards. It may be thought, to judge from the observations of some of our critics, that those conclusions came on the brain wave of a party of constitutional theorists. When they first came to the fore there was a Socialist Government in office. Has it not then been asked: Are they not the conclusions of theorists, defeatists and revolutionaries? It mattered not what Government was in office four years ago. It matters not what Government is in office to-day. Those broad conclusions came, not from theorists, not from constitution mongers, but from the stubborn and irreducible facts of the problem. They came from a century and a-half of British teaching in India. They came from a century and a-half of Indian experience. Politically, Indian public men have for generations been taught to work upon the Westminster model. Socially, Indian questions, such as the question of child marriage, of temple entry and of the depressed classes, have been thrusting themselves more and more upon public attention, and more and more it became clear that these questions could only be dealt with effectively by responsible Indian politicians. Economically, better communications and higher tariffs had made it inevitable that the India of the Indian States should take a direct part in the Central Indian Government. These broad conclusions emerged from this long chain of what I have just called "stubborn and irreducible facts."
It was not the committee that lightly and irresponsibly created the problem. The problem was there already, increasing in perplexity and increasing also in risk every year. If, indeed, there was a change between the more recent years and the years of past history it was that 48 a more alert public opinion was constantly bringing these facts into greater prominence.Public opinion is growing all the while, is articulate is daily becoming more powerful, cannot be ignored. What is the origin of the mistake sometimes made in Great Britain? It is that men are standing still with their eyes shut, and do not see the movement here in India.Those are not the words of Lord Halifax, speaking to Mr. Gandhi, they are the words of Lord Curzon, spoken more than 30 years ago. The overwhelming weight of these facts drove the committee to reach the broad conclusions that I have just enumerated.
First of all, Provincial Autonomy. If it were only an administrative problem, the time was overdue to make a further step upon the road of decentralisation. The old central Government of India was adequate so long as the problems of government were comparatively simple. As, however, they became more complex, as political opinion grew up in the great Provinces, so more and more it became inevitable that this step forward should be taken on the road of decentralisation. On the political side, I think it has been admitted by almost everyone who has studied the problem impartially that the reforms made under the Montagu-Chelmsford scheme had outlasted their usefulness.
For both these reasons, it was necessary to take a step forward on the road to Provincial Autonomy. Provincial Autonomy may mean one of two things. It may mean a kind of glorified county council government, under which the Centre still maintains a considerable measure of control over the Provinces, under which the Centre makes grants-in-aid to the Provinces, and under which the Centre is ready to intervene when things are going wrong with the Provinces. That is not the conception of provincial autonomy supported by the majority of the Joint Select Committee. I believe myself that such a type of provincial autonomy in India, in a country as great as India, with all its multiplicity of conditions, is totally impracticable. Any system of grants-in-aid and inspection from the Centre will not work. Lord Curzon tried it a generation ago. Even Lord Curzon, with his great driving force and his great administrative ability, failed to make it work.
49 The only wise form of Provincial Autonomy is real provincial autonomy, a form of provincial autonomy in which the field of provincial activities is clearly marked out, and in which field the Provinces are free from interference from the centre; a form of provincial autonomy that is broadly based upon a wide franchise, in which the agricultural classes, the women and the Depressed Classes can make their voices heard; a system of provincial autonomy that is not dependent upon grants-in-aid from the Centre, but subsists upon definitely allocated taxes. That is the system of provincial autonomy recommended by the majority of the Committee. The House will see at once that it is inevitable that in any system of real provincial autonomy of that kind, in which Indian Ministers are to be truly responsible for provincial affairs, it is essential and inevitable that law and order should not be reserved, but should be transferred to the responsible Indian Ministers. The House will see set out in detail both in the report of the Statutory Commission and in the report of the Joint Select Committee arguments that make inevitable the transfer of law and order. I will not at this point in my speech delay to repeat them. I will, however, in a minute or two refer to them when I come to deal with the safeguards, the special provisions that are proposed by the majority of the Committee for safeguarding the preservation of peace. Let me only at this point summarise what I have just said, namely, that the first broad conclusion is the conclusion of Provincial Autonomy, and, if it is a real Provincial Autonomy, it must contain within it the responsibility for law and order.
I come to the second of the broad conclusions of the Committee, a conclusion, in my view, as inevitable as the conclusion of the Provincial Autonomy—the conclusion of All-India Federation. If you set up these great and responsible provincial governments, and you leave the centre as it is now, you are running the risk of destroying one of the greatest works of the British Raj in India, the unity of India, and you are running the risk of breaking India into fragments. Secondly, you will leave at the centre a government unsupported by any substantial measure of public opinion, at the mercy of the governments of great Provinces with an alert body of provincial 50 opinion behind them. What will be the effect of such a situation upon the two main functions of the central government—the maintenance of Indian credit and the maintenance of Indian defence? What, again, will be the result of such a state of affairs on the Indian Princes and the Indian States when they see around them these great provincial governments gaining strength at the expense of the centre, and they themselves pushed more and more into a position of defenceless isolation?
I belive that it is only necessary to state those questions to show to the House that, if once you accept the broad recommendation of effective provincial autonomy, the inevitable consequence is All-India Federation. But there is another conclusion to which we are driven. If there is to be an All-India Federation, it must be a federation with a government responsible to an Indian federal legislature. I can explain the position in a sentence. There can be no All-India Federation without the effective accession of a substantial number of Indian Princes. An All-India Federation without the accession of the Princes is a contradiction in terms. You cannot persuade the Princes to accede to any federation which still remains under the control of Whitehall government. They have stated over and over again that the only kind of federation which they will join is a federation in which the Indian executive is responsible to the Indian legislature. It follows, therefore, that if there is to be an All-India Federation in any conditions that we can contemplate, that federation must be a federation with responsible government. Moreover, it must also be a federation containing units which are divergent and differing one from the other.
You might have imagined, from some of the criticisms we have heard, that no federation is possible unless there is a neat and exact uniformity running through all the units. Historically that is not correct. There have been federations in which the units have been diverse to a remarkable degree. There was the federation of the old German Empire—a federation that remained in being for more than half a century, a federation in which there were great autocracies, small city States and bureaucratic governments, and in which there was every kind of disparity in the treatment of the various 51 units. Indeed, in one of the greatest units, the kingdom of Bavaria, although excise and customs were federal subjects, Bavaria insisted on retaining the taxation of its beer before it entered the federation. But, apart from the historical argument, the criticism surely goes much further than its authors intend. If there can be no federation in which there is not uniformity in India, you are driven to one of two conclusions: Either you have to insist upon uniformity—that is, I suppose, democratising the States, and I should have thought there was nothing further from the minds of the critics who use these arguments or your criticism is a criticism not against federation now, in 1934, but a criticism against federation in India at any time and under any conditions. The fact is that it is inevitable that in any All-India Federation there must be these diverse elements, and, speaking for myself, I see great advantage in avoiding uniformity and in having this kind of disparity. Be that as it may, there is the second broad conclusion of the majority of the committee of responsible All-India Federation composed of all types of units.
But their conclusion does not end at this point. The third of their conclusions is the conclusion that may roughly be described as responsibility with safeguards. I think that there, again, their conclusion has arisen directly from the study of the concrete facts. It has become clear to almost everyone who has impartially considered this problem that it is essential that if Provincial Autonomy and All-India Federation are to work successfully, certain precautions must be taken to ensure the security and the stability of the various Governments. These precautions are not the creation of theorists who wish to set up a system of checks and balances. These precautions are inherent in the actual facts. They are not intended to impede the organic development of the Constitution. Least of all are they cunningly devised to take away with one hand what we are giving with the other. In every case they are the direct result of the hard pressure of the existing facts and conditions in India.
Let me give the House an illustration or two of what I mean. There are three types of these precautions. In the first place, there are a number of precautions which deal with the working of the execu- 52 tives and the legislatures. Hon. Members will see, if they study these provisions, that they set out in precise form conventions, habits and Parliamentary practices that have grown up here in the course of many generations. The Committee rightly felt that if a Constitution is being set up in India upon the general lines of the British Constitution, the Constitution could not possibly work if there were not contained in it these conventions, habits and practices without which the British Constitution here could not possibly work at all. Accordingly, the Committee rightly laid stress upon giving statutory form to a number of these conventions. And in making those recommendations it is worth noting that the Committee followed definitely on the lines of the creators of the British North America Act.
Secondly, there are what are called the reserved departments, notably the reserved department of defence. Here, again, this reservation arises from no wish to deprive Indians of responsibility to which they are entitled. It arises from the actual facts of the case. As things are now, India is not in a position to defend itself. A great part of the defence of India is dependent on British Imperial troops. Nobody I know has ever seriously suggested that it would be possible to bring the control of Imperial troops under any authority but the authority of the Imperial Parliament. That being so, it is essential, in the present conditions, to keep the defence of India under the control of the Imperial Parliament. That does not mean that we do not look sympathetically upon the great experiment of Indianisation. I do not think that anyone can say that the present Government of India or the present Commander-in-Chief are not fully in sympathy with that experiment, and are doing their best to make it successful, but, as things are now it is essential, the facts being as I have stated, that the Army should remain under the direct control of the Imperial Parliament.
Thirdly, there are the class of reservations and precautions known as special responsibilities. Here again every one of the special responsibilities arises out of the actual facts and conditions of the Indian situation. They do not come out of the minds of theorists; they arise 53 directly out of the Indian problem, and it is worth noting that they are as much, if not more, in Indian interests as they are in British interests. They give to the Governor-General and the Provincial Governors the right to intervene, acting on their own discretion and not on the advice of Indian Ministers, that is to say, as the agents exclusively of the Imperial Parliament in certain specified conditions. These conditions are explicitly set out in the report of the committee. Let me give the House an instance or two as an illustration. There are special responsibilities enabling the Governors to intervene in the case of the persecution of minorities. That does not mean that we think it likely that Indian Ministers will persecute minorities, but it means that we have powers in reserve to meet a case of that kind, although it may be remote. It is interesting to note that those who have most demanded a special responsibility of this kind have been the representatives of the Indian minorities themselves in India. Again, with the backward districts and the aboriginal tribes, there, I am quite sure, every hon. Member will agree that we must keep in reserve powers to prevent these tribes and these remote districts being exploited.
Lastly, there is the field of special responsibilities connected with the various obligations which have grown up as the result of British partnership with India. I think that we are fully justified, after a century and a-half of this partnership, to insist that although the occasions for intervention may be rare—we hope they will be very rare—there must be in reserve powers in the hands of the Governor-General and the Governors of the Provinces to intervene if a threat is made in this particular field. Particularly is this the case with the police. I am certain that no House of Commons, however it is composed, would pass any India Constitution Act that did not, so far as it was possible, safeguard the morale and discipline of that splendid force the Indian Police, and I agree that every impartial Indian would also desire that nothing should be done that might undermine the morale or endanger the organisation of that force.
The problem which was presented to the Committee was this. Assume that the transfer of law and order is an essential part of Provincial Autonomy, is 54 it possible within that transfer to safeguard the police force itself from the danger of its morale being undermined and the sources of its information being dried up? The House will see in the report the proposals which the Committee make to avoid these dangers. Speaking generally, they take the form of making precise the conventions which actually exist in this country. Here, in Great Britain, no one will suggest that the Home Secretary is not responsible for the maintenance of law and order, and yet no one will imagine that the Home Secretary would interfere with the postings and promotions within the police force itself. No one would contemplate the Home Secretary asking for the names of secret agents and the exact sources of secret intelligence. It is proposed to make precise and statutory these British conventions, without which here in England it would be impossible to maintain the morale, discipline and organisation of the police force. I am glad to believe that the police in India, when they study these provisions, will be greatly reassured. I think they go a long way to remove the anxieties that have been rife in the minds of many police officers in India, and that they wisely hold the balance between the responsibility of the Minister on the one hand for law and order and the safeguarding of the internal morale and discipline of the police force on the other.
So also with the Committee's proposals to deal with terrorism. I am not surprised that the Committee has made special and specific proposals for arming the Governor-General and the Governors with special powers to deal with this terrible evil. I gave the Committee a statement in which was set out in great detail the whole history of terrorism in India for many years past. I wished the Committee to be in full possession of all the details of this black and terrible chapter. Provided with this information, the Committee recommend, not that a particular section of intelligence should be reserved to the Provincial Governors or to the Governor-General—that precaution might be totally inadequate in the circumstances—but that where a serious emergency had arisen the Governor in the Province, acting with the sanction of the Secretary of State and the Imperial Parliament, would be entitled to retain in his hands, or to resume into 55 his hands, any Department of Government he thought necessary for the purpose of combating terrorism. These are extensive provisions, I believe they are necessary provisions, and that nothing short of them is adequate in the circumstances. None the less I do not contemplate that except in exceptional circumstances their use will be required. Normally we shall find Indian public men as anxious to eradicate terrorism from the life of India as any Provincial Governor or any Governor-General. None the less it is necessary in the circumstances, and, in view of the facts which I have set out in the memorandum which forms part of one of the volumes of the report, to arm the Governor-General and the Provincial Governors with these reserve powers.
It may be said that reserve powers of this kind are nothing more than paper powers, that they have no sanction behind them, and in time of stress will be of no use or value. Nothing is further from the case. Behind these powers will be, first of all, the Governor-General and the Provincial Governors, appointed by the Crown, and kept fully informed by their Ministers and their officials of everything that is taking place. The Services are behind them, as the executive to carry out the Governor's orders; and the only valid orders are the orders of the Governor-General and the Provincial Governors. Is it suggested that the Services, with their long traditions of courage and loyalty, will not carry out the executive order of the Governor-General and the Provincial Governor? I cannot contemplate such a contingency, and, if such a contingency did arise, it would mean the breakdown of the constitution and the abrogation of all these powers. How different from the case about which we have heard so much during the course of this controversy—the Irish case: the Governor-General in Ireland appointed on the recommendations of the Irish Government, left with no powers, no Services, on which to depend for executive action. We have withdrawn the Services from Ireland. We have kept no Army there, as the last and ultimate resource in time of crisis. It is only necessary to state the two cases in a sentence or two to show how the Irish case, so far from being an analogy to the Indian case, is a direct contrast and antithesis.
56 No, Sir; these safeguards are not paper safeguards. They are safeguards with sanction behind them and with effective executive action to be put into effect if need arises. I have emphasised their efficacy to the House, but I do not wish any hon. Member to think that the Committee or the Government contemplate that there will be constant need for their use. I believe that the very existence of these powers in reserve will make it unnecessary nine times out of ten to bring them into play at all. I believe that the Governors, who will be in close contact with their Ministers, when they see the case arising in which one of these special responsibilities may be endangered, will persuade their Ministers to take the necessary action, and in nine cases out of ten the Indian Ministers will be only too glad to take that advice and to take that action. It is only for the emergency cases that we contemplate there will be need for this intervention. If, however, the need does arise, there will be the powers and there will be the effective executive action behind them. So far from thinking that these safeguards will be an obstacle in the way of the development of self-government in India, I believe that they are the necessary support without which self-government in India cannot succeed.
I come now to two further questions, two questions that I am sure are in the minds of many hon. Members. It may be that I have carried, at any rate, some of them with my argument up to this point. None the less, they may say to me: "These arguments sound strong arguments, but what reason have we to suppose that this complicated Constitution will actually work? What reason have we to suppose that any substantial body of Indian public men are prepared to work it?" First of all, will it work? I am not going to be so foolish as to make any optimistic prophecies. I expect that we shall all find many difficulties, some of them unforeseen. I feel sure that we shall suffer many disappointments. I think that very likely the development of the Constitution may not be upon the lines of the Westminster model, but that it may develop on distinctive lines of its own. None the less I believe that if a Bill is passed on the general lines of the Report of the Committee, the Constitution will work. I am supported in that view by the opinion of 57 the Governor-General, the Government of India and all the Provincial Governments. In the course of the last three weeks I have put this question to each of them. One and all they say that in their view, admitting all the difficulties and uncertainties, they believe that the scheme of the Joint Select Committee is a workable basis for an Indian Constitution.
Secondly, is there a substantial body of public men in India who are prepared to work the Constitution? I am painfully aware of the fact that few, if any, Indian public men can say that they are satisfied with this or any other scheme. Safeguards and precautions which we here think necessary and without which no Bill can pass through this House, seem irksome and hampering to most Indian public men. I know also that in the recent elections which took place for the Indian Assembly, Congress, upon a programme of hostility to these proposals, won very many seats. I know also that many of my Indian friends with whom I worked during the last three or four years, have been defeated. They fell, let me say in passing, in the honourable cause of co-operation and reconciliation. These events did not come to me as a surprise. I knew Congress would win many seats in this election. None the less the Viceroy and I were so anxious to bring Congress back from the barren field of non-co-operation into the field of responsible public work, that we were prepared to face the risk.
If I draw a lesson from the recent elections, it is that so long as the present system continues, under which electoral success depends almost exclusively upon attacking the Government—there is this difference between attacking the Government in India and attacking the Government here, that the Government of India, being a bureaucracy makes no response on the platform or in the country—the elections in India will almost invariably go the way of the elections that have just taken place. I know also that subsequently Congress has passed a resolution hostile to the report. I hope that on second thoughts they will reconsider their position. I should have thought that the day of antiquated negation, whether in this country or India, was passed. I should have thought that there were great bodies of opinion in 58 India whose one desire is to avoid further delay and to reach at no distant date definite decisions upon a constitutional scheme. Any proposal for a constituent Assembly in India seems to me quite impracticable, and I believe that Indians themselves know it to be impracticable. I believe that the time has come to bring to an end this long period of protracted delay, and to take definite action upon the one scheme that holds the ground and to which there has been proposed no workable alternative.
May I say this word of appeal to my Indian friends in India? During the last three years I have had a better opportunity of meeting Indians and discussing with them these questions by word of mouth than any previous Secretary of State. I think that during all these long discussions, even though we may not always have agreed with each other, we have become better able to understand each other's difficulties. They took some risks in co-operating with us in London. Perhaps in a small way I took some risks in maintaining steadily now for three years past the path of constitutional reform. But be that as it may, let me put, if I may say as a friend, the position as I see it. I do not believe that it is a choice between a Bill founded upon the broad lines of the Committee's Report and a more advanced Bill at any near future date. I know, perhaps, better than most people, the weight of exacting work, the thankless-ness of the task that has gone to the framing of this scheme. I do not see, within any reasonable compass of time, any other Government, Conservative, Labour or Liberal, giving the time and the trouble and incurring the unpopularity in this country of introducing another scheme.
If my forecast be right, it means that if no Bill passes this Session there will be no comprehensive India Bill for many years to come. I am quite sure that the inevitable result of such a state of affairs would be to drive the problem of Indian constitutional reform into the hands of the extreme Eight and extreme Left. That would develop into a battle between the extreme Right and the extreme Left, and the creation of such, an atmosphere as to make impossible, if not for all time at any rate for many years, the reconciliation of differences between the two peoples.
59 Let Indians mark what they have been offered in this scheme. They are being offered, as the basis of the Indian Constitution, the three essential principles for which every Indian who has been in consultation with us has asked—Provincial Autonomy, All-India Federation, and Provincial Autonomy and All-India Federation brought about in a comprehensive scheme and not taken stage by stage and chapter by chapter. Further than that they are being offered a scheme which, if they will examine it, they will find to contain in every chapter the seeds of future growth. I venture to appeal to my friends in British India to mark these great advances. They are not mere paper promises. They are made by a Government with a majority behind it and a Government determined to carry its promises into effect without delay and in the course of this Session.
There is a word which I would venture to say to my friends in the Indian States. I am convinced that no form of future government in India can be complete without the participation of the Indian Princes and the Indian States. It was the Indian Princes who made the offer of federation four years ago, and it was the British Indians at that time who received that offer in the spirit in which it was made. I am glad to think that there is a chance of having the advantage in the government of India of the forces of stability, the hereditary knowledge of government, and the traditions which the Princes can bring to it. I have no reason to suppose that the Princes have in any way altered their position since they made that offer four years ago. Neither they nor I will be deflected by partisan propaganda. They are free agents. Let them study the report, and I believe they will find that their claims, their rightful claims, have been met in the letter and the spirit and that there is no reason why they should not without delay take a great opportunity that may never recur of establishing their rightful position in the central government of India.
I have been drawn away—and I am obliged to the House for allowing me to make this digression—into saying a word or two to my Indian friends in British India and the Indian States. Let me, however, remember that I am addressing the House of Commons and that I am 60 asking hon. Members to pass by an overwhelming majority the Resolution in my name, which will enable the Government to proceed without undue delay with a Bill upon the lines of the Committee's report. If Great Britain were weak, if our prestige were low in the world, I would not be standing here to-day asking this House to approve of any changes in India. It is only when a country is strong and when a Government is stable, that it can afford to make constitutional reforms.
We propose these constitutional reforms on their merits, not because we have been driven into making concessions by weakness, timidity or vacillation. We propose them because we believe them to be for the better government of India. We propose them because we believe, not only that they are in full accord with the British traditions of the past, but because we believe that they will help to keep India a contented partner with Great Britain in the British Empire. We propose them because we believe that they have behind them the greatest measure of agreement that has been achieved either in India or in this country for any constitutional proposals, because no one, British or Indian, has proposed a workable alternative. We propose them because we believe that the differences between Great Britain and India are not yet irreconcilable, but that, if we do not adjust our relations to modern conditions, those differences will drag us further and further apart.
It is in this spirit that I ask the House to pass this Resolution and to pass it with an overwhelming majority. I believe that if they pass it with an overwhelming majority it will be said that the action of the Imperial Parliament is yet another instance of British wisdom, British foresight and British common sense. Let it be said of this Parliament as it was said of the Members of Parliament who more than two centuries ago did so much to strengthen the foundation of the British Constitution:They were not dreary pedants. They were statesmen accustomed to the management of great affairs. Their plans of reform were not so extensive as those of the lawgivers of Cadiz, but what they planned that they effected; and what they effected, that they maintained against the fiercest critics at home and abroad.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The right hon. Gentleman has given the House, as he always does, a very clear and careful exposition, and he has made an appeal to this House and to the people of India. If I wished to criticise that speech in one sentence I should say that there was one thing lacking in it and that was any admission of the rights of the Indian people. It seems to me that it is essential when we are dealing with a great issue concerning the people of two nations, to approach it from the right angle and to recognise the Indian outlook as well as the British outlook. I want at the outset to acknowledge the great work of the right hon. Gentleman in connection with the Joint Committee. No Minister could have been more patient, and no Minister could have been better informed or more lucid. I would like also to say that I believe all the members of that committee applied themselves honestly to arriving at conclusions as to what would be best for the people of India. At the end of it we differed. I and my colleagues and other members of the committee took a different view from that of the majority and I want shortly to explain why we differed.
I make no apology for putting forward the views of my party. We do not desire to score any party advantage or to make India a pawn in some party game. But I do protest against the prevalent view that differences of opinion on great problems are due to mere party. It implies that there is no reality in our party system at all, that parties are not divided on real differences of political outlook. In my view, where parties are divided on vital differences of outlook and principle those differences are bound to express themselves not only in the domestic field, but in the foreign field and the Imperial field. Our party is based on the principle of Socialism, and it was quite inevitable, on coming to apply our minds to the problem of India, that we should find ourselves in disagreement with Conservatives and Liberals who take a different point of view. Our party is supremely concerned with the question of economic justice as the foundation for the advance of humanity, and we exist as a party to secure our ends by constitutional and political methods. We do not believe that justice can be 62 given to anybody by an autocrat however benevolent. We believe that it has to be won by people for themselves and we want to secure it for all people. We want social and economic justice for our own people here at home and for the people all over the world, and it is with this object in view that we approach the Indian problem.
The question which we have to ask ourselves is: what form of constitution will enable the Indian people to emancipate themselves from economic and social injustice? That is the criterion which we apply. We are aware of the facts of the Indian situation. We are aware that the answer is not easy. We know of the many obstacles—the size of India, and difficult questions like defence and the communal question. All these condition the answer but we approach it with that view. How are you going to deal with the poverty problem of India? That is the outstanding fact. The outstanding fact in India is the poverty of the masses. You have an enormous population living for the most part, on the borderline of starvation. You have great inequalities of wealth. You have the exploitation of the many by the few. In many Provinces the rural workers are subject to one of the most vicious forms of landlordism existing anywhere. They are in the hands of people who do nothing whatever for their tenants but draw the utmost they can out of them. In the Provinces there is the rapacious moneylender. In the towns and urban areas you have a capitalism, both imported and indigenous, which is, I think, less enlightened than the capitalism and industrialism that we have at home.
We on these benches are not interested in a mere change of master. It is no good changing the colour of the skin of your capitalist. In India, in our view, poverty is so closely interwoven with the social and religious order of society that it is impossible for any outside force to deal with it. It is quite impossible for the British to introduce radical reforms into the Indian social system. The fragmentation of holdings and the excessive growth of the population, which presses on the means of subsistence, are phenomena which spring directly from the social system. We see a whole mass of social questions, and we say that they 63 have to be dealt with by the Indian people themselves.
It is no part of our case to attribute this poverty solely to British rule or solely to the exploitation of the people of India by an alien Imperialism. We recognise the good and the evil that have been done in India by our connection with it. We know the great service that has been done by men and women of our race, and how often the Britisher has been the protector of the poor, but the fact remains, and this is what the Indians feel, that after a century and a half of our rule the Indian masses remain poor, ignorant, and exploited, capitalism and landlordism flourish, the moneylender flourishes, untouchability continues to exist, and the subjugation of women continues to exist. We have to take responsibility for these things, because we deny responsibility to others. That is what they say, and they are justified in saying it. The forces which might have arisen in India whereby these things might have been changed have been restrained, because the flood of Indian life has been confined within the strong embankments of our rule.
Let me give two examples. In a disorderly country the landlord and the moneylender are restrained in their rapacity to some extent by the fear lest their victims may rise against them. We have policed rapacity; we have given the moneylender the shelter of the law. Again, the autocratic ruler of a state is subject to the threat of revolt by his subjects, but in the autocracies of the Indian States we keep the rulers on the guddi by our armies. Therefore, in our action in India in preserving law and order, we have really shielded the existing social order from the continual shocks to which in more normal circumstances it would be subject. Granted that those shocks might have meant all kinds of revolutions and bloodshed; they might even have meant civil war and intense bitterness, but, after all, these things are the stuff of which history is made. We have kept things at a certain stage of development, and we are as responsible for India to-day as a parent who has brought up a child under the sheltered life theory. We have for very many years delayed in giving India responsibility, and it is really this delay in giving to Indians themselves the responsibility 64 of working out their own destinies that is the indictment against us, and is such a powerful offset to the material benefits and peace which we have given to India.
For every evil which flourished unchecked in India we must take responsibility, because we have been the repositories of power. That is not the view of a sentimental theorist. The view that there was a very great danger and risk in our taking this responsibility and bringing up Indians in the sheltered life was held by the greatest administrators in India 100 years ago. That was the view taken by men like Sir Thomas Monro in Madras. In a well-known passage in which he described what would happen if we did not associate Indians with our rule, he wrote:The consequence therefore of the conquest of India by British arms would be to debase the whole people. There is perhaps no example of any conquest in which the natives have been so completely excluded from all share of the government of their country as in British India.You find men like Elphinstone and Sleeman saying the same thing, and although we have got away from that, although we have gradually got an increase of responsibility, it was long delayed. But I would like to stress that point, that the idea that Indians must always be ruled for their own good by the lonely white man is a late Victorian sentiment. It was not so thought by the great Governors. I think it is now generally realised that India has outgrown her period of pupilage. We have done as much as we can in that way, and what we are concerned with is the form of government which we are going to set up, a form which will attract to its working the live forces of the Indian people. I say the live forces of the Indian people, not the dead forces, not the vested interests, but living forces. We want to see that in any Constitution which we set up we give the chance for the masses of India to rid themselves of the social and economic evils from which they suffer.
That is where I come back to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He quite frankly recognised the strength of the Indian Nationalist movement, but I do not think he recognised that the Indian Nationalist movement is the only thing that can be the driving force to make this Constitution a success. If you take away the drive that comes from 65 administrators sent out from this country to govern India, you cannot leave it without some force; you must have some force to come in, and unless you want India to remain as it is—and I do not believe it is for the good of the world that it should—you must have some force at work that is making for change. Our first objection to the report of the committee is that it is informed throughout with a distrust of the active political forces in India. I am under no illusions as to the defects of Indian Nationalism. I hold no brief at all for the Congress party, but it is strong in the fact that it can demand the devotion and self-sacrifice of the youth of India. There is no doubt about that. It is a cause for which men will suffer, for which men and women will go to prison, and when we are discussing political matters, there is another important fact to remember. It is the political party in India which wins elections. Sometimes we say it does not really count, that it is just a mere handful of intellectuals. It reminds me of people who go to see a crew rowing on the river, and who say that it has all the defects of style. It is no good saying they have no rhythm, they do not use their slides properly, and their backs are not straight. The trouble is they win all the races. That is what happened when they had the new style of rowing. It is no good saying the Congress party has this fault and that fault. The fact is that it is the strongest political force in India, and we have no doubt at all that it will get majorities in the Lower Chambers. It is Indian Nationalism that will either make or break the machine of this Constitution.
The committee have elaborated plans to thwart this popular will through distrust. The first point is that they have left out what is of vital importance in dealing with the people, and that is an appeal to their idealism and self-respect. I think it is a grave mistake that in this report and in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman there was no word as to the goal to which India is moving, and there was no word at all of Dominion status. You can quibble as much as you please about the term "Dominion status." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) may have used the words in a moment of expansion, but he cannot explain them away. The fact is that it 66 was definitely laid down as the goal of the people of India by the Viceroy of India, Lord Irwin, who, I think, of all recent Viceroys has known best how to appeal to the soul of India. It was laid down quite solemnly by the Prime Minister, and it was accepted by him as the view of the people of this country. Why has that been dropped? I wonder whether it is possible to think of a great Nationalist movement going forward without something to inscribe on its banners. If it does not have "Dominion status" on its banners, perhaps it will have "Separation." You express the hope that Indians will work for the development and co-operation of India within the Empire. Well, give them a rallying cry. That seems to me a terrible failure. I think we in this country are peculiarly insensitive to form. As long as the substance is there, we do not care about form, and we are insensitive to the sensibilities of other peoples. People on the Continent, people in India, like to have these things written down and indicated. They care about the form as well as the substance. I think we have made a great mistake here, and I and my friends think that in the forefront of any report, in the forefront of any Bill, dealing with India there should be the recognition of the right of the Indian people—not because there is something wonderful in merely writing down a thing in words, but you have to evoke the forces of the Indian people to work this Constitution.
Secondly, there is a grave mistake in the way in which the legislatures have been formed. In the Provinces there is representation given to all kinds of vested interests, what you call safe and conservative vested interests. In many of the principal Provinces the committee has drawn up second chambers, avowedly conservative, elected on a narrow franchise, representative of wealth, put there, as all second chambers are, to curb the popular will. I am not going to argue this afternoon on the question of second chambers. I have argued it often in committee, but I know there is no good my arguing the question with Conservatives, because all second chambers are necessarily a conservative force, and therefore all Conservatives agree with them whereas all Labour people disagree with them because we do not want Conservatism.
67 I think it has gone much further than that in the Central Government. The Central Legislature has been framed in such a way that it is practically impossible for the forces of nationalism even to get control of the Centre. The Central Legislative Chambers are some of the most reactionary bodies ever devised. They are partly formed of nominees of the Princes and partly of representatives from the Second Chambers in the Provinces indirectly elected. In order to make still more certain of the absence from the Legislatures of the most live forces of India, a special provision has been recommended to exclude from membership people who have been imprisoned for more than a year. In the last four or five years there have been disturbances in India and lots of people have gone to prison, and many of them are among the keenest people who ought to be working the new Constitution. Suppose when self-government were given to South Africa a provision had been inserted that no one who had taken part on the Boer side in the Boer War should be allowed in the Legislature. That would have excluded such people as General Smuts and General Botha. I have met a number of statesmen in India who have been revolutionists, who have been suspected and even put into prison, and who have subsequently been Ministers of the Crown in India. That is an example of what I see running through the report—mistrust all the way.
I want to stress the next point. It is that it is a very difficult thing to establish a federation in India and get anything like a balance between the Centre and the Provinces. We want to get the same kind of forces at work in the Centre as are at work in the Provinces. We all realise that one of the difficulties of the last 10 years is that there has been a degree of responsible government in the Provinces but not in the Centre. In certain Provinces where there have not been second chambers there there is a very good chance that the forces of Congress or some form of nationalism will take control. They will be influential in the Provinces, but, if we deliberately say, "We will keep the Centre as a preserve of Conservatism," we shall set up an unbearable strain between the Centre and the Provinces.
68 The third point is this. Despite what the Secretary of State said, I think there is no adequate provision for constitutional development at the Centre. What is conceded is conceded as an instalment. There is not any provision for organic growth. Indeed, there is danger of delay in even starting Federation at the Centre. Here I would dissent from the Secretary of State's dictum that you cannot start federation until a large number of Indian States are in it. I believe that we could start it with one or two States and allow the others to come in. Responsibility at the Centre ought not to be subjected to the veto of a certain number of autocrats. I do not think anyone can be very happy when he contemplates what the Central Legislature is to be. We are to have 600 members or more at the Centre with hardly anything to do. There is to be an entirely unnecessary upper house which will, in the event of any trouble with the lower house, sit with it. On vital matters, therefore, there will be only one House. I believe that, except for the precedent of the House of Lords, no one would ever have thought of having a Second Chamber at all at the Centre.
We are going to have a dyarchic Government. I do not want to express again my objections to dyarchy for I have expressed them in the Statutory Committee's report and in the House, but I think that the small amount of responsibility conceded to the Centre is a very serious objection to the whole Constitution. There is no flexibility at the Centre, and we should at the present time give a great deal more responsibility. India should have charge of her own foreign affairs. We should lay down a definite term for the Indianisation of the Army. I may be told that no one can prophesy about that. We in our alternative draft have put down a term of years and we did it on the best authority, namely, that of the Government of India which included Lord Reading as Governor-General; and of Lord Rawlinson, the Commander-in-Chief. We may not achieve it in that time but I think we can. The Indians, however, want to see their goal marked clearly in front of them. If we leave it vague, we do not give them any picture of what may be.
Throughout there is a lack of the forces of development at the Centre. We have suggested a means by way of the com- 69 mittee system of steadily developing responsibility at the Centre year by year. We do not believe in the Westminster system at the Centre. We would like to have no Second Chamber at the Centre and we would like, if we could, to get a smaller body to deal with the very small content of work that is to be done at the Centre. We say that we reject the possibility of Parliamentary system just like our own because of the peculiar composition of the Centre. I want it to be realised that it is a hazardous experiment combining the representation of autocracies and democracies at the Centre. I do not believe that that can long endure. The movements that are on foot in British India are bound to extend to the Indian States. Further, I doubt very much how long the British democracy will continue to maintain autocracy without some better guarantee of what is going on inside it. I do not condemn indiscriminately all the Indian States. Mysore and Baroda are examples of good government, but everybody knows examples of misrule. You never know when the chances of a change in the succession to a principality may not mean the fall of a State down to utter barbarism.
At the Centre, again, we think it is absurd to suggest that we are giving responsibility to the people when we are not going to allow them to have responsibility for their own finance. The Indians are fairly well read in history. They know that the power of the Commons has been built up on control of the purse. We do not think there should be a special responsibility in the Governor-General for finance. We object to a central bank not under the control of the Government. We object to the width of the powers of the Governor in the Provinces, and we think there should be real responsibility. There is a danger in the multiplication of safeguards that you do away with responsibility and breed irresponsibility. I am aware that in any Constitution it is not so much what is in the Constitution as the way in which it is worked. It may well be that all these powers will fall into desuetude, but the Committee have unduly extended the powers of interference of the Governor. It tends to blur responsibility and the difference between the two periods, one in which the responsibility of Indian Ministers is operating and the other where there has 70 been a breakdown and someone else has had to step in. I am not suggesting there should not be a certain amount of power in the Governor for certain special subjects and responsibilities, but they must be reduced to a minimum.
The Committee have decided to form the representation at the Centre by the method of indirect election. There is nothing sacrosanct about direct or indirect election. I believe that it is more suitable in India that the Centre should be formed by indirect election. My colleagues think that it should be by direct election. The Committee have made the worst of the job by their method of indirect election. One of the reasons why I advocated indirect election at the Centre was that I hoped we might get away from crude communal representation at the Centre, but the indirect representation set up is based on communalism. I think it would have been quite possible to get a system of indirect election by proportional representation from the Provinces to the Centre. I am aware that much is to be said on the other side but, if we had a really democratic form of provincial government without a second chamber we should get the forces of the nation represented at the Centre.
Let us suppose that we have this Constitution. What will be the position of the masses under it? Self-government is only a means to an end. We do not want to hand over the workers and peasants of India to the Princes, landlords, moneylenders, industrialists and lawyers. I fear that that is what we are doing. In the Provinces there are second chambers in which vested interests are entrenched. They are pretty strong in the first chambers as well. At the Centre they are not only entrenched, but dug right in. There is no provision in the Constitution for extending the franchise. I grant that the extension given under the proposals of the Committee are far wider than we have at present, but we want to see a definition provision that adult franchise should be introduced as soon as it is administratively possible. I am not going to suggest that if we did this the Indian peasants and workers would emancipate themselves to-day. It is not the experience of history that a class that is given the franchise emancipates itself straight away. I have no doubt 71 that they will do just as Britishers have done and continue to elect the landlords, the moneylenders and the lawyers for many generations, but the potentiality ought to be with the workers. I want to put the Indian politician in the position of courting the suffrages of the poor. I want there to be an opportunity in this matter which will lead to their education. The report denies them this, especially at the Centre.
I have no wish to weary the House with Committee points, but I think the report fails as an instrument for gaining the live forces in Indian life. It is a backward step in that it really relies on vested interests and does not go out on a bold course. In our view the forces of the modern world, political and economic, are alive in India to-day, and the question is, Are they to be destructive or constructive; are they to work constitutionally or unconstitutionally; are they merely to gather strength by struggling against restrictions imposed from outside, or are they going to be disciplined and controlled by responsibility? In our view our co-operation in India can only be fruitful if we meet India in a spirit of generosity and understanding, and work with the live interests of the Indian nation. I would say to those who think that somehow or other we are betraying all the Englishmen who have served in India that I was very much struck by a passage in a letter of that great Governor of Bombay, Elphinstone. He wrote, 110 years ago:It may be urged that if we raise the natives to an equality with ourselves by education and at the same time admit them to a share in their own government, it is not likely that they will be content with the position assigned to them, or will ever rest until they have made good their title to the whole. It cannot be denied that there is much ground for apprehension, but I do not see that we are at all more secure on any other plan. It is better for our honour and interest, as well as for the welfare of mankind, that we should resign our power into the hands of the people for whose benefit it is intended than that it should be wrested from us by a rival nation.And here is one other quotation from Elphinstone:The moral is that we must not dream of perpetual possession, but must apply ourselves to bring the natives into a state which will admit of their governing themselves in a manner that may be beneficial 72 to our interests as well as their own and that of the rest of the world, and to take the glory of achievement and the sense of having done our duty for the chief reward of our labours.I think those were profoundly wise words. We have to face up to the fact that we have educated the Indians, that we have trained them in self-government, that there is no other plan than that of going forward and that the boldest and safest plan is to go forward with a clear goal in view, whereas what we are going to do is to give them a little bit and say, "We are going to see how you get on." We should tell the Indians, "We are out for you to achieve full status within the British Commonwealth of Nations, we are working for the elimination of our own control and for the complete control of India by Indians." In that way I think we shall turn the devotion and enthusiasm of the youth of India to building up India and not to rending it into ruin.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India, in making his speech just now, spoke of his task as having been a thankless one. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not put any emphasis on that word "thankless." He has had to carry a most exceptional burden in recent years, and I cannot do better than apply to him the tribute that Clarendon paid to Cromwell, a tribute paid by one opponent to another. Clarendon said of him:Yet as he grew into place and authority his parts seemed to be raised as if he had concealed faculties till he had occasion to use them.The right hon. Gentleman is certainly, in the mind of the public, a greater man than he was when he undertook this burden some years ago, and those of us who have had the privilege of serving on the committee have wondered at his resilience of mind and at the courage with which he has carried this burden from day to day, and we are very happy to think that the responsibilities associated with India have rested upon such worthy shoulders. I would also like to pay my tribute to the chairman of the committee. I had not the honour of knowing the chairman before I served on that committee, but I think this country is in a very fortunate position as long as there are men like Lord Linlithgow to undertake a task of this 73 sort. I hope this work will go through for the sake of the right hon. Gentleman and for the sake of the chairman of the committee. In one sense there are very many bigger reasons, but for their sakes I would like to see this work done and their names written, as I think indelibly, in a great record of a very great hour in the history of this commonwealth.
Will the House allow me to make one other reference? There was one member of the committee who was not enabled to complete her service among us—a Member of this House. We had two losses—one from the other House and one from this House. Miss Mary Pickford was a Member of this House who went to India to serve on the Franchise Committee and who brought to the work a wonderful aptitude, diligence, skill and a high conception of public service. We were, before the close of our labours, deprived of her contribution, and I would like to make this acknowledgment of the service she gave. We had the privilege of meeting a number of Indian delegates, men who would be able to take their place in any assembly in the world, men of great intellectual attainment who, at great sacrifice to themselves had come to one committee after another in order that they might serve their own Motherland. I would like to acknowledge the privilege of having been associated with them at different Round Table Conference and on the Select Committee itself. That reference would apply, also, to the representatives who came from Burma. The right hon. Gentleman did not, in his survey, refer to Burma, as I understand that is to be dealt with tomorrow, but the committee very rightly came to the conclusion that Burma ought to be separated from India, and we would not like the people of Burma to think that their interests are unimportant because, for the time being, they seem to be submerged.
The trouble we have had is in the multitude of memoranda, I have accumulated during these years over 60 Blue Books dealing with India, and the average Member looking upon that number, may very well say, in the words of Milton,Who shall tempt with wandering feet This dark, unbottomed, infinite abyss?The danger now is that we shall miss the wood for the trees. It was Carlyle who said that no man could see the French 74 Revolution. It is certain that no one man can see India.
I was not at all surprised that, before the right hon. Gentleman had been speaking three minutes, he had introduced the name of Burke. I wonder how many times Burke is to be quoted in this Debate. At the Bound Table Conference practically every member quoted Burke. Burke was in fact an additional member. He is, indeed, the bridge between intellectual India and intellectual Britain. I agree with what Mr. Birrell said, thatNobody is fit to govern this country who has not drunk deep at the springs of Burke. 'Have you read your Burke?' is at least as sensible a question to put to a Parliamentary candidate as to ask whether he is a total abstainer or a desperate drunkard.The only people who disparage Burke are those who have never settled down to read him. It is impossible for us to estimate the worth of his services to the Indian people. I will content myself, at great self-sacrifice, with one quotation. In speaking on the Indian problem in December, 1783, Burke spoke of this labyrinth of detail and said:We are, in general, so little acquainted with India in detail, the instruments of oppression under which the people suffer are so hard to be understood, and even the very names of the sufferers are so uncouth and strange to our ears, that it is very difficult for our sympathy to fix upon these objects. All these circumstances are not, I confess, very favourable to the idea of our attempting to govern India at all. But there we are, there we are placed by the Sovereign Disposer, and we must do the best we can in our situation. The situation of man is the preceptor of his duty.It was over 30 years ago that I read this sentence of Burke:Our Empire in India is an awful thing.I see the truth of that now more than I did then, and I think anyone who tries to study this question becomes very diffident and not inclined to be at all dogmatic. Anything I have to say is certainly said with great diffidence.
First of all, this is not a party Measure. It is one in which we look for the co-operation of all parties. We have tried to make our Liberal contribution. There was a Liberal delegation on all the conferences, and I was a little astonished when the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, speaking of this Committee three or four nights ago, said that it was a Conservative Committee and that the 75 amendments were Conservative amendments. In view of that it is necessary for us to say something. Suffering is the badge of all our tribe on these benches, but meekness may be carried a little too far. The main declaration in this matter was made by a Liberal member of the delegation in December, 1930, when he stated that, with certain Safeguards, he, speaking on behalf of the delegation, would consent to a central federal Government being set up. That is accepted as a truism to-day, but it caused much astonishment then. If any proof of that is required, let me quote the "Times" correspondent, writing from Delhi on 10th January, 1931:Only one incident in the proceedings so far has fired the imagination of political India, and that is Lord Reading's speech in which he signified that the Liberal delegation was ready to concede, with certain safeguards, the principle of responsibility of the Indian Central Government to the India Federal Legislature. The effect of that speech has been instantaneous.I am very glad that that opinion is now held throughout the House. We do not complain, because we remember that John Stuart Mill once said that the chief function of the Liberal party was to educate the Conservative party into Liberalism.
If hon. Members turn to the early part of the report they will see paragraph 11, where we speak of the reality of Indian political aspirations. I had no doubt of the reality of the demand for Indian self-government on the first day when the Round Table Conference met in 1930. That demand was expressed by every representative who was there, whether representing the Depressed Classes, or the Hindus or the Mohammedans—whatever their divergencies they all agreed in the demand for self-government.
One of the most misleading arguments that has been used by the opponents of this proposal is that we speak only for the literate classes and that we have no right to speak for what are called the illiterate masses of India. That is not true. I would like to quote what was said in answer to that by a man who carried great weight in this country, who was then called Ranjitsinji but who was speaking as the Maharajah of Nawanagar. This was his answer to the contention that this demand was only the demand of 76 the literate classes. He said, speaking at the Round Table Conference:Much has been said…on the supreme gravity of the issues that agitate India to-day; I can hardly add, with any words of mine, to the volume of testimony that is forthcoming from speaker after speaker, who bring to this country very recent and intimate knowledge of the national movement which has long since stepped beyond the proverbial lawyer, and has entered the hearts and homes of all classes of people in all parts of the country. It is a mass movement that has got in its grip the mind of India—not the literate classes only, as is alleged in this country. Let that stern fact be clearly recognised and properly appreciated.That was said at the end of 1930. The Nationalist demand is the inevitable result of Macaulay's classical Minute. That decision was taken on 2nd February, 1835. Macaulay once said:You plant the seed of ambition; you must enable it to be fulfilled.We have given these people the literature of liberty. It is impossible to give people literature that tells them of Hampden, Burke, Fox, Shelley, Mazzini, and Lincoln and expect them then to be tolerant of oppression. It is impossible to give them that history and to expect them to distinguish between the ship money of the 17th century and the salt money of the 20th. There is no difference. The ship money demand was a very fair demand perhaps, made by one who claimed to be a benevolent monarch, but the ground of its resistance was that it was imposed by authority upon men, who had to pay while having no voice in its decision. That is precisely the complaint of the Indian in respect of the salt tax. You cannot give to the youth of India Milton's "Areopagitica" and "The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates," and expect them not to resist authority. Even if you were to shut out from India the New Testament you could not shut out the "Times" newspaper. Last week the "Times" contained a report of the speech of the Lord President of the Council upon liberty. I read that speech with very respectful admiration. He was talking about liberty and what it meant. Liberty, as I understand it, means that you have a system under which people have a voice in making their own laws. Swift put it thus:For, in reason, all government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery.77 The movement which has taken place is very largely the result of our teaching, and I suggest that we ought to welcome it. It has its bad side, but it has a good side, and this country was meant for something more than the repression of the good side of Nationalism.
Lord Halifax was speaking at the National Liberal Club last week. We were very glad to welcome him. I think that we may get better Liberalism from a Tory than from an ex-Liberal. He said that the people of India were saying what we should say in the same circumstances. They are doing just what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) would be doing. I understand that he WAS born at Blenheim. Suppose he had been born not in this country but in Benares. What would his position be in relation to Nationalism? With his undoubted courage, even in these happy circumstances he is not very docile under authority, and he is not altogether subordinate even towards his party leaders. What would he be if he were in India? I believe he would be the leader of the movement. Would the right hon. Gentleman be content with an opposition that put him in a party that never had any prospect of office? The right hon. Gentleman has served with distinction in some of the highest offices in the State. What sort of condition is it which would condemn him year after year to all the barren agitation of an Opposition with never any prospect of taking upon himself responsibility for the Government of his country? I have not the slightest doubt that he would be the leader of the movement, and the likelihood is that to-day he would be in gaol.
The right hon. Gentleman was speaking last week at the Queen's Hall meeting. I was not allowed to go, but I read what he said. The right hon. Gentleman asked of the new government, "Will it give them more food?" I was astonished that a man of any Liberal predilections should ask that in relation to self-government. That is not the question. There is something more than bread. Those who fought for liberty have been concerned more with liberty than with food. I would put to the right hot. Gentleman the very wise words of Mr. Bernard Shaw in "John Bull's Other Island": 78All demonstrations of the virtues of a foreign government, though often conclusive, are as useless as demonstrations of the superiority of artificial teeth, glass eyes, silver windpipes and patent wooden legs to the natural products. Like democracy, national self-government is not for the good of the people; it is for the satisfaction of the people.The right hon. Gentleman should not have put that at a meeting in this country at which we were being taught something about freedom.
We have had a long association with India, and I think there are now only three courses open to us—abdication, domination or co-operation. Some very able men in this country have advocated abdication. Mr. H. G. Wells many years ago, in the "Empire Review," put the case for abdication as well as it has ever been put, when he said that we were entangled by these-dusky people and that the English-speaking peoples of the world ought; to rally in their defence and cut themselves off from those hoary entanglements. But if we chose abdication, we should not have solved the problem, because England and India would still be left to live in the same world. Our history demonstrates that to leave India in that way would be the gravest dereliction of duty.
There is domination. The Indian regards the present system as in a large measure domination. I accept what was said by a colleague of mine at the first Bound Table Conference. He came over to represent Christian India, and his name was Mr. K. T. Paul. He wrote a book on the British connection with India, and he said in that book that he did not know one public man in Indian life who desired or would tolerate a continuance of the connection with India upon the present basis, but that a great many would accept new conditions. The real point, which I think was put by the right hon. Gentleman, and was also put last week at the meeting which took place in this city, is this: If you are to fall back upon domination, what is your machinery? The whole basis of our Indian government has been the consent of the people. It has not rested upon force of arms, but upon the assumed consent of the people, and except for that consent we have no right to be there. If that consent is withdrawn, how are you 79 going to force upon them the system of government of which you approve? Where is your machinery for your force? What are you going to do with the schools and colleges which are turning out by thousands, and perhaps by tens of thousands, students who have been taught by professors of nationalist sympathies and who are coming out with great nationalist demands? That may be a mischief, but how is it to be stopped? Do you propose to give them new teachers and professors, a new curriculum and a new literature? You would have to wait for your literature, because all the literature which is now produced in this country will inculcate the love of liberty—the very principle which is causing the trouble. That is the weakness of the case, and I put it to the Noble Lord who, I understand, is to speak later: Suppose that consent is withheld; by what machinery do you propose to carry out your policy?
We are told that we are dealing not with the masses of India but with the politically-minded few. Suppose that be so, and that out of every 1,000 people one person is politically-minded? He represents and is in touch with 999 of the so-called ignorant mass, and we are not. He lives there, and we do not. If you decide upon a policy of repression, make sure that you can carry it through, and where your machinery will be for that purpose.
I have been interested in the reception of the report. I have seen its reception in this country. Lord Salisbury spoke last week. I congratulate the opponents of these proposals upon having so distinguished a leader. He is a servant of the State whose sincerity in these matters is beyond question. I was astonished at what he had to say about the Mohammedans and the Communal question. He is reported as saying:According to the Majority report the Mohammedans and the Hindus were divided into a creed register. No Mohammedan was to have an opportunity of voting for other than a Mohammedan Member of Parliament, and similarly with the Hindus. They said that was self-government; he said it was ludicrous.I say it too. It has not been done by us. It was done by others.
§ Mr. FOOT
When the Assembly was set up in France in 1789, a rule was established that not more than four speakers should address the Assembly together. I think that having a communal register is a negation of democracy. That, however, was a legacy that came to us, and was decided years ago. If anyone wants to see the arguments that were used, let him see the speeches by Lord Morley in the House of Lords many years ago on this question. The cleavage had its existence before this country had come into its present state of civilisation. If we had been writing upon a clean slate I would not have approved of it. Do the opponents of this Measure propose that we should wipe out the communal register? I believe that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) would do so. Do they suggest that the communal register, which has been set up in consequence of these historic and unhappy differences, is to be wiped out? If so, I would like to hear what answer India has to make to that suggestion.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping not only prophesies great disaster; he prophesies red ruin and the breaking up of law in India. The question that I would put to him and his friends is: If these things happen, whose is the risk? It may be ours to some extent, but the loss is qualified so far as we are concerned. I suppose that, if India were lost to us, it might mean suffering on the part of many of our people, and it might mean some suffering to this country, but we should survive. For those who are in India, however, if these things happen of which the right hon. Gentleman has been speaking, the risk is final, absolute and irremediable—and they are the people who ask us to take the risk. The Princes ask us to take the risk—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I have the answer here. I heard the Maharajah of Bikanir say in my presence, and in the presence of the Bound Table Conference, in November, 1930——
§ Mr. FOOT
I do not know whether the Maharajah is interested in the Chancellor. All that I know is that he said this at the Bound Table Conference in 1930: 81Nothing worth having can be attained without taking some risks. These were taken when Lord Durham laid the foundations for the position which Canada enjoys to-day as the premier Dominion in our great Commonwealth, to the mutual benefit of Great Britain and Canada. Similar risks were run when Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman secured Dominion status for South Africa with the happiest results. I am equally convinced that if this Conference will but do the right thing by India, justly and magnanimously, my country will be a willing and contented partner in the commonwealth.He was followed by the Prime Minister of Mysore, Sir Mirza Ismail who said in effect:I know the risks; I know the difficulties; but I ask this country to give this Measure of self-government to India.One after another, those who have everything at stake asked that these risks should be taken. Who are we to talk about risks in the light of that? The Princes ask us to take the risk; the missionaries ask us to take the risk—[Interruption.] I have ample documentary evidence. Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman question it?
§ Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT
I question it to this extent. Will the hon. Gentleman deny that the Secretary of the All-India Council of Christians wrote to the "Times" saying that they regarded the reforms with the gravest mistrust?
§ Mr. FOOT
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman can give that quotation I shall be interested; but there was received at the beginning of our Round Table Conference a Memorandum signed by a Very large number of missionaries, including many leading missionaries in India, in which they said that the denial of self-government in India and of the political aspirations of the people was a great hindrance to the work in which they were concerned, and asked that those aspirations should be gratified. I will see that the full quotation is given later, so that the hon. and gallant Gentleman may have the chance of answering it in the course of the Debate. There is a further point. Who are those concerned who run the most risk in India? They are the Europeans who have their business interests there. When the representatives of the European Association gave evidence before our Committee, I put the question to him:Supposing that the White Paper, or some such policy, is not adopted, what will be the result in India.82 I have the answer here in full. In substance it was as follows:If you do not grant this policy, virtually there will be chaos and disorder.It is very remarkable that the responsible spokesmen of the European societies sent their witnesses to this country to urge that reforms upon the lines of the White Paper should be made.
Duchess of ATHOLL
Was that at the first Round Table Conference? Does the hon. Gentleman know that the delegates of the European Association were not carrying out the policy which had been laid down for them in India by the Association before they came?
§ Mr. FOOT
I am not talking about the first Round Table Conference; I am talking about the Joint Select Committee. That question was put when they came to make their representations, and it will be found on page 502, paragraphs 4196–4200. I put the question to Mr. F. E. James, who was the head of the Delegation. The Delegation consisted of Mr. James, who is a member of the Legislative Assembly and a member of the Council of the European Association; Mr. W. W. K. Page, a member of the Council of the European Association; Mr. T. Gavin-Jones, a member of the Council of the same Association, and chairman of the United Provinces Branch; Mr. G. E. Cuffe, chairman of the Assam Branch of the European Association; and Mr. Roffey, late chairman of the Assam Branch. My question is in paragraph 4201. I said:Supposing that there is no reform embodying Provincial Autonomy and responsibility with safeguards, do you think that there would be a dangerous expression of opinion in India? Supposing the White Paper proposals were wiped out and there was no substantial advance, as is suggested in the White Paper proposals, have you formed any opinion as to what is likely to be the reaction in India?I admit that it was a very badly framed question. Mr. James replied as follows:Yes, 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-Indian leaders which has characterised the Round Table Conferences, and has brought the whole question to its present stage.83The 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 to stand still, and the White Paper proposals, subject to such modifications 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.If those who are opposed to these proposals lay their emphasis on the modifications, they will find that these requests have been substantially met. That is the response in this country.
I should like now, with the permission of the House, to refer to a matter upon which I am gravely concerned, and upon which there has been a response in India, in particular with regard to the method of election. There I am absolutely at issue with the right hon. Gentleman whose name has been so honourably associated with this controversy, and who devoted so much time and energy to the matter before the preparation of his statutory report. The gravest change that has been made——
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir John Simon)
May I remind my hon. Friend that the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee), and all the other members of the Statutory Commission, agreed with me?
§ Mr. FOOT
I quite agree, but I am afraid that my hon. Friend on the Front Bench here must have found the position very hard to accept. I know that he was animated by the highest motives in everything that he did, but I regret the consequences of his act; I regret it as being a very grave decision. We hold very strong views on this matter of direct election. We intend to raise it in the course of this Debate; we intend to raise it on the Second Reading of the Bill in this House; we shall raise it during the Committee stage; it will be raised in another place; and it will be raised in the country. Members of this House ought to know, therefore, just what our contention is.
In relation to direct election, hon. Members will know that the White Paper proposed that the Central Parliament should have two Chambers, and that the Lower Central Chamber should be elected by the direct vote of the people in territorial constituencies. The Upper Central 84 Chamber was to be elected by the votes of the Lower Provincial Chambers. That was the system as set out in the White Paper. It has now been altered. I have not time to go into the details of the alterations, but broadly it is now intended that the Central Upper Chamber shall be constituted by the votes of an electorate representing the Provincial Upper Chambers, and that the Central Lower Chamber, instead of being elected by the direct vote of the people in territorial constituencies, shall be elected by the Provincial Lower Chambers. That, roughly, is the change. What is our objection to it? If hon. Members are concerned to go into this matter—and obviously it must be answered—they will find our contention set out in our Amendment to paragraph 200 of the Proceedings of the Committee. It is there set out to the extent of five pages. Some care was given to the Amendment, so that our case might be fully presented. The Amendment was defeated by 18 votes to five. The five who voted for it were the Marquess of Reading, the Marquess of Lothian, the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks), the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) and myself. When the ultimate vote was taken, indirect election was carried by 21 votes to six, the six who voted against it being the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Marquess of Reading, Lord Snell, the hon. Member for Broxtowe, the hon. Member for Caerphilly, and myself. On the other side was the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee), as he was perfectly entitled to be. Earl Peel did not vote. I noticed that at the meeting last Tuesday the Lord President of the Council welcomed that change. He said:You will also notice that the Joint Select Committee have gone back to what was unanimously recommended by the Simon Commission; that is, indirect election for the Federal Legislature. I am quite sure that will be an immense relief to everyone who has studied this question and who has felt, not only a natural, but a right anxiety as to the insuperable difficulties of direct franchise in constituencies, the size of which will be found in India under this scheme. I am very glad indeed to note that. That great change, I confess quite frankly, gives me personally great satisfaction.The right hon. Gentleman takes that view, but will the House consent to hear what the arguments are against it? First of all, it is contrary to the decision 85 of this House in 1919 and 1920. When the Government of India Bill was passed in 1919 and 1920, the Joint Select Committee of that day decided against the suggestion of indirect election, and that there should be a direct vote. That was in the days when the right hon. Gentleman Mr. Churchill was in the Minstry. Parliament adopted the recommendation of the Joint Select Committee of that day, and we are face to face with the fact that 13 or 14 year ago, Parliament, considering this question, gave to the Indian citizen the direct vote for his Central Legislature. We are now proposing to withdraw that vote, and to give him only an indirect franchise. First of all, we undo what Parliament did at that time. Is it not a fair thing to say that, before you take away from the Indian people something that they have enjoyed for 13 or 14 years, you ought to show either that they have not used that right properly or that the thing has been a failure?
The second argument against it is that it is against the Government's own proposal. The White Paper policy contained proposals for direct election. Those proposals were made after consultation with all the authorities.
The third contention is that it is against the decision of the Franchise Committee. This House set up a Franchise Committee a few years ago and sent it out to India under the chairmanship of Lord Lothian. It included the present Under-Secretary of State for India and some distinguished Members of the House. There were also included in their number leading Indian politicians. They set up in every part of India provincial councils for consultation. They spent thousands of pounds of public money, necessarily, in their inquiries, and they travelled thousands of miles. Having considered this question, the committee reported unanimously against the indirect system of voting and in favour of the direct. Who is there in this House who has any right to speak with authority against the authority of a committee which was deliberately set up for that purpose and which took into consultation all Indian opinion?
Now we come to what is stronger still. It is against the opinion of the Government of India. When the right hon. 86 Gentleman (Sir John Simon) presented the report of the Statutory Commission in 1929 or 1930, the Government of India was invited to express its opinion and, knowing all about these big constituences, knowing all about these astronomical numbers, knowing all about the disabilities and difficulties, they said they still stood by the direct vote. I want to know why the opinion of the Government of India is to be set aside.
You are acting against Indian opinion. The Indian delegates to the Select Committee were all invited to consultation, they were all in favour of the direct vote and, when they left, they left a memorandum which is in the records. Whatever their communal differences, they all asked for the direct vote. That is expressed also by Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru in his memorandum which will be found among the records. We have been asked all along by the Lord President of the Council to observe two things. He met his friends face to face and he said: "You must observe two things, first of all, the opinion of the man on the spot, and secondly the opinion of India." I want to know why both those canons are being broken.
But there is yet a stronger argument, which has never been met. The whole case put by the Select Committee, and the case put by the right hon. Gentleman to-day, is the danger of weakening the Centre and, if you set up these great autonomous Provinces, you are going to weaken your central Government. They claim that the greatest gift that this country has made to India is unity, the sense of its national consciousness. That is the opinion expressed by the Government of India in its own despatch, that the vote given by the Indian citizen for his central Government is the expression and the symbol of his national allegiance, and you are running a risk, upon the admission of the Select Committee, in weakening your central unity by setting up these autonomous Provinces, and at the same time you propose to take away from the Indian what he has enjoyed for the last 14 years.
§ Major-General Sir ALFRED KNOX
Is it not true that they were herded in by the candidates' agents and did not know whom they were voting for?
§ Mr. FOOT
The Lord President of the Council once said that he knew what it was in politics to shepherd the last vote from the public house into the polling booth. If it comes to herding, there is not very much difference between herding and shepherding. That is an argument that must be met that you are destroying the symbol of unity, and you are doing it against the opinion of the Indian people. The Delhi correspondent of the "Times" last week said that the first outcry had been against the taking away of the direct vote. Let hon. Members turn to any reports they like and they will find that the first contention that is made by the people of India is, "You are taking away our direct vote." That has now to be justified. I do not believe it can be justified. You are going to confuse every election. You are strengthening vested interests. The hon. Member for Limehouse did not intend it but as the result of the carrying indirect election we have now given an added authority to second chambers in the Provinces representing the vested interests.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The hon. Member must remember that we proposed to have no second chamber, but he himself voted in favour of a second chamber.
§ Mr. FOOT
I voted for second chambers as purely revising and delaying bodies, and I said so in our Amendment. It is indirect election that has brought about this change and, instead of having a central second chamber in touch with 35,000,000 people at one remove, you have now your central upper chamber dependent only upon the vested interests, and upon upper chambers in the Provinces elected upon a narrow franchise. If that policy is right, no man in this country can claim more credit for it than the hon. Member for Limehouse. If it is wrong, no man in the country has to share a bigger responsibility for it than the hon. Member. It may be right or wrong. I think it is wrong. If it is right, let him claim the credit. Let us have these questions argued out, I hope without passion and without ill will. All that Members have to do is to watch what is happening in India and listen to what is being said by every class of opinion—"Now that you are giving us a Central Parliament which has some added powers, you are taking away the vote that you were content we should have." We considered an Amend- 88 ment being put down to this Motion, so deeply did we feel on this question of the direct vote, but we considered that it was hardly in the spirit of co-operation which has prevailed especially as, generally speaking, we support the report. The report is not the one that I should like to have. It does not represent my opinion. It does not represent Liberal opinion, but it makes it perfectly clear that it represents a body of central opinion, and that was what we had to look for. There are many parts of the report with which I should agree and many with which I should disagree but there emerges, after fours years of consultation, a certain amount of common ground, and it was in the interest of the country that upon this common ground we should seek to build a bridge between one country and the other. Therefore, do not hold those upon these benches responsible for everything in the report, but let it be looked upon as the largest measure of common ground that we could get.
I hope that those in India will not be disturbed about the Safeguards. I have no time to deal with them, but I am not prepared to vote for a single safeguard which I am not satisfied in my mind is for the good of India. I will vote for no other. We have got, if we can, to turn enemies into friends. The Lord President of the Council said that freedom would depend not only upon those in this country; it would depend on all who believed in freedom throughout the world. I am sure he had not only in mind those who live in this country and in Europe and America. We taught the people of India something about freedom. They have learnt something about the literature of liberty. I do not think there can be before this country any higher conception than obtaining the friendship of these people for the defence of liberty and all the things that are most precious in civilisation. It is not a question so much of India needing us. I think we need India. I think we need friends in India. We have not too many friends in Asia. I am sure I can speak for those on these benches. I feel it a big obligation to speak for Liberals in this country, and there are still a good many. I should like the people of India to know that we are anxious to be their friends, and that we are concerned with nothing but their welfare, and I wish the Debates in this 89 House could be upon that basis. Our first concern must be not for ourselves but for India. I believe, if we had that, we should get a, great result. We should find perhaps that "he that loseth his life shall save it."
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Viscount WOLMER
The hon. Member is always delightful to listen to as well as very eloquent, but the first half of his speech consisted of a detailed lecture to my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), in which he even taught him how he ought to make his own speeches at our party conferences, and the second half ought to have been made in the Committee stage. It really is a Committee point and, therefore, I hope he will forgive me if I do not follow him in great detail, but I should like to tell him that he entirely misconceives the attitude from which those with whom I am associated approach this question. We do not deny the importance of the Indian political movement in the least. We do not minimise its importance or its intensity, but because we refuse to look through the blinkers which the hon. Member himself puts on and insist upon looking at other facts in the picture, we cannot share his enthusiasm for this report. Our doubts and anxieties in this matter arise not because we doubt the reality or the importance of the Indian political movement, but because we believe that the proposals which His Majesty's Government are putting forward are not the best way of dealing with an admittedly very difficult problem and will land India and the whole Empire in a host of evils, dangers and disasters for which this House will ultimately have to bear the responsibility.
The basic difficulty of the problem is that the very great majority of the population of India have not yet reached the stage in which they can effectively or wisely be entrusted with self-government. The vast majority of the population, whether by reason of their poverty or the districts in which they live or their illiteracy, are quite incapable of taking the same part in politics as do the electors of this country and most European countries. The whole political movement comes from that numerically minute minority of educated or semi-educated Indians, though I quite agree with the 90 hon. Member that the political movement extends into certain sections and classes which, perhaps, could not properly be described as politically-minded. When we come to analyse this politically-minded minority, we are at once faced with the fact, of which every one in this House is aware, that it consists of two parts. In the first part, there is Congress, and in the other and greater part numerically, is that moderate liberal opinion, as we call it, which the Government and hon. Members opposite desire to conciliate. One of the great dangers which I and my hon. Friends most apprehend is that the machinery which you are erecting in this Constitution will certainly be captured by the Congress party.
Let us have no illusions whatever as to the object of Congress. It is exactly the same as the object of Mr. de Valera. It is to drive the British out of India They will play Mr. de Valera's game, and play it to the utmost of their power. We believe that they are bound to dominate this electoral machinery which you are erecting, in the first place because they are the only organised party in India. You have seen already how they have practically swept the board at nearly every election they contested in the last election. The Secretary of State in his speech to-day gave that election as a reason for altering the present state of affairs. I think that we all agree that the present state of affairs has to be altered, but I do not in the least agree with him that, after his Bill has been passed, attacking the Government will be any the less popular in India than it is to-day. You will have a complete repetition of this election at all the elections that are to take place under this Constitution. The second reason why I believe that Congress is bound to capture this machine, is that which history teaches, namely, that in a movement of this sort the extreme wing always eats up the moderate wing. Just as the Jacobins destroyed the Girondins, or as Lenin destroyed Karensky, or as the Radicals destroyed the Whigs, and the Socialists destroyed the Radicals, so will Congress destroy the moderate Liberal party.
The third reason is that in all these elections Congress candidates will not hesitate to make the most unscrupulous promises and statements to the electors, 91 and they will have the most ignorant electorate in the world to play upon. It is not merely in the elections that Congress will dominate the liberal party in India. It will dominate it in the Legislative Assemblies as well. In the war of attrition which Congress is to wage against His Majesty's Government, using all the resources and experience of Parliamentary manoeuvre which we have witnessed in the past, and which they are admirably qualified and fitted to carry out, you will find moderate liberal opinion voting with Congress nine times out of ten, not because they are in any way tainted with Congress disloyalty, but because by their own liberalism and by their inexperience, they are committed to the points which Congress will inevitably raise. This Constitution has not been accepted by liberal opinion in India. It has not been accepted by any representative body in India. The Secretary of State admitted that fact this afternoon. The Indian Delegation to the Joint Committee in their Memorandum mentioned at least ten fundamental points which are in complete variance with this Constitution, and therefore when Congress is challenging this Constitution and seeking to extend it and to drive us out, as they will at every parliamentary opportunity, you will have not only Congress going into the Lobby against you, but the great bulk of the liberal party in India as well, being forced or manoeuvred into the position, and to that extent they will be made the tools of Congress.
Therefore we start this Constitution knowing that it satisfies nobody in India, and that it is to be used by Congress in order to make our position as impossible as it can be. For that reason the Government propose a series of safeguards so that there shall be no breakdown in the working of the Constitution. I am bound to confess that I have very little faith in the value of those safeguards. Every one of them, in the cases which we contemplate, is to be used in the teeth of an elected majority. They will not be used on any other basis. They can only be used if the majority is misusing its powers, and the whole forces you have erected masquerading in the name of democracy will be against the Governor who tries to use his safeguards. He will let himself in for a first-class row every 92 time he tries to use the weapon you have placed in his hands. He will be attacked all over India. He will be attacked in this House. I can see the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) and the Labour party attacking him violently because he had dared to stand up against the people's rights. If he has a Secretary of State like Mr. Birrell or Mr. Wedgwood Benn, his position will be very nearly intolerable. He will not even have the security of tenure of an ordinary judge in this country. I know that the Labour party dislike all safeguards, but I will say this to them. The whole of this machinery you are erecting cannot truthfully or accurately be described as democracy. I said just now "masquerading in the name of democracy," and that is what it is. It is not the fault of the Government's draft. It is inherent in the whole problem. You cannot have democracy in India at the present moment. Your Communal Award alone makes democracy impossible. I was interested to hear the hon. Member for Bodmin admit that, and, I think, the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) admitted it.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. The hon. Gentleman referred to the Communal Award. But let hon. Members consider what a fundamental difference that makes in the whole working of the machine. All our democratic institutions depend upon the fact that we have political parties based on certain principles and that in between them there is a great floating mass of population not attached to any political party who, at every election, act as a sort of great national jury to decide between the contending parties. It is for that reason that all parties try to gain the suffrages of this unattached non-party elector by sweet reasonableness, concessions and compromises, and by trying to see the point of view of the other man. Now that all becomes impossible under your Communal Award. The Moslem voters can vote only for Moslem candidates, and, practically speaking, the Hindu voters can vote only for Hindu candidates. Therefore, the whole object of trying to conciliate moderate opinion goes. There is no object in any politician trying to conciliate the other side. He thinks only of his 93 own people. In this Constitution there are five Provinces which are condemned in perpetuity to be dominated by Hinduism. They must always have a Hindu majority. The Joint Committee tell us that good government is no substitute for self-government. What sort of self-government are the Moslems going to have in these five Provinces? It is neither good government nor self-government. We must also recognise the fact that under the caste system you cannot possibly have anything which is worthy of the name of democracy. What is the use of saying one vote one value when one voter is a Brahmin and the other is an Untouchable?
Surely these considerations imply that in making an experiment on democratic lines, using democratic forms, giving democratic power, where the realities of democracy and the healthy side of democracy cannot exist, or can only exist to a very small extent, we should act with the very gravest caution. I and those with whom I am associated recognise the force of the contention of the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary and his Commission that you cannot make a real test without giving a measure of real responsibility. That is why we are prepared to go with the Government a good way in the direction of Provincial Autonomy, but our form of Provincial Autonomy would be very different from the Provincial Autonomy suggested in the report in a number of material respects, which I will mention later.
In our view it is not in the least inconsistent to say that you can give Provincial Autonomy and real responsibility in government without handing over the control of the police to elected Ministers. Some hon. Members speak as if there cannot be a real Parliament unless it has control of the police. Have they forgotten that this Parliament has not direct control of the police in this country, except in London? The laws which we pass are administered by the county and borough police throughout the Provinces, without question, and it never occurs to anybody in the greatest of all Parliaments to demand that the provincial police should be put under our control. They are administered by an authority which is just as much a part of the State as we are, but quite independent of this 94 Parliament. Therefore, it is all nonsense to say that you cannot have self-government without mixing the police up in party polities. I am afraid that the report in giving way on this subject, as it does on so many others, is not following the essential needs of the case, but is merely making a concession to something which has become a "flag" in the Indian mind—"He won't be happy till he gets it," what we may call "the Pears Soap argument," which so frequently figures in our deliberations about India.
If we agree to go with hon. and right hon. Members in this great experiment of provincial autonomy, although we may differ about the exact form and we may particularly differ in respect of this question of police, surely, that is in itself a tremendous and enormous experiment. Every one of these Provinces is as big as this country. How can you possibly say that you are not giving a tremendous chance and a tremendous opportunity to Indian statesmanship and giving a tremendous test of Indian statesmanship in handing over to their charge the destinies of these vast territories? But you want to go on with this further and, as it appears to us, insane experiment of Federation. We are told by the Government, in the first place, that you cannot have responsibility in the Provinces and an irresponsible Government in the Centre. I should like to protest in the strongest way I can against the use of the term "irresponsible." It is a monstrous expression to use in this connection. Is the Viceroy an irresponsible person? It is this sort of language which Ministers use that makes me sick. It is the language of men who have lost faith in our moral right to be in India at all.
What they mean, I take it, is that you cannot have a democratic Government in the Provinces and a non-democratic Government in the Centre. But you are not giving a democratic Government in the Centre. You are giving dyarchy, the system which the Simon Commission pointed out, unanswerably, has never worked and never can work. That is the system which is being repeated by this Government at the Centre. The Secretary of State tells us that the Centre is weak and that if we do not have Federation we shall have centrifugal forces which 95 will split India into its 11 Provinces. On that, I should like to make two observations. In the first place, in making the Constitution for the Provinces you have made them as independent of the Centre as you can. Instead of giving them delegated powers you have given them original powers. You have not left residuary powers in the hands of the Central Government. Instead of giving the Central Government opportunity of influencing the Provinces by the allocation of receipts of taxation or the like, you have taken that power away from them altogether. As the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) pointed out, this system of indirect election, although it is an immeasurable improvement on what was in the White Paper, in the form in which you have embodied it in this report makes the Centre subject to the Provinces in that the members elected to the Centre will be a mere microcosm of the Provincial Legislatures. In all these respects you have made the Centre as weak as possible and the Provinces as strong as possible, and having done that you have no right to complain about centrifugal dangers. It would have been possible to grant provincial autonomy without expressing the independence of the Provinces in any one of these respects in the way in which you have done.
But that is really beside the point. The remedy that you propose, instead of curing the disease, will aggravate it. The Secretary of State says that the Government at the Centre is weak. This new Government will be much weaker. Instead of having to deal with a recalcitrant province you will have the representatives of all the provinces to deal with in the most difficult of all possible circumstances. Let us take an instance which, I suppose, everyone will agree is a subject on which friction is most likely to occur, and is almost certain to occur—the expenditure on defence. How is your Federation going to help you there? The argument of the Government, I take it, is that what they have called the irresponsible Centre will find it difficult to stand up against the demands of the provinces that they should have a larger share of the common purse for nation building subjects and that less should be spent on the Army. You have not got rid of this difficulty in your Federa- 96 tion. The Army is a reserved subject, so you have exactly the same problem in a more intensified form. Instead of having to deal with a recalcitrant province, individually, you will have to deal with a body which claims, under our own title deeds, to represent all the provinces and all the peoples of India.
How is it possible to strengthen your position at the Centre by giving half your powers away? Conceive the opportunities that Congress will have in obstruction at the Centre by dyarchy. They will have no responsibility for any money spent on the Army, which represents more than half the Budget. Therefore, they will take no responsibility for the Budget, no responsibility for anything affected by the Budget. You will not get them as partners in this business, but you will merely get them as privileged critics. You will have exactly the same situation that the Simon Commission found in the provinces when they went round and you will have it under the searchlight of the whole world. The Federal Assembly will be the sounding board for Indian nationalism, represented by Congress, with Congress as its spokesman speaking to the whole world about the injustice of the way in which England has treated India. For these reasons we cannot feel that federation is in any way going to strengthen our position or to make the problem easier.
Hon. Members tell us that the Princes' representatives will be there, and that with the aid of the Princes' representatives we are going to outvote Congress. I very much doubt if that is going to be the case. But if it is, how long do you expect the Indian Princes to go on pulling the chestnuts out of the fire for you? And why should they? If we have not the courage to stand up to Congress ourselves, why should we expect the Indian Princes to do it for us? And if they do do it, what will Congress have to say on the matter? What an invidious position, in the artificial and exotic system which you are imposing on India, the Indian Princes will occupy! The position of the Indian Princes in the Federal Legislature is the most vulnerable in the whole scheme. They will be forced into the position of voting on issues which do not directly affect their States. They will be voting for taxes in Budgets which their own subjects will not pay. How long do you think Congress and Indian politicians 97 are going to stand that? If the Princes ally themselves with the Viceroy against Congress, do you think that Congress will hesitate to start an intensive agitation against the position of the Princes?
There is another aspect of the situation to which I should like to draw the attention of the House, and that is the position of the Viceroy. Hitherto the Viceroy has been able to exercise very important progressive influence upon the Princes. He has been able to interfere with their administration when they misgoverned and he has been able to warn them when they have overspent. How long do you think he will be able to continue doing that if he is dependent upon them to pass his Budgets? I cannot believe that there is any safety or any honour in us relying upon the Princes to do our work for us in the Central Government of India, and I believe that the Princes will be very ill-advised at this juncture to mix themselves up in party polities.
This scheme of federation cannot possibly work as a practical piece of legislation. Whoever heard of a federation where half the territory did not pay the taxes and obeyed only some of the laws? The Secretary of State in his speech said there were many precedents, but I noticed that he gave us only one precedent—that of the German Empire. What analogy is that? I should like to see Bismarck dealing with Gandhi. He would not have invited him to tea. That was the sole and solitary example which the Secretary of State could cite. And what has been the result after 50 years? All your independent Kingdoms, all your independent States and all your independent authorities have been swept away into a common Reich. That will be an encouragement to the Princes of India when they read the right hon. Gentleman's speech to-morrow.
In these circumstances, and with all these difficulties, is it not only common sense to wait to see how this tremendous experiment of autonomy in the Provinces works out before you call into being a federation three times the size of the United States of America? The right hon. Gentleman himself in his speech to-day admitted that he anticipated many difficulties and many disappointments and unexpected developments. Well, if that is the case, is not that an argument for going slowly? And of all 98 the follies imaginable is there a greater folly than to legislate now, and tie yourselves, for a federation that you admit cannot come into force for another five years at least? You are going to tie yourselves by your Bill and commit yourselves to a plan of federation—this vast, complicated, unprecedented, extraordinary, Alice-in-Wonderland federation that is to come into being not now but at least five years hence in circumstances which may be totally different from what you visualise at the present moment. Could anything as a matter of practical politics be sillier than that? Who among my hon. friends would engage to marry a lady five years hence?
Why on earth are we asked to do such a silly thing? "Oh," it is said, "to satisfy moderate liberal opinion in India." It just shows how inexperienced liberal opinion in India must be of practical politics that they should desire such a thing to be done. But you have not conciliated moderate Indian liberal opinion. As the right hon. Gentleman confessed, not a single note of support has come from any quarter in India. You have not conciliated even the Delegation who came over from India and sat on your Joint Committee and whom you treated as accredited representatives of India. Every one of them has been defeated at the last election. You have not conciliated them; you have disappointed them. Would it not have been better to disappoint them with something that may work instead of with something that cannot possibly work? I ask myself: What is our position going to be if the Princes do not come in? You have excited hopes which you do not dare now to resist. If the Princes refuse to come in, what is your position going to be? Are you not going to be faced with an intensive demand from that self-same liberal opinion for federation of British India, a solution which everybody who has examined this question agrees would be the worst possible solution? You have excited these hopes of federation and held out hopes about the possibilities of federation instead of giving the people the ordinary common-sense advice of learning to walk before they attempt to run, of taking things gradually, of getting experience. You have excited these hopes, and if they are dashed from the lips of your expectant liberal opinion 99 in India, you will be in a worse position than you were before. You will be faced with a far more difficult demand to resist than at present.
But the Secretary of State asked us, and we were asked at the Queen's Hall, what object we think we can gain by delay. I think it was the Lord President of the Council who said that if the difficulties of federation are very great to-day, would they not be just as great in 10 or 20 years' time, or whenever we think it expedient to move? There will be this great and, to my mind, overwhelming difference, we shall have gained experience. If you give provincial autonomy a real trial first, we shall have gained experience of how provincial autonomy does work. We shall have gained experience of the value of safeguards. We shall have gained experience of how far moderate liberal opinion is able to stand up against Congress. The Indian politicians will have gained experience; and the Indian electors will have gained experience. Is not that experience worth having? If we had that experience to-day, would it not make all the difference to the problem? The problem would be difficult enough at any time in any case, for the inherent difficulties are so fundamental that it can never be easy. But why go and commit yourselves now to a plan, a detailed plan, an immense plan, which you admit cannot come into force in the lifetime of this Parliament or the next Parliament, and which can only come into force at the soonest in five or six years' time? Why commit yourselves to that unnecessarily, when we have no experience of how this gigantic experiment of provincial autonomy will work? I do beg my right hon. Friends not to use their great influence and their great power to force the Conservative party of this country to do something which is plainly against the dictates of common sense, and which no man would dream of doing in his own private affairs, in the hope that you can thereby conciliate people who, in their inexperience, ask for something which is not practicable. If you make yourselves responsible for a plan that does not work you will have to bear the blame, and justly bear the blame. The Indian peasant may not be learned in politics, but when he sees misgovernment 100 where the used to be good government, when he sees injustice where there used to be justice, when he sees riots where there used to be law and order, he will blame the British Raj—and will blame it rightly.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. CADOGAN
As far as time permits, I will endeavour to explain to the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer), and to the House, why I was unable to associate myself with those on the Joint Select Committee who, I presume, represent his views. I say "presume" because the Noble Lord did not tell us whether he subscribes to Lord Salisbury's Memorandum. But before I do so I should like to make a preliminary observation in the nature of an apologia. Though there are many hon. Members in this House who are more qualified to influence opinion on this great issue than I am, I would plead as an extenuating circumstance that I am one of a very few Members in this House who, before the Joint Select Committee began its sessions, had committed themselves almost more categorically and more irretrievably, as some might think, than even the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) himself. Those who find themselves in this embarrassing situation might very well think it necessary to have their present views taken into account if in the course of our proceedings it is revealed that we have gone back on our original opinion; and if I am to meet a charge of inconsistency that is all the more reason why I should trespass upon the patience of the House.
Although my pre-conceived views are enshrined within the leaves of a State Paper, and are available to any hon. Member who cares to exhume them and bring them in evidence against the Foreign Secretary, the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) and myself, I do derive a gloomy satisfaction from one feature which seems to be common to all our discussions upon India. It is the intriguing circumstance that not only the supporters of the Government but also those who oppose the Government draw very liberally on the report of the Statutory Commission in order to find corroboration for their various and separate views. The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) said just now that Edmund Burke had been quoted indis- 101 criminately in our discussions. I think that Edmund Burke will have to look to his laurels if he is going to compete with the report of the Statutory Commission. That ill-starred document seems to be more elastic than even the framers originally intended. I have no intention of taking a mean advantage of its almost phenomenal adaptability.
I want to be quite frank with the House and explain to what extent and for what reason I have altered my preconceived views. Perhaps it will not be thought too egotistical if I give the House some of my soul's history in this matter. When the Statutory Commission reported, some four or five years ago, I frankly admit that I believed our recommendations were, in their broad, general outline, the most feasible solution of this great problem. Although it met with abundant criticism—a great deal of it ill-informed—it was the only scheme canvassed. There was no other scheme canvassed by the Government of the day until the sitting of the Round Table Conferences. In view of all the vicissitudes affecting the long history of the negotiations since we reported, I do put it to the House that it will be fairer to take into consideration not what the Statutory Commission did recommend but rather what it would have recommended had we known what we now know.
Not the least of the difficulties which confronted the Statutory Commission in its difficult and almost superhuman task was the fact that our terms of reference were so limited as to preclude one of the most material considerations of all; and the result was that we were only able to make what I might call hypothetical recommendations. We had no mandate to examine the problem of the States at first hand or to make suggestions thereon, although this problem is inexplicably interwoven into the fabric of the larger issue. The States, which represent one-half the territory and something like one-third of the population of the whole of India, are to-day, owing to the interplay of economic forces, the development of transport, the incidence of customs and monetary policy, far more involved than ever before in the fortunes of British India.
Very early in our deliberations we came to the conclusion that there was only one possible solution, and that was an All- 102 India Federation. The obstacles to a British India Federation, exclusive of the States, seemed at one time sufficiently formidable, but after maturer reflection I was convinced that they were insuperable, especially in view of the fact that the States were reluctant to favour any solution of the problem which precluded the exercise of their influence upon central policy. That is a consideration which is vital in this matter. We had no means of ascertaining when and under what conditions the States would accede, and, therefore, it would have been mere impertinence on our part if we had made other than tentative suggestions towards the establishment of what we hoped would be the ultimate result—namely, the entry of the States into an All-India Federation. That accounts for our recommendation that there should be a Council of Greater India, an expedient which, somewhat to my surprise, has been appropriated by certain members of the Joint Select Committee. Surely it is rather late in the day to reproduce a recommendation which in the nature of things must now be obsolete. If I am asked why I have not the courage or consistency to abide by my former recommendations, I can only reply that my action is neither pusillanimous nor irreconcilable with my former attitude, but is rather influenced by the recognition that the situation has undergone considerable change. I only subscribed to the recommendation in the first instance, because I despaired of the States acceding to an All-India Federation in anything like reasonable time. Now we have evidence that they are prepared to accede, and upon what terms, and it is much easier than it was for the members of the Statutory Commission to decide what the structure of the Federation shall be.
With regard to my antecedents, I have another admission to make. Not only was I a signatory of the Statutory Commission's Report but I was also a critic of the White Paper; and I am still. I believed that many of its provisions were defective. I regretted the omission of much which I regarded as essential for a proper working of an Indian Constitution, and I thought the Safeguards which it contained were incomplete and ill defined, and, therefore, inoperative. At the same time I reserved to myself the right 103 to postpone final judgment, as anyone else with common sense must have done, until I knew exactly the intentions of the Government after the Joint Select Committee had reported. I submit to the House that there is no inconsistency in any hon. Member who has criticised the White Paper being able to subscribe to the Report of the Joint Select Committee as it stands. If the Government had insisted on the whole of the White Paper, and nothing but the White Paper, I certainly should not have given it my support; and I also want an assurance before I finally give my adherence to the Government that they will implement certain changes, which I consider vital, which have been made from the White Paper.
It has been predicted by the Noble Lord and some of his friends that no change would be made by the Joint Select Committee in the White Paper proposals, and that therefore the whole of our 160 sittings would be entirely futile. From the report itself it is now obvious that it is absolutely impossible to maintain this attitude. There remains the argument of the Noble Lord that there has been no change from the main principle of the White Paper. I agree; there has been no change from the main principle of the White Paper. It said:The gradual association of Indians with self-governing institutions and the administration with a view to the progressive realisation of responsible government.There is very good reason why that principle has not been departed from; I am not aware that it has been departed from in any quarter. That is the position of successive Governments. When I agreed to serve on the Joint Select Committee I did so with the fixed intention of putting aside all free conceived views, and I have formed my opinion on the long experience I have had on these sittings and upon the conciliatory and wise attitude which the Secretary of State has maintained throughout. I am constrained to admit that the more I examine this subject—I am afraid the Noble Lord has not convinced me to the contrary—the more I believe that you cannot have autonomous Provinces with responsible legislatures and an irresponsible Centre—I do not use the phrase with any other meaning—without any representation of the States. 104 I regard that as impossible now. The only alternative is a Federation of All-India with responsible government with safeguards, a formula which contains two discordant phrases, one the bugbear of the right and the other the bugbear of the left.
On the question of responsiblity which seems such a rock of stumbling for some people, may I quote passages from the report which, those for whom responsibility has still any terrors, may derive some measures of comfort, and which those who regard responsibility as a sine qua non in any form of constitution for India, may recast their ideas.Responsible government is not, as it has sometimes seemed to us, as Indians regard it, an automatic device or a machine running on a motive power of its own. It postulates conditions which Indians themselves have still to create. Nor is a technique which we here in Britain have developed in the course of many generations to be acquired in the twinkling of an eye.And in the words of the Simon Report:Nor may the precise form of responsibility as we know it in England be ever reproduced under conditions which are totally different to our own.If those two passages are rightly appreciated responsibility may lose its terrors for some and its fascination for others. We need not be apprehensive about responsibility. With the best intentions in the world we cannot give full responsibility to India until Indians themselves supply the missing factors, without which responsibility is simply a meaningless phrase. I put it to Indians, that the measure of responsibility which we are giving, qualified as it is, with safeguards, should create conditions which ultimately might make it possible for us to dispense with safeguards. And what is all this talk in regard to safeguards, about whittling away with one hand what you are giving with the other. The hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) was not very fair when he said that safeguards showed our distrust of Indians. No one has suggested, no sane Indian has suggested, that we should dissolve partnership. It is impossible, and therefore, safeguards are contingent upon the indispensable obligations which we owe to the millions of Indians, by reason of our partnership. In my view partnership should be a bond of unity rather than a bone of contention.
105 After the considerations I have given to this subject, I have come to the conclusion that responsibility with safeguards at the Centre, although it introduces an element of diarchy so roundly condemned by the Government of India and the Statutory Commission, is the only possible solution of the problem, and to-day there is a formidable consensus of opinion in favour of it. It might be urged, indeed the Noble Lord alluded to it, that the report of the Joint Select Committee has met with an extremely unfavourable reception in India. My anxiety is not concerned with the reception which the report is receiving at the moment because taking a long view I am optimistic, and in any case I discount altogether the premature clamour of the extremists. Our proceedings and discussions at no stage should be influenced by extremists, English or Indian, of the Eight or the Left. It is much better that men of moderate views should combine and consult and co-operate, and this can only be achieved if concessions are made. That is evidently the spirit which prevailed on the Joint Select Committee, and if the Noble Lord had been a member of it he might not have passed so many strictures on men of moderate views. If men of moderate views in India and in England combine, then I think a far more satisfactory solution can be arrived at.
§ Sir A. KNOX
The hon. Member has told us clearly why he changed his opinions between signing the report of the Statutory Commission and signing the majority report of the Joint Select Committee. He signed the report of the Statutory Committee in 1930, and in 1933 published a charming book in which he seemed to regret having signed the Statutory Commission report, as having gone too far. Why did he change his opinions between publishing his book and signing the report of the Joint Select Committee?
§ Mr. CADOGAN
I have had a long experience since I signed the report and since I wrote the book. It is not for nothing that I sat for 160 days on the Joint Select Committee, hearing evidence from every section of people in England and India, and I thought that I had spent most of my speech to-day, already too long, in explaining why I altered my views. I am not in the least ashamed of 106 having done so. As our Debates develop on this great scheme and wherever and whenever awkward situations will arise, as will undoubtedly be the case, then, subject to the main principles to which I adhere, I shall always be in favour of conciliation and accommodation. My experience has been that it is difficult to conserve a right sense of proportion on this question and I have come to the conclusion that there is a real danger that the good understanding between Englishmen and Indians may be imperilled by mistaking as the hon. Member for Bodmin has done, machinery for immutable constitutional principles. A very good example of that is the subject to which he referred, the subject of indirect election. That is not an immutable constitutional principle, and we have recommended that if indirect election is not appropriate it might be changed.
I will put in one caveat before concluding. My chief difficulty in consenting with a clear conscience to some of the provisions of the report is that we may stultify ourselves if the Constitution which we provide for India is unalterable. As the Statutory Commission insisted, the Constitution given to India should contain the potentialities of growth and development; otherwise the plant would be barren. In this case the plant is not indigenous and requires acclimatisation. The Constitution should ab initio carry into effect the famous words of the Preamble. That does not mean that those who will be called upon to rule in India under the new dispensation will not often find that the English Parliamentary model will have to be departed from in many important respects.
Perhaps I may be forgiven for having troubled the House with these rambling and incoherent remarks, but I feel so intensively the responsibility which rests upon each and every one of us, and more especially upon those who, like myself, were called upon by Government to investigate and report upon it to the Imperial Parliament—in my case in two capacities—that if I remained silent I might be evading that responsibility in some sense. The time for definite decisions as to the main course we are to pursue has arrived. We are at the parting of the ways. Three roads seem to be open to us. None of them at first sight seemed to offer a very alluring prospect. There is the short cut indicated to us by the 107 most unreliable of guides, over ground which is much too hazardous for us to tread. There is the road along which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping beckons us to follow, but that seems to be in the direction only from whence he came. Finally there is the middle road, which is narrow and rough going, and as far as I can see it winds uphill all the way. But that is the road which any Member who attaches the smallest importance to my judgment I counsel to take.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Mr. DONNER
On this great question, as to whether the Majority Report of the Joint Select Committee should be accepted as a basis for legislation one particular argument is so remarkable that it deserves examination. Surely you will accept the report, it is said, on account of the additional Safeguards? If nearly two years ago some of us, on account of deep conviction, opposed the White Paper proposals on principle, how can we now, on account of a few additional Safeguards, a few minor alterations and concessions, alter our attitude to-day? The details may be changed but the principle remains. In our belief the Federal scheme, as it is proposed, has no roots in the soil of India. We think that this gigantic and alien superstructure will break of its own weight. It would be a mistake to assume that the division of opinion in this House is one of pace and time only. I submit that the division of opinion is due to the principles underlying these reforms, and further it is the suggestion of an All-India Federation to which objection is very largely taken. It is perfectly true that the Simon Report recommended Federation as an ultimate goal. The word "ultimate" is not a word of to-day or of to-morrow. It implies that so long as India remains in essence as she is to-day, there can be little hope that an All-India Federation will succeed. The suggestion moreover that Federation should be inaugurated in the near future disregards all available experience. It was precisely a matter of State rights which imposed a four years civil war on the American people.
The Simon Report, that great and weighty document, was at pains to point out the gradual growth of federation in Canada. I am bound to confess I was greatly surprised this afternoon when I 108 heard the claim being put forward on behalf of the Government that the Government's proposals are "following in line of the British North America Act." In the case of Canada where there were only two different races and only two religious divisions, incidentally both of them Christian, provincial autonomy was given to two provinces only in the year 1846, and these two provinces were not federated until as much as 21 years later. That is not exactly what the Government propose for India, for in India it is proposed to establish units and to federate them at one and the same time. The Act of 1867 which established Federation in the Dominion of Canada, brought together only four provinces, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. That is roughtly one-third of the Dominion of Canada as we know it to-day. But the Simon Report pointed out as a striking fact that even to-day Canadian Federation as contemplated in the Act of 1867 is not yet complete, because, as we all know, Newfoundland has never entered the Dominion of Canada.
Even in Australia, where you have a single people, grave difficulties have arisen owing to Federation. Already the people of Western Australia have expressed their desire, by means of the referendum which was taken in conjunction with the general elections only last year, to secede, not from the Empire but from the Federal Commonwealth. I submit that a mistake would be made if we assumed that Western Australia alone, on account of difficulties owing solely to the existence of federation, desired to become a distinct self-governing community within the British Empire. That feeling has been voiced in South Australia, in Tasmania, and I believe in Victoria as well. But if grave doubts exist to-day as to the satisfactory working of federation in Australia, where after all the people are homogeneous, how can anyone seriously entertain the notion that federation will work in India, which is divided and sub-divided by differences of race, language, religion, caste, history, tradition, circumstances, marriage laws and customs?
In this connection it is interesting to note that one of the greatest living Constitutional lawyers in this country has commented that the startling fact about these White Paper proposals is that for the first time Parliament is invited to 109 bestow not only legislative authority but self-government on a gigantic collection of units on the express assumption that self-government will be abused, and therefore Parliament is invited to provide safeguards against such abuses. Surely it is not a little strange that under these conditions we should be required to express confidence in these devices, called safeguards, when their very existence exposes the Government's own lack of confidence in their own policy. If the Government had any faith in their own policy there would be no safeguards.
§ Mr. DONNER
Certainly, they are. We are told that the Majority report bristles with Safeguards. Of course it does. For all the world they are like Belisha beacons, and just about as ineffectual. It is a very remarkable situation. I was interested to find an article in a contemporary newspaper, ostensibly on wheat, but unconsciously it describes the position as it is to-day in Parliament and in relation to the future of India. I should like to read two or three sentences but must apologise for the exceedingly unparliamentary language which is employed:In primitive countries when anything goes wrong with the crops the witch doctor is called and there is a grand public smelling out.Obviously, in this case by the witch doctor the Secretary of State is intended, and the great public smelling out is this Debate. The next sentence is more illuminating, because it is apparently written by someone who sees the situation through the eyes of the Government:Some harmless old man is declared to be the cause of all the trouble,clearly by this is meant my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill),and if the medicine man is lucky prosperity returns after the accused has been bumped off.The last sentence contains a solemn warning to the Government:If, however, the practitioner has been wrong in his diagnosis, things may become very uncomfortable for him.I should like to submit that my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping is not the cause of all the trouble, but that 110 rather the cause of all the trouble is the principle underlying these reforms and the fundamental laxity, speciousness and sophistry of the Government's proposals regarding the future Constitution of India. The Majority report is now before us, and I submit that this is not self-government, it is not democracy, it is not even government on Oriental lines, and has none of the advantages which automatically accrue to any of these three systems of government. It is neither one thing nor the other. It is neither consomme nor asparagus cream but it is a nondescript pottage with the Safeguards like lumps slowly dissolving in the liquid. Of course the reforms may work for one year or two years or even three years. But after that with the steel framework of the British element gradually decreasing as the process of Indianisation continues so the Safeguards will gradually melt away and there will be nothing left between Congress and their avowed aims.
It has been said that the Government's proposals envisage 11 provincial dictators and one super-dictator to control them. Some people take the view that there will be a super-super-dictator in the shape of the financial adviser to the Viceroy. Certainly he will no longer be under the control of the British Parliament. It follows that in proportion to the degree that the Viceroy is not a financial expert, so correspondingly will the power and influence of the financial adviser increase. In practice, therefore, since it is unlikely that a future Viceroy, apart from all his other administrative qualities, will be an outstanding financial expert, this financial adviser may well prove to be the real ruler of India. The financial adviser is to be appointed by the Viceroy after consultation with his Cabinet. Already demands have been put forward that the adviser should be a member of the Central Legislature. Under those conditions it is not unlikely, indeed, it is probable that in the not too distant future the adviser will be a Hindu of the moneylending or financial castes. What an opportunity for Congress to quarrel with him, or, better still, to get him completely under their thumb! It is no use brushing aside such ideas as these as mere hypothetical possibilities. It is our business in this House as trustees for the welfare, safety and contentment of the peoples of India to visualise the probable 111 consequences of what the Government now proposes to do.
Much has been said about the weakness of the Centre. I do not share the view that it is so very weak. At any rate, it has shown itself capable of firm administration and the restoration of law and order, but even if it is weak, how much weaker will it not be if power is transferred at the Centre? Consider the position then. First of all, it will not have the British Parliament behind it. Secondly, it will not have the invaluable British element in the services. Thirdly, the Cabinet will consist of Hindus, Mohammedans and the Princes' representatives all tugging and pulling in different directions, with contrary aims and conflicting interests. Consider the effect on defence. I cannot develop that point because I do not wish to inflict myself too long upon the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on!"] I think enough is as good as a feast. I would only point out that in the North-West Provinces, Provinces north of Delhi stretching away to Peshawar and Quetta, there are 50,000,000 people with a great Moslem majority. Suppose one day they were to refuse to comply with the laws emanating from Delhi? Suppose they came to feel like the people of Western Australia, that they would prefer to secede, not from the Empire but from the All-India Federation. Are we so certain that this New Delhi, this centre of unprecedented weakness, would be able to deal with far less grave contingencies and emergencies than this?
It has been shown by men of long administrative experience in India and I will quote their very words that a Central Federal Legislature will be both an irresponsible and a divided body; irresponsible because Congress can introduce or will attempt to introduce unconstitutional illegal and even frivolous measures in the sure and certain knowledge that by so doing they will compel the Governor-General to intervene and so shift responsibility from themselves, while all the time increasing their popularity with an electorate which will learn more and more to regard the British element as an impotent and discredited relic of a decayed administration still striving to act as an obstacle in India's march towards a home-made Utopia. It follows and I commend this to the notice of the House 112 with all the earnestness at my command, that the hatred and contempt in which Great Britain will then be held will be on a scale hitherto unknown.
The Central Assembly, I said, will be a divided one. It will be divided because its members will be both nominated and elected while sub-divisions of a racial and religious character will tend to multiply the major divisions. Congress in the meantime is certain to introduce grandiose and extravagant schemes under the dubious plea that they are essential nation-building services and will agitate for a reduction in the large but vital defence estimates. Let us consider the position of the Princes in this proposed federation. First, they will nominate their representatives whereas the representatives from the Provinces will be elected by largly illiterate voters, in other words demagogue fodder. Secondly the Princes will not give up either their land or sea customs which will create a situation opposed to the very fundamentals of the federal conception. Thirdly, the Princes have made it plain that they will refuse to allow the Federal Government to apply direct taxation to their States.
Fourthly, the degree of sovereignty which the Princes will be required to surrender varies considerably and yet their nominated representatives will have equal status as betwen each other and as regards the elected members from the Provinces. Yet the British India Provinces are not now in a position to contract their share of obligations nor, what is more, do they wish to do so. As the Simon Report observes the Provinces are simply administrative areas and in no sense are they either autonomous or mutually independent. It follows, therefore, that the Provinces to-day have nothing to offer. They are to receive much and concede nothing whereas the Princes are to concede much and receive little, apparently save interference. Fifthly, the Princes will not accept Federal laws nor allow them to be applied in their own States except at their own discretion and even then by their own machinery. Can anomaly and contradiction go further? If many Princes entertain grave misgivings as to these proposals to-day we have at least a sufficient galaxy of facts to prepare us for such a development. To reassure us the Government tell us that if the Princes 113 will only come in they will supply a stabilising element in the Central Assembly. How can they supply anything of the sort when they will be in a permanent and fixed minority?
I believe that the truth of the situation is unpleasant to say but the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) has most ably drawn attention to it. I believe that the truth is that the Government have not the courage to stand up to the British India politicians, to this noisy, unrepresentative, clamouring minority. Therefore, they are now manoeuvring the Princes into a position in which they will be required to pick our chestnuts out of the fire because we lack the courage to do so ourselves. The only answer we have yet had from the Government in this respect is, "We must proceed with the reforms boldly," and then with a catch in the throat, "We must go on with the reforms courageously." But it is not courage of a very high order that is required, since we are going forward with the reforms at somebody else's expense. We are not going on with the reforms at the expense of His Majesty's Ministers. Oh, no, we are going forward with the reforms at the expense of the peasants, of the inarticulate folk, the illiterate, voteless, helpless millions in India. And it is they who will be the victims when this crazy edifice of hamstrung dictatorships topples to the ground.
§ 7.55 p.m.
I should have been much more influenced by the cogent remarks of the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) had I not read with great care the first volume of the Joint Committee's report, in which nearly all the arguments raised by him are faced and answered. While as a Conservative I should naturally be influenced by the remarks of the Noble Lord, the weight of authority behind the Joint Committee is such as to incline me to think that the balance of opinion is in their favour. I do not believe that Congress will get or can get a majority at the Centre under the Government's proposals. It is possible that Congress may get majorities in certain Provinces, but immediately they get into power in a Province I believe that they will split up, as other parties have done in other Parliaments, on a variety of issues. 114 After all, both my remarks and those of the Noble Lord on this subject must be hypothetical but if what I have suggested turns out or not to be the case, I cannot see why any party in the provincial legislatures or at the Centre should wish to pursue a policy which would inevitably mean ruin and chaos in India.
Although the differences between the majority and minority reports are clearly defined and have been well advertised, it is a remarkable fact that over such a wide field there is general agreement. A generation ago it would have been considered almost impossible to bring into operation in India full Provincial Autonomy. It is in the field of Provincial Autonomy that the Indians will prove themselves. It is to the Provincial Legislature that the best brains of India will be directed and it is those local legislatures which will have the power to control the lives of the masses of the peasants in India. It is not always realised that already in many Provinces half of the administrative areas are administered by Indians themselves and in certain seasons of the year the figure is even higher.
Various arguments have been used both inside and outside the House against the policy of advance and constitutional reform in India. First it is said that democratic government in India is an anomaly. That may be true. It is equally true that the Princes are an anomaly in India to-day. The politicians and the Princes are equally anomalous and we alone are responsible for both of them. We have nurtured and cultivated in British India both the democratic idea and the politician, while it is almost entirely due to our influence that both have been excluded from the States of the Princes. Any scheme which can bring together these two divergent elements must, of necessity, be original, bold and open to considerable criticism.
Then the question arises: Could we have done anything else? Could we have pursued a different policy? I believe not. I believe our traditions and our national characteristics would have prevented us, over the course of the last century, pursuing any other policy than that which we have done.. Even if one party had changed that policy, then, immediately the Opposition had come into 115 power, they would have continued it. It is over a century since Sir Thomas Munro used these words:The cardinal point of our rule must be to enable the Indians to govern and protect themselves.From those days till to-day our policy has been consistent and deliberate, namely, to continue to educate the Indians to take a greater share in the government of their own country. It is true that the present century has accelerated the pace, but India is not the only country in the world, during this century, in which the democratic idea and the desire and the urge for self-government or a change of government have been prominent. There has been a whole series of events which have altered the circumstances in India during the past generation. There was the victory of the Japanese over the Russians. That was the first time that the East believed that they were not only the equals but perhaps in some ways the superior of the West. Again, there were the Nationalist movements in China and Japan, there was the War, there were the Chelmsford-Montagu reforms. Then there were constant Imperial Conferences, in which great stress was laid upon the independence of the Dominions, and each time it was put forward the Indians asked themselves, "Why are we different from the other Dominions?"
Finally, there was the ideal of self-determination, which was regarded as one of the fruits of victory in the Great War. The Press and the cinema spread these ideas throughout India. It is difficult to allocate how much influence any one of these particular events may have had, but that which without doubt had the greatest influence of all was our "teaching." For years now we have turned out of the universities in India thousands of students educated on all the Liberal writers of the last century—Locke, Bentham, Mills, Macaulay. We have taught them that it is the duty of any self-respecting people to govern themselves. We have made them self-conscious about self-government, and we can hardly turn round now and say we are afraid that all this teaching was only applicable to ourselves, not to them. I think it is quite possible to say that we have spent too much money on secondary education and that in India, as in other 116 parts of the world, there are too many University students to-day, with or without degrees, for whom there is no occupation or job in their own country.
Another argument that has been raised to-day is that it is only a very small section of the community who are asking for these reforms. That may be true in point of numbers, but actually they represent the only elements which are politically conscious, the only elements that can put into operation any reforms which we may give them. It is, I think, easy to over-estimate the simplicity and the ignorance of the villagers. It has been shown in the last few years that a united party like the Congress party can put over, with very great success, propaganda among the villagers. Then it is said that the majority of politicians appear to be against these reforms. I should have thought they were very poor politicians indeed and had learned their lessons from us very badly if they were satisfied at the start with what we had to offer them. Because they criticise and condemn these proposals now, it does not mean that the majority will not be prepared to give them a fair trial. After all, if they do not, and if no body of opinion in India is prepared to work these reforms, naturally the whole scheme will have to be altered.
Again, it is said that religious intolerance, corruption, nepotism will make any effective responsible self-government impossible. It would be idle to deny that these characteristics exist in India, but I think it may also be remarked that they are not conspicuous by their absence in certain other democracies, both on this side and on the other side of the Atlantic; and to-day we are introducing a new element which will, I think, tend to check these abuses. In all the various local Parliaments we are setting up, not only an Indian Government, but an Indian Opposition as well. That Opposition trained in the experience and by the example of Oppositions in this country, will be only too anxious, as indeed Oppositions are in this country, to catch the Government out, to prove that they have done wrong, and to show that they have used partisan or political methods in their appointments, and they will be just as anxious to step into the shoes of the Government in India as Oppositions in this country are to do 117 the same here. After all, as regards religious intolerance, it is only just over a century since we refused either a Jew or a Catholic the right to sit in this House, and although religious intolerance dies hard, it dies hard whether it be in Ireland, Spain, the United States of America, or India.
But whatever may be the force of these arguments—and, as I say, it would be foolish and idle to deny it—it seems to me that they are not sufficient to warrant our rejecting these proposals. They are all set out fully and elaborately in the Simon Statutory Commission's Report, and after due consideration they came to the conclusion that provincial autonomy should be established. Perhaps one of the reasons which finally convinced me that the Government scheme was a moderate and reasonable scheme was that, on the one hand, you had the extremists in this country saying: "We are giving away India, we are abdicating our rule," and, on the other, you had the majority of politicians in India, as you have today, explaining that these reforms really meant nothing and that the strong, firm hand of England would still be firmly placed upon India. If the case for some reform, some advance, has been made out, I believe we are right to go boldly ahead and to take risks. There were some words of Lord Curzon which explain exactly what I mean. He was referring to some other proposals which had gone somewhat beyond what was originally intended, and he said that while recognising that the proposals would not only solve a difficulty, but create a precedent, he urged that no solution would ever be attained by half measures. He continued:If we are to advance it must be a large advance in the direction, not merely of cooperation, but of trust.As I say, if the case for reform has been made out, I for one am prepared to leave the details of that reform to those who, in my opinion, are best able to decide upon them, and I believe the judgment of the Joint Committee has received and will continue to receive overwhelming support, both because of the knowledge and of the experience of those who were willing and good enough to sit upon it.
There is one small point of detail that I should like to raise. We know that under these reforms Burma is to be separated from India, and Aden is to come 118 under the control of the Colonial Office. As far as I know, there is nothing in the report which deals with the position in the Persian Gulf. To-day our policy in the Persian Gulf is controlled by three or four Departments in this country, and partly by the Indian Government as well, and it seems to me that here is an opportunity to clear up this matter. The Protectorate of Aden stretches to the Persian Gulf, and Muscat, Bahrein, Kuweit, and Bushire raise matters of immediate concern to Persia and to Iraq which are dealt with by the Foreign Office. To-day the appointment of officials is carred out by the political department of the Government of India, and there have been several very serious mistakes which we have made in the Persian Gulf during the past few years. I think those mistakes have been due largely to the divided control under which our policy in the Persian Gulf is directed. Now seems to me to be the time to clear up that situation.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I think my hon. and gallant Friend has overlooked the fact that we recommended in our report that Aden should be taken out of the purview of the Government of India and put under the Imperial Government, and that would leave the Gulf residents still under the Indian Office, under whom they ought to be.
I did say that Aden was to come under the control of the Colonial Office, but there are many thousands of miles between Aden and the Gulf, although the Protectorate reaches nearly to the Gulf. I am talking of the Northern end of the Gulf—of Bahrein, Kuweit, and Bushire. I was there only a few months ago, and I was told of several very glaring cases where lack of general control had adversely affected British interests.
So much has already been said, and will be said again, with regard to provincial autonomy and federation at the Centre, that I have only the very shortest remarks to make about them. I do believe that it would be fatal to give provincial autonomy without law and order and equally fatal and give provincial autonomy without federation at the Centre. This was an opinion which was voiced to me universally in India, though others may have had a different experience. To keep 119 the police under a Minister appointed by the Government would be to create the maximum amount of ill-will and to focus on the policeman the whole of the anti-foreign sentiment in India. The police must be ineffective unless they carry with them the goodwill of the majority of the inhabitants. Indian home members have already shown that they can deal effectively with precarious situations, I admit, under slightly different conditions than are proposed here, but still it has been shown that men are there with independence, judgment, and character. I think it may sometimes be very much easier for an Indian in certain circumstances to deal with his own people without incurring the odium which must necessarily fall on a Britisher in similar circumstances. I believe also that in certain provinces, such as Bengal, where opinion is more or less equally divided between Mohammedans and Hindus, it is likely that a European will be chosen as home member with the full consent of his colleagues in the Cabinet.
One word only as to the Centre. It is true that you are doing something in India that is contrary to all precedent. You are taking powers from a unitary Government and giving them to the provinces, whereas in all other federations, such as Australia, Canada, South Africa, and the United States of America, it was only with the greatest difficulty that the various provinces or states were induced to yield up their powers to the federal centre. Here we are doing exactly the opposite. Therefore, it seems to me that unless you can establish some form of federation at the Centre, within a reasonable time and without too much delay, the provinces are very likely to lose all interest in the Centre, and it may not be long before you get a province like Madras wishing to secede from the federation, which would be fatal, not only in the interests of India, but really in the interests of the provinces themselves.
The proposals of the Government have obvious drawbacks. We have heard something about them, and we shall hear more of them in the future. But nothing better has been proposed. The Council of Greater India would leave the position very much as it is to-day. There is very little favour for that solution in this country and absolutely none in India. 120 It is impossible to exaggerate the influence of bringing in the Princes. It will strengthen the link between this country and India and will add a stabilising factor in politics. It will also add to the influence of the rural interests in India, because the States are largely rural, whereas the Provinces are largely industrial. It would be impossible to get the independent Provinces to work with a Centre which they believe is largely controlled by Whitehall. I have heard eloquent speeches from my right hon. Friend who sits below me in regard to the Princes, but I venture to say that the administration in many of the territories of the Princes is not only equal to, but better than, that in many parts of British India. There is an idea that they are behind in education, but the budget of Travancore, for instance, shows that 16 per cent. of the revenues is spent on education alone. There is a higher degree of literacy in most of the bigger States than in British India itself, and I believe that they may contribute something really worth while in social legislation by coming into the Centre.
After all, the Centre must look to the Provinces to carry out its decrees. I wish the Chambers had been smaller. I think the large numbers merely invite difficulties. A wrong impression has I maintain been given of much of the work with which the Centre will be occupied. It is true that they can debate the reserved subjects. They can debate finance, but finance is already largely allocated to the Army, the Provinces, interest on loans, etc. Social legislation is almost entirely a matter for the Provinces. They are left with the railways and posts and telegraphs, which should be non-political. Currency and finance will largely be the business of the Federal Reserve Bank. There are, it is true, 64 Federal items in one of the appendices to the report, and, added to that there is the list of concurrent legislation, yet it does not seem to me that there is much that need necessarily cause differences and difficulties between the Governor-General and his Ministers.
If these arguments are not sufficient, there is one other, and it is, I think, the answer to the speeches of the opponents of this Measure. What alternative proposals have the slightest chance of being accepted by any body of political opinion in India? They may argue that the 121 Indian politicians do not like these proposals, but do they like the proposals of our opponents any better? We have to work with the political bodies that are there, for we cannot create new ones. The truth is there are no alternative proposals that are acceptable to any appreciable body of opinion in India to-day. It is well to emphasise the fact that this steel framework of British civilians about which we have often heard will still be there. Under the proposals no member of the All-India services can be transferred or dismissed without the consent and the knowledge of the Governor, who is appointed by the Crown. Civil Service commissioners are to be set up in most of the Provinces. They are to operate in all Provinces, although one commission may do the work in two Provinces. If these commissions work, as one already in being does in Madras today, it will ensure that the Governor and the public are informed each year of what is taking place in regard to the recruitment and postings of officers.
Many people in India assured me that as a result of these proposals there will be in many organisations, such as schools, universities and hospitals, an increased demand for Englishmen to occupy posts of responsibility, because there is all the difference in the world, from the Indian point of view, between having somebody imposed upon you by Whitehall and appointing the best man for the job yourself. The future alone can tell whether that will come about. There are also various social reforms which I believe the Indians alone can solve. We have studiously avoided interfering, I think, to too great an extent with the religious customs, the domestic habits, or the social traditions and conventions of Indians. I am certain that by doing something in these matters a greater benefit will be conferred on the lives of the individual peasants than by any number of White Papers or constitutional reforms. We are precluded by promise after promise from interfering in these matters, and it will be largely due, if and when these reforms come, to the influence of women in Indian politics.
It is obvious that any fundamental change in the Indian Constitution must be attended by grave risks. We have to find that change and reform which will receive not only some measure of Indian 122 support but at the same time ensure law and order. These reforms are the very maximum which England can offer and the very minimum, which India is prepared to accept. What is the alternative? If we draw back and refuse to continue, then a policy of coercion and oppression is bound to ensue. I do not believe that such a policy can be carried out, opposed as it would be in this country by the Socialist and Liberal parties and by a large proportion of the Conservative party. The only chance or imposing upon India a constitution which she is not willing to work is, first of all, to establish a Fascist regime in this country. If we refuse, and even if we still believe that force can be a permanent substitute for Parliamentary progress, we gravely misjudge the efficacy of that force to compel compliance in India or the assent to its use in this country. When constitutional advances have been made, as they were made in Canada and South Africa, the gloomiest predictions have always heralded them in; it was said that they would produce chaos and break up the Empire. I believe that the pessimistic prophecies that we hear to-day will be equally untrue in regard to India as they were in regard to the other Dominions.
Analogies are dangerous. We have heard many analogies, but we have often heard them drawn between India and Ireland. The true analogy is not what happened in Ireland after the War, but what ought to have been done in regard to Ireland in the 'eighties. There was a time then when men of the Conservative and Liberal parties and many people in Ireland were prepared to come to some agreement which would have been infinitely better and more honourable for all parties concerned than the ignominious surrender which we were driven to accept a few years after the War. We have to-day in India a greater measure of good will than at any time since the War, or perhaps at any time. We should capitalise this and we should, as the Secretary of State said, move forward when we are strong. No one would deny that we are strong in India to-day or that the Government in this country has a prestige which no other Government has had for generations. I admit that those who oppose these reforms are opposing them for the same reason as we support them. They 123 believe that by opposing them they will help to have India. We believe that by supporting them we are advocating the only policy which will keep India a contented member of the British Commonwealth of nations. It may well be that a generation hence, when this country and the British Empire are once again setting the world an example of how not only to overcome their economic difficulties but also to maintain democratic government, the chief factor in and the most important contribution to that condition of affairs will be a contented India and the close relationship and loyalty between our two countries. I believe that in supporting these proposals we are laying the foundations for the establishment of ordered peace and prosperity in the Indian Empire.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. RAIKES
I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet), remembering as I did how great were his doubts a year ago about the Indian situation. I listened with interest to discover what it was that taught him so suddenly that this Measure is about the most perfect that it is possible for anyone to conceive. I wondered whether it was that visit to India, so swift, but not too swift to allow him to produce something of a book afterwards, or what it was; but we have learned. The hon. and gallant Member has told us that what has most affected his mind has been the fact that certain extremists in England have protested against the reforms and that certain persons among the Indians in India have also clamoured against them. He need not have gone to India to change his opinion if that is the sort of thing that moves him. It would be just about as reasonable a course for forming an opinion on a great matter like this if I were to say that I was opposed to these reforms because, for some reason, I objected to the fact that the Lord President of the Council lived in Worcestershire and liked pigs. That has just about as much to do with the matter as the hon. and gallant Member's vague feelings about what certain persons of the right and certain persons in India may feel on this matter. As to my hon. and gallant Friend's last point, he stands 124 up and says, "Oh, there is no need for us to trouble because certain politicians in India are protesting overmuch. They would have been poor politicians if they had not learned from us to protest and try to get something more." Is that the hon. and gallant Member's idea of political sincerity, that we should welcome the attitude of those out in India who are protesting because they hope to get something more? Does he not believe the scheme he supports is a good scheme and that every honest politician in India ought to welcome it and not play popular tricks which, he suggests, have been learned from us?
That is a perfectly legitimate criticism, but the hon. Gentleman has taken the one final point I made and which I regard as quite insignificant in comparison with the other half-dozen points on which I laid stress at the start.
§ Mr. RAIKES
I will accept the hon. and gallant Member's explanation, but he did state, as he will find in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow, that the thing which had most affected his mind was the fact that certain persons on the right wing in England objected to the scheme and that there were certain extremists in India who did likewise. I leave it at that. There is one thing and one thing alone by which, to my mind, the report of the Joint Select Committee should be judged, and that is the question, Will the result of that report conduce to the welfare of the masses of India, or will it not? The greatest pledge by which we in this country are governed is the pledge of Queen Victoria that the welfare of the masses of India should be the chief and the first though of Government. I was astounded by one thing this afternoon. I listened with interest to the lucid speech which the Secretary of State delivered to us, but I did not note a single phrase in it which urged the adoption of the report on the grounds that it was something which would be of assistance to the Indian people themselves. I wonder whether a Measure of such magnitude dealing with any part of the British Empire has ever been brought before this House without the argument being put forward, and made the main argument of the right hon. Gentleman introducing the Measure, that it was for the welfare of the masses of the people in the country concerned? Under the 125 preamble of the 1919 Act it was laid down that the reforms which we were engaged upon should be either modified or extended in the future by Parliament. The Government to-day propose in no way to modify or to restrict, but to extend very largely; to give complete provincial autonomy and to extend a very great measure of authority at the Centre.
It is our duty in this House to consider how the 1919 reforms themselves have worked in two particulars—how have they affected the welfare of the masses, the peasantry of India, and how have the transferred Departments worked. Fifteen years is a period in which much information can be gathered. It is common knowledge that up to 1919 the main object, or one of the main objects, of government had been to keep up and to improve the prosperity of the peasantry, who have always been regarded as the economic backbone of India. They are the people who have to bear practically the whole brunt of taxation, and they constitute a huge majority of the peoples of India. The peasantry pay, of course, the whole of the land taxes and the greater part of the revenue derived from irrigation and from salt. There are practically no great farmers in India, the average holding being between 6 and 12 acres, and the peasantry, who are a body of smallholders, find well over half, and probably three-quarters, of the money for the provincial and central budgets. That is the class which has to pay for any additional so-called popular reforms. Only 7 per cent. of the whole of the budgets in India comes from Income Tax, because only a very small proportion of the people of India pay Income Tax.
Any reforms must be paid for by the peasant, who has already had a little sample of so-called representative government on the lines of the 1919 Act. The first dose of it was when the duty on imported cloth was raised from 5 per cent. to 30 per cent. after a considerable campaign by the Bombay millowners, and at the instigation of these new representatives of his who had been brought into office through the 1919 reforms. One thing is certain, that the new class who have been brought into a position of authority since 1919 are not a class who have anything to do with the land. They are an urban class, very largely taught and instructed in the colleges and universities set up in India in the last 126 30 or 40 years. They are an urban class, who have to depend for taxation upon the agricultural class, with whom they have nothing in common. The first step was to increase the duty on foreign cloth from 5 per cent. to 30 per cent. That not only struck a heavy blow at the trade of Lancashire, but, beyond that, deprived large masses of the peasantry of one of their few little luxuries, the foreign cloth which they preferred to the rather rougher stuff which otherwise they were compelled to buy.
The hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham referred to the question of education, and suggested that we had spent rather more on secondary education than we should have done. The money spent on education since it was transferred has gone up continuously in the last 15 years, not to provide better education for the peasants, but secondary schools, colleges and universities into which the peasants never have a chance to go. It is widely admitted that that is so in many instances, and no doubt the observation was brought before the Joint Select Committee that education has deteriorated in the villages. Turn to the medical services. In almost every district of India criticisms are met not only as to the amount of money spent upon outworn and archaic Indian systems of medicine by the gentlemen who have taken charge, but that grants are made to the hospitals and colleges to provide those outworn systems of medicine, which are simply producing the things which would have died out if Indian politicians had not debilitated things. The peasant has to pay for that. It is also generally admitted that political wire-pulling is not unknown in the medical services since transfer. I put it no higher than that.
The cultivator has no representation, and there is no indication that he will have it as a result of these reforms. There is no opportunity for democracy to exist under the reforms, because communal representation makes free representation upon Western lines an impossibility from the start. The cultivator will be brought more and more under the control of the lawyers, moneylenders and rack-renting landlords of the towns, who will cluster hopefully round him for the spoils. The masses have higher taxation and the Indian peasant 127 is poorer to-day than he has been for a good many years. His interests are being sacrificed to the urban interests. He is only being sacrified in part to-day, but he will be sacrificed more as a result of these reforms. There is a typical example in Russia of agriculture being sacrificed to urban interests. A comparatively small proportion of the people in the towns work agriculture in their own interests, and they work the peasants also. We are going in the same direction in India. The urban interest has nothing whatever in common with the men and women who work in the fields and who have made India greater and richer.
I am only an uninfluential backbencher, but I am raising these matters in regard to the Indian peasantry who went out in the largest numbers to fight for this country during the War. We are often told that these sacrifices are being asked for by India because of what India did in the War. What we are doing is to give the urban politician the fruits of that for which the peasant died. The peasant gets nothing except more taxation. All reforms cost taxation, and in India the peasant pays all the time. Many men on the spot admit, though they say that these reforms are inevitable, that they wish that there never had been a 1919; but they say that we cannot go back now. That is the main argument in favour of the proposals; we cannot go back, so, because we have once started that way, we have to go on, either at a fast or a slow pace in the direction of pseudo democracy, which is oligarchy, even if it means sacrificing the poor in order, on paper, to keep India within the British Empire. That is the position which we have to face, and it appears to me a rather hopeless outlook. Almost every official deplores the 1919 reforms, yet we are simply going in the same direction because, apparently, we have not sufficient wit or wisdom to consider changing into any other direction slightly more suitable to the genius of the Indian people.
The House may realise that I am not enthusiastic for the so-called Provincial Autonomy. I do not think it will work, but it is worth while to make one last great effort to try out the Indian poli- 128 ticians in the wider sphere. Some Ministers have done their jobs well in the last 15 years, but some have not, and there has been deterioration. You can give those politicians a wider scope in the Provinces, and, if that were a success, those of us who are opposing the reforms would admit that we had in a sense been mistaken, and we would welcome the taking of a further step later on. If it were not successful, and I do not believe it would be, one would be able to consider the alternative, and to face the fact that we have been going in a wrong direction since 1919 and that we have to turn into a different direction. What has impressed me most has been the statement made by a very influential Member of the Government the other day that Provincial Autonomy cannot possibly work, because if you try it out Indian statesmen will be so anxious to get more power at the Centre that they will neglect dealing with provincial questions. If that be the sort of statesman that you are putting into power in India, God help India.
I am not an expert on India, but I believe that if the scheme breaks down Federation would still be possible, and I and some of my hon. Friends believe that the only Federation that could exist is one built upon inherited responsibility. It would include the European bloc, to keep alive the fact, which we sometimes forget, that the English are partners in India and ought to have some of the benefits of partnership. It ought to be possible to bring in nominated representation for the zamindar class, the landed interests in India. Although in many cases they are not so close to the smallholder as we should wish, they represent land. Small class though they are, they are far more representative of India than the elective representatives of the towns. You might in that way, through the landed classes, keep India as a country in which agriculture and the peasant would still remain. At the present time, however, we are drifting towards further and further strength for the urban element, and further and further degradation for the peasant. Believing, as I do, that our duty is still to the poor of India, that our duty is still to the masses of India, is still to that great agricultural interest, I feel bound, uninfluential and unimpressive 129 though I may be, to lift my voice, and later on give my vote, against these proposals.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Miss HORSBRUGH
Listening to the speech of the hon. Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes), I have found myself more and more in sympathy with the view of the hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet) that absolutely no other plan is being put forward in this House. The hon. Member said, towards the end of his speech, that he was not an expert on India, and was only raising his voice against the proposals of the Government. I also am not an expert on India, and I desire to raise my voice also, but in support of the proposals of the Government. After the hon. Member had said so much about the difficulties of the position, I was surprised to hear him say that he would like-to see some other form of election, in which, perhaps, the zemindar would take precedence. I confess to only having been in India once, for eight months, but I cannot think that anybody who knows India at all would think that the zemindars are the people to represent the peasants. To my mind, that is a very surprising suggestion.
The hon. Member, in dwelling upon the difficulties of the present regime, said over and over again that the weight of the urban areas has been crushing out the rural areas. I take it for granted that the hon. Member has read the report which we are all discussing, but I would ask him to look once more at page 70, for I am sure it will rejoice his heart to know that, at any rate in one particular, he is supporting the view of the report. We find in paragraph 127 these words:The proposals will, in the case of most Provinces, redress the balance between town and country, which is at the present time too heavily weighted in favour of urban areas.The members of the Joint Select Commitee, as well as the hon. Member for South-East Essex, have realised that the present situation is far too heavily weighted in favour of the town area as against the rural area, and it is because of that that the change is being made.
§ Miss HORSBRUGH
If my hon. Friend will look at the report, instead of asking me how I propose to do it, he 130 will see that the Joint Select Committee suggest that it should be done by means of the franchise, as set out on page 70 of the report. I should be keeping the House too long if I read the whole of that part of the report, but no doubt my hon. Friend has overlooked it, and will now study it, with the result that he will be glad that at any rate in that particular he can agree with those who are in favour of the reforms.
The speech of the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Donner)—which was certainly short, but as he said, enough was as good as a feast—was to my mind the gloomiest speech that he could possibly have made on this subject. He was not in favour of Indian Federation of any kind. As regards provincial autonomy, he spoke, as other Members have spoken, of the difficulty that Congress might get a hold. He remarked upon the difficulties that would be found if autonomy were set up in the provinces, and the enormous danger which he saw in it. In this I think the hon. Member for South-East Essex agreed, and, therefore, he had no suggestion to make with regard to it—he thought that the whole thing was hopeless. I agree with what the hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham said on the subject of the police, namely, that, if the police were kept as a service by themselves, they would be, as many people in India have said, a taboo service, which would bring down suspicion upon them, and probably still greater difficulties would be put in their way in doing their work.
In studying the report, I suggest that we have to look at the actual advantages which such a scheme as is suggested would bring about. The Simon Commission stated that in their view the most formidable evils from which India is suffering have their roots in social and economic customs of long standing, which can only be altered by the action of the Indian people themselves. I should like to speak particularly on the subject of the social improvements proposed. In the report of the Joint Select Committee, as in that of the Statutory Commission, great emphasis is laid on what the Indians themselves, and particularly the Indian women, can do to bring about these social reforms. By the very fact of the publication of the report, and by giving to the women of India the wider franchise which many of us hoped they would receive 131 when the Joint Select Committee had examined the White Paper, we have gone one step forward already towards the social reforms which every Member of this House must desire.
The House will recollect that, when the Lothian Committee went to India, they recommended very definitely an increase in the women's franchise. It was pointed out that the woman's qualification could not be justiy left the same as that of the man. In India a woman, in most cases, does not hold property, and in most cases the woman has not had the same advantages in education as the man. If they had been left with the same qualifications, I think the ratio would have worked out at about one to 21. The changes suggested by the Lothian Committee were that for women the educational standard should be literacy, and that the woman also should have, in certain cases, a qualification based on the property held by her husband. When we received the White Paper, many of us were disappointed on this subject, and I remember how that disappointment was voiced in this House by the late Mary Pickford, who told us then what an enormous difference this change would make to India. She pointed out that if in the case of women the higher educational standard were enforced, many Indian women who had been educated at home would not be enfranchised and there were other difficulties, such as the nature of the application that was to be put in in the case of the wife who was to be enfranchised on the basis of her husband's property qualification. I welcome the change proposed by the Joint Select Committee, which I think has gone far to reassure many people that social reforms in India will have a chance of being carried out. In paragraph 134 of the Joint Committee's Report they say:We concur in everything which has been said by the Statutory Commission on the necessity for improving the status and extending the influence of the women of India, and it is in our opinion impossible to exaggerate the importance of securing in the new Constitution a substantial increase of enfranchised women. 'The women's movement in India,' the Commission observe, 'holds the key of progress, and the results it may achieve are incalculably great. It is not too much to say that India cannot reach the position to which it aspires in the 132 world until its women play their due part as educated citizens.'The report of the Joint Select Committee proposes that more power should be given to women, and I think that under the proposals their voting strength will be very nearly, if not quite, up to that which was first suggested by the Lothian Committee. The very fact that women are to be given that part to play in the new Constitution shows how far we have gone, and how anxious we are for these reforms. There are certain other points, which, however, are Committee points and can be later disposed of. As the Simon Commission said, as regards reforming certain customs nobody from outside can do what the Indian people can do theselves. I believe that the women of India have moved so far forward already that, given a share in the rule of their country, we shall see changes which will make even the most gloomy here see some good points in this Constitution.
For some months up and down the country we have been told that this new Constitution will affect the trade of the country adversely. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] To-day we have heard not one word of it until the applause of my hon. Friend in front. To-day we have heard that the people who will be damaged are the Indians themselves, and we have heard a plea put in for the peasants and for the Princes, but we have not heard one plea for British trade, though up and down the country we have been told that it will be ruined. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is ruined already!"] If that be the present situation, do for goodness sake let us try something else. I particularly want to bring forward this subject, because I think nowhere is the trade of Great Britain and India linked up as it is in the city of Dundee. My hon. Friend says Lancashire. The difference is that our entire import of raw material for the jute trade must come from India. It was said in the past that there was always a Scotsman who went to India, and it was even suggested on some occasions that too many Scotsmen went to India. We have heard a good deal to-day about our wonderful rule in India. Probably that was due to the Scotsmen who went there. I have studied the question as carefully as I could, because of this fear of the result of this scheme on trade, and I have come to the 133 conclusion that, with the Safeguards now put into the report, it is amply clear that chances for even better trade are available.
It has been said over and over again that trade with any country can only come from good will. Some of the schemes that have been put up by hon. Members to-day would not have the slightest chance of bringing about any good will. It has been said also that the success of the machinery will depend entirely on a few people in charge, that regulations laid down are useless and that super-men will have to deal with them. This country, I think, has been able in the past to send out men to India who have been able to deal with these things. Sir John Macpherson, interim Governor-General in 1785, said much the same about Parliamentary regulations as we are saying to-day. "The real security of India depends on the broadest choice of men who are to rule her, rather than on any regulations that Parliament may lay down." Those who think that Parliament is laying down regulations which are not wise and those who think that we have not got men who will go out with good will to work the regulations are mistaken.
The trade of this country is being protected and the protection in most cases will be adequate, but there is one point on which I am a little doubtful. We have it clearly stated in the report that there will be no discrimination against British imports. We have it stated, too, that the ideal of trade for India is reciprocity. I should like it to be noted that those who are interested in the exports of India also hope sincerely that there will be no discrimination in the export duties. I notice that it is suggested in the report that the export duty on jute should be shared between the Province of Bengal and the Central Government. I presume that the Central Government have the power of fixing the amount of that export duty, and that no discrimination will be allowed, as in the case of the import duties and the tariff scheme. I believe that up and down the country there has been a great deal of fear as to the future of the great industry that has been built up between this country and India. During the Debates that are to come we should, if possible, bear in mind that we are looking after the interests both of the people in India and in Britain.
134 I believe the responsibility of Members of the House for the work that they have to do during this coming session is enormous. We all realise it. The work that we shall do on the subject of the Indian Constitution, the work that must be done on the subject of the maintenance of the peace of the world, and further measures for its continuance and the work of rebuilding the trade and industry of this country and of the homes of the people—the great social services cannot wait. It seems to me that, unless the Debates on the Bill that is to come before us are engaged upon with that spirit of good will which has been shown in the House to-day, and able minds are brought to bear on the subject with concentration and with that lack of animosity and ill-feeling which we feel should be shown in such an assembly as this, we shall delay social measures which are of very great importance to our country at present.
I believe that our work, falling as it does into those three distinct areas, is linked up, and, if we neglect one, we shall see disaster in all three. There must be criticism, and I beg that that criticism should be concentrated. There must be attacks, but need they be in torrents of oratory? Cannot they be delivered in tabloid form? Cannot we rise to the occasion, and to the great opportunity that we have at present of building up a new Constitution which is going to affect the welfare of millions of our fellow subjects in the Indian Empire, of helping on the trade of the country, and helping on peace and good will, at the same time not neglecting the social services? If we do that, we shall achieve here what all the world is longing to achieve, a Parliamentary system that really works.
We all realise the difficulty of our task. To some it would be easy to step aside and to say, "Hands off India, our responsibility is over." To my mind, that might be an easy path, but not an honourable one. We cannot desert India at the most difficult time of her political life—her political adolescence. We have to stand by and help. Others might say we dare not go back. The hon. Member who spoke last wishes to go back further than 1919. Many say, "We have not the courage, we doubt too much to go right on." They want to stop in mid stream, the most dangerous place we could possibly be in. I realise the importance of the step that we are going to take; it is 135 a leap but not a leap in the dark in the opinion of those best able to judge, who have been examining it year after year. We have to have courage and go forward. I support the Resolution. I wish God speed to those in responsible positions and those who are going to hold responsible positions in the future. I believe we can succeed but I know we may fail. I believe we are taking the right course, the best course and the courageous course. I am reminded of what was once said, that the tragic consequences are less when we trust and are deceived than when we mistrust and are mistaken.
§ 9.5 p.m.
Marquess of HARTINGTON
I will endeavour to follow the advice of the hon. Lady the Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) and compress my speech into tabloid form, although I confess that in many ways her speech offended somewhat in that regard. My Noble Friend the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) stated so clearly the point of view which I hold that I really need not detain the House, but I want to state briefly the great difficulty which I see about the future of these reforms. I do not know whether hon. Members opposite will object, but I believe it to be the fact that, in the last resort, all government depends on force which can only be effective in the presence and with the consent of the Government. The Spaniards could not stay in the Netherlands however much force they used, and equally no Government, however popularly elected, can carry on without the exercise of force. In the end the authority of the Government is the force which it commands backed up by the consent of the people. That is why the village constable is able to say: "Stop that now," and the people do so. The law is unquestioned in this country because it has so much force behind it. But in the new regime proposed in India the ultimate force on which government depends will be an alien force, and that is a situation which has rarely existed in the world's history. There are one or two examples. It is happening to-day in Manchuria, which we refuse to recognise. There was an attempt made in the ill-fated Empire of Mexico, and there are 136 other examples which occur to one's mind.
I believe that in this attempt to draft self-government you must increasingly become alien to our desires. If the experiment works, it seems to be inevitable that the Indian Parliament will more and more pursue a policy which is not our own policy. There are two civilisations. Theirs is a civilisation infinitely more ancient than our own and immensely more difficult. The most robust atheists among us, whether they like it or not, have deeply grafted into their minds Christian ethics which do not obtain in India at all. It appears to me that the Indian Parliament as time goes on will pursue a policy which will be different from that pursued by an English Parliament, and if the gift of self-government works they will proceed on lines which are not our own. They will not proceed on the lines we have tried to put before them but upon their own lines.
Our situation will become one of increasing difficulty. Either we shall not allow our Army to be used behind that Government or we shall, and in either case great difficulties will arise. In the one case we shall feel that we are doing something of which we thoroughly disapprove, and in the other case the Indian Government must collapse. For that reason the experiment of divorcing the Government from the force on which it ultimately rests is a risky and a dangerous experiment, and one which cannot succeed. Moreover, the moment you divorce the Government from the force on which it rests, you are really guilty of something like fraud. The two must be indissolubly one or they cannot succeed. You come to this inescapable dilemma. The Army in India must either be the servant or the master of the Government. Are we in England prepared to see, on the one hand, the Army as the servant of an Indian Government which is pursuing a policy which we may not approve: or, on the other hand to see the forces master of that Government? If so, the self-government of which we have talked this afternoon is a fraud and a sham.
There is an inescapable dilemma over safeguards. Safeguards are either effective or they are not. If they are effective, it is no good talking about self-government. We shall not have given it. We 137 shall have tried to fob off the Indians by fraud. If, on the other hand, they are not effective and what we have been saying this afternoon is true, we are giving something which we in this House ought not to be prepared to concede. For all those reasons we are dealing with a situation which is not really a true and a real one. We are dealing in figures and phrases of speech and not with real facts. Let us face facts. It is a fact that there are in India a very considerable number of educated Indians whose real object is to see us out of India altogether. It is no good refusing to face facts. They hate us like poison, and want to see us out of India. Unless we face facts we shall not get any further with this discussion. Will the self-government recommended in the report help these people or will it hinder them?
Consider what self-government really is. Suppose this is a genuine scheme of self-government, will the people in India who dislike the English rule, and want to see their country entirely independent of English interference, be satisfied, or can they be satisfied with what we propose to give them? I often wonder where authority really does begin. I go back to the days before I was a Member of Parliament, even before I was a candidate, to the time when I became a delegate to party conferences. I thought that I was getting on and that I should have some voice in the affairs of my party. I went to party conferences and found that I had no voice whatever. When I became a candidate for Parliament I really thought that I was getting on and that I should have some say in affairs, but not a bit of it. One becomes a back bench Member and finds that he has not the slightest influence on the course of affairs. I have for some years been friendly with members of the Government, and I have seen the mother of Parliaments spend weeks of Parliamentary time on Measures which every Member of the House greatly dislikes, such, for instance, as the Betting Act, which I honestly believe is not liked by any Member in the House. One reads the War Memoirs of the people who were really dictators during the War. One reads the Memoirs of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and finds that they were 138 very far from being dictators. They were unwilling slaves, and one wonders where authority really does reside, and whether, in fact, there is such a thing as self-government. I have long ago given up an hope of mentioning the privileges of self-government to ordinary electors in England. I doubt whether the ordinary Member of the House of Commons has any effective voice in self-government.
We are proposing to confer benefits of this kind upon the peoples of India. What will they actually get out of it? I think that they may in time realise that they are not getting so much freedom or liberty as they expected to get. At the same time they are, no doubt, keen on clamouring for it, because they believe it will make a substantial improvement in their conditions of living. Reference has been made this afternoon to the Salt Tax, and I should like the hon. and learned Gentleman who is to wind up the Debate to-night to say whether he really believes that any native or Indian peasant will get a remission or revision of the Salt Tax with regard to these proposals. Will it really be the case that anyone will get such a period of self-government as to be able to say that it will reconcile him to a remission or revision, or will he, as I believe to be the case, get a substantial increase? Who is going to get his money's worth out of these reforms?
The Indian politician, the man who will be elected to this new Parliament, will have it in his power to shuffle all the blame of anything that goes wrong on to our shoulders. It is impossible to hope that we shall have secured any substantial gain in good will. On the contrary, it is almost certain that there will be a substantial increase of ill-will. It is the case, unhappily, that there are a large number of people in India who are unfriendly to us. If my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping had been born at Benares instead of Blenheim, it is possible that he might have been a home ruler, and he might have been in gaol. I might possibly have been in the same position in similar circumstances. Can it really be urged by the Government that these reforms are going to secure a substantial increase in good will? I find it impossible to believe that a Measure which is going to cost money, which is not going to bring about any substantial improvement in conditions—I have never heard 139 that claimed for it—which is going to bring about no increase in good will, is going to reconcile the Indian, whether he be the simple voter outside or the Indian politician, to a condition of affairs in which he will certainly have to pay more taxation and will, as far as I can see, have little, if any, authority, because we in this country after all these years have not got it for ourselves.
My right hon. Friend made no reference to finance. I should like to ask a definite question on that subject. It is not denied that this scheme is going to cost appreciably more than the present system of government in India. How exactly is it going to be financed? What sources of revenue in India are untapped? Where is the money coming from? I have always found it prudent in dealing with architects or decorators to double their estimates, and I treble or quadruple the politician's estimates of cost. How is this scheme to be financed? How is the difficulty which arises over the representation of the Indian States going to be dealt with? You get into a very difficult situation when you have representatives of British India having no power to vote taxation for the States, while the States will have power to vote taxation for British India, on which in some cases they will, I understand, have quite substantial claims. How is that difficulty to be dealt with? I should like to know, also, how the difficulty about dissolution will be dealt with? Our whole Parliamentary system depends upon the power of dissolution. The Prime Minister who cannot carry on can advise the Sovereign to dissolve Parliament, and it is tolerably certain that in most cases a new Parliament having definite authority from the people will be returned. The system of franchise in India makes it unlikely that if a deadlock has been reached there will be any change whatever in the representation on a dissolution. That is a very serious constitutional difficulty which my right hon. Friend did not deal with in his speech to-day.
Another difficulty which seems to me a substantial one is that you have in the same House nominated and elected Members sitting side by side. I do not believe that that can possibly be regarded as a stable system. It is impossible. Admittedly, this is a transitional stage, 140 but I do not believe that you can maintain a Parliamentary system in which nominated Members sit side by side with the elected Members but cannot claim that they represent the popular franchise. You cannot maintain a system under which Members sitting together in Parliament represent an entirely unequal franchise. These are practical difficulties about the scheme which lead me to believe that it cannot endure as a system of government. It will relieve no grievances, and there are grievances. It will cost more. I cannot imagine that any single Indian, after we have debated this Bill perhaps into next summer, will feel that his aspirations towards real self-government have been satisfied. He will have more burdens to bear and it is only too likely that he will have a less satisfactory and less efficient Government to deal with.
I find it hard to believe that this is a solution of the problem, and it is for that reason that I join with my Noble Friend the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) in hoping that the Government will confine this "great experiment," to quote the words of the Secretary of State, to provincial autonomy. That is going a long way. It is more than satisfying any hopes which Indians had formed up to a few years ago. It is going further and is going more quickly than any Indian ever thought of 10 years ago. Provincial autonomy would be going a very long way but it would not be an irrecoverable step. It is a step that could be recalled. If we go the distance which the Government contemplate going we shall have taken a step which we cannot retrace without measures which we should hardly like to contemplate and which we had better not discuss. We shall be going too far to retrace our steps. We are imposing upon the peoples of India a burdensome charge. We are not solving any problem. We are not satisfying any aspirations. We are taking a step which is full of difficulty and danger to millions of people who owe us everything. India owes us a certain debt. We have done a very-great deal for India and we are, at least, entitled to some recognition. We have some right on our side. We ought not to go so far that we cannot retrace our steps. It is admitted by the Government that federation cannot take place 141 for at least five or six years. What should we lose by making this step one of provincial autonomy, with a provision that federation will come along if and when provincial autonomy has been a success? I hope the Government will realise that they are losing very little but possibly gaining a great deal if they only go so far as provincial autonomy, so that if ill results follow they can retrace their steps.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ Sir JOHN WARDLAW-MILNE
No one who listened to the speech which my Noble Friend made the other day at the meeting in the Queen's Hall, a meeting which has been referred to more than once this afternoon, could fail to be impressed by the clear manner in which he put forward his case on that occasion. I was delighted to hear him speak to-night, but I am sorry that he should be in such a pessimistic frame of mind. It will probably be the experience of all of us that in these Debates there will be something said on all sides with which we can agree. We can all agree about the gravity of the problem, for example, the danger of any move that we make, and we certainly can all agree with what my Noble Friend said as to our splendid record in India. But as I listened to my Noble Friend I felt that he did not see any hope for India at all. There appears to him to be danger if we go ahead, danger if we stand still, danger if we go back. I wondered, as I have wondered throughout the Debate this afternoon when I heard those who are opposing the report, what it is they really propose should be done.
Another Noble Friend, the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer), made a speech which for destructive criticism could not, I think, be surpassed. I think it was a most excellent speech considered in that sense. At the end of it, having listened very carefully, I wondered when we were coming to what it was that my Noble Friend really wanted done. He said, for example, that we were starting a Constitution which nobody in India will accept. The first question that occurs to one, naturally, is whether India would accept what he is proposing—if indeed he is proposing anything at all. I am, I fancy, correct in assuming that he supports what might be called the 142 Minority view in the Select Committee. If that be correct, it is not unfair to ask him, if his argument against the Majority view is that India is not likely to accept their proposals, whether he thinks India is any more likely to accept the proposals put forward by the minority?
§ Viscount WOLMER
If they will not accept anything we propose, is it not better to propose something which will work instead of something which will not work?
§ Sir J. WARDLAW-MILNE
My Noble Friend gives an excellent answer if what he was proposing would work. But I hope to show him before I sit down that, in my humble opinion and with some little experience of India, it is perfectly hopeless to expect it to work. He spoke of the trouble which will arise regarding the Army Budget and said that there would be an immediate attack upon it by all the unofficial Members, and so on. That exists to-day. There is nothing new about that. That does not arise out of the report of the Joint Select Committee. These conditions are commonplaces of today. The first great mistake, I suggest, which is being made in connection with the consideration of these reforms is to think that there is something new and completely revolutionary in what has been put forward in the report of the Joint Select Committee. That is not really so at all. It has been a steady process. It is perfectly true that the report suggests a new system of Government in the sense that it suggests for the near future something what was put forward by the Simon Commission as possible in the dim and distant future. But the whole progress of reform has gone on steadily, and dates back to the days of the East India Company. In 1861 we began allowing Indians to have a share in the Legislative Assembly; and in the Minto-Morley Reforms we gave them the right to criticise the Budget. This was followed by the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, so that it has been a perfectly regular system that has been followed. The only real question now is the extent to which we are going on. There is no other dispute between those who hold different views on the present proposals.
As I understand it, there is nobody who suggests that we should go back. I have always made it perfectly clear in this 143 House, speaking entirely for myself, that to my mind no pledge given by any Secretary of State or any Viceroy has any real legal bearing on the matter at all. The only thing that Parliament is really bound by is the Act of 1919 in which we clearly state that after a certain time and after the necessary inquiries it is left to Parliament to decide whether we should go forward, whether we should stand still, or whether we should go back. As I say, nobody to-day suggests that we should go back. I do not think it is worth arguing about that. I have never met anybody who knew anything about India who suggested that you could continue indefinitely the system of dyarchy put forward as a temporary measure in the Montagu-Chelmsford Reform scheme. Nobody at that time considered that it could be permanent. In spite of breakdowns, dyarchy has worked in the Provinces better really than could have been expected. The surprising thing to many people is that it should have worked as well as it has done. It does not therefore seem to me to be a reasonable argument to say that we should stand still merely because India has not made a success of dyarchy. Very few of us ever thought it could be successful over a very long period.
§ Vice-Admiral TAYLOR
The scheme before the House contains a proposal to institute dyarchy at the Centre.
§ Sir J. WARDLAW-MILNE
I am just coming to that. I think it perfectly clear, therefore, that the question before us is the question of the extent to which we shall go forward; and the proposal of the Joint Committee undoubtedly is to institute a form of dyarchy at the Centre. I do not think there is any point in our ignoring or passing over the fact that the system of Government at the Centre, if the Bill which the Government introduce carries out the recommendations of the Committee's report, will be a system of dyarchy. I think we ought to tell India quite definitely and plainly that we propose that because we cannot go further at the present time. Whether at any future time it will be possible to go further is a matter nobody can foresee to-day. It is no use ignoring that it is a definite system of dyarchy at the Centre which we propose and it is far better that India should understand, as I am 144 sure she does understand, that this country can only make this advance at the present time and that we must keep in our own hands such powers as the control of the Army and control of the relationship between the Princes and the Crown. These reservations are essential in present conditions both for India and for ourselves. It is not necessary or desirable, perhaps, that those who sat so long on the Joint Select Committee should deal in detail with the provisions of the report. What those of us who believe in the majority view think is contained in the document itself.
But I should like to refer to one or two points which have been continually urged against the reforms in the last two years when some of us have not been able to speak on these matters at all. There has also been misrepresentation, and these matters, I think, should be put right. At least I will endeavour to put my view of them before the House. One thing constantly said is that we need not go on with federation now. Start with provincial autonomy, it is said, and gain experience, waiting for federation at some future time. It has been already said to-day by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, in a far better way than I can say it, how impossible a system of provincial autonomy with bureaucratic Central Government would be. I can assure the House that in my view for what it is worth such a system is perfectly impossible. I do not hesitate to say that I would very much rather the House of Commons threw out provincial autonomy altogether rather than set up a system of provincial autonomy with a bureaucratic Central Government. It simply means that the whole of the time of the Provincial Assemblies will be devoted to finding fault with the Centre. Everything that goes right they will take credit for; everything that goes wrong will be blamed on the Central Government. That system will never do. If I am convinced of one thing in connection with this question of reforms I am convinced of that.
Another point made is that we should gain experience by introducing provincial autonomy first. But should we gain experience? We should gain no experience in the Central Government and if it is a question of bargaining, which it is not, or a question of considering purely our own interests, which it is not, I very 145 much doubt whether you will be able to impose on India ten years hence as good terms as you can get to-day in connection with federation at the Centre. Again, it has been continuously claimed, even up to the other day, that the Princes would never come into this scheme, and above all, it has been constantly said that they were jockeyed, pressed and persuaded into it when they had no desire to join in it at all. I ask the House to allow me to give two references which, in my view, will put this matter beyond dispute. They are well-known references but I hope the House will forgive me for quoting them rather fully. This is from "The Times" of 27th October, 1933, reporting the proceedings of the Joint Select Committee:Sir SAMUEL HOARE asked if the representatives of the Princes who were present would substantiate what Mr. Churchill had said—namely, that the action of the Princes was due to pressure, direct or indirect, from here?Sir MANUBHAI MEHTA said, 'We deny absolutely categorically.' Mr. Y. Thombare joined in this repudiation of pressure.Sir AKBAR HYDARI: 'May I also state that so far from there being any pressure from the political departments 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. I think that the Government of India in this matter have really—let me assure you, Mr. Churchill—behaved with absolute impartiality.'The other reference to which I desire to draw the attention of the House appeared in the "Times" of 28th June, 1933, in the form of a letter signed by A. Hydari (Hyderabad), Mirza M. Ismail (Mysore), V. T. Krishnama Chari (Baroda), Y. A. Thombare (Sangli), Manubhai N. Mehta (Bikanir), Liaqat Hyat (Patiala), P. D. Pattani (Bhavnagar) and C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar—(Travancore)—a fairly comprehensive list, I think the House will agree, of representatives of the leading Princes of India. They said:In the report of the "Times" of Monday, 26th June, of Mr. Winston Churchill's speech at Gloucester on 24th June, the following statement appears: 'The Princes are being subjected to enormous, subtle, and improper pressures.'The members of the States' delegation desire to point out that this statement has no foundation. We regret that sweeping statements of this character should be made without any substantiation. We are in- 146 dividually or collectively always at the disposal of those who wish to ascertain the views of the Princes on matters arising out of the White Paper.
Duchess of ATHOLL
Does the hon. Member remember Sir Akbar Hydari, at the end of the last Round Table Conference, stating that the Government were relentlessly pushing the Princes into Federation? Does not that seem rather a more spontaneous statement?
§ Sir J. WARDLAW-MILNE
I was not aware of it, but if that is an accurate statement of Sir Akbar Hydari's views at that time, I have given you his views expressed quite clearly two years later. I can only say that if he has changed his views he has done so—as many hon. Members have changed their views since the Report of the Joint Select Committee—and in that body of changing opinion I hope the Noble Lady will shortly find a place.
§ Sir A. KNOX
Are the views of Sir Akbar Hydari of any value, seeing that he contradicts himself deliberately within two months?
§ Sir J. WARDLAW-MILNE
The hon. and gallant Member will not expect me to enter into the merits of the views of any representative of the Princes in India. All I can say is that Sir Akbar Hydari was one of the most useful and valuable representatives of the Princes before the Joint Select Committee. He did a great deal of valuable work, and up to the present moment I have never heard that his views were not very fully worth consideration. Again, it has been constantly said that British India will never work these reforms. To-day we have heard a great deal about what is going to happen when Congress gets into power. I may be wrong, but I would remind the House that in the well-known business of bargaining, Indians do not require to come to this country to learn anything. They are very well accustomed to asking a good deal more than they expect to get, and there is no Member of this House who can open his mouth so wide in bargaining as the Indian trader. I do not mean to say that there is anything unnatural or unreasonable in the attitude the politicians have taken up. They are not satisfied with what the Joint Select Committee has suggested. I am not sure that I should be satisfied if I were in their place, but that is no 147 real argument I think for the suggestion that they will not, in the end, work the reforms, if they cannot get anything better. It is more than likely that they will work them. It does not impress me in any way that everybody in India is shouting against the reforms. That is exactly what I should have expected.
Another point which is continually made is that the safeguards in connection with the police and terrorism are merely paper safeguards. The expression "paper safeguards" conveys absolutely nothing. I know of no safeguards in the form of legal provisions which could not be so described. What safeguards have you in India to-day which are not paper safeguards? The method of fulfilling these safeguards in India is the actions and work of the loyal Civil Service, the police, and other services throughout the country which carry out the laws and therefore the orders of the constitutional Government which is in power. The position after these reforms are carried into effect will be precisely the same. Let us assume that the Viceroy finds that a Government is not working in accordance with what he believes to be essential and necessary for the security and good Government of India, and that he has to dismiss that Government altogether and cannot find another to take its place. Then, in the last resort, he can take over the Government of the country. Is it suggested that the Civil Service and the police will then refuse to carry out the legal orders of the Viceroy? If that is suggested you are in a state of mutiny, and there is nothing left but the Army. Precisely the position you would be in to-day if the Civil Service refused to carry out legal orders. There is no difference between the paper safeguards of to-day and the paper safeguards of the future; they are precisely the same. There has been more misrepresentation on the question of safeguards than on anything else. To put it in one sentence, if you assume that the Civil Service are not going, in the case I have described, to carry out the Viceroy's orders as they do to-day in the case of legal orders of the Governor-General in Council, then you are in a state of mutiny, and there is nothing left but to call out the troops.
It has also been said that no Viceroy will be able to carry out his immense duties. I suggest that this is a very 148 exaggerated view of the matter. In the first place, it is sometimes forgotten that the Viceroy will have three councillors specially to deal with the departments of which he has himself complete control, so that to a large extent he will be relieved of that detail work. All these assumptions, these criticisms suggest that the whole system of government through Ministers will immediately break down. I do not believe anything of the kind. I think that the sweets of office appeal to politicians in India just as they appeal to people in this country, and that if one set of Ministers refuses to act another set will be found anxious to step in. From my own experience of India, which, I admit, is rather out-of-date, but which I hope to renew unofficially in a few days' time, I know that there are, perhaps, more Indians—I say it without offence—than there are people in this country who are desirous of taking office, and I cannot believe all of those concerned in India are suddenly going to combine and refuse to take office or act in accordance with the Constitution. But if they are, I do not think that the Viceroy will be over-burdened. On the contrary, I think he will be less burdened than when they are working the Constitution, because then a great deal of his time will be taken up in examining all the problems with them and giving a little friendly and fatherly advice here and there, whereas if they refuse to act altogether—an unlikely contingency I think—he suspends the Constitution and takes over the whole system. We really need not worry seriously about it. I believe there will be people who will aspire to hold these great offices in India in the future as in the past.
I think the time has really come when we might drop the misrepresentation of the actual position in India and face the fact which all of us have to face whatever our views are—that we are taking a very grave step. No man can be dogmatic as to what the future has in store for us. There is not the smallest doubt that the statement will be made by those with whose views I am not completely in accord, that this is a very serious step forward and with that I agree. But it is the only possible solution of the present situation. For 100 or 150 years we have led India definitely to expect to take steadily an ever-increasing share in the management of her own 149 affairs. I beg the House once and for all to get into their minds this one fact, that if we are going to give India responsibility in one direction we must often give her responsibility in another. I do not want to see the British element in the Government of India getting all the kicks and none of the halfpence. I want India to face the fact that if she wants national building services and money for them, she has also to find the taxation to pay for them. The Indian in that connection must have both ends of the stick to hold. I am certain that no system of reform which does not put that responsibility upon them, has any hope of success.
I have not heard in any of the speeches here, or in any of the speeches outside against the proposals of the report, any really constructive alternative to the proposals of the Select Committee. I took the trouble to look up what I said publicly in this House at the time the White Paper was first under discussion. I said then that there were a good many matters referred to in it which gave me great concern. I have sat through nearly two years of consultation in connection with this scheme, and in my own mind I am perfectly confident that the scheme which the Joint Select Committee has put forward, though I do not claim it to be by any means a perfect solution, is the one which is most likely to bring peace in India and through that peace to give us prosperity at home. I believe it to be in the best interests of India and of the Empire.
§ 9.48 p.m.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
My right hon. Friend and Leader has told me that if I speak now I must make it quite clear that I do not speak for my colleagues on the Labour benches. I hope that by the time I have done my right hon. Friend will eat his words. I do not appeal to anyone here from a sense of loyalty, but I appeal to their heads. At the start I suffer from a serious disability. I have a fatal weakness for the Lord President of the Council. From that weakness I think that most hon. Members around me also suffer. I have also a specially deep sympathy for hon. Gentlemen opposite, a sympathy which they have required during the last six months. So, if I had been at the Queen's Hall meeting I might even have voted for this report. We have heard statements that if this constitution 150 is not carried we shall lose India in two generations, and that if it is carried we shall save India for the Empire for all time. If that were the alternative I think everyone would vote for the Bill. But, alas, I believe that the passage of the Bill and its being put into operation will have exactly the reverse effect, that we shall lose India in two generations instead of, as we might, preserve India's friendship. The real evidence of that is in India to-day.
I do wish the House would realise, in the first place, that all India is not only against this Measure, but is increasingly terrified of it. Secondly, there are serious ground for India fearing this Measure. Is India against it? They have just had the elections there. It is true that they took place a week or two before the publication of the report, but the chief alterations in the White Paper were perfectly well known beforehand to the public in India. The remarkable thing is that in every single constituency the general electorate has voted for the people who are opposed to this scheme and actually refer to it the status quo. I should not have believed that to be possible, and it would not have been possible six months ago. It is the change and the growing hostility to this Measure that is really serious.
I take the case of the general constituencies. I should explain that a general constituency in India is one for which all those vote who have not got special electorate. The Mohammedans have special electorates, and the Sikhs, and the Mahratas to a certain extent. The general electorates are overwhelmingly Hindu. I think that 57 out of the whole House of 150 have voted in general constituencies, and in every single case the man who is most opposed to the proposed Constitution has been elected. They are not all Congress men, but in a large number of cases they have been Pandit Malevya's party, who are far more opposed than even Congress is to this scheme. Those 57 members are now elected to vote against the introduction of this Measure into India. In addition you have another 40 or 50 seats of elected members. Of these the two Sikh seats are almost certain to go with the Hindu, because their fear of this scheme is the same of that of the Hindus. In addition there have been two Mohammedans elected who are not on the All-Moslem League list 151 and are likely also to be against the scheme.
One cannot tell what the rest of the Indian Assembly will do in the matter. There are a large number of special electorates. The landlords have special representation, and so have the Chambers of Commerce. There will be some Chambers of Commerce which will vote for the scheme and others voting against it. There you have already a certain majority of the elected members against it. You have the Mohammedans for it, a large number of Chambers of Commerce and landlord representatives for it, and an overwhelming majority of the general members already pledged against it. That is a pretty serious position. But it is growing worse. The most significant election of all was Madras City, with its population of 1,250,000. It constitutes one constituency, and ever since it has been started it has been almost a pocket borough of the non-Brahmin party. The Brahmins of the southern province of Madras are a small minority, and they have all been fought by the non-Brahmins' Justice party. This is the first time that the Justice member, Mr. Mudaliar, has been hopelessly beaten—I think it was by 13,000 to 7,000. The elected member is Mr. Satyamurti, who is very well known to my colleagues as he has been over here several times. Six months ago, he was more or less hostile to this scheme, but accepted it as inevitable and as something that would have to be worked.
Each of these candidates was as hostile to this Constitution as the other and the only difference between them was on the question of a definite pledge to vote against its introduction in the India Assembly. There you have an extraordinary case of an electorate reversing the view which it had held for 15 years, solely on this question, turning out a man who had come over here and had given evidence before the Committee and replacing him by a rather younger man of rather more extreme politics—one of those extreme Congress men who, when we come to know them over here, we find to be as good fellows as anybody. Why is India so terrified of this Constitution? What is bringing about this great swing of public in India? It is fear. It is all very well to denounce England in the abstract but there is one thing that every- 152 body is more afraid of than England and that is somebody else. There is not the slightest doubt that the Mohammedan is afraid of a Hindu majority and this proposal of Federation plus this new compulsory concentration of power in the hands of one race in each Province is causing consternation.
We have had the petition of the people of Tangaseri not to be deprived of their British citizenship and handed over to Travancore. We have Bangalore terrified at being handed over to Mysore. We have the Berars terrified of being handed over to the Nizam. In all India there is the same terror of being handed over to somebody else who may be infinitely worse than the British Government. This fear is founded upon two features in the report which, I am afraid, is would be hopeless to try to amend. First of all, there is the fear of communal representation. Communal representation divides a country for all time. It introduces a cleavage which can never be repaired. If you try to start a democratic system in two water-tight compartments in the way that is proposed here, there can be no democracy in India for all time. What is it that makes things tolerable in this House? How is it that hon. Members opposite suddenly discover in the course of a Parliament that these Labour reptiles on this side are not half as bad as they at first thought them? What is it that makes even my hon. Friends on this side sometimes discover good points in hon. Members opposite? We meet at dinner and we find that the other fellows in many cases are almost impossibly decent people. But you will not find that in the Assembly at Delhi where the one man is a Mohammedan and the other a Hindu.
What is it that gets us together here? Why is it that however extreme we are on the soap box or at the street corner—not only hon. Members here but hon. Members opposite—when we come here we become so moderate? The obvious reason is because we have a mixed electorate. I have quite a number of Conservatives who regularly vote for me, and no doubt the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) thinks that he has a number of Labour people who vote for him. But we depend for our existence here on all sorts and conditions of electors. If the right hon. Gentleman 153 the Member for Epping represented only those who had £1,000 per annum or more he would be much more poisonous than he is.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Let me put it this way. If I depended solely on the vote of those who are on the dole I should be more poisonous than I am. If we represent only a class or a category then we have no common ground with those who represent another class or another category. Therefore, we cannot hope to work together, and in those circumstances democracy cannot work. The reason why we have got on so well in this country is that by some accident we devised this excellent system of constituency representation, but when you have people who hate each other to start with, and you introduce among them this awful system of communal representation, the prospect is hopeless. There is no right hon. Gentleman on the Government Front Bench, there is no Member of the Joint Committee who really believes that communal representation is better than a general electorate. Nobody believes it, not even the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot). The system cannot be defended. The Prime Minister at the Bound Table Conference argued until all was blue against the Mohammedan demand for communal representation. It is no protection for a minority not to be able to vote for the people who are going to constitute the majority Government. Consider the situation as it is in Sind. In Sind there is, I think, 5 per cent. or 7 per cent. of Hindus in the population.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I will not argue as to the figures, but say there is 20 per cent. Under this system they may only vote for Hindus. The Mohammedans being 80 per cent. must necessarily always have a majority. The Hindus must only vote for a Hindu and therefore they have a statutory minority, while the Moslems are in a permanent majority. The Government will always be Mohammedan and they will have permanent control of police, education, justice and all these other matters. 154 People who are in a statutory minority are in a hopeless position. The Hindus in Sind and the Punjab begged to be allowed to vote on the general lists, although they are in the minority, because they saw that their only salvation was in being able to choose between two Mohammedans. The Mohammedans would then modify their views on certain questions in order to get the votes of the Hindus. Naturally therefore the Hindus of Sind are terrified, as they are also terrified in the North-West Frontier Province. They put their views before the Joint Committee but they did not carry weight.
Of course we have seen the remarkable results of the last elections in Bengal where there is a very small statutory majority for the Moslems. There the elections have gone overwhelmingly against this constitution. Again, in the Punjab where Malaviya won his principal victories the terror of being in a statutory minority has impressed upon those people the urgent need before everything else of defeating this scheme. Hon. Members in this House go about saying, "That is bargaining; they only want to get as much as they can." They have got far beyond that stage. They are terrified, and I think they are terrified with just reason. After all, they have seen all over Europe the growing power of dictatorships to bully and make life intolerable to minorities. Ten years ago we should not have believed possible what is going on in Europe to-day. The Indians are quite alive enough to know what goes on in Germany, and what it is to be an outcast, outlawed community. No doubt throughout the whole of India you have got the Mohammedans, not liking the scheme, but at any rate satisfied that it will be all right for them, but you have got your Hindus increasingly terrified at the idea that this thing, this moon that they have been crying for so long, should actually be put into their hands with this bomb inside it destroying the liberty they enjoy as British subjects and subjecting them in the future to an indefinite but very possible tyranny. Communal representation will never be accepted by the Hindus in India, and quite right too. It is true they have had it so far in some measure, but it has been the cause of the riots and of most of the bad working of the Montagu-Chelmsford 155 reforms; and here you are doing something to consolidate it for ever, for what we pass in this constitution is final so far as England is concerned.
Then there is the question of Federation. Hon. Members talk about whether the Princes will come in. I can tell hon. Members that the Princes will certainly accept this, and why should they not? As you see India to-day, you see the intelligent people, the intellectuals, more and more terrified of the Princes taking our place as the rulers of India. I have said before on many occasions that the Princes of India are just about where the German princelings were in the eighteenth century—not much worse and certainly no better. Their power over the 70,000,000 people in their States is absosolute. There is no habeas corpus there. The lives and liberty and property of the 70,000,000 inhabitants of the native Indian States are not theirs, but their Princes'. The one ambition of every Indian in an Indian State is to get out of that State and to achieve British citizenship. Conceive of the horror that these people have of being put back under the control of these Princes. No papers in these States are allowed to criticise the Government. Anyone can be interned without any trouble. Their property is at the mercy of the Princes, and they have no rights. Just across the frontier in British India there are rights, and that is very well known to the inhabitants of these native States, whose petitions to Parliament, whose protests, have reached this country in increasing numbers during the last six months. It is very difficult to get Congress to do anything against the Princes or anything in favour of the inhabitants of the Indian States.
Why do you want Federation? Who wants Federation? I will tell you. It is the pukka sahib who wants this scheme, in order to get rid of British control and to substitute the control of the millionaires and Rajahs of India—the pukka sahibs who worship at the shrine of Mussolini and Hitler and do poojah to the old college tie. Those are the people who back this scheme. They want to get rid of Parliament, and to substitute their friends. That is the last reason why India is growing afraid, and why the people of this country should be afraid too. You are handing this country 156 over to rich men on a narrow franchise. In Madras under the present system about 15,000 people vote, and there are 1,250,000 people there. Under this scheme about 40,000 people will vote in a population of 1,250,000. I beg hon. Members to observe that the 14 per cent. will prove to have dwindled to less than 10 per cent. in the working out. The people who are elected to these councils pay fabulous sums to get elected. This is a fairly rich body, judging from results lately, but the Indian Assembly and council are far more wealthy. They pay anything up to £40,000 in election expenses, and the proportion of wealth on the benches in that Assembly is enormous. Are you going to hand over India to 125 Princes and to the millionaires, whether they be lawyers, or millowners, or whether they be, as they more likely will be, the zemindars and the talukdars, with their special representation?
If you are going to hand India over to these people, do it with your eyes open. It means that for all time you are committing 350,000,000 poor people to the direction of, I will not call them a gang, but a band of capitalists and landlords. We are bad enough, but that is worse. They will be handed over without any appeal. We can never undo the wrong we are doing. In Japan there are 60,000,000 people under an autocratic Government working day and night producing the goods, competing with our people and putting them out of work. I warn you that in two generations you will have in India under this scheme exploitation by the rajah and the millionaire. You will have 350,000,000 people working for less than ours and putting our people out of work and ruining them—except those who are living on dividends from Indian companies. There are these three fears which are growing in India—communal representation with the risk of tyranny; the control of India by the Princes with the impossibility for ever of those who are now under the control of the Princes becoming free; and the risk of exploitation by a narrow electorate and the results of that exploitation, the ruining of India, the ruining of us.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir Donald Somervell)
In the course of her very interesting and forcible speech, the hon. Member for Dundee (Miss 157 Horsbrugh) made a strong appeal that the discussions on this matter now and in future might be confined within limits and be conducted without animosity. My right hon. Friend has taken note of the former appeal, and, speaking for myself, although I shall ask the patience of the House for a little time, I will do my best to accede to the latter appeal, and I hope that nothing which I shall have to say will show any signs of animosity. The speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) made clear, what perhaps was clear before, that the attacks which are made by the Noble Lord and those associated with him are concentrated on that part of the Joint Committee's proposals which deal with and recommend a Measure of responsibility at the Centre. It is with that part of their proposals that I am anxious to deal this evening. This is a very large subject, and this Debate will continue after this evening, and I hope that right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen who have spoken to-day and in particular dealt with other points—I might refer, for instance, to a considerable portion of the speech made by my right hon. and gallant Friend who preceded me—will acquit me of any discourtesy if I confine my remarks broadly to the question of federation. There will be other speakers from this bench, and it is perhaps convenient that they should confine themselves to certain particular aspects of the problem. The fact that I do not specifically refer to any point that has been made will not indicate that it has been lost sight of.
In criticisms which have been made of the White Paper and these proposals by the Noble Lord and those associated with him a phrase has very frequently occurred: "abdication at the Centre." I pick up that phrase, and I might connect with it a reference to defeatism, which I saw in the report of a speech by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) two or three days ago, in order to reinforce an argument which I wish to place before the House. It seems to me that that type of phrase would be controversially relevant only if this recommendation for responsibility at the Centre were put forward and was sought to be justified primarily as a concession to Indian political sentiment. 158 If it was put forward on those lines one might accept it or disagree with it, but it is only if that were so that such a phrase as "abdication at the Centre" would be applicable at all. That sentiment, the desire by Indians to take an increasing part in the management of their own affairs, is a sound sentiment. That we should understand it and sympathise with it, and meet it to the limits of what is practicable will, I think, be accepted by the vast majority of, if not by all, the Members of this House.
That the granting of a measure of responsibility at the Centre is desired by Indians who hold this sentiment is obvious, but—and this is the point I would like to emphasise—that ambition is not the reason put forward primarily, in the forefront of their recommendations, by the Joint Select Committee. The reason which they put forward is a solid, practical reason, which I should have thought would have appealed even to those who are most apprehensive as to the effects of granting a measure of responsibility, whether in the Provinces or at the centre, and it is that solid, practical reason, put forward by the Joint Select Committee in support of their recommendations for a measure of responsibility at the Centre, with which I would like to deal this evening. But be it understood that if I emphasise that aspect of the matter I am not in any way seeking to minimise the importance of the other aspects of this question, and in particular the importance of understanding and sympathising with Indian sentiment in regard to the changes which are to be made.
It is important at the outset to emphasise what has been mentioned by speakers this evening, and in particular, I think, in a speech which impressed the House very much from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet), that first of all what we are considering is Federation on an All-India basis. The Joint Committee do not make it any part of their proposal to recommend a measure of responsibility at the Centre without and apart from the Federation of a substantial number of the States. That is to say, we are not considering a recommendation for responsibility at the Centre apart from an All-India Federation. There is a second point of equal importance, that the Princes have stated in their declaration. 159That they are willing now to enter an All-India Federation but only if the Federal Government is a responsible and not an irresponsible Government.That is the phrase which so much angered my Noble Friend the Member for Alder-shot.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
I am reading a quotation from paragraph 32 of the Joint Select Committees' Report, and I will read it again:The Princes have, therefore, stated clearly in their declaration that they are willing now to enter an All-India Federation, but only if the Federal Government is a responsible and not an irresponsible Government.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
The date is not given in the passage I have quoted. It is probably in the appendix to the report, but surely my right hon. Friend does not expect me to pause in my speech to dig that out.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
But surely the hon. and learned Gentleman knows the date of this passage which he is quoting and to which he is attaching so much importance.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
I am quoting, and surely it is perfectly legitimate for me to quote, a passage from the Report of the Joint Select Committee. In the passage there is a reference, without giving the date, to the declaration of the States. I do not think that I am in any way to blame because I have not at my fingers' ends all the dates of every declaration which is quoted by the Joint Select Committee.
The practical desirability of this measure of responsibility is the point 160 which I wish to develop. That is not the sole, but it is undoubtedly the main, reason put forward by the Joint Select Committee for their proposal. Why is it so practically desirable? A glance at the map of India affords the answer. Perhaps I may be forgiven for two sentences of history. Prior to 1813, or about then, the policy pursued by this country through the East India Company in India was run on the basis of no conquest or annexation. It was expected that the large States would settle down as completely independent land friendly to this country, but that expectation was not realised. War and anarchy led us into conquest and annexation, and in the course of the ensuing years British territory was extended, and every State in India was bound to the Crown by alliances, treaties and agreement's. As a result, two Indias have grown up, British India and the Indian States, with different histories, different characteristics and, as the House knows, different methods of rule.
The characteristics of the States are familiar to every hon. Member. The States are not British territory. They have transferred their foreign relations to the Crown and are subject to the powers and rights of the Crown as paramount power and to treaties and agreements, but otherwise they have in varying degrees internal sovereignty. They are not concentrated in one place, but are spread out from Kashmir in the north to Travancore in the South, from the mouth of the Indus on the west, to Manipur on the frontiers of Burma on the east. The Harcourt-Butler Committee on the Indian States said that interwoven in the map of India were large patches of yellow which represented the Indian States, and in the same paragraph they add:Geographically, India is one and indivisible, made up of the pink and the yellow, and the problem of statesmanship is to hold the two together.May I emphasise the economic interconnection of the States of British India by one sentence taken from the report of the Statutory Commission? No one sentence could put the economic interdependence between the two areas higher. The report states:Economic forces are such that the States and British India must stand or fall together.161 The proposals of the Joint Select Committee, as I see them, afford a means of solving that problem of reconciling, as the hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham put it in his speech, those two Indias which we have allowed to grow up, and for the special characteristics of which we are responsible. I would like, if the House will allow me, to give certain instances of the difficulty of the problems which arise under the present state of government and conditions in India. The first example I will take is that of a case where an Indian State or States are not asked themselves to do anything, but where the question is one in which the State is vitally affected by what is done in British India, and demands an effective voice in the decision of such questions.
The receipts from Maritime Customs, and the policy with regard to Maritime Customs, are referred to in all reports on this matter. These Customs at present are imposed by the Government of British India, by a British Indian Legislature in which no Indian State has any representative or any voice; and yet, of course, they vitally affect the States, which include nearly half the area and, I think, nearly a quarter of the population of India. Some 10 or 12 years ago the Government of India adopted a policy of what may be called discriminatory protection, as a result of which the receipts from Customs duties were multiplied some tenfold, and—I take this fact from the report of the Harcourt Butler Committee—the Indian States were not consulted as to that policy, though clearly they were vitally affected by it. It has been calculated that probably about one-seventh of the goods affected by these Customs duties are consumed by inhabitants of the Indian States, and yet that policy was adopted without consultation with them, and, of course, they get no direct share of the duties which are raised. Such things as this obviously lead to friction and dissatisfaction, and, more than that, may very well lead to the economic policy most in the interest of India as a whole not being adopted.
Reference has already been made in the course of this Debate to urban and agricultural interests in India. The States, of course, are mainly, if not wholly, agricultural in their interests. We can, perhaps, imagine what might happen in this House if we had here Members for 162 only half the agricultural constituencies in this country. The result would be that not only would my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture receive only half the information that he does at present as to agricultural conditions, but it might well be that this House would be more prone than some people think it has been in the past to disregard the legitimate interests of agriculture in the supposed interests of the urban population. That point, I hope, will be noted by the hon. Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes), who rightly emphasised the importance of the interests of the small holders and agriculturists in India. Take another case of the inconveniences that arise from the present position. If the Government of British India desire to impose an Excise duty, they have to effect agreements with every single Indian State in which the article in question is or might be manufactured to levy a corresponding duty to that which they propose to levy themselves. I am told that recently, when it was thought desirable to impose an Excise duty on matches, it took at least two years to effect the necessary agreements with States whose action might have made the imposition of the duty wholly ineffective.
To pass from that to another matter, the practical desirability of a central authority with power to enact a common policy on railways, aviation and through waterways, does not need elaboration. It is here again worth noting that in the matter of aviation there have to be separate agreements with all the States involved, and it took the Government of India some 12 years to get the necessary agreements for facilities for the construction of aerodromes and ancillary matters. As the States of British India develop economically it will become increasingly desirable that there should be a law common to all India on such matters as banking, insurance and copyright.
§ Mr. DAVID REID
Would it not be necessary to negotiate with each State separately for all these matters now?
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
We shall negotiate once for all and, if we succeed in getting a substantial number or all the States in on a substantial number or all the items, we shall then have one authority which will deal with these matters for all India. It is also 163 inevitable that, when disputes arise, as they do and must arise to-day, there is a strong feeling that in many of these matters as between the States and British India the Government of British India is both party and judge in its own cause. A Legislature containing only representatives of British India cannot but be thought to be influenced by that fact by the other party to the dispute. It is with regard to these All-India matters that the Joint Select Committee propose that there shall be a central federal authority. What I may describe as the practical case for getting the States into the federal authority which has power to deal with these matters, is overwhelming, and I could weary the House with citations from this report, and indeed from the report of the Statutory Commisison, on this point. I will content myself with one only from the report of the Joint Select Committee. They say:The existing arrangements under which economic policy vitally affecting the interests of India as a whole have been formulated and carried out are being put to an ever-increasing strain as the economic life of India develops.Later in the same paragraph they state their opinion that the proposals which they make will mark a long step from confusion towards order. But it is said—and it was said by the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot and by the Noble Lord the Member for West Derbyshire (Marquess of Hartington)—that this proposed federation has anomalies. The point was also made by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). It will contain representatives of autonomous provinces and of States governed by personal rulers. It will contain elected representatives and nominated representatives. It is contemplated that the States will in the first instance not accede as to the list of subjects in the concurrent list and that some States will be allowed to exclude or qualify the full exercise of federal powers as to some items in the federal list.
My Noble Friend the Member for West Derbyshire referred to the financial anomalies of the position and again to the further anomaly that outside the federal sphere the States will remain with their own rights of 164 autonomy and sovereignty subject to their treaties and agreements, and the rights of the Crown, which are paramount now. Let all that be conceded, but where does it lead to? It leads to this. The anomalies are inherent in the present circumstances in India. They are inherent in the fact that in this single geographical unit we have not only the provinces of British India, but hundreds of autonomous territories, islands of yellow in the sea of pink. The States' sovereignty is admitted, and it is from that fact that the anomalies flow. But any step which sets up a central authority is one which removes anomalies from the existing position. Those who feel so acutely the existence of anomalies will find, I submit, much more ample scope for their critical faculties in the present unfederated State of India than they will find in the proposals of the Joint Select Committee.
The Committee make some reference—and reference was made in one of the speeches this evening—to the future. The Committee say that these anomalies are not only a necessary incidence of federation to-day, but of its introduction at any time. I think that it might be put higher and that if this opportunity is lost, and if autonomous Provinces develop as such over a period of years, and a further body of all India law uninfluenced by representatives of the State comes into existence, federation at a future time will not only be very-much more difficult than it is to-day, but may become impossible. I entirely disagree with the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot that federation will be simpler if you postpone it. If you do not take this opportunity that is now offered, you may find it impossible to obtain the result which is desired by all those who have investigated this question of India federation.
In this connection and in connection with some of the speeches made this evening I should like to refer to a letter from His Highness, the Maharajah of Patiala, writing as Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes, which was published recently in the Press, addressed to a number of prominent Conservatives in England, in reply to a letter from them expressing sympathy and good will. As the House is aware, there are some important States which are not working in this matter through the Chamber of 165 Princes. Many States, and States of importance are working through the Chamber of Princes. The letter, in effect, states that if certain conditions for which the States have pressed are not embodied in the report the States will be free to consider the question of Federation de novo. I should like to give the history of the matter to the House, having regard to the publication of the letter. After the publication of the White Paper there were proceedings at a meeting of the Chamber of Princes of India in March, 1933, and His Highness, the Maharajah of Patiala, spoke. He referred to the omissions from the White Paper which the Chamber regarded as fundamental, and referred to remarks made by His Excellency the Viceroy to the effect that the White Paper was not final and that the whole matter would be considered by the Joint Select Committee. In reference to the Safeguards, to which he had referred, he said:They will, in due course, be placed before the Joint Select Committee by the witnesses who will appear on our behalf, and by our representatives, who will work with the Joint Parliamentary Committee and in the main, they may be classified as follows:—Those representatives of the States appeared, and the points which they raised will, I think, be found to have been dealt with in the report. With regard to the main points referred to by His Highness, the first one (a) respect for the autonomy, sovereignty and treaty rights of the States, no one can read the report without being conscious that the most absolute regard both in form and substance has been paid to the autonomy, sovereignty and treaty rights of the States. It is made abundantly clear that there can be no question of compulsion, and that their accession to a Federation cannot take place otherwise than by the voluntary act of the ruler, and, further, that outside the limits in which a State by its voluntary act chooses to federate, its existing internal autonomy and its relations to the Crown will be unaffected.
- (a) respect for the autonomy, sovereignty and treaty rights of the States;
- (b) limitation of Federal sources of revenue, to indirect taxes only;
- (c) liberty of action for the States to enter Federation individually or collectively through a Confederation."
166 As far as the second point (b) is concerned, that of indirect taxation, it will be found dealt with in paragraph 247 of the report, and made subject to certain limitations which it is understood are acceptable to the States. In regard to the third point, (c), provision is suggested for the pooling of seats to secure continuous representation, which it is thought meets the point. It is incorrect to say, as has been stated in some of the comments on the letter, that there is no difference between the report and the White Paper so far as the Princes are concerned. It is perhaps sufficient to refer to the very important recommendation to the effect that unless a sufficient number of States accede they should be allowed increased representation pending the accession of 90 per cent. of the whole. His Highness's letter was written, I think, without having seen the report. He cannot, I think, mean it to suggest that the Chamber, which is to meet to consider this matter in January, is not going to give consideration to the opinions expressed by the Committee on the various points which the representatives of the Chamber put before it. I cannot but believe that the Chamber, when it comes to consider the report in January, will be struck by the scrupulous regard that has been paid and the consideration that has been given to the representations which they made. It would, I think, be wrong to say more at the moment. Some of the Diwans of the States are meeting next week and the Chamber will meet in January. We are confident that the Princes will approach the report in the same broad and statesmanlike spirit that they have shown in previous discussions, having, as they are entitled to have, due regard to the sovereignty of their States and their own position, but also with a sense of the greatness of the issues involved, affecting so vitally the country of which the States are a part.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Do I understand the hon. and learned Gentleman to say that the Maharajah in question, the Maharajah of Patiala, has clearly not read the report from the statement he made?
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
I do not want to have an argument with the right hon. Gentleman, but I read the letter as written by someone who, if he had seen it, had not had time to study the report. He said that if these matters were not 167 contained in the report the Princes would have certain rights. Nobody who had had time to study the report in detail——
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Yes, but the letter was written four months before; and permission to publish the letter was given since the publication of the report.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
The letter to which I am referring is dated 28th October, 1934. That is the later letter which seems, as it is later in time, the important one to refer to.
I have said very little as to three arguments which are referred to in the report. First of all, there is the argument as to the stabilising effect on the central authority of the influence of representatives of the States. That argument is familiar. There is also another strong practical argument, which Members of the House will remember, in which the Joint Select Committee state their very definite view that, a line having to be drawn between responsibility to the Legislature and non-responsibility to the Legislature, they are satisfied that in their proposals they have drawn the line in the best place on practical grounds. They have set out three suggestions—that you should draw it in the Provinces, excluding law and order; that you should draw it between the Centre and the Provinces; or that you should draw it where they draw it, in the Centre, reserving defence and finance, but leaving Ministers both at the Centre and in the Provinces, broadly speaking, responsible for the social and economic life of the country.
I have no time to deal with the argument which is based on the weakness of the present Centre. As the Committee point out, the present Centre is not responsible in the constitutional sense, although it is necessarily affected by opinion expressed in the legislatures and as a result you get the worst of both constitutional worlds. The members of the legislature have not that steadying effect which is conduced by a consciousness that they may be called upon to justify their criticism and put into force the policy they advocate. The executive, who may in fact be acting in accordance with the wishes of the elected representatives, get no credit for that, because, although they are being representive in fact, they 168 are not representive in constitutional theory. Let me conclude not with words of my own but with a passage from the Statutory Commission, and another passage from the report of the Joint Select Committee. It cannot be too much emphasised that these proposals have their origin in the view which was taken of the problem as a whole by the Statutory Commission. They say:We are inclined ourselves to think that an easier and more speedy approach to the desired end can be obtained by reorganising the Constitution of India on a federal basis, in such a way that the individual States, or groups of States, may have an opportunity to enter as soon as they wish to do so.What more is contained in that than in the proposals of the Joint Select Committee, having regard to the further information which has come to light and which could not be, and was not, available to the Statutory Commission, as to the attitude of the Princes and the conditions under which they were prepared to come into an All-India Federation? Finally, let me summarise the arguments which I have tried to put before the House, by quoting a passage from the Joint Select Committee:The question for decision is whether the measure of unity which can be achieved by an All-India Federation, imperfect though it may be, is likely to confer added strength, stability and prosperity to India as a whole. To this question we think there can be only one answer, an affirmative one.That is the answer which we shall ask the House to make on Wednesday next when this Motion goes to a Division.
§ Ordered, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—[Mr. C. Edwards.]
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read and postponed.