Amendment proposed [19th February], in page 2, line 33, to leave out from "Majesty," to the end of the Sub-section, and to insert:
to declare by proclamation that as and from the day therein appointed there shall be established an advisory council styled the Council of Greater India, constituted in accordance with the provisions of the Fourth Schedule to this Act."—(Viscount Wolmer.)
Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word 'if,' in line 35, stand part of the Clause."
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ Mr. HERBERT WILLIAMS
Last night when the discussion on this Amendment was interrupted I had only just begun my speech. I shall endeavour to carry out, both in the spirit and the letter, the request made by the Chairman yesterday that we should be brief. I take the view that it is better that one's speeches should be frequent and brief rather than infrequent and long. I was endeavouring last night to establish the fact that there is a measure of analogy between the existing Constitution in India and that form which prevails in the United States of America and to show that the form which exists in the United States of America has certain grave defects. I have always held that it is a great mistake to have the executive and the legislative authorities separate. It is true that in India, ministers speak in the Assembly whereas in the United States they do not. Nevertheless, the one branch is independent of the other. The executive is not responsible to the Assembly and that, I think, is a bad system. It is also bad if the executive is responsible for some things to the Assembly or Parliament, and not responsible in other matters because then conflict is bound to arise.
An irremovable legislature and an irresponsible executive seems bad. The system which prevails in the Indian Provinces at the moment and which we call 364 dyarchy involving an executive which is only partially responsible also seems bad Therefore we are driven to the conclusion—at least I am driven to it—that there are only two workable schemes, either one involving complete responsibility or one in which the Assembly is consultative or advisory, or perhaps both consultative and advisory. I do not think that anyone at this moment is prepared to urge the possibility of setting up at the Centre in India a Government entirely and completely responsible to the legislature or, in other words, reproducing at the Centre in India the system which at present prevails in this country. It is because we are forced from all those possible schemes to the only remaining alternative that I am supporting the Amendment which is on the same lines as, though different in form from certain Amendments put down by me to Clauses 18 and 23. In order to save printing expense I have taken those Amendments off the Paper as I anticipated that they would not be called having regard to the discussion on the present Amendment.
I gather that some members of the Joint Select Committee who, while acting on that body underwent a certain process of conversion, were much impressed with the parliamentary abilities of the delegates, if that is the right term to apply to them, who came over from India and sat as assessors with the committee. They are said to have exhibited great parliamentary talent in the sense of facility of speech. Indeed it has been said that their facility of speech was such that extraordinary measures had to be taken to restrain it, but that is only what rumour says, and whether it is true or not I cannot say. It has been the case, however, that a number of the members of the committee were influenced by the ingenuity of mind displayed by these Indian politicians. Although this institution of which we here are all Members is called Parliament because it is a place where we speak, it is not merely the capacity to speak with some degree of success which constitutes ability to govern. The sense of responsibility, the moral quality, is in the long run much more important than the mere ability to express one's ideas with facility. It seems to me that there exists profound doubt as to whether any substantial proportion of the inhabitants of the Indian Empire possess those qualities of respon 365 sibility which it is our good fortune to find existing to such a large extent among the inhabitants of this country—those qualities without which representative and responsible government is in fact impossible and bound to break down. The experiment that has been conducted since 1919 in the Provinces does not seem to indicate that there has grown up that sense of responsibility which is vital, and it is obvious that the Government do not believe that that sense of responsibility has grown up, because if they did, there would be no safeguards. The bare existence of Safeguards—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)
I must remind the hon. Member that the point we are discussing is Federation. The Debate has been given a great deal of latitude, but I hope the hon. Member will confine his remarks a little more closely to the Amendment.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The Amendment, as I interpret it, proposes to displace responsibility at the centre within the Federation by something involving a central council, in which there would be no responsibility, and it is because the whole question of responsibility arises that I was dealing with that issue. I am never one of those who seek to go beyond the limits of debate allowed, and I will do my best, but it seems to turn so largely on the question as to whether the people concerned have the sense of responsibility. If this Amendment is carried, we shall be setting up responsibility in the Provinces without any form of responsibility at the centre. It does not rule out a measure of federation, because the Bill would still definitely link the Government at the centre in the way the Bill lays down with the Government in the Provinces. There would still be a federation, but a federation in which the executive had no responsibility whatsoever to an elected assembly and where the elected assembly would not have, as I interpret the Amendment, any legislative powers.
It is because this Amendment would lead to that, that I support it, because if the system failed, it would be easy to restore effective control throughout India without the bloodshed which otherwise might be necessary, whereas if responsibility at the centre is transferred to a substantial extent, to the setting up of a legislative assembly with ministers 366 partly responsible to that assembly, it would not be as easy to deal with the matter as under the provisions of the Amendment. The views I am now expressing are not views which I have acquired from other people. The Secretary of State may possibly remember my writing to him on this matter as long ago as July, 1931, before he held his present exalted office, and I gave arguments to him in a personal capacity—I will not read them out, but the right hon. Gentleman may remember them—in which I indicated that it is vital that we should not lose that effective control without which we cannot restore stability, if stability breaks down through the fact that the Indian politicians do not possess that essential sense of responsibility without which, as I have said, Parliamentary institutions cannot work.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Sir ARTHUR STEEL-MAITLAND
I too will try to follow the rule, both in the spirit and the letter, of being quite brief. I wish to address myself simply to the Amendment and to do so from the ordinary, matter of fact standpoint of asking what would actually happen if such a Council of Greater India were brought into existence as is proposed in the Amendment. From that point of view, I think it would be wise to contrast it with what would have occurred under the Simon Report, the report from which the idea of a Council of Greater India is apparently drawn. Under the Simon Report we should have, of course, as indeed we have under the Fourth Schedule to this Bill, an assemblage of princes or their representatives from the great Indian States, and we should have also representatives from the Provinces. When they met together at the centre it is to be supposed that they would discuss "matters of common concern", just as is suggested in the Simon Report, and such as indeed the Assembly very largely does discuss at the present time. Certainly they are the matters which it is contemplated it should discuss in. the future—Customs, tariffs, the salt tax, central taxation for the Indian States, railway policy, air communications, trunk roads, posts and telegraphs, currency, and coinage, together with the rest of the list that is set out in the Simon Report.
The Simon Report envisages that they should have debates on these 367 subjects, that they should on occasion bring forward concrete proposals on the subjects, that the council should itself be able to appoint committees, and that either the reports of those committees or the resolutions that might emerge from their debates and their proposals should be in turn submitted to the Central Legislature, which under the Simon Report would continue to be in existence. I hope that every Member of this Committee will mark what a vital difference that makes. The Central Legislature at this moment is not a responsible body in the technical meaning of the term, but at any rate it does exert a very great deal of influence. As a matter of fact it does do a great deal of work. Its powers are considerable. In the years from 1921 to 1928—and again I quote from the Simon Report—it passed very nearly 200 laws, five of which were rejected and four the Viceroy had to certify, including the Budgets in 1923 and 1924. But even when the Viceroy and the Legislature were in conflict, it is clear, and is now a matter of common knowledge, that the influence of their expressions of opinion upon the action of the Viceroy was very considerable indeed. Under such conditions the Council of Greater India, as envisaged by the Simon Report, might indeed have been a body with influence. Its resolutions, its proposals, would have been passed on to the Central Legislature, and they, no doubt, would have taken these into very serious consideration as containing the opinions of the Princes as well as of the representatives from British India. From that point of view also it is easy to recognise how, under the conditions envisaged by the Simon Report, the creation of the Council of Greater India, coupled with the continuing existence of the Central Legislature, might indeed be a bridge towards ultimate Federation.
But I ask the Committee to contrast that with what would be the case if this Amendment were passed. The Central Legislature, when this Bill is passed, will no longer be in existence, and if it is no longer in existence, the Council of Greater India, if this amendment is passed, will be a pure debating society and nothing else. It might pass its resolutions, and they might be taken into 368 consideration by the Viceroy, but they would not have anything like the same effect as an actual Act being passed, and In these circumstances I can conceive of two results which seem to me to be inevitable. There could be nothing which would more create discontent and annoyance among the representatives of British India than a retrogression to a condition of this kind. They would no longer have the same influence on affairs at the Centre as they have at the present time. It would create an amount of discontent and continued agitation which would only have extraordinarily harmful results. It seems to me that if the Princes of British India or their representatives were to come to a body of this kind, where it was made clear from the outset that the result of their deliberations would not have even the weight that has attached to the deliberations of the representatives of British India under previous conditions, one could no longer count on their support and good will in the future to the same extent as in the past.
That being so, I cannot imagine, if these ordinary plain facts are considered by hon. Members that they will really continue to believe that the institution of a council of Greater India under the conditions of this Bill would be likely to be anything but a perfectly disastrous experiment if it were ever carried out. Nobody, however, really envisages that it will be. It seems to be very much like one of those proposals which are brought forward by certain Indian members and which are very much criticised in this House and in India. I refer to proposals brought forward in the provincial councils by Indian members which are calculated to cause embarrassment to those in authority, but which those who bring them forward do not really wish to see them passed. The Princes themselves have stated that they would never wish to enter Federation unless they had a responsible share in government, and in view of that statement I cannot imagine that any one really wishes to see the Amendment passed.
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
I wish to follow the point that has been deal with by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tam-worth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland), because yesterday an important statement was mine—important not only because it was 369 said in this House, but because it has been so often repeated outside. It was said by the Noble Lady the Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl) that, whatever might have been done and whatever may have been thought in the earlier stages of this discussion, we could not now reply upon the assistance of the princes in this matter. I was astonished by the interruption that was made when my hon. Friend the Member for Broxstowe (Mr. Cocks) was speaking. He stated what I think was recognised as a truism. At the beginning of his speech he said:The short answer to the hon. Member who has just sat down"—he was referring to the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox)—is that the princes have let it be known that they would not come into any scheme at all unless it gave responsible government.The hon. and gallant Member interrupted to say, "which princes" and my hon. Friend said "All princes." Then the Noble Lady said:Has the hon. Member read the full report of the speech of the Maharaja of Patiala"?—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th February, 1935, col. 29.5, Vol. 298.]The issue that was then raised, and which was dealt with later in the Noble Lady's speech, was that the basis upon which we have hitherto proceeded during the last four years, namely, that the Princes would not come in except to a Centre that was self-governing and responsible, no longer exists. That was certainly put before the Committee yesterday. I have perhaps in this matter an experience that is not shared by all hon. Members. I remember the very definite declaration in the first instance. I had the honour of serving upon the First Round Table Conference, and I heard the historic declaration that was made by the Maharaja of Bikaner. I had the opportunity of hearing at that time the right hon. Gentleman speaking in the early stages of the conference, and I would like to remind the House of the categorical statements made upon this matter. This was said by His Highness the Nawab of Bhopal:We have made it clear that we can only federate with a self-governing British India, and that if British India is not self-governed any federation will be to our own disadvantage.370 That was the first clear declaration, whatever may have been his views since—
§ Mr. FOOT
Or the history behind it. I assume that when this colleague of ours came from India at great inconvenience to put his views before the Round Table Conference, he was stating his own mind. The Maharaja of Bikaner on the same occasion said:The Princes have made it clear that they cannot federate with the present Government of India, and we are not going to make any sacrifices and delegate any of our sovereign powers unless and until we can share them honourably and fully with British India in the Federal Executive and Legislature.The concluding speech at the Round Table Conference was made by a Prince whose name has been frequently quoted in these Debates, and who was quoted by the Noble Lady yesterday. The Maharaja of Patiala, speaking at the last plenary session on the 19th January, 1931, said:However that may be, the main principle of Federation stands accepted: and I echo the confident hope expressed the other day by His Highness the Maharaja of Bikaner, that by far the larger proportion of the States will come into the federal structure at once, and that the remainder will soon follow. We have all made it clear, however, that we consider certain things to be essential. We can only federate with a British India which is self-governing, and not with a British India governed as it is at present.I have quoted three statements that were made at that time by those who were, I suppose, qualified in many respects to speak for their fellows as well as for themselves. It may be suggested that the position has been changed by what has happened. So far is that from the truth, that when we had the sitting of the Joint Select Committee and evidence was given by Sir Michael O'Dwyer, Sir Akbar Hydari, representing the greatest of all the States, reaffirmed the position which had been taken up in January, 1931, and put to him specifically the difficulty that Federation could not be brought within the ambit of consideration unless they were able to federate with a self-governing India. If that be denied, let us know the authority on which it is denied. If it be the fact, it is the Gibraltar of the situation, and nothing that has been said by the Maharaja of Patiala in the speech 371 that was quoted yesterday in the slightest derogates from that main position.
I have read very carefully the words which the Noble Lady quoted. All that the Maharaja of Patiala had to say, according to the quotation which was given from the "Hindustan Times," was—I am paraphrasing his words—" We offered to come in with them in a system of federation. We understand that some of our Indian friends think that that might be to the disadvantage of India. We have no wish to force federation upon them, and if we come in we must come in in an honourable partnership." For him to have said that is quite consistent with the attitude they have taken all along if there is to be a federation, and all this talk about a council of State, a little debating society, and the formation of academic bodies to discuss matters outside the government of India itself, are entirely irrelevant.
The Noble Lady yesterday put another argument before the Committee which is having some influence outside. She said that the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman about Dominion status had caused alarm among the Princes, that whatever might have been their position before, now that that statement had been made by the right hon. Gentleman, it put them in difficulties. I do not want to take up the time of the Committee, but if there is any challenge upon it, I can go through the speeches. I spent some time this morning in going through the speeches made at the Round Table Conference in which every one of the Princes urged the claim of India to take its equal share with the other Dominions in the Commonwealth. One of the final speeches made at the Conference was that of Sir Akbar Hydari, who, speaking with great authority, said:I hope that in two or three months' time the work of this conference will secure such measure of support in India that it will be possible for the various expert committees to get to work and draft a detailed constitution on sound lines. Let us all resolve"—and the word "all" is printed in italics—to convince our countrymen in India that we are on the road to Dominion Status, and let us put the weight of individual effort to achieve success and reach the goal which we have set before us.He used the words "Dominion Status." Sometimes that phrase was not used by 372 other princes, but we have the words of the Maharaja of Patiala, who spoke of theanxiety of the Indian States that India shall rise to her full stature within the British Commonwealth of Nations.The Maharaja of Nawanagar said:I feel sure that only by federation can those aspirations for the dignity and status of India, which we all of us entertain, in due time be achieved, namely, the equality of status with the sister Dominions within the Empire.So far from the words of the right hon. Gentleman being likely to cause apprehension among the princes, he is only carrying out what they urged upon him or his predecessors in the Government three or four years ago.
There is only one other criticism to which I wish to reply. It was, I thought, a very effective criticism that was made by the hon. Lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone). She raised a matter which is very much in the minds of people in this country, namely, the position of the Indian Indians as distinct from the British Indians. She said she had voted against the Second Reading of this Bill, and I gathered from what she said last night that she had a little nervousness in talking about it. I wonder whether, if this Bill rested entirely upon her decision, she would kill it. It is one thing, of course, to vote for an Amendment to express one's disapproval of some parts of the Bill, but if the lever were in her hands, if the decision rested solely with her, would she destroy this Measure, with very little prospect of any other agreed Measure being brought before this House?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Agreed? Who agreed? The hon. Member used the expression "any other agreed Measure." I venture to ask who agreed here or in India?
§ Miss RATHBONE
If I had a lever in my hand I would kill this Bill if I believed the majority of Indian people would rather have no Bill than this Bill. It is only on that part I feel very grave doubt; I cannot feel certainty in any way.
§ Mr. FOOT
When I said "agreed," I did not intend to suggest agreed in India. What I meant was on the lines 373 I have previously spoken in this House, that while there were many among my friends who disagreed with parts of this Bill, we thought that a common body of agreement had been arrived at between representatives of India and ourselves. It was not in any sense a wholly satisfactory measure, but was a bridge between politically-minded India and politically-minded Britain.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
What the hon. Member meant when he said "an agreed measure" was a measure which carried the agreement of the Liberal party.
§ Mr. FOOT
I do not know that the Liberal party would be agreed in whole support of this measure. As I understand, when we were called into consultation in 1930, no one contemplated that you could, after four years' discussion, get a Conservative, or Liberal, or Socialist measure. Surely the purpose was to see if there could be some measure of agreement, despite our political differences upon it, which could gain the co-operation of India. The hon. Lady took an attitude which I fully approve. She said that if politically-minded India would rather have no Bill than this Bill, it should be rejected. I will accept that myself. If politically-minded India, if those upon whom we have to depend for the working of this measure, will not have the Bill, all that they have to do is to reject it. [Interruption.] It is my good fortune in this House to attract a good deal of interruption, but it is all very good-natured. If, as a matter of fact, when this Bill has passed through all its stages, and is then submitted to India, and the politically-minded Indians would rather have no Bill than this Bill, they have the remedy in their own hands. They need not work it, and, if they need not work it, there is no power in this country which could force the Bill upon a universally unwilling 'people, because we depend upon consent. We have not the people to send over—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think that the hon. Member is getting perilously near a Second Reading speech.
§ Mr. FOOT
I was referring to the criticism yesterday as to the reception of the Bill in India. Objection has been raised on the ground of Dominion Status, secondly, because of indirect 374 election, and, thirdly, on the ground of the Safeguards. I want to deal with the question raised by the Noble Lady as to the subjects in the States. She asked whether we were, by this Measure, going to confirm the disabilities of those people. Is anyone in this House expected by the passing of this Bill to say that we approve of the conditions in the Indian States? I do not know very much about them. I suffer from a disability because I have nere been in India. Some hon. Members have been in the Indian States, and are able to speak from personal experience. But I have read something about the conditions in the Indian States, and I protest against the suggestion that because we pass this Bill we are anxious to perpetuate the conditions now obtaining in some of the States. As I understand it, the difference is very great between one State and another. I think we have to accept the fact that the Princes are there. They have been there a long time. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) the other night mentioned the lady who began her treatise with the words "I accept the Universe," and Carlyle commented, "Gad, she'd better." We have to accept India, and we have to accept the Princes. They have been there a long time, and nothing we can do can alter the thing. Our whole trouble in this problem is dealing with the material we have. Perhaps I might venture to remind the hon. Lady the Member for the Combined English Universities of Browning's lines:The common problem, yours, mine, everyone's, Is not to fancy what were fair in life Provided it could be—hut finding first What may be, strive to make it fair, Up to our means—a very different thing.That is our problem. We have the Princes and the States there, and, so far from this Bill making things worse, I believe that upon the passing of this Bill two things are likely to happen in the States, namely, in those States where the conditions are worse, that as a result of meeting together in the Federation, as a result of the comparison that will then be established in the Central Parliament, those who are in the worst States will be brought up inevitably towards the standard of the better State. At present you have no such collaboration except in the Chamber of Princes. You will have members coming from 375 the several States sitting side by side with representatives of the Provinces, and with criticism being brought to bear upon ill conditions, it will inevitably tend to raise the worse conditions to the standard of the better. I think that that will be the first result, and I think, further, the result will be that the healthy rivalry which exists at present between some of the Provinces and some of the States will be for the better of the States concerned. I have heard some of the States claim that education and literacy are better than in the Provinces. It is a very proud boast that they make.
Does not the Committee think that when you have a federation in which the representatives of the States will be sitting side by side with the representatives of the Provinces, there will be every effort on the part of the representatives of the States to justify their presence there, to justify the work of their own Princes and leaders, and that, instead of conditions being worse in those States as a result of Federation, it will be better? I think it is not an unfair suggestion to make that the probable result will be that the States will be desirous of being on terms of comparison with the provinces, and I further suggest that when you have established a federation where the representatives of the Princes sit side by side with the elected representatives of the Provinces, you will have established in that self-government and in the desire for self-government, a leaven which is bound to work irrespective of political boundaries. In some time that I cannot contemplate the desire for self-government will grow up in every part of India, and if that self-government does not express itself in the forms we have in the provinces it will express itself in a desire by the people of the States for a fuller share in the management of their States, and when that desire is expressed the princes are wise enough men to see that that desire will somehow have to be met. It is for that reason that I would like the hon. Lady to know that we—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] I am sorry if I have offended against the Rules of the House. I turned towards the hon. Lady, as I was addressing my remarks to her. While we appreciate the enthusiasm which she has in this matter, and know that she has 376 taken a leading part in it, I hope we are not less concerned as to the men and women who live in the States of India, and I am a supporter of this Bill because I do not think it will make their conditions in days to come worse, nor even that it will stabilise present conditions, but that it offers the only hope for those improved circumstances which we trust will come about.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Mr. RAIKES
The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) takes the view that this Amendment is impossible because the princes have laid it down in the past that they would not come into a council of Greater India. He assumed that that must dispose of the whole matter. It is rather curious that my hon. Friend advances that assumption, but is not prepared to accept also the correlative fact that the Indian politicians have already rejected this Bill. They have already passed an Amendment in the Legislative Assembly in which they have denounced the principles of this Bill, and if my hon. Friend were logical he would say that we must go no further with this Bill now.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think the Debate is now getting to the point of a Second Reading Debate, against which I warned the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot).
§ Mr. RAIKES
In the circumstances I shall, of course, proceed no further in dealing with the hon. Member for Bodmin, although I could deal with him most adequately did opportunity offer. I would like to pass to the general criticisms advanced by hon. Members who are opposed to this Measure, and by so doing I think I can keep in order. It is not our wish to be obstructive in any way whatever. Those who are opposed to Federation are anxious to tackle the problem, and we very much welcome the observations made by the Secretary of State himself to show how he welcomed the fact that we were sincere in the line we are taking. The right hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) said a few moments ago that if we set 377 up this Council of Greater India, we should, in effect, be setting up a mere barren debating society, possessed of no power at all, and that as the present existing Central Legislature would go out of existence the Indians at the Centre would have considerably less power than they now have, and that very considerable friction would result. As a matter of fact, the object behind the setting up of a Council of Greater India is not at the moment to dissolve the Central Legislative Assembly as such. Undoubtedly its powers will be diminished, because at the same time powers will be transferred from the present Central Legislature to the Provinces—though it is not possible for me at the moment to go into that side of the question—and we shall be giving more power to Indians in the Provinces than they enjoy at the Centre; and it is going a long way for my right hon. Friend to suggest that if such a council could be set up, a council which comprised representatives of the Indian States, leading politicians in India, and so on, even though they were then in an advisory capacity, it would be nothing more than a mere empty debating society. It is obvious that a body of that character, airing opinions far more widely than it would be possible for them to do in the proposed Central Legislature, because there would be no bounds to the things that might be discussed, would be able to exercise an influence which would be very potent.
Various other points were raised last night by hon. Members who were criticising this proposal and I would like to touch shortly on one or two of them. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) tackled the whole question of dyarchy, and said that, after all, dyarchy will matter less under the existing scheme than under any other scheme which is possible to consider, because the line of division will simply be defence and foreign affairs, will, in fact, be a very easy division between those things for which Ministers are responsible and those for which they are not. But the right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that defence touches the whole question of finance in India. In the present budget of the Central Legislature the army estimates, leaving out debt and pensions, amount to somewhere about £34,000,000 out of the £58,000,000 which makes up the central budget, and if we 378 add pensions and debts it will be found that in the new legislature somewhere about three-quarters or more of the money raised under the budget will be outside their scrutiny. I cannot imagine ministers will say that this is a pleasant form of dyarchy under which they are allowed to play about with £9,000,000 or £10,000,000 and cannot touch the remaining £50,000,000. Whatever may be the merits of this scheme it is dyarchy at its worst, because it is dyarchy under which a considerable degree of paper power is given to ministers in the Central Legislature, but a power which is found to be of comparatively little value when we come down to the "brass tacks" of money. That is why I was very much surprised when I heard a new voice uplifted last night. The hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. G. Nicholson) leapt to his feet to tell us, after a very short visit of discovery to India, that he had found a very remarkable thing. He discovered in the course of those few weeks that the new scheme is the best we could have bcause there ought to be no half-way house between responsibility and irresponsibility. I wish the hon. Member were now in his seat, because if he were I should suggest to him that he is the only person either in India or in this country, who really believes that this scheme means no half-way but complete responsibility for Indians and India. Indeed, if he became unique by going out to India for a few weeks he might have been wiser if he had stayed at home and saved his fare, because whatever the scheme may do it does not pretend to give complete responsibility. It is dyarchy and it must be accepted as dyarchy.
The hon. Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan) very fairly faced the question of dyarchy last night. He said the Simon Commission had protested against dyarchy, but that he and other Members had since decided that it was impossible to avoid having dyarchy, and dyarchy we were faced with. It is easy enough for the hon. Member to say that, but the fact remains that every single argument that the Simon Commission raised against the perpetuation of dyarchy remains as when laid down in their report. There is a further point which I do not think has been touched on very much recently. It was assumed by the hon. Member for Finchley, and, indeed, it has been assumed throughout, that if the Princes 379 had shown any real sign of coming-in in the days of the Simon Commission the commission would not have played about with this idea of a Council of Greater India, but would have jumped the whole chasm at once and would have recommended All-India Federation. That may be so, but, nevertheless, as I recollect it, the Simon Commission did lay down among certain other things in regard to British India that one of the difficulties was that the individual units in British India had not yet in many instances achieved political consciousness, and until there was political consciousness among the various units in a subcontinent like British India it was very difficult to envisage a Federation. The Princes may or may not become politically conscious, nobody knows that, but there is no evidence that political consciousness in India has developed among the Indians themselves, outside the political class, to any great extent, since 1928, when the Simon Commission went out.
The difficulty which many of us find who are opposed to this scheme of Federation is that we can understand a scheme for handing over complete control to India, though we should disagree with it, but the scheme brought forward to-day does not pretend to do that. It does undoubtedly give political power to a certain class in the Central Legislature. It gives them power, if they wish to do so, to tax the poor more than they are taxed at the present time, but it gives little in the way of complete responsibility. If the safeguards are successful there will be continual bitterness in India. Indians will be saying time and time again, "People have talked about Dominion status, but the safeguards are operating and we have not got Home Rule at all." On the other hand, if the safeguards do not work a Bill will have passed through this House which will have the very effect which we have been told in every Government speech it would not have, and in the view of many of us there will be complete chaos. The object of this Amendment is to try to be rather more practical with India as it stands at the present time. It is perfectly obvious that any scheme put up will be denounced in India, is being denounced by the Indian politicians—no one denies that—and that 380 being so it is just as well to give India a, scheme at the centre which we think is the best scheme for her, rather than to try to please people by putting forward schemes which they do not like and which a very great number of Members of this House dislike equally. By establishing a council of British India you would avoid considerable difficulties. You would avoid the vexed question of unequal power between the Provinces and the Central Government; you would avoid the difficulty as to the uncertainty regarding the character and the position of the Central Government in relation to the princes; you would avoid the break in continuity which there is at the present time when the Viceroy's various councils are being altered and changed under the Bill, and you would avoid that morass of difficulty in regard to direct versus indirect election in which question the hon. Member for Bodmin is so greatly interested. If you have direct election, which I know my hon. Friend would desire, it will be based mainly on ignorance; if you have indirect election the position will be still more corrupt. We believe that the Amendment is reasonable. We ought to put forward what we consider the best for India and to anticipate the dangers of a scheme under which, even if the safeguards are active, they will result in considerable danger from the Indian politicians.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I remember a statement made by the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot), at an earlier stage of these discussions, in which he said that in all these matters we were faced by the alternatives of abdication, domination or co-operation. We are told that this is the co-operative way. Having listened to the discussion on this Amendment, I am afraid that most of us want to say, "Why could we not have abdication or domination, one, or the other, rather than this totally unsatisfactory attempt at cooperation between things that do not naturally co-operate?" I and my hon. Friends have stood consistently for a number of years for the abdication policy, but that has never been the popular view in Great Britain. There is an overwhelming mass of opinion in favour of the view that our power in India should be maintained, and that view is held by all sections in the House, excepting, of course, the small minority who sit here.
381 One of the anomalies in the talk about co-operation is revealed by the speech of the hon. Member for Bodmin, who is the great disciple of Cromwell in this country, the chief spokesman on behalf of the parliamentary system and of constitutional, limited monarchy. He comes here and makes a defence for the granting of exceptional powers to absolute monarchs, survivors of times infinitely farther back than the Cromwellian struggle in this country. All the time he was defending the princes to-day and quoting the utterances of the prince of this and the Maharaja of So-and-so and the something else of somewhere else, I thought that he was not as effective as usual. Why should I listen to the utterances of any Maharaja or Prince or some absolute Potentate of an Indian State?
It was one of the most interesting and amusing things to listen to the speech of the hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir C. Oman) last night when he told us how these princes had cheeked, bought and betrayed their way into their positions. Our colleague from Oxford University, and from the chair of history, told us that the Princes of India had got their princely rank in exactly the way that princes have always got their princely rank, by treachery, graft and frame-ups of one kind or another. That was the honoured voice of Oxford University. I know that the hon. Member for Oxford University does not command such a hearing in this House as others who are more parliamentary and less academic sometimes do, but I listened carefully to everything he said and that was the story he told me on history, and I am prepared to accept him as an expert. Now the hon. Member for Bodmin defends the princes and says we have to give them a greater status than they have had before.
§ Mr. MAXTON
We are taking the princes into a partnership and giving them a status in all-Indian affairs and, indeed in the affairs of the British Empire. I take this simple view about the British Empire, that once these men are admitted into a share of self government 382 they get the same status as the hon. Member for Bodmin or myself. I do not want to have any monarch, wielding absolute power of tyranny in his own territory unchecked and able to do what he likes in that territory, to have also some say in what I am doing here. That is going rather farther than I care to go.
The alternative proposed by the Noble Lord who moved this Amendment offers me no way out and that is why I am completely lost in regard to these attempts at co-operation. If the proposal made here said: "Look here, we have only been playing at ruling in India for a couple of hundred years; let us go in and rule it, and if the people will not come up to date let us make them up to date," it would not be one which would appeal to me, but it would be an intelligent proposition which could be pushed to a logical conclusion. On the other hand, if the proposal were, "We have been there a couple of hundred years and have made no impression on the situation; we are coming out, to let the Indian people work out their own Constitution, and if that can only be done by slaughter, well, human history has been full of it, and it seems to be a necessary thing in human progress," that too would be understandable. Those are the two alternative propositions, but the proposal that comes before us to-day is for a bastard hybrid assembly. I do not see that the proposals in the Bill or in the Amendment carry us one step forward towards a solution. The absolute monarchy of these men has remained during all the time British control has existed in India and for more absolute time than has been contemplated by this House. What are the possibilities of these monarchs ruling better or worse? I can see not the faintest tittle of difference between the one proposal and the other. The mass of the people in the Indian States will have to fight for their freedom just as any other workers have had to do. I cannot see the Bill making it easier for the people of the Indian States to secure their freedom, just as I cannot see that the old position made it easy for them to maintain their freedom.
As between the Bill and the Amendment, I can see nothing of such vast importance as to justify the argument between the two sides. The hon. Member for Bodmin says, "Give us the Bill," 383 and the hon. Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes) says, "Reject the Bill and give us the Amendment because it is rather more frank with the people of India than is the Bill." Is that the way to govern? One is a little less disingenuous than the other. This Federal Council will have no effective power. All the real power is withheld from them; it gives an appearance of a central Indian council representing the Indian people. What is the Amendment? Again, an appearance. That is not Government at all; that is playing with the whole problem of Government. Either you are going to rule or you are not going to rule, and there is no half way out.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Mr. LENNOX-BOYD
The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) made some reference to the very vigorous speech yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Sir C. Oman). I do not intend to tread beyond the terms of the Amendment, but I must, in justice to the University of Oxford, dissociate the university from some of the observations of the hon. Member for Oxford University. The hon. Member for Bridgeton knows perfectly well that the hon. Member for Oxford University, though a professor of history, is a professor of military history and is in no sense a professor of the history of the Indian Empire. I feel it necessary to say quite emphatically that a good many of the suggestions of the hon. Member for Bridgeton that the Princes of India acquired their power by bribery, corruption and subterfuge are entirely without foundation. The Princes of India, in addition to giving loyal service to this country in some difficult hours of our history did a very great deal to make possible, by their support in the War, the orderly and peaceful conduct of our deliberations here, because the victory of our armed forces enabled the British Constitution to flourish and to work smoothly and in peace.
The hon. Member also made some reference to the situation in regard to the citizens of the Indian States. I would ask him to look at last year's figures of migration from British India, into Indian India. If the hon. Member will do me the courtesy of looking at the figures, I am sure he will realise that there has 384 actually been a drift of population from British India into Indian India in the course of the last few years, so that those on whose behalf he claims to speak have thought it worth their while to move from the democracy of British India into territories which are under the benevolent autocracy of Indian Princes.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I must point out to the hon. Gentleman that I did not mean to show any want of courtesy. I was looking at the speech which the hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir C. Oman) made last night, to see if I had misquoted him. I hope the hon. Gentleman does not think that I was defending the condition of the people in the Indian Provinces as against the condition of the people in the States. They are both wrong.
§ Mr. LENNOX-BOYD
The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) declared emphatically that, if politically minded India was not prepared to work these reforms, there was little use in proceeding with them. I do not think he will accuse me of twisting his observations. Later on this afternoon we shall have an Amendment in the name of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle - under - Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), which will give my hon. Friend an opportunity of implementing those observations, and I very much hope he will lend the powerful support of the party on whose behalf he speaks to an Amendment to provide that these proposals shall not be implemented unless the Legislative Assembly in India expressly asks that they shall be implemented.
There were one or two thoughts underlying the speech of my hon. Friend to which I should like to make a brief reference. Apart from his assumption that this is an agreed Measure in India, he also seemed to believe that it was an agreed Measure in the United Kingdom; but nothing emerged more clearly from the discussion in the Committee yesterday afternoon than the complete unreadiness of His Majesty's Opposition to accept this federal proposal as a permanent settlement of the Indian constitutional problem, and I feel that many of those in the Conservative party who are being prevailed upon to vote for the federal system, in the belief that it will be a final settlement of India's 385 constitutional agonies, will, after listening to the observations of hon. Members opposite, be inclined to pause in their acceptance of that view. The hon. Member for Bodmin also suggested—I think he will agree with me that it was implicit in his observations—that the Amendment standing in the name of my Noble Friend the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) rather implied a belief that the Princes of India might be prepared to associate themselves with the existing Government at the Centre. It is not, however, the case that we had any such idea in mind. We recognise quite fully that you cannot expect the Princes of India to associate themselves with the present Central Government in India—
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
Not only did they say that they were not prepared to associate themselves with the Government as at present constituted, but they said that they would not come into a Federation where there was not a self-governing India at the Centre.
§ Mr. LENNOX-BOYD
I do not think there is very much in dispute between my hon. Friend and myself on that point. I think he will agree that those on whose behalf I am now speaking fully appreciate the immense value of the collaboration of the Indian Princes in the Central Government of India. We fully recognise that the situation will be changed if they are fully and freely prepared to associate themselves with the Central Government. We recognise what the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster described in such graphic terms, namely, the stability and confidence which the collaboration of the Indian Princes would bring; but we urge emphatically that a far safer opportunity of securing this collaboration for the benefit of the Indian people would be found if, in the initial stages, constitutional development at the centre takes the form of an advisory council.
I am not going at length into the arguments advanced yesterday, but the hon. Member for Bodmin and the hon. Member for Bridgeton dismissed the advisory council as an academic debating society. One of my hon. friends dealt very fully with the position under the proposed reforms at the Centre, whereby some 80 per cent. of the revenue to be dealt with will be outside the direct control of the Indian Ministry. I hold strongly that it is far 386 better frankly and freely to recognise that what we expect, both from the Indian politician and from the Indian, Princes, is advice and collaboration, rather than a share in the direct executive authority at the Centre. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) made some suggestions yesterday which might give the impression that my Noble Friend and myself are anxious to keep the Indian States out of India. We have no such ambition at all. I repeat once more how anxious we all are that the interests of Indian and British India should be regarded as so closely interlaced that they cannot be considered apart; but we would ask whoever replies to this Amendment to give stronger reasons than have hitherto been advanced why an advisory council will not at this stage meet Indian and British needs.
My hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan), in the course of a very able defence of his change of attitude, made very little reference to certain statements in the Simon Report which we claim are in no way altered by the possibility of the Princes coming into the Government at the Centre. The Simon Report said that:Constitutional progress should be the outcome of practical experience.We hold very strongly to the view that a central advisory council will provide full and free opportunities for practical political experience. It will demonstrate quite conclusively, and we are prepared to recognise the lesson if the lesson is shown, their capacity to work in the spirit of partners institutions which have never before been attempted at the Centre. The "Times" newspaper, before it had lost all sense of proportion on the subject of Indian Constitutional reform, at a time when my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) was describing it as the oracle of mugwumpery—that was a little before his intervention on the Government side of the Indian dispute—the "Times" newspaper, on the occasion of the report of the Simon Commission, dealt with one of the commission's recommendations, that there should be an all-India advisory council. There was no suggestion made then that this idea of an advisory council was derogatory to the Indian people, or that it would not afford full and free opportunities of bringing both princes 387 and British India together to collaborate on matters of common Imperial concern. The "Times" newspaper urged Indian politicians, to quote its own words:to ponder on this report, and to find in the following passage the most complete refutation of the theory that the change of direction suggested by the report tends away from Dominion precedents.This brings me in conclusion to some observations made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg), who said last night that you cannot do with one part of the Empire what you are not fully prepared to do also in every other part. The Simon Report—and it was to this passage that the "Times" called the attention of Indian politicians—said quite clearlythat in Australia and South Africa unity at a common centre was only brought about a substantial time after each of the constituent units, or at any rate most of them, had achieved self-government. The same thing is in substance true of the Dominion of Canada.I have long and earnestly pondered on this question of responsibility at the Centre and a Federation of all India. It is in no desire to find fault with every detail of the Government's programme that I would urge the Secretary of State to deal in more detail than has hitherto been done with the terms of the Amendment, which proposes that an All-India advisory council should be set up. I hold very strongly to the view that Indian politicians, if they carry out that proposal in the proper spirit, will show their aptitude for Western institutions, and the Indian States, if they can bring their great influence to bear, will have deserved the tributes which in all quarters of the House we are fully prepared to pay them.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Mr. MOLSON
The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) has asked for some reasons why at the present time we who support the Bill do not regard the proposal of an advisory council as adequate. I will try, before I sit down, to give some reasons as to why, in the first place, the Indian States expressed their willingness to enter into Federation. I could not help being struck by the strange agreement between the hon. Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes) and the hon. Member for 388 Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), two hon. Members who do not generally find themselves in agreement, when they both came to the conclusion that there were only two logical paths for this country—either to rule India or to get out. That appears to me to be an unintentional confirmation of the line of argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) last night, when he pointed out that some kind of dyarchy is necessary and inevitable if India is to make steady progress towards self-government in the way laid down in the Preamble to the Act of 1919. Without some kind of dyarchy it would be necessary to make a complete and sudden transition from a state of affairs in which responsibility for the government of India rests upon this House to one where it is entirely transferred. That was logical enough, coming from the hon. Member for South-East Essex, who on a previous occasion went much further than those hon. Members with whom he is associated, and said that he was not in favour of any increase in self-government for India.
The idea of Federation as the ultimate goal in India goes right back to the time of the Montagu-Chelmsford Report. When the Simon Commission came out to India, two bodies with which I was then connected—the Associated Chambers of Commerce and the European Association—both put forward proposals with regard to Federation. I mention that fact because it has been suggested that the idea of Federation only developed at the time of the Round Table Conference. In the original evidence which they put before the Simon Commission, the Associated Chambers of Commerce said that any Constitution which did not include the Indian States would have to be regarded as merely provisional, and the European Association went so far as to put forward definite proposals to the effect that the Viceroy should have two councils, the Viceroy in Council of British India and the Viceroy in Council of Indian India.
The Simon Commission, after devoting two whole chapters to emphasising the importance of Federation, said that, as it was not within their terms of reference to receive any evidence from the Indian States, they wrote to the Prime 389 Minister and recommended that some sort of conference should be called together in order that representatives of British India and of the States should meet representatives of the Government in this country with a view to arriving at the greatest possible measure of agreement in regard to the new Constitution, and making adequate provision for the voice of the Indian States to be heard. At the Indian Round Table Conference the Princes came forward with a. proposal for Federation. That fact has been denied so often that I had prepared a, few quotations regarding it, but the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) has already dealt with the matter, and I do not wish to repeat what he said. It has been so often suggested that there must have been some sinister motive, some secret influence brought to bear upon the Indian Princes, that I would like to suggest some reasons why the Indian Princes did independently think at that time that it was desirable in their own interests that they should enter into a Federation. A book has been written recently by Mr. Panikkar, an adviser to the Indian States, who has pointed out that in fact there does exist at the present time in India something that is very much in the nature of federation, but it is a federation in which all control is in the hands of the Government of India and the Indian States have no voice and no control in it. He writes:In legal theory the States are independent, isolated units, in actual fact they have ceased to be so long ago…The Central Government has exclusive authority by treaty in all matters of defence and international relations and by practice exercises jurisdiction in matters affecting all-India currency, posts, telegraphs, trunk telephones, Excise and maritime Customs, etc. Thus the central authority in India has gradually become an all-India authority in many matters and the legal isolation of the States remains purely theoretical.The position, then, has been that the present Government of India exercises control in at least three most important subjects which are in most federations subject to the control of the Federal Government. You have the customs, the railways and salt, and all these subjects being administered by the Government of India in the interest in many cases of British India. When, for example, it was decided to stabilise the rupee at 1s. 6d. instead of 1s. 4d., that was a matter 390 which vitally affected the Budget of every Indian State, and yet there was no constitutional means by which the Indian Princes were able to express their views on the subject. Take the case, again, of salt, because salt is a Government monopoly and an important source of revenue to British India. It has been necessary for the Government of India to enter into agreements with each individual Indian State in order to prevent the manufacture of salt in that State and its export across the frontier and sale, to the injury of the revenues of British India.
Take perhaps the most striking example of all, and one of the causes of the great and growing dissatisfaction of the Indian Princes with the present Constitution. Thirty years ago only about 5 crores of revenue were raised by customs duties. Since that time the policy of discriminating protection has been adopted by British India, and the customs revenue is 50 crores. The vast majority of the Indian States have no seaboard and, as the result of that, the subjects of the Indian States are compelled to pay enhanced prices for whatever imported goods they need to buy. The proceeds of those customs go into the revenues of British India and, where a protected policy has been adopted, it is in the interest of industry located in British India in almost every instance and not in the Indian States. That is the principal reason that I would adduce why an advisory council is not adequate for the purpose. It is of the utmost importance that the Indian Princes, who at present so often suffer from the policies that are adopted by the Government of British India, should be in a position to influence the fiscal policy of that Government.
Let me give another and, as I think, a very cogent reason why the Indian Princes at that time decided to enter into Federation. The opponents of this Bill have after some hesitation admitted that, owing to expectations which have been aroused, it is necessary to be prepared to hand over to Indian politicians the administration of the British Indian Provinces. They have never concealed the fact that they feel much doubt as to how the administration of the British Indian Provinces will be carried on by Indian politicians. They have indicated their fears that there may be a decline in law and order and respect for authority 391 in British India, and yet they are prepared for a policy of that kind to be followed. What must be the attitude of an Indian Prince who shares their fears and sees the prospect of British India becoming more and more democratic? Surely he would feel that it is impossible to stop ideas at any political frontier and that the Indian Princes and their States might very well be in the position of a number of small and scattered autocracies surrounded by the swirl of democratic ideas in British India. It would, therefore, only be a matter of time, if British India to some extent fell into chaos, before the ideas that were prevalent in British India began to penetrate into the Princes' States. I believe that is one of the things that weigh very much with the Indian Princes, that they thought it was more prudent in the interests of themselves and their descendants rather to take a share in the government of the whole of the sub-Continent and to add a conservative and authoritative element to the Government of India in order to make certain that there should not be the unrestricted development of democratic ideas and, at the same time, a deterioration in the standard of administration and rule in British India.
One of the greatest hopes for British trade in the future is that the Indian States should have a greater influence upon tariffs than they have had in the past. Under the existing Constitution the wealthy millowners of Bombay have found it extraordinarily easy to influence Congress and Indian politicians. There has been a great increase in the duties on imported piece goods. As I mentioned in conection with the question of customs, that has meant that the subjects of the agricultural Indian States have been compelled to pay an enhanced price for the piece goods that they needed, because the Indian mills desired a high protective tariff. It is of the utmost importance, in order to obtain a fair and reasonable tariff policy in India, that the agricultural districts in the Indian States should be more fairly and adequately represented.
I should like to express my great regret at the speech made last night by the hon. Lady for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) and, not greatly to my surprise, she was supported to-day by the 392 hon. Member for Bridgeton. I should be sorry if no protest was made against the attitude those two hon. Members have taken up that there is something wrong in the attitude of His Majesty's Government that certain treaties entered into 100 or 130 years ago to maintain the integrity of the Indian States are a pledge that is binding upon us to-day in law and in honour. In the Harcourt-Butler Committee Report, to which the hon. Lady referred with criticism, a proclamation made by the present King is quoted that those treaties are inviolate and inviolable. Those treaties were entered into at a time when British rule in India was not as firmly established as it is at present, when we stood in great need of faithful friends, without whose assistance there might now be no British rule in India. It is strange to me that the hon. Lady, who is so apt to draw attention to pledges such as that made in 1917 to British India by which we undertook to introduce self-governing institutions into India, should regard pledges given to native India to maintain their existing constitutional system as being less sacred and less binding.
§ Miss RATHBONE
Has the hon. Member also considered the explanation given by the Harcourt-Butler Committee itself, that the relationship of the paramount power and the States is not merely a structural relationship resting on treaties made more than a century ago. It is a living, growing relationship shaped by circumstances and policy which is, as Professor Westlake has said, a mixture of history, theory and modern fact. If that be the correct interpretation, is it not justifiable to consider whether the modern fact which we are creating in this Bill is the kind of fact which will shape this living, growing relationship in a right direction or a wrong one?
§ Mr. MOLSON
Without accepting the Harcourt-Butler Committee's Report as being in all matters binding, I would draw the hon. Member's attention to the circumstances in which the committee was appointed. It was appointed because the Indian States were dissatisfied with what they believed to be the encroachments and the increased intervention by the paramount power in the administration of the Indian States. That has been because, as circumstances have changed, the British Government has considered 393 itself entitled to an increasing extent to intervene in the Indian States in order to safeguard the interests and the welfare of the subjects of the princes. That is a point which I thought should not be allowed to pass unreferred to.
It has been alleged—and there is no information on the subject—that, when this Bill has been passed, and the exact conditions upon which the Indian Princes may come into the Federation are known, they will refuse to do so. The Conservatives opposite seem to think that they will refuse. The Government on the other hand, whose information I suppose is at any rate as trustworthy as theirs, think the Indian Princes will be prepared to come in. But, whether they do or do not, that is no argument against this Bill, because it provides that, if the Indian Princes are not prepared to come in, if we are not going to have that conservative and stabilising element at the centre, the whole question of responsibility at the cenre will have to be reconsidered.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I do not rise for the purpose of continuing the Debate so much as to ask when we are to have some reply from the Government to the prolonged discussion that has taken place. Since dinner time last night debate has been in progress upon an Amendment of consequence, and so far we have had no information from the Government whether they will accept it or not. We have had no attempt to meet any of the arguments that have been employed in favour of the Amendment and against the policy of the Government. This is a very far-reaching and weighty Amendment and you, Sir, following the convention that is ruling us, that our arrangements give more and not less liberty to the House of Commons of discussion, have allowed us a full discussion of this super-imposition of the federal Constitution upon the broad foundation of the Statutory Commission's Report. That really is the issue. It is not the only time the issue will be raised. It comes up on a great many Amendments. There are a score of Amendments any one of which, if carried, would be fatal to the federal scheme, but this is the first major time at which the matter comes before us. There has been this Debate and there have been all these arguments. We have had no answer whatever from the Government. I sup 394 pose the Secretary of State is going to make sure that he has the last word in the Debate.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Sir Samuel Hoare)
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Then, may I suggest that really on this occasion be might run a little risk and give some guidance as to what his purposes are For my part, I am prepared to discuss the matter and support the Amendment, and show, as far as I can, the many vicious Clauses which render the Government policy of Federation at the centre injudicious and most pregnant with evil consequences. We have had already two long Debates in which this topic has been greatly raised, and many arguments have been used against the policy of Federation at the centre and no Minister has given any answer of any sort or kind to any of those arguments. Statements have been made in previous Debates on this matter by the Lord President of the Council which have not dealt at all with the arguments used in the Debate, not in the least. They have dealt with questions in connection with groupings of party votes and so forth. No attempt has been made to answer all these arguments. I really consider there is a great volume of argument against the introduction of this federal scheme to which my right hon. Friend might find it worth while to address himself. I am sure that, if he did so, he would strengthen the volume and current of the Debate in the Committee and put us in a position to know the mind of the Government. So far many arguments have been used against Federation, and all that has happened is that Ministers and supporters of the Government who have spoken have confined themselves to saying, "You must have Federation because the princes made an offer and said that their offer only held if there was responsible government. Consequently, there is nothing for it but to put the Bill through." We ought to have something better than that, and I ask my right hon. Friend: Will he reply now to the Debate?
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I really cannot understand the attitude of my right hon. Friend. He has taken part in these Debates several times during the last 24 395 hours, and he has never failed to make a personal attack of some kind upon me. I should have thought that this was not the best way to start a Debate which everyone in all quarters of the House wished carried on in a most friendly atmosphere. We wish to hear each other's points of view with as little heat as possible, and I appeal to hon. Members in every part of the Committee in claiming that I have never avoided, in all the discussions of the last three or four years, any issues that have been raised. I have never failed to deal with any questions which any hon. Member in any part of the House has put. The only reason—and it is a very simple one—why I have not hitherto taken part in this Debate is that I regarded it as a general Second Reading Debate, or something very like it, on the main issue of the Bill, and an issue upon which I have spoken, I do not know how many times. It is a question upon which, time after time, I have endeavoured to give every conceivable detail, and I was under the impression that what, at any rate, most Members of the Committee desired was to put their own views and not to have the whole time taken up with long speeches from this bench. As however my right hon. Friend has thought fit to make these charges against me—
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Really, I think it is rather childish to talk about charges, when all I said was that after six hours debate we should have some answer from the Government. If you call that a charge, you will have plenty of them.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I take it that the Committee will decide between my right hon. Friend and myself. Anyhow, so far as this Committee is concerned, as my right hon. Friend seems to wish me to give my answer now, I am perfectly ready to give it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] I must not be drawn aside further, but I thought that my right hon. Friend was quite capable of looking after himself. Anyhow, be that as it may, let me get back to the Amendment. The purpose of the Amendment is to substitute for the federal proposals in the 396 Bill, a proposal for an advisory council of Greater India. I have observed that the Noble Lord who moved the Amendment and my hon. Friends who have supported him have for the most part based their contention upon the recommendations of the Statutory Commission. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I notice that one or two of them by saying "Hear, hear" imply that I rightly interpret their attitude towards this Amendment. Let the Committee observe the great difference of spirit with which, at any rate, some of my hon. Friends advocate this proposal, compared with the spirit underlying the recommendations of the Statutory Commission. The Statutory Commission recommended a council of Greater India as a very tentative and a very temporary proposal. Let me remind the Committee of the words the Commission actually used:The council of Greater India was designed to make a beginning in the process which may one day lead to Indian Federation.How different is that attitude from the attitude taken up by more than one of my hon. and right hon. Friends, from which it is quite clear that they regard this, not as a tentative proposal, but as a definite substitute for a long period of time. I think that the Noble Lord who moved the Amendment said 30 years.
§ Sir S. HOARE
He now says a generation. It is longer still. If he will look, he will see that he said 30 years.
§ Sir S. HOARE
Anyhow, for a long period of time, as a definite substitute for anything in the nature of a responsible federal centre. Moreover, my Noble Friend and the hon. Friends who support him have ignored a number of other recommendations which the Statutory Commission also made for dealing with the Centre. For instance, the Statutory Commission recommended that the number of the elected members in the British India Legislature should be increased. They recommended further that the official block should be diminished. In other words, my Noble Friend and his hon. Friends select from the Statutory Commission those recommendations that suit them.
§ Sir S. HOARE
No, I do not accept that. Instead of a tentative and very definite interim arrangement, they make what is really a permanent proposal of irresponsibility at the centre for an indefinite period of time. The whole essence of the recommendations in the report of the Joint Select Committee is that, over as wide a field as we can safely do it, we should give more responsibility both in the Provinces and in the centre. This proposal, so far from giving more responsibility at the centre, would sterotype irresponsibility for an indefinite time. If it is bad enough to have one irresponsible body at the centre in the shape of a legislature for British India, how much worse it is when you add to it another equally irresponsible body in the shape of the council of Greater India. The council of Greater India will be an advisory body. The whole history of advisory bodies in India has several lessons to teach us. Deprived of any power, they very much tend in some cases to drift into inanition and uselessness.
My strong view is that, since the Princes made their offer to come into a federation, it would be the gravest possible mistake to go back to a proposal that was only made by the Statutory Commission upon the assumption that the Princes were not likely to come into a. federation for a considerable length of time. Moreover, as far as the Princes are concerned, I feel pretty confident that that the Princes on no account would cooperate in a body of this kind. They made their offer four years ago. They stated then quite definitely that they were only prepared to take a part in the central government of India provided that the central government was not a government under Whitehall, but was a responsible government. Time after time they have made that statement, and from all that has happened since the statement was originally made, I have no reason to suppose that they have withdrawn in any way from that attitude. 398 And, surely, what attitude could be more reasonable? The Princes are not in the least interested in academic discussions about all-India questions. The Princes are directly interested in certain specific features of the modern government of India, and particularly interested in the question of Customs. I would remind the Committee that indirect taxation, including, that is to say, Customs, amounts to about four-fifths of the revenues of India, and in that part of the revenues of India the States pay a very large share. They pay a very large share of the customs without having control over Customs policy at all. I am convinced that one of the main reasons which have prompted the Indian Princes to insist upon responsibility for an all-India centre is the need that they have felt for having an effective control, not simply an academic voice in a debating society, but an effective control in a. policy which so directly concerns them at every turn. In view of these statements, I feel convinced that they would not be prepared to co-operate in a Council of this kind.
I have said a word or two about the actual form of the Amendment to set up an advisory council. Let me, before I sit down, say something about what I believe to be the feeling behind the Amendment. I have been very conscious throughout all these years that a great many people, at any rate when they first came to consider this question, have taken the view that the wiser and the safer course is to proceed stage by stage, to make your advance in the Provinces and not to make your advance or to prepare your advance in regard to the Centre simultaneously with the movement that you are making in the Provinces. I daresay that almost every hon. Member has at one time or another been influenced by a feeling of that kind. Certainly, I myself have more than once been influenced by that feeling, and certainly many hon. Members who were on the Joint Select Committee at one time or another were influenced by a similar feeling. But the significant fact is that, with so many of us, the further we have considered these problems, the more we have gone into the details, the more closely we have studied Indian conditions, the more we have been inevitably driven to the view that that course so far from being the safer and the wiser 399 course is really the more foolish and more dangerous course.
I will not delay the Committee with a detailed discussion of all the reasons that have driven us along that road. Let me rather summarise them in a few sentences. First of all, I think the reason that has weighed with a great many of us, and it is a reason which we ought not to ignore, is the present position of Indian feeling on the subject. There is, no doubt whatever but that Indian feeling—when I speak of Indian feeling I mean Indian feeling both in the States and in British India; I mean feeling among all sections, the right, the centre as well as the left wing, is very strong upon the need of dealing with the Centre simultaneously with the Provinces, particularly for the reason that they feel that without action at the Centre, Indian status will still remain inferior in the eyes of the world and in the British Empire as a whole. That feeling is very deep and very universal, and if it is deep and if it is universal it means that it is a mistake to ignore it. If you ignore it you will run the risk of making your Provincial autonomy experiment, an experiment which most Members of this House are willing to make, in the worst possible atmosphere. You are more likely to get non-co-operation in the Provinces if you flout Indian opinion and take no action at the Centre.
It is no answer to urge that there is a wave of criticism going on in India against the Government's proposals. Least of all is it a good argument to say that a very confused debate and a number of more or less contradictory Amendments passed in the Indian Assembly are a reason why this House should eliminate a great chapter from this comprehensive scheme. It might be supposed from some arguments we have heard in the course of the Debate that members of the Assembly in passing the Amendments that they passed the other day were in agreement with the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and those who sit around him. I observed that my right hon. Friend, I think for the first time, cheered enthusiastically the mention of Mr. Gandhi's name.
§ Sir S. HOARE
No, but he is a typical personality in the various sections that oppose the Government's proposals.
§ Sir S. HOARE
Why has there been this opposition in the Assembly? The opposition in the Assembly comes from two sections, first of all from Congress, who are prepared to take no proposals from this House at all, and who are prepared to accept no safeguards of any kind, and, secondly, from other parties who prefer responsibility in British India to responsibility in an All-India Federation; surely a very different attitude from the attitude taken up by my right hon. Friend and hon. Members who wish not to go further in advance than the Government are proposing but to have a more restricted advance. Be that as it may, the first reason that has driven us along the road for including in this Bill the chapter dealing with federation, is the almost unanimous feeling of political India upon the subject.
Secondly, we have been gravely impressed with the danger of starting these great autonomous provinces without a federal link at the centre, with a body of popular opinion behind it, without which there would be the imminent danger of India breaking up into fragments. I go so far as to say that if we started on the road of provincial autonomy, and did not at the same time make the framework of an All-India Federation, the result would almost inevitably be that we should never have an All-India Federation at all. The provinces would grow up with a very strong provincial feeling behind them, and with every kind of centrifugal force at work. We should have the provinces, with popular support behind them, and we should have a centre weak enough now in many respects but immensely weaker with provincial autonomy once started. We should have these great autonomous provinces, many of them with divergent interests one from the other, but united upon one objective and one objective alone, namely, to extort from the British India centre, a centre without any popular support behind it, the largest amount of money that it could possibly succeed in extorting.
401 That state of affairs would be bad enough for India and scarcely less bad for Great Britain. Great Britain has very important interests in the Centre. Take, for instance, the financial interest that we have at the Centre, the interest that depends upon the large sums that are due for meeting the obligations of India to this country, the obligations of the debt, the cost of Indian defence, the cost of pensions for pensioners in this country. I think from the British point of view it would be extremely dangerous to leave the Centre unreformed and at the mercy of these great autonomous Provinces, whose chief objective would be to extort more revenues from the unreformed Centre. That is the second reason why we think it necessary to include the Federal proposals in the Bill.
There is a third reason, which is connected with the position of the Princes. It might be assumed from some criticisms to which we have listened that our sole object in hoping that the Princes will enter the Federation is, to use the words of my Noble Friend the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer), that they should pull the chestnuts out of the fire for us. That is not in the least the real state of affairs. Obviously, we should all of us welcome the entry into the Central Government of India of a great force of stability and Imperial feeling such as is represented by the Princes. That, in my view, would be a great gain to the Central Government of India, but I am thinking rather of the Princes' position and their own interests in the matter. If I were an Indian Prince I should be extremely nervous in seeing these great Provincial autonomous Governments growing up around me, with popular support behind them, and with the Centre remaining in its present unreformed position. I should feel extremely nervous of the constant pressure that the Provinces would be putting on the Centre for additional revenue. After all, the Indian States are interested in keeping indirect taxation low, and not high. They pay a great part of the indirect taxation of India, but they have no say in the Customs policy. With these great autonomous Provinces constantly pressing the Centre more and more, it would put the Princes in a most dangerous position so far as their future is concerned.
402 For these reasons—I have purposely gone into them in greater detail than I intended in order to meet my right hon. Friend's request—the more I think of the problem the more sure I am that the wise and the safe course is to deal with the whole question at once both in the Centre and the Provinces. Any course which eliminates the proposals for the Centre and substitutes for responsible Federal Government the kind of advisory body that is suggested in the Amendment, and does nothing to remove the weaknesses now inherent in the Central Government, so far from being the wise and safe course would be a really dangerous course, that would plunge not only ourselves in great difficulties in the future, but make the position of the Indian Princes much more precarious than it would be if they entered the Federal Government.
§ Vice-Admiral TAYLOR
Before the right hon. Gentleman concludes his speech, may I ask if he will inform the Committee how it is that the Government are putting forward the proposition of federation at this time when it is an undisputed fact that the federating units in the provinces are not ready for federation for the many reasons so clearly set out in the Simon Commission Report. All his arguments assume that the units in the provinces are ready for federation, but there is not the slightest question that these provincial units are not ready for federation.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I do not know upon what the hon. and gallant Member bases his conclusion. I take a directly opposite view, I think they are ready.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The Committee will feel indebted to the Secretary of State for the clear and full exposition he has given of the views and position of His Majesty's Government on this serious issue. If I found it necessary to apply a blister in order to procure from the right hon. Gentleman this highly agreeable exertion, I can only feel that it has been attended with success, and, if he is satisfied with his efforts, we are entirely grateful to have received from the Government some guidance as to their views on this subject. The Secretary of State has reaffirmed the Government's case without 403 attempting in any way—naturally he could hardly do so in so short a time—to deal with the arguments which have been advanced. He has restated the Government's main position. The Princes made their offer to come into a federal system; the Princes said that if they came into a federal system they must be responsible and, therefore, it is necessary for the Government to set up this federal system now. That, in short, is the main position of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman also said that if we were to proceed only with provincial home rule, a centrifugal tendency would be developed in the povinces, and the united focus and harmonious action of India would be destroyed. That is a clear statement of the position taken up by the Government, and also by the Joint Select Committee.
When it is given out, as it has been to-night, with an air of expert authority which the Government quite rightly are entitled to assume, one is entitled to be allowed to point to the fact that other expert bodies, who have given great consideration to this matter, have taken an entirely different view of the philosophical and fundamental basis on which this issue turns. My hon. and gallant Friend, in asking his question was really leading up to a quotation I am about to make from the report of the Statutory Commission. [Interruption.] I do not know why hon. Members opposite should laugh; I am surprised at such irreverence. This was a body which contained eminent Liberals, the most pre-eminent Liberal was at its head, and hon. Members laugh because I venture to quote him. I have always noticed that the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) mocks at every authority which does not suit his argument at the moment, but I will admit that he is not the only man in the House who does that. This is what the Statutory Commission said:Even if we were to ignore the Indian States and were to rest content with the provinces as at present constituted, the necessary conditions for bringing a full federal constitution into being are not yet present. The provinces must first become political entities.I should have thought there was some importance in that. Before we can become political entities, before we can join ourselves together in political parties, 404 we must first be born into this world of sin and woe. The commission go on:Even when our proposals for the constitution of the Governors provinces have been embodied in a Statute, the process is not completed. The provincial constitution only begins to exist as a living thing when the forces which operate it are at work and provincial opinion gives it inspiration and direction. Every federal union means the coming together of constituent elements which, while preserving their identities, look to the Centre to deal with matters common to all. Thus the nature of the constituents themselves has a great influence on the form which the federation takes. It is a difficult task.These are not my words; they are not the words of Tory diehards. This is the Statutory Commission, with the Foreign Secretary at its head, surrounded by Liberals and Labour representatives.It is a difficult task to combine the process of devolution with that of integration on a new basis.These are solid propositions and arguments provided for us in the House of Commons and Lords by our own Statutory Commission, which was sent out and worked in India for two years. They gave us these solid bases of argument and, therefore, I am not so hopelessly divested of authority when I am confronted with the statements of the Secretary of State, which are absolutely contradictory to these main basic propositions. It is by no means the only time that we shall raise this federal issue in its different aspects, but it is the prime occasion. Having listened to many able speeches made by the supporters of the Government from time to time—there are some of them, certainly, who are very able in their statement of their views—I must say that I remain bewildered as to the initial motive power and impulse which lead the Government to insist on bringing a federal system into operation now, and forces us to take this position on the Bill. I have searched to find some adequate and satisfactory reason for it. Nobody wants it in India. With great difficulty the Princes are being brought up to scratch or not, as the case may be. We do not know. The Government have a great advantage over us in this respect, because the Debate is taking place without our knowing the decision of the Princes. With the greatest difficulty the Secretary of State set himself out to have three-quarters of the Princes as the test, but very quickly he had to write it down to one-half—
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
A larger number than the present number was originally put forward by the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I do not doubt my right hon. Friend's honesty and good faith in the matter, and I hope that such things are not going to be suggested. In this controversy many things have happened during the last four years and I certainly was under the impression, just as honestly or almost as honestly as the right hon. Gentleman, that a higher number of Princes was chosen in the first instance, and, in fact when we put down our Amendment about the three-quarters we understood that we were basing ourselves on the original view. However, the Princes are to be represented, they made this offer and demanded responsible government at the Centre. It reminds me of a saying of the Duke of Wellington to a man who accosted him with, "I believe you are Mr. Smith?" The Duke said, "If you believe that you will believe anything." Why these autocratic Princes should demand responsible government at the Centre I cannot conceive. What happened, as far as we have heard—names have been mentioned, but I will not repeat them—was that some of the Princes, believing that under the Secretary of Stateship of Mr. Wedgwood Benn England was really determined to move out, lock, stock and barrel, met representatives of Congress and did what in ordinary English language is called a deal. The Princes were to be left to run their territories as despotic and hereditary rulers and to help Congress to get responsible government at the Centre. That was the situation which preceeded the so-called offer of the Princes, and that is the explanation, and the only explanation, of their enthusiasm for responsible government.
What will be the plight of the Princes in this new Assembly? Anything more lamentable can hardly be conceived. They will be expected to uphold stability, the Conservative point of view, to sustain 406 the Imperial authority, and be as it were behind the Viceroy. The Chancellor of the Duchy made a most interesting and revealing speech a few days ago, in which he spoke of the advantages of having the Princes in. He made a confession of faith on the matter, very characteristic, very natural and very sincere, in one who has been a party manager. He said: "Here is this large block of votes, one-third of the Assembly, they will put things straight and counteract the evil of democratic and revolutionary tendencies which are manifested in the Congress of India." That is the position. The Secretary of State has shown how much hope he is putting upon this. What is to be the position of the Princes under this ordeal? Congress are not going to be idle in the new Assembly, and any Prince who makes himself prominent in defending Imperial interests and in acting in accordance with his sentiments of loyal allegiance, will be a marked man. He will be the subject of a double attack. Agitation will be raised in his dominions behind him, disorders will occur, comments and criticisms will be made, and there will be pressure at the centre, to show how he is a reactionary, is neglecting his State and how much happier they are in the States of those Princes who have conformed to the views of Congress. I say they will be in a dreadful position. If you imagine that they are going to be an element of stability, I believe that you make a profound mistake. There will be no element of stability there. Once the British power has definitely disinterested itself in this aspect of our affairs in India the Princes of India have no choice whatever but to throw in their lot with their own fellow-countrymen, and that is what they will do under the remorseless pressure of political events.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
As my hon. and learned Friend says, "Safety first" will not necessarily be a motto confined to the Treasury Bench. In regard to this new register, by going forward in this matter and enforcing a federal system on top of this very large measure of provincial home rule you create, and set Parliament to authorise, a strucure of constitutional polity, a legislative assemby more curiously constituted, more illogically 407 framed and based than any which has ever been seen in the whole history of constitution-mongering. Here is this body, and you say that it is responsible. I thought that the demand of the Princes for responsible government at the centre was a sham. But the response is also a sham. This is not responsibility at the centre; it is a pretence of responsibility. Almost every conceivable function in which responsible government resides, has been reserved. The protection of minorities, defence, the foreign situation; finance, except 20 per cent. of it—the whole basis is reserved.
What you are giving at the centre is not responsibility. What you are giving is the power to extort responsibility. What you are giving is, by Parliamentary method and by Parliamentary arguments, you having conceded all the argumentative positions, the power to extort inch by inch, and month by month, the full responsibility. But you are not giving it now. In the meantime a constitution is being created, infinitely laborious, infinitely complicated, people voting in and out according to instructions, people voting as representatives of the ancient monarchies, and as newly-elected representatives in the new-Assembly, an Assembly which cannot be rectified by any dissolution, just the Princes, representatives and others elected by indirect election—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Yes, it is so! It is an extraordinary situation, a piece of work most laborious but most lamentable when completed. The industry and labour and good will put into it do not remove the fact that the result is wholly undesirable and one which is resented and disliked and repudiated everywhere. You cannot get the Princes, or you will very doubtfully get the Princes, to come forward.
I am not going at this moment into all the methods that have been used. I may have something to say about them later on. But as for the Indian Assembly, an hon. Lady who spoke last night—an independent Member, an independent lady Member—made it quite clear that the dominating opinion in India now is that, rather than have this Bill, they would have the matter reconsidered from the beginning. And that would be a very-good thing. You would get a better result, because after all the fighting and nagging and general badgering that have 408 been going on we are getting to a fairly proper comprehension of the situation.
Would it not be wise of the Government, therefore, not to drive the scheme through this Parliament just because they have a very large number of gentlemen here who are ready during the closing months of this Parliament, to walk through the lobbies behind them? The scheme cannot come into operation for four or five years. Why not look a little further ahead? I know the lust of power, the sense of having such a very large majority in both branches of the Legislature, so that what you put on paper with your initial is settled. It is very affecting to the mind. I am bound to say that when I continue my search for any reason which the Government could possibly have had for assenting to the federal system at such great cost to themselves, at such great cost to their party, at such great cost to the people of India, and forcing the system through, I find that a handful of individuals of reputation and strong conviction were engaged at the beginning of this matter, and that these men have had their hands on the lever of power and can pull the great machine of party and Government. I find that to be the principal explanation of the situation in which we find ourselves to-day. It would be perfectly simple for the Government to proceed with the provincial, and to say that the federal system would come into being if the provincial aspect is found satisfactory, if it has made good in the provinces; and that the Government of that day in another Parliament—not this Parliament, but another Parliament—must face the responsibility and the burden of passing the detailed Clauses, instead of bringing the scheme into operation by an Address to the Crown from both Houses, and ramming it through after a single Division.
It is a very grievous thing. I do hope that we are not going to drag the House of Lords into this fight. We are told to attach great importance to an Address from both Houses. As far as I have been able to inform myself, the passing of an Address is not a matter governed by the Parliament Act. So that here you have not the dilatory veto of the House of Lords as affirmed by -the Parliament Act. Here you have the absolute veto of the House of Lords, without any reference to the Parliament Act. But this 409 is a very serious thing. If you suppose that the House of Lords is going to be put into the position of standing against the House of Commons on a matter of this kind, when no doubt there will be a situation of great excitement in India at the same time, I think you are resting absolutely upon an unsure and insecure foundation.
We consider that the plan which is put forward in this Amendment, which may be called the Salisbury Plan—it is not a bad name, for, after all, Lord Salisbury took a great deal of trouble in studying the matter—is really what the Statutory Commission advised, with certain modifications. In principle it is what the Statutory Commission advised, that there should be provincial government, provincial home rule, that integral control should be maintained at the centre and that a consultative body should be provided. That is, in sub stance, the Salisbury Plan. That is the issue. Imagine what would happen if we heard next week that the Princes were not coming in. There would be a sigh of relief from all over India. But that would be nothing like the sigh of relief which would go up all over the Tory party, and indeed far outside the
§ bounds of party—a feeling of great relief that this wedge which is being driven in to split a great political organisation had ceased to operate and that there would be unity. Not only would there be relief in India, but a greater measure of unity at home, and we should have freed ourselves, we should have prevented the writing of one of the most melancholy, one of the most perverse, one of the most unnecessary chapters in the whole history of the British people.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I would like to concur in what has been said in support of the Amendment. I have studied the question very carefully, and my view is that to force on an Oriental people a system of Western government is just as foolish as to put British clothes on tropical African negroes. It has very frequently been done in the past, to the damage of their health. The Bill is an absurd proposal.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out to the word 'if,' in line 35, stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 308; Noes, 50.413
|Division No. 52.]||AYES.||[6.12 p.m.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Eales, John Frederick|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Eden, Rt. Hon. Anthony|
|Allen, U.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A.(Birm., W)||Edwards, Charles|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N.(Edgbaston)||Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey|
|Apsley, Lord||Clarry, Reginald George||Elliston, Captain George Sampson|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Cleary, J. J.||Elmley, Viscount|
|Assheton, Ralph||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Emrys-Evans, P. V,|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare|
|Balniel, Lord||Colfox, Major William Philip||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)|
|Banfield, John William||Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Colman, N. C. D.||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Cook, Thomas A.||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Cooke, Douglas||Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Cooper, A. Duff||Fox, Sir Gifford|
|Bernays, Robert||Copeland, Ida||Fraser, Captain Sir Ian|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Cripps, Sir Stafford||Fremantle, Sir Francis|
|Blindell, James||Crooke, J. Smedley||Galbraith, James Francis Wallace|
|Borodale, Viscount||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Ganzonl, Sir John|
|Bossom, A. C.||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Gardner, Benjamin Walter|
|Boulton, W. W.||Cross, R. H.||Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton|
|Bower, Commander Robert Tatton||Crossley, A. C.||Gillett, Sir George Matterman|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt Hon. Sir John|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Gledhill, Gilbert|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Curry, A. C.||Glossop, C. W. H.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Dagger, George||Gluckstein, Louis Halle|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Dalkeith, Earl of||Glyn, Major Sir Ralph G. C.|
|Brown, Col. D. c. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Golf, Sir Park|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Davies, David L, (Pontypridd)||Goldle, Noel B.|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Grattan-Doyle. Sir Nicholas|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Dickle, John p.||Graves, Marjorie|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Drewe, Cedric||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur|
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Duckworth, George A. V.||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)|
|Cape, Thomas||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Duggan, Hubert John||Griffith. F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Dunglass, Lord||Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Grigg, Sir Edward||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Groves, Thomas E.||McEntee, Valentine L.||Salmon, Sir Isidore|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Salt, Edward W.|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||McKie, John Hamilton||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Gunston, Captain W.||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Samuel, M. R. A. (W'ds'wth, Putney).|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Savery, Samuel Sarvington|
|Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Magnay, Thomas||Shaw, Captain William T. (Fortar)|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Mainwaring, William Henry||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Harris, Sir Percy||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Harvey, Major Sir Samuel (Totnes)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Smithers, Sir Waldron|
|Hellgers, Captain F. F. A,||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Hicks, Ernest George||Mason, Col. Glyn K, (Croydon, N.)||Soper, Richard|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Hoare, Lt.-Cot. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Hornby, Frank||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Spens, William Patrick|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Milne, Charles||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)|
|Howard, Tom Forrest||Milner, Major James||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Stevenson, James|
|Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Storey, Samuel|
|Inskip, Rt. Hon. sir Thomas W. H.||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Iveagh, Countess of||Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, North)|
|Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Morgan, Robert H.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Jackson, J. C. (Heywood & Radcliffe)||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Morrison, William Shepherd||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Jamieson, Douglas||Moss, Captain H. J.||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Janner, Barnett||Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Jenkins, Sir William||Munro, Patrick||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Jennings, Roland||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J, H.||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Thorne, William James|
|Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid||Tinker, John Joseph|
|John, William||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Train, John|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Orr Ewing, I. L.||Tree, Ronald|
|Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Paling, Wilfred||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Parkinson, John Allen||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Ker, J. Campbell||Patrick, Colin M.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Peake, Osbert||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Kerr, Hamilton W.||Pearson, William G.||Wallace, Sir John (Dunfermline)|
|Kirkpatrick, William M.||Peat, Charles U.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Kirkwood, David||Penny, Sir George||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Knight, Holford||Petherick, M.||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Potter, John||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Law, Sir Alfred||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||West, F. R.|
|Lawson, John James||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Leech, Dr. J. W.||Pybus, Sir John||White, Henry Graham|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P,||Radford, E. A.||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Leonard, William||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Lindsay, Noel Ker||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Wilmot, John|
|Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd. G'n)||Ramsbotham, Herswald||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)|
|Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Rea, Walter Russell||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Womersley, Sir Walter|
|Loftus, Pierce C.||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham-||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Logan, David Gilbert||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Wood. Sir Murdoch McKanzie (Banff)|
|Lumley, Captain Lawrence R,||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Lunn, William||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Mabane. William||Rickards, George William|
|MacAndrew. Lieut.-Col. C.G.(Partick)||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mac Andrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Captain Sir George Bowyer and|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir Edward||Dr. Morris-Jones.|
|Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Critchley, Brig.-General A. C.||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander|
|Alexander, Sir William||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Marsden, Commander Arthur|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Davison, Sir William Henry||Maxton, James|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Dawson, Sir Philip||Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert||Nunn, William|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Donner, P. W,||Oman, Sir Charles William C|
|Bracken, Brendan||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blk'pool)||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Burnett, John George||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Carver, Major William H.||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Cobb. Sir Cyril||Lees-Jones, John||Somerville, Annesley A (Windsor)|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Levy, Thomas||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A.(P d'gt'n, s.)|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)||Templeton, William P.|
|Cranborne, viscount||McGovern, John||Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Wayland. Sir William A.||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount||Mr. Lennox-Boyd and Mr. Kimball.|
|Wells, Sydney Richard|
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT
I beg to move, in page 2, line 35, after "and," to insert:by a majority of the elected representatives of each Chamber of the Indian Legislature, and.In the scheme which is down for the consideration of the Committee, I think it will be agreed that we are abandoning all the precedents which might otherwise guide us. There is nothing in the history of the world, as far as I know, comparable with the federal form of government which we propose to set up in India. All previous federations have been federations of countries, colonies, provinces or states which have come together after having had long experience of self-government, and have joined as willing partners in a federal system or federation. In other words, if I may use the term broadly—I think it covers the ground although in other countries and in the Dominions this has not always been the case—provincial self-government has first been tried and proved and the various provinces have then graduated by consent into a federal union.
In India all those conditions are absent. So far from the provinces in India having had the opportunity of proving themselves capable of the responsibility of government, I think it has been the contention from the Front Bench that they have had very little experience of responsibility at all. We might go even further in regard to municipal government in India and say that the municipalities there are still suffering the pains of birth, and have shown clearly that they are not yet capable of interpreting the democratic conditions and ideals of the Western world. Again, we have in India, and I shall only refer to it very briefly, the great clash of religious rivalries which are more intense, I think, than religious differences in any other part of the world and we have also the permanent segregation of the communal populations of India as a result of that condition. However necessary that may be, clearly it presents difficulties which are perhaps only appreciated fully in India and which make democratic institutions as we understand them in this country practically impossible there.
414 I may add that the divisions of caste make federal union still more difficult. Anyone who has made a real study of the question will agree that the differences of caste in India are such that we here can hardly conceive them. If we were to attempt to apply a strict interpretation of the caste system we would require to have a large number of different libraries, smoke-rooms, and dining-rooms and even toilet tables, with the result that there would be great confusion. Here in the House of Commons it is possible for me to sit on this bench next to my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). But if he were a Brahmin and I were an Untouchable, it would he essential for him, repeatedly, to go away not only to wash his hands but to have a complete bath and change of raiment. There is no doubt whatever that after going through the Lobby the greatest difficulties would arise among the various gentlemen of these different religious distinctions.
§ The CHAIRMAN (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I hope the hon. and gallant Member will avoid discussing federation generally. We have dealt with that, and I think the Committee must be very careful on this Amendment to keep to the point raised by the Amendment.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I will endeavour to conform to your ruling, Sir Dennis, but I was trying to convey to the Committee the necessity for Indians having some say in their own questions, because they alone can understand these fundamental differences and difficulties, of which we here know nothing. Under this Bill, after an address from both Houses of Parliament, we find that these reforms will operate, and we are asking that the people of India, who have for all time to live under the reforms which we are passing through this House, should, through their elected representatives, also give their assent. I know that unless there are very grave reasons to the contrary, men of every party in this House must assent to that principle. There would be no question about that on any other issue whatsoever, and if you persist in declaring that India wants this reform and that it is a form of government which is not being imposed upon them against their will, then I say to the Government, "Prove your case, 415 prove you have no fears, prove that you really believe this is representing the views of India."
I would remind the Secretary of State that he has no other machinery at the present time to which he can refer for endorsement than the machinery set up under the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, which this House, in its wisdom or in its folly, decided should be the form of government in India. The whole contention of the Government is that these very, electors and leaders of political thought -whom we are now considering are ripe for these democratic, self-governing institutions embodied in the Bill. If there is a shred of sincerity in the case which is presented, we are bound to consult these people, these elected representatives who are in contact with their electors in India. I realise that the legislative assembly may not be the same one then as it is now, but surely we are not going to depart from the principle of every single federal union we have ever heard of by saying that in this case of India alone the people who are really concerned shall not be consulted.
His Majesty's Ministers again and again have denied that these people to whom we are looking to work this reform are irresponsible. They have always said that their actions are irresponsible because we are only asking them to vote without any executive power; but they would never suggest that the people concerned, the political-minded people in India, are not responsible persons. I say then, Give them that responsibility, give them this opportunity of a sober, wise, executive decision, by saying that they assent to these reforms which you are proposing. To persist without their sanction—indeed, in direct opposition to their will as expressed at the recent elections—would be to violate the traditions of British constitutional history, as far as vie know it, from all time. I think it is a mockery of our standards of progress. It is forcing the true spirit of constitutional evolution upon which we have all been brought up in this country.
I want to remind the Committee of how large sections of the Press in this country, when a certain form of government was imposed upon Germany, took it upon themselves to lecture the Government of Germany and to say that what they were doing was very wrong, that the 416 establishment of the Hitler régime was only carried out under duress. Was all that nobility of thought mere eye-wash? I cannot believe it. I believe it was sincere. But if we declaim against the establishment of a form of government that apparently has not got the assent of the people of Germany, or which certain newspapers think has not got their assent, surely we ought not to impose a form of government upon citizens of the British Empire unless we are quite convinced and certain that they desire that particular form of government themselves. Without ever consulting the people of this country, we went through, first, the Montagu-Chelmsford reform, the Simon Commission, and then the federal scheme, and ultimately we have threatened Dominion status, and the British people have not been consulted. We have been slithering along this course from surrender to surrender, but at least it is our duty to consult the people of India.
My concluding word is this: The right hon. Gentleman, as everybody knows, believes in this policy. He would not have driven it along this tortuous path, with all its dire consequences, unless he had a very profound belief in the thing, but he believes that under his scheme, or he did believe at the commencement, he was going to bring peace, contentment, and settlement to this Indian constitutional question. All organised political opinion in India has declared that it will not bring peace, that it will not bring contentment, that it will bring far greater agitation than we have known in the past; and if that is a fact, surely it is our bounden duty to consult India before the country is plunged into that agitation which all their political-minded people tell us is inevitable. I, therefore, urge the Government to accept the Amendment, because I think it is really in consonance with the whole idea of British constitutional government. It would be regarded as intolerable in any other country in the world if you were to force this particular reform upon a people where there was any indication from the elected representatives that it was not such a reform as they believed would bring about the contentment which we and they desired.
§ 6.39 p.m.417
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
On a point of Order. Would it not be possible to have some debate on this Amendment before the right hon. Gentleman commits himself?
§ Sir S. HOARE
May I point out that it was only five minutes ago that my Noble Friend the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) asked me to speak?
§ The CHAIRMAN
May I remind the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and the Committee that at the beginning of these proceedings it was suggested, and I think it was suggested by the Committee upstairs, that it might be convenient for the Government to give its views on an Amendment early? That does not for a moment mean that the Debate is closed or anything of that kind, but it may shorten the Debate considerably if those who propose to take part in the discussion on the Amendment later know what the Government's views are.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
That is my point of Order, and I want to ask whether the only case is to be stated by the extreme Conservative wing, or whether we may not put forward the point of view of plain, ordinary, common sense people.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has already been called on numerous Amendments, and I have every intention and expectation that it will be my duty to call him a good many times in future. It is my duty and I intend to try to see that every section of opinion in the Committee is heard in the Debate.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I cannot believe that the Government are going, at this early hour, to refuse to sanction an Amendment which no Government in this country ever before would have refused to accept. There never has been in all history a case of England giving a constitution to any country in the teeth of the opposition of that country. There is plenty of opportunity of questioning whether the Indians are against this or not. The right hon. Gentleman may say that this is a Bill which will be 418 acceptable to India, which will be good for India, but he is not, as a Minister of the Crown, entitled to say that we will give this constitution to India whether India likes it or not. There are plenty of precedents. Take the case of Ceylon. We passed a constitution for Ceylon only three years ago—Ceylon, a small country. That constitution, which had the backing of the Labour Government and of the Conservative Government, was not forced upon Ceylon against their wishes. The -Ceylon people were told that they might accept it or not, that they might go on with the status quo or accept that constitution. Are you really going to refuse to India what you conceded to Ceylon, and on what ground?
Who are the people who are to enjoy or suffer this constitution? The Indian people. This Bill has hitherto been put forward as being a Bill for the good of India. If you refuse this Amendment, you must obviously abandon for all time any idea that it is for the good of India that you are acting, or any plea that this is wanted in India. You must fall back upon the argument, which I do not believe the right hon. Gentleman would use, that we are putting this Bill through in order to help England control India. There are certain advantages in this Bill which we know of, from the point of view of England. We get established in India a constitution which nothing could ever upset, because it is based on treaty rights between the Indian Princes and the British Government and the British Crown, and, therefore, this thing cannot be upset. That may be of advantage to England. We may be able to continue to control India in spite of the unanimous opposition of the Indian people. We may be able, by getting under cover of the Indian Princes and millionaires, to find it easier to rule India in the future than in the past. All those arguments in favour of this Bill will have to be used, and you will have to confine yourself to them, if you refuse an Amendment allowing the people of India to decide for themselves the simple question of whether they prefer—
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Certainly—whether they prefer the status quo or this Bill. I say "the people of India," because the assembly is the nearest approach to the people of India that you 419 can get. There is no system by which you can consult them all. The Committee will see an amendment in my name which will allow the provinces to contract out, and to say whether they prefer the status quo to their position under this Bill. The Assembly is the proper body to consult. Are we going to assert that the Indian people have not the right to say, "We would rather go on as we are than take this step," and of saying whether they want this Constitution or not? The view has received great support in the Committee and the Press of the country that the people of India. are not really opposed to this Bill, and that they are only objecting to it because they want more. When the Bill is through and when they know that they cannot get more, perhaps they may be in favour of it, but for goodness sake let them, say so.
I am perfectly certain that no party in India, no body of electors in India, will support this Measure or would not prefer the status quo to the new scheme. Here we are passing a constitution for a country which permanently divides it into castes and sects. I do not altogether agree at any time with the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). I do not believe that Indian democracy cannot work because of castes, for I am certain that the best and only way to break down caste in India is through democracy. In legislative councils in India I have seen Brahmins sitting beside the scheduled castes. They are mixing together. We had an admirable speech by the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Kirkpatrick) the other day in which he pointed out that in his big jute companies in Calcutta they had Indians as well as Englishmen on the boards, and they got along and understood each other, and were friends in consequence. Ten years ago they did not get on. The jute companies in Calcutta were almost purely Scottish, and they would hardly admit an Englishman. Then the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms got through against the wishes and ideas of the hon. Member for Preston, giving the beginnings of democracy to India. Then you got Indians coming on to the boards of companies and Englishmen and Indians of all creeds sitting together at the green benches at Delhi and Madras.
§ Mr. BRACKEN
One of the reasons why the Indians were on the boards of these companies is that they bought the shares, not that they were convinced by the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
How little the hon. Member knows about these jute companies. Indians had the shares before, but when the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms went through they got on the boards. Now those companies are all the stronger and all the better because they have mixed communities on the boards. The most remarkable change is in the various legislative councils in India. There you are getting people who would not sit and kneel together before sitting and kneeling together now. Caste is breaking down under the influence of democracy, and probably the greatest contribution which we have made to India is that start in the breaking down of caste. It is possible there are a great many people in this House who prefer caste and do not want to break it down. All people who love the Indians and all the administrators out there who are deadly in earnest in their desire to help the Indian people, know that caste is the one barrier to progress. They look forward to representation together as being the best chance of breaking it down. To put through this constitution will make it impossible for all time for a Mohammedan to ask a Hindu for a loaf, or for a Hindu to ask a Mohammedan. The consecration of caste is embodied in this Bill.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have already ruled that the Committee must not discuss the question of federation as such on this Amendment.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
My remarks do not arise out of federation, and I was not alluding to it. I am anxious to point out that the people of India are against the Bill, not because they want more, but because they do not want the Bill. If they do not want the Bill and prefer the existing system, we really ought to let them say so. Has it not struck hon. Members as extraordinary how those wretched Indians in Tangasseri are so desperately anxious not to lose their British citizenship and go into an Indian State? The tragedy of that small community can be seen also in Bangalore, but more markedly in Berar. The question 421 of handing Berar over to the Nizam has been discussed for many years. The people of Berar are vocally and enthusiastically anxious to remain inside the British Empire instead of being handed back to the Nizam. Under this Bill you expect Indians as a whole to welcome the scheme which deprives them of their rights as British subjects and puts them under new masters worse than us. I admit we have not governed India always wisely, but at least the people of India know the value of being under Britain, under this House, rather than under the Princes.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman not to discuss the merits of the Federation proposal, but to confine himself to the question of the scheme being adopted by a majority of the elected representatives.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I have stated the case from the point of view of the Indians; it is their right to be consulted and to decide whether this scheme shall come into operation, or whether they shall stand pat where they are. From our point of view, does not the Committee think it is rather scandalous that we should deliberately hand people over to a different rule against their wishes? What about our traditions? Is it not a little cowardly to run away from our responsibilities for the people whom we are deserting and who do not want us to desert them? If we do not give them this opportunity, if we really pass this Clause without giving them a chance of expressing their wishes, we are betraying the people of India and, still worse, betraying all the decent traditions of Englishmen. We should not do this for any Crown colony. We should not allow America to take over the West Indies or allow the native inhabitants of Tanganyika to be handed back to Germany, but when it comes to 350,000,000 people, we take a different line. If they want it, by all means do it, but if they do not want it, what right have we to commit the crime of forcing them out of the status in which they are at present, and putting them in the miserable position of being serfs for all time of the Indian Princes and millionaires, a position which perpetuates caste and makes it impossible for India ever to be free?
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I do not propose to follow the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just addressed the Committee in the wide field that was really covered by the Second Reading Debate. It seemed to me he covered much wider considerations which had very little to do with this Amendment. I propose rather to address myself to the Amendment only. I am astonished that of all hon. Members my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) should have made this proposal. I was under the impression that he had the lowest possible opinion of Indian politicians, and particularly of Indian politicians in the central Assembly. Now my hon. and gallant Friend is throwing over all his old true Tory traditions and constituting the Indian politicians, and in particular the Indian Central Assembly, into being virtually a constituent assembly to undertake what is really the duty of the Imperial Parliament. From the very start of these discussions, now ranging over more than four years, every British representative, so far as I know, who has taken part in the discussions, has made it clear that the responsibility, for better or worse, is the responsibility of the Imperial Parliament, and that the decisions must be taken here.
Further than that, my hon. and gallant Friend has so far abandoned his Conservative traditions as to draw a distinction between elected and non-elected members. Does that mean that he regards another place as of less account in the constitution than this distinguished assembly? Moreover, he and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) seemed to think that the Central Legislature is India and that India is the Central Legislature. I demur entirely from that contention. I wish to say nothing in disparagement of either the Council of State or the Central Assembly, but I do wish to urge the strongest possible protest against this House surrendering its responsibility as to what it thinks is the best government for India into the hands of anybody in. either of those two bodies. Let the Committee note this. Why should we surrender this responsibility in this particular instance I The present Legislature, supposing the Bill goes on to the Statute Book, is the last of its kind. Its 423 place is to be taken by a totally different kind of legislature, namely, the Federal Legislature. To what worse body could you refer for an opinion of this kind than the body whose place is to be taken by a different kind of assembly, and which would obviously be firmly and resolutely opposed to its own extinction?
What would be the action of this House if at the next General Election a totally different kind of assembly were going to take our place? Should we not see in every quarter of the House considerable dissent from a proposal of that description? The future constitution of India being federal, why should we accept a body of opinion which is non-federal? If we are going to consult any legislature, we should consult the provincial legislatures, but I am not prepared to surrender our responsibility. The proper bodies to consult, if we did so, would be those who are going to take part in the federal system of the future. For all these reasons I say that this Amendment ought certainly to be resisted, for it would mean the surrender of the Imperial Parliament in a matter of vital importance, and make this a reference to the one body which is extremely biased on this question.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
The situation confronting us is intriguing if not amusing. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) seems to have discovered some political light at last. The hon. and gallant Member has steadily argued throughout these discussions that the people who constituted the Central Legislature in India were of the unfortunate tribe designated by him as Indian politicians. I gather from that term of opprobrium that there is some essential difference between Indian politicians and the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth. I want to welcome the hon. and gallant Gentleman's early conversion. There has been talk about conversions recently, and I would like to hear the hon. and gallant Member tell us how he came to be converted to this principle of representative government for the Central Legislature in India. We are going to support this Amendment, and I have not the faintest doubt that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will be glad to be associated with us for once in 424 the Lobby, because he has disclosed that he is no longer prepared to leave the matter of the decision when the proclamation of federation should be made simply to the British Parliament. He wants the Indian people to be associated with this matter.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I would much prefer the opinion of the British electorate: this is only as an alternative to that.
§ Mr. JONES
I thought that British opinion had been taken at Wavertree. At least we got as near a view as we could, though he did not appear to get much satisfaction out of it. He takes the view that in a matter of this prime importance the Indian people should have a voice, and not only the Indian people but their directly elected representatives. Here, again, is an even greater advance than I anticipated from the hon. and gallant Member. Let me say that I entirely dissent—and I am sure my hon. Friends do—from the proposition that the Secretary of State laid down, that the only people who should be consulted are those assembled in the British Parliament. I hold an entirely contrary view, and indeed the right hon. Gentleman himself does not take that view in practice, for we have elaborate machinery whereby one section of Indian opinion is being consulted—the least representative opinion—that of the Princes. I ventured to say on the Second Rading that one of the most striking features of the Government's attitude to this problem was the difference of their approach to the Princes and to British India. The Government always takes meticulous care to find out in advance whether the Princes will accept a plan or not. As an example, there is a provision that if this constitution is altered one jot, then all or each Prince is entitled to withdraw from the federation. When it comes to British India, the right hon. Gentleman who, as Secretary of State, ought to reflect their opinion in this House, takes the view that the people he represents here ought not to be consulted at all, that the whole decision rests with the House of Commons alone. We cannot accept that philosophy. We advanced the contrary point of view in the Statutory Committee steadily and without any faltering. So far as I can see, this may be the only occasion when we shall have occasion to second the hon. and gallant 425 Gentleman in vindicating the electoral rights of the Indian people in the Lobby.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Colonel GRETTON
I have not intervened much in this discussion, but perhaps the Committee will bear with me one moment while I say why I am supporting this Amendment. It was a strange and extraordinary argument which was advanced by the Secretary of State. Really there seems to be very little weight in it, and he did not meet that part of the case referring to Ceylon. The Indian legislature is as nearly a popular assembly as has been set up in India. I cannot understand the argument why the question should not be referred to a body of that kind, because it is referring to a body that is to be destroyed. This measure we are now discussing, if it means anything at all, means an extension of that body on a more liberal basis. Surely this House, when it has reformed itself, has never hesitated on such occasions as the extension of the franchise to replace itself by another House: not perhaps by revolutionary stages, but step by step it has changed its character very materially. And why should the Secretary of State appeal to this House to impose on the people of India measures that he has laid before us, whether the people of India want them or not? It is a strange position which needs more justification. If you are going to set up democratic institutions, set them up in a democratic way, and do not impose them by a dictatorial act.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Sir EDWARD GRIGG
I do not want to make a speech, but to offer two observations and to ask a question. To my mind it is the right and duty of this Parliament to give India, a constitution without consultation. This Parliament will remain for a long time responsible for the peace and unity of India. That being the case, I can see no reason for giving the power of veto to an assembly representing only one part of India. I listened with immense interest to the eloquence of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) on the duty democratically of consulting India about the future constitution. If he is prepared to apply that argument to the constitution in India, 426 why is he not prepared to apply it to tariffs?
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
This matter was discussed in some way by the Joint Select Committee. It had the advantage of the evidence of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). That right hon. Gentleman in the course of his evidence suggested his own scheme as against the proposals in the White Paper. He was then examined by the Aga Khan, who put to him the question why he did not accept the White Paper, which was generally supported, rather than his own scheme. The right hon. Gentleman replied that he was not prepared to surrender the rights of Parliament in this matter, and that the decision rested with Parliament. There was then a very interesting conversation between the right hon. Gentleman and Mr. Jayakar, who was one of the foremost representatives to come over from India. Mr. Jayakar asked the right hon. Gentleman how he proposed to test the question of whether India should be governed by Britain or by the Indians themselves. In the end Mr. Jayakar suggested that a plebiscite might be taken of the masses of the people of India to whom the right hon. Gentleman referred so frequently. What was the right hon. Gentleman's answer? That Parliament in this matter had its responsibilities which it could not delegate. I am not suggesting that T agree with the right hon. Gentleman, but I was a little astonished to find that this Amendment was down, and perhaps it is not surprising that the right hon. Gentleman, having taken so definite a position about the Imperial responsibility when he was giving evidence as a witness, is not in his place to support an Amendment on the opposite lines. I am sorry the hon. and gallant Member has not the support of the right hon. Gentleman for this Amendment, unless, indeed, he has changed his opinions. I understand from the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the right hon. Gentleman is having a cup of tea, and I must say I think he selected a most opportune moment for his refreshment.
The hon. and gallant Member asked why the Indians should not have some say in these matters. I think they must have a say in these matters, but surely 427 the history of the last seven years is that they have had a great deal of say in these matters. When the Statutory Commission was set up, perhaps a mistake was made. When history comes to be written it will recognise, perhaps, that a mistake was made then in not doing in 1929 what was more wisely done later; but whether that was so or not, the Statutory Commission when in India made every effort to get in touch with Indian opinion. What has been done since? When the First Round Table Conference was called ample opportunity was given to Indian representatives to Eave their say. I think there were 13 or 14 members of the First Round Table Conference representing the British Parliament—at any rate under 20—and the membership of that Conference was over 100.
§ Mr. FOOT
I never suggested they were elected. There was no machinery under which they could have elected representatives for that purpose. What was done was to take the opinion of those in India who were best qualified to advise. Those sent over here were, as far as could be seen, representative of every class of Indian opinion. Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that Dr. Ambedkar was not a representative of the opinion of the depressed classes?
§ Mr. FOOT
Even Congress was represented. When the First Round Table Conference met, out of more than 100 428 members less than 20 represented the British House of Commons, and the rest were representative of every class of opinion in India. That Conference took a long time. Its work extended over many years, and if any Members of the House have any doubt as to whether Indians had an opportunity to have a say in these matters let them go into the Library and take down from the shelves—though some of the books are not on the shelves; there are so many of them that they are in the cellar—the full records of evidence taken at that time, and they will show that men like Mr. Joshi, representing Labour—
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
You say that Mr. Joshi represented Indian Labour. Have you overlooked the fact that for 10 years he was picked out by the Government to sit at Delhi to pretend to represent Labour?
§ Mr. FOOT
I would like to know whether that view is shared by the other Members on the Labour benches. I should be 'very reluctant to express such condemnatory opinions upon those who, at much sacrifice to themselves, and at great risk, because of the high state of emotion prevailing in India, risked their political future to come over and take part in those deliberations.
§ Mr. FOOT
I am not speaking of the Joint Select Committee, but of the First Round Table Conference. Afterwards, there was the Second Round Table Conference, when Gandhi and others associated with him came, and I suppose they are recognised as being representative. After that there was the Third Round Table Conference. Other steps were also taken. A Franchise Committee was set up to deal not merely with the question of the franchise but with the constitution of the Central Chambers. The report of the Franchise Committee, which was under the chairmanship of Lord Lothian, shows that when he and his colleagues went out to India not only did they travel many thousands of miles, not only did they call into their committee a larger number of Indians than they were themselves, but in every Province a committee was set up for the express purpose of dealing with this question. The report of the Franchise Committee is not the 429 work of British politicians. It was, to a very large extent, to the extent probably of nine-tenths of its activity, because of the provincial committees and the assistance they gave, an expression of Indian opinion.
When we come to the Joint Select Committee it may be true, as is suggested by the question which was put to me, that many of the recommendations made by the delegates were not accepted. I admit that the term "delegates" is not strictly true, but it is difficult to find a, term which would accurately describe their position. These gentlemen and one lady who came from India to take part in the Joint Select Committee were highly qualified by their experience to do so, and I do not know what other machinery could have been adopted. I would be prepared to take their advice quite as readily as the opinion of the present Assembly. It is not a new Assembly. It is the old upper chamber, or, rather, the present upper chamber and the present Assembly, which had not actually before them when elected the terms of this Bill or the report of the Joint Select Committee. Some of the elections took place before the report of the Joint Select Committee was available. It is altogether preposterous to submit that we ought to take the opinion of those two chambers, elected on a narrow franchise, and certainly not fully representative of Indian opinion, when those chambers had no mandate in respect of this Measure and are therefore in no sense qualified to express an opinion.
I would go with the Mover of this Amendment to this extent, that we cannot force this scheme on the people of India. No one suggests that we can force upon people a scheme which they will refuse to work. The consent of the Indian people, in so far as we can obtain that consent, the consent of right and left and central opinion in India, will be expressed in their willingness to work it. If they do not work it all our debates count for nothing. Who is to work it if Indians do not? If it were boycotted by every section of opinion in India it means that we have been condemned to futility in the work we are doing. Therefore, the test comes with the number of people who are prepared to work this scheme, and when we find people to work this scheme we have that measure of approval which will make it possible. I should be very much sur 430 prised if those who had spent most time on the Bill—those like the Secretary of State for India—thought that because a Bill were passed in this House and had the consent of the House of Lords and of His Majesty it must be forced upon people who do not wish to touch it or work it. If it ever comes into operation it will be because of that measure of consent that consents to work it, and I should look upon that consent as being much more effective than the chance majority that one might get from two Chambers not qualified to speak for the whole of India and elected upon almost entirely other issues.
§ Sir H. CROFT
Does not the hon. Member, as a Member of the Liberal party, think it desirable to ascertain whether India wants this reform; and, if so, is there any other machinery by which it is possible for the Indian people to give expression to their views?
§ Mr. FOOT
The hon. and gallant Member asks, first, whether I think we ought to ascertain whether India wants this reform. The answer is, "Certainly," and we shall ascertain it not by an express question, but from those who will show themselves willing to work it. [An HON. MEMBER: "What do you mean by working it?"] Showing they are willing to stand as candidates under the scheme. It may be that a great many who are at present opposing the scheme will, when they see others prepared to stand, themselves come forward. Next I was asked what machinery there was for ascertaining opinion. I do not believe there is any machinery at present under which we could ascertain the minds of the people of India. The only suggestion is a plebeseite and a plebescite was definitely turned down by the right hon. Member for Epping when the suggestion was put to him as a witness before the Joint Select Committee.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Viscount WOLMER
The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) is the only Member who has attempted a reasoned argument against this Amendment. I apologise to my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) for having suggested that the Secretary of State should speak early in the Debate, but my hon. Friends and I were genuinely anxious to know the grounds on which 431 the Government proposed to resist the Amendment. I am bound to say, with all respect to my right hon. Friend, that all we heard in his speech was hairsplitting and persiflage. If the Government had ever been able to deal candidly with the Indian question they would have made the suggestion we are now putting forward an integral part of their scheme. It does seem to me to be madness to think that any Constitution is going to work effectively in which the Indian people refuse to take any sort of responsibility. It is like directors saying they will join the board after allotment. We want to make them responsible for the prospectus.
The right hon. Gentleman said this House must not divest itself of its responsibility. A phrase like that comes ill from a Government which is throwing the Indian police to Congress, and the Untouchables to the Brahmins. I wish the Government took a higher view of their responsibilities in this matter. But it is not a question of this House shirking its responsibility. We are not proposing that. We propose that we should frame a Bill, and then take the elementary common sense step of asking elected Indians whether they are prepared to work it. They will then have the chance of either accepting or rejecting it, and the only reason why the Government and the Liberal party are not prepared to take that obvious step is that they know that the Constitution will be rejected.
We hear a good deal of what we have done in connection with Canada, Australia and South Africa, and about General Smuts and others; but have we ever treated any one of the Dominions in this way? Have we ever attempted to bring about the federation of South Africa or Australia without getting the votes of the Legislatures? I would say to the Secretary of State, "You have before you at this moment a signal example of the immense difficulties which attend these great geographical federations, in the case of Western Australia." The right hon. Gentleman spoke to-day about centrifugal autonomy if you did not have Federation; how are you going to strengthen this Federation by trying to force it upon the people of India without their elected representatives taking the slightest responsibility 432 for it? If you try to create centripetal forces to prevent the break up of the Federation, is it not an elementary precaution to ask the representatives of India in the Legislative Assembly, which this Parliament has created and which the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms brought into existence, if they are prepared to take some responsibility for the Constitution which we propose?
What moral authority will this Constitution have in the eyes of Indian politicians if their opinion has never been asked? As the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. M. Jones) has so cogently pointed out, we are asking the opinion of the States and of the princes. What right have the princes and the States to be consulted—moral right I mean; I am not talking about legal right—upon this issue which the Provinces have not? There are two parties to the Federation, and you have to frame the terms of your Bill in such a way that these will be acceptable to the princes and to the States. By doing that you have admitted your obligation to consult the representatives of British India.
Therefore, in refusing this Amendment the Government are doing two things: first, they are divesting this Constitution of the moral authority it would otherwise have, and, secondly, they are allowing the elected representatives of British India to have it both ways. They are to be presented with a Constitution for which they have no responsibility. They can abuse it and decry it as much as they like. They have had no responsibility for it in any degree. The hon. Member for Bodmin spoke about the representatives at the Round Table Conference. Why were those people brought in? They were brought in in order that we should ascertain Indian opinion; but this is surely the final and obvious stage of ascertaining Indian opinion. It is all very well for us to consult the gentlemen whom we nominate, but why should we not consult the gentlemen who have been elected by the only Indians who have the franchise? How hollow that sounded when we were told that an assembly which is going to be superseded could not give a candid or honest opinion. If that motive obtains among Indians how very different they must be from English politicians. No considerable Reform Bill would ever have passed this House if considerations like that had prevailed. Does the hon. 433 Member for Bodmin suggest that there are fewer Indians capable of taking a broad-minded and progressive point of view than there were in English Parliaments which have passed Reform Bills?
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
Would the Noble Lord accept any recommendation that is deliberately adopted as to the Government of India by the two bodies which he now wishes to consult? Would he accept their declaration upon the whole of this matter?
§ Viscount WOLMER
I would not accept anything until I had seen it. What I am asking for is their right to be consulted. There are two parties in this matter. I am not denying the responsibility of this Parliament, but I say that we can consult, and that it would be a sensible thing to consult, Indian elected representatives without in any way abrogating our responsibility. We have the responsibility of framing the Bill; it is madness and it is not candid to try to pass it into law or bring it into force without consulting Indian representatives as to their taking the slightest responsibility for its well-being. That is part and parcel of the way in which the Government have treated this problem from beginning to end. They have tried to trick English public opinion, and they have tried to trick Indian public opinion, and then they expect their scheme to work. It has not the slightest chance of working when it is based on foundations of that sort.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I wish to explain why I am not supporting this Amendment, though I hold strongly the view, as I said last night, that the crucial test is: Would India rather have this Bill or no Bill? I refuse to accept this proposal, and I appeal to my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) and the Labour Opposition and ask them whether they are prepared to say that the test they are going to set up is a good test. They are going to make the rejection or adoption of the present Constitution depend upon the present Council of State and Legislative Assembly. What are those bodies? The Secretary of State has pointed out that one reason why they would not represent the true voice of India is that they would be biased because they are bodies which would be 434 swept away under the new Constitution. I think he was under estimating the strength of his own case when he rested it all on that. Is not this the stronger reason?—Whom do they represent'? I am speaking from memory; am I right in saying that the present Legislative Assembly is elected by something like 1,000,000 voters.
§ Miss RATHBONE
About 1,000,000 of the population of India. Can you say, if you want to listen to the voice of India, that you are going to do it by listening to people who were not elected on this particular issue and who, even if they were, represent the votes of an excessively narrow franchise containing hardly any representation of the women, the depressed classes or labour, and who are naturally prejudiced as everybody in similar circumstances is likely to be, against an enormous enlargement of the electorate which will abolish the privileges of the class which elected them?
I did riot rise only to say that, because other Members have said incidentally that this is a narrow electorate and that it is biased. I want to make the further point that it is essential that we should know what the voice of India really is though the Amendment will not show it. It is not true that there is no way. A plebiscite is probably impossible for administrative reasons. Who is going to take a plebiscite of 350,000,000 people? But we are under this Bill proposing to set up provincial legislative bodies all over India by a fairly wide franchise—not so wide as I and many of us would like to see, but reasonably wide so far as the men are concerned and not too bad so far as the women are concerned. Why should this not be our way of testing the opinion of India? Why should it not be incorporated in this Bill that immediately the Provincial Legislatures are called into existence the question should be put to them whether they accept the Measure or not?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think the hon. Lady is going beyond the terms of the Amendment when she discusses alternative forms. One particular method is proposed in the Amendment, and I think we must keep to that in the discussion.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I yield to your Ruling, and I do not wish to discuss the matter at length. I merely wish to put 435 forward the point that we need not think, if we reject this Amendment—I shall feel obliged to vote against it myself—that there is necessarily no way of making sure whether India wants this Bill or does not want it.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Mr. AMERY
I only want to put two questions very briefly to the Committee. First, do the Committee realise into what an unfair position the passage of this Amendment would put the Indian States They are already prejudiced by not being represented in the Assembly which is in the position to pass tariffs which have affected them very definitely. If the Amendment is passed, there will be a position in which the assembly in British India can exercise a veto upon the Princes entry, and can continue to impose upon the Princes policies which are against their interests. It would be a very unfair use of the power and authority of this House if we were to put a British Indian assembly into such a position of unfair advantage over the States. Secondly, is the criticism of my hon. Friends because Parliament has abdicated too much of its powers or because it has not abdicated enough? For four years I have thought that the criticism was that we were surrendering. I remember that my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) objected to the whole Round Table procedure. He resented that Indians should even be asked to talk about their future constitution. Yet in the last 24 hours we have been asked successively to abdicate the powers of Parliament in favour of a Statutory Committee to appoint the Viceroy, in favour of an irremovable Viceroy, and now we are asked to abdicate them in a speech made by my Noble Friend the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) which, if it means anything, means that the only body which would be competent to frame the future Constitution of India is either a majority of the elected representatives of the present Assembly or an all-Indian constituency. All I ask is, where are we?
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Major-General Sir ALFRED KNOX
May I try to reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), who asks if our argument for 436 the past four years has not been that Parliament has abrogated its rights. Most certainly it is. Here you have the Secretary of State and his supporters refusing to submit to the vote of the Legislative Assembly and the Council of State proposals which, if they are not framed with the object of placating the politicians in India, heaven knows why they are framed. As the hon. Lady has just said, it is impossible to get a plebiscite in India, but is it not well known that, anyhow, the cultivators in India would not vote for any scheme like this? What they want is to have British officials near them, and a sense of justice in all their dealings. The hon. Lady says that this would be giving the decision as to the whole future of India to a small assembly elected by some 1,000,000 people. But 'even if it is small, is it not well known that the politicians of India, who have been agitating for these reforms all along are far less than 1,000,000 in number? Is not the whole object of the reforms to try to placate the politicians; and, if the politicians cannot calculate on the acceptance of the reforms by a majority in the Legislative Assembly, what hope is there of their being of any use?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I hope the Committee will allow me to remind them that there are on the Order Paper many Amendments of very much more importance than this one—
§ The CHAIRMAN
If the right hon. Gentleman regards it as being of so much importance, that is another matter, but, as far as I can gather from the Debate, there is beginning to get into it a condition of repetition. I am sure we are all anxious to try to do our best to get through the Amendments, so that as many of them may be taken as possible.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Mr. TINKER
I rather resent what you have just said, because there has only been one speech from the Labour benches on the Amendment, and we should like it to be known that the Indian debates in the House of Commons do not depend only upon two parties—the Conservative opposition and what is called the Government; and, whatever may be the wishes of the Chair as to getting through the Bill, we want it to have a proper show.
437 When I saw this Amendment on the Order Paper, I felt that it was one which ought to have been moved from these benches, because the mention of elected representatives to any democrat at once arouses his attention, and we always consider that they ought to have our sympathy. On going through the Clause, I found that it provides that this matter shall depend on the two Houses of Parliament, and I asked myself whether either House has any right to say what the Indian Constitution ought to be, as against the elected representatives of India. I admit that I do not know very much about India, but I am a Member of one of the two Houses of Parliament, and am one who will have to say what India is to have; and I think that, if I have that right, the elected representatives of India are entitled to it also.
The Amendment is on the right lines. I do not like to think that we, as English people, ought to dictate to the people of India as to what constitution they should have, without at least giving them some opportunity of saying what they want. The hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) said that the present elected bodies are not representative of India, and, therefore, ought not to have a voice in this matter, but I do not think it would be fair on that ground, seeing that they have some kind of elected representatives, to debar them altogether from having a voice in regard to what their constitution is going to be. On the broad facts of the case I support the Amendment. My only objection to it is in regard to the names attached to it. I am inclined to believe that the hon. Members who have put it down are hardly sincere in what they are proposing; I think it has been put down from some ulterior motive to prevent the passage of the Bill; but, on the broad issue that it would give to the elected representatives a voice in what is desired, I shall, whether that be true or not, accept the letter of it, and therefore shall vote for it in the Lobby.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I am sorry to speak so late, but it is not my fault, and I hope I shall not be guilty of repetition. Who has made it difficult to govern India in the last few years? The Congress party. And they will be able to make it difficult afterwards. If an amendment of this kind is not passed, they will be able 438 to say: "We did not want these reforms; we never asked for them." It is no use saying that the elected representatives are few in number and do not represent India. They are the best we can get. Members of this House were not elected to support this policy. If we could first get the elected representatives, such as they are, to say that they wanted the reforms, it would be an immense advantage. I recollect, in connection with the South African War, near the end, an instance of the wisdom of securing concurrence. The great Marquess of Salisbury, or some other leading Conservative politician, said that we must dictate terms to the Dutch Boers, but that wise politician, Lord Rosebery, who was once a Prime Minister, said, "No; you must not dictate, for there is no moral weight behind it. You must have a treaty behind it. You must get something signed, to which you can in honour hold them." The Treaty of Vereeniging followed. It was made with General Botha, General Smuts, and others, and we know how loyally they have kept that treaty. There is no man more honoured to-day than General Smuts in this country as well as Africa. He gave us some advice on India the other day when he was here. I hope he will not resent my retaliating with the suggestion that he give equal votes to our black fellow-subjects in South Africa, who are good citizens. One piece of good advice deserves another.
In the case of Ireland, too, we looked around for representative men with whom to make a treaty. Michael Collins and Arthur Griffiths lost their lives through signing that treaty, but we carried them with us. In that case the treaty has not worked out quite as we wanted, but we at least tried to take the Irish with us. We must try something of that kind in India also. It is all very well to have these nominated committees, but, if we do not get something representative, all moral weight will be absent, and then how terribly foolish we should look in the face of a refusal to work the reforms which the hon. Member for Bodmin says is necessary if the Bill is to be any good. He is prepared to gamble and speculate, and we might be placed in an intolerably foolish position as a result of such a gamble. If, however, we got the men who have been making the trouble—the politicians, such as they are, 439 such representatives as the existing machinery has enabled India to give us—if we got them, because they are representatives, to agree, we should be in a strong moral and political position. At present we do not know where we are, but are going through the motions of making a constitution which may never get into real, practical life.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Sir WILLIAM DAVISON
The Secretary of State for India and those who support him have been holding up to ridicule those who are associated with this Amendment, because they say that hitherto we have not attached much importance to the opinion of politically-minded Indians. But that is not the point. The point is that the whole object of these reforms is to meet the aspirations of politically-minded India, and, if they do not meet the aspirations of politically-minded India, what is the good of proceeding with them? The other point to which I desire to direct the attention of the Government and the Secretary of State is that the Government should accept this Amendment because it is only a paraphrase of their own words in the introduction to the White Paper, which, on their recommendation, has received the approval of the House. I have referred to the point before, but have had no reply from the Secretary of State. In that introduction, a certain basic assumption is definitely laid down. A basic assumption is something upon which the whole proposal put forward rests. The White Paper lays down in the following words the basic assumption on which all these reforms rest:The present proposals in general necessarily proceed on the basic assumption that every endeavour will be made by those responsible for working the constitution to approach the administrative problems which present themselves in a spirit of partnership in a common enterprise.I have already given instances to show that every class of political opinion in India—Congress, Mr. Sastri and the Liberals, the Friends of India, the Cham
§ bers of Commerce of India, and the Depressed Classes—one and all decline to accept this proposed constitution, and most of them have said that they vastly prefer the present situation. I say to the Government, "As partnership is your basic assumption, surely you have to ascertain whether the politically minded classes of India are going to accept your proposals. Otherwise they are a sham and a futility." What is the good of scrapping this wonderful organisation to which India owes so much, of which we are all so proud, of which Indians are themselves proud, and which, as everyone knows and as every Indian will admit, has rendered enormous services to India in the past, before ascertaining that the politically minded classes of India, for whom these reforms are specially devised, are going to accept and work them in a spirit of partnership in a common enterprise?
§ I ask the Government to reply to that perfectly simple point. I have asked them to do so before, but throughout this Debate they have merely reported what has taken place at some Round Table Conference, and have entirely evaded the points put before them in the House against this Measure. I ask the Secretary of State, what does he mean by saying that all this rests on the basic assumption of partnership in a common enterprise if it is not the intention to ascertain that the people of India ask for it and are going to work it in that spirit? I have quoted every class of the community in India, who say they will have nothing to do with these reforms. If that is not sufficient evidence, and if the proposal of the Amendment is not the right way of ascertaining it, let the Government put before the House some means of showing that the politically minded people, and the people of India as a whole, are prepared to work the reforms in a spirit of partnership in a common enterprise.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 77; Noes, 230.443
|Division No. 53.]||AYES.||[7.58 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Bracken, Brendan||Cleary, J. J.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Broadbent, Colonel John||Cobb, Sir Cyril|
|Alexander. Sir William||Brown, C. W. E. (Nona., Mansfield)||Courtauld, Major John Sewell|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Burnett, John George||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry|
|Ballour, George (Hampstrad)||Capo, Thomas||Cripps, Sir Stafford|
|Banfield, John William||Carver, Major William H.||Critchley, Brig.-General A. C.|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.|
|Daggar, George||John, William||Paling, Wilfred|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Joan. Morgan (Caerphilly)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Davies. Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Kirkwood, David||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Knox, Sir Alfred||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert||Lansbury, Rt. Hon, George||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Edwards, Charles||Lawson, John James||Templeton, William P.|
|Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Lees-Jones, John||Thorne, William James|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Erskine-Boist, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Leonard, William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Gardner, Benjamin Walter||Levy, Thomas||Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Lockwood, Cant. J. H. (Shipley)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Logan, David Gilbert||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Lunn, William||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Wilmot, John|
|Groves, Thomas E.||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||Mainwaring, William Henry|
|Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvll)||Marsden. Commander Arthur||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hicks, Ernest George||Milner. Major James||Mr. Donner and Mr. Raikes.|
|Jenkins, Sir William||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||McKie, John Hamilton|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (L'pool, W.)||Fraser, Captain Sir Ian||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Fremantle, Sir Francis||McLean, Major Sir Alan|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Fuller, Captain A. G.||McLean, Dr. W. H, (Tradeston)|
|Amery. Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Galbraith, James Francis Wallace||Magnay, Thomas|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Ganzoal, Sir John||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest|
|Assheton, Ralph||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D, R.|
|Balniel, Lord||Glossop, C. W. H.||Martin, Thomas B.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Goff. Sir Park||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)|
|Beauchamp. Sir Brograve Campbell||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Maxton, James.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'tn, C.)||Graves, Marjorie||Mayhew, Lieut. Colonel John|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Griffith. F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Mills, Major J. O. (New Forest)|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Grigg, Sir Edward||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Bernays. Robert||Grimston, R. V.||Molson. A. Hugh Elsdale|
|Birchall. Major Sir John Dearman||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres|
|Blindell, James||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Morgan, Robert H.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)|
|Braithwaite. J. G. (Hillsborough)||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Morrison, William Shepherd|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||Munro, Patrick|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Harvey, Major Sir Samuel (Totnes)||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Healdam, Henry (Horncastle)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Cadogan. Hon. Edward||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid|
|Campbell. Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||O'Donovan, Dr. William James|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hornby, Frank||Ormsby-Gore. Rt. Hon. William G. A.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Horsbrugh, Florence||Orr Ewing, I. L.|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Howard, Tom Forrest||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Clarke, Frank||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Patrick, Colin M.|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Pearson, William G.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon, A. D.||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Peat, Charles U.|
|Colman. N. C. D.||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romford)||Petherick, M.|
|Colville. Lieut.-Colonel J.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Iveagh, Countess of||Potter, John|
|Cooke, Douglass||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H.||Pybus, Sir John|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Janner, Barnett||Radford, E. A.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Ramsay, T. B W. (Western Isles)|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Ramsbotham, Horwald|
|Cross, R. H.||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Ramsden, Sir Eugene|
|Crossley, A. C.||Ker, J. Campbell||Ratcliffe, Arthur|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Kirkpatrick, William M.||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Law, Sir Alfred||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Drewe, Cedric||Law. Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Rickards, George William|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Leech. Dr. J. W.||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Leighton, Major B, E. P.||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Eales, John Frederick||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Rothschild. James A. de|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. Anthony||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Ellis. Sir R. Geoffrey||Loftus, Pierce C.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Salmon. Sir Isidore|
|Elmley, Viscount||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)||Salt, Edward W,|
|Emrys-Evans. P. V.||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Samuel. Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D,|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||McEwen, Captain J. H. F,||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Shute, Colonel Sir John||Sueter, Bear-Admiral Sir Murray F.||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Summersby, Charles H.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Skelton, Archibald Noel||Sutcliffe, Harold||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Smith, Sir J. Walker (Barrow-in-F.)||Tate, Mavis Constance||White, Henry Graham|
|Smithers, Sir Waldron||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)||Whiteside, Sorras Noel H.|
|Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Soper, Richard||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)|
|Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Spender-Clay. Rt. Hon. Herbert H.||Train, John||Womersley, Sir Walter|
|Spent, William Patrick||Tree, Ronald||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Stevenson, James||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Strause, Edward A.||Wallace, Sir John (Dunfermline)||Sir George Penny and Major George|
|Strickland, Captain W. F.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Davies.|
§ 8.8 p.m.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I beg to move, in page 2, line 35, after "if," to insert:a commission appointed in accordance with the provisions of this Act has reported that the financial position of India justifies the establishment of a federation and if.I do not wish to use exaggerated language, but I regard the omission of any financial conditions for bringing Federation into operation as staggering. I could hardly believe my eyes when I read the Bill and saw that it ignored altogether the financial question in regard to the inauguration of Federation, and later on of Provincial Autonomy. It is all the more strange because two years ago, when the Government published their White Paper, they did not shirk this question. In paragraph 60, they said:His Majesty's Government attach the highest importance to securing to the Federation adequate resources, without which the Federal Government cannot ensure the due fulfilment of liabilities upon which must depend the credit of India as a whole. A possibility which cannot be dismissed from consideration is that economic and financial conditions might on the eve of the inauguration of the new Constitution be such as to render it impracticable to supply the new Federal and Provincial Governments at the outset of their careers with the necessary resources to ensure their solvency. If, after the reviews contemplated above, the probability of such a situation should be disclosed, it would obviously be necessary to reconsider the position and it might, inter alia, be necessary to revise the federal finance scheme contemplated in these proposals. Attention may be drawn in this connection to the observations already made at the end of paragraph 32.If we turn to paragraph 32, we find that another addition is attached to the inauguration of the Federation. The paragraph runs as follows:The proposals relating to responsibility for the finance of the Federation are based on the assumption that, before the first Federal Ministry comes into being, a Reserve Bank free from political influence will 444 have been set up by Indian legislation and be already successfully operating. The bank would be entrusted with the management of currency and exchange.The paragraph concludes:If a situation should arise in which, all other requirements for the inauguration of the Federation having been satisfied, it had so far proved impossible successfully to start the Reserve Bank, or if financial, economic or political conditions were such as to render it impracticable to start the new Federal and Provincial Governments on a stable basis, it would inevitably be necessary to reconsider the position and determine in the light of the then circumstances what course should be pursued. If, unfortunately, such reconsideration became necessary, His Majesty's Government are pledged to call into conference representatives of Indian opinion.We, therefore, have in the White Paper the Government laying down as two essential conditions of the inauguration of Federation and of Provincial Autonomy that India's finances should be in a position which will enable her to fulfil the liabilities which the new Constitution will inevitably bring upon her, and also that there should be already in existence a successfully operating federal reserve bank free from political influences. When the White Paper was published, I do not think that either this House or the country had had any indication given to it of what the cost of the new Constitution was expected to be or what would be the additional burden which would be placed upon the centre as the result of having to make good deficits in the already existing or proposed new Provinces. But since then the Joint Select Committee has had presented to it very full and extremely serious figures by Sir Malcolm Hailey, who placed at the disposal of the Government and the committee his great knowledge and experience of Indian finance. Paragraph 6 of that memorandum, presented in July, 1933, sets out three objectives which he conceives it will be necessary for the Gov 445 ernment to pursue, objectives each of which will require financial provision. The first is described as follows:To provide the centre with (a) a secure means of meeting the normal demands on account of services for which it is responsible, together with adequate reserve power to raise from its own resources the additional funds which those services may in an emergency require, and (b) some additional reserve to meet necessary developments in its own sphere of work, of which civil aviation may be taken as an example.The second objective he described as -follows:To secure to the Provinces, as a minimum, the amounts now available to them, together with the sums required to meet the ascertained deficits of certain Provinces and to establish the newly-created Provinces.And the third objective he describes as follows:To secure that, when (1) and (2) are satisfied, the main benefits of any improvement in Central finances will inure to the benefit of the Provinces.Then in paragraph 19 we read:Before the first principle put forward in paragraph 6"—that is to provide the Centre with a secure means of meeting normal demands and so on—could be regarded as satisfied it might be necessary to stipulate at least that the pay-cuts should be remitted"—that is cuts in the salaries of Civil servants—(involving the provision of about 1¼ crore)—that is, about £1 million sterling—and that the emergency surcharges should be withdrawn. The latter postulates that the amount of over 13 crores at present attributable to the surcharges,"—those are surcharges on taxation put on in the economic crisis of 1931, amounting to nearly £10 millions—should, owing to economic recovery, be produced by taxes at unsurcharged rates. It may be assumed roughly that other prospective debit and credit items at the Centre will strike a balance. Thereafter the question of creating new Provinces, including the separation of Burma has to be considered. For this purpose further improvement of the Central position would be necessary up to a point at which sums, the range of which may be placed roughly at 6 to 8 crores"—or from £4,500,000 to £6,000,000—could safely be spared. It must be realised that, even with this provision"—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid that the Noble Lady now is anticipating the whole of one chapter of Part VII of the Bill, and we cannot discuss the whole 446 system of finance or the form of financial arrangements for the future. We must confine ourselves on this particular Amendment to the question which is set out there of a commission in order to ascertain whether "the financial position of India justifies."
§ Viscount WOLMER
Surely, my Noble Friend is entitled to discuss the financial conditions which have to be fulfilled on the Government's own policy before the Federation can be inaugurated. Surely she can describe them.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think that if the Noble Lady will consider for a moment her first words, the whole of that point should arise on the first chapter of Part VII. I think it is obvious that having a whole chapter of some eight Clauses—Clauses 134 to 142—we cannot have a discussion here on an Amendment which would come more appropriately on them.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I am not going to suggest any reform of the financial system of the Government of India, or of the Provinces, as you, Sir Dennis, seemed to think I was going to do. I was merely trying to set forward the evidence presented to the Joint Committee showing the serious financial position in India at the present time and the further obligations which are to be imposed on Indian revenues by the proposed Constitution, and asking that in the Bill there should be inserted a clause requiring the inquiry which the Government themselves said in their White Paper would be necessary, and would even lead to the whole reconsideration of the measure if the financial position of India was found not to be good enough to stand the whole strain.
§ The CHAIRMAN
If the Noble Lady will confine herself to those limits, I shall certainly not interfere. She has given a most admirable definition of the limits of this Debate.
Duchess of ATHOLL
It was not my intention at all to trespass beyond those limits, but to do my best to keep within them.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I would suggest that possibly the Noble Lady might expurgate some of the long extracts which she is reading.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I thought that the Committee would be more ready to listen if I quoted the exact statements made to the Joint Committee by the expert whom they called in to advise them; otherwise I have no wish to inflict long extracts upon the Committee. Sir Malcolm Hailey went on to say:Whatever the precise value of these figures"—Those are the figures I have quoted, showing how much of India's revenue at the present time is due to these emergency surcharges of nearly £10,000,000 that were imposed in that financial crisis, that is, about 16 per cent. of the present revenues of the Government of India, and how also it has been necessary to reduce the pay of Government servants by another £1,000,000, and how this would have to be made good before any new expenditure was undertaken. I might say that a most solemn statement to that effect was made by the finance member of the Government of India, in 1931 when the surcharges and salary cuts were carried through. This must be done before Provincial Autonomy can be brought into operation. Sir Malcolm goes on to say:Whatever the precise value of these figures, it is in any case clear that some considerable betterment of Central finances, and on an assured basis, must take place before the Centre can make the surrenders necessary to establish the Provinces as independent units on such terms as will allow them to rest securely on their awn resources.I estimate that the cost of what would have to be found for the Provinces is something between 7 and 10 per cent. of the existing central revenue. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State the other day said that the central revenues would have to find some £4,000,000 for the Provinces. He assured us that that was quite irrespective of any cost of the new Constitution itself. You have to give to the Provinces £4,000,000 of a revenue of about £58,000,000, which is about 7 per cent. If Sir Malcolm, Hailey's higher figure of £6,000,000 be taken, it is something like 10 per cent. That, plus the replacement of these surcharges imposed in 1931 and the abolition of the reductions in pay means that something like 16 per cent., plus some 2 per cent., plus 7 per cent., in all about 25 per cent., improvement has to take place in the central revenues before 448 Provincial Autonomy can be brought into operation. In view of that fact, it was not surprising that Sir Malcolm Hailey reminded the Joint Committee that the States had asked for the assurance of the solvency of the Federation before they entered it. And we remember that if and when they should enter there is to be a gradual remission of the annual tributes which they now pay to the Government of India, which will gradually rise to £750,000 a year. Then, the establishment of the reserve bank means a loss of currency receipts of about the same amount in the first few years of its inauguration, Again, to that £750,000 of the tributes must be added £560,000, the cost of setting up the proposed federal constitution, that means that fully 2 per cent. more must be added to the 25 per cent. I have already mentioned, making a total improvement of something like 27 per cent. in the central revenues which is necessary before you can inaugurate both Provincial Autonomy and Federation. Sir Malcolm Halley goes on to say that:It may be felt necessary to examine the fundamental questions whether financial conditions are such as to affect any assumption we may make as to the date on which provincial autonomy can be introduced; and further, whether we can assume such further general recovery as will enable us now to plan out the lines of a Federation on terms which will satisfy the States on the one hand that their financial future under Federation is secure, and British Indian units on the other that under Federation they can hope to obtain the funds to which they look for development.The question of looking for funds for development purposes brings me to another point, that this increased revenue of 27 per cent. which is necessary to inaugurate Provincial Autonomy and Federation makes no allowance for the increased cost of Government departments at present administered by officials responsible to the Viceroy or to the Governors and which under the Government proposals will be administered by Indian Ministers responsible to an elected Legislature. I think it is common ground between us that when a Minister is responsible to an elected Legislature he necessarily has many demands made on him for increased expenditure. The cost of government in India 'has very greatly increased since the introduction of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms. The cost 449 of government in the Provinces has gone up about 20 per cent. The report of the Statutory Commission shows how enormously the expenditure upon education had increased, even by the year 1928. Other services also have been treated generously. I think the Governors in all the Provinces have wished to give the utmost help they could to Ministers in administering the new departments placed under their care.
If we look at central expenditure we find that excluding army expenditure the cost of administering the civil services has also increased by about 20 per cent., no doubt in order to meet the demands made by the Indian Legislative Assembly. Therefore, we are faced with the prospect of further demands being made on the central revenues and the Provincial revenues or the departments which will pass into the hands of Ministers who will, no doubt, have great pressure brought to bear upon them for one purpose or another, which will involve increased expenditure. Then we must realise that the army has been cut down to the bone in recent years. To-day, army expenditure is £7,500,000 below what it was in 1929–30. The late Finance Member, in one of his budget speeches, stated that in 1927–28 it had been agreed that on account of the economies carried out on the recommendation of the Inchcape Committee army expenditure on equipment had been so much cut down that £7,500,000 more would have to be spent in making good this equipment in the next few years. The financial slump followed shortly after that statement and it has not been possible to make up for that shortage, or for a greater part of it.
Therefore, we are faced with the fact that the Joint Select Committee had put before them in the gravest possible terms the abnormal position of the finances of the Central Government at the present time, and the solemn pledge of the Government of India to restore the abnormalities before any new expenditure was undertaken either at the Centre or in the Provinces. Further, we are faced with the inevitability of greater expenditure in the transferred departments and a liability to considerably increased expenditure upon the army. Yet we find that the Bill says not 450 one single word as to financial solvency being necessary before Federation and Provincial Autonomy are inaugurated.
It is obvious that the position of the Government has weakened very much on this matter from the position they took up in the White Paper. They made most specific statements in the White Paper that it might be found impossible to inaugurate this experiment through lack of finance. But the Joint Committee said no more than that the Government would undoubtedly assure Parliament that India's financial position was all right before Federation was inaugurated. Provincial Autonomy was apparently dropped out of sight. It is most essential that the condition proposed in the Amendment should be put in the Bill, for the reason that if nothing is said on the point there will be unceasing pressure from many politicians in India to ignore the financial position. Indians are not always very good at facing up to realities. They are full of ideas which they can often express very effectively, but they are not equally good in getting down to brass tacks and standing on solid ground.
§ Mr. MOLSON
Did I understand the Noble Lady to say that this pressure will be brought to bear to get the Constitution introduced before the necessary finance is available I was under the impression that in the Debate this afternoon there had been an attempt on the part of those opposed to the Bill to say that there is no chance at all of the Constitution being welcomed or worked.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I do not think that that affects my argument in the least. We have every reason to believe that there are many Indian politicians, a majority, at any rate, who do not want this Constitution, but if the Government insist on bringing it into effect there may well be men who will say: "Then let us have whatever is provided, at the earliest possible moment." There may well be great pressure on the Government to ignore the difficulties of finance and to bring on Provincial Autonomy first and then Federation, quite irrespective of the financial position. I feel bound to say that that pressure may be all the more likely because, quite contrary to the position in this country, those who will be chiefly vocal in this matter do not repre 451 sent the section of the people of India who chiefly have to provide the revenue. There are only 500,000 people assessed to income tax in India and only about 167,000 persons, including officials, and excluding Burma, who have incomes of over £225 a year.
Therefore, unlike the position in this country, where income tax contributes so very greatly to the revenue, income tax contributes only a minority of the revenues of the Government of India. The great mass of the revenue, some £37,000,000 out of £58,000,000, is contributed by the Customs, by import duties on various commodities, duties which I think we all agree are bound to be paid by the mass of the people. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Yes, they are paid by the mass of the people in India because India's industries are in such a very infant stage that India is not able to make all the things that she imports and on which high duties have to be paid. The position in this country is totally different. I am sure than hon. Members opposite cannot deny the capacity of the workers of this country and of the directing brains of this country to ensure that there is practically nothing that we cannot make in an unlimited degree, provided that it is made worth our while to do so.
The result is that when you get something which will add enormously to the financial burdens of India, these burdens will fall largely on the peasants. In a debate on the trade agreement in the Indian Assembly the other day opinions were expressed which no one would think of expressing in this House. It was said that it did not matter what the burden was that would fall on the peasants. There is this further point, that revenue from customs is dwindling, and is dwindling also from income tax. All sources of taxation have been tapped, and it is impossible to see what other sources are available for the additional revenue which will be needed to finance this new Constitution. Finally, nothing is said as to the operation of a reserve bank, which is to be free from political influences and is to have control of currency and exchange, very controversial matters on which Congress politicians have for some years been advocating drastic measures.
452 The clause therefore ignores a primary responsibility of Government, to see that no burden is put on the shoulders of the people which they cannot reasonably be expected to bear. It is a going back on what the Government themselves have pointed out as a precedent absolutely necessary to Federation and Provincial Autonomy. It is raising hopes which, if we have any regard for financial considerations, we cannot hope to fulfil in full at any date which we can now foresee, unless we are ready to plunge India straight into bankruptcy. It is, therefore, essential that there should be a thorough inquiry into this matter before Provincial Autonomy or Federation is brought into operation, and it is desirable that such an inquiry should be made by an impartial commission free from political influences, which are not always easy to escape at home and from which it is difficult to escape in India. I hope that the Government will consider most carefully the Amendment, which we regard as one of the most important we shall have to bring forward.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I think I had better intervene at once in the Debate if for no other reason than to disabuse my Noble Friend of a great many anxieties which seem to me to be without foundation. If she will allow me to say without offence, her speech was founded on one misunderstanding after another. First, she seemed to think that in the Bill we have gone back on the Report of the Joint Select Committee, and that the Joint Select Committee had gone back on the White Paper, so far as financial security is concerned. That is not the case. The Joint Select Committee considered these complicated questions in great detail and in no way went back from the position set out in the White Paper. In the Bill the Government are following exactly the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I am sorry to interrupt, but this is most important. Are we to understand that if the finances of India are not sufficient to enable them to bear the expenses of this new Constitution for Provincial Autonomy or Federation, the Government will be ready 453 to reconsider the whole proposal, as they said they would in the White Paper?
§ Sir S. HOARE
The Noble Lady must allow me to make my speech in my own way. Of course I am going to deal with a question like that, but I must be allowed to deal with it in my own way. In the next place, my Noble Friend was under a series of misapprehensions with reference to the figures and the relevancy of the figures so far as Federation is concerned and so far as Provincial Autonomy is concerned. I gave the figures during the Second Reading Debate, and I based them on what I assumed to be the likely cost of both Provincial Autonomy and Federation. Speaking in round figures, I assumed that the cost so far as the centre is concerned will be from £4,000,000 to £4,500,000.
§ Sir S. HOARE
The right hon. and gallant Member will, I am sure, allow me to deal with the matter in my own way.
§ Sir S. HOARE
Certainly, and I am going to deal with it. The total expenditure likely to fall on central funds will be something in the nature of from £4,000,000 to £4,500,000 per year. It should be noted that this is not new expenditure. It is expenditure as between the Central and Provincial Governments, and the whole of it is due, first, to a reallocation as between the centre and the provinces which are in deficit, and, secondly, to make up what extra expenditure will fall on the centre as a result of the separation of Burma. The Committee will see that this sum is not due to the institution of Federation at all, but to a reallocation as between the Centre and the Provinces; and it is a reallocation which, in the opinion of most financial experts in India, should be made in any case, whether there is Provincial Autonomy, Provincial Autonomy and Federation or whether there is neither. Secondly, the Committee will note the fact that, assuming that this expenditure is involved in setting up Provincial Autonomy it means that, a very small sum is involved in setting up Federation. As 454 far as the setting up of Federation is concerned, the additional amount is something in the nature of £500,000 a year. If, therefore, there is to be an inquiry, it should be an inquiry into the provincial position rather than into the federal position, the! larger sum of money being necessitated not by the institution of Federation but by the institution of Provincial Autonomy.
The Joint Select Committee considered this question in great detail and took the view, I think unanimously, that there should be an inquiry, presumably as soon as the Bill passes on to the Statute Book, into the provincial position. That inquiry would be carried out by a small body of impartial experts, working no doubt with representatives of the various provinces, province by province, in the capacity of assessors. That would be the nature of the inquiry. Thus, so far as Federation is concerned, the position is much simpler owing to the fact that the sum of money for setting up Federation is only comparatively small. It means that if there is sufficient money for setting up the provinces the test that will have to be applied is two-fold: First of all, is the federal budget in a satisfactory position That is a test that can very easily be applied. Suppose that the economic position has improved. India reacts very favourably to improvement, and almost without any inquiry at all it will be seen whether there is sufficient money at the centre. If, on the other hand the budget is not in a satisfactory condition, then obviously the Government of the day could not contemplate recommending this House and another place to address the Crown to issue a proclamation that would bring Federation into operation.
The Noble Lady will see that neither the process for testing the provincial position nor the process for testing the federal position needs anything in the nature of a statutory inquiry. I would have thought that everyone who had followed these questions in any detail in recent years would have come to the conclusion that the fewer statutory inquiries we have the better from every point of view, and that the time has come when all the material is at our disposal. The decision as to when and whether Provincial Autonomy is to start, and as to whether and when Federation is to be 455 set up, must be the decision of the Government of the day, supported by a resolution of both Houses. The check against irresponsible action and against the bringing into operation of Federation when the funds of the Federation are in an unsatisfactory state, is the test of the resolution of both Houses, in my view a very effective test.
A statutory commission would do, first of all, what is not needed, and would do what is essentially the duty of the Government of the day. It is a proposition which I could not possibly accept. This is one of many cases that we have had in the last two days of proposals being made under which Parliament is asked to divest itself of all its inherent responsibilities, and to place those responsibilities upon the shoulders of irresponsible bodies of a different kind. Let me say with all the emphasis that I can command that I think proposals of that kind ought to receive little or no support in this Committee. The data will be made available, first of all, by inquiry into the provincial finances, and, secondly, by the test that we shall apply to the federal system before we submit a motion to the Crown to issue a proclamation. The decision must then rest with the Government and both Houses, as to whether or not Federation should come into operation, and the responsibility should not be pushed off upon some statutory body such as that suggested.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I think that what my right hon. Friend has said is really in the direction of objecting to the method of inquiry proposed in the Amendment. He has let us see that he recognises that an inquiry of some kind will be necessary. If, therefore, he attaches importance to this matter and regards it as essential that there should be an inquiry, will he not bring forward his own proposals in such a way as to make it perfectly clear in India that the finances of that country will have to be in a suitable condition before this Constitution can be brought in? Otherwise, there will be a great deal of misunderstanding and false hopes.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I do not think that that is in the least likely. The Joint Select Committee report will bear out my statement that time and again this 456 matter has been discussed with Indians. There never has been any secrecy about it at all. I cannot do better than read the relevant passages of the Joint Select Committee's report on the subject. That will give full publicity to the position. Paragraph 273 of the report says:It has been argued in some quarters that constitutional change should be postponed until the financial horizon was clearer, but the additional difficulties attributable to the change (and such as they are they relate mainly to Provincial Autonomy and not to Federation) are but a small part of a financial problem which has in any event to be faced, and is, we hope and believe, in process of solution. No doubt before the new Constitution actually comes into operation His Majesty's Government will review the financial position and inform Parliament how the matter stands.I undertake to carry out that pledge.It is suggested in the White Paper that at the last possible date there should be a financial inquiry. This seems to us a suitable procedure, but we do not conceive, nor do we understand that it is intended, that any expert body could be charged with the duty of deciding whether the position was such that the new Constitution could be inaugurated without thereby aggravating the financial difficulties to a dangerous extent. On this point, as we have said, Parliament must at the appropriate time receive a direct assurance from His Majesty's Government.I give my Noble Friend an undertaking that it is the intention of the Government, in the spirit and in the letter, to carry out that paragraph.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. LENNOX-BOYD
Particularly after the assurance of the Secretary of State, and in view of his very courteous observations, I hope he will not think me offensive if I say that he has failed entirely to clear the air of one or two doubts. I shall be grateful if he will say some words in regard to the emergency surcharges and the pay cuts. The former would cost about £10,000,000, and the restoration of the pay cuts would involve some £1,000,000. Is it intended that the Federation should be implemented before the emergency surcharges have been withdrawn and the pay cuts restored? Does the right hon. Gentleman seriously contend that revenue based mainly on import duties can be reconciled to the role of economic nationalism which the advent of power to Indian government at the centre will obviously inaugurate? We are the last people in this Committee who wish to see innumerable commissions 457 sent out to India or elsewhere. Indeed, speaking personally, one of my chief complaints against the Government, not in the Indian sphere but in other spheres, has been the multiplicity of commissions behind which, on great issue of State, the Government have been fully prepared to shelter themselves.
I feel strongly that, on a question of this kind, to ask for a commission of this nature is not an unwarrantable request. We whole-heartedly accept the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman that Federation will not be implemented unless the financial conditions justify it, but we feel that there ought to be inserted at this point in the Bill some wording to show conclusively to the Indian politicians that that is in fact the case. As long as His Majesty's present Government are governing this country—and I hope it will last for a considerable time—there is no fear of Federation being implemented unless financial stability is secured. We have some hesitation, however, as to what is likely to happen should the wheel of political fortune unhappily translate the present Opposition into the seats of political power. We feel that hon. Members opposite are likely to be persuaded, even against their own better judgment, to create by comfortable words an appearance of financial security in India. We feel that they might be hesitant and possibly quite unequal to withstanding the mass pressure of the Indian politicians whose ambition they have so recklessly aroused. Therefore we should insert some words here which will give certainty on this vital matter.
One of our charges—and it has been by no means confined to those who support this Amendment and who criticise the Government on this question—is that we have in the last few years developed an unhappy tendency to speak on these matters in two languages, using one in England and the other in India. We cannot believe that the many references to our past Imperial history, which the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to enlist in support of his views, can seriously be enlisted in support of a policy, by which the House of Commons is asked to give its approval to a system of saying here what we feel will reassure our own people, and saying in India what we hope the Indian politician will accept willingly.
§ 8.59 p.m.
§ Sir H. CROFT
It seems to me that the Committee is in great danger of being carried away by the optimism of the Secretary of State. One of his main arguments in reply to my Noble Friend is that if things get better in India and if economic circumstances improve there will be a wonderful change in the situation. There are several people in gaol who would never have gone there but for the fact that they honestly thought that things were going to improve in commercial circles in this country and banked on that belief. We cannot run the risk of being dependent upon an improvement in economic conditions when we are dealing with a matter of this kind. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is satisfied that the figure which he has given of the cost of bringing about Federation covers all the possibilities. I am sure he is aware of the fact that the figure which he has given is much less than the estimates made by some of the great authorities who have served with distinction in connection with financial matters in India. I presume that the right hon. Gentleman is at the moment being advised or that he has been advised on this subject by Sir George Schuster. I imagine that Sir George Schuster must have had a great deal to say on the budgetary position in India and I think I am entitled to quote to the Committee what he said in 1933 on this subject. I may say that he expressed a feeling which is rather like my own feeling to-day in this Committee. Sir George Schuster in 1933 said:I feel that in this discussion and in all discussions which are going on to-day, finance is being considered in an atmosphere of unreality.He went on to say:Then we have the constitutional changes impending which show a vast amount of additional burdens.That is very different from the way in which the Secretary of State brushes all this aside by saying that it is only a small amount. After all, however small, it is going to be a great burden on the ryots in India. Sir George Schuster also said:Let us take a few of the main items: Separation of Burma which means a loss of 3 crores to the central budget; surrender of half the tax on jute to Bengal—a loss of about 2 crores to the central budget; subventions to the deficit provinces; 80 lakhs in Sind, 25 lakhs for Orissa and money for 459 Assam and Behar—altogether, say another 2 crores; setting up a reserve bank—a loss of direct receipts to the Government from currency by something like 2 crores.I should imagine it to be likely that some of these figures have since been increased. Sir George Schuster proceeded to say:All these items together—I have not got them in my head—but the total of these and other charges will come to about 11 crores.That is something like the sort of figure which the right hon. Gentleman gave but Sir George Schuster then says:On the top of that the Central Government are supposed to hand over more than half the Income Tax.If that estimate is correct the figures at that time would have come to something like £15,000,000 sterling. I realise that Sir George Schuster may have been a little out in his figures but there seems to be a great variation between his estimate and that of the right hon. Gentleman. Anyhow this is a question involving very serious consequences to India. The consequences might be such as to bring the whole scheme to complete disaster should there be any serious mistake and I think that the right hon. Gentleman ought to accept the assistance suggested in this Amendment, by having a committee to advise him as to when it was safe to take this very grave step.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I wish, if I can, to remove some of the doubts which appear to be in the mind of my hon. and gallant Friend. I would again point out that in the first place there is, definitely, going to be an inquiry into the question of the provincial finances, and secondly that there must also be an inquiry before Federation is brought into being. The point at issue between us, if there is one at all, is as to what kind of inquiries these ought to be and what ought to be the terms of reference. I have followed the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee in both those respects, namely, as regards the character of the two inquiries and also as regards the terms of reference. The executive decision must remain in the hands of the Government of the day. Whether I am too optimistic or my hon. and gallant Friend is too pessimistic is a question for the future, but the check, as I have said, is the check of Parliament, namely that there 460 must be a report to Parliament on these matters and that Parliament will have the power to delay or to refuse the passing of the Address asking for the Proclamation, if Parliament is not satisfied that the financial position is satisfactory. Further than that I will not go into details at the moment. My hon. and gallant Friend has quoted certain figures and if I had time and if he wished me to do so, I could clear up the apparent differences between Sir George Schuster's estimates and mine. There is in fact no real difference. Indeed, the conclusion of the speech of Sir George Schuster from which my hon. and gallant Friend read certain extracts, was that Sir George Schuster saw no reason why the financial position, assuming that finance went on normally, should hold up the inauguration of the Constitution.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Colonel GRETTON
I have listened carefully to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman and I am not going to challenge his statement as to the figures. I am going to ask him to turn to another matter raised by this Amendment. Supposing that a Commission is set up to examine the financial position of the provinces and the central government before it is finally determined to issue the proclamation and put the provisions of this measure into operation. The Secretary of State suggests that the Government should appoint an inquiry by experts, who should report to this House, which, by a vote, would approve or disapprove. The experts appointed by the Government, however, would be Government servants, not anxious to disoblige the Government, and unless there was some very drastic and dangerous situation which could not be ignored, they might be expected to give a reply favourable to passing this measure into operation. It is a perfectly sound idea that nothing should be done to set up the new Government and establish a new order of things in India unless and until the financial position to be handed over to the new authorities there is sound. Is there not something to be said in favour of sending out a commission, so that the Government and Parliament can, at any rate, rely upon it to give an impartial report, or as impartial a report as is possible in the circumstances, on the situation? That is what is intended by the Amendment now before 461 the Committee, and I must say that I think it has great merits. It would prevent the Government from being placed in an impossible position and ensure for Parliament an impartial inquiry, and we should, at any rate, in this matter be dealing more fairly and more justly with the people of India than we can under the Bill as it is at present drawn. I therefore support the Amendment.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I would remind the Committee that we are working under a voluntary time-table and that if we take so much time on every Amendment, we cannot possibly keep to it.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 31; Noes, 230.463
|Division No. 54.]||AYES.||[9.8 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E.A.(P'dd'gt'n, S.)|
|Apsley, Lord||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Knox, sir Alfred||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Levy, Thomas||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Burnett, John George||Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Raikes. Henry V. A. M.|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Reid, David D. (County Down)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Major Courtauld and Mr. Lennox-|
|Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard||Boyd.|
|Donner, P. W.||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)||Eales, John Frederick||Iveagh, Countess of|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Edwards, Charles||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Jackson, J. C. (Heywood A Radcliffe)|
|Assheton, Ralph||Eimley, Viscount||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Jenkins, Sir William|
|Balniel, Lord||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Jesson, Major Thomas E.|
|Banfield, John William||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||John, William|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Batey, Joseph||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Ker, J. Campbell|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Fraser, Captain Ian||Kerr, Hamilton W.|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Fremantle, Sir Francis||Kirkpatrick, William M.|
|Bernays, Robert||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Ganzonl, Sir John||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George|
|Boulton, W. W.||Gardner, Benjamin Walter||Law, Sir Alfred|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Braithwalte, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Gillett, Sir George Matterman||Lawson, John James|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Glossop, C. W. H.||Leech, Dr. J. W.|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Goff, Sir Park||Leonard, William|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Goldle, Noel B.||Lindsay, Noel Ker|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham)||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Loftus, Pierce C.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Lunn, William|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding)||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. c. G.(Partick)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Grimston, R. V.||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Cleary, J. J.||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Macdonald Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||McEntee, Valentine L.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Hamilton, Sir R.W.(Orkney & Z'tl'nd)||McLean, Major Sir Alan|
|Cooke, Douglas||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)|
|Copeland, Ida||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||Magnay, Thomas|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Harvey, Major Sir Samuel (Totnes)||Mainwaring, William Henry|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Headlam, Lieut.-Cot. Cuthbert M.||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Hicks, Ernest George||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Hills. Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R,|
|Cruddas, Lieut-Colonel Bernard||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Martin, Thomas B.|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Hornby, Frank||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Daggar, George||Horsbrugh, Florence||Mayhew. Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Howard, Tom Forrest||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Milne, Charles|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Milner, Major James|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Rathbone, Eleanor||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. H. (Ayr)||Held, James S. C. (Stirling)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Morgan,. Robert H.||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Thorne, William James|
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)||Rickards, George William||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Muirhead, Lieut-Colonel A. J.||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Munro, Patrick||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Rothschild, James A. de||Tutnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)||Wallace, Sir John (Dunfermline)|
|Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid||Salmon, Sir Isidore||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Salt, Edward W.||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Orr Ewing, I. L.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Owen, Major Goronwy||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Paling, Wilfred||Shute, Colonel Sir John||White, Henry Graham|
|Parkinson, John Allen||Skelton, Archibald Noel||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Pearson, William G.||Smith, Sir J. Walker (Barrow-in-F.)||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Penny, Sir George||Smith, Tom (Normanton)||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Petherick. M.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)||Wilmot, John|
|Potter, John||Soper, Richard||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)|
|Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Pybus, Sir John||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur||Womersley, Sir Walter|
|Padford, E. A.||Stevenson, James||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Ramsden, Sir Eugene||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.||Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert|
|Ratcliffe, Arthur||Summersby, Charles H.||Ward and Mr. Blindell.|
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I beg to move, in page 2, line 41, after "Provinces," to insert, "which have acceded or may thereafter accede to the Federation."
This will make this part of the Clause read:there shall be united in a Federation under the Crown, by the name of the Federation of India—(a) the Provinces hereinafter called Governors' Provinces which have acceded or may thereafter accede to the Federation.That makes the accession of the Provinces exactly similiar in wording to the accession of the Indian States in paragraph (b). It puts them absolutely on a par with the States so far as joining the Federation is concerned. I have deliberately left it open as to how the Provinces should show their accession. The difficulties that arise in the case of the present Assembly at Delhi voting on this question apply equally, but not so strongly, as I shall show, to the Provincial Legislatures. Obviously, with the smaller number of electors in a province it is much more practicable and possible to take a plebiscite of the actual voters in the province as to whether they should come in or not. The first thing to note is that, in this case at any rate, there is a much wider electorate than there is for the Assembly; and, moreover, there is a much greater incentive upon the population to vote themselves into this Bill, because, whatever we may say about the bad part of Federation and the bad 464 nature of the Central Government set up, it is undoubted that there are advantages to the Provinces in securing Provincial Autonomy, for their powers are wider and greater and the electorate is still further widened. Most of the Provinces of India, if they were consulted as to whether this Bill should become law, would vote for it, because the advantages to them are obvious and the disadvantages in the centre would not bulk so largely in the minds of the electors in the Provinces.
While we can say with certainty that the Government would not slip up and lose the accession of most of the States, yet it is certain that we should not get a vote from Bengal or from the Punjab in favour of this Measure. Anyone who listened the other day to the noble speech by C. F. Andrews on the wireless must have realised that feelings on this Bill are much more strongly held in Bengal and the Punjab than anywhere else in India, and feelings on the question of communal representation are certainly much more stirred in those two Provinces. The question is what special advantage does it give to the people of those Provinces not to have the chance of voting themselves out of this Bill for all time, but of delaying their accession to the Federation. That is the power which I want to give them—the power, not of shutting themselves out for all time, but of delaying in order to bargain a better system of representation in those Provinces.
It must be made clear why there is a special case in Bengal and the Punjab. 465 In Bengal the representation at the present time is that 60 per cent. of the seats are Hindu and 40 per cent. Mohammedan. Under the Bill the Hindu seats are 78, plus two for women, making 80, and the Mohammedan seats are 117, plus two women, making 119, so that the whole balance of power between Mohammedans and Hindus is changed by the Bill. Therefore, the Hindus oppose this Bill mainly because of the fear that the Bengal Hindus will be subjected to the tyranny of the Mohammedans for all time. If you give these people the chance of delaying their entry into the Federation, you will give them the chance of bargaining with the Mohammedans, and if the Mohammedans want to come in and want this Bill, they will be more reasonable than they have been up to now. This representation, or, as I would call it, misrepresentation in Bengal so strongly struck Lord Zetland that he tried to get an amendment on the Joint Select Committee. He had been Governor of Bengal and he was so impressed by these proportions that he tried to get a fairer representation, but he was voted down by a majority. I want to preserve the chance of all the people of Bengal, not merely the Hindus, to get better terms for coming into the Federation—not better terms as against the British Government, but juster terms as regards the actual representation of the people. The population of Bengal is 45,000,000, and the majority are Hindus.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
Is it not generally considered without question that the majority in Bengal is Moslem?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
If that be so, then they would vote for the Bill. There are enough Hindus, Untouchables and Anglo-Indians to demand a juster basis of representation. They would be able to secure juster terms in accordance with the wishes of Lord Zetland, and also prevent the coming into existence in Bengal of a statutory majority which cannot be shaken. A statutory majority means that a minority need have no vote at all. It is to stop the establishment of a system of Hitlerite dictatorship, as 466 well as to secure justice of representation, that I ask the Committee to accept this Amendment to give this elementary right to human beings to decide for themselves by a majority vote whether they will or will not stand out of this decision. Exactly the same argument applies with even greater force to the Punjab, for there Sikhs as well as Hindus are protesting against the domination of the Mohammedans. These Sikhs are an extremely warlike race, and the Mohammedans are also warlike. It would be a domination of one particular creed. I do ask the Government to give this to the Provinces, to give them a chance to stand out to get fairer terms from the present majority. It is possible that the Government in reply may say that when we get to the Schedules they will alter the appalling schedule for Bengal and the Punjab. That might be a way out on ordinary grounds of decent humanity, of British justice. You might give the Provinces of India, not merely Bengal and the Punjab, through a plebiscite of the inhabitants the right to say whether they will come in or stop out.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Butler)
The Committee have already considered the principle upon which this Amendment was based, that is, the 'consultation with Indian opinion before the introduction of this Bill. In this case we are concerned with consultation with the Provinces, in order to enable them to decide whether they are going to enter the Federation or not. This seems to imply a radical misunderstanding of the intentions of the Government in the Bill. We stand by the terms of the Preamble of the 1919 Act, that Parliament is the sole judge of future constitutional development in India. I base myself on that. I think that this Amendment implies a further misunderstanding of the relationship of the Provinces and the States in the future Federation. The States, on the one hand, are sovereign states with sovereign powers, who have, as described in this Bill, acceded to the Federation by treaties being in a correct manner. With regard to the Provinces, in the Government of India Act, 1919, this House decided the question and prescribed the future position of the pro 467 vinces. The Government proposed to follow the principles followed in the 1919 Act in dealing with the future of the Indian Provinces. In regard to some of the details, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman went on to deal with the taking of a plebiscite of voters in Indian Provinces. To my mind that would be a totally impossible administrative operation. We have had to restrict the figure of the franchise for the reason that the administration would be overwhelmed. That would not be all the difficulties of a ballot. I believe it would be impossible to have a plebiscite in the Indian provinces on a question such as this.
I am afraid that I fail to see any improvement in the communal award by the adoption of the principle of a plebiscite in the Indian provinces. I fail to see why a majority could be split on this question, and why delay in the coming into operation of the scheme in any particular province should achieve the aim desired. The confusion that would arise if this Amendment were 'adopted would be extraordinary. There would be a Federation where certain Provinces had voted themselves in, and certain States by treaties of accession had acceded to the Federation, as well as one or two States that had not acceded for certain reasons. Presumably there would also be certain provinces which had not voted themselves into the federation. There would, therefore, have to be a transitional government at the centre to control those Provinces which had not voted themselves into the Federation, and which would be in an entirely different relationship to the Federation. For these reasons, I regret to say that the Government are unable to accept the Amendment.
§ Sir H. CROFT
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Amendment was not laying down any particular suggestion as to how the vote should be taken, but rather left that to His Majesty's Government, because it is the Government's Bill. I want to make this very brief protest. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman referred to my hon. Friend's strange company in favour of this democratic vote. We say that if you believe that the Government have a right to say what the constitution should be, and believe that these people are com 468 petent to vote, you should prove your sincerity by going to the people and asking them whether this is the scheme they want. It is not fair to us to say that we are eating our words and to accuse us of being inconsistent. We are trying to make the Bill a better Bill. If the Government are right and we are wrong, if India has progressed so far in the last four or five years, if the "unchanging East" has in a few months moved so far towards the democratic possibilities of the West, all we say is, "Prove your case." In an earlier Amendment the right hon. Gentleman has said, "If you really believe this policy is required and demanded by India, if it is really going to bring contentment and not more agitation, as the Indian Congress and Indian Liberals say, put it to the test and let the Indian people themselves say whether they want it or not."
§ 9.36 p.m.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I am very sorry that it will not be possible for us to support the right hon. and gallant Gentleman in his Amendment. I appreciate some of the difficulties which he anticipates in regard to the Federation, and some of those misgivings I certainly share; but a few minutes ago we supported a proposal from the other side in which the whole of the elected representatives of the whole of British India would be involved, acting as one body. It is also within the knowledge of those who were with us on the Joint Select Committee that we steadily took the view that we were in a favour of a federation—not this federation, but a federation—and consequently we held that once a Province or a State was in the federation it could not have the right to withdraw. Similarly, I take the view that it is no use attempting to have a federation at all unless the Provinces all go in at the same time. It would be a futile business to have two or three Provinces electing to go in and the others just marking time until it pleased them to go in. If there is to be a federation at all we must enable all to join at the same time. The conditions under which they join may not be agreeable to us and we shall move Amendments at the proper time to deal with that question, but for the present I desire to say that we are in favour of all the Provinces going into the federation. 469 We rather deprecate any intention to let matters rest upon the ipse dixit of any individual Province at any given time.
§ 9.39 p.m.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I am awfully sorry to hear that speech. It is so unpleasant for me to differ from my colleagues. Really, this is a matter of great principle. If it is a federation which is compulsory we shall be storing up difficulties for the future. It is much more important to have a few people voluntarily coming together than the Socialistic proposal of compelling everybody to come in. It is a shocking example of Bolshevic collectivism. I shall vote in favour of this Amendment and against the principle of coercion, and I hope there will be others whose voices will be raised against the coercion of any Province that considers itself unjustly treated by the Federation.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I agree with what the Under-Secretary has said as to the impossibility of the contracting out principle of my right hon. and gallant Friend, but I wish to make a point in reply to the Under-Secretary when he seemed to press a good deal too far the argument, drawn from the Preamble I think, that the final decision must rest with this Parliament. That is perfectly true, but it does not at all involve the conclusion that Parliament may not desire to take the opinion of the people for whom this Constitution is destined before they finally go into it. I suggest that none of his arguments against my right hon. and gallant Friend's proposal apply to the proposal that the provincial legislatures elected under the new franchise should be allowed to express their opinion before the Federation should come into being.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The next Amendment I select is that standing in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood)—in page 3, to leave out "lines 3 to 5." I think it would be convenient if at the same time we discussed the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) and the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks)—
470 In page 3, line 5, at the end, to insert:Provided that it shall be lawful for His Majesty on an address presented to him at any time after the expiration of five years from the passing of this Act by the Federal Legislature to issue a proclamation conferring an a Chief Commissioner's Province the status of a Governor's Province as from the date to be mentioned in such proclamation.Reserving to those hon. Members the right to take a Division on their Amendment if they so desire.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I hope this time I may have support. This Amendment would allow the inclusion in the Federation of only those States which have representative institutions, in order that the States represented should have the opportunity of being represented by representative people instead of by the nominees of the Princes.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The right hon. and gallant Member is moving an Amendment which I have not selected.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The Amendment I wish to move is one to leave out the words "the Indian States" and to insert "those Indian States which enjoy representative institutions and."
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I beg to move, in page 3, to leave out lines 3 to 5.
I will read the lines it is proposed to omit so that the Committee may be cognisant of their meaning:And in the Federation so established there shall be included the Provinces hereinafter called Chief Commissioners' Provinces.I do not want the Chief Commissioner's Provinces included in the Federation.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ 9.43 p.m.
§ Mr. COCKS
I beg to move, in page 3, line 5, at the end to insert:Provided that it shall be lawful for His Majesty on an address presented to him at any time after the expiration of five years from the passing of this Act by the Federal Legislature to issue a proclamation confer 471 ring on a Chief Commissioner's Province the status of a Governor's Province as from the date to be mentioned in such proclamation.I formally move this Amendment, the effect of which is to allow the Chief Commissioners' Provinces, after the expiration of five years, to be raised to the status of Governors' Provinces, after the Federal Legislature has passed an address to His Majesty asking for that to be done.
§ 9.44 p.m.
§ Mr. BUTLER
If I tell the hon. Member that when Clause 272 of the Bill is submitted to the Committee he will find that it actually achieves the purpose which he desires he may not find it necessary to press his Amendment. Under the procedure provided in that Clause a Chief Commissioner's Province could be converted into a Governor's Province. I do not think the actual procedure of his Amendment is in that Clause, but it could be converted into a Governor's Province.
I will read the words:Subject to the provisions of this Section, His Majesty may by Order in Council alter the boundary of any Province if, with a view to the creation of a new province or on other grounds, he deems it expedient so to do.The Clause continues to give, under Subsection (2), an opportunity for creating new provinces. I think that will probably meet the wishes of the hon. Member for Broxstowe (Mr. Cocks), and, if so, I hope that he will find it unnecessary to press the Amendment.
§ 9.46 p.m.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
The hon. Gentleman has not given us a very adequate answer to the Amendment. There are, as he knows, certain areas called chief commissioners' districts or areas, which are not subject to anything in the nature of the form of government which will prevail in the Governors' provinces. It is true that Clause 272 provides, after an indefinite period, for the transference of those areas to the status of Governors' provinces, but if after five years the Federal Assembly presents a petition to His Majesty that an area should be raised in status to that of a Governor's province, we feel that His Majesty should be able to accede to that request. The whole point is that it is possible for the people living in Governors' provinces to exercise very 472 considerable control of their destinies, whereas in chief commissioners' provinces there is no such control, because the matter is entirely in the hands of the chief commissioner and those who advise him. This is a matter of some substance. Five years should be ample time limit before the Federal Assembly is able to approach His Majesty by way of petition.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
May I point out that under Clause 272 that may be done at any time without waiting for the expiry of five years?
§ 9.48 p.m.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
This is rather important. When can a chief commissioner's province become a Governor's province? It is not clear from Clause 22 when they can come in. What will be the actual procedure which will enable a chief commissioner's province to become a Governor's province? It is true that powers are taken in the Bill to issue periodically fresh instruments of instruction; must we wait while those instruments of instruction are passed by both Houses of Parliament before the change is made, or can the change be made by the Government of India without any interference from this House? What powers have the Government in the matter? Further, we want to know—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I am quite clear that this discussion ought not to take place on this Amendment, and that it ought to be raised on Clause 272. I must, therefore, declare this Amendment out of order, because I am clear that the matter should be raised on that Clause.
§ 9.49 p.m.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I beg to move, in page 3, line 10, to leave out "fifty-two," and to insert "seventy-eight."
The effect of the Amendment would be to require that Princes representing three-quarters of the seats in the upper chamber should have signified their adherence to the federation before it comes into operation, instead of only half of those seats, as the Bill requires. Whenever a decision has to be taken in this country by a large number of persons upon an issue which affects their economic interests, it will be found that a majority of something like two-thirds is regarded 473 as necessary. Hardly a voluntary association in this country does not require a two-thirds majority for the alteration of its constitution. Again the marketing schemes on which producers in various branches of the agricultural industry have, in the last year or two, had to decide, can not come into operation until about 67 per cent. of the producers have voted for them.
We all regard that as just and necessary, because we recognise that the operation of those schemes may vary in regard to various producers, bringing benefit to one set of producers and loss to others. In this tremendous matter of the 562 Indian States deciding whether they will or will not enter a federation with the democratic provinces of British India, States representing not more than a half of the seats in the upper federal chamber will give one of the only two conditions precedent to federation. My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Sir C. Oman) spoke last night, out of his great knowledge, of the enormous variety of character of the Indian States, and of the variety of their history and of their connection with the British Raj. I do not know that he said very much about the geographical position and other factors which we have to take into consideration in regard to this question. The situation of a State upon the sea coast entitles it, in present conditions, to maritime customs, which is a privilege not enjoyed by inland States. The natural resources of some States include salt, and therefore these have privileges in regard to the manufacture and sale of salt. Coming into the federation would mean renunciation of that right of maritime customs, and a loss of the privileges of manufacture and sale of salt. On the other hand, to other States who have for years been paying annual tribute to the British Raj, it will mean gradual remission of that tribute, while to others it will bring payment for territories which they have ceded at any time during the last hundred years to the Government of India in return for assurances of protection of their territories or the recognition of a dynasty, or whatever it may be. The net result is a total payment of some £750,000 a year which will have to be made by the Federal Government to the Indian States.
474 The point I stress is that federation will bring advanages to some States and disadvantages to others. The incidence of federation upon this enormous mass of Indian States will be extremely unequal. I feel, therefore, obliged to say that the barest idea of justice requires the Government to ensure that no federation should come into operation until a very large majority of the States, both those who would benefit and those who would not benefit, have signified their adherence to the proposals. Again, States vary enormously in their size, and the larger States, very naturally and properly, are allotted more seats in the Upper Chamber than the smaller States. Out of a total of 104 seats in the Upper Chamber, it actually comes about that not more than 27 large States will provide the necessary number of 52 seats which gives the first condition precedent to federation.
As we know, important negotiations are in progress with the Nizam of Hyberabad with regard to the Berars. We do not know what the nature of those negotiations is. We have been assured that the Government do not intend to transfer the administration of the Berars to His Exalted Highness, and we hope very much that the agreement which is being negotiated does not mean any going back upon that undertaking. We know, again, that the population of the civil station of Bangalore, European, Anglo-Indian and Moslem, numbering some 40,000 people, have protested against the suggestion that they are going to be transferred to the State of Mysore. I earnestly hope that the Government are not going to yield on that matter. It seems to me a terrible thing that any people should be forced to renounce their British citizenship and become citizens of another State.
Again, there has been a. proposal to transfer to Travancore the inhabitants, mainly Christian and partly European, of Tangasseri, who have always been under European rule. There again the inhabitants are strongly protesting, for the third time, against being transferred to a Hindu State, which, although it has a considerable number of Christian subjects, is nevertheless not satisfying those Christian subjects in its administration on matters relating to their religion. I only mention these cases to show the special inducements that are being given to the three largest States in British 475 India to get them to regard favourably entry into this Federation; and those three States between them contribute seven of the 52 seats which are necessary as a first condition precedent.
Some three years ago we understood that a much larger number of States would have to accede to the federation than is indicated in the Bill. My right hon. Friend's memory on this matter seems to have betrayed him to-day, because I understood him to say that he did not remember having at any time mentioned a number larger than the number mentioned in the Bill. I have looked up the Debate of 27th June, 1932, in which he referred to this matter. I can never forget the announcement that he made on that day. I listened to it very carefully, and it was an enormous relief to me to hear him make it. He said:No one in any part of this House can categorically say that an All-India Federation Bill can be produced until we know in detail and for certain that the Indian States are going to be an effective part of the Federation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th June, 1932; col. 1495, Vol. 262.]When I heard my right hon. Friend make that statement, I thought I heard him use the word "all" before the words "the Indian States," and it was that word "all" which I thought I heard, and the general sense of the declaration, that made an enormous impression on my mind. On the following day, when I read the right hon. Gentleman's speech, I found the word "all" in the OFFICIAL REPORT, but it does not appear in the volume. I know that this was brought to my right hon. Friend's notice, and I remember that he gave an assurance that he did not use the word "all." I accept that assurance. I only mention the matter because the whole sense of the passage, even in the final version, seems to me to indicate that the right hon. Gentleman was intending to convey that substantially all the Indian States—the Indian States as a whole—would have to accede to the federation before it could come into being. So far as my recollection goes—of course I may be entirely at fault in this matter—it was not until some six months later, namely, in his speech at the end of the Third Round Table Conference, that my right hon. Friend made a declaration to the effect that States representing not less than 50 per cent. of the total population 476 of the States, and not less than half the seats in the Upper Federal Chamber, would have to signify their adherence. By that time it had begun to be apparent that there were important Princes who were viewing the idea of federation with considerably less favour than those few influential Princes who had supported it at the first Round Table Conference.
I remember that the publication of my right hon. Friend's speech at the Round Table Conference coincided, I think to a day, with a statement made to a Reuter representative by the late Jam Sahib of Nawanagar, who was then Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes. His declaration was to the effect that the Round Table Conferences appeared to have done very little to meet the Princes' demands. He proceeded to state what those demands had been, and clearly expressed very grave disappointment with the attention which they had received. As a matter of fact, that declaration of the Jam Sahib got extremely little publication in the English Press. I myself never saw it in any English newspaper but only in the Scottish Press, as I happened to be in Scotland at the time. I cannot help thinking that, as my right hon. Friend began to see that the idea of federation was losing favour with certain very important Princes, he felt it necessary to tighten up the conditions, and to require the adherence of a very much smaller number of Princes than, apparently, was considered necessary when he made his speech in June, 1932. I must say I deeply regret that the Government of this country should attempt to press into a federation men who have long been rulers of autonomous States—States whose fortunes will, as I have said, be affected in such very varying degrees by entry into the federation; and I most earnestly hope that the Government, even at this hour, will see that it is really unfair that a great paramount Power like this should pay so little consideration to the desires and circumstances of the Princes of India, and will yet accept the substantially larger figure which I have mentioned in the Amendment.
§ 10.4 p.m.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I am afraid my Noble Friend still suspects me of some evil design in this matter. I thought I had 477 cleared up once and for all the suggestion, which has been made several times in this House, that I have said one thing in a Debate and have subsequently altered it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I assure my Noble Friend and the Committee once again that I never suggested that all the Princes were to come in. Indeed, it is palpably absurd to think that I should ever have made that suggestion. No one who has studied this question has ever imagined that it must be a condition of All-India Federation that all the 600 and more States, some of them with territory about the size of this Chamber, were essential to a federation. The very suggestion is too foolish for anyone in a responsible position ever to dream of making.
§ Sir S. HOARE
There is no secret at all. I never said it. I imagine that every hon. Member can make an alteration in the report of his speech and it rests with the Speaker at the table to accept or reject the alteration. When I say to the Committee that I never said "all," I expect the Committee to believe what I say. If they do not believe what I say, I had better not stand in the position in which I am now standing.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I said I accepted the right hon. Gentleman's assurance. I said I thought that, even without the word "all", his speech as reported in the corrected copy gives the impression that he meant that substantially all the princes would have acceded. If not, will he tell the Committee what he did mean?
§ Sir S. HOARE
I was referring to the intervention of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox), who seemed to doubt what I said. Let the Committee, putting suspicions out of their minds, look dispassionately at this problem. We want the all-India Federation to be an effective Federation. We have no intention of bringing into operation a Federation which is not definitely an all-India Federation. The question then arises, what should be the conditions which make it an effective Federation. Quite obviously, if it is to be an effective Federation it must be generally representative of the Indian Princes. There are, speaking 478 generally, three classes of Indian Princes. First of all, there is the strictly limited number of very big States, headed by the great State of Hyderabad. Secondly, there are a number of less great States of intermediate size, in particular the States which have hitherto taken an active part in the business of the Chamber of Princes. Thirdly, there are a number of quite small States, some of them, as I say, being little more than estates, with very limited revenues. It is our desire that the Federation should be representative of all these groups, not only the very big States, like Hyderabad, not only the intermediate States, like, shall I say, Patiala, and Bikaner, but also we think the lesser States should be represented. The question then arises, assuming that we want all these various classes of States represented, what should be the percentage on which we should insist as a condition for an effective all-India Federation? We might take the test only of population, but in that case it would mean that a mere handful of the greater States would provide a sufficient population as a precedent condition of Federation. It would mean that the Federation might then start with quite a limited number of great States and that none of the other States would be in it at all.
We, therefore, came to the conclusion—I am speaking now not only of the Government but of the Joint Select Committee—that there should be a further test, namely, the test of status in addition to the test of population. The best way to apply the test of status is to take the right of representation in the upper chamber. We came, therefore, to the view that, if these two tests should be applied, the right kind of percentage was a percentage of 50 per cent. of population and a percentage of half those with the right of entry into the upper house, namely, half the States which have the right of being represented in the upper house. I daresay hon. Members are asking themselves why the test should not be a higher one. I will tell the Committee. The risk of putting the test higher is that we should then put ourselves into the hands of a few States which could virtually dictate their conditions of entry into the Federation, and could by that means hold up the coming into operation of Federation altogether. If we take a percentage of 90 or 85, or even the 479 percentage of my Noble Friend, 75, it means that a small number of States could stand out and only come in upon their own terms. That means that the operation of Federation is really put into the hands of a very limited number of States. The Government took the view that that course was very unwise. The Joint Select Committee considered the question in great detail, and came to the view that much the safer course was to take the percentage that we have in the Bill, 50 per cent. of population, and 50 per cent. of the States competent to be represented in the Upper Federal House, and that to go further than that would be dangerously to put the Government into the hands of a, few States.
Duchess of ATHOLL
Is it not the case that there are about 117 States each of which has separate representation in the Chamber of Princes, and another 100 or so States which are represented by, I think, 12 members in the Chamber of Princes Is it not also the case that on the basis of population alone the nine largest States provide 50 per cent. of the total population of the States, and that, on the basis of the States represented in the Upper Federal Chamber, not more than 27 States are necessary, so that in either case it is not a case of a minority being left out under the proposed condition, but it is the great majority of the States that would be left out?
§ Sir S. HOARE
Certainly. There is no question of disclosing them. They are well known to everyone. After all, those 27 or 28 Chamber States are very important States. The great States, from the point of view of Federation, are of immense importance. My own view—and it is supported not only by my advisers in India but, I think, by my colleagues on the Joint Select Committee, and certainly by the Indians who took part in our discussions representing British India and Indian India as well—is that if these States enter the Federation a great many more States will undoubtedly enter. The story does not end, however, where the Noble Lady left it. There are a number of minority States—States now administered by British administration during the minority of the Indian Princes. They cannot come into the Federation owing to the long-standing procedure in India 480 that no decisions of that kind can be taken without the express wish of the ruler. That in itself tightens, to a substantial extent, the condition we are imposing. My advice to the Committee is that they had much better follow the unanimous opinion of the Joint Select Committee, namely, that this percentage is, on the whole, the soundest percentage to take as a test, and that to go further than this percentage will be to put ourselves dangerously into the hands of a few States who will be compelled to hold up the Federation, even though a large number of the States are anxious that the Federation should start. I hope, therefore, that the Committee will reject the Amendment, and will follow the recommendation of the Joint Select Committee.
Duchess of ATHOLL
Would my right hon. Friend kindly tell the Committee exactly how many more States would have to signify their adherence owing to the fact that some are ruled by minors at the present time?
§ Sir S. HOARE
It is difficult to give the answer in the form which my Noble Friend wishes it, because she will see at once that a State which is under minority administration to-day may not be under minority administration when the Federation comes into being. If the Federation came into being to-morrow, I think it would mean that something like 9 per cent. of the States are now tinder minority administration.
Duchess of ATHOLL
That is on the basis of population, 20 States, and on the basis of State seats, may we know how many?
§ Sir S. HOARE
I cannot give the Noble Lady that answer at once—I will look it up for her—but she can take it from me that it is a substantial factor in the problem. The single instance of the State of Gwalior, which is at present under minority administration, will show her that some of the more important States are in this position.
§ Mr. BRACKEN
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what happens to a 481 State like Alwar, whose ruler first used the phrase "United States of India," and has now been exiled by the Government of India? Is his State to be represented in the federation, or does his temporary absence militate against it being represented in the Chamber of the Princes?
§ 10.19 p.m.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I do not think that the speech of the Secretary of State for India in the least disposes of the Amendment of my Noble Friend. It really is a most amazing thing that the Government propose to bring this vast federation into being on a bare majority either of the population of the States or of the number of seats that they have. I submit that this matter is far too important to be disposed of in this way. After all, you are not going to make this federation a success on the basis of anything like a snap vote. I cannot help feeling that one of the most fundamental mistakes the Government are making is that they think they can manoeuvre first one party and then another into their scheme. Just as, in our opinion, they have not been candid with the British electorate, and just as in the last Amendment they have not been candid with British India, I do not think they are treating the States properly. This is a vast and fundamental departure in the whole history of the States, something which is going to have an immense influence on the whole of their future careers. Should we in any simpler walk of life think of coming to a decision like that on a bare majority? I do not see either the Minister of Agriculture or the right hon. Member for Swindon (Dr. Addison) here, but if they were here they would bear me out when I remind the Secretary of State that even if the Government want to get a marketing scheme through they have to get a 36 per cent. majority of the acreage farmed by the farmers concerned, and a 66 per cent. majority of the number of farms. Therefore, they have to get, a two-thirds majority of the big farmers and a two-thirds majority of the small farmers.
§ Mr. MOLSON
This is the second time that an analogy has been drawn between the Indian States and the marketing schemes. In the case of the marketing schemes those who are not in favour of 482 the schemes are compelled to come in. It is a case of the majority coercing the minority. If the Indian States do not wish to come in, they need not do so.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I should like to hear from my hon. Friend what he thinks the position of the Indian States who do not come in will be after the Federation has come into operation. We know perfectly well that once the Federation has been established there will be no alternative but for every State to come in. Otherwise, they will be completely left out in the cold.
§ Viscount WOLMER
It matters very much. It matters in this sense, and this is an aspect which I think has never appealed to the right hon. Gentleman that if you are going to apply coercion, as you are applying coercion, you ought not to apply it unless you have an overwhelming majority in your favour. The analogy of the Marketing Acts is a perfectly proper one. The right hon. Member for Swindon quite rightly saw, when we pressed him from the Conservative party to make the percentage even higher when the Bill was in Committee, that you cannot get a successful marketing scheme unless you have a preponderating majority of the big men and the small men voluntarily coming in. If you have that, then he saw that it was legitimate to coerce the small minority. But any attempt to do a thing of that sort by a bare majority would inevitably end in failure. You are here dealing with something which is infinitely and immeasurably greater than a marketing scheme, and the same considerations apply. The whole of this thing will automatically come into force when you have got the required number of States, and their decision is going to settle not only their own destiny but the destiny of every State in India as well. We say that a decision of that sort ought not to be come to on such a small majority.
I am very sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) is not here. In a speech that 483 he made on the setting up of the Joint Select Committee he drew special attention to this point, and I think that anyone who considers the question must see that this is one of the fundamental and key points in regard to the whole of the Government's scheme. The right hon. Gentleman says that if you put the percentage too high you put it in the power of a small minority of States to hold up the Government to ransom. That would only be a small number of big States, and if the information which has reached us through the public Press as well as from private sources is correct the Secretary of State has already squared these people. [Interruption.] I mean the agreements which have been prepared during the last 18 months, such as the retrocession of Bangalore.
§ Viscount WOLMER
The proposal leas been revived; and I should be exceedingly surprised if that matter is not settled before Federation takes place. The right hon. Gentleman will have no difficulty in making agreements with the big and important States and therefore the danger that a small number of important States can hold up the whole of this Federation is not very real. If they had real and substantial reasons for holding it up I should say they were right, but you ought not to do a thing of this sort unless you have an overwhelming majority of the States coming in. The Committee must remember that this country is bound to the Princes of India by the most sacred treaties, and a treaty must be honoured in the spirit as well as in the letter. If the Amendment is rejected there is grave danger that while we shall continue to honour the letter of our treaties we shall not be honouring the spirit, because the moment a declaration of Federation is made it will be practically impossible for any State to remain outside federation.
§ Viscount WOLMER
Because you will have an all-India Federation in which their neighbours with rival interests and claims will be represented, and they will feel that they have been left out in the cold. Apparently, the Attorney-General agrees with what I am saying and, therefore, the Government agree that directly 484 you have your required majority the others will be bound to come in. I have never heard anyone with a knowledge of India express a contrary opinion. I say that it is all the more incumbent upon us to see that there is not a snatch vote, a bare majority. If we coerce 45 per cent. or so of the Indian States to come in against their will we shall not be honouring our treaties with them in the spirit, although we may be honouring them in the letter. Surely the way in which we honour the spirit of our treaties is more important than honouring them in the letter. It is because we have honoured our treaties in the spirit as well as in the letter that has given us our position in India to-day. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, even if he cannot agree with the suggestion of my Noble Friend, to give us something more than a bare majority. What is suggested in the amendment is 75 per cent. If he will fall back on 66 per cent. the figure in the Government's own Marketing Acts it would give a two to one majority, and that is the sort of figure which may make all the difference between acquiescence on the part of the minority and a sullen resentment and feeling that they have been tricked and betrayed into a system of which they heartily disapprove. I do wish that the Government, pursuing this great constitutional experiment, would not be so eager to snatch the advantage of position by manoeuvring tactics, but would try to get a Constitution which is based on a measure of real consent, even though it might take them longer. Then they would be building on a far firmer foundation.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Mr. AMERY
I confess that I have rarely heard an argument that I have found more difficult to follow than the suggestion that if 51 per cent, of the princes and people of the Indian States accede to the Federation, that involves a coercion of the remaining 49 per cent. The main reasons why any of the Indian States would wish to join the Federation would be to have a say in the framing of the Indian tariff, Indian railway policy and other policies that affect them. In so far as a certain number of the States join the Federation, that is not going to increase the hostile pressure on the remaining States. Indeed, to some extent it may make the position of the remaining States easier, and some States, those 485 which have got seaboards and collect their own Customs, have not got the same pressure upon them, and may not feel the same desire to federate. It seems to me that the analogy of the Marketing Acts, under which a 66 per cent. majority is required to coerce all, has no bearing whatever upon the question of what proportion of those who want to enter the Federation is sufficient for this Parliament to allow them to enter. This is a restrictive veto on the right of those who want to enter until the 50 per cent. has agreed.
What really does surprise me is this: A good many hours last night and this afternoon I have listened to speeches pointing out that the Government were entirely wrong in assuming that the princes wished to join the Federation. If that is so, why do my hon. Friends want to make so high a fence that the princes cannot jump over it even if they want to do so? I really would make an appeal to my hon. Friends who differ from me, I know from motives which are not foreign to any of us. If they object, let them object upon some definite principle, and let us have rather less of Amendments which are impracticable and purely destructive and wrecking.
§ Viscount WOLMER
My right hon. Friend has appealed to me. Here is a principle for his attention. It is, that there should be a scheme which has some measure of consent behind it.
§ Mr. AMERY
I should think that if Parliament is to be the deciding factor, then if any scheme has ever had the consent both of Parliament and of administrative authorities of experience, no scheme has had a greater measure of such consent behind it than this. On the other hand, if you are to have a scheme which will have vocally expressed Indian consent the moment it is put forward, then Parliament ought to do nothing but wait for an Indian Constituent Assembly. If that is the project of my hon. Friends it certainly is not mine.
§ 10.35 p.m.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
This matter is really crucial. The essence of the Government's scheme has been based upon the offer of the princes. That was the statement made by the Lord President of the Council—whom I do not see in his place to-night—at the critical 486 meeting of his own party. We were told the princes had come forward with their offer and the suggestion was made "How can you reject these good gifts which are so freely proffered to your hand?" Now we are right down to the bones of the offer. There was the speech of the Secretary of State in which he said that the Indian States would come in. By a misprint in the OFFICIAL REPORT, such as often occurs to us, he was reported to have said that "all" the Indian States would come in. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State says he did not say "all" and, whether he said it or not that he did not mean to say it, which is quite the same thing. No one is going to hold a Minister in high office and in a great critical position, responsible for the exact terms of the phrases which fall from his lips, but at any rate it was said that the Indian States would come in.
That is a very important point. The whole essence of the matter as presented to us was, "They want to come in." We were told that they had come forward with their offer and that all they said was, "Do let us be responsible. Do let us have democracy. Do let us have the will of the people prevailing." But they were to come in. Here was this great offer, enabling us to build up this vast megalomaniac palace of Indian Federation. This thing was presented to us because of the Indian States. All was put upon their offer. Now we are told it is only to be half. I am not going to argue with my right hon. Friend. He says he did not say "all" or did not mean to say "all" and that-is the end of it. But between "all" and 50 per cent. there is a pretty wide margin. He brushed that aside, but the Government are basing their case on the offer of the States. We are told that we ought to give up our views because of this great ugly rush of the Princes of India to get into the Federation—on a. purely democratic basis, of course. That is understood all the time. But between "all" and 50 per cent. cannot we come to an agreement with the right hon. Gentleman? Cannot we split the difference and accept this Amendment of 75 per tent—three-quarters instead of half?
What is all this talk about the blackmail which is to be exerted by the outstanding of a few States or whatever it 487 may be—that if you ask too many to come in the last lot might make conditions, and that you have to ask a very few to come in so that you can square that lot—and you have got them very well sized up I must say? Add up the big States of India and see the ones that have been dealt with—Travancore, and Bangalore, and so forth. But when you come to the focus of this matter you find that this point diminishes under the criticism of the Committee. Personally I think this is the weakest point in the Government's case. I think they make a great mistake to force it so much. If the great mass of the Indian States were really so sincere in their desire to participate in the newly created Federation of All-India, with responsible government, with the full surge of democratic processes operative at the centre, you would not have had this awful comedown to 50 per cent. and that 50 per cent. just about what can be managed and manipulated.
The right hon. Gentleman will tell me, no doubt, that the Joint Select Committee have considered all this, and settled it all, and examined it all so nicely. My right hon. Friend made a great mistake in not having a better committee of inquiry, people who would really make a searching examination of these problems. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why did not you join it "] Because the composition of it was so unfair—about four to one, between three and four to one. Let us be quite frank about it. An hon. Member looks at me in a questioning manner. We are fighting this policy, fighting this Bill, and we have to judge whether we shall fight it, on the committee or outside the committee, entirely from the point of view of whether we can make a better fight; but if the committee had been a fair one, if it had been one which gave a fair representation—and we are not fighting it with such ill-effects as you suppose or as your majorities in this House may lead you to imagine—if the committee had been a fair one, it would have been quite possible to go on it. The right hon. Gentleman, however, so managed this committee that, instead of being a committee to inquire into these matters, it was a sort of recruiting agency for supporters of the Bill. But I am not 488 going to discuss the committee. On the contrary, all I say is that if this matter had been properly thrashed out in the committee, the right, hon. Gentleman would not be in the position in which he finds himself at the present moment.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
If I am to take up the point which has been flung at me by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), I may have to put some strain upon your indulgence in presiding, Mr. Chairman, but I will leave it entirely with this observation, that it was not a committee of inquiry; it was a mutual admiration society, with a few increasingly embarrassed spectators. I come back to the point that, in default of fair and searching criticism, this is the first criticism which has come upon these plans. This is the first time they are dragged to the light, I will not say of day, but to the broad light of Parliamentary discussion, and here we have—
§ Sir S. HOARE
This percentage has been in the White Paper, all through the Indian discussions, and the Round Table Conference, and the Indian Princes themselves have agreed to it throughout.
Duchess of ATHOLL
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if I was not right in saying that he first publicly mentioned-this percentage at the end of the last Round Table Conference?
§ Sir S. HOARE
I do not know whether that is so or not, but even so, that was how many years ago? [An HON. MEMBER: "Two years."] I should have said much longer.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
We know that India is progressing at an enormous rate. We are told that it is progressing at such a rate that any man who came home before the Secretary of State took office has no opinion about it worth considering, so no doubt his own views will change from time to time. But let me put before the Committee the brutal fact that whereas the sort of general idea was that it was to be the offer of the Indian States, that they all wanted to come forward, now it has been cut down to 50 per cent., and those 50 per cent. can be pretty well made up out of the States which we allege, and will increasingly assert and endeavour to prove, 489 have been in one way or another got at, approached, developed, by the right hon. Gentleman through all the sources that are open to him. What is the use of telling me that there is this talk about pressure and bribery? Let us withdraw all invidious expressions. The facts are quite good enough. Here are these territories which are to be retroceded. Here are these tributes which are to be forgiven. Here are these alterations in the financial arrangements with the Government of India. We heard representatives of the princes appealing that these concessions should be made to them, and they were only to be made if there were Federation. All this only operates on the basis of 50 per cent.
One could have understood if, with all these adventitious aids, the right hon. Gentleman had worked it up to 75 per cent., but 50 per cent. is all he is able to get. With all the pressure of the Government, and all the power and might, majesty and dominion at the disposal of a National Government in the full plenitude of power, they can get only 50 per cent. This is the crux of the whole matter. Here is the basis on which the Conservative party were induced to consent to this measure; they were told that here was this offer of the princes. I must say we thought it was a stream, but it is a pump, and the pump only works to the extent of 50 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman would be well advised to accept the Amendment; there is no reason why he should not. Why should he not accept three-quarters? He says that the odd balance of States would blackmail him. On the 50 per cent. he thinks he has got them pretty well fixed up now. The Committee can judge between those two propositions. If the Government are going to give a foundation to your Indian policy, if the great States of India are to come into a federal system, and if they desire to come in so long as it is democratic, have not the Government the courage to put their convictions to the test of 75 per cent.?
The right hon. Gentleman is here on the weakest point of his case. I should say the weakest point of his case up to the present time. I can only speak as a political friend of the right hon. Gentleman, and even that would be subject to some discount, but if he would accept the Amendment, on which we intend to divide, and take three-quarters as a 490 broad test of the willingness of the States to come in and as a broad guarantee and vindication of the statement of the Lord President of the Council as to the offer being the thing that moved him—this offer which is petering out and shrinking down, and all the available pressure only working it up to 50 per cent.—if he would take this on the basis of three-quarters, even if they do not all come in, even if the decision were adverse to it, would he be so much the worse off? Would the Government be so much the worse off? Would India be so much the worse off? Who would be the sufferers by it? The right hon. Gentleman would be well advised to accept this further definition. If he 'has faith in his policy, cannot he trust it beyond an even-money chance?
§ 10.50 p.m.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
Is it your intention, Sir Dennis, to call my Amendment—in page 3, line 14, to leave out "one-half," and to insert "two-thirds"?
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
Then I would like to make a few observations on this Amendment. The Secretary of State, so far as I could judge, based his case on arithmetic. While he was speaking I, also, on the basis of the statistics on pages 269 and 273, have done some arithmetic. I find that in one case a seat represents a population of 50,000, while in another case it represents 1,200,000. Unless the statistics in both cases are made satisfactory, this arrangement will certainly not be satisfactory. It is suggested that the Princes have been squared. The Secretary of State was very indignant at this. I should be surprised if reasonable precautions have not been taken to ensure that if this Bill passes a sufficient number of Princes will accept it. Unless such an arrangement has been arrived at, we are wasting our time. Numerous promises have been made for a further advancement of self-governing interests in India, notably that in the summer of 1931. At that time there was the first offer of the Princes. Up to that time every promise had been made by Ministers here and by official pronouncements here. The promises were made quite out of relation to the question whether the Princes would come into the 491 Federation or not. It seems to me that these promises were made on the assumption of a federation, whether or not the Princes would come in. Now we have a Bill presented, which, if I understand it aright, must lapse, unless something never contemplated four years ago comes into operation. I do not wish to detain the Committee, but I happen to have taken a very definite view on this point. [Interruption.] I have not, occupied much time of the House and I see no reason when I want to take part in the Committee stage why I should not. If private Members are to be denied reasonable right of audience, then they are per
§ fectly capable of wrecking any arrangements made by any other Members.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
I was only saying that if a Member is to be denied the right to speak, if hon. Members deny me the opportunity to exercise my rights—
§ Question put, "That the word 'fifty-two' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 282; Noes, 36.493
|Division No. 55.]||AYES.||[10.57 p.m.|
|Adams. Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Crossley, A. C.||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Harvey, Major Sir Samuel (Totnes)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)||Daggar, George||Headlam, Lieut-Col. Cuthbert M.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hicks, Ernest George|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller|
|Apsley, Lord||Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Hornby, Frank|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Balniel, Lord||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Howard, Tom Forrest|
|Banfield, John William||Dickie, John P.||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Duckworth, George A, V.||Hume, Sir George Hopwood|
|Barrle, Sir Charlee Coupar||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)|
|Bateman, A. L.||Duggan, Hubert John||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)|
|Batey, Joseph||Duncan, James A. L. (Kennington, N.)||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Eales, John Frederick||Iveagh, Countess of|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Eden, Rt. Hon. Anthony||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Edwards, Charles||Jackson, J. C. (Heywood & Radcliffe)|
|Bernays, Robert||Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H.|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Eillston, Captain George Sampson||Janner, Barnett|
|Blindell, James||Elmley, Viscount||Jenkins, Sir William|
|Borodale, Viscount||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Jennings, Roland|
|Boulton, W. W.||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Jesson, Major Thomas E.|
|Sower, Commander Robert Tatton||Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||John, William|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Fermoy, Lord||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Fraser, Captain Sir Ian||Ker, J. Campbell|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Fremantle, Sir Francis||Kerr, Hamilton W.|
|Buchan, John||Ganzonl, Sir John||Kirkpatrick, William M.|
|Buchanan, George||Gardner, Benjamin Walter||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George|
|Burghley. Lord||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Law, Sir Alfred|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Glossop, C. W. H.||Lawson, John James|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Gluckstein, Louis Halls||Leckie, J. A.|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Goff, Sir Park||Leech, Dr. J. W.|
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Goldle, Noel B.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Leonard, William|
|Cazalet, Theima (Islington, E.)||Graves, Marjorie||Lindsay, Noel Ker|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Llewellin, Major John J.|
|Cleary, J, J.||Grenfell, David Ress (Glamorgan)||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd.Gr'n)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (MIddlesbro, W.)||Loder, Captain J. de Vera|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W.Riding)||Loftus, Pierce C.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Grigg, Sir Edward||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Grimston, R. V.||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Groves, Thomas E.||Lunn, William|
|Cooke, Douglas||Grundy, Thomas W.||Mabane, William|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)|
|Copeland, Ida||Gunston, Captain D. W.||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Guy, J. C. Morrison||McCorquodale. M. S.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvll)||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney A Zetl'nd)||McEntee, Valentine L.|
|Croom, Johnson, R. p.||Hammersley, Samuel S.||McEwen, Captain J. H. F,|
|Cross. R. H.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||McKie, John Hamilton|
|Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Pearson, William G.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|McLean, Major Sir Alan||Peat, Charles U.||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|McLean, Dr W. H. (Tradeston)||Penny, Sir George||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)|
|Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Percy, Lord Eustace||Steel Maitland, Rt. Hon. sir Arthur|
|Magnay, Thomas||Petherick, M.||Stevenson, James|
|Mainwaring, William Henry||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bllst'n)||Storey, Samuel|
|Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Potter, John||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Pybus, Sir John||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.|
|Martin, Thomas B.||Radford, E. A.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Maaon, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Ramsay T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Maxton, James||Ramsden, Sir Eugene||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Ratcliffe, Arthur||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Milne, Charles||Rathbone, Eleanor||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Milner, Major James||Rea, Walter Russell||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Molson, A. Hugh Eisdale||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Tufnell, Lieut-Commander R. L.|
|Morgan, Robert H.||Renwick, Major Gustav A.||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Wallace, Sir John (Dunfermline)|
|Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)||Rickards, George William||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Munro, Patrick||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Nation, Brigadier-General J, J. H.||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Watt, Captain George Steven H,|
|Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)||White, Henry Graham|
|Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid||Salmon, Sir Isidore||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Salt, Edward W.||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Samuel, M. R. A. (W'ds'wth, Putney).||Wilmot, John|
|Orr Ewing, I. L.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)|
|Owen, Major Goronwy||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Paling, Wilfred||Shute, Colonel Sir John||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Palmer, Francis Noel||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Parkinson, John Allen||Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-In-F.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Patrick, Colin M.||Smith, Tom (Normanton)||Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward|
|Peake, Osbert||Soper, Richard||Sir Walter Womersley.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Everard, W. Lindsay||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Bracken. Brendan||Goodman, Colonel Albert W||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Carver. Major William H.||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A. (P'dd'gfn, S.)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Knox, Sir Alfred||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Levy, Thomas||Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)||Wells, Sidney Richard|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Raid, David D. (County Down)||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Donner, P. W.||Remer, John R.|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Commander Marsden and Mr. Raikes.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.