HC Deb 26 February 1935 vol 298 cc1043-83

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

7.59 p.m.


I hope the Committee will allow me a personal word before I come to deal with Clause 5. I do not desire the Committee to think that I take second place to any one in my admiration of the work done by the Secretary of State for India in regard to this matter. I felt somewhat unhappy when I heard the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) pay a tribute to the Secretary of State, implying thereby that he and his friends alone appreciate the strenuous and tenacious work which the right hon. Gentleman has put in. I too have been associated with the Secretary of State for many months, and I am sincerely in hearty agreement with those who pay a tribute to his work. None the less, we differ fundamentally on principles on this question.

I propose to say one or two words in relation to the question of federation. I have already addressed the Committee upon the matter on the Motion that the Chairman do report Progress, when I studiously avoided speaking upon the particular proposal of federation itself. I think I made it clear to the Committee earlier that we on this side are quite convinced that a form of federation is the more desirable thing to achieve if you can achieve it. It is obvious that it is desirable to get, in the course of time and as speedily as possible, a united India. It has been said over and over again in this Committee that India as yet is not a nation, that it is a congeries of all kinds of people who speak different languages and have different religions. So it is desirable that this great sub-Continent should sooner or later, and sooner rather than later, be able to speak with a united voice. The only way to secure that is by some method of federation.

We have kept steadily before our minds, therefore, the desirability of achieving as far as possible a form of federation. I do not think that I shall be controverted if I say that even those Conservatives who are so consistently opposing this idea are not so very remote after all from the concept of a federation, for they themselves moved last week in the direction of establishing a Council of Greater India, on the line of the recommendations of the Simon Commission. If hon. Members will look at that concept, which was advanced in some detail, they will find there the terms of a federation. I know that the Federation was not drafted precisely on the terms of this one, nor on the terms which we desire, but there is a desire, even in their Motion, for a federation. So in point of fact I do not think there is a fundamental difference between any of us in this Committee regarding the desirability of a central organisation which can focus the activity of the States and of the Provinces in one common centre.

Our difference with the Government on this matter arises from the nature of the Federation which is here established. My friends and I, who acknowledge that we strive to retain the democratic outlook not only in our own country but in relation to our Dominions overseas, feel that it is incumbent upon us to strive as far as possible to retain the democratic elements in this central Assembly. No one can deny that there are two quite incongruous elements in this Federtion. There is the element of nomination from the States and the element of election from British India, and it is extremely hard to reconcile them in practice. I do not see how these two hitherto irreconcilable elements, autocracy on the one Bile and democracy on the other side, are going to work co-terminously or co-existently at the centre. It might be worked, and I do not say that it is beyond possibility, but my great objection is this: If you feel that you must bring in this nominated element from the States, very good. It is bringing an incongruous element into the structure of the centre. But, in order to do it, do not make the price of federation a price that it is impossible to pay. I suggest that the price that is being paid in order to establish this Federation is a price which British India ought not to he called upon to pay.

That is my simple proposition. What is the price in fact? I challenge contradiction upon the point that, once this Federation is established, British India has a yoke thrust upon it that it cannot shake off. If you are going to retain federation you can do it only with the acquiescence of the Princes. The moment you sacrifice the acquiescence of the Princes the Federation falls to pieces. Under Schedule 2 of the Bill the Princes' acquiescence can be immediately removed if the Princes are able to argue that you have so altered constitutional development in British India as to prejudice thereby the Instruments of Accession. To enable the Princes to hold a. pistol of that sort at the head of British India is to give them too great a power. I repeat that if you can work the Princes in with British India. in any common endeavour to work for the whole of India, very well and good. I am not enthusiastic nor optimistic about it. But if you can, please do not do it at the expense of weighting down, not for a period, not temporarily, but so far as this Bill is concerned for all time—weighting down British India to such a degree that it cannot march forward a. single step. That is a. terrible price to pay. It is an impossible price.

No one can be surprised if we on this side take the strongest objection to any proposal to prevent utterly—that is not an exaggerated word—if the Princes so desire, any single step forward in constitutional progress. Not only that, but let us look at how the thing works in practice. I said earlier this afternoon that we did not know yet on what terms the Princes will join the Federation. There is no common factor to which all Princes must agree. One Prince presumably may accept acquiescence in respect of 10 subjects and another in respect of a different number. We on our side take the strongest possible objection to the idea of federation unless and until we know precisely on what terms this Federation is to be set up. I would like to show that we are entitled to watch the operation of this Clause, the setting up of this Federation, with a considerable amount of suspicion. I cite in support of my case not a statement made by a, Labour man, nor indeed by a representative of British India,. Hon. Members will have had sent to them copies of a magazine called "The Twentieth Century." I believe it is an Indian publication. In the January issue there is an article entitled "States and Federation," by Colonel Sir Kailas Haksar, who in a little monograph on the top is declared to be "the brain behind the Princes in India." If this is the brain we understand the nature of the thoughts. This is what the article says: It seems an implicit irony of the situation that certain provisions of the Joint Parliamentary Committee's report which have been most strongly attacked by British-Indian politicians and almost treated as a betrayal of trust reposed in the elder statesman of the United Kingdom, actually provide more effective safeguards of the rights and interests of the States than any provisions for the specific incorporation of which with the coming Act their imaginative caution or intuitive prudence had led them to ask. In other words, we are told by this representative spokesman that there is more presented to the Princes as the price of their acquiescence in this Federation than the most cautious or the most circumspect amongst them had ever expected to receive.

Let me carry this argument a little further. Let us see how this will work in practice. You have your federal centre, and there is a number of nominees of the Princes in the lower House, and a certain number of nominees of the Princes in the upper House, a very considerable body of them, a fairly high proportion of the total membership of either House. What sort of chance has any progressive legislation got of being passed even through such Houses when there is a solid block of purely nominated people in both Houses? Let me not be unfair, however. There are undoubtedly Princes whose States in many respects are in advance, to our shame, of British India itself. There are, for instance, States that have a better system of education than some parts of British India. There are States that have better health services than some parts of British India. So I want to make it clear that there are some splendid exceptions; but exceptions they are, and the exceptions prove the rule.

There is this body of nominees of the Princes who, on the whole, shall we say, are quite reactionary in their outlook. What possible chance is there for any kind of progressive legislation to be carried through a Parliament of that sort? None whatever. So hon. Members must not be surprised if we look with the gravest possible suspicion upon these proposals. That cannot possibly give us satisfaction. We flatter ourselves, rightly or wrongly, that we are for the time being the custodians of the interests of the great mass of working-class people in India. They have no spokesman of their own here. There is no one here who can directly express ideas on their behalf. If there is anything at all in having a Labour party, surely the first function of such a party is to speak for those who are least able to speak for themselves, and we should be failing in our duty if we did not direct attention to the fact that the instrument which this Committee is in the act of constructing is one which will make progress almost impossible in British India in the future. Hon. Members and right hon. Gentlemen opposite need not be unduly alarmed about the Princes. The Princes are amply safeguarded.


Surely we are the custodians of the welfare and safety of the masses in India, regardless of class, whether they are working-class people or Princes.


I am very glad to hear that the hon. Member and his friends are concerned about the working classes. They have given no indication of it so far in this discussion to-day.


We have always been.


The hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I point out that during practically the whole of the discussions of last week and certainly during the whole of to-day, he and his friends have not once debated the case of the working classes in British India. Their whole argument has been "What about the Princes?"


I made a speech myself last week in which I put forward the case for the masses of the people.


Again we have the exception which proves the rule. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, that is quite true. The whole burden of the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite has been the Princes, the Princes, the Princes, and how the interests of the Princes are being affected, adversely or otherwise. I do not propose to carry that argument any further because I know that others wish to speak. I do not however, want to be misunderstood. I repeat that the configuration of India justifies our anticipating, even if we cannot immediately realise it, a united India. If the States of the Princes were all contiguous to each other it might be better at first to attempt some sort of federated BritishIndia—though there are several arguments against even that proposal. For example, you might create thereby some sort of mutual understanding or federation of the States, and perhaps that might not be desirable either. But the situation is not like that. These States are dotted here and there all over India and problems of customs and inter-communication make it imperative that we should consider some sort of federation. I am very sorry to have to say that it is impossible for us to give the Government our accord in this matter. I say, honestly and candidly, that I would be glad if I could find it possible to cooperate with the Government in something which would give comfort and encouragement to the Indian people. But there is no comfort and no encouragement to be expected from the instrument which we are now forging. For that reason, my hon. Friends and I will have to vote against the Clause.

8.20 p.m.


To-day the bulk of the time has been occupied by those whom I might call the Brahmins in this Committee, that is to say, front benchers, privy councillors and former members of the Joint Select Committee. I rise as a member of the depressed classes to make such contribution as I can to the debate, and I would point out that the depressed classes up to now have only occupied about one-third of the time in these discussions.


The hon. Member is among the untouchables on the Government side.


I suppose the untouchables are the Parliamentary private secretaries who are not allowed to speak at all. I think the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. M. Jones) was unfair when he said that the debate had been confined to the Princes and that no concern had been shown about the masses of the Indian people. When we are engaged in discussing Clauses, the whole structure of which, from the Government's point of view, depends on whether or not the Princes come in, then obviously for the time being we must discuss the Princes. If we were to discuss the things which the hon. Member wants us to discuss, we should be out of order for most of the time, and I have yet to learn that it is a good thing to be out of order in debate, in order to emphasise one's desire to support and help those who are not in a position to look after themselves.

Some of us have described this Bill as the Indian Moneylenders Enfranchisement Bill, because we believe that it is likely to assist those who are already in an established position, and take away from the masses the protection which they at present enjoy, owing to the fact that India is, in a degree, a benevolent autocracy at this moment. I disliked this conception of responsible federation ever since it was first put forward as a practical proposition in the early summer of 1931. I never liked the idea. I never thought that the conditions existed in India and I do not believe now that they exist, which would enable such a system to work. My belief is that if we establish it in due course, it will break down badly, and therefore I do not want it to be established in the first instance.

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) that the very structure of the electorate—because the Princes are part of the electorate—is an impossible one. I believe that a communal electorate in itself makes the whole conception of federation almost impossible and causes one to doubt very much whether responsible representative institutions can function, even in the Provinces. We have now reached a most amazing stage in these proceedings. We are discussing the crucial Clause in the first part of the Bill and, as far as we can find, there is not in India to-day any organised body of opinion which supports the Bill. There may be organised bodies who will go into the new Constitution if it becomes law, not because they want to do so but because they have no option. It is a singular failure of statesmanship that a Bill has been produced for which no one expresses any affection but which meets with condemnation from every quarter.

I realise that in this Clause we are not only discussing the question of whether there is to be federation or not, but also the question of whether it is not the case 'that federation can only exist if the Princes come into it. Therefore, we come back to the Princes, not of our own choice but because the Clause forces us to do so. In 1927 the Statutory Commission was appointed because the Act of Parliament required it to be appointed, though it need not have been appointed quite so soon. The pledge in the Act of /919 is contained in the Preamble to that Act which together with the operative Clause made it necessary to appoint within a certain number of years—ten I think—the Statutory Commission. The only clear promise, the only binding promise was contained in the Preamble to that Act. The Declaration made at Delhi in 1921 and the reference to India taking its place among the Dominions, the Declaration of the King-Emperor made, I think, through the lips of the Duke of Connaught, really had no reference to Dominion status as we now understand it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Certainly. Dominion status was a conception which did not exist until 1926.


The phrase was used frequently before then.


But it had no meaning in the modern sense until 1926. I happen to know that exceedingly well, because for over two months in 1928 I was travelling through Canada with a delegation of over 50 Members of various Parliaments of the Empire including four members of the Indian Legislature, four members of the Irish Free State Legislature and eight members of the Parliament of the Union of South Africa as well as representatives of other Parliaments, and our main topic of conversation, when we got on to Imperial matters, IA as Dominion status as defined by the Imperial Conference of 1926. No one who lived with Dominion status, as I did—


I have been trying to see to what extent the hon. Member's argument affects the question of federation or otherwise.


I have wandered a little, and it is very difficult, in respect of a Clause of the significance of Clause 5, to keep within the strict and narrow rules of order. I am not one of those who normally endeavour to get outside the rules of order, and it is because of the relationship of the idea of federation to Dominion status that I was led a little far away. All the declarations that were made, the pledges of 1919 and 1921 and the 1929 declaration, were made without reference to the idea of the Princes coming in. Every promise that has been made, whether a promise of a unilateral nature or something going beyond that; has been a promise made on the assumption that you were going to develop Indian self-governing institutions without the Princes. That is an amazing situation. This idea of the Princes coming in, in the sense in which we now understand it, did not exist until the early summer of 1931.


It was stated very clearly in the report of Mr. Montagu and Lord Chelmsford.


The idea of the Princes coming in to a responsible centre was never mooted as a, serious factor in the situation until the early summer of 1931, and every promise that was made to the inhabitants of British India was made irrespective of what part the Princes might play. Now we are told that you cannot have this advance unless the Princes come in. How do the Government propose to redeem the promises, which they say are binding morally, if the Princes do not come in? There is no plan. It is an amazing situation that the Bill is not a Bill in fulfilment of those promises, but a Bill based on an entirely new position, and if, for some perfectly good reason of self-interest, for example, which may guide the Princes they do not come in, we are now to be told that we have to break every promise we have made. It shows the complete bankruptcy of statesmanship. It shows that they have drifted on until the Government are now in a totally impossible position in respect of this matter, because they have no plan to deal with the situation which would arise if the Princes did not come in. What then happens to all those promises?

Here we have this Committee discussing the matter, potentially 615 of us, some 80 who do not like it—I am thinking of the group with which I am associated, and at least we have devoted a good deal of time to trying to understand it—the Members of the Government and those associated with them actively, probably some 40, who have devoted a good deal of time to it and have some understanding of it, the rest knowing nothing about it and frankly saying so, voting blind because, as they say, "I have never been to India, and I do not understand it." As if a particular knowledge of India is of very much importance when you are constructing a constitution. The essential information is all to be found in the first volume of the Statutory Commission. We are constructing a constitution to carry out promises, and we have now created such a situation that if certain other people, who were not in contemplation when the promises were made, will not play their part, the promises have got to be broken. That seems to me to be a situation so amazing that I wonder how it is going to be adjusted.

We are told that if, on the other hand, you do not have federation, you cannot have the development of self-governing institutions in the Provinces, because someone suddenly discovered, only three months 'ago, that the development of self-governing institutions in the Provinces was impossible without federation. Who made that bright discovery, I do not know. It has not the slightest constitutional significance, and it is not a valid argument, though it appears to have converted several right hon. Members, but why, I do not know. Take the comparable cases that we have in the British Empire. The Dominion of Canada was built up out of a number of self-governing Provinces. They existed—self-government was a success—for many years before, in the year 1867, in a room adjoining the office where I work which was the old Westminster Palace Hotel, the delegates of the Provinces met. and drew up the constitution of the Dominion of Canada, subsequently incorporated in the British North America Act; yet self-governing institutions had worked in Canada, homogeneous in population, without any federal centre at all.

Take Australia. I think Victoria, was the earliest State to get full responsible government, though I am speaking from memory, somewhere about 1840.


It was New South Wales.


I thank my hon. Friend. They go back nearly 100 years. Self-governing institutions existed in the six States of Australia for varying periods, all of them substantial until, in the year 1900, we passed the Act which created the Commonwealth of Australia. There was no federal centre. The only federal centre was the Secretary of State for the Colonies, as he was then, in Downing Street.


Some of the difficulties which Australia is facing to-day, particularly with the railways, are due to the fact that there was not a federation prior to 1901.


We are being told that it cannot work. The fact that in Australia they have different gauges did not arise out of the fact that there was no federation, but because, when they started those railways, they never con templated that they would so develop that it would be necessary to go beyond the boundaries of their own States. It was because they failed to visualise the ultimate links that would develop, just as the Great Western Railway was built on a gauge wider than the rest of the railways in this country.

Now let us take South Africa. The history of South Africa is rather different, because we had two more or less independent republics. I say "more or less" because there was the famous word "suzerainty" which came into the great constitutional struggle. We had Cape Colony and the Colony of Natal. After the war Cape Colony and Natal continued as self-governing bodies, the Transvaal got its constitution, and the Orange River Colony also got self-governing institutions. Nobody suggested that they could not function—they functioned quite successfully as self-governing institutions—but it was seen that there were great merits in having a federal Government, and ultimately they built up a federal Government in South Africa,. almost unitary, because in the Union of South Africa the federal power is relatively much stronger than it is in Australia and Canada. But no one has suggested that self-government in the Transvaal was impossible without a Union of South Africa. Therefore, this analogy has not the slightest validity from the point of view of past constitutional experience and experiment.

Then, at this moment, in East Africa there are Kenya Colony, the Uganda Protectorate, Tanganyika Territory, and Zanzibar, all of different stages of constitutional development, all of them having certain common interests and quite a good case, as a matter of fact, for federation, though there are very grave difficulties in the way arising out of treaty obligations; but no one suggests that it is necessary to set up a federation in order that in those Colonies there may be gradually developed a constitutional form of government, a gradual building-up of some form of self-governing institutions, representative in the first place and responsible later on, we hope. Who is the federal centre there? My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies.

You can go to West Africa, where you have a group of colonies—Gambia, Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast, British Togoland, British Cameroons, Nigeria—six separate units of government without any federal centre. It will probably take a long time to develop self-governing institutions, but no one suggests that these colonies cannot exist without a federal centre. In the West Indies the problem of distance is a serious one for the colonies are a long way from one another, but from time to time there have been suggestions of a federation of the West Indian colonies, because there is a community of economic interests and from the point of view of defence also. No one suggests, however, that the very considerable development in self-governing institutions which has taken place in the various colonies in the West Indian islands cannot continue because there is no federal centre. Therefore, those who plead, as they have pleaded, that they are supporting a federal centre because there cannot be provincial development without it are basing themselves on arguments which seem to me thoroughly unsound. I have never liked the idea of federal responsibility until we have tried these people out and they have proved up to the hilt their capability. Until that is decided I shall continue to oppose the conception of a federal centre.

8.36 p.m.


The hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) said we ought to proceed first by provincial government and then come to federation. Notwithstanding what he said, I think we can assume that the great majority of people are in favour of the federal idea. The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) on the Opposition benches paid a handsome tribute to the Secretary of State and said he was an enthusiastic believer in the federal idea. We have spent three and a-half hours discussing the resolution of the Princes, who expressed their distaste of the Bill in its present state, and yet, if the arguments of the hon. Gentleman were carried out we would have to cut down the powers of the Princes still further, and how could be reconcile that with his support of the idea of federation? We were asked by responsible Members to report Progress because of the attitude of the Princes, and yet, if the hon. Gentleman's submissions were carried out, it would still further cut down the power of the Princes. What chance would there be then for this Bill? The hon. Gentleman disclaims being a wrecker, but he must recognise that, in view of the resolution of the Princes, any movement on the part of the House of Commons must be rather towards the Princes than away from them. I yield to no one in my respect for the working-class and for the democratic idea, and in my admiration for India, but I think the Indian is not quite in the same position as the working man in this country.

We can apply democratic principles to the people of this country, which is a country of education, whose working-classes have worked up to a respectable and deservedly respected position in the electorate. The hon. Member, however, says that because he stands for the working-classes here he would take out from this Clause the right to appoint 52 members of the Council of State, for, he says, that right would remove any possibility of democracy ever making its voice heard in India. If his argument were carried out, and if he were to persuade the House to agree to it, he must know that it would wreck the Bill. The hon. Member expressed an admiration for the idea of federation. The task of the Government has been to create a federation which will bring in the Princes and the working-classes of India. It is the highest statesmanship for the Government to try and bring in the Princes. I agree it is difficult to reconcile the Princes who have been accustomed to great authority in India, but we cannot dismiss them and apply all the principles for which we enthusiastically stand in this country when we are dealing with India. We must have regard to the vast mass of illiteracy in India on the one side and to the mass of conservatism in this country on the other. I appreciate conservatism, although I do not agree with it. I recognise it as a fact, and this Measure has to be formed in such a way that it will satisfy the Princes and large sections of Conservative opinion in this country. It has been able to do that, and as an act of statesmanship this Measure is a masterpiece.

The task of the Government was to bring in a Bill to grant self-government for India which would reconcile the Conservative element and the Princes, and yet do justice to the ryot and the peasant in India, and carry with it a vast amount of Liberal opinion in this country, which it does. I have no doubt that, in their hearts, many Members in the Opposition, although they might wish for a more democratic Measure, will concede as Parliamentary men, as statesmen who have enjoyed high office, that there must be a Clause such as Clause 5 laying down the great principles for which the hon. Gentleman has given his support. We must have a Measure which will satisfy the Princes and recognise the fact that we are not dealing with the same sort of democracy in India as the democracy in this country, and formulate a Measure which will work. We must nominate, otherwise how will the Measure work? I yield to no one in my respect for democracy, but I apply an ordinary Parliamentary mind and common sense to this Measure. I compliment and congratulate the Government on standing firm this evening, and I rejoice in the fact that the High Court of Parliament did not for a moment give way. Now we are discussing the Bill, where are those who have complained for hours of the Government? Why do they not come in and listen to the arguments one one side and another so that we may together formulate a Measure which will do something to advance self-government in India?

8.45 p.m.


I have not heard an argument in favour of federation. I am very anxious to have arguments in favour of federation. I understood, when I postponed Debate on this question on an earlier Amendment, that we might discuss federation to-night from the point of view of a federation of British India as against a federation including all the Indian States. I am against federation of every sort, but I do riot believe that it is impossible to federate British India alone. The Simon Commission did not regard it as impossible that British India should be a federation itself and now the Indians themselves are demanding a British-India Federation and not a federal federation; and the only argument against it which I have heard is from my right hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench that the boundaries make it impossible to have a, federation of British India alone. I do not think that is so. The Customs issue does not come in. Those who have travelled in India know that one goes through India without knowing whether one is in an Indian State or British India. The Customs issue is only a difficulty in the area where one has a native ruler developing his own port, That difficulty has been present in the Government of India for very long, but I believe that it has been satisfactorily settled, so that the question of the practical impossibility of federating British India does not really arise. The Indian States could remain outside the federation, as they are to-day outside the Government of British India.

What I want to set before the Committee and to get an answer from the Government about are the chief objections to federation. There are two chief objections, and either of them appears to me to be fatal to it. I have opposed the idea of federation ever since it was first proposed at the first Round Table Conference, and I am glad to see that now the same point of view is largely taken in British India itself. First and foremost the objection is that to make it a federation of all India would mean that the Measure we are passing would not be a step in the direction of self-government but the final coping stone of all that we can do for India. It is the finality of this Measure which is the real stumbling block in India to-day. The Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms in 1919 were a step forward. At the time I welcomed them as a step forward. When they were going through the House we did our best to democratise those reforms, and when they came to the Third Reading we urged India to accept them as a stage in a long advance. Now we are asked to pass a Bill which is not a stage anywhere, but is the final end, so far as this House is concerned, and so far as democracy in India is concerned. After we have passed this Bill, involving as it does a treaty with a large number of individual Princes, we cannot change it or introduce a new Bill with a more democratic franchise. That is impossible unless, as I read it, every single one of the Princes who come into the scheme now—is not that so?


The Under-Secretary will answer.


I would prefer to have an answer from the Secretary of State, of course, and that with no disrespect to the Under-Secretary. That is the point: How will it be possible to avoid this being the final stage? If the Princes say that this Bill when it becomes an Act of Parliament is to be their new treaty, guaranteed at the accession of every new Sovereign in England, how are we ever to go forward any further? In any case it will be impossible, even under the Instrument of Instructions, for this House to modify the scheme unless the Indian Assembly set up by this Bill wishes for the modification. I do not think anyone can gainsay the fact that the Assembly set up under this Bill will be far more conservative than anything we have known in the history of this country. The representatives of the Princes correspond to nothing we have ever had in this country, being nominated by one person, and not even transferable by sale or purchase. One-third of each House is nominated by the Princes. Of the rest of the House, there will be a certain number elected by the provincial legislatures. We all know here that indirect election leads, perhaps, to more conservatism than direct election; but, apart from that, we know perfectly well that in that new Assembly the elected members can never be in a majority, because of the large element of nominated members—nominated by the Government, representing the special classes, and those elected by the chambers of commerce and by the Anglo-Indians and other sections of the community. It is impossible that an Assembly constituted in that way should vote for its own abolition and for the substitution of anything better, even if the Government did have, as I believe, to get the consent of all the Princes, or, perhaps we shall, hear the majority of the Princes. That is the principal objection to the Federation. It is impossible to have federation except on the terms set out by the Princes, and once that federation is established it becomes a treaty.

The next objection is that we are setting up a federation which is, in fact, nothing of the sort. This is not a federation, but a union on dissimilar terms of completely dissimilar units. I do not pose as a constitutional lawyer, but I would like to give the opinion of one who is admittedly the greatest constitutional authority in this country on matters of the Empire at large, and that is Mr. Berriedale Keith: I am satisfied that the system of construction of the Federation, under which the nominees of autocratic rulers are to have a powerful voice in both Houses of the Federation, in order to counteract Indian democracy, is quite indefensible. Whether in practice it works out as the Government and the Princes hope may be doubted, but the whole project seems to me to be indefensible. I should have proposed Federation only for units which were themselves under responsible government, and have admitted the Princes only on condition that they gave their States constitutions leading up to responsible government, and that their representatives in both Houses of the Central Legislature were elected by the people of the States. That seems to me to be a position which no British Government in this country, unless seeking something entirely apart from the sort of government we should like to be under ourselves, could possibly tolerate. Do the Committee really understand what this Federation will be when it is created? It will be an anomalous body, consisting partly of people democratically representing British India and partly of people nominated by the Princes. That is not all. When the Assembly has chosen its government the laws it will pass and the administration it carries out will affect British India but will not affect the Indian States at all. Income tax may be imposed and the Princes may vote for the Income Tax, but it will not be levied in their States, they will be immune. I believe that most oppressive tax in India, the salt tax, is to be a federal tax, and from that tax the Indian States are exempt.


I hops the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will not go too much into details. Those questions really arise on the next Clause.


I am dealing with the inequity of a federation which is not a federation, and I think one of the chief objections is that we are setting up a government under this scheme which legislates for a part of India and which is ruled, in part, if not entirely, by people who are not submitting to the laws they pass. I do not think that with this Federation you will get much legislation of any sort in that central body, but I am certain that the constitution of the federal body will exalt in importance, and I hope lead to the development of, the Provincial Governments. The second objection therefore is that it is an inequitable federation.

The third objection is that under the scheme we withdraw our protection from the 70,000,000 inhabitants of the Indian States. Up till now, whenever there has been trouble, we have been in a position to protect the natives of the Indian States. In Kashmir recently, and in Indore we managed to change the Princes; also in Alwar recently. Whenever there has been exceptionally bad government by any native prince, under our present Constitution we can make the necessary change to secure justice for those 70, 000,000 people. The position of those people to-day is that they are not British subjects, and they have not the rights that people have in British India. No one who has the right of being called a subject in British India would voluntarily revert to being a native of an Indian State. Hon. Members may have noticed in the last half-dozen years—it goes back even further than that—the bitter resentment of the people in the Berars at the idea of being handed back to the Nizam of Hyderabad. So far they have successfully resisted being deprived of their British citizenship and put back to the position of subjects of an Indian State, and exactly the same thing happened at Bangalore and Tangasseri. In fact, wherever in the wide world you find a man with the rights and privileges of a British citizen he resents bitterly having those rights taken away from him and being returned to any other form of rule.

Here for all time we are saying that the native States shall remain as they are. We are depriving them in the British Indian Assembly of the right of asking questions as to happenings in the Indian States. The whole protection which has been given—it has been a poor protection but some protection—is being taken away. One of the chief charges against Warren Hastings was that he used the British Army for supporting one Indian rajah against another Indian rajah and here are we putting the British Army into the power of the Princes of India and giving to it the duty of maintaining law and order and things as they are, not only in British India but in native territories. It will be disgraceful to employ British armies in putting down people like those tenants who struck in Alwar or those unfortunate Moslems up in Kashmir. We ought not to be in the position of putting British men and officers under the orders of people who may use them under this Bill for work which we should never force them to do. As long as there is British administration in India the British Army cannot he used for any purpose with which this House disagrees.

You are therefore for all time preventing India from going forward, subjecting British Indians to the rule of the native Princes and preventing any possibility of any development in a democratic direction for all the inhabitants of the native States. It is true, as the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) said, that there are some native States, Mysore, Travancore, Cochin and Baroda where education is growing, but in none of those native States is there anything like the same amount of self-government as in British India. There are representative institutions with no responsibility; they are purely advisory bodies. No native inhabitant in any native State in India has the same rights, privileges and opportunities as the native has across the border in British India. We make a great deal of fuss about depriving British subjects of their citizenship in Tanganyika and elsewhere, but we are for all time depriving 70,000,000, many of them educated and particularly the inhabitants of Travancore in the south of ever arriving at a situation where they can call themselves British subjects.

Those are the three arguments against federation which I would like to have met. The case for it, as I understand it, is not quite honest. The case is that if we establish Federation we at any rate secure stability. There is on the Government Benches, and not upon the Government Front Bench only, terror lest the Labour party should come into office and do something for India which no man in his senses would dream of, giving them self-government or an opportunity pf breaking away from the British Empire. I have known the Labour party now for a good many years, and I am confident that you will get more continuity from the Labour party than from the Liberal party. I was in the Labour Cabinet when we had these Indian discussions, and we are as convinced as any hon. Member opposite that it is our duty to protect the working class in India, and that by retaining some sort of control here we are in a better position to protect them than if we hand them over to the millionaires and landlords of India. Basing ourselves upon that, there is no sort of fear that we shall sell the pass, betray this country or betray the common people of India.

It is the popular thesis and the theory in the India Office, and it is very largely held among English civilians in India, that the real danger is that when you get a Labour party in office they will endow Communism in India and establish Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as dictator—


I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is getting rather far away from the Clause.


The secret case in favour of federation is that that way lies safety. I think that all hon. Members realise that there is no safety in this method, and that so far as safety is concerned you cannot have it in this world unless you have consent. Until we get the consent of India, it is no use thinking that this proceeding will make the situation any better.

I pass on to what is the surprising thing at the present day. Six months ago there was no general feeling in India against federation. There were of course individuals, but we may take it that Congress as well as the Moslems, while they differed very strongly on the question of communal representation, agreed with the idea of federation. Whether there was a bargain between Congress and the Princes I do not know, and I do not care; that is a matter of no importance. There was a general opinion that this would mean a step forward. Anyone who has the slightest acquaintance with Indian opinion realises that there has now been a complete revolution of feeling, and that it has come about in the last six months not because the Joint Select Committee's report was otherwise than expected, not because the Government's Bill varies from the Joint Select Committee's report, but because there is a far better understanding of what federation means. The objections to the final step, the objections to being under control, the sealing of the fate of the inhabitants of the native States—all these things have not been realised before. Now that federation has come to be understood, you have the remarkable fact that the real change has been in the opinions of the Mohammedans as regards these reforms. You now have a solid body of 19 Mohammedan members in the assembly, all under the command of a man called Jinnah. Jinnah is one of the finest politicians in India. He is a personal friend of my own, and a man whose opinion I value immensely. Generally speaking, when there is a clash between Mohammedans and Hindus, I come down on the side of the Hindu as against the Mohammedan, but in Jinnah I make an exception. He is what he should bean Indian first, and everything else second. He has been made anti-English by foolish actions long ago, but recently the situation has been made far worse owing to the fact that the India Office and the officials seem to think that Jinnah does not count.


Why do you say that?


He was not allowed on the Round Table Conference, and he was not allowed on the Statutory Committee. He was very anxious to be on the Statutory Committee. He came over here, and was very anxious to help, but was cold-shouldered. The attitude towards him is that he does not matter, that he is not in touch with Mohammedan sentiment, that he does not represent Mohammedans, and therefore he has bean ruled out. That opinion may be quite wrong, but it is the opinion that he has, and it should be put right if it is possible to do so. In the "Times" of Saturday a telegram was published, containing all the news that we have on the subject. It was to the effect that the Mohammedans and the Hindus, shedding extremists on both sides, are coming together on this question. If the Mohammedan and the Hindu are coming together on this issue, and if they are, as the "Times" suggests, prepared to drop the question of separate electorates and to have one common electoral roll, that is an extraordinary change in Mohammedan opinion. It is true that the Mohammedans are bargaining for as many offices as they can get, but they are coming together and agreeing to a common electoral roll. That shows, not only a realisation of the advantage to India of the possibilities of democracy, but the possibility of a combination against federation which it will be enormously important for the Government to consider now. It makes the whole outlook on the future working of the assembly entirely different.

For these reasons, I am against federation. It is the feature of the reforms which, with communal representation, I consider to be the most reactionary and to justify all the opposition that the Indians can offer. It is possible to remedy both, even at this last moment, if you will confine your federation to those Princes who come in from representative institutions and to British India. It is possible also, if you, will allow the Indians to agree together to abolish separate representation of Hindus and Mohammedans, and come in on a common basis of Indian citizenship.

9.10 p.m.


I had thought that it might be for the convenience of the Committee if I intervened in this Debate after it bad run for some little period. The Debate on this Clause has now run for something over an hour, and it is not my fault that I am only able to answer three speeches. I should have liked to refer to some of the other arguments which might have been raised, but it is important that I should answer the arguments that have been raised in those three speeches. I hope that after that it may be possible for the Committee to come to a decision on the Clause standing part, since we have discussed it so many times, but there is no intention on our part to stop any Member expressing himself on this important issue.

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) raised some very important points, of which I shall try to answer one or two. He claimed specifically that the Princes were able to block any future Amendment of the franchise scheme under the Bill as we have presented it. I think that that implies a misunderstanding of the provisions of the Bill. Under Clause 285, it is possible for the Indian legislature to present an address, which the Secretary of State is under a statutory obligation to consider and give his opinion on, after a period of 10 years, and I see no reason why the States should block any Amendment of the franchise scheme under the provisions of that Clause. Apart from that, His Majesty's Government, before the period of 10 years, will have the power of amending the franchise scheme if necessary by order-in-council. Therefore, I fail to see why the Princes of India and the Indian States should hold up any Amendment of the franchise.


Would a lowering of the franchise, or an alteration to a common roll instead of two separate rolls, be within the power of the House of Commons irrespective of a vote of the Indian Assembly?


It would be possible for His Majesty's Government to alter the franchise by order-in-council. With regard to the communal award, I must refer the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to the terms of the award itself, and I do not think I had better get into a discussion upon it at the present moment. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman also raised the question that we were withdrawing protection from the subjects of the Indian States, and he asked whether in the future, if there were oppression in Indian States, the power of His Majesty's Government would have been completely withdrawn by the provisions of the Bill. He drew rather a sad picture of the possible future of the citizens of an Indian State under the provisions of the Bill. He was, however, suffering under a complete misapprehension of the actual position as it will be under the Bill. The right of paramountcy exercised at present on such occasions will not be altered by the introduction of the Bill or by its provisions, and therefore I think that his difficulty in relation to the citizens of an Indian State—


Will it be possible to ask questions in tike House of Commons on the subject?


The position will be exactly the same as it is at present in relation to this subject. I hope that on these two points I have done something to set the doubts and fears of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman at rest. He then proceeded to develop the view that the Federation, and especially the constitution of the central legislature, would be undemocratic. I will take that objection together with the objections of the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones), who opened this discussion. It has been frequently claimed that in introducing the Bill we are not considering the welfare of the masses of India. I think it is possible to answer that contention in several ways, but I wish to be as brief as possible, and will only remind the Committee that the con stitution of the central legislature will have in it democratic elements to a much greater extent than at present. I would remind hon. Members opposite that there will he special representatives of labour—an entirely new proposition—in the central legislature as we propose it in this Bill. There will also be 19 representatives of the depressed classes, and, since the depressed classes are drawn very largely from the classes who depend upon manual labour, in both town and country, I think it is certain that the representatives of the depressed classes and the representatives of labour will, to a very much larger extent than ever before, voice the opinions of the masses in the central legislature.

The hon. Member for Caerphilly said that, owing to the fact that we were combining in the central legislature nominees of the States with democratic representation of British India, there would be no opportunity for real social reform and real development, and that the interests of the masses would be ignored for this reason. I fail to see why, because representatives of the Indian States are introduced into the central legislature, it necessarily means that the interests of the masses are to be ignored. For instance, one point on which the masses will feel very strongly is the question of Customs. The majority of the Indian States are agricultural and their interest lies in the reduction of the tariffs. If they take part in the proceedings of the Federal Legislature and in deciding the future tariff policy of India, their intervention can only be in the interests of the agricultural masses.


The hon. Gentleman will allow us to remember that the reduction of the tariff is in the interests of the masses of the people.


I am considering the question from the point of view of the citizens of India, and I believe in this case it will be to their advantage. As regards social reform, we believe that the constitution of the Federal Legislature will help in the discussion of measures for social reform. The Joint Select Committee thought that one of the main reasons for the development of this Constitution was that it would give opportunity for social reform in the future. The hon. Gentleman, I think, referred to the possibility of legislation not only in subjects on the federal list but also in subjects on the concurrent list, and to that extent, especially in regard to the concurrent list, Part 2, which specially affects labour questions, there are special provisions in the Bill which I hope will be fully made use of in the future.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) raised the large question as to whether it was just, if it was possible, to develop provincial autonomy without having some nexus in the Federal Government. I think I should be wise to refer him to the powerful arguments in the introduction to the report of the Joint Select Committee. We hold very strongly that we have given to India a great unity which it is essential to preserve and, whether in the matters to which I referred, such as social legislation and the use of the concurrent list, or whether in other ways we feel that it would be much easier to preserve the unity of India by the establishment of federation. Moreover, owing to the inter-action, both economic and political, of the interests of the States and the Provinces of India, which interlock with each other to a surprising degree—not unlike one English county with another—we consider that a federal Government is the most suitable form of nexus that can be devised owing to the approximation of interests between those two parts of India. It is for these reasons that we hope the Committee may come to a decision on the point, and I hope I have done something to answer some of the points that have been raised.

9.20 p.m.


I do not often find myself in agreement with the Secretary of State, but when earlier to-day he said that the Princes of India had not changed their position in relation to federation I could not but concur with him. As far as I understand it, their position has never changed at all. At the first Round Table Conference eight out of the twelve Princes who made a statement in favour of federation were not accredited representatives of the 562 Princes of India. They could only speak for themselves and, as far as I know, they made no attempt to speak for anyone else. I can say without fear of contradiction that the majority of the Princes have never declared in favour of federation and, if to-day the Government find themselves in a dilemma on account of the fundamental objections which the Princes of India have stated, it is their fault and not ours, because we, at any rate, who have opposed these proposals, have been at great pains for the last two years to point out how unlikely it was that the Princes would ever declare in favour of federation. I have asked again and again, on the Floor of this House, if it is not a fact that additional and essential safeguards were required by the Princes which were not included either in the White Paper or, late on, in the majority report. We were always brushed aside as untouchables. Conservatives who oppose these proposals are, indeed, untouchables in this House. The Attorney-General to-night spoke of us with the greatest contempt as diehards.


Not untouchables, only depressed classes.


Scheduled castes, if the hon. Gentleman prefers it. Perhaps I may say something about the speech of the hon. Member as he interrupts me. He said, in relation to federation, that we had not a clean slate to write on, that for many generations people have written on that slate. I understand that he is a keen student of Cromwell. Even Cromwell would have been horrified at the slate in India being scribbled over, or squirted over, with Liberal principles. My Noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) admitted that, at any rate, those Conservatives who are opposed to the idea of an All-India Federation had at least one-third of the voters in the country behind them. Whatever may be said for Liberal principles, it cannot be claimed that they have any great support in the country. The hon. Member went on to say that those who are opposed to this conception of an All-India Federation are delighted at the news to-day that the Princes had stated that they had fundamental objections. If we believe federation a dangerous and evil thing, are we not entitled to be pleased?


That is getting into the subject of a Debate which has been finished.


I apologise if I went beyond the bounds of order, but this was raised earlier this afternoon.


Yes, but in another Debate, I mast remind the hon. Member.


I understood that the subject was the same. I will not pursue the subject if I am out of order. On the question of the establishment of an All-India Federation, to which I believe the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) referred, I think he said Conservative opponents had used pressure on the Princes in order to ensure their opposition to federation. I must say that I was surprised that he used that word, for, after all, the Prime Minister of Hyderabad, Sir Akbar Hydari, said in evidence before the Joint Select Committee that the Secretary of State had "held the States relentlessly to federation."


Does the hon. Gentleman remember that a speech was made by the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. G. Nicholson) in which be specifically referred to that passage in the speech of the Prime Minister, who requested that if that passage were quoted, it should be taken in its full text, for then it denied the implications?


I have read the evidence carefully and am convinced only one construction can be placed on it. However that may be, I am surprised he should use the word "pressure." I thought that in this House it was quite taboo, and that whenever we talked about it we should use the words "persuasion" or "advice." I do not think, whatever our views may be about the establishment of an All-India Federation, that anyone in this House can deny that an entirely new situation has arisen as a result of the declaration which reached us to-day. I do not believe it is true to say that the whole question of the future of federation is not in the balance. These are not matters of adjustment, but of fundamental objections. I do not think it is a compliment to the Princes of India to state, as I think the Secretary of State did or some other hon. Member—I may be doing him an injustice—that this was a declaration without sufficient consideration and deliberation.


Really we have had several hours debate on the Motion to report Progress. We really cannot take that subject over again.


I must apologise again. I did not intend to break the rules of Procedure. I will try to keep more closely to the question of federation. The deeper one goes into this question of federation, the more we consult ex-governors and men of administrative experience in India, the uneasier some of us have become in our minds. We do not ask for assertion, or for brilliant Parliamentary repartee or suave statements. We would like to see more arguments and answers to arguments we have put forward against the proposals. The friends with whom I have been associated have put forward many arguments, and we are not satisfied in our minds. Yet I hope we are reasonable people who are open to persuasion. I would like to draw the attention of the Secretary of State to the fact that, although I am a back bencher, and can therefore claim no special indulgence, he has never once answered one argument I have put tin the Floor of the House during the last two years. I do not in any way criticise him on that account, but I do say that the fact that the arguments against the establishment of an All-India Federation have not been answered leaves us uneasy in our minds.

The Government say that you cannot extend autonomy to the Provinces in India without the establishment of an all-India Federation. It has been our case all along that such an argument is abject nonsense. The Government case is that provincial autonomy without federation will bring about great centrifugal and powerful movements which will endanger the constitution. Therefore they say the Centre must be changed. But how do you strengthen the Centre or minimise these centrifugal forces by giving away half the powers at the Centre? Do the Government still stick to that theory, still take that view if the objections of the Princes to establishment of a federation hold good, still take the line that provincial autonomy cannot be established without a federation? It has been suggested that if just over 50 or 51 per cent. of the Princes came into an all-India Federation, then the other 49 per cent. would be coerced. When my Noble Friend the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) made that statement yesterday, he was answered by the Government supporters, who, like a Roman army without the legions—they were all generals and camp-followers—and voted down. The right hon. Member for Spark-brook (Mr. Amery), one of the generals, and the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson), one of the camp-followers, took him to task. On this matter we cannot do better than find out what is counsel's opinion, the legal opinion given to the Princes of India on 17th October of last year and published in the "Madras Mail." Counsel's opinion in regard to the position of the Princes who abstained from federation was that the thumbscrew of political pressure would be tightened on non-federatng thumbs. If you are going to build this great all-India Federation, where are the bricks and the mortar? Surely the basis will consist of three conflicting currents of hostility—the Princes—if they come in—against modern government, Hindus against Moslems, martial races against sheltered races. This will be a blending of fire and water that has never been done before. The Government may come along and say that they have made a miraculous discovery, thanks to the good offices of the Fuel Research Board, of how to blend fire and water. They may come and say that they hope this federation will be a success. I notice that, in his evidence before the Joint Select Committee, the Secretary of State used the words "I hope" more than 200 times. He hoped that the Princes might come in. He hopes their objections can be adjusted. He hopes federation will be a success. He may be right. I suggest that he is living in a permanent condition of optimistic expectancy not at all warranted by the facts. Political arrangements not based on the true proportions of actual power cannot bring a federation into power, or make it a success once it is established. You cannot establish federation by giving domination in the central legislature and in the provincial governments to the Hindu politicians shielded by British military power, when that domination will never be accepted by the fighting and martial races, by the Mohammedans.

I do not wish to weary the Committee with quotations. I have many statements in my possession of Mohammedan leaders which state quite plainly that they will not accept Hindu domination in an All-India Federation, and will never accept the Hindu Raj. That is the long and short of it, nor is it surprising; if we look back on Indian history we see six and a-half centuries of Imperial tradition among the Mohammedans. When we read the story of Mohammedan rule in India of over six and a-half centuries, it is surely asking too much from them to expect them to enter a federation and accept Hindu domination which they have never done before in their history.

I believe that one of the inherent weaknesses in this federal scheme is that those who enter it are approaching it from a very different point of view and envisage a very different outcome to it. The Provinces are going to enter this Federation from the point of view of regarding it as a prelude to still greater advance. In fact, many British-India delegations and delegates have said that they consider that the Indian States should have no say in questions relating to the Provinces alone, and should exercise the least possible influence on them, whereas, on the other hand, the Indian States regard this establishment as a final move and desire to see no further departure from the conditions created by this Bill within the realm of practical politics, and for a very long time to come. I have here a quotation from the evidence given by Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, who, though he admits that he cannot impose his views on the Indian States, says: I am strongly of opinion that one result, among others, of the association of British India and Indian States in the field of common activities in the Federal Legislature will be to facilitate the passage of the Indian States from their present form of autocratic government…to a constitutional form. If that is the point of view of some politicians in the British India Provinces, it is exactly contrary to the view which is held by Indian States, and what is more, although this declaration is coupled with the most careful assurances of noninterference 'and avowals of inability to interfere with the internal affairs of the Indian States, the underlying threat is there, and is plain to see. In conclusion, I submit that a federation which is entered into by such reluctant and mutually suspicious units with such conflicting reservations and such opposite ends in view is a federation which, if it ever comes about, will do so in circumstances of an inauspicious nature. I appeal to the Government, in view of recent happenings, that they will at this eleventh, or even twelfth hour, withdraw the federal Clauses of this Bill and consider whether there is not a way out after all, a way not based upon the form of government to which we are accustomed, a Western democratic form, but a form of government which is understood in the East, an Oriental form and one which unlike these proposals will work.

9.40 p.m.


Those of us in the Conservative party who are opposed to the Indian policy of the Government have no desire whatever to take up more of the time of the Committee than is absolutely necessary, but the point of federation with which we are now dealing is so really vital to the whole scheme of Indian self-government that we do not feel called upon to apologise for ventilating this subject for a few minutes longer. We have never yet had a proper explanation as to why it was suddenly decided that one could not have federation in India without the adherence of the Princes. That was a complete volte face, and one, I submit, which has never been satisfactorily explained. You. Sir, have ruled that certain recent events have been so sufficiently discussed this afternoon that we cannot do more than pass lightly over them now. I will content myself with saying that there seems at the present time to be little reason to suppose that the Indian Princes are going to show any inclination to enter Federation in the future, and as, as far as we can see, their entry is a sine qua non of the policy of the Government, there seems to be little use in passing these Clauses dealing with federation if the whole thing is to be upset by the non-adherence of the Princes.

I should like to say a word of reply to the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones), who, I regret, is not in his place at the moment, when he complained that no mention was made throughout the debates of the working people of India. It is quite true that, as far as representatives of the Government are concerned, these references are few and far between, but if the hon. Member for Caerphilly and his friends will take the trouble to look at the speeches of the Conservative Opposition they will find that again and again anxious mention is made of the future welfare of the common people of India. My hon. Friend the Member for West Islington (Mr. Donner) spoke on that subject a few days ago, the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) and I myself both mentioned it in our speeches on the report of the Joint Select Committee, and the hon. Member for Caerphilly will find that there is a great deal more genuine interest. as to the fate of the common people of India on these benches than upon their benches.

The right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) is very much perturbed because, he said, at the mention of the Princes everyone seemed to become upset. Let me assure him on this point that we have not been talking about the Princes so much because we considered their interests to be more vital than those of anybody else, but simply from the constitutional point of view, that the proposed Federation is impossible without their adherence and therefore we have been obliged to discuss whether they are likely to come into the Federation, and, if so, on what terms. As has already been said, it is the duty of this House to consider the whole of the people of India, Princes and peasants alike, and that is what we in our humble way are endeavouring to do.

I will now say in a few words why we object so strongly to this Federation. Of what is the Federation to consist? A number of Provinces on which we are about to confer the very doubtful advantage of a more or less democratic form of government. Democratic government is practically unknown in the East, and in most places its very significance is either not understood or not appreciated. Surely it is a sufficient risk to set up a large number of autonomous Provinces under a new form of democratic constitution without running the infinitely greater risk of giving a more or less democratic constitution at the Centre as well. Surely it would be wiser to try this new democratic experiment among a few Provinces at first, or even among the whole of the Provinces before you try to set up a central democratic constition at the same time. A collapse in one Province would be serious and a collapse in several Provinces would be very serious, but if you get a simultaneous collapse at the Centre and in the Provinces, the position of India, and more especially of the common people of India, would be very grave indeed.

There is much more that I could say, btu I hope that I have said enough to show that we are not opposing the Federation for any factious reason, but simply because we are convinced that should it take place it will not be in the interests of India and of Indians. Moreover, we regard it as a waste of time to set up a complicated federal system when there is every likelihood that federation will never come into being, because of the non-adherences of the Princes, the probability of which has been shown so clearly to-day.


If the Committee would allow me, I should like to make an appeal. I notice that one or two hon. Members who have risen are hon. Members who took a considerable part in Debate on the Clause. So far as I have been in the Chair, the Debate has been almost entirely a repetition of what was previously said.


May I say that this is the third of the six days allotted to this part of the Bill. We are on Clause 5 and there are a great number of most important matters to be reached within the six days. I hope that that fact will be borne in mind.


Further to the point of Order—


I have not raised the matter as a point of Order. I appealed to the Committee. I have no power to do anything else. If the Committee insists on talking, it is my business to carry on my ordinary duties, but I thought that in the circumstances it might be as well for me to say what I did.


On that point of Order—


It is not a point of Order, and I do not intend that my remarks shall be discussed.

9.48 p.m.


I will not delay the House for more than a minute or so. There is a point, mainly of drafting, which is of some substance in Clause 5. It states that His Majesty after receiving an Address from both Houses may declare that the Federation shall come into being on a certain appointed day, providing that one condition is fulfilled, and that condition is that the Rulers of States, who are entitled to 52 seats, representing an aggregate population equal at least to one-half of the total population of the States, have acceded to the Federation. I do not think the Federation comes into being until the day appointed by His Majesty, and it seems to me that it is not possible for the Rulers of the States to accede to a federation that is not in being. The Secretary of State may say that in Clause 6 there is a provision that a State shall be deemed to have acceded to the Federation if certain conditions are fulfilled, and His Majesty has signified his acceptance of a declaration in due form by the ruler thereof, but I do not think that you can accede to a federation which is not in existence until an appointed day any more than you can become a member of a club that is not yet in existence. It seems to me—I hope the Secretary of State will correct me if I am wrong—that the words at the end of Clause 5 should read something like this: "Provided that the States have signified their intention to accede to the Federation." I should be very grateful for an assurance from the Secretary of State on that particular point.

The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir Donald Somervell)

We will certainly look into the point again, but if my hon. Friend will look at the opening words of Clause 6 he will see that: The State shall be deemed to hare acceded to Federation if His Majesty has signified his acceptance of a declaration made by the Ruler thereof. We will certainly look into the point.


I am not a lawyer, but I do not think that you can accede to a non-existing federation or be taken to accede to a non-existing federation.

9.51 p.m.


The learned Attorney-General told us that it was through the fullness of discussion that we could elucidate these problems. Therefore on this important question of federation, which affects the future of a whole continent, I am sure the Committee would not mind sitting beyond eleven o'clock. This question of federation goes to the root of the whole matter. I am absolutely in sympathy with my hon. Friend the Member for West Islington (Mr. Donner) when he said that to none of our criticisms can we get a satisfactory answer. We are constantly being met with some cheap jibe, or if we raise a serious point we are told that we are opponents of the National Government. We are not, but we have some very solid and substantial criticism on this question of federation and we think that we are entitled to have an answer.

We have been told for the last three or four years by the Secretary of State that the Government's acceptance of the principle of federation was entirely dependent upon the attitude of the Princes. I make no apology for referring to that point again, for the reason that we have not yet had an answer from the Government as to whether they are going on with this scheme if the Princes refuse to come into it. Seeing that we have the Prime Minister present, who can presumably speak on behalf of the Government, we might have a definite answer to a perfectly specific question. If the Princes within the next few weeks or the next few days while the Bill is before us are not able to come to a satisfactory arrangement with the Government on the question of federation, are the Government going on with their federation proposals? Before we leave the question of federation we have a right to an answer on that question. Otherwise, the whole of the arguments by which the Government have been forcing this matter through on the federation issue fall to the ground.

If we are going on without the Princes coming in and without their acceptance of it, what becomes of the Government's argument that the adhesion of the Princes has changed the whole position? If the Secretary of State would answer that one question I should feel that my observations had not been entirely in vain. I will give way if the right hon. Gentleman will answer that question. I have sat down, but the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to answer the point. I can quite understand why he does not want to answer. It is because he cannot. The Government have completely changed their attitude on this question, as on so many other questions during the last few weeks. They go on calling themselves a National Government but they cannot stand their ground on a single public issue. I call it a National Government but I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that it is not national and that A is not much of a government at all. I do not want to allow my very natural feelings to overcome me. [HON. MEMBERS "Hear, hear."] I do not welcome applause from the other side of the House.

The Government must not blame us. We have warned them again and again as to where they were leading the country. We cannot help doing this sort of thing. They are driving us to a crisis and splitting their own party because they will not stand by their own principles. They go from one set of principles to another in order to give concessions to their opponents. Hon. Members can laugh, as much as they like, what I am saying is perfectly true. Laughter very often conceals great bitterness of heart. It is high time, when the future of our great Indian Empire is concerned, that the Government, on the question of federation, stood by the principles they have been laying down for years. I again challenge the right hon. Gentleman: Did he or did he not say that the acceptance of the Princes of a scheme of federation was essential? Having said that, does he adhere to it? If the Princes do not come in is he going to drop it while there is yet time? None of our criticisms on the question of federation have been answered, and our attitude has been grossly misrepresented. We are called Diehards. Why should we not call them White Flaggers? That sort of stuff gets you nowhere.


And I do not think it has to do with the question of Clause 3 standing part of the Bill.


There is one final point I desire to raise. We are constantly misrepresented on the question of federation. We are told that it is all a question of faith. Our attitude is that we are prepared to go a certain distance with autonomy in the Provinces without federation, not because we like to go that distance and not because we think it is for the good of India, but because we have been pledged and committed by the policy of previous Governments. We are prepared to make that experiment. We object to the federation proposals because we feel that, just as the right hon. Gentleman is being driven from the position he took up a little while ago, we shall also be driven from position after position until we shall have completely lost our hold on India, and shall not be able to recover because we shall have been driven out of the country lock, stock and barrel. For the last time to-night we are in a position to express our protest against a policy which we believe is ultimately going to result in a loss of prosperity to our people and the dismemberment of our great Empire, which has taken centuries to build up; and we are ashamed that the party to which we belong and a Government calling itself a National Government should have constituted itself the vehicle for carrying out such a shameful policy of abdication and surrender of our Imperial trust.

Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 246; Noes, 78.

Division No. 63.] AYES [10.0 p.m
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds W.) Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham) Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard
Albery, Irving James Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T Culverwell, Cyril Tom
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (L' pool, W.) Burghley, Lord Dalkeith, Earl of
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd) Butt, Sir Alfred Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley) Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)
Anstruther-Gray, W. J Caporn, Arthur Cecil Dickie, John P
Aske, Sir Robert William Cautley, Sir Henry S Doran, Edward
Assheton, Ralph Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City) Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel
Baillie. Sir Adrian W. M Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.) Duggan, Hubert John
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Duncan, James A. L.(Kensington, N.)
Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Dunglass, Lord
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston) Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey
Barclay-Harvey, C. M Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D Emrys-Evans, P. V
Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey Colfox, Major William Philip Entwistle, Cyril Fullard
Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel Colman, N. C. D Essenhigh, Reginald Clare
Boulton, W. W Conant, R. J. E Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W Cook, Thomas A Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)
Boyce, H. Leslie Cooper, A. Duff Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)
Braithwalte, J. G. (Hillsborough) Cranborne, Viscount Fleiden, Edward Brocklehurst
Brass, Captain Sir William Crooke, J. Smedley Foot, Dingle (Dundee)
Briscoe, Capt. Richard George Croom-Johnson, R. P Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)
Brocklebank, C. E. R Crossley, A. C Fremantle, Sir Francis
Ganzonl, Sir John MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Robinson, John Roland
Gibson, Charles Granville McCorquodale, M, S Ropner, Colonel L
Gillett, Sir George Masterman MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R, (Seaham) Rosbotham, Sir Thomas
Glossop, C. W. H MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw) Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Glyn, Major Sir Ralph G. C McEwen, Captain J. H. F Rothschild, James A. de
Goff, Sir Park McKle, John Hamilton Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir Edward
Gower, Sir Robert Magnay, Thomas Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas Mander, Geoffrey le M Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B' t side)
Grenfell, E. C. (City of London) Manningham-Butler, Lt.-Col. Sir M Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.) Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)
Grimston, R. V Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.) Salt, Edward W
Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.) Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)
Gunston, Captain D. W Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)
Guy, J. C. Morrison Meller, sir Richard James Samuel, M. R. A. (W' ds' wth, Putney)
Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Mills. Major J. D. (New Forest) Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D
Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Ztl' nd) Milne, Charles Savery, Samuel Servington
Hammersley, Samuel S Mitchell, Harold P. (Br' tf' d A Chisw' k) Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark. Bothwell)
Hanbury, Cecil Mitcheson, G. G Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
Harris, Sir Percy Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Shute, Colonel Sir John
Harvey, Major Sir Samuel (Totnes) Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B, Eyres Smith, Sir J. Walker-(Barrow-In-F.)
Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr) Smithers, Sir Waldron
Haslam, Sir John (Bolton) Morgan, Robert H Somervell, Sir Donald
Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)
Heilgers, Captain F. F. A Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'tles) Soper, Richard
Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford) Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J Spencer, Captain Richard A
Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Munro, Patrick Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H
Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H Spens, William Patrick
Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W' morland)
Hornby, Frank Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid Steel-Maltland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur
Howard, Tom Forrest North, Edward T Stevenson, James
Howitt, Dr. Alfred B O'Donovan, Dr. William James Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport) O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Stones, James
Hume, Sir George Hopwood Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A Stourton, Hon. John J
Hurst, Sir Gerald B Orr Ewing, I. L Strauss, Edward A
Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H Owen, Major Goronwy Strickland, Captain W. F
Iveagh, Countess of Palmer, Francis Noel Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-
Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.) Patrick, Colin M Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F
Jackson, J. C. (Heywood & Radcliffe) Peake, Osbert Sutcliffe, Harold
James, Wing-Com. A. W. H Pearson, William G Tate, Mavis Constance
Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Peat, Charles U. Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Ker, J. Campbell Penny, Sir George Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose) Percy, Lord Eustace Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)
Kirkpatrick, William M. Peters, Dr. Sidney John Train, John
Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Petherick, M Tree, Ronald
Latham, Sir Herbert Paul Peto, Geoffrey K.(W' verh' pt' n, Bilston) Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Law Sir Alfred Pickthorn, K. W. M Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L
Leckle, J. A Pike, Cecil F Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Leech, Dr. J. W Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H Ward. Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Leighton, Major B, E. P Pownall, Sir Assheton Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S
Lewis, Oswald Pybus, Sir John Warrender, Sir Victor A. G
Liddall, Walter S Radford, E. A White, Henry Graham
Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock) Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich) Wills, Wilfrid D
Lindsay, Noel Ker Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian) Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)
Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe- Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest Ramsbotham, Herwald Womersley, Sir Walter
Llewellin, Major John J Ratcliffe, Arthur Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzle (Banff)
Locker-Lampson. Rt. Hn. G. (Wd. Gr' n) Rea, Walter Russell Worthington, Dr. John V
Loftus, Pierce C Reld. James S. C. (Stirling) Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Lumley, Captain Lawrence R Reld, William Allan (Derby)
Mabane, William Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Mac Andrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick) Rickards, George William Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward and Mr. Blindell
Acland-Troyte. Lieut.-Colonel Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Dawson, Sir Philip Lawson. John James
Alexander, sir William Dixey, Arthur C. N Leonard, William
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh) Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert Lunn, William
Bailey, Eric Alfred George Donner, P. W McEntee, Valentine L
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Edwards, Charles Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)
Banfield, John William Emmott, Charles E. G. C Maltland, Adam
Batey, Joseph Gardner, Benjamin Walter Marsden, Commander Arthur
Bracken, Brendan Greene, William P. C Maxton, James
Bralthwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.) Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Milner, Major James
Brocklebank, C. E. R Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Nail, Sir Joseph
Brown. C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding) Nathan. Major H. L
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer Gritten, w. G. Howard Nunn, William
Cleary, J. J Grundy, Thomas W Oman, Sir Charles William C
Cobb, Sir Cyril Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Parkinson, John Allen
Courtauld, Major John Sewell Hicks, Ernest George Raikes, Henry V. A. M
Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg) Rathbone, Eleanor
Cripps. Sir Stafford Jones. Morgan (Caerphilly) Reld. David D. (County Down)
Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger Remer, John R
Daggar, George Kimball. Lawrence Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Knox, Sir Alfred Scone, Lord
Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Unv., Belfast) Tinker, John Joseph Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Smith, Tom (Normanton) Touche, Gordon Cosmo Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor) Wayland, Sir William A Wise, Alfred R
Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A. (P'dd' gt'n, S.) Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Joilsh
Templeton, William P Wells, Sydney Richard TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Thorp, Linton Theodore Williams, David (Swansea, East) Mr. John and Mr. Paling