§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ 3.23 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE, for INDIA (Sir Samuel Hoare)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
A further stage has been reached in the long trail across the Continent of Indian problems. The journey began seven and a half years ago, when Parliament first started the Statutory Commission upon its course. Since that time there has been no halt or remission in our labours. Twenty-five thousand pages of reports, 4,000 pages of the OFFICIAL REPORT, 6,00 speeches of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State and myself, 15,500,000 words publicly spoken, written, and reported, a volume of words, in fact, 20 tunes as great as the whole of the Authorised Version of the Bible, bear witness to the toil and trouble that are behind to-day's Debate. I am inclined to suggest to my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General that these astronomic figures would make a very good poster for the National Government.
Let me take this opportunity of thanking the official Opposition and my right hon. and hon. Friends on my right who have disagreed with me—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where are they?"]—for the admirable patience which they have displayed in these protracted discussions. Let me especially congratulate the whole House upon having passed through the Committee and Report stages a Bill of 470 Clauses, filled from start to finish with intricate details and controversial subjects, without closure, guillotine, or a single late sitting, but none the less having adequately discussed, I believe, every issue that is contained within the four corners of the Bill. I hope that our Indian friends will note the devotion of the Imperial Parliament to Indian affairs, and will note in particular the self-sacrifice of many British public men of all parties who, following the example of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and his colleagues seven and a half years ago, have sacrificed their private avocations, their convenience, and their time to the 1714 Herculean task of building a Constitution for India.
In the course of these long months we have had our alarums and excursions. We have had our anxieties and our excitements. As the months revolved we have had more than one mare's nesting season, and with these seasons I will confess to the House that more than once, when I have seen these periods of incubation drawing near, I have been tempted to be anxious or perturbed, but I have comforted myself with the memory of an incident that took place in the ancestral home of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), concerning one of his distinguished relatives. It was recounted to me by the late Lord Curzon. The Duke of Marlborough—I think it was the uncle of my right hon. Friend—had an emu given to him. It was sent to Blenheim, and great interest was taken in the chances of its capacity for procreation, Eventually it laid an egg. The Duke and Duchess were absent from home. A telegram was sent to the latter by the agent to apprise her of the event. This was the telegram: "Emu has laid egg. In the absence of your Grace, have put goose to sit on it." I know not what was the result of that incubation, but so far as the other incubations are concerned, I can say that they had so little effect upon the supporters of the Government that, with one single exception, and that a division during the dinner hour, when we had a majority of over 80, the Government's majorities have never sunk below four to one. How fortunate I have been as compared with my predecessors in the Government is shown by the diary of John Evelyn, who, at a very critical division on which the whole future of the East India Company depended, found that all the supporters of the Government had gone to Downing Street—then, I suppose, a centre of amusement—to see a tiger baited by a number of British bulldogs. I am glad to say I have been more fortunate, and never once on any of the issues raised in this long discussion have our majorities sunk below a. very large figure.
The significant fact that emerges from all these long discussions is that the three main principles of the Joint Select Committee's Report—all-India Federation, Provincial Autonomy, and Responsibility with Safeguards—remain intact and un- 1715 altered. No new principle has been introduced into the Bill. The changes that have been made are changes made to clarify the intentions of Parliament and to remove legitimate doubts and anxieties that still existed. This being so, I am glad to think that I need not once again state in detail the case which I have so often stated before and defend, provision by provision, the proposals of the Bill. Rather will I take the opportunity to deal with what I believe to be the two most formidable criticisms that have been made against the Measure. During the course of our discussions we have heard these propositions stated, time after time, by the two oppositions: No one in India wants your Bill, and no one in India is going to work it. Let me devote myself to these two propositions in direct relation to the Amendments on the Order Paper: the Amendment, first, of the official Opposition, and, secondly, the Amendment—I would almost call it an epitome of the Commination Service —that stands in the name of my right lion. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and his friends.
It is a formidable criticism that no one in India wants the Bill and that no one in India is going to work the Bill, and the House is entitled, in this last of our Debates, to a categorical answer from the Government to this criticism. I have never under-rated the strength or the extent of the Indian criticism of the Bill. Indeed, if I were not a politician, if I had not fought eight Parliamentary elections, and if I had not been 25 years in this House, I would have been tempted to be overwhelmed by this spate of criticism in India. But, being a politician, believing that politics makes all the world kin, in the east and in the west, and that Indian politicians on that account are not very different from British politicians, I wondered to myself whether British politicians in the position in which Indian politicians find themselves to-day would not have behaved in exactly the same way. Indeed, we see Indian public men who, for a generation past, made as their platform full self-government for their country; a scheme is introduced, and though many of them agreed with it in principle, and not a few agreed with almost the letter of it, they none the less see it as a scheme that sets limitations upon the full measure of 1716 Indian self-government; what more natural then than that every public platform in India should resound with political criticisms of such a limiting scheme. After all, no Indian politician could possibly lose by asking for more. It might have appeared probable to many Indian politicians that the greater the agitation in India: the more likely they were to obtain more—the more certain, in any case, were they likely to prevent any further extension of the limiting provisions. That being so, looking at the situation as one politician looking at the situation of other politicians, I have not been unduly depressed.
I am reminded of an experience in Lord Cromer's administration in Egypt. Very extreme demands were being made for the total evacuation of Egypt by the British. A petition to that end was given to Lord Cromer. He was surprised to find among the signatories an old Arab sheikh who was known to be one of our best friends in the country. He asked the sheikh what was the reason for his support of this extreme movement. The sheikh smiled and answered, "It is all empty words. I often say to my camel or my horse, if in some trifling way he tries my patience, Curses on you. May Allah strike you dead, 0 son of a pig.' If I thought it would really happen I should be silent; but I know that the beast will remain unharmed." May there not be something of the attitude of the sheikh in this wave of furious criticism that we see raging in India from one end to another? I must carry the argument further and I must ask the critics, both here and in India, these two question: What practical alternative have they to offer to this scheme—
§ Sir S. HOARE
I will deal with that in a minute. The other question is: What do they intend, if they have no such alternative? Do they accept the position that there should be no legislation at all? Let me deal with both those questions and begin with the question: Who has any practicable alternative to these proposals? The Amendment of the Opposition deals in some detail with their attitude to this question, but I note in particular that it abandons one proposition which hitherto many Members of the Opposition have kept in the forefront of these discussions. We have heard, time 1717 and again, from the Opposition of the Left that the only way to build up an Indian Constitution for India is to let Indians settle their Constitution for themselves. I am not surprised that this proposition has passed from the Labour proposals, for I am quite sure it is no alternative whatever to the Government proposals. I am as certain as I am of anything that, in the unlikely event of a constituent assembly being gathered together in India, within no reasonable period of time would an agreed solution result from those deliberations. I congratulate the Opposition, therefore, on having dropped that proposition.
I note, however, that they concentrate their criticisms upon a number of other points. They begin by condemning the Government for not making clearer in the Bill the progress towards Dominion Status. They go on to criticise the restrictions which are being placed on the exercise of Indian self-government. They proceed to state that a sufficient number of men and women are not being given the vote under the franchise proposals. Lastly, they state that the Government's proposals entrench in the Legislatures privilege, wealth and reaction. As to Dominion Status, I made the position of the Government abundantly clear in the Second Reading Debate, and I have nothing to add to what I then said. A wide road has been opened for Indians. It depends principally on their success as to how and when they reach their journey's end. As to the restrictions, I maintain that they are inherent in any scheme of responsibility with safeguards and that they are required just as much by Indian as by British interests. As to the franchise, we are giving as wide a franchise to men and women and upon as broad a basis as the machinery of government will stand. As to the charge that we are entrenching the forces of reaction in the Government of India, let it be remembered that we are giving the depressed classes, for the first time, an established part in the government of their country, and making it possible for the agricultural workers to make their voices heard and their influence felt for the first time.
If Indian consent is to be the test upon which stand or fall constitutional proposals the propositions of the Opposition of the left, even if they were all included in the Government's 1718 Bill—even if the Government accepted their Amendment to-day—would be just as unacceptable to the Indians who are demanding full swaraj as the Government's Bill itself.
I pass from the criticisms of the left to the criticisms of the right. I noted with surprise, during our protracted Committee discussions, that my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping and others on the right have come out in this House as the protagonists of self-determination. Being a Conservative, I have never accepted the undiluted essence of that kind of proposition. Time after time my right hon. and hon. Friends have declared that we should drop the Bill unless it was approved by the Assembly and approved by the Provincial Legislatures, that we had no right to proceed with a Bill which had not behind it expressed Indian support. My right hon. Friend says "Rubbish!" I do riot think that is a very polite observation to make. I could easily substantiate what I have said if I were to take up the time of the House. Passing from my right hon. Friend's interjection, let me ask him and his friends two questions. First, if they claim that Indian consent must be the basis of any constitutional scheme, have they any scheme that is likely to obtain more Indian assent than the Government's scheme? Is it likely that their own scheme, if scheme it can be called, of provincial autonomy, without the transfer of law and order in the Provinces, is going to obtain the assent of any body of public men in India, of any community? If that be the case, what is their course of action? They cannot criticise the Government for going on with a scheme that has not Indian assent behind it when admittedly, if they went on with their own scheme, it would have no support behind it at all. If that be the case, are they prepared to drop constitutional reform altogether? I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend opposite, when he takes part in the Debate this afternoon, will deal with that question.
Suppose there is no assent to their scheme, or any other scheme, are they then prepared to have no legislation at all? The right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), in an interjection earlier in the afternoon, replied that what he would like to see was a continuance of the status quo. Will the House believe me 1719 when I say that a continuance of the status quo is impossible. Do not let any hon. or right hon. Member think that if this Bill were defeated or withdrawn we should be able to jog along as if nothing had happened. Two inevitable results would follow. In the first place, it would appear to every politically-minded Indian that the Mother of Parliaments had shown her impotence to deal with a great constitutional issue. The Indian people would see seven and a half years of work ending in smoke. They would see the impotence of Parliament and, rightly or wrongly, would believe it to be due to the fact that we do not treat our pledges seriously and are not prepared to go on with Indian constitutional reform. That, I am certain, would be the first result supposing Parliament decided not to proceed with legislation.
The second result would be equally serious. The government of India, as I know to my cost after four years' connection with it, is no easy task. I say with all gravity to the House that if there were no legislation the problem of Indian government would be made tenfold more difficult. I am certain, looking back over these last four years, that we could not have seen the improvement that undoubtedly has taken place in the political atmosphere of India, if we had not had behind us a large body of Indian central opinion. Without that body of central opinion, I believe it would have been impossible for the Indian Central Legislature or for the Provincial Legislatures to have passed those drastic measures for the restoration of law and order. I believe that the Legislatures were ready to pass those measures, extreme though they were in many respects, because they genuinely believed that, while on the one hand we were prepared to restore law and order, on the other hand we were prepared boldly to proceed along the road of constitutional advance. I am certain that if my right hon. Friend and his Friends had their way and there were no legislation, we should lose that body of support and that we should be confronted with an almost solid opposition from one end of India to another. That is a prospect which I hope no hon. Member can contemplate with equanimity. I hope that no hon. Mem- 1720 ber who is' connected with trade or business will contemplate that with equanimity.
During these four years we have seen the economic boycott and civil disobedience brought to an end without bloodshed or commotion. I am certain that we could not have achieved that result if, side by side with restoring law and order, we had not been steadily advancing upon the road of constitutional reform. I hope that I have said enough to the House to show that there is no practicable alternative to the proposals of the Government; that it is no alternative to suggest that there must be behind any Parliamentary Act the express opinion of the Indian public, and, thirdly, that it is no alternative to suggest that we could maintain the status quo, stay our legislative hand, wash away the work of 7½ years and continue with the government of India as it is to-day.
I do not take a depressed view about the Indian future. I believe that the Constitution enshrined in the Bill is workable, and will be worked. I see every sign in India of non-co-operation diminishing and of more and more desire, not by any means confined to the more conservative bodies of opinion in India, expressed to work the Bill. With common sense on both sides, I believe the Bill can be worked, and worked successfully. I see no reason to assume that common sense on both sides will not be forthcoming. During the last 15 years, India has passed through a very difficult period of constitutional development. The Montagu-Chelmsford reforms were not easy to work and gave ample opportunity for difficulty and bitterness on all sides. Yet a large measure of common sense has been forthcoming. Indian public men have, on the whole, worked -ale reforms loyally and sensibly. The great Services in India have shown a wide measure of sympathy and common sense in adapting their attitude to the new situation. With that experience behind us, I see no reason why we should not assume that common sense will be equally forthcoming when the Bill passes to the Statute Book.
Up to this point I have argued my case upon mere negative lines. I have argued it upon the ground that no one has suggested a practicable alternative and upon the ground that it is no alternative to suggest that we should not legis- 1721 late at all. I should not like to leave the case based simply upon those negative arguments. I support the Bill today upon its merits. I believe it enshrines within its four corners a majestic conception of government that is in the fullest harmony with the best traditions of the British Commonwealth of Nations. In our long Committee discussions we were perhaps apt to think too lightly of the human elements behind the constitutional phrases that we were discussing. We were apt, maybe, to think of the process as a process of constitutional history rather than as a, process of human development. "Provincial Autonomy"—a terrible phrase, a dull sentence that looks as if it came out of a treatise upon constitutional history. Let the House think to-day however what is behind it. Let hon. Members think of the great conception of those huge territories, kingdoms rather than Provinces, developing their own life upon their own distinctive lines.
So again with "All-India Federation." When we get behind the phrase, should not All-India Federation fire our imagination? Is it not a great conception to attempt to achieve for India an organic unity that she has never possessed before? Is it not a great conception to attempt to achieve for India a system of government which will combine within it the experiences and institutions of the West and the experiences and the institutions of the Indian States in the East? May it not be that with British help and British advice this system of government, if it can be successfully brought into operation, may prove a bridge between Asia and Europe? The horizon in Asia is none too clear. There are many threatening clouds upon it. What better task for this House than to attempt to set up a system of government that combines within it the Eastern and the Western conception'? If we can achieve this end we shall have shown to the world a great experiment in internationalism in its truest and best sense. For the first time we shall have shown to the world that it is possible for an Empire to continue and to prosper with the Mother Country here in Europe, and the greatest, and perhaps the strongest, of the members of the commonwealth of nations 6,000 miles away in the East. We shall have shown to the world, that we have succeeded in 1722 a time of doubt, crisis and difficulty in setting up in Asia a great territory of indigenous peace, liberty and justice. That is a great conception. It is a conception worthy of the support of every hon. Member in this House.
I have addressed the House many times on these Indian issues. I fear that, in the nature of things, I have often been controversial. I have usually been dealing with points of difference rather than with points of agreement. May I—and these are my last words to-day—make this appeal to hon. Members here and to our friends in India? it looks as if this Bill will pass into law. If it passes into law, I see no reason why it should not be brought into operation without undue delay. That being the case, may I appeal to hon. Members on all sides of the House, and to our friends in India, to help us to bring the Bill into operation in the best possible atmosphere? I do not suggest that any one of them should retract any criticism he has made. I do not suggest that any one of them should cease to feel that the Government have made a mistake, that the Secretary of State, in particular, has pledged himself to many foolish proposals. I do not suggest that any one of them should admit for a moment that he has been wrong in the criticisms he has made. None the less, I do appeal to hon. Members, now that the Bill is going to pass to the Statute Book; I do appeal to Indians, now that they see their Constitution being actually set up, to take the opportunities of service to India that are offered to Indians in India, I appeal to the British in India to take the opportunities that are offered to the British in India and that are offered to the British here, and to see that there is a period of political calm in India in which the Bill can be brought into operation with the best possible hope of success. With these words, I beg to move the Third Reading of the Bill, and I hope that my hon. Friends both here and in India will not forget my last appeal.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this Rouse declines to assent to the Third Reading of a Bill which, in its establishment of a new constitution for India, does not contain the means for the realisation of 1723 Dominion status, imposes undue restrictions on the exercise of self-government, fails to make adequate provision for the enfranchisment and representation of the workers, both men and women, and entrenches in the legislatures the forces of wealth, privilege, and reaction.We have before us this afternoon in this Bill, of which the right hon. Gentleman has just moved the Third Reading, the conclusions of the House of Commons upon the Government's proposals, and I think it will be conceded in all parts of the House that the Bill has undergone an exhaustive examination. Every point of substance has been studied, and, having regard to the fact that it has occupied so big a place in our Parliamentary discussions practically since Christmas, we are able to congratulate ourselves upon one fact—that its passage and the manner of its passage have, in one sense, constituted a triumph for our Parliamentary institution. The Bill contains principles and proposals concerning which there are fundamental cleavages of opinion, but, in spite of those fundamental differences, we shall all agree that our discussions have not been characterised at all by any scenes of bitter acrimony. There has been no rancour, no expression of personal animosities whatsoever, but, on the contrary, a dignified discussion befitting the magnitude of the problem presented to us. I think that that is something upon which Parliament may properly congratulate itself and I ought to say—and I am sure the House will be with me when I say it—that in no small degree that fact is due to the Secretary of State himself. It has been my privilege—I use the word "privilege" advisedly—to be associated with the right hon. Gentleman in this matter, withothers of my colleagues in this House, for something like two years. I watched the right hon. Gentleman for something like 19 days undergoing cross-examination at the hands of his colleagues. He answered, I believe, 6,000 questions. I may, perhaps, repeat on this occasion what I said in respect of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, quoting from Oliver Goldsmith:And still they gazed, and still the wonder grewThat one small head could carry all he knew.He conducted himself with considerable credit to himself and to us as a House, and we are grateful to him for having 1724 assisted us in the passage of the Bill itself through the House. I am sure, too, that he will be cordially with me in offering our thanks to his colleagues on the Ministerial bench, as well as to those officers of the House and of the Government who helped us in our discussions in an official capacity. I am sorry that I was not here when the right hon. Gentleman began his speech, but I understand that he was kind enough to offer congratulations and thanks to the Opposition. I am obliged to him for that, and I think he will agree with me that throughout these discussions we have offered no obstruction, because we have felt that the time for discussion was passing, and that the time for decision was at hand. Throughout our discussions we have always taken the view that the Indian people were entitled to know as speedily as possible what the future had in store for them.
In order to argue the case for my Amendment this afternoon, I might perhaps start from agreed ground. I think it will be agreed that we do not differ in regard to every detail of this Bill—neither we, nor, indeed, the Opposition of the right, if I may call it so. Even those who are associated with the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) agree that some progress must be made from the 1919 Act position. It is true, I think, that some of the die-hards look back with longing eyes to the halcyon days of pre-1919, but they are realist enough to know that you cannot turn the mill with water that has passed; you have got to move forward in accordance with the demands of the times, and, therefore, as I understand it, they have conceded the proposition that provincial autonomy is a step which ought to be taken, subject, of course, to a major reservation in respect of law and order. We, on our part, visualise a scheme of self-government in which the Indian people are in full enjoyment of the status of equality with the other Dominions of the Empire.
As opposed to those propositions, the Government have proceeded with the scheme embodied in this Bill, and I venture, therefore, to approach the four main criticisms which we advance against this scheme. It is not possible, as my hon. Friends in all parts of the House will agree, to deal with the multitudinous details contained in the Bill. We must deal with broad principles this afternoon, and 1725 I shall apply myself to the four propositions contained in our Motion. I do not believe that anyone in this House can controvert those four main propositions. They cannot deny the propositions. They may excuse them, but that the propositions are true, I am abundantly satisfied. I will take them, if I may, in the inverse order of their citation on the Order Paper. The last proposition which we put forward is that the Billentrenches in the legislatures the forces of wealth, privilege and reaction.Let me take the first proposition—the entrenchment of wealth, privilege and reaction. Here I come, I think, to the central feature around which our main disputes have gathered. It is the question of Federation. When we discussed this matter first of all, I candidly confess that I took the view, which I still do, that the principle of seeking to establish Federation in India is a right and sound principle. It is right to seek to unify India. It is right that that vast subcontinent should speak as speedily as possible with one voice. If nationalism is justifiable anywhere, it is justifiable in India. India to-day, however, is a congeries of States and Provinces. No Indian is entitled to speak in behalf of that assembly of States and Provinces. No one is clothed with authority to say, I speak on behalf of India. I represent its enfranchised will." There must, therefore, sooner or later, be a Federated unit in India, and when 'the Princes' declaration of 1929 was made, it was felt on all hands that a new element had come into the situation. I, for my part, agree that that element was present. But I do not stop to inquire why the Princes' declaration was made in 1929, in a somewhat hasty fashion, as it was. Undoubtedly they had certain fears, they entertained certain apprehensions as to what was happening in British India, or what might happen in the early future, but anyhow the situation was transformed; and here I bring my main criticism against the Government.
How did the Government use the Princes' declaration? How is it used in this very Bill which we are now called upon to discuss? Instead of permitting the Princes to join the Federation without prejudicing the future progress of British India, the Government have proceeded to safeguard the Princes—to make 1726 British India join the Federation without prejudicing the Princes. The single thought which has dominated the mind of the Government has been how to protect the Princes, and not how to protect British India. It is a typical Conservative approach, and I do not complain of that; but it is not an approach, in my judgment, which is calculated to remove the fears and apprehensions and to meet the aspirations of the Indian people. Instead of safeguarding political progress, the Government have safeguarded political reaction. I agree that some Princes —I have never denied it—can disclose within the borders of the territories over which they reign elements of progress that should make even British India blush and glow with shame, but those are exceptions. In the main, taking the Princes as a whole, everyone knows that they represent a regime, a form of government, which is certainly not democratic. When, therefore, we seek to placate the Princes to the exclusion of the aspirations and ideals of British India, we are, in my judgement, laying ourselves open to the charge that is propounded in our Amendment, namely, the safeguarding of privilege.
Let me now carry the argument a step further. The Princes come into the Federation on their own terms, and the terms are to be stated through the medium of an instrument called the Instrument of Accession. It is impossible, and it will be impossible for any future government, to permit any constitutional change to take place in India except with the assent of the Princes thereto, because, the moment that any change of a constitutional kind takes place, at that moment each Prince will be entitled to say, "I never entered the Federation on those terms, and I am absolved, therefore, from the Instrument under which I came in."You can, of course, say to the Prince who objects," Why stand in the path of progress; why not concede something to the conditions of the time? "But he will be entitled to reply to you in the words of "The Merchant of Venice":Is it so nominated in the bond?He will call attention to his bond, and he will be able to charge you not to move one step further, because, if you do, you will thereby break the Instrument of Accession and the agreement with him that is implied therein. If, on the other 1727 hand, you say to him, "If you stand in the path of progress, if you oppose progressive legislation you are likely to create trouble," he will be entitled to say:My deeds upon my head! I crave the law,The penalty and forfeit of my bond.I am not overstating the facts, for, when His Highness the Maharaja of Patiala spoke some time ago on this matter, he took good care to warn the Government that he and his fellow Princes were not going to be compelled to wear what he called the Nessus shirt of discredited political theory. What did he mean? He is going to have no democracy; he is going to have no Government progress in that department; he is going to insist that his autocracy shall remain inviolate and inviolable. I say to the right hon. Gentleman that, if that statement of the case is true, then our proposal that in this Federation the Government have entrenched privilege has been abundantly proved.
Let me take the next point. How do they set up their Federation? Take the Legislative Assembly. There, in the Legislative Assembly at the Centre—I am speaking of the Centre for the moment—we have 375 representatives, and, of those 375 representatives, there are 125 representatives of the autocratic Princes. Let me put a parallel to the House. Suppose that this House were fairly evenly balanced as between the parties—we are 615 normally—and suppose that, in that fairly balanced condition of the parties, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) controlled 125 votes. Does any one suppose that we should have seen this Bill? Or, if we had seen it, I wonder what the answer of the right hon. Gentleman would be to this question: Would he have turned it out if he had that power? I wonder what his answer to that question is. Perhaps we shall get it to-morrow night.
§ Mr. JONES
It is easy to say "Certainly" now, but I wonder if he would. Supposing that the right hon. Gentleman had 125 votes, would it be just, 1728 would it be fair, for 125 people to exercise complete dominion over the wellbeing and the future constitutional and political development of a people 6,000 miles away? It would be hard, but it would be in accordance with Parliamentary practice here. But in the Indian Legislative Assembly there are 375 representatives, and, of the 375, 125 are nominees of individual Rulers, acting as one solid block, who are going to take good care that nothing in the nature of progress shall be registered whatsoever. Is not that the entrenchment of privilege? But that is not all. Take the Council of Action—[Laughter.] It is a mere misnomer I should have said, "The Council of Inaction." [An HON. MEMBER "It is the same thing!"] Let me take the Council of State, which has 260 Members including 104 representing the Princes. The Secretary of State says: "Why not?" I do not deny that the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to argue in its favour, but I am arguing in favour of the proposition that there is entrenchment of privilege. It cannot be denied that the effect of this instrument will be that progress in India will be utterly impossible except with the good will of this body of people, who represent only autocratic individuals.
I turn now to the point that not only is privilege established for the Princes at the Centre, but there is the establishment of privilege and wealth in the Provincial organisations. The right hon. Gentleman will not deny that he has established, in regard to a certain number of Provinces, second chambers, for which Indian opinion did not ask, and, indeed, the last Amendment of his which was accepted added one further second chamber to the list which he himself thought desirable. Who ever heard of second chambers as being other than the repositories of wealth and privilege? That is not all. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) will bear me out when I say that, in the course of the discussions of the Joint Select Committee, and in the course of its Report, not only did we establish second chambers, but we made the second chambers indissoluble; they too are inviolate. I have at my disposal a quotation from an article by the right hon. Gentleman which appeared in the "Daily Telegraph" on 1729 the 3rd December, 1934, in which he refers to that very fact in these terms:If we let slip the opportunity it may riot recur; it certainly will not return in so favourable a form. In all that concerns us most, the interests of the Princes of India are the same as ours. Their attachment to the person of the King-Emperor and to the Empire has been proved again and again. The presence of their representatives in the two Chambers of the Legislative will be a conservative and stabilising element, which will be further fortified by the recommendations of the Joint Committee in regard to the method of election of the two Chambers and the indissolubility of the Upper House.
§ Mr. JONES
Whenever I quote the right hon. Gentleman, I always quote him with his approval, and I am so glad to find that that is the case. There is a plain indication—for all of us can read between the lines—that this Constitution was drafted not so much to suit the needs of India, but in order to suit the dictates of the Conservative party in this country.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Member began by saying that I would correct him if he went wrong. His quotation was accurate and in good sense; his inference was inaccurate and, I think, not so sound sense.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not want to be discourteous to the hon. Member, and I do not think that he suspects me of it, but he did say that I would correct him if he went wrong. If I had sat silent, I should have condoned the misinterpretation which he gave to my words.
§ Mr. JONES
We will leave it at that. The second point of my indictment is the under-representation of the workers of India. Here, again, I am fortified not with any deduction of my own, but with 1730 an actual appeal to the details presented in the Bill. Hon. Gentlemen may perhaps have before them the proposals —I think they will find them in pages 299 and 300 of the Bill—with regard to the Central Legislature, the Council of State and the Assembly. This is the Government's conception of fairness in the matter of representation. There are to be, in the Federal Assembly in India, 10 representatives of labour, and Europeans alone—and I believe that the population of Europeans is round about 70,000—get eight. In addition to that the representatives of commerce and industry get 11. Surely, Europeans have something approaching dual representation there. Are not the Europeans entitled to representation on the commercial side? Why is it, in any case, that commerce and industry are entitled to more seats than the workers? Have they a bigger stake in the country? Is it assumed that the workers have no right to protect themselves? Where in all the world have the workers been adequately protected unless they had the instrument with which to protect themselves? Even in our own country, they were not able to protect themselves adequately until they had political power, and they will not in India either, until they have a larger measure of representation in the instruments of constitutional authority in the land. And the Council of State is eloquent of the Government's sense of fairness. Not a single Labour representative. I am not arguing for a Council of State, but the Government have insisted upon having one, and, that being so, they tell us that Labour is not entitled even to one representative. They could not give less.
The same thing applies to the Provincial Assemblies. In the Provinces labour is entitled, in the aggregate, to some 38 seats, landholders have 37, and representatives of commerce, industry, mining and planting have 56. Let the House here realise that the workers are specially hit, because the Government supporters and the Government themselves have now insisted upon the method of indirect election as the form of election, and, that being so, the smaller the strength of labour in the Provinces, the smaller their chance of reflecting their strength in the Central Assembly. I say, therefore, that I am entitled to argue that my second proposition is amply justified.
1731 I come now to the third point, which is the restrictions on the exercise of self-government. I will not take them in detail. I have already expressed on behalf of my hon. Friends, and others have too, what we feel concerning the reservation about defence. Because Indian people have no control and there is not at the moment an adequate supply of Indian people to officer the Army, we have urged that the findings of the Rawlinson Committee that 30 years shall be taken as the definite period of the Indianisation of the Army. We have urged that, because we feel that at this moment it is impossible to do otherwise. I do not press that further; I merely restate the proposition. But in regard to finance, which is vital to the future of India, the more public money you spend upon defence services, the less there is for the social services. When you say to the Indian people "You have no right to a voice in determining how much shall be spent upon the armed forces," you thereby by implication tell them that neithershall they have an adequate voice in determining how much shall be spent on the social services. We deplore the inadequate share of control of the Indian people over the problem of finance. The safeguards both at the Centre in the hands of the Governor-General and of the Governor are, in our judgment, a little too sweeping. In point of fact, I am not overstating it, I think, when I say that we have bound the Indian- Legislatures hand and foot. We have even given power to the Governor-General and the Governor to gag the Indian Speakers. The Governor-General has the power to stop a Bill from being introduced, the power to stop it in its passage, and the power to withhold his consent when it is passed, and that is called, in the terminology of the Government, self-government for the Indian people.
I want to say to the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Gentlemen opposite just this. I know that they argue that the Indian people are not fit for self-government. I ask them: Will they just look over the borders from British India into the States. They are very careful and anxious that the States shall he independent, and that they shall have complete self-government, though, of course, it would have to be government by autocratic Princes. Those States are officered 1732 almost exclusively by Indians. Indians are discharging the function of Government there with extraordinary efficiency, subject, of course, to the over-riding decision of their Ruler. Is, therefore, the capacity to govern a matter of latitude or of longitude? Is it a question of geography? By what right do we argue that an Indian is fit to govern if he is within the boundary of the States, and yet, if he steps a few yards away over the boundary into British India, he is at once told, "You cannot drink from the waters from which we drink. You cannot sit at the table at which we sit, and you cannot enjoy the freedom that we enjoy." You insist that Indian people shall be subject to safeguards that are intolerable in the modern world. If my memory does not play me false, we have the additional fact that it is open to the Governor-General, or indeed to the Secretary of State for that matter, to insist that any Bill shall be suspended from operation for 12 months. We talk about the American Constitution, but nothing in the American Constitution can be more deleterious or invade the rights of a Parliament more than some of the provisions embodied in this Bill.
Lastly, there is the question of what the right hon. Gentleman called Dominion status. I must be forgiven if I speak pretty strongly upon this point. Why do the Government hesitate to put the necessary words into this Bill? Why have they contented themselves with embodying the Preamble to another Bill and which transferred into this Bill means little or nothing. By what right do the Government prevaricate in this matter? Let me, even at the risk of boring the House, once again call attention to the explicit declarations made by responsible people upon this matter. I take the Prime Minister. He used to flatter himself that he was the exponent of ideals concerning Indian Government when he was among us. But on this Bill he has been as silent as a trappist monk, though at the head of this Government. We have not had one word from the Prime Minister. He would never have dreamed of allowing a Labour Government to proceed with an Indian Bill without a word from him, but on this matter he has been absolutely suppressed, muzzled. [Interruption.] Oh, yes, and I can quite understand it.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I must not permit the hon. Member to say this. It is not the 1733 case at all. The Prime Minister has followed with the greatest interest all these discussions and has approved of everything.
§ Mr. JONES
I see, we are not following in the footsteps of the previous Government. Let me read what the right hon. Gentleman has said:Pledge after pledge had been given to India that British Raj was there not for perpetual domination. Why did we put facilities for education at your disposal? Why did we put in your hands test-books from which we draw political inspiration? If we meant that the people of India should for ever be silent and negative, sub-ordinated to our rule, why have our Queens and our Kings given you pledges? Why has our Parliament given you pledges? …Finally, I hope, and I trust, and I pray— —and he is still praying as far as I can see—that by our labours together India twill come to possess the only thing which she now lacks, to give her the status of a Dominion amongst the British Coommon wealth of Nations—what she now lacks for that—the responsibilities and the cares, the lindens, and the difficulties, but the pride and the honour of responsible self- government.The Government have put into the Bill the Preamble, but that Preamble is not enough. To insist upon that Preamble alone is, in my judgment, deliberately breaking the pledges given by responsible people on behalf of the Government.
Now I come to the Leader of the Conservative party, the present Lord President of the Council. On the 7th November, 1929, he said in this House:Surely no one dreams of a self-governing India with an inferior status. No Indian would dream of an India with an inferior status, nor can we wish that India should be content with an inferior status, because that would mean that we had failed in our work in india"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th November, 1929; col. 1312, Vol. 231.]
§ Mr. JONES
Yes. And that is a declaration by the Lord President of the Council. I will give a third quotation, made in the lifetime of this Government. The Secretary of State for India is very 1734 worried about that point. The quotation is from His Excellency the Viceroy in a speech made to the Madras Trades Association on the 14th December, 1933:Every action I have taken has been for one purpose only—to secure a satisfactory and peaceful atmosphere and to push forward constitutional reforms in order to help forward India to the goal of absolute equality with the other Dominions within the Empire—the goal for which I have worked ever since I was associated with India.I have applied myself to the four propositions in our Resolution. I have adduced as the best I could arguments and facts in support of our proposition, and I must ask the Government not to allow the Bill to go through all its stages without speaking in explicit language their intentions. The Attorney-General the other night used a new and fashionable phrase: "Its due place." What does "its due place" mean? One man may explain it one way and another may explain it another way. It is this intolerable habit of using language capable of two interpretations that has created so much disharmony in India in the past.
§ Sir S. HOARE
May I remind the hon. Member that on the Second Reading, with the full approval of the Government, I made a statement which seemed to me to be as explicit as any statement could be on the subject. The hon. Member has made quotations from a good many other speeches but he has failed to allude to the governing statement, namely, the statement made on the Second Reading.
§ Mr. JONES
I can only say that have studied all these declarations one by one and the inevitable conelusion that I have reached is that the Government speak in language which seems to give comfort to some of their supporters but which at the same time creates, perhaps unwittingly, a sense of discontent and mistrust in the minds of the Indian people. Apropos of that dangerous habit, let me quote from what was a confidential memorandum of those days, written by the then Lord Lytton when he was Viceroy of India in 1878. He said:We all know that these expectations never can, or will, be fulfilled. We have had to choose between prohibiting them and cheating them; we have chosen the, least straightforward course. Since I am writing confidentially, I do not hesitate to say that both the Governments of England and of India, appear to me, up to the present moment, unable to answer satisfac- 1735 torily the charge of having taken every means in their power of breaking to the heart the words of promise they have uttered to the ear.So far as we are concerned, much as we would like it to be otherwise, we must take the course outlined in our Motion. I should have rejoiced if it had been possible for me to give a hearty and enthusiastic vote for the Government's proposal. If we were giving to the Indian people some chance, some hope, of self-government I should feel that I need have no qualms of conscience in giving a vote for the Government, but I have no such satisfaction. Indeed, I am sure of this—I do not venture into the realm of prophecy as a rule—that this proposal that we are parting company with this week will create for another generation problems not unlike those we have met with in other parts of the Empire. I want the Indian people to have a larger share in determining their own future, and if my voice could reach them on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends I would say this to them, that though they may be grievously disappointed and dismayed let not their dismay overcome them, let them keep alight the lamp of hope and preserve among themselves the spirit of toleration, for without toleration the lamp of liberty itself will burn low, and with that spirit of toleration with each other in religious differences, with united hearts and relentless minds let them press forward until the day comes when they can enter into the larger liberty.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
The Secretary of State in his speech to-day gave the House some interesting and most formidable statistics of the number of reports that have been issued and the number of pages occupied by the speeches that have been delivered in the Debates on this Bill. He said that if they were all collected together those speeches would make 20 volumes of the size of the authorised version of the Bible; but there is no fundamentalist so orthodox as to claim forthem an equal inspiration. Indeed, it is a most saddening thought to consider how numerous and how lengthy have been the speeches that have been delivered in Parliament on this subject. Certainly it is not for me to detain the House for more than a very 1736 short time for we on these benches find ourselves in general agreement with the Government and our views on the Bill have been substantially stated by the Secretary of State.
With regard to the criticisms of the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) I would not venture to follow him point by point, but I would only mention one of his comments which seems to me open to a very obvious reply. He said that excessive authority was extended by this Bill to the Princes and that under the new Constitution they would be able undoubtedly to control the whole of the politics of India. He said that each one of the reigning Princes would be able when any new question came up to say: "Is this written in the bond?" and to insist strictly upon the large powers conferred upon him in the Bill. My hon. Friend surely remembers that there are bonds already in existence and that we are not starting as a Parliament with a tabula rasa, on which we can write what we like. There are ancient Treaties which cannot be repudiated. The Princes, if they had wished, might have said: "We stand upon our existing bond, and we decline to come into this Constitution in any way." They have wisely, in my view, taken the longer aspect of the whole situation. They have taken a course which at one time was: unexpected and have come into the Federation to play their full part. Necessarily, therefore, they are entitled to see that such constitutional arrangements as are now established are not in direct conflict with the Treaties which have been made with the British Crown, upon which they are fully entitled to rely and which this Parliament must necessarily honour.
As to the other points of criticism by the hon. Member, he has pointed out some of the defects of the Bill, and in our view some of them undoubtedly are defects. The hon. Member has made the most of those defects, and even more than the most. He reminds me of the speaker who said: "It is difficult to exaggerate the defects of this Measure, but I will do my best." For our part, we consider that the Bill is the greatest common measure of agreement that could be obtained at the present time, and for that reason we support it. We see it as the outcome of a very long process of deliberation and consultation, one conference 1737 after another, one committee after another, and we are convinced that no Bill which was greatly more extensive than this or greatly more restricted than this would have commanded a general measure of agreement, and for that reason on the whole we have supported the, Measure.
My hon. Friends on these benches who have taken an active part in these debates, particularly the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot), to whom the House owes much for his participation, and the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) and others have rendered to the full what we undertook to render on the Second Reading, namely, to give a steady and consistent support to the Bill. At that stage, speaking on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I laid emphasis upon two points. One point was what we regarded as a grave defect of the Bill at that time, touching the question of Dominion status. To a considerable extent, the view which we then expressed has been met, though not completely, by the declaration by the Sectary of State on Second Reading, to which he has referred, together with the retention in the legislation now before us of the Preamble of the Act of 1919, which otherwise had been apparently repealed. In addition, the Instrument of Instructions to the Viceroy has gone far to relieve the misgivings that we felt. We only regret that these steps had not been taken at the outset, for if they had been taken a great deal of misapprehension would have been avoided and much opposition to the Bill would perhaps have been obviated.
The second point is one with regard to which no action has been taken in the subsequent stages; that is, with regard to the method of election to the Lower House in the Central Legislature. On Second Reading the hon. Member for Bodmin and myself pleaded with the utmost energy with the Government to remove what we regarded as the chief defect in the Bill as now drafted. In the Committee stage we proposed an Amendment. On the Report stage we brought up the matter again. Our efforts have been wholly unsuccessful, and this great blot upon the Measure still remains. We fear that the retention of indirect election for the Lower House of the Central Legislature may go far to 1738 spoil in its working the whole of this great scheme. After all, this Lower House of the Central Legislature is the very centre of the whole constitutional structure which is now being erected. Unless that body by its character and composition commands the confidence of the Indian people and is accepted by them as truly representative, this new Constitution will have a very limited value.
I feel sure that the country still does not realise precisely what is the form of election which has been established by this Bill. Suppose each of us owed our places, not to the votes of some tens of thousands of electors, but to five, six, seven or eight county councillors sitting in a room, by whose votes each of us had been selected, what claim could this Chamber make to the confidence of the people or to be of any representative character? Yet that is precisely what is now embodied in the Bill. Small groups of members of the Provincial Legislatures are to meet together and in private are to select individual persons who will be the members of the Central Legislature. Has there ever been in any constitution established in any country in the world such a method of election as that?
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
The Cabinet is an entirely different matter, but even there it does not apply, for what sort of a Cabinet should we make, and what unity should we achieve in that Cabinet, if the 20 Members were to be elected by groups of 30 Members in the House of Commons? In any case, the comparison between an Assembly which is supposed to be representative of the people and an executive which is supposed to be representative of a Chamber is wholly irrelevant. The effect of this method will be undoubtedly to provincialise the Central Legislature, to give overwhelming power to provincial considerations in all the deliberations of the central body, which runs counter to the very principle of an all-India Constitution. Secondly, it will gravely hamper the Viceroy whenever he finds himself in conflict with the Legislature. He will be unable to dissolve that Assembly, although he has constitutionally the right to do so, because a new election would be merely a form. A member would be referred back to the seven, eight or nine 1739 individuals who had sent him to the House before. There would be no opportunity for evoking any movement of public opinion, and the same members would necessarily return without difficulty, without trouble and without expense to form once more the same Chamber as that which had disagreed with the Viceroy.
We see in France and the United States of America grave difficulties arising in their political systems which can be directly and clearly attributed to the fact that there is no such power as we have here of insisting on dissolving a Chamber when the Executive finds itself in conflict with the legislative body. The continual changes of government in France, and the indirect influence which has to be attempted to be used by the President of the United States in America., are due to the fact that their constitutions do give an almost absolute security of tenure during a period of years to the representative body. In effect, this is what we are going to do now in India. We are going to transfer to India the obvious error which is enshrined in the written constitutions of those two countries, instead of giving them the salutary advantage of the British system, which does in the event of conflict render any dissolution of Parliament at any time possible and effective. In addition, this method which is now embodied in the Bill will destroy an electorate of millions of voters who have for the last 14 years exercised the franchise for election to the Lower House of the Central Legislature, a system which the Joint Select Committee after investigation declared to have worked not unsatisfactorily.
The Government have rejected the unanimous advice of the Committee which was sent out to India to investigate these matters. The Lothian Committee unanimously reported in favour of direct election, and the Under-Secretary of State for India himself was at that time a signatory to that report. They have rejected the advice given by all sections of opinion in India, for no one has disputed the assertion we have made here repeatedly, that every section of opinion in India, both Indian and European, is in favour of direct election. The Government have rejected the advice of the Government of India itself who, in a considered despatch written in connection 1740 with the Round Table Conference, said that on the whole they preferred direct election. They have rejected the almost unanimous advice of the Indian delegation who came here at the invitation of the Government to co-operate with the Joint Select Committee. All this has been done because the Joint Select Committee by a majority, for reasons which seemed good to them, declared in favour of indirect election. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) and the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) must bear a grave responsibility in this matter, for it is because they and a few other members of the Select Committee threw their weight in favour of indirect election that this change was made from the original proposal of the Government. For these reasons, we consider that this is a most grave error that has been committed in this Bill, and we would still urge that in another place, when the Measure is passingthrough its final stages, the matter may be considered yet again.
These are the only points I have to make with regard to the provisions of the Bill. Many have contributed in this House to these Debates, and made the most valuable contributions. Outstanding among them are, of course, the Secretary of State and my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). The patience, the courtesy, the knowledge and the steadfastness of the Secretary of State has won all praise, and there is no one but must admire the persistence, the resource and the brilliance of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
Every subject which comes before this House is an opportunity for his wit and humour and irony, but it needs a great theme such as this to give full scope to his powers of eloquence. This subject, which deals with thousands of miles, millions of people, and centuries of history, with vast responsibilities and grave perils, provide all the raw materials for oratory, and the greatest of our Parliamentary orators of the present day has had a happy time in the Debates on this Bill. Some of us are disposed to think that my right hon. Friend is sometimes led astray by his 1741 opportunities. He thinks of his peroration first and fits his policy in afterwards. I sometimes think that he has many of the characteristics of another famous and eminent Parliamentary figure, Charles James Fox.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
He has the same industry and persistence. Fox once said that during two sessions of Parliament he had spoken in the House on every night but one. In these weaker and less tolerant days that would not be possible, but my right hon. Friend's persistence during these Debates is almost worthy of a comparison with the records of Fox. Apart from that, in fertility of thought, in power of exposition and in charm of personality he does recall Charles James Fox—finally and more conspicuously in a strange unreliability of judgment on the fundamental issues of politics. We have seen that in this Bill. Carlyle said:Have a false opinion, and tell it with the tongue of Angels, what will that profit? The better you tell it, the worse it will be.So it has been with- this Bill.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I should be sorry to be obliged to accept all the inconsistencies of Charles James Fox. When the right hon. Gentleman speaks in this Debate, or other Debates, the House always crowds in to hear him. It listens and admires. It laughs when he would have it laugh, and it trembles when he would have it tremble—which is very frequently in these days; but it remains unconvinced, and in the end it votes against him. And so the Bill has survived all his attacks. The frequent Amendments, the repeated Motions to report Progress, the claims of breach of Privilege, the attempts to sow dissension India and among the Conservative associations in Great Britain—all this at the end has come to nothing, and now my right hon. Friend has less support in Parliament And in the country than he had at the beginning. [Interruption.] We shall see what will be the outcome to-morrow evening. No doubt there will be the same unholy alliance as there was in the Lobby on the Second Reading between ultra-Tories and Socialists—between those who would die 1742 hard and those who would live dangerously. The outcome, nevertheless, will probably be a majority on Third Reading as large as, if not larger than, on Second Reading.
This Measure is now passing through its final days. Let it leave the House of Commons and go to the Indian people with a message that it comes from us as a sign, as an earnest, of good will. We know that in the long history of the connection between Britain and India there have been committed on this side many great errors, yet all the time the people of this country have regarded the government of India as a trust, and regard it so now more than ever. The days are past when that quarter of the earth which is painted red on the map was called "the British Possessions." We no longer speak of "British Possessions." We are even sometimes chary of using the words "British Empire," and prefer the words "British Commonwealth of Nations." Since the Statute of Westminster was passed that has been Publicly proclaimed in due constitutional form to the whole world. This Measure is framed in the spirit which underlies the Statute of Westminster, and is a sincere attempt to extend as far as present conditions make possible the idea that the British Commonwealth of Nations is indeed a trust of which we are only one of the principal trustees.
The recent celebrations of His Majesty's Silver Jubilee have recalled to those of us who are old enough to remember them the celebrations of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, which was the culminating point of the Victorian era. At that time the country took an intense pride in the progress, tranquillity, and the apparent contentment of India, and yet only a few years later we found a great change in what we believed to be the attitude of large parts of the Indian people towards this country and its administration. Owing to causes partly economic but more to what may be called questions of a spiritual nature, status and self respect, there grew up rapidly, and unexpectedly to many in this country, a very large degree of antagonism. The commercial boycott, the civil disobedience movement, which only just fell short of armed revolt, but happily did not extend to that, indicated as clearly as anything could indicate the 1743 dissatisfaction of the Indian people with the existing regime; and let me add that It is precisely because the trouble did not extend to armed revolt that we consider that the Indian nationalist movement is entitled in this House to the fullest and most sympathetic consideration.
There followed during that period the Morley-Minto reforms, and then the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, in an endeavour to meet the situation which had arisen; and now we have these further reforms, which are not called by the name of any statesman or viceroy, not even by the name of the Secretary of State although he is entitled to more of the credit than any one man. The reason is that these new measures of reform are the outcome of a great process, in which individuals have taken part but which are the consequence of whole movements, the expression of great bodies of opinion; and individuals however eminent have been absorbed in these movements. This measure has been fashioned and welded by vast and powerful forces, and, therefore, is likely to be stronger than those which have preceded it. The restrictions which it embodies in our view go somewhat too far. If we had to choose between the criticism from the point of view of the Labour benches and the criticism from the point of view of the right hon. Member for Epping and his friends, we should be more disposed to concur that the criticism from hon. Members above the Gangway has the greater validity. We recognise that, yet we ask the statesmen and politicians and the people of India not to be too restive under the limitations which have been imposed. We assure them that they are due not to any feeling in this Parliament that we are grasping to retain a power which we are reluctant to surrender owing to some habit of domination; they are included only because of a genuine spirit of caution and some doubt as to the assurance of the successful working of these measures.
The tasks of government are very difficult. To a student in an Indian university it may seem that it is a simple matter, that all you need is to adopt certain broad principles and then proceed to apply them in a spirit of uncompromising determination. All history shows that it is easy to make mistakes in government and that with the best intentions 1744 these mistakes may bring disaster to vast numbers of people. If this Measure does not succeed in the working it cannot endure. It will be swept away, not merely with the consent but on the demand of the Indian people themselves, and the outcome then would be not snore democracy but less. That is why we who are Liberals appeal to the Indian people not to resent too greatly these safeguards, but to remember that if the Constitution works smoothly none of them will need to be applied. All friends of India therefore will appeal to the Indian people to send to work this Consitution the best men they have, the men of the finest character and their most brilliant intellects. The British Parliament to-day says to the Indian nation: "Take this Bill. We have worked at it and shaped it as well as we could. We know that you think it is inadequate, yet accept it for what it is, make the best out of it, and, if the results justify it, at no distant date this Parliament, gladly and readily, will co-operate with you to enlarge the bounds of freedom wider yet."
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Brigadier General Sir HENRY CROFT
I feel that it is a privilege to be allowed on behalf of my friends and myself this afternoon to record once more our views upon these reforms. We have listened to two speeches from the Leaders of the two Oppositions, both of whom are running down the stream along with the Government, one a little ahead of the other, but we believe that to-morrow will record that our opposition is more numerous than the other two oppositions combined. Whether that be so or not, we desire to take this occasion to say that we are grateful to the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) for a speech in which he has clearly proved a grave blot which exists in the Bill—which yet he is going to support—in the electoral arrangements which are so repulsive to the Liberal party, and for his glowing tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). We have the solemn duty to-morrow of casting our votes for or against this Measure involving the fate of 350,000,000 human beings. It is probably the most decisive vote that this House has had to take since the fateful days of 1914, and I can assure hon. Members that we shall 1745 cast our vote with a full sense of our responsibility.
I am not going to follow the Secretary of State into his rather confused zoological reasoning, when we learned that a mare's nest has something to do with the emu and the goose. All I can say is that every single mare's nest alleged to have been produced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping has had a good fat egg in it, whether it was the alleged mare's nest of the question of Lancashire trade, how the Princes were standing, or the position of the Civil Service in India. I have no wish to pursue these zoological similes; and I hope that I shall be pardoned if I do not refer to the Socialist Amendment for more than a few moments. The Amendment, I think, is rather ungrateful when we remember the origin of the Bill; and, further, we are entitled to say that the Measure goes further than anything which was suggested by the late Socialist Government. The production of the Socialist Amendment is only because hon. Members of the Opposition feel that they must oppose, and it is a piece of political opportunism which it will be hard to justify in the days to come.
The Secretary of State made an appeal to all sections of the House that if the Bill goes through we should endeavour to make the task of the British Government easy. We still have great faith in another place, and nothing is certain in political life. We hope that the Measure may never reach the Statute Book, but at the same time it is unnecessary to assure the Government and the country that if it becomes the law of the land we are sufficient patriots to do everything in our power to make it work well and to see that no difficulties are placed in the way of the Government. We have received every courtesy from His Majesty's Government, but we are under no delusions at all. On no single main principle have the views which we have put forward from a Conservative angle been met. The anxieties which were expressed by 48 per cent. of the delegates on the last occasion when the great Conservative Conference met at Bristol have been in no way allayed by anything that has happened. All our instincts and traditions, our political faith which we learned at the feet of our political leaders, have told us that we must resist this Measure, and in the course of the 1746 discussions on the vital points in the Bill we feel that in no single case has our point of view been shaken. We believe that our decision is absolutely right. No shred of evidence has been adduced during all our long discussions which justifies the abandonment of British rule in India.
When it was decided to throw over the "step by step" policy of the 1919 Act and transfer at one stroke the government of our Eastern Empire into Indian hands I have no doubt that the authors of these reforms sincerely believed that they were offering a government to India which would be acceptable to those who have persistently agitated for the elimination of the British Raj. They have yet to learn the truth of the saying that he who runs away and retreats in the East, far from placating his enemies, disheartens his loyal friends and multiplies his enemies one hundredfold. Even the parent of these reforms, a consistent and lifelong advocate of retreat from Empire, after he had foisted his offspring and put it into the hands of his Conservative nurses, must have had a rude shock when he found that all the vocal forces in India rejected his democratic advances. It was no mean achievement of the Prime Minister to get 12 erstwhile Socialists into this House and then, like some Eastern snake charmer, to have hypnotised 370 Conservatives into tearing up all their Imperial perorations and join him in the flight from India. The Lord Chancellor, what a poetic speech he made, when he said: "India is thirsty. India is calling, you have put the cup to her lips, do not delay her drinking it." Sad to relate, India regards the cup as poison, and now in the sacred name of democracy we come to this House and have to indulge in forcible feeding, if the draught is to be swallowed at all. So much for the Socialist urge which has been behind this Conservative policy. Since we have passed under the spell of the Prime Minister no single reason, no single excuse, has been offered as to why we should indulge in this great gamble with the fate of India.
The Measure could only be justified on one of the following grounds: First of all if British rule had failed or if our administration had broken down. But there is not a word of that in any of the records of the grand inquests which have been held in the past few years. 1747 The reverse is true. The Statutory Commission, the White Paper, the Joint Select Committee, all paid the highest tributes to the purity, the efficiency and the undoubted success of our British servants in India, and to the majestic structure of which they have been the creators and maintainers. Therefore we cannot say that it can be due to a breakdown from this end. Secondly, we have the possibility of being able to justify ourselves if the Measure satisfies the aspirations and desires of the Indian people. But 90 per cent. of the people of India appear to be quite indifferent to these reforms, and of the small balance of politically-minded I think it is true to say that every section of them has condemned the scheme—Congress, the dominant force in India and in future it is to be the only force, make no mistake about it; the Indian moderates, of whom we have heard so much even to-day, represented by the National Liberal Federation; and organised labour, although it is only in its infancy, represented by the Trade Union Congress in India. All have rejected this scheme. Even the Princes, whose ardent desire to enter the Federation was used as the main argument to cajole the Council of the National Unionist Association at the Queen's Hall, within a few weeks of that very important meeting themselves met in India and unanimously decided that the Bill as it had emerged could not be regarded as acceptable to the Indian States.
These are striking facts, and, despite any optimistic statement to the contrary, it is a fact that the Princes have never since met, much less reversed their unanimous decision. After all, why should the Princes take any other course when they remember the solemn pledge of successive King-Emperors to maintain their privileges, rights and dignities inviolate and inviolable—why should they enter the suicide club at Delhi, where they will find that their rule will be undermined and swamped and ultimately submerged by those who have made no secret of their determination to throw off any connection with Great Britain? Even the British civil servants in India, who were so wrongly claimed to have been overwhelmingly in favour of these reforms, have now proved to have unanimous fears that "Dangerous and arduous 1748 as has been their work in the past it will be doubly so in the future," and that "for many years there will be a large and powerful element both in the Legislature and outside it which will be hostile to the services and vindictive to individuals by every means in its power." No man dare say to-day that India wants this Bill, and His Majesty's Government are so well aware of that fact that in spite of the Liberalism which oozes from the pores of so many skins on the Front Bench continuously, they have positively refused to allow the elected representatives in India to decide whether or not they desire these reforms, which we are going to force them to work.
A third reason why we could be justified in passing this Bill would be if it was going to bring peace and contentment to India, in other words if it was going to provide a settlement, which is what we all want. But the Indian electors by an overwhelming majority at the polls and the votes of the Legislative Assembly, have made it perfectly clear that it will do no such thing. His Majesty's Government—I appeal to the Under-Secretary, who is honouring the House with his presence—may say, in fact we have heard it said, "Ah, but you really must not regard the opinion of the electors of India as a true verdict. They are really not responsible." I think there is a great deal of truth in that. If it be true, what moral right have we to place the fate of one-fifth of the human race in the hands of those who are not to be trusted, who are unfitted and who are irresponsible? We ask that question.
I want to quote one or two witnesses with regard to this particular point of peace and contentment in India. The first witness, Mr. Jinnah, the Moslem Round-Tabler, who was specially invited to give evidence here, said, "It will certainly not bring about good will." Then we have the views of Congress, which are so well known to hon. Members that I will not quote them. They are so emphatic and so unparliamentary that perhaps I dare not utter their views in this House. But let me come to what are really important, the Moderates, the Secretary of State's own, if I may so describe them, the bodyguard of the reformers. What did the National Liberal Federation of India say? They met at Poona directly after the Joint Select Committee's Report was published, and they declared that it 1749 was wholly unacceptable to all shades of Indian political opinion; and again on 14th April at Allahabad the Council of the National Liberal Federation unanimously declared:If it is proceeded with in the teeth of British Indian opposition, it will further embitter relations between India and England.That does not look like peaceful settlement. The right hon. Gentleman referred again to the central body of opinion. He said that the reason why the law was functioning now in India was because they were so pleased with the reforms. But those words have proved that these very people themselves condemn the reforms in no uncertain manner.
While the Secretary of State is in the House let me refer to what he asked us a little earlier in the Debate. He said, "What alternative have you to propose?" I think he forgets that the whole basis of his case has all along been that the proposals which he was producing were going to satisfy Indian aspirations. [Interruption.] Was it not to ratify those aspirations that he set all this turmoil going and split his party in half? But, having failed to give any satisfaction to Indians, like a naughty boy who has smashed a window he said, "What would you have done in our case?" We would produce a scheme which would work or none at all. Although with the greatest of reluctance, owing to the gravity of the experiment, we have stated again and again that we were prepared to go so far as Provincial self-government, provided that you retain law and order in each Province until such Province has proved its fitness to handle those great functions of Government. He asked us what would we do? Would he do us the honour of reading Lord Salisbury's suggestion and the proposals which were placed before this country—proposals which, I think, he knows perfectly well. If you will not accept Lord Salisbury's proposals, if you will not even now revert to the Statutory Commission, which after all was the child of a very distinguished member of the Front Bench, who, we understand, is to take a still higher place in this House in the future, if you will not accept their reforms or our reforms, and if India prefers the status quo, I say at the last resort take India at her word and start, for a change, to govern.
The last justification that we can possibly find would be if the Bill satisfied 1750 us that it meant that the welfare of the masses was to be advanced. But no one on the Government Front Bench has ever suggested that the Indian Ryot when you have put him under the heel of the Brahmin or bania or vakeel, is to have his fortune enhanced or his lot improved. No one has had the audacity to stand up and say that. The British partnership with India has not failed or broken down. Indians have clearly made it plain that they do not want these reforms. They will not bring peace or contentment, but a crescendo of agitation, and as far as the lot of the people is concerned it is our belief that when the pax Britannica is removed the very liberty of the people will be threatened.
There are no positive reasons why we should pass this Bill and there are a hundred good reasons why we should reject it. I have only time to refer very briefly to one or two. I beg the House to consider this: What is the curse of India? The immovable obstruction which makes party government as we understand it in this country absolutely impossible, a religious cleavage so deep and so unalterable that every Province will permanently remain under Moslem or Hindu control respectively, and the central Government indisputably under Hindu control for all time. That is if the Princes accede, which is not yet certain, for no less than 70 per cent. of the Princes are of that faith. A change of Government, therefore, either at the Centre or in the Provinces, is unthinkable. The men may change, it is true, but the parties in control will go on for ever and nothing can turn them out. To call that democracy or any semblance thereof is an abuse of the English language, and to deny that you will have minorities in India permanently in subjugation is suggesting what is not true.
What we are proposing to set up under this Measure is the exact opposite of our party system, under which the changing will of the nation is expressed by a change of Government. How can you have peace and contentment in India for the 150,000,000 of persons who will compose the minorities, who can never form a Government, when you are forcing them to pass for all time under the dicta- 1751 tion of majorities with which they have no contact or sympathy, and from whom they have been divided by an age-long feud.
Again, we are scrapping in India the most efficient, benevolent, beneficial, impartial administration ever known in the East for a rule which will be untutored, unripe, lacking in efficiency and undoubtedly partial. Unless the character of the people of India, as we have known it through all the ages changes on the day when the Royal Assent is given to this Measure, you will find that the Government of India under the new arrangement will undoubtedly be mixed up with religious discrimination and favouritism, and, if the reports about municipalities in India which reach us from official sources are correct, also with corruption. Let us never forget that what are vices to us here in the West are frequently regarded as virtues in the East, and that this kind of idea rules transactions of every description, from the purchase of a pound of tea to the running of a great city.
I ask the House to look for a moment to our own homeland—if indeed it is not vulgar to do so in this Genevan age. British trading interests with India have provided in the past a livelihood for not less than 1,000,000 of our people. That trade has been reduced to less than half since we started upon this reforming road, and hence it is, I think, that we have the misery which is admitted to exist in Lancashire to-day. Let this Bill go through with its surrender of British trade interests, and in my belief you will render the textile trade of the County Palatine derelict for all time. There was a time when British statesmen were absolutely determined to preserve fair trade between this country and India. I well remember the great Liberal administration of pre-war days insisting that if India imposed Customs duties upon us she should have to impose excise duties upon her own goods. All parties in this House were determined that there should be mutual free trade between India and this country. What has happened since? First, you abandon the excise and allow India to impose duties of 7 per cent. 11 per cent., 15 per cent., 20 per cent., and, to-day 25 per cent., against British goods while you are giving them free trade.
1752 The Secretary of State mocks us by putting a Clause into his Bill, by which it is suggested that the Governor-General may prevent what are known as penal duties. There is not a Member for a Lancashire constituency—and I see very few of them here to-day—who would deny that the duties of to-day are penal. How will it be possible for the Governor-General in future to declare such duties penal when under the present regime the Secretary of State has permitted such duties to remain in force although under the Fiscal Convention he had power todeal with them as being inimical to the interests of the British Empire. In my opinion this Bill stabilises penal duties against British industries. The Indian peasant will have to continue to use inferior cloth—as he has had to do for the last few years—while Lancashire will continue to suffer in order that the good will of the millionaire mill owners of India may not be ruffled.
In Committee we demanded that there should be reciprocal preference as the basis of our future trade with India under our new deal. We made that demand in view of the fact that India depends upon and can only live under the shelter of the British fleet and arms; that, India has been sustained by British credit and has risen to be one of the greatest trading nations of the world, thanks to British aid, tuition and protection. We claimed, therefore, that we had every right in justice and equity to insist that our future trading arrangements should be on the assumption of a partnership, and that we ought not to consent to a permanent, one-sided, cut-throat policy of high protection against our goods while we were admitting Indian products free. Even in regard to Burma what has recently happened? We have an Indo-Burman trade bargain by which they get free trade but Britain is eliminated. To such a low state have we fallen in our guardianship of British trade! But more than the material side of this question, what of our moral abdication? Dr. Ambedkar, whose name occurred frequently during the debates in Committee, is one of the leaders of the depressed classes and speaking on Jubilee Day he said:From our point of view the conquest of India by the British was a blessing.1753 I present that as a slogan to the Government Front Bench. We propose to remove that blessing, possibly to-morrow.
§ Sir H. CROFT
What hope will the 60,000,000 people of the depressed classes have then? I put that question to my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot). What hope will these people have in India in the future with the passing of the British Raj? What hope is there for them under this Bill? The Prime Minister in his award arranged that there should be direct representation for the depressed classes. Then came Mr. Gandhi, the most astute politician in the whole of India, professing great concern for increased representation for the depressed classes and under the threat that he would "fast unto death" unless his proposals were acceded to, he persuaded certain caste Hindu and Untouchable leaders to agree to the Poona Pact. Under that Pact the depressed classes are allowed to elect directly a panel of four of their number, and those four are then to be submitted to the general electorate, which almost invariably will be overwhelmingly caste Hindus. Is it not clear that Congress controlling the general electorate will be able to pick the one of these four who will be most likely to toe the line at their dictates? In other words, instead of the direct representation which the Prime Minister originally suggested, under Mr. Gandhi's plan the representatives of the depressed classes will be elected by caste Hindus. Whatever happens in this House, I hope that in another place that wrong will be righted.
Then what of the Anglo-Indians, the flotsam and jetsam of British rule? Surely these unhappy people, above all others, deserve our protection—these people whose motherland is India but whose fathers came from Britain. They are to be left, with a negligible representation, under overwhelming majorities who undoubtedly want the jobs and the various occupations which this community by its superior education and constant loyalty to the Crown has won for itself in the past. With your passing from India, in my belief, the hope of the Anglo-Indian dies. What of the 6,000,000 Indian Christians? Are Hindu and Moslem going to facilitate their advance in 1754 status? Why, in the native State of Travancore, where there are more Christians than in any other part of India, one-half have been reduced to the status of a. depressed class for electoral purposes, in order that the Christian vote may not be too great. Is not that going to happen in every other part of India when these reforms are put into operation Can we hope that our co-religionists in India will get their place in the sun?
For 150 years our Christian rule in India, without interfering with the religious life of the Indians has held the scales of justice evenly between the two great conflicting sections and, established our ethics in administration. Now it is proposed, or if it is not proposed it will inevitably happen under this Bill, that the Government is to pass from that influence into the hands of those who insist that religion should dominate politics and whose religion is founded upon the worship of graven images. I do not envy our Bishops and the leaders of the various churches in this country when they realise some years hence that through their apathy India. like Russia has passed from the aegis of their faith.
I would repeat that while we have every reason to resist this Measure, and not to impose these risks upon India, we have heard no single reason advanced by any Minister of the Crown in favour of the Measure save one, to which I now briefly refer. That was the declaration of the Lord President of the Council that if we went forward with these reforms we might hold India, but if we did not, we should lose India. I regret that I did not intimate to the right hon. Gentleman that I was going to mention this matter, but I had assumed that he would be present on this occasion. That sole justification, as will be remembered, carried great weight with the ladies of the Primrose League but I submit that it ought to carry no weight whatever in this Imperial Chamber. If the Lord President at one time thought that these reforms would satisfy Indian aspirations and buy off such discontent as existed in India, he must have been rudely disillusioned in recent months.
I have made it my business to consult every member of the Indian Civil Service, Army or Police with whom I have come 1755 in contact in this country during the last two years. I have asked them the specific question, whether those who advised the Lord President of the Council had any justification for saying that under these reforms, which all Indians apparently reject, we were more likely to hold India than we would be without them? The invariable answer has been that, as long as we retain the judiciary and the police and control the railways, posts and telegraphs, there is no shadow of doubt that we can hold India. On the other hand, if you deprive the Viceroy of the control of the police and of communications and imperil the British position by so doing, then not all the safeguards embodied in this Bill will make it possible for him to work the machine in the event of a breakdown. The advisers of Ministers are not, infallible. Recently the House was gravely shocked because we found that the whole fate of this country was actually imperilled by information in regard to air power which proved absolutely false. I wonder why those who convey wrong information to Ministers of the Crown are not punished.
We beg our leaders to have faith still in this country as a ruling power; to have faith in our mission and our destiny. This great Imperial fabric, built up by the unconquerable will of our fathers; India the finest gift we have given to civilisation; all we are and all we stand for in a harassed world which is looking for strength of purpose—surely all this is not going to be thrown away at the chest of a few sentimentalists without the sanction or wish of our race. I for one feel in my conscience that to adopt any other course but that of voting against this Bill would be wrong. I know that there are loyalties to Governments, loyalties to parties, and loyalties to men and I admire them. There is much that is fine in the tradition of the public schools of backing up the captain of the team all through, even when he puts on the wrong bowlers and loses the match. But this is not a normalpolitical issue. It certainly is not a party game. It involves the happiness or nuisery of the teeming population of a great sub-continent. I, for one, have not the smallest doubt I owe a greater loyalty and a higher duty to the masses of people living in India to-day and still 1756 more to the millions of our fellow-countrymen who died so valiantly to preserve that heritage, one of the foundations of which it is propored to-morrow to destroy.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. PATRICK
The speech to which we have just listened from the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) was as eloquent an exposition of the case for the Opposition as we have heard, and the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr Morgan Jones) put the case of those who oppose the Bill from an opposite angle also with very great force, and I feel that I have a difficult task before me in attempting to meet their arguments. I realise that it is not customary in this House for a Parliamentary Private Secretary to speak on the affairs of his own Department, and my only excuse for attempting to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, this afternoon is that I think that I can claim, with the possible exception of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, that I have sat through more of these long Debates, and listened carefully to them, than any other hon. and right hon. Member of this House. It is solely on that basis that I wish to speak now, and I am no sense echoing the views of the Secretary of State, the Indian Office, or anyone else. I want to give my own conclusions, drawn from the 41 days of debate that have preceded this one. The main point, the underlying principle, of the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth was his fear that by this Bill, which gives more responsibility to the Indian politicians, we are prejudicing the interests of the great masses of India for whom we are responsible. If it were the fact that under this Bill a large majority of the inhabitants of India were going to be worse off than they are at present, I think the Bill would stand condemned out of hand. But my hon. Friends on this side and I do not believe that that will really be the case.
The whole issue is too long to argue in a few minutes, but I should like to draw attention to one aspect of the matter which has hardly been touched on in all these long debates. If there is one point that has been brought out with extreme clearness in these prolonged discussions, it is the very close connection of most 1757 of the present problems in India with Indian religion and religious tradition. The word "religion" in India has much wider implications than it has in this country. Islam, for example, of which I can claim to know something, is not so much a religion in the narrow sense as a whole social code, indeed a civilisation in itself, and although I know much less about Hinduism, I think the same may be said about that also. The problems that have occupied most of our time and given us most trouble are, directly or indirectly, all bound up with Indian religion. There is the communal problem itself, there is the position of the depressed classes, there is the question of the position of women, and there are other questions, not only political and social questions, but questions which touch the realm of economics as well, which are affected by the religious factor. The hon. and gallant Member spoke just now about the hold of the Banya on the rural masses. It is impossible not to trace that condition of things directly to certain religious traditions. Many, if not most, of the problems of India to-day where progress is most needed are, directly or indirectly, bound up with Indian religion.
There is another matter on which there will be general agreement, and that is that in our 150 years' association with India, we have brought direct and conspicuous benefit to almost all of the millions of inhabitants of India. One need not go through a catalogue, except to mention our contribution of peace. Before our advent India had a very long history of recurrent invasions from the North and of almost ceaseless internal warfare. That ceased with our advent, and in spite of the words of the Motion for the rejection of this Bill, it will never recur so long as we remain in India. But in all that we have done in India we have always stopped, and rightly stopped, short at one point. Our policy has been one of neutrality, or nonintervention, in religious matters. We are therefore up against this fact, that in most of these problems where progress is most necessary, we are pledged to stand aside. If that is so, and we cannot take a hand ourselves, then we are bound to place the responsibility for tackling the problems on Indians themselves. This Bill aims at doing that, and I think it will do it successfully. It may take 1758 time, but I believe that Indians will face these problems themselves, and I conclude from that that the masses will not suffer but that it will work out for the greatest good of the greatest number.
The last speaker pointed out, quite truly, that very many organised bodies as well as individuals in India have expressed criticism and even, it may be, condemnation of the provisions of this Bill. So far he was on sound ground, but I suggest that his argument, sound as far as it goes, does not go the whole way, and if he wants to make his argument valid, I think he must acid the reasons for and behind all this flood of criticism. Those reasons are, of course, not that the Indian politicians want less of these reforms, but that they want more of them. They want less of the safeguards; they want a broader democracy and so on; they want, in fact, those things of which the hon. and gallant Member and his friends most disapprove.
The Motion for rejection which stands on the paper refers to this Bill as "professing to meet Indian aspirations to self-government." In my view, it does nothing of the kind. It does not attempt to meet the views of everybody in India, because to do that is manifestly impossible. We have only to imagine, if we can, that we were engaged at this moment in trying to prepare an entirely new constitution for this country. If that were the case, surely no one could hope that any Government could produce a scheme to satisfy the aspirations, say, of the Noble Lady the Member for Kinross and Western (Duchess of Atholl) and her friends and, at the same time, the aspirations of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) and his friends.
§ Mr. PATRICK
Perhaps, but you could not please both. It would be impossible here, where we have a certain measure of agreement upon fundamentals, and a long political tradition, but it would he fantastically impossible to get agreement in India. This Bill does not satisfy, or attempt to satisfy, all the aspirations of Indians, because that is impossible, but what it should do, and what it does do, is to try to present a scheme which this Parliament thinks the best in the circum- 1759 stances. I suggest that hon. Members who oppose this Bill put themselves in an entirely illogical position. They seem to me, to use a vulgar simile, to put themselves in the position of a man who offers a friend a drink and then, when his friend says, "Cannot you give me a larger glass?" he answers, "No; evidently you are not thirsty, and therefore I am not justified in giving you anything at all."
§ Mr. PATRICK
That is a matter of opinion. I consider that some of the things we have said and done in the last few years amount to what might be called offering a drink.
The right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) interjected that India preferred the status quo to the new Bill, but I should like to join issue with him there. I believe I am right in saying—and I have followed the Indian Press pretty closely—that although there has been a very great flood of criticism, very few responsible bodies or individuals have expressed a desire for things to remain as they are.
§ Mr. PATRICK
For the reason that I have tried to give, that it is impossible to get the same answer from everybody. However that may be, I think it is a singularly inappropriate argument in the mouth of the Conservative opposition to say that because there is criticism from India, therefore things should remain as they are. The Indian politicians who say they prefer the status quo are absolutely and completely frank as to their reasons. They say openly that if they can hang on a little longer to the present state of things, they hope that when a Government is formed by the party opposite they will get far more than they are getting under the present Bill. That may be a right or a wrong aspiration from their point of view, but it is a very inappropriate argument in the mouth of the Conservative opposition. I think the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme also said that there was some question of non-co-operation.
§ Mr. PATRICK
Then I apologise. Speaking of the Congress party, the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth, in an earlier part of this speech, said that Congress was the dominant political force in India. I think that is a complete misconception of the position. It may be true to say that Congress is the only organised political body that counts all over India, but it would be a complete mistake to regard it as in any sense a united party, in our sense of the words. Hon. Members opposite like to twit us on this side on our internal differences; but any differences which we may have pale into complete insignificance when compared with the divergencies which exist even now in the Congress ranks. A body of orthodox Hindus broke off from the Congress party some time ago, but the divergencies which remain are glaring in the extreme. Within the Congress boundaries there are still divergent elements such as rich industrialists from Bombay, Ahmedabad, and elsewhere, alongside the Pandit Jawarhal Nehru and his followers, whose creed is, for all practical purposes, indistinguishable from the orthodox Communism of Moscow. I do not think that anybody could regard this as a party in our sense of the word. Some such definition as "an unstable agglomeration of incompatible elements" would be more applicable. Hitherto, Congress has been held together very largely because it has been irresponsible. Because it has not been responsible for anything, it has been able to ignore its internal differences, and unite in abusing British Imperialism. From the day that some measure of responsibility in the Provinces is given under this Bill, Congress will tend to break up into its constituent parts. I am not suggesting that nationalism is not a real force in India to-day, I think that, apart from communal solidarity, it is obviously the greatest force there is, and it is likely to remain so for many years. It is a mistake, however, to regard Congress as highly organised and a deadly menace which must control the whole of the Hindu electorate.
The speech of the hon. Member for Caerphilly contained arguments diametrically opposed to those to which I have been referring. The Amendments put 1761 down by hon. Members opposite on the Report and Committee stages were all designed to lessen the role of the Princes, to suppress second chambers in the Provinces, to broaden democracy, and so on, proposals in direct opposition to the views of the Conservative opposition. Some of the hon. Members' proposals have done rather more credit to their hearts than to their heads. I say that because they would, in fact, have defeated their own ends. Hon. Members opposite hold the view that if there is to be any transfer of responsibility to India it must be a genuine and real transfer. I think that the majority of Members on all sides would agree with them in that proposition. But once you concede that principle, surely caution becomes the paramount necessity, because if we go too fast in this unknown and difficult country, the inevitable result must be a breakdown, and the result of that will be reaction. That may seem a sweeping generalisation, but I would like to recall to hon. Members opposite the recent history of Egypt, which in some respects, though of course not in all, offers a close parallel. In 1923, for the first time, Egypt chose a constitution for herself, and, not unnaturally, she chose one of an advanced democratic type. She copied, if I remember rightly, the then constitution of Belgium but in the succeeding 12 years that constitution has been modified and suspended at least four times. That was done, be it noted, not by us but by Egyptians themselves. If that is the story of Egypt, where the issues are far more simple and few, how much more true must it be the case in India, where the problems are infinitely more complex and intractable?
Hon. Members below the Gangway have more or less consistently supported the principles of the Bill, except on the issue of indirect election. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) described it as a blot on the whole scheme, and he regards it as a matter of high principle. For the rest of us, however, it remains rather a matter of political and administrative convenience. That certainly is my own view, as I happen to have lived in an oriental country which changed its electoral system from direct to indirect, and back again in the course of a few years without producing any permanent 1762 results on the political future of the country.
§ Mr. PATRICK
Egypt. In any case, the decision is not necessarily final. If after two or three general elections a change is considered desirable, a change can be made.
The third party to this dispute has been the Government, but it is no part of my business to defend the Government or to expound their case. I will, therefore, pass to the fourth section of opinion, what I may call the Fourth Estate, namely, the great majority of the supporters of the Government who have consistently voted for the Bill throughout these long proceedings. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) likes to tell us that we have voted for the Government because of our paralysing fear of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Patronage Secretary. The real explanation is even simpler. We voted for the Government throughout because we believe the Government has been right, in principle at least. We are not so simple as to think that this Bill is going to provide India with a perfect democracy in the Provinces, and a model Federation at one miraculous stroke. There may be many years of difficulty and anxiety before India develops a stable political position of her own. But a substantial political change in India is inevitable sooner or later, and it seems to us that the time for that change is now, and that there is nothing to be gained, but a good deal to be lost, by waiting. It seems to us also that an all-India Federation is the one scheme of government that can fit, if not all the facts in India, at least most of them, and that the Government's scheme to bring about Federation is the only practicable one. That is why we vote with the Government.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Of course the end is not yet; but for this House and for myself 30 years continual struggle on this question ends to-morrow. For 30 years India has been struggling towards the light. All that time we have gone forward one step after another. I remember the Morley-Minto reforms being debated in this House, and I remember 1763 the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms being debated. They have all gone a little bit nearer freedom, and in this long struggle the Indians have learned what freedom means. We have educated them from this House. All my friends—Gokhale, Tilak, Lajpat Rai, Motilal Nehru, and above all, Edwin Montagu himself—were all lovers of liberty—not nationalists, but real lovers of liberty. They are all dead now, but it is through their spectacles that I would have this House for one moment look at this Bill. All the previous Measures were devised to be, and were, in fact, leading strings in which the Orient might run to learn liberty and how to use it. The leading strings that were devised by John Morley and by Edwin Montagu have suddenly been converted into fetters. This is the end so far as we are concerned, and so far as the constitutional struggle for freedom in India is concerned. What we are passing to-morrow is final. There can be no change. It is not liberty you are handing over, but the ossification of things as they are, a perpetuation of India as it is. If the machine is strong enough, it will work, and it will take more than us to change it.
Hon. Members opposite say that the Indian opposition to this Measure comes from the fact that the Indians prefer things as they are, because they hope that at some future date a Labour Government in this country will deal with the subject on different lines. They have long given up that hope. They know, and my Labour colleagues know, that, even if they were in power 10 years hence, they could not alter this Bill; and even if they were to think to alter it, we should never get home rule—that Dominion status—which has been a popular cry until it has become a danger beacon for India. We cannot alter this settlement. Once this Bill is through, once these fetters are on their wrists and on our wrists, there is no chance of any further step forward. Put England back to 1830 and make reform impossible; put back Ireland to 1820 when Catholics had no votes. If you can see us going back to that position, you can see what India sees in this Bill.
There can be no change. This all-powerful House can make no change because this Bill is the registration of treaties between a sovereign State and 1764 sovereign Princes. We believe, whatever other countries in Europe believe, that any alteration of a treaty requires the consent of both parties. We should have to get the consent of—how many hundred Princes?—before we could alter the Bill, save and except as the rules and instructions provide. Those rules and instructions rule out the amendments wanted for reform. All questions of communal representation are ruled out, all questions of a just and common franchise are ruled out, and all questions, above all, of the powers of the Princes in their own States and in India; so that this Bill, when it becomes an Act, when later on, if ever, it is enacted in India and put into operation, will be permanent. Because of that, I say without hesitation, having known the great Indians of the past and knowing the politicians of to-day, that every thinking man in India would sooner not have this Bill, and would sooner have the status quo, rather than this end of all things so far as liberty is concerned.
As politicians we all know that we have to invent cries to get our followers rallied behind us. How can you expect the Indians, any more than the Egyptians, or any more than the Cypriots or any more than the Ionian Islanders in old days, not to make the principal plank in their platform, "Get rid of England"? At the time when the Ionian Islands were to be handed back to Greece by Mr. Gladstone there was first a plebiscite to ascertain whether the people wished to remain under English rule or go to Greek rule, and they all voted in favour of returning to Greece, but when they saw it happening they petitioned in vain to remain under English rule. Very similar things happened in Egypt not so long ago. When it means taking away all that we have stood for and substituting someone else, there comes the rub. Here we are taking away all that England has contributed in the way of justice and security and fair play and toleration for the last hundred or two hundred years in parts of India. They have asked for the removal of King Log and have suddenly found themselves with King Stork. Is it any wonder that they prefer the status quo? Is it any wonder that things now go so smoothly in India that even this Government have no trouble with the management of India? They have no trouble because the Indians are afraid, and they are afraid of this Bill.
1765 The Government know perfectly well that this Bill is no longer a present to India. This is the punishment of India —the punishment of India for having asked, foolishly I agree, for the removal of English control. If you were to ask the present Legislative Councils of India, if you were to ask the Assembly, of course, whether they would have this Bill or the status quo there is no sort of doubt what the response would be. If you were to ask the new Legislative Councils elected under that part of the Bill which is not so dangerous, the decentralisation proposals, which they would have, there is no shadow of doubt what the answer would be. Previous federations have been carried through with the consent of the peoples federated. Canada, Australia, South Africa—all those great federations, the work of great men of our nation in the past, were all accepted federations. This is coercion; there is no acceptance here. The very idea that a provision should be inserted in this Bill for the consultation of the Indian people upon this Constitution which we are presenting to them has been turned down over and over again during the 40 days in which we have been discussing this Bill. They shall not have a voice. It is their punishment.
If I were an Indian I should try to avoid this punishment, try to avoid being put for ever under the control of. Indian Princes, Indian Rajahs, Indian millionaires, Brahmins so conservative that nothing on the Treasury Bench is so Conservative—put there for ever without any possible chance of freedom or democracy. If that were the prospect before me, as an Indian, it is not the status quo I should vote for, I should want to go back to the Morley-Minto Reforms; I would even go back to the India before the Morley-Minto Reforms rather than accept these chains for all times. We are handing them the mummy of freedom, wrapped round in its cerements, endless bandage after endless bandage—dead for ever.
We were told by the Secretary of State, in his opening speech, that there was no alternative. There is the alternative that is desired by India—leave us alone, leave us as we are. And who here does not wish to leave them alone, if that is their wish? If we left them alone or if we merely gave them the option of being left alone and they made that 1766 choice, it is said that the position would be more difficult and more dangerous. Not a, bit of it. They have had their lesson. They see now the dangers that lie in their path—now they have asked for more than we are prepared to give. We can always force this Measure on them. If we leave them alone we shall have a peaceful contented India, thankful above all that they have been saved from this danger. If we do not leave them alone, if we push this Measure through, if the Princes do come in—and they had far better not—what will be the condition of India then? We shall, in a completely un-English way, directly contrary to the whole traditions of our race, have forced a reactionary Constitution upon people who do not want it, at the same time depriving them of any chance of saying they do not want it.
In what frame of mind will they then accept that Constitution? They will work it, but they will not work it with us or for us, they will work it against us. There is no possible chance for the ryot and the untouchable and the Labour people; they, with their statutory minorities, are to have no voice whatever. As long as the working men have not got votes for people who are not of their class they may just as well have no votes whatever for people who are of their class. There will be no hope of change. This is the cementation of reaction for ever. What can we expect? Here is a scheme in which we put all the power, or almost all the power, that we in this House have had over India into the hands of people who by their training, by their birth and by their education, are unfitted to govern others. We are putting them in the place of the India Office, in the place of our experience. We are giving such people power, and there is no doubt they will make a mess of it, and the blame for everything in which they fail will be put on us. All the safeguards will have to be used—they will make them have to be used. The Princes and the millionaires, harried and terrified all the time by the rising, surging unrest of people who can get no justice, will seek a scapegoat, and we shall be the scapegoat.
How is the Constitution going to work? How can it work, except tempestuously for us and disastrously for the people of India? Whatever happens we shall have 1767 the maxim guns, and they will not. Yes, but the maxim gun is not so useful as an argument when you want to deal peacefully with friends. I said we should have trouble with this Constitution if it is passed, and we shall rightly have that trouble, because we are not giving to the Indians what we believe to be the best. If we were giving India the Constitution which we believe to be the best and then said, "Take it or leave it" we should be doing our duty. Now we are not doing our duty, but are forcing down their throats a Constitution which we know is not the best. As the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) remarked, we are in this Constitution handing over law and order and education to the Provinces and we are starting every one of those Provinces on perverted foundations. We are establishing in every one of those Provinces a statutory majority, a master Government which cannot come to an end, and with statutory minorities which will have no votes whatever for their masters. Sometimes it will be Hindus who will be trampled upon by Moslems, and at other times Moslems will be trampled upon by Hindus—whichever is in the minority. The minority has no vote for the masters. The minority is disfranchised. We give the majority power over justice, over water, over schools, over everything which is intimate to the life of the people.
The other day there was a shouting, screaming frantic mob moving down on Karachi, intending to smash the shops and break the heads of every Hindu there. And they would have done it, had it not been that British troops were called out to keep them back. They did hold them back. We are putting in Sind, for all time, a Government which can never be removed, over a minority of 25 per cent. of Hindus—putting over them that fanatical Government. How do you expect minorities to get justice; how do you expect to get fair treatment for the minorities in any of those Provinces when you have inflicted upon them a Constitution which makes justice impossible and toleration a vice? If the Hindus had been allowed to have a vote for a Mohammedan in Sind, then the Mohammedan representatives on the Sind Council and the Mohammedan Government in Sind would at any rate have felt that they might lose their seats if they were unfair 1768 to the Hindus. Communal representation was introuced at the request of the Mohammedans in order to protect Mohammedan minorities, and so that they might have a chance of sending a minority member, in places where the Mohammedans were in a minority; but the Hindus are refused the right to have a vote for their masters. They are told that they can send 25 per cent. representation to Parliament, can send a minority; but as they can never be a majority they can never have the slightest influence on the Mohammedan Government. We asked that Sind might be saved, that Sind, which has been part of Bombay for over a century, should remain part of Bombay, governed as the rest of Bombay is governed—Bombay, the most educated, intelligent and Western of all States of India. No; that has to go. That is part of our pledge to the Mohammedans. Why not leave things as they are? All we want is things as they are—not for ever, but things as they are rather than this crime which you mean to inflict upon the Indian people.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Mr. GALBRAITH
I count myself very fortunate, as a back bench Member who moved one Amendment but has otherwise taken no part in the discussion of this Measure, that I am able for a few minutes to put before the House the reasons which have induced me to support the Bill, and that I am not forced to give a silent vote upon this grave and most serious matter. I suffer from a disadvantage, not shared by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), in that I have no personal knowledge of India. He has contributed forcible and weighty speeches during the progress of the Measure, but I do not see the problem in quite the same way as he does. He has said that the alternative to voting in favour of the Bill is to leave things alone, and to preserve the status quo. As I see the matter, it is simply this: Are we to give to India what is known as provincial autonomy, with or without the transfer of law and order, or are we to support the Bill, which not only gives autonomy to the Provinces but brings into being a Federal Constitution which will tend to unify India and bind it together as a whole?
1769 I am a little surprised that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman should suggest the alternative of leaving India alone, because I have in my hands a summarised report, published in the Journal of the Parliaments of the Empire, and giving the discussion which took place in the Legislative Assembly in India in February of this year. I have read and re-read the speeches, and considered them with great care, and I find no justification for the suggestion that the members of the Legislative Assembly were in favour of leaving things as they are.
§ Mr. GALBRAITH
I find that Mr. Jinnah, to whose name reference has already been made in the discussion this afternoon, said, in regard to the Bill:This scheme was not acceptable"—This was his alternative:Modify the Provincial scheme, drop the Central scheme, and review the whole position, in consultation with Indian opinion, with a view to establishing complete responsible government in British India.In other words, the alternative which found great support at the meeting of the Legislative Assembly is not to leave India alone, but is a condemnation of the Government's scheme because it does not lead at once to complete responsible government in British India.
In having no personal knowledge of India I am in the same position as the great majority of hon. Members. What are some of the considerations which, therefore, ought to influence my judgment in coming to a decision upon this matter? In the first place, I am greatly influenced by the fact that a substantial weight of expert opinion is in favour of the Government's scheme. I: have never given extravagant 'weight to expert opinion. In dealing with expert opinion I am always reminded of that conversation which takes place in Sheridan's Trip to Scarborough "between the shoemaker and Lord Foppington. As hon. Members may remember, Lord Foppington was having a new pair of shoes fitted for him by the shoemaker, and said: "These shoes do not fit. They pinch me execrably." The shoemaker said: "I ought to know my trade, and I tell you that the shoes do fit." He ended up with this devastating argument: 1770 "I have made all the shoes for half the persons of quality in this town for the last 20 years, and it would indeed be a hard thing if I did not know when shoes fitted and when they did not fit." I have always thought that experts tend to be a little arrogant in regard to the views which they express. In the matter of India, however, it is obvious that experts who have expressed views on the subject must have had far greater opportunities of ascertaining the facts than an ordinary individual, and it is' only fair to say that the substantial balance of expert opinion is in favour of the Government's scheme.
Another thing which has influenced me a good deal is that, as was pointed out by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in a speech on the matter, every living member of the Statutory Commission except one is in favour of the Government's scheme. I think that is a striking fact. The hon. Member—as he was until a few days ago, but is now, to the gratification of us all, the right hon. Gentleman—the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) goes further than do the other members of the Statutory Commission. What have also weighed a good deal with me are the forcible arguments used against us by the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme. He has pointed out with complete logic that the Bill brings the Princes in, and gives them a large measure of power. I regard that as a stabilising and conservative element which will assist the proper working of the scheme. Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out that the Bill will be extremely difficult to alter after it is passed, and that we are bringing in the Princes in such a way that it will be practically impossible to alter the scheme without the consent of the majority of the Princes. I regard that also as a strong argument in favour of the scheme. If you confer upon India a provincial autonomy which could be altered by any Government in this country, the efforts and energies of the persons in the Provinces would inevitably he directed to trying to get changes, and a larger measure of power conferred upon them. Once it is recognised that it will be extremely difficult to alter the terms of the scheme, it is much more probable that the persons who are working it will settle down to see that the 1771 scheme operates efficiently for the betterment of India as a whole, and will realise that only by justifying the confidence reposed in them will they be enabled to take further steps towards freedom.
Among the arguments which have been used against the Measure is that there is no mandate for this grave and important change. I have never been very much impressed with that argument. We are not delegates to this House. We are called upon from time to time to come to very grave and serious decisions on matters on which there was no sort of mandate from the constituencies. Only a few years ago the Conservative party were asked to come to a decision whether they ought to support a National Government; that was obviously a matter on which there was no sort of mandate. Quite apart from that, I can recall in my political experience no Measure in regard to which the ordinary Member of Parliament has had so many opportunities of consulting his constituents, obtaining their opinions and taking counsel with them. After I had made up my mind that the Government's proposals ought to be supported, I called my constituents together and addressed them at great length. I answered questions at great length, and they supported by a large majority the view which I had formed. I have always taken the view that it is essential in the public interest that this Bill, having regard to its enormous importance, should be most fully and adequately discussed in this House and in the country, and that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), and those who have been associated with him, have rendered a public service by seeing that this Measure has been fully and adequately discussed. It would be generally agreed that those hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen were actuated by sincerity and conviction.
It is, however, a little unfortunate that many times in this House, we who have thought it our duty, after careful and long consideration, to support the Bill, should have been accused of being influenced by all sorts of unworthy motives. I have taken the trouble to cull from the pages of the OFFICIAL REPORT some of the things which have been said during 1772 the last few months about private Members who have thought it right to support the Government. Those Members have been referred to as "the chorus which is exceedingly well drilled." Their "parrot cries" are referred to, and it has been said that the Government could "call their legions to vote us down." It was suggested that the Government, "backed by a large majority," was "able to impose its will in face of reasonable criticism." One hon. Member, I will not give his name because I am sure he will feel that he went too far, said:Every Member must act according to his own conscience … but will Members act according to their consciences when, tonight, they go into the Division Lobby to support the Government?Later in his speech the same hon. Member said:We believe that the sort of pressure which cannot be proved, has been exercised both against us and the Princes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th December, 1934; col. 480; Vol. 296.]It is very unfortunate that this sort of statement should be made. I am convinced that the vast majority of hon. Members who have thought it their duty to support the Government have done so with the same sincerity and the same high motives as those who have thought it their duty to oppose the Government. Speaking for myself and for many of my friends, of whom I have made careful inquiry, never at any time during the progress of this Bill have I ever been approached by anybody, or has anybody sought to influence me on behalf of the Government; and when the time comes and I go into the Division Lobby in support of this Measure I shall do so because after very careful and anxious consideration I have come to the conclusion, by myself and for myself, that this Measure is the best solution of this grave and difficult problem, and that when passed it will operate for the lasting benefit, not only of this country, but of India and the whole of the Empire.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Mr. WISE
The hon. Member for Surrey, Eastern (Mr. Galbraith) seemed to confine his defence of the Government's Measure to a careful analysis of the lofty motives which inspired the Government's supporters as they walked into the Division Lobby from the Smoking Room, to the Smoking Room from the 1773 Lobby, and to the Lobby again. However high the motives of the Government's supporters, they will not make this Bill work. They can commit the assassination of an Empire with the highest motives in the world, but it will be just as effective an assassination as if they were doing it with the lowest and most bloodthirsty motives. The attacks on this Bill to-day have been both convincing and powerful. I do not think that anybody who was in the House at the time could have listened unmoved to the speech of the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). On the other side and from another point of view, the Secretary of State has sat and listened to his Bill being ably riddled by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones), who really does believe in self-government for India. The Bill does not, and when the Secretary of State was introducing the Third Reading he had a feeling that he was not granting 'self-government to India; that he was not meeting the desires, aspirations or anything else of the Indian people; and that he was not even doing what the electors of this country would desire the Government which they elected to do. In the course of his justification of the Measure he made a series of statements which I noted down at the time, and to which I should like to reply briefly.
The first source of pride he found was that there had been no change in principle during the passage of the Bill through the Committee stage of this House. He might have added that there had been little change in detail either, that practically no concession had been given in the Committee stage, or at any other time, to reasoned criticism. But it is not a good thing in a. democratic assembly to take pride in obstinacy. It is true that some concessions were made to the faithful supporters of the Measure, but they were so small as not to have affected the Bill. In other words, the right hon. Gentleman made no concession to reasoned criticism here. Whether it is to his credit or not, he made no concession either to clamour in India, however well informed that Indian clamour may have been. He said that he would have been very impressed by the volume, the weight and the authority of Indian opposition to this Bill if he himself had not been a politician, and had not realised 1774 the sort of motives which animate politicians. The right hon. Gentleman has a worse opinion of his own profession than many of us. It may be true—I hope that it is not—that most of us say what we do not mean to secure election, but why should the right hon. Gentleman ascribe these same base motives to the Indian politicians to whom he is handing over so much?
He said of those who criticised his Bill that they have no practical "alternative to offer. Is it for us to offer a practical alternative? We did not introduce this Measure; we never wanted it introduced. But if we saw him razor in hand and about to cut a throat and we endeavoured to persuade him not to, would it be reasonable for him to turn round and say, "Will you give me a practical alternative?" Surely the most practical alternative is to tell him not to do it. But we have gone so far, although it was unnecessary, as to offer a practical alternative. It was said by most of us who are opposing this Measure that we were prepared to accept Provincial autonomy. The right hon. Gentleman then said, both inside and outside the House, that Provincial autonomy was quite unthinkable without Federation—this in spite of the fact that a well-informed Commission had said that it was quite possible, and also in the teeth of the fact that, without any doubt whatever, for the next 10 years or so we shall have Provincial autonomy without Federation. He rejected our alternative, and then told us that we had not got one. Is our denial of this necessity for federal government as stupid as he has tried to make out? He has said that his reforms will work. He said that there was every sign that non-co-operation in India is diminishing. He says that common sense on both sdes will be forthcoming. That is extraordinarily encouraging, for as yet there has been no common sense on our side in putting this Measure through. If great common sense can be awakened in India it will be a triumph for the administration out there. But I do not think that there are any signs of a real diminution of non-co-operation. Wherever you read or hear an Indian politician, or read an Indian newspaper, it is made abundantly clear that the only chance of the diminution of non co-operation is when it changes from non co-operation to terrorism.
1775 We pass away from all these practical difficulties in this Bill. It does not really matter whether people will work this Constitution. It really does not matter whether there is going to be any good will when this Bill goes through. The right hon. Gentleman says that we are giving India organic unity. It will be a great comfort to the ryot in time of famine when he realises that at long last he has organic unity. But even this organic unity does not, will not and cannot exist in India. The only unity there has ever been for the Indian continent is the unity of British rule, and if British rule departs unity will go with it. There is only one thing which unites the Congress party to-day and, indeed, all the political parties who are likely to take part in this Federation. They have got one common programme, one point of unity which is quite enough to make trouble in India, that is, a common desire to see the back of the last Englishman in India. I hope that I have shown to the House that the Secretary of State has not justified his Bill. In the course of his speech he used only arguments which appealed to the hearts of his supporters, and not to the head. Indeed, he gave us a long zoological lecture, a series of anecdotes on animals which were not wholly concerned with the Bill. I noted the number of animals to which he referred. They were the emu, the goose, the tiger, the bulldog, the camel, the horse and the pig. Should he not in compliment to his own supporters have added a kind word or two for the sheep?
All that this Bill lays down is to provide India with a Constitution which will not work, a Federation which will not work, an electoral system which cannot redound to the benefit of the people of India. It is impossible for this electoral system ever to work. The Constitution which we are giving India is one of such impossibility that the most hardened constitutionmongers would shudder to impose it on a country. Even the Abbé Sièyes would turn in his grave if he were asked to design a constitution of this sort. He was one of the greatest experts and once produced 19 constitutions in three months, but never one as bad as this. The constitutions which he produced were followed by dictatorship, dictatorship by revolution and revolution by an incompetent monarchy. I think 1776 that we should take thought that we are not taking the same sequence of events in India by the installation of a permanent oligarchy which the people of India will never have any power to criticise and which minorities will have no power to turn out of office, and whether by that installation we are not opening the way to the only weapons which oppressed peoples have at long last—the sword, the lamp-post and the rope to hang? It may well be that, despairing of the justice which we have taught them to appreciate, they will take the last and most desperate measures, and then we shall be called on to use our forces and our machine-guns to restore order for that government which will have caused the trouble, and the life of every man killed in a riot then will lie far more at our doors than now when a riot is caused by agitation against our rule.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Sir EDWARD CAMPBELL
The hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Wise) has given us a most interesting speech, about which there is only one thing which I should like to say. He said that the Secretary of State had asked why he and his friends, if they did not agree with this Bill, had not made counter-proposals, and I think his reply was, "Why should we?" He did not want any Bill at all. Has he forgotten the Montagu-Chelmsford agreement? Lord Birkenhead, when he was Secretary of State for India, was obliged to put forward proposals in any case—
§ Sir E. CAMPBELL
—for the formation of the Simon Commission. Whether we went back or whether we went forward, there had to be proposals of one sort or another.
Duchess of ATHOLL
Has my hon. Friend forgotten that, under the Clause in Mr. Montagu's Act which provided for the setting up of a Statutory Commission, the Commission was to be sent out to see whether the grant of any further powers was advisable, or whether it was necessary to restrict or limit the powers already given?
§ Sir E. CAMPBELL
I think that that is exactly what I said. The Commission was to be set up to go into the whole 1777 thing, and, as a result of such a Commission, a Bill of some sort or other, whether to amend the existing Act or otherwise, would have had to be brought in. Many of us have lived for a great number of years in the East. I myself lived for 21 years in the East—[An HON. MEMBER: "In Java"]—in the Dutch East Indies. When I went to Bombay in 1920, Sir George Lloyd, as he then was, asked me to come and interview him for several hours, and he said that at that moment the problems of India and those of the Dutch East Indies were identical. I much regret that, owing to absence from this country, I was unable, although I was present at all the previous stages of the Bill, to be here during any part of the Report stage, but I had the good fortune to spend in India itself some of the time that I was away, and while there I had the opportunity of listening for three Clays to the debates in the Legislative Assembly at Delhi on the report of the Joint Select Committee. Prior to my visit, I had always indicated that I gave my general approval to the Bill in the stages through which it had passed at the time when I left this country. I had, however, one doubt, and that was as to whether Federation was in the interest of India or not. But my visit to India, my conversations with a number of people there who were politically minded, and, still further, the debates to which I listened in the Legislative Assembly, showed me the weakness of the present centre and the absolute necessity for Federation as soon as it could possibly be arranged.
I think it will be agreed that no body of people can take their job seriously unless they have a great measure of responsibility for the legislation which they pass. In the Legislative Assembly many of the speeches and some of the voting was carried on in what was to my mind an entirely irresponsible manner. In fact, it seemed to me that at the end many Members did not really know whether they were voting for or against a, Measure. Possibly the same thing happens here, but that is not to say that it is good. It seems to me, from my travels round the Empire, that we might take many hints from the way in which various parts of the Empire run their Parliaments. One would be the shortening of speeches. During the debates in the Legislative Assembly, I heard some 1778 brilliant speeches from a number of Indian's and Europeans, and I should like to quote from a few of them. In moving that the Report of the Joint Select Committee be taken into consideration the leader of the House, Sir Nripendra Sircar, made the following observations regarding the safeguards in the Bill:My view is that, if we presume a reasonable amount of common sense in the Governors and Governor-General, as also in the people who will take charge of affairs under this Constitution, then these safeguards are neither so formidable (which they are according to one view) nor are they worth nothing, as the other view tries to make out. At the same time, I am not for a moment suggesting that these safeguards cannot be effective, and that they are mere paper safeguards.Mr. Jinnah, who was referred to by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Galbraith), made a very long and eloquent speech, at the end of which I, certainly, was none the wiser, as his Amendments seemed to cancel one another out. Two of the best speeches were made by representatives of the European Association, Sir Leslie Hudson and Mr. James. The former said:The Honourable Leader of the Opposition made an appeal to us. I would remind him that it is not of our choosing that we have been forced to demand these safeguards. If the unhappy history of recent years, in which the party to which the hon. Member belongs played a prominent part, had not happened, if there had not been boycott, threats of coercion and expropriation, and all kinds of penal actions, things would have been different.Mr. James, another Member of the European Association, referring to Mr. Jinnah's speech, said:Anyone who has heard my hon. Friend Mr. Jinnah will detect in his speech a very close echo of the speeches given in the House of Commons by Mr. Churchill and his friends. My hon. Friend is making common cause with Mr. Churchill, and, whatever his intention may be, I am bound to say that in his somewhat tortuous speech it was a little difficult to discover what his intention was. Whatever be the intention, the interpretation of those in the British Parliament will be one and one alone, that he is opposed to the scheme, that he is with Mr. Churchill and his campaign of scurrilous misrepresentation against British India and against the Indian Princes. [Hear, hear.] Therefore on that ground alone I deeply regret that the Leader of the Independent Party should have given such a handle to those whom we believe to he the enemies of India in their fight against the Government of India Bill at present.
Duchess of ATHOLL
Does my hon. Friend associate himself with the description "scurrilous misrepresentation" as applied to the attitude of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping and others?
§ Sir E. CAMPBELL
I certainly believe that very often the speeches made by people regarding India are excessively exaggerated, and do not help towards a solution of the problem.
Duchess of ATHOLL
My hon. Friend has been away from these Debates, and it is a little difficult to know what his attitude is.
§ Sir E. CAMPBELL
I was quoting from the speech of a gentleman who holds a high position in India, and has every right to express his views exactly as he wishes them to be expressed. I believe that, whatever proposals had been brought forward, there would have been opposition to them somewhere, but I am more than ever convinced that, as a result of the Montagu-Chelmsford Agreement, with which at the time I did not agree, we had to make some advance, and I believe that the 'terms of the present Bill, considerably amended as it has been in Committee, are those which are most likely in the long run to prove workable for the benefit of British and Indians alike. I wish I had been able to say in the Legislative Assembly, when I heard speeches condemning the Bill:Well, gentlemen, you say you do not want the Constitution offered to you m this Bill. Very good. I have the authority of His Majesty's Government to inform you that the Bill will he withdrawn forthwith and you will have to wait for some other Government to bring in a new Bill.I am convinced that in such circumstances the Assembly would have asked that the Bill should not be withdrawn—that they would have said, "Better this than nothing." Let us not forget that the Indians are exactly like ourselves, and that we should have acted in the same way had we been in their position. They have tasted a certain amount of responsibility, and it is natural that they should wish for more. As a result of 1780 previous legislation, many Indians are now in positions of considerable responsibility. Who can say to them now, "So far, and no farther" It is true that the dangers are great, but I am convinced that were we to stand still the dangers would be still greater, for it would mean chaos and bloodshed. People may ask that, after a visit of 14 days to India, a man comes back and thinks he knows the whole problem; but I have lived for 21 years in the East, and ever since the proceedings on this Bill started in the House, and long before, have been a member of the Parliamentary India Committee, of which for some years I have been secretary, so that day in and day out I have heard all about the problems of India. I admit that we are taking a grave step, but I sincerely hope that everyone will realise that I mean it when I say that were we not to go forward the position would be very much graver. Therefore, I submit to the House that we should accept the Bill and, as the Secretary of State has said, do our very utmost to see that it is a success.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Sir J. NALL
The hon. Member for Bromley (Sir E. Campbell) has told us—he will correct me if I am wrong—that in the course of his 14 days' visit to India he had the opportunity of hearing debates in the Indian Assembly, and noticed the atmosphere of irresponsibility, gaining the impression that a great many of the Members did not in the least understand what they were talking about. That is the most striking admission that we have so far had from any supporter of this Bill or of the Government's policy.
§ Sir E. CAMPBELL
I did not say that they did not understand what they were talking about, but what they were voting about.
§ Sir J. NALL
If there is really an essential difference between a man not understanding what he is talking about and not understanding what he is voting about, I am not sure to what extent that affects his ability to take part in a Debate.
§ Sir E. CAMPBELL
When there is a great number of very similar Amendments on the Paper, it is sometimes difficult to know what will be the result of voting on this Amendment or on that. We have 1781 exactly the same situation in this House. Very often we do not know what the result will be of voting for or against a certain Amendment.
§ Sir J. NALL
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend for his elaboration of his statement, but it does not alter the fact that he has made one of the most striking admissions as to the ability of Indian politicians to take charge of government that we have yet had from any supporter of the Government's policy. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made a very interesting speech in moving the Third Reading of the Bill, but I think it is not inappropriate to point out that, in these days when we may deplore the autocratic system of Italy or the dictatorship of Germany, the methods adopted to force through a policy of this kind under the Constitution of this country by a Government which calls itself National, are, I venture to say, an affront to our constitutional rights and liberties not yet attempted even by the Trades Union Congress or that excrescence of democratic folly which calls itself the Labour party.
The Secretary of State in the course of his speech said that the Bill now stood substantially as it was introduced, with no substantial change of policy having been made in it during its Committee course. There was one significant omission from the speech of the Secretary of State. He did not maintain the argument which we have so often heard that the Federal scheme contained in the Bill is essential to the adoption of the Provincial scheme. No doubt before the Debate finishes we shall hear more on that matter. The House has not yet sufficiently taken into consideration the really substantial grounds upon which we who are opposed to the Bill as a whole stand when we say that we sincerely believe that substantial progress might be made in the Provincial field. It is true, as was said just now in the course of an interruption, that there is really no obligation upon the Government or Parliament to pass any Bill at all. The Act of 1919 did not, in fact, involve another Bill or Act, and another Bill is not necessary if the status quo is to be preserved, but it is fair to say that the Simon Commission in their recommendations implied the necessity of a further Bill.
1782 Therefore, when we say that we believe that substantial progress can be made in the provincial field, let us have regard to the fact that many of the Indian States to-day are better and more quietly governed than some of the British Provinces. Why is that so? I say, as one who is opposed to this Bill, that it is because there we have an example from the Indian States, that Indian Ministers and administrators can be obtained with the ability and the experience capable of making a good job of government. What are the conditions under which they achieve these results compared with the conditions embodied in this Bill? The good examples of Government which are to be found in the States are achieved, under a system of autocracy and sovereign rule. The Ministers, the Indian Officials and administrators, are mostly men who have given a lifelong service to that work and who have graduated through the public service, many of them having attained the first rank in statesmanship. They carry on their jobs entirely free from the curse of any democratic institution such as is proposed in this Bill, without the intrigue of assemblies such as are proposed to be set up in this Bill, and in the certain knowledge that, whenever any emergency arises they will be supported by the British Raj, if necessary with force of arms. They equally know that if they do not conduct their job with justice and efficiency, the same British Raj will remove them or suspend them from their posts, and has done so on occasion. That is the difference. On the one hand, there is a system in existence to-day under which Indian Ministers and administrators can perfectly well and capably conduct the business of government.
In this Bill not only are the Government proposing to extend the responsibility of Indian Ministers in the Provinces under a scheme which we already know from experience leads to corruption and other kinds of abuse in administration, but they are proposing to pass on the same kind of thing to the Federal Centre. I say emphatically, and I know that I speak for many of my hon. Friends, that it is not an empty gesture when we say that an extension of Provincial Government can be effected, and that it is not necessary to extend this federal scheme to achieve it. On the contrary, in order to get the best results from 1783 Provincial Government it would be desirable to strengthen the British centre rather than to hand it over under the scheme provided in this Bill.
The same argument applies to the questions of law and order. There is no essential need to hand over the administration of law and order in the Provinces in order to effect a further measure of self-government. I hope that in the later stages in another place it may still be possible for some change to be made in that matter. One of the most serious blots—I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) used the word in another connection—upon the Measure is the position which still arises from what we call the fiscal convention, and with an obstinacy which it is difficult to understand Government speakers throughout all these discussions have refused to admit that, legally and officially, there is any kind of safeguard in existence to-day, and that the Secretary of State or the India Office can really intervene in these matters. It was clearly laid down in the report of the Committee in 1919 that in certain circumstances an intervention could, and might very possibly be resorted to. It is also unfortunate that those remaining safeguards have never been exercised.
It is not fair to the public at large and to the trading community outside to go on implying that because successive Ministers, from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) downwards, have been too slack or indolent to exercise their authority under the law as it is to-day, the authority does not in fact exist. It cannot be too plainly indicated to the country at large that by this Measure that authority is being handed over, except for the reservations of the safeguards, which as the minority of the Joint Committee pointed out may very well never be applied. They are safeguards which the Indian delegates very clearly led us to believe they hoped would fall into disuse.
While the discussions have been going on two particular things have emerged which at least ought to give ordinary supporters of the Bill cause to pause in the course they are pursuing. The agreements which have been reached from time to time between trading delegations 1784 and the Indian Government for remission in duties have not been implemented. The principles of preference in Empire arrangements indicated at Ottawa have never been implemented to this day, and, worst and last, we have the announcement by the Secretary of State that a provincial agreement has been arrived at between the Governments of India and Burma for a five-year agreement to preserve the existing state of things in the case of British goods entering Burma when this new Act comes into force. Anyone who has followed the course of fiscal events and customs matters in India knows perfectly well that, if the existing system is prolonged for a term of five years or anything approaching that time under the new forms of Government now to be introduced, there can never be any real hope of revising them in any substantial manner at the end of the five years. The Joint Committee in their report clearly indicated that if an agreement of that kind were entered into it should be for a period of not less than one year, and there is a vast difference between the period of not less than one year and the period of five years which is now proposed and which clearly is proposed with the intention of preserving for all time the situation which now exists.
The more I have listened to evidence on these proposals and the more I have heard the opinions of people coming home from India or who have been in India the more perturbed I feel as to the ultimate effect of the proposals now before the House. I urge upon the Government not to adhere to this Federal scheme. Let us still in another place revise the Provincial proposals and get them into operation before we embark upon this dangerous, and what may well be disastrous course of a Federal Centre, over which we have no real control. I should like to know from the Secretary of State or whoever is to speak for the Government later in the Debate whether it is the fact that in the last 30 years the garrison of British infantry maintained in India has been nearly doubled. I believe that 30 years ago something like half the present number of battalions of British infantry were stationed in India than is the case to-day. As Government reforms and so-called self-government has progressed so has the danger of a possible disturbance of the public peace increased 1785 and so has the British garrison maintained for the purpose of supporting the civil power been augmented until to-day, on the eve of these further reforms, we have nearly twice the force of British infantry than we had 30 years ago. What force of British infantry or other troops is to be maintained when these reforms are put into force? What indication is there of any better feeling among the various sections of opinion in India today? All the reports which have come through from time to time indicate that local riots and disturbances are, if anything, more acute than they were a few years ago, and certainly more bitterly fought out when an actual clash takes place.
There can be no hope of real progress while that is the case, and no hope of re al self-government while large assemblies of inexperienced men are charged with the business of organising an entirely new system of government. Assemblies based, as the hon. Member for Bromley (Sir E. Campbell) himself told us just now, upon individuals who seem quite unable to follow the ordinary business of Parliamentary procedure are charged with the business of organising an entirely new system of government. I beg of the Government and the House to have regard to the fact that in the matter of the Indian States it is clearly observable that we can get Indians of experience and ability to take a larger share in government, providing they are free from the entirely artificial and quite bogus democratic system which is proposed in this Bill. When men of our race and breed went out to India and conquered, guided, guarded and governed diverse warring races of that great sub-Continent there was no security and no peace for any one who dwelt within those borders; but through years of toil and bitter tears some sort of order has been evolved and progress has been made until at last the teeming millions of that land have been enabled to live in a state nearly approaching the tranquillity that we and the Dominions of the British realms enjoy. It is a tragedy of government that in these days when the Empire stands as the most important influence for peace throughout the world at large, within the four corners of what may well prove to be the most disastrous document ever 1786 issued from this House, we are abdicating one of the greatest trusts that was ever undertaken by our race.
§ 7.46 p.m.
As one who has sat through a good many of the Debates on the Bill but not taking much part I should like to make a few observations chiefly in answer to some of the arguments which have been made by the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down, and the arguments made in connection with the first Amendment on the Order Paper. It is difficult at the present time to say anything new or original in regard to this matter, and it is equally difficult not to admit that no Bill that ever passed this House has had a more thorough discussion than the Government of India Bill, the Third Reading of which we shall take to-morrow. When we consider the strong criticisms and even passions which the Bill has aroused I think it is a great tribute to our democratic institutions that we have been able to maintain comparative harmony. It is a great tribute also to the tact, patience and knowledge of the Secretary of State and those who have conducted the Bill from the front bench.
May I answer a few of the arguments that have been raised against the Measure? Various motives have been imputed to those who support the Government. Some motives have been suggested to-day. Sycophantic subservience, fear of the Whips, hope of preference and other motives of a, similar nature have been suggested, but one may dismiss them as being as unworthy as they are untrue. There is, however, one argument which has been used with which I should like to deal, and that is that we who support the Measure are defeatists. It is suggested that we have lost faith in the durability and the efficacy of British traditions and principles. That is wholly untrue. It is said that we no longer believe in the mission of the British race, and are therefore prepared to throw overboard perhaps the most important part of the British Empire. Some such arguments were used at the time when the Measure of Independence was given to Canada and also to Australia. I know that analogies between India and other parts of the Empire are dangerous, but I prophesy that just as those statements have been shown to be com- 1787 pletely wrong in regard to those parts of the Empire so will the future prove them to be wrong in regard to India. Exactly the opposite is the truth. It is because we who support the Government have a firmer faith and a sounder faith than they have in British traditions and in the effect of their growth in India that we are prepared to give India a greater measure of self-government. If that were not so, it would be a poor tribute to our influence and work in India during the past 100 years.
This Measure is not the policy of any one Government or of any one party. It is the logical result of our influence, our teaching and our actions in India during the last 50 years. We hear a lot about the steel frame, and we are told that we are undermining it. It is well to remember that in spite of what has been said about abdication and desertion the Army remains, the Viceroy remains, the Governors remain, the advisers remain. Under this Bill no official of the all-India service can be dismissed, transferred or promoted without the sanction of the Governors, who themselves are appointed by the Crown. So much of Indian affairs is psychological. So much depends upon prestige, status and complexes of that kind, but I believe that the results of this Bill may be very different from those that are commonly imagined.
There is one thing, and I think that anyone who has ever been to India must have come across it, which is peculiarly objectionable to the Indians, namely, they believe that in so many ways they are governed and controlled by Whitehall. I believe that that is a feeling that is shared by Englishmen in India as well as Indians, but that they will accept, will be prepared to accept and will willingly accept many things from an authority in India with whom they can get into touch and who means something to them which they would not accept willingly from some obscure person thousands of miles away in Whitehall. When the first flush of self-government has come it may well be that there will be a greater demand for Englishmen than there is to-day in such institutions as schools, hospitals and colleges, because the Indians will feel that they themselves have appointed those individuals and have not 1788 had them nominated and appointed over them by some distant office in London.
We have heard to-day an argument, which has been used many times, that this Bill has no support from any section of political opinion in India. On the face of it that may seem to be true. Why is it? Because this Bill does not give to the Indians the very things which the opponents are claiming that it does, namely, handing over India to the Indians. It seems to me that the position is very similar to the case of a man to whom you owe or who believes you owe him £100. He says that you made him a promise to pay him that amount, but you offered him £60 to settle the debt. So long as he believes that by continuing to bargain he may get more than the £60 he is not likely to be contented with that sum, but when he knows and believes that you are firm and that you do not intend making any further advance upon the £60, he will accept it. No Indian politician could do anything but criticise this Measure, but I am convinced that when it comes into operation the majority will work it, and for two reasons. In the first place, because of the prestige and fruits of office and the patronage which it brings with it. That is a motive which is not absent in other countries and among other politicians, and, it is not a discreditable one, either. Secondly, I believe that in India as elsewhere there are a large number of public-spirited individuals who desire to serve their country and believe that they can do it best by entering politics.
It has been suggested that this Measure will bring financial chaos to India, even involving the claims of pensioners in this country. No doubt there is a visionary section in India as in this country who believe that only through financial chaos will they get a glimpse of a better world here on earth, but I cannot believe that Indians will by their own initiative take steps which will ruin their own industries and their own financial credit. Who will be the chief sufferers by such action? It is true that many people in this country and many outside India may suffer but the Indians themselves will be by far the greatest sufferers through any financial chaos which maye be brought about in India. As regards pensions, I believe that the Secretary of State has made the position as watertight as possible in the 1789 Bill, and that if ever the occasion arose when the money was not available for the payment of the pensions this Government and any Government would gladly shoulder the responsibility of paying whatever sum was due. Here, again, it is well to remember that in India there are hundreds of thousands of pensioners drawing pensions, their sole means of livelihood, from the same fund from which the pensions in this country are drawn. Are they likely to allow a situation of that kind to develop and pass by without informing their Members of Parliament that they also are anxious as to the financial situation upon which their livelihood depends?
It has been said that the Princes will not come in, or that they do not wish to come in, and that they are being coerced. The name of the Princes Suicide Bill has been given to this Measure. The Indian States vary from the great States which are models of administration to very small States with very indifferent administration. I believe that a truer definition of this Bill would be the Preservation of Princes Bill. Let us frankly face the situation and ask ourselves this question: "How many of the Princes in the glory of their isolated autocracy will be able to continue to exist surrounded by a sea of democratic Provinces and with a strong move and claim for an all-British India Federation growing up around them." Most of the difficulties and objections of the Princes have been ones of paramountcy, protocols and so forth, which we cannot discuss here, but, I believe that it will not be long before it will be seen how wise it has been on the part of the Princes, even at the cost of some small measure of their sovereign rights, to take a part in the all-India Federation, and how wise from our own point of view it has been to set up a Federation which represents the autocratic Princes on the one hand and the depressed classes on the other.
One final argument has been used, namely, that this Measure will seriously jeopardise our trade with India. I believe that exactly opposite is the truth. If for no other reason I support this Measure because I believe it to be the soundest in the promise of increased trade between this country and India. The Ottawa Agreement, the Lees-Moody Agreement and the facts and figures of the past few months have shown what 1790 good will and common sense can do and what bayonets, force and coercion can never do. No one would be so foolish or could be so ignorant of the condition of affairs in India as to suppose that the future will be devoid of problems, difficulties and dangers. The governing of 350,000,000 people must be a matter which will occasionally give cause for anxiety. I do believe, however, that without some such measure as we are discussing disaster is inevitable and sure.
I believe that this measure constitutes the maximum that this country, is prepared to give and the minimum that any representative opinion in India can accept. In other words, this Bill is the best and, I believe, the only solution of a highly complex problem. In the near future, no doubt, opponents of this Measure will derive some satisfaction from being able to attribute everything of a disagreeable nature that arises in India to the operation of this Bill. We on our side probably will be able to argue, though not prove, that had this Bill not been passed far worse things would have come about. Even if that does happen, to-day when the controversy has reached a conclusion as far as this House is concerned, those who have opposed the Measure may perhaps join us in hoping for the future. After all, our aims and objects are the same—the good of India and of the Indian people—and we on our side frankly admit our anxiety as to the future. Perhaps we might ask our opponents, without in any way mitigating or diminishing their opposition to the Measure, to join with us in hoping that some of their gloomiest prophecies will not be fulfilled and that the advent of constitutional reform in India will be accompanied by a greater measure of good will and peace and prosperity both in India and in this country.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. ANNESLEY SOMERVILLE
It is quite refreshing to hear a supporter of the Government speaking with enthusiasm about this Bill. I was very glad to note the enthusiasm of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet). The passage of the Bill has been remarkable for many things. One has been the substitution of a timetable agreement for the guillotine procedure, for which I think the House should be grateful. Our discussions have 1791 also been marked by a real degree of sincerity. My only claim to take part in this debate is the fact that I have been present on every day on which the Bill has been discussed and that I have followed very closely the various arguments. I should like to say that the extreme ability, industry and courtesy displayed by the Front Bench is beyond all praise. The Secretary of State made an appeal to us this afternoon that if and when the Bill passes we should all combine in order to make it a success. Of course, that appeal is not made in vain. Those of us who do not believe that the Bill will produce good government in India feel bound to oppose it to the last. But once it becomes law then of course everyone of good will will unite in trying to make it a success.
Who are the supporters of this Bill? There are very few who support it with enthusiasm except the followers of the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), who congratulated the Secretary of State upon his conversion to the pure milk of Liberal doctrine. That was not a very reassuring thing for us Conservatives to hear. He and his followers—particularly the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) who has borne the burden and heat of the day in the discussions on the Bill—are the really enthusiastic supporters of the Bill. It is natural that they should be, for it is, I understand, a distinguished Liberal who is the real author of the Bill; and his co-workers were also a number of distinguished Liberals. We of the Conservative party have had to adopt this Measure, and we are the instruments for forcing it upon India. As for the rank and file of the Conservative party, they have mostly put their political consciences into the hands of authority. They say: "Our leaders and the distinguished majority on the Joint Select Committee have looked upon the White Paper and have seen that it was good, and they have produced this report and then the Bill; therefore, we must vote for the Bill." It is impossible for some of us to accept conclusions in this way. We have to use our reason and act upon it. We find that there are impossibilities in the Bill and we believe that it will be unworkable. The attitude to the Bill of hon. Members opposite may be summed up in a short 1792 sentence and that is "Let India draft her own constitution." That is the position at home.
In India what do we find? We know what the programme of Congress is. It is that in 20 years they would eliminate the British influence from India; that in 20 years they would be able to form their own military forces and that the hand and influence of this country should then completely disappear from India. Let me remind the House once more of that resolution which was passed in the Central Legislature by the elected representatives of India. If we believe in democracy at all, we must regard this as the most influential expression of opinion that has yet appeared on the matter. In the Central Legislature Mr. Jinnah, the leader of the Moslem party, made common cause with the Congress members, and they passed this resolution on the subject of the White Paper:With respect to the scheme of the Central Government, called All-India Federation, this House is clearly of opinion that it is fundamentally bad and totally unacceptable to the people of British India and therefore recommends the Government of India to advise His Majesty's Government not to proceed with any legislation based on this scheme.That resolution was passed in the Legislative Assembly of the Central Legislature by 74 votes to 58. That was the deliberate expression of the opinion of the elected members of that Legislature. What of the people of India? What do the people of India, the great masses of the workers in the field and the small farmers, know about the Bill? It is said that they are to get a larger voice in the government of their country, but what does it amount to? There are to be 35,000,000 voters out of 270,000,000 people —and those voters will include the more literate population of the towns. What is left in the way of influence for the ryots, the peasants of the country? The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) was right in arguing that the voting influence of the peasantry of India and the influence of labour in India would be very slight and that this Bill does give the government of India into the hands of wealth and privilege.
What of the Princes of India? Certainly they have shown no alacrity in approving of this scheme. I do not wonder at that. They are ruling Princes, having dealings direct with their 1793 Paramount Ruler who is the King-Emperor. What do they see? They see that a great legislative machine with immense power is about to be established, and they are afraid that they will get entangled in that machine and lose their entity and their powers. That is what will inevitably happen and so they hesitate. We see a few of them making vague, general, non-committal speeches of general approval; but what is happening at the present moment? The legal representatives of the Government are discussing with the legal representatives o the Princes means by which the claims and fears of the Princes may be met. It has been said more than once to-day, and many times before, that the Princes will be a stabilising influence in the Federal Government. What will the position be? It is clear what the attitude of hon. Members opposite is to the Princes. They would like to see the power of the Princes absorbed into All-India—into the power of the people. It is obvious that the position we shall have in the future will be this: In India you will have the Congress opposed to the Princes, and you will have in this country the Socialist party supporting the Congress against the Princes. The Princes have to face that situation. Is it any wonder then that the Princes hesitate in joining the proposed Federation? That is the prospect we have. This Bill is produced in an atmosphere of doubt, anxiety and ignorance among the masses of the people here and among the masses of the people in India, and determined opposition. That is not a favourable atmosphere in which to introduce the Measure.
Then we come to examine the Bill, and we see in it a number of safeguards. But of what use are those safeguards? You give to the Governor-General and to the Governors of the Provinces a number of powers. In almost every Clause of the Bill the Governor-General is to exercise his powers in his discretion or in his indivdual judgment. As far as I can see, it will be almost impossible for him to fulfil all these responsibilities. I would put it to the Government—what will happen in the future when you have a Governor-General in India 'who is not a super-man and Governors in the Provinces who are not super-men.? They must be super-men if they are to fulfil all the obligations which the Bill lays upon 1794 them. Suppose they are weak men or ordinary mortals, and that you have a Socialist Government in power ready to make concessions? Of what value will your safeguards be? It would take an Alexander Hamilton and a Bismarck to make the Constitution that is proposed under this Bill work.
What is that Constitution? It is a combination of autocracy and democracy never before seen in the history of constitutions. How long will British India submit to the permanent nominees of the Princes having a voice in the Government of British India while they, the elected representatives of British India, have practically no power in the government of the States? How long will that state of things continue? The Constitution proposed in the Bill contains the germs of its own destruction, and that is why to my mind it is impossible to support the Bill. This country has done great work in India which is not yet finished. The Bill in my belief will bring it to a conclusion. A French writer once said that if all English history were forgotten except the story of English rule in India that story would be an imperishable monument to England's glory. What is now proposed will in my opinion render it impossible for us to continue the great work which this country has done for India. It will injure the partnership which exists, a partnership which should exist and whose object should be the welfare of the people of India. I ask the Government to remember two lines which were written by a great man who knows India. They are:Go to your work and be strong, halting not in your ways;Baulking the end half won for an instant dole of praise.May it not be that the Government in their desire to do what is best are baulking the end for a. dole of praise they might get from Indian politicians, and to obtain this are sacrificing the Indian peasants to the Indian politicians. Even now I hope that it may be possible in another place to make changes in the Bill to the extent of saying that we will consider the realities of the case. Is it not possible to say to the Indian people, "We protect you from invasion by land and sea; we protect your commerce, we see justice done between man and man, between Moslem and Hindu; we are trustees for the great masses of the people and are unable to give up our 1795 trusteeship." We oppose the Bill because it provides an unworkable combination of autocracy and democracy, because the safeguards are unreal, and because it sacrifices the masses of the people of India to the politicians.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Wing-Commander JAMES
The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville) will forgive me if I do not make any attempt to follow him in the jeremiad he has sung, partly because I do not think this is the occasion for a jeremiad and partly because I have a natural feeling of inferiority which many years of being in statu pupillari to him have engendered, enhanced by the surroundings in which I passed the earlier parts of to-day. In listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Bromley (Sir E. Campbell), who has just returned from a visit to Delhi, I was struck by his reference to the weakness of the present Centre. It seems to me that one of the most unwarrantable of the many delusions in which the right wing opposition to this Bill has wrapped itself, is an apparent belief in the efficiency of the existing Centre. That assumption has no warrant whatever in fact. If you had had an extreme right wing Government in power in this country, composed of people like the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) and others, anticipating years of uninterrupted power, they would have been compelled by the circumstances of the day to have introduced a very substantial measure of reform to meet the existing situation, irrespective entirely of the present Bill. That does not imply any reflection whatever on those people, Europeans and Indians, who are, and have been for many years past, the cogs in the machine. The cogs were in the main extremely good as cogs, but they were in a machine which was wholly and absolutely obsolete and unreformed, and it was not to be wondered at that many of them, while still turning in the machine, have become blunted and even broken.
Before I say anything about the Bill itself may I interpose a few sentences which I ought to have said at an earlier stage in our proceedings on the Bill. I apologise to the Under-Secretary of State for my omission, it was owing to an inadvertence for which I have been kicking 1796 myself ever since. One of the modifications which the Government were good enough to make during the Committee stage had reference to Schedule 6. At the request of hon. Members in many parts of the House they undertook to withdraw and reconsider the Schedule. I want first of all to thank the Government for having made a very generous concession. I realise much more than I was able to admit in the earlier stages when I was a protagonist that there were arguments on the other side which it was difficult for them to use, and which I was not going to use for them, but that only makes me appreciate the more how generous a gesture it was for them to reconsider this particular matter. I am glad that we were able by mutual agreement to narrow somewhat the issues between us, and all I want is to ask—I recognise that the award they are going to make will of course be a final award—is that in reconsidering this matter they will give it really fresh and really sympathetic consideration, which I am sure they will, and that they will not use exactly the same machinery which they used when they considered it before.
There is one further small point. I suggest that it could be no disadvantage and might be a material advantage if the period of six months before the Order in Council is to be laid before the House was extended to nine months. A period of six months was never in my mind when I listened to the Attorney-General's speech on the 13th May. I do not think that the Government have realised how the effects of the monsoon, the hot weather, and the time of the sitting of this House might make a period of six months awkward. I wonder whether, if it were possible in another place to extend the period to nine months the Government themselves might not find it convenient to have this extra time.
I do not propose to make a general Third Reading speech, but I wish to say one or two words about the future. The phrase "the welfare of the masses" is constantly on the tongues of people, some of whom oppose the Bill from one angle, and some of whom oppose it from another. I have never been able to see that the welfare of the masses was in any risk of being prejudiced by these reforms. But this I do believe: That the future good government of India and the success 1797 of the reform that the House is now passing will be very materially affected by the economic conditions that prevail after the Bill is passed. There are various considerations of this kind to which the Government will shortly be able to devote their attention. Political advancement must be supplemented by economic progress. One of the things of which India will have the greatest need is more capital. It is true that at the present time this country has invested in India about £700,000,000 sterling. That capital is invested for the most part in Government and municipal securities, and in railways, and to a less extent in harbours and clocks, but generally in public utilities.
The credit of India in the markets of the world is extraordinarily high, which incidentally is a very apt commentary on the actions of those people who have sought for months past to make the flesh of Indian pensioners creep. We are told that the Secretary of State has nobbled—a non-Parliamentary phrase that may be permitted on the eve of to-morrow's event—or perhaps I should say has got at, the Princes, and has got at the Civil Service, and has got at the back bench Members in this House, but I have not heard it suggested yet that he has got at the money market. I do not think it will be suggested that he has nobbled the City of London.
§ Sir PATRICK FORD
I partly belong to that faction, but I cannot follow the meaning of what the hon. Member is saying.
§ Wing-Commander JAMES
The present level of Indian securities gives a very good idea of the estimate that the City puts on the value of Indian credit. I speak subject to correction by financial experts when I say that the credit of India stands higher to-day than that of any other colony or Dominion. It is quite true that in the old days of the East India Company India was exploited by this country. In those days the balance of trade between India and England was about 6 to 1 in favour of this country. Those days have long passed. To-day India undoubtedly benefits quite as much if not more from our trading connection with her as we do from our connection with India.
I suggest that one of the most pressing evils that the future Government of India must tackle is the present money-lending 1798 system. To-day quite good and sound concerns in India commonly have to obtain their accommodation money at rates of 7 to 7½ per cent., but when you come to the peasant masses you have rates of interest running up to 150 per cent per annum, Probably over the mass of the rural population it averages about 100 per cent. One of the most beneficial developments that could follow this Bill would be the establishment of a land bank, with ramifications gradually pushed out into the villages so as to give these people the capital that they need at rates which are reasonable in proportion to the risk. I believe that thus you would raise the standard of living on the people in a remarkable degree. You would abolish the debt slavery in which the great mass of the Indian peasants now live, and you would in a comparatively short time enormously increase their purchasing power. That is where the mutual benefit should come in.
In India you have now a very low standard of living and an enormous number of purchasers unable to satisfy their wants. If reform of the borrowing system were carried right down to the villages the people would become potential buyers of British goods. On the one hand there is the idle capital, the idle machinery and the idle hands in this country, and on the other hand 360,000,000 people short of the necessities of modern life and of its luxuries. They would be ready purchasers of British goods once we could raise the standard of living. I do not think that the apprehension such as Lancashire nurses, about Indian manufacturers ousting British goods from the Indian market, is justified. Trade is always fluid. It may be that the days of Lancashire's India monopoly are gone for ever, but on the other hand I believe that cotton piece goods are probably one of the comparatively few articles of Indian necessity which the climate and the labour conditions and the markets in India render likely of development to any exclusive extent. If one motors through English manufacturing areas, as I did down the Great West Road today, and looks at the factories, and one asks oneself, "How many things that are made in those factories could be made in India?" One comes to the conclusion that there is a comparatively small 1799 field of manufactured goods which India is likely in the relatively near future to manufacture for herself. A sort of Anglo-India Ottawa special agreement is one of the things to which the Government should address themselves.
I have spoken longer than I intended, but I had not observed any ugly rush on the part of other hon. Members to speak. What seems to be the real merit of this Bill is that it puts the onus on to Indians for the good government of their country. It puts to the test the claims that they have made. That is the real crux of the matter. Personally, I have not the slightest doubt that they will rise to the occasion. I cannot agree with the argument of the right hon Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), who talked about "riveting fetters on the wrists of India." It did not bear the slightest relevance to the Bill. I am always intrigued by the speeches of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, and I like to watch the effect of those speeches upon his neighbours. They never know whether he is coming down on the extreme right or the extreme left. When that particular phrase was used, I thought there was a momentary embarrassment on both sides. This Bill offers a basis on which Indians can develop their own country and shape their own future. The onus will be upon them and certainly not upon us; and I believe that the House would be well advised to give this Bill, which is a sound Measure and the only possible Measure, a large majority.
§ 8.36 p.m.
§ Sir P. FORD
The last speaker remarked that he had not observed any "ugly rush" of Members wishing to intervene in this Debate, but as he very generously curtailed his remarks I do not intend to detain the House long. I do not want to be diverted from my main argument by anything which the hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James) has said, but he threw out a challenge about the City being "nobbled," to which I wish to refer. I am not myself a financier, but, from what I know of our financiers, I should say that, with all their knowledge of the interlocking of international finance, they are pretty shrewd in dealing with matters of this kind, and will be able to judge of guarantees of security whatever Con- 1800 stitution may be imposed upon India. They have been brought up in a pretty tough school. They are very shrewd fellows, and I think they will make their way whatever Constitution is given to India. But, as I say, I am not a financier and I dismiss that part of the argument without any further words.
The consideration which brings me to my feet upon this occasion is the same as that which impelled me to intervene in the Second Reading Debate. I do not wish to bore the House with biographical details but I ought to say that I was very ill from the middle of February onwards and could not take part in the Committee proceedings, although certain Amendments had been put on the Paper in my name. I am grateful therefore for this opportunity of saying why I intend to vote against the Third Reading of the Bill. That is a serious step but one which I feel bound to take. Just after the text of this Bill was published, the Annual Conference of Scottish Unionists was held and considered it, not in detail but as to the general idea. I should mention that we have about 55 Scottish Unionist Members, and I do not know that they all see eye to eye with me, but at any rate this conference, representing a considerable volume of opinion in Scotland, was unanimous in urging the Government to see that proper British supervision of the police and the law courts, both in the Provincial and Central Governments, should be maintained during what is admitted to be a transition period. As far as I can find our view has never been met by the Government in the slightest degree.
I missed the opening sentences of the speech of the Secretary of State but I am told that it contained several zoological allusions to mare's nests and so forth. I am prompted by that fact to suggest a reason why the Government have not met our reasonable request. As a result of the electoral tidal wave such a large number of curious representatives of democracy have been cast up on the beach of this House that they are like a lot of jellyfish basking in the sunshine of official favour. They have become more and more plastic, indeed almost fluid, until they can be run easily into any bucket or mould represented by the "Aye" Lobby or the "No" Lobby, as the Whips may direct. 1801 I cannot help feeling that adversity is sometimes good for a Government and that excess of prosperity sometimes makes a Government neglect arguments to 'which they would otherwise give attention. I believe if the Government had a working majority of 40 or 50 instead of 400 or 500 they might have listened to our arguments. I do not say that I resent it. I have been too long in politics, almost, to resent anything at all, but I feel that it would have been in the interests of the Government, of our party, of the country and of India, had a little more attention been given to our point of view.
Two observations made by the Secretary of State interested me very much. He said that if the Bill were defeated it would be felt in India that 7½ years' work had ended in smoke. Better that it should end in smoke than in a vast and disastrous conflagration. He also said that restrictions were necessary. He was then answering the Opposition of the Left and not that of the Right—to which, in a way, I belong though perhaps my own particular position differs from that of others who belong to it. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that restrictions are necessary. If the right hon. Gentleman had said, as hon. Members opposite seem to think, that the Indians are so endowed by nature that without any experience in the difficult principles and practices of democracy, they were able at once to jump into the position of ruling their own destinies without supervision; if he had said that although these people were, politically speaking, infants it was safe to offer them the beefsteak of full-blossomed democracy—I know I am mixing my metaphors but never mind—if the right hon. Gentleman and the Government had agreed with the Labour party that these people were perfectly competent and that all these powers could safely be handed over to them, I could have understood that attitude. But that is not what the Government say. They say that restrictions are necessary and then they turn to us and say, "Look at all the safeguards we are providing."
We are told that the Governor-General and the Governors of Provinces are to have rights over legislation and the right ultimately to suspend the Constitution if necessary. The Government 1802 have thereby admitted that in their own view there is a necessity for restriction and for interference. At the conference of Scottish Unionists to which I have referred the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture, who attended as a Scottish Member, told us that this experiment was like the dual control of a flying machine when an experienced pilot was teaching a beginner. When the latter made a mistake, the right hon. Gentleman suggested, the pilot could take over the controls, and that, he said, was what was being achieved by these safeguards. I think that is a rather dangerous way of proceeding. It is not suggested that we are to have a master set of controls. It will be necessary for us to ask the learner to relinquish the controls and if he hesitates, either because of panic or because he does not agree, disaster may take place.
Even if the experienced British administrators, the Governor-General and the Governors have, theoretically, a master set of controls, I do not think these will help them very much unless there is a proper connection between those controls, represented by the paper safeguards, and the actual working of the administrative machine. They might find themselves in the position of a pilot who, when he sought to work his controls, found that the tailpiece, the wings and the rudder did not respond. That is how we feel about these proposals. Some of us are not so much alarmed about giving rather more power to local authorities in India who have not had experience, always provided that you have effective means of making the controls work and produce results. That, we maintain, you can only have if you have, during this period of tuition and transition, effective control of the police and the law courts. Without that, when the Governor-General is confronted with something that he feels will be disastrous for some section of the people of India—it may be that this elected, small representative body is passing legislation in the matter of land owning or of the communal interest of Mohammedans as against Hindus—and he says, "I have got my safeguards, I can veto this Bill, and I can certify my own Bill, or I can even suspend the Constitution," and he pulls his paper controls and nothing happens, that means disaster of the worst type. That is liable to happen unless you make these controls effective 1803 by leaving, if not complete control, at least supervision and the ordering of the police forces and law courts of India, in the experienced hands of Great Britain.
I am not saying this out of any disregard for the ability, the subtlety of mind, or even the public spirit of those Indians who, even under this imperfect Constitution, are to be entrusted with so much; I am saying it simply because it is admitted by the Government themselves that until what we have taken hundreds of years to learn has been learned by them through experience, and they are trusted by their own people as well as by us, it is a most rash and disastrous thing to hand over all that to them. The Government have rather patted themselves on the back, and their supporters in the Press have done it also, on the fact that this is such a vast Measure and so much industry has been shown in all its details. It seems to me, [...]may vary the metaphor—I know that argument from metaphor is not always sound, but it may illustrate what is in one's mind—that all this enormous structure, constructed with meticulous care, with the best motives, with marvellous industry, and with great attention to detail, all this great arch with its multitudes of stones of great solidity, depends on the keystone, and that keystone in the meantime is the preservation of law and order; and if that is rotten, or badly planned, or badly placed, the whole fabric comes down.
Feeling that very strongly as I do, I could not bring myself to vote for this Bill on its Third Reading. I think we ought to defeat the Bill, and I think that then something on reasonable lines should be brought in, because I am realist enough to know that we must go on and meet the aspirations which successive Governments have encouraged in India and which, I think, are well enough founded if you will take things not too quickly and not, as the Labour party seems to think, with the idea that these people are ripe at once for a really democratic Government, and not, on the other hand, take the line that there must be restrictions, but that the most effective part of those restrictions, the proper control of law and order, can be let go without the gravest danger of ruin and disaster to this country and to India.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir WALTER SMILES
When the hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Sir P. Ford) mentioned what was to be the keystone of the arch, I certainly expected that he meant it was to be the Viceroy, because I look upon him as the keystone to the arch. Instead of that, we are reverting to the old question of the police and law and order. I admit that the place I occupied when we were deliberating the reforms in 1929 was an extremely humble one. I was then on the Committee of the Assam Legislative Council which was appointed to collaborate with the Simon Commission when they came out to India. But there is one thing which my experience on the Provincial Legislative Council and on (hose Committees taught me, and that is that you will never make any successful attempt at satisfying Indian political aspirations in the Provinces if you do not take the risk and transfer the police to the control of a Minister. I admit the risk, I know the risk well, and when I took the risk myself a great many of my friends in Assam very strongly disagreed with me, but when I went out to India a few months ago I found then that those same people who had disagreed with me on the transfer of the police had gone very much further since and were now willing to consider the further extension of self-government at the Centre.
Those people are completely in touch with the situation and living from day to day among the Indians, and their experience is at any rate to be considered. I do not for a moment pretend that every European in the whole of India wishes the police to be transferred, but I think I am on firm ground when I say that the majority do, especially the European Association, which has very definitely come down in favour of the transfer of law and order. It must be remembered that the police in India, if they have not been administered by Indian Ministers, at any rate have been administered and looked after by Indians themselves, the executive councillors, and on the whole they have acquitted themselves very well of the trust; but I am certain that the first thing of all, Provincial autonomy, would break down if we did not transfer the police.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Wise) and the hon. 1805 Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall) are not in their places. The hon. Member for Smethwick used the simile that if he saw the Secretary of State with a razor cutting another man's throat and stopped him, he could not suggest an alternative. That is the same sort of gag as asking a person, "When did you stop beating your wife?" It would be a much fairer simile to ask, "If you saw a motor car going up a long and, if you like, dangerous hill, and it came to a stop, what would you do?" Most people would think the best thing to do would be to Look in the petrol tank and, if it, was empty of petrol, fill it up, or, if the radiator was empty of water, fill it up and start the car again. You would not take the alternative of letting the motor car run down to the bottom of the hill and then starting again. That is the position of the Constitution of India to-day. It has climbed, it may be, halfway up this long and dangerous hill, and it has now come to a stop, and I think this Parliament and the proposals in this Bill are to fill up the tank with petrol and get it moving up and forward again.
We all realise that the way ahead is very difficult. The hon. Member for Hulme mentioned pensions. I think that those who joined the Services long ago—and I think my hon. Friend the hon. Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock) would agree—are in a different position from those who joined the Services after 1919. Everybody who joined after 1919, and everybody who invested in commerce, trade or industry after 1919, was well aware, if they had any common sense, that at some date in the not too distant future the constitution of India was to be extended and more self-government given to the Indians. Members of the Services are intelligent enough to appreciate these things for themselves, and they knew very well that if they joined after 1919 they would very probably be called to serve under Indians and to occupy a position very different from that which the Indian Civil Service occupied in the old days when there were no such things as responsible legislative councils in the Provinces or a responsible Legislative Assembly at the Centre. I feel confident that nearly everything will go before these pensions go, and that if these pensions go it will be very nearly the end of the British Empire itself.
1806 I have heard many gloomy prophecies about this Bill. I have heard people say that if it goes through some 3,000,000 people will suffer. I do not agree that they will suffer, and nobody has definitely pointed out in what particular way they will suffer, but I feel sure that if we do not make some gesture now and give an extension of self-government, it will not be 3,000,000 who will suffer, but it, may easily be 6,000,000. The people in India expect an extension of self-government to be given, and they will be extremely disappointed if no further measure is granted, and that will lead to trouble. Those of us who went through the bad times in 1920 and 1921, when we saw the effects of non-co-operation, strife, hartals and things like that, do not want to go through it again or condemn any of our friends to go through it. I believe that at the present moment there is a. very much better feeling between Europeans and Indians than in 1919, and that by putting this Bill through now we shall do something to continue and promote that good feeling. The greatest problem before the new Indian Government will be the economic problem. Every 10 years about 30,000,000 people are added to the population of India, and the problem will be how all those people are to be fed and supported, because the pressure on the land in many of the Provinces is very great. It is to be hoped that the Indian politician will confine his lively attention in future more to looking after the wellbeing of the people than to taking a merely stubborn attitude in opposition to British rule. There are any number of clever people among Indian politicians if only their energies were switched into the right channel.
I would like to say a. word about the constitution of Ceylon. Last night I ran by chance into two Ceylon planters who had a great deal to do with and took a great interest in the present Government of Ceylon. I heard it stated in the House that the Government of Ceylon was working very badly indeed. I asked these two gentlemen how the Government was working, and they said that it was working fairly well. I admit that Ceylon has a population of only 5,000,000, but it was a surprise to me when these two gentlemen told me that the new Constitution was working in a fairly satisfactory way. They said that a lot of the Ministers were very good and clever men, 1807 that there was one European who had a Minister's post, and that, altogether, the Government was functioning. When the Labour Government put the constitution through, I never expected that it would work so well. If it goes on working as it is at present, the Labour Government will have something on which to congratulate themselves. Ceylon is more or less a homogeneous place and the people are possibly better educated than the people of India, but if the constitution works in that country, I see no reason why this constitution should not work in India. Some of my Lancashire friends may say that Ceylon did not implement the Ottawa agreements and give a preference to Lancashire piece goods. There are people in this country who think themselves excellent politicians, who do not believe in duties and tariffs, but Ceylon has no cotton industry of its own to protect. I believe that since then a quota has been established and that it is doing some good to Lancashire.
Turning again to India, it must be remembered that a great deal of Indian capital is now invested in the industries of India, and it is not likely that the New-Indian Government will let them go down, because the Indian interests and the British interests are identical. In an industry like jute, I suppose that it would be fair to say that 70 per cent. of the capital invested is Indian. In cotton, 80 per cent. is Indian. In coal, hydroelectricity, iron and steel, and, indeed, in every industry in India, I believe that considerable Indian capital is invested. Probably the smallest amount is in planting, the Burma Oil Company and the gold mines of Mysore. Altogether, the amount of Indian capital invested in Indian industry is very great indeed, and is probably increasing every day. Naturally, as representing a Lancashire constituency, I must think about the Lancashire cotton piece goods trade. The hon. Member for Hulme mentioned the trade convention. It may be perfectly legal for the Secretary of State to interfere and to prevent the Legislative Assembly in Delhi imposing these duties on Lancashire cotton, but I question whether if the hon. Member for Hulme was the Secretary of State himself, or even if the hon. Member for the English Universities were Secretary of State, he would take into his hands that power and not allow India to raise 1808 some of her revenues by taxing these piece goods. In looking at the exports of machinery into India during the past few years, we see that a great deal of the imports from England have been of cotton machinery. Naturally, the people who import this machinery do not intend to look at the looms, but to work them. India is in a position to manufacture 80 per cent. of the cotton piece goods that she requires. Certainly, any Secretary of State is bound to have trouble if he allows this machinery to be stopped.
§ Mr. FLEMING
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the present tariff of 25 per cent. against Lancashire piece goods going into India is penal or not?
§ Sir W. SMILES
Certainly. I think it is penal, and that by putting this constitution through we are more likely to have it reduced than increased. I dare-say there are people, like the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and others, who think that by not establishing this Constitution we shall get an atmosphere of good will and an increase in the Lancashire cotton piece goods trade. I take the position that we shall be more likely to get an increase by putting this Bill through. I may be wrong, but that is the position I take. I think that if this Bill goes through there will be a much better feeling between India and this country, and that if there is they are more likely, when their revenues permit, to reduce the duties on cotton piece goods. My hon. Friend the Member for Withington (Mr. Fleming) may think it will be a worse thing and that the duties will even be increased. He and I differ on that and, after all, one cannot argue with prophets, one can only disbelieve them. Time alone will show which of us is right.
§ Mr. FLEMING
Will the hon. Member tell the House whether the cotton manufacturers in his division agree with what he has said as regards the possibilities of the tariff?
§ Sir W. SMILES
I am stating my own opinion, after what I have seen in India and with my knowledge of India. At any rate I am sure of this, that a great many of the cotton manufacturers in Lancashire do agree with me, and I believe that the Manchester Chamber of Commerce does also. The really knotty question is that of Federation. At the present 1809 moment the attitude of the Princes is confusing, to say the least of it. They were the people who, at the first Round Table Conference I think, caused Lord Reading to say that the position had changed because the Princes had agreed to come into the Federation. Now they are finessing or bargaining, which I suppose is quite natural, and are not coming into the Federation as easily and as readily as many people thought at one time would be the case. I understand that it is the Princes near Kathiawar and also, I think, Patiala and those States which are principally affected by the Customs duties from goods imported from overseas, who seem to be doubtful whether it will be to their advantage to come into the Federation; but I have an idea that at least 50 per cent. will come in and that the others will follow in time.
The hon. Member for Hulme pointed to the very good position of some of the Indian States which are under autocratic government. It really comes to this: whether we, as Members of the House of Commons, believe in democracy as being good or not. It is generally accepted that democracy, although it may not yet work smoothly in oriental countries, has been a good thing in this country, and has brought the whole of the classes here together, as we saw in the manifestations of loyalty on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee. It should be our aim to encourage and help the Indians towards democracy. Anything other than that would be a very retrograde move. If we did not create some sort of federation at the centre the taunts sometimes levelled by Indians that we are trying to divide and to rule would be perfectly justified. From what I have seen in India there is great patriotism among the people of the same Province, but I have never seen the same degree of patriotism as regards the whole of India. By getting this Federation at the centre we shall encourage patriotism, and, taking the long view, it will be the best thing for India and this country. If we introduce only provincial autonomy now we shall be laying ourselves open to the charge that we have not taken the long view for the benefit of India. I consider that this Bill will do a great deal to help the people of India in the future. One of the great things under it is the franchise for women. I wish it could have been given automatically in some of 1810 the Provinces, so that they did not have to apply for the vote, but I am sure it is a very good extension. Last night I was talking to an Indian who was in Lucknow a short time ago, and he told me that even there, a centre of Mohammedanism, I believe, Mohammedan women were very definitely going to the poll, that they will make use of the vote. That is one thing which will be very definitely for the benefit of India.
The curse of Ireland is that the people there know too much about history, but when we are passing a great Bill like this, probably the most important that has ever been passed by this House, we ought to look back upon what has happened in the United States, in South Africa and in Ireland. If it had not been for a Liberal Government's generosity we might easily have lost the Union of South Africa when war broke out in 1914. At any rate there was a very serious rebellion there, and it was the Dutch themselves who suppressed it; the British were not called in to do it. I think it was that Liberal generosity which probably led to the Dutch being on our side in the Union of South Africa in August, 1914. If we turn to Ireland, my own country, we see the six counties of Ulster, the loyal counties, entirely separated now from the south, far more in touch with England and with Scotland than with the south. If we could have foreseen in 1880 that the Irish Free State would come into existence and that the six counties of Ulster would be separated from it, surely we should have acted differently and have avoided the Easter Monday rebellion of 1916 and such happenings as the murder of the British officers in 1919 and 1920. Those things do not leave a good taste in anybody's mouth. It is better for Members of Parliament and politicians to be generous rather than suspicious, and although at one time I opposed this Federal proposal, I am going to play my very small part to-night—one 614th part—by voting for the Third Reading of this Bill, because I believe that to pass it will be the best thing for India.
§ 9.14 p.m.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I hope the hon. Member for Blackburn (Sir W. Smiles) will forgive me if I do not follow him in the very interesting economic and fiscal questions which he has raised. I am anxious to detain the House for as 1811 short a time as possible, and shall con fine my remarks to two or three aspects of the Bill which have given me special concern, and over which I have been thinking anxiously in determining my attitude towards the Third Reading. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will be glad to know that those matters do not include the status of women, important as that is, because I have had to trouble the House very frequently on that subject during the Committee proceedings. I always admitted frankly that, even in its original form, the Bill did constitute a substantial advance in the opportunities it offered to women, both as voters and as elected representatives. The concessions which have been made during the course of the Committee stage, though less than we asked for, have marked a further advance, and we are grateful for them. I admit that our gratitude is rather of the proverbial order which includes a lively hope of favours to come. That question, however, has not been among those which have made me very anxiously consider whether I could vote for the Third Reading of the Bill.
The first of the questions which greatly perturb me is that relating to the effect of the Bill on the interests of the subjects of Indian States. Very little has been said on that matter during the progress of the Bill, partly because the rules of procedure have made it difficult for us to discuss it. Formally and ostensibly the Bill makes very little change in the position of the subjects of Indian States and, except in so far as the Instrument of Accession of a particular State permits the operation of legislation concerning a prescribed range of federal subjects in that State, the subjects of the States will still be responsible only to their Rulers and the responsibility and the right of the Paramount Power to intervene on their behalf in cases of oppression is neither greater nor less than it has always been. Hence it has been difficult to discuss that question as raised directly by the Bill.
I submit, nevertheless, that the Bill does actually make a change in the position, in two respects. The first difference is created by the fact that, in order to smooth the pathway of the Bill and to obtain the accession of the Princes, the Secretary of State has undertaken, on behalf of the Government, solemnly to 1812 reaffirm the inviolability of the treaties, sanads, and engagements which bind us to keep those autocrats on their thrones. The reaffirmation of an ancient treaty as part of a new bargain creates a, new situation, and is a different and more serious thing than merely allowing an ancient treaty to run on until a substantial reason arises for terminating it.
The second difference arises from the dependence of the federal part of the proposed Constitution upon the good will of the Princes for its smooth working. It has been hard enough in the past to persuade the Viceroy to intervene on behalf of the subjects of Indian States, even in cases which were acknowledged to justify intervention, namely, to check inhuman practices, to ensure religious toleration, or to prevent gross misrule. The Butler Report boasts how very rarely the power of intervention has been exercised, and says that some of the Indian Princes have said that in certain cases intervention ought to have taken place earlier than it did. It is plain that it will be harder in the future to secure intervention when such intervention might risk forfeiting the good will of a particular Ruler whose support is needed for some measure which the Government think important. It is acknowledged even by so distinguished a constitutional lawyer as Mr. Panikkar, now in the service of the States, that the position of the subject of an Indian Stateis anomalous and sometimes lacks the guarantees of ordinary citizenship.He says that those subjectshave a dual allegiance, one to their immediate Ruler and the other indirectly to the Paramount Power … they seem to have no rights as against either.We have heard little on this question in the House, and little in the Indian press. Congress never seems to have interested itself vigorously in safeguarding the interests of the subjects of Indian States. I suppose they are reluctant to admit that Indians can in any circumstances be worse off under Indian rulers than under the hated British rulers. One hears that in the future we may look for improvement, because of the closer union between the Indian States and the people of British India that is bound to take place as a result of Federation, and which will necessarily bring about a free flow of progressive ideas and of social reform within the States. Yet the Bill is full of 1813 precautions which tend to prevent or limit the free breath of publicity through the States to dispel the thick mists which prevent us from knowing what is happening in all those 500 States. Some of them are of great importance and some as admirably conducted as any part of British India, but many are so small and so obscure, as well as so remote, that very little is known about what goes on there.
I refer to this now because the Secretary of State told us, I think it was on 25th February, that he intended, though not in the Bill or in the Instrument of Accession, to take an opportunity solemnly to reaffirm the inviolability of treaties and engagements between ourselves and the Indian States. I hope that we shall have an assurance from the Under-Secretary as to the kind of occasion which will be taken for making that reaffirmation. I hope it will be a public occasion, and that the House will be able to discuss the matter. May I venture to hope that the Leader of the Labour party may find it possible then to state on behalf of his party that, if ever his party returns to power, it will hold itself perfectly free to reconsider any agreement made with Indian Princes which is inconsistent with the natural rights and duty of 'a great democracy like this, and to refuse to uphold, whether actively or passively, any form of rule which is resulting in the oppression of the people under that rule, or that is resulting even in the suppression of their rightful aspirations towards greater freedom? Now that we are in the last stages of this Bill and are letting the Measure pass out of our hands, we ought to remember the responsibilities that we have towards those 80,000,000 inhabitants of the Indian States, of whom we know so little and have heard so little, yet whose future will be inevitably and irrevocably affected. We should not lose sight of their interests now or in future years.
The other big question which perturbs me is the attitude of the politically-minded section of British India towards the Bill. We have heard a great deal about this in to-day's Debate and very varied views have been taken as to the attitude of the Indian people. We have heard from the Secretary of State that the vocal opposition against the Bill is merely a form of politician's bluff, the ordinary game of bargaining and protest- 1814 ing in order to get a little more. From the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) we have heard a pessimistic view of the opposite kind, a view which represents nearly every section of opinion in British India as passionately desirous of killing the Bill. There is no question relating to the Bill on which I have tried harder to arrive at a considered judgment than this one: Do Indians dislike the Bill only on the ground that it does not go far enough, or do they want us to kill the Bill? Would they prefer the status quo?
I have found it increasingly difficult to arrive at any settled judgment. Except from a very few individuals, the answer has been confused and uncertain, but it has seemed to me as time went on that there was less and less willingness to give the answer which the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme thinks they are all willing to give —that they would rather have no Bill than this Bill; that they would rather go on as they are in the hope of something better later on. There has been an increasing reluctance to commit themselves to that view. I wish there had been some individuals representing different sections of public opinion in India here all the time we have been discussing the Bill, so that they could have advised us and criticised and assisted those of us who have been trying to make it a better Bill. I wish they could have been invited to come over here, but as they were not invited, I wish they had come over of their own volition.
If there had been a Bill under discussion in India which was going to affect the future of England as much as this Bill will affect the future of India, I think I would have gone to India, invited or uninvited, even if I had to stow away among the baggage, so that I could have been behind the scenes doing my best to influence opinion. That is the English way. If you cannot get a mile, get a yard; if you cannot get a yard, get a foot; if you cannot get a foot, get an inch. Unfortunately, it is not the Indian way, and therefore we are obliged to fall back on our own judgment. Using my judgment as far as it goes, with much doubt and much hesitation, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot vote for the Labour Amendment, if it is to be the only opportunity we shall have of voting 1815 on the Bill. I should like to have voted first for the Labour Amendment, because I agree with nearly every part of it, but if that is defeated, for the Bill, If we can only vote once I shall be obliged to vote against the Labour Amendment and for the Bill, because, so far as I can judge, defective as I believe this Bill to be, it does seem to contain elements and seeds of future growth; opportunities which, if Indians use them properly, will enable them to secure social reforms and to gain practice in the exercise of democratic rights. They may thus obtain for themselves a better foothold from which they can come in future years to this Parliament and ask—and we shall be compelled to yield it—something that will satisfy the whole of their desire for full Dominion status—the status which I wish with all my heart had been definitely promised them in this Bill.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ Sir REGINALD CRADDOCK
I shall not be very long as I have spoken so often in Committee. All I want to do is to concentrate on a few salient points in this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State made an appeal to us to recognise what a fine ideal was aimed at by the Bill. I think we all do that. We all say it is a fine ideal to get peaceable, prosperous self-government in India. It is a fine ideal, but the difficulty is that so many people think you can realise that ideal by idealising the real. That, I think, is what constantly happens when we are discussing in this House Measures of this kind in connection with India. The Bill is going to construct a great constitutional tower. I cannot help thinking, however, that that tower will prove to be only a Tower of Babel, with much confusion of tongues and with the various nationalities that exist in India—for the question of a single Indian nation is now, and for a long time to come, a mere fiction—struggling for supremacy among themselves, and with the animosities between groups and races which everyone who knows the history of the past few years knows has become keener and more exacerbated the nearer they got to self-government. The reason is that self-determination and self-government are all very well when you know who the "selves" are, but when you mean different selves it makes confusion worse confounded.
1816 This erection of the tower is not only top-heavy but also lopsided. It is top-heavy because, on account of the Princes being included, the Legislature has had to be made very nearly double the size of the British India section. This was really unnecessary. It was the idea that the Princes should have one-third of the seats. It was the idea that not fewer than 125 seats could possibly satisfy all the various States if they were given due importance in the new arrangement. That meant 125, and, as they had only to be one-third of the total, you had to double the 125 and make 250, or 375 altogether. The result is that by reason of the Princes coming into the Federal arrangement, British India will have to pay a great deal more for many more members than it could possibly require. One hundred and fifty members, so far as British India is concerned, would be ample for all requirements at the Centre, and this extra expense will be involved just when the work to be done is reduced to a mere shadow of itself by the creation of provincial autonomy, which takes away a large part of the business hitherto transacted at the Centre.
Then comes the question of the entry of the Princes, and over this I do not want to traverse again. It is controversial ground as to whether they are coming in or not; as to whether they were induced to come in or not, and so forth. When the arrangements were made with the Princes the Princes naturally used the opportunity to bring up all the grievances and claims which they have put forward many times before at intervals—when a new Viceroy came or when they saw some chance of reviving a claim they did so. Similarly the Government naturally found it very convenient to be more indulgent to these claims and grievances than they had ever been before. That is inevitable in a matter of this kind, where the question of entry or non-entry arises. The result is that the arrangement is not very likely to commend itself to British India and British India politicians, for just as the Princes are entering the Federation, so the contribution to the general revenue which they had hitherto made is being reduced. The Princes refuse absolutely to pay any direct tax such as Income Tax. They will not pay Supertax for another 10 years anyway, and there are a certain number of Princes enjoying the benefit of 1817 sea customs who are therefore practically contributing nothing from their States, or at any rate a very insignificant amount. Yet, at the very time when the contribution of the Princes is being reduced, the expenses in connection with the paramountcy, and various other political expenses, may at any time be increased.
The consequence is that you get a conflict between British India and the: Princes over this matter of finance which may cause great acrimony in the near future. Further, there are arrangements in the Bill that representatives from the States may become Ministers, although they have not been elected, but are nominees. The possibility of that is provided for as regards the Princes through the Council of State. As a natural consequence, the representatives of the Princes will be, as far as Federal subjects are concerned, poking into the affairs of British India, and British India will certainly want their representatives, when Federal affairs are concerned, similarly to poke into the affairs of the States. Thus yet one more ground for friction is added to all the causes of friction which in any case exists on account of hostility between races, creeds and castes, and of the desire to use powers and opportunities for the benefit of one's own people. No one can prophesy—I do not claim to be able to prophesy, and it is not wise to attempt to do so—what causes of strife may not arise in both the legislative and the executive fields from this lop-sided arrangement at the top of the Federation.
Coming down to the lower part of this Tower of Babel, it is being built on a quicksand, and that is not likely to contribute to its stability. The hypothesis is that the addition of some 28,000,000 ignorant, superstitious and credulous voters to the present electorate will produce moderate and reasonable legislatures with nothing but the public good before their eyes—
§ Sir R. CRADDOCK
They are all that, but a little more. If you lower the franchise to the point to which it is now to be lowered, you are bound to get a lower stratum. On the basis of a revenue 1818 of two rupees a year, you get the most ignorant people—even, in parts of certain Provinces, the most ignorant aborigines—and, therefore, there is bound to be ignorance, credulity and superstitution.
§ Sir R. CRADDOCK
At present the electorate numbers some 7,000,000, and it is to be 35,000,000 altogether, so the addition of 28,000,000 is supposed to put into the new electorate all that savour and flavour by which all the best people may be returned to the legislatures. The Indian peasant, as many hon. Members have said, and as I know from my own experience, is quite shrewd about his own immediate affairs in his own locality. He may make valuable suggestions as to how a Tenancy Act ought to be administered. But that is within his little locality. His horizon is very limited. Immediately he gets out of his accustomed surroundings, he is at the mercy of anyone who tells him any story he likes. For example, during the big famines in the last 10 years of the last century, which were the very severest of the century, the people at large were so impressed by the expenditure and the tremendous exertions that were made that they composed and sang songs in honour of the Government and of the great Queen who provided the kitchens and saved the ryots. It was very pleasing to hear all those tributes as one went round among the villages. But these very people, having witnessed this enormous expenditure and the exertions to save life were two years afterwards listening to stories that plague had been introduced by the Government, that the water was being poisoned, and that plague inoculation was a design intended to sterilise the entire population. They believed those stories. They did not see that, if a Government lavished all this money on saving life, the same Government two years later could hardly be spending further large sums on destroying the whole population. Nevertheless, they believed it, and the intelligentsia encouraged them in that belief. At that time—and it is not so very long ago—they disgraced themselves by disobeying every plague rule, by concealing their cases, and by rushing out into the villages to spread the infection all over the country. That was the example which the intelligentsia set the people at large 1819 I do not think it is unreasonable not to Put too much confidence in the power of this electorate to provide a really sound and responsible system of government in India. To my mind, there is no hope that an electorate of that kind can learn wisdom and elect sagacious, public-spirited persons, and that has been my great criticism all through about these reforms. However good they may be in their objective and ideal, they are years before their time.
We are told all about responsible government. I hate that expression. It is purely a term of art. It does not mean anything except one particular system which has been devised mostly by Anglo-Saxon people here. It is the system which we have in this country. The Joint Select Committee have called the present Government of India under the existing system "irresponsible government," but that is playing with words. The Government of India all along has been a responsible government; that is to say, it has been composed of people who had a sense of responsibility, and who were, in fact, responsible to Parliament here. To keep on in the documents calling the existing government "irresponsible" is merely putting phrases into the mouths of our opponents. I would like the House to consider this question of responsibility, because I think that neither responsible government in its technical sense, nor democracy, nor anything else can function unless there is a majority of the electors, and a substantial majority, who have a sense of responsibility. We all know that in the course of our lives we have come across people who, we say, have very little, or no, sense of responsibility.
If you look round the world you will see that there are some races very much more deficient in the sense of responsibility than others, and the Indians certainly are very far behind any race to be found in the Dominions. The Government think that the magic effect of office and government is going to change all, and if it did all would be well. It might be well if you could really get the very best Indians into these offices and into the Legislatures, but you cannot do so, because they will not stand the rough-and-tumble of an election, and the terrible calumnies and tricks and frauds 1820 with which candidates are confronted. This magic effect is not likely to influence the power of the intelligentsia, which is a power for evil and not for good. It was from a great admirer of the new constitution I heard these remarks. He was reading a paper before the Royal Empire Society, and I was in the chair. The paper was chiefly about the previous political history of India, and it did not actually touch upon the new constitution, but this admirer of Indian reform was asked by someone present how far the intelligentsia controlled the masses. He had had a lot of experience of India, and his immediate answer was: "They can inflame, but they cannot control."
That is the key of the whole situation. They can work up an electorate to a state of excitement, but they cannot control it. When they work up those districts to a pitch of excitement like that, it is followed by arson, murder, and so on. They cannot control it. They can raise the storm, but they cannot allay it. I wish to read to the House one or two extracts from an opinion which is contrary to the opinion upon which the Government act, namely, the committal of powers which will settle everything. This happens to be an extract from a letter of a distinguished officer who is high up in the provincial Civil Service in India. I do not want to give any clue to his identity as it might cost him his life, or cause him very great trouble. This is a relevant extract from his letter to an old chief, who retired in India. It was written as recently as December, 1934:The Select Committee's Report has pleased nobody. Every Indian knows we are trying to run before we can walk, and the political agitation is entirely due to the fight for the loaves and fishes of office. It's an attempt to loot wholesale public revenues.That is the trouble. The kind of riffraff you may get in your legislature and perhaps in your ministries may be people who may do what they can to make what they can, and have no interest whatever in the public welfare. Their guiding principle would be gain for themselves. I am not condemning Indians as a whole. There are many honest, capable men among them, but they are not the men who will be induced by this Bill to come forward. I have also a letter from 1821 a less educated man, also an Indian and a sub-inspector of police. He writes:The entire staff of inspectors and sub-inspectors of my Province view the reforms with great alarm … With the exception of the military, we Indian policemen are the torch-bearers of law and order in the British administration, and we would prefer suicide to being cast away by our British masters to a set of men who are so unfit to govern. The police would become a useless set of village watchmen, themselves siding with the criminals. The Indian politicians are selfish, incompetent and talk-big people. Please tell your friends in England that no measure of self-government will please these people, who will say, as they said in 1920, that the reforms are the result of bloodshed by terrorists.And he adds one more sentence which is very significant, arid contains a real warning:Communism among the poor classes and terrorist intelligentsia will crush all police activities in future.That is one of the most serious effects which has only arisen during the last 10 years, and it is what the youth party intend to resort to in order to bring about chaos and bloodshed. That is what the police dread. If the whole of the people, not merely the riffraff but the whole countryside, should be incited to the murder of landlords and Government servants and so forth, the police will collapse, because they cannot deal with these overwhelming numbers. The tragedy of Chauri-chaura showed that 21 policemen were wiped out in the space of an hour or two, and only one policeman escaped to tell the tale.
I want to say a few words about good will. There is no one who values good will more than I do in all human relations, but the charm of good will may sometimes fail when displayed towards implacable foes or foes who bear you ill will, and want nothing but your expulsion, as those sections who bear ill will in India do. Lord Halifax absolutely demonstrated that no amount of good will is possible. He offered good will to everybody. He outlined the Sermon on the Mount. What was the effect?
§ Sir R. CRADDOCK
Certainly not on Congress. Good will is all very well, but unilateral good will is as useless as unilateral disarmament.
To come to another point. The question of governing Indians has been 1822 greatly complicated by the rash exhortation which Mr. Montagu gave to civil servants that they must also become politicians. That is what they are doing, really, and it accounts for the fact that a certain number of those in the higher ranks have fallen into the trap of political dexterity, and have lost their bearings as regards the relative importance of sound administration and of political manoeuvres under the Montagu reforms. That accounts for the fact that a great many men in the Service have said: "We cannot conciliate these people; they will give us frightful trouble, and we had better give way to them. After all, the commitments made by British statesmen and the promises by men of all sorts and of all parties in England it is impossible to fight any more." But not one of these men really has any confidence in the ultimate success of these things. If you ask them what they think, none of them will venture to speak with the slightest enthusiasm about the future or about any benefits that will accrue to the people.
If this strange Constitution should prove a success, and should bring peace and progress to India, no one would be better pleased than myself, because it is the peace and progress of India that has been in my mind all these years. I may be mistaken in all the fears and doubts that I have expressed, and certainly any man can make a mistake, and if these proposals do succeed in spite of what I have said, I shall be only too pleased. What I fear is, from all that I have been able to judge from my experience all these years, is that it is not peace and progress that these reforms will introduce, but discord and deterioration. The tragedy of it is that those who are hostile to us are given power by reason of our protection, while they exploit the poorer people who have hitherto trusted us. We shall, therefore, not gain over to our side those who are hostile to us, but we shall lose the good will that we have already from the peasants.
Apparently, the Government of India, with all the powers that they have now, the reserved subjects, Government at the Centre, Executive Councils, and experienced administrators in the Legislation, are throwing up the whole lot at one fell swoop. On what are they relying? They are relying on the opinions of ignorant men, and the position will be that in- 1823 stead of the British Raj protecting the people as hitherto the British Raj will rely upon these ignorant men to protect by their votes the British Raj. With an ignorant, prejudiced and superstitious people placed at the mercy of Congress and its agitators, to depend upon the friendship of these people to return members who are in favour of the British Raj and so to protect the British Raj is like trusting to a broken reed. For all these reasons I am afraid it is impossible for me to do anything but to vote against the Bill.
§ 10.1 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
When I listen to the hon. Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock), I seem to hear not so much his voice but a voice ringing down the ages. We have heard the same voice in every age, the voice of the honest old civil official of the past regime protesting against innovations, against Parliamentism and against politics. There is a great gulf between the civil servant and the politician. Although the hon. Member has been in this House for some time, I do not think that he has really assimilated all our phases. The kind of indictment that he has brought against elected persons and against movements of all kinds might be made in any country at any time. We had the story about ignorant masses of people who are roused by agitators who cannot control them. The same sort of argument might have been raised at the time of the Gordon riots in this country. It seemed to me that what the hon. Member was saying was more the habit of mind engendered by long service overseas than a real application of the mind to present circumstances.
I listened to the figures given by the Secretary of State relating to the proceedings over seven and a half years on this subject, and I could not help remembering that I have contributed a considerable quota to the written and spoken word, but I doubt whether I have been able to attain parity with the right hon. Gentleman. However, I feel considerable hesitation in adding much more, and I will restrict my remarks as much as I can, more especially as my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) has put before the House very clearly our objections to the Bill. I am 1824 bound to say that after seven and a half years consideration of this subject, I am not so ready to dogmatise as I was when I started. I realise only too well the objections to any attempted solution of the problem. The Indian question is the easiest subject I know for destructive criticism. Given the extraordinarily uncomfortable facts that exist, it is so very easy to make a damaging attack. I should like to see some really highly trained strategist like the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) taking charge of the whole question and putting up his propositions, in order to see how he would make his defence, and whether he would come off any better than anybody else.
The Secretary of State has defended his proposals manfully, but he has not convinced us on this side of the House. The hon. Member for Caerphilly put forward the general objections that we have to the Bill. We have to confine ourselves in this Third Reading Debate strictly to what is in the Bill, and to deal with it as it emerges from the Committee and the Report stage. We have to consider the Bill from the point of view of its suitability as applicable to the India of to-day, not to the India of 20 or 30 years ago, and not to the imaginary Indians of the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). The question that we should put is this: Does this Constitutional scheme provide a, medium through which the living forces of India can operate, because what we have to deal with are the forces of modern India, a living India, and not the dead India of the past. If we are to do anything with India, we have to bring modern forces into play, and it is here that the importance of the attack on the Congress party comes in. For good or ill, the Congress party is one of the dominating factors in the situation. It is no use ignoring it, and it is useless and futile merely to abuse it. We may disagree with it, but within it are very many of the forces that are going to make for modern India. I do not think that it is a homogeneous body. I say that it contains "the forces"—not one force. The forces that work against each other when self-government has been attained, coalesce in order to try to obtain self-government.
My first objection to this Bill is that I think it is deliberately framed so as to exclude as far as possible the Congress party from effective powers in the new 1825 Constitution. On many occasions provisions have been deliberately put forward with that end in view. This is done at the Centre by giving an undue weight to the Princes. The Princes are represented as a conservative element to keep left wing elements in check. It has been done by the creation of a reactionary and unrepresentative Council of State at the Centre and by the creation of reactionary second chambers in the Provinces, and also in the formation of the British side of the Assembly by the method which sets a premium on communalism. I disagree with some of my hon. Friends with regard to the question of direct and indirect election. The fault of this is that it is indirect communal election. The electing chambers are split on communal lines. The Bill makes the worst of both worlds.
Another serious objection is the provision with regard to the exclusion from effective political life of those who have been sentenced to prison, although that has been slightly bettered during the Committee stage. But all the way through the Government have yielded time after time to the States and time after time to minority communities, but have always stood strongly up against any yielding to Congress or the Nationalists. In the Congress movement you have a right wing, a left wing and a centre. You have people of the Eastern school of thought and of the Western school of thought. The policy of the Bill will tend to subdue all the active forces in India into a barren opposition. The subject matter for the Centre is so restricted and the powers so limited that it will make that opposition as barren as has been much of the opposition in the Centre during the last 12 or 13 years. This will have its repercussions in the Provinces. The Provincial experiments will very easily be upset by their being used as battlefields for an intransigent Nationalist majority. The effect of that will be that the safeguards which should be kept in the background and should cease gradually to be effective or to be used at all will become a more and more prominent feature in the Government and the political life. In each of these Provinces you should see natural forces working and a gradual development of as full a parliamentary system as you can have. But if, as a matter of fact, you have in the majority of the Provinces a nationalist Government using 1826 this for purely negative ends, then you will destroy whatever good there is in the Constitution.
The next great danger that I see is that in all federations there is a possibility of separatist tendencies. In a great continent like India it is a very great danger, and where the Centre is ineffective, where it does not really provide a field for the national forces to work, you may.get a gradual breaking up. Hence we stress the need for making a far stronger provision than there is in the Bill for the transference of the reserved subject, and particularly of defence.
The other great danger is obviously communalism. The only counterforce that one can see to communalism is the emergence of divisions on entirely different lines, and I think that in the modern world the natural development is for a division on economic lines. But in this Bill provision is made by means of upper chambers representative of wealth, privilege, power and land to weight the scales all the time in favour of wealth against the poorer sections of the community. The little representation given to labour, the lack of any provision for a development of the franchise, but, above all, the special representation given to vested interests and the creation of second chambers means that the economic life will be ineffective and the tendency will be right the way through to get divisions on mere communal lines.
Another danger is that throughout the Bill, while we were considering it in Committee as when we were considering the White Paper, there has been a general lack of confidence, and over-insistence on safeguards. The erection of a large number of safeguards is simply an indication of lack of generosity. It is exactly the same with regard to the trade safeguards. You cannot get your trade into a country by making a number of little elaborate arrangements to try to force people to take your goods. You cannot sell your goods unless you get the good will of the people, and, although I admit that the Government have rejected the counsel of the extreme people in this House, the people who would run the Empire on the lines of a brewery, with India one of a number of tied houses, there is far too much of that kind of insistence all the way through, of safeguard after safeguard, piling them up. The result of 1827 anyone reading through this Bill is that he is struck not by what is conceded but by what is withheld. That will have an extraordinarily bad effect on our future relationships.
I have said already that I think that one of the great dangers is the overrepresentation of the States at the Centre. We must look forward for the development of India to the development in the States of democratic institutions. You have them already in some. We have not the power to force the rulers of Indian States to make these changes, but we should give all possible chance for the forces that are in the Provinces to flow over into the States, because there is a great danger if in any way you rely on the States for what is called a conservative element at the Centre to keep national forces in check. The danger there is that we are pledged to support the States. If you make the States instruments of reaction, you will have the Provinces agitating among the people of those States. British democracy may be placed in a very difficult position. I certainly hope that British democracy would refuse to come to the aid of people who were reactionary in their own States.
It is plain that it is useless to think of going back to the position before there was any talk of Federation. A position whereby we have kept on the throne reactionary rulers in India was one which could not have endured for many more years. It put us in a very difficult position. Less and less has it been possible to use full powers of suzerainty, and I have heard from people who know India well that the tendency has been to interfere too little and too late in the affairs of mismanaged States. One advantage of Federation will be, I believe, that the force of Indian opinion will be too strong to allow small States, or even large States, to continue in a state of disorganisation, tyranny and oppression, and that by development we can possibly weld India together. If you are going to use the States as a reactionary force at the Centre—we have already overloaded the Centre with the States—and rule India and the States through the representatives of vested interests, the result will be that you will get Provinces where there is a comparatively advanced 1828 majority breaking away from the Centre and the whole of your structure will break down.
We complain of the lack of flexibility and opportunities for advance in this Constitution. I am sorry that the Instrument of Instructions is going to be brought formally before this House. In the whole history of the British Empire the way in which advance has come in the various Colonies has been by changes in the Instrument of Instructions, not elaborate Acts of Parliament from time to time, but now you are doing away with this as an instrument of advance and are not providing any other instrument of advance in this Constitution. It is far too rigid.
Let me say one word with regard to Burma. I entirely agree that Burma should be separated, and I hope to see rapid progress in self-government in Burma. I think it important that India should not be the only part of our Eastern Empire progressing towards full Dominion status. Burma has many advantages over India. She has far less communal trouble and a far easier defence problem, and, although Burma may have had less experience, I hope that the Constitution will be used in a more flexible manner than is perhaps possible in India. While I want to see both progressing together, I think there are immense possibilities in Burma.
Finally, is the Bill going to be accepted and worked by the people of India? I do not think so. The indications are that if it is going to be worked at all it will be in a grudging spirit and that it is only too likely that its provisions will be used not for seeing how far it can be made useful for self-government but as a means of getting something more. That is the danger in the fact that you have not gone far enough at the Centre, you have not conceded what Indian sentiment demands, and you have failed to get imagination into the Bill which would have rallied Indian opinion. In fact the most difficult thing about this Bill is the absence of the Preamble and the fact that throughout the insistency is on the safeguards and what is not given rather than on what is given. Hence I am afraid that instead of this Bill being received with joy in India it will be received grudgingly and worked in that spirit.
§ 10.21 p.m.
§ Sir JOHN WARDLAW-MILNE
I think the House will agree that the attitude that the right hon. Gentleman—I am sure the House is glad to welcome him with that title—has adopted is not out of keeping with the attitude that his party has adopted throughout the discussions of the Bill. But I am bound to say that when I heard him refer to my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock) as expressing the voice of the ancient official ringing down the ages, I wondered whether the right hon. Gentleman himself did not think that what he was giving us was the voice of the ancient Opposition, which has rung down the ages in this House and in the previous House. I wonder very much whether the right hon. Gentleman and his friends would for a moment have placed on the Order Paper the Amendment which stands in their name if they were not perfectly certain that there was not the slightest chance of that Amendment being carried. Nothing would be more against the principles for which they have stood so long than to defeat this Bill.
I do not think it is unreasonable that the House should have expected that those of us who were members of the Joint Select Committee and were supporters but not members of the Government would not take on the whole a very active part in the discussions of the Bill in the Committee stage. We had put our views very fully before Members in the Select Committee's Report and it was not our business, strictly speaking, to defend the particular provisions of the Bill. It was only right that we should leave it to other Members who held so genuinely, as I believe they did and still do, views which were opposed to those in the Report, to put those views clearly before the House.
I would like, at the end of this long period of the Committee and Report stages, to pay a tribute to those whose views I do not share who have put their case before the House with great assiduity and pertinacity, and I think with great fairness. They will forgive me for saying that there has been a good deal of repetition. That was inevitable on a Bill of this sort, but upon them and indeed upon the whole House the conduct 1830 of this Bill reflects great credit. Opposed to these die-hards we have had a small but very efficient band of Government spokesmen, very well briefed and capable of dealing with what is the most momentous and intricate Measure brought before Parliament for many years. Many tributes have been paid to the work of the Secretary of State, both in the conduct of the Bill and on the Joint Select Committee, but I take this opportunity of saying that I have greatly admired his long patience through the last two years and through these last very tedious months. I do not suggest that my right hon. Friend has not shown signs of impatience occasionally. To expect that would be to put him on too high a pedestal altogether. But I think the House will agree that patience has been the outstanding characteristic of his conduct not only in connection with the Bill itself but in the long proceedings which led up to the Bill.
I was not able to be here, on the day when the Committee stage concluded, to take part in the tribute which was then paid to the Under-Secretary. I am therefore glad of this opportunity of associating myself with what was then said about his conduct of the Bill during the regrettable absence of his chief. I suppose that the House of Commons has never had to deal with any Bill, apart from purely legal Measures, so full of legal technicalities as this one. Consequently, we were fortunate in having had the very able assistance of the Law Officers and also of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster—whom I am glad to see with all his new honours fresh upon him—and whose assistance was of great value especially in matters connected with the Indian States.
Apart from Members of the Government, a reference should be made to those members of the Joint Select Commttee who have taken a prominent part in these Debates, including my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock), with his unique knowledge of Burma and India and my Noble Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), of whose wonderful power of drafting I do not think the House is fully aware, even today. We had also my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) 1831 who now and again leapt into the fray and showed that he had a very sharp point to his rapier which penetrated even the extraordinarily well-constructed armour in which my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) attires himself on these occasions. I think I have seldom listened to any speeches with more interest than to those of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping on this Bill. My only regret is that at the end of our discussions I find myself while admiring the epigrams, the wit and the humour with which he embellished his contributions, totally unconvinced by any of the arguments which he put forward. That, however, may be my fault and not his. Two or three matters have been raised in these discussions in which I personally take a special interest, particularly questions concerning professional qualifications and inter provincial trade. Although it has not been necessary to make long speeches on these subjects in the House, I wish to acknowledge the work in this connection done by the advisers of the Secretary of State. They have shown the great ability and a desire to meet every point which has been brought forward which might lead to the improvement of the Bill. It is not, perhaps, my place to pay a tribute to the permanent staff of any Government Department but I should not like to lose this opportunity of expressing my gratitude to them for what they have done.
As I see it, only four serious points have emerged from these long discussions and upon which definite opposition has concentrated. The first is the main question, that of Federation at the Centre. The second is the transfer of the control of the police to Indian Ministers. The third is the question of the cost of the reforms and the fourth the security of pensions. With regard to the police, I think the House will agree that that matter has not only been very thoroughly thrashed out, but that the Bill, carrying out as it does the suggestions of the Joint Select Committee's Report, maintains, and secures the continuance of, the morale, efficiency, and discipline of that force in a manner which prevents any likelihood of its deterioration. The rest is merely a question of opinion, whether it is or is not desirable to hand over the control of the police to Indian Ministers. There is one point which has 1832 not been brought out, so far as I know, during the whole course of these Debates, though it is known probably to those who sat through the long months—nearly two years, I think—on the Joint Select Committee. It is that three Indian Ministers are in charge of law and order in their Provinces at the present time. It is true that they are not responsible to an elected Legislature, but it is at least an argument in favour of their ability to carry out the control and administration of that important subject.
On the question of pensions, like all other hon. Members of this House, I suppose I have had more correspondence on this than on almost any other subject, but there are very few pensioners, I think, who are not now satisfied that my right hon. Friend and those connected with the promotion of this Bill have made every possible change which is necessary to ensure that the pensions of the Indian pensioners in future will be just as secure as they have ever been in the past. It is therefore on the other two points that I should like to say a few words.
I want, first, to deal with the question of the cost of the reforms. It is constantly said that India is a very poor country, and in one sense that is true. If we are considering wealth per head of the population and we compare that wealth with that of Europe or America, of course India is a very poor country, but that is not a fair way to consider the matter. It would be equally unfair to say that India is a very lightly taxed country because the taxation is only a few shillings per head compared with some pounds per head in Europe. Neither statement would really be correct. Some years ago I made a study, I remember, of the statistics published by the Bombay Labour Office under the Government of Bombay which dealt with the cost of living of the people of that city, and it was extraordinarily interesting to compare the figures then supplied with the comparative figures for costs of living in countries in Europe.
Roughly speaking, the workers in Indian mills, for example, spent about the same proportion of their income on food and housing as the workers of Lancashire —not the same money, but the same proportion of their income. Naturally, perhaps, living in a warmer climate, they 1833 spent less upon clothes, but on board and lodging their expenditure was very similar, and if you are considering the real wealth of these people, the only thing you should consider is what is left over after the essentials are provided for, that is, after board and lodging. Comparative wealth depends entirely on what is required from that other half, and that is the real wealth; and it is a little doubtful whether in those days before the depression a mill worker in Bombay was really worse off than a mill worker in, for example, Lancashire, comparing the respective standards of living and the needs of the one and the other and the consequent claim on the remaining half of the income. If you take more recent years, when you have had the depression, I think they have been better off in India than in this country probably.
It is not to be denied, I repeat, that India in one sense is a poor country, but financially, as a nation, and as a Government, it is very far from poor, and it is one of the most happily situated countries in the world. I should like to ask the attention of the House to the last report of the controller of currency for 1933-34, which shows that the whole total interest bearing obligations of the Government of India amounted to 1,224 crores of rupees. Of this sum, no less than 977 crores are interest yielding assets, and I may add, although this does not appear in the report, that the assets in some cases yield interest, which, for what we call Government securities, is at a very satisfactory rate. If we add to that the fact that there were 45 crores of cash, bullion and securities held on Treasury account, it leaves a total balance of obligations of the Government of India uncovered by actual cash or assets of only 201½ crores, which represents approximately £150,000,000. If you leave out the actual interest bearing assets, the national debt of India is approximately £150,000,000.
I would like hon. Members who talk of India's poverty from the point of view of the Government to consider those figures and to place them against any comparable figures in Europe or America, and to consider in addition the enormous wealth, and possibilities for wealth, which exist in India to-day. It is true, of course, that the sum of £6,000,000, which is about the total cost of these reforms, is not a small sum. It is a large figure, but it is im- 1834 possible, I think, to suggest that it is a figure that India cannot bear. If we remember that the bulk of that expenditure is due, not to the setting up of the Federal Government, which costs only about £500,000, but to Provincial Autonomy and to the separation of Burma, neither of which are opposed I believe by any party in the House, it will be seen that the statement in the Amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping, that the indispensable financial basis is evidently lacking, seems to have been put down without full consideration on the part of my right hon. Friend and his friends. If they were not supporting Provincial Autonomy, there might be something to be said for this statement, but as they are supporting Provincial Autonomy and the separation of Burma, it means that they are placing on the Order Paper a statement that the Government of India, in spite of the fact that it has a total debt of only £150,000,000, cannot in future support an expenditure of half a crore of rupees or thereabouts. I think perhaps that that matter has not been fully considered by those who placed their names upon the Order Paper.
It is true that there are matters, particularly in connection with the separation of Burma, which the Government will have to consider further. I am sorry that this Bill is leaving the House of Commons without the Government reconsidering the question of the length of the trade agreement between India and Burma. I do not want to enter into an argument on what is largely a Committee matter, and one which will no doubt be brought up in another place, but while there is a great deal to be said for laying down a definite period to allow things to settle down before a change is made, a reduction in the period of five years is worthy of serious consideration. I should have thought two years long enough. The only other point that particularly worries me is that I am not quite certain whether my right hon. Friend ought not again to consider whether we have made a right settlement for the control of the mineral development of India in the future. But, as I say, those are matters with which I do not wish to deal to-night in more than a word or two.
The main question of course is that that of the setting up of the Federal Government. It has been stated over 1835 and over again in these Debates that the House has flouted or neglected the report of the Statutory Commission. In spite of the fact that it must be well known to many Members here, it is worth repeating that there is no question in this proposal to set up Federal Government at the centre of flouting the report of the Statutory Commission. The Statutory Commission could not make such a recommendation, because it was not within their terms of reference, which confined them purely to British India; but, even so, the Statutory Commission Report clearly envisages a federal centre in the future as, indeed, do the Act of 1919 and the Montagu-Chelmsford Report which preceded it. The proposals in this Bill are undoubtedly of a very far-reaching character, but they are covered, I claim, by very efficient and practical safeguards. I know that it is popular to say from the platform that these are only paper safeguards, but I want to repeat in a sentence, what I have said before, that it is useless to go on talking about paper safeguards as if they were sometkihg new because there is no other kind of safeguard.
The safeguards which there are in India to-day lie in the carrying out of the legal acts of the Government of India by a loyal and trustworthy Civil Service, and by the other loyal Services of the Crown. Should anything occur to make it necessary for the Viceroys, Governors-General or Governors of the future to take action under this Bill when it becomes an Act, the duty to take such action will bring new decisions or the orders into being and they will become the law of the land, which must be carried out by those loyal servants just as they are carrying out the orders which they receive to-day. I myself do not believe that it will ever be necessary to put most of those powers into force, but to my mind it is futile to talk about them as paper safeguards, as though they were, in that respect, any change from the conditions which exist to-day. They are real and they are effective; but at the same time it is true to say that they do not whittle down the real responsibility of Indian Ministers, for in the hands of those Ministers, unless and until something goes wrong which makes it necessary to bring those powers into operation, will rest the administration of no less than four-fifths 1836 of the matters which will affect the daily lives of the people.
It has been said that we should not go on with this scheme because most of the people of India take very little interest in politics and know nothing about constitutional developments. I am afraid that it is not only in India that those conditions exist. I do not think we need to go as far as India to find a great many people who take very little interest in politics. But, leaving that aside, it is clear that in every movement of this kind the few must lead the many, as they have done throughout the ages, and I do not think it is any reason or excuse to refuse an extension of responsibility merely because all have not the same degree of knowledge, experience or interest in these matters. We are not giving complete self-government to India, and it is no use pretending that we are. We are setting up at the centre a form of diarchy, just as we set it up in the Provinces in 1919, with this difference, that certain vital matters remain in complete control of the Governor-General personally. It is rather surprising to me that diarchy in the Provinces has been the success that it has. It is the most difficult form of government, and it is none the less the only form that can be continued, in the limited sphere of the Central Government at the present time.
These proposals are the logical outcome of a long series of measures which this country has taken. I do not propose to give them in detail, because they have been mentioned from time to time, but it is well to realise that there is nothing new in the proposals which were put forward by the Joint Select Committee, bearing in mind the whole history of the matter from the beginning. The Charter Act of 1883 initiated the principle of associating Indians with administration. About 30 years after there came the Indian Councils Act, and in 1870 the Civil Service was opened to suitable Indians. In 1892 the principle of election was introduced, in 1905 direct election to some of the Provincial Councils was begun and in 1909 there was a further extension in the Morley-Minto reforms. The Act of 1919 is, of course, present to all our minds. The declarations of rulers and statesmen in this country for the past century have not been empty words. They have very definitely been 1837 statements of what this country in- tended towards India. I entirely agree that Parliament is free and unfettered in the choice it has to make on the Bill, but it is equally true that we have to take into account the numerous statements that have been made on behalf of governments of all kinds in past years.
If you believe that the policy of the Bill is wrong and that you can continue to govern India by force, you may go back to before 1919. You cannot stand still. I think nobody would be so foolish however as to say that it is possible to continue to govern India by force. I wish to give the House two short quotations. Here is the first, and the date is 1906:It is the same in politics as it is in war. When one crest line has been left it is necessary to go to the next. To halt half-way in the valley between is to court swift and certain destruction, and the moment you have abandoned the safe position of a Crown Colony Government, or Government with an adequate nominated majority, there is no stopping place what- ever on which you may rest the sole of your foot, until you come to a responsible Legislative Assembly, with an executive obeying that Assembly.The second quotation is:The system of representative government without responsible ministers, without responsible powers, has led to endless friction and inconvenience wherever and when- ever it has been employed.I might have been a little doubtful of the propriety of reading those quotations in spite of the fact that I gave my right hon. Friend notice that I would read them, had I not thought that it would interest the House to know that they are not the words of somebody who has been most active in supporting the Bill, but are the words of ray right hon. Friend the Member for Epping.
§ Sir J. WARDLAW-MILNE
My right hon. Friend has a perfect right to change his opinions, but he will not expect me, who merely sit at his feet and learn from his words of wisdom, not to have read with great interest the statements which he made, and which I have read to the House. On the lower basis for consideration there is, of course, the question of our trade. Everybody knows that India is our best customer. Beyond doubt, however you may hold a people down, if that be possible, you certainly can- 1838 not force them to buy your goods. There has been a great deal said in these debates—and I entirely agree with it—about the losses that Lancashire has suffered owing to tariff conditions in India and for other reasons. But I would like to remind the House of just one fact. In the first nine months of last year no less than 9 per cent. of our total products and manufactures went to India—in spite of all we hear about ill-will—and our best Dominion customer took less than 7½ per cent.; and no foreign country more than 5 per cent. Let us look at the figures from the other point of view. Despite the tremendous drop of no less than 17 crores in the value of total imports into India owing to the world depression, imports from the United Kingdom in 1932–33 fell only by 1.2 crores, and our share of her total imports rose from 36.8 to 42.1 per cent. It is rather remarkable that in spite of all that has been said, not only is India our best customer, but our share of her imports has been steadily growing, even in these years of depression.
I object very strongly to the statements constantly made that we are handing over all authority in India, or that we are getting out. That is certainly not my idea of the stage of partnership at which we are arriving. I believe, on the contrary, that there is an opportunity for closer co-operation and partnership on both sides. I have known Indians of all classes, politicians and statesmen, and I remember with interest and admiration much that I heard and learned from them. But as I stand here to-night I am thinking much more of a totally different class of people in India, of the thousands of much humbler people in all walks of life without whose assistance and co-operation I should not be here at all, who were not anti-British, and who knew very little and cared less about the cries we hear so much of to-day from the so-called Congress-wallahs. It is not unnatural that these people should want to take some part in the politics of their own country. They know a good deal about our record in India—more than most people think. They know that before our day India was much like China has been during the last 10 years, ravaged by military marauders and plunderers, who ravaged the land and left it like a field attacked by locusts. We have given India moral progress and material wealth and 1839 our achievement is something of which to be immensely proud.
The poverty from which the people of India suffer cannot be laid at the door of the British people. The real causes of poverty in India reseolve themselves into two classes. First, I think poverty is undoubtedly due to the social conditions of the people; and, secondly—or perhaps I should have put this first—it is due to the immense and continual increase in the population. The population of India has increased by the incredible figure of 95,000,000 in the last 50 years. It is natural that it should be impossible for any country to prosper under those conditions, unless indeed you had a people who were able to devote themselves very rapidly to the development of India's great and untouched resources. We know, in spite of the high infant mortality and the maternal mortality rates, that the population is not physically strong enough in many parts to bear the burdens of the continuously increasing struggle caused by this huge increasing population. The losses which come from social customs such as inheritance laws are known to a great many Members of the House, but I do not know whether hon. Members are aware of the enormous losses which occur in India from what we should describe as the most laughable causes, like raids of monkeys and raids of peacocks. In grain alone £12,000,000 a year is supposed to be lost owing to the ravages of the black rat, and so on. There are social customs which nothing we can do will alter. They can only be eradicated by the work of the Indian people themselves.
I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities, 1c'hom I do not see in his place at the moment, can have realised what he had said during the discussions of the Joint Select Committee when he spoke a few minutes ago of the electorate being ignorant, superstitious and credulous. Most of the electorate he spoke of is an 1840 electorate which he himself has I think approved, and which he now supports for the Provinces, and it seems to me rather unnecessary suddenly to describe these people now as uneducated merely because they are going to be asked to elect members to the Central and not only to the Provincial Legislatures. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) was asked to-day a most pertinent question by the Secretary of State. My right hon. Friend asked him: "What would you do yourself?" He did not tell us in his reply. All that he said was that the Secretary of State had put forward his proposals to satisfy Indian aspirations. I cannot tell what was in the mind of my right hon. Friend, but I can say very definitely that this was not the only idea in the minds of those who signed the majority report of the Joint Select Committee. What we did in that report was to put forward what we believed to be in the best interests of India and of this country. I would suggest to the House that, if to-morrow they vote for this Bill, they should vote for it, not believing that it is necessarily the most perfect solution of the problem, but thoroughly believing that it is far and away the best proposal that has been put forward, and one which we believe in our hearts will in the end be in the best interests of Great Britain, of India and of the Empire.
§ Ordered, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—[Sir G. Penny.]
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.