§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I beg to move, in page 11, line 15, to leave out from "and", to the second "the", in line 16, and to insert a Chamber to be known as."
This Amendment is designed to deal with the proposal for two Houses at the centre. There are a good many reasons why we should not require two Houses at the centre. Let us first see what kind of a gathering together of legislators is proposed at Delhi for the Federation. It is proposed to have 260 members in an upper House, and 375 in a lower House—a collection of 635 legislators. That involves, necessarily, a great deal of ex 1964 pense. It also means that there is to be a smaller number in the lower House on account of the unnecessarily large number in the upper House. It might well be argued that for the representation of India you require 635 representatives at Delhi, but, in fact, by segregating them in two Houses, you are actually giving a smaller representation to the people of India. I am aware that in these Debates it is very unusual to talk about the people of India. We are generally talking about the Princes.
The total of 635 legislators is a very large number in any case, and when you look at the amount of business to be done at the centre you will find that it is extraordinarily small. The administrative field is very slight. Apart from finance, some Board of Trade business, a very indirect control of the railways, and some control over the Post Office, there is very little in the way of administration. The amount of business we are accustomed to see in this House under the proposed constitution is mainly relegated to the Provinces. There will, therefore, be 635 idle legislators, and I think it is generally regarded as a function of Satan to find work for idle hands to do. I suggest that if there are 635 legislators at the centre, they are going to be very idle, and probably very troublesome.
Then what reason can there be for having an upper House at all? It may be contended that it is desirable to get what is called representation of the stable and vested interests. All second Chambers, in my experience, are based on the idea of giving special weight either to vested interests, to conservatism or to old age. I do not intend to take up the time of the Committee in arguing with any Conservatives on the question of a second Chamber, because it is a conservative institution, and Conservatives naturally support it. But I should hope to get some support from the Liberal benches, because in the past there have been great contests in the House on the question of the powers of an upper Chamber, notably in 1910. In spite of the complete silence of the Liberal representatives on this matter, I am hoping that, with their great enthusiasm for real representation at the centre, they may join with us against this second Chamber.
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
Will the hon. Gentleman take the opportunity, also, of 1965 showing the result of his action on indirect election? He has given a second Chamber a very much higher prestige, and has entrenched it as an example of capitalism.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I have done nothing of the sort. I should be quite out of order if, on this Amendment, I tried to discuss the question of direct and indirect election. I shall be perfectly willing to give my views when we come to the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), but I cannot understand why this extraordinary enthusiasm for direct election was not shown by the hon. Member on the subject of the second Chamber, because the second Chamber is to be indirectly elected, and that in a second degree, because the proposal is to form it from representatives elected by second Chambers in the Provinces. There are great reasons against this, but we had no support from the hon. Member. We also stood for the abolition of the second Chamber with no support from the hon. Member. He was perfectly prepared to swallow the representatives from the second Chambers in the Provinces, and they are going to be representative of vested interests. When we come to the unicameral Provinces, there is to be a special assembly of persons holding certain qualifications, and there is to be a sort of indirectly elected chamber, and then indirect election again to the Federal Legislature. These persons so indirectly elected are to join together with the representatives of the second Chambers to form this second Chamber.
The Liberal party in old times objected to the House of Lords, and endeavoured to curb their powers, but the powers of this second Chamber are to be far greater than those of the House of Lords. They are to have equal powers with the lower Chamber, and complete powers over finance, and, in the event of differences between the two chambers, there is a provision for a joint sitting. You are loading the central legislature with 104 representatives of the Indian States, and 156 representatives indirectly elected from the second Chambers, persons of wealth and vested interests. It is quite certain, therefore, that in this section of the central legislature you will have a completely conservative body. I have examined the conditions of many second Chambers in 1966 many parts of the world, but I do not think you can beat this for reaction.
The hon. Member below the Gangway is very interested in direct election. One of the difficulties of direct election at the centre is that of the very large constituencies. They would be smaller if there were a larger number. Therefore, if, instead of having the second Chamber, you enlarged your lower Chamber, you could have direct election without it being so greatly composed of the wealthy, as is inevitable in a large constituency. The hon. Member is quite content with 250 representatives in the lower House to be directly elected by constituencies about the size of Scotland, or perhaps Wales. I cannot argue that point at the moment, but it is an additional argument which I should have thought might induce the hon. Member to support the abolition of the second Chamber, as you would then, possibly, be able to enlarge the lower Chamber.
What, after all, is the object of the second Chamber? You are merely going to have representatives of the States sitting, it may be, with a certain alteration between the representatives of the States in the upper and lower Chambers which may be convenient, but, so far as I can see, there is no reason for any difference in the States' representatives as regards that side of the constitution. As far as the representation of British India is concerned, you are merely giving increased representation to the interests. This House has been very much concerned of late in discussing the question as to whether this Bill will be accepted by the Indian States, and very little concerned, as far as I can see, as to whether the Bill will be accepted by the Indian people. The arrangements at the centre are such as to make it certain that the live political movement in India will never get effective representation at the centre. Whether it is direct election or indirect election does not affect the matter, because in every case they are to be kept in check all the time by this second Chamber—a second Chamber with equal power, and which is to meet the first Chamber in joint meeting in the event of any dispute.
It is certain that those who represent anything like political thought in India are never to have control at the centre. It beats me why hon. Members who 1967 agree with the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) should be so alarmed at this central legislation, because it will be composed almost entirely of reactionary elements. It will be composed of the Princes and the wealthy people. The methods of election show clearly that you will only get the very wealthy people in, and nothing like an adequate representation of the presses. The result will be that the central legislature will inevitably be reactionary, and that will set up a strain in the whole federal system. The working of a federal system depends very largely on there being the possibility of something like agreement in general outlook between those who are governing in the federal units and those governing at the centre. It is possible that in some of the federal units you may get ministries and governments representing the live forces of Indian political thought, but at the centre you will get nothing of that sort.
I have heard no argument which satisfies me that there is any need whatever for the second Chamber at the centre. At the best it is a kind of fifth wheel to the coach. If we are to have a federal system and to make it representative of the federal units, a case, of course, can be put up for getting the representatives of the federal units in one House and the representatives of the people at large in the lower House, but that is not being done. This system will not only be expensive, but it will prevent any really effective representation of India in her central Government. That is one of those things which makes this Bill absolutely hopeless from the point of view of expecting the political forces of India to take part in the Government of the country.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I have an Amendment later which I do not propose to move because I think it can be discussed adequately on this Amendment. The hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) has missed out one point which is adequate to justify the Amendment. I allude to the fact that the second Chamber is paid. My Amendment would substitute for that Chamber a hereditary House of Lords as being cheaper and as useful. I think that it requires consider 1968 able strength of argument to support the proposal in the Bill of a second Chamber elected on almost exactly similar lines to the lower Chamber, for it would still further strengthen the reactionary tendency of the Legislature which, even in its manifestations in the lower House, would probably be more reactionary than any legislature we have seen in this country. The real objection is one which it is of great importance that we should observe. Is it necessary to have so many paid jobs in the Central Legislature? The lower House will be paid and the upper House will be paid. They will be paid fairly handsomely, and the burden on India will be very heavy. It is not a question whether legislation will go through; joint sessions are of very little moment in connection with this issue.
The real question is whether we need nearly 600 paid people in order to do the work of the Central Legislature. My own feeling is that there will not be very much work for the Federal Legislature to do. At present there are 160 members—I am not certain of the number—in the Assembly at Delhi who are paid—the Chamber of Princes is not paid—and these paid members do the work adequately and their sessions are extremely short. That body is to a certain extent representative and, therefore, has a certain status and a certain zest in its work, which is not generally possessed by a chamber which is not directly elected. It is unnecessary from the point of view of the Indian people that their charge for the Central Legislature should be so enormously increased, as it will be. Is it necessary from the point of view of safety first that there should be two such Houses instead of one? Must we have so many paid posts which people will be anxious to fill? I do not know whether the Committee observed that after the report of the Joint Select Committee was published there was a telegram from India saying that a great many people had arrived at Delhi—I think the number was given as 500—who had professed their willingness to work the scheme. It would be remarkable if that were not so because there are so many paid posts in this Bill and the possibility of being nominated to one of these posts in either Legislature, whether by the Princes or by the Government.
1969 I do not think from our experience that when the Legislature can be managed by an executive it is necessary to have so many of these paid posts. The real success of our English Constitution is the beautiful balance between the Legislature and the Executive. In every other Parliament of the world the executives are completely aloof, but here we almost know them, the members of the Executive, by their Christian names. The constant touch between the governing body and the representatives of the people for the last 600 or 700 years in this country has made democracy work, and there is a great deal to be said for having the Executive constantly in touch with the representatives of the people. The Executive is continually being influenced by the elected element, and, what is more important and more to the point, the elected element is continually influenced by the Executive. Governments, whether tyrannies, or free Governments such as ours, do not possess by terror the power they wield. They do not frighten me or the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). They do not coerce Parliament by terror in the very least.
I do not think there is the slightest fear in any man's mind that his party will not come to his help at the next election as it did at the last, but the power to control the Legislature really depends on the hope of reward on the part of the elected members. The hope of reward is the balance of democracy. We have the rebel element elected, which would otherwise make Government impossible, and we have the Executive itself gradually controlling it until we get the beautiful balance which we have in this country between the members who want governorships and the people who have governorships at their disposal. This balance works here in this country. Is it really necessary to increase this patronage to such an unlimited extent as is provided for in this Bill? The two Rouses, both consisting largely of nominated elements, is a form of patronage larger than any in the world to-day, and my argument in favour of this Amendment to leave out the Second Chamber is that it would be cheaper for India, that the Executive could get along in India perfectly well without it, and that the work to be done would be so small that the composition of the lower and 1970 the upper Chambers would be very largely decorative and nothing else. If you want a decorative Chamber, what could we have better than our House of Lords?
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ Sir S. HOARE
One of the most pleasant features of our discussions is the unexpectedness of some of the arguments to which we listen from time to time. I certainly never thought that I should live to see the day when a right hon. Gentleman on the Labour benches would propose in place of an elected Chamber a hereditary House of Lords, and would come out with such force and feeling against the payment of Members. Truly we live and learn. Indeed, I felt inclined to beckon the right hon. and gallant Gentleman across to these benches. It is not often one hears such truly eighteenth century Toryism as that to which he has given voice. Let me come back to the speech of the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee). There is a great deal of back history behind this question. At one time the British Indian representatives wished to have a much bigger representation at the centre even than the representation that we have in the provisions of the Bill. Several of them proposed that there should be 700 or 800 members in the lower House and only one House for British-India, alone. In the course of our discussions we pointed out the obvious fact that that would have made an unmanageable Legislature at the centre and that, judged by the kind of tests which we apply here in the field of representation, it would not really be an effective representation, as we count it, of Vile 280,000,000 scattered people in the Indian sub-continent.
Then, again, there was a proposal at the other end of the scale, which originated from one or two of the representatives of the Indian States, that there should not be two Chambers, but only one much smaller in size than the Chamber we propose. The proposal, as far as I remember, was for a single Chamber of about 100 Members. When the Joint Select Committee came to consider that proposal, two facts were at once obvious. First, there was a very strong body of opinion in India in favour of two Chambers; I will come to the reason why in a moment. Second, that with a single Chamber of that kind and 1971 size it would be impossible to get even a small representation for many of the important interests both in British India and in the Indian States. The result was that by a process of elimination first the Round Table Conference, and next the Joint Select Committee, came to the view that two Chambers were inevitable, and that although there was a great deal to be said for a smaller membership of the two Chambers in the Constitution of India, it was inevitable that we should have Chambers of about the size that we propose. Without Chambers of this size it would be impossible to give the representation that is needed in both British India and the Indian States. Moreover, if the Committee accepted this Amendment, one of the essential factors of the All-India Federation would in actual practice be destroyed. Time after time certain of the Indian sections have made the condition that there should be two Chambers. The Princes, in particular, made this a condition.
§ Sir S. HOARE
The hon. Member is quite right. It is to that proposal that I was referring earlier in my speech.
§ Sir S. HOARE
The hon. Member for Limehouse said "Surely some of the Princes were in favour of a, single Chamber," and I at once said that I had been referring to that when I remarked that a section of Indian opinion had asked for a single and a smaller Chamber, but it was evident by the opinion of the other Princes that even those representatives of the Indian States who had originally asked for a single Chamber of this size eventually dropped the proposal. The Committee may therefore take it from me that if there is to be an All-India Federation two Chambers are an essential feature of the Federation. If there is to be an All-India Federation in which there is to be representation of the various interests concerned, and particularly of the various interests represented by the Indian Princes, with so many States large and small, it is essential, whatever may be the theoretical arguments on the other 1972 side, to have two Chambers of about this strength. I therefore have to say to the hon. Member for Limehouse, who I know has taken a great interest in this question, and has often laid the same arguments before us, that, it is impossible to accept the Amendment, and I hope this Committee will accept the recommendation of the Joint Select Committee.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
I should not have intervened but for the opportunity taken by the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) to address some rather lecturing words to these benches. I do not know that it has been part of the Liberal creed to be against a second Chamber—necessarily; and, further, I think that in this matter the governing principle was that we had to reach a common body of opinion. If there had been insistence upon a single Chamber we should not have reached that common body of opinion that made this Bill possible. As far as I had the opportunity of meeting Indians, not merely at the Round Table Conference or the Joint Select Committee, but in what was very often just as important, the other conversations that took place, I could not trace any strong objection to a second Chamber, and certainly in the efforts I have made to follow the expression of Indian opinion since the publication of our report, I have not seen to any large extent—I can hardly recall it at all—among the protests received any protests against a second Chamber at the centre. That being so, I saw no reason why I should support the Amendment that was brought forward. I certainly agree with the hon. Member as to the constitution of the Council of State, but we can deal with that when we come to the question of direct election.
I should like to address one question to the hon. Member if I am at liberty to do so. I am one of the Members of this House and, indeed, one of the members of the general public, who are under heavy obligations to those who carried out the inquiry of the Statutory Commission. I think its work has never been fully acknowledged in this country. It was an inquiry over very wide ground, and I have taken an earlier opportunity in this House to express my indebtedness to those who gave so much time and thought to this question. One of those who served on the Statutory Commission was the 1973 hon. Member for Limehouse. The recommendations of the Commission as to a second Chamber will be found on pages 124 and 125 of Vol. 2 of their report, and I do not know that there is any qualification to those recommendations. The question of a Council of State at the centre is discussed and it is pointed out that if there is to be a federal system a Council of State would be practically necessary. The concluding words are under the heading "Reasons for its retention":There are, on the other hand, weighty reasons for retaining the Council of State as an integral part of the Central Government. It contains members of experience and distinction who have made valuable contributions to the discussion of public affairs. The Council of State has been a steadying influence during a difficult transitional period. We are also impressed"—and as far as I know the "we" included the hon. Member for Limehouse—by the fact that no demand for its abolition has been brought to our notice. In the stage upon which India is now entering she will need all her resources of statesmanship and experience. There is much to be said against abolishing on purely theoretical grounds a piece of constitutional machinery which has worked well at a time when great changes are being introduced, the effect of which cannot at present he estimated. We are therefore of opinion that the Council of State should be retained with its present powers.It may be that since that report was signed some new light has dawned upon the hon. Member for Limehouse. I think it was perfectly open for some other member of his party, in particular the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones), to have put his name to this Amendment, but I really do not understand how the hon. Member himself could identify himself with an Amendment which contradicts at every point the recommendations which he made to the House as a member of the Statutory Commission; and it is only because I thought that perhaps he had an uneasy conscience when he turned in our direction that I intervened in the Debate, because I attach great importance to what is said by the hon. Member for Limehouse and not less to the written recommendations he made a few years ago.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Mr. COCKS
I imagine that the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) has also had a struggle with his 1974 conscience, because when he was quoting from the report of the Royal Commission he was evidently quoting the words with approval, and, evidently, the great principles of the Liberal party in 1906 are now reduced to mere theoretical considerations.
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
The words "theoretical considerations" were not mine, and I did not say that I approved of those words. I said that I attached great importance to them.
§ Mr. COCKS
We shall see when the Vote is taken whether the hon. Member still thinks they are theoretical considerations or whether he still holds them as a matter of principle. The ordinary federation provides logical reasons for two Chambers, because in all federations until the present one was thought of there was a first Chamber, a lower Chamber, to represent the people as a whole, and the second Chamber to represent the respective Provinces. That is the whole theory of two Chambers in a federation, but that consideration has been swept away in this case, because under the Government proposals there is no lower Chamber to represent the people as a whole, both Chambers representing the Provinces, the lower Chamber representing the lower Chambers of the Provinces and the upper Chamber representing the upper Chambers of the Provinces, or the people who would form the upper Chamber where there is not one. Therefore, the logical reason for this particular second Chamber has been swept away. The Secretary of State said that whatever theoretical reasons could be put forward for one Chamber there was one overriding reason why two Chambers were necessary, and that was that the Princes want it. Apparently, the House of Commons is to be blackmailed by the Princes into accepting something they would not accept otherwise.
§ Mr. COCKS
I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman does, and I know he agrees with the Princes in this matter, but if the Government or the Joint Select Committee had decided on a single Chamber I am not so sure that he could not have persuaded their Highnesses to come in. After all, the two greatest States were in favour of single-Chamber government. Sir Akbar Hydari, of the State of Hyderabad, and Sir Mirza Ismail, Prime Minister of Mysore, both advocated a single Chamber at the centre, and therefore if the Government and the Joint Select Committee had decided in favour of a single Chamber I think it would have been possible to remove the objections put up against it by some of the smaller Princes. What the other interests were which demanded it I do not know. I would point out to the House that this particular Chamber will undoubtedly be the most reactionary second Chamber in the world. As my hon. Friend the Member for Limehouse has pointed out, it is elected by only the very rich men in the Provinces—that is so far as the British India Provinces are concerned, and on the other side the members are nominated by the Princes. I cannot imagine a more reactionary Chamber. Further, the methods of election on the British-India side are open to very grave objection.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member has been all right so far, but I do not think he can go much farther. The composition of the Chamber comes later.
§ Mr. COCKS
It was not exactly the details of the composition of the Chamber that I was dealing with. Of course, I would not venture to dispute your Ruling, but I would like to point out, just as an example, that 20 members representing Madras are to be elected by 56 and 16 members representing Bombay are to be elected by 30. But I will leave that point. We have members of the Council of State elected by three persons per representative. This Chamber, although it would be able to deal with factory legislation, which is on the concurrent list, cannot possibly have upon it any member of the Labour party in India or representative of the industrial classes and although it can also deal with marriage and divorce, which are in the concurrent list, it cannot, except by some miraculous intervention, have upon it any Indian woman, as a mathematical 1976 analysis would show. I would also point out to my Liberal friends that this second Chamber will not be a revising or delaying Chamber, but one vested with equal powers to those of the lower Chambers on everything, even the sacred subject of finance. I thought it was a matter of high principle with the Liberal party that power over finance should be vested only in lower Chambers, but here we have a second Chamber which will be able to reject the Budget, and amend the Budget, and in cases of dispute demand a joint sitting. I was very much disappointed with the speech made this afternoon, but are we to understand from the action of my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin on the Committee, when he allowed all these things to go past without any protest whatsoever, that the great days of Campbell-Bannerman and the Parliament Act have gone altogether. Not even the power of the Parliament Act, giving the lower Chamber the supreme voice in regard to financial legislation, is embodied in this Bill.
§ Mr. COCKS
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for putting me right on that point of history. I have been very disappointed with the attitude of the Liberal party in this matter, but there is still room for repentance even at this last moment. As the poem says:Betwixt the stirrup and the ground, Mercy I askt, mercy I found.Perhaps between now and the time that the Division takes place the hon. Member and his leader will decide to repent in this matter and come with us into the Lobby. If the hon. Member were here I would like him to follow the example of his great leader and big hero, Oliver Cromwell, and to say, so far as this second Chamber is concerned, "Take away that bauble."
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Major MILNER
I do not desire to enter into the dispute between my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) and the hon. Gentleman on the Liberal benches, but to draw the attention of the Committee to the reason given by the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway as to why the Liberal party are in favour of a second Chamber. The reason he gave was that he was desirous of fall 1977 ing in with the common body of opinion; that is to say, he and those associated with him are willing to compromise on this point. We have heard it said before on other matters that the Liberal party fall in with the majority and have no principles of their own. In my opinion, and I believe in the general opinion of the country they have no fixed principles, but they oscillate here and there, and nobody knows where they are. On one question they are with the Government, and on another they are against the Government. They are all things to all men. I think that might very well be their motto.
On this question of the second Chamber I should have thought that the few remaining remnants of the Liberal party would have agreed with us because the Princes will be able to sway the second Chamber as they please. The Princes will be there in perpetuity, and no provision is made in the Bill for any alteration at any future time of the proportions of the representation of the Princes, who represent wealth and privilege. One of the strongest reasons why there should not be a second Chamber in the Federation as provided in the Bill was mentioned more or less incidentally by the hon. Member for Broxtowe and that is that clearly there can be no representation of Labour or of the masses of India on the Council of State. I imagine that I should be under the mark if I said that the masses of India, the working people and the peasants, represent 97 per cent. of the population. Yet they are to have no representative in the Council of State and there is no possibility of them having a representative. An arithmetical calculation will show that, without aid from some other body or some other political party, it will be impossible for Labour or the masses of India to have any representation on the Council of State. That reason, and other reasons put forward by the hon. Member for Broxtowe, should convince the Committee, as they have convinced us, that we should vote in favour of the Amendment.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I want to point out the actual effect upon the chances of progressive legislation in India with this kind of upper Chamber composed in this way. Other hon. Members have pointed out that there may not, and probably 1978 will not, unless by the intervention of the Governor-General—he has only six nominations—be a single representative of Labour, of women or of the depressed classes upon this Council of State.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not know whether the hon. Lady was present when I gave my Ruling upon the kind of argument upon which she is now embarking, but I have ruled that the constitution of the Council of State cannot be discussed upon this Amendment.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I did not know that you had ruled that, because several other hon. Members have alluded to it. I will not say a word more about it. I merely want to point out the results. Suppose there is a conflict of opinion between the Council of State and the Assembly on any of the questions, say, in the concurrent list, which includes such things as marriage and divorce, and labour and factory legislation. What will happen? It will be no doubt what the Governor-General chooses, unless he chooses a joint session between the two bodies Ex hypothesi the Council of State have already turned down a piece of progressive legislation, which may be one that the Provinces strongly desire. It is then referred to a joint, session of the two bodies.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
On a point of Order. If we are to decide whether there is to be a second Chamber, surely it is in order to make some reference to the effect of a second Chamber I submit that that is very germane to any discussion of a second Chamber. It is difficult to consider the question of a second Chamber unless you consider both its effect and its composition.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is just why I have allowed certain references to those matters which I say cannot be discussed. It is obvious that the Amendment on the Order Paper deals with only one aspect of the question; moreover, the question of the composition of the Chamber arises upon a later Clause. I cannot allow the composition of the second Chamber to be discussed now because we shall have to discuss it when we come to the Clause.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
May I put this point to you? If the Committee have actually decided that there are to be two Chambers, he cannot then reopen the question as to whether there is to be one Chamber only or two Chambers, because that is passed and done with. We can merely go on to the question of the composition and powers of the second Chamber. Surely it is a different matter when we are discussing the question of one Chamber or two, because we must be able to argue what the powers of these Chambers are to be, their composition and their relationship to each other in order to argue the question of bilateral or unilateral Chambers.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Perhaps there is room for difference of opinion between the hon. Gentleman and myself, particularly as to the extent to which these matters may be referred to but not discussed. I am afraid that in this case it is my opinion which must be accepted.
§ Miss RATHBONE
It is difficult to discuss whether there should be a Council of State or not if one is ruled out from giving the reasons which seem to make a Council of State desirable. I have not
§ been keeping the Committee more than two minutes on the subject, and that can hardly be called discussion, and I referred much more briefly to it than other Members have done by way of making a point which they had not made. I do not believe it would have been possible to do it in briefer words than I tried to do. I end in a single sentence. By constituting this upper Chamber, so composed, and giving not merely delaying powers but the kind of powers which are proposed, it is possible, absolutely and for all time, so far as I can see, to block any kind of progressive legislation in India, however strongly that legislation might be desired by the Provincial Legislatures, perhaps in every Province in India, and there is no remedy; and that is done by people of whom one-third are to say what they like about progressive legislation and social reform in India and to say not a word about the kind of legislation which prevails in their own States and among their own subjects.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 280; Noes, 38.1981
|Division No. 82.]||AYES.||[4.51 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut. -Colonel||Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Emrys-Evans, P. V.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)|
|Albery, Irving James||Carver, Major William H.||Fermoy, Lord|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)||Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Fislden, Edward Brockiehurst|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Fleming, Edward Lascelies|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. Sir J.A.(Birm., W)||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)|
|Assheton, Raiph||Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Fuller, Captain A. G.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Galbraith, James Francis Wallace|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Ganzonl, Sir John|
|Bailey, Eric Alfred George||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Gibson, Charles Granville|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Gillett, Sir George Masterman|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Cooke, Douglas||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Balniel, Lord||Cooper, A. Duff||Giossop, C. W. H.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Copeland, Ida||Gluckstein, Louis Halie|
|Barrle. Sir Charles Coupar||Courtauid, Major John Sewell||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Greene, William P. C.|
|Belt, Sir Alfred L.||Cranborne, Viscount||Grigg, Sir Edward|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Critchley, Brig.-General A. C.||Grimston, R. V.|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Blindell, James||Crooke, J. Smedley||Guy, J. C. Morrison|
|Bossom, A. C.||Crookshank, Capt. H, C. (Gainsb'ro)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Crossloy, A. C.||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)|
|Bower, Commander Robert Tafton||Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)|
|Boyce, H, Leslie||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hanbury, Cecil|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Davison, Sir William Henry||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Dawson, Sir Philip||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Denville, Alfred||Harvey, Major Sir Samuel (Totnes)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Donner, P. W.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks., Newb'y)||Drewe, Cedric||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Buchan, John||Duckworth, George A. V.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Burnett, John George||Duggan, Hubert John||Hoidsworth, Herbert|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Hornby, Frank|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Dunglass, Lord||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Eden, Rt. Hon, Anthony||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Hume, Sir George Hopwood|
|Hurst, sir Gerald B.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romford)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)||Smithers, Sir Waldron|
|Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid||Somervell, Sir Donald|
|James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Nunn, William||Somerville, Annesiey A. (Windsor)|
|Janner, Barnett||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Sotheron-Estcourt. Captain T. E.|
|Jennings, Roland||Orr Ewing, I. L.||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Owen, Major Goronwy||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Patrick, Colin M.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fyide)|
|Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Peake, Osbert||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)|
|Kerr, Hamilton W.||Pearson, William G.||Steel-Maltland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Kirkpatrick, William M.||Peat, Charles U.||Stevenson, James|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Penny, Sir George||Stones, James|
|Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Percy, Lord Eustace||Storey, Samuel|
|Law, Sir Alfred||Petherick, M.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Leckie, J. A.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.|
|Lees Jones, John||Potter, John||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Levy, Thomas||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Lewis, Oswald||Pybus, Sir John||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Lindsay, Noel Ker||Radford, E. A.||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A.(Pd'gt'n, S.)|
|Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunilffe-||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Lloyd, Geoffrey||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Thompson, Sir Luke|
|Loftus. Pierce C.||Ramsden, Sir Eugene||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Ratcilffe, Arthur||Titchfield. Major the Marquess of|
|Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|MacAndrow, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Tryon. Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|McEwen, Captain J, H. F.||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|McKie, John Hamilton||Remer, John R.||Wallace, Sir John (Dunfermline)|
|Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Rhys, Hon, Charles Arthur U.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|McLean, Major Sir Alan||Rickards, George William||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|McLean, Dr. W H. (Tradeston)||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Macpherson, Rt. Hon. sir Ian||Ropner, Colonel L.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas||Watt, Major George Steven H.|
|Magnay, Thomas||Rote Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Wayland. Sir William A|
|Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir Edward||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|Mailalieu Edward Lancelot||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Weymouth. Viscount|
|Manningham-Buller. Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||White, Henry Graham|
|Margesson. Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Martin, Thomas B.||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Mason. Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Womersley, Sir Walter|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Mitcheson, G. G.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzle (Banff)|
|Molson, A. Hugh Eisdale||Savery, Samuel Servington||Worthington, Dr. John v.|
|Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Scone, Lord||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Morgan, Robert H.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Shute, Colonel Sir John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Captain Sir George Bowyer and|
|Munro, Patrick||Skelton, Archibald Noel||Major George Davies.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Janner, Barnett||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Banfield, John William||Jenkins, Sir William||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Slivertown)||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Cleary, J. J.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, North)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Kirkwood, David||Thorne, William James|
|Cove William G.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Lawson, John James||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Daggar, George||Logan, David Gilbert||West, F. R.|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Wilmot, John|
|Edwards, Charles||Mainwaring, William Henry|
|Gardner, Benjamin Walter||Maxton, James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Giamorgan)||Milner, Major James||Mr. Paling and Mr. Groves.|
|Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Parkinson, John Allen|
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
On a point of Order. I rise, Sir Dennis, to ask your guidance for the benefit of the Committee on the question at what point in the discussion of the Amendments to the 1982 Clause questions relating to alterations in the number of members to be included in either branch of the Legislature can be discussed.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The question of the constitution of the lower Chamber will certainly come later on. I cannot say 1983 at the moment to what extent it will come later on in the Clause or on the Schedule, but I think it will be mainly on the Schedule. As to the upper Chamber, I do not think the constitution of that Chamber will arise again on the Committee stage of this Clause.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Further on the point of Order. I thought that, when the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) was proposing to discuss the composition of that Chamber, she was referred to a later Amendment. When is that later Amendment?
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is on the first Schedule dealing with the question of the constitution of both Houses.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Do I understand that we are to settle these important questions of the composition and character of the second Chamber and of the first Chamber without being allowed to discuss the composition of those Chambers until we reach the Schedule, many weeks or months hence? Is that the position?
§ The CHAIRMAN
Not entirely. I am not responsible for the arrangement of the Bill. I think I am right in saying that certain questions in connection with the constitution of the second Chamber arise directly on this Clause, but at the moment I do not think there is a point of Order.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
With very great respect, I understood that in selecting Amendments you selected the Amendments best calculated in the most convenient manner to enable the Committee to discuss the points. Where there were a good many, you would naturally choose the best ones. But do I gather that you interpret this duty in the sense of excluding altogether an important point of principle from any direct decision by the Committee during the Committee stage?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Surely there are, both on page 632 and on page 633, seven or eight Amendments proposing to add members for this or that purpose to the second or to the first Chamber.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
There is the Amendment standing in the name of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood)—in page 11, line 18, to leave out from "of" to "and," in line 21, and insert:the hereditary Princes of India and such others as the Governor-General may from time to time nominate";and there is also the Amendment of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chichester (Major Courtauld)—in page 11, line 21, after "States," to insert:and eighteen additional members chosen by the Governor-General in his discretion, of whom not more than nine shall be persons holding office under the Crown.Certainly it seems that we might have some opportunity of endeavouring to alter the composition of these Chambers, if we feel very strongly about it, at some point or other, and it was on that point that I wished to ask your guidance.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must be a little careful, in giving guidance to the right hon. Gentleman, that I do not infringe my regular rule of not giving reasons for not selecting Amendments; but the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), speaking just now on an Amendment, discussed the subject of his later Amendment, which he said he was not proposing to move, and, in the exercise of my power, I have decided not to select the Amendment which he said he did not wish to move, nor the following Amendment, with regard to numbers, in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Chichester (Major Courtauld).
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
With great respect, I am sure you will permit me to recall to your memory the case of the hon. Lady opposite, who wished to suggest that provision should be made for, we will say, a representative of the women of India or a representative of Labour being added to the Assembly, and who was told that she must wait until later. When is later?
§ Sir S. HOARE
May I make a suggestion, with great deference? It is that points such as this, which have not come. 1985 up in this discussion, you might be inclined to allow to be discussed on the Schedule.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have already informed one or two Members that Amendments which are down here should come on the Schedule. If the right hon. Gentleman reads with care this Clause and the Schedule, he will see that the arrangements for the constitution of the Chamber—I am speaking of the upper Chamber now—are all in the Schedule, subject to the framework which is set out in the Clause that we are now discussing. I think, therefore, that it is quite easy to draw a distinction as to what points can be properly raised here on the Clause and what points can be raised on the Schedule.
Sir NAIRNE STEWART SANDEMAN
Can we discuss on the Schedule the question of increasing the number of members?
§ The CHAIRMAN
Yes. I have just stated that I have already considered that matter. There has been discussion on that question, and I have decided not to select these further Amendments on the Order Paper.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
I beg to move, in page 11, line 21, to leave out from "States" to the end of the Sub-section, and to insert:(3) The Federal Assembly shall consist of two hundred and fifty representatives of British India, elected on a direct franchise by territorial constituencies constituted for that purpose, and not more than one hundred and twenty-five representatives of the Indian States.It will be remembered that on the Second Reading of the Bill, as well as in the discussion on the Report of the Joint Select Committee, we raised the question of direct and indirect election to the Federal Assembly. At that time we had some doubts whether we should put down an Amendment to the Second Reading, such considerable importance did we attach to the alterations that had been made in the terms of the White Paper by the majority of the Joint Select Committee. I think it is generally understood that we on these benches are anxious to secure the passage of the Bill itself, and we did not want to take that course, which might have been regarded as an attempt to wreck the Measure. 1986 I only want to suggest, in submitting this Amendment, that at this point we have come to deal with a subject of very grave importance. I hope that, seeing that this country has spent so much of its time during the last century in discussing matters relating to the franchise, they will not consider it out of place to spend some time in considering what shall be the vote possessed by nearly 300,000,000 of people in British India—whether it shall be direct or indirect.
I want to acknowledge right away how strong is the case for indirect election. I am not unmindful of the arguments that have been used, I have read with very great care what was said by the Statutory Commission on the matter, and I suppose most hon. Members are seized of the arguments presented not merely in the first volume of that report, but also in the second. I am prepared to admit to the full every argument that is used in the report of the Statutory Committee. I know it is a subject in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) has taken a great interest, and I understand that he is to take part in our debate later on. I sincerely hope so. I had the opportunity of hearing his statement of the case for indirect election. I want to admit all that right away.
As far as I can see, the case for indirect election at the centre, summarised, is that under the direct system you have huge constituencies and an immense electorate, and, as a result, there is inevitable dissociation between the electorate and their representatives, that there is an unreality of representation, emphasised by the added complications of the communal division that exists in India, and that there ought to be a close relationship between the provincial Parliaments and the central Legislature, that there is some advantage in the contact between public representation in the Provinces and public representation at the centre, and there is the statement of Sir Walter Layton when presenting his financial report as part of the Statutory Commission that there are certain substantial financial advantages arising from the indirect system.
When we hear of these geographical difficulties I am going to ask the Committee to regard this argument as being 1987 not strictly relevant for three reasons. Whatever may be the difficulty of the vast areas—if they are as large as Scotland or Wales that will be only in a very abnormal case—they obtain in the great Federation that exists to-day, and comparable conditions can be found in Australia, in America and in Canada. If, therefore, you are to deny to India a direct system of election based on that ground, you deny it on a ground that excludes the consideration of the other great Dominions as well as the United States. The second reason why this argument of the geographical area is irrelevant is that you have the conditions in India to-day. The area of India will not be enlarged by the passing of the Bill. The Indian Ocean will still wash its shores where it washes them to-day. Nothing is to be added to the territory. You have the Federal Assembly being elected to-day and you have had that Federal Assembly existing for a great number of years and, whatever may be the difficulty of the geographical areas under the Bill, that difficulty exists today and has existed for many years past. There is a further reason why any talk about the difficulty of the geographical area is irrelevant. Whatever may be the geographical difficulties in India to-day, those difficulties will be at once halved under the Bill. Under the present system there are 103 elected members of the present Assembly. Under the new system there will be 250. The same area is to be represented and, therefore, as a result of the passing of the Bill, assuming that the present figures are retained, the geographical difficulties that exist are reduced by something more than 50 per cent.
We are discussing a matter that has occupied the mind of Parliament for 16 years. I have taken some trouble to see what happened when this Parliament first decided to deal with the question. The Southborough Committee inquired into it as far back as 1919. It has already been quoted as having reported against the direct system. That is not strictly true. They recommended the indirect vote but only as a temporary expedient. They said:We appreciate the objections to this method. The danger of entrusting the election of All-India representatives to 1988 a small number of electors is too obvious to need elaboration. We trust that in the progress of time a growing sense of political organisation will enable indirect election to be superseded by some direct method, but for the present we see no alternative but to face the difficulties inherent in the indirect system.I think generally we have assumed that the Southborough Committee can be invoked in support of the indirect system, but we cannot invoke it in view of that recommendation. They were establishing this central representative system for the first time. They said that, in view of the fact that there was no machinery, they must set up for the time being an indirect system, but it must make way as soon as circumstances permitted for the direct system.
The next step was taken by the Government of India which, when considering the report of the Southborough Committee in 1919, expressed very grave doubts about the indirect vote. This is their report at that time:The majority of us are prepared to accept the Committee finding. We do so with regret, for we look upon direct election as the only system that is compatible with true responsibility to the voters. And we do not accept any argument which would relegate the creation of a direct electorate for the Assembly to an indefinite future. We consider that it will be the clear duty of the Government of India to devise such an electorate before the enquiry of the first statutory commission.When the Joint Select Committee of 1919 came to consider the matter, they struck out the proposals for indirect election. They would not submit to the House a report that contained the proposal, although it had been represented to them how great the dangers were and how difficult was the setting up of machinery for the purpose. When the House in 1919 passed its Government of India Bill, they gave to the people of India at the centre, in respect of their lower Chamber, the direct vote and that direct vote has been exercised and enjoyed by them for the last 13 or 14 years. I made a reference to that in an earlier debate and an hon. and gallant Gentleman behind me spoke of the conditions that obtained in the electorate. It may be that you have illiteracy there, but that is irrelevant, because, if there is illiteracy, it must apply to the Provinces as well as to the centre. If an illiterate man is unable to vote, he must not be able to vote for the very considerable matters 1989 of importance in the Provinces just as much as he is excluded from the centre.
Sixteen years ago this House said it would not take the responsibility of setting up a central Parliament in India, and denying to the people there a right which the people of this country would never consent to forgo. I think it will need a great deal of argument to justify a reversal of that policy. I should have thought that in 14 years our stature was greater and that the principles of representative government had strengthened and not weakened. It is a pitiful commentary upon the advance of representative institutions if after 14 years we take away a vote which was deliberately given after much controversy and exhaustive inquiry 15 years ago. As to the exercise of the vote, evidence was given before the Joint Select Committee that in most cases it was exercised just as freely by the people of India as by the people in the constituencies in this country. There are, generally speaking, more people going, to the poll in India than go when there is an election for the management of the County of London. There is a higher polling record, although vast distances have to be covered, and in spite of the intricate difficulties of machinery, than in the greatest city of the world. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is a novelty."] They have had the novelty for 14 years, and they have had provincial elections and district boards. I hope we can discuss a matter of such grave importance as this without what I suggest are irrelevant interruptions. That was the position in 1919.
The next step was that the Statutory Commission was sent out. I have had an unexpected opportunity earlier in the debate of paying tribute to the work of the Statutory Commission. I have not waited until to-day to do that. I had an opportunity of doing it in the presence of the Foreign Secretary when he was Member for Spen Valley and was sitting on these benches when we were considering the report of the First Round Table Conference in the early part of 1931. I do not want to use a word that derogates from the importance of their recommendations, but I am going to ask the Committee, when they have put on one side of the scale the recommendations of the Statutory Commission as well as the geographical difficulties to which reference has been made, to see what is on 1990 the other side. The Statutory Commission made their report. What happened next? The Government of India, immediately after the Statutory Commission gave this report, issued their Despatch. I suggest that any Member who casts his vote to-night, or whenever the vote is taken, who has not acquainted himself with what was said by the Government of India in 1930 in their Despatch upon the report of the Statutory Commission, is depriving himself of a full opportunity of deciding upon a matter of very great importance. I have the report here. I will only refer hon. Members to the pages of the report, commencing at page 116 and running right on to page 125, and I ask them to consider this.
The Statutory Commission made their report, which was one of great importance and attracted attention throughout India and throughout this country and the world, and the Government of India, in accordance with their duty, sat down and presented a comment upon that report. Having considered all that the Statutory Commission had to say, and with a knowledge that was not second surely to the Members of the Statutory Commission, because they were there, and the Members of the Statutory Commission were only there for a comparatively short time as compared with the continuing Government of India, the Government of India., in gross and in detail, considered the whole matter. They dealt one by one with the contentions of the Statutory Commission, they answered those contentions one by one, and, in the end, said that they still stood for the direct vote at the centre. I do not think that that would be questioned by anyone, and I do not want to delay the Committee by quoting their statements, but the case could not be put in stronger terms than they did. All our case as we now present it to the House was very largely stated by the Government of India then. They said practically—and this was the most important thing—"You are going to take away from the people of India a constitution which has served its purpose and which has grown with the growth of the last decade. You are taking away a vote which is the focus of the national allegiance, and we should regard any step in that direction with grave apprehension." They spoke of corruption, and they spoke of the arguments which will 1991 be familiar to this Committee before this Debate is concluded. I put this fact because I think that it is a question to be considered irrespective of any party. This House cannot afford to set aside the deliberate, considered and exhaustive judgment of the Government of India, dealing as they did with the recommendations that were made by the Statutory Commission. When they concluded their remarks they said that they were quite aware of the differences of opinion, but they also said:But in any case we feel that the method of election is essentially a matter on which the considered judgment of Indian opinion should have great weight. We would ourselves be much influenced by the trend of discussions at the Round Table Conference upon them.That is how they concluded their suggestions. They asked that two things should be done. They said that they had this division of opinion, and they would like to consider now what India and the Round Table Conference had to say about it. If that is the court of appeal, the decision must be in favour of this Amendment. Upon that there can be no doubt, because immediately afterwards there was summoned the first Round Table Conference which considered this matter among others. There was set up under the First Round Table Conference a Federal Structure Sub-Committee, and that is very familiar to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India because he was serving upon it at that time, and he will remember the debates that took place. The Federal Structure Sub-Committee presented a report. I had to recover it from the cellar here; it is not upon our ordinary shelves. The Federal Structure Sub-Committee was constituted of some of the most distinguished men in this country, and certainly some of the ablest constitutional lawyers in India. They discussed it not merely hour after hour, but day after day, and there was this remarkable result, that whatever else were the differences, they were all agreed that the only policy for India at the centre was the direct vote.
The Mohammedan was just as strong as the Hindu. Sir Muhammad Shafi, who unhappily is no longer with us, but who led for the Mohammedans at that time, took the strongest possible line on this matter, just as strong as Sir Tej 1992 Bahadur Sapru. Mrs. Subbarayan, speaking for the women, said that they could not contemplate any other decision. Dr. Ambedkar for the depressed classes said that there would be no hope for them unless there was a possibility of the people being able to exercise through their own vote their own influence upon the centre. This view was approved by the Chairman, Lord Sankey, who was then as now the Lord Chancellor of this country. It was approved by one spokesman after the other, and it was a very remarkable thing that whatever else were the differences and the cleavages, all those differences and cleavages were forgotten in the demand, absolutely and unequivocally expressed, that there should be a direct vote at the centre. Not only was there agreement, but there was this expressed statement, that no other system would be workable and that any attempt to impose an indirect system of voting in respect of the centre would arouse the fiercest antagonism of Indian opinion, and would make unworkable any scheme of reform that was built upon that basis. That was the decision of the first Round Table Conference.
The Second Round Table Conference came to the same conclusion, because it was discussed there largely by the same people, and the same opinions were expressed. It is true that at the second Round Table Conference there was a speech of some difficulty and ambiguity made by Mr. Gandhi, but I think the reason most people had some difficulty in deciding just what his position was upon the matter was because he went into a labyrinth of philosophy at that time; but the rest, speaking in other language, made their position quite clear. Then there came the most important step, and a decision that ought to leave this House absolutely in no doubt as to the course it ought to take. There was set up the Franchise Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Lothian. It was initiated when the Second Round Table Conference thought that inquiry should be made upon certain matters. The Prime Minister, who was then the Prime Minister in the last Government, made the announcement that such a committee was to be set up, and it was formed under the chairmanship of Lord Lothian. It was a most effective committee. There were 20 members of the committee, eight of whom were Members of this House or 1993 representing this country, and 12 were Indians. Its members included Sir John Kerr, the man at the India Office best qualified to advise upon this matter, and who had behind his recommendation the advantage of practical experience of those matters. It also included the Assistant Postmaster-General in the present Government, the present Under-Secretary of State for India, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) and Miss Pickford, unhappily no longer with us. The committee had an enormous advantage even over the Statutory Commission. The Statutory Commission when they went out some time before had to survey the whole field of Indian constitutional affairs. This was a committee charged with a specific inquiry. The Statutory Commission had the disadvantage of being boycotted in many parts of India. The committee had the advantage of whole-hearted cooperation, and there was set up in all the Provinces of India other committees upon which served the most eminent men in those several Provinces, and who all co-operated with the committee presided over by Lord Lothian to consider this matter. They were sent out, and travelled many thousands of miles, and went into many parts of the country, and, having considered the matter, made their case out in the course of many pages. A large part of this report is directly associated with the problem of indirect and direct election, and they say in page 166:We have come to the conclusion, therefore, that in the case of the Federal, no less than of the Provincial Legislatures, we must proceed on the basis of the direct vote of the individual elector.That was the report. It is signed by two members of His Majesty's Government. There was a report unanimously presented to this House, and I submit that any argument that must be used against the Amendment that we have to-day must reckon with that authority, with which no one in this House can compare. Who, in this House had the advantage enjoyed by members of that committee, had that opportunity of inquiring into Indian opinion and Indian conditions? Following upon the presentation of that report—and I am taking the history of it—there came the Third Round Table Conference which came to the conclusion—again by a majority, because I 1994 think some of the British representatives still demurred—that a system at the centre in India must be upon the basis of the direct vote for the lower House. It was as a result of all that inquiry that the Government presented the White Paper in which, taking all the inquiries and all the result of the investigations over many years, they deliberately put before this House and before the country the direct vote at the centre for the lower Chamber. That was the Government's policy. The White Paper stood for the direct vote. I am asking for the reversion of the Government policy that was adopted as a result of all the inquiries. The Joint Select Committee was set up and for the greater part of its history—and it sat for the greater part of two years—proceeded on the assumption of the direct vote at the Centre.
§ Sir AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
In what sense did the Committee proceed upon that assumption? The assumption was challenged from the first.
§ Mr. FOOT
I do not think that there was objection taken, but I think the right hon. Gentleman will see that I am stating the facts, and what was said in the other Chamber by the Noble Lord the Marquess of Salisbury. What happened was that from the beginning—and the record of the questions will bear this out—the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State, when he was questioned upon the matter, took the line: "I quite agree about the difficulty, but the objections to the indirect vote are too formidable." I am not quoting anything that is private. I am quoting what was published. That question was put all along. The right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that up to the time when the Indian delegates ceased their conference with us the assumption was, or, at any rate, the contention of the Government was, that the direct vote must stand. Suppose the Secretary of State for India when he went into the witness box had not given that statement, had not said that he was standing by the direct vote, because the objections to the indirect vote were so formidable, does the right hon. Gentleman not think that the examination and cross-examination would have taken an entirely different turn? When the Indian delegates left—and they had left long before we had settled down to the 1995 actual preparation of our report—they left certain papers behind them of a highly valuable character. There was the letter written by Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru—it was expressly stated in the records that that letter represented the views of himself and Mr. Jayakar, and Mr. Joshi and several other delegates. He said that the question of the indirect vote might come up, and he stated there and then the arguments for the direct vote. He said that any attempt to impose a system of indirect vote on India would mean putting the whole scheme of reforms in jeopardy and would be resisted by Indian opinion.
There was another important paper which was left by the Indian delegation, which is specially mentioned in Volume 3 of the records, in the pages that run up to page 224, a report was left by the Indian delegation, signed by the Aga Khan and others. The last name in the 10 or 12 names of other members was that of Mr. Joshi. This memorandum drew attention to this issue and asserted that any attempt to impose an indirect system of voting in the Centre would be contrary to Indian opinion. The remarkable thing was that that record of the delegation was signed by representatives of all classes and thought in India. What happened in the Joint Select Committee has been dwelt upon in the Debate in the other House. Towards the end of our discussion in the Committee most of us assumed that the government policy in regard to the direct vote was to stand, but in the end there was a majority against it. Let me remind hon. Member of what happened. On 6th July, 1934, the report of the chairman had been presented, and there was an Amendment standing in the name of the Marquess of Lothian, the Marquess of Reading and myself. That Amendment sought to set aside the chairman's report, which recommended indirect election. Our Amendment was in favour of the direct system. The voting on that occasion was 18 to five. The five Members who voted for the Amendment were the Marquess of Reading, the Marquess of Lothian, the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks), the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) and myself. The whole of the case that we wished to put before the 1996 Committee was set out in that Amendment and will be found in five pages, giving the case for direct election. Later on, when the report itself came up for consideration, we challenged the report and it was then carried by 21 votes to six. The six who voted against it were the Marquess of Reading, Lord Snell, the hon. Member for Broxtowe, the hon. Member for Caerphilly, and myself. Lord Lothian was away in America at that time but it was very well known that he took the same line as ourselves. The Archbishop of Canterbury also voted for the Amendment.
§ Mr. FOOT
If I used that phrase I ought not to have done so. What I had in mind was that there were not many of us who were involved in arriving at that very important decision. When you are dealing with a subject of such vast importance it seems to me that there were very few of us who had to take such serious responsibility. At any rate the minority included men of different parties, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is not associated with any party.
The difficulty was that having taken that decision a, consequential arrangement had to be made with regard to the constitution of the Council of State. Up to that time the scheme of the White Paper had said that the Council of State should be elected by the provincial representatives and that the lower House was to be elected by the people themselves. When this change was made and it was decided that there should be indirect re 1997 presentation at the centre, it was found that the constituency for the Council of State had gone. The Marquess of Salisbury said that the constituency had been pinched. I say that the constituency had gone. At the last moment, when there was not an opportunity for weighing this grave consideration, the Committee, at the 11th hour, had to decide how they would find a constituency for the Council of State and they said: "We will take it from the second Chambers of the Provinces." But after that solution had been suggested it was found that several of the Provinces had not any second Chambers. Then they had to decide that in the unicameral Provinces they would have to fall back upon for the constitution of electoral colleges, elected by the people just as if they were electing the Provincial upper House.
Criticism has already been made in public. Let me refer to what was said by the Noble Marquess when the debate was initiated in the House of Lords. He is against us and he said that he was in favour of the indirect vote, but he spoke about the hurried arrangement and said that the contingencies had not been properly weighed. That is how the thing happened, and it is a matter of regret that the Secretary of State did not adhere to the position that had been taken up in the White Paper. What has happened since? The report has been published. Great care was taken to see that the publication in India should synchronise with the publication here. What has been the answer of India in regard to this recommendation? Is there any doubt about Indian opinion The "Times" newspaper, in its report from its correspondent, said that the greatest outcry was being made—I am not sure of the actual words—but the fact upon which they had seized in India as being the most significant was the change from the direct to the indirect vote.
Then there is the letter written by Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, in which he says that next to the question of Dominion status the thing that has affected Indian opinion more than anything else is this change in regard to the vote. If any hon. Member has any doubt about that let them turn to what was said by Pandit Hirday Nath Kunzru, who was President of the National Liberal Federation of India. That federation considered this 1998 matter on 28th December, and in a speech which in its philosophy could rank with some of the great speeches of our political history, Pandit Kunzru stated the case against the indirect vote. He said in effect: "If you take away the right of the direct vote you take away the symbol of our national consciousness. If you take this away you rob us of what is essential to our political life." He said that it was a matter of life and death politically to the people of India and rather than consent to any Measure which took away the right of the direct vote, which they at present have, which took away this symbol of their national consciousness, he would reject the scheme altogether.
Have hon. Members had sent to them a statement of what has been said by the Servants of India Society? They direct their criticism upon this change in the vote and say that the direct vote should never have been taken away. Have hon. Members had sent to them the report of the last conference of the Indian Christians? Their meeting was held on the 2nd February of this year and they say that they are opposed to this change and demand the restoration of the direct vote, the vote which they have so long enjoyed. Have hon. Members noted the position taken up by the Deccan Labha? I am not able to follow the Indian papers but I know that every society about which I have been able to get any information has asked for the direct vote and has condemned this part of the Government's policy. I should like to have this point dealt with specially by the Secretary of State and an Answer given on behalf of the Government. I understand that the First Commissioner of Works may deal with the matter. Is he able to point to any representative body in India that has approved the alteration made? There are a great many societies, some holding most responsible positions. Is he able to point to any society which, having considered this report, welcomes the change made by the Joint Select Committee from the declared policy of the Government in the White Paper?
There is something of even more importance and that is the position of the Government of India on this question of the direct vote. We require enlightenment on this point. During the sittings of the Joint Select Committee 1999 the information given to us every time was that the Government of India believed in the direct vote. They did in 1919, they have done so all along and they did so following upon the Statutory Commission. The other day I saw in the "Times" this report of what was said by the Viceroy when he addressed the Assembly:There was no sinister motive underlying direct election to the central legislature. The Viceroy and his Government favour direct election but they recognise there are cogent arguments on the other side.In spite therefore of the report of the Joint Select Committee, the Viceroy, measuring his words, went to the Assembly and said that the Government of India stood by the direct vote. I took the opportunity on the Second Reading of the Bill to ask the Secretary of State for India, who had treated us with great candour in this matter, if he would put the House in possession of the present opinion of the Government of India on this matter. The importance of that is that after we had had the Statutory Corn-mission the Government of India's dispatch was made public. Is it not just as important that we should be put in possession of the opinion of the Government of India on what has been recommended by the Joint Select Committee? That is a request with which, I think, most hon. Members will agree.
Let me summarise our objections to this scheme. We are opposed to indirect election because it is contrary to the opinion of the man on the spot. We are opposed to indirect election because it is contrary to Indian sentiment. It may be said that there is a chance to reverse it, that our Amendment was accepted saying that it might be changed. But suppose there is no change and it goes on for 10 years, you are going to pro-yoke an agitation immediately you commence these reforms. In the course of a few years vested interests will grow up, and if someone comes along and proposes to dispossess them they will not look with any favour on the proposal. Once you establish this system you will find very great difficulty in trying to break it down. We are opposed to indirect election because it involves a reconstruction of the upper Chamber at the centre, and gives it an authority and 2000 prestige which was never intended in the first instance. It deprives Indians of a right which they have enjoyed for the last 14 years, and is contrary to the whole principle of representative institutions. The argument for giving people the vote all along has been that by so doing you educate the electors. Why should it not be applied to India?
We a-re opposed to indirect election because it is contrary to the whole principle of federation. There is no federation in the world which is not constructed upon the principle of the upper House representing the federating units and the lower House representing the people at large. Further, it confuses provincial and federal issues. It will mean now that if Congress or some propagandist and extreme body wants to capture the centre, they must capture the Provinces, and you are going to bring into the Provinces issues and arguments which should never be there. Under this system you take away from the Governor-General the power of dissolution. If the Governor-General has to deal with the Provinces and the Provinces make an arrangement among themselves, and then one Province tries to bring pressure to bear in the interests of its Province, you may have the Governor-General having to stand up against these sectional interests.
To whom under this Bill can he appeal? Upon his head you have placed a fruitless crown, and put a barren sceptre in his grip. He may say that he must stand by the people of India against these sectional interests, but there is nobody to whom he can appeal. He dissolves the legislature, and what happens? The State representatives go back to their masters. They will be asked, "Where do you come from?" "From Delhi, because there is a dissolution." They are told to go back again, and the Governor-General after having dissolved the Assembly will find the same people back again. What do the British Indian members do? They go back to the small provincial groups, those six or seven people who are invested with the duty of electing a representative assembly, and will be sent back again by the same small groups, and if the groups are not there, you will have at the centre people who will represent nobody in the whole wide world. That is an argument which should weigh 2001 with those who believe that the Governor-General should be invested with some authority.
There is the argument of corruption. Every Indian has appealed to us upon this matter. It has been stated in the course of our Debates, in Congress and in the documents to which I have made reference, and we have been asked how it was that we could take the risk of giving a handful of people the power to elect representatives. What happened in this country years ago when six or eight people were able to send members to this House of Common would happen in India. It would be impossible to resist corruption. The proposal is not only dangerous, but strikes at the unity of India. Our aim has been to achieve the unity of India, and anything which strikes at the unity of India is a risk too deadly to contemplate. If anyone will read Mr. Pannikar's book on "The New Empire," he will find that the root difficulty in India is a tendency for its forces to dissipate and its unity to be broken. If we lose that unity India, he says, will go back to the condition in which England found her. That is the opinion of Mr. Pannikar. He also said that under the federation system we were strengthening the forces which make against unity, and that at this time we propose to take away the only symbol there is in India of national consciousness. I make an appeal to those hon. Members who have been associated with our party not to vote against an Amendment which secures to other people the vote which we would never surrender for ourselves. I make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman for West Birmingham, who has shown great magnanimity in the course of his political life, not to set his views against the considered opinions of those who have made a most exhaustive inquiry and against those who will have to live under this constitution.
I make an appeal to the Secretary of State, who has to make decisions on this matter as great as ever made in the history of this country. He knows the difficulties. There are difficulties in India to-day. Their main objection is that they are not framing the government under which they will have to live, a sentimental objection it may be, but it is one which we should ourselves feel. We have shown ourselves anxious to meet the 2002 claims of the Princes. Last week we made an offer to meet their claims, perfectly legitimately expressed in this House. The people of India ask us not to take from them a right which they have enjoyed, and which we should never surrender ourselves without civil war. If we could meet their case the gesture would do more than anything else to give these proposals a chance of being worked out to a fruitful conclusion.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Member in his opening sentences did his best, and a very good best, to state fairly the case of those who support indirect election in the circumstances of India, rather than direct election. Afterwards, I thought, he dealt rather cavalierly with their arguments. A majority of more than three to one which disagreed with the hon. Member became an insignificant majority—
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
At any rate, almost all the available members of the Joint Select Committee voted upon it, and, after all, the large responsibility which was committed to that Committee now rests on every Member of the House of Commons. In approaching a question of this kind hon. Members have to ask themselves, after listening to such a speech as that which we have just heard, what they conceive to be their duty. We are bound to give careful attention to any representations of Indian opinion, the Princes, the Hindus, the Moslems, or any of the many other sections into which Indian opinion is divided. But I hold that though we should give careful consideration to their opinion and due weight to their arguments, in the last resort the responsibility is ours, and I am no more willing to accept a system, which I believe to be unworkable and unreal in the conditions of India because it has a majority of Indian political feeling in its favour, than I was willing the other day to enter into an auction for the support of the Princes. We have to shoulder our own responsibilities. It is not sufficient to say 2003 that Indian opinion, this or the other section, holds this or that view. We must consider in the light of all the arguments which are put before us what is the best constitution we can offer to India.
This is a question on which two views have been held, and probably will continue to be held. The original proposal under the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms was indirect election. The Joint Select Committee of that day substituted direct election. The Simon Commission, with an experience of the working of direct election, reported most strongly against it and in favour of indirect election. The Round Table Conference was unwilling to accept indirect election, because it was undemocratic. What is democratic representation? It is one which gets a true reflection of the views of the people and establishes a real nexus of responsibility between a member and his constituency. None of us here are mere delegates from our constituencies. When we come here we have a responsibility of our own, but we conform broadly to the lines of the dominant thought of our own electors. It is essential that there should be that sense of responsibility of the individual member to his constituents if representative institutions are to be anything but a sham.
What is it that the Simon Commission reported about the working of the present system? I must trouble the House with one or two extracts. They point out the immense areas which, even with such numbers as are proposed for the lower House of the Central Legislature under this Bill, would constitute the electoral divisions—not merely that you might have an area the size of the county of Norfolk and with its population as a single constituency, but that owing to the difficulties created by and the necessity to respect the communal differences, your constituency may become as big as Scotland with a population as big as that of Wales, and in a country without the communications of either Scotland or Wales, and in the midst of a population which, whatever you may say, has not the political experience or knowledge which the electors of this country have. It seems to me to subordinate all reality to abstract theory to tell us "Well, there 2004 are these large areas in the United States of America. There are these vast constituencies in the Commonwealth of Australia." There are, but I am not aware that either constitution works better on that account. I should have thought it was rather an inevitable weakness in their system than an advantage. But if it does work well there, that is surely no argument that it can work well in the totally different constituencies in India. The Simon Commission went on to say:All the evidence goes to show that at present the actions of a member of the Assembly are not, and in the nature of things cannot be, subject to any real control on the part of his constituents. The issues at Delhi are too remote and unfamiliar for the average elector to apprehend. Under the plan which we propose the representative at the Centre will know that his actions will be subject to the criticism of a body of provincial legislators, and the result will be the creation of an enhanced sense of responsibility in a member, and an increasing probability that good work faithfully done will be rewarded by the increasing confidence of the Province in its central representative.I submit that there will be found no satisfactory answer in all the documents which the hon. Member for Bodmin cited—I think he cited every document he could cite, and very properly, in favour of his argument—to the case stated by the Statutory Commission, that if you have these vast constituencies in the present circumstances of India there will be no real responsibility of the member to his constituents, and no real education of the constituents by contact with the member.
I remember that in the course of the evidence before the Joint Select Committee it was stated that members of the Indian Legislature found no difficulty in getting at their constituents through the organised bodies which exist. But from our experience would that be a wholly satisfactory form of representation to us? I represent a crowded industrial area in the centre of a great town. If I could approach my constituents only by means of the trade union council, I should not have the honour of a seat in this House. My chance of being elected rests upon the possibility of making a direct appeal to the electors, and my chance of carrying them with me on the larger issues of policy rests upon the same thing. But that kind of contact in the circumstances of India, with its 2005 lack of communications and vast area, is impossible between the member and a direct elector. That kind of responsibility can only be established by election at one remove.
I think that in the present circumstances of India the best form is indirect election through the provincial legislatures. I do not say that the system is without disadvantage. I recognise that. I do not say that the system will always prevail. It was the hope of many of us, when we first approached the consideration of the question, that we might find some possibility of developing the electoral system through the village Punchayats and bodies of that kind. There are no such bodies existing widely enough in India at the present time, and communal differences are so fierce that even among the villages you would find many which would not need to have separate communal representation. But I believe that that probably is the most fruitful development which could take place in the future of the Indian franchise. At present we must have resort, in order to maintain the responsibility of the elected to their electors, to this system of indirect election through the provincial legislatures.
The hon. Member said that the Joint Select Committee proceeded on the assumption that direct election was to be maintained. He stated that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State defended direct election all through. That was mainly because my right hon. Friend in spite of the views which he had himself expressed at the Round Table Conference, felt that in this matter, as Secretary of State for India, he ought to represent Indian opinion. But he never spoke dogmatically, and he never gave any sort of pledge that this was a question upon which the Government could accept no other decision. Very early clear indications were given, in the presence of the Indian representatives who sat with us, that this was a matter which was by no means a settled issue for many members of the Joint Committee. There can be no question of taking them by surprise.
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
Does the right hon. Gentleman not think that if there had been an indication of the Government accepting indirect election the questions during the long cross-exami 2006 nation would have taken another course? The Indian delegates asked very few questions about it.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I thought that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was asked every conceivable question. My memory for that sort of thing is not very good, but my recollection is that in the course of the 10,000 questions that were put to him every conceivable subject was covered.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
They were examined on the same subject. I happen to know, because I remember examining some of them myself. There was no concealment, and it would be doing a wrong to the Joint Committee and creating a false impression if there were any suggestion that this matter was only stirred after the Indian representatives had left the Joint Committee.
The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) says that this proposal involves a reconstruction of the Centre. So it does, but it is not merely a reconstruction, but an improvement. The scheme which has emerged from the Joint Select Committee is not the scheme which I most favour. I would have preferred election to the lower Federal Chamber to be by the single transferable vote in the provincial legislatures and election to the upper Chamber to be by the upper Chambers in the Provinces, made easier by the addition of two Provinces to those which were to have upper Chambers, and by electoral colleges composed very much of the people who would have been electors for the upper Chamber if there had been one in the Province where no such upper Chamber will exist. I think the combined result of those two changes made in the central legislature and in the provision which they facilitate for the upper House being renewed by one-third every three years, instead of being subject to dissolution like the lower Chamber, do give an additional stability and continuity of purpose and policy to the central government, the absence of which was one of the great defects of the scheme in the White Paper.
The hon. Member for Bodmin goes on to say that the scheme of the Bill will deprive the people of a right which they 2007 have exercised. He spoke of the vote as a right. You may treat it as a civic duty. But if you make control of the representatives more effective, you make their representative character more real, and you serve democracy and do not injure it, and no theory ought to prevent you from doing so. The hon. Member says that the scheme affects the unity of India. I think it does. I think it may lead to consolidating that unity. When you create these 10 to 11 provincial governments, the centrifugal tendencies will be very real and the possibility of conflict between the provincial governments and the central government will constitute a serious danger unless they are directly related. If that conflict came, and both appealed to the general electorate over the whole of India and both claimed equal and indeed practically the same authority to speak for the people of India, the conflict might become incapable of solution, however dangerous it was to the safety of India. I think it tends to the unity of India that there should be these elections from the provincial Houses, upper and lower, and that the upper and lower Houses of the Central Legislature itself should be strictly linked with the Provincial Legislatures and with the governing opinion and feeling existing in the Provinces.
I have told the Committee that I do not think we have found or that we can find to-day the ultimate solution of this question. The hon. Gentleman talked as though he and his Liberal colleagues had imposed an Amendment on the Joint Select Committee which pointed that out.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
At least he will allow me to say that I welcomed that idea the moment it was suggested. I do not pretend that we are finding a final solution to-day. I have indicated where I hope a final solution may be sought in later years by Indians themselves. But I do say that if you strike indirect election out of the Bill and reaffirm the sanctity of direct election; if you give your approval to the statement of the hon. Gentleman that direct election is the only form of election that counts and is the only thing worthy of a nation, then you make it impossible for 2008 yourselves or anyone else ever to change that system however badly it may work. You have an opportunity now of reversing the hasty decision—as I think it—of 1919 and of trying another experiment from which you could move back to direct election if, in after years, you should think that desirable. If you now reaffirm direct election you saddle India with a system which becomes more and more unreal and impossible to work with every extension of the franchise in that country and, to use the term in the report, you go into a cul-de-sac from which there is no issue, as democratic institutions grow and the democratic vote increases.
§ Miss RATHBONE
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us his answer to the objection that such tiny constituencies as will be inevitable under the indirect system may lead to corruption. That is such an important point that we are naturally curious to know his answer.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
My answer is twofold. In the first place, it is admitted that there is corruption in Indian public life to-day and as long as you have no political standards sufficiently high and strong to punish that kind of thing, corruption will exist. Will it be increased if you have small bodies of marked men chosen from the Provincial Legislatures for your electoral colleagues?
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I think not. The results of their vote will be known, and they can be held responsible for what they do. Are you not more likely to be able to lay your hands on corruption and stamp it out, when it is a question of bribing six or a dozen marked men than when it is a question of bribing a large constituency as, we are told, they are often bribed to-day?
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
The Committee has been favoured with admirable statements on both sides of this question. The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) has stated with great cogency the case for direct election and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) has stated with equal cogency the case for indirect election. I rise to say a few words on behalf of my hon. Friends on these benches and perhaps the Committee will 2009 forgive me for making at the outset one personal reference. I think it is known to hon. Members that my hon. Friend the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) does not share the views which the rest of us entertain on this question of direct or indirect election. I hold my hon. Friend in the highest esteem and I regard his difference from us on this matter as one which arises from a desire on his part which we all share to serve the Indian people in the best way possible. We differed on the Joint Select Committee; we retain our differences to this moment and I am afraid they must continue until we have taken a division at the end of this discussion. But although I disagree with my hon. Friend I can say that he has been consistent on this question throughout. He was a member of the Statutory Commission, he subscribed to the decisions and findings of that Commission and he maintained the same view on the Joint Select Committee. Having said that I may be allowed to pass away from that personal note.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin will forgive me if I remind him that this is not a Bill for electoral reform in India. It is a Bill of many Clauses and deals with many aspects of the constitutional problem of India's development. I may say that I was staggered to discover my hon. Friend exhibiting such remarkable eloquence on this particular point and as far as I can see on this point only. I do not wish to be unkind in my references but in the Committee Room my hon. Friend seemed to' have imposed upon himself the vow of a Trappist monk. He was as silent as the grave until the question of direct election came up and even then the person who presented the case in regard to direct election was the Marquess of Lothian.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham opened his speech with an observation on a point which I have sought to raise several times already. He contended that we were under no obligation to accept the final view of the Indians themselves upon this matter and, of course, so long as it is before the House of Commons that is technically true. But I have repeatedly said in these discussions that, as far as we on these benches are concernd, we take the view that we ought to be guided in our decisions, so far as we can arrive at 2010 decisions, by the opinions of the Indian people. It is true that sometimes we have difficulty in discovering unanimity among Indians upon this or that problem but on this question of direct or indirect election there is a very remarkable measure of agreement among all classes and creeds in India. The right hon. Gentleman has not, I am sure, overlooked or forgotten the memorandum presented to the Joint Select Committee by the delegation representing British India. I understood him to say that there had been no reply to the conclusions of the Simon Commission upon the comparative efficacy of direct and indirect election. The memorandum to which I refer contains the following passage which I ask leave of the Committee to quote:The first two arguments have been answered in the following passage from the Government of India despatch on a similar proposal in the Statutory Commission's Report.It is in large measure an answer to the contention of the Simon Commission. The passage from the Government of India despatch cited in the memorandum is as follows:First, the central elector has exercised the franchise with increasing readiness and at least as freely as the elector to provincial councils. A great deal of the business of the central legislature is as intimate to the elector and is as fully within the scope of his understanding as the business of the provincial councils. We need cite only such matters as the Sarda Act, the income tax, salt tax, railway administration and postal rates. Even more abstruse matters such as the exchange ratio and tariffs interest large sections of the electors.I wonder how far that can be said about our English electorate?
Second the electoral methods natural to the social structure of India may be held to some extent to replace personal contact between candidate and voter, a contact which adult suffrage and party organisations make increasingly difficult in western countries. The Indian electorate is held together by agrarian, commercial, professional and caste relations. It is through those relations that a candidate approaches the elector and in this way political opinion is the result partly of individual judgment but to a greater extent than elsewhere of group movements. These relations and groups provide in India a means of indirect contact between voter and member, reducing the obstacles which physical conditions entail.They then proceed to a consideration of the change effected some 10 years ago. It is meet that we should recall once 2011 again what happened in the committee room. The Secretary of State fairly and frankly said that he was reflecting the view of the Indian Government when he said that they were in favour of direct election. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham spoke in favour of indirect election and I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman's conversion did not start from that point. From that moment there was a terrific drive in the committee, repeated day after day almost, and to my mind that was in order to convert the Secretary of State to the method of indirect election. The Secretary of State stood firm for some time, but the majority of the Government supporters obviously were in favour of indirect election.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I think the hon. Member is referring to discussions which I thought were strictly confidential.
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
I am sorry to interrupt, but I raised the matter in the first instance. I think the published records show what the position was. It was dealt with in public on the first day of the Debate in the other House by the Noble Lord, the Marquess of Salisbury, who said that a direct vote held the field until the latter part of the session of the Joint Select Committee, and I thought that, inasmuch as that rested upon published questions and answers, one was not dealing with anything that was confidential.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I make no complaint of anything said by the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot). What I doubted was—it was not a question of order for this Committee—but we did have confidential discussions in the Joint Select Committee, and I thought it was agreed among us all there that those confidential discussions should not be alluded to. No record was taken of them, and we may get involved in a great deal of controversy among ourselves if we do allude to them.
Mr. J ONES
If the right hon. Gentleman's point of view is to be maintained, we can make no reference at all to the discussions inside the Committee.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)
I think the position is that all that the House is in possession of is the published evidence and minutes of proceedings in the Joint Select Committee, and it would be better that Members should make 'any speeches they wish to make about the proceedings in the Joint Select Committee on those documents to which all Members of the House nave access.
§ Mr. JONES
This is really a most surprising situation, and if it is to be maintained, it is clear that none of us can refer to the alignments of party and so on inside the Committee room. The only personal reference that I have made so far was to the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, and his position is well known. Therefore, I think I am not doing anything that is violating the traditions of the Joint Select Committee.
§ Mr. JONES
That is not even recorded on the minutes. I think that I am not stating what is not available to anyone who cases to study the division lists. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State maintained steadily his position, and the Committee instructed him to take the view of the Indian Government again. A second time the right hon. Gentleman returned, and a second time he returned with the view of the Indian Government that they were in favour of direct election. Again he was instructed to take the view of the Indian Government, and a third time, of course, the right hon. Gentleman could not but come back and see that the vast majority of his Committee \were against him, and he said, "Very well, we must accept the decision." I say that the decision of the Committee was taken—I do not say wrongly—in the teeth of the repeated presentation to the Committee, not of the views of Indians, but of the view of the Indian Government itself, and that view of the Indian Government was based upon some 10 years or more of the system of direct election.
2013 For our part, we take the strongest possible objection—I speak now for the majority of my party—to the change that has now taken place. We have been told over and over again by the Secretary of State that there is nothing sacrosanct about a fixed period of years. Indeed, it has been held to be a very risky thing to set any time period in connection with these matters. We are fobbed off none the less, in connection with this change, with the sort of consolation that after all, in 10 years' time, you can return from indirect to a direct method of election if you like. How can you anticipate that in 10 years' time you can easily readjust the system from indirect to direct election? How can it be done? It can be done literally, I have no doubt, but look at the almost insuperable obstacles you are erecting against such a change. On the other hand, the evidence at your disposal all points to the fact that within a limited period of 10 years direct election has worked in India, and in any case you accept that as a final judgment and guide so far as elections in the Provinces are concerned. You have your vast electorate in the Provinces. Very well, if you are prepared to take the risk of direct election in the Provinces, over vast areas, what is the insuperable objection to applying direct election similarly at the centre?
I have heard this afternoon a sort of suggestion—I do not know that it was a definite statement—that there is some corruption and so on prevalent in India. Let me once again say categorically that I challenged an ex-Indian civil servant who made that allegation in the Committee room, and I invited him to give evidence in support of it. The moment he had given his reply three ex-Viceroys, one after the other, were appealed to by Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru to give their views on the question of this alleged corruption in India.
Duchess of ATHOLL
The appeal that Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru made to the three ex-Viceroys was with regard to the charge of nepotism.
§ Mr. JONES
The Noble Lady was not there, and I was there. It is quite true that nepotism was one of the charges, but it was mixed up with the whole general charge of corruption, and I think I am strictly within the truth when I say that when Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru addressed this question to the 2014 ex-Viceroys, he had the whole charge made by the person concerned in his mind. Let us get rid of these repeated insinuations. However corrupt or otherwise the Indian people may be, I am quite certain that a system of indirect election is much more liable to lead to corruption on a grand scale than the sort of corruption you get in association with direct election. We on this side regard it as an infringement of the democratic rights of the people of India to revert once again, after this 10 years' experience, from the method of direct election to the method of indirect election. I am quite sure, as the hon. Member for Bodmin said, that it has had a very bad effect on Indian public opinion, and as the years go by and they see the effects of this indirect system in operation, I rather tend to the belief that the objections to it will grow rather than diminish. I regret very much that the Secretary of State felt it necessary to give way to my colleagues on the Committee in this matter. May I say, in conclusion, that I understand the First Commissioner of Works will reply on this Debate, and we shall be, of course, very glad to hear his views on this matter, but I would equally be interested to hear the defence of the Secretary of State personally, because, after all, it was he who gave way in this matter and abandoned the case of India in the Committee room, and it is he, it seems to me, who ought to be called upon to defend that decision on the Floor of this House.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ The FIRST COMMISSIONER of WORKS (Mr. Ormsby-Gore)
I understand that it is the intention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to say a few words in winding up the discussion on this Amendment, but I think it is rather hard that the hon. Member should insist that on every single Amendment and Clause in this Bill the Secretary of State should always be here and answer for the Government. My right hon. Friend is carrying a very heavy burden. It is clear that on this issue there has been a very great controversy from the very beginning of Indian constitutional reform, and I well remember—I think I am the only Member of this Committee who was a Member of the Joint Select Committee of 1919—that then we had before us both the Montagu 2015 Chelmsford Report and the Southborough Commission's proposals, both recommending indirect election. There were few subjects that exercised more the then Joint Select Committee than this proposal, and eventually the direct system was adopted by a majority. The discussion turned in favour of direct election almost entirely because of two arguments—first, the argument that there was in India, provided you had a strictly limited franchise. I will not call them a class, but a category of educated Indians who were more interested in central questions, particularly law, tariffs, and the central subjects, than they were in provincial questions, while there was a far larger category of Indian society, cutting across communal and racial divisions, and embracing a far larger range of opinion much more interested in education, agriculture, public health, and social services falling within the provincial sphere, and that it was therefore possible, provided you had a strictly restricted franchise for the centre, to have two different electorates, to have a limited direct electorate at the centre, and a larger and more democratic electorate in the Provinces. The second argument, which prevailed, I think, on the majority of the members of the committee, was that this demand had behind it the weight of the very type of people whom the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) quoted this afternoon—all the Allahabad lawyers, all the pundits, all the constitutional lawyers were anxious to follow very strictly Western or English forms and to have direct election to the centre on a strictly limited franchise.
It is true to say that on a restricted Indian franchise there has been a slowly increasing and finally quite considerable exercise of that limited franchise; but it is limited. The practical problem of electoral methods becomes a matter that has got to be faced up to the moment you attempt to get beyond the franchise that was given in 1919. It is wrong to say that the constituencies of the size of Scotland or Wales are exceptions. It is true that they were picked out, individual ones, by the Statutory Committee's Report, and even by the Joint Select Committee. But I have been provided with a table of averages, and the figures really are very formidable indeed. 2016 This document has been drawn up on the basis of the White Paper proposals. It is dated early last year. One does find that even in what are called the general constituencies, that is, the Hindu constituencies, the average area of them in Madras and Bengal is between 7,000 and 8,000 square miles. Wales is 8,000 square miles. They run up to 16,000 square miles. The Mohammedan constituencies, of course, range to far bigger figures, and you have in the central Provinces Mohammedan constituencies actually larger than the whole of Scotland and the islands. The geographical facts have got to be faced, and they are the biggest part of this argument. I quite agree with the hon. Member for Bodmin that the ideal thing for a democratic development is the direct vote. I quite agree with him that the indirect vote has not got quite the same quality. But we are faced by the actual facts in India to-day.
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
Is it not a fact that whatever may be the geographical difficulties under the Bill, they are far less than the geographical difficulties under the existing legislature? Are we not having 250 members instead of 105, and does not that mean that the geographical difficulties are to some extent lessened?
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
You are also at the same time increasing the membership, and, given these geographical figures, how can a candidate during an election get in touch with a fraction of his constituency?
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the average sizes of constituencies. I understood him to say that they were not the present constituencies, but the constituencies if you have the increased number of members in the legislature, and that there would still be many constituencies the size of Wales.
§ Major MILNER
Is it not a fact that the future constituencies will be less than the present constituencies?
§ Major MILNER
Is it not much easier to get into touch with an electorate if it consists of 60,000 people than with an electorate of 6,000 people as it exists at 2017 present, by broadcasting and so on. You can surely get into touch with 60,000 people in a defined area more easily than 6,000 as at present.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
We all know that the bulk of this electorate in India under the old system is overwhelmingly landowning and urban, and you can get into touch with them because the landowner can afford to come into the centre. The urban voter has been predominant, and under the existing franchise for the centre in 1919 practically no Indian villagers were enfranchised. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Joint Select Committee sought a system of indirect election which many of us thought would have been suited to Indian conditions, namely, from the villages. That is too late, and is indeed complicated by the destruction during the last 200 years of the social and political structure of the old Indian village, and above all by the introduction into the villages of the communal division. These are the facts. I want to make it quite clear what the Government's position is.
We do not regard the decision and the recommendation of the House to support the Joint Select Committee's proposal as closing the door for all time to the working out of some more practical scheme of direct election. But geographical and practical reasons are our first difficulty about direct election. The second is a different argument altogether, and that is the argument in favour of indirect election; and it is what most convinces me by reason of the substitution that we propose of a new federal constitution for the existing unitary constitution. The hon. Member for Bodmin talked about the retention of a direct vote as a symbol. You want something much more than a symbol to maintain the unity of India. You do want for the successful working of federation, as we conceive it, the most direct contact possible between the executive and the legislatures in the autonomous Provinces, on the one hand, and the legislature and responsible Ministry in the centre. From the beginning of this controversy I admit I have always opposed provincial autonomy; I opposed it when the Statutory Commission's Report first came out. What 2018 always attracted me was above all a real federation, and if I saw no hope of federation I could not personally go a yard in the direction of provincial autonomy. That has been my position throughout the last three years, and, in view of that, I attach a great deal of importance to this stage of Indian constitutional development being worked out on a basis of the closest relations between the provincial legislatures and the central legislature.
What attracts me most about the proposal of indirect election is the dependence of the representatives of the several Provinces in the central legislature on the legislatures in the Provinces. It seems to me essential at this stage. I do believe that without that close link you will get a great tendency, not only for the Provinces to go off centrifugally one from another, but you will get difficulties, friction and misunderstandings, certainly less freedom, unless you have close personal knowledge and a close link between the representatives of the people of Madras in the provincial legislature and the responsible representatives of Madras Province in the centre. It seems to me vital at this stage, and I base my chief case on the fact that the practicability of wider franchise is a matter of dispute, and above all, on the urgent importance for the successful working of our conception of federation of this intimate link which we get in the proposals of the Joint Select Committee between the Provincial Legislatures and the Central Legislature.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Originally, in 1919 I was a very strong supporter of direct election for the Central Legislature. I think that at that time I was to a certain extent responsible for that direct election, and I wish that my conversion should be understood by my colleagues and by the Liberals in the House, because I am certain that the system of indirect election has its merits at the present It so happens that that conversion was caused principally, so far as I am concerned, by the arguments adduced by Mrs. Besant who brought forward an India Home Rule Bill, which the Labour party introduced into this House about nine years ago. That was a really carefully prepared Bill in which the whole system of representa 2019 tion was built up from the bottom. There was direct election for the village councils. The village councils elected as an electoral college representatives on the district boards, and the district boards elected the representatives to the Provinces, and so on. It was based upon the fundamental Indian idea of the unity of the village community and of self-government being built up from the bottom.
I think that all our liberalism throughout history has really been based on decentralisation of as much power as possible, letting the people who are sufferers from bad administration be in the position to see for themselves the result of their own good or bad management. At present the Indian people view the Government merely as a sort of combination of God and the tax collector. They do not appreciate in the least the benefit of the taxes they pay. They regard them just as they regard rent, as something which goes into some one else's pocket. The whole basis of the idea of building up the structure from the bottom is that it will teach people the difficulties and advantages of governing themselves, instead of starting on top and hoping that education, which hardly exists in India, will somehow work down. On the broad principle, I believe that for India indrect election based upon the village as its unit would be far the best. The difficulty is that the bureaucrat in India will tell you, as they told me until I was sick of it, that the Indian village no longer exists. It ought to have been our business all along to reconstruct the village community and to try and get back to it instead of trying to put an end to it by this system of convenient uniformity. It ought to be reconstructed from the bottom. I believe, that if my right hon. Friend the First Commissioner of Works had been on the Joint Select Committee, and had put his back into reconstructing village life and supporting the idea of indirect election based upon the village, instead of accepting facilely the official interpretation that villages are split into communities, we should have got a far better Bill than we have before us.
That is only one part of the question. The speech of the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) was a long and 2020 powerful speech. It takes a man who agrees with the hon. Member to differ from him successfully, and I am going to differ from him. His long speech of three-quarters of an hour was entirely based on the cult of authority. There was hardly an argument in favour of direct election, but there was a list of great and good people who had been in favour of direct election. To my astonishment he began his list of authorities with the Government of India. Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes. He should have remembered that the Government of India is a sound school of liberal thought. He went on to quote Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru who is more of a diehard than anyone on the benches opposite. He went through all those gentlemen who came from India and sat on the Committee with him. For authority I would prefer him to the whole of those gentlemen who were supposed to represent India on the Committee.
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
Would the right hon. and gallant Gentleman include in his ban and anathema the Franchise Committee that was set up by this House under the chairmanship of Lord Lothian?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Certainly I would. Even Lord Lothian was once Mr. Philip Kerr. What Mr. Gladstone laid down in 1866 ought not really to weigh with us. What we want are the arguments which Mr. Gladstone used in 1866. What I want really to make clear to the hon. Member is that it is not Liberalism to quote authority. He and I are Nonconformists; we have got where we are by defying authority, by differing from authority, and depending on our own conscience and judgment.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
And our own votes in a free constitution. The real difference between all of us is that some of us are authoritarians and others of us are libertarians, and until this day I hoped that the hon. Member for Bodmin was a libertarian instead of art authoritarian. I know that his conscience will prick him when I say that it appears to me that he has now surrendered for a long time the soubriquet of Cromwell under the disguise of Strafford. His authorities were not impressive, but the "Servants of India." 2021 whom he quoted is a very good authority of Indian opinion. I deny entirely, however, that the main objection of the "Servants of India" to this Bill is the absence of direct election. When the lion. Member quotes the "Times" correspondent in India as reflecting Indian opinion, I do wish he would recollect that the section of Indian opinion represented by the "Times" correspondent is much more bureaucratic opinion than the opinion of the Indian people. I think the Committee understands what has happened. There has been a revulsion of feeling against this Bill, and naturally, faced with that revulsion of feeling, all those Liberals in India who supported this Bill have to show cause for their change of view. On the Committee they supported it and when they were cross-examining me they were the most enthusiastic supporters of it. I imagine they were children born and bred of the Round Table Conferences who had a vested interest in the success of this Measure.
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
The right hon. and gallant Member referred to the "Servants of India." They published a resolution which was unanimously passed and which embodies the society's views in regard to the Select Committee's Report. The resolution saysthat the Report of the Joint Select Committee, which is to furnish the basis of the Government of India Bill, is in several respects more reactionary than even the White Paper, which had met with thorough condemnation at the hands of all progressive political schools in India, e.g.—The first instance they give is the substitution of indirect for direct election to the Federal Lower House which, they say, strikes at the root of popular power.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
That was the opinion of the "Servants of India," but it has rapidly changed. The hon. Gentleman says he does not read the Indian papers, but I read the "Servant" every week, and I hear from the editor every other week—thanks for differing from the hon. Member. It is obvious that those unfortunate Liberals who are to a certain extent committed to this Bill suddenly find that opinion in India will not stand the Bill at any price. They say, "You have left Indian status out of the Preamble and you have changed the system of election to the centre and therefore we have changed our mind." 2022 But if you ask in India what the opinion of India about the Bill is they will not worry their heads about whether it is direct or indirect election but about communal representation or about a constitution which will commit them, bound hand and foot, to the millionaires and Princes of India. These gigantic constituencies are caused not because the population is so enormous but because of the communal representation which the hon. Member is helping to force on this unfortunate country.
I am glad the Bill is now defended by a man who at least knows what democracy means; he is the person responsible for the Ceylon constitution—perhaps Dr. Drummond Shiels was more responsible than anyone else, but the present First Commissioner of Works was the Minister in charge who saw the Bill through. In Ceylon there is no communal representation at all. The bitterness of the communal problem was as great in Ceylon as it is in India, perhaps even greater. There are more castes. The Cingalese were divided into two castes who never spoke to each other, and up country Cingalese would have nothing to do with those of the low country. Communal feeling in Ceylon was exceedingly bitter. What we did was to say, "We do not believe in communal representation, you shall have what we think best," and they took it. It was the single electorate. If we had had that system in this Bill we should not have had such gigantic constituencies, and although the constituencies would have been five times as large as ours here, probably ten times as large, they would not have been of the enormous size they would be under this scheme if there were direct election. Hon. Members must realise that to get a seat on that central Indian legislature has been the aim and object of every millionaire in India. The money spent on elections to the old Assembly was perfectly colossal. Fifty thousand pounds was spent in getting yourself—not elected, but nominated. Such a state of affairs is a denial of any sort of representation of the people themselves.
§ Miss RATHBONE
If the millionaires are so anxious to get on to the Central Assembly, will they not find it rather 2023 easy to bribe these 250 little rotten boroughs?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Possibly. We shall have more of them, and not less. But that is not the point of my argument. The real thing is that with these enormous constituencies a member or a candidate cannot possibly know where the villages are or anything about his constituency, and if there is to be this enormous expense to get nominated we shall not be giving them our system of "representation of places" but simply "representation of parties." It is the German system. The party funds can find the man a seat. It is out of the question for any independent man or for any person who has not got large funds behind him to find a seat in the central Indian legislature, and therefore there is party representation and not local representation. I believe we are sitting here in this Parliament to-day because we have not represented parties but represented places. The German Reichstag was allowed to die without a sigh from Germany because the members represented merely parties and not places. If the whole of this House were wiped out to-morrow it would not be our relations who would weep; it would be our unfortunate constituents, who would no longer have a channel through which their complaints could be voiced. To my mind the whole system of democratic representation depends upon the Member knowing his electorate and the electorate knowing him, and using him as a channel for all grievances and a means whereby they can get justice. If we give that system to India we shall have to give it not to the whole of India but to the Provinces. We must start with the smaller units, and use them as the machinery of democracy.
The alternative, as the hon. Lady for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) has said, is electing people indirectly by the provincial councils. The provincial councils are to elect a small number of the members to the Federal Assembly. Apparently it is now the idea that that will involve more corruption, that there will be bribery among those anxious to get elected to the Federal Assembly. I do not believe it for one moment. As a matter of fact, there will not be so much 2024 desire to get to this Assembly at Delhi because its powers are so curtailed. Every enthusiastic politician in India will want to get on to the councils in the Provinces, but not at the centre, because the centre cannot do anything. Weighted as it is with Princes and all the other interests, it becomes rather like our House of Lords. If any Indian is ambitious of helping his country or making a career in politics he will do it now through the Provinces. Therefore, we shall get the provincial councils selecting one among them to go up, as it were, on to the aldermanic bench. I do not say we shall not find people ready to go there, but there will not be that intense desire to get on the new Assembly in Delhi that there was to get on the old Assembly, because it will not have any powers.
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
Does the right hon. and gallant Member suggest that the powers that will be vested in the new Assembly are less than the powers exercised by the present Assembly?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
No, but the powers exercised by the new Assembly will be less than the powers used by the present Assembly. It is a purely conservative and decorative body. There will be little possibility of legislation, and the administration will be almost entirely in the hands of the Executive. Also the establishment of provincial autonomy takes a great deal of power from the centre. I do not think there will be the same object in getting there, and in any case those people who are elected to the legislative councils will be the people- least likely to be bribed. I imagine that in nine cases out of 10 they will elect one of themselves, and therefore outside money will not be of much use. Inside the family we do not bribe each other. Experience of human nature teaches me that there will be a certain amount of log-rolling, a certainly amount of "taking it in turn," and it is much more likely that the senior councillor will get nominated automatically. When at Delhi they will be much better representatives of the people, and certainly better representatives of the Provinces, than people elected on a narrow franchise by a party list and going to Delhi to advocate party views. They will naturally look after the interests of their Provinces. The "provincial in 2025 terest" of nearly all Indian provinces is the question of how much money can be got out of the centre. It is not the eternal squabble between Hindu and Mohammedan. The question is, "How can we finance things and get money out of headquarters?" With that as the principal political issue I think the men from the provincial councils will be the best for the purpose. For all these reasons there is a good deal to be said for the authority of the Simon Report as opposed to the authority of the Government of India.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
There are some which I prefer, and others which I dislike. I mentioned which to please the hon. Member. May I conclude by saying once more than the real objection of India is to the communal franchise, and that that, and not this form of election, divides India for all time? It is the irrevocability of the communal franchise that they hate. The Government are giving India the opportunity in 10 years time—though they will not take it—to change from indirect election to direct election. Is it still impossible to persuade the Government—I know it is easy enough to persuade the right hon. Gentleman but can be persuade the Government?—to give India the same opportunity to change, either in the Provinces or at the centre, from separate electorates to one simple, straightforward electorate such as we enjoy in this country?
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Mr. AMERY
I cannot share the strong feeling of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) against communal electorates, but I agree with him entirely that the existence of communal electorates, with the vast scattered electoral areas they create, does add to the difficulties and to the objections to direct election for India as a whole. I would add that I agree with what I think was in his mind, that community electorates are much better than communal electorates, and that if we can restore the old community village life of India, and perhaps at some future date balance it by kindred community life in the cities, we shall get a much truer basis of Indian representation. And 2026 having got rid of communal representation—which, after all, is a second best, even if I do not regard it as so bad a second best as he does—knowing what has been done to restore indirect rule in a country like Tanganyika, where it had died out, I do not believe it will be at all impossible, with the present movement that is so alive in India for the restoration of village interests and village life and village self -government, to restore the village system where it has largely died out, and to make that, in another decade or two, the sound foundation for a system of indirect election which shall also be acceptable to those who are so anxious about a system of representing India as such at the centre.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
My right hon. Friend recognises, does he not, that if we pass this Bill we are making that impossible for all time so far as we are concerned?
§ Mr. AMERY
I am not at all sure. I think we leave the question of the future electorate of India as a whole open. A situation may well arise when the communal system may be displaced by a system of community election, and if it is displaced at the centre things may righten towards its displacement in the, Provinces also. Anyhow, we are dealing now not with the best ideal system for the future but with the most practicable and most desirable system in the immediate present situation. The well-known argument for direct election to a federal assembly is that the representatives there represent the nation as such, whereas in the Provinces they represent the provincial interests. In most federations, in fact all the federations that I know of, the lower House is, it is true, elected directly by constituencies all over the federal area. That is in order to represent a national unit, a national unit from the point of view of national functions, and those are very largely, and certainly primarily, national functions towards the outside world. A representative of the whole of the United States in Congress or in the Australian or Canadian Parliaments is there dealing with America, Canada or Australia vis-a-vis the outside world. He controls its defence and its foreign policy.
That situation does not apply to the Federation which we are now setting up. It may at some future date, but we are now dealing with a Constitution in which 2027 these primary aspects of national life are reserved to the Viceroy and Governor-General, and where the task of the central Legislature is very largely the task of co-ordinating the social and economic problems that affect the Provinces. For that task, especially in the earlier days of the Federation, it is vital, to my mind, that we should have the closest and the most continuous contact between the legislators at the centre and the executive and legislative authorities in the Provinces. We shall have that in the States. The States representatives will be in continuous—almost daily through the telephone—and regular contact with the authorities nominating them. How can the legislators at the centre, if they have been elected by vast areas as large as several English counties, remain in any sense in contact with those areas, or be able to deal, through those areas, with the many questions in regard to which the Centre comes into contact with the Provinces? The very smallness of the electorate which results from indirect election from the provincial legislatures is, for this purpose, among the advantages. I believe that when the system is in operation, there being no bar against the selection of a provincial legislator for the Central Legislature, the representatives of each Province will in fact be a, delegation from the Provincial Assembly to the Central Executive.
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
If the representatives at the centre are in direct touch with those who make them their delegation, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what will happen when the Provincial Parliaments are wiped out in the meantime? Whom will then these gentlemen at the centre represent, when the Provincial Parliament changes?
§ Mr. AMERY
That is a separate question. I imagine that with the operation of the communal system of representation there will not be a complete change in the Provincial Assembly, such as we have here. Those at the centre are not actually nominees of the Provincial Legislatures; they will still be there representing the provincial interests. For two years, say, before that provincial election happens, they will have been fighting the battles of their Province, as 2028 has already been stated, on all sorts of difficult questions. They may be representing the views of their Province on fiscal questions. They are not -likely to differ widely from the new Provincial Assembly, any more than that Assembly will differ from the old. The advantages of that sort of contact cannot be over estimated, in the early days of the Federation.
The last thing you want, in this stage of Indian political life, is the representation of self-contained parties existing for their own ends or largely for communal or religious ends, and the more you can break that kind of conception by bringing in community interests, and the more you can get a delegation containing Mohammedans, Hindus, untouchables or even Christians, representing all interests, rather than the interests of party or of religious community, the better hope there is of making India a unit and a real nation. Therefore, I feel that, whatever may be the ideal system of Indian representation, the immediate interest of India, to enable the Federation to work and to establish a true relationship between the Centre and the Provinces, is to break, if we can, that obsession of India, and to create conditions for the establishment of the conception of party in the true sense, party based on principles, on a different economic conception, or on social reform. The more we give that kind of thing a chance, the better will be our hope that we shall ultimately simplify things by creating a direct representation at the centre for all India, on a basis the conditions of which do not yet exist.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Sir JOHN WARDLAW-MILNE
I would like to address a few words to the Committee on this subject as I must at once admit to being a convert in this matter. I spoke—I do not remember an actual vote—upon the Joint Select Committee in favour of direct election as I had done in this House in previous years, and I am still strongly in favour of the principle. I am a complete convert, so far as this Bill is concerned, and I thought it was only right that I should put before the Committee the reasons for my conversion. Some of the speeches to which we have listened in the last hour or two and with a great deal of which I agree, have rather tended to give me the impression that the mem 2029 bers who have spoken are supporting indirect election because they think that, for the time being at any rate, it is a good system. I do not support it for that reason. I support it because I think it is the only practical system at the present time. That does not alter in any way my belief that the direct system is the only reasonable and proper one for us to aim at in the future.
The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot), who put the case in the clearest possible manner, dealt with all the authorities who have written or spoken in favour of direct election. I would ask whether he was not impressed to the extent that I was by the enormous difficulties in India at this moment of putting into force a system of direct election, which means two different elections by an electorate which is suddenly to grow from 7,000,000 to 35,000,000. I ask the Committee to consider the position. For every person who votes to-day, five will vote, in the provincial constituencies alone. It is admitted that the electorate is, and must be for some time to come, illiterate to a certain extent, and is certainly inexperienced, and we are putting upon them the burden of electing members to the provincial centres. On top of that, you cannot fairly at this moment put on them this second business of elect-Mg people to the central Parliament. That is the practical difficulty of working the direct system.
I am sorry that there has grown up in some quarters in India an idea that there is something sinister behind this recommendation of the Joint Select Committee. I hope and trust that India will get that idea out of its head once and for all. There is nothing whatever sinister about this proposal, which is based merely upon the fact—so far as I am concerned and I believe that this was also in the minds of a great many members of the Joint Select Committee—that there are practical difficulties which, at the present moment, are insuperable. The time will come, and I hope that it will come soon, when India will be able to bring to this House a request for the reconsideration of the position and when she will be able to have a system which will make direct election possible. I am strongly in favour of direct election and feel strongly that that must come. India would be wise to realise that there is no ulterior motive behind this proposal, 2030 which is the only practical scheme which we can see at the present time. It would be wise for the new electorate to get a few years' experience; ten years in the life of a nation is nothing. On that experience we might build up a system of direct election and then be in the position mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) of being able to change from the temporary system of indirect election to the direct system.
I do not intend to go into all the details, which have been so ably dealt with from the Government Front Bench, as to the size of these constituencies, nor do I wish to deal with the very strong arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Bodmin. It is not, as I see it, a practical scheme to put without notice two huge systems of election upon a new and untried electorate which has suddenly jumped from 7,000,000 to 35,000,000. If India will realise that that is the only reason for this recommendation, I believe that she will accept it and will wait, and that she will put forward her own system before many years have gone by.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Major MILNER
I am glad to have the opportunity of speaking upon this matter which is a point upon which I feel very strongly. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) has based his case for indirect election upon a difficulty he foresees in dealing with the increased electorate. If we are honest in our proposal to transfer responsibility little by little to India, this is precisely the way to do it. The limited electorate which we have to-clay must grow bigger until such time as there is adult suffrage, and there is no ground for refusing to proceed by the method of direct election, which is in existence to-day or why the system which is also in existence to-day of two elections should not be continued. On the Franchise Committee we went with the utmost particularity into the question of the practicability or otherwise of increasing the electorate. I have no hesitation in saying that a much greater electorate, certainly so far as the towns are concerned, might be coped with quite well by means of the facilities which are in existence. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Government Front Bench is likely to 2031 contradict me in that. I believe that the hon. and gallant Member for Kidder-minister completely erred in the premise on which he based his decision.
§ Sir J. WARDLAW-MILNE
The Franchise Committee came to a certain conclusion. Unfortunately, we have reexamined the matter, and there is merely a difference of opinion. We think that that Committee were wrong and that we are right.
§ Major MILNER
It is not a mere difference of opinion between the hon. Member and those who think like him on the one hand, and the Committee of which I had the honour to be a member. I do not propose, except in passing, to deal with the authorities quoted by the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot), all of whom were in favour of direct election. The direct system has been followed for 17 years with increasing success and the figures show that up to 60 per cent, of those entitled to vote exercise their franchise. What possible justification can there be for changing from that system, which has worked well for 12 or 15 years, to a different system altogether? To my mind the change is unsupported by any evidence.
I am sorry that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), whose opinions I respect at all times, is not now in the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman, who is apparently the spearhead of this attack on direct election, is quite misinformed on a number of matters. I do not know if he has been in India lately, or, indeed, at all. I am extremely sorry that he is not here now; he was here a moment ago. As I understood him, he argued, first, that there must be a direct nexus between the electorate and the member, and, secondly, that there must be a, sense of responsibility. Supposing that he were elected by a number of members of a county council in this country, to represent the county or a portion of it in this House, would he think that that was a more direct connection than if he had been elected directly by the electorate living in the county? Unquestionably all of us would choose here, and would similarly choose in India, to be elected and to represent our constituents directly rather than through the intervention of a third body.
2032 What is the position with regard to indirect election? Members are sent to the Legislative Assembly elected by seven or eight members of a provincial council, and their only responsibility is to the members of that provincial council; they have no direct responsibility to the electorate. All that they have to do is to carry out the mandate or request of seven or eight members of that provincial council. Suppose that I were sent here by half-a-dozen members of the West Riding County Council, and merely had to report and represent their views, what an intolerable position that would be. Where would be the nexus, for which the right hon. Member for West Birmingham is so anxious, between myself and the electorate in that case? There would be no representative government of any kind. Then the right hon. Gentleman spoke about there being no possibility of a direct appeal to the electorate. As I have said, I do not know whether he has been in India lately, but India to-day has railways, telegraphs, and newspapers published in most remote places; it has motor omnibuses proceeding here and there—not, it is true, in the numbers that we have in this country, but increasing in numbers year by year; undoubtedly there are means of communication in India to-day, which even in the days of the Simon Commission, were not available. It has been suggested, too, that broadcasting facilities might be made greater use of in India, and it is certainly not correct to say that there is no possibility of a direct appeal to the electorate.
The right hon. Gentleman and the First Commissioner of Works spoke of there being great difficulties owing to the area involved; but, as I pointed out in an interjection, the area in the future will be less than it has been in the past. Matters have worked well in the past with a larger area than is proposed in the future; how can it be said that, when the area is going to be smaller, there can be any objection on that ground? The electorate is going to be increased five or six times. Assume that the area is as large as Wales. Is it not going to be easier to get your policy or programme over to 60,000 people than it is at present to 2,000, or 3,000, or 4,000 people spread over the whole of that area? These 60,000 people will have their mutual associations, they will meet in their villages 2033 and towns, and it is much more likely that there will be opportunities for the members of the Assembly to meet their constituents directly and to give them their views and obtain their approval for them. There is nothing in the objections to direct election which have been put forward by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham or by the hon. Member for Kidderminster.
I hesitate to refer to myself more than is necessary, but, when I went to India as a member of the Franchise Committee, I went there determined in the first place, if it was humanly possible, to assist in devising a scheme for adult suffrage. I found in the first three or four weeks that that was, in present circumstances, an administrative impossibility so far as the whole country was concerned, though it was possible, in my view, in the towns. Therefore, I turned my energies, as the Under-Secretary will agree, to endeavouring to devise a system of indirect election which would enable all adults to take part as members of a group in the election of their representatives, or of members of an electoral college who would in turn elect someone to represent them in the provincial or, in this case, the central Assembly. For reasons which are stated in the report of the Franchise Committee, every member of that committee, without a dissentient, agreed, and I eventually had to agree, that it was probably impossible, and certainly undesirable, unworkable, and unsatisfactory, to have an indirect system of that kind.
Both the Under-Secretary and the Assistant Postmaster-General, who have been here this afternoon, agreed that an indirect system would be unsatisfactory, yet we have not heard a word from (Alter of them, nor have they been able to prevail upon the Government to accept that view. We were in India for four months, and we, so to speak, flogged this question to a thread at every possible opportunity. We cross-examined every witness with regard to it, and we were all satisfied that it was not a satisfactory system in the circumstances of the case, and that the right course was to recommend direct election. There was no dissentient, either among the Members of the House on that committee, or among the Members of another place on that committee, or among the 2034 10 or 12 Indian colleagues who sat with us. In view of that body of opinion, in view of the fact that the Southborough Committee recommended it, and that the Government of India to-day, as I believe, unless some pressure or influence has been brought to bear upon them, and every Province and every Governor in India to-day, would support direct election and prefer it to indirect election, how can the Government ask the Members of this Committee to agree with their proposal? The evidence is wholly in favour of direct as against indirect election.
Something has been said about sinister motives. I am bound to express my view. I do not call it a sinister motive, but my own personal view is that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, and eventually the Government, have seen in the change of view from direct to indirect election a method of putting, so to speak, another cog in the wheel, another difficulty in the way of Indians having responsibility for their own affairs. In effect, this change of view as expressed in the Bill represents another safeguard which the Government have introduced, and the very fact that not a single Member of the group led by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) has raised his voice on this matter is conclusive proof to my mind, if any further proof were wanted, that this change is perfectly satisfactory to what is known as the die-hard element in this matter. That, in my view, is the reason for the change. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham saw in it an opportunity for strengthening the reactionary powers in the Bill, an opportunity for putting another cog in the wheel, another safeguard which would prevent responsibility being obtained by the Indian people. That was taken up eventually by the Government, and to-day is presented to us in the form of a Bill. In view of the fact that, as far as I am aware, every section of Indian opinion is in favour of direct election, this is almost the most serious, if not the most serious, blot on the Bill. There is no excuse for it, there is no evidence to support it, and I still hope that the Government may think it right to change that policy.
In any event I shall be glad to hear, if possible, some expression of view 2035 from the Under-Secretary and from the Secretary of State himself as to why, in the fifty-ninth minute of the hour, this change of policy has taken place. I am informed, with what truth I do not know, from certain sources, that until quite recently the Government of India stood firm on this matter, that the Secretary of State sent, I do not know how many communications, but more than one, to them pressing them on this matter, and that it is only in response to the great pressure put upon them by the Secretary of State that the Government of India have let it be known that they might favourably consider, or be willing to work, indirect election. So far as I am aware, every Government in India, including the Viceroy's Government, has stood firmly for many years for the principle of direct election. I think some explanation is due to the Committee, to Indian opinion and to the country generally as to why at the last minute a change so disastrous, as I think, took place.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. de ROTHSCHILD
We have just listened to a most interesting and cogent speech, and I very much regret that there were not more present to hear it. It was very interesting to me because we have heard a member of the Franchise Committee attempt, fairly successfully, to blow skyhigh the contention that has been put forward over and over again that it is practically impossible for administrative reasons to hold direct elections in India at present. It is said that we must have indirect election for a few years, possibly a decade, and that after that some means will be found of reverting to the system advocated in the White Paper. That was advocated by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery). If it be temporary, why adduce any reasons beside that in order to prove that it is also a good measure? The hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Government welcomed it because all through the last three years he had advocated federation and was not himself interested in provincial govern 2036 ment. He thought that this mode of indirect election would favour federation versus provincialism. If that be so, why does he hope in a few years time to alter this mode of election and to have some other method which would be more in touch with the electorate, would still possibly be an indirect mode of election by groups, but would be very much akin to the direct election which exists to-day?
Our contention is that any method of indirect election such as is put forward by the Government and by the Joint Select Committee would lead to disruption instead of federation. All forms of federation have been constituted by joining up different political entities. If we leave matters as they stand at present in the Bill it will have the effect of strengthening provincialism and not federation. It will strengthen the provincial outlook and provincial patriotism. Unless we can be quite certain that the general mass of the people are encouraged to take a direct interest in the problems that affect the whole of India as a nation, we shall create a position which will have a fissiparous and centrifugal influence on government. If this provincialism be allowed to grow unchecked, it will lead inevitably to placing provincial interests before every national interest. There will be a jealous guarding by every Province of its own individual rights, and then we shall have the disintegration of such unity as exists at present. Indeed, provincial jealousy has always characterised federal governments. In America it is possible that the Civil War was really caused because the prestige of the central Government was so weakened by conflicting interests, slave States and anti-slavery States each standing firmly by their own State interests.
The Indians, who have national consciousness, are anxious to avoid this provincialism, and they want to guard their national unity. This can only be done by giving each voter a direct interest in all Indian affairs, and this can only be done by direct election. Provincial Legislatures will be elected without thought of any national issue. Their members will be chosen simply on provincial questions, and these will determine the composition of the central Chamber as well, which ought to deal with all-India questions. They may entirely 2037 misrepresent the will of the Indian people on all-India questions. Indeed the system of ad hoc bodies which has been provided in unicameral States is preferable to this, because those new electoral colleges will be chosen for the special purpose of electing representatives to the central Chamber, so that the representatives that they choose will really represent general policy and not parochial interests.
There is another issue that I should like to raise which is a very important feature of the proposed system and which may easily lead to misrepresentations of the people's will. That is the time factor. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham adduced the evidence of the Simon Commission or the Statutory Commission and pointed out how they had whole-heartedly gone against any measure of direct election and favoured indirect election, he laid down this very important point. Unless the central and provincial elections are coincident the central Chamber may entirely misrepresent the will of the people. The Simon Commission made provision for this. Suppose the provincial Assemblies elected the Central Assembly and then dissolved or expired a month later. That newly elected Central Assembly may still be in power five years hence, yet after only a month new provincial Assemblies may be elected of a different political complexion. No provision whatever was made to deal with this matter by the Joint Select Committee, but the Simon Report had recognised these difficulties and had suggested that a fresh election should take place in any Province whose Assembly was more than two years' standing before a Central Council election. It also suggested that the Governor should have power to extend the life of a Provincial Assembly up to two years if it was of less than two years' standing at the time of the central election in order to make its next dissolution correspond with the federal election. But the proposals of the Simon Commission would not work in this Bill, because it contemplated fixed quinquennial central elections, and this Bill provides that the Federal Assembly is subject to dissolution, and this makes the correlation quite impossible. Why did not the Joint Select Committee deal with this important question? Because the question of election was only considered 2038 at a late stage of the deliberations. We have heard this mentioned before and we are all anxious to know what the Secretary of State will say.
The Joint Select Committee missed another point. The election for Provincial Assemblies practically nullifies the Governor-General's power of dissolution of the Federal Assembly, because when the. Federal Assembly is dissolved the composition of the Provincial Assemblies will remain the same, unless they are all severally dissolved too. The Provincial Assemblies, as has been shown in previous speeches, will therefore probably return most, or all, of the same members who sat in the previous Federal Assembly. Although the Simon Commission recommended indirect election, they were contemplating a different set of circumstances altogether. They did not envisage a central federal form of government with central responsibility. They contemplated unicameral legislatures and a central assembly not subject to dissolution. Those are the many objections we are trying to advance to indirect election.
As I have said, there is only one serious objection advanced by the Government and by the Joint 'Select Committee to direct election, and that is the administrative difficulty. The Viceroy and the Government of India said that direct election is practicable and preferable. Surely we should have to-night some explanation of this and should know why and in what way the Government of India differ on this point, and what their opinion is to-day. We on these benches do not believe that difficulties of administration are a sufficient reason for giving India a form of government with no representation of the people, and no real responsibility in either chamber at the centre. The lower House should represent not the States as States, but the people as a whole. Let me remind the 'Committee of the letter which the Prime Minister wrote to Lord Lothian, the chairman of the Franchise Committee, in which he said:The principle of a responsible federal government subject to certain reservations and safeguards has been accepted by His Majesty's Government.…In these circumstances it is clearly necessary so to widen the electorate that the legislatures to which responsibility is to be entrusted should be representative of the general mass of the population.2039 This very indirect system of election does not ensure any real and true representation of the general mass of the population. By adopting this system we are sacrificing the greatest asset of the Federation—the spirit of Indian nationhood. The Secretary of State has declared for indirect election on the ground that you cannot go back to direct election. The main gist of the only serious argument that he put forward in his report to the Joint Select Commitee was that it was more difficult to go back from direct to indirect election. Yet I submit that that is precisely what we are doing at the present time, and if we are doing it to-day, surely it can be done at a later date when the electorate of India is more educated and bigger, and has graduated in the school of democracy.
The decision to which the Government come to-night is going to affect vitally and fundamentally the whole future of the Indian national community. The Secretary of State has a very grave and serious responsibility in this matter. I appeal to him once more to weigh this question carefully, because his voice in this matter is the voice of a large majority of this House. His voice is the voice of the Government and his eyes and ears are the eyes and ears of the Government, and therefore of this country. The whole aim of this policy has been to set up this magnificent edifice of a federated and unified India, and it is in his hands to foster, or to alter or destroy the acceptance of this unity, of this great dream of the many people who have gone from this country and have worked for this vast federation in India. I appeal to him in the name of the many men and women who have given their lives on the frontier, or while sweltering on the plains during the last 100 or 200 years. They laboured not for the village, or the town, or the Province in which they lived, but they laboured and gave their lives for the unity of the Indian nation, and that is really and truly the glory of the British Raj, and it is one for which we should be prepared to fight and to preserve.
§ 8.31 p.m.
Duchess of ATHOLL
This is one of the questions on which I find it very difficult to make up my mind, and I am afraid that anything that I say must necessarily he rather in its nature indeterminate, 2040 because I see so many disadvantages on both sides. I had a natural disposition towards indirect election when I originally read the proposal made by the Statutory Commission to that effect, but it seems to me that the position is quite different now from what it was when the Statutory Commission reported. They were recommending a system under which we should have retained control at the centre, and now that control in the main goes except for defence and the Viceroy's special responsibilities. I cannot help seeing very clearly the disadvantage of the indirect system in that it may make, it impossible for the Viceroy to have a dissolution at a time when he may be having serious differences with his Ministers. For that reason I do not think that it is quite to the point to quote the recommendation of the Simon Commission in this matter, because the situation has completely changed since their report. On the other hand, I cannot help feeling that a good many of what, I understand, are, and necessarily, in many ways, must be, the characteristics of direct election, have been left out of account in the Debate so far. We have had emphasised the vast size of many Indian constituencies. Everybody sees the disadvantage of that, but we have had little said about the illiteracy of a large proportion of the voters, and we have heard nothing as to the intimidation to which they can be exposed in an election.
A few weeks ago someone sent me a copy of an Indian newspaper, I think it was the "Indian Mirror," in which there was what I can only describe as a pathetic instance of how a party of Orthodox Hindus set out to vote for a member of their community, but were waylaid on the way to the polling booth by a party of Congressmen. They were so bullied and intimidated on the way to the polling booth and in the polling booth that they said it was quite impossible to vote for the man of their choice, so that they either did not vote at all or else they voted for the Congress candidate. There are many other instances which, I believe, could be quoted. Again, nothing has been said as to the influence of the moneylender and the power he may exercise over the voter. Nothing has been said as to the corruption that prevails in elections. A well-known Indian in public life said to me 18 months ago. "Election booths are 2041 auction marts", and he proceeded to give me an account of an election in which the rival agents of two candidates had quite openly and for a whole day been bidding against each other for the votes of a whole village. They bid so long against each other that no decision had been reached before the polling booth closed, so that the candidates went without their votes and the voters went without their money. That is something that has to be taken into account when we are discussing the question of direct election.
Duchess of ATHOLL
No one denies that but we are legislating for India as she is to-day, and surely the best way to help India is to help her to get the best out of herself, but it does not necessarily help India to make the best out of herself if we make the conditions such that her people vote otherwise than they would wish. Do not let us think that it is easy for the rank and file of the Indian voters to express what they really want. In connection with this matter, I would refer to what the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) said earlier in the Debate. He mentioned this matter of corruption and said that three ex-Viceroys on the Joint Select Committee had repudiated the idea of anything of the kind. I intervened and asked if it was not true that what the ex-Indian Viceroys repudiated was any knowledge of nepotism on their executive councils. I was told by the hon. Member that my recollection was at fault, and that I was not a, member of the Joint Select Committee. I have looked up the point in the evidence, and I find that my memory was not at fault. In Question 2578, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru put a question with regard to nepotism and favouritism. He said:We Indians attach so much importance to this charge of nepotism and favouritism that is being levelled against us that, in fairness to ourselves and in fairness to our countrymen, we must be allowed an opportunity of testing it.He went on to protest that the charge was a most unfounded one, and appealed to the three ex-Viceroys to say whether he or any of his colleagues in their executive council ever approached them at any time in such a manner that they could be charged with nepotism and favouritism. 2042 I thought it worth while to make that point clear. I do not wish to detain the Committee further. I only wish to say that the disadvantages I see in both courses bring home forcibly to me how very difficult it is to apply a really democratic system to India under present conditions, and that I feel more than ever that we must be very careful that we do not go too far, and that we must go at a much more cautious pace than the Bill proposes.
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ Sir ROBERT HAMILTON
The Noble Lady has, I think, decided on the same grounds as the Joint Select Committee decided, that she is afraid of taking the step of direct election. I would remind the Committee that direct election was first decided on when we passed the Government of India Bill in 1919. It was then an experiment and it was a very courageous thing that the House of Commons at that time, in face of the advice given by the Southborough Committee, decided, with true Parliamentary instinct, that if India was to be taken further into a measure of progress along the road of responsibility she must be given the system of direct election. It is very important to remember that, because the keynote of the whole of this controversy goes back to the Government declaration of 1917. I would remind the Committee of what was said at that time. What the Government were anxious for was—A measured progress towards responsible government.India has enjoyed for a number of years direct election which was given to her by the Government of India Act in 1919, which we described as measured progress towards responsibility. Measured progress means going forward, perhaps slowly, but always going forward, and it seems to me terrible to think that this Parliament of 1935 should be less courageous and should show less statesmanship in this matter than did the Parliament of 1919, when it was definitely making an experiment. We have had the advantage of the experience of all these past years, and it should not be forgotten that throughout the Government of India and the Viceroys of India have steadily taken the view that India must be given the responsibility of direct election. 2043 Could there be any stronger argument than that?
It was only a few months ago that the right hon. Gentleman presented his White Paper to Parliament, containing a system of direct election. What is it that has changed the situation? What are the new arguments that have been put before the country to change the situation? That is what is bothering me. It looks to me as if there has been some bargain and someone has been bought over. Are we not to consider India in this matter? Is not the voice of India to count? India says: "We have enjoyed this system since you gave it to us in 1919, and now you take it away from us and at the same time tell us that you are setting up a system under which we can develop full responsibility in the future." It is a contradiction in terms. The Government of India are the people who will have the responsibility of seeing the system of direct election working, and they have no fear about it. They realise that it is difficult, and we all admit the mechanical difficulties are very great, but the people who will have responsibility for giving effect to it say that they can do it. There is no argument why we should go back, like the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne), who says that in theory direct election is all very well, but that it is impracticable to be brought into effect at the present time. The hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner), who was a member of the Franchise Committee, has shown very clearly how the Franchise Committee, on which were several members of the present Government Front Bench, came clearly to a unanimous conclusion in favour of direct election.
There is another point, to which insufficient attention has been given. My hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) referred to it in his admirable speech, in which he put forward his arguments with the greatest clearness. If those arguments had been put before any jury of plain citizens they could have come to no other decision than that to which we have come, on the argument and the weight of evidence. This House has to decide what is just, reasonable and politically sound. Is there anything in direct election which is unjust, unreasonable or unsound politically? If there is the right hon. Gentleman would 2044 not have put it forward in the White Paper. In this matter I ask whether we are wise in flouting the unanimous opinion of India, so far as it can be expressed, in favour of direct election, or in flouting the opinion of those who will have to work it. The reception which has been given to the proposed Constitution in India has not been too enthusiastic, and I believe that the Secretary of State would obtain a far greater welcome for the Measure by making the alteration we propose; with which I believe he in his heart agrees.
Are we wise in disregarding the advice of those upon whose shoulders will rest the responsibility of giving effect to this proposal? Surely we should ask what it is that India really Wants, and, then, whether what India wants and asks for is a thing which we can give, whether it will be good for the future of the country. Every argument that has been put forward in India has been put forward solidly and without change in favour of direct election. and I think we should be unwise to decide in a contrary direction. Is it not true that indirect election will seriously impair the responsibility of electors and elected? The most important consideration in India is that we can look forward to a growth of responsibility. We should do everything we cart to foster it, and avoid introducing into the new Constitution anything which would cut at the roots of the growth of increasing responsibility. Indirect election is bound to do that. By direct election you will get a centre where the true feelings and aspirations of India can be focussed and where the grievances of the people can be voiced, but instead of being a living organisation it will become a sort of fossilised assembly without any real responsibility to the electors, who should always be in close touch with their elected representatives.
There is one matter to which insufficient attention has been paid during the course of the Debate, and that is the curious result which comes from the adoption of the system proposed in the Bill. The system in the White Paper is election to the Federal Assembly by territorial constituencies, with representatives of the Princes and representatives chosen from the Legislative Assemblies in the various Provinces. If the system in the Bill is put into force, it will have the 2045 most extraordinary result, the electorate procedure in the upper House will disappear altogether, and you will have to come to the remarkable expedient of forming a new electoral college in order to have a body which can choose the members of the upper House. In an endeavour to obtain close contact between the representatives and the electors you are running the danger, where a provincial assembly may be dissolved, that the representatives in the Federal Assembly may represent nobody at all. That seems to me to widen rather than narrow the gap between the electors and their representatives.
In reading the report of the Joint Select Committee I notice how they reiterate that a movement in the direction of giving direct election was impossible, it was a blind alley, and there was no alternative but a system of indirect election. The remarkable thing is that on the next page they say that there is a possibility of India changing the system and going over from indirect to direct election. That is a curious contradiction in terms. I want to appeal to those hon. Members who are basing their faith on the findings of the Joint Select Committee and to put this point before them. If the Joint Select Committee thought it was possible in the near future that India may go over from indirect election, which they propose, to direct election, would it not be much wiser for -this Parliament here and now to be courageous enough to say, "We will not take away the franchise you have hitherto enjoyed, but we will give you a wider franchise, and take steps to see that the Federal Assembly is a place which will be responsive to the desires and opinions of the people of India."
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir WALTER SMILES
In speaking of this matter I go back in mind to Delhi in 1929, when the committees of the various Provinces met together to report to the Simon Commission. At that meeting, the question of direct and indirect election was discussed. I do not want to refer to any meeting or document which is not available to hon. Members, but if they will turn to Volume III of the Simon Commission Report they will find that two Provinces at any rate in some part were in favour of indirect election, Bihar and Orissa 2046 and the Punjab. There were also people in the Province of Assam who realised many of the advantages of indirect election. The hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) spoke as though India had completely changed her opinions since 1929.
§ Sir R. HAMILTON
Is it not a fact that the Franchise Committee pointed out that many of those Provinces which had been in favour of indirect election had changed their views at the time when the Franchise Committee went out?
§ Sir W. SMILES
I have heard it said that these people are supposed to have changed their mind. It was only on 11th February that I left India. I met a good many friends at Delhi and in Assam and discussed this question with them. I realise that in this House one must be very careful indeed in quoting any interview one has had with any individual without mentioning the name. But I do not think it was fair of the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. M. Jones) to say that opinion in India is unanimously in favour of direct election. On the contrary, I gathered that there was a considerable number of people who were still in favour of indirect election to the Central Legislature. When I was in Delhi discussing this matter with my friends I made no secret of the fact that I considered that this indirect election from the Provinces to the Central Legislature was an improvement. I argued with one or two of them, and not all disagreed with me. I am not illiberal in my views for I was among the first to advocate adult suffrage or, failing that, household suffrage in India, and also the transfer of the police. But I cast my mind back from theory to the actual practice at elections. I remember the first three elections after the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms. I remember perfectly that at the first election we were advised by the Deputy Commissioner that we ought to encourage those employed on our gardens to go to the poll and vote. Several Indians who were entitled to vote I gave leave to go to the polling booth. They went and I did not influence them in any way. I went myself with the European assistants at the gardens who were also entitled to vote. We cast our votes. Next day I asked the men how they had voted. They did not know the candidate's name. I said, "How did you manage 2047 then"? They said they were given an order by a Babu how to vote but they did not know the name of the person they voted for. That is not the case that exists to-day.
I can also remember the second election for the provincial legislature. I said to these men "You know that an election takes place to-morrow. I will give you leave if you want to go." They replied that they did not want to go, and added "We did not get any pay for going the last time." However, it would be fair to say that the Indian people now are going more to the poll. I believe that the people throughout India are generally getting far more politically-minded. Turning again from theory to practice I think of the members that went up from Assam to the Legislative Assembly at Delhi. As far as I can remember there were one European and two Indians who went up to the Assembly, and one Indian to the Council of State. I took some interest in Indian politics, but I cannot now remember the name of our member on the Council of State, and the Indian member who represented Assam I only saw once. We were not in touch with our member. In Delhi I talked with some of my Assam friends, and I asked them "Would you know the name of your representative in the Legislative Assembly? If you meet 100 people going to the bazaar on Sunday and you asked them Who is your representative on the Legislative Assembly? would one of them be able to tell you? "They replied" We do not think one in a thousand would know his name, or what views he represented."
For that reason I think that indirect election from the provincial assembly to the central would be very much better. At any rate, you would know who your representative was. A member would be responsible to someone, and if he did not do what suited you in the provinces you would be able to put your finger on him. It is all very well to say that that does not encourage the unity of India. After all, every province has different matters which it wants to live considered at the federal assembly. Let me give one instance. Not every province in India has cotton mills and manufactures cotton goods. Many provinces are purely agricultural, and they have to export their products into the markets of the 2048 whole world; but when they buy their clothes they have to pay the high prices which may result from a 25 per cent. or 40 per cent. duty. It is right that the people who go up from these agricultural provinces to Delhi should represent those views. It is with that idea in my mind that I am strongly in favour of indirect election.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Lord SCONE
When the Debate on this Amendment began I was in the rather unusual position of having a completely open mind on the subject, but now that I have listened to the majority of the speeches made this afternoon, I have come to the conclusion that those in favour of indirect election certainly have the advantage over those in favour of direct election. That is not to say that I look upon indirect election as being, per se, a desirable thing in India. To a great many of us it would seem.that any form of representative government and the type of election that must accompany it, are not desirable in India. But that, unfortunately, is not what we have to choose to-day. We have to choose which of two methods is likely to be the more satisfactory, or perhaps, the least unsatisfactory. Despite the fact that the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot), in an admirable if somewhat unnecessarily long speech, laid before our eyes the undoubted disadvantages which do accrue from a system of indirect election, I cannot but feel that the advantages which accrue to it also are much greater than the advantages of direct election.
I am partly influenced by the remarks of the First Commissioner of Works, who pointed out that, while it is comparatively easy to change from indirect election to direct election, the reverse process would be of extreme difficulty, if indeed it were practicable at all. Indirect election may, I fear, bring about a great many abuses, particularly in the direction of bribery and corruption, but at the same time when one considers the ignorance on political affairs that there is, even among our own electors here in this country, where we have had representative government for centuries, one cannot but realise that the vast constituencies which are to be set up in India are now, and are likely for many years to come, totally unsuited for any system of direct election. Here it is difficult 2049 enough to get in touch with one's electors. In India it, would be absolutely impossible, and we should have a system of block voting in which it is almost certain that Congress, or whatever form of desperados succeeded Congress, would be likely to carry the day. Taking one consideration with another, and weighing this question as impartially as possible, I have come to the definite conclusion that on this occasion I must support the Government on the principle of indirect election.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
I think everyone who has listened to this long Debate has been impressed with the gravity of the issue which the Committee is called upon to decide. We are dealing with a great question and the course which is to be taken upon it may go far towards making the difference between success and failure in the great constitutional enterprise on which we are engaged. I am sorry to learn from the Noble Lord the Member for Perth and Kinross (Lord Scone) that, having listened to the Debate with a more or less open mind, he has come down finally on the side of indirect election. Since he has not been converted to the other view by my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) who presented his case with such powerful eloquence and logical force I fear that my effort to convert the Noble Lord may be in vain. Still, I shall do my best and I propose to point out to him and to other hon. Members certain considerations.
Let us clearly recognise, in the first place, that if we support the Bill as it stands, that is the system of indirect election, we are going definitely and deliberately contrary to Indian desires and opinions. The hon. and gallant Member for Blackburn (Sir W. Smiles) mentioned one or two casual instances of observations made to him by individuals who expressed views in favour of indirect election. We must, however, take the evidence presented to us by those who are qualified to speak on this subject and to influence our views. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) said that my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin was merely resting upon authority which was a very illiberal thing to do; that he had presented his case as being dependent upon views expressed, 2050 first by this body and then by another body and, in particular, by the Government of India. But it is not the fact that my hon. Friend was basing himself upon authority. He was quoting evidence which is entitled to be heard.
Here we are within these four walls, Members selected by British constituencies, legislating for people who are 6,000 miles away from us. We cannot judge individually of what their opinions are on this matter, with regard to the Constitution under which they will be governed and which they will have to work through their own political activities. We must depend upon the information conveyed to us by those in whom we have confidence. There is, first, our own committee which was sent out to India, the Lothian Committee on the Franchise consisting of Members of both Houses of Parliament. They examined the question and gave a unanimous report to the effect that Indian opinion was overwhelmingly in favour of direct election. That is an important fact. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme quoted particular instances but he cannot cite his evidence as outweighing that of the Lothian Committee. Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru has been frequently quoted. In his memorandum to the Joint Select Committee he said:I think the view taken by the Lothian Committee correctly represents the mass of Indian opinion.When the British India delegation came here to meet the Joint Select Committee they made a statement on this matter which was practically unanimous. There was only one member of the delegation who said that for the time being he thought indirect election might be tried. All the rest of the delegation supported the system of direct election. We come finally to the Joint Select Committee itself. After an investigation extending over almost two years and after hearing much evidence from India that committee presented a report which naturally carries the highest authority. Divided as the committee was on many other matters and intending as it did to recommend by a majority indirect election it nevertheless reported:Direct election has the support of Indian opinion and is strongly advocated by the British India delegation in their joint memorandum.2051 In face of that weight of evidence we must definitely proceed on the assumption that in voting as the Government desire us to vote on this question, we shall be running counter to the express wishes of the Indian people.
§ Brigadier-General Sir HENRY PAGE CROFT
Although I am inclined to agree to some extent with the right hon. Gentleman's argument, may I ask him whether he would extend that argument to the views of the Indian Legislative Assembly—the fullest expression of Indian opinion—on these reforms generally?
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
In regard to these reforms generally many other considerations arise and, taking the report as a whole, I can well understand that there are objections in the mind of many Indians to the Bill now presented. But I am at present dealing with the question which is before the Committee and I am not to be tempted by the hon. and gallant Gentleman into taking up an irrelevant issue. We have to decide whether we are to vote for direct or indirect election. My proposition is that Indian opinion is in favour of direct election. If you choose to flout Indian opinion you can do so. How far the Indian Assembly is to be regarded as representative of India and in what respects they agree or disagree with the form of the present Bill is another question. I should like to ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman whether he would support a Bill of the character that would be supported by the Indian Assembly?
§ Sir H. CROFT
The right hon. Gentleman and his party have always advocated that we should bow to the will of the people whatever it was. I merely asked whether he would apply the principle which he is now applying to the question of indirect or direct election, to the question of whether the status quo should remain or whether we should go on with the reforms.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
That, of course, is mere evasion. The Secretary of State a few days ago, dealing with the question of whether the Centre should be dealt with simultaneously with the Provinces, made certain observations with regard to Indian opinion and I would ask him 2052 why should they not be relevant to the present issue? The right hon. Gentleman said:I think the reason that has weighed with a great many of us, and it is a reason which we ought not to ignore, is the present position of Indian feeling on the subject. There is no doubt whatever but that Indian feeling—when I speak of Indian feeling I mean Indian feeling both in the States and in British India; I mean feeling among all sections, the right, the centre as well as the left wing, is very strong upon the need of dealing with the Centre simultaneously with the Provinces.In a further sentence the right hon. Gentleman said:That feeling is very deep and very universal, and if it is deep and if it is universal it means that it is a mistake to ignore it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th February; col. 399, Vol. 298.]That is his view upon another issue but if that be true in the one case, why is it not true in the other case? Would the right hon. Gentleman deny that feeling upon this question is deep and is nearly as universal as any opinion ever is in any nation upon any political subject? If so, is it not in this case also foolish to ignore it?
Another point which the Committee would do well to bear in mind is this. By taking the course which the Government now invite us to take we shall be destroying an electoral system which now exists and has existed for 14 years. I do not know of any instance in modern history except in countries which have adopted some form of absolutism, as in Central Europe, where a legislature based upon a broad system of election has been converted into one in regard to which no person has the right to direct franchise. The First Commissioner of Works justified this proposal on the ground that the present electorate which selects members of the Legislative Assembly in India is comparatively small and that the new electorate would be considerably greater. But the new electorate would still be a very limited one in proportion to the whole population of India, and there is this further point to be remembered on the other side, that the new Parliament, having much greater powers than the present Assembly, will probably evoke a much larger measure of political interest throughout the country, and that there will be far keener political life in India with regard to central legislative matters than exists to-day.
2053 The right hon. Member, in his speech this afternoon, said this system of election had already been tried. It has been tried, and it has not been condemned. If hon. Members could come here and say that, this system having been tried for 14 years, no one would wish to perpetuate it, that would be an argument which would no doubt carry weight. If it could be shown that it was corrupt, or ignorant, that the people did not know what they were doing, that would be an argument which would carry weight. But here again we must look at the report of our own Joint Select Committee, which, after long investigation, made this statement unanimously:It has been the system in India for the last 12 years and has worked on the whole reasonably well enough.It points out that that is with the more limited electorate which now exists, but still, so far as it has been tested, our own Joint Select Committee was bound, on the facts, to say that the system had worked "reasonably well enough." The strange thing is that now, in a, Bill which purports to extend self-government in India, which we tell the Indians and the world is to enlarge Indian liberties, we are destroying this very franchise which has existed for so long and the experience of which is on the whole favourable. Let the Committee clearly realise what we are doing. We are saying to the people who, election after election, for half a generation, have voted for their central Parliament, "These elections henceforth will stop, and you will go to the polls no more to elect a Parliament."
The next point with which we have to deal is the argument advanced in favour of the abolition of the existing system. There is only one argument in favour of the scheme now proposed. All the others are unimportant. There are many arguments in favour of direct election, and only one argument in favour of indirect election, and that is the admitted difficulty that arises from these very large constituencies, with great numbers of electors. That is clearly a disadvantage, and the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) based his case entirely upon that. He said that what is needed at the present time is personal contact between a member and his con 2054 stituents, and that with electorates of this size, covering geographical areas so vast, that would not be possible. What is meant by personal contact? Is there really personal contact, in a country like this, between the 50,000 electors in one of our own constituencies and the member? In some respects, no doubt, there is, but when the great Reform Bill was under discussion in 1832, the opponents of that Bill had the one argument that with the electorate proposed to be established it would be impossible to maintain personal contact between the member and his electors such as had existed previously.
The right hon. Member for West Birmingham said there must be a real nexus between the member and his constituents. That nexus in those days was very often what Carlyle called a "cash nexus," and the ending of corruption of that kind in Great Britain was effected by increasing the electorate, by ending that kind of personal contact between the member and his constituents. In those days electorates such as we have to-day, with 40,000 or 50,000 electors, would have been regarded as utterly inconceivable and unworkable, yet in fact we are able to work these things very well. Instances have been given in the Committee to-day of other countries in which there are very large electorates and very large areas, and it has been said that they are not relevant to India, that what happens in the United States, Canada, or Australia, where there are constituencies fully as large as those that would be involved by a method of direct election in India, is different from what would happen in India. Here we have to go to authorities, to those who know, and we have the assurance of the Government of India itself. We in this Committee cannot judge these matters. It is very easy for hon. Members like the right hon. Member for West Birmingham to say that it is impossible to work constituencies of this size, but that is not the view of the Government of India, because when the Statutory Commission reported, the Government of India carefully investigated every aspect of all the questions that had been raised, and they sent home to the Secretary of State of that day a very long despatch, covering some 250 printed pages and examining everything with the utmost care and after prolonged consideration. They said, in regard to this matter: 2055The real point at issue is whether the physical conditions of India in fact make direct election ineffectual.And they point out that in their view it does not. They say:The electoral methods natural to the social structure of India may be held to some extent to replace personal contact between candidate and voter, a contact which adult suffrage and party organisations make increasingly difficult in western countries.The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) quoted a part of this document, but as it is the vital point and this is the supreme authority in such a matter, namely, the Government of India itself, I hope the Committee will forgive me if I quote some of it again. It goes on:The Indian electorate is held together by agrarian, commercial, professional and caste relations. It is through these relations that a candidate approaches the elector, and in this way political opinion is the result partly of individual judgment, but to a greater extent than elsewhere of group movements.For that reason the Indian Government, with the fullest knowledge of all the facts, came definitely to the conclusion that on the whole direct election was preferable to indirect election. It is sometimes said that the franchise may be extended in the future, and that if the franchise is to be extended in the future, then constituencies which would be too large already in the number of their electors would become altogether, overwhelmingly, impossible. That argument was advanced in the report of the Joint Select Committee, but let it be remembered that if in 10, 20, or 30 years there was a strong movement for extending the franchise in India towards manhood suffrage, or even universal suffrage, by that time other processes would have been going on simultaneously in India. Education, we hope, would have been largely extended, communications throughout the country would have been greatly improved, broadcasting might have become a feature of the ordinary life of the country; and, while, on the one hand, it may be true that in the next generation the franchise may have to be extended, it does not therefore follow that this system will be made unworkable, because simultaneously other matters making it more workable than now will probably have come into operation.
Of course, every system of election, in India or elsewhere, has its dis 2056 advantages, whether it is direct or indirect, and systems of no election at all have their disadvantages as well. When you are dealing with a country in which 350,000,000 people have to be represented in one Parliament, the difficulties, of course, must be very great, but the question is, What is the alternative I Admitted that there are these difficulties, ought we to endeavour to overcome them or ought we to adopt an alternative such as that suggested in the Bill? Does the Committee realise what we are doing in this Bill, the kind of system of election which we are establishing? Does the Committee realise that each of these members of the central Assembly is going to be chosen by a group of from five to eight individuals? It is not a question of saying that to have 100,000 electors is too many; better to have 10,000, or 8,000, or 800, or even 80. That is not what is proposed. Five to eight individuals meeting in a room are to choose the Members of Parliament for all India. Talk of pocket boroughs and 1832! Talk of individual patronage! Such a system as this has been unheard of in the whole history of the world. Talk again about the contact between the member and his constituents being close The contact in this case will be far too intimate, and no member of the Indian legislature will be able to move a step without consulting his five or six patrons who are the group in one of the provincial legislatures to whom he owes his seat. When we remember the kind of measures the central Legislature will have to deal with, think of the dangers involved in a system such as this.
Do not let the Committee think that I am going into tariff questions, but among the other functions of the central legislature is the fixing of the Indian tariff. Everyone knows how dangerous it is for a legislative assembly to have to deal with the fixing of individual duties which affect directly the fortunes of individual interests throughout the country, and may make to particular persons all the difference between affluence and poverty. All these members when they come to consider the tariffs will be conscious that they are elected by groups of five, or six or eight, and that they depend actually on these persons for their seats. Do you think that is a healthy state of things in a parliament of All-India?
2057 Another point has been referred to in the despatch from the Government of India. The Governor-General may at times find himself faced with a difficult assembly. There may be divisions of opinion, and crucial questions may arise. Here in this country a Parliament can be dissolved, and that is a great safeguard. It gives a certain amount of control—necessary control—in regard to those who are popularly elected. That is the great difference between our constitution and that of France, and in our view it is the superiority of the British constitution that there is the power of dissolution in a time of crisis. That power will still exist in the Governor-General of India, but what use will be a dissolution to him? Each Member goes back to the five or six people who elected him and, of course, there will be no change and they will send him back. Dissolution will be perfectly futile, and members will not have to go back to great constituencies and face the troubles and the perils of a new election. They will go back to the room where they were elected, and they will be sent back again, and the power of dissolution will be a useless weapon in the hands of the Governor-General of the day.
That has been pointed out by the Government of India themselves in their despatch. Further in this connection, the individual members of the Legislative Assembly are elected by the members of Provincial assemblies. Suppose the Provincial Assembly is dissolved, and fresh members come in of a different colour. What becomes of the moral value of the member of the central legislature who has been elected by a group in the dissolved Parliament, the Parliament that is dead and dissolved in the Provinces? What a confusion in the constitution between central and provincial legislatures. Furthermore, this system of indirect election will, in effect, upset the whole system of provincial government. It will mean that in the Provinces the individual electors and the candidates, instead of dealing with provincial questions and getting a clear-cut decision on some great issue—education it may be, or perhaps some religious issue—will be obliged not only to consider these points, but to consider whom they are indirectly electing to the central assembly to be charged with the vast 2058 issues of Indian government. Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru wrote:This system will tend to make the Central Legislature a pale reflection of the majority of the provincial legislatures.Mark the effect of this on finance. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme said very truly that it will make the question of how much the Provinces can get out of the central funds the leading issue in Indian politics. In any case it will undoubtedly be a great issue in Indian politics. The central legislature will have command of large revenues. The Provincial assemblies will all try to get the most they can out of the central funds, and, in particular, in matters of All-India defence the central Government will find itself, under this system, pulled by a series of Provincial groups who are trying to lessen what may be necessary expenditure on defence in order to provide more and more money for the Provincial legislatures who will be represented by these various groups in the central Parliament.
I feel deeply that in making this decision we shall be committing a grave error, not only for all the practical reasons I have given, but also because it affects most closely the whole psychology of the question. The imponderables are the most important elements in this great issue. The Indians want their country to be one unit. They want their country to be visibly one great nation. The main achievement of British rule during the last two centuries has been that for the first time it has created a united India in some degree. That is an unchallengable achievement of the British connection, which is welcomed by Indians of all shades of opinion. As the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) said, they want an Assembly which will represent India as such, and the First Commissioner of Works applauded that observation. This is not a Measure which will secure the representation of India as such, a united, a single India, a great nation standing visibly one and indivisible in the face of the whole world. It will be merely a collection of representatives of 10 or 12 different Provinces. That is what the Indians do not desire, and that is the chief and underlying reason why the Central Legislature should be directly created by an All-India 2059 electorate and should be chosen on All-India issues. That is why the Government of India, in the despatch I have quoted on several points, said that the present Assembly has succeeded because it has appealed to the sentiment of India. You are substituting for that an Assembly chosen by groups of six or eight individuals in the provincial parliaments. Should we endure such a parliament in this country? Would any European country endure it? It is for these reasons we have urged this Amendment on the Committee to-day, and whatever may be the decision of the House of Commons in this connection, I feel certain that, in the long run, it will be inevitable that the view we now express should prevail.
§ 9.34 p.m.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I find myself in the most vulnerable of any position in which a Secretary of State could find himself. I am in the middle position. I am now going to be shot at by both sides. I have never been able to take the view expressed by the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) or the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) that this is a great question of principle; nor have I been able to take the view of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) that with this question stands or falls the whole stability of the federal structure. I have frankly regarded this as a question of machinery. I have never been able to regard it as a question of principle at all. I admit to the Committee that more than once I have changed my views about it. At the first two Round Table Conferences I made what I thought to be a devastating argument against direct election, but again—and I frankly admit it—I was impressed by the strong Indian opinion in favour of direct election, and I veered round the other way. Then came the long and protracted discussions in the Joint Select Committee, and, on the whole, putting the arguments on one side against the arguments on the other, I have come to the view with some hesitation that, treating the question as a question of machinery and not of principle, and treating it also as an experiment and not as a final permanent settlement of the electoral machinery of India, on the whole the wise course is 2060 to accept the report of the majority of the Joint Select Committee.
I do not regard direct election as the visible test of the unity of India. I take the view that the unity of India is dependent upon much bigger issues and that it does not matter much one way or the other so far as the unity of India is concerned whether we adopt direct or indirect election. Other questions are of much more importance, in my view, such questions, for instance, as the civil and criminal code, the unity of the railway administration in India, and the unity of the Customs administration. I think that the Federal Government, whatever may be the system of election, is much more likely to maintain that unity. I have never been able to believe that any question of principle is at stake. I know that hon. Members who are representatives of the Liberal party have always regarded this question of electoral machinery as a question of high principle. They live or die on proportional representation. I have never been able to take that view. Perhaps I approach the issues rather cynically. I have always felt that it does not much matter. Whatever system of election you have you get very much the same kind of people returned. They are very much the kind of people that the country, at a particular moment, deserves. I take that view, so far as this question is concerned, with regard to India. I do not believe that the world is going to be materially different whether we adopt one system or the other. I am aware of the fact that many people in India, having had the experience of 14 years of direct election, would like to retain that system. It is also a fact that the Government of India and, not all the Provincial Governments, but the majority, would prefer to continue the system as it is to-day. I have tried to give full attention to that view, and I think it would be a great mistake if unnecessarily we raised any opposition in India in this matter. I have never ignored the Indian point of view or the point of view of the Government of India.
The reasons that have prompted us to accept the majority view of the Committee are three. First, the more I considered the details of this Constitution—necessarily very complicated—the more I became anxious to simplify it in any way in which simplification was possible. It 2061 seemed to me to be a great advantage if we could get rid of what is now going to be a very difficult factor in the Constitution, namely, the elections to the federal centre. They are obviously open to many of the objections raised by ray right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham. There are these great constituencies, quite unlike any we have here. There is the fact that in the federal centre the questions at issue, speaking generally, will not be the kind of questions that interest the ordinary man in the Indian village, but will be very remote questions of a technical character. There are, again, the questions of expense and of the difficulty of the machinery. All these difficulties loomed larger and larger in my mind the more I considered the inevitable difficulties of a federal constitution of this character. That was the first reason that drove me along the road of indirect election.
Secondly, there was the question of federal finance. I do riot take the view just expressed by the right hon. Member for Darwen that the adoption of indirect election is going to make the problem of federal finance more difficult. I take the other view that the closer contact you can make between the Provinces and the centre the more you can make the centre definitely a federal centre and the less likely you are to have disputes between the Federal Government and the Provincial units. I attach great importance to that reason. Thirdly, I was convinced by the arguments urged more than once by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham that a centre composed upon these lines was much more likely to be stable than a centre composed upon any other lines, a centre that is permanent and is not based upon a rather shadowy and remote electorate, but upon a direct representation formed by the very live Provincial Legislatures.
§ Mr. de ROTHSCHILD
If that is the reason for establishing this method of election, why is it that the right hon. Gentleman, and the right hon. Gentleman who spoke before him for the Government, say this is only a temporary measure—when he wants a permanent basis?
§ Sir S. HOARE
If the hon. Member will allow me to develop my argument in my own way, I shall come to that point in a moment. For the moment, let me say that I believe a system based 2062 upon indirect election is likely, on the whole, to be more stable than a system based upon direct election. Now let me come to the point just raised by the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild). I admit that none of us can dogmatise upon this question, and I do not like to say that my view is necessarily infallible, just as I do not think the view which he or his hon. and right hon. Friends has expressed is infallible. I think that these methods of electoral machinery are very much experimental methods, and that nobody in this Committee can say to-day exactly how they are going to work out. That is one of the main reasons that makes me think that, upon the whole, the wiser course is to start with the experiment of indirect election. It is frankly an experiment, from which we can depart if it fails and adopt the principle of direct election. Of one thing I am sure, that if we embark upon direct election there will be no means within any compass of time that we can see of reverting to indirect election. The vested interests behind direct election would become so strong that there would be no chance of changing the system. On the other hand, I believe that if we start with the experiment of indirect election, frankly admitting that it is an experiment, we can watch it, we can follow Indian opinion on the subject, and if it fails or is liable to develop any of the faults and failings of which we have heard this afternoon, we can change it and revert to direct election.
§ Sir S. HOARE
Or revert to another form of indirect election. I wish we could have adopted another form of indirect election here and now. In the Joint Select Committee many of us started with a sincere desire to adopt a system of village electorates that would have made it possible to have a primary electorate on a broad basis and a system of secondary electors based upon it. Unfortunately, we found that there were no foundations, or at any rate only inadequate foundations, upon which we could build. We found, further, that the communal trouble had eaten so much into the life of India that if we had attempted to adopt here and now a system of that kind we should have brought the most 2063 bitter communal troubles into every village in India. But while we set aside that expedient for the present, we did not set it aside for the future, and I hope myself that if we now adopt the system of indirect election set out in the Bill, and leave the Indians to experiment with that system, that in the future they may be able to build up a system of village electorates of the kind which we desire, and that at some time in the future—from my own point of view the sooner the better—we may be able to have a system of indirect election based not upon the provincial councils at all but upon the villages and local communities of India itself. These are the reasons that make me, without attempting to dogmatise, take the view that on the whole the wise course is to make the experiment, frankly admitting that it is an experiment, upon the basis of indirect election. Let us admit all the difficulties and the dangers, but let us make the experiment upon those lines, let us see how it works, and let us be ready to make an alteration if experience shows us that a better system is available.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Sir H. CROFT
After listening to my right hon. Friend's speech, it seems to me that he has brought still greater confusion into all our minds about the whole of these reforms. If ever an argument was delivered with force showing what the form of Indian self-government should have been, surely it is found in the concluding sentences of the right hon, Gentleman. There he spoke in a manner which must have convinced almost everybody that we are turning the pyramid upside down, that from the very start we ought to have gone forward along the lines of establishing village councils, county councils, rural district councils and urban district councils, as in this country, in order that the Indians might have had some opportunity of graduating through the various forms of self-government before we put those 350,000,000 people in the hands of their legislators. When the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) said, not once, but, I think, seven times, that the reason he and his friends were supporting this Amendment against the 2064 Government's policy was that they found Indian opinion was in that direction, I was frankly staggered. The right hon. Gentleman and his friends, and all the Members below the Gangway on this side, have held very different views in these Debates. We have had the Legislative Assembly giving overwhelming votes upon certain proposals without being listened to by any of the supporters of the Government here; and it is idle to say that a few witnesses before the Select Committee are Indian opinion and conveniently to forget that the elected representatives in the Legislative Assembly have, by an overwhelming majority, told us that they do not want these reforms at all. To anyone who wants to see reforms of some kind working in India this has been a most difficult Debate to follow, but one thing is clear, that if we have direct election we are dealing with an electorate which is quite unfit to carry out its duties.
§ Sir H. CROFT
No, for the whole of India—though everybody who has studied the question knows that in the Provinces to-day there is the wildest confusion among the electorates as to what they are voting for. I am only supporting the Provinces because we can stand still with the Provinces. I did not want to be deflected from my argument, but as the hon. Gentleman asked a question I was entitled to answer him. I am one of those who has never believed that it was wise to go right forward giving so much power to the people in the Provinces, but I thought there was a hope of getting a national settlement in this country. When the Statutory Commission reported in favour of provincial self-government I said, "Wild though the experiment may be let us see whether we can make it a success," because had it broken down it would not have been irreparable; but to go forward with self-government at the centre at one leap is, I venture to say indeed madness, as I think was the right view of the Simon Commission. As to the indirect electorate as suggested in the Bill, although I prefer that to the other mad scheme it must be realised that we are for all time, as long as this reform lasts 2065 in India, permanently dividing Moslem and Hindu. I think we are making permanent that division in India which Britain and Britain alone has been able to bridge. The Bill is so bad anyhow that I am in doubt how to vote on this issue. I think if one votes for indirect election he is doing something which is making permanent that division, and that if he votes for direct election he is voting for something which the Indian people are incapable of carrying out. The best thing that His Majesty's Government can do is to reconsider the whole position.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I beg your pardon. I will not pursue the argument any longer. I regret that those words fell from my lips. I will only say that I think it would be better that the Clause should be dropped.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out to the end of line 21, stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 262; Noes, 57.2067
|Division No. 83.]||AYES.||[9.55 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Kerr, Hamilton W,|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Danville, Alfred||Kimball, Lawrence|
|Albery, Irving James||Dickie, John p.||Kirkpatrick, William M.|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)||Donner, P. W.||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Allen, Lt.-col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Drewe, Cedric||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Duckworth. George A. V.||Law, Sir Alfred|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Apsley, Lord||Duggan, Hubert John||Lewis, Oswald|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Lindsay, Noel Ker|
|Assheton, Ralph||Dunglass, Lord||Lieweilin, Major John J.|
|Bailey, Eric Alfred George||Eastwood, John Francis||Lloyd, Geoffrey|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Eills, Sir R. Geoffrey||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Elmley, Viscount||Loder, Captain J. de Vere|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Erskine-Boist. Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Loftus, Pierce C.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th.C.)||Everard, W. Lindsay||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.|
|Beit, Sir Alfred L.||Fleiden, Edward Brocklehurst||Mabane, William|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Fox, Sir Gifford||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C.G.(Partick)|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Fremantle, Sir Francis||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Gaibraith, James Francis Wallace||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.|
|Boulton, W, W.||Ganzonl, Sir John||McKie, John Hamilton|
|Bower, Commander Robert Tatton||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||McLean, Major Sir Alan|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Gledhill, Gilbert||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Glossop, C. W. H.||Makins, Brigadier General Ernest|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Manningham-Buller. Lt.-Col. Sir M.|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Glyn, Major Sir Ralph G. C.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Goodman. Colonel Albert W.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Gower, Sir Robert||Mellor, Sir Richard James|
|Brown, Col. D. C, (N'th'I'd., Hexham)||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Greene, William P. C.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks., Newb, y)||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)||Milne, Charles|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Grimston, R. V.||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres|
|Burnett, John George||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Morgan, Robert H.|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)|
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Hammersiey, Samuel S.||Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Hanbury, Cecil||Munro, Patrick|
|Carver, Major William H.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H,|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Nunn, William|
|Chamberlain, Rt.Hon.Sir J.A.(Birm. W)||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Hornby, Frank||Ormiston, Thomas|
|Clarke, Frank||Horsbrugh, Florence||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Howard, Tom Forrest||Orr Ewing, I. L.|
|Coiville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Hewitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Patrick, Colin M.|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Peake, Osbert|
|Cooke, Douglas||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Pearson, William G.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Hunter, capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Peat, Charles U.|
|Copeland, Ida||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Perkins, Walter R. D.|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Petherick, M.|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Craven-Ellis, William||James, Wing.Com. A. W. H.||Potter, John|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Galnsb'ro)||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Croom-Johnson, R. p.||Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)||Pybus, Sir John|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Radford, E. A.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Ker, J. Campbell||Ramsay T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Ramsden, Sir Eugene||Skelton, Archibald Noel||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Ratcliffe, Arthur||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.||Tree, Ronald|
|Rawson, Sir Cooper||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)||Tutneil, Lieut-Commander R. L.|
|Ray, Sir William||Smith, Sir Robert (Ab'd'n & K'dine.C.)||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Smithers, Sir Waldron||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Somervell, Sir Donald||Wallace, Sir John (Dunfermline)|
|Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur II.||Somerville, D. G. (Willeeden, East)||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wailsend)|
|Rickards, George William||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Robinson, John Roland||Spencer, Captain Richard A.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Ropner, Colonel L.||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.||Watt, Major George Steven H.|
|Rosbotham, Sir Thomas||Spens, William Patrick||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour|
|Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Stevenson, James||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Stones, James||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)||Storey, Samuel||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Salmon, Sir Isidore||Stourton, Hon. John J.||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Salt, Edward W.||Strauss, Edward A.||Wil's, wilfrid D.|
|Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)||Strickland, Captain W. F.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Samuel, M. R. A. (W'ds'wth, Putney).||Summersby, Charles H.||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Scone, Lord||Sutcilffe, Harold||Womersley, Sir Walter|
|Selley, Harry R.||Tate, Mavis Constance||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Thompson, Sir Luke||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Shute, Colonel Sir John||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)||Major George Davies and Dr. Morris-Jones.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro'.W.)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding)||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Banfield. John William||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tyd[...]ll)||Renter, John R.|
|Batey, Joseph||Harris, Sir Percy||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Holdsworth, Herbert||Rothschild, James A de|
|Cleary, J. J.||Jenkins, Sir William||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)|
|Curry, A. C||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Daggar, George||Kirkwood, David||Thorne, William James|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Logan, David Gilbert||West, F. R.|
|Edwards. Charles||Lunn, William||White, Henry Graham|
|Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||McEntee, Valentine L,||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Mainwaring, William Henry||Wilmot, John|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Mallalieu. Edward Lancelot||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Maxton, James||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Gardner, Benjamin Walter||Milner, Major James|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Owen, Major Goronwy||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Paling, Wilfred||Sir Robert Hamilton and Mr. Hracourt Johnstone.|
§ 10.6 p.m.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I beg to move in page 11, line 21, after "of," to insert:six representatives of the British Parliament and".The object of this Amendment is to broach the question of making this Parliament an Imperial Parliament. I put the issue before the Joint Select Committee more fully. I desire a smaller assembly, with representation in it of both Houses of Parliament, coupled with the presence in the British Parliament of an equal number of Indian representatives. The Committee will be aware that the principal Indian objection to our rule in India is that the greatest difference of caste in India is not between one brand of Hindu and another, or even between Hindu and Mohammedan, but between Indian and Englishman, and that the 2068 main desire of the Indian people is not so much to govern themselves as to be on an absolutely equal footing with Englishmen. Mr. Gandhi has often put it quite clearly by saying that all that is needed in India is a change of heart on the part of the English people there. I know, and I think the Committee know, that the best way to break down caste is to have in the same democratic assembly people of both castes. In this country caste has been broken by our Parliamentary institutions. The very fact that we had knights of the shire and burgesses sitting together did more to break caste in England than anything else, and I wish to see the same principle applied in India. There is no doubt that these English Members of Parliament, sitting in the Indian Assembly, would be welcomed with open arms by that Assembly—
§ Sir H. CROFT
Might I make to him the particular request that one of them may be the hon. Member for Plymouth?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I am certain, from my experience of this Debate alone, that there would be no lack of candidates for the position. A very large number of Members of the House of Commons would be only too glad, not to surrender their seats here, but to be delegates of this Assembly in the Indian Assembly. When they were sitting on the benches with Indians, they would learn the Indian point of view; they would be able to support British interests, and at the same time to join in the common feelings of the Indian people. Their meeting together, speaking together, mixing as we do in this House, would break down all barriers between these two races; and how much more should we benefit by having six Indians sitting in this House?
§ The CHAIRMAN
Order! I was glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman, although he has another project in mind, has confined his Amendment to what is in order. Otherwise, I should not have been able to call it. But he must not deal with the constitution of this Parliament.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
No; I must not deal with the constitution of this Parliament; but the idea of having English representatives in the Indian Parliament cannot be complete without reciprocipy on our part. If such reciprocity were available, the Indian people would be only too glad to respond, and we should have the foundation here of a real Imperial Parliament. Over and over again I have advocated in this House that Newfoundland and Kenya should be represented—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman will not be able to develop that side of his plan.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I must confine myself, then, to arguing the advantages of having English representation in the Indian Assembly. They are that our members who went there would learn the Indian point of view, would break down the barriers between Englishman and 2070 Indian, and would form a safeguard which would be infinitely less objectionable to the Indians than those provided in this Bill. The only real safeguard is to have a community of interest and people mixing together as we have here. This proposal was put before the Joint Select Committee, and was also sent to India. In India it was heartily accepted; it met with contemptuous indifference on the part of the Select Committee. I am certain that the Empire will depend in the future upon a union of Parliaments, and I believe that to create that spirit would be a real step forward, not only in Imperial development, but in the unity of the human race.
§ 10.13 p.m.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Butler)
I quite appreciate the genuine feeling that my right hon. Friend has in moving this Amendment, and I feel sure that no proposal of his could have been treated with contemptuous indifference by anybody, least of all by the Joint Select Committee or, I am perfectly certain, the Imperial Parliament. Indeed, there seems to be, on the other hand, a great welcome for his proposal, and great competition among Members to have the honour and privilege of serving in the Indian Assembly; while I think there is probably an equal anxiety on the part of some colleagues of hon. Members who wish to have the opportunity of nominating colleagues who would be absent from this House in the future. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would take this invidious choice out of the hands of hon. Members, and put down the names of those whom he would like to go in a Schedule to the Bill. We are not very far behind our time-table, and I know that right hon. and hon. Members look forward to discussing many matters on the Schedules. I feel sure that this question would arouse a great deal of interest, and that there would be a great deal of competition to insert new names. The right hon. Gentleman perhaps has not developed sufficiently how these members will be chosen, whether by indirect election by this House and, if so, whether this question of corruption—
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I pointed out in my speech that election by this House or by a council could not possibly involve corruption.
§ Mr. BUTLER
Perhaps we might ask the rigtht hon. Gentleman if a Member of this House receiving the emoluments that hon. Members do receive should be entitled to an extra allowance if he proceeded to India. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will develop the point later. It is a very important question to some of us. Taking the point seriously, I think we should remember that this would cut across the whole principle of responsible government that is being set up and that the result of accepting the Amendment instead of breaking down barriers would be to create confusion in India and in this country and, therefore, we are unable to accept it.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ 10.16 p.m.
§ Major COURTAULD
I beg to move, in page 11, line 24, at the end, to insert:and forty additional members chosen by the Governor-General, in his discretion, of whom not more than twenty shall be persons holding office under the Crown.The main intention of this Amendment is to maintain in some small degree the system now obtaining of nominated members which has been carried on in India for many years. I think it would probably be to the advantage of everyone if it were maintained to this extent. It would enable the Governor-General to appoint to the Federal Assembly distinguished, knowledgeable, able Europeans who would help in the legislation and in the governing of India as a whole. One aspect of the case which presents itself immediately is that in the Federal Assembly as at present proposed there will be definite groups of members nominated by the Provincial Governments and by the ruling Princes if that happy event ever happens. One may assume it for the sake of argument. The Federal Assembly is likely to be split up into many groups seeking to look after the interests of their own Provinces, or possibly of their own States. If one had this body of opinion nominated by the Governor-General one would have at least 40 members definitely concerned only with the welfare of India as a whole, and not concerned with any particular partisan views or with the interests of any particular group.
Another aspect is that, as I take it, the whole principle of the Bill is a partnership of Great Britain and India. 2072 We are told that this great Measure will cement the friendship between the two countries, and make a permanent partnership. As the Federal Assembly is to be constituted by the Bill, the partner which has been predominant in the past, Great Britain, is virtually not represented at all. The number of 40 added to the number of 375, which is the sum total proposed in the Bill, is not very large, and it may be that some hon. Members might say that it should be larger. If my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State does not agree that it is large enough, I shall be delighted to hear that he wants to increase the number. I think that 40 is a reasonable number, that there would not be any definite combination against that number, and that those members would be able to serve with advantage.
Those are the chief arguments which one can advance in favour, although there are many others. On the other side, I realise that it will probably be submitted by the official Opposition, and almost certainly by the Liberals, that to have nominated members at all in this new Assembly will be, as my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has just said, cutting across the whole principle of democracy. I think very little of that argument, and it may be that it will not be evolved. If it were one would have to consider that the Federal Assembly is in no sense an elected body. It is not anomalous to have nominated members at all. The members from the Provinces of what are to-day British-India will be nominated by the Provincial Assemblies, and the members from the Indian States will be nominated by the ruling Princes. Therefore, surely, it is no anomaly but only carrying out the spirit of the assembly. as it is proposed to constitute it, to have also a limited number of members nominated by the Governor-General. I have every hope, naturally, that the Conservative portion of this Committee will approve and accept this Amendment. I am in very high hopes that we have found my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, as indeed he has proved to be, in a mellow and conservative mood. Therefore, when I say that I really would reasonably expect this Amendment to be treated seriously and very likely to be accepted, I hope that I am not being too optimistic.
§ 10.23 p.m.
§ Mr. BUTLER
Let me, first of all, assure the hon. and gallant Member for Chichester (Major Courtauld) and the Committee that this Amendment will be taken seriously, and, if I give some reasons why the Government are not able to accept it, I hope that he and the Committee will realise that we have given this suggestion very serious consideration. The first argument I should like to advance is to consider with the Committee what the reception of the acceptance of the Amendment would be likely to be in India in the circles in which this Bill will be worked. There is no doubt that this proposal would be looked upon by Indian opinion with very great suspicion, and, if there were any merit in the proposal, its initial operation would take place in an atmosphere of such suspicion that any benefit which the mover of the Amendment or his friends would imagine would derive from its operation would immediately be denied it by the fact that it would be operated in an extremely unfriendly and unfavourable atmosphere.
Indians have for a very long period looked with great suspicion upon the continuance of what is known as the official bloc, and this Amendment in fact suggests a continuation of the official bloc. The Statutory Commission when they recommended autonomous government in the Provinces did not suggest a continuation of the official bloc. At this hour of the evening I will not take up the Committee's time by putting forward the arguments that they used against the continuation of the official bloc. It is true that in the Centre, where they did not recommend exactly the form of Government which is in this Bill, there is a proposal with regard to nominated members in the Federal Assembly, bet their arguments on the subject of the continuation of the official bloc in a Government which is a responsible form of Government are, I think, conclusive, and as we are including in this Bill provisions for that form of Government in the Central Assembly their arguments against the continuation of the official bloc undoubtedly hold good.
These 40 members I presume would, as the Amendment says, be 20 nominated by the Governor-General, who would be nonofficial, and 20 who would hold office under the Crown. The general experience 2074 of the operation of the official bloc in India during the last 14 years has been that the official bloc becomes the servant or the ally of the Government of the day, and that is not very surprising, because the Governor in the case of a Province or the Governor-General in the case of the centre would appoint the official bloc and naturally would not expect them to go against the Government of which he was the head, particularly if 20 of the members, as is proposed in the Amendment, are actually expected to hold office under the Crown.
At first sight I was interested in the arguments put forward, but when one explores further the experience of the official bloc in India, one sees that it is natural that those who hold office under the Crown, who are themselves nominated by the head of the Government, would find it impossible to vote against any Government of the day the head of which had appointed them. It would render the position impossible if, say, the secretary of a particular minister was voting in a division lobby different from that of the minister himself. If 20 of these members are to be those who hold office under the Crown, that sort of position would arise, unless the normal development ensued, which would be that the official bloc would become the ally and supporter of the Government of the day. If they were to become solely the ally and supporter of the Government, I do not think the objective which my hon. and gallant Friend and his friends have in view would be achieved. For these reasons, and because of the fact that I am afraid we cannot accept an Amendment which would put additional members on the Federal Council, we are unable to accept the Amendment.
§ 10.28 p.m.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
Throughout the discussion hon. and right hon. Members opposite have continuously brought to our attention the grievances of the depressed classes and workers of India. Yet here they are moving an Amendment in which they propose to add 40 members to the Council of State.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think the hon. Member is mistaken as to the Amendment we are discussing. The Amendment relates to the Federal Assembly and not to the Council of State.
§ Mr. JONES
I am obliged for the correction. There are to be 40 additional members nominated to the Federal Assembly, 20 of whom are to be representatives of those who have served India in an official capacity. Do the supporters of the Amendment really think that that is a fair proposition to make? If they will look at the allocation of seats to the depressed classes, to labour and women, they will realise that to give an additional 20 seats to those who have already served officially in India, as compared with the seats allocated to the classes I have cited, would be out of all proportion. I do not argue the question whether it is wise to go back to nominated members. I suggest that it is not in keeping with the claims of hon. Members opposite to suggest this disproportionate representation of those who have served India and forget an adequate representation of the depressed classes and of labour.
§ 10.31 p.m.
§ Sir A. KNOX
Contrary to what the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) has said our object in moving the Amendment is to give a chance to the people in India who will not be properly represented under this system. We think that the Governor-General could nominate 40 members, 20 of them officials, not necessarily all, who would really look after the interests of the lower classes and the depressed classes far better than the assembly proposed under this Bill. The principal argument of the Under-Secretary of State against the Amendment was that that would not be pleasing to the political classes in India. That is quite a different argument to that which we heard from the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) to-day, who told us that although we should try to do our best to satisfy the Indian political classes yet we have to decide in this House what is best for India. Now we have gone back to the old argument that we must try and please the political classes in India, who do not represent the mass of the people.
Let me point out how very recent is the electoral system at the centre in India. No one was elected to the centre of India until the year 1892, that is 43 years ago, and the Assembly then was a one chamber assembly, in which four people were elected out of 26. The 2076 Morley-Minto Reforms came 17 years later, in 1909, and the total number of members in the Assembly at the Centre was 60. Out of that 60, 28 were officials, five were nominated by the Viceroy and 27 were on an elected basis. Out of the 27, 18 were elected by various groups and only nine were representative of the peoples of India. Unfortunately the leaders of the Conservative party to-day have rushed in where radicals like John Morley feared to tread, and propose to give away the whole position. I contend that this is a democratic Amendment to try and bring in people who will look after the interests of the masses of the common people, who would not otherwise have any representation at all.
§ 10.34 p.m.
§ Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS
In spite of the best will in the world I find it a little difficult to follow the Government into the Division Lobby on this matter, and particularly so after the speech of the Under-Secretary of State. We have been told over and over again by those who have studied this subject that it is essential not to take too much notice of what is said in India, but the Under-Secretary said that the principal reason against the Amendment is that it would have a bad reception in India. Good Heavens, nothing in this Bill has had a good reception in India, and nothing is likely to have a good reception. That argument, therefore, goes if it was meant to be a serious argument. The Under-Secretary of State also said that the Government bloc is not popular in India. Are we to set up something which is popular in India rather than something which will make for good government in India? The whole basis of the argument of the Secretary of State is that we should gradually bring them up to good government. I want to make an appeal to the Secretary of State. Here you have a new Assembly; and undoubtedly a system of nominated members which has worked comparatively well in India, at least as well as anything else has worked. You are not laying down that 20 should be persons holding office under the Crown; it says, not more than 20. So that objection breaks down. We have to remember the tremendous feeling of doubt there is among many Members of this Committee on this matter, and to realise that this 2077 Amendment would give the Governor-General some sense of direct power and influence in the Chamber. These nominated Members, with their advice, if they were well chosen and men of good knowledge and good sense, must carry weight. They would allow the Governor-General to have a special voice and influence in the Chamber.
Many of us in listening to these Debates realise that we do not want the extreme powers of the Governor-General to be exercised unless necessary, and if we had these representatives in the Chamber I believe there would be many occasions when the Governor-General would get round difficulties which might otherwise compel him to use his extreme powers. If the Secretary of State cannot accept the Amendment now, I ask him to consider it seriously before Report. Insertion of the Amendment would do a great deal to relieve the anxiety of many of us who were converted reluctantly to the central system, but who at the same time think there is a possibility in this kind of Amendment of strengthening that system and making it more adequate for the representation of the people in India. This Amendment would give the Governor-General power to right many anomalies, by giving representation in the Chamber to people who otherwise would not have adequate representation, such as Labour or the trade unions or anything else you like, and an hon. and gallant Friend who is such a gallant advocate of the rights for women on all occasions reminds me that it would give representation to women as well.
§ 10.38 p.m.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I feel bound to support this Amendment, because it seems to maintain as far as possible the status quo at the centre. I expect that the federal part of this Bill will fail and that the centre will continue for the time being, probably for a good many years, in its present condition, which is not satisfactory, though we might go further and fare a great deal worse. I therefore vote for the Amendment to preserve the nominated element at the centre, just as I voted to preserve to the Indian electors their direct election to the centre, of which they have been deprived by this Bill. We are in fact depriving the electors on the one hand of the method of direct election, to which they have become used 2078 and which they value, and at the same time we are depriving the Governor-General of the forces of stability represented by the nominated element.
In every way you are making the Central Assembly much poorer. It is a Central Assembly which will be based not upon election by the people but upon indirect election by the Provincial legislatures. All the more necessary is it that there should be nominated element which will redress the balance and provide what is left out by these close corporations. I feel that we ought to press this question without any hesitation at all because undoubtedly it will serve to emphasise the importance of maintaining successfully the experiment which has hitherto been made—so far as it has gone—in India of a body at the centre which, although it is full of faults and shortcomings has nevertheless maintained a certain existence and identity for a period of time. If we are to strip it on the one hand of its popular pretensions and on the other hand of its nominated element we are creating a condition of affairs far more unsatisfactory than anything of which we have had experience up to the present.
§ 10.42 p.m.
§ Lord EUSTACE PERCY
My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) is at any rate consistent in this matter. Having voted for a directly elected assembly, he may now argue in favour of putting into that assembly or retaining in it a nominated class. But I would point out to hon. Members who have voted in favour of indirect election that a nominated bloc added to an assembly, the whole purpose of which is to represent the units of the Federation, makes an impossible combination. To say that this body is to represent the units and that, for instance, Madras is to have 20 members in it and then to say that the Governor-General is to have 40 members, is impossible. How could you have a body formed on those lines? The Statutory Commission which proposed this very form of lower House distinctly and emphatically reported that an official bloc in that House was an impossibility and they never dreamt of retaining an official bloc in a House constituted in that way. I am not arguing for or against an official bloc in itself but in this type of assembly it would be 2079 impossible to have a nominated official bloc without destroying the whole purpose for which the assembly is constituted.
§ 10.44 p.m.
§ Sir WILLIAM DAVISON
My Noble Friend's speech seems to me entirely illogical and I do not propose to follow it. I wish to deal with the two reasons given by the Under-Secretary for opposing the Amendment. He said that even if it were good in itself it would not be looked on with favour by Indian political opinion, or words to that effect. We have pointed out repeatedly that every section of political opinion including, as we now know, even the Princes, is against the Bill, and at this hour of the day to tell us that the Government are rejecting this Amendment, not on its merits, but because it will not be received with favour by political opinion in India seems very farfetched. The second reason was that those who held office under the Crown would always support the Government which had appointed them. We have repeatedly urged on the Government that if they refer to recent appointments in India it will be found that those holding them are all in favour of the present proposals just because they are recent appointments and do not desire to oppose the Government which has appointed them.
§ Sir W. DAVISON
No, Sir Dennis, and I will not pursue it, but I hope the Committee will bear it in mind. In any event, I urge that the reasons which we have had for the rejection of the Amendment are quite inadequate. With regard to the second reason, it is not one that can be urged by the Government, and with regard to the first, it applies to every Clause in the Bill.
§ 10.46 p.m.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I do not wish to detain the Committee, but I feel bound to point out that my right hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) was not correct in what he said 2080 as to the recommendation of the Simon Commission in regard to nominated members in the Central Assembly, and as I did not vote for indirect election in the last Division, I am perhaps free to speak on this matter. I understood my right hon. Friend to say that the Simon Commission did not recommend that there should be any nominated members in the Central Assembly, but I am afraid his memory is at fault, for the Simon Commission recommended as follows:In addition to the members representing the Governors' Provinces, the minor Provinces and the exluded areas, there will be an official element. Members of the Governor-General's Council will be ex-officio members, and we consider that the Governor-General should have power to nominate not more than twelve other officials, chosen because of their connection with the departments of the Central Government, in order that the point of view and experience of the Administration may be adequately represented.I do not think it can therefore be maintained that it is impossible to have nominated members in a Federal Assembly primarily intended to represent the units of that Assembly. I should like to add that the argument used by my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Sir W. Smiles) seems to me very strong, namely, that these members are bound to be people who will be taking cognisance of the interests of India as a whole. Their view will not be limited to one Province or unit, and in view of all that has been said by the supporters of the Bill as to the fear of sectional views and separatist tendencies on the part of the Province, that seems to me a consideration of very great importance.
§ 10.48 p.m.
§ Miss RATHBONE
As there has been about eight speeches in favour of the Amendment, I think it is about time that someone on this side spoke a few plain words about this proposal. I call it a preposterous Amendment. One of the arguments used by the Under-Secretary of State for refusing it on behalf of the Government was, as he pointed out, quite rightly, the bitter resentment which it would arouse in India. What is the reply of the supporters of the Amendment to that argument:—It amounts to this: "Well, Hoare has chastised you with whips, we will chastise you with scorpions." The suggestion is that because the present Bill has been re 2081 ceived with almost universal disfavour in India, that is a reason for turning it into something infinitely more revolting to Indian opinion, and then forcing it upon India. That is the view taken by a large section of the Tory party of government by consent. I should have thought that 100 years ago we had a pretty good example, in the case of the American Colonies, of what came of forcing upon a country a constitution
§ which was repudiated with loathing, and yet the very body that pretends to repudiate this constitution on the ground that India does not like it, wants to make it something infinitely more revolting to India—a true Tory sentiment.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 42; Noes, 264.2083
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, and objection being taken to further Proceeding, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.