HC Deb 10 May 1935 vol 301 cc1267-343

Amendment proposed [8th May, 1935], in page 283, line 11, to leave out from "shall," to the end of the paragraph, and to insert: be entitled to take part in a primary election held for the purpose of electing four candidates for each seat so reserved, and no member of those castes not elected as a candidate at such an election shall be qualified to hold—

  1. (a) a seat so reserved in that constituency;
  2. (b) if it is so prescribed as resepects that Province, any seat in that constituency. In relation to bye-elections this paragraph shall have effect with such adaptations and modifications as may be prescribed"—[Mr. Butler.]

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left, out stand part of the Schedule."

11.6 a.m.

Brigadier - General Sir HENRY CROFT

I had just commenced on Wednesday night, the last occasion on which the Committee met, to call attention to the Poona. Pact and to the story of its birth, and I think the Committee will agree that this is a question to which it is necessary for us to give very grave attention, because it is on this subject that I think there was a bigger change-over of votes on the Joint Select Committee than on any other Occasion. Everybody will therefore appreciate that our decision on this subject is one of very far-reaching importance. I think the Committee will all agree that the Constitution is being built upon the volcanic soil of communal strife in India. That is generally admitted to be the one great problem which makes this Constitution-building so different from anything which has ever been considered in any similar proposals in the history of the world. I think we all further agree that it is absolutely vital that when this scheme emerges we must be as fair as we can to minorities.

We were led to understand that the Constitutional reforms as a whole would only be possible if there could be an agreed settlement upon this communal question, but the settlement was found to be impossible. The Prime Minister, representing His Majesty's Government, then decided to impose a settlement upon India, and I presume that I do not exaggerate if I say that the Government probably gave more attention to this Communal Award than to any other part of the Bill. It is, indeed, an essential fact, without which the Measure itself, if it is ever passed into law, cannot possibly work. It was explained in the Debate when last we met that many of us felt that the democratic form of government which we are hoping to see evolved out of these proposals is really incompatible with a communal division of electors and legislators, and that is why we feel that the scheme almost inevitably will break down and have to be replaced some day by some other.

Neither has the Communal Award given any sort of satisfaction to anyone in India, with the exception perhaps of certain large bodies of Moslems. In fact, at the present moment there is a big movement in India, as Members of the Committee will be aware, called the All-India Anti-Communal Award Conference, which was held on 23rd February, and there they declared against the whole award by an overwhelming majority. That does not alter the fact that the Government with immense care went into this whole question, and I should like to say at once that if you have to have this form of communal representation, I consider that the Government's original decision was probably the fairest which could be arrived at.

Mr. Gandhi, who is as well equipped as a politician as he is as a saint, saw certain results in the Communal Award which he feared very much indeed. First, it, seemed to him that the depressed classes, who were, I think we may say, pleased with the Communal Award at the beginning, might ally themselves politically with Moslems and with the other minorities, and that was stated in some public documents which we have had before us; secondly, the establishment of the separate electorates might detach these unfortunate people from their Hindu co-religionists, which would release them from the domination of Hindu political power; and thirdly—and this is the point on which Mr. Gandhi laid the greatest stress—it would emphasise in the eyes of the world the fearful debasement of the untouchables by their fellow-countrymen and co-religionists in India at the present time by always allowing the world to see that the depressed classes had their special political representatives; and, fourthly, he undoubtedly wanted the representatives of the depressed classes to vote and to work with Congress rather than against that body. He, therefore, with very great ingenuity, devised with some of the Hindu leaders the Poona Pact.

I hope the Committee will realise that ostensibly the idea was that the Poona Pact gave the depressed classes very much greater representation. Actually, as I think I can show in a moment, the effect must be to bring their representatives under the permanent bondage of Congress leadership. Under the Communal Award, the Committee will remember, the depressed classes were allotted 71 seats in the various provincial councils. They were to be actual representatives of depressed classes, elected purely by electors drawn from those classes, but under Mr. Gandhi's Poona Pact some gentlemen styling themselves representatives of 128,000,000 orthodox Hindus, and Dr. Ambedkar, claiming to represent 48,000,000 of the depressed classes in India, agreed to an increase from 71 to 148 seats for the depressed classes, largely apparently to be at the expense of Hindu seats. That looked a very fine and encouraging gesture on the part of the Hindu leaders, but what is the real effect?

As we see in the Bill, there is to be a primary election of depressed class electors, who will elect a panel of four members. The four so elected will then stand, and the electorate will be increased to include all caste Hindus in that constituency, who, in almost every case, will be in a very large majority. Congress knows very well that out of this panel of four in any constituency they are practically certain to get one of the four holding their views and pledged to support their programme. When, therefore, the general electorate elect one to be on the panel of four, the general electorate, which will be almost inevitably Congress-controlled, will, of course, elect the Congress candidates. I think that that must be obvious to anyone who has made any study of the political machinery in India, The Congress thus hopes to secure almost the whole of the 148 so-called depressed class representatives instead of the very few, and possibly none, of the 71 under the Communal Award. That briefly, I think, is a description of the effect of the Poona Pact. How was it secured? The Joint Select Commithee, as the Under-Secretary told us on Wednesday, said: Under the pressure of Mr. Gandhi's fast these proposals were precipitately modified. I want to apologise to the Under-Secretary for quoting him on the last occasion as using the word "threat". I misquoted him. The word I should have used was "pressure". I agree that "pressure" is a different word from "threat". Mr. Gandhi declared that unless this proposal were accepted he would fast unto death. He gave no time for his threat to be carried out, for it immediately forced everybody to come into line. Dr. Ambedkar, who is declared to be the head of 6,000,000 untouchables, surrendered the cause of the depressed classes on account of 48,000,000. I think that is the number of the whole of the depressed classes which we are considering, but it is difficult to get the exact figure. Who was he, the leader of the down-trodden in India, to risk the life of a saint? Of course he had to give way. His position would have been impossible if the saintly Mahatma had passed from this unhappy world. The Congress Hindu Leaders under Pandit Malaviya agreed, as well they might, to the same proposal, and His Majesty's Government, also under the pressure of Mr. Gandhi's fast, precipitately decided to modify the proposals. They fell like rabbits into the snare.

Thus once again we find that we have—as I believe, quite unconsciously and not realising the reactions—surrendered to those in India who are utterly opposed to any form of partnership between Britain and India, who are completely opposed to the Bill, and who have, in fact, in the newly-elected Legislative Assembly declared emphatically that they do not want the Bill at all. The Under-Secretary, in answering my Noble Friend the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer), might have persuaded the Committee, so honeyed were his words, that Dr. Ambedkar is glowing with satisfaction at the whole concern. As a matter of fact, the Under-Secretary said: The Committee will be right to be guided by the leaders of the Untouchables and to accept their view in preference to any other view."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May. 1935; col. 1099, Vol. 301.] I wonder whether he means that, and if he really accepts the view of the worthy doctor. May I remind him that, according to the "Times", a very friendly witness, on 17th January this year, Dr. Ambedkar, who was giving lip service to the Poona Award, said: The interests of the depressed classes have been flagrantly neglected. Therefore it will not be possible for them to give their support to the present scheme. Do not let us lay unction to ourselves that this surrender to Congress is, in fact, going to give any joy or felicity to the depressed classes. Like everyone in India, I am sorry that the doctor has now turned against the doctor's mandate with regard to India. I express my sympathy with His Majesty's Government, because I think the depressed classes were the last straw to which they were clinging, and they were the only so-called organised section of the Indian people who had not repudiated the Government's Measure.

I think I have said enough to convince the Committee that it would be wiser to revert from the Poona Pact, which I believe no one in this country really wanted or had ever heard of until Mr. Gandhi's ingenious manœuvre, back again to the Communal Award, which was the result of so much care on the part of His Majesty Government, and which, I think I am right in saying, the Joint Select Committee itself thought was preferable to the Poona Pact. The Prime Minister stated—and let me be fair about this; I am not using the exact words—after the Communal Award was decided, "Of course, if there is agreement in India, we will be ready to accept such an agreement between parties". It may, therefore, be in the minds of certain Members that we are forced to accept the Poona Pact. That is not so. The Joint Select Committee itself divided on the principle of the Poona Pact, as far as it referred to one province, on Lord Zetland's amendment. I would particularly ask the Committee to realise that Lord Zetland was supported on that occasion, not only by Lord Salisbury and those who voted with him, but by Lord Hardinge, an ex-Viceroy, Lord Lytton another ex-Governor-General, and Lord Derby. In fact, he would have carried his proposal but for the Liberal and Socialist votes, which were on the other side. I am not using that for party dialectics, but just to show what an immense swing over there was on that subject.

Therefore, if it was legitimate for the Joint Select Committee to discuss this question, to hear witnesses on this subject, and actually to go to a division on the matter, it is clearly within the right of this Committee also to discuss it and to refuse to yield to the threat of death, which was made even before this Bill was brought in, against our better judgment. If we are going to adopt this practice of yielding to threats of this description, even before the flag has dropped and the race for democratic spoils has started, it seems to me that it puts a premium upon coercion and a brake upon the liberty of action and freedom of conscience of which we in this House claim to be the special champions. In a few days' time we may have the leader of Congress or the Indian trade unions, if there be any; we may even have the women's leader who is now to be nominated to the Council of State, engaging in this new pastime of threatening to starve. The famine which we have eliminated from the great country of India, thanks to the marvellous administration of the British Government—a most romantic story—will become rife in Provincial Councils, which may become mortuaries instead of legislatures. It seems to me that it is sheer madness to allow Mr. Gandhi or anyone else to thwart your intentions and your wise decisions, and force you to go back on such decisions on pain of his death. I think the Committee will realise also that it really upsets the whole balance of our scheme if the Hindu controlled Congress is able under the Poona Pact completely to control the decisions of the so-called representatives of the depressed classes.

More important than either of those matters is the fact that under the Poona Pact, in my honest belief, the depressed classes will be deprived of that very freedom which we were hoping to give them. This has nothing to do with the question of whether it is wise to have this reform or not. The question we have to ask ourselves to-day in settling the fate of these 48,000,000—or, some say, possibly 60,000,000—of the depressed classes is whether they are going to have a square deal, to have that freedom which we promised to give them, or whether we are by a piece of trickery, as I honestly believe it was going to put them for all time under the domination of Congress and therefore, to deprive them of what we promised them. I know that His Majesty's Government are very reluctant to accept any suggestions we make to strengthen this Bill, but this one does not interfere with the main principles of the Bill. The more we study the question, the more we must realise that when the British Raj has gone from India the position of the depressed classes, unless we give them some rights and some big standing in the future in these assemblies, is going to be deplorable. On that account I most earnestly ask the Government to reconsider the position and to go back to the Communal Award of the Prime Minister, which had the support of the whole Government before they were forced, under duress, to adopt this more recent scheme.

11.27 a.m.


I learned a great deal that I had not heard before from the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). I think it is a little unfortunate that, after invoking the authority of Lord Hardinge and other distinguished members of the Joint Select Committee to support his contention on some matter on which there had been a division of opinion, he should detract from its value by sneering at that section of the Committee and representing them as persons who were tied when they went on to the Committee. That did not strengthen the hon. and gallant Member's argument. I do not think any of us particularly like the Communal Award, or particularly like the Poona Pact, but the question is "What is to be done where you cannot get agreement?" The Communal Award was the result of non-agreement, and the Poona Pact was an agreement arising out of it. There were particular circumstances connected with it which we may well dislike but the extraordinary thing about the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth was that he seemed to think that anything which gave the Congress party any likelihood of gaining an advantage was necessarily wrong. I do not know whether the arguments he used would have been put forward if he had thought that some Conservative body would get control of these depressed classes.

It is extremely inadvisable, when setting up a form of Parliamentary Government, to put forward proposals in a specific effort to prevent one party from getting into power because of dislike of that party, and that is what the hon. and gallant Member has done. I think he misrepresented some of the facts about the depressed classes, because I believe that Dr. Ambedkar, through the agency of Mr. Gandhi, secured for them a larger share of representation. On the broad question whether the depressed classes should have separate electorates or go in with the general body of electors there is a good deal more to be said than the hon. and gallant Member put forward.. We discussed the depressed classes at considerable length on the Statutory Commission and were all impressed by the obvious danger that the representatives of the depressed classes would be under the thumb of those who, for caste or for economic reasons, were in a position to put pressure on them. We also considered whether it was wise to segregate the depressed classes altogether from the main body of Hindus, and we came to the conclusion that it would be a dangerous thing to segregate them altogether, that it would be better to try gradually to get rid of the difference than to stamp the depressed classes once for all as a separate community.

I am well aware of the dangers which will arise, under any system of representation, from the fact that the majority of the representatives of the scheduled classes will be under the domination of the wealthier, more privileged and the higher caste members of the other communities. The tendency in the Assemblies will be for them to come under the domination of the other castes. The question is, How can we best advance the interests of the depressed classes? It may be said that the best thing would be to put them in a position in which they would coalesce with other minorities. There is something to be said for that point of view, and I think the Moslems will angle for the support of the depressed classes. On the other hand, it may be said that it is better that the members of the depressed classes should gradually grow more influential within the Hindu community. From that point of view the important thing to remember is that all the disabilities of the depressed classes are everyday disabilities, social disabilities in regard to mixing with other people, and any change will be much more a social and economic change than a political change.

Therefore, I feel that on the whole there will be a distinct advantage in not absolutely segregating the depressed classes. I take the view that the depressed classes did get an advantage through utilising Mr. Gandhi, and, although I admit that Mr. Gandhi is a keen politician, I should not, as did, I think, the hon. and gallant Member, impute his interest in the depressed classes solely to political manoeuvring for the support of the Hindus, because no one can deny that over and over again Mr. Gandhi has estranged most important elements in the Hindu world by the way in which he has stood up for the depressed classes, and no one can deny the tremendous work he has done for them. It is inaccurate to represent it merely as a manoeuvre. When this matter was discussed at the Joint Select Committee we found that there was a majority for the Pact. Despite what the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth said, it is extremely difficult in every case to go behind such agreements as are come to between various sections. It may be that pressure was brought to bear on the caste Hindu, but at the time it was definitely represented as an agreement come to by them, and, although they have gone back upon it since, that is no reason for our going back upon it in every event.

11.36 a.m.


Something has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) which demands a reply, following a speech made by the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) in the Debate last week. The task of giving that reply is made easier for me by the speech of the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee), who has just dealt with the position of Mr. Gandhi and the depressed classes. Nobody, I think, is prepared to say that the Poona Pact is such as would have been made if he had had responsibility for it, and I understand that that also is the position of His Majesty's Government. No one would say that the Pact is an ideal arrangement, and our discussion would be quite irrelevant if it proceeded upon that line. What was said by the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth in criticism of the Poona Pact would find an echo in our breasts, because we have to deal with a situation in which there is not a clean slate, but a slate which has been written upon and scribbled over for generations. In this case we have to consider the difficulty of the Communal Award.

Those who knew the sittings of the Round Table Conference will remember those protrated negotiations, which lasted one night for many hours, and then broke off upon a very narrow issue, and disappointment almost broke the heart of those who were immediately associated with the discussions. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth and the noble Lord who spoke last week are entitled to criticise the Poona Pact, to point out its anomalies and difficulties and to say that it is unfair in its results to the caste Hindu. That is a legitimate argument. I think it was that argument which influenced those who voted as they did in the division in the Joint Select Committee. They are not entitled to make the best of all three worlds, and to suggest not only that it is a settlement which is anomalous in itself and unfair to the caste Hindu—which is common ground—but to make the best of the contradictory argument that it is a great grievance to the depressed classes. They have no authority for that point, and I challenged the noble Lord last week to produce his evidence for the statement. Before they are entitled to say that the Poona Pact is a further disability to the depressed classes, they ought to produce some evidence, and so far the evidence has been concocted in their own imaginations. The hon. and gallant Member tried to strengthen that argument by quoting what was said by Dr. Ambedkar in the early part of this year, but that was a misleading argument. When he quoted it, he would have led the House to believe that Dr. Ambedkar was displeased with the Poona Pact.


I said that, after paying lip-service to the Poona Pact, Dr. Ambedkar went on to say—


I have those words here. What the hon. and gallant Gentleman quoted to the House suggested that Dr. Ambedkar's view was that the interests of the depressed classes had been flagrantly neglected.




Dr. Ambedkar's complaint had no relation to the Poona Pact. In that statement he rounded his argument as to their interests being flagrantly neglected on the plea that what they had secured in the Poona Pact had been very largely filched from them as a result of later decisions. In the communication dated 8th December, 1935, and sent to Members of this House, was a statement by Dr. Ambedkar, and in the first paragraph of it he makes the position clear. He says: While it is a matter of great satisfaction to me and to the depressed classes that the Poona Pact has not been disturbed by the Joint Parliamentary Committee, I must point out that they have been unjustly treated by the changes introduced by the Joint Parliamentary Committee in the matter of representation in the Provincial Second Chambers, and in the Upper Chamber of the Federal Assembly. The whole of his case in the memorandum—a very able memorandum that would have done credit to any Department or statesman in the preparation of a case—was, in other words: "We secured great advantages for our community in the Poona Pact, hut, as a result of decisions arrived at by the Joint Select Committee, we are deprived of what we thought the Poona Pact would give us, adequate representation in the Provincial Second Chambers and certainly in the Second Chamber in the Centre." Therefore all this talk of surrender—that was the term used just now; we have heard earlier of the abdication of this country and of the surrender on the part of this country of its Imperial interests—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear"]—of nefarious and insiduous pressure in all directions, but now, apparently, the charge is to be that Dr. Ambedkar, who, whatever his merits or demerits, has been a champion and a very powerful spokesman of the depressed community, is of opinion that the Poona Pact has surrendered his interests. It is no use hon Members saying "Hear hear" unless they stand by the words I have read.


Will the hon. Member read the concluding words in the Memorandum in which Dr. Ambedkar says: Therefore, it will not be possible for the depressed classes to give their support to the present scheme.


I agree.


That suggests that Dr. Ambedkar is not satisfied.


Very well. I will read what he said in the concluding paragraph: I am sure that these sentiments of the Prime Minister on which the depressed classes have been relying were intended to be carried out in the framing of the new Constitution and I hope that His Majesty's Government will be pleased to modify the proposals of the Joint Parliamentary Committee so as to safeguard the interests of the depressed classes in the matter of representation in the Second Chambers, Federal and Provincial. I am sorry to say that it would not be possible for the depressed classes to give their support to the scheme of reforms, if these proposals stand as they are. The case is as clear as daylight. That statement of Dr. Ambedkar could not properly be invoked by the hon. and gallant Member as an argument against the Poona Pact, and in the attempt to do so there was, although not intentionally, a misleading of this Committee. I spoke for one or two of my friends when I raised my protest against this suggestion of the disabilities from which the depressed classes will suffer at the centre, and when we dealt with the Second Chambers in the Provinces, and I hope one of my hon. Friends will again put the case of this community in India. It is of extreme importance that the representations of those, whoever they are, who can speak for this community should be considered by us, so that whatever may be our ultimate decision, it would be a great gratification for them to know that in this Chamber and in another place their case did come under the consideration of Parliament. I hope, therefore, that the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth will withdraw his suggestion in regard to Dr. Ambedkar. He asked just now who was Dr. Ambedkar to profess to speak for so many millions of people and to suggest this surrender. There is nothing whatever in the history of this case to suggest that there has been surrender on the part of Dr. Ambedkar.

As far as I know, we have had no protest from any other organised association of the depressed classes Against the Poona Pact, and, if it be thought that they have no organisation, that is an entire mistake. They have their associations and organisations. Dr. Ambedkar is not the only leader of the depressed classes in India. We had a second representative when the Round Table Conference met, and, when the Statutory Commission went to India, there was another representative there, a most able and effective spokesman. Under the influence of events, spokesmen and leaders will appear, for the only opportunity for this community, who have lived for generations under tolerable disabilities, is of themselves to produce leaders who will be able to take their part and to lead them out of the wilderness of disability into the promised land of something like representative Government. The Poona Pact need not be described in detail in this House. All I would suggest to the Committee is that, if they tore up the Poona Pact, they would be creating 10 difficulties for one that they solve. That is the situation; we are invited to do something this morning which, if we did it, would throw the whole of this situation in India into confusion and delay. Therefore, as no supporter of the Poona Pact on its details, I invite the Committee to oppose this Amendment and to stand by the arrangement which is the only thing that keeps together the present conflicting elements in Indian political life.

11.47 a.m.


The Committee are asked to sanction an arrangement for which no one seems to have a good word. The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) has done his best, but not very convincingly. The exchanges between him and the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) seem to show that the attitude of Dr. Ambedkar, the accredited representative of the depressed classes, is very doubtful, and that he seems to have acquiesced in this arrangement under duress, as, indeed, the Government have done. The principle that is usually acted upon in this country is that you cannot govern without the consent of the governed, and apparently the arrangement known as the Poona Pact conforms to that principle. Superficially it requires the consent of the general community of Hindus, including the depressed classes. The original arrangement in the communal award was that the representative or representatives of the depressed classes in the Federal Legislature should be directly elected by members of the depressed classes themselves. That had the great advantage that the depressed classes could choose those whom they thought would best represent them, and obviously that was the opinion of the Joint Select Committee. But then Mr. Gandhi, as the Report of the Joint Select Committee tells us, announced that he was going to fast unto death if the arrangement proposed in the communal award was persisted in. That announcement had very great weight, and the result was that the Government gave way. I may remark in passing that the Government are always ready to give way on anything that will in any way endanger their schemes, but they are very little inclined to give way when any suggestion of substance comes from those who think that this Bill might be very seriously improved. That, however, is by the way.

What happened then? The leaders of the Hindu community met, and a most artificial proposal was arrived at. Mr. Gandhi objected to the Communal Award because he said that it divided the Hindu community into sections; but he has sanctioned an arrangement which also does that, because there is to be a primary election to choose four representatives of the depressed classes by the depressed classes themselves—that is to say, they are segregated from the rest of the Hindu community in that primary election. Mr. Gandhi, therefore, has laid down the principle that there must be segregation in this primary election. Then, when the four names have been chosen, they will be included in the list of candidates for the Legislature. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth has shown, this gives a very great opportunity of exercising influence, and finally the representative of the depressed classes who will be sent to the Legislature will be that one of the four who is most amenable to the pressure of Congress. It is a peculiar position that this Committee, which is supposed to be going to do the best thing for India, should be invited to do deliberately what judging from the Report of the Joint Select Committee and from the general tone of the speeches on this subject in the House is evidently not the best thing to do for India. One regrets this surrender on the part of the Government, feeling that it is on a par with a good many other matters that have occurred in connection with this Bill.

11.52 a.m.


The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville) has repeated the charge that in accepting the Poona Pact the Government have been guilty of a surrender. From the very beginning the Government have taken the view that the communal question is one which ought to be settled by negotiation among the communities, and when, ultimately, the Prime Minister was reluctantly compelled to make an award it was a condition that, if the various communities in India were able to come to some agreement among themselves, the award would be modified to that extent. When, owing to the circumstances that arose in India—Mr. Gandhi's fast and so on—these communities came together and arrived at an agreement, I cannot see how the Government, without going back on the pledge that had been given could have done otherwise than agree to accept the Poona Pact.


Does my hon. Friend, then, accuse the Joint Select Committee of having done something wrong in discussing and dividing on this matter?


No. Obviously it is possible for a Select Committee of Parliament to come to some decision which conflicts with the views of the Government. We are not bound to the declaration of the intentions of the Government. Whether it would be wise to go back upon some decision which the Government had taken is quite a different question. It was perfectly open to us to consider this matter on its merits, and I entirely agree with what has been said by the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) and by the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot). I only rose to make one point, and that is that the hon. Member for Limehouse has emphasised the danger which lies in this Poona Pact that richer and higher-caste Hindus may, under the Pact, have an opportunity of seeing that the representatives of the depressed classes are persons who will be subservient to those of higher caste. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir. H. Croft) has also pointed out that there is a great danger that the Congress party—which, after all, consists chiefly of the professional and wealthier classes of India—may in that way be able to prevent the depressed classes from having that strong representation of their interests which I am sure all Members of the House desire. I would like to suggest to the Under-Secretary that the special purpose of the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Mallalieu) the day before yesterday, to which he gave so sympathetic an answer, was to provide machinery which would, so far as is possible, ensure that the representatives of the depressed classes should not be unduly influenced by the higher castes. By accepting that change in the machinery—which has already been applied in Madras—there can be no question of going back on the Poona Pact, but it would be an attempt to meet certain important and substantial points that have been raised this morning.

11.55 a.m.

Duchess of ATHOLL

I should like to stress one aspect of this matter of which I do not think very much has been heard so far, and that is how the great poverty of the depressed classes must necessarily handicap them in contesting seats in general constituencies. I have already tried to say something to the Committee about how many Moslems may be handicapped in entering public life because of their lack of means, which so often places them in the power of money-lenders who are practically always Hindus because the Koran forbids the lending of money with usury. Not all Moslems, however, are penurious; here in the scheduled castes you have men at the very bottom of the social scale, and men who are not only at the bottom, but who are prohibited by the whole of Hindu law from rising above that scale. They have not the freedom that a man at the bottom of the social and economic scale in this country has of rising through education and by his merits and hard work. Here you have these people at the bottom of the scale and kept there by the whole force of Hindu law and, therefore, in the scheduled castes, you necessarily have people who are the most indigent of all India's many poor citizens. It is obvious, therefore, that they will be very grievously handicapped in regard to the expenses of election. But the Bill proposes not less than four members of the scheduled castes who are successful in the primary election shall be obliged to go into the further election and to contest seats in these great general constituencies consisting not only of members of the scheduled castes but of all Hindus. Some figures were given the other day, I think, by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) as to the size of some of these constituencies which brought forcibly before us how infinitely greater in population these constituencies will be than those to which we are accustomed in this country.

Now we know to our cost how the expenses of an election in this country are increased with every additional thousand of electors. That is in spite of the fact that we have in this country a very severely controlled system by which any form of bribery in an election is illegal. We have to take cognizance every time we go to an election of the corruption laws and of the risk we should run if we attempted to spend anything beyond a strictly limited sum on our election. But in India there are no such laws. Bribery is not regarded as anything which is disgraceful by the great majority of people. On a former occasion I gave an instance of the open way in which votes can be bought and sold at elections. I told the Committee of rival agents going quite openly to a village to buy the votes of the villagers. I told how the villagers obligingly came out to meet them and how two rival agents of the candidates bartered the whole of the polling day to secure their votes, but that the bargaining was so keen that by the time it ended and the poll was closed no agreement had been arrived at, and the agents went away without the votes, and the villagers were left without the money. I only quote that to give an idea of the great expense of elections in India as compared with the system which prevails in this country.

The members of the scheduled castes who wish to reach the Provincial Assembly have not merely to go to one election, but have to stand the expense of election first by their own people and then the expense of election in a general constituency. They have to meet the expense of two elections. Again it is obvious that if they were elected by separate electorates they would have much more smaller expenses to meet. The electorate would be very much smaller and the candidates would be spared the expense of contesting one of the enormous general constituencies. There would be only one election instead of two. There is a further point that there might not necessarily be a contest at all. It will not be a very easy matter for the scheduled castes to produce a large number of men of the education necessary to enable them to make presentable candidates. It might very well be that in some separate electorate of members of the scheduled castes there might be one man, obviously the only man to put forward, and that he would be elected without a contest, and, therefore, without the heavy expense an election in India necessarily entails. Let us be quite clear therefore that this system which is forced upon the scheduled castes by the Poona Pact is one which is going to put them to infinitely greater expense than the system that was proposed in the Prime Minister's original Communal Award.

That brings me to my second point. If anybody in India who is of small means has to face any great expense, as is so often, unfortunately, the result owing to the Hindu social system, he has necessarily to have recourse to the moneylender. In that case he goes to a man who is practically always a Hindu belonging to the moneylender caste. What chance does the man of the scheduled castes stand who speaks up firmly and courageously for the interests of his follows if he has to go to the caste Hindu moneylender? Obviously, that fact will mean that the members of the scheduled castes who will be elected by the general constituency will tend to be the men who can be relied upon not to make themselves too troublesome in the interests of their own people, and who will be ready more or less not to take such a strong line against the caste Hindus. For we have to remember that the scheduled castes exist simply because of caste laws and interests. When we therefore look into the matter a little we realise how very difficult it is likely to be for the members of the scheduled castes to secure the election under the proposed system of men who will really, truly, honestly and courageously represent their interests in the Provincial Assemblies. I agree entirely with my hon. Friends who in this Debate have said how very much less favourable the Poona Pact is to the real interests of the scheduled castes, in spite of the fact that on the surface it appears to give them so many more seats.

I also ask the Committee to realise the difficulties in which the representatives of these castes were placed in view of the fact that Mr. Gandhi had announced his intention of fasting unto death unless they changed the award which the Prime Minister had given them of their own separate electorate. My hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock), out of his great knowledge of India, told us what he knew had been, the attitude of the leaders of the depressed classes in this matter. I would remind the hon. Member for Lime-house (Mr. Attlee) and the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot)—whom I am sorry not to see in his place—of the fact that there was evidence from Hindus before the Joint Select Committee as to the great mass of Hindus who swarmed up to Poona when the great religious leader announced his intention of fasting unto death, unless the depressed classes gave up their separate electorates. The Joint Committee were told that these crowds came in order to hang on to the great man's last words and not to miss the honour of being present at his funeral. I do not think that it requires much imagination to realise what a difficult situation that must have created for the leaders of the depressed classes. Religion being the great moving force in India and Mr. Gandhi having great personal influence, one can imagine the difficulties in which they were placed. All those thousands assembled there were told, as all Hindu India was told, that they would be accountable for Mr. Gandhi's death if they did not agree to the Pact. Therefore, it is to me impossible to regard this Pact as a free settlement between freely negotiating parties. The hon. Member for Bodmin chided my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) with speaking of the Poona Pact as a surrender on the part of the scheduled castes, I would remind him that before many months had passed after the Pact was made Dr. Ambedkar, the leader of the scheduled castes, wrote to Mr. Gandhi suggesting reconsideration of the Pact. The correspondence was published in the Indian Press at the time, and it took place before the Joint Select Committee met. That is a very important point to bear in mind when hon. Members are laughing at the idea that there was any surrender.

When I recall all these facts, I am very much surprised that they were passed over in the speech of the Under-Secretary two days ago. He spoke as if the Pact had been freely negotiated. He said that more than once. That seems to me to show oblivion to the very peculiar circumstances under which the Pact was arrived at, and the really cruel position in which the leaders of the scheduled castes were placed. While India has more than one circumstance in her social structure which we deeply deplore—the position of women, for instance, is one; the health of the people is another—this matter of the scheduled castes is something which is peculiar to India alone among all the countries of the world. Other countries have their problems of health, some of them black spots in regard to the position of women, but in the position of the scheduled castes we have something peculiar to India, and peculiar to Hinduism. Therefore, it is very important that the Imperial Parliament in handing over these powers and endeavouring, as I know the Government are endeavouring, to ensure fair representation of all important communities, should not agree to something which I regard as a delusion, something which does not offer the advantages to the scheduled castes, which it appears to do on the surface, but something which places them in a much weaker position than the Prime Minister's original award would have placed them. For those reasons I oppose the Amendment.

12.10 p.m.

Major-General Sir ALFRED KNOX

I shall not detain the Committee for any length of time, because we have had the point of view of the opponents of the Poona Pact put very fully and eloquently, especially by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). The Government, as is usual in these discussions on the Government of India Bill, have found solid support from the two Oppositions and the only other speaker in support of their point of view is that staunch Conservative, the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson). The hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) twitted my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth because he spoke of the effect that the Poona Pact would have on Congress majorities in the Provincial Assemblies. Surely, that is a point to be taken into consideration. It is well known in this Committee and in the smoking-room among the Government supporters that Congress is absolutely hostile to any British connection. They have said so repeatedly, and anything that we do that is likely to hand over additional power to Congress, which will have a majority in at least six of the Provinces, is a thing that we ought not to do in this House. The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) spoke of Dr. Ambedkar's acceptance of the Poona Pact, but he has been very effectively replied to by the Noble Lady. She pointed out that Dr. Ambedkar went so far as to approach Mr. Gandhi after the Pact had been made and to ask him to reconsider it. Even if he was satisfied with the opinion that he came to in the first instance, are we not right in considering that the great mass of these people, the Untouchables, have no proper organisation to make their opinion felt.

In, a matter like this, a bit of practical experience is worth all the theory in the world, and I would ask the Committee to listen to my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock). He has spent far more years in India than anybody else in the Committee. He knows the depressed classes. He has seen them in different Provinces. Is not his opinion worth something, or is he merely a diehard trying to oppose the Government on any flimsy excuse? Is he not thinking of the future of these people when he says that in the primary election those to be elected will be those who will be most subservient to the moneylender and the landlord? I appeal to the Committee to think of what my hon. Friend said and, before it is too late, do all they can to prevent the Poona Pact from being carried into law. I would ask the Under-Secretary when he replies not to reply like Mussolini by laying it down that the Government have decided this, and that it must stand, as he did two days ago. Let him give us some reason why he thinks that the depressed classes will have a fair deal under the Poona Pact.

12.13 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel APPLIN

I should like to point out the unreality of the Poona Pact. It was not a pact or a bargain as we understand such things. It is what is known in India as a hukum. It came from Gandhi, who had the cloak of holiness over him and spoke as a prophet. Not only that, but he spoke with the voice of the British Government behind him. Had he not driven up the Mall in Simla in a ticka ghari and taken tea with His Excellency the Viceroy, the King's representative? Had he not gone in the face of a Government Order and made salt against the law and was not prosecuted? He had behind him not only the whole power of Hinduism, but the whole authority of the British Raj behind him. That was why when he went to Poona and accepted the Pact, that the Untouchables did so instantly. They could do nothing else. It was a hukum. It was a command, an order. They felt that if they did not accept the Pact they would get nothing at all. They have got nothing at all. We who know the Hindus and India know perfectly well that under this Pact, apart from the fact that there will be two elections, the only men who will be elected to represent the depressed classes will be those who have got from the Brahmins and the other castes a licence to come forward and be elected. They will be selected. Anybody who is not selected will find it absolutely impossible to be elected.

For that reason, and because we do want this Bill to work, I pray the Under-Secretary to remember that we are responsible for these depressed classes. There are something like 60,000,000 of them in India. Unless we give them real representation in the new Parliament we shall leave out representation of the very people for whom we are most responsible, the very people whom we have protected for a century. Are we going to abandon them now at the moment when they are expecting to get some form of representation? They are the workers, the hewers of wood and the drawers of water, and I am certain that in speaking for them I shall have with me right hon. and hon. Members of the Labour party. These people at least should have a vote which they can exercise freely and without pressure.

12.16 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir WALTER SMILES

Before the Committee come to a decision on this Amendment I wish to say a few words for these depressed classes. I probably have had more personal experience of them than even the hon. Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock), because from all over India, from Bombay, from Madras and elsewhere, when they are oppressed by their Rajas or owe money, they have flocked to the tea gardens of Assam to work there. I ask the Under-Secretary, who made such an eloquent speech the day before yesterday on the communal question, to consider this: Does he think that these depressed classes will be as fairly represented by means of two elections as by means of one only? The noble lady the Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl) made an excellent point when she spoke on the question of expense. These people have not got the money to hear the cost of two elections.

I see present at least two Members of the Joint Select Committee who went out to India and saw these people in Assam. Can they cast their memory back to that time? Do they agree now that two elections will be better for these people than one only? It is an important matter. At the present time, with the present cost of elections in India, many suitable candidates are barred from standing for the Provincial Legislative Councils and the Assembly, simply on the score of expense. In the past I have seen Members nominated by the Governor to represent the backward tracts, but at the same time these members took it upon themselves to represent the depressed classes. I can call to memory these people, one of them in particular, a Welsh Presbyterian missionary, who was nominated by the Governor of Assam to speak for these backward tracts. I remember that on two or three occasions he voted against the Government simply because he thought it was in the interests of these people. I do believe that people nominated in that way would represent the depressed classes far better than people who have to submit to two elections. I agree with those who have said that by means of the second election you will probably get a very wealthy Hindu lawyer who is simply and solely the nominee of Congress. I appeal to the Under-Secretary, who has great knowledge of India, to reconsider this matter.

12.19 p.m.


Will the Under-Secretary consider, in view of this Debate, whether it would not be possible to withdraw this Government Amendment, and whether it would not be more in the interests of these scheduled classes to give them some further number of representatives, beyond what are contemplated in the Bill but not necessarily as many as they would get under the Poona Pact, and so to do away with the complications of these double elections, which practically every Member of the Committee with knowledge of India regards as an insuperable bar to their getting proper representation? The Government are not necessarily tied at this moment to the Poona Pact, or to their original scheme, and they might well arrange to put into the Bill on Report something which would give better representation to these people without their incurring the enormous expenditure which they cannot afford.

12.21 p.m.


We have continued to-day a long Debate on the Poona Pact. In response to the hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto), I would give the Committee a summary of what I said on the last occasion. In the questions connected with and arising out of the Communal Award, His Majesty's Government are bound by the conditions laid down in that Award—conditions which I gave to the Committee on the last occasion. The Debate to-day has shown two different points of view with regard to the Poona Pact. Many of the points raised against the Pact have been answered by the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) or the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson) or the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee), and the Committee have therefore had both sides of the problem put before them. I do not doubt that opinion in India, when it reads the report of our discussions, will see both sides of the question again put before it. The Government's position is perfectly clear. We are bound by the terms of the Communal Award. I would remind the Committee that in paragraph 4 of the Communal Award His Majesty's Government lay it down that if the communities concerned come to an agreement which they submit in the prescribed way to His Majesty's Government, and His Majesty's Government think that it is an agreement upon which an amendment of the Award may be made, His Majesty's Government will then take steps to amend the original Award. That is how any future amendment of the Communal Award or Poona Pact must arise.

The Committee would be wrong to think that the view expressed by some hon. Members is necessarily right, about the operation of the Poona Pact all over India or as to the manner in which the Pact has been accepted either by the caste Hindus or the depressed classes. I think the Government were right at the time to remember the terms of its original Award and to say that if an agreement was come to they would implement it and submit it to this House for inclusion in this Measure. The argument I used on the last occasion is a very strong one. Here we have all that difficulty about the Communal Award which I described. Here we have the first attempt to come to an agreement which was regarded by the Government as a suitable agreement to approve. I think it would be very wrong, in view of the wish of the Committee on all sides that Indians should come to some agreement about the Communal Award, that on the first occasion when an attempt is made to come to an agreement between the caste Hindus and the depressed classes, that agreement should be rejected out of hand. I do not want to go at length into the arguments for and against the Pact, but I do think that the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) and one or two others have exaggerated the strength of feeling against the operation of the Poona Pact in India as a whole.

We are to have a debate later on the particular problem of Bengal. It would be wrong for the Committee to be seized of the idea that the Poona Pact has met with universal disapprobation. I believe that there are definite advantages in the method of the joint electorate. Hon. Members who have taken part in this debate on the Communal Award have sometimes argued in favour of a joint electorate and sometimes in favour of a separate electorate. Hon. Members cannot choose the debating ground which suits them best for an attack on the Government. I would remind the Committee of the extreme seriousness of this question. It would not be right to express regret at the nature of the speeches made in the Committee, because it is quite legitimate for hon. Members to put their points of view on so important a matter as this, but I say again that the better way to come to a decision on this matter is by agreement between the communities themselves. That is the line the Government have taken on the Communal Award, and it is the line which the Government take now. If there is an agreement to modify the Pact or the Communal Award, it will receive the attention it deserves.

12.27 p.m.


The Under-Secretary is attempting to dragoon the Committee. He is not submitting the Poona Pact to the Committee. He is dictating to us what we have to do. That is not what we understood when we were told that the Government would submit this matter to the consideration of the House of Commons. He has given no arguments in favour of the proposal on its merits. He has said, "This is what we have decided." In those circumstances why continue the Debate on the Bill at all? We are debating it in the absence of the Secretary of State and without the presence of a member of the Cabinet. We have been going on in this way for three weeks. Obviously, it is impossible to get any concession on any matter without submission to the Secretary of State. To say that hon. Members sometimes advocate a joint electorate and sometimes a separate electorate, is playing with the matter. We are all in favour of a single electorate for the whole of India, provided there is representation on that electorate of all people who wish to have their interests safeguarded. The position is completely different in regard to the outcasts, who have no votes, from that of the Mohammedans and Hindus who have votes. I resent the idea that India has agreed to the Communal Award. India has not agreed to it. It is a decision of the India Office, presented by the Prime Minister. It has been condemned all over India as the Prime Minister's award, whereas it is an award of the India Office, who now have the effrontery to say that it is an agreed award. It is nothing of the sort. This Committee is by no means bound by the Communal Award or the Poona Pact.


Does the Under-Secretary really believe that the depressed classes are going to be better

represented by two elections rather than by one?

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Schedule."

The Committee proceeded to a Division.


Owing to a slight defect in the working of the mechanism of the clock on the Table, the doors weep locked too early. I think the proper course in the circumstances is to commence the Division over again.

The CHAIRMAN then summoned the Tellers from the Lobbies.

Question again put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Schedule."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 35; Noes, 152.

Division No. 177.] AYES. [12.38 p.m.
Applln, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)
Atholl, Duchess of Knox, Sir Alfred Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Broadbent, Colonel John Macqulsten, Frederick Alexander Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y) Marsden, Commander Arthur Wayland, Sir William A.
Browne, Captain A. C. Moreing, Adrian C. Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah
Cobb, Sir Cyril Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Wells, Sydney Richard
Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry Ralkes, Henry V. A. M. Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Reid, David D. (County Down) Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Remer, John R. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool) Shute, Colonel Sir John
Fuller, Captain A. G. Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Unv., Belfast) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Hales, Harold K. Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D. Mr. Lennox-Boyd and Mr. Wise.
Hartington, Marquess of Somerset, Thomas
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Conant, R. J. E. Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Cooke, Douglas Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Z'tl'nd)
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Copeland, Ida Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (L'pool, W.) Courthope, Colonel Sir George L. Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kennlngt'n)
Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent) Crooke, J. Smedley Harvey, Major Sir Samuel (Totnes)
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)
Attlee, Clement Richard Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Heligers, Captain F. F. A.
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C. Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Walter
Banfield, John William Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Alton)
Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey Denman, Hon. R. D. Horsbrugh, Florence
Batey, Joseph Dobbie, William Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.) Doran, Edward Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)
Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel Hume, Sir George Hopwood
Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, M.) Hurst, Sir Gerald B.
Bernays, Robert Edwards, Charles Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.
Blindell, James Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.) James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.
Briscoe, Capt. Richard George Fermoy, Lord Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst Ker, J. Campbell
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin) Kerr, Hamilton W.
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Fox, Sir Gifford Lambert, Rt. Hon. George
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Ganzoni, Sir John Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George
Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Gardner, Benjamin Walter Loder, Captain J. de Vere
Butler, Richard Austen Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.
Cadogan, Hon. Edward Gluckstein, Louis Halls Mabane, William
Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly) Goff, Sir Park MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.) Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)
Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.) Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)
Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric Grimston, R. V. McEntee, Valentine L.
Clayton, Sir Christopher Groves, Thomas E. McEwen, Captain J. H. F.
Cleary, J. J. Grundy, Thomas W. McKie, John Hamilton
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Gunston, Captain D. W. McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)
Colfox, Major William Philip Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Magnay, Thomas
Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest Pownall, Sir Asshetor Thorne, William James
Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Tinker, John Joseph
Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Rathbone, Eleanor Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)
Mine, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.) Rickards, George William Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Mitchell, Harold P. (Br't'fd & Chisw'k) Ropner, Colonel L. Wallace, Sir John (Dunfermline)
Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Host Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge) Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Sandys, Duncan Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr) Savery, Samuel Servington Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Selley, Harry R. Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.
Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties) Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar) Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour
Munro, Patrick Smithers, Sir Waldron Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Somervell, Sir Donald Wills, Wilfrid D.
Norle-Miller, Francis Southby, Commander Archibald R. J. Womersley, Sir Walter
Paling, Wilfred Spens, William Patrick Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Patrick, Colin M. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde) Worthington, Dr. John V.
Peake, Osbert Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)
Penny, Sir George Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Petherick, M. Tate, Mavis Constance Sir Victor Warrender and Major
Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H. Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford) George Davies.

Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.

Amendment made: In page 283, line 17, leave out "for other purposes" and insert "under paragraph five of this Schedule."—[The Solicitor-General.]

12.45 p.m.

The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir Donald Somervell)

I beg to move, in page 283, line 18, to leave out "special constituencies," and to insert "constituencies specially."

The object of this Amendment is to remove any possible suggestions that these special constituencies for electing women members are special constituencies as referred to in paragraph 10.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move, in page 283, line 20, to leave out paragraph 9, and to insert: 9. The provisions of the Schedule (Provisions as to Franchise) to this Act shall have effect with respect to the persons who are entitled to vote at elections in the territorial constituencies mentioned in paragraphs five and eight of this Schedule. The reason for leaving out paragraph 9 is that what is at present dealt with in that paragraph will be dealt with in the new Schedule on the Order paper. The second part of the Amendment is simply to connect up the new Schedule with the present Schedule.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 283, line 42, after "planting," insert "representatives of landholders."

In line 44, after "seats," insert: and in Bihar the person to fill the Indian-Christian seat."—[The Solicitor-General.]


I beg to move, in page 283, line 45, at the end, to insert: Provided that in a Province in which any seats are to be filled by representatives of backward areas or backward tribes some or all of those seats may, if it is so prescribed, be treated in the prescribed manner as additional general seats to be reserved for representatives of such areas or tribes. This is an amendment dealing with machinery. The precise arrangements in connection with the backward areas seats have, of course, still to be considered in detail, and the object of this Amendment is to make it possible, if it is thought a desirable method, to reserve one seat in a multi-member constituency for a representative of a backward tribe. That, obviously, may be a desirable thing, and this proviso enables it to be done if it is found suitable and convenient.


As this is a new proposal, I should like to ask for more information. Does this mean that there may be a deduction from the seats that are specially reserved for backward areas and backward tribes?


May I ask what is intended to be the difference between backward areas and backward tribes? Is a backward tribe a body of people all of whom are organised, and does a backward area consist of all sorts of people not necessarily organised who are backward? As these two expressions are not defined in the terms of the Bill, I think we should be told clearly what is the difference in the meaning of the two phrases.


I should like to ask whether under this new arrangement it is proposed to reserve one seat for particular tribes in a multiple member constituency? The Amendment says, "some or all." Is it intended to confine it to one seat, or does it mean that two or three seats could be reserved for backward areas? It might be interpreted to mean that you could reserve only one.

12.50 p.m.


The answer to the question by the hon. Member who has just spoken is in the negative. The hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) asked whether this would mean a reduction in the total number of seats for the backward areas. That is not meant by this Amendment. It will be seen on page 287, column 5, that in Assam, for instance, nine seats are reserved for backward areas and tribes. There is no intention of reducing that number. This arrangement is intended to meet cases where you have aboriginals and non-aboriginals mixed with each other. In answer to the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams), I would point out that definitions of backward areas and backward tribes are given at the bottom of page 285. I hope that will give him the information he desires.


Then this gives a power to substitute instead of direct representation of the backward areas the reservation of a slat in which the electors will be composed of non-backward persons?

12.52 p.m.


May I say that I asked my question because the definition at the bottom of page 285 says: 'backward areas' and 'backward tribes' mean respectively such areas and tribes as His Majesty in Council may from time to time declare to be areas and tribes to which a special system of representation is more appropriate. Is a forward person one living in a backward area who does not belong to the tribe, and is he to be treated in a special way, or what is the difference between a backward area and a backward tribe? The definition here is left to be declared later on by His Majesty in Council.

12.53 p.m.


The intention is that where you have practically a homogeneous population you shall treat it as a backward area, though there may be one or two forward people living in it. Where that does not happen, a scheduled tribe may be mixed with other members of the population who do not have to be treated in that way. In answer to my hon. Friend opposite, he is right in thinking that there would be an additional seat in which ordinary voters would vote as well.

Wing-Commander JAMES

May I point out that what has been said by the hon. and learned Gentleman seems contrary to the statement made by the Secretary of State? He has just said that where you have a homogeneous block of people you will have special representation, but the Secretary of State has stated that homogeneous blocks of people are covered by exclusion.


I think that is quite a different point. It is quite true that special representation of backward areas overlaps to some extent that of partially excluded areas, but I think there is no real inconsistency.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move, in page 284, line 5, after "woman", to insert: by a European, by an Indian-Christian, by a representative of backward areas or backward tribes. This Amendment adds certain words to sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph 12. The Committee will see that that paragraph lays down certain qualifications for people who may hold seats. Paragraph (b), which is really the general rule, says that in the case of any other seat the person must be entitled to vote in that constituency. That is the ordinary rule in India, and it is preserved for ordinary seats. Where one is dealing with special interests' seats, clearly that rule ought not to apply. Where there is indirect election by chambers of commerce, for instance, it would be meaningless. It is thought desirable that in the additional cases of a European, an Indian-Christian, or a representative of backward areas or backward tribes they should not be confined to persons living within the constituency, and it should be possible to deal with that and other qualifications by rules to be made.

12.57 p.m.

Duchess of ATHOLL

Are we to understand from this Amendment that a representative of the backward areas or tribes would have to be a person who could be described as backward, a member of the tribe or somebody definitely living in a backward area? Something has already been said in the Debate as to a missionary representing a backward area. That is a very desirable procedure. Are we to understand that it will still be possible?


But for this Amendment someone representing a backward tribe would have to live in the backward area if it were on a territorial basis. This Amendment makes it possible for rules to be made so that someone, such as a missionary, would be eligible to represent a backward tribe.

12.58 p.m.


Is this Amendment quite complete? It will be remembered that a minute or two ago we inserted by an Amendment, the words "representatives of landholders". I am not quite sure whether it ought not to come in here.


I will certainly look into that. I think it is contemplated that landholders would be elected by territorial constituencies. If so, there is no reason why they should not come under the ordinary rule, but I will look into it.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 284, line 23, leave out the first "and".—[The Solicitor-General.]

In page 284, line 34, leave out from the first "persons" to "chosen", in line 35.—[The Attorney-General.]


I beg to move, in page 285, line 37, after "Anglo-Indian", to insert "an Indian-Christian."

The Committee will remember that a definition of an Indian-Christian was embodied in the First Schedule as the result of an earlier Amendment. It is therefore desirable to carry over to this Schedule a reference to that definition.

Amendment agreed to.

1.1 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 286, line 12, after "Schedule," to insert: and the provisions of the Schedule (Provisions as to Franchise). This paragraph gives the Governor rule-making power for dealing with any minor matters which may arise. As at present drafted, the rule-making power simply applies to the foregoing provisions of the Schedule. This rule-making power may clearly be needed for dealing with minor matters that may arise on the Franchise Schedule. The object of this Amendment is merely to make it clear here that the rule-making power will apply to the Franchise Schedule to the same extent as it applies to the existing Schedule.

1.2 p.m.

Duchess of ATHOLL

It seems to me a rather large comprehensive addition to the proposed rule-making powers of the Governor. Are we to understand that the Governor would have power to alter the franchise which is laid down in the Schedule? If so, that seems to be a very large power to leave in his hands.


If the Noble Lady would look at paragraph 20 I think that her apprehensions would be allayed. It starts: In so far as provision with respect to any matter is not made by this Act… And Schedules are, of course, part of the Act. This is for filling up gaps in respect of minor matters which have not been foreseen.

Amendment agreed to.

1.4 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 286, line 29, to leave out "offences," and to insert "elections."

As the Bill was originally drafted, "elections" were described as "offences." This is to put that right.


I think it is really a pity to make the Amendment. In this Bill, for which so many members voted blindly, the elections set up under the Bill were described as offences. That was so accurate that I think it is a pity the Amendment should be proposed.

Amendment agreed to.

1.5 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 287, line 3, column 3, to leave out "78", and to insert "77".

This Amendment, and the 10 other Amendments standing in the names of the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward) and other women Members, more or less stand together, and I believe I shall be carrying out your wishes, Captain Bourne, if I cover them all in a short speech. They would, if all accepted, effect three small changes in the Bill. Their object is slightly to increase the number of reserved seats allotted to women in the Assemblies of three of the Provinces namely, Bengal, Assam, and the North-West Frontier Province. It is a very modest demand, and if we had asked for all that we should like, we should have asked for a larger representation for women in all the Provinces, but we have not the valiant disregard of political realities which belongs to some of the opponents of the Bill, and we have therefore confined ourselves to asking the Government for a strengthening of the representation of women which we believe they can and should be able to grant without in any way upsetting the structure of the Bill or interfering with the communal award, to which I recognise the Government are pledged and cannot be expected to alter willingly.

We have singled out these three Provinces for reasons which I shall shortly explain. First of all, take the case of Bengal. Bengal is the largest Province in India, and yet under the scheme of the Bill only five seats are proposed to be reserved for women out of an Assembly of 250, that is, 2 per cent. In 'Bombay and in Madras and I think also in the Punjab rather larger percentages are granted. It is specially hard that Bengal should have so few women representatives, first, for the reason that it is the largest Province, and the women of Bengal naturally want to know why they are to have so much smaller a percentage of seats reserved to them than in other Provinces. But there is a more important reason why we feel that it is particularly desirable that Bengal women should have better representation. Students of social statistics in India will recognise that nearly every evil that not only affects the conditions of women in India but cuts at the vitality of the whole race is to be found at its worst, or nearly so, in Bengal. I sometimes ask my Indian friends, "What is wrong with Bengal?" I know that many Members of this Committee think that what is wrong with Bengal is that it is the centre of the terrorist movement, but has it not some connection with this unhappy fact and the fact that there are these evils, which do undermine the health and vitality, not only of the women and the children, but of the whole race?

If you study the statistics of child marriage, of purdah, maternal mortality, which is closely associated with child marriage and purdah, and of tuberculosis, which claims among its victims five girls between the ages of 15 and 20 for every one boy, according to the statistics of the health officers, you will find that in every one of those cases Bengal is at the head of the unhappy list, and in prostitution and the alleged corruption of the police in dealing with prostitution. When I was in Bengal, in Calcutta, for a short visit three years ago, I was told by an experienced social worker that there were 10,000 prostitutes under the age of five in Calcutta alone. All these surely are reasons why women should be given better representation, so that they may tackle problems that so closely affect the lives of women. Yet, for some reason which I have never been able to understand, the Government of Bengal always seems more reluctant than almost any Government in any other Province of India to do justice by women. It seems as though they could not help the women and they were not willing to allow the women to help themselves.

It cannot be alleged that there is any lack of competent women in this Province. Bengal has one of the most highly organised women's movements, composed not only of women who take part in politics, but of some who have devoted themselves wholly to social reform. Therefore, there can be no question of scarcity. We ask for two more representatives, that is to say, seven instead of five, and we suggest that one general seat and one Mohammedan seat should be transferred to them.


Did I understand the hon. lady to say that there were 10,000 prostitutes under the age of five in Bengal alone?


I did not take responsibility for that statement. I said I was told so by a very experienced social worker in Calcutta, who proceeded to take me round, after midnight, to the bad areas of Calcutta, of which there are many; and there I saw for myself little girls, who ought to have been in the schoolroom or indeed in the nursery, standing at the door soliciting custom. I think I should not have given the figure of 10,000, because probably a good many of those were daughters of the women who kept the houses. I do not suppose they were all used for prostitution themselves.

The second Province for which we are asking increased representation is Assam. Assam is at present allotted only one woman representative out of an Assembly of 108, and I suggest that Assam really ought to have at least two women representatives, for two reasons. In the first place, there is no Province in India where there is such a large proportion of women workers as Assam. In the tea gardens alone, according to the report of an official committee, there are nearly 300,000—well over a quarter of a million—women workers, or nearly as many women as men. Where there are women workers, there women's problems arise, and it is very desirable that those problems should be dealt with specially by representatives of their own sex. Then I would ask the Committee to consider the loneliness of that one woman for whom a seat is reserved. It is true that other women may get in by election, but the representation of women is a new idea in India, and how would any man member of this Committee like to be a member of an elected assembly in India if he was the only man in an Assembly of 107 women? Therefore, we plead for just one more woman, and we suggest that she should be transferred from a general constituency.

Thirdly and lastly, we ask for two representatives in the Assembly of the North-West Frontier Province, where at present there are no seats at all allotted to women. I can only imagine that the reason is that the North-West Frontier Province is thought to be a peculiarly backward Province in the matter of women, but I would suggest that that backwardness is just a reason why some women are needed in order that they may fight this mischievous custom of purdah, which has such a bad effect on the health of the women. It cannot be said that it will not be easy to find two suitable women there. As a matter of fact, I was told—the Under-Secretary of State, whose sympathies in this matter I know, will know if I am right—that when the Franchise Committee visited the North-West Frontier Province they were told by some of the officials that the women in the Province were so backward that none of them would want to speak to the Committee, but two ladies appeared, completely self-possessed and very competent, who put forward admirably the case of their sex for representation. I suggest, therefore, that the Government might assign to women at least two seats and that those seats should be taken from the seats assigned to Mohammedans and given to Mohammedan women, because that appears to be the largest group of seats and the group that can best afford to spare two seats for the women.

Finally, may I address an appeal to the Committee? I noticed that the other day, when the Government announced their valuable concession to reserve six seats to women in the Council of State, several hon. Members objected to the proposal. I would appeal to those Members not to think of this question in the light of any anti-feminist prejudice. It is not a question of feminism, and I am not exaggerating when I say that it is a question of life and death. The India Office knows that. The Under-Secretary knows it, and everyone who has studied the social questions that press hardly on women in India knows it also. Every committee and commission that has gone to India and studied the subject knows it, and that is no doubt why nearly all of them in their reports have used strong words as to the necessity of adequate representation for women.

My noble Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl) is backing this Amendment. That ought to be a guarantee to some of her colleagues that it is not put forward in a feminist spirit, because my noble Friend was a strong opponent of the feminist movement when the women of this country had not got the vote. She is backing it, I am sure, because she feels the necessity of representation for women if the women in India are to be able to do for themselves what this country in a century and a half of almost unchallenged dominion in India has notably failed to do for them, that is, to release them from the evils that so grossly oppress them. I beg the Government to yield on these three points, if they possibly can, and if they feel any doubt about it and if they feel that they must consult India first, will they give us an assurance that they will press on the Governments in the provinces the necessity of rather more adequate representation than the Bill proposes for women?

1.17 p.m.

Duchess of ATHOLL

I feel that I can add little to what has been so well said by my hon. Friend the Member for the combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone). She spoke in the light of a very conscientious and prolonged study of the conditions that prevail in regard to women in India. She can speak with a knowledge on that subject which nobody in the House has, not even my hon. Friend the other Member for the Combined English Universities (Sir R. Craddock). I think that the reasons she has given for a larger representation in Bengal are very cogent. Bengal is one of the most populous provinces in India, and women are very prominent. It is far from a backward part of India, and yet the representation of women is on a smaller scale than in the others. I fully support her in what she has said as to the probable loneliness of the position of one solitary woman whom it is suggested should be appointed for Assam. I should not enjoy being the one woman member here, in spite of the friendliness of one's masculine colleagues. To be one woman in any assembly would be, I think, too great a distinction to be really envious, and that must be infinitely more the case in any provincial assembly where women's education is so backward and the entry of women into public affairs is so very recent. It is a blot on the proposed representation of the North-West province that there is to be no woman representative there. I know that this must be a difficult matter and that there may be many people who will not like it, but we have to remember that these provincial assemblies are going to deal with matters about which women have something definite to contribute, and which concerns them.

I have in view the question of health, which is practically entirely a provincial subject. I do not suppose that any country in the world has such big and manifold health problems as India. Women, because of early marriage, have a special contribution to make to the health problems. No provincial assembly in India should be without women representatives who will be able to speak from the women's point of view, and to bring before the assemblies facts in regard to the health of women and so on, that might otherwise be difficult to make public. Education is another service that is almost completely a woman's subject, even more completely than health, and women should have representatives in the assemblies who can deal with that important question. I need not remind the Committee that the Statutory Commission expressed how much the progress of India would depend on the raised status of women, and I think that a Schedule which does not allow any women representatives in one of the Indian provinces is not really carrying out what was a very important pronouncement of the Statutory Commission. I hope that the Government will consider what seems to me a reasonable request carefully worked out, because it does not propose to upset the communal award. One seat here and there will really not make any difference worth considering to the block of general seats or Mohammedan seats, as the case may be. To have one more woman in this province and another woman in that province will make a very real difference to the welfare of the women of the provinces concerned.

1.23 p.m.


I support the amendment, realising, as the noble Lady has said, that ray hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) has a tremendous knowledge of this subject. I would not have intervened but for some particular facts that have been brought to my notice during the last few years. As a delegate to the League of Nations Assembly who worked on a Committee dealing with social services, we had brought to our notice particularly the work that is being done in the East. I was interested in the point which my hon. Friend raised in regard to prostitution in Bengal, and particularly in Calcutta. Everybody who reads the report of the Assembly will realise the tremendous efforts that will be made to deal with this subject of the traffic of women and children, particularly in the East. I was glad that in our report which we presented to the Assembly we referred to the amount of work that women could do and would do, and the idea that this subject will be tackled more thoroughly in the East is shown by the suggestion that a conference should be held shortly in Singapore.

Our report pointed out the necessity of having more women workers to deal with this problem. In all the conversations I have had with people from India on this subject, the necessity of more and more women taking their part, and the willingness of women in India to take their part, has been made clear. If this Amendment could be accepted and women given a bigger share in this particular work in the East, especially in India, it would help enormously the cause we all have at heart of increasing the social services and bringing about a reform which, many of us believe, Indian women have the power to bring about if only they were given the chance. For that reason, and particularly because of the work being undertaken by the League of Nations, it would be an enormous benefit if the Amendment could be accepted.

1.26 p.m.


Two points appear to have arisen during the Debate, the first concerning the general problem of the future of women in India, and the second detailed alterations in what is known as the Communal Award or the allocation of seats in the various Provinces as between men and women. On the general question of the future of women in India, I would point out that the Committee will have realised how sympathetic is the attitude of the Government. Reference has been made to the concession we gave in regard to seats in the Council of State, and I hope that hon. Ladies will realise that we are very sympathetic indeed to questions of social reform and the part that women will play in the future of India, regarding them as absolutely vital. One of the reasons why we think this Measure is so good is that it will give further opportunities to the women and the people of India to deal with the social abuses to which such moving reference has been made. Not only have the Government shown their sympathy by that recent concession, which I believe has been appreciated, but on the advice of the Joint Select Committee, they have, if I may use the word, "toned up" the franchise qualifications for women in the Bill in such a way that women will be very fully represented—not to the extent to which one would like, but as fully represented as conditions allow in the great body of the electorate. Therefore I hope that, when I am dealing with details, this background of the attitude of the Government to women's questions will be kept in mind by the Committee.

I come now to the specific suggestions of the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) who wishes to increase the seats for women in Bengal by two, by taking one seat from the total of general, or Hindu, seats and one from the total of Moslem seats and allocating them to women. In Assam one seat is to be taken from the general seats and given to women; and in the North-West Frontier Province one seat is to be taken and set aside for women.

Duchess of ATHOLL



It is rather difficult to follow the exact details, because we are discussing the question on an Amendment which makes no reference to Assam or the North-West Frontier Province.


The suggestion is two seats for women in the North-West Frontier Province, where at present they have none, and one additional seat for Assam.


The Government have taken great trouble over the allocation of seats for women and over deciding on what basis they shall be elected. If the Committee will believe me, this matter has been discussed at the greatest length before deciding the proportion the women's seats shall bear to the total seats in the Provinces. The hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities said she thought this was a simple Amendment which would not alter the Communal Award. She must have sufficient knowledge of the Communal Award to realise that the alteration or the touching of one seat is often liable to cause a flare-up of the various communities in the Province concerned, and although her proposals in the case of Bengal to remove one seat from the general seats and one seat from the Moslem seats and allocate them to women, appears at first sight to be fair and reasonable we are assured, after having investigated the point very closely, that this would actually end by doing the cause of women more harm in Bengal than the good which she desires. We understand that to remove one seat from the total number of caste Hindu seats, at present regarded by that community as being too few, would at once alienate them and cause suspicion of our intentions.


Surely the hon. Gentleman must have misunderstood our proposal. If we transfer a Mohammedan seat from a Mohammedan man to a Mohammedan woman, or a Hindu seat from a Hindu to a Hindu woman, it cannot be said that we are taking away one seat from either the Mohammedans or the Hindus. Are sex differences so keen there that a woman is not recognised as being a Mohammedan because she is a woman Mohammedan?


The hon. Lady, in assuming that I misunderstood her, is accentuating one of the difficulties we have come up against. We have been informed from Bengal that to do this would alienate those who do not think women ought to have any more seats. If it were possible to increase the seats by agreement we should be very much in favour of it, but we have looked into this question most carefully and most sympathetically, and we have found that the allocation suggested for Bengal of two general constituency seats, two Moslem seats and one Anglo-Indian seat for women is the best possible arrangement that can be made under present circumstances. I am afraid that the opinion there about women entering the Legislatures is not universally friendly. I do not want to stress this aspect of affairs, but it is particularly so, I think, in the case of the Mohammedan community. They feel that to enlarge unduly the number of seats for women would be inadvisable at the present moment.

I do not think I should be doing the cause of womanhood in India any service by labouring the matter further, but I ask the hon. Lady to take it that we have investigated the suggestion to make an alteration in the allocation of seats in Bengal as sympathetically as we can, and that I am afraid we have met with a rebuff and have found that it would be inadvisable to do it. The hon. Lady indicates that she does not agree, but if she cannot accept my assurance that our fundamental wish is to help the women of India I am afraid argument will not help. There is nobody more sympathetic than I or my right hon. Friend or, indeed, than the Members of the Government towards helping the women of India. We have attempted to make concessions where we could and have given a notable one recently. We believe this is a smaller matter and that the cause of women will not be materially retarded by our inability to concede two extra seats in this particular Province. We think that five women will represent Bengal as well as seven. We should like to have 7, 10 or 20 if we could, but we cannot do it, because circumstances on the spot show us that it would be inadvisable.

Now we come to the case of Assam. The general attitude in Assam towards the emancipation of women is certainly not as advanced as in some parts of India, and we are informed again—without repeating all the arguments—that it would be inadvisable to concede the extra seats. In the case of the North-West Frontier Province it may at first seem hard that there are to be no women representatives in its Legislature. I had an opportunity of visiting the North-West Frontier and considering the problem of women's franchise, and I and others were brought up against the antipathy in that Province to an immediate grant of the franchise to women at all.

The North-West Frontier is composed very largely of Moslems, as the hon. Lady knows, and it was thought at the time, in the opinion of the Chief Commissioner, to be inadvisable that female suffrage should be conceded to the North-West Frontier, because it would be alien to their social customs and likely, we were informed, to create a good deal of trouble. We did not think it wise to go against that very strong advice that to concede the request made for two reserved seats would be inexpedient, would be rushing in where angels feared to tread and would be doing harm to the cause of the women. If the hon. Lady wishes to remind herself of the various arguments put forward to us about the emancipation of women in the North-West Frontier, she will see them in paragraphs 202 and 203 of the Franchise Committee's Report.

The women who came forward of their own volition to give evidence before the Franchise Committee from the North-West Frontier could not have been more capable or more prompt in coming forward than those representatives, and I remember well the excellent evidence they gave. They were naturally keen to go as fast as possible. At that time the new Legislature had just been formed in the North-West Frontier Province. I feel that the words in the report of the Franchise Committee are true, when they say: We discovered in the course of our discussion with the local government and provincial committee that there is considerable public feeling that the Province ought not to appear to lag behind the Punjab and the rest of India in this and other matters, and it is probable that that feeling will grow in strength. As that feeling grows in strength, so will the time come for further emancipation for women in the North-West Frontier, but at this stage His Majesty's Government would rather not rush in, but would leave the matter as it is, being inspired as they are with a desire to do what is in the best and proper interests of the women of India.

1.37 p.m.


Before this matter goes to the Vote, if it is taken to a Division, I want to say a word or two. I feel so strongly in favour of the development of women's influence in the legislatures of India that I would not like it to be thought that I shall vote against the Amendment, or that I am in any way antagonistic to the views which have been so ably put forward by the hon. Lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone). No Member of the House has studied the matter as deeply as she, or has such a wide knowledge of it, and I have the greatest admiration for the amount of trouble and care she has given to the matter in the last few years. With the greatest desire to see the development of women's influence in the legislatures in India, I am bound to say that I think the Committee will be unwise to go further than the proposals which appear in the Bill.

It has to be remembered that we are inaugurating a tremendous change in the franchise, and that women will have a tremendously greater influence in India in the future than they have ever had in the past. The Committee will remember that the number of women who will vote in the future will be something like one to four or five men, as against one to 20 men at the present time. It is in that way, and through that influence, that an increase in the direct representation of women in the legislatures should come about. I feel as strongly as the hon. Lady who moved the Amendment or any of her supporters in favour of the influence of women in the legislatures, but I think it will be unwise in this matter to press further than India is willing to go. I would leave to the influence of the women electors, now to be so very much stronger than it has been, to bring gradually about an increase in women's representation.

1.39 p.m.


The Under-Secretary of State mentioned Assam as being backward in regard to the emancipation of women. I remember a young Mohammedan, Mr. Maulvie-Monxwur-Ali, who brought forward a resolution in the Provincial Legislative Council that women should be admitted and votes should be given, and the resolution was carried, as far as I remember, without division. For that reason I think public opinion in Assam is generously disposed towards this reform. The planters and all the Indians I have met do not feel against such a proposal. There are three Legislative Councils, and I know Members who are strongly in favour of the proposals and would like to see women working with them in Ceylon. The hon. Lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) spoke about the number of women employed by the tea gardens; that is right. There are about as many women employed there as men. There are factory rules against women and children working at night, but in the day time, and especially in picking, they earn more than the men, because their fingers are more nimble. If a proposal were made to allot two seats on the Provincial Council in Assam to women—one woman would be very lonely, I am sure—it would be favourably accepted in that Province.

1.42 p.m.


I very much regret the Government's decision, but as they have given sympathetic consideration to the position of women in the Legislatures I am proposing to withdraw the Amendment. Before I ask leave to do so, I would ask the Under-Secretary if he can hold out any hope of further consideration being given to the proposals before the Report stage? My hon. Friends and myself feel that we are laying the foundations for the future, and there seems no possibility, even under the changed circumstances, of making any further provision. We are taking a definite decision to-day, and the decision is irrevocable. That should give us very serious cause for consideration, because we may be letting slip an opportunity which will never recur. Though I am not in any way experienced, and cannot speak with the voice which has been put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) and the noble Lady the Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl), it seems rather inadequate that we should finally and definitely say that we cannot find any further reserved seats for women. I would ask the Under-Secretary again whether there is any possibility of his reconsidering this matter. In view of the expressed view of the Government and their very real desire to do their best for the women or India, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

1.45 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 287, line 3, column 4, to leave out "30," and to insert "10."

The object of the Amendment is to restore, so far as Bengal is concerned, the original Communal Award and to do away with the Poona Pact. We propose by this Amendment to reduce from 30 to 10 the allotment of seats to the scheduled castes under the Poona Pact. I am not going over again in great detail the general arguments which have already been advanced, and which, we believe, support our view that the depressed classes under the Poona Pact will be infinitely worse off than they would have been under the communal award. We entirely agree with the Joint Select Committee that in Bengal and other parts of India a far more equitable settlement of this vexed question was proposed by the Government than is now proposed by the Poona Pact.

The Province of Bengal has a population almost equal to that of the United Kingdom. I believe that the two great religious sections of Bengal are divided up in the approximate proportions of 55 per cent. of Moslems and 45 per cent. of Hindus. The Fifth Schedule fixes 195 general seats, and it gives 117 of those seats to the Moslems and 78 to the Hindus, including the depressed classes. If these seats were allotted in proportions approximating to the relative strength of the two communities in Bengal, the Hindus would have 10 seats more and the Moslems 10 seats less. This in itself is a striking fact, but it is made even more striking, and we believe in some ways even sinister, by the fact that, of the 78 seats assigned to Hindus, a minimum of 30 is assigned to the depressed classes.

The point of view of those who, like myself, are deeply concerned for the welfare of the depressed classes, has been put adequately, and we believe convincingly, in the previous discussion, but there is also the point of view of the caste Hindus in Bengal, and it is that point of view that I want now to put before the Committee. They are in a considerable minority, and, of their 78 seats, they are obliged to give 30 to representatives of the depressed classes. Bengal is a great province; it is the centre of terrorist activity; and we believe that the burning sense of injustice which is felt to-day by many caste Hindus in Bengal may well be translated in the coming year into increased racial bitterness and strife, and into a growth instead of an ending of the disastrous terrorist rule which has been so detrimental to the interests of India and of the Empire. The original communal award of the Prime Minister, made in August, 1932, gave 80 general seats to the Hindus, and 119 to the Moslems in Bengal. It is true that these 80 seats were to include the seats assigned to the depressed classes. No number was actually laid down, but it was generally understood that it would be about 10. We propose to restore the figure of 10, substituting it for the present figure of 30. The Joint Select Committee mittee gave expression to their anxiety as to the effect of the figure of 30 on the smooth and successful working of the scheme in Bengal, and I would venture to read a short extract from their Report which I suggest gives a very real indication to the Government of the need for supporting this Amendment. They said If by agreement between the communities concerned some reduction were made in the number of seats reserved to the Depressed Classes in Bengal, possibly with a compensatory increase in the number of their seats in other Provinces where a small addition in favour of the Depressed Classes would not be likely materially to affect the balance of communities in the Legislature, we are disposed to think that the working of the new Constitution in Bengal would be facilitated. We know something about the extreme difficulty of arriving at a friendly and satisfactory solution. The Government were obliged to intervene on the major question by issuing their communal award, and we believe that an obligation is laid upon the Government to intervene again at the present time by restoring their original award, and by putting an end to the proportion of seats envisaged in the Poona Pact. I very much hope that on this more limited question in the great and tempestuous province of Bengal we may receive from the Under-Secretary a favourable answer to our protestations. I hope I may also be allowed to say that we are in some doubt as to whether it is of any use at all putting any points which might perhaps be met by the Government, in the continued and lamented absence of the Secretary of State. I hope that the Under-Secretary will have equipped himself with powers at any rate to meet our request, convinced, as I am, that he must see the justice of it.

1.53 p.m.


As a member of the Joint Select Committee, I am of course aware of the discussions which centred upon this case, and I have considerable experience and knowledge gained from outside sources both during my service and since. In approaching this case I do not want to repeat what has already been discussed, beyond saying that I regret the surrenders to pressure which have vitiated the sanctity of contract. Mr. Kelkar, a lawyer of Poona, who was a member of the Round Table Conference and who was invited to be a delegate to the Joint Select Committee but was unable to come for reasons of health, has laid it down in his statement, which I have read carefully, that the Poona Pact was an agreement which no court of justice could possibly ratify—

The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)

This Amendment was selected on the strict understanding that the nature of the Pact was not to be discussed again, and I must ask the hon. Gentleman to keep to that understanding.


I am sorry if I went beyond the limit, but, of course, the Bengal position is one which was accepted on the strength of the Poona Pact. The Committee has heard the arguments against accepting the Poona Pact as a valid agreement, but the case of Bengal is entirely different in this respect from that of any other Province in India. In the first place, if the Prime Minister's award of August, 1932, is considered, it will be clear that it was doubtful whether the depressed classes as such required any separate representation in Bengal at all. The Bengal Government had presumably put the Secretary of State in possession of all the facts, and, since as a rule the award was a very reasonable one so far as one could judge in all the difficult circumstances, it is hardly likely that the Bengal Government, the Government of India and the Secretary of State between them could have made such a terrible error as to doubt whether the depressed classes required separate representation at all, and then, if it were found that it was necessaary, only to give them one-third of the number which it would have been fitting to give.

There is another point which distinguishes Bengal from all the other Provinces. The Poona Pact—this agreement to raise the number of seats from 10 to 30—was not signed by any person who represented Bengal. No one was presented to represent the Bengal Hindus. One person was actually present, but he did not sign the agreement or pact, or assent to it in any way; and he belonged to a sect of people who are by courtesy included among the Hindus, but who are Brahmos. They are a very valuable component part in Bengal, but still they do not in any way represent the views of the general caste Hindus since the Brahmos have abolished caste and are monotheists. Here is a case in which Bengal is bound by an agreement—if you can call it an agreement—in which they were not represented, and no member of the community was even present at Poona to make any protest of any sort at the time. Consequently, this decision in regard to Bengal was most unfair to the general body of the Hindus, and it reduced their representation from 78, or 80, including the two women's seats on the general list, to 50 as compared with 119 seats awarded to Mohammedans.

I agree with my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment that the situation in Bengal may become dangerous because, of all provinces, it has a higher intelligentsia than any other province in India. There is no question about that. There are actual areas in certain Bengal districts where there is what we would call the white-collar brigade. They are actually in a majority of the population in these sub-divisions. There is yet another definite factor which was mentioned in the note which accompanied the Prime Minister's award, and that was that in Bengal it was felt that there were certain castes who might in one way be called depressed, but who were very much more advanced than the ordinary run of the more lowly depressed, and they have even under the present system secured territorial seats by reason of their influence and of a majority they have within those areas. Consequently, you have those two castes, although the higher caste Hindu does not recognise them. One claims to be descended from Brahmins, and the other from Rajputs. They are the Namasudras and the Rajbansis. "Rajbansai" itself means of the seed of princes. It is a very superior scheduled caste. There are many of them and they have more education. Therefore, the position in Bengal might be very unpopular with the caste Hindus, because if 30 seats were reserved to the depressed classes, and to that were added the seats which these two castes obtained by their own influence, the situation in Bengal of the Hindu vis-a-vis the Mohammedan would be such as to excite the utmost discontent.

I have made the point that they have never agreed to this at all, and that all that happened was that their acquiescence was assumed. We have no business at all to assume their acquiescence when they were not present at the agreement. It took them some time to take in the whole position of this proposed settlement which has been arranged without a single Bengal representative being heard, and to realise what the effect would be, but when they did realise it they never ceased to protest against it. Sir N. N. Sirkar, the most able Advocate-General of Bengal, himself took a very strong part indeed in pressing this matter before the Joint Select Committee and he could have gone on pressing even now if it had not been that, owing to his loyalty and ability, he has since been selected as law member by the Governor-General to the Executive Council. But on this one point he still felt so keenly on a Motion disputing the communal award that he did not feel justified in voting for the Government and he abstained from voting altogether. I am quite sure, from all I hear from him and from others, and from what I have heard since, and from what I have heard and know about the province of Bengal generally, that this, of all the awards which were brought about by means of the Poona Pact, is likely to be the most unpopular with Hindus and the most dangerous.

I as an old servant of the Government, have had it so driven into me that one must be as impartial as possible with all these various classes, and I stick up for the Moslems everywhere I can and on every occasion. It is equally my desire that anyone who has to do with this subject should be equally fair and considerate of the interests of the Hindus. I have no belief in the doctrine of "divide and rule"—none whatever. This is an entirely erroneous application of that doctrine. When we governed we united. It is only when we suggested that we had ceased from governing that they divided. That is an excellent truth, and no one can really controvert it, because they never had these communal disputes before reforms began to loom ahead. I would emphasise once more, first, that Bengal was not represented, and whether you call it an agreement or not, you cannot bind people who were not there and took no part in it. Secondly, it is a most uneven distribution. The Prime Minister was doubtful whether 10 was not too many, and left a footnote to that effect. No such large alteration was made in other provinces. Thirdly, you have to remember that it is a serious blow to the Hindus to be placed in such numerical inferiority far below their proportion of the population. It is a very serious blow to them, and they have protested against it. Unless some change is made, I am sure that the Government will find that they have ranged against them an animosity which may be exceedingly dangerous, and it will give the anarchist and terrorist movement something under the shelter of which they may rally more men to their nefarious designs. I hope that the Government will meet this position. The Under-Secretary knows that it is the desire of the Secretary of State to try, if he can, to reduce the figure of 30 as far as possible by adjustments of representation in other provinces.

2.4 p.m.


This is the particular aspect of the Poona Pact relating to Bengal, and I agree with those hon. Members who have taken part in the Debate, that we should adhere strictly to that subject, in view of the discussions which we have had on the Communal Award and the Poona Pact together, and be as brief as possible. These subjects being as serious as they are, we are sympathetic to any point of view which is put forward which may ameliorate the conditions in so important a province as Bengal. In my speech on the Communal Award I referred to what the Joint Select Committee had said with regard to the effect of the Poona Pact in Bengal. They went so far as to say— If by agreement between the communities concerned"— I should like to underline that— some reduction were made in the number of seats reserved for the depressed clases in Bengal, possibly with a compensatory increase in the number of their seats in other Provinces where a small revision in favour of the depressed classes would not be likely materially to affect the balance of the communities in the Legislature, we are disposed to think that the working of the new constitution in Bengal would be facilitated. That was the point of view of the Joint Select Committee, and there is something in their argument. In the province of Bengal the Poona Pact does take away a certain number from the general seats, and it is an open question whether it will increase the harmony of the working of the reforms in Bengal. The question is really whether it is possible for any adjustment to be made in this matter. But the Government are perfectly certain that the sentence in the Joint Select Committee's Report which I underlined, with respect to agreement between the communities concerned, is the only manner in which a satisfactory and suitable solution of this burning question in the province of Bengal can be arrived at If such an agreement were forthcoming between the communities either on an all-India basis or in the province of Bengal itself, His Majesty's Government would be only too glad to see it, and it would come under the general terms of the Poona Pact. That agreement must depend upon the communities themselves. If they think that it operates to their disadvantage, it is for them to get together and consider any possible alteration.

Let me consider the problem in a little more detail. The Amendment suggests that the seats for the depressed classes should be reduced from 30 to 10 under the Poona Pact. Let the Committee take it for certain that if the depressed classes are to lose 20 seats under the Poona Pact in Bengal they will certainly require those seats to be made up elsewhere. The total number of the depressed classes' seats in all the Provinces is 151 under the Poona Pact, a little over double what it was under the original award, and they are to be filled by the new method of election suggested by the Poona Pact. If those seats were taken away at one blow, it would leave a very justifiable sense of grievance in the minds of the depressed classes. Hon. Members who have taken an interest in this subject have shown every wish to give the depressed classes full opportunities under the new Constitution, but I am tempted to think that the passage of the Amendment would leave a great sense of grievance in the minds of the depressed classes.

Following up the words of the Joint Select Committee where they say that if there were an agreement it might be possible to reduce the seats for the depressed classes in Bengal, with a compensatory increase in the number of their seats in other Provinces, where a small revision in favour of the depressed classes would not be likely materially to affect the balance of the communities in the legislature, we feel that rather than accept the Amendment it would be much easier to consider whether by some definite arrangement the seats which the depressed classes lose in Bengal could be made up in other Provinces; but we should have to confine ourselves to those Provinces where the Communal Award would not be likely to be upset; otherwise we should be jumping out of the frying pan into the fire, because in trying to offset the Bengal situation we should alienate the great Moslem, and Hindu communities all over India. Therefore, the only hope would be to try to secure for the depressed classes some seats in Provinces where the Hindus have so large a majority of seats, as in the United Provinces or even Orissa, and there the depressed classes might be given one or two extra seats, all still under the Poona Pact.

That shows the immense complexity of the subject, and how when a simple Amendment like this is moved to deprive the depressed classes of 20 seats in Bengal under the Poona Pact and nothing else is added, such an Amendment would be misunderstood, and would therefore be against the interests of the depressed classes. That shows how difficult it is for us from here to intervene in these matters, detailed and complex mathematical questions to us but to India burning questions of life and death to the great communities. That is why I think I was right to base myself upon the advice of the Joint Select Committee that we must decide this matter by agreement between the communities concerned. The attitude of His Majesty's Government is governed by the general decision under the terms of the Communal Award. That decision has been arrived at after literally years of anxiety to do what is best for the communities in India and what is best for the future of India. I have indicated how the Amendment, moved in the present form, would be very unfair to the depressed classes, would not solve the communal problem, but would enlarge it under an all-India basis and make things worse. If the communities can get together and come to any solution—I am afraid that any efforts that I have heard of in that direction in Bengal have not succeeded—His Majesty's Government would be very glad to look into any such solution.

2.12 p.m.


The Under-Secretary has said that these are burning matters of life and death to India. That is an excellent reason for postponing consideration of the Bill until the communities have had an opportunity of consulting as to a modification of the Government's proposals. If these are burning questions the Government might show a little more interest in them by letting us have the presence of some of the Cabinet Ministers. Ably as the Government are represented by the Ministers present, I do think that on a Bill of this magnitude where such great issues are involved the Government might show more interest by ensuring the presence of some members of the Cabinet.

2.13 p.m.


I want to comment on what the Under-Secretary said, and I shall be brief. He said that it took literally years to devise the Communal Award. I can believe that. It has taken an enormous amount of time and trouble and everybody thought that the matter was settled. Although it took years to plan out this Communal Award, the whole thing was upset by Mr. Gandhi's action in about 48 hours by the decision about the Poona Pact. That is why we complain that a great scheme which took all this time to work out should be upset by the Poona Pact, with these particular results in Bengal. The Under-Secretary also twitted us by saying that our proposal would be most unfair to the depressed classes. I wonder if he is aware of the whole of our intention with regard to the representation of the depressed classes when he said that. In our proposal the depressed classes would have the representation that they had under the Communal Award. They would have 10 real representatives instead of 30 representatives who would be the nominees of Congress.


If their representation is to be reduced from 30 to 10, will not the 10 be elected in accordance with the system of election as it stands in the Bill at present?

2.15 p.m.


I am expecting and hoping that if it is reduced to the original figure of the Communal Award the Government will see that it will be on that basis. In my earlier remarks about the depressed classes I hope I did not speak unduly harshly of the Hindus. I do want to be fair to the Hindus in Bengal, but my information day after day from Bengal is that they are very greatly disturbed about the whole position and dissatisfied with the whole outlook. To ignore that fact is a very great mistake. Therefore could not the Government reconsider this matter? In the debates to-day there has been hardly a speaker who has blessed the scheme under the Poona Pact. The Under-Secretary is here, but not a single Member who is able to speak for the Cabinet as a whole is present to say to him "you had better give way on this point." This is the greatest Measure that has been brought before the House since I have been here, the greatest in its scope and in its ultimate reaction. Are we not entitled, during the remaining stages, to have present some one representing the Cabinet who, when the Under-Secretary finds that the whole of the Committee is doubtful as to the wisdom of a certain policy, is able to consult with him. The Committee is not placed in a fair position. Will the Under-Secretary undertake to look into this matter once more before forcing us to go to a division? It would be much better if we could get an agreement of the whole Committee.

2.17 p.m.


The Committee is entitled to a little more explanation from the Under-Secretary than it has yet had. If I understand the Amendment aright its effect will be to reduce the present representation of the depressed classes in Bengal from 30 to 10. At first sight it seems as though this was a somewhat arbitrary proposal to destroy the representation of the depressed classes, but, as has been said, if the Amendment were carried the Government would have to reconsider their position on this form of dual election and we should get in that case 10 proper representatives of the depressed classes. In his explanation the Under-Secretary spent a great deal of time telling us of the merits of the Communal Award, of the care which had been taken to work it out, and the years of deliberation which had gone to produce it. Surely it is a little unjust for him now to oppose our Amendment because we are in fact asking nothing more than the enforcement of the Communal Award. Though personally I do not like the Communal Award, I think it is considerably better than the present solution, which clearly has been arrived at without consideration, as a result of one of the fits of religious enthusiasm of an over-fanatical man, and is probably less well balanced than the result of years of careful thought devoted by the India Office to this problem.

I would like the Committee to consider what is going to be the effect in Bengal of the 30 seats under the present proposal. The population of Bengal is divided very nearly half and half between Moslems and Hindus. The Moslems at the moment have a slight majority on the proposed elective council. Of course it is true that any system for permanently enthroning majorities in any legislature must be fundamentally unsound and essentially crazy; but that is not the point at issue at the moment. The number of general seats, which means the number of Hindu seats, in Bengal, is 78, with a certain number for women and some Labour representatives, who will probably be Hindus, bringing the total to something under 100. Out of those 78 general seats 30 are being removed.

The problem in Bengal is largely a religious one, about which the caste Hindus feel very strongly indeed. Personally I think that the Moslem population is more likely to be a bulwark of Imperial interests, but I think also that the Hindus' interest is entitled to fair treatment. They will be driven, in order to maintain representation in the Assembly, to make certain that every one of those 30 seats allotted to the scheduled castes are held by people who are in agreement with the general policy of the caste Hindu. Otherwise they will be left with 48 seats, two women and about four Labour representatives, in all about 50 seats, and will be hopelessly overwhelmed. Under this system of double election, of course, the caste Hindus will be able to ensure that the whole of those 30 representatives of the depressed classes are of their way of thinking. But that will not fulfil the Government's desire for properly representing the depressed classes, nor will it add to the integrity and smooth running of elections in the Province of Bengal. The result will be that every form of pressure known to the Oriental mind—there are a great number of forms of pressure which even in this country we have not dreamed of yet—not only will be used, but must be used, in order that the caste Hindus may safeguard their most essential interests.

I do not think that this Committee should lightly undertake a step which is bound to make the elections in the Province of Bengal a by-word even amongst the other monstrosities of elections which will occur in the rest of India The Under-Secretary has not satisfied the Committee that the present proposal of the Government is in the interests of any particular section of the electorate of Bengal. I suggest that the original proposal of the Communal Award, that there should be ten representatives of the depressed classes, is far more satisfactory, and a solution which is in the interests of the depressed classes themselves.

There is one question which the Under-Secretary has never answered in these debates. When this question of electorates has arisen, he has been asked whether he really believes that it is in the interests of the depressed classes themselves that this thing should be done. I am sure we should be very glad to have his assurance on that point and to accept his word. We should probably continue to think that he was mistaken, but he would at least satisfy us that the Government were thinking not of the necessity of forcing this Bill through at all costs without making concessions to an over vocal opposition, and that he was thinking of the ultimate good of India.

2.25 p.m.


I should not have intervened but for the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) who taunted hon. Members on this side of the Committee with taking no part in the Debate. I thought that on this occasion his criticism was a little unfair.


I have never made any such criticism, and did not intend in any way to convey that impression.


If the hon. Member will read his speech, I think he will find that he did make the taunt. I am not going to argue this abstruse question, but what astonishes me is that when it suits the purpose of the hon. and gallant Member and his friends they use the Hindus for the purpose of criticising the Government and defeating the Bill, and then champion the depressed classes for all their worth for similar purposes.


I must call the hon. Member's attention to the fact that the discussion must be limited to the particular Amendment relating to Bengal.


I only wish to say that we object to the methods employed by the hon. and gallant Member and his friends. They use the depressed classes to-day merely because they suit their purpose. They favour them one day and oppose them the next, as they have done in the case of Lancashire, but at the present moment the hon. and gallant Member does not seem to be supported by all his friends. What has happened to the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill)? Now that I have taken up the taunt of the hon. and gallant Member I will leave that subject, except to say that the Government Front Bench and hon. Members below the Gangway are at last awake to their responsibilities.




May I remind the Committee that this Amendment was only selected on a special and express understanding? I hope that is quite clear to the Committee that the speeches should be brief and strictly limited to the Bengal question. I hope the Committee will adhere to that. I am not directing my remarks to the right hon. and gallant Member personally but to the Committee as a whole.

2.29 p.m.


I presume that the Committee will vote down the Amendment, but let them make up their minds what it is they are going to do and what the feeling in India will be. I am not going to discuss the justice or injustice of the proposal or the intense hostility there is in India to the Bill in this particular. There is nothing in the Bill to which the Indians object more than they do to this proposal. The Hindus are now, and have been since the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, the ruling power in Bengal. Under the Bill you are going to give them 48 seats out of 250. These two facts should be present to hon. Members before they vote; that this is a most unpopular measure and, from the Hindu point of view, most strikingly unfair. It is a reversal of the established order, and establishes for all time a permanent minority. The Hindus, who are the intelligentsia and 45 per cent. of the population of Bengal, can never in any circumstances whatever be the government of Bengal. What would be the attitude of the Labour party if they in no circumstances could ever be the government of this country? Is it not perfectly obvious that if there were no possibility of their being a responsible government they would all be infinitely more extreme, more dangerous and more of a nuisance to the rest of the community than they are? It is obvious that Labour members have to moderate their ideas as to what is practicable and their language, because there is a chance of responsibility.

You are expecting to make things better in Bengal by depriving 45 per cent., the intelligentsia of the Province, of any sense of responsibility. That is ridiculous from our own point of view; but that is what hon. Members are going to do in a few moments by voting in the wrong Lobby. Calcutta, the city, and the most important town in India, is a self-governing community. The majority on the town council are Hindus. There is constant friction on that council between the two communities. It was months before they could agree on a mayor; indeed, they had two mayors at one time. What occurred in the case of two Popes, one at Avignon and the other at Rome, is nothing to what has happened in Calcutta. The communal issue is extreme. You are going to leave the Moslems in a permanent majority in Bengal and the Hindus in a permanent majority in Calcutta. Politics in India is largely a question of appointments and securing advantages for one community as against another. What will be the relations between the two, with the Province of Bengal permanently anti-Hindu and the City of Calcutta permanently anti-Moslem. I think we should ask the Government to reflect a little before they definitely settle for all times that such an insane and unbalanced position should be crystalized in Bengal.

The Under-Secretary appeared to take my criticism that he was not in a position to make any concessions rather hardly. I am not complaining of the absence of the Secretary of State—far from it—but I do complain of the absence of any member of the Cabinet. We have been discussing this important Bill without any member of the Cabinet being present. It is not fair to the Under-Secretary, and it is certainly not fair to the Committee. I admit that we cannot expect the Secretary of State to be here when he is ill, but it was perfectly possible for the Government to have postponed the consideration of the Bill until he was well again. There is, however, no chance of getting any amendment on this issue out of the Government, but I warn the Committee that their vote to-day will do more to embitter the relations between England and India than anything else.

2.35 p.m.

The ATTORNEY - GENERAL (Sir Thomas Inskip)

Out of deference to the Committee I feel obliged to make some observations, although after some of the remarks which we have heard, I feel rather embarrassed in presuming to offer those observations. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has been good enough to say that he is not complaining of the absence of the Secretary of State. It would be very unreasonable if he did so, but I have observed a tendency to-day for the first time rather to reproach the Under-Secretary and myself and those of us who have had to undertake duties here which we would have preferred the Secretary of State himself to have undertaken. But let the Committee be under no misapprehension as to the part which the Secretary of State, notwithstanding his absence, continues to play in the deliberations of the Government with regard to this Measure. It is not to be supposed that the Secretary of State is unable to inform those of us who have to express the views of the Government of the opinions which he has held and continues to hold.


He does not hear the debate.


I am not suggesting that my right hon. Friend is in a position to hear the debate as it proceeds. I assume that he is under the disqualification, but still, so far as it goes, we have the advantage of my right hon. Friend's opinions on this matter. It has been said that it is necessary to consider once more this question upon its merits, and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has made some observations which if they were made at a time and in a place where the matter was under discussion, might have been relevant. I am not accepting his statement of the political position in Bengal and Calcutta, but I do not want to go into the merits of that question for this good reason. Everybody knows that this particular proposal is part and parcel of something which the Government undertook, at a particular time and date to commend to Parliament. Whatever hon. and right hon. Gentlemen may say about the merits of this question, about the interests at one moment of the depressed classes and at another moment of the caste Hindus, it is impossible to suppose, having regard to the Government's announcement a long time ago, that they would in due course recommend to Parliament the adoption of the clauses of the agreement dealing with representation in the Provincial Legislatures in place of the provisions in paragraph 9 of the award, that to-day we can consider the matter as if we were dealing with a clean slate.

My right hon. and gallant Friend may say that that is putting Parliament into a false position but that is to misunderstand the position of Parliament. Parliament is free to accept or reject these proposals. The Government are in a different position. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State took up an emphatic and unambiguous position on this question. He explained over and over again that the question which the Government had to consider was—was the agreement reached an agreement such as we had contemplated in the communal decision, judged by all the evidence that was available to us? You cannot play fast and loose with the decision at which the Government have arrived. The Government cannot dragoon the House of Commons and cannot control its decision but what they can do is to remain true to the decision which they have taken and commend that decision for better or worse to the House of Commons, which is still free.

There has been an assumption on the part of some of my hon. and right hon. Friends that they represent the opinion of the House of Commons and that because Members of the Opposition have been silent it means, in some way or another, that they do not represent any part of the views held in the House of Commons. I recognise that even if the Secretary of State were here; even if the Prime Minister and the Lord President of the Council were here—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where are they?"] They are not here and hon. Members are under a complete misapprehension, if they suppose that the position would have been different if those right hon. Gentlemen were here. The Government would have been in the same position. No doubt my right hon. and gallant Friend would have had the satisfaction of going out for much bigger game than I can claim to be, and of being able to taunt the Prime Minister and the Lord President of the Council with taking up an unbending attitude on this subject. But those are only debating points and it is useless to suggest that because the Lord President of the Council or the Secretary of State is not here, the Committee are, therefore, somehow or other, under a disability. We take up this attitude before the Committee. The Committee will, of course, take the course which they think proper in all the circumstances. But let nobody suppose that if any of the right hon. Gentlemen mentioned were present, the Government could possibly, having regard to this undertaking and the attitude they have always taken up, do anything but still commend this proposal to the Committee as the one which they consider best in all the circumstances.

2.42 p.m.


The Under-Secretary in his reply did not deal with the point which I put forward, and which I will now repeat. Whether the Poona Pact was a valid agreement or not—and it was out of Order to discuss that question because it had already been discussed—surely an agreement which was entered into in the circumstances of the Poona Pact cannot be binding upon the Hindus of a province who were not represented there at all. I have not had any answer of any kind to that question.

2.43 p.m.


The whole of the Government's case appears to be based upon the fact that there has been an agreement and that we must not interfere with the agreement.


I did not say that. The hon. and gallant Member must take whatever course he thinks fit. I said that the Government are in the position of being obliged to maintain their decision.


Surely what was present in the minds of the Joint Select Committee was that the whole question should be discussed at length and decided, involving as it does a most serious decision. As has been pointed out, the Hindus of Bengal did not assent to this agreement to all. We are now told that Parliament must not do anything to upset the agreement, although the parties affected by the agreement in that Province, had hardly anything at all to do with the agreement. Cannot the Attorney-General promise to give us an opportunity of reconsidering the question? We do not want to embarrass the Government. We want the Government to get on with the business. Could not they postpone the further consideration of this question for the present and allow us to get on with other matters?

2.45 p.m.


May I be permitted to intervene as one of the comparatively few Members who are not committed to one side or the other on this Bill and who has, as far as possible, tried to follow the details of the Bill throughout this Committee stage? That may not be regarded as a merit on my part, but, at any rate, I have endeavoured to follow these discussions and I wish to ask a question in reference to the speech made just now by the Attorney-General. He told the Committee that the Government were committed on this great and vital question of deciding the electorate of Bengal, a Province with over 40,000,000 inhabitants. He told us that the Government were committed to such an extent by this communal award that none of our leaders, if they were present, could change the position and that the Committee would have to act on its own responsibility. With great respect I suggest that if an agreement of that sort has been made, it is essential that the House should keep such agreement, however far-reaching that agreement may be. We have people in this House who speak with great knowledge and authority on these matters.

There are those of us who are not committed on this question and who wish to support the Government in their general policy. When we see on one side a great weight of opinion and advice and argument and on the other side a Government pledge which may have been extracted from them—as is sometimes alleged—we are placed in a very difficult position. If that is so, then many of us who feel our responsibility very deeply are being placed in a very unfortunate position. I do not for one moment ask that the Secretary of State should be here—we know that he is worn out, and we appreciate what he has done—but I do say that it is very unfair that we should not have the advice of those who lead us in the country. In saying that, I speak with the very greatest respect for the Attorney-General, but he is not in the Cabinet, and the House of Commons when big Bills, particularly Bills affecting millions of people, are under consideration, have been in the habit of having Cabinet Ministers here. I say that it is not respectful to the House of Commons, and still less respectful and decent to the people of India.

2.50 p.m.

Duchess of ATHOLL

As I was urging a short while ago revision of the Poona Pact on account of the interests of the scheduled castes, I should like to say now how much I desire to see it revised on behalf, not only of the scheduled castes, but of Hindus. I have already explained the reasons why I think that a larger number of assets under the Poona Pact will not help them to be represented by people who will stand up firmly for their interests. A larger number of seats will be of no value under the Poona Pact if they are obtained by cutting down the number of seats which the Prime Minister had allowed to the caste Hindus. In the case of Bengal that reduction will deprive the Hindus of 20 seats. In view of the delicate balance of population between Hindus and Moslems in Bengal, and the political situation which necessarily arises in present circumstances, I think that is a very unfortunate result. I have had occasion to realise how strongly people in Bengal feel in this matter. Bengali gentlemen came to speak to some of my colleagues and myself on this question, and later on a whole day was devoted by Hindu representatives before the Joint Select Committee to complaining of the inequalities of the Poona Pact, particularly as regards Bengal. The Attorney-General, in reply to what was said by the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) said that the Government were pledged on this matter to recommend the Poona Pact to Parliament. I quite accept that position, and I do not think the Government could have acted otherwise, but I do venture to say that it is rather an anomaly to talk about Parliament being free to reject the Pact when the Government can count upon a majority bigger than any other Government has ever been able to count upon in the House of Commons. When one remembers how small a proportion of those who support the Government are in the habit of attending Debates in the

Committee and giving themselves the opportunity of thinking out for themselves the questions at issue, we recognise that unless Members at present in the luncheon-room or smoking-room can be converted by the speeches made here in the last hour, it is not very likely that we can carry this Amendment. Unfortunately, we give caste Hindus in Bengal another grievance. I must say that I regret that His Majesty's Government committed themselves to recommend the Poona Pact on what I feel sure was insufficient information or consideration as to the circumstances.

Question put, "That '30' stand part, of the Schedule."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 163: Noes, 30.

Division No. 178.] AYES. [2.52 p.m.
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Fox, Sir Gilford Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Ganzonl, Sir John Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Gardner, Benjamin Walter Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tld Chlsw'k)
Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent) George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)
Attlee, Clement Richard Glimour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Goff, Sir Park Morrison, G. A. {Scottish Univer'ties)
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.) Morrison, William Shepherd
Banfield, John William Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas Mulrhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.
Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey Grimston, R. V. Munro, Patrick
Batey; Joseph Groves, Thomas E. Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th. C.) Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. O'Donovan, Dr. William James
Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel Gunston, Captain D. W. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Blindell, James Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Hales, Harold K. Paling, Wilfred
Brass, Captain Sir William Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Palmer, Francis Noel
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Z'tl'nd) Patrick, Colin M.
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Harvey, Major Sir Samuel (Totnas) Peake, Osbert
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Penny, Sir George
Butler, Richard Austen Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Percy, Lord Eustace
Cadogan, Hon. Edward Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston) Petherick, M.
Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly) Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S. Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)
Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley) Horsbrugh, Florence Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.
Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Pownall, Sir Assheton
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City) Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H. Ramsbotham, Herwald
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H. Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.) Joel, Dudley J. Barnato Rickards, George William
Clayton, Sir Christopher Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Ropner, Colonel L.
Cleary, J. J. Ker, J. Campbell Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Kerr, Hamilton W. Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)
Colfox, Major William Philip Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.
Conant, R. J. E. Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock) Savery, Samuel Servington
Cooke, Douglas Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe- Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.
Copeland, Ida Lloyd, Geoffrey Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)
Crookshank, Col. C. de Wlndt (Bootle) Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Loder, Captain J. de Vere Smithers, Sir Waldron
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Somervell, Sir Donald
Dalkeith, Earl of Mabane, William Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C. Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) McEntee, Valentine L. Spens, William Patrick
Denman, Hon. R. D. McEwen, Captain J. H. F. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
Dickle, John P. McKeag, William Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)
Dobble, William McKie, John Hamilton Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton Tate, Mavis Constance
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Thorne, William James
Edwards, Charles Macpherson, Rt. Hon. Sir Ian Tinker, John Joseph
Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter Magnay, Thomas Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Evans, David Owen (Cardigan) Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Wallace, Sir John (Dunfermline)
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.) Martin, Thomas B. Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin) Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.) Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock) Wills, Wilfrid D. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S. Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff) Sir Walter Womersley and Dr.
Warrender, Sir Victor A. G. Worthington, Dr. John V. Morris-Jones.
Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Applln, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Fuller, Captain A. G. Somerset, Thomas
Atholl, Duchess of Hartington, Marquess of Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Broadbent, Colonel John Knox, Sir Alfred Wayland, Sir William A.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y) Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah
Browne, Captain A. C. Maitland, Adam Wells, Sydney Richard
Burnett, John George Marsden, Commander Arthur Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry Moreing, Adrian C. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Rankin, Robert TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Erskins-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool) Remer, John R. Mr. Wise and Mr Raikes.

Question put and agreed to.

3 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 287, line 18, to leave out from "Assam" to the end of the line, and to insert: and Orissa the seats reserved for women shall be non-communal seats. The object of the Amendment is to make the seats reserved for women in Orissa non-communal instead of communal. As the Committee will see a little later, the general seats are in a very large majority—only four reserved seats as against 44 general seats. In Orissa communal feeling is good, if I may put it in that way, so that no difficulty is anticipated from throwing these seats open to election. Owing to the special circumstances in the province, we think it right and proper to do that, as it has been done in Assam.

Amendment agreed to.

3.2 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 288, line 15, at the end, to add: Of the seats in the Provincial Councils there shall be reserved to women: in Madras three seats; in Bombay two seats; in Bengal three seats; in United Provinces three seats; in Bihar two seats. The seats reserved to women shall be distributed among the columns in the Table in such manner as may be prescribed by His Majesty in Council. The Amendment proposes to allot a certain number of seats in the Provincial Councils to women. As the Bill now stands, there are no seats reserved for women in the Provincial Councils, and the Amendment I am moving would stand very much on all fours with the Amendment which the Government have already accepted regarding women in the Council of State. As in the case of the Amendment which I moved a short time ago to increase the number of women in the Assemblies, this is a very modest and realistically conceived Amendment. We merely ask for a small representation for women, that is to say, three members in Madras, out of a total membership of 56; two in Bombay out of 30; three in Bengal, out of 65, three in the United Provinces, out of 68, and two in Bihar, out of 30. As before, we do not suggest any difference in the Communal Award, and the acceptance of the Amendment is made all the easier, because already it will be noticed that there is a slight uncertainty about the total membership of these councils. If the maximum number for the size of the Council was chosen, the insertion of these two or three women, as the case may be, would make practically no difference to the size of the Council, or to the communal composition of the Council.

Therefore, we feel that we have really an overwhelmingly strong case in common sense and logic, and we hope that, as the Government yielded before in the case of the Council of State they should be able to yield now, because there is little hope that women will get on to other Provincial Upper Chambers in the ordinary way. The franchise qualification is too high and the Councils will represent mainly large vested interests. Yet the social reforms which are brought before the Legislatures—all those questions affecting health and education and so forth—will have to pass through the Council as much as through the Assembly in the Provinces, and although it is true that in these cases the Upper Chamber is only to have a delaying power and is not to be able finally to negative Bills of which it disapproves, we all know that in the case of social reform, and when the business of a legislative body is congested, delay may prove fatal to a very necessary reform.

I dare say it may be said that there is a difference between the position of the Provincial councils and the Council of State in that the Bill in the case of some Provinces leaves a slightly larger provision for Governors' nominations. The number of Governors' nominations provided varies from three in some cases up to 10 in the case of Madras. The Joint Select Committee report suggested that these nominations should be used to secure the necessary representation of women, and it may be said that the Government are trusting to that, but I submit that it would be very much better to provide for the presence of women on these councils, which I think everyone must recognise to be necessary, through direct election than through leaving it to the nomination of the Governor.

In the first place, the women's organisations of India, unanimously, I think, feel the strongest possible objection to the principle of nomination, first of all on broad democratic grounds. They think it is undemocratic, and we cannot quarrel with them over that, but there are more practical reasons. It has been pointed out that the nominated members of the present Assemblies and legislative bodies have, with very few exceptions, acted simply as a tame official bloc. There is an even stronger reason which applies particularly to the nomination of women. Can it be said that the Governors of these great Provinces, men who will have immense burdens on their shoulders, are necessarily the right people to pick out the suitable women for councillors? We know what happens, even in this country, where it has become a kind of tradition that nearly always, when a Committee or a Royal Commission has to be appointed, one woman or at the most two women are appointed, but very often the women chosen, as the women's organisations observe, are chosen rather because they are the relations of some well known male politician or are known to him than because they are specially suited for the work.

It is not that there is any deliberate nepotism. These are mostly unpaid positions and involve a great deal of work and no particular reward, but in the nature of things a man who is at the head of a big Government department is not likely to be in touch with the rank and file of women, and not very likely to know what women command the confidence of the women's organisations. Therefore, the tendency is very likely to be, I am afraid, that the Governor will say, "Oh, these women. I have got to find one or two. Let me see; there is Mrs. So-and So. She is a nice quiet woman and will not give any trouble." Well, that is not the kind of woman that we want on these councils, where the women will necessarily have an uphill row to hoe. They must have courage to stand out against opposition and prejudice, and I want again to say to the Committee that in India, particularly, there are grave reasons—I will not repeat what I said on the previous Amendments—why we should have women dealing with women's problems and why the women who do so should be women of courage, of personality, and of initiative, with the strength to stand out, even when they are fighting against political or religious prejudice, to say their say, and to press their case; and that is not the type of woman that is usually selected in India or elsewhere by the process of leaving it to the big people at the top to choose them.

Therefore. I beg the Under-Secretary of State to agree to this Amendment, and if he feels that he cannot do so without further consultation, to put it off to the Report stage. I beg this further, that he should not always yield to what the people in India say. It is just where the politicians, do not see the need for women's representation, that it is most needed. It is those whose ears have been deaf and eyes blind to the cry of women hitherto, who do not see why women are wanted on legislative bodies. Let the Government take their courage in both hands and recognise that the British Parliament has a grave responsibility for those millions of women in India for whom they have been able to do so little in the past; and before they transfer power to other hands let them see that women are given the opportunity to do something for themselves. I know that the Under-Secretary and the Secretary of State feel a sympathy for social reform. We have not seen symptoms of the same kind of sympathy in India among official circles, and that is why I beg the Government to choose for themselves and to agree to this Amendment without waiting to see what India has to say about it.

3.11 p.m.


Consistent with our support of the Amendment the other evening when we were dealing with the question of representation on the Council, I want to support the present Amendment on the ground that, from every angle, it is desirable that women should have places allocated to them and should not depend on certain sections of men who may or may not select women, or who, in cases where they do select them, may possibly select the wrong women. The Under-Secretary made out a good case on Tuesday for the special representation of women when he conceded the point that not less than six women should have seats allocated to them as members of the Council of State. The Provincial Councils are of equal importance to their own particular Provinces, and I do not see how the Under-Secretary can resist the plea that has been made by the hon. Lady. What would happen with regard to nursery schools in this country if there were no women representatives on the local authorities? There are certain social problems particularly those affecting women, in which the contribution of women representatives on these Councils is essential.

3.13 p.m.


The Amendment asks us to reserve seats in five Provincial Legislative Councils for women. The Government, in considering this matter in connection with the Council of State, conceded the desire of certain hon. Members that there should be six seats. One of the reasons which prompted us to do that was that we thought that by not doing it there would be a great danger of women not finding seats at all upon the Council of State and, therefore, not being represented in the Upper Chamber at the Centre. The Governor-General at the Centre has only six seats which he can nominate out of 260, and there would have been great pressure on those seats from the various interests, from certain gentlemen who in the past have depended on nomination, from elder Statesmen, and so forth. That would have meant great uncertainty whether any woman would have got on the Council of State.

In the case of the provincial upper houses the Committee will see, as set out on page 288, that the ratio of nominations to membership of the Council is totally different. In the case of the Council of State the ratio of nominations to membership is six in 260. In the case of Madras—I am taking the higher figures—the total of seats to be filled by the Governor gives a ratio of 10 to 56, which is very different from six in 260. The total number of the Madras seats is 56 and the seats to be filled by nomination by the Governor will be 10. Taking any one of the Provinces set out on page 288 it will be seen that the ratio of nominations to the total seats in a provincial council gives great opportunities to the Governor to nominate persons to those councils, and we consider that there is every likelihood, and indeed, a certainty that the Governor will nominate women on the councils of those Provinces. In order to make this perfectly sure, however, we have inserted in the Instrument of Instructions a special instruction to the Governor to give due attention to women. It is Our will and pleasure that the seats in the Legislative Council to be filled by the nomination of Our Governor shall be so apportioned as in general to redress, so far as may be, inequalities of representation which may have resulted from election, and in particular to secure representation for women and the Scheduled Castes in that Chamber. We have deliberately inserted that in the Instrument of Instructions, and by allowing the Governor no less than 10 seats we have made certain from our point of view that women will be adequately represented in the Upper Chambers of the Provinces.


Is it only in Madras that there are ten?


I said to the hon. Lady that if she would refer to the Table she would see the proportion in each case. The proportions are very much the same. I will go into more detail if she desires it. In Bombay there are only 30 Members in the Upper House, and there is the chance to nominate 4, giving a ratio of 4 to 30, as compared with 6 to 260 in the case of the Council of State. In Bengal there are 8 possibilities of nomination out of 65 seats. I said to the hon. Member who interrupts me that I am taking the higher figures. I purposely said so in order to be accurate. In the case of the United Provinces there is an opportunity to nominate 8 out of 65; and so forth. Therefore the validity of my argument stands that the ratio of nominations to the total of seats is so much greater that it is possible to count definitely on that being effective, combined with paragraph XXI of the Instrument of Instructions to the Governor.

The hon. Lady has been assured by me of our sympathy with the case of the women in India. We have made a special concession in a case in which we thought they would not get representation. We think they will get representation in these provincial councils. If we go too far we do the case of women more harm than good, as I said in answer to a previous Amendment, and we think this is the best way to meet their wishes. The hon. Lady asks me not to yield to what people in India may say. I have been asked by many Members of the Committee not to yield to what the hon. Lady says. I have already got into trouble because I yielded in one case, though I am glad we did it, and think we were perfectly justified in doing so. In this case I think women may count on getting representation in the provincial councils by the method I have described, which the Government have carefully thought out.

3.20 p.m.


If we were creating a Parliament I should frankly be opposed to this Amendment, but we are not creating a Parliament but a Soviet, that is to say an institution in which a great number of vested interests are to be represented by virtue of their being vested interests. In answer to the hon. Member who interrupts me, Members of "the other place" get there for a variety of reasons, but once they are there they do not represent vested interests. So far as they are representative they represent themselves alone. We are proposing that certain women shall go in, in order that they, as women, may represent the difficulties—if that expression may be employed—of women in India. The case seems a good one. If there be a case for deciding that so many Hindus must be in, so many Moslems, so many landlords, so many agriculturists of one kind and another and so many representing the interests of industry and commerce, the case is just as good for giving a measure of protection to women, who apparently need it in India more than they do in this country. If we are to work on the basis of the representation of interests— of which basis I entirely disapprove because I do not believe a Parliamentary system can be run on this formal representation, and I do not believe it will work—and to construct a system on that thoroughly unsound basis, women are entitled to their fair share. If the hon. Lady presses her Amendment to a Division. I shall go into the Lobby in favour of it.

3.21 p.m.


I propose to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment, not because I am in the least convinced or am pleased by the Under-Secretary's statement—I notice that he did not deal with my point that although the Governor-General has power to nominate women he might nominate the wrong kind of women—but because I recognise that the Report stage is in front of us, and I want to leave time for further consideration before a bad decision is crystallised. I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this Schedule, as amended, be the Fifth Schedule to the Bill."

3.22 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel APPLIN

I want to ask a question. I see that Sind has no Anglo-Indian representative, and I should very much like to know why that representative has been left out. I understood there were three Anglo-Indians, one of whom represented Sind.


I am informed that the reason is that the Anglo-Indian element in Sind is so small that it was not found possible to reserve them a seat. The hon. and gallant Member will notice that seats are reserved, in the paragraphs in the Schedule, for places where there is a large Anglo-Indian community. I have given the particular reason in the case of Sind.

Lieut.-Colonel APPLIN

But Karachi is a great city, full of Anglo-Indians. We are not dealing with a desert but with a great capital. I ask the hon. Gentleman to consider this matter between now and the Report stage, because it is one which is very important to Anglo-Indians.


The paragraphs have been worked out with such care that I should be misleading my hon. and gallant Friend and the Committee if I said could give any undertaking. I will, however, inform myself very fully on the point. If that will satisfy him I will certainly do that.