HC Deb 08 January 1942 vol 377 cc14-7
21. Mr. Gordon Macdonald

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has given consideration to the sending out of a good-will mission to India to discuss with representatives of Indian opinion, ways and means of improving the position throughout India: and with what result?

The Secretary of State for India (Mr. Amery)

I have considered this suggestion from time to time, in consultation, of course, with the Viceroy; but as yet we have seen no good prospect of such a mission achieving fruitful results.

Mr. Macdonald

May I ask whether my right hon. Friend is satisfied, in view of the present disturbed position in India, that some such machinery would not help to bring about a better state of affairs over there?

Mr. Amery

That is covered, in substance, by my Answer.

22. Mr. Macdonald

asked the Secretary of State for India what action is being taken by His Majesty's Government to secure the restoration of the popularly elected Governments in the different Provinces throughout India?

Mr. Amery

The hon. Member will be aware that Ministerial Government was resumed in Orissa on 23rd November. I am not aware of any immediate prospect of its resumption in the other Provinces in which the normal working of the Constitution has been suspended, but Governors are ready to welcome any such measure of co-operation among the political parties in their Provinces as will lead to the constitution of Ministries willing to undertake the responsibilities of office in present circumstances.

Mr. Macdonald

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that this passive attitude on the part of His Majesty's Government is the best? He says they are willing to do certain things, but are they taking any action of their own to try and bring them about?

Mr. Amery

We are always ready to do so.

Mr. Stephen

Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise the importance of giving immediate freedom to the peoples of India?

23. Mr. Graham White

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has any statement to make with regard to the present political situation in India?

24. Major Milner

asked the Secretary of State for India, whether he will make a statement on recent developments in India?

25. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has any further statement to make respecting the present political position in India; whether he appreciates the desire of Mr. Nehru and the Indian Nationalist movement to co-operate on a basis of equal status with Great Britain and Allied Powers; and whether, in view of the present situation, His Majesty's Government intend taking any further action to remove the impression caused by the restrictive interpretation of the Atlantic Charter and to mobilise politically conscious Indian opinion in the interest of world freedom and democracy?

Mr. Amery

I have noted the resolutions passed by the leading political parties in India towards the end of December and the various statements made by political leaders in connection therewith, but regret that I cannot discover in them any satisfactory response to the Viceroy's recent appeal for unity and co-operation in face of the common danger. His Majesty's Government will not abate their efforts to promote that measure of agreement which is essential to the fulfilment of their pledges to India, pledges which are in no sense restrictive of the Atlantic Charter but only give precision to the general principle affirmed in that declaration.

Mr. White

Having regard to the growing desire and anxiety in India and in this country, and in order to take advantage of the more fluid state of affairs in India, will not my right hon. Friend do something on the return of the Prime Minister to see whether some step cannot be taken at this stage which will lead to the removal of the confusion and doubt which now exist?

Mr. Amery

The Government are only too anxious to take any opportunity afforded by any real willingness to co-operate.

Major Milner

But will not the right hon. Gentleman take some active steps himself, instead of continuing this policy of masterly inactivity?

Mr. Amery

Steps will be taken when there is some prospect of result.

Mr. Sorensen

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise the significance of the fact that political leaders of various types in India are unanimous in recognising the present situation as being one which could have a great response from the Government of this country, and, secondly, that the Atlantic Charter, in its interpretation by the Government of this country, does not in any way meet the demand of the Indian peoples for the application of the principles to them in the same way as they are applied in regard to other countries?

Mr. Amery

I am afraid that, so far from being unanimous, the resolutions from the Moslem League and Congress to which the hon. Member has referred are in direct contradiction to each other.

Mr. Shinwell

Are we to understand from the right hon. Gentleman's replies to the various questions put, that the Government policy is to rely for the time being at any rate exclusively on the Viceroy's appeal for co-operation? Is that the Government's policy, and have they no more to say on the matter?

Mr. Amery

We cannot make further progress constitutionally in India until there is some willingness on the part of the leading parties to worn together. We are doing all in our power to bring them together.

Dr. Haden Guest

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been called to the appeal in the name of the right hon. Srinivasa Sastri and other persons, three of them members of His Majesty's Privy Council, which does indicate a new centre and rallying point in Indian opinion; and in view of that appeal, 'which is backed up by the "Times" this morning—and I believe that is not a revolutionary paper—will he not reconsider his standfast and stonewall attitude, which is doing great harm to India and is a danger to the war effort in the Far East?

Mr. Amery

It will meet with every consideration.

Sir H. Williams

On a point of Order: As all the questions addressed to the right hon. Gentleman have been from one point of view, could not some opportunity be given to those who hold other points of view to put questions?

26. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for India in what Provinces have Governors now assumed complete personal responsibility for government; what representations he has received respecting the Government of India from non-Congress and Moslem League sources; and whether these are receiving consideration?

Mr. Amery

There are seven Provinces in which the administration is at present carried on by Governors in accordance with Proclamations issued by them under Section 93 of the Government of India Act, namely, Assam, Bihar, Bombay, the Central Provinces and Berar, Madras, the North-West Frontier Province and the United Provinces. I have seen summaries of resolutions on constitutional and other matters passed by the Moslem League on 26th and 27th December and by the National Liberal Federation at Madras on 27th and 28th December: These and other suggestions affecting the Indian Constitution continue to receive the full consideration of His Majesty's Government and the Government of India.

Mr. Sorensen

Is the right hon. Gentleman likely either to give a reply to these various representations or to make some statement with a direct bearing upon them?

Mr. Amery

Yes, Sir, at the appropriate time.

Sir H. Williams

Has the right hon. Gentleman received any communication from India other than from people who want freedom to exploit others?

Mr. Gallacher

What are the British doing there?

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