§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This Bill is concerned with the parts of India known as Kathiawar and Gujerat in which, together with large Indian States with full administrations, there are a very large number of small and in some cases very small areas described as States, though I think it would probably be more accurate in the use of language to describe them as estates. They are scattered. Their number is about 400 and the total population is some 800,000. Forty of them are less than a square mile in area, and more than half are about the size of an ordinary rural parish—seven, eight or nine square miles. The problem as to how these areas can best be administered so that those who live in them may have the advantages in such matters as education, health services, communications, and so on which individually owing, as the House will see, to the size of the areas, they cannot of course provide for themselves, has engaged for some years the attention of the Viceroy in his capacity as Crown representative.
The reason for submitting this Bill to Parliament is a recent decision in the local court which is called the Court of the Judicial Commissioner in which appeals from courts established by the Crown representative for these small States are heard. This judicial Commissioners' Court held that the steps which the Viceroy had been taking with a view to bringing about a more satisfactory administration 1499 were ultra vires. In order to understand that legal decision and the form of the Bill it is necessary to explain shortly the policy which the political authorities in India under the Viceroy have been engaged in carrying out. The heads of these small areas or States are known as Taluqdars. They differ in their privileges and in their powers. In some cases the Taluqdars exercise no jurisdiction at all. In others he exercises petty civil or criminal powers but in no case is he able to rule and administer the area for the benefit of the inhabitants in the way which is clearly desirable in modern conditions.
Since early in the nineteenth century after the fall of the Mahratta power the British authorities, although these areas were not annexed and had been treated as independent areas or units, have assumed the exercise of civil and criminal jurisdiction in these small and in some cases isolated and scattered territories. But this intervention has never really gone beyond the sphere of police administration. Largely for geographical reasons it has been so limited, reasons for which I will refer to in a moment. The position has been felt for some time to be very unsatisfactory, and the problem has been carefully studied in order to see how the population of these various small areas might get the benefit of modern administration while preserving, as it is desired to do, the long-standing rights and dignities of the Taluqdars.
§ The Attorney-General
For some years this small-States problem has been the subject of reports and consideration of various kinds. The reports have been made by people acting under the Viceroy's authority, the Viceroy being the Crown representative in all matters concerned with our relations with the Indian States.
§ The Attorney-General
My hon. Friend can take it that anybody who has known 1500 of this problem for 10, 15 or more years has realised that it is a very unsatisfactory position. For the last four or five years, under the Viceroy, those who advise him, the Political Department in India have been considering what is the best solution. If you imagine any area you like, an English county, and assume that it has greater powers devolved on it than it actually has, and that scattered about it are, say, a dozen parishes, or areas of that size, some bigger, some smaller, which are outside the whole administrative governing machine of the county, then, to have a proper administrative machine so long as these areas remain isolated, is impossible.
§ The Attorney-General
I do not think that that is a complete analogy. Then, various suggestions were considered. It was considered whether it would be possible to federate the smaller units into larger units. If they had all been together, touching one another, that might have been possible, although it might have been open to objection on their part. It was also considered whether they could be consolidated into British India. Both schemes were found impracticable, on geographical and possibly on other grounds. To understand the problem it is necessary to get a picture of how these small areas lie scattered about, some in the areas of larger States and some adjacent to larger States. I believe that anyone who looks at a map on which these areas are shown will realise the impracticability of either of the two suggestions to which I have referred, namely, confederation among themselves and consolidation into British India. I think anyone who looks at the map will also realise that the conclusion reached by the Viceroy early last year was the best, and, indeed, the only practicable solution. These areas, by being attached to the neighbouring larger States, will be able to attain the more up-to-date administration of those larger units, the schools, hospitals, communications, and general amenities which the rulers of those States have specifically agreed to afford. The larger States chosen are those in a position to provide these services, and those which have established courts and judicial machinery, which will exercise in the various scattered areas the 1501 jurisdiction previously exercised by the Crown Representatives' courts.
In deciding to which States any one or group of these small States should be attached the main consideration is geography, but account has also in some cases been taken of grounds of political or family affinity. Under this scheme the Taluqdars are left in possession of their previous dignities and of any minor powers which they have previously exercised. Those are left quite untouched, and are guaranteed. This is very important. The Viceroy maintains a continuing responsibility, and could, and undoubtedly would, intervene if circumstances should require it in order to secure the progress and the development of these smaller States under this scheme.
§ The Attorney-General
I was going to deal with that in my next sentence; but I am glad my hon. Friend intervened, because I can expand a little what I was going to say. There is a right of appeal provided, should a Taluqdar consider that his or his people's rights have been infringed. That is a right in theTaluqdar, or to be exercised through the Taluqdar. In addition, as my hon. Friend knows, there is in all Indian States a general supervision. The way this scheme develops and how the attaching States carry out the duties which they have undertaken will be a matter with which the Viceroy, through his agents, will concern himself, and he will get reports, quite independent of the right of appeal, which is a formal right and part of the scheme.
§ Mr. White
My right hon. and learned Friend has given a very complete explanation, and I am probably very stupid, but I am still not clear whether there is a right for a citizen of one of these States who is transferred from his own State to, say, Baroda, or some other State, to appeal of his own right to the Crown Agent in Baroda, or whether he must, of necessity, go through the Taluqdar?
§ The Attorney-General
The formal right which is preserved is a right to appeal by the Taluqdar, but the working of this scheme, quite apart from the formal right of appeal, will be kept under review, and if there are grievances, even if they do not come up through the formal channel of appeal, there is no doubt that they will be heard of.
§ Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)
Does the Taluqdar of the Imperial States retain all his powers except in so far as they are abridged by this Act?
§ The Attorney-General
Let me try and give a picture. At present, in many of these areas, the Taluqdar has no power at all. Let me give a picture of an area in which he has some power to try say petty criminal offences and impose sentences of three months. That will be preserved. The real problem which this scheme is designed to meet and solve is that, in these areas at present, there is really no effective civil administration at all. That is to say, there is no effective administration for health services, education or for communications, because, being recognised as independent units and being so small, they cannot provide these things for themselves and nobody else has provided, or can provide, these things for them. The idea is that, by attaching them, subject to the preservation of their own rights and privileges, to the only area which can geographically provide these services, to improve, and it may be immensely improve, the conditions of the people in them.
§ Mr. Sorensen (Leyton, West)
May I ask whether there has been any demand by the people of these States for such an attachment?
§ The Attorney-General
Well, of course, as my hon. Friend knows, in a country with a population like that of India, people are very apt to accept what has come down to them through the generations, but it would be a great mistake, and a great reflection on us, if, when we see an obvious deficiency like a lack of opportunities for a proper medical service, we waited until a demand came, for many of these people may be quite ignorant that such services can exist.
§ The Attorney-General
You can say that about anything when it is done. We think this is an improvement. You can always say, of any improvement, "Why did you not do it before?" but I do not think that is of any help. In order to carry the scheme into effect, it was necessary to terminate the jurisdiction of the existing courts, and provide for pending cases being dealt with by the courts of the attaching States. There was a case which arose from an attempted suicide in one of these States called Bhadwa, the area of which is only seven, square miles. This is a State which is attached to the State of the Maharajah of Gondal, and I believe that anyone who knows this part of India would agree that it is a very well administered State. The Taluqdar of Bhadwa challenged the Order terminating the jurisdiction of the old courts, and the matter came before the court of the Judicial Commissioner.
The challenge was, in the main, based on some words in the Government of India Act, which certainly were not inserted with any idea of this kind in mind, but which provide that powers connected with the exercise of the functions of the Crown in its relations with the Indian States shall if not exercised by His Majesty, be exercised by, or by persons acting under the authority of His Majesty's Representative, that is, the Viceroy. The process of reasoning was that the judges of the State of Gondal did not come within those words as acting under the authority of the Viceroy. You might argue about that, but the argument was as I have stated and the court decided that the Order terminating the jurisdiction which recited the attachment under the schemes and also provided for the transfer of pending cases, was ultra vires and invalid. Other instruments and Orders in Council were referred to in the course of the judgment, and the Bill, therefore, provides that, at the instance of or with the consent of His Majesty's Representative—I am summarising—any Indian States not mentioned in certain divisions of the Table of Seats of the First Schedule of the Government of India Act may be attached to any other Indian States in accordance with the scheme that I have described, notwithstanding anything in the Government of India Act and in other Acts or Instruments referred to in this judgment.
1504 The States covered by the Bill, which the House will see are described as Indian States not mentioned in divisions 1 to 16 of the Table of Seats in Part II of the First Schedule of the Government of India Act, are States which are not named individually but which comprise a very large number of small, scattered States—the smallest States—and I believe that together there are some 600 of them. They were collectively allotted under federation two seats on the Council and five in the Assembly. That explains the form of the Bill and how it arose. It is well known that Parliament does not legislate for the Indian States, which are not British territory, but I hope the explanation which I have given makes it clear why Parliament is being asked to pass this Bill. It is because the court decided that the Government of India Act, or certain words in it, precluded and prevented the Crown, as the paramount power, from exercising in regard to these small States powers which we are quite clear the Crown was entitled to exercise. The matter is one of some urgency, because the effect of this decision has naturally been to throw into confusion the scheme which was, in fact, put into operation and started last August. I think myself that it might well be that if an appeal was taken to the Judicial Committee, for reasons which I will not go into, the decision might well be reversed, but this would inevitably take some time, and it is of vital importance that the period of uncertainty, which might easily degenerate into chaos, should be brought to an end forthwith.
I ought to say a word about Sub-section (2), which gives the Bill retrospective effect. Such provisions always require very careful scrutiny, but the House will I am sure realise that, since last August, when this scheme began to be put into operation, numbers of things have been done and measures taken which require to be validated. Therefore, it is necessary that if the House accepts this scheme that this Bill should be retrospective. The proviso may perhaps puzzle the casual reader—it certainly puzzled me the first time I read it—but it was put in to meet those cases where under judgment which has been delivered saying that the Order was ultra vires, acts had been done in good faith in the assumption that the law was as decided by the Judicial Commissioner. 1505 It is therefore necessary to have a power to protect them from what otherwise might be a liability if this Bill when it became an Act has retrospective effect.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Education will wind up the Debate and deal with any question which arises but before I sit down I will summarise the question as it seems to present itself. It is plainly right that the best and possibly the only practicable steps to give to this population an effective administration in areas of administration in which the Taluqdars cannot operate should be taken. It is important to emphasise that the powers which will be exercised by the attaching States are powers which the Taluqdars are not in a position to exercise and never have been in their areas. If it is agreed that the Crown as Paramount Power has not only the right but has also the duty to the population of these areas to make provision for effective administration by the method adopted once that is agreed. That seems to strike at the root of the judgment which has been given. It cannot be contrary to the law to carry out what is a right and a duty. I do not want to argue about the legal aspects of the matter but what is at any rate perfectly plain is that the words in the Government of India Act which were relied on in these judgments were never intended by this House to be an obstacle in the way of carrying out a beneficent scheme such as this is.
§ Mr. Maxton
I took the trouble to look up the Government of India Act and could not find it. I feel, on my reading of the Bill—which I do not put against the more skilled reading of the Attorney-General—that there is not in the Government of India Act power to attach these small States though there is power to attach the bigger ones.
§ The Attorney-General
One would not expect to find in the Government of India Act power to attach the State because the power of the Crown as the Paramount Power in relation to the States is not a thing about which this House would legislate. The Court out there decided that some words in the Government of India Act precluded as a matter of law the Viceroy or the Crown as paramount power from doing in relation to these States what in our view it 1506 is entitled to do. There is no question of finding in the Government of India Act an express power to attach. One would not expect to find it there or to find any of the powers of the Crown in relation to States set out in the Act. The Court decided that words in the proviso to Section 2 of the Act precluded the Viceroy from carrying out a scheme in relation to these States which in our view he plainly had the power to do.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman telling me that because the Viceroy is Viceroy he has the right to mess about with territories as he pleases and has no statutory basis to work from?
§ The Attorney-General
I would not exactly choose the words of the hon. Gentleman. The Indian States are not British territory. The relations between the Indian States and the Paramount Power have grown up over the 100 or 150 years. In some cases of the bigger States there are Treaties, in other cases usage and sufferance and with the smaller States the position is as I have described it. But one would not find that in the Statutes because their application is confined to British territory. Therefore, one would not expect to find in the Government of India Act the recitation of what rights the Crown had in dealing with the various Indian States.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence (Edinburgh, East)
In order to make it clear to the House, would the right hon. and learned Gentleman read to us the words in the Government of India Act which these people in India allege prohibit the Viceroy from taking this action?
§ The Attorney-General
I did set them out earlier but I will read them again. It is in the proviso to Section 2 (1). I did not read the whole thing but summarised it; I will read the whole of it now. It is taken from Section 2 (1) of the Government of India Act, 1935, and says:Provided that any powers connected with the exercise of the functions of the Crown in its relations with Indian States shall in India, if not exercised by His Majesty be exercised only by, or by persons acting under the authority of, His Majesty's Representative for the exercise of those functions of the Crown.The Crown is the Paramount Power and not only has the right but a duty to make the arrangements which had been entered into in order to bring proper administration to these smaller States. 1507 The Court said that as the Judges of Baroda or Nawanagar or Bhavnagar did not in their view come under the words "persons acting under the authority of His Majesty's Representative." Therefore, these words which were plainly inserted for quite other purposes precluded and made invalid the order the Viceroy issued.
§ Mr. Maxton
Does the Attorney-General claim that the Viceroy has paramount powers to alter the frontiers?
§ The Attorney-General
That is not what he is trying to do. We had better restrict ourselves to what he is doing.
§ Mr. Maxton
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is basing himself on the paramount powers of the Viceroy to deal with these little territories. Would he interpret the powers of the Viceroy as entitling him to do that with regard to the bigger States and to take away their independence or alter their frontiers?
§ The Attorney-General
This is not a question of altering frontiers. These States are preserved under this scheme with their character. What will happen is that certain functions which the Taluqdars as rulers have never themselves exercised will be exercised by the attaching state. The population must be entitled to have these functions of Government exercised where necessary for their existence. Certain functions of Government which will in future be of great benefit to the population will be exercised under this scheme by Baroda or Nawanagar or Gondas or certain neighbouring States.
I would like to emphasise that the Viceroy in dealing with this matter has the right to intervene if the scheme is not worked to his satisfaction for the progress and development of the areas. The Government believe that the scheme which was announced last April and which was on the whole favourably received by the Taluqdars concerned is in the best interests of the population, and it would be most unfortunate if the present state of uncertainty which might degenerate into chaos was not promptly dealt with and I hope that the House will give us the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence (Edinburgh, East)
I sympathise with the right hon. and learned Gentleman in his difficulty of 1508 explaining this rather complicated question to the House, and I am quite sure that every Member of the House will share with him, and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education (Mr. Butler) the regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India (Mr. Amery) is prevented by indisposition from being here to advocate this Measure himself. Members of the House, I think, have been and are in some difficulty with regard to this Bill, first because it is, in itself, a rather complicated and rather unusual Measure; in the second place, because though we may know a fair amount, after the last few years, about India as a whole, and the larger problems, naturally very few Members have any particular knowledge of the rather minor problems with which we are concerned in this Measure. Many of us have heard a considerable mass of criticism, or complaint, against this Measure which has reached us through the cable, from which we have not always obtained a very clear and precise idea of the matters in dispute. Finally, there is in the second Clause of the Bill a procedure which this House never looks upon without a good deal of misgiving, that is retrospective legislation. For all those reasons, the House will be anxious to do justice to the question and to try to understand the point of view of the people who feel aggrieved by the passage of this legislation.
As I understand the position, at any rate as maintained by the Government, neither the proposals of the Government nor this Bill, are attempting to abridge the powers of the Taluqdars which they have in fact exercised. As I understand it, all this Bill does is to enable the Viceroy to transfer the powers, which the British administrators have hitherto exercised, from themselves to the rulers of the larger States into which these fragmentary States are going, to some extent, to be incorporated.
§ The Attorney-General
For the sake of accuracy, let me say that is quite true with regard to the judicial, civil, and criminal jurisdiction—but not true of the powers of what we may call the Civil Service, communications, health and education, the powers which, in effect, the British authorities have found themselves, for geographical reasons, unable to give to these scattered areas at all.
I am obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his emendation, but I think what I said was incomplete rather than incorrect. I am forced to put this question to myself: What is it, then, to which the Taluqdars object? In the first place they take the line that I understand can be taken—I think the right hon. Gentleman's legal mind will appreciate it if I put it in this form—of questioning whether a trustee can delegate his trustee powers to another person. That seems to me rather what we are doing. The Taluqdars in the past have accepted our kind of trusteeship for their subjects, and they are objecting to our passing over those powers, which they have been willing to trust to us, to other persons, namely, the other States. I rather gather that at the back of their minds is something beyond that. We all know that people in this country are willing to spend money on the purchase of land and estates not for the economic advantages that they obtain from them but for the prestige which being a landlord gives to persons in this country. Now I rather gather that these Taluqdars fear the loss of prestige which will result if the powers which have been exercised by the British are handed over to the large Indian States. They are afraid they will cut a smaller figure as the smaller part of a large State, even if theoretically their rights are preserved, than they do at the present time.
It is very difficult for this House to judge how far there is justification for those fears, but, of course, what this House has also to judge is whether, quite apart from the views of the Taluqdars, their subjects—if we may so call them—are really going to suffer or gain by the change. The point of view which the Government put forward is that the subjects are going to gain very considerably from the change because, while we have been able through our British agents to exercise a certain measure of legal administration, we have not been able to give to the citizens of these little States the kind of things which in modern days the inhabitants of any country consider to be their due, namely the health services and the other beneficial parts of administration. Of course, in the 150 years or whatever period in which we have been associated with India, the whole conception of the duties of States has changed. In the old days it was a matter of collecting 1510 the revenue and preserving law and order; to-day, the State, as we know it in this country, is the fountain of a great deal of beneficent administration concerned with the health and the prosperity of its people. The Government's contention, as I understand it, is that the citizens of these States have been deprived of the growing care and beneficent provisions which most nations have made for their subjects in the course of the last few years, partly because these little princes have such small jurisdiction, and partly because they have such a small revenue that they have not been able to introduce the things which the larger States are expected to introduce from time to time.
That is the Government case and I must say, subject to an answer to that, it seems to me to be a very strong one. Therefore, unless any clear and proved case is made to the contrary, I think we in this House are bound to give the Government our backing; with this proviso, that, of course, the Government must recognise that we are largely ignorant, and we are trusting them to play the game in the matter. I imagine, from what the Attorney-General said, that there are no treaties which are in any sense being broken in the letter or in the spirit in anything that is being done in this legislation, that we are not really depriving Indians of a power which they have by right of any arrangement, either written or understood, in our relationships with them. I think it would be unfortunate if they could claim that, though the customs were in a sense to be preserved, something was being done to them contrary to the spirit of good relationship between the citizens of this country and the people in India. I am afraid we have to take that on trust from the Government, and if the Government are, as I understand, prepared to asseverate that what I have put in as a proviso is, in fact, the case, my own feeling is that we cannot go behind that and investigate the matter for ourselves. Therefore, so far as that is concerned, I think we must support the Government with regard to this Bill.
There is only one thing more I have to say. I take it that what these Taluqdars want more than their prestige is the revenue they draw from these estates. I take it that nothing in this Bill would interfere with that. I am not sure that on general principles I regard the revenue which is drawn by these landlords as a 1511 particularly good thing, but at the same time it is not our business to interfere. I take it that these Taluqdars are not having their estates abridged. It all comes back to this: If there is anything illegal or improper about these proceedings are they, or are they not, for the benefit of the population concerned? The Government have given their reason for suggesting that they are to the advantage of the population, and that being so, with the proviso which I have already stated, I feel that the House should support the Government in pressing forward this Bill.
§ Sir Stanley Reed (Aylesbury)
I would like, with the permission of the House, to say a few words on this Bill, because it affects an area which I happen to know intimately. I have been through Kathiawar from North to South and from East to West, and at one time or another I have visited every important State except Nawanagar. Now Kathiawar is a most attractive part of India, a varied territory, and full of historic interest with, amongst other monuments, the ruins of the temple of Lomath and the Jain Shrines of the Girnar and Satrunjya Hills. Its people are kindly, generous and hospitable. Yet every time I have been through that province I have been amazed and puzzled at the extraordinary tangle of jurisdictions which it presents. My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General gave us a picture of this extraordinary mosaic and invited Members of the House to refer to the map. But even such a reference would give no adequate picture of the actual confusion that exists through this multitude of petty jurisdictions. I was asked the other day how far these minor units extended; I answered that in a morning's ride you might pass through five or six separate jurisdictions.
This has induced conditions which, unfortunately, as the Attorney-General has said, hold back the progress of the peoples in all directions which we now regard as essential for the well-being of the community.
Often, when some of the friends who are now appealing to me, in moving terms, to protect their rights, have approached me I have urged them to throw in their rights with the bigger States and not clutter themselves up with these costly jurisdictions and administra- 1512 tions which they cannot discharge, to the detriment of their own people, whom they would naturally like to preserve. All this goes back about a century and a quarter to the time of the original settlement when there were no communications and the peoples of the Province lived in isolated communities. But in the '70's railways were introduced and people began to move about. New ideas of social progress developed and the administrative difficulties grew in intensity. Some have urged that this Bill should not be rushed now; that it should be more carefully considered. I do not think we can say that it has been rushed. The actual project has been under elaborate consideration for the last ten years; the actual scheme which is to be legalised by this Bill was promulgated in April of last year, after careful and elaborate inquiry; criticism, if any, would be more accurately directed to the question why action was not taken years ago.
As I read it, putting aside all legal subtleties and, if I may say so to the Attorney-General, the question of paramountcy—the thing which nobody has attempted to define, and I hope never will—what we have to come down to is the question of what this Bill actually legalises. It legalises the transfer from the Political Agents, the agents of the Imperial Government or of the Crown, of certain administrative rights to the adjoining major States, reserving all the other essential rights to the non-salute States and Taluqdars. To what States are these responsibilities being transferred? In the main to Baroda, in part to Nawanagar, in part to Bhavanagar, and, to a certain extent, to Gondal. It has been argued that this means the transfer from the Political Agents, representing the Crown, and so from the rule based on law, to States which are in a sense autocratic and where the same definite rule of law does not obtain. But that is not wholly so. The major part of the transfer will be to Baroda, which has a tradition of upright and honest rule over the last 50 years. No State in India has a higher reputation for upright and progressive administration than Bhavnagar. The Maharajah of Nawanagar was in this country recently as a member of the War Cabinet; those who know him and heard his speeches cannot have any doubt that he will discharge these duties in a high spirit of responsibility.
1513 So we come to this other fact. This change should in my opinion have been made 50 years ago. It has been forced to the front now by two impulses. One was the broad consideration of the future Indian States, which were considered when the Government of India Act, 1935, for the establishment of a Federal Government for All India was brought up for consideration. It has been forced to the front again because India no more stands at gaze than any other part of the world. Here are 800,000 people who hitherto have not enjoyed the education, public health and other amenities which we regard as essential to the well-being of the body politic. It is a blunt fact, but one which we must recognise, that they cannot have these beneficial services under the present system. None of these non-salute States and Taluqdaries has the funds, the experience and the administrative services to provide them.
There are only two alternatives. One was a confederation, which had to be put aside because of the inescapable facts of geography. These States are too scattered and there is, moreover, a lack of readiness to give up cherished power and coalesce. The other alternative was to transfer them or group them into a British agency. That, too, came up against the inescapable fact of geography.
So we come down to this basic fact. If these 800,000 people are to enjoy these amenities—education, public health and opportunities of leading a higher social life—this is the only possible way in which it can be done. If there was any other alternative, I should welcome it, because I feel intensely with those, many personal friends, who are losing something of the prestige and authority which naturally they cling to with tenacity. I should be happy if this could be avoided, if that were possible. It is not possible; the change must be made. This is no new conviction of mine. This was bound to happen. It ought to have happened years ago and I do not think we should lose the opportunity of giving effect to it now.
There is another point which I would ask my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education to deal with. In a communiqué issued outlining these proposals which would have come into force in April last if it had not been for these legal difficulties, the Government of India say it 1514contains due provision for the continued integrity of the attached units and of the existing powers and privileges of their Taluqdars and shareholders.I hope my right hon. Friend will confirm that in the most emphatic manner, so that those apprehensions which exist, rightly or wrongly, and which we should like to see dispersed, may be eliminated from those who are brought within the purview of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) applied an acid test. Is this Bill fair and in the true interest of the 800,000 people embraced within it? I would assure him and the House that to the best of my knowledge the 800,000 people affected will derive permanent benefit and advantage from its operation and for that reason I hope the House will give the Measure favourable consideration.
§ Mr. Maxton (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
In about 17 minutes from now I have an appointment with Mr. Speaker upstairs, to apply my mind to the problem of trying to tidy up the general political control of Great Britain. If I have to leave before the right hon. Gentleman replies to the Debate, I hope he will understand that a command from Mr. Speaker comes second to a Royal command and that listening to him has some lesser priority. My absence will not be due to any discourtesy but to important duties in another part of the building. When I think of the job that I am going to do upstairs, and when we hear about the rights of small constituencies, and think of the weeks or months that we shall probably spend in discussing those matters, I also think how the House is asked to dispose of this matter affecting many people in India in the shortest possible time. I do not take the view that there is something discreditable about devoting time to the consideration of the welfare of these small groups in India.
I am not so satisfied as the majority of the Conservative Party seem to be that on every occasion large scale organisation is superior to the small control and the elimination of the small man. [Interruption.] The hon. Member misunderstands Socialism, just as I am sure he misinterprets Conservatism. What puzzles me is this. It was only in 1935 that we passed a very voluminous Statute settling the affairs of the Government of India, to 1515 the extent that we are capable of settling them, and that legislation was produced after two very hard-working Commissions had visited India and gone over the whole territory. The Bill was debated in great detail Clause by Clause. At that time the combined wisdom of this House was of the opinion that these small groups were to be left. [Interruption.] What does the hon. Member mean by shaking his head?
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
The purpose of the Bill is to interpret the Government of India Act, 1935. When it was passed it was never contemplated that Section 1 (2) would prevent the Governor-General from authorising the attachment of these small States to a larger one.
§ Mr. Maxton
That is very ingenious. I am sure the Government must appreciate the arrival of another apologist for their legislation.
§ Mr. Molson
It is exactly what the Attorney-General said, but the hon. Member did not understand it.
§ Mr. Maxton
Why does the hon. Member think that his repetition will help matters? Both he and the right hon. and learned Gentleman were asked to give an interpretation of the Clause as a whole. The right hon. and learned Gentleman slid away from it when challenged. The Government of India went to the court for a decision, and it decided against the view that the Attorney-General has stated and that the hon. Member has so enthusiastically supported. The proper constitutional procedure was to bring it to the Privy Council and let them decide whether the Attorney-General is right or wrong in his prophecy about the result. If it be that he knows there will be someone on the Privy Council who will look after his interests—[Interruption.] Surely it is not improper to refer to my right hon. and learned Friend's prospects in the ordinary course of events of high judicial preferment. I was not referring to the influence he might bring to bear on any of the Noble Lords who are at present there.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)
I am wondering whether the hon. Member is not getting a little wide on this rather narrow Bill.
§ Mr. Maxton
I suppose that it would be wrong to criticise the Privy Council and I am not attempting to do it. I am criticising the Bill and saying that it should never have been brought here. The Government of India took the matter into court, but it should have come here and been settled by the court that has been set up here for that purpose. As far as I can gather from cables from the people affected, that is their view, and they say that if it came here and they got the worst of it they would accept it. At the moment, however, they are not prepared to do so. The right hon. and learned Gentleman and the right hon. Gentleman above the Gangway said that the object of the Bill was to bring to these people all the benefits that can only accrue to the residents in the larger communities—the great education services, social services, health services and so on—and that cannot be properly operated in these small territories. When criticism has been made of the conditions of the people in India, it has not been about the conditions in the wee places. It was not in the small States that there was starvation, but in Bengal. When people talk about the tremendous benefits that will accrue from this change, I would like to see greater evidence in the rest of India, in the big territories, of great social improvements before I would be inclined to agree that the transfer of these little places to bigger areas of administration would bring about all the benefits that are claimed for them to-day.
§ Sir S. Reed
A large number of these transfers are to the State of Baroda. That State has had universal primary education for 25 years, and also technological and art education, which none of the small States can possibly provide from their own resources. I say that in justice to a State that has deserved well from us.
§ Mr. Maxton
It is difficult to visualise the geographical situation properly, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will put a map in some convenient place in the House between now and the Committee stage. I consulted a map, but it did not give the details that were necessary for a proper appreciation of the matter. One hon. Gentleman said it necessitated travelling 300 miles to get to some of these places. I have to travel 400 miles to get to my constituency. It will not, therefore, be such a terrible administra- 1517 tive job to travel to these places. If the Government of India went to the Taluqdars and told them that there must be decent education for the children, decent medical treatment for them; that they should see that their old folks did not die by the roadside and that they were to get going with reforms; and if they were told that to the extent that they did these things the Government were prepared to assist them financially, there would be a better and quicker response from the small men than there would be from the big Princes and big States.
§ Wing-Commander Grant-Ferris (St. Pancras, North)
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that many of these States have a revenue of less than £100 in our money?
§ Mr. Maxton
I know parishes in Scotland which have less than £100. I will not oppose the Second Reading of this Bill, but I want some more information and some better arguments before I agree to allow the Committee stage to proceed.
§ Mr. Graham White (Birkenhead, East)
I do not wish to make any appreciable contribution to the exchange of views that has taken place on the more legal aspects of this business. Nor do I intend to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) on the line of country he has been following. I am somewhat surprised to find him making a speech in defence of what are, in effect, the lords of the manor. This Bill, which concerns perhaps 1, 000,000 of the 400,000,000 population of India, may Seem a relatively small affair, but it contains a challenge to certain principles which are of importance. As my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) pointed out, it is a challenge to the heavy responsibility which the House of Commons still enjoys under the Government of India Act, a responsibility which it is extraordinarily hard for the House to discharge conscientiously having regard to the fact that there are very few of us who have any practical personal acquaintance with the nature of the problem in hand.
We have the advantage to-day of a speech from one of those who knows the problem at first-hand, the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed), to whom we all listen as one who can speak from 1518 actual knowledge of the country. The responsibility of the House would be more easily and more properly discharged if we had more information. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education may fill in some gaps which were not mentioned by the Attorney-General, who was more concerned with the legal side of the affair. It would have been a help if we had been told by the Government spokesmen that all parties had been consulted. We have not been told whether the attaching States, even, have been consulted as to whether they are willing to take the responsibility.
§ The Attorney-General
I did say that. I said that the attaching States had all agreed that the populations of the States which were to be attached would get the benefits of then educational, health and other facilities. I thought I had made it quite clear that they had been consulted.
§ Mr. White
I am obliged to my right hon. and learned Friend, because his information is possibly more up to date than my own. I noticed that the Jam Sahib of Nawanagar, speaking in the Chamber of Princes as lately as 23rd January, declared that the text of the Bill had not been furnished and said they had depended upon information such as they could gather from the Press. He was asking that the views and representations that they were making in the Chamber of Princes should be considered before the Bill was proceeded with. I would ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether that has been done. If it has not been done, it might very likely influence Members of this House in making up their minds whether or not to give a Second Reading to the Bill. The House of Commons, if it is to treat these matters seriously when they come before it from India, must, I claim, be better informed on those matters than it has been in the past. I leave that side of the subject, as my right hon. and learned Friend assures me that the States are willing to undertake this responsibility as well as the additional expenditure of providing the social services, which are now denied to these isolated enclaves of population.
I am bound to add to this that I am in some little state of confusion about the position of the peoples concerned. Originally they were in favour of this Measure, but it now appears that they are not. 1519 One would be interested to know just what has occurred to make them change their view. Are they now concerned with the question of what is the difference between attachment and annexation? Or what is in their minds? While I am mentioning this point, I might say that there has been a considerable volume of confusion—and my right hon. and learned Friend mentioned it—which is now to be set right by making this legislation retrospective, which is one of the objects of Clause 1 (2) of the Bill. Its object is to smooth out difficulties and confusions, which, he says, have arisen. It would be very interesting if we could be informed how those confusions arose. Are they due to discontent with the proposals?
§ The Attorney-General
The only confusion to which I was referring was that which has arisen as the result of, and since, the decision of the Judicial Commissioners' Court that the Order which was to bring the scheme into operation is ultra vires. That is the only important confusion which it is now necessary to clear up.
§ Mr. White
I am again obliged to my right hon. and learned Friend, because his statement clears up the point. Still, something has arisen which has upset these people. We have been assured that their rights and privileges are secured. I am not so much concerned about the fate of the people as about the duty that we have, and which we must perform, of taking a decision in regard to them. In asking whether the people of those isolated populations have been consulted or not, one has to ask oneself whether it is, in fact, possible to consult them. It is not easy to ascertain their views and they can be very difficult people to deal with, whether they are consulted or not. I can illustrate my point with an incident which occurred to a friend of many hon. Members in this House, the late Jam Sahib of Nawanagar. When he went back to India from this country he made up his mind that he would build a fine school and a health centre which everyone would want, so he set to work, and built and equipped the school, at great expense. The scheme was carried to the point at which a day was fixed for the opening. Within two days of the opening, the various spiritual advisers of the population who were to come to the school, 1520 told the people that they must not go near it. The result was that some 4,000 or 5,000 people took up their beds and walked into the neighbouring State, and there they stayed for years. As to what became of the school, I can only say that the Jam Sahib had the best equipped garage in the whole of India. I mention this as an illustration of the fact that these populations can be exceedingly difficult to please.
I would also like to ask whether this matter has been considered—as I suppose it must have been—in connection with possible future developments in Indian policy, and whether there have been, or are likely to be, difficulties arising from the attachment of Hindu estates to Moslem estates, or vice versa. Anybody who considers this matter dispassionately, must come to the conclusion that if the House of Commons is to come to a decision in the interests of these people we must ask whether conditions that one can foresee are likely to deprive them of the social amenities and services which we now regard as their common right. There may well be some opinion in the country as well as in this House which takes exception to the handing over, the attachment, of these entities of territory and people to autocratic States which are not in accordance with the modern trend of thought.
Looking at the thing, as practical men, we must realise that it would be impracticable, if these communities were attached to British India, to provide effective services on anything like an economic basis. Some are situated in the very middle of the States to which it is now proposed to attach them and there can be no question that they will be transferred to enlightened States. No one doubts that they will benefit, provided, of course, that the Rulers of those States are, in fact, willing to give them the services which they give to their own people. On that point there can be no doubt. I do not think there is any practical alternative to this proposal. We cannot leave them as they are, and we cannot simply tell them to make the best arrangements in the circumstances with their larger neighbours. I must, however, say again that the matter has not been presented to Parliament, so far, with the amount of information which we require in order to discharge the very heavy responsibility which lies upon this House in connection with a Bill of this kind.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
I must take exception to the suggestion in the speech of the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) and also in that of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Max-ton) that the House has not been given adequate information upon which to form an opinion. I thought that the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General did set out extremely clearly the comparatively simple issues which arise on this Bill. I object still more to the suggestion in the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgeton that this House does not give sufficient time and thought to matters concerning the government of India. He said towards the end of his conclusions that he was relying very largely upon his imagination in order to make his speech, and that was apparent to anyone who listened carefully and patiently to what he had to say.
The purpose of this Bill, as I see it, arises out of Sub-section (2) of Section of the Government of India Act. The Committee generally known at the Butler Committee, presided over by the uncle of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education, which inquired into the constitutional position of the Indian States, gave it as their considered opinion that the Indian States could not be handed over to any Government in India which was responsible to an Indian electorate and was not wholly responsible to the Crown. It was because that view was accepted by the Government of India and by the Joint Select Committee that this Sub-section was put into Section 1 of the Government of India Act. The purpose of it was to ensure that the Indian States should not be put under the control of a popular Government set up in British India. It was not at that time imagined by the House that the effect of this Subsection would be to prevent the Representative of the Crown, in the exercise of the powers of paramountcy, from taking any steps which appeared to him to be generally desirable to attach small States to larger States in the district. It was only when this matter came before the Judicial Commissioner in Kathiawar that it was found that this Sub-section, which had been intended by Parliament to deal with one particular matter did, in fact, because of the wideness of the terms, prevent the Representative of the Crown in India from making the attachment of 1522 these small States to larger States in the neighbourhood.
When we look at the matter from the point of view of the good government of India, we find here a vast number, about 600, of these States, some of which could be better described as estates. The average size of them is, I believe, 15 square miles, and some of them are as small as six of eight square miles. For a long time we, the paramount Power, have had there a Judicial Commissioner in order to make certain that at any rate law and order are maintained in these small States, but in everything that affects what are generally called in India the nation building services—roads, education, health, and so on—they have been left to their own devices, and each one of these small rulers enjoys almost unrestricted power. It is, in fact, the case that in these small States it is possible for anyone of them to put up a special Customs barrier. Therefore, at a time when other parts of India both under British rule and the Indian States have been making notable progress in the way of social services, particularly in the case of these larger Western Indian States like Nawanagar and Baroda, these 600 small States have not participated in those advantages.
So it was in the natural development of political thought that something in the nature of a measure of mediatisation, to use the word which was used by Germany, should have been adopted by the Crown Representative, that these small States in Kathiawar might be attached to the prosperous and well-governed larger neighbouring States in order that they might enjoy the same advantages as the State. Then, this test case being taken before the judicial Commissioner in Kathiawar, he interpreted the taw as meaning that under this Sub-section (2) of Section 1 of the Government of India Act, 1935, Measures which had always been assumed to be well within the power of the Representative of the Crown in India were in fact unlawful. Therefore, I feel that it is unreasonable that all this discussion should have taken place in which it has been suggested that it has not been made plain to the House how this problem has arisen. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) dearly appreciated the position. He has realised how peculiar is the special position of the Indian States, and how 1523 beneficial it would be to the inhabitants of these numerous very small States in Kathiawar to be attached for administrative purposes to the neighbouring States. I hope, therefore, that the House will be willing to give a Second Reading to this Bill.
§ Mr. Sorensen (Leyton, West)
We have covered the ground fairly well to-day and there is no excuse on the part of anyone here for not understanding the object of this Bill and the associated facts. Therefore, I do not intend to keep the House more than a few minutes, especially as I very much desire to hear the reply of the President of the Board of Education. I must say, however, it is, to say the least, curious that we have had to wait so long for this Bill to be brought forward. I thoroughly appreciate the explanation which has been given and I am not attributing any ulterior motive to the delay but certainly from one standpoint it seems somewhat belated. I should also like to state that if there had been as much desire to find out what was the feeling and opinion of the peoples who are involved in this transfer as there has been to secure the legal power of such attachment I should have been much more impressed. It is not good enough to suggest that we must merely pass this Bill in order to do good to the people of these 400 or 600 centres. Something more is required than merely a desire to do good in this rather indirect constitutional fashion.
I submit that so long as we still pay attention to the principle of democracy we should have attempted, at least, to find out what was the opinion of the people who are actually affected. I know it has been said by the previous speaker that this would have been almost impossible—at least he appeared to imply that. If that be so, I cannot quite understand why not only the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) but one or two other Members of this House have had numerous cables fluttering through their letter-boxes, some specimens of which I have in my hand now, and I believe that my hon. Friend in front also has some specimens. It might not be out of place if I read at least one representative cable out of a large number because it indicates that there is some kind of public opinion in the estates or States that are affected. Here by way of example is one: 1524We subjects of Khadal Ghodasar Vadagam Sathamba Dedhrota Hapa and Jabet States—I do not know any of them but I am sure they exist—in Western India States Agency ordered to be attached to Idar and Baroda States already protested against attachment and sent our representations to his Excellency the Crown Representative. We are attached without being consulted and without our consent. Bill to legalise scheme of attachment is rushed through Parliament without ascertaining our wishes. We do not want to be attached to autocratic States where our future is not certain. Proposed attachment is supposed to be in our interest but on the terms of attachment no benefits will result to us. On the contrary we are to be transferred from British courts to courts not based on rule of law. We are transferred as if we were mere things. We are happier in our present States. Proposed legislation not acceptable if rushed through.Another cable, the text of which I shall not read, follows much the same line and is signed by, amongst others, the President of the Ghodar State Subjects Committee, the President of the Khodal State Subjects Conference, the President of the Vadagam State Subjects Committee and the Presidents of the Sathamba, Napa and Gapat State Peoples' Associations and quite a number of others.
§ Wing-Commander Grant-Ferris
Is the hon. Member quite certain that there is no possibility of those telegrams having their origin from Congress sympathisers?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Walter Smiles (Blackburn)
Is the hon. Member aware that sometimes two barristers get together in India and form themselves into an Association?
§ Mr. Sorensen
I am well aware that that method may be pursued, if not in India then certainly in this country, and thus when we receive communications from the Lord's Day Observance Society and other organisations we can estimate their value. But because such methods are not unknown in this country and possibly in India that is no reason to assume the cables we have received are of that character. We must assume even with societies in this country which organise petitions that there is some public opinion on the matter. Is it suggested that in not one of those centres is there any kind of organised public opinion? Bearing in mind what has been said about the possibility of engineered protests, we must assume nevertheless that these cables are 1525 perfectly genuine. Until I have evidence to the contrary I am going to assume that they represent a substantial part of the public opinion in the areas affected.
In any case, what has been done to find out the feeling of the people on the spot? No attempt apparently was made by the Indian Government or by ourselves to find out what is felt by the people affected regarding these proposed transfers. Undoubtedly the transfers will be to autocratic States. I do not deny the liberalising tendency and the beneficial social development in Baroda. All praise is due to that State and the Maharajah of that State for developing along those lines. But that does not alter the fact that it is an autocratic State although of a benevolent character. I submit that our responsibility is not only to ask whether for constitutional and organisational purposes these small States should be swallowed up by the larger ones, but to find out the opinion of the 800,000 people themselves. Apparently that has not been done—more is the pity. I can fully appreciate the contention that as they are these small areas may not be able to develop their educational facilities or their social services and that they may lag behind contiguous areas and authorities. But if so it is largely if not entirely through lack of finance. If the money were available in these areas, apart from the organisational difficulties there would be considerable advance. Therefore, why have not steps been taken before now to secure the necessary grants of money to these areas so that they can develop their social services?
I do not see any guarantee in this Bill that by the transfer of these States or estates they are going to benefit socially in the immediate future. If there had been some guarantee the Bill might have been more attractive although I still should maintain the principle of consulting the people on the spot. Is it too late even now to ask the people in those areas what they prefer—to go to them now and to say "This is what is proposed," to elaborate the advantages and after such elaboration to secure their consent? If they consent there can be no objection, But surely they are entitled to such consultation. I must express my regret that this Bill has come forward apparently without due consideration for the people themselves, who are to be transferred from these small autocracies to greater autocracies and without any guarantee of 1526 substantial social advantage to them. We have heard a great deal in recent years about the difficulty of securing constitutional changes during the war. Although this is not a constitutional change of great magnitude, it affects 800,000 people, and if we can effect a constitutional change of this kind, affecting 800,000 people, it suggests that larger constitutional changes of a more democratic character are not impossible. I once more appeal to the President of the Board of Education, and, through him, to the Secretary of State for India, to find some means of consulting these people, of considering their protests, and of taking into account their public opinion.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
I must confess that I find myself somewhat puzzled by the way in which this Bill has been presented to the House and the course the Debate has taken. Up to the present, the assumption in every speech, from that of my right hon. and learned Friend downwards, has been that this is a Bill to attach smaller States to larger States in Kathiawar and Gujerat for purposes of better administration. That is not correct in the slightest degree. Neither Kathiawar nor Gujerat is mentioned in the Bill, although it may well be that the present intention of the present Government of India is to apply this Bill in that direction, if the Bill is passed. But I would direct the attention of hon. Members to the Bill itself. It says that any Indian States not mentioned in Divisions I to XVI of the Table of States in Part II of the First Schedule to the Act of 1935 may be attached—in other words, may be extinguished, for that is what it may amount to. I may be wrong and I hope I am wrong, but it appears to me that the States not mentioned in Divisions I to XVI in Part II of the First Schedule of the Government of India Act, 1935, far from having a population of only 800,000—I hope my right hon. Friend will give me his attention.
§ The President of the Board of Education (Mr. Butler)
I have heard every word. I do not know what the hon. Member is referring to, for I have heard every word he said. It is quite unworthy to suggest I was not listening.
§ Mr. Nicholson
Of course, I withdraw that, but there was a conversation going on. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will 1527 accept my assurance that I was not trying to be rude to him, but I did not feel that I had his attention. My point is that, by my reading of the Government of India Act, I find that the population affected by this Bill is not 800,000 but over 3,000,000.
§ Mr. Sorensen
Is that correct, because we have been misled if that be true?. We have been led to suppose that the population is between 800,000 and 1,000,000. If the hon. Member is right, we should like to have some correction.
§ Mr. Nicholson
Indeed, I strongly suspect I must be wrong, because I cannot believe that the House could have been misled in such a way. Hon. Members will see from their copies of the Bill that it says that any States not mentioned in these sixteen Divisions are liable to attachment. If you turn to the Government of India Act, 1935, you will find that Division XVII, which deals with the States not mentioned in any of the preceding Divisions, gives the population of those States as over 3,000,000—I take it, on the 1931 census. I do not know where many of these States are outside Gujarat and Kathiawar. I myself only know one at first hand—which is in Orissa. It is a small State excellently administered. I think that it would be certainly outside the intention of this House that, by the passage of this Bill, powers wider than the attachment of States in Gujarat and Kathiawar should be given to the Government of India. I should be very much surprised to find that I am right in what I am saying but I certainly think that this is a point which needs to be cleared up.
§ The President of the Board of Education (Mr. Butler)
I am sure that the House will regret, as much as I do, the absence of the Secretary of State for India, and, if I take over this Debate on his behalf, I do so in the hope that he will be rapidly restored to health and will be back with us soon. I feel also that my right hon. Friend the Attorney-General has dealt in so learned and comprehensive a manner with the subject, that I need not detain the House long.
I think it would be right to say that the House has, in general, given a great deal of encouragement and support to the Government in proceeding with the Second Reading of this Bill. My task will be to answer some of the points that have 1528 been raised to the best of my ability, and further, to reassure hon. Members that this Bill is one which should be proceeded with, subject, naturally, to its examination in later stages. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), in his usual inimitable style, attempted to infuse into our Debate some of those wider philosophical and political conceptions upon which, if I desired, I could dwell for a very long time. He expressed himself as favouring the small man versus the large, and gave us some ideas of his own political philosophy. It seems to me that, in considering this particular matter, what we ought to have in mind is what is of advantage to the subjects of these small States. We should have before us, continually, what is going to be best for their administration, and for the social services to which reference has been made, and if we take that as a particular criterion, I am sure I am expressing the opinion of the House when I say that there is no other alternative but to proceed as suggested here. We have here a practical problem of considerable importance, and I am sure the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed) was right in saying that there was as strong a case to-day as there was for strong action of this sort many years ago.
The geographical position is quite peculiar. The State of Baroda itself is divided into several parts, and the parcellation which results from the multiplicity of these small States is almost unbelievable. In order to bring it to the attention of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen I will agree to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Bridgeton that a map should be laid in the Library. If hon. Members will look at these maps—there will be several to illustrate different areas—they will see what the parcellation is before the attachment scheme comes into force, and what it will be with the attachment scheme in operation. They will have the opportunity of realising that, so far as administration goes, the case for this Measure is absolutely overwhelming.
It has been put in the course of this Debate that the social services could have been administered on the basis of existing units. One hon. Member has suggested that each Taluqdar should be approached and that it should be suggested to him that, in his own area, described in our Debates as being of the 1529 size of a parish, lie should himself develop social services and get Government support for so doing. The answer to that is that when the Crown Representatives' officers have attempted to take in hand the administration of matters other than the jurisdiction of the courts in these intensely scattered areas, they have found it exceedingly difficult. The difficulty of providing proper administration is due to the extraordinary geographical boundaries of these areas and their very small size. An appeal was made to me to apply my own experience in the problem of education. I can assure the House that if I had to apply education to these very small units one by one, I should have a problem to which it would be beyond the wit of man to devise a solution. The attachment scheme, which this Bill legalises and puts beyond doubt in law, provides that smaller units shall be grouped with larger units for the benefit of administration, and in legalising that scheme the Bill makes certain of a plan which in effect will preserve the existing rights of the Taluqdars, and, at the same time, secure a better position for their subjects in regard to the administration of the services such as have been referred to.
Let me deal before I go on to larger questions, with some of the points raised in the discussion. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick Lawrence) asked me to assure him that no treaties were being broken. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, from the most exhaustive researches, that there are no treaties between us and these small States. I can give that assurance owing to the profundity of the researches I have made. The hon. Member for Aylesbury asked whether the privileges and rights of the Taluqdars were being isolated. I have before me the Instrument of Attachment, as it is called, annexed to which is a Schedule, which states quite clearly the existing powers and personal privileges of the Taluqdar which are preserved in the scheme of attachment.
The hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. Graham White) raised the question of consultation, which was also referred to by the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen). If the situation in this area of India were exactly the same as in our own country—and I often think that 1530 in our Debates in this House we imagine everything is exactly the same all the world over—it would be easier to indulge in the formulation of the solution that hon. Members would desire. A definite point was put by the hon. Member for East Birkenhead. Is it possible, he asked, to consult the inhabitants of those States in the way that one would desire? The position is so varied and complex, that I do not think that it would be possible to consult them as he would desire. This scheme has been investigated with the greatest care for several years now, and I could inform the House of the many different stages which have been gone through by the Crown Representative and the able officers on the spot, men who know the States, who know the Taluqdars and know the leaders of local opinion. Every effort has been made to obtain local opinion as to whether this scheme would be the right one or not. The Attorney-General answered the hon. Member for East Birkenhead on the subject of the consent given by the attaching States and on the nature of the consultation held with them. There has actually been no formal consultation with the Chamber itself.
§ Mr. Graham White
If this were asked for, I suppose consideration could be given to it before all the stages of the Bill were completed.
§ Mr. Butler
It is a matter in which we should rely on the discretion of the Crown Representative, and I am sure that contacts have been made. It is urgent for us to proceed with the passage of the Measure because of the situation existing at the present time. The hon. Member raised another problem as to whether it was right that Hindu inhabitants should be attached to Moslem States. There are certain Hindus, in this instance, who will be attached to the State of Junagadh, which has a Moslem Ruler, but I do not suppose that the hon. Gentleman will imagine that there is anything particularly wrong in that, since in all parts of India we see Rulers of one religion being Rulers of States in which the inhabitants are chiefly of another persuasion. That is a normal thing in India, and I need not continue to discuss it. My hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) raised quite a substantial point of whether this Bill applied to areas larger than Kathiawar and Gujarat.
1531 The Schedule of the Government of India may have interpreted it in that sense, but interpreting it in that sense might cause considerable alarm, and it might be thought that the Bill could be applied to a larger area. The provision of this particular Schedule of the Government of India Act, which I remember something about, was drafted for convenience. In the language used in the Bill itself, it covers almost exactly the area which the House has before it, and that is the area of Kathiawar and Gujarat. But there are some other States, really very few, which would be affected. They are small States of exactly the same character of those with which we are dealing. If my hon. Friend wants further to pursue this matter, he should accept the general position on Second Reading, that this definition does almost exactly cover the States with which we want to deal with the exception of one or two others in other parts, and should pursue his investigation into those other parts on the Committee stage.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson
Could my right hon. Friend tell me how the difference between 800,000 and over 3,000,000 is got over?
§ Mr. Butler
I do not necessarily accept my hon. Friend's figure of over 3,000,000 but I will certanly investigate the point. I see now how he derives his figure. I accept the significance of my right hon. Friend's figure, but I would like to investigate further, before the Committee stage, the number of extra States likely to be affected. My opinion is, on information received, that there would be very few indeed, and if he pursues that point at later stages he will be able to examine the exact terms of the Bill.
We now come to the main issue, which is the relation of the Bill to the Indian States. It may seem to some of the Princes, to whose signal services to the Crown in the war, I am sure, the House would wish to pay tribute—and particularly when they are unfamiliar with and unaffected by the problem of these areas—that Parliament will be departing from long tradition in legislating for these States and passing such a Measure into law. It may even seem that the object of the Measure is to remove from some of the States rights and privileges which they have long enjoyed. I hope nothing 1532 has been said in the Debate to show that that is our object. No rights have been taken away. On the other hand, no new policy or regime is being imposed by law. The object of the Bill is simply to clarify a situation which, judicially, since the inception of the Government of India Act, has been left obscure and confused. The provisions of the Bill are directed to remedying these obscurities. The Viceroy, after its passage, will be entitled to continue without question of legal validity, the exercise of his functions in relation to these States. He will have obtained no new powers and he will have been directed to pursue no new policy. It is merely to enable him to resume freedom of action in the interests of all concerned.
§ Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)
Would it not be for the convenience of the House, and the Minister himself, to state a few cases of attachment to show what has been done and what the nature of the attachments have been?
§ Mr. Butler
It is rather a difficult and complicated thing to do. It would be better to do it on the later stages of the Bill. I was dealing with the relationship of the Crown and Parliament to the Indian States. It is difficult to make a consecutive speech if I have to break into it to deal with this point. I could, if my hon. Friend wishes me to divert—
§ Mr. Butler
In that case, I suggest that instances be given in the course of the further passage of the Bill and that we confine ourselves on Second Reading to the main issues involved. I was just saying that the powers which the Taluqdar have exercised in the past will be made secure by the passage of the Measure. No doubt an opportunity will arise on the later stages of the Bill to answer certain detailed points which have been raised. What is clear to-day, as described in the Indian States Report, to which my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) referred, is that:Conditions alter rapidly in a changing world. Imperial necessity and new conditions may at any time raise unexpected situations.That was included in the words of the Report of the Indian States Committee and it is with this situation we are dealing to-day. The Report goes on to say:Paramountcy must remain paramount. It must fulfil its obligations defining or adapting 1533 itself according to the shifting necessities of the time and the progressive development of the States.What the policy is doing in this case is adapting the position to the shifting necessities of the time, and to this end I submit that the House will be wise to pass this Measure. Unless it is passed, I feel that the position may not be satisfactory for the subjects and inhabitants of these States.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House.—[Mr. Beechman.]
§ Committee upon the next Sitting Day.