§ As amended, considered.
§ 3.31 p.m.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Sir Stafford Cripps)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
In moving the Third Reading of this Bill, I am introducing what will be the last Debate in this House on Indian affairs. For over a century now this House has been concerned with the conduct of affairs in India and the records show how many distinguished Members of the House have taken part in those Debates. Although it may be with regret that we thus pass from a great subject-matter to which so many hon. Members have given of their best in thought and effort, it is with the most profound gratitude that we should welcome the privilege that has made us the vehicles for the fulfilment of British policy in India, for there is no doubt of the fact that by passing this Bill, we shall be firmly and finally establishing our honesty of democratic purpose. There have been those who doubted whether we as a country would be prepared to carry out to their full and to their logical conclusion those professions of democracy which we have made in the past. This Bill is the proof of our sincerity of purpose.
We take this action, not because it is forced upon us by circumstances outside our control, but because it is consistent with all that we hold to be just and right. It is true, as many have remarked in the course of our discussions on the future of India, that we would far rather have passed a Bill setting up a single united government for India as a whole. That has not proved possible and it is not the sole fault of any of us, Indians or Englishmen, that it has not proved 228 possible. It is the inevitable outcome of a long history of difficulties and of tensions, of lost opportunities and human failures of which we have all had our share. None of us can point our finger at others and say, "But for you, all would have been well." I am perfectly conscious myself in the small part I have played in these matters, that by greater wisdom and understanding at particular moments I might have made a better contribution to a united India, but it is of no profit now to review the past. This Bill will launch us into a new and, let us hope, a happier era.
I have always held and often stated that we should never achieve true and worthwhile co-operation with India until we could deal with one another upon the basis of absolute equality. It is that equality which this Bill will establish for the first time. It will thus create a basis for a far deeper and more significant friendship between the peoples of our two countries. Some have thought in the past that we could hold India in close association with ourselves on some basis of modified domination. That is not possible, and to believe it shows a profound misunderstanding of all that is inherent in the democratic principles which we have spread throughout the world from this country. I am convinced, therefore, that this Bill will do more to create a real and living friendship with India than any other action which this country has ever taken.
A great deal has been said in the course of the Debates on this Bill on the subject of the Muslim and Hindu communities and the difficulties resulting from their inability to co-operate, but let us not forget that there are other important elements in India besides these two communities. To name two, there are the Sikhs and the Pathans. In some ways the position is far more difficult for these two communities than for the two major communities. It is not practicable, short of the complete Balkanisation of India, which I think no one desires, to give to every individual community the complete and undiluted rights of self-government which the two major communities attain through this Bill. But that fact does nothing to diminish our care or anxiety that the Sikhs and the Pathans should receive the fullest measure of recognition for their racial and cultural differences. 229 Both these people have shown restraint in their most difficult situation and we hope and believe that those to whom, by this Bill, we are now remitting power in Pakistan and India will do their utmost to admit the reasonable claims of these two splendid peoples who have contributed so much to the life of India.
I am glad, too, that the depressed classes in India, and other minorities such as the Indian Christians and Anglo-Indians, have been given a very full representation in the Minorities Commission set up by the Constituent Assembly of India in accordance with the suggestion that was made by the Cabinet Mission, and also that all their representatives are now working closely with the majority parties to evolve a fair and full protection for them in the future Constitution That and the action taken by the Constituent Assembly augured, I think, well for the future of their settling down together. No one who is conscious of the geographical, economic and social considerations which must condition the future of India and Pakistan can fail at this moment to express the hope that the peoples and Princes of the States will throw in their lot with the people of India or Pakistan to the very great benefit of all.
Changes brought about by this Bill must, of course, create problems for all parties, problems which are not easy to dispose of and which will need patient negotiation for their solution. I believe that it is most undesirable that we should attempt in any way to interfere in this matter or to force its solution in a particular direction. Whatever is done must be freely done, and must be acceptable to the peoples of the States as well as to those of India and Pakistan; but we would, at this moment of parting with our suzerainty in India, express the hope that the general good and future of the continent of India as a whole, under the leadership of the two new Commonwealth States, will outweigh any particular or local considerations.
It is important that the world should realise that this Bill has the support and backing of all the people of Great Britain of whatever party, that this is the solemn and considered act of the British people, and one which will give their country not less but more power to help in the wise conduct of world affairs. We do in this country believe most passion- 230 ately in our democracy, not as some lightly held theory which we can adapt and modify to meet the exigencies of our own temporary interests in an ever-changing world, but as a basis and foundation for all our progress and development. It is upon that basis that the British Commonwealth of Nations has grown up, and it is because our sister States in the Commonwealth, to which we now welcome India and Pakistan, share with us that same deep belief in the democratic tradition, that we have found the possibility of closer union with them than with other countries in the world.
It is, indeed, a remarkable fact that there have now entered freely into this British Commonwealth two great States with the age-long tradition and culture of Asia, so different from those of Europe, upon which hitherto has been largely based the common citizenship of the British Commonwealth of Nations. This is a new development, and it will create conditions that will demand all our care and leadership in guiding the Commonwealth towards a prosperous and stable future. It is with deep emotion and humility that I am sure we must contemplate this vitally important task which falls to our lot. It has often been said that in the British Commonwealth of Nations we have a prototype of that free and friendly association that we seek amongst all the nations of the world. We have, by this Bill, added a new feature to that prototype. We have blended in a single association of closely linked and equal nations with a common loyalty, the age-long wisdom of the East and the modern experience and development of the West. We have started to build a bridge between two great world civilisations which have much to learn from one another and a great deal to contribute to one another. The success which we can show the world in the years that lie ahead in this co-operation may have a profound effect upon world history.
No praise can be too high for all those in India who have contributed to this final stage of the fulfilment of our policy. The leaders of the two great Indian communities, who have, amidst the most intense difficulties, come to agreement on the course to be pursued; our own representatives, pre-eminent amongst them the Viceroy, who have laboured unceasingly and unselfishly to achieve that 231 agreement; the leaders of the other groups and communities, including those I have mentioned, who have been torn by the claims of their own people, but who, nevertheless, restrained their people from opposition; the Indian Christians and others who have uniformly given their support to a peaceful solution of the problem—all these have earned our gratitude. Every one of us must, however, realise the great difficulties that lie ahead, so great, indeed, that they well might cause lesser men than the Indian leaders of today to shrink from going forward into independence. In these coming days, we shall be ever ready and anxious to help them, through our experience, in any way that we can. It is not merely in name that they will become our sister nations within the British Commonwealth. That family association will place upon us a responsibility which we gladly and cheerfully accept, the responsibility to do our utmost to forward their independent progress and prosperity.
In giving this Bill what will, I am sure, be a unanimous Third Reading, we shall, I believe, blot out for ever the misunderstanding and difficulties that have, from time to time in the past, embarrassed our relations with the Indian people. India and Pakistan will take their places proudly in the comity of free and independent nations of the world, strengthened, we believe by the close ties of friendship with which they will be greeted as new members of the British Commonwealth of Nations; and it is, I am sure, the hope of all of us that this membership of our Commonwealth which they will share, will help them in the future to keep close to one another, and that the time will come when their present bitterness and opposition may be engulfed in the single purpose of the progress and prosperity of all the peoples of the Indian continent, whatever their race or creed. And, in that great forward journey upon which the two new members of the British Commonwealth of Nations will embark on 15th August next, which will become an historic day, we wish them "God speed" and assure them that we may ever be by their side in time of difficulty to extend a helping hand. Their leaders, who have struggled and suffered for the faith that was in them through long and hard years, we salute 232 now as fellow-workers in the cause of world peace and progress. May the sun which is now rising on their independence, never set upon their freedom and prosperity.
§ 3.49 p.m.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)
I rise to associate my hon. and right hon. Friends and myself on this side of the House with the sentiments expressed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He is, if I may say so, a member of this House who has rendered eminent services in the cause of Indian self-government. We should like to make it quite clear that we support the Third Reading of this Bill. Indeed, I think that the businesslike and friendly atmosphere which prevailed in the Committee yesterday afternoon would have proved that, without any further remark from me. Many, many people have contributed to this ultimate result. The work of leading India towards self-government has its roots in the history of many years ago. How many have wondered what the final result was likely to be, and how many of us, whatever we may have contributed and in whatever capacity, have wondered whether we should ever reach a satisfactory solution. We are here this afternoon to celebrate a conclusion which, in most of its aspects, can be regarded as satisfactory.
There are one or two matters to which I shall refer in the course of my remarks, but I want to voice the general sentiment which we on this side of the House feel in regard to the main objective, and that is that we should practise as well as preach the doctrine of self-government; and that, I think, is achieved by the passage of this Bill. We have, in fact, been true to ourselves, and, by being true to ourselves and what we believe in, we have strengthened rather than weakened the British Imperial position and improved our position generally in the world. At any rate, I have had the opportunity of obtaining the reactions to this settlement in a country, namely the North American Continent, and in particular in the United States of America which has not always been friendly to or even understanding of the efforts of the British in India. I was very glad to observe the almost unanimous approval with which this solution was greeted, and, judging by a practical matter which is even more intense in 233 England today—the space in the newspapers—I was very glad to see that almost the whole of the details of the solution were printed on the front pages of the main newspapers. So that, though absent, I have been fully informed and I hope I am worthy to take part in this Debate.
We should have liked a little longer in which to consider this Bill, and a little longer time in which the parties in India, aided the Government, could have worked out a solution which might have been even more complete. But we understood that there were grave administrative difficulties, and difficulties between those who found it difficult to work together and might be likely to split later; and it was, therefore, essential for a Bill to be passed through in what amounts to almost a record time for a Measure of this sort. I believe that these decisions sprang from an original decision to abandon British recruitment to the Services in India. I have adverted to this matter before, and there is no advantage in going over it again, but the fact is that the Administration in India was not capable of continuing indefinitely in the atmosphere which had been created. I, myself, do not accept responsibility for that original decision, but it was taken, and there is no doubt that to spin out the matter any longer might have been fraught with great danger.
I should like at this point to pay to the Services in India a tribute which we on this side of the House feel should be paid, and to welcome the statement made by the Prime Minister on the Second Reading, which is a distinct advance on any previous statement made about the Services—the conditions, pensions and general desires of the Services in India—and I trust that the undertaking given by the Under-Secretary of State in Committee last night, that the Prime Minister's words were to be taken literally and in their full context, will have been noted by the Services in India. I should like to support the claim that was made from these benches last night, that further efforts be made to publicise that statement in India so as to give confidence to the Services, whether they be Secretary of State's Services or not.
Here I should like to pay a tribute to the India Office. If I may say so, I can make this claim, that I have as many 234 personal friends in that office as I have in almost any other organisation or institution in which I have ever had the honour to serve. Many of the men and women in that office have been in periods of great doubt as to how all this was going to work out. They have lived under a perpetual strain, whether in this country or in their journeys to India, and I think we should realise that many of them deserve our thanks for the manner in which they have pursued these aims throughout this period and over these long years.
I said just now that we should have liked a little more time. We should have liked certain aspects of the settlement to have been rather more satisfactory, but even we, with all the freedom of Opposition, did not expect any easy solution for this most complex problem. In fact, no one who has devoted his life to this subject could imagine that any solution would be easily found. I believe that on one occasion in his career, Lord Curzon, perhaps our greatest proconsul, kept an official file for up-wards of two months. His officials, accustomed to his regular habits, were very surprised when the file was at last returned and it had, instead of a minute couched in the Edwardian phraseology of that great statesman, the following words: "This is a damned tough nut to crack." That may well be taken by some of us, and by some in the country who read our Debates, as a warning that the Indian leaders in facing their problems are going to have very considerable difficulties, and that this is going to be a tough nut to crack.
One of Lord Curzon's successors was Lord Minto, endowed essentially with common sense. My uncle was at the time private secretary and head of his office, and used to send him the files. At the beginning of Lord Minto's career, the files were sent to him with a series of decisions set out on top in tabular form, 1, 2 and 3, for His Excellency's attention. But my uncle found after a time that however many decisions he sent up, the initial "M" was always put at the top of the file. On several occasions he referred these back to His Excellency who continued to put "M." In future, therefore, my uncle referred only one decision, and His Excellency either adopted that decision or rejected it. That 235 may well be a better line of conduct for the Governors-General whose appointments have been announced and who are about to take office after the appointed day. I should not advise them to adopt the procedure of Lord Curzon of keeping the files. I should advise them to make an immediate decision, even if it means simply putting their initials at the top. We certainly wish the Governors-General well in their very difficult task, and trust that they will acquit themselves as we should desire them to do.
It is some consolation that those of us who laboured with the Act of 1935 should find that the corpus of law which remains as the basis of the Bill is that of the Act of 1935. It is subject to considerable changes. Indeed, it was impossible in the short time in the Committee stage to elicit exactly what parts of that Act remain and what do not, but I think it is satisfactory to claim that, at any rate, that Act forms the basis. It is not surprising, and I certainly do not complain, that the last 12 years should have resulted in a considerable departure from the general principles of that Act. Probably in no country have the effects of the war been felt so much as in the political life of India. It has been increasingly difficult to keep pace with the political changes in India. Those who were our critics only a few weeks ago have now themselves been violently assailed with criticism. There is no doubt that new forces are growing up in India, and there is equally no doubt that in several months time we may well be supporting with equal energy those who were our critics a short time ago.
Among the new forces I should like on this occasion to refer not so much to those revolutionary and other forces which may tend to threaten the regime, but to the place which I feel sure will be taken by the women of India. I myself feel certain, from my small knowledge of India, that the women have a great part to play in that continent, whether in India or in Pakistan. Many prominent women have taken part in our deliberations, and I hope that they will continue to mix in public life and thereby greatly enlarge the area of talent upon which the new Governments and Administrations can draw. I trust that they will play their part in improving social conditions in India, because, if they do, I am happy 236 to think that those social conditions may very rapidly be improved.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade used some felicitous language on the subject of our Imperial relations with the new Dominions. I think I have stated once before in one of our Debates that we are entering upon the fourth period of Empire. That fourth period will concern itself not so much with the word "Empire," but will see a development of the system of relations within the Commonwealth, which will mean that the British power of invention, of elasticity, and of political wisdom will grow and expand in a manner surprising to our enemies and satisfying to our friends. The association of these two Dominions is, I think, a most notable step in the history of Imperial relations. It is remarkable, not only from the point of view of Imperial relations generally, but I think it has a finer aspect, namely, that within the same continent these two new countries will have Dominion relationships with one another. That, I think, is going to be vital for the future defence of India, and for the settlement and maintenance of the frontiers of India.
It is always said that the most remarkable frontier affecting the British Commonwealth is that between the United States and Canada, where one can see no guard and where there are miles and miles of friendly contact. Those of us who know some of the difficulties and sorrows of the partitions that are taking place, and in particular those in the Punjab, will realise that it is too much to hope that there will be no unfriendly gestures, or no unfortunate skirmishing. But let us at least hope that, thanks to the Dominion relationship that will prevail between these two new Dominions, frontiers may be set up and observed which, in time, may be regarded as just as friendly as the famous frontier to which I have drawn the attention of the House. But we must remember that in the partition of the Punjab, which is the second partition, apart from the partition of India itself, we have left the Sikh community, to whom the right hon. and learned Gentleman made reference, almost exactly divided as between one side of the frontier and another.
It is to be hoped that the boundary commission, on which the most serious 237 responsibility will fall, will be able so to arrange the boundary that shrines and properties, and other things held dear to the Sikhs, may he amassed, as far as possible, in one area, provided that no violence is done to a proper division between Muslim and non-Muslim areas, in the same way, it is hoped that the partition of Bengal will so take place that the industrial welfare of the Eastern portion may not be prejudiced, and that access may be had to the sea through the port of Calcutta in some satisfactory manner.
I cannot help feeling, although the partition of India appears violently necessary at the present time, that as history develops, certain contacts must be made between the two portions of India which have been divided, and that the conception of a greater whole will arise. I looked over many of the documents and papers which we had to study in the course of the preparation of the 1935 Act, those relating to communications, to railways, and, in particular, to the provision of water in one section of India to the other. Very often a water supply to the villages it has to serve may be divided by the frontier. In the question of finance, in all of these aspects some nexus will be necessary, and how that is to be invented is at present beyond the wit of man. Immediate arrangements have to be made before the appointed day. There is a violent hurry, and it is quite clear to any who have studied this matter scientifically at all that many of these great questions are left unsolved at the present time, and for some time in the future. I trust, therefore, that the relationship between the Governors-General and the Ministers of the various Governments may be friendly, and that matters to be decided, may be taken to the Arbitral Tribunal, which was mentioned yesterday in the course of our deliberations. I should like the Government to consider in another place whether the Arbitral Tribunal cannot be brought more into the picture, and whether they have given their final decision as to its inclusion in the Bill.
When we come to the question of the Indian States, I maintain that the handling of this question is in marked contrast with the rest of the settlement. We on this side of the House have always stressed the importance of the 238 States in India as an integral question by itself, and one which deserves the utmost consideration. Elaborate provisions were put into the Act of 1935 to provide for the accession of States and to give them the free right to accede to the Federation. I am told—and the right hon. and learned Gentleman has repeated the phrase—that the Government have been nervous about the Balkanisation of India, and that, therefore, they have been nervous about giving too much opportunity to the States to establish an independent position and not to join one or other side. I am not going to claim that the States are themselves without fault. I, myself, bitterly regret that they did not take advantage of the opportunities offered to them by the 1935 Act to accede to federation on the very fair terms which were then offered. But it is no good going back on history. I remember my disappointment at the second Round Table Conference, when the Muslims refused, through their official spokesmen, an offer of provincial autonomy officially made to them. That was some 16 years ago. If people had thought earlier, how easier would the government of the world be. Now we are faced with the facts as we find them.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked us today to believe that the right policy was that the States should throw in their lot with one or other of the Indian Dominions. I quite understand the dangers of Balkanisation. I believe that the parcellation of some of the small States in India was a feature of Indian life which some Government or other would eventually have had to deal with. Indeed, the Department of the Government of India responsible has already made certain ventures in the direction of bringing units and States together, especially in the West of India. I think it is right for many States to take the decision to join one or other Dominion. But we cannot, on the information in our possession, exclude the probability that some States will desire their independence. Some States, we are sure, will want to remain independent and to have relations with us.
The right hon. and learned Attorney-General referred to these matters last night, and it is quite clear that the Government are not going to be pressed 239 on this matter, and are not going to say any more, because, in the words of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, they do not wish to force a solution. All I can say, therefore, in reason, and maintaining the atmosphere of the Debate, as we have maintained it, is that I trust that when it becomes clear that a unit among the States, or one, or some of the States, desires to maintain independence, the Government will then enter into relations with that State and will handle it with sympathy and with understanding. I need hardly remind tl.e House that the State of Hyderabad, for example, has more inhabitants than any British Dominion, including Canada, and is at least the size of France. In some of these States, we are dealing with very large units indeed, units which have stayed by us loyally in more than one war, and the integrity of which are beyond question.
Scant attention has been given to the minorities, especially in the Committee stage. In fact, it proved virtually impossible to raise their case. It is very difficult to raise their case because the fact is that this House is deciding today to transfer sovereignty and power to the Indians themselves. We are also deciding that that independence shall take place before the actual Constitution making, and that means that the Constituent Assemblies have it in their power to make a Constitution under which the minorities will have to live. It is, therefore, not surprising, when I have studied the literature sent me by the leaders of the minorities, that I have not been able to find any very concrete suggestion to make. Because, in fact, any constitutional devices that one recommends must under this Bill, be decided by the constituent bodies themselves.
I have, however, had drawn to my attention by the leader of the Scheduled Castes, a man with whom we have worked in the past, and who has served their cause, namely, Dr. Ambedkar, that it would be extremely helpful if some reference could be made to this community in the course of our Debates; and I, therefore, say that I trust that, when the new Constitution is made, full consideration will be given to the position of the Scheduled Castes themselves. It is sometimes said that Britain has not done enough for them. It is well known, I 240 think, that Queen Victoria's original proclamation—about our not interfering too much with the religion and habits of the people—has prevented the British from doing, perhaps, as much as they might have desired; but there is no doubt that, in later years, by a variety of devices, we have attempted to influence improvement of the position of the Scheduled Castes and have tried to mitigate the horrors of untouchability. In fact, the Franchise Committee itself recommended electorates which would have given the Scheduled Castes an opportunity for election and for looking after their own affairs. Unfortunately, the decisions of the Franchise Committee were abrogated by the Poona Pact, produced by one of Mr. Gandhi's longest fasts. I cannot now influence the decision of the constitution-making body, but it is quite clear that, under the Poona Pact, the Scheduled Castes do not get a chance of electing their representatives who ultimately represent their point of view. I hope that in part or parts of India it may be possible to find for them an electoral system which will be of a kind more suitable for them.
There are many other minorities—Anglo-Indians, Christians, to whom the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred, and many others—whose case we considered last night. We trust that in the future of India they, and those Europeans who are going to stay and practise their legitimate trade, will find free and fair opportunity, and will find happiness under the new regime. But there are many other sections of opinion, minorities among the Muslims, cultivators and others, who do not mix in the political life, have not shouted or talked politics, but whose views are sometimes not quite the same as some of those who steal the thunder and appear before the footlights.
I remember some wording used in the Gracious Speech on the occasion of the inauguration of the Conference in the Royal Gallery of the House of Lords on 12th November, 1930. These words were:I have in mind the just claims of majorities and minorities, of men and women, of the town dwellers and the tillers of the soil, of the landlords and the tenants, of the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, of the races, castes, and creeds of which the body politic is composed. For these things I care deeplyFor these people and these things we care 241 deeply. They are passing out of our immediate care. We are moved on this occasion, and we wish those well who are assuming the Government and the responsibility for the welfare of the Indian peoples.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
This is a deeply emotional moment. For two centuries Members of this House have debated India, the condition of its people, their welfare, prosperity, and poverty, their development, their education, and their government in all its forms. There have been many historic occasions among which the outstanding and notable Parliamentary figures of the time have taken part. One recalls Debates not only in this Chamber but in the one which we recently occupied until it was destroyed by the enemy, and there were earlier Debates in the old Chamber, on the site now occupied by St. Stephen's Hall, and even in Westminster Hall itself. Today the Members of the British House of Commons, representing the people of Britain, will give the Third Reading to this, the Indian Independence Bill, and will do so without a single dissenting voice.
So ends one era, an era covering not only the 200 years of which I have spoken, but even longer than that. During aril period there has been a close collaboration and relationship between the peoples of India and the peoples of these islands. It has been an era upon which we and the generations which will follow us, can look back with justifiable pride. Our people, throughout the many decades, have striven conscientiously and loyally through multifarious difficulties for the welfare of the peoples of India. There have been many mistakes. There have been, on occasions, bad mistakes. But, "To err is human; to forgive, divine." We have, so far as we could, brought peace from all external force, and we have established law and order, a system of law and of the administration of justice. We have built roads, canals, railways, harbours, systems of irrigation, factories, plant and machinery; we have built schools, colleges and universities; and we have introduced and established health and welfare measures. We have founded and taught by example and by precept a Civil Service and the methods of the working of popular govern- 242 ment. But, above all, we have tried to inculcate a spirit of tolerance and or understanding and a sense of justice among Indians—a sense of equity and a sense of fairness. On the other hand, we, too, have reaped great benefits from an association with that vast sub-continent and its peoples, both during our years of prosperity and our years of peril. The very association with India added to our prestige and our position in the affairs of the world.
So now, if I may use the analogy, we leave the old mansion where we have lived and collaborated so long and so sucessfully. We leave it with a great degree of nostalgia. We cannot entirely forget those things which are behind us. But, on both sides, we shall obliterate from the tablets those things which are hurtful and bitter, and recall and cherish those memories which are forever fresh in their pleasantness; and we shall watch, with anxious pride and throbbing hope, the efforts which the Indian peoples themselves make in reaching forward unto those things which are before them.
Today, after much discussion and debate over many years, the sketch plans for the site—and that is all—of the new building are being passed. It will be for the new India and the new Pakistan to decide what form the new structure will take. We hope and believe that they will build well and build worthily. Each has colossal tasks, immense political and administrative tasks, and even more immense economic tasks. In their work we not only wish them well, but we wish them true and real success, and we assure them, as both right hon. Gentlemen have already assured them, that, in any assistance of any kind which they, at any time, desire, we pledge ourselves to render all that is in our power. They have only to ask and all their sister nations within the great Commonwealth, of which they now stand as independent: parts, will do all they can in ready response. We all desire to give accord to the eloquent and sincere speech made by the President of the Board of Trade. It would be fitting that on this great occasion, when we are ending this whole era, that the Father of the House, who has had such a long association with India, and has himself been the witness of so many great Debates in this country, should say the last word on behalf of us all.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
This is, indeed, an historic occasion, and, like every hon. Member, I approach it with mixed emotions. The emotions uppermost in my mind are those of melancholy and of hope—melancholy, partly because I feel that this Bill could have been even more satisfactory, for I cannot approach the question of partition without grave misgivings; and melancholy too, because it marks the end of a great chapter in English history. We are today not causing the death, but registering the death, of much that has been of great good for India and for the human race. Let us pause for one moment in thanksgiving that our people have been allowed the privilege of bringing many hundreds of millions of people, thousands of miles away into the line of Western civilisation. Let us make no mistake about it, our administration in India has caused a great increase in human happiness, and a great mitigation of human misery. It has set up in that distant land standards that were never known there before.
So it is fitting and proper that hon. Members on this side of the House particularly, who, more than hon. Members opposite, look towards the past for their inspiration, should pause for one moment in an act of gratitude to Providence that our forefathers have been enabled to carry out this great work. There is much melancholy in this rapidly changing world, and the passing away of so much that is noble cannot but strike a sombre note in our hearts. But there is much hope, too. A chapter has been closed; the curtain has rung down upon a scene of one of the most vivid dramas that human history has ever witnessed. But a new chapter is opening; the curtain is ringing up on another act in the same drama, with the same actors playing the leading roles, and with the same audience looking on. It is very easy, particularly today, to look back with some melancholy on the past, and to shut one's eyes to the hopes of the future, and to shut one's conscience, too, to the great need for effort, courage and hard work if the great principles which have guided us in the past are to be enabled to operate in the future.
I believe that we in this country are gravely out of touch with India. I believe that a feeling of great optimism reigns in India; there is a great surge of 244 national feeling, a great recovery of national pride, a great turning over of new leaves, and—if I may say so without appearing flippant—a great burying of hatchets. Do not let us allow our natural and justifiable sense of melancholy to cloud all feeling of hope and optimism at this historic moment. The significance for us lies in the fact that our work will now be put to the proof. We shall have succeeded if our standards—and I say this without arrogance, and in an effort to approach the question factually—of law, liberty, justice, kindliness and tolerance have taken root in India and flourish, though under a new guise. We shall have failed if India turns her back upon all that we have taught and all that we have lent her, and relapses into something quite different. That is really the significance for us of this historic moment.
I want to make two points quite clear as far as the future is concerned. The President of the Board of Trade said that this was the last occasion upon which we should debate Indian affairs. I cannot differ from him too strongly. I am firmly convinced that the inter-dependence of India and Great Britain will be no less strong in the future than it has been in the past. It may even be stronger. I believe that there will be constant Debates in this House, not perhaps on Indian affairs—"affairs" is perhaps the operative word—but upon our relations with India, upon which I am sure the right hon. and learned Gentleman would agree. I want to make quite clear to the House and to the country my conviction that we have not washed our hands of India, that we have not said good-bye to India. Our responsibility for the happiness of the peoples of India will be just as great in the future, with free and independent partners in the Commonwealth, as it has been in the past. The responsibility of a brother is no less heavy than that of a proprietor or a trustee; and our relationship in the future will be that of a brother.
What we in this country must realise, and what we seem to have forgotten, is that the approach to the peoples of India must be through the heart and not through the head. We have been surprised and hurt that, in the light of all we have done for India—and we have done great things—we should, on many occasions, have been greeted with what 245 may appear to some of us to be ingratitude or lack of appreciation. There should be no surprise in that. In the past 20 or 40 years we have tended to lose touch with the great heart of India. I believe our steps first went wrong when, with the inevitable growth of the modern bureaucratic machine, there was an increasing loss of contact between the administrators and those whom they ruled. Administration tended to be concentrated in the larger centres of population, and that old contact between the European administrator and the villagers and country folk became lost. That is to be seen quite clearly in considering the Indian Army. For in the Indian Army there is complete unity, with the best of relationships between every race and creed, and every colour. That stands out in startling contradistinction to the loss of contact and the loss of good feeling in the political and administrative field.
I repeat, the approach must be through the heart. We must have an intense awareness of the great pathos of the Indian scene, an intense awareness of the fact that only infinite compassion and understanding can cope with that pathos, and that means taking trouble on our part. The real mistake we have made—I almost used the word "crime"—was that the average Englishman in this country has neglected the duty of making personal contacts and establishing personal relations with India and with Indians. Now everything depends on whether we can build up again that old standard of personal relationship which existed in the long distant past, and which has faded away so lamentably in recent years. This Debate is, in some sense, meaningless. We are not here to make speeches to persuade another part of the House to our own point of view —or, indeed, to persuade the people of this country to take certain action. This Debate is really the registration of the consummation of long past years. But I believe that two useful purposes can he served by our speeches.
First, it must be reiterated that this is a national Measure. I do not say this "gift of independence," because that might sound patronising, but this Indian Independence Bill is the action of the people of every section of this country. We on this side of the House believe that we have just as honourable a record—although we perhaps approach the matter 246 from a slightly different angle—in the growth of self-government for India as any other party, and we associate ourselves wholeheartedly with the reception into the British Commonwealth of Nations of these two new Dominions. Second, this is, perhaps, our last opportunity for the time being to assure the peoples of India of our sympathy and our understanding.
At the risk of appearing to be unduly emotional, I say that the message we should send out to the peoples of India is one of love. It is understanding, sympathy and love that India requires, and India can comprehend. We believe that we are destined to march together. Let the message we send out be the devout prayer that the Light of Heaven may be the guide of the peoples of India—that Light which shines clearly before the eyes of all who heed, whatever their race or faith. We say to India, "Hail and Farewell; but Hail again." We believe that we shall and can march hand-in-hand through the perils and opportunities of the future. The world today is a dark, dreary and dismal place, full of fears, hatreds and miseries. Amidst the oceans of unhappiness, which seem every day to be rising, that great reservoir of good feeling, understanding and affection which subsists between Britain and India, stands like a beacon light to all the peoples of the world. Let us cherish that light, and may God bless the peoples of India.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Rees-Williams (Croydon, South)
Everyone of us realises that today we are writing a momentous page in the long history of our association with the peoples of India, an association going hack to the days of the little trading posts on the coast of India, and that we are now at the beginning of a new and glorious chapter in this long association. This Bill is one of the most important which has been considered by this House. It deals with no fewer than 400 million people; it starts a new era in the history of the Commonwealth, and emphasises a new and peaceful association between the Orient and the Occident. I happened to be in the Far East at the time of the recent Inter-Asian Conference, and it was remarkable to me, reading day-by-day the work of that conference, to find how happy was the association between the peoples of the Far East and 247 India, and the peoples of this country I know that a great deal of that happy feeling in the Far East is due to the wisdom and patience of the Government during the last two years. When His Majesty's Government came into office, the Indian situation was very difficult. There was complete lack of trust in the British on the part of the leaders of opinion in India. One thing this Government have done, which will be eternally to their credit—I say this in no party spirit—is that they have given to the people of India and Burma complete confidence in their sincerity. That is a matter which will go down in history and of which we in this country should be proud.
With regard to the Bill itself, we ought not to leave it without saying a word of praise and thanks to those who have drawn it up. It was prepared very rapidly, and it is, I imagine, a masterpiece of draftsmanship. As one who has from time to time criticised the Parliamentary draftsmen for what I considered to be faults in Bills, I should now like to give them a meed of praise for their able performance.
This Bill confers upon the two States, Pakistan and India, Dominion status, and I hope it will bring to the notice of the world just what Dominion status is. Both the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the Prime Minister of New Zealand have pointed out that Dominion status is not something less than independence, but is independence plus something else. I hope that the peoples of the world will realise that. They do not seem to realise it yet, and that is one of the difficulties we have had and are having now, in certain parts of the Commonwealth without Dominion status, in persuading them to achieve it. They think it is Colonial status and not full independent status plus something more. Those who know the United States, and I am not among that happy band, will agree that in America there are many people, who should know better, lacking an appreciation of what Dominion status means.
This free choice by two great States, comprising together some 400 million people and one-fifth of the population of the world, is of such great significance that it will bring home to people all over the world exactly what Dominion status means. I hope that from now on we 248 shall not make Dominion status too rigid, by insisting on any particular form of verbiage. If States within the Commonwealth do not wish to be called Dominions, I hope that we shall not try to force it upon them, because it seems to me that this is a case where one word is as good as another, so long as the object is achieved, namely, free association within the Commonwealth. A number of difficult problems were considered in the Committee stage, such as the future of the States, the frontier question, and the difficulties of the Punjab and Bengal While there are difficulties, India is not the only country with difficulties; there is no country in the world which has not got difficulties, and great ones; and therefore, because there are difficulties, we need not be pessimistic. Now that these problems are in the hands of the Indians themselves, and now that they have to solve them for themselves, I feel certain that they will arrive at just and proper solutions. So long as they always had to depend on some outside Power in reaching a final decision, there was no incentive on their part to arrive at decisions. Now that it is in their own hands I wish them God speed.
The great difficulty in India, as even those with such scant knowledge of the sub-continent as I have know—it is perfectly apparent as one goes about India—is the great economic problem. It is a problem which the Indians will have to take into account. There are 300 million people living on the land, and great strides will be necessary in scientific agriculture before they can support themselves on a reasonable basis. There are various matters affecting this agricultural question which, to my mind, is the root of the whole Indian problem in future. One of the matters which affects the subsistence level of the Indian peasants is the cow population. It is estimated that there are no fewer than 225 million cows in India, and that this figure may in time rise to 400 million. We all know the difficulties in connection with this problem, which is one no outside Power can settle. It is a matter which the Indians themselves will in time have to tackle, and I am sure they will tackle it before they can get any sort of subsistence for their people.
But there are various ways in which we can give them help. We can give them 249 advice on agriculture and on industrialisation We can give them scientific assistance by means of experts, and the like. I know that they need this assistance, that they realise they need it, and are very grateful for what help can be given in this way. It seems to me that not only in India, but throughout the Far East, one of the parts we have to play in our new role is to provide the scientific, technical and other advice and assistance which we, and only we, can properly give with our long experience of these matters on an advanced scale. We have no longer arms or money with which to provide them, nor would we wish to provide arms if we had them, but we can provide ideas and the means of carrying these ideas into practice. One particular way in which we can help the Indians to develop—if they so desire it, not otherwise—is by the idea of a Parliamentary democracy with a planned economy, the same idea that we are putting into practice in this country.
Another matter which arises as the result of this Bill is the question of citizenship and nationality. As the British Commonwealth develops there will be very interesting results of that development in so far as many countries desire to have in addition to nationality, a type of citizenship which is not British Commonwealth citizenship, which is something less, and which they can use to serve their own people, to take the place of the nationality which a small State has for its own domestic purposes, but which a vast Commonwealth like ours cannot possibly achieve. Canada has such a citizenship, so has Eire, and now it is proposed in Malaya, and I have no doubt that it will come, in time, in Pakistan and India. They are new developments in our world history and legal system, but they are interesting and necessary developments of the times.
The future is in the hands of the Indians themselves, and they realise it only too well. Pandit Nehru, some time ago, said these words, which, I think, are full of wisdom:It is always more difficult to fight one's own weaknesses than the power of an adversary. We have social evils, with the authority of long tradition and habit behind them. We have within us the elements that have gone to build Fascism in other countries. We have inertia and a tame submission to fate and its decrees.250 We all have weakness of various kinds but Pandit Nehru has realised these weaknesses which, he says, are in the Indian people. To realise a weakness is the first stage towards overcoming it. We believe that this Bill, and the consequences which will flow from it, are necessary steps towards enabling Indians, not only to overcome those old habits, but to build new traditions on their ashes. We, as an old, and, shall I say, fully-fledged member of the British Commonwealth, today welcome both India and Pakistan as new members of the Commonwealth, and feel certain that as the years go by, they will prove themselves ever more worthy to be members of this great brotherhood of nations.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ Lord John Hope (Midlothian and Peebles, Northern)
At this moment of farewell to India, I hope the House will tolerate a brief intervention from one who was personally connected with a Viceroy who gave many years of service to India during the last stages of her journey towards independence. As the Prime Minister said during the Second Reading Debate, the theme is a great one and those words have been re-echoed by speakers in all quarters of the House throughout that Debate and subsequent Debates. But in its tribute to the greatness of the theme I have wondered sometimes whether the House, as a whole, has realised, and does realise, the gravity of the hour. Although I have perhaps considered what we claim to be magnanimous as being also inevitable, I have supported the policy of His Majesty's Government all through, and I hope, therefore, that such remarks as I feel it in my duty to make will be heard by the House against that background.
I feel, however, that support for this Measure is really no excuse for shirking an objective analysis of the situation. Besides, we in this House have a duty to the people of this country as well as to India. Stripped of all sentimental embroidery what does this Bill do? It enables us to leave India. That is its purpose, and that is also the purpose of the Viceroy. As a result of this Bill a fundamental factor in the whole Indian situation will have been irrevocably removed. I mean British responsibility. Hitherto, Indians have wielded great political power for many years. That 251 power has steadily increased but, ultimately and always, there has been only one sanction for the maintenance of law and order and impartial justice, and that has been the British Raj. This Bill ends all that. I make no apology for having so far stated what is obvious, but I believe it was necessary to do so because I have detected a tendency, in some quarters, to believe that because of the symbolic ties of the Crown with India, ties which still remain, and which in all parts of the House we hope will continue, in some way it will be "all right in the end"—to use a colloquial expression.
Above all, in spite of communal dissension, we gave to India political unity. By the desire of the Indians that unity goes at a stroke. We cannot help it, but we can say that we regret it. In that connection, I record my own regret, which I know I share with most hon. Members in this House, that the names of the two Dominions are what they are now to be. I wish profoundly that the name "India" had been kept out of it for the time being, because it may be only a name, but the name "India," as I see it, should have stood as a prize to be won; a prize for unity. I believe that one day that prize will be won. I wish that the Indians—by whose desire I know this name has been conferred on the Dominion—had stood by the original idea of Hindustan and Pakistan.
This disruption of Indian unity has had one immediate result of great significance. The Indian Army is to be split and its effectiveness reduced, as one estimate has it, to about one-sixth of its former power. Set that fact against the political division of the great sub-continent, and the net result must be that the Indian political structure is weakened. I bring that fact out for this reason: it is going to be very easy, in my opinion, unless great care is taken, to fall between two stools during the period into which we are now moving. As we are no longer to be responsible in India, so I say it is essential that we must not get involved in any possible quarrel or disagreement between the two new Dominions. I know that His Majesty's Government share that view, but I look upon the future in this connection with a certain amount of anxiety, and I was reminded of what might lie ahead by two references in yesterday's Committee stage Debate. 252 Reference was made to the possibility of what is called an "Arbitral Tribunal" being set up. The Attorney-General said:In regard to some matters it may be that an Arbitral Tribunal should be set up, and discussions have taken place already in regard to that.But that seems to suggest the idea of Britain still as the ultimate authority. On another occasion, earlier, the Prime Minister used these words in connection with the discussions for the defence of the North-West Frontier. He said,I should not like to go further than to say that the Government"—His Majesty's Government—would be perfectly willing to enter into discussions with the successor Governments on any matter of common defence."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th July, 1947; Vol. 440, c. 127 & 113.]I know that the Prime Minister could not reasonably go deeply into that particular subject, but I hope that when the Minister winds up I may get some definition of what the Prime Minister meant. How far do we intend, now that we have no longer responsibility in India, to get involved in discussions on defence? It needs little imagination, in my opinion, to see how easily a commitment of that sort may lead to our having to take sides on behalf of one Dominion against the other. These may not be pleasant possibilities, but I believe them to be distinct possibilities, and I think that they should be stated.
I am glad that throughout the Debate on this Bill events have taken their course so far as the Princes and the Services are concerned in the way that they have. Of course, as far as those elements are concerned, and so far as the minorities are concerned, we know that we can really do nothing any more in this House. We know that we have to rely on the sense of fairmindedness and justice of those to whom the responsibility is now to pass. I believe that we can also rest assured that as far as His Majesty's Government can help, they will. All I will say, before I close, about the splitting of India into two is that, in my view, it is very lucky indeed that in fact there is not to be one Governor-General for the two Dominions. I do not know how Lord Mountbatten, with all his range of talents, would be able to take the advice of the Ministers of India, as it is now to he called, on the one hand, and 253 contrary advice on the same subject from the Ministers of Pakistan. I think that his situation would have been very near to that of Gilbert's Lord Chancellor in "Iolanthe" who got into difficulties when he wished to marry one of his wards. Luckily, that difficulty has been solved.
I started my speech on a valedictory note because it must be realised that we are saying "goodbye" to India. As we do so, I think we may all of us look back with pride on the fact that united, India has stood. I think also we should look forward with a prayer that divided, she shall not fall. One of the Indian leaders said the other day:Let us now forget the past.Not, I hope, all of it. I would say in final farewell to India: Do not forget the law and order we gave you; do not forget the impartial justice we gave you; do not forget the tolerance and freedom of expression that we gave you. Of such quality is the light of the torch we now hand on to you. Do you keep it burning.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
My political awakening and consciousness of political life took place at a meeting to which I was taken, as a small child, to hear a Member of this House speaking on a subject which was very unpopular at that time—India and the condition of the Indian peasants. The speaker was Charles Bradlaugh. I remember very little of the substance of the speech, but I remember the tremendous energy of the speaker, his immense enthusiasm and I remember my father afterwards telling me about the great work Bradlaugh was trying to do for India to rouse opinion in her favour against apathy, contempt and very great difficulties of every kind. Afterwards I came to know Mrs. Annie Besant, who did a great work for the Congress Movement in India and helped to build up a great movement under the slogan "India a Nation."
Although I had never been to India until last year, I had always felt a great link with India because of those early associations and because I learned early in life to read some of the great Indian scriptures such as the Bhagavad-gita, and learned from them great lessons about life, lessons which we can find in other scriptures and which are well worth studying. When I was in India recently, 254 I went round very rapidly, as few people can ever have done, for I covered the whole of India inside a month. I travelled by aeroplane and saw the whole of India at one season of the year. I saw the great plains between Karachi and Delhi, the almost infinite number of small villages, and when flying low the work of the peasants in the fields. The myriad life of India impressed itself on me very vividly indeed. Then in Delhi, when I had the great pleasure and honour of staying with the Commander-in-Chief, I learnt something at first hand of the hopes of the official classes. I met a number of Indian Princes. It was during last November when they were considering matters arising from the new Constitution for India which we are now debating, and I was very glad to learn that what they were considering three months ago was methods of co-operation and not methods of separation.
In the course of my travels, I went to the North-West Frontier and one day I stood on the site of a place the name of which will be known to many Members. It is Taxila. This was the place where Alexander's armies came from Europe into India. It made me realise how very long the history of India is, for India was a great civilisation long before that. As I listened to the speeches this afternoon, I could not help thinking that a great chapter in our history, and I hope the Indians will also consider it a great chapter of their history, namely, the British occupation of India, is now drawing to a close. At the same time we should put that into historical perspective and remember that it has been, in comparison with the history of India as a whole, only a small chapter, though a very important one. There have been great and glorious episodes in Indian history before, and there will be, I am sure, great and glorious episodes in the future.
I cannot but feel that we should not concern ourselves so much today with the details, which indeed are no longer our concern, of how the Governments will be carried on, how the two Commonwealths will co-operate on all detailed arrangements which are the everyday administration of any Government in any Commonwealth and any Dominions of any nation. I think instead we should look forward into the future and think of the great part that India is going to play. We in the 255 past undoubtedly have been the means of linking India to Western industrial civilisation. That has been immensely important and valuable to the world. India in the future is going to have a very great task in leading the nations in the East. One hon. Member has already mentioned the Pan-Asiatic Conference in Delhi presided over by Pandit Nehru, which was being held last year when I was in Ceylon. There were representatives present at that conference of all the Eastern nations, including China, Japan, Indonesia, French Indo-China, the Malayan States, Burma and the countries of the Eastern Soviet Republic as well as many other countries. The language of that Conference was English, the only language which the delegates had in common. I think that that is immensely significant for the future of India and the British Commonwealth to which the two new Indian Dominions will belong.
India will, undoubtedly, be the leader of the Eastern world, which includes that immense area of China needing so much assistance and which has been so strangely divided from India through the centuries by that great mountain range, for they are almost more separated than we are from the Indians. I think it is of immense significance that India is taking the lead in this great Eastern movement at the moment when she is assuming her place with two equal partners in the British Commonwealth of Nations. We have been a link by which the Western world has been joined to India, and India to Western industrial civilisation. India, is obviously becoming the bridge which will unite the Eastern world to Western civilisation, and will be the highway for Eastern ideas coming into the Western sphere in increasing volume. Someone suggested we had much to give to India in the way of scientific direction. Let us not forget that India has had and now has some of the world's outstanding scientists in her own ranks.
I feel that we should not talk today of saying farewell to India. We are welcoming two new Commonwealths into the brotherhood of a great Commonwealth of which we ourselves form one part. The two new Commonwealths will have a great part to play and will bring a great new influence into our lives. We should not today say farewell to India, but wel- 256 come to the Indian Commonwealths as our partners in that great task which opens before us—the task of building a world civilisation for East and West, stable and secure, and a place where men and women can be happy and lead useful lives.
§ 5.9 P.m.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
A number of our early administrators in India, as can be seen in their papers, themselves looked forward to self-government being the ultimate culmination of our rule in India. Although it may not have been foreseen until within the last few weeks exactly how that ultimate stage was going to develop, it was quite obvious that it would come. When we instilled into the Indians the ideals of our political institutions, taught them our history, literature and language, it was inevitable that English ideas should germinate there and the Indian people should steadily become more and more desirous of self-government.
When history comes to be written, and when all the political controversy in this House and in India is forgotten, the actual constitutional development of India from about 1857 onwards will appear as an extraordinarily steady development towards the Bill which we are debating this afternoon. During their tenure of office, Viceroys of both the Liberal and Conservative Parties have introduced and passed legislation which has gradually developed self-governing institutions in India. Some hon. Members have spoken as though, during this time, the British Raj has been imposed upon a conquered country. As a matter of fact, throughout the 19th century it was a Raj in which the vast majority of Indians acquiesced. There were, I think, at no time more than about 2,000 officers in the Indian Civil Service and the police combined. The usual strength of the British garrison in India was only about 60,000, and I doubt whether it ever reached the figure of 100,000. During that time, therefore, it was no domination of aliens forced upon an unwilling country, but the unification and administration of a country with the acquiescence of its people.
It was really not till the first war, and very largely as the result of the activities of Mrs. Besant, to whom the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) has 257 just referred, that the idea of self-government for India on democratic lines first started. There had been claims for the Indianisation of the Services, but very little had been said of self-government in India as such. It was not, in fact, an idea indigenous to the Indian sub-continent, but since that time the work of the British Raj has been greatly handicapped. The administration which was so creditable to this country and so advantageous to India during the 19th century, was possible only so long as there was acquiescence on the part of the ruled. When Lord Irwin went out as Viceroy in 1936, he did so with the intention of carrying out a great policy of agricultural development and reform, and one of the first things he did was to appoint Lord Linlithgow as chairman of the Royal Commission on Agriculture. Anyone, however, who reads the record of his viceroyalty will see that all these great schemes for social and economic betterment which he had in mind, had to be postponed because of the immense difficulty he had in keeping the administration going and dealing with political agitation.
I am not one of those who believe that only the Hindus desired self-government. The Muslims desired it in the same way, but the great difference, as it has worked out, was that whereas the Hindus thought of the British as being the alien oppressors, the Muslims tended to look into the future and to fear that the Hindus would be the alien oppressors over them. Therefore, in this Bill today, the Dominion of India may be regarded as an expression of the desire for self-government of the Hindus in India, and the Dominion of Pakistan as the expression of the demand for self-government by the Muslims. I think that one must say a word of regret that partition has become inevitable. Perhaps of all the gifts which Britain brought to India, the unification of the sub-continent was the greatest and most beneficial, but unfortunately, not for the first time in history, it has been found that the unification of the Indian sub-continent could be maintained only as long as that particular power which carried it out remained in control. I think that we are entitled to point to this partition of India as proof of the difficulties which we had in giving self-government to India. It is, indeed, the complete answer to those who say that we were delaying giving self-govern- 258 ment to India for motives of our own, and that the obstacles such as communal dissension to which we pointed were excuses and not reasons.
Self-government could come to India only at the price of partition but, regrettable as that is, as it seems to me we had no option in the matter. As long as we insisted that there should be agreement between the two communities before India received self-government, it put an instrument in the hands of Mr. Jinnah by which he was able to stand out for the concession of everything for which he chose to ask. In fact, it was possible thereby for him to obstruct the development of self-government in India unless all his demands were conceded. I feel, therefore, that a time came when there was no option for us but to say that if they wished to have self-government, there must be partition. We can contrast the peace, tranquility and prosperity of India over the last 100 years since British rule was established throughout the sub-continent, with what has happened in Europe. When one reflects also upon the handicaps of Europe in the matter of tariff barriers and every kind of economic obstruction of that kind, one contrasts the relatively happy condition of India, unified and administered under British rule, with the trials, tribulations and misfortunes of Europe, with its numerous competing and hostile sovereignties. Apparently, that is the price of nationalism. I am sure that countries which disrupted the Austro-Hungarian Empire never regretted obtaining their national independence, although it is very easy to prove that economically, Europe was far better off when that Empire existed.
It is an unforeseen and fortunate chance that when this last Bill comes before the House we are once more united, and that, I think, is the result of two fortunate changes which have taken place since the policy of the Government was announced on 10th February. In the first place, we are not now ourselves proposing to cut the painter. It is one thing for this country to say to any great dependency, "We certainly are not going to coerce you into remaining within the British Empire. If, having duly considered the matter, you choose to go out, we will in no way seek to restrain you." But it is quite another thing to say, as was said in the Government's statement 259 of policy in February, "We are suddenly going to bring this relationship to an end. We are suddenly going to evacuate the country, and to leave you to fend for yourselves. The immense advantage of the Bill over the earlier policy of His Majesty's Government is that now the whole onus of taking the initiative in the matter is to rest with the two newly-created Dominions.
The second point was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson). I felt tempted to agree that if the interminable discussions and wrangle in India are to be brought to an end, it was necessary for a date to be fixed. My right hon. Friend pointed out that what was really required was a fixed date for the decision one way or the other, whether India was to continue to be united, or was to be partitioned. With regard to fixing the date, he said:Confine the expedient of the fixed date, to the single purpose of deciding whether or not it is going to be possible to find by agreement a central authority to whom to make over the powers of the State. Let the Government state their date in relation to that part of the problem, and having done so, then let them see how they would set about what, inevitably, must form the second stage of the process which the Government themselves have in contemplation, namely, the carrying out with all energy and speed of the transfer of the functions of Government to the new authority or set of authorities to be determined."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March. 1947; Vol 434, C 528.]So the second great merit of the Bill is that after the new Dominions have been set up, there is an almost indefinite period during which they will be able to carry on the difficult and complicated negotiations which will be necessary for partitioning the country and the services which at present they enjoy in common. I trust that as a result of each of the two great communities being given a Dominion in which each one will be dominant, they will be willing to practise the broadest tolerance towards the other minorities. One of the traditions of Hinduism in the past is that it is tolerant of other religions.
It is a fortunate chance that when the final stage is reached today and the end of British domination in India has come, there are more hon. Members who will remember the great services which the Indian Army rendered to this country in 260 two world wars. British and Indian arms have fought, suffered and triumphed together in India for a long period. But these two wars have been episodes when the Indian Army covered itself with more glory than ever before, when far away from its home land and in climates to which Indian troops were not accustomed During the whole of our time in India there have never been wars when our need was as great as in the two world wars. This close connection comes to an end at a time when more people in this country than at any time previously, can remember with gratitude and admiration the contribution which Indians have made to the safety of the Empire.
So, at a time when our period of authority in India ends, we trust that a spiri of tolerance in the Governments of both the two Dominions will prevail, and that those Dominions will enjoy tranquillity, prosperity and happiness. In every matter in which this country can contribute to the happiness, safety and welfare of those Dominions, they will be able to rely upon the friendship and support of this country as much as they have done in the past.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Carmichael (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
Let me say at the outset that I enter the Debate with considerable fear and trepidation. I would not have done so had we been debating details of the Bill. I know the situation in its broad sense, and I represent a party which must have a say in this final declaration in the British House of Commons. I feel that the party I represent has had a long and intimate association with Indians, both in this country and in India, in their struggle towards self-government. Whatever troubles may lie ahead for India, the Indian people as a whole must regard today as a very proud day in their history.
I speak as a back-bench Member of the House, even though I am actually standing in the front. I want to offer my congratulations to the Government. This is a very great piece of work that the Government have done for self-government. The principle of self-government has been accepted by many Parliaments in the past, but it has fallen to this Labour Government to bring the principle to fruition and to put the closure to British rule in India. I do not like 261 the use of the word "rule" in the Debate, because we have done much in India to develop a spirit of co-operation between the Indians and the people of this country. We have been reminded that we made a great contribution to the peace, tranquillity and prosperity of India. It would be idle to deny that during the time we have been in India there have been evidences of progress, but let us not make a mistake. There have been important features of our administration that every hon. Member would regret. I remember reading the early life of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) in which he wrote about the things they did in the Indian villages, for which we cannot take much credit.
It must be a very proud moment for the people of India and for hon. Members of this House, that the country is now to be two Dominions. I hope that with their divided responsibility they will, in the ultimate, recognise the great advantage of co-operation and come together in the course of time. This division has been desired by the people of India, and we have to accept it. At this stage, I say that it may well mean the awakening of the people of the East—and not the awakening I was taught to fear when I was much younger. It was always the feeling among Europeans and the people of these islands, that the awakening in the East would be a dangerous one, maybe one of intolerance and maybe one of challenge to Western civilisation. This awakening may be the opportunity for great progress, not only in the East, but throughout the world. Let this be said of the people of the East. We have very little to be proud of when we look at the state of Europe at the present time. Europe is in a very bad way, and whatever may be said of the peoples of the East, the responsibility for the bad position in Europe today rests on the shoulders of Western civilisation, and not on the people of the East.
I want to express my hope that as a result of this decision of the House of Commons, the Indian people will move forward holding out the hand of friendship to the people of Western civilisation. I am thoroughly satisfied that the people of this country have a very big contribution to make to the development of India, just as the people of India can make 262 considerable contribution to the people 01 this land of ours. I would like to remind the people responsible for the framing of the Bill of the date. It may be a coincidence, but the date is a unique one. It is 15th August. I know of one man who played a very considerable part in what was termed "agitational work" on behalf of the Indian people, who is derided and abused not only outside but in this House to this day. I refer to James Keir Hardie, who was born on 15th August. It is a very fitting ending to the old history of India, and a very good beginning to the new history of India, that independence will be granted to India on the birthday of James Keir Hardie.
§ 5.33 P.m.
§ Mrs. Nichol (Bradford, North)
This is almost the last moment of the most tremendous Bill which has passed through this House for many years. I disagree with the hon. Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Lord John Hope) when he says that we are now bidding farewell to India. I do not feel that we are bidding farewell to India so much as setting her on her own feet and wishing her bon voyage. While in this House the atmosphere is calm and the benches are not well filled, the day is certainly not without its dramatic moments. For many of us it seems incredible that in this slim Bill which has been debated these two days, there is given to India the independence for which many of us have been struggling for over a quarter of a century. The fight for the independence of India has gone on from street corners and platforms all over the country for a great number of years. We look back today on many things connected with that struggle. We look back upon the early days of the struggle for India's freedom, when we were quite frank about what was happening in India, and said that India was being exploited and should have her freedom so that she might develop herself as a great and powerful nation.
Now India has her opportunity, and a great opportunity it will be. Many eloquent speeches have been made in this House on the question of India, not just in this Debate, but also in the other Debates which have preceded it. I am, thinking at the moment of the grand speech which the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed) made last week, a speech full of wisdom and great knowledge 263 of India, and a speech of very great beauty. Some hon. Members opposite have been dwelling upon the great things which we have done for India. It is, of course, perfectly true that in 150 years we have done good things for India, but let us also remember the things we have taken out of India. Let us remember the things that that great population has contributed to us. We ought to be reminding the people of our country that the high standard of life they enjoyed in years gone by was due in part to the great things that came out of India, worked for by the Indian people at incredibly low standards of living for themselves.
I had the great good fortune to go to India just over a year ago. As I have said before, a few weeks in another country ought not to give anyone the right to be an authority on it. I would be the last one in the world to claim that, but it gives one a certain amount of feeling for the country. One came face to face with all that was still left to be done in India. There is education. I had a talk with Sir John Sargent while I was there. He talked of the great heartbreak he had had over the little he had been able to do. The schools in India are incredibly backward.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
Will the hon. Lady allow me to interrupt her? It is not fair to the Indian Civil Service and to this House to say what she has said, because education has been a provincial subject and entirely in the hands of the Legislature for the last 22 years.
§ Mrs. Nichol
That may be true, but the fact remains that a stranger going to India sees it there in all its stark nakedness. A whole stretch of India has not the slightest opportunity of having the most elementary form of education. Again, there are the health services, the hospitals and all the great public services by which we in this country set such great store. It is true that we have done things for India, but there are many thing we have neglected to do for India.
§ Earl Winterton
It is very unfortunate that the hon. Lady has chosen this of all occasions on which to say these things. All the things she has mentioned are entirely in the hands of the Indians and the Legislature, and have been for 25 years. It is no good accusing us of being responsible.
§ Earl Winterton
Hon. Members cannot ask questions in this House about education or the health services of India, because those services are not within the purview of the Secretary of State.
§ Mrs. Nichol
All I can say is that there is a great opportunity for Indians to do it now that they have their country to themselves.
§ Mrs. Nichol
They have a tremendous task before them. I can only hope that in the new days of freedom they now have, they will seize their opportunity with both hands. At the same time, as an Englishwoman I feel very keenly the great responsibility we have in these matters whether we are technically responsible—as the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) says—or not. We cannot divest ourselves of the responsibility for these matters. We cannot divest ourselves of the responsibility we have for those 400 million people who have been part of our Empire, over whose lives we have had control, and whose destinies have been in our hands.
A new chapter is starting for them in the field of trade unionism and in the field of the development of workers' organisation, and all this is now for them to develop. There is the coming of a free franchise, divested of property qualifications, which again is something they must settle for themselves. We are giving these full powers, and it is now their responsibility. This is their great opportunity, and in looking forward to the days which lie ahead, those of us who have seen what remains to be done in India can only hope that they are going to grasp their opportunities, and that their women and menfolk are going to combine to make of India what we know India can be. It will take a long time, and a long and bitter struggle lies ahead, but in looking back, I can only be thankful that this association with 265 India has had its glorious side. I would be the first to admit that, and we wish them God speed in the future.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Sir Stanley Reed (Aylesbury)
I crave the indulgence of the House for a very few moments for some remarks on the final stages of this Bill. I sometimes wonder whether we really appreciate now, what this occasion means. When the President of the Board of Trade said that it means there will be no further discussion of Indian affairs on the Floor of the House, that was true. India is bound to loom large in its Commonwealth and international aspect; Indian affairs are now remitted to the Indian people. So ends an association with Parliament which began far more than a century ago; it started with the regulating Act of North, and even before that day.
Now we come to this final stage, and I wonder if the House would consider it an impertinence if I offered a personal reflection? When, some 40 years ago, it carne to me to be in a position where I might exercise a certain influence on public opinion, I asked myself what was the goal of our policy in India. I took counsel with everybody who, I thought, could speak with authority on the matter, with Governors, members of the Civil Service and other services, men in industry and men in commerce, and they all came to one definite emphatic conclusion. The goal of our policy must be the establishment of self-government in India. But it was too often said that this must be a cataclysmic change—a sudden transference. That was a position I could not accept; if the goal was determined, surely the road to it should be solidly constructed. For these reasons, it was a matter of personal pride to me to work in support of the Morley Minto Reforms; the Act of 1919; and the Act of 1935. In all those discussions it was borne in on me that when the day arrived and we could say to the Indian people, "Our work here is done, and we will remit the governance of the land to your hands," that would be the proudest day in the history of the Commonwealth and Empire. From that conclusion I have never resiled; in that conclusion I do not weaken now.
So this great day in the nisibry of our people and of the Commonwealth has 266 arrived, and this afternoon this House will take the final stage in remitting responsibility to the people of India. It is quite true to say that this stage has not been reached in quite the conditions we should like. We should like to have handed responsibility to a united India. Anybody who has traversed that country from Rameshwaram to Peshawar, from Karachi to Mandalay is quite unconscious of boundaries and borders, and must feel regret that there is this division which has been forced upon us through historical, racial, ethnical and also religious and economic conditions.
We must also have a sense of regret that the great Indian Army, which has stood forth as one of the greatest unifying forces, this great homogeneous body which fought those imperishable campaigns in North Africa, Abyssinia, Mesopotamia and the jungles of Burma, is to be divided. We ardently wish that it was not so. We could have profoundly desired that the Act of 1935, which was one of the greatest Acts in record of this historic Parliament and of this historic House, had come into immediate and full operation, containing within itself not only the core of unity but also the seeds of power to blossom into full responsible Government Now these changes have to take place in these different conditions. That does not alter our conviction. I take it on myself to say that I have a joyous heart in the great enterprise to which we are committed. I refuse most emphatically to admit that this is good bye to India, or that it is farewell. Whoever else may think that, I do not so regard it, and the hope to revisit that land is one of my cherished ambitions. No; it means the end of an epoch, the epoch of governance and the opening of a new epoch, the epoch of co-operation.
We, one and all, welcome wholeheartedly pledges of co-operation which have come from every side, and from every individual who has spoken in this House. What form is that co-operation to take? First, I ask that it should he based on understanding. It may be that very great and rapid changes will take place in India in the next few years. Enormous social and even religious reforms will have to be undertaken in the East. It is impossible in India to distinguish between, or to separate, the social system from 267 religion. Great reforms in the law relating to land, and the law of inheritance, and in other directions, which we could not undertake as a neutral Government, will have to be undertaken by India; they will need full and careful understanding on our part.
The next field of co-operation I suggest is in developing the economy of India. There is a population of 410 million, and the standard* of life must be raised immeasurably beyond the stage in which it is today. We will give to India all the help our people can render her in the realms of science, in the realm of industry and of economics; in technicians, and in the field of education. I hope that there will go from this House, and from whoever has the power to speak to them, a very earnest appeal to our people who are experts in these fields to regard their part in the future of India not entirely as a question of salary, leave, allowance and living conditions, but in the light of the part they can play in our Imperial heritage and in the spirit of service, and in the hope that in the fruits of their service they will be amply repaid. So we play our part, whoever we may be, in this great adventure, in confidence and satisfaction. It is not ours "to see the distant scene"; we can but take the step. That step we take today, in thankfulness and gratitude for the opportunity which has been given to us, pride in what our people have accomplished in the past, and the hope for what we will, in faith and co-operation, be able to achieve in the future, in co-operation with those Indians who have now undertaken the responsibility of the governance of their own land.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
No one who has listened to the speeches of the last two days can fail to have been impressed by the dignity and even emotion which has characterised most of them. There was a slight altercation between the two Front Benches—the hon. Lady opposite and my noble Friend—but that did not seriously disturb the unanimity of approach to this Debate.
§ Mr. Baxter
My noble Friend is now extending the area of his criticism, but I think we are too old friends to quarrel. 268 It is as well, in these days of rather harsh party strife, that there should be occasions when this House speaks not so much as the Government and the Opposition, but as Parliament itself. This has been one of those occasions, and it has been moving and deeply impressive. I would like at this moment, if I might, to pay a tribute to the Prime Minister for what has been brought about. The good intent that was in his heart and the transparent honesty and sincerity of his approach must have played a great part in breaking down the suspicions and feuds and quarrels that have broken out so often. It is not often that I pay a tribute across the Floor of the House, but I ask the Prime Minister to accept that as being deeply sincere on my part.
The passing of this Indian Independence Bill makes the day at once a proud day and a sad one. I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed) that it is a little like a son leaving the parental roof to become a full partner in his father's business. One sees him depart from the home circle with regret, but one welcomes him in business association as a full partner. To some extent that is why today is partly a sad day and partly a proud one, because the greatest joy a parent can have is to see his son come to man's estate and assume its responsibilities and position.
Considering this whole Measure, considering the speeches which have been made in the last two days, I feel that history will pay a great tribute to this country for what it has accomplished, not only in this Measure but across the Seven Seas. Certainly, our administration—if that is the correct word—in India, was never perfect. We never moved as fast a, we could have done; there were many things left undone. But could this agreement have been entered into unless our service in India had inculcated respect for law and the honesty of the courts? The wonder and genius of this island Kingdom is something which will engross historians as long as this world lasts. Last winter I was at the opening of Parliament in Canada. Canada is a senior Dominion, Canada is rich and powerful, and is almost in dual citizenship with the United States. It was by no means unimpressive, and it was moving as well, to see the Governor-General take his place to open 269 Parliament, and the way in which, with Mr. Mackenzie King, the Prime Minister, sitting there close to him—I agree with a rather subtle air of proprietorship—the Governor-General said, "My Ministers will do this and that." Canadians are proud of that, of consenting by their own will to that form, proud to be found in the traditions of the great Empire, knowing that they could walk out of it by the mere passing of a Parliamentary resolution.
I hope that the whole world looks on today and sees what is happening and what has been accomplished by the troubled people of this island Kingdom here. I sometimes think that those of us who were born in the outer Empire have a sharper understanding of what this country means, what her Empire means, than those who were born and educated and who live here. I add that to my tribute today. The one thing we have to realise is that the British Empire and Commonwealth, like all vital living things, is subject to change, and that no matter what side of the House we sit upon, it would be a great mistake to imagine that this is the last alteration, or that more changes will not come.
I sometimes think of the Empire, and I do not mean this entirely frivolously, as a club. We here, and the Dominions and the Commonwealth countries, are the ordinary senior members. We also have country members, as one might call the Colonies. We also have week-end members—Eire might almost qualify as a week-end member of the club—and I am not certain that we have not got foreign members. It has been said that in the days of the great Roman Empire no one could say where the influence of that Empire began and where it ended, it was so vast. Later on, in the Holy Roman Empire of Charlemagne the same thing was said; so powerful was its influence, where did it begin and where did it end? We can look upon the map and see those parts marked red. Those are the territorial limits of the British Empire, but I wonder if we ourselves realise how our influence spreads beyond that visible Empire to what might be called the invisible British Empire.
In the wisdom of our Lathers and grandfathers here, not very much praised in these days, we so tuned our economy 270 that other countries lived by reason of our wise dealings with them. The Argentine might be considered, or might have been considered a short time ago, as one of the foreign members of the British Empire. America itself, although this might not be entirely approved of by Colonel McCormick or even Mr. Hearst, was born of this mother. It was a painful birth and not altogether creditable to the mother, bat nevertheless the qualities were there. When one visits America now and sees how strong are those institutions which came down from Englishmen, I am not at all certain that if America made application in a proper form and got a proper proposer and seconder, we may not admit her as a foreign member of the British Empire. I only say this because we should tune our minds to the fact that this is a changing organism. We should not shut our eyes to any development. That is why I think the Government have done so well not to let this Indian affair come to an impasse but rather have found the way round which expresses democracy and hope.
In conclusion, I wish to say this. It is one thing for politicians in a subcontinent like India to make violent fanatical impassioned speeches with the legitimate idea of overthrowing the ruler under which they are living. That is one kind of responsibility. But it is quite another thing when they assume the humdrum day to day difficulties of administration. The Indian politicians have a big task before them because a public which has been fed upon heated appeals and passionate fanaticism, is not going to take lightly to the ordinary course of government. Also, the people of India, faced with the normal difficulties and the lack of spectacular qualities of what in effect was a political rebellion, may be open to subversive propaganda of a fiery nature from outside. With all the good wishes that have gone out today, I think we should say in this House that the Indian politicians have a very great responsibility to see that their soil and the minds of their people are kept clear from that menace from outside. This is a proud day for this country, for this mother of nations, this country of Britain; and if I echo the message of one of my hon. Friends to India: "Hail, farewell, and hail again, which he gave so eloquently 271 today, I would add to it the time-honoured cry:Long live the British Empire and the Commonwealth.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Williams (Heston and Isleworth)
I suppose that different hon. Members suffer from different emotions on a day such as this. I imagine that the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed) must be feeling very elated on this memorable day. We have all enjoyed his great contributions on this subject on more than one occasion. I should think that the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), with his long experience of India, is experiencing another form of elation. I feel sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister also are feeling very elated, not only because this is a great day for Britain and for this Parliament, but because it is a memorable day for India. I intervene in order to express my personal emotion. I think that my hon. and right hon. Friends who represent Welsh constituencies will forgive me if I take it upon myself to say that Wales will be second to none in its spirit of elation and thanksgiving on this great day in the history of India.
My mind goes back nearly 50 years to some of my first childhood recollections of the great sacrifices made by the people of Wales in order to try to educate the people and establish a relationship of good will between them and the people of this country and India. There is one corner of India, the hills of Khassi and the plains of Lushai, which will be ever green in the hearts of Welsh people. For over a century, the people of Wales have established there a Christian church. Hundreds of our men and women have sacrificed their lives in order to bring light and education, health, hospitals and schools into the lives of our Indian brethren there. Therefore, I teel that while we are paying tribute to the soldiers, sailors, statesmer and politicians who have made their contribution to the emancipation of India, it would not be too much for us to remember also the simple men and women of Christian faith who laid down their lives in the great sacrifice.
272 If I am permitted to make an appeal to the people of the future India I would say, "For God's sake do not throw overboard the great virtues and benefits which have resulted from the efforts of these great and lion-hearted men and women." I appeal to the Indians not to disturb the great friendship and friendliness which exists among the Christian community in the hills of Khassi and the plains of Lushai. Nothing but good can accrue from the great contact which has been established there. I served with the Indian Army in the 1914–18 war. Two Indian soldiers are responsible for the fact that I am able to be present today. They saved my life, and I am for ever grateful and thankful. Even at that time I felt that there was that quickening of the soul of the people of India, that great awakening. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to be in the House of Commons on this day of all days when that awakening has become a reality. It is something which will have its effect, not only upon this Parliament or this nation but upon the future of the whole world.
I would like to pay a humble tribute to the work of the Indian Civil Service. I have known indirectly of their work for a number of years though I have never been in that service. Nobody will ever be able to assess the amount of really good work in the interests of the Indian people which has been done by some of the best types in the Indian Civil Service. In common with every other hon. and right hon. Member, I wish India the best of luck in the future. I sincerely hope that its leaders will never be too small or too big to look for the real friends of India in this and other countries. Let them try to carry on in the tradition based on our faith. I wish them good luck and God speed in the great unknown experiment which is now opening itself before them.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Walter Smiles (Down)
I am glad the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. W. R. Williams) spoke about the Welsh missionaries in India, and I think it was a word in season. I have been treated personally in Dr. Robert's Welsh hospital, and so I can pay a personal tribute to the great work which they are doing in India. I do not believe that the Prime Minister or the 273 President of the Board of Trade are feeling elated as has been suggested. I think they are feeling responsible, and are praying in their hearts for the success of the work—and it is a great work—which they have clone. So far as I remember, the Prime Minister is the only remaining Member in this House of the original Simon Commission, on which he went out to India, I think in 1928 or 1929, to study the problem on the spot for himself. He put in a great deal of hard work then, as the President of the Board of Trade did later.
How often have Indians said to me "You have given us that much, but you promised us independence from the time of Queen Victoria, and you always say, ' Not now, but at some future date.'" That future date has come, but I think there is a certain danger that we might turn ourselves into a mutual admiration society and shake ourselves by the hand too much. We must not do that before we are out of the wood. The situation reminds me of the Northern Ireland golf professional, who won the Open Championship at Hoylake the other day, and then went over to Northern Ireland to compete in the Championship there and was beaten. He said that the reason why he lost was that too many people had shaken him by the hand. I think that Lord Mountbatten might lose in the final round now, because we are all too busy shaking him by the hand too soon.
Who knows what might happen? Of course, every one prays that there will he no civil war, no bloodshed. I see that the right hon. and learned Attorney-General is present, and he knows who are the masters in this country, because he has said so, but he does not know who in future will be masters in India. I think the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) suggested that there was a danger of the Muslims being oppressed by the Hindus. I would not like to say that to a Muslim. He would look upon it as a very great insult. There is just as much chance of the Hindus being oppressed by the Muslims as of the Muslims by the Hindus. The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) mentioned that we might have taken more care, before handing over the reins of government, of the interests of the, Anglo-Indians, the Scheduled Classes and the Princes. They will all have a 274 part to play in the near future of India. Caste is breaking down so fast in India that I think that the Princes are quite happy today to be mentioned in the same category as the Scheduled Classes. I also agree that we must give due credit to everybody who has taken part during the past 25 years in this progress in India, and I think we should include the right hon. Gentleman whom we used to know as the hon. Member for Chelsea and who is now Lord Templeton. Also the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. When I was in India, his name was mentioned a good many times to me with reverence and appreciation, and I think that, possibly, the reason was that he had the reputation in India of being an ascetic. It has been suggested to me that the President of the Board of Trade might eventually retire to a hermitage in the Himalayas. Indeed, some commercial people in this country would not object strongly if ho entered the hermitage now.
The danger as I see it, is whether not the Indians will he able to preserve law and order. An hon. Member on the other side mentioned the great Asiatic Congress which met in Delhi last winter, when it was stat that the Indians were accepted as the leaders of Asia. Unless the Indians preserve law and order in their own country, they certainly will not be the leaders in Asia or even in their own country. The responsibility is theirs and it is no use pretending that we could have great Debates in this House on the matter, when the responsibility lies fairly and squarely on their shoulders. Under their religion, Indians are told to look after their relations down to the 15th or 16th generation, and it is very difficult for such a religion to be absolutely impartial.
The hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) mentioned his great love for India. When I meet an Indian, it is not a question of his love for me or my love for him. It is a question of my respect for him and his for me. I have many Indians among my friends, and one whom I recollect at this moment is as good as any of my friends among Europeans. I appreciate his courage, moral and physical, his honesty, and his cleverness, and his oratorical gifts, which are far greater than my own. What these Indians want from us is respect, not patronage of any- 275 kind. I like to be able to look Indians in the face and shake them by the hand. I recall some of the qualities of my personal friends among the Indians, their justice and fairmindedness, and so I hope that in future we may find these same qualities in the Governments of India and Pakistan.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
Before coming to the subject-matter of my speech, I would like to comment on the most admirable and moving speech of the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. W. R. Williams). If I may say so, it most accurately emphasised the spirit of the whole Debate. My hon. and gallant Friend who followed him, started on a more gloomy note, and I would only commend to him in these matters the advice of his famous ancestor, who told us confidently to "Smile, smile and smile." I should also like most sincerely to thank various hon. Members who have made most friendly references to my long connection with Indian Government, especially the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) and also the Prime Minister. I hope it will not be thought impertinent or effusive if I say that I, and I think all of us on this side of the House, pay our tribute to the persuasive patience that the Prime Minister has shown in all these negotiations.
It is indeed quite true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that I have had a very long connection with, and experience of, Indian administration. I think I was longer at the India Office than any Minister, except, perhaps, an uncle of mine, who was there for eight years; I was there for seven years. I was responsible for getting a dozen or more Bills through this House, and I was a member of the third Round Table Conference, and I do not know how many others. On more than one occasion I was asked if I would allow my name to be submitted to His Majesty for a Presidency Governorship. I said, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer," I think I am better here, and, therefore, I cannot accept it." The right hon. Gentleman also said in connection with Indian administration that he thought I would agree—I think I am giving the gist of his words—with what he had found when he first approached the Indian problem, namely, the great difference that 276 exists in India between the two major communities. I endorse that. I remember speaking in this House a quarter of a century ago, when I first introduced the Indian Estimates. On that occasion, I said that there was a great volcanic rift bisecting India which divides Hindus and Muslims. That is in addition to that between the depressed classes and the Hindus, or between the Sikhs and other races and creeds, and, also, in addition to the unbridgable gap between the primitive races and the high caste Brahmin. We should not ignore the immensity of the religious problems which face India.
For all those reasons, I have taken the view, not only for the last few months, but for a long time past—and here, perhaps, is a shade of difference not only between myself and right hon. and hon. Members opposite, but between myself and my right hon. Friend, whose work for India I so much admire, and some hon. Members on this side of the House on this main view—and have said so in debate, that partition was inevitable. I do not want to quote in full what the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence said in criticising my action—I will only mention one thing which he said—18 months ago. He said that much of what I had said the day before was intended to be helpful, but that he very much deprecated my reference to what I termed my view and belief that the "final and irrevocable rupture between Congress and the League" was now obvious. And the House cheered him. I was almost alone in holding that view. I said in reply, by way of interruption when the right hon. Gentleman gave way, that I had said that because of information which had reached me, and of which I would not give the source even today, that, for the last 18 months, partition has been inevitable in India.
Therefore, I welcome this Bill—for that reason among others—because it accepts the inevitable. The highest form of statesmanship is to accept what is inevitable, and not to try to get round it. Why is it inevitable? I think it is worth saying a word on the subject. All the authorities on India who have spoken in this Debate have made some reference to it, but have not dealt with it at any length. I will begin by saying that it is very difficult for a country like ours, only some 15 or 20 per cent. of whose inhabitants, even though we still call ourselves a Christian nation, 277 are actively interested in the institutional religion, which is the official religion of the country, or the one which the nation professes, to appreciate either religious fervour or religious fanaticism. But our ancestors, and, even more so, the ancestors of European nations, knew the meaning of such things, for they killed, burned or tortured thousands of people under the impulse of religious fervour. I dare say that more people have been killed in Europe during religious wars than were killed in the war which we have just gone through.
I say—and I think these words will be welcomed in India, because I am the first to have put this point so distinctly—that that should at least help us to understand what has been the cause in a subcontinent of, on the whole, a kindly people, of the horrors of what are euphemistically termed "communal riots," but which are really religious civil wars. People have been burned, tortured and outraged on an unprecedented scale in these socalled disturbances which, as I have said, are really civil wars. I would say to those who fervently believe in either, as millions of Indians do, that there is no point of contact in religious matters between Hinduism and Islam. The average person has not the least conception of what religion means to a Hindu or to a Muslim, because those things are a past part of our history in this country. But our ancestors would have understood it, and some who were present during the Prayer Book discussion would have understood it. Certainly the average person in this country does not understand it.
Each of those two great contrasting systems has produced many fine characters in the course of Indian history. But their environmental upbringing and background of adherence of these two creeds differs as much as does the North Pole from the tropical jungle of the Amazon. Hinduism is a great philosophy—a religion, one might say—securing the adherence of hundreds of millions of Indians. But nearly So million other Indians, with intensive and simple-minded devotion, believe its exact antithesis, that there is but one God and that Mahomet is his Prophet, his sole interpreter on earth. One has to live alone for a while with true Muslims, as I have to appreciate the fervour of that belief and their intense sincerity about it.
278 Therefore, why in a manner which is devoid, to some extent, of reality, talk as if this gulf between these two people could be bridged by a unitary system of government? To that extent, I entirely agree with those who have said that the only thing to do is what is now being done: Partition may bring peace to the warring communities for the simple reason that it gives security and hostages to both. I go further and say that, while I think partition will continue, the whole trend of things—indeed, everything that has been said in this Debate has been said in India lately—shows that there is a very real chance of the closest co-operation in things that really matter between the two Dominions provided only—and I will say this if I am the only voice in the House that does so—that they keep their separate identities in the way they have done up to now. Therefore, for all those reasons, I strongly welcome this Bill.
I only want to speak for a few more moments because the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister is to follow me, and there is another very important matter to be discussed, but I think that a tribute should be paid to the Viceroy on this really historic occasion. I believe it is true to say that no man since Wellington, has been given such twin gifts of leadership in the military and constitutional fields. It is really a very remarkable thing that one of the greatest war leaders, on either side, in the recent war should have been taken from his military duties to be given a constitutional mission of the greatest delicacy. I doubt whether any right hon. Member on either of the Front Benches, or even my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition or the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, has ever been given a greater task than that given to Lord Mountbatten, who has solved it to the satisfaction of all men of good will in both countries.
Few statesmen have moulded and chiselled the policy of their country to the extent that Lord Mountbatten has done. I hope and believe that the new relationship will be both striking and constructive. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter), who spoke so eloquently of Empire relationship, that there is a constant growth of new ideas and associations within the ambit of the British Commonwealth and no one can 279 set any limits to that ambit or to those associations.
I see that the hon. Lady the Member for North Bradford (Mrs. Nichol) has returned, and I would like to refer to a point arising from her earlier remarks. I think it should be realised that with this Bill we are not handing over such services as education and public health to the new Governments or to the peoples of India, because they were handed over years ago. It is very necessary that that should be made clear. It is necessary that it should not be said, especially at this eleventh hour, that because education and public health are lacking in India, it is our fault. It may have been our fault originally, but it has not been our fault during the last 25 years.
§ Mrs. Nichol
Does the noble Lord suggest that we can divest ourselves of any shred of responsibility?
§ Earl Winterton
I would refer the hon. Lady to what I have just said. I said that during the last 25 years, under the system of provincial autonomy, we have not been responsible for it. The hon. Lady might say that we should have done more before, but I am talking of the last 25 years. We are not handing over those things, because they were handed over long before. No one can say that we are now giving the Indians (in this respect) an opportunity which they have not had for a quarter of a century.
I wish to support everything which my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) said on the subject of the civil servants, the States, the Scheduled Castes and the Indian Christians. I do not wish to make any further statement on the States. With regard to the civil servants, on the whole we have had satisfactory assurances. As we said in the course of the Committee stage yesterday, we hope His Majesty's Government will continue to do everything they can, in consultation with the new authorities, and I am very glad to see the right hon. Gentleman give an assenting nod of his head at the suggestion that everything will be done, in consultation with the new authorities, to stabilise and safeguard in every possible way the position of these people.
Then there is the question of the Scheduled Classes. One of the evil things 280 which Mr. Gandhi has done to India—and he has done many—was that he succeeded in bringing about the Poona Pact, because if it had not been for that, as was mentioned in the book which was written by my very good friend, Dr. Ambedkar, the great leader of the Scheduled Classes, these people would have enjoyed a much better franchise than they do today. But Mr. Gandhi threatened to fast unto death, and the Government of that day gave way. If Mr. Gandhi threatens to fast unto death after 15th August, it will no longer be the concern of the British Government, but of Mr. jinnah and Pandit Nehru. Mr. Gandhi is very much annoyed with this Bill. I have a quotation in which Mr. Gandhi said that we are leaving India to be a cockpit. All I can say is that few people have done more than Mr. Gandhi to make it a cockpit. He has shown no realisation of the greatness of the task accomplished by His Majesty's Government on the one hand and by Mr. Jinnah and Pandit Nehru on the other. It should be left to the Indian people to deal with him as he should be dealt with.
It is customary and almost compulsory on these occasions to indulge in some form of resounding platitude or platitudinous metaphor before one resumes one's seat. I am afraid that all the metaphors and platitudes have been used up by previous speakers, and I am not going to talk in broken, husky accents of what I feel about my life during the past 40 years in India. If I were to say that a new page was being turned over in the history of the sub-continent—which would be a platitude—I should have to confess that I am in great doubt as to what the writing on it will be. I hope it will be good. If I said that a new voyage was projected for the Indian ship of State, I should have regretfully to add that it has two captains with differing ideas as to the course. If I were, further, to use the greatest platitude of all—what I might call the kingpin of platitudes—and to say that I had carefully explored every avenue, I should be bound to confess that I have not the slightest idea, nor has anybody else, what is really at the end of it. But we must all hope that, wherever that avenue ends, it will offer a bright vista for the future. So, the House will be glad to know, I have at last succeeded in finding a platitude quite adequate for the occasion.
281 But, before I conclude, I would like to dc one thing which I think is not platitudinous, because it cannot be too often emphasised, and that is to plead for friendship between us and these two Indian unions. I would like to support what others have said from both sides of the House, namely, that it must be reciprocal and genuine on both sides, and on a level of equality, and I see no reason why it should not be. Because many Indian leaders are our former enemies, there is no reason why we should not become friends. Such a bouleversement should present no difficulties to a nation which, for six years of war, has played a major part in destroying one totalitarian police State and is now anxious, in the cause of peace, to be on terms of friendship with another. We have more in common with both Dominions than we have with a man in another capital in Europe. It is to our credit as a country that our admittedly strong moral viewpoint has always had, in external relationships, a certain elasticity. There is not the least reason why we should not have firm feelings of friendship and alliance with the leaders of the two Dominions. For generations many Indians and Britons have worked together with mutual respect and have died together in common heroism for the King Emperor. There are some who may sneer at loyalty to traditional symbols. The best among Eastern peoples do not. Like many of these former supporters of the King Emperor in India, I regret the breach in that symbolism, however inevitable it may be, which the passage of this Bill involves, but I hope for a new and fruitful relationship between the subcontinent and the Commonwealth.
Meanwhile, I should like to pay my humble tribute, not without some personal emotion, to the hundreds of Indian friends of mine with whom I worked when in office or commanded in action in the first desert war; and I should like—I am sure on behalf of the whole House; and I am sure the Prime Minister will support me in this—also to pay tribute to the countless thousands of Britons—Viceroys, Governors, civil servants, police, railwaymen, soldiers and civilians—who, for generations past, have worked and, in many cases, died for the twin interests of Britain and India. No cenotaph commemorates the majority of them; but I believe that they, and those with whom 282 they have worked in India, have fertilised and enriched the history of mankind.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)
I should like to thank the noble Lord and also the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) for their very kind words about myself personally. I do not intend to speak at any length tonight. I spoke at, perhaps, undue length on Second Reading, and I have really little to add to what I said then. I should, however, like to pay tribute both to the British and the Indians who have served in India and who have been working hard for what has been done to lead up to the day when India achieves complete self-government. What I should like to say would be this. I think that during these days this House has shown the way in which one can handle a great theme on a great occasion: and I should like to pay a tribute to all Members of the House, and particularly to Members of the Opposition, for the great self-control and forbearance that they have shown in helping to get this Bill through.
India is a subject that lends itself to expatiation. I have spoken at great length about India myself in former times, and I remember being rebuked by the noble Lord—quite justifiably—for the length and platitudinous character of a speech I made some years ago; and I dare say that I responded in kind myself. But there is in this House a great reservoir of knowledge on the subject of India. It came out throughout this Debate. There are hon. Members who have spent long years in India; there are numbers of hon. Members who have served in the Indian Forces; there have been hon. Members who have had long experience in office—like the noble Lord and like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler). The right hon. Gentleman can draw not only on his own personal studies, but on a parental and avuncular experience of governorship almost unequalled: he comes of a family famous in Indian annals.
It follows that, in a Bill such as this, which was necessarily, as.I say, rather an enabling Bill than a detailed Bill, there are a great many points on which Members could have spoken at great length; but I am grateful to everyone for realising the great urgency of this matter. The Viceroy, to whom the noble Lord 283 paid a well deserved tribute, has been handling an extremely difficult situation. So, may I say, have the leaders of the Indian parties. And I think the House quite willingly understood that we ought to cut short this trying time to as small an interval as possible. We really want to get the new Governments at work. Everything will depend on the statesmanship shown. I believe it will be forthcoming. I have had to follow these affairs for many years, and I have noticed, especially during the past few months, a far greater degree of realism, and a far greater appreciation of the fact that we have now passed away from the time of words, and that we have come to the time of deeds. Action has to be taken. I believe that in dealing with the practical problems that present themselves to Indian statesmen we shall be getting away from slogans, getting down to the practical point of co-operation.
I should like to say—and I am sure that in saying this I am speaking for everyone in this House and, indeed, for everyone in the country—that in the new state of affairs India can count on the utmost sympathy and help from the people of this country—help given without the slightest degree of patronage. Let me say again that all of us extend our warm friendship to the Indian peoples. Many of us have close friends amongst Indians. I have friends—Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and amongst the depressed classes. I hear of them from time to time, and, from time to time, I see them, and they have talked to me as friends; and now that this great idea of domination is being removed we can speak as friends and equals. I believe that we can continue to help India, and I am sure that India can do great service in helping the world.
I should like, finally, to draw the attention of the House to the magnitude of this experiment, which concerns 400 million human beings. To expect to get complete agreement at once among them is really a dream. It is suggested—some people do suggest it—that we could bring great masses of people in Europe into one polity. It is a very nice thing to do, but how difficult! Look at these age long animosities, at all these age long differences of religion. Well, we want to bring that polity about. In India 284 unity was brought about because it was superimposed from above all creeds and castes. When that was taken away, inevitably the old rivalries appeared again. But I believe that this long course of time in which the Indians—of different creeds, different castes, from different parts of the country—have worked together in Government, have fought side by side in campaigns, has brought about a real unity of Indians, and that this division will not mean disruption.
I think everyone of us realises that a complete unitary system of Government in India was impossible. We hoped that these differences might have found their full, legitimate scope in federation. The applying of federation is very difficult. It has seldom been done by splitting the unitary Government into a federation. It has come about by the union of separate partners who, having once felt their own independence, have then felt the need for collaboration. Therefore, I am not unhopeful that, in course of time, this separation may come to a larger unity, a federation in which the partners will have full scope, and, at the same time, unity. In parting with this Bill from this House, I do it not with a feeling of elation, but with a feeling of responsibility, some feeling of anxiety, but also with an unquenchable hope that these things will work out for the good of all the people of India.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the Third time, and passed.