§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN):
My Lords, I invite the House to take to-day the first definite and operative step in carrying out the policy which I had the honour of stating to your Lordships just before Christmas, and which has occupied the active consideration both of the Home Government and of the Government of India for very nearly, if not even more than, three years. The statement was awaited in India with an expectancy that with time became almost impatience, and it was received in India—and that, after all, is the point to which I looked with the most anxiety—with intense interest and attention and various degrees of approval, from warm enthusiasm to cool assent and acquiescence.
A deputation waited upon the Viceroy a few days after the arrival of my Despatch, unique in its comprehensive character; both the Hindus and the Mahomedans were represented; it was a remarkable deputation, and they waited upon the Viceroy to offer their expression of gratitude for the scheme which was unfolded before them. Then a few days later at Madras the 118 Congress met, and they, too, expressed their thanks to the Home Government and to the Government of India. Almost at the same time the Moslem League met at Amritsar, and they were warm in their approval of the policy which they took to be foreshadowed in the Despatch, though they found fault with the defects they thought they had discovered in the scheme, and implored the Government, both in India and here, to remedy those defects. So far as I know—and I do beg your Lordships to note these details of the reception of our policy in India—there has been no sign in any quarter, save possibly in the irreconcilable camp, of organised hostile opinion among either Indians or Anglo Indians.
The Indian Civil Service I will speak of very shortly. I will pass them by for the moment. The noble Marquess (Lord Lansdowne) said truly the other night that when I spoke at the end of December I used the words "formidable and obscure" as describing the situation, and he desired to know whether I thought the situation was still formidable and obscure. I will not drop the words, but I think the situation is less formidable and less obscure. Neither repression on the one hand nor reform on the other could possibly be expected to cut at the roots of anarchical crime in a few weeks, but with unfaltering repression on the one hand and vigour and good faith in reform on the other we all see good reason to hope that we shall weaken, if not destroy, these baleful forces.
There are, I take it, three classes of people that we have to consider in dealing with a scheme of this kind. There are the extremists, who nurse fantastic dreams that some day they will drive us out of India. In this group there are academic extremists and physical force extremists, and I have seen it stated on a certain authority—it cannot be more than guessed—that they do not number, whether academic or physical force extremists, more than one-tenth, I think, or even three per cent., of what are called the educated class in India. The second group nourish no hopes of this sort, but hope for autonomy or self-government of the colonial species and pattern. And then the third section of this classification ask for no more than to be admitted to cooperation in our administration, and to 119 find a free and effective voice in expressing the interests and needs of their people. I believe the effect of the reforms has been, is being, and will be to draw the second class, who hope for colonial autonomy, into the third class, who will be content with being admitted to a fair and full co-operation. A correspondent wrote to me the other day and said:—We seem to have caught many discontented people on the rebound, and to have given them an excuse for a loyalty which they have badly wanted.
In spite of all this it is a difficult and critical situation, but by almost universal admission it has lost that tension which strained India two or three months ago, and public feeling is tranquillised, certainly beyond any expectation which either the Viceroy or myself ventured to entertain.
The situation has become, at all events, more hopeful, and I am confident that the atmosphere has changed from being dark and sullen to being hopeful, and I am sure your Lordships will allow me to be confident that nothing will be done at Westminster to cloud that hopeful sky. The noble Marquess the other day said—and I was delighted to hear it—that he, at all events, would give us, with all the reservations that examination of the scheme might demand from him, a whole-hearted support here and his best encouragement to the men in India. I accept that, and I rely upon it and lean upon it, because if anything were done at Westminster, either by delay or otherwise, to show a breach in what ought to be the substantial unity of Parliamentary opinion in face of the Indian situation, it would be a very great disaster. I would venture on the point of delay to say this. Your Lordships will not suspect me of having any desire to hurry the Bill, but I remember that when Lord Cross brought in the Bill of 1892 Lord Kimberley, who was so well known and so popular in the House, used this language, which I venture to borrow from him to press upon your Lordships to-day—I think it almost dangerous to leave a subject of this kind hung up to be perpetually discussed by all manner of persons, and, having once allowed that, at all events, some amendment is necessary in regard to the mode of constituting the Legislative Councils, it is incumbent upon the Government and Parliament to pass the Bill which they may think expedient as speedily as possible into law.
I think the considerations of social order and social urgency in India make 120 that just as useful to be remembered to-day as it was then.
The noble Marquess the other day, in a very courteous manner, administered to me an exhortation and an admonition and homily—I had almost said a lecture—as to the propriety of deferring to the man on the spot, and the danger of quarrelling with the man on the spot. I listened with becoming meekness and humility, but then it occurred to me that the language of the noble Marquess was not original. Those noble Lords who share the Bench with him gave deep murmurs of approval to this homily which was administered to me. They had forgotten that they once had a man on the spot, the man there being that eminent and distinguished man whom I may perhaps be allowed to congratulate upon his restoration to health and to his place in this Assembly. He said this, which the noble Marquess will see is a fair original for his own little discourse; it was said after the noble Lord had thrown up the reins— "What I wish to say to high officers of State and members of Government is this, as far as you can trust the man on the spot. Do not weary or fret or nag him with your superior wisdom. They claim no immunity from errors of opinion or judgment, but their errors are nothing compared with yours."
The remonstrance, therefore, of the noble Lord (Lord Curzon) to the noble Lords sitting near him is identical with that which I have laid to heart from the noble Marquess.
The House will pardon me if I for a moment dwell upon what by application is an innuendo conveyed in the admonition of the noble Marquess. I have a suspicion that he considered his advice was needed; he expressed the hope that all who were responsible for administration in India would have all the power for which they had a right to ask. Upon that I can, I think,—though I am half reluctant to do so—completely clear my character, for in December last, shortly before I addressed your Lordships, Lord Minto, having observed there was some talk of my interference, telegraphed these words, and desired that I should make use of them whenever I thought fit, having in view my addressing the House—
I hope you will say from me, in as strong language as you may choose to use, that in all our dealings with sedition I could not be more strongly supported than I have been by you. The question
of the control of Indian administration by the Secretary of State, mixed up as it is with the old difficulties of centralisation, we may very possibly look at from different points of view, but that has nothing to do with the support the Secretary of State gives to the Viceroy, and which you have given to me in a time of great difficulty and for which I shall always be warmly grateful.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE:
I think the noble Viscount will see from the report of my speech that the part he has quoted had reference to measures of repression, and that what I said was that justice should be prompt, that it was undesirable that there should be appeals from one Court to another, or from provincial Governments to the Government in Calcutta, or from the Government at Calcutta to the Secretary of State for India. I did not mean to imply merely the Viceroy, but the men responsible for local government.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN:
I do not think that when the noble Marquess refers to the report of his speech he will find I have misrepresented him. At all events, he will, I am sure, gladly agree that, in dealing with sedition, I have on the whole given all the support the Government of India or anybody else concerned had a right to ask for.
I will now say a word about the Indian Civil Service. Three years ago when we began these operations I felt that a vital element for success was that we should carry the Indian Civil Service with us, and that if we did not do this we should fail. But human nature being what it is, and temperaments varying as they do, it is natural to expect a certain amount of criticism, minute criticism, and observation, and I have had proofs of that, but will content myself with one quotation from a very distinguished member, the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, well known to the noble Lord opposite. What did he say, addressing the Legislative Council a few weeks ago?—I hold that a solemn duty rests upon the officers of Government in all branches, and more particularly upon the officers of the Civil Service, so to comport themselves in the inception and working of the new measures as to make the task of the people and their leaders easy. It is incumbent upon them loyally to accept the principle that these measures involve the surrender of some portion of the authority and control which they now exercise, and some modifications of the methods of administration. If that task is approached in a grudging or reluctant spirit we shall be sowing the seeds of failure and shall forfeit our claim to receive 122 the friendly co-operation of the representatives of the people. We must be prepared to support, defend, and carry through the administrative policy, and in a certain degree even the executive acts of the Government in the Council, in much the same way as is now prescribed in regard to measures of legislation; and we must further be prepared to discharge this task without the aid of a standing majority behind us. We will have to resort to the more difficult arts of persuasion and conciliation in the place of the easier methods of autocracy. This is no small demand to make on the resources of a service whose training and traditions have hitherto led its members rather to work for the people than through the people or their representatives. But I am nevertheless confident that the demand will not be made in vain. For more than a hundred years, in the time of the Company and under the rule of the Crown the Indian Civil Service has never failed to respond to whatever call has been made upon it or to adapt itself to the changing environment of the time. I feel no doubt that officers will be found who possess the natural gifts, the loyalty, the imaginations, and the force of character which will be requisite for the conduct of the administration under the more advanced form of government to which we are about to succeed.
These words I commend to your Lordships. They breathe a noble spirit, they admirably express the feeling of a sincere man, and I do not believe anybody who is acquainted with the Service doubts that that spirit, so admirably expressed, will pervade the Service in the admittedly difficult task that now confronts them.
The Bill is a short one, and will speak for itself; I shall be brief in referring to it, for in December last I made what was practically a Second-Reading speech. I may point out that there are two rival schools, and that the noble Lord opposite (Lord Curzon) may be said to represent one of them. There are two rival schools, one of which believes that better government of India depends on efficiency, and that efficiency is in fact the end of our rule in India. The other school, while not neglecting efficiency, looks also to what is called political concessions. I think I am doing the noble Lord no injustice in saying that during his eminent Viceroyalty he did not accept the necessity for political concessions, but trusted to efficiency. I hope it will not be bad taste to say in the noble Lord's presence that you will never send to India, and you have never sent to India a Viceroy his superior, if, indeed, his equal, in force of mind, in unsparing remorseless industry, in passionate and devoted interest in all that concerns the well-being of India, with an imagination fired by the grandeur of the political problem India presents—you never sent a man with 123 more of all these attributes than when you sent Lord Curzon. But splendidly successful as his work was from the point of view of efficiency, he still did leave in India a state of things when we look back—not in consequence of his policy—not completely satisfactory such as would have been the crowning of a brilliant career.
I am as much for efficiency as the noble Lord, but I do not believe—and this is the difference between him and myself—that you can have true, solid, endurable efficiency without what are called political concessions. I know risks are pointed out. The late Lord Salisbury, speaking on the last Indian Councils Bill, spoke of the risk of applying occidental machinery in India. Well, we ought to have thought of that before we applied occidental education; we applied that, and occidental machinery must follow. These Legislative Councils once called into existence, it was inevitable that you would have gradually, in Lord Salisbury's own phrase, to popularise them so as to bring them into harmony with the dominant sentiments of the people in India. The Bill of 1892 admittedly contained the elective principle, and now this Bill extends that principle. The noble Lord (Viscount Cross) will remember the Bill of 1892, of which he had charge in the House of Commons. I want the House to be good enough to follow the line taken by Mr. Gladstone, because I base myself on that. There was an amendment moved and there was going to be a division, and Mr. Gladstone begged his friends not to divide, because he said it was very important that we should present a substantial unity to India. This is upon the question of either House considering a Bill like the Bill that is now on the Table—a mere skeleton of a Bill if you like. I see it has been called vague and sketchy. It cannot be anything else on the principle explained by Mr. Gladstone—It is the intention of the Government [that is, the Conservative Government] that a serious effort shall be made to consider carefully those elements which India in its present condition may furnish for the introduction into the Councils of India of the elective principle. If that effort is seriously to be made, by whom is it to be made? I do not think it can be made by this House, except through the medium of empowering provisions. The best course we could take would be to commend to the authorities of India what is a clear indication of the principles on which we desire them to proceed. It is not our business to devise machinery for the purpose of Indian Government. It is our business to give to those who represent Her Majesty in India ample information as to what we believe to 124 be sound principles of Government: and it is, of course, the function of this House to comment upon any case in which we may think they have failed to give due effect to those principles.
I only allude to Mr. Gladstone's words in order to let the House know that I am taking no unusual course in leaving the bulk of the work, the details of the work, to the Government of India, and discussion, therefore, in this House and in Parliament will necessarily be not upon details. But no doubt it is desirable that some of the heads of the regulations, rules, and proclamations to be made by the Government of India under sanction of the India Office should be more or less placed within the reach and knowledge of the House so far as they are complete. The principles of the Bill are in the Bill and will be affirmed, if your Lordships are pleased to read it a second time, and the Committee points, important as they are, can well be dealt with in Committee. The view of Mr. Gladstone was cheerfully accepted by the House then, and I hope it will be accepted by your Lordships to-day.
There is one very important chapter in these regulations which I think now on the Second Reading of the Bill, without waiting for Committee, I ought to say a few words to your Lordships about—I mean the Mahomedans. That is a part of the Bill and scheme which has no doubt attracted a great deal of criticism and excited a great deal of feeling in that very important community. We suggested to the Government of India a certain plan. We did not prescribe it, we did not order it, but we suggested and recommended this plan for their consideration—no more than that. It was the plan of a mixed or composite electoral college, in which Mahomedans and Hindus should pool their votes, so to say. The wording of the recommendation in my Despatch was, as I soon discovered, ambiguous—a grievous defect, of which I make bold to hope I am not very often in public business guilty. But, to the best of my belief, under any construction the plan of Hindus and Mahomedans voting together in a mixed and composite electorate would have secured to the Mahomedan electors, wherever they were so minded, the chance of returning their own representatives in their due proportion. The political idea at the bottom of that recommendation which has found so little favour was that such composite action would bring the two great communities more closely together, 125 and this idea of promoting harmony was held by men of very high Indian authority and experience who were among my advisers at the India Office. But the Mahomedans protested that the Hindus would elect a pro-Hindu upon it, just as I suppose in a mixed college of say seventy-five Catholics and twenty-five Protestants voting together the Protestants might suspect that the Catholics voting for the Protestant would choose what is called a Romanising Protestant and as little of a Protestant as they could find. Suppose the other way. In Ireland there is an expression, a "shoneen" Catholic—that is to say, a Catholic who, though a Catholic, is too friendly with English Conservatism and other influences which the Nationalists dislike. And it might be said, if there were seventy-five Protestants against twenty-five Catholics, that the Protestants when giving a vote in the way of Catholic representation would return "shoneens." I am not going to take your Lordships' time up by arguing this to-day. With regard to schemes of proportional representation, as Calvin said of another study, "excessive study either finds a man mad or makes him so." At any rate, the Government of India doubted whether our plan would work, and we have abandoned it. I do not think it was a bad plan, but it is no use, if you are making an earnest attempt in good faith at a general pacification, out of parental fondness for a clause interrupting that good process by sitting too tight.
The Mahomedans demand three things. I had the pleasure of receiving a deputation from them and I know very well what is in their minds. They demand the election of their own representatives to these councils in all the stages, just as in Cyprus, where, I think, the Mahomedans vote by themselves. They have nine votes and the non-Mahomedans have three, or the other way about. So in Bohemia, where the Germans vote alone and have their own register. Therefore we are not without a precedent and a parallel for the idea of a separate register. Secondly, they want a number of seats in excess of their numerical strength. Those two demands we are quite ready and intend to meet in full. There is a third demand that, if there is a Hindu on the Viceroy's Executive Council—a subject on which I will venture to say a little to your Lordships before I sit down—there should be two Indian members on the Viceroy's 126 Council and that one should be a Mahomedan. Well, as I told them and as I now tell your Lordships, I see no chance whatever of meeting their views in that way to any extent at all.
To go back to the point of the registers, some may be shocked at the idea of a. religious register at all, of a register framed on the principle of religious belief. We may wish, we do wish—certainly I do—that it were otherwise. We hope that time, with careful and impartial statemanship, will make things otherwise. Only let us not forget that the difference between Mahomedanism and Hinduism is not a mere difference of articles of religious faith. It is a difference in life, in tradition, in history, in all the social things as well as articles of belief that constitute a community. Do not let us forget what makes it interesting and even exciting. Do not let us forget that, in talking of Hindus and Mahomedans, we are dealing with and brought face to face with vast historic issues, dealing with some of the very mightiest forces that through all the centuries and ages have moulded the fortunes of great States and the destinies of countless millions of mankind. Thoughts of that kind are what give to Indian politics and to Indian work extraordinary fascination, and at the same time impose the weight of no ordinary burden.
Now I will come to the question which, I think, has excited, certainly in this country, more interest than anything else in the scheme before you—I mean the question of an Indian member on the Viceroy's Executive Council. The noble Marquess said here the other day that he hoped an opportunity would be given for discussing it. Whether it is in order or not—I am too little versed in your Lordships' procedure to be quite sure—but I am told that the rules of order in this House are of an elastic description and that I shall not be trespassing beyond what is right, if I introduce the point to-night. I thoroughly understand the noble Marquess's anxiety for a chance of discussion. It is quite true, and the House should not forget that it is quite true, that this question is in no way whatever touched by the Bill. If this Bill were rejected by Parliament it would be a great and grievous disaster to peace and contentment in India, but it would not prevent the Secretary of State 127 the next morning from advising his Majesty to appoint an Indian Member. The members of the Viceroy's Executive Council are appointed by the Crown.
The noble Marquess the other day fell into a slight error, if he will forgive me for saying so. He said that the Government of India had used cautious and tentative words indicating that it would be premature to decide at once this question of the Indian member until after further experience had been gained. I think the noble Marquess must have lost his way in the mazes of that enormous Blue-book which, as he told us, caused him so much inconvenience and added so much to his excessive luggage during the Christmas holidays. The Despatch, as far as I can discover, is silent altogether on the topic of the Indian member of the Viceroy's Council, and deals only with the Councils of Bombay and Madras and the proposed Councils for the Lieutenant-Governorships.
Perhaps I might be allowed to remind your Lordships of the Act of 1833—certainly the most extensive measure of Indian government between Mr. Pitt's famous Act of 1784 and Queen Victoria's assumption of the government of India. There is nothing so important as that Act. It lays down in the broadest way possible the desire of Parliament of that day that there was to be no difference in appointing to offices in India between one race and another, and the covering Despatch wound up by saying that—For the future, fitness is to be the criterion of elegibility.
I need not quote the famous paragraph in the Queen's Proclamation of 1858, for every Member of the House who takes an interest in India knows that by heart. Now, the noble Marquess says that his anxiety is that nothing shall be done to impair the efficiency of the Viceroy's Council. I share that anxiety with all my heart. I hope the noble Marquess will do me the justice to remember that in these plans I have gone beyond the Government of India in resolving that a permanent official majority shall remain in the Viceroy's Council. Lord Mac Donnell said the other day:—I believe you cannot find any individual native gentleman who is enjoying general confidence who would be able to give advice and assistance to the Governor-General in Council.
It has been my lot to be twice Chief Secretary for Ireland, and I do not believe 128 I can truly say I ever met in Ireland a single individual native gentleman who "enjoyed general confidence." And yet I received at Dublin Castle most excellent and competent advice. Therefore I will accept that statement from the noble Lord. The question is whether there is no one of the 300 millions of the population of India who is competent to be the officially-constituted adviser of the Governor-General in Council in the administration of Indian affairs. You make an Indian a Judge of the High Court, and Indians have even been acting Chief Justices. As to capacity who can deny that they have distinguished themselves as administrators of native States, where far more demand is made on their resources, intellectual and moral? It is said that the presence of an Indian member would cause restraint in the language of discussion. For a year and a half I have had two Indians at the Council of India, and I have never found the slightest restraint whatever.
Then there is the question, What are you going to do about the Hindu and the Mahomedan? When Indians were first admitted to the High Courts, for a long time the Hindus were more fit and competent than the Mahomedans; but now I am told the Mahomedans have their full share. The same sort of operation would go on in quinquennial periods between Hindus and Mahomedans. Opinion amongst the great Anglo-Indian officers now at home is divided, but I know at least one, not, I think, behind even Lord Mac Donnell in experience or mental grasp, who is strongly in favour of this proposal. One circumstance which cannot but strike your Lordships as remarkable is the comparative absence of hostile criticism of this idea by the Anglo-Indian Press, and, as I am told, in Calcutta society. I was apprehensive at one time that it might be otherwise. I should like to give a concrete illustration. The noble Marquess opposite said the other day that there was going to be a vacancy in one of the posts on the Viceroy's Executive Council—namely, the legal member's time would soon be up. Now, suppose there were in Calcutta an Indian lawyer of large practice and great experience in his profession—a man of unstained professional and personal repute, in close touch with European society and much respected, and the actual holder of important legal office. Am I to say to that man—In spite of all these excellent circumstances to your 129 credit, in spite of your undisputed fitness, in spite of the emphatic declaration of 1833 that fitness is to be the criterion of eligibility, in spite of that noble promise in Queen Victoria's Proclamation of 1858—a promise of which every Englishman ought to be for ever proud if he tries to adhere to it, and rather ashamed if he tries to betray or mock it—in spite of all this, usage and prejudice are so strong that I dare not appoint you, but must appoint instead some stranger to India from Lincoln's Inn or the Temple? Is there one of your Lordships who would envy the Secretary of State who had to hold language of that kind to a meritorious candidate, one of the King's equal subjects? I put it to your Lordships in that concrete way. These abstract general arguments are slippery. I do not say there is no force in them, but there are deeper questions at issue to which Lord Minto and myself attach the greatest importance. My Lords, I thank you for listening to me, and I beg to move the Second Reading.
Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—( Viscount Morley of Blackburn.)
§ * LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, I must begin with an apology to the House if I am not quite as well equipped for this debate as I ought to be. It was only on Saturday, when I landed in England, that I heard of the intention to take the Second Reading of this Bill to-day, that I saw the Bill for the first time, and that I also saw for the first time the prodigious pile of literature on the question to which the noble Viscount has referred. I have utilised the interval in endeavouring to make such excavations as I could in that portentous mass of printed matter, but I am afraid with not altogether satisfactory results. Then, since the publication of the Blue-book, many things have occurred. There have been valuable and authoritative letters in the Press, and papers and communications have come to hand from India. There has been the Mahomedan deputation to the Secretary of State and the reply of the noble Viscount, and finally there have been this Bill and his speech this afternoon. If, therefore, I have not been able thoroughly to digest all this material I must ask for the generous forbearance of your Lordships.
We have just listened to a speech from the Secretary of State which, if he will allow me to say so, has been characterised by his usual felicity of diction and eleva- 130 tion of thought. Indeed, the whole of the speeches which the noble Viscount has made on India and Indian reforms since his accession to office appear to me to constitute a notable contribution both to the political thought and the literature of our time. The noble Viscount began this afternoon by congratulating himself upon the reception which his reform proposals have met with in India. He said they had not only met with approval, but they had excited no organised hostile opinion. I think the Secretary of State is quite entitled to congratulate himself upon the general reception of his scheme, and I further agree with him that it has brought about a notable and welcome relaxation in the tension which existed a few months ago in India. But I think it would be unfair to draw from that admission the conclusion that many aspects of his proposals have not excited and do not deserve the most minute and searching criticism. On the contrary, it would appear to me that the more they have been examined in India the greater has been the apprehension—I do not mean to use a stronger word than apprehension—which they have aroused, and, speaking for myself, the more I have looked into them the more does it seem to me desirable that in some particulars, at any rate, they should, if it may be so, be recast.
The Secretary of State for India, rightly, I think, attempted to estimate the impression produced by his scheme upon the different classes of the population in India. I agree with him that as regards the extremists—whether they belong to the more advanced or the less advanced section—reforms of this sort have nothing whatever to say or to do. That class of persons is implacable and irreconcilable. There is no passage in the utterance of the Secretary of State with which I am in more hearty agreement than that in which he said that unfaltering repression must be dealt out to persons of that class, and that neither himself nor the Viceroy would shrink from employing any measures, whether open to them under the existing law or called for by the circumstances of the case, to cope with this detestable and insidious conspiracy not merely against our rule but against civilisation itself.
The noble Viscount then went on to speak of the impression produced by his proposals upon the body of moderate 131 agitators. Here, again, I think he was entitled to congratulate himself. The only qualification I would make is that the satisfaction to which he referred with legitimate pride is, in the main, Hindu rather than Mahomedan satisfaction, as, indeed, he himself admitted, and that already in some of the speeches delivered by Hindu leaders I observe indications of an intention to make that which they have secured—which, in many respects, was beyond their wildest expectations—the ground at no distant date for demanding something more.
I follow the noble Viscount also in his remarks with regard to the Indian Civil Service. But that is a subject which I should like to amplify. I have wondered during the last few weeks what is the attitude of the Civil servants towards the proposed reforms. I have wondered more particularly what their feelings must be in regard to the proposals to introduce a native into the Executive Council of the Viceroy, and to do away with the official majority in the local Legislative Councils. The few letters which I have received from India since the scheme was published do not fully bear out the sanguine expectations of the Secretary of State. When he appeals to the loyalty of the Civil Service in India he may confidently count upon their sense of duty, chivalry, and devotion to return him an adequate and a more than adequate response. But there is a corresponding obligation towards the Civil Service on the part of the Secretary of State, an obligation which I am sure no one will be more ready to acknowledge than the noble Viscount himself.
If there is one thing more certain than another as the sequel of these changes it is that they will add enormously to the labours, the anxieties, and the preoccupations of the Civil servants from one end of India to the other. Exposed as they are now to constant and very often venomous attack from the native Press, there is scarcely one of their administrative or official acts that will not be brought under scrutiny in these enlarged Councils. They will have to spend a large portion of their time in obtaining information for these bodies, and they will have to spend a large portion of their time, as I think unnecessarily, in sitting upon these Councils also. In these circumstances, I am sure the Secretary of State will owe to this class of loyal and faithful Civil servants the 132 fullest measure of encouragement and support which it is in his power to give them. After all, it is the duty of the rulers of India, most particularly those in this country, to remember that they rule Englishmen in India as well as natives of India, that Englishmen in India have, on the whole, the more difficult part to play, and that they stand peculiarly in need of the consideration and support of the Secretary of State.
But among the classes to be affected by this Bill there is another and a larger class to whom the noble Viscount made no allusion. I wonder how these changes will, in the last resort, affect the great mass of the people of India—the people who have no vote and who scarcely have a voice. Remember that to these people, who form the bulk of the population of India, representative government, and electoral institutions are nothing whatever. What they want is not representative government, but good government; and if you could get to the bottom of their hearts you would find that they identify good government with government by Englishmen. The good government that appeals to them is the government which protects them from the rapacious moneylender and landlord, from the local vakeel, and all the other sharks in human disguise who prey upon these unhappy people. I have a misgiving that this class will not fare much better under these changes than they do now. At any rate I see no place for them in these enlarged Councils which are to be created, and I am under the strong opinion that as government in India becomes more and more Parliamentary—as will be the inevitable result—so it will become less paternal and less beneficent to the poorer classes of the population.
I ought, perhaps, at this stage to say a word of thanks to the noble Viscount for the too generous and magnanimous terms in which he sketched what he believed to be his conception of the objects which, when I was in India, I had in view. I shall feel disposed to take a copy of his language and keep it in my pocket, and when on the platform, or over the way at no great distance, I read of remarks having been made of a very different character, emanating from those who claim to be followers of the noble Viscount, I shall in those moments of discouragement and despair take out that passage from his speech this evening and console myself by reading it. 133 It is true that different ideals actuate those who have to do with the government of India at different times. I accept the statement of the noble Viscount that in the days when I had something to do with that government what we set before ourselves was rather the progress of the people by the removal of abuses, by adopting a just and sympathetic attitude towards them, and by carrying out social, industrial, and administrative reforms. Political concessions were not then in the field. If I had proposed the scheme which the noble Vicount has laid before us I wonder what reception it would have met with, I will not say at the hands of my own party, but at the hands of the party of the noble Viscount himself. We must not forget that the first scheme of the noble Viscount was widely different from the scheme which we are discussing now. It was of a much more moderate description. If he were to taunt me I should be at liberty, I will not say to taunt him, but to point out to him that his point of view has also changed considerably in the last two years. However that may be, let us all admit that the situation has altered, and, so far as possible look at it through the noble Viscount's spectacles.
There is one point to which I attach great importance. The noble Viscount spoke to us at some length about the advantage not merely of consulting, but of considering, the man on the spot, and he had an agreeable little gibe at the expense of the noble Marquess who sits next me and of myself. But is it so certain that in these reforms he has himself listened to the views—not of the man on the spot, but of the men on the spot? In all his speeches, and indeed to-night, he has spoken as if there were only one man on the spot, the Viceroy. Of course the Viceroy is by far the most important of all the men on the spot, but what we have to consider is not whether the Secretary of State is in agreement solely with the Viceroy but with the Government of India as a whole. If you take the Despatch of the Government of India and the reply of the Secretary of State and put them side by side and analyse them very carefully, you will find, possibly as much to your surprise as it was to mine, that whereas the Secretary of State is constantly calling our attention to the accord that exists between himself and the Government of India, there were, on 134 the contrary, the widest differences between them. The proposals we are now considering are not the proposals of the Government of India at all, but the gloss and alteration of those proposals which commended themselves to the judgment of the Secretary of State. I will make that point quite clear, because it is of vital importance in the consideration of this question.
In the first place, the Government of India proposed to retain the official majority in all the legislative councils, and the Secretary of State, it is true, has insisted on it and has even strengthened the proposals of the Government of India with regard to the Viceroy's Legislative Council, but he has dispensed with a majority altogether in the case of the provincial councils. Secondly, the Government of India elaborated a scheme for the representation of classes and minorities in India on these councils, and even suggested recourse to nomination where representation could not be secured. The Secretary of State swept that aside altogether and proposed for their consideration a scheme of electoral colleges of his own. Again, the Government of India said that it would be premature to discuss the enlargement of the Executive Councils in Madras or Bombay or the creation of new Executive Councils in the other provinces. They even said that the creation of councils with executive functions in provinces in which they did not exist would be a large departure from the present system of administration and was a change that could only be recommended after the fullest consideration and consultation with the heads of the provinces concerned. The Secretary of State, in reply to that caution, at once doubles these Councils in Madras and Bombay and announces the creation of new Executive Councils elsewhere. The Government of India said nothing about placing natives on any of the Executive Councils, but the Secretary of State proposes to place them on all. Whereas the Government of India said nothing about any development of local self-government on a large scale, probably because they considered it irrelevant, the Secretary of State, in two paragraphs of his Despatch, proposes a great scheme for de-officialising local bodies and for the introduction of something corresponding to the Local Government Board here. If we collate and compare these Despatches we find, therefore, that, so far from the Secretary of State having accepted the views of the men on the spot, he has, in reality, overruled and 135 altered them at almost every critical and vital stage, and has substituted for them entirely independent proposals of his own. Do let it be borne in mind that what we are discussing are not proposals that have commended themselves to this great consensus of authority to which the noble Viscount so frequently appeals, but proposals which have commended themselves to him, no doubt with much expert assistance and obviously with the application to these questions of the wide historical and philosophical knowledge and the acute insight for which the noble Viscount is conspicuous. When the Secretary of State tossed that ball over the net to me here this evening I was rather pleased, because I felt that within half an hour it would be possible to return it with even greater vigour.
May I take briefly in succession the proposals that this House is to be asked to consider and pass into law? I must apologise if in some cases I appear to depart from principle into minute details, but these details are only thoroughly familiar to those who have been concerned with the administration of India on the spot. In the first place, the Secretary of State proposes a large increase in the numbers on the Legislative Councils. The present strength in the Imperial Council and large Provincial Councils is from twenty-one to twenty-five, and in the case of the smaller Provincial Councils from ten to sixteen. The Government of India and the Secretary of State propose to raise the first figure to sixty-three, the large Provincial Councils to forty-seven, and the smaller Provincial Councils to the totals respectively of thirty-seven, twenty-five, and seventeen. I observe in the Papers no discussion about the question of numbers, but I remember that in 1892 there was no point upon which all the authorities both in India and in England were more agreed than that it was desirable to keep down the numbers on the councils so far as was possible, partly because of the difficulty of getting the men, partly because of the expense, and also because we feared the introduction of the vices as well as the virtues of the Parliamentary system. There may be good reasons for this enlargement with a view to rendering the councils more representative of the different classes and interests than they are now, but you must realise that this is a most immense and in its consequences revolutionary change. 136 Hitherto the councils of the Viceroy and the Governors have been small and compact bodies of men, conducting their legislative proceedings in halls or apartments of no great size, in circumstances of general quietude and decorum, with their proceedings resembling those of a Select Committee of this House. But all that is to be changed. With your large councils you must have larger halls, and you will probably be obliged to build them for the purpose. You are going to have no official majority and you even withdraw from the chair of the council the commanding authority of the Viceroy or the Governor as the case may be, and you are going to concede to these bodies, within certain limits, very wide powers of amendment, resolution, voting, and so on. In one of his speeches the noble Viscount assured us that he had no ambition to set up any sort of Parliamentary system in India, or "even to share in the beginning of that operation." I do not doubt that in uttering those words the noble Viscount was entirely sincere, but believe me that, though it may not be his ambition, it will inevitably be the consequence of his act. These enlarged councils will be increasingly Parliamentary bodies in miniature; attended, no doubt, by many advantages, but also followed by many of the drawbacks with which we in this country are familiar in that system.
The noble Viscount has in one case literally gone out of his way to introduce what, at any rate from the Indian point of view, I regard as one of the greatest of these drawbacks. He has actually encouraged and permitted the asking of supplementary questions in the Legislative Councils. We all know that the asking of supplementary questions has developed into a fine art in a Chamber not far removed from this, and some of us in this House endeavoured to the best of our humble ability in our day to perfect the art of rejoinder also. But such is the confidence that I have in the ingenuity and ability of those Indian lawyers who will constitute the main portion of these new councils when they come into existence, that I believe that the utmost achievements of the experts in the House of Commons will pale before what they will accomplish in India. And remember that on the other side there will be no corresponding advantage. The Indian official is primarily an administrator and 137 secondly a writer. He is not a speaker at all. He has no training whatever, either in the arts of Parliamentary evasion or in the still more difficult science of Parliamentary repartee. There will be no Speaker in the chair to protect him, as in the House of Commons, and no body of tradition already existing in the House to which he can turn for defence. I very much doubt whether, in making this concession, the noble Viscount has realised the enormous difference between the Indian system and our system, and whether, in return for the small, almost microscopical advantages that may result from the change, he is not putting a burden on our administrators in India which will bear hardly on them and will react unfavourably on the administration itself.
I next turn to the question of the official majority in the Legislative Councils. Here, as the noble Viscount justly pointed out, he has taken, at any rate with regard to the Supreme Legislative Council, a stronger position than the Government of India. It is, if I may say so, the only respect in which he has bettered the position of the Government of India. In everything else, in my judgment, he has made the position a good deal worse. The Government of India were content with a majority in the Supreme Legislative Council, which should be dependent on the single vote, in the last resort, of the Viceroy, and they were willing to dispense, on ordinary occasions, with the official majority so long as it was, so to speak, in reserve ready to be mobilised whenever required. The noble Viscount has, rightly I think, objected to that. He points out that it would place the Viceroy in an invidious position, that there would be disadvantages in the bringing up of these forces, and that, although the majority need not be large, it ought to be assured and constant.
If I may offer an opinion, I entirely agree with this line of reasoning. But I ask the noble Viscount to observe what will be the results. There will be upon the councils of sixty-three which he is proposing—I am now speaking of the official members of the body—first, the Executive Council, i.e., the Cabinet, the Viceroy and the Lieutenant-Governor, nine; secondly, the official members from the other provinces, eight; and, thirdly, the nominated officials, eighteen. In other words, thirty-five officers are to be taken from their work 138 to sit upon these unnecessarily swollen bodies. I venture to ask the noble Viscount seriously to consider this question—where are these men to come from, and who are they to be? Under the existing system there are, in the Viceroy's Legislative Council, in addition to the Executive Council itself, six officials from other provinces—Bombay, Madras, and so on. This distinction is usually conferred on those officers as a compliment to an eminent man at the end of his career, or else as a sort of vacation to an officer who has been through a spell of very hard work. But it is notorious that, when they came to Calcutta, in ordinary sessions they had nothing whatever to do except on the rare occasions when the Legislative Council is sitting.
And not merely are they themselves idle, but, drawn as they are from their provinces, they create the first of a chain of vacancies which has to be filled up all the way down the scale, with the result that there is an interruption to the continuity and vigour of administration of the most unfortunate description. And now, under this scheme, there are to be, not only six officials in this position, but twenty-six—that is to say, thirty-five minus the eight members of the Executive Council and the Lieutenant-Governor. Nothing can be more clear than this, that whether these men are brought from Calcutta or from outside provinces, they will in either case be taken from their work, and more particularly will this be the case in the month of March, when, under the new regulations for discussing the Budget, they will be required from day to day. I hope the noble Viscount will favour us with an opinion on this question, because I think he will find some reason for doubting whether, in order to maintain the majority in these councils of sixty-three, it is desirable to inflict the very serious blow on the continuity of work in Calcutta and elsewhere which must almost inevitably be the consequence.
Perhaps, as I have ventured to criticise on that point, the Secretary of State will allow me to say of the proposals for allowing wider discussion, whether of the Budget or general administrative issues, either by amendments or voting, or even by proposing Bills, that I have nothing but approval. Every one of us, whether we have been at Calcutta or in the other provinces, has felt the lack of the oppor- 139 tunity of explaining our policy to the people. At every stage we found ourselves overwhelmed with misrepresentation, ignorance, calumny, abuse. We have, all of us, tried in our way to meet that difficulty. Sometimes we sent official communiqués to the papers, but official communiqués seem everywhere in the world to carry with them a certain taint of suspicion. Then one Viceroy tried the system of a Government paper in Calcutta, but that was not altogether successful. In my day we had a Press room, in which we used to give out to members of the Press, English or native, whatever Government information it was possible to hand to them. But none of these measures has covered the field, and I earnestly hope that with these enlarged opportunities of discussion which the noble Viscount is creating there may arise for the Government of India the much-desired opportunity of explaining its policy and stating its case.
I turn to the question of the provincial legislative councils. Here the noble Viscount has dispensed altogether with an official majority, and he uses two arguments for taking that very decisive and important step. The first is that the experiment has been tried in Bombay with success. I will leave those noble Lords behind me who are familiar with Bombay to answer that point. I will merely observe that Bombay is in a wholly exceptional position from any other capital or province in India. It is a city of a peculiarly cosmopolitan character; it has a very high standard of public spirit; there is a native community there of Parsees, the leading members of which are strong supporters of the Government; and an analogy drawn from Bombay as to what is likely to happen elsewhere is, I think, likely to be erroneous. The second argument is that, as long as the non-officials are in a minority, it is likely to breed in them an attitude of peevish and sulky and permanent opposition, which has an injurious effect on their mind and character. I do not think that being in a permanent minority has had that effect on the non-official members of the Legislative Councils in India any more than it has had that effect on those who are in a permanent minority in this House.
I have always found in India a very high standard of good temper as well as ability, and I never remember, even when we voted down our opponents, any symptoms of the character to which the noble Viscount alludes. But, whether that be so or not, 140 what is the alternative to which the Secretary of State now invites us? The non-official majority of these councils is to have the power of moving and carrying resolutions, of introducing and even carrying Bills against the wish of the Government; and the utmost the Secretary of State offers us is this—that if they carry anything that is disagreeable to the local government, it may be vetoed by the Governor, and that if they reject any Bill which the local government desires should pass, the Government of India is to be brought in as a Deus ex machina to pass it over their heads. There is none of us who has had experience of administration in India who will not view that position with some dismay. Just as the noble Viscount himself was seeking in his provisions with regard to the Supreme Legislative Council, to save the Viceroy from the invidious position of having a casting vote, so ought he to wish to save the Governors of the provincial councils from the invidious task of exercising the veto. And it is indeed a curious commentary on the well-known and admitted desire, of the noble Viscount to free the local governments of India from the trammels of interference from the supreme Government that, almost within a few weeks of the time when, as we understand, large measures of decentralisation are to be proposed, he distinctly contemplates the issue in which the supreme Government will be brought in to rectify mistakes that have been made in the Legislative Councils. I hope—I have no right to express more than a hope—that this is a question which the noble Viscount will be kind enough to consider. I really fear he is breeding great mischief in connection with this non-official majority on the Provincial Councils. It will be in the power of these persons almost to bring government to a standstill if they choose. In the present eirenicon which we hope now prevails in India there is, perhaps, not much danger, but I can well conceive a time when passions will be aroused in the future and when the powers now being lightly given may be used with very serious and detrimental effect.
I will only make a passing observation about the method of election to the councils, and in that I will follow the lines suggested by the noble Viscount himself. The situation, as I understand, is this. The Government of India, feeling that great caution ought to be observed in 141 the matter, and conscious of the immense difference that prevails between the conditions of the different provinces, said that they could not prescribe any one scheme for returning members to these councils, but that in some cases they hoped that regular electorates might be constituted, that in others associations might be utilised for the purpose, and that in many cases where no machinery either existed or could be created nomination might have to be resorted to. But then the noble Viscount appears on the scene and sweeps all this away, and, though he does not prescribe—he was careful not to do that—in very strong language he commended the scheme of electoral colleges to the Government of India. That scheme, in the case of the Mahomedans, has, as he admitted tonight, broken down irremediably. I need not pursue the argument, because the noble Viscount stated, and I think we all agree with his decision, that, in consequence of the representations made to him, he had decided to abandon that scheme in its application to the Mahomedans, and that he was willing to consider an exclusively Mahomedan electorate returning representatives to an exclusively Mahomedan electoral college. I think, if I may say so, that that is a wise and statesmanlike decision. But I would like the noble Viscount to go rather further.
We have not yet heard, and I do not know whether the noble Viscount has received, the opinion of the Government of India about electoral colleges in general, but I venture to say, so far as I have a right to speak, that electoral colleges are profoundly unsuited to the Indian system and the Indian character, and that you will find almost everywhere that the result of founding these colleges will be that they will be manipulated by the Hindus, who have a great faculty for organisation of that description, and who in a few years time will have got the whole of the representative system of India into their hands. That, I think, would be an undesirable and serious result, and I hope this is a question which the noble Viscount will be willing to consider before the later stages of the Bill.
I approach the last two questions with which I am called upon to deal. One is a smaller one, and the other is a larger one. The smaller one, and yet one of great importance in its possible effect, is the enlargement of the existing Provincial 142 Councils in Madras and Bombay and the creation of new Executive Councils in the other provinces. I have already quoted the remark of the Government of India, in which they say they think the discussion of this question is entirely premature at the present time. But the noble Viscount has rushed in where they feared to tread, and in his Despatch has practically ordered this great change to take place. Are we not entitled to ask for this information—do the Governors of Madras and Bombay want their Executive Councils increased from two to four, or are they to be increased simply in order to provide the noble Viscount with an opportunity of appointing to them one, or possibly more than one, native member? Do the Lieutenant-Governors in the other provinces—the United Provinces, Bengal, and so on—do they want Executive Councils created in their provinces for the first time? There would, in my judgment, be no greater mistake than to suppose that an Executive Council is necessarily a synonym for administrative efficiency. In Madras and Bombay, where these councils have long existed and done excellent work, it is well known that the main reason for their constitution is that the Governor, as a rule, is an English statesman or politician brought from England, ignorant of the country, and requiring guidance. But often as I heard this question discussed in India I never heard but one reply, and it was this, that in the less highly organised and more backward areas the best system of government was that which brought the personality of the Governor into closest contact with the people; in other words, a Chief Commissioner. A Chief Commissioner has no council; he has no secretariat; he has a smaller province and is able to go about himself. He does everything himself and is in direct contact with the population. Then in the more highly organised areas, where there is a much more complex administrative hierarchy, there is required a Lieutenant-Governor. But I never met a Lieutenant-Governor who wanted an Executive Council. I never met one who would not, I think, have shuddered at the prospect. And yet here is the noble Viscount about not merely to increase the Executive Councils of Madras and Bombay, but to supply these councils to a number of these Lieutenant-Governors. I think we are entitled to ask for some information as to their views upon this matter. 143 Here, again, may I make an appeal to the noble Viscount? I have alluded to his well-known desire to decentralise in India. Now, if you have Executive Councils in these provinces, where they do not now exist, what does it mean? It is one of the most centralising measures that you could devise. Executive Councils mean officers—men of ability and capacity at the top, omnivorous for work, searching for information, sending for reports from their district officers from all parts of the country. But the district officer is the man whom you want to release, to extricate from the trammels of bureaucracy and officialism, and if you start these Legislative Councils you will be doing precisely the opposite thing, and you will be adding to those centralising features in the government which nobody desires more than the noble Viscount to destroy.
Then again, what is to become of the Board of Revenue? Are the Boards of Revenue in the United Provinces and in Madras and Bengal to be dispensed with? And what are we to say of the question of expense? I observe in reading the despatches no mention of the cost of any stage of these proceedings. But look at what it must all amount to. The Secretary of State proposes to appoint the new executive councillors in Madras and Bombay and elsewhere. I gather that the total number of them must be twelve to fifteen. These gentlemen will receive from £3,000 to £4,000 a year a-piece. Then there are the new legislative councils, or, rather, the enlarged legislative councils, with numbers varying from twenty and twenty-five to forty-seven and sixty-three. Every one of the members of these councils has travelling expenses and residential allowance, and really, when the items are reckoned, the bill becomes a very considerable one. I think the noble Viscount will agree that before we enter Committee this information should, if possible, be given to this House.
And now I turn, in conclusion, to the last question, which I said was one of great importance, and which the noble Viscount himself was far from minimising, I mean the question of the admission of natives to the Executive Council of the Viceroy, or the Executive Councils of the other governments. I hope I shall be saying nothing in this that will in the smallest degree imply disagreement from that generous conception 144 of the capacities of educated Indian gentlemen which appeared in the speech of the noble Viscount, and which, from my own experience, I desire to endorse most heartily. But it is not a question of the capacity of the individuals; this is a question of a great principle, raising the whole issues of our government in India and the foundation upon which it rests. Yes, that is strong language, but I propose to justify it. Here is this great and, as the noble Marquess called it, tremendous innovation. Not a word about it is to be found in the despatch of the Government of India. Over and over again the Secretary of State has informed us, with pardonable pride, that he is in absolute accord with the Governor-General of India. Yes, but is he in equal accord with the Governor-General in Council? Then what about the Council at home? I think I have a recollection of hearing not very long ago that a committee sat upon this question—I think in the India Office here—who were reported to be unanimously opposed to the scheme. Then the noble Viscount assured us that he had the support of one conspicuous Indian officer. That may well be, but I do think we ought to know what is the opinion of the Government of India at the present time, and that this House should not be invited to discuss this matter without more information than it at present possesses.
More than once in his speech the Secretary of State made use of an analogy against which I hope he will allow me respectfully to protest, and that was the analogy between the Viceroy's Council in India and his own Council in Charles Street. There is not even the remotest resemblance or analogy between the two bodies. The Council of the Secretary of State is a purely consultative body of gentlemen, who are engaged in various activities, and sit on various Committees, who see Papers which are laid upon the Table, but who can, if necessary, be kept unacquainted with all the secret work of government, or at any rate with all that part of the secret work of government which does not involve the expenditure of money. The noble Viscount can with great advantage invite not one but two or three native gentlemen to sit upon his Council, and their advice to him may be very valuable, but the situation is entirely different in India. The Council of the Viceroy there is not a consultative body; it is the great executive body of the country, it is the Cabinet of India. 145 All the functions of government are concentrated in that body at Calcutta or Simla, and further they are all divided up between the different members of that body, each member assuming charge of this department or that, or of a group of departments. And further, the main feature of the system in India is the common responsibility that prevails. There is no inner or outer Cabinet, such as we sometimes hear of in this country; there is only one Cabinet, and because it is small its members know everything. The Commander-in-Chief in India has a voice and a vote upon the question of education, just as the legal member of the Council may give a vote and have an opinion upon the frontier. What then ensues? That in order to fill this Council adequately you want men with a double range of capacities. First, you want a man who has an expert knowledge of the department over which he is going to be called upon to preside, and secondly you want him to possess that wide knowledge of men and affairs which we sum up in the word "statesmanship," which enables a man to give a vote and to exercise an opinion upon large issues, with the details of which he may not be acquainted, but which come before him in his capacity as a public man.
It is, of course, conceivable that a native gentleman may possess both those gifts; he may be an expert and a statesman—there might be room for him in that capacity, but there is no room for him as a native alone. As a qualified person, possibly Yes; as a native alone, No. The noble Viscount to-night asked us whether it would not be a great shame to exclude a native gentleman of the character that he spoke of, so highly qualified and able as he might be. But the other night, when laying stress upon that same point he went on to say that it would be a great advantage to the Governor-General to have the advice of a man who belongs to the country, and who can give him the Indian point of view. But that is the racial qualification—he is going away from the administrative qualification and introducing the racial qualification almost in the same breath as he disowns it. The Secretary of State seemed to think that because he derives great advantage from native councillors in London the Viceroy would derive equal advantage from the assistance of a native member on his Executive Council in India. But he is not denied the advantage of that assis- 146 tance whenever he desires it. Every day, every week, that passes he is in consultation and correspondence with native gentlemen. It is not necessary, to get native advice in India, to put a man into the Cabinet in order to obtain it.
May I ask the noble Viscount to consider these questions? If he recommends His Majesty to appoint, as apparently he intends to do, a native gentleman on the Council, he may appoint him because he is the best man and the most competent, but the natives of India will regard him as having been appointed because he is an Indian, and for no other reason. If he is a Hindu, will he have the confidence of Mahomedans? We know he will not. If he is a Mahomedan, will he have the confidence of Hindus? No. If he is a Hindu, will he have the confidence of Hindus? Strange and paradoxical as it may seem to say so, there is no one Hindu capable of carrying the confidence of Hindus generally. Whether he be Hindu or Mahomedan, will there not at once be raised an agitation for the appointment of a corresponding member to represent other sections of the community, Parsees, Sikhs, Eurasians, Buddhists, and others? Further, for this matter must be pursued, if he be a Hindu, to what class is he to belong? Is he to be a blameless and possibly a moderately distinguished official who has mounted the official grade until he has attained the rank of Commissioner or Deputy-Commissioner? If that sort of man is to be appointed, I say unhesitatingly he will not carry throughout the country that respect that ought to attach to a member of the Council. Not only so, his appointment will be received with considerable ill-feeling and agitation among the parties pressing for the change who will think that, having secured the change, they are entitled to put their own representative in the place.
This is a matter of importance. Is the man to be appointed to be the blameless official, or is he to be the successful political agitator? I am sure the noble Viscount, if he does not repudiate will deprecate the latter suggestion, but it is certain that the agitating classes in India will claim that the native member, if not now, shall in the future be selected from the ranks of their best men. They have borne the burden and heat of the day, they have been conspicuously successful, and are they to be denied access to the seats of the mighty? It will be a serious matter to consider what class the member shall be taken from. 147 The noble Lord has said that natives of India excel in capacity for acquiring legal knowledge and for the administration of the law, and I agree with him. But is the native member to be appointed to be always the law member? It may be difficult to find a person who is qualified if he is not to be a political agitator and not the legal member, and the position may thus be arrived at that in the future you will have to keep to the appointment of a native law member. Is that to be desired? Looking back over the long history of Indian administration, we find distinguished men, such as Lord Macaulay, Sir J. Fitzjames Stephen, Sir H. Maine, taking their legal training and forensic ability to India and also applying to Indian problems the resources of their great and statesmanlike minds. If it should come about that in the future the law membership of the Council must be reserved for a native, and if that path is closed to Englishmen and the intellectual flow from England to India is stopped, I venture to say that both England and India will suffer from the change.
The noble Viscount can of course, as he reminds us, take what steps he pleases and make any recommendation to the Sovereign he desires. But I do, without giving utterance to the slightest feeling of hostility to natives or making invidious comparisons between native and British intellect, invite his serious consideration to these points. If this appointment is made he will for the first time detract in the public estimation from the sense of the absolute impartiality and neutrality that the Council of the Viceroy has always held among all classes in India from the highest chief to the lowest peasant. The native of India will not believe that any member of his race or even of his own creed is capable of that detachment, that absolute sense of justice, and that impartiality which he has always recognised in the Council. In the second place, I doubt very much, if you could take a plebiscite throughout all India, whether you would get a vote for this proposal. I believe it would be rejected by a large majority.
In the third place, although this is a consideration to which I do not know that I am entitled to attach great weight, the noble Viscount with his sense of continuity must be aware that this step once taken cannot be recalled. Succeeding Governments will have to do the same thing, the step taken cannot be retraced, and it is 148 certain that an agitation not for one member but for two members will continue and will increase, and it may be that in the future we shall look back with regret to the day when the noble Viscount set rolling this ball, the ultimate destination of which cannot be foreseen. Lastly, although I do not want to lay too much stress upon it, a breach will be made by such an appointment in the crown and core of British sovereignty and rule in India. You are now not only extending the range of the power Indians may exercise over Indians—let that be developed to the widest reasonable extent—but you are putting them on the council to rule not only Indian but British subjects in India. It is a momentous proposal. The issue seems small, but it is a very considerable one indeed, and I hope your lordships will in the next few weeks regard it as one of the most important matters you are allowed—not to decide—but to discuss. I am grateful to your lordships for giving attention to what I am afraid have been tedious remarks, and I hope, though they have been critical, you will believe they are not inspired in a sense hostile to the general scheme of the noble Viscount.
To sum up my impression in a few words, I would say that I think he is disposed to go a little too fast. If he would moderate his pace, if he would adjust his measure a little more closely to the slower gait of the "men on the spot," to whom reference has so often been made, the better it will be for his scheme and for India. I am sure the noble Viscount can have no higher desire than to carry with him the approval of those best qualified to form a judgment in this country and in India. For my own part and for those who sit near me, I can say we shall be sincerely delighted if we can join hands with him in laying afresh and sinking deeper and firmer the foundations of our rule in the confidence and esteem of the Indian peoples.
* LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD
My Lords, when the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India made his statement in your Lordships' House last December, I expressed my general approval, though on certain points I was unable to follow the noble Viscount. During the course of his remarks to-night he said there was nothing like a past history to help one to a comprehension of the present. I feel, my Lords, that I shall be unable to put my views regarding the Bill properly 149 before your Lordships unless you allow me, as briefly as I can, to trace the main and most salient points in the long sequence of events in India which culminate in your Lordships' presence here to-night.
The Bill is the latest product of that system of education which the wisdom of our predecessors introduced into India. Regarding the wisdom of that policy, the policy of opening to the East the storerooms of Western knowledge, I, for one, have no doubt; and no episode during the stormy days of the Mutiny has appeared to me more worthy of admiration than when Lord Canning, beset on all sides by perils, turned to his Legislative Council and passed the Act upon which the Indian Universities were based. But, although I have no doubt as to the wisdom of the policy of education for India, I have very serious doubts as to the method by which effect was given to that policy. That question, however, is not in issue here to-night, and I only refer to the matter with the object of making my first point, which is that our system of education in India has developed in the students who have attended our colleges and schools a special aptitude for politics. The effect of that is that they throw themselves more into politics than into industrial and commercial pursuits. Accordingly, there grew up an English Press, shortly afterwards followed by a vernacular Press, which was hostile to the Government, and which has been at the root of the present difficulties.
During the first twenty-five years after the Mutiny, the Government in India allowed things educational pretty much to take their course, and it was not until the Administration of the noble Marquess, Lord Ripon, that there was a general overhauling of the situation. It will be within the remembrance of noble Lords who may have been in India at that time that two important Commissions were appointed, one to examine into the educational system, and the other to consider the question of the enlargement of local government. The results of the Education Commission were valuable, but the native population attached far more importance to the inquiry into local government. The result was the establishment of a system of district councils and local boards in India, which, at the time, satisfied the aspirations of native politicians. But few years passed 150 before it became clear that the object of native politicians in India was not so much the onerous and thankless task of local government. They flew at much higher game, and aimed at such a change in the system of government as would enable them to control the administration of affairs. It was with that view that the Indian National Congress was formed, which held its first meeting in the year 1885. That Congress laid down its programme in the following terms:—That the Imperial and Provincial Legislative Councils be reconstituted on the following bases:—(1) The numbers to be materially increased, not less than one-half to be elected, not more than one-fourth to be ex officio members; and not more than one-fourth to be members nominated by the Government; (2) members of Local Legislative Councils to be elected by municipal committees, local boards, chambers of commerce, and universities; (3) the elected members of the Governor-General's Legislative Council to be elected by the elected members of the Local Legislative Councils; (4) all residents in India, without distinction of race, creed, caste, etc., to be eligible for membership; (5) all legislative and financial questions, including Budgets, to be submitted to and dealt with by the councils, which should also have the right of interpellation in regard to all matters of Administration; and (6) the Executive Government to have, for reasons to be stated, the right to overrule the majority; but in that case the majority to have the right to appeal to a Standing Committee of the House of Commons on Indian Affairs which should be established.That was the beginning of the Indian National Congress which has played such an important part in the subsequent proceedings.
The Governments of Lord Dufferin and of the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition in your Lordships' House took into their consideration the circumstances of the time and the claims of native politicians, and for several years carefully discussed whether any advance could be made in the way of modifying and liberalising the then existing system of government in India. These consultations resulted in the Indian Councils Act of 1892, to which reference has been made in the course of the debate. That legislation for a considerable time seemed to satisfy the aspirations of native politicians; and it was not until the year 1904 that any very serious claim for further political privileges was made in India. In that year there was considerable agitation, got up partly in consequence of what is known as the Partition of Bengal, and for other reasons; and at the Congress which was 151 held in 1904 the following resolutions were passed—That in the opinion of the Congress the time has arrived when the people of tins country should be allowed a larger voice in the administration and control of the affairs of their country by:— (a) The bestowal on each Province or Presidency of India of the franchise to return at least two members to the English House of Commons; (b) an enlargement of both the Supreme and Provincial Legislative Councils—increasing the number of non-official members therein, and giving them the right to divide the Council in all financial matters coming before them—the head of the Government concerned possessing the power of veto; (c) the appointment of at least one Indian as a Member of Indian Council in London and of the Executive Councils of the Government of India and the Governments of Bombay and Madras.That was a new departure in Indian political agitation, but it was a moderate departure compared with the succeeding demand, which was to the following effect:—The bestowal on each of the provinces of India of the franchise to return at least two members to the British House of Commons; (b) the appointment of not less than three Indian gentlemen of proved ability and experience, as members of the Secretary of State's Council; and (c) the appointment of two Indians as members of the Governor-General's Executive Council. and of one Indian as a member of the Executive Councils of Bombay and Madras.
And even that further claim to political privileges was improved upon by the subsequent Congress, which claimed for India the status of a Colonial Government. Thus, my Lords, you will see that, step by step, the demands of the Congress advanced. In the year 1907 the physical force party prevailed, and the Congress was broken up.
Such was the situation in India when the Secretary of State and the Government of India came to consider the situation. Their proposals were put forward in a letter contained in one of the Blue-books laid before us. The proposals were of a very moderate character. The proposals of the Government of India, which had been sanctioned previously by the Secretary of State, were as follows:—(1) the creation of advisory councils; (2) the enlargement of the Legislative Councils; (3) such an alteration of the system of election to seats in the Council as would give representation to the landed and moneyed classes and to Mahomedans; and (4) the more effective discussion of the budget. In these proposals there was 152 nothing which was not fully within the spirit and the meaning of the Councils Act of 1892. All the authorities and officers in India were consulted upon these proposals, and after a year's consultation and consideration the Governor-General in Council sent in his final recommendations to the Secretary of State. They were to the effect that advisory councils were not desirable, that the Legislative Councils should be considerably enlarged, that the qualified right of election for seats in the councils should be made absolute, and that the discussion of the details of the budget and the right of interpellation should be considerably extended. The official majorities in all these Councils remained untouched, though an intention was expressed of not making use of the official majorities in ordinary circumstances.
Such was the state of affairs when these proposals came before the Secretary of State. In the Secretary of State's letter, in reply, an important advance was made, as Lord Curzon has said, on any proposal that had been made by the Government of India. That important advance was the creation of Executive Councils for Lieutenant-Governorships and the appointment of native members to the Executive Councils of Presidencies. For my own part I am disposed to think that, as government by councils has existed so long in the Presidencies of Madras and Bombay, it is wise to take a step in advance and to admit native members to these Executive Councils. I think the time has come when some progress in a liberal direction must be made in India, and when competent and trustworthy native gentlemen are found they should be utilised and associated with the Government more in the direction of affairs than they are at the present time. I quite agree with the noble Lord, Lord Curzon, when he says that these appointments on Executive Councils ought not to be made the spoil of politicians. If natives are admitted to the Executive Councils of Madras and Bombay, the same qualifications and the same rules of eligibility should apply to them as apply now to the European members of these Councils. At the present time no European can be a member of the Council of the Governor of Madras or Bombay unless he has served twelve years in the service of the Crown. Having regard to the fact stated by Lord Curzon that these Executive Councils are not debating 153 bodies but that the members hold administrative portfolios, I think it is only proper and right in the interests of the vast majority of the people that no person should be appointed who was not fit for the task. It may be taken as certain that no politician who only acquires his prominence by platform work is competent to administer the work of an Indian Department unless he has also had large experience and special training. I therefore think that if native members are appointed they should be taken from the ranks of the public service, and that the same qualification of twelve years service should apply to them as to Europeans.
With regard to Executive Councils for Lieutenant-Governors, I am certainly most strongly opposed to the proposal. I find in the letter of the noble Viscount the Secretary of State the statement that the establishment of Executive Councils for Lieutenant-Governors is not new. So far as my experience goes, it is an entirely novel proposal. Reference is made to the discussions which took place in regard to councils in the time of Sir John Lawrence. I have not lately seen the official Papers, and I hope if the matter is pressed they will be placed before your Lordships. But my remembrance of them is that at that time the discussion concerned the establishment in Bengal and in the United Provinces of a Governor with his Council and not of a Lieutenant-Governor. In the Vice-royalty of Lord William Bentinck in 1835 an Act was passed establishing a Governor and Council in the Province of Bengal and in what is now known as the Province of Agra. The idea was to extend to those parts of India the same method of government as in Madras and Bombay. But no sooner was the Act passed than its unsuitability to that part of the country was discovered, and another Act was passed suspending it and appointing a Lieutenant-Governor with no Council instead of the Governor and Council which had been previously provided for. From then up to the time that I ceased to be connected with India I never heard the desirability of giving Lieutenant-Governors a Council discussed in India. I did hear that the question of creating a Council for Bengal proper—that part of Bengal in which the Bengali-speaking people live—had been discussed. I myself think there is a great deal to be 154 said for the creation of a Council in Bengal if we could go back on the recent past, because Bengal is the most educated and until a few years past was by far the most docile and the most easily-governed part of India—a part in which no serious questions of political difficulty arose. There it seemed to me and to others that municipal government by means of a Council might well be allowed.
If any matter was driven home to us at the time of the Mutiny it was the need in Hindustan of concentration of power in the hands of an individual and maintenance of individual responsibility. Any Indian officer of experience can tell you of the suddenness with which emergencies arise, the necessity for individual initiative, and there is no Indian authority of weight who would say that he would like, in these circumstances, to be hampered by a Council and to have to discuss with the members what ought to be done and what ought not to be done in a particular emergency. I have called attention to the demands of the National Congress and pointed out how those demands gradually rose, but in not one of those demands, not even in the most extreme one, was the recommendation of a Council for Lieutenant-Governors ever put forward. That was put forward for the first time by the Secretary of State. Lord Curzon has dwelt on that aspect of the case. He has called your Lordships' attention to the hesitating and tentative way in which the Government of India refer, at the end of their Despatch, to the desirability of considering with care and caution, after consultation with their officers, and so forth, the possibility and the probability of creating a Council. The Secretary of State for India thereupon refers to discussions which seem to me—I have not seen the papers recently, and my memory may be imperfect—to relate to an entirely different state of things. He decides that it is desirable to solve the question, to invite no more discussion, and to decide off-hand a matter which lies at the very root of your power and your administration in those provinces of India where danger is always nearest the surface. I venture to say that if there is anything which calls for the most careful deliberation, for reference to the Local Governments, for consultation with important native gentlemen and the large landowners who have a stake in the country, it is this question, and above all 155 others it ought not be decided or carried out in the manner now proposed.
I object to the Bill which is before your Lordships to-day for three reasons. I object to the appointment of Executive Councils for Lieutenant-Governorships; I object to the admission of natives to the Councils of Madras and Bombay without the qualifications which apply to Europeans; and I object to the provision of the Bill which makes the powers of Lieutenant-Governors no longer dependent upon the wording of positive law, but upon proclamations and orders of a variable character which can be varied from time to time according to the idiosyncrasies of any Secretary of State of the day or Viceroy in Council. I wish to say one word in regard to the matter which has been dealt with so fully by Lord Curzon—namely, the appointment of a native to the Viceroy's Council. I was highly pleased by the exhaustive manner in which Lord Curzon placed before your Lordships the objections to that measure. I consider myself that it is one of the most fatal steps which at the present time could possibly be taken by the Government in this country. The noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, stated the other day that the action of the Secretary of State was practically imposing "a disqualification against Englishmen." I will take higher ground, and say that in the best interests of the native races and of India nothing should be done which would in the slightest degree impair the efficiency of the English Government in India or the respect in which it is held by the peoples of India, and especially the native Princes. I cannot conceive any measures more likely to prejudice the native Princes against us than the appointment of a native to the Viceroy's Council, because the Viceroy's Council has always been looked upon by them as the corps d'élite of the service—composed of men of the highest honour, and in whose absolute impartiality every native of India has complete confidence.
During thirty-five years service in India I never heard one breath of suspicion attaching to any member of the Viceroy's Council. The members of that Council are always regarded as of the highest probity—men in whom the native Princes repose confidences which they would not repose even in their own people. I regret that such a body as that should be weakened 156 by the introduction of a foreign element; for no matter how competent the native gentleman may be, he is still foreign in that body, and will be regarded as foreign by the native Princes and by the majority of the people of India. I think it must now be admitted that the appointment of a native member of the Viceroy's Council has been accepted by no body of opinion in England or in India, except by the Hindu politicians who support these proposals. It is opposed by the Mahomedans unless they can get a man of their own upon it. I think the vast mass of the English Civil Service in India is opposed to it. All those I have spoken to are opposed to it, and I think it would be a fatal thing if the success of these measures—some of them are very great measures—is imperilled, as it will be in the opinion of the vast mass of the people of India, by such an appointment as this.
One final word in regard to the withdrawal of the majorities in the provincial Legislative Councils. I do not object to the withdrawal of the official majority so long as the nominated members and the official members are a majority in the Council. It is possible to carry any Bill which is not strongly opposed to the feelings of the people by means of the official members and the nominated non-official members forming in the Council a majority. You will have amongst your elected members European members of Chambers of Commerce, you will have a large Mahomedan element, and you will have men of standing and sense nominated by Government on whom they can generally rely. Therefore I do not object to that part of the noble Viscount's proposal. Those are all the remarks which occur to me. While I am in general sympathy with the liberal policy of the noble Viscount, I object to it on these points where it touches the safety of the British power in India, and weakens the initiative and responsibility of the officer on the spot, who in the last resort is the strength of our Empire.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, the general purport of the remarks I have to make is approval of the scheme of reform which will be set in motion by the Bill now before us—not critical approval, I might even say destructively critical approval, such as has been expressed by my noble friend who sits in front of me and the noble Lord who has just sat down, but sincere 157 and, I might almost say, enthusiastic approval. There is not one of the objections which were put forward by the noble Lord who spoke second which has not been present in my mind during the time that I have considered this scheme; but, even when they were put forward with all that brilliancy and cogency of eloquence which we are accustomed to hear from him, they did not convince me.
Mine is no recently-formed opinion on this subject. I am not being carried away by the current of public opinion which has recently set in on this subject. Before I left India three years ago I had formed my opinions. I did not express them publicly because I did not think it right to prejudice affairs for which I was just about to quit responsibility; but the noble Viscount the Secretary of State may possibly remember the manner in which I wrote to him on this subject. The records of the Madras Government will show that I myself, just before I left, made a tentative examination of the question of the enlargement of the Legislative Council. I only tell your Lordships this to show that I have not changed my mind because I am no longer a man on the spot. My opinions on this subject were formed while I was a man on the spot.
The scheme of reform which the Secretary of State has put forward is based on three propositions which the noble Viscount expounded so brilliantly on December 17 last year and which seemed to me to be almost incontrovertible—at least, no effective attempt has been made to controvert them. Those propositions were, first, that something must be done to satisfy what are known as the legitimate aspirations of the people of India; secondly, that what is to be done must be done at once; and, thirdly, that what is done must be a substantial concession. On the first of those three propositions the noble Viscount pointed out that the only alternative to going forward is standing still. He pointed out that that was impossible. I would go further and say that the only alternative to going forward is to go backward. If we can do nothing to meet these aspirations of the Indian people, which, it must be remembered, we ourselves have taught and fostered—and it is impossible to insist too much upon that point—we must smother and suppress them. If we do not go forward we will be placed in the position of violating pledges which have been made, not only by the authorities 158 in India, but also by the word of the late Queen and His Majesty our present Sovereign. As regards the second point—namely, that what is done must be done at once—the noble Viscount pointed out, and I fully agree with him, that to delay would seem like fear of anarchism. It would also imply a belief, absolutely unwarranted in fact, that disloyalty in India is widespread, and it would mean distrust of the people of India. I take it that there is nobody who has been responsible for the administration of India who would commit himself to the opinion that the people of India as a whole are not to be trusted. On the other hand, to advance in spite of unrest is to prove to all the great masses of the peoples in India that the great British Government cannot be deterred by bombs, or by anarchists, or, indeed, by any force, from the steady pursuit of her great and noble mission in that country.
The third proposition seems to me to require no demonstration. It is self-evident that any concession that is made must be a substantial concession. Even were it possible to delude the people of India by sham concessions, it is inconceivable that we should adopt so unworthy a course. It seems to me, then, that what we have to ask is not whether reform is desirable, but, first, whether the proposed reforms are substantial, and, secondly, whether they are on the best and safest lines. In doing this we must not fail to apply at every stage—and the noble Viscount himself has insisted upon that most forcibly—a test which is absolutely essential. That test is whether there is any weakening of the power, the influence, or the prestige of the British Government in India. Any proposal which fails under that test, any proposal in regard to which it can be said that it impairs the power or even the prestige of British rule, necessarily stands condemned. We must either govern India or else clear out. That, in simple words, is the exact situation. We cannot be governed in India, and the sooner this is made clear—for there is great and urgent necessity that it should be made clear—to our own democracy as well as to the people of India the better.
On this point depends the decision as to what are the legitimate and what are the illegitimate aspirations of the people of India. Your Lordships all know that the demand of the Congress Indians, simply formulated, is self-government on the 159 Colonial model; and when they are asked to explain rather more definitely what they understand by this demand they are forced to confess that they wish to retain the services of the British naval and military forces to keep invaders out of India and to maintain order within, while for the rest they demand that all administrative power, both executive and judicial, should be put into their hands. No conceivable Government in this country could get British soldiers to go and fight for a Government of Baboos, and if the Rajput, or the Sikh, or the Gurkha were asked to do so they would resent the insult by exterminating by force of arms these childish babblers of Western democratic jargon, which has no more meaning or application in India than Chinese law has in this country of ours. A Government which cannot defend itself, which cannot resist outside invasion or maintain internal order, cannot exist, and that consideration alone, besides many others, makes self-government on the Colonial model an absolute impossibility in India. That is why anything resembling Parliamentary institutions is likewise impossible there. I feel convinced that even the most bigoted democratic doctrinaire in this country would see this if he could be made to spend a year in India and were not restricted to the company of the Congress Indians.
There is no notion more ludicrous than that which is unfortunately prevalent to some extent in this country that the people of India are craving for representative institutions. To most Eastern gentlemen—I say Eastern gentlemen, because it applies not only to Indians but to Persians and the natives of all Eastern countries—there is something positively degrading in the mere idea of popular election. To be invited by a Government to take part in their deliberations and to share their responsibility is an honour, but to the ordinary gentleman of Asia to obtain such honourable public appointment or responsibility by seeking favours from a peasantry or the proletariat seems humiliating and even disgraceful. And this, my Lords, is particularly the case with the Mahomedans in India, of whom one may say that they are the most virile and trustworthy portion of the population. It follows, I think, from what I have said that we must take care that any scheme of reform is not shaping in the slightest 160 degree towards representative institutions, because representative institutions mean self-government and self-government means the surrender of British rule in India. The expansion of the present system seems to me, therefore, to be the obvious and the only course.
Now, what is it that is proposed? Roughly, to enlarge the provincial Councils from twenty-four to forty-seven, and the Viceroy's Legislative Council from twenty-five to sixty-three. Nothing will persuade me that that is a very violent or dangerous measure of reform. It is natural that those who are responsible for the scheme and who have put it forward should magnify the reform as much as possible. It is equally naturally that those who, for one reason or another, are opposed to the scheme should also magnify its effect. But if, like myself, you are not actuated by either motive, it does not assume such formidable dimensions, and seems to be, what indeed the noble Viscount himself claimed for it, a moderate and just expansion of the present system. After all, is the number forty-six an inordinately large Council for a province like that of Madras—a territory larger in area than the British Isles and containing an equal population—when you consider that in every one of our counties the ordinary local parochial affairs are discussed by councils numbering from sixty to seventy. I think there is a great deal of unnecessary alarm in regard to the proposed composition of these enlarged councils. Out of the number of forty-six, to take one of the provincial councils as an instance, no fewer than twenty-three may be officials, and it is no more than eight out of the whole number who will be elected on anything at all resembling a popular franchise. The rest will be representatives of particular classes or institutions. Again, one of the objections made is that it may lead to excessive talking and waste of time. Personally I take a contrary view. When you have a small council—I am speaking from experience—it is conspicuous to remain silent, and therefore everybody has to get off a formal set speech; but when you have a larger council it is possible to refrain from talking without attracting attention, and human nature being the same in India as it is here I feel very confident that the enlargement of the councils will lead rather to less talking than to more talking. 161 As regards the official majority, I think there is needless apprehension. I can hardly imagine circumstances in which there would be a hard and sharp division between officials and non-officials. It is possible, of course, but in most circumstances similar to those which I can call to mind, the officials would be supported by such class representatives as the planters or the landholders, or the representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, and so the non-official majority is not an actual one; it is only a seeming one. I heartily approve, then, of the enlargement of the councils, but the success of the reform will depend, first of all, on the due representation of classes and interests, and, secondly, on the mode of election. This is left to regulations, and again I most cordially approve. It is essential that there should be elasticity. Rules which will do for Madras will certainly not do for the Punjab, and those which are suitable for Bengal will not be appropriate for Bombay. Again, it is only the man on the spot who can possibly frame such rules, and I do not believe it is within the competence of Parliament, without local experience and knowledge, effectively to criticise those regulations when they are made. But, all the same, I do not think that rules should be finally approved and given the force of law without the knowledge of Parliament. I therefore venture to offer the Secretary of State a suggestion which it is my intention to embody in an Amendment in the Committee Stage—namely, that the proposed regulations should be laid on the Table of both Houses of Parliament for the usual period—I think it is forty days—and that they should take effect only if no objection has been made during that period. That would give an opportunity for the ventilation of any criticism coming from India which may transpire during the interval.
I am indeed glad to hear that the noble Viscount has abandoned his proposal for introducing a system of proportional representation into India. I am myself an advocate of the system of proportional representation, and if my noble friend Lord Courtney were here I should like to congratulate him on getting his system adopted in every quarter of the globe, notably in the new constitution which has just been drafted for South Africa. But, although I advocate this system for England, I am very clear that it is not applicable to India and to these particular circumstances. In India in this 162 case you want a fixed and permanent proportion between two elements which do not mix and interchange. A Hindu will always be a Hindu; a Mahomedan, always a Mahomedan. It is possible, indeed, it happens not infrequently, that a Liberal becomes a Unionist, and I have known cases of Unionists becoming Liberals; but in India it is a division not of opinions which can change and do change, but of races which can never change. Proportional representation is all very well for getting the right compound of different shades of opinion in a homogeneous community, but what it will not do is to blend antagonistic elements. If the Mahomedans had been dissatisfied in this matter, there would have been a distinct weakening of British power; but that possible objection has been removed by the gratifying statement of the noble Viscount that he has abandoned his suggestion—and I always realised from the beginning that it was a suggestion thrown out for the consideration of the Government of India—that proportional representation should be adopted. The attitude of Mahomedans is a very clear one. What they say is that when the British Government held the scales even between the Hindu and the Mahomedan they were perfectly content, but that with this new scheme all that will be over and they will have to look out for themselves. Hence it is quite certain that anything which causes discontent to the Mahomedan community in India is a distinct weakening, not only of the power, but of the prestige and the influence of British Government in India.
In regard to the question of election by popular vote, there is one little caveat which I should like to enter, and one which has not been referred to this evening. It seems to me that there must be some means of preventing the election of undesirable men. I need not suggest what type of man I mean. The noble Viscount will, I am sure, agree that nothing would be more disastrous to the success of this experiment or to the credit and reputation of enlarged Councils than if certain men were elected to them by the machinations in which the Indian politician is an expert. I would suggest that the regulations should prohibit the election of any man who has incurred a penalty under the criminal law of India, under the law of sedition, or who, for instance, has been dismissed from the public service. The alternative would be 163 to give a veto to the Viceroy or Governor, and though that would seem to me to be entirely in accordance with Asiatic notions, I think it would be better on the whole to safeguard the purity of the Councils by regulations. I think that if these regulations are well and wisely drawn the enlargement of the Councils now proposed will undoubtedly remove a great deal of the discontent and grumbling which result from the unreality of the present proceedings.
But it will have another effect which seems to me not unimportant. Lord Napier, one of my predecessors as Governor of Madras, in 1871 said that one of the advantages of giving more power—for that was what he was proposing at the time—to the local Legislative Councils would be that "the Government would be protected against influences brought to bear upon it by the India Office." There are times when the local Governments, and, indeed, the supreme Government in India needs that protection, and I, for one, believe that the enlargement of the powers of these Legislative Councils would have that effect. The House may, perhaps, be surprised to hear that thirty-six years ago the Madras Government proposed the establishment of provincial budgets and greater latitude for discussion of affairs in the local Legislative Councils, very much on the lines of the noble Viscount's present scheme of reform. I regard this with pride as yet another proof of the fact, which to me has always seemed undoubted, that the Madras Presidency, both in regard to its people and its government, has always been at least one generation ahead of the rest of India. The Government of India agreed to these proposals; but at the time it was the Home Government who held back and were afraid to alter the Act of 1861. What was thought safe then—thirty-six years ago—cannot be more dangerous now, and I am proud to say that the Government of Madras, under the régime of the present Governor, has already led the way in introducing greater latitude of discussion in regard to the budget and other affairs and has done so with very gratifying success.
As regards supplementary questions, I am afraid I cannot agree with the opinions which have been expressed, greatly though I respect the opinions of my noble friend on the Front Bench and of those who sit by him and so cordially applauded what he said. It seems to me that the arguments 164 which are used are a very great confession of weakness. Surely it is a poor compliment to the Indian civilian, of whom so much has been said by way of praise this evening, to say that he is not a match for a Hindu lawyer. Personally I have no doubt he would be in this matter of supplementary questions. Your Lordships must remember that the civilian who has to answer questions in the local Legislative Council is not an inexperienced Under-Secretary as in this country; he is not a Minister who is new to his Department, but he is a man who has dealt with the affairs of the Department over which he presides during the whole course of a long official career, and he knows chapter and verse of every question with which he has to deal. Then, surely, it is easy enough, where necessary, to ask for further notice of any supplementary question. I think it is ungenerous to the majority of the people in India who will fill these places in the Councils to suppose, as it seems to be supposed, that this privilege of asking supplementary questions will be systematically and constantly abused. I do not believe it for one moment. I believe also that with proper rules and good chairmanship it will be possible, and, indeed, easy, to check any abuse of the privilege.
The Executive Councils are to be enlarged. There is permissive power for enlarging the Executive Councils, for the avowed purpose, I take it, of appointing Indians; and here, again, in spite of all that has been said by my noble friend, I most cordially welcome the prospect. I do not consider it from either of the points which have been put forward this evening, but I regard it as a concession to sentiment, and I believe—I always have believed—that sentiment is not only a very potent force but a force which cannot be neglected in all human affairs. The noble Lord who spoke second assumed that there were only two classes of men who could be appointed to this post—one, the native official, a humdrum middle-class insignificant man, and the other the noisy platform politician; but I can think of many other better classes than either from whom such appointments could be made. I can recall men who, even a generation ago, were recognised by all as having indisputable claims to the title of statesmen—men who were the "Dewans" or Prime Ministers of native States, and who had been brought up originally in the British service. It is men of that kind whom I 165 should like to see on the provincial Executive Councils. I think there are also men of the class of landholder, the territorial aristocracy of the country, who would be eminently suitable for appointments of this kind, and who would be regarded with general respect. But although I myself while in India would have welcomed such an appointment, and do welcome it now, my agreement with the proposal of the noble Viscount was based on the supposition that the appointment of an Indian as such would satisfy the Indian sentiment on the subject. But since then the firm attitude of protest adopted by the Mahomedans has considerably altered the situation. I did know that there was no such thing as Indian national sentiment, but I did not realise that the anti-national feeling went so far. The Mahomedans will feel that we are not holding the scale evenly if they do not get exactly the same as is accorded to the Hindus, and, as I have said before, if the Mahomedans are against us there must be a weakening of British power. I hope, therefore, no appointment will be made by the Secretary of State unless it be in circumstances where none of these objections can arise. It would seem to me better to refrain from initiating any new departure of this kind until public opinion has altered.
My noble friend spoke at considerable length and with great force on the subject of Executive Council for Lieutenant-Governors and said he had never heard of a Lieutenant-Governor who desired to have an Executive Council. I cannot say positively that I could quote a Lieutenant-Governor who desired an Executive Council, but I have an impression that there are and have been such, and my view of that question is that to give an Executive Council to a Lieutenant-Governor would be an act of justice to the officials. It would be an alteration in form but not in substance. It is absolutely impossible for any Lieutenant-Governor to do the whole of the work himself, and what actually happens is that the Lieutenant-Governor leaves a great deal of the responsibility and work to men who hold lower rank than the members of Council who share the work with the Governor in the other provinces. My noble friend represented it to be merely a question as between Lieutenant-Governorships and the Presidency Governorships, and he stated that Executive Councils were given to Bombay and Madras be- 166 cause the Governors were sent out from home and needed guidance and information on Indian subjects. I doubt very much whether he would assign a similar reason for the existence of the Viceroy's Executive Council, and personally I have never heard of a Viceroy who wished to get rid of his Executive Council; and, if an Executive Council is good for a Viceroy and good for a Governor I think, on primâ facie grounds, it is quite likely to be a good thing for a Lieutenant-Governor.
While I cannot see any danger in the reforms themselves—and your Lordships will believe me that my natural predisposition, sitting where I do, would be to be critical—I am not quite sure that the manner in which they have been brought forward has been altogether judicious; and I hope the noble Viscount will forgive me if I tread on somewhat delicate ground. The reforms are universally known as Lord Morley's reforms.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
The noble Viscount, of course, is not responsible for that, but there must have been something in the manner in which the reforms were promulgated, were discussed, and finally decided on, which has induced the man in the street and the man on the spot to call them Lord Morley's reforms. Hitherto, as I have understood it, the policy of the Secretary of State for India has been to uphold in every conceivable way the prestige of the Viceroy and Governor-General of India, and even if the Secretary of State were the stronger man and took the initiative it has always, I think, been the custom, with few exceptions, to assign initiative, responsibility, and credit to His Majesty's representative in India.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
I hope the noble Viscount will forgive me, because I think it is an important point. It is a matter, not so much of what is actually done as the mode in which it is done, and I hope that, when the regulations come to be finally approved, there will be no possible ground for suspicion that the regulations have been framed at the India Office in Whitehall and not in the Secretariats of 167 Simla and the different provinces of India. Everybody should know that they are framed in India in order that the prestige of the Viceroy will not be diminished. While I feel bound to make this criticism, I yield to none in my admiration of the wonderful grasp of Indian affairs which the noble Viscount has displayed and of the generous courage and energy with which he has exercised the powers of his high office. Confident in the strength and the beauty of the great ship which he commands and of the courage and fidelity of his crew, he 168 has steered through the dangerous straits in spite of the storm. I wish him God-speed and a safe passage into the still waters of peace and contentment in India.
Moved, "That the Debate be adjourned."—(Viscount Midleton.)
On Question, Debate adjourned accordingly until to-morrow.
§ House adjourned at five minutes before Eight o'clock, till Tomorrow, a quarter past Four o'clock.