*LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD rose to move "That inasmuch as at a meeting of the Indian Imperial Legislative Council held at Delhi on December 12 last the Viceroy used the following words with regard to the discussion of controversial questions during the continuance of the war—
'It is the desire of the Government of India that, so far as may be possible, the discussion of all controversial questions should be avoided during the continuance of the War …. I and my Government consider that it would be most inadvisable at this juncture, when the minds of all are concentrated on one object—the protection of the Empire against a ruthless and powerful enemy—to undertake any legislation which might provoke anything approaching controversy and friction';
and inasmuch as the Papers laid before this House on Saturday last with regard to the creation of an Executive Council for the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh show conclusively that this is a proposal of a most controversial character, and that the reasons which satisfied this House in 1909 that the proposal was inexpedient continue to exist: an humble Address be presented to His Majesty praying him to withhold his consent during the continuance of the war from the Draft Proclamation creating such a Council which was laid before this House on February 2 last."
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Motion which I have placed upon the Notice Paper raises two issues which, though intimately connected, require separate consideration. The first issue is the propriety and the opportuneness of the Government's action in laying on the Table the Proclamation for the creation of an Executive Council for the United Provinces; the second issue—a wider one 761 —is whether the creation of Executive Councils for Indian Lieutenant-Governorships is expedient or not as a general instrument of Indian administration. I will submit to your Lordships as briefly as I can the views I hold and the suggestions I have to make in regard to each of those two issues.
§ In approaching the question I am relieved of much of my task by the debate which took place in this House on the 16th of last month. I need not give any narrative of the events which led up to the enactment of the Indian Councils Act of 1909, and, so far, my task to-night is greatly lightened. The debate which took place in your Lordships' House upon that Bill on March 4, 1909, showed that the, majority of the House was not satisfied that Executive Councils were desirable in Indian Provinces administered by Lieutenant-Governor, and the clause of the Indian Councils Bill which provided for the establishment of such Councils was, on a Division, rejected by your Lordships. Subsequently, on March 9, the House agreed to a compromise suggested by the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, who was then Secretary of State for India. The compromise was to the effect that the Bill should be passed with power to create such Councils provided that a draft of the Order creating the Council should in each case be placed before both Houses of Parliament for their acceptance or rejection. In other words, my Lords, it was made incumbent upon the Government of India to justify to Parliament each proposal to create an Executive Council in a Province administered by a Lieutenant-Governor. That, I believe, is a strictly accurate statement of the effect of the agreement arrived at between the two Parties in this House in March, 1909.
§ I ask your Lordships to consider to what extent has that agreement been observed by the Government of India, in the first place, and by His Majesty's Government in the second place. With the action of the Government of India I find no fault in regard to procedure. I may think—and I do think—that the reasons which induce the Government of India to raise this question now are of the weakest description. In point of fact, I cannot find in the Papers that have been presented to Parliament any reason which was not considered by your lordships in this House before you rejected 762 the provision in the Indian Councils Act of 1909. I will, however, enter into that question more at length later in my remarks. It is with the action of His Majesty's Government here that I think dissatisfaction may reasonably be expressed. From my point of view the obligation was incumbent on them to state to this House and to the other House the reasons for placing this Proclamation on the Table. That has not been done; and had it not been for the action of the noble Earl opposite, Lord Curzon, this Proclamation might have passed without any notice whatever being paid to it by your Lordships' House.
§ The Papers show the action which has been taken by the Government of India. In 1909 the Indian Government endeavoured to win over to their views as to the expediency of these Councils the then Lieutenant-Governor of the United Provinces, Sir John Hewett. The Government of India's letter of March 20, 1909, which is amongst the Papers, makes this, in my opinion, perfectly clear. To that letter in itself I take no objection. The United Provinces was obviously the first Province which, if this policy of Executive Councils for Provincial Governments was to be followed out and adopted, should be brought at the earliest period under that system of administration. An opportunity was afforded to Sir John Hewett by that letter to express what his views were upon the general policy advocated by the Government of India. Sir John Hewett's reply is dated April 17, 1909, and your Lordships will find it also amongst the Papers laid. I think you will agree with me that Sir John Hewett's letter contains an admirable discussion in a frank, a fair, and an impartial manner of the whole question which I am now bringing to your Lordships' notice. Sir John Hewett's arguments, to my mind, were perfectly conclusive against the creation of an Executive Council in the United Provinces, and they were, as a matter of fact, accepted by the Government of India as conclusive during the period of Sir John Hewett's tenure of office as Lieutenant-Governor. You will find that admitted by the Government of India in a letter printed on page 10 of the Papers. They in point of fact, speaking through the late Home Member of the Government of India, Sir John Jenkins, laid stress upon the fact that the 763 practical criterion by which the expediency of such an innovation—that is, the introduction of Executive Councils—should be tested was the ability or otherwise of a single man as head of a Province adequately to discharge the multifarious responsibilities devolving upon him. That was the criterion which was set by the Government of India themselves. As Sir John Hewett had no doubt of his own capacity to discharge single handed the duties of a Lieutenant-Governor's office, he had no difficulty in complying with the criterion of the Government of India, and there for the time being the matter dropped.
§ The question remained in abeyance until Sir John Hewett had left and his successor, Sir James Meston, had assumed office as Lieutenant-Governor of the Province. Immediately on his assumption of office the question was raised in his Legislative Council by certain members who are advanced politicians in India. The matter was discussed, and in the event twenty-one members of the Council voted for the proposal and twenty-one against. The question was for that time decided by Sir James Meston's casting vote, and he based his casting vote on the criterion which the Government of India had proposed as that by which this question should be decided. Sir James Meston considered that the discharge of the duties were, to quote his own words, "within the compass of a single man." The question then dropped for a time. About six months afterwards Sir James Meston thought it right to place the whole matter with his own full views before the Government of India, and this he did in his letter, which you Neill find among the Papers, of September 11, 1913. In that letter, referring again to the criterion applied by the Government of India as determining whether an Executive Council should be created or not, Sir James Meston stated that the application of the criterion would not justify the creation of a Council in the Upper Provinces at that time.
One would have thought that the question would then have been dropped again, but the Government of India considered that Sir James Meston's letter contained a sufficient peg for them to hang this proposal upon; and the peg which they found was the following words of Sir James Meston—
As this principle [the principle of the association of India with the Government] has been accepted in the Supreme Government and in the
Secretary of State's Council, it seems difficult logically to refuse it in the case of a Local Government.
All that was known in the year 1909. It was not considered by your Lordships' House as a sufficient reason for adopting the policy. Your Lordships rejected the policy on that occasion, and now it is brought forward again on precisely the ground on which your Lordships rejected it.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
May I point out to the noble Lord that this House accepted the policy, with the proviso which I suggested?
LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD
I respectfully submit that it is not so. The provision in the Bill containing the policy had been rejected. It was reinstated subject to the proviso that in every case the policy should be justified to the satisfaction of this House, and that reasons should be placed before the House over and above the reasons which had been placed before it when the provision was rejected.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
I submit, with all respect, that the policy was left standing, but with my proviso added—that in every given case the expediency of the application of the policy should be submitted to Parliament.
LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD
I respectfully submit that it is not so. If the general policy had been admitted and only its application in particular cases were in dispute, this House would have gone back upon its rejection of the provision placed before it in the first case. My point is that this House said, "Very good. We have rejected this policy; but, as a matter of compromise, we will consider in each particular case whether there is anything to be said in favour of the policy." The policy, as I maintain, was not accepted, and I will in a later portion of my remarks show why it was that it should not have been accepted. So far as I can see, the Papers now placed before us advance in no degree the case for Executive Councils in Lieutenant-Governorships further than it stood in March, 1909. They offer in my opinion no justification whatever for the creation of an Executive Council which did not exist when your Lordships rejected the proposal in the first case.
765 But if the Papers show no reason in support of an Executive Council, it is a very different case when we come to consider the other side of the shield. They are eloquent in the provision of arguments for rejecting the policy with which I am dealing. Your Lordships will have read the Despatch of the Secretary of State dated March 26, and the Minutes of Dissent attached thereto. There was a majority shown in the Government of India's Despatch in favour of the policy of Executive Councils for Lieutenant-Governorships, but that majority was a pure accident and was caused by the fact that the Commander-in-Chief, who was a member of the Viceroy's Council and one of the dissentient members on this question, vacated office after the decision had been come to but before the Despatch to the Secretary of State had been signed. Consequently his name does not appear in the Despatch, but the name appears of the Commander-in-Chief who had joined after the decision had been come to and who cannot be supposed to have known anything whatever about the subject. The four members of the Viceroy's Council who dissented when the question was discussed were Sir R. W. Carlyle, Sir Harcourt Butler, Sir R. H. Craddock, and Sir O'Moore Creagh. On the other side there were three gentlemen—Mr. S. A. Imam, an Indian member, Mr. W. H. Clark, and Sir W. S. Meyer. No one with any knowledge of India would for one moment compare the weight of authority of the four members that I have mentioned with that of the three gentlemen whose names I have also specified. Those four members are among the most distinguished men in India. Certainly there is no man whose name in India carries greater weight at the present time than Sir R. H. Craddock; and Sir Harcourt Butler is a most distinguished man with special knowledge of the United Provinces. So that as far as the weight of authority goes there is nothing to be said in favour of the action of the Government of India in proposing this Proclamation.
Passing from the discussions in the Government of India to the state of opinion in the country upon this question, we find it disclosed in Sir James Meston's Report. We find that every native chief in the United Provinces is firmly opposed to this policy of Executive Councils. We find that the vast majority of the Taluqdars of Oudh—80 out of 104—are also against the policy; while the attitude of the great 766 landed proprietors of the Agra Province is, says Sir James Meston, "not dissimilar from that of the Oudh Taluqdars." And coming to the great masses of the people, I again quote the words of Sir James Meston—Among the middle classes, and among the mass of the people, it may be taken that there is no opinion on the subject at all. Except in so far as they are newspaper readers and adopt their views ready-made from the Press, they are perfectly content with the present system of administration, and would certainly not consider a change of this character as a matter of any urgency or importance.We thus have the native chiefs and the great landlords opposed to the policy, and we have the middle classes and the masses of the people perfectly content with the existing system and unwilling to consider a change of this character as of any urgency or importance whatever. We have only one class in favour of it, and that class I will allow Sir James Meston to define. I quote his words—It is the class which is commonly but somewhat misleadingly described as the educated class; the class more suitably may be described as the advanced or political class. It embraces the bulk of the Hindu Press and a considerable and growing sectior of the Mahomedan Press; all the adherents of the National Congress; a large section of the Muslim League and its branches; and a considerable number of men of independent habits of thought, in both the landed and professional classes, who do not belong to either the Congress or the Muslim League.Now, my Lords, what is the numerical size of this small class? I have this morning examined the statistics of the last census in order to obtain information on this point. I find that in the North-Western Provinces there are 3½4 per cent. of the population who can read or write—that is to say, there are 1,700,000 in the North-Western Provinces out of its population of 50,000,000 who can in any way be called literate, and if you take ten per cent. of that 1,700,000 as showing the higher educated people you will have overestimated the number. It is out of a small proportion of this ten per cent. that you could pick one to place side by side with the Lieutenant-Governor. You would find only a very few who would desire—as I once heard Lord Dufferin describe it—to "sit in the seat of Phaethon and guide the chariot of the sun." it comes to this, that in the United Provinces there is no section of the community in favour of this 767 proposal with the exception of this infinitesimal body.
The Under-Secretary of State in the other House adverted to the intention of the Government of India to raise this proposal again, and, coming after the magnificent offers of the Indian people and the outburst of loyalty to the Crown in connection with the war, his announcement was received with tumultuous cheers in another place. My Lords, who were those who in the North-Western Provinces effectively made that response to the King's call upon them of which we were all so proud? They were the native chiefs; they were the Taluqdars of Oudh; they were the zamindars of the United Provinces; and there was the great middle class. I have no doubt that the infinitesimally small educated class were equally forward in their professions of loyalty. But were they effective? Did the Under-Secretary of State for India before he made that statement in the House of Commons subject the Papers which were in his hands to the analysis which I have now endeavoured to make? If he had done so, he would have perceived that the effective response made by the United Provinces in connection with the war came in only a very small degree from the body which is in public opinion here identified with the Indian National Congress and the proposals which the National Congress puts forward, and that his support of this proposal was a direct rebuff to the vast majority of the population.
The effect of the hon. gentleman's words is indicated by a statement which I found this morning in a Liberal newspaper, the Daily Chronicle. After quoting the Motion which I am now placing before your Lordships, the newspaper proceeded to say—A hostile resolution in the House of Lords would be fatal to the reform scheme. Such a resolution adopted at the present time, after India's magnificent demonstration of loyalty to the Empire in the present crisis, would be little short of a calamity.Is that not unfair to this House? Is it not unfair to the Independent Chiefs of the United Provinces, to the Taluqdars of Oudh, to the zamindars of Agra—to 98 per cent. of the population of the United Provinces If we accept this Proclamation we shall have accepted it against the will of 98 per cent. of the population of the Province, and in concession of the demands 768 of a microscopical 2 per cent. The writer in the Daily Chronicle would have been nearer the mark had he said that forcing this measure upon 98 per cent. of the population against their will would deserve to be designated as a calamity.
I am the last person in the world to depreciate the importance of the educated classes of India. I have, and always have had, the greatest sympathy for them, and I have done, as the records of Government of the United Provinces show, all that I could to give them an opening in the public Service and in Indian public life. But I believe that the taking of one man out of a million—I might say out of twenty millions—while it would seriously disturb the Government of the Province, would be no satisfaction of native claims. The proper way to satisfy native claims is to open in the local administration of the country and in the Legislative Councils full opportunities for the abilities and the ambitions of the educated natives.
Now, my Lords, I will say a few words on the second issue which I mentioned at the beginning of my observations—namely, the merits of Council government as contrasted with personal government in Provinces administered by Lieutenant-Governors. In the debate which took place in this House on February 16 last the noble Earl opposite, Lord Curzon, intimated his opinion—at least I so understood him—that the question had not been sufficiently discussed; whereupon the noble Marquess who leads the Government replied to the effect that it was not a novel question and had a history of eighty years behind it, which is a very long history for any Indian question to have. May I respectfully submit to the noble Marquess that he was mistaken as to the meaning of the legislation of 1835 and of 1856, to which he referred. The Councils involved in that legislation were very different indeed from the Councils which we are discussing to-day. The Councils proposed for the Province of Agra in 1835 and for the Province of Bengal in 1856 were agencies devised for the sole object of improving the administration. They were to be manned by Civil Servants of the Crown of long experience and proved capacity, and they had no connection whatsoever with the political element. In the Councils now under discussion I submit that improvement in the administrative 769 machinery is subordinated to the satisfaction of the claims which Indian politicians put forward to participate in the innermost circles of Government. That this is so is manifest from the fact that no qualification whatever is required from an Indian appointed to an Executive Council. I raised that point in 1909 and proposed an Amendment upon it, but I was defeated. I still think that there was a mistake made But the fact of its having been made has turned my mind into another way of dealing with this question, to which I will presently advert. The two situations, therefore—the situation in the first half of the last century and the situation to-day—are entirely different, and no argument in support of the Councils with which we are now dealing can possibly, in my opinion, be borrowed from what passed in 1835 or in 1856.
I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Curzon, that this new Council policy has never had a fair discussion. The Council granted to Bengal by the Act of 1909 was, I submit, a salve for the wound supposed to have been inflicted on West Bengal by the creation of the Eastern Province. Judged by the standard laid down by the Government of India, it was not in any way a measure of administrative reform. The administrative reform that was necessary had been carried out by the fact of the partition of Bengal. The Province of Bengal had been brought within manageable dimensions, and when the Act of 1909 was passed its administration was well within the power of any individual Lieutenant-Governor to carry out. I may be permitted here to say that I never was opposed to the policy of the Partition of Bengal. I always was from the year 1882, when I first reached a position in which my voice counted, in favour of diminishing the strain on the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal and dividing the Province into two. I had, however, the misfortune—a misfortune I deeply regret—to differ from the noble Earl opposite as to the manner in which the policy was carried out.
If that can be said regarding Bengal, still less is there any justification for a Council in the Province of Bihar and Orissa. Of all the tracts in India the one which in my opinion is least suited for Council Government is the Province of Bihar and Orissa. It is the most backward of the great Provinces in India. One-third 770 of it consists of hill country and hill tribes, who are at the present moment in the stone age of development, and some of whom within the memory of men now living were head hunters. The Council was conferred on the reorganisation of the Bengal Province in consequence of His Gracious Majesty's decision at Delhi. Bihar and Orissa were separated from Bengal, and it was thought that because they once enjoyed—bless the mark !—the boon of Council government it would be wrong to deprive them of it. But if the question came up de novo to-day I venture to say nobody, not even the most extreme advocate of this policy, would be found to propose a Council for Bihar and Orissa. I make these remarks to show that the general policy of Executive Councils in Indian Provinces has never been properly discussed and never properly determined, especially in Parliament, and until such discussion and until such determination is come to it is most inexpedient to proceed with the policy as if it were settled and established. I cannot think that the discussion which is to be found in the Report of the Decentralisation Commission is at all adequate or at all satisfactory on such a great question.
When on December 19, 1908, the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, expounded his scheme of Indian reform in this House I ventured to object to his proposal to appoint a native of India to the Viceroy's Council and to his proposals to create these Executive Councils. On the first of these points I said that it would not be possible to find any single Indian gentleman who would be accepted as representative by the Indian peoples owing to the ever present hostility which, open or beneath the surface, pervades the two great creeds in India, Mahomedans and Hindus. I venture to think that the recent admission of a Mahomedan gentleman to the Council of the Secretary of State is a practical admission that the one class representation on our Councils which had previously prevailed was found unsatisfactory.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
I do not quite understand the noble Lord's argument, because there is a great difference between putting a native gentleman on the Viceroy's Council and putting one on to the Council of the Secretary of State. There is a Hindu and a Mahomedan on the Secretary of State's Council.
LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD
I thank the noble Viscount for the interruption. Previously there was a rotation on the Secretary of State's Council. A Hindu was followed by a Mahomedan, and a Mahomedan by a Hindu. Does the noble Viscount think that during the term of office of the Hindu member the Mahomedans were satisfied, or that during the term of office of the Mahomedan the Hindus were satisfied? I can assure him they were not. That is my very point. I congratulate the noble Viscount on the appointment of a Mahomedan to the Secretary of State's Council, because he has by that appointment provided synchronous side-by-side representation of the two great creeds in India, as it was necessary to do. But the appointment of one man, be he Hindu or Mahomedan, to the Viceroy's Council has made and continues to make the people of the religion to which that man does not belong thoroughly dissatisfied with the arrangement.
LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD
I speak of my own experience. I say you will never find in India a Hindu who will command the confidence of the Mahomedans, nor will you ever find a Mahomedan who will command the confidence of the Hindus. It is certainly believed in India that the Secretary of State appointed a Mahomedan to his Council here in order to secure synchronous representation of Hinduism and Mahomedanism. If the noble Marquess has done that with the approval, as I believe to be the case, of the whole of the Indian population, how will he in logic avoid doing it in respect of the Viceroy's Council and in every Council on which native representation is established? One of the most reasonable proposals in the Decentralisation Commission's Report is that when you set up a Provincial Council you should make it consist of four—a Hindu and a Mahomedan and two Europeans. Then you would have representation which would command at all events the confidence of the people, but you would make your Council as an administrative body totally unworkable.
My last words, my Lords, are these. In creating a system of local government by elected bodies, as we have done, for India, and in extending and remodelling our Legislative Councils, all the reasonable 772 political ambitions of the educated Indian party have, in my judgment, been adequately provided for at the present and for a long time to come in India. No one can foretell the future. And when the time does come when increased work calls for change my belief is that it will be far better to proceed by means of dividing Provinces and giving an overburdened Lieutenant-Governor relief from some of his work than by giving him a Council. British authority in India in the ultimate resort rests with the British officer, who alone can be the impartial arbiter between warring classes and creeds, and he should be unhampered and unfettered in dealing with emergencies when they arise. We have it in these Papers that at the present time, as in more recent years, there has been a recrudescence of unrest among the Mahomedans and the Hindus, and I take it that nothing could be more ill-advised or dangerous to the Empire than to bring forward a question of this description during the continuance of the war. A truce to all contentious questions was proclaimed by the Prime Minister at the beginning of the war; it was proclaimed by the Viceroy of India in the terms mentioned in my Notice. The guise under which it is sought to carry this measure through when looked into is not legitimate and is not correct. It was undesirable that difficulties should have been excited by raising the question.
§ Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty praying him to withhold his consent during the continuance of the War from the Draft Proclamation creating an Executive Council for the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh which was laid before this House on the 2nd of February last.—(Lord Mac-Donnell of Swinford.)
§ LORD SYDENHAM
My Lords, all my personal experience in India relates to the management and the working of Council government. In that respect, therefore, my point of view differs from that of my noble friend who has made this Motion. He has not only served under a Lieutenant-Governor but he has been himself a most distinguished Lieutenant-Governor. My predilections are naturally in favour of the system of government under which I spent the most strenuous years of my life, and provided that certain conditions are fulfilled I regard Council government in 773 India as the most satisfactory system. I believe that it is absolutely necessary in the case of Governors who come to India fresh from England, and I think and believe that it will be and ought to be applied in time to all the Provinces of India.
But the questions which have been raised by this Motion are of two kinds, and they are most contentious. First, is Council government suitable for the United Provinces as they now stand? Secondly, if so, is this the right time to make a political change of really great importance? There is a third question to which my noble friend has alluded, and that is also contentious—namely, whether Council government applied to Lieutenant-Governorship is likely to work as smoothly as it can be made to do in the old Presidencies? It seems to be much too lightly assumed in these Papers that this will be the case. I agree entirely with Sir Reginald Craddock when he says that it is most doubtful whether the experiment would succeed unless in exceptional circumstances. We have nothing to guide us on that point, because the system did not come into operation in Bengal and promised trouble there. As my noble friend has stated, the internal conditions in Bihar and Orissa differ as widely as possible from those in the United Provinces. Besides that, the Lieutenant-Governor of Bihar and Orissa had had previous experience of government, and his next senior colleague, is seven years his junior. Those are very exceptional conditions, and it is unlikely that they will recur; and if a Lieutenant-Governor found himself with a Member of Council who might be even his senior—or probably little junior to him—I think he would find great difficulty in working his Council with smoothness. I can only come to the conclusion, therefore, that if Executive Councils are to be given to Lieutenant-Governors special arrangements must be made defining their powers, and this, as far as I can see, has never been thought out.
The Cabinet system at home, of which the Indian Executive Councils may be, perhaps, regarded us microcosms, is the result of long evolution spread over many years and gradually incorporated into our Constitution. One very important difference between the Cabinet and its little prototype in India is that a Cabinet does 774 not constantly change its composition. If it did, it would probably break down. In India changes of personnel in the Councils are much more frequent. In my five-and-a-half years there were, no less than six new appointments, excluding my own, to my small Executive Council. If in the case of a Cabinet every Minister except the Prime Minister changed twice in five-and-a-half years, I venture to think that the Cabinet would not secure the confidence of the people of this country. The whole idea of government by committee is exotic in India, and opposed to every tradition coming from a very much more distant political past than ours. The Indian people look to a man, and the Lieutenant-Governorships as they now stand closely correspond to the systems of government of old India and of the present native States, where the masses have no idea of the machinery of government, and look straight to their chiefs alike for benefits or for ills. We have equipped the Provinces of India with Legislative Councils. I regard that as a wise and necessary measure. But we ought to remember that for many years to come the masses of India will look straight over the heads of these Councils; they will not attach the least importance to them and will continue to look, as old India has always done, to the Lieutenant-Governor or the Governor as the case may be. You cannot in India water down the responsibilities of the individual as we have succeeded in doing at home.
The Papers which have been laid before your Lordships' House are most illuminating, and anybody who reads them must see not only that no case is made out for giving an Executive Council to the United Provinces at the present time, but that a peculiarly strong case exists against doing so. The Dissenting Minutes of three, by far the most experienced, members of the Viceroy's Council must carry the greatest weight. Besides expressing the opinions of the most experienced members, they also include the deliberate and reasoned opinion of the only member of the Viceroy's Council who has a personal and intimate knowledge of the peculiar conditions of the United Provinces at the present time. But, as my noble friend has said, in the letter of September 11, 1913, of Sir James Meston, who has been converted to the change, we find almost more formidable arguments against it than are to be found 775 in the Dissenting Minutes of the Members of Council. Those arguments have been detailed by my noble friend and I will not allude to them except to say, as regards the two chiefs whom Sir James Meston regards as forming a "most important group," that I know them as most enlightened rulers, and I think that the opinions of such men, who must know their countrymen better than we can, ought not to be ignored as they have been.
There is one other point on which I should like to touch, and that is the question of the educated classes. I was glad to see that Sir James Meston said that "the advanced political party is commonly but somewhat misleadingly described as the educated class." There can be no greater mistake than to suppose that all the educated class belong to the advanced political party. The best educated Indians—by which I mean those who think and study for themselves, not those who have passed examinations based on text-book knowledge—as a rule do not join the advanced political party. Those Indians are moderate in the very best sense, and they are our wisest and safest advisers and our best friends in the difficult task of governing India. If we view Sir James Meston's letter as a whole I think it is conclusive against any change being made at the present time; almost as conclusive as was the letter of April 17, 1909, from his distinguished predecessor, Sir John Hewett. But there is one point that has not been sufficiently brought out in the Papers. Oudh was annexed in 1856, less than sixty years ago. It was then separately administered by a High Commissioner up to 1877, when the office of the Lieutenant-Governor of the North-Western Province was amalgamated with the High Commissionership. But only in 1902 were the United Provinces fused into one Government, and the fusion is not really complete at the present time. In less than thirteen years there has not been time for full provincial consolidation, and that is a further reason of a powerful character to my mind for not making another great political change at this moment.
It is a curious fact that in India and here two diametrically opposite tendencies can be seen at the present time, and both of them may be dangerous. Here we can see plainly the growing power of majorities. 776 It has become possible, as we have seen in the case of the unfortunate Church in Wales, for a majority to take away the property of the minority; and we do not know how far that principle may carry us. We do not scrutinise the composition of majorities very closely or consider whether they may not be made up of people who have no claim to vote on a particular question because it does not concern them, or of people who vote for what they dislike because they hope that in the future they will get something of which they approve. In India the process is exactly the reverse. We seek to propitiate very small minorities, and that does lead us to overlook the interests of vast majorities. We do not scrutinise the composition of these small minorities and see what their objects are or the real weight of their opinion. We are impressed only by the noise they make, and by the apparent unpopularity we may incur if we do not yield at once to their demands.
Let me give an illustration of what I mean. The state of parts of Bengal at the present time is, I will not say alarming, but it is most unsatisfactory. The law does not run; the poor people are being robbed and murdered; and intimidation of the police and of witnesses is widespread and of every day occurrence. The only remedy for all this is obvious, and we have known it for years. There must be more British supervision both in the administrative services and the police. Nothing, however, is done because this necessary step would be unpopular with a very small and a very vocal minority; and meanwhile the most vital interests of masses of poor cultivators are suffering severely. Does not that show the immense power which is permitted to be wielded by infinitesimal minorities in India and the neglect of the loyal and patient masses who form, after all, the real people of India? The question which is before your Lordships is very much of the same character as that. It is difficult to form an estimate, but I should imagine that amongst the people in the United Provinces there would be 10,000 who really wish for an Executive Council. I should think that that would be an extravagant estimate if a large number who have not the slightest idea what Council government means and only advocate it because they were told to do so are excluded. But there are nearly 777 50,000,000 people in the United Provinces who, as Sir James Meston tells us, are either apathetic or absolutely hostile, and whose interests should be our sole consideration.
The administration of the United Provinces for many years past has been conspicuously successful and progressive. Surely there is every reason to leave well alone, and no consideration of short-lived popularity should induce us to take a step which is absolutely a step in the dark at such a time as this. I should like to quote the significant words of Sir Reginald Craddock on that point—On the first point I must respectfully express my dislike to importing the theory of graceful concessions into the sphere of administrative and political reforms: graceful concessions may take the shape of individual acts of clemency or conferment of Government favours, but constitutional reforms should not be introduced merely because they may become necessary at some future date.When the noble Marquess sent his Despatch to India on July 3 last war had hardly come within the purview of His Majesty's Government, but this tremendous struggle has profoundly impressed the imagination of the Indian people, and whatever happens now, a permanent and deep mark will be left on the whole life of India, the full extent and the measure of which we cannot possibly foresee at the present time. Surely this cannot be the right time to make an important political change of a most contentious nature, especially as the Viceroy gave a specific promise that all measures of a controversial character should be avoided during the continuance of the war. It is for these reasons that I strongly support the Motion of my noble friend, and earnestly hope that this question will be postponed until a time when it can be fully considered.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, my noble friend who has introduced this Motion did not devote the greater part of his speech to the main part of the Motion itself. The Motion as he has placed it on the Paper partakes of the nature, to use a military metaphor, of an enfilading attack rather than a direct frontal assault. It does not in terms traverse the contents of the Proclamation, but objects to its consideration at this time on the ground 778 of the political truce which is now in force. On the question of the truce, I should like to point out this. The truce, as I understand it, applies to legislative propositions of all kinds, but I have never heard it suggested that it applies to executive acts. This is an executive act of the Government of India which Parliament in its wisdom, or at any rate your Lordships' House, has decided needs the particular confirmation of Parliament. But if it is to be laid down as a proposition that any executive act of the Government is not to be carried out if a certain body of persons object to it, it obviously would be easy for bodies of persons keenly interested on various subjects to reduce the whole Executive Government to something like a nullity. I cannot admit, therefore, that this proposition falls within the four corners of what is spoken of as a political truce.
I was not quite clear, when reading my noble friend's Motion, as to what its purport really is. We all agree that the actual coming into being of this Council is not in itself an urgent matter, and if my noble friend's Motion had merely meant that, while accepting the Proclamation of the Government of India, nothing should be done under it until the close of the war, or until a short period afterwards, that is a proposition which I should not have felt myself bound to combat to the last, although I might have made some protest against it. But if my noble friend's Motion is, as a matter of fact, an Address to the Crown for the destruction of the present Proclamation, there being power, as there would be in any case without any statement of this kind, to bring it forward again at the close of the war, that is altogether another matter, and I shall be compelled in order to support the Government of India to divide against his proposal. Taken in the latter sense, as I think my noble friend will agree, his proposition does not differ in substance from a simple suggestion to decline to entertain the Proclamation and to move an Address to the Crown against it.
LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD
The latter statement of the noble Marquess would satisfy me if when the proposal came up again, as in the ordinary course it naturally would, it would then be open to this House, on a consideration of 779 the application to the United Provinces, to question the policy of Executive Councils and reconsider the whole question.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
That proposition of my noble friend, as it seems to me, would place a somewhat unfair burden upon the successor to the existing Viceroy. He would be placed in the very difficult position of having either to support the proposal of Lord Hardinge merely because it was his proposal, or the invidious and difficult position of having to reverse at short notice the policy of his predecessor. I should be most unwilling, I confess, to place Lord Hardinge's successor, whoever he may be, in that position; and if it is really the desire of my noble friend and of the House to defeat this proposition, it would, I think, be a more seemly way to do so simply to throw the whole thing aside and face the consequences of so doing. It seems to me a pity for those who are opposed to this policy to wait, so to speak, for something to turn up—either an expression of opinion on the part of the United Provinces themselves, or an altered view that might be entertained by the next Viceroy—in order to defeat this policy without precisely incurring the odium of over-riding the Government of India. I confess that I am not prepared in a matter of this kind—I should feel great hesitation about it if I agreed in substance with my noble friend—to over-ride the clearly-expressed view of the Viceroy in support of the view at which the Lieutenant-Governor of the United Provinces has arrived.
I do not want to repeat what I said on the occasion of the last debate by going at length into the actual merits of the proposition. My noble friend, unluckily for us, was not able to be in the House at that time, and has naturally said to-day that which he would have said on the former occasion when the noble Earl (Lord Curzon) brought up the subject. But I should like to say that I do not in any sense deny the weight of the opinions which are expressed in the Papers against the proposition as it stands. I had the pleasure of knowing many of their writers well, and am fully aware of their great abilities and their excellent service. But it will be found that those opinions, weighty as they are, are in fact opinions of one sort. They are the opinions of Indian Civil Servants of 780 great eminence who have filled with the utmost competence high positions of an administrative kind in India. I take, for instance, two such opinions as that of my noble friend himself and that of Sir John Hewett. Well, my noble friend and Sir John Hewett represent in their respective official generations the utmost competence and the highest ability of the Indian Civil Service of their day. Each of them was specially able to conduct the large and complicated business of controlling a Province single-handed with all the capacity in the world. No wonder that they, and no wonder also that some of the other opponents of this scheme, are deeply attached to the method of personal government. Nobody need be surprised at that, when they have conducted personal government with so much knowledge and skill. But personal government, to be carried out in perfection, depends largely upon the character and capacity of those who carry it through. The form of government which was carried out, to the great credit and glory of England, by Queen Elizabeth was not so successful when King Charles I attempted to carry on the Sovereignty of England on similar lines. As regards the present Lieutenant-Governor, one of the ablest of Civil Servants, I have not the least doubt that so far as character and capacity are concerned nobody could be found more capable of carrying on single-handed the burden of governing a great State, if one may call it so, such as the United Provinces now are. But it cannot be denied that government of that kind is a charge of ever-growing magnitude, and the Lieutenant-Governor himself, while professing his willingness to continue to undertake it, clearly shows that he recognises that the burden may within a very short time become too heavy for one man to bear.
I am not desirous of following my noble friend into the general controversy which he raised about Lieutenant-Governors and the desirability or the contrary of providing them with Councils. A number of propositions, as we know, have been made in this regard. My noble friend has stated his preference for the plan, when the charge becomes too heavy, of diminishing the size of the Province. The experience that both the noble Earl (Lord Curzon) and I have had in territorial divisions in India enables us, I think, to agree at any rate on this point, that changes of that 781 kind are a very delicate matter and can only be carried out after great thought and close consideration. As my noble friend very well knows, there is another proposition upon which I express no opinion whatever—namely, that of its being the aim of Government to abolish Lieutenant-Governors altogether and replace them all over India by Governors of the stamp of my noble friend on the Cross Benches (Lord Sydenham) if his equal can be found, in every case furnished with Executive Councils to assist them in the locally technical part of their work. These are propositions which we know have been made. But as regards the particular case of the United Provinces, I might point out, in speaking of the growing charge, what a tremendous affair the governing of the United Provinces is. If you take as a kind of rough test of the sort of work that the Lieutenant-Governor has to undertake he numbers of officials in the higher branches of the public service in different areas you will find that in the United Provinces the number is 132; in Madras, 118; in Bombay, 95—that is to say, about one-half less than the United Provinces; in Bengal, 102—one-third less than in the United Provinces; whereas in Bihar and Orissa, of which my noble friend spoke so sadly in relation to its Lieutenant-Governorship, there are only 63, or less than half the number in the United Provinces; and I think that, an examination of the Education Service and the Public Works Department would show a somewhat similar figure, so that whatever those figures are worth they show at any rate the magnitude of the charge which now rests upon my friend Sir James Meston.
In the course of his letter to the Government of India recommending the creation of this Council, Sir James Meston spoke of the appointment of an Indian gentleman to the Council as being generally recognised as the dominant argument in its favour. The result of appointing an Indian gentleman to a body of this sort represents, as the House will perceive, his admission to the inner circle of Government, greatly valued by Indians, without any impairing of the system of Government—that is to say, of the final control of the Government regarded as a British Government upon which the Imperial system in India depends. My noble friend pointed out the great difficulty which in his opinion exists, or is likely to exist, where only one Indian can 782 be appointed on a body of this kind owing to the religious difficulties between the Hindu and the Mahomedan community, and he stated that so far as the Secretary of State's Council is concerned the matter was easily met by having one Mahomedan and one Hindu gentleman on the Council, but that, as in the case of the Viceroy's Council and these smaller Executive Councils, where there was only one a marked difficulty was sure to arise. I, of course, hold my noble friend's higher local knowledge in the greatest respect, but I cannot help asking whether he has not somewhat over-stated that difficulty? I have had a great deal of first-hand information which makes me believe that in the case of some of these appointments in India itself no animosity has been aroused among, or jealousy felt by, the one community through the appointment to the Council of a gentleman belonging to the other. And to put it no higher than this, I cannot help feeling that there is a vast body of opinion in India which would prefer to see on any body of this kind an Indian gentleman not of their religion rather than see no Indian representative at all. Therefore, as I say, I cannot help thinking that my noble friend has put that point at any rate somewhat too high.
It being the desire of many Indians to achieve this entry to the inner circle of Government, I, for one, desire to gratify that sentiment so far as it can be gratified without radical disturbance of our present system, and I desire to gratify it freely rather than grudgingly and of necessity. That I maintain, as is expressed in the statement of the Government of India, is the argument for proceeding with this change now rather than postponing it until such a moment when, for one reason or other, you find yourself practically driven into undertaking it. My noble friend spoke of what are sometimes described in a phrase which, like him, I do not entirely favour, as the educated classes in India, meaning thereby the classes who are in different degrees, and generally with similar views, keenly interested in politics and public affairs. My noble friend towards the end of his remarks about them paid them a certain number of compliments, but his earlier observations concerning them were, I could not help thinking, of a somewhat damaging kind, and if they were praised it was with the very faintest of faint praise.
LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD
May I say that nothing was further from my intention than to make any disparaging remarks with regard to the educated classes of India. I think that those who have absorbed Western knowledge have been raised greatly in moral as in intellectual standard; and my experience was that the acquisition of English knowledge has made the native Judicial service in India as free from corruption as the English service.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I am very glad to have that frank statement from my noble friend, because I confess that one or two of his observations had given me a somewhat different impression of his general view. I have had some experience in the government of Ireland and now for some years experience in the government of India, and from what I know of both those countries I have learned to appreciate the fact that in neither of those countries is the path of the moderate reformer altogether smooth. The moderate reformer is liable to be assailed from two sides—in the first place, by those who dislike reform altogether; and, in the second place, by the spurious patriotism of revolutionaries who regard the moderate man almost as an enemy. All that I can say is that so long as I have anything to do with the Government of India I am determined, so far as I can effect it, to show that in that Government, even while differing as it often must and does from constitutional reformers on particular issues—I have often differed from them myself and have been abused for doing so, which I do not in the least mind—I shall always continue to show that I respect their motives and their methods.
In this connection I desire to pay a tribute to the most distinguished of recent Indian moderate reformers, the late Mr. Gokhale. Mr. Gokhale was not only a man of great intellectual power and of the highest personal character, but he was also capable of taking wide and generous views on public affairs. After many talks and discussions with him at different times, I can say that I never engaged him in a conversation without deriving both pleasure and profit from the experience. Mr. Gokhale was, in the good sense of the word, an opportunist. He may have dreamed dreams and seen visions, as most public men with high hopes and broad views do, 784 but he was certainly one of those who knew how "to take occasion by the hand and make the bounds of freedom wider yet." It was on those lines that he framed his political career and on those lines that he hoped for the future of India. I am glad to have this opportunity of paying this small tribute to the memory of a man whom I greatly respected.
I have nothing more to add on the general subject. As I have stated, so far as the immediate coming into being of this Council is concerned, its postponement for a time, although I should in some respects regret it, would not be regarded by me as a crucial matter. If, however, it is a question of either the actual or the constructive rejection of the proposal and compelling it to be brought up again entirely de novo, I am afraid that we on this side of the House must signify our dissent from my noble friend and those who support him by dividing the House against the Motion.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, your Lordships will have listened with respect and without dissent to the expression of his sentiments on the general progress of political and administrative reform in India which fell from the noble Marquess in the penultimate sentences of his speech, and I am personally glad to have an opportunity of joining him in the tribute which he paid in the last sentences to an eminent Indian, Mr. Gokhale, who has recently passed away. Mr. Gokhale was a member of my Legislative Council during a period of. I suppose, five or six years. During that time he was, I think I may almost say, in invariable opposition to the Government. He was, if I may so describe him, the leader of the Opposition in the Imperial Legislative Council over which I presided. In that capacity I often had to suffer from the weight of his blows in debate, but I should like to say this, that I have nevermet a man of any nationality more gifted with what one would describe in this country as Parliamentary capacities than was Mr. Gokhale. I truly believe that that gentleman, although brought up with the education of a University professor and although speaking a foreign tongue, would have attained a position of distinction in any Parliament in the world, even in the British House of Commons; and widely as we were divided 785 on political topics, I never failed to realise both his ability and his character. It is a pleasing reflection to me to think that on the last occision that we met we were united. It was in this country only a year and a-half ago, just before a debate in this House on the position of the Indians in South Africa. The remarks which I made then had been discussed with Mr. Gokhale beforehand, and I rejoice to think, now that that distinguished man has passed away, that he and I were at least agreed on one important issue.
The noble Lord who opened this debate made what I think your Lordships will all agree was a powerful statement of his case, based partly upon a personal and administrative experience in India which was long and singularly eminent, and partly upon the Papers which were laid before your Lordships' House at the end of last week. I noticed that the noble Marquess, with a discretion not for the first time displayed in this House, said very little about the contents of the Papers in the speech to which we have just listened. I am not surprised that he avoided that branch of the subject, because I concur with my noble friend Lord Svdenham in the view that there has rarely if ever been presented to this House a collection of Papers of a more one-sided or overpowering character. I have never known a case in which so many guns were directed from one side or to which the other side made so feeble a response. I also share the astonishment of Lord MacDonnell that the noble Marquess should have thought it possible, by merely laying the Proclamation upon the Table, to proceed with this great administrative change, having all the while in his possession Papers—which, so far as I know, but for my intervention would never have been laid in this House—indicating the most acute division possible amongst leading men in India on the point. I am glad that my intervention did have the effect of enabling your Lordships to see these Papers and to realise, what we have never had an opportunity of realising before, how strong are the opinions capable of being held against the change that is now being advocated.
I suppose that at the bottom of my mind I do entertain an abstract preference for government by a Lieutenant-Governor alone and without a Council. I do not 786 hold very strong views upon the matter, because I never had that particular form of experience myself. But having been head of the Government of India for nearly seven years, I was able to observe and form views about the different methods of administration that prevailed. I think at the end of my time I should have been inclined to say that the best form of government—and by "best" I mean that which brings the Governor into closest contact with the people, the real rest in India—was that of a Chief Commissioner But one knows that as a Province develops a stage is reached at which it becomes entitled to a Lientenan t-Governor. If it were a question of a Lieutenant-Governor alone, or a Lieutenant-Governor and a Council, I should certainly be inclined to pronounce for the former; and for these reasons. I should say that that form of administration was unquestionably more prompt, undoubtedly more efficacious, and considerably more popular with every section of the people.
Lord Sydenham said something about one-man rule in India, and about the liking of the people for that form of government—a liking immemorial, deeply-rooted in their traditions, which I believe to be as strong now as ever it was. I say that not merely because I have the noble Lord's support, but because in one of the Dissentient Minutes—that of Sir Reginald Craddock—there is a very pertinent passage to that effect which I should like to read. That official says—Personal rule, outside platform speeches and newspaper articles, counts for as much as ever in India not only with the people at large, but even with the very persons who make the speeches and write the articles in favour of the Council system. For every one of these persons is not satisfied until he can bring his particular case before the Viceroy or the Head of the Province just as if no Council existed.I believe those words to be profoundly, true, and I will not spoil their effect by adding anything to them.
But though these are my views in the abstract, I should have been quite prepared to waive them in the case of the United Provinces or of any Province had incontestable evidence been forthcoming in the Papers laid before us that there was a powerful opinion in favour of the proposed change in the Province concerned. To tell the truth, I fully expected to find that evidence in these 787 Papers; but those noble Lords who have read them will, I am sure, concur with me in thinking that Lord MacDonnell completely established his case when he said that, so far as the opinion of the Province is concerned, it is all in one direction. The noble Lord quoted, and therefore I need not repeat, the views given with perfect candour by the present Lieutenant-Governor, Sir James Meston, in his Despatch. He tells us that the chiefs, both Mahomedan and Hindu, are against this proposal; that the landed aristocracy are overwhelmingly against it in Agra and Oudh; that the masses of the people have no views on the subject at all and are perfectly contented with the present administration. Fancy any Secretary of State coming before this House and proposing, without giving us any reason, to change the form of government with which the vast majority of the people are perfectly content!
The noble Lord might have added, but did not, that, amongst other sections of the community in the United Provinces whose opinions are given by the Lieutenant-Governor, by no means unworthy of notice, are these: Commercial community—no proved need for it; the majority of Civil Servants—adverse; finally the Lieutenant-Governor himself, giving I must say a most halting, hesitating, and half-hearted opinion in favour of a change which anybody who reads these Papers can see he really dislikes. I will not labour this point, because it is really indisputable. It is not for me numerically to appraise the value of these factors. Lord MacDonnell spoke of a proportion—I think he said two per cent.—of the population of the United Provinces as possibly favouring this change, and 98 per cent. in the other direction.
LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD
I stated that the literate part of the population was about three per cent. of the whole. Within that percentage I am convinced there is a very large proportion who object to the proposal.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I am obliged to the noble Lord for having made my point still more clear. Lord Sydenham went a little further and spoke of the people who might favour this change as numbering 10,000, by no means an overestimate, out of a population of 788 50,000,000. Then we have the Lieutenant-Governor's admission that the only class who really desire this reform are the advanced, or political, party. I can quite understand its being argued that although they are numerically insignificant, in point of education and intelligence they represent a very powerful section of the community; and that if the educated fraction of the people, small as it may be, feels strongly about this, at least, it is a factor we ought to take into consideration.
But we have to carry the matter a little further. What would be the effect, if the Council were given, upon this educated community, upon this small fraction of which I am speaking? About that we can be in little doubt, because among the Papers presented to us we have the opinion, not of an outsider in this case, but of a United Provinces man himself. Lord MacDonnell paid a high tribute to Sir Harcourt Butler. I remember that officer. I had the honour of employing him in India. Unquestionably he is the most distinguished representative of the Commission in the United Provinces, so distinguished that he has just been appointed to a Lieutenant-Governorship in Burma. This is what Sir Harcourt Butler, who has known the Provinces, as he says, intimately for more than 23 years, says about the result that would be produced on that section of the community for whom alone the change has been asked—I welcome at every turn increased consultation with Indian opinion, but I see in the hostility of the Hindus and Mahomedans a powerful argument against appointing an Indian Member of Council at the present time in that Province. The feelings of the Mahomedans if a Hindu were elected, or of the Hindus if a Mahomedan were elected, can readily be imagined, and I fear that with the masses the Government might lose its reputation for impartiality. The educated classes would no doubt probably reflect that by an alternation of Hindu and Mahomedan they would secure a balance of advantage, but when feelings are embittered as they are now between Hindus and Mahomedans in Northern India, the educated classes are quite unable to control the masses of the people. I have known the Province intimately for more than 23 years, and I refreshed my knowledge by discussing this question with the Lieutenant-Governor and a large number of people during my visit to Lucknow in connection with the Sanitary Conference. I do not think that there ever was a time when I was less inclined to make any structural change in the administration of that Province.My Lords, it is impossible to deny the 789 almost overwhelming character of that pronouncement by a man still in the service in India, still in the prime of his powers, and conscious that his words will have a great effect in the Province where all his service has been spent.
I pass for a moment to the question of the degree of importance to be attached to the recommendation that we have received from the Government of India. I submit, with deference to the noble Marquess, that he put the thing on an entirely wrong basis when he said, "I am not prepared to over-rule Viceroy." This is not a question of the Viceroy. It is a question of the Governor-General in Council. You cannot distinguisli the Viceroy from his colleagues in a matter of this sort. You have to look to the pronouncement and advice of the Government of India as a whole; and upon that point I really need not elaborate the conclusive demonstration made by Lord MacDonnell. What he showed was that there was no majority in favour of this in the Government of India at all; the votes were evenly divided, four on one side and four on the other.
LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD
Three on the other. When Sir O'Moore Creagh was in the Council there were four against the 'Proclamation and three for it.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I am obliged to the noble Lord for correcting me, because he makes it clear that there was then a majority against it. In other words, but for the accident of Sir O'Moore Creagh leaving India and his successor, Sir Beauchamp Duff, arriving on the scene and appending his signature to a Paper the subject-matter of which he obviously had not had an opportunity of considering—but for that accident the majority of the Government of India would have been the other way.
LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD
It is a long time since I saw the rules of the Council, but I think the Viceroy may vote and then give a casting vote.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
That would have made it four and four. But it would not be a question of a casting vote. If the Government of India is evenly 790 divided, the Secretary of State decides. I am only making the point that there was no majority in the Government of India in favour of the proposal, but a majority against it when it was discussed. Therefore it is impossible to talk now of "overruling the Viceroy" in the case.
I think it is fair to point to another consideration which the natural modesty of previous speakers has, perhaps, prevented them from sufficiently emphasising. I really cannot think that the experience of men like my noble friend Lord MacDonnell and of Sir John Hewett ought to be discounted, as the Secretary of State, amid a flow of compliments, tried to discount it, by the insinuation that as they had now for some time ceased to take part in Indian administration their views were not of much weight.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I do not think I hinted that. What I said was that these gentlemen were so competent to carry out personal rule that they would be in favour of personal rule in all cases. I said nothing about the time that had elapsed since they left India.
EARL CURZON or KEDLESTON
I am sorry to have misunderstood the noble Marquess. But his argument really amounts to this, that if an administrator is so competent as to be able to exercise personal rule satisfactorily himself, he is not qualified to give an opinion upon it to other people. I confess that I cannot take that view. It must be remembered that Lord MacDonnell and Sir John Hewett do not stand alone in this matter. Their view is also taken by a previous Lieutenant-Governor of the Province, Sir Charles Crosthwaite. So that three out of five living Lieutenant-Governors of the Province have stated their views in accord with each other. And it is not a question only of Lieutenant-Governors or ex-Lieutenant-Governors. Do let me remind the House, in a sentence, that when the Decentralisation Committee appointed by the Government and presided over by Mr. Hobhouse, a member of the Government, travelled in India and made extensive proposals for changes in the administration, they argued against, not for, this particular plan. The Government of India when they first addressed the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, were not in favour 791 of it. On the contrary, they said that no case had been made out in its favour.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
Yes. The Imperial Legislative Council in India who discussed the matter in 1911 was opposed to it by a large majority. Lord Sydenham, whose views might be supposed to have a natural inclination towards governorship by Council, he himself having presided over a similar form of government, has strongly warned your Lordships against giving your assent to-night. Therefore I think from the point of view of authority there can be no doubt which way the weight of opinion lies.
One word upon a rather smaller point which cannot be altogether dismissed, because, although not much has been said about it to-night, it has played some part in previous arguments. I allude to the question of precedent or analogy. The noble Marquess, in his speech a month ago, was inclined to lay some stress upon the analogy of the Executive Councils which have been set up in recent years in Bihar and Orissa, and in Bengal. He spoke about the perfect smoothness with which he believed those Councils had operated, and he derived from that belief the conclusion that the experiment might safely be extended. As I think Lord MacDonnell said, no analogy whatsoever can be drawn from the case of the Province of Bihar and Orissa. It was only by an accident, as appears in the Papers, that Bihar and Orissa got an Executive Council at all, only because it was created out of the disjecta membra of the old Bengal, which had enjoyed Council Government, and of which it was not thought wise to deprive this portion. And not only was it created by an accident but it was passed by what Lord Minto and I at the time—and I do not withdraw the words—characterised as an act of evasion in this House. Instead of the Proclamation creating that Council being laid on the Table of this House for sixty days, as we had a right to expect under the terms of the agreement arrived at in 1909, it was put in the form of a Bill moving the capital to Delhi and containing other changes in the Government of India. Your Lordships were therefore deprived of the power of dealing with the matter except at the cost of a conflict with the other House 792 which had passed a Bill which we did not want to oppose. I am not one to revive old quarrels, but I must point to the fact that we never had an opportunity in this House of dealing with the proposal to create a Council for Bihar and Orissa. Further, I have always heard it stated—I do not know whether it is correct—that an Executive Council was conferred on Bihar and Orissa without any consultation with the Lieutenant-Governor of that Province. And yet upon that experiment so started you base an argument front analogy for the grant of an Executive Council elsewhere.
The same applies to the conditions of the Executive Council in Bengal. When in the debate a month ago the noble Marquess was making some use of that analogy, I ventured to interrupt him by saving that it was only for a short period that there had been an Executive Council with a Lieutenant-Governor in Bengal before the Province was turned into a Governorship with a Governor from England; and I think he said that in the short interval the experiment had been successful. If you look at these Papers you will find that Sir Robert Carlyle, who is himself a Bengal man, says that—In Bengal it came to an early end, and no arguments in its favour can be drawn from the experience of that Province.Sir Harcourt Butler lets us into the secret. He says—All I can find is that Sir Edward Baker, who was the only Lieutenant-Governor in favour of having a Council, sent up proposals for the distribution of work which reduced his Council to a position subordinate to himself, and struggled to retain in his hands powers which the Government of India considered incompatible with Council Government.Finally, Sir Reginald Craddock, whom one noble Lord referred to as almost the greatest authority at the present moment on the internal government of India, says—… and a claim that this particular system has been sufficiently proved by these meagre experiences of it in Bengal and Bihar and Orissa is so unsubstantial that it can hardly be put forward seriously.Therefore I think, with all respect, that the argument from analogy is one which cannot be used with any force by the Government now.
793 I come to the only argument which is found in these Papers in favour of the change, and to another argument about which not much is said in the Papers but which was used just now by the noble Marquess. The argument in Sir James Meston's Later is that this is a change which, if not necessary now, if not wanted now, must come about some time or another. He even names the period. In one place he says that in ten years time the movement may represent the reasoned demands of the whole community. Therefore whatever be the present position, because one day the change may be demanded, or even may be required, it is said that in order to have a quiet time we ought to give it now. I venture to say that that is an argument of the lowest expediency; it is the kind of argument we sometimes hear in this country applied to questions like Female Suffrage or the construction of the Channel Tunnel—it must come some day, why not therefore put a good face upon it and accept it at once? I venture to say that no Government, least of all the Government of India, can be conducted on such principles. And I read nothing with greater satisfaction than the repudiation of that principle quoted by Lord Sydenham from the Minute of Dissent by Sir Reginald Craddock.
But the noble Marquess rested his case upon another ground, for which intrinsically a good deal more is to be said. I understood him to say that his sympathy with the proposal rested in the main on the ground that it would give increased opportunity for the employment and interest of Indians in local administration in India. May I in reply submit to your Lordships that this is not primarily a question of the employment of Indians. If it were a question only of giving a chance to some eminent Indian, or of extending the opportunities already offered to that community, I should be inclined very strongly to favour it. The noble Viscount whom I see opposite (Lord Morley) will perhaps remember the occasion when he was going to make a great change in the India Office and to appoint an Indian Member, and eventually I think two, to his Council.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
He did me the honour of asking me what I thought about it. I gave the idea my immediate and unhesitating support, and I have never spoken about it in this House except in terms of approval. The same about the Indian Councils Bill. I have never said anything against putting an Indian upon a Council, except that of the Viceroy, about which I hold strong views. I said then, and I say now, that if an Executive Council were going to be given to the United Provinces I should not only desire but in so far as it lay in my power I would insist on an Indian being upon it. The question, however, is not that of finding an opportunity for an Indian; it is that of the best administration for the Province. That is the point that is argued in all these Papers; that is the ground of hostility of all these eminent men. And to come to this House and try and persuade us that we are considering the grant of further administrative opportunities to Indians is to obscure the main issue before us.
Lord MacDonnell quotes in his Motion certain words which have been used by the Viceroy in India, and he argues from those words—which amount almost to an understanding with those who may or may not agree with him—that it would be unfair at this time to press forward a measure of so acutely controversial a character as this is. To that the Secretary of State replies, "Oh, but this truce only applies to legislation; it ought not to apply to executive acts." I cannot accept that plea as applying either in India or here. Let me point out, in passing, that this is not merely an executive act which can be done by a stroke of the pen by the Government of India or by the Secretary of State. It assumes the form of a Proclamation. Five or six years ago we retained our right to deal with it by an Address to the Crown, and it is not right to say now that we are prevented from dealing with it because it is an executive act, and that it is only a Bill that we can touch. But be it an executive act or be it a legislative act, nobody can doubt that the words of the Viceroy implied that business of a controversial character—and that covers administrative acts as well as legislation—should not be proceeded with during the war. That being so, I am of opinion that the noble Lord is entirely 795 justified in the Motion that he has submitted to your Lordships' House.
The Secretary of State raised some question as to what this Motion would involve in the future. It is not for me to interpret what is in the mind of Lord MacDonnell, but if he were to ask for my interpretation I think it would be this, that supposing the Motion to be carried it is obvious that during the continuance of the war no step can be taken in the matter by the Government of India. As to what may happen in the future when the war is over, that I assume will be a matter for the Government of India in consultation with the Secretary of State when they have had time to decide. And supposing the Government of India, with the consent of the Secretary of State, to wish to resume the proposal of the grant of an Executive Council to this Province I imagine it will be within their power once again to lay a Proclamation on the Table, and then will occur the occasion for a discussion of the character that the noble Lord requires.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
May I say that that process—and I have no doubt that the effect of the noble Lord's Motion has been quite correctly stated by the noble Earl opposite—appears to differ in no respect whatever from a simple refusal to accept the Proclamation now. Nobody has suggested that either at the end of the war or at any other time the Secretary of State or the Government of India cannot lay a fresh Proclamation on the Table. No power is given to perform that act by the particular phrases in my noble friend's Motion. All I desire to do is to make it clear that in our opinion—and I think it represents the facts of the case—the proceeding suggested by my noble friend, al hough it appears to rest upon the inadvisability of proceeding during the progress of the war, is precisely the same as a simple refusal to accept the Proclamation and the throwing of it aside by this House.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
If I correctly interpreted the mind of my noble friend opposite—and he says that I did—I would not put it in exactly the 796 same way as the noble Marquess has done. Supposing he had moved an Address to the Crown declining to give assent to the Proclamation, I venture to think that the proposal would not only be killed for the moment but for a long time to come. Governments, when measures of this sort are refused in either House of Parliament, do not readily bring up the same proposal again. In this case I do not understand that any such consequence necessarily ensues. I do not think it need necessarily be at all invidious, as the noble Marquess said in his earlier speech, for the present Viceroy or for any future Government of India again to place this proposal before the Secretary of State and your Lordships' House. In giving my support, which I shall do, to Lord MacDonnell, with whom I agree both upon the general and the narrower aspect of the question, I do it in the expectation that at some future date the discussion will be revived, and that our step to-night, necessitated as I think it is by the circumstances of the case, will be without prejudice to that discussion when it is resumed.
LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD
I understand, unless an Address is presented to the Crown within sixty days this Proclamation will take effect according to the Act. I do not desire that the Proclamation should take effect. If there is any other way of postponing the operation of the Proclamation and recommencing this discussion at the termination of the war, that would quite satisfy me; but during the continuance of the war the Proclamation should not take effect. I think the simplest way would be to agree to an Address to the King that he should withhold his assent from the Proclamation, and then the matter, as the noble Marquess says, could be re-opened on the termination of the war.
§ On Question, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty praying him to withhold his consent during the continuance of the war from the Draft Proclamation creating an Executive Council for the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh which was laid before this House on the 2nd of February last
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 47; Not-Contents, 26.797
|Devonshire, D. [Teller.]||St. Aldwyn, E.||Desborough, L.|
|Rutland, D.||Selborne, E.||Desart, L. (E. Desart.)|
|Wellington, D.||Grenfell, L.|
|Chilston, V.||Harris, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Churchill, V. [Teller.]||Hylton, L.|
|Falkland, V.||MacDonnell, L.|
|Falmouth, V.||Monteagle, L. (M. Sligo.)|
|Amherst, E.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Mostyn, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Newton, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Iveagh, V.||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|Curzon of Kedleston, E.||Knutsford, V.||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)|
|Dartrey, E.||Rathmore, L.|
|Doncaster, E.(D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Avebury, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Blythswood, L.||Savile, L.|
|Eldon, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Sinclair, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Cheylesmore, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Lichfield, E.||Colchester, L.||Sydenham, L.|
|Northbrook, E.||De Manley, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Haldane, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Sandhurst, L. (L. Chamberlain.)||Lyell, L.|
|Beauchamp, E. (L. President.)||Ashton of Hyde, L.||Ranksborough, L,|
|Crewe, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Blyth, L.||Reay, L.|
|Charnwood, L.||Southwark, L.|
|Lincolnshire, M.||Colebrooke, L.||Stanmore, L. [Teller.]|
|Chesterfield, E. (L. Steward.)||D'Abernon, L.||Strachie, L.|
|Craven, E. [Teller.]||Devonport, L.||Tenterden, L.|
|Emmott, L.||Weardale, L.|
|Knollys, V.||Haversham, L.|
|Morley of Blackburn, V.||Islington, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative: The said Address to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.