§ LORD SYDENHAM rose to draw attention to the Report of the Viceroy and the Secretary of State on Indian Reforms; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Earl the Leader of this House for the arrangement made by him which enabled me to bring on my Motion to-day. I feel that I was wrong in not proceeding with it last week, and my only excuse must be inexperience. I did not realise at the moment that by not proceeding with my Motion I was wasting some of the valuable time of your Lordships' House.
§ I believe that there are many of your Lordships who feel, now that a remarkable Report has been issued for public discussion, that if this Report is not considered in your Lordships' House it might seem as if the vital interests of the Indian people were not being regarded. In the second place, there has been an attempt on a considerable scale, which began even before the Report was issued, to create what is generally called an "atmosphere" favourable to the Report. That, I think, makes it all the more necessary that some discussion should take place before the recess. I venture to think that the handling of the questions of Indian reform has been somewhat irregular and generally unfortunate. It really bears a close resemblance to the handling of the Irish question, and it is leading, I believe, to curiously similar results.
§ On August 20 last the Secretary of State made an important declaration with which I do not for a moment quarrel, but I should like to point that the aims which he then announced are not really new. I believe that every one who has had the honour of holding office in India has always thought 549 that it was his first duty to do everything in his power to advance Indian nationhood in order that self-government could come as soon as that nationhood existed. I know that this was my first object during my five and a-half years in India, and I paid special interest to all questions of education and to all Indian enterprises during my time. But it was most unfortunate that before the Secretary of State assumed office he had made some caustic and not very well-informed criticisms of our rule in India, and the result was that his official declaration was, quite naturally, coupled with his unofficial previous utterances, and this aroused exaggerated expectations throughout India.
§ Again, I cannot help thinking that the visit of the Secretary of State to India at a time when this country was fighting for its life was a real misfortune. It had the effect of stimulating a very dangerous agitation throughout India, and incidentally it also had the effect of lowering the high office of Viceroy in the eyes of the Indian politicians. Awl lastly, my Lords, I cannot help regarding the manner of the presentation of this Report as being somewhat irregular. In the past the Government of India drew up schemes of reform; they were discussed by the Secretary of State and his Council; they were then considered by the Cabinet, and were finally submitted to the judgment of Parliament. Instead, in this case, the Viceroy and the Secretary of State have signed one of the most controversial documents ever issued, and then the public is asked to discuss it. Imagine the First Lord of the Admiralty putting forward a most elaborate naval programme over his signature for public discussion and a member of the Board of Admiralty getting up publicly to express his approval of it, and all that being done before the Board of Admiralty or the Cabinet had had an opportunity of officially considering it. I cannot help thinking that that procedure was distinctly irregular.
§ My Lords, I warmly welcome some parts of this Report. The reconstruction of the India Office, I believe, has been long overdue. That is now, we are told, to be done by a Committee. The Provinces of India are to have in future charge of their own domestic affairs. That was the main feature in the Delhi Durbar Despatch of 1911. The immediate effect 550 will be to give much greater influence to Indian opinion on all Provincial Councils, which I believe to be a very good step. The future effect of that measure will be to give a kind of Federal form to the Government of India which I think is essential to ultimate self-government. That is to be arranged by another Committee. Beyond that, the extension of Indian influence in the sphere of self-government is, I believe, a wise and necessary measure which might have been taken some time ago. The re-arrangement of electorates under the Morley-Minto scheme, and the reconsideration of the franchise in certain cases, are also most necessary steps which should be taken. But that is to be arranged by a Committee winch is to tour India under a chairman who knows nothing of the country. The process must take several months, and it must lead to further controversy of a bitter kind throughout India. I cannot think that that process is necessary. I believe that the Government of India and the Local Governments can perfectly well prepare schemes under some general instructions, and there is ample knowledge here to enable those schemes to be reviewed when they come home.
Now I turn to the Report, which reflects the greatest credit on its draftsmen, but it is in parts exceedingly difficult reading, and I am afraid that few people in these very strenuous times will be able to master some of its intricacies. That, I think, is one of its dangers. It comes to us without any piéces justificatives. We are not told the opinion of the Local Governments, though those Local Governments are to be turned upside down. The Report ignores the great volume of non-Brahmin and non-lawyer opinion expressed often most passionately in memorials or in resolutions passed in public meetings. I will quote only three of those protests out of a very large number. The Namasudras of Bengal, who are an important lower class of the working classes, numbering I think something like 10,000,000 men, passed this resolution in a conference at Calcutta:—
This conference emphatically protests against the gross misrepresentations of facts that are being made by some so called high caste leaders in the self conceived character of representatives with regard to the real wishes of the people about Home Rule or self-government.
My Lords, I think that that protest has been justified. The South Indian Islamic
League, in an address to the Secretary of State, say:—
Nothing should be done which will weaken British authority in any manner whatsoever, and hand over the destinies of the Moslem community to a class which has no regard for their interests and no respect for their sentiments.
Lastly the Madras Dravidian Hindu Association, which represents classes that are now giving almost the whole of the recruits which have been provided from the Madras Presidency, in an address to the Viceroy and the Secretary of State, say this—
We shall fight, to the last drop of our blood, any attempt to transfer the scat of authority in this country from British hands to so-called high caste Hindus, who have ill-treated us in the past and will do so again but for the protection of British laws.
I earnestly hope that your Lordships will read the little selection of these protests which have been published by the Indo-British Association, and which I think have been sent to your Lordships. Considering the little time there was for organisation, that the Home Rule movement was well supported by funds from well-known sources and that it exercised intimidation on a large scale, I feel that these protests and warnings deserve consideration, and must be regarded by us all as most significant.
§ Surely the Report might have devoted one paragraph to the opinions of the working-classes in India who, after all, represent the real mass of the people. The authors of the Report base their proposals on "the faith that is in us." My Lords, it is a faith which will certainly be called upon to remove mountains of difficulty and of danger. We are told that they "discovered infallible signs that indicate the growth of character." They do not say in what period that "growth of character" has occurred. Has it been in the past century, or during the war, or during the visit of the Secretary of State? That is one of the few touches of humour in an otherwise grave State Paper. The Viceroy had been about a year and a-half in India when the Secretary of State arrived, and he must have been deeply engrossed in all the various affairs connected with the work of this war. The Secretary of State and his colleagues made a cold weather tour through some of the great towns. Now, can it be believed that a tour of five of six of the European capitals would enable the tourists to declare that they saw "infallible signs of the growth of 552 character" in Europe? And the peoples of India are much more diverse than the people of Europe. A Finn is much more like an Italian than a Pathan is like a Tamil.
It was necessary for the purposes of the Report to insist that the Morley-Minto reforms, which were barely nine years old, were totally inadequate, and quite out of date; but incidentally the Report shows that these reforms gave immense influence to Indian opinion. We are told that—
Whenever the Government has met with anything approaching solid opposition on the part of Indian Members, it has, except on matters touching the peace and security of the country, generally preferred to give way.
Could there be a more striking tribute to the efficacy of those reforms? But those reforms had two defects. Firstly, de-centralisation was not made at the same time, which, as I have said, would have immensely increased the influence of Indian opinion in the Provincial Councils; secondly, some of the electorates were far too small; and communal representation, which is the only possible means of giving any influence in affairs to the real working-classes in India, was granted by Lord Morley and Lord Minto only in the case of Mahommedans. The most striking feature of this Report, as it appears to me, is that it seems mainly directed to finding means of placating the little Home Rule Party, and that it ignores the conditions of India during the war, and also the interests of the great working-classes of the country.
The Report asks this vital question, What ratio of the people really ask for greater power? And it goes on to say, most justly, that this question cannot be answered with any degree of certainty. But it then proceeds to add—
There is a core of earnest men who believe sincerely and strive for political progress; around them a ring of loss educated people to whom a phrase or a sentiment appeals; and an outside fringe of those who have been described as attracted by curiosity to this new thing, or who find diversions in attacking a big and very solemn Government as urchins might take a perilous joy at casting toy darts at an elephant
The President of the Home Rule League informed the Secretary of State that the membership of that League throughout all India numbered 52,000 persons. Now if we assume that the earnest core, the ring, and the outside fringe of urchins, number altogether 250,000, that would be a very
liberal estimate; and of that 250,000 a large number would not be able to give the slightest account of what self-government or Home Rule meant. But if we accept that figure, it means that the 250,000 wish to rule the 244,000,000 people in British India. Is that "democracy" in any form? If this "core of earnest men" includes the leaders of the movement, then some of its leaders have frankly stated quite openly that it is their object to destroy British rule altogether. Others tried to boycott recruiting for the Indian Defence Force; others, again, at the Delhi Conference tried to bargain on the basis of "No Home Rule, no man-power." The Report says the war has "immeasurably accelerated" the demand for Home Rule. That is perfectly true. The little hand of Home Rulers saw their opportunity, and so also did the Germans who have done all they could to raise trouble for us in India. The war has also accelerated the Sinn Fein movement in Ireland—again with German assistance.
§ It is very difficult for people in this country to follow events in India during the war. News is meagre, and the censorship is always energetic. I will try briefly to indicate what has happened, because I think it should be widely known. German intrigues have been prevalent everywhere, and have been operating in many ways in different parts of India. The greatest conspiracy since the Mutiny was most happily discovered in time and ably handled by Sir Michael O'Dwyer, who has been publicly rebuked for speaking the truth. Besides that, I am glad that he had the loyal co-operation of the police in the Punjab, and also of many of the people in the Punjab, who assisted him to get at the details of that conspiracy. The ramifications of that conspiracy included Vancouver, Japan, Berlin, and many other places. Several Indian regiments have shown mutinous symptoms, due to corruption by secret agents who have not been discovered. As you will remember, the outbreak at Singapore was particularly serious. In Bengal anarchy and murder have prevailed for some time in many parts; and there is a dangerous revolutionary movement, supported by the educated classes, which Lord Ronaldshay in December last described in what I can only call very grave language. In October there occurred in Behar one of the most violent Hindu attacks on Mahommedans ever known in 554 India; it was well organised in advance; it covered 1,000 square miles of territory, and it was accompanied by murder, outrage, and robbery. Ultimately it was put down by British troops. That was at a time when Hindu politicians and members of the Little Moslem League were discussing Home Rule schemes at Calcutta. Besides that, during this period of war there has been a most vicious outburst of slanders against British rule in the press of India, to which the Viceroy on one occasion drew serious attention. There are some other symptoms than these which are not generally known in this country, as I feel sure that they ought to be known. The moral seems to me to be this—that, owing largely to weakness of government in India in recent years, the margin of safety is now very small. There never was a time when it was so necessary to scrutinise as carefully as possible any proposed changes in the system of our government in India.
§ I turn now to the details of the Report, which does not proceed, I think, on lines of evolution, but on lines of revolution. Speaking broadly, there are two ways by which a greater share of the Administration can be conferred upon Indians. The first I may call the geographical plan by which defined areas can be handed over to Indian rule, those areas being carefully increased until ultimately the whole Province falls under Indian rule in the future. Another plan is to allocate certain services to Indian Executives, and to go on increasing those services till all have been handed over.
§ The Report adopts the second plan, and, if your Lordships will bear with me, I will try to explain the result. Every Province is to have two Executives, which I will call A and B. Executive A is to consist of the Governor, one European, and one Indian, all appointed by the Crown. That is the present system, except that one European is taken away, which I think would be a great disadvantage to a Governor coming fresh from this country. That system has worked well in the past, and I believe will always work well, unless a permanent anti-Government majority is set up in the Legislative Council, which is exactly what the Home Rule Party is aiming at. Executive B is to consist of two, and eventually more, Ministers, selected by the Governor from the elected members of the Legislative Council, and responsible to the elected members of that body. It is wisely ordained that these 555 Ministers can only be removable by General Election; otherwise the changes in those offices would, I think, be very frequent. Two advisers may be added without portfolio, with no status, no special salary, no authority, and no vote. Executive A has control of the reserved services. Executive B controls all the transferred services, which are to be settled by another Committee, and the transferred services are to be increased until Executive A has disappeared altogether. When this remarkable Cabinet meets there will be three bodies, each serving in totally different capacities, with the Governor as the sole link between them. Executive A cannot deal with transferred services; B cannot deal with the reserved services; but A is wholly responsible for the maintenance of order, and B has no responsibility whatever of that kind. The advisers can speak in the Cabinet if asked, and if they choose, but have no powers of any kind. I think it is a menagerie and not a Cabinet. The Report says the decisions of the "Ministers" will be subject to the Governor's advice and control. He may advise, but it will be quite impossible for him to control Ministers who depend upon elected majorities; and all of your Lordships who have served in the Dominions as well as in India know that such a proposition is out of the question.
§ The Legislative Council is to have a "substantial" elected majority, and certain of its official members may speak but not vote. Bills will apparently be in two categories, differently handled. If Executive B introduces a Bill dealing with transferred services and it is passed by the Council, it remains subject to the veto of the Governor, the Governor-General, and the Secretary of State, but in some circumstances it might be difficult to exercise the power of veto. But if Executive A brings in a Bill which is opposed, as it frequently would be, by the elected majority in the Legislative Council, the Governor may certify that it is essential to the discharge of his responsibility. The majority of the Council can then appeal to the Governor-General in Council, who is to decide "whether the certified Bill deals with a reserved subject." If the Governor-General in Council supports the certificate, then he and probably the Governor will be subject to violent attacks, but if the Governor's deliberate judgment in a matter on which he must know better than the Governor- 556 General, is upset, I really think the position of the Governor will become impossible.
§ If the Government of India support the certificate, then the procedure is as follows. The Bill is discussed by the Legislative Council, and referred to an elected Grand Committee, consisting of 40 to 50 per cent. of the Council "reproducing as nearly as possible the various elements in the larger body." That condition will be exceedingly difficult to fulfil by any form of election which I can conceive. The Governor is' permitted to nominate a bare majority on that Committee, which presumably will be one. The Grand Committee, after discussing the Bill, may-refer it to a Select Committee. After being discussed by the Select Committee the Bill returns to the Grand Committee for futher debate, and is reported back to the Legislative Council as a whole, and they may debate it again, subject to a time limit which the Governor may prescribe. The Bill then passes automatically, but the elected majority may send up their objections and may possibly succeed in stopping the ultimate sanction of the Bill. It is difficult to conceive anything more complicated, cumbrous, and unsuited to Indian conditions. It must have the effect of destroying all appearance of authority of every Provincial Government. It would put a premium on intrigue, in which, as we all know, the Eastern genius excels.
§ Two most serious results must follow directly from this amazing system. In the first place, proceedings taken by Executive B might quite conceivably give rise to trouble; but whatever B may do, A must support B, by force of arms if necessary. This little difficulty is recognised by Mr. Curtis, the inventor of the "diarchy" which the Report has adopted. He says quite frankly that we may have to look on while helpless people are being injured by their own electorates. That is what I think we can never do while we remain in India; and it is exactly what is expected by some of the memorialists, of whose warnings the Report takes no account. Every one who has served in India knows that it is one of the pre-occupations of British officials to prevent Indians from oppressing Indians, and the paucity of British officials in some departments is so marked that we all sadly know that this oppression goes on without our being able to stop it.557
§ The second serious objection is that services, whether reserved or transferred, must continue to be administered by district officers and commissioners, who, therefore, will have to serve two masters—one subject to the control of the Governor and ultimately of Parliament and the other practically uncontrolled, except by the elected majority in the Legislative Council. This must give rise to acute irritation and difficulty, and taken in conjunction with some of the other proposals in the Report, will have the effect of destroying the present high standard of the Indian Civil Service. No wise man will go to India under the proposed conditions, and if the Indian Civil Service deteriorates I do not see what we have, left to keep our hold upon the affections and respect of the masses of India.
§ Policy will always depend largely upon finance, and every Budget must be a source of acute controversy between Executive A and Executive B. The "Ministers" will naturally clamour for money for the transferred services. The Executive Council may want it for the reserved services, and for the maintenance of law and order. Executive A is certain to be defeated in the Legislative Council. The Governor may certify necessity, and then he is sure to be attacked by the majority of the Council and by all the organs which they control. I really believe the position of the Governor in these circumstances will become quite intolerable, and as after a period of years a roving Commission is to go out to examine into everything and see if he has done his duty, I am convinced that no man who understands the situation and cherishes any self-respect could accept the office of Governor. Nothing would have induced me to go to Bombay under the diarchial system which is proposed to be set up, and I believe my distinguished predecessors would have the same feeling.
§ I will now turn to the Supreme Government. At present the Viceroy's Council has a Government majority, which Lord Morley rightly thought was absolutely essential. That is all changed, and two Chambers are to be set up. The Upper Chamber, or Council of State, is to consist of 21 elected and 29 nominated members, of whom four must be non-officials. The Lower Chamber, or Legislative Assembly, is to consist of about 100 members, of whom two-thirds are to be elected, and of 558 the remaining one-third not less than one-third must, he non-official.
§ Government measures are ordinarily to be introduced in the Lower Chamber and passed on to the Upper House. If the Houses disagree, as they frequently would, then unless the Governor-General certifies the necessity of the Amendment of the Upper House and considers it essential for the discharge of his responsibilities, the two Houses sit together, and five nominated members, or a few abstentions, might have the effect of defeating the Government of India. If leave to introduce a Bill is refused by the Lower House, or if the Bill is rejected by the Lower House, then the Governor-General may certify it and send it to the other House which must pass it and report it only to the Lower House. This seems to me to be government by certification and veto. I cannot conceive any government more likely to be unpopular than that form of government in India or any other place. The general effect of this very complicated scheme must be long delays of public business, frequent conflicts between the two Houses and, I believe, a weakening of the high position of the Viceroy.
§ Here, again, there are enormous opportunities opened out to political intrigue. The general effect of the adoption of this Report would, in my opinion, be to weaken the authority of the British Government all over India at a time when that authority is more than ever needed. Dual authority will be established in all the Provinces and will permeate down to quite humble officials. The Government will only in part be British any longer, and there will be an Indian majority in every Provincial Cabinet. Every one who knows the powerful forces of reaction which are latent in India will understand that we should risk a most serious setback to civilisation and progress. I really believe that, if these proposals were adopted as they stand, the result would be to postpone the ultimate self-government which we all desire as soon as there is an Indian nation to which we can hand over our responsibilities. Your Lordships will see that these proposals introduce a new principle into India, and it is a principle which Lord Morley said he would never accept. That principle is the transference of executive power to Ministers responsible to elected Members, themselves responsible to electorates which, in the Western sense, cannot exist for some years. That principle 559 is absolutely opposed to the traditions, customs, and inherited characteristics of the Indian peoples. There never was such a case of putting heady new wine into very ancient bottles. There is not a Chief in India who, as I said the other day, would not die rather than accept that principle in the ruling of his State, and we must remember that the Chiefs govern one-third of the area of India and one-quarter of its population.
Have we any right to force upon India a form of democracy which the greatest democracy in the world would not tolerate for a moment? It was the main object of the founders of the United States to get rid of this principle. Is it certain that this form of government will for ever endure with us? Has it really shown to advantage either in peace or in war? May I quote the words of an English non-official resident in India who knows the country and its people well. He writes—
I do not much hood the outcry from the small minority of iconoclasts and speculative jerry-builders. I listen rather for a voice that cannot yet be heard, the voice of the peoples of India. Can we guess now what they will say when the gift of political speech is theirs? Positively, we cannot say; negatively, we may be confident that it will not be for any self-governing system of the West that they will clamour. For the India of that far-off day will wish its institutions to conform to the genius of the Indian peoples, not to the borrowed notions of a denationalised intelligentsia, denationalised, alas! by the errors of British policy in the past.
I believe those words express a profound truth, which was borne in upon me during my stay in India.
The main fault which I find with the Report is that it wholly ignores the genius of the Indian peoples and is mainly concerned with concessions to a denationalised intelligentsia. These proposals will not placate the little class of Brahmins and lawyers who have raised a ferment in British India, and British India only, during the war. The political leaders are already vehemently protesting against these proposals. Mr. Tilak said of this reform scheme—
It is entirely unacceptable and will not satisfy anybody. It is only a miserable cheese-paring measure proposed in the interests of the bureaucracy, whose vested interests must always remain adverse to our aspirations. We must now take oar case to England and appeal to the British democracy.
Appeal to the British democracy to establish the narrowest oligarchy in the world!
It was my painful duty in 1908 to order the arrest and trial of Mr. Tilak for articles in which it was plainly represented that the bomb, then newly introduced in India, was a charm calculated to work for the benefit of the people. The miserable assassin of Mr. Jackson, a most valuable Indian Civil Servant who was beloved by the Indians who knew him, stated at his trial—
I read of many instances of oppression in the Kesari, the Kal and the Kashiramat. I think that by killing sahibs we people can get justice. I never got injustice myself, nor did any one I know. I now regret killing Mr. Jackson. I killed a good man causelessly.
Could there be a greater tragedy than is expressed in these few words? Those three papers were all conducted by Mr. Tilak, who now proposes to come home to appeal to the British democracy.
While the principal leaders of what the Report calls the "earnest core" will not accept these reforms, they will be abhorrent to the gallant soldiers who have fought and suffered for the Empire during this war, if they ever come to understand them. Yet it is on the achievements of these fighting men that the politicians base their claims to rule them. The intelligentsia could not rule the fighting classes of India for a week. I firmly believe that the effect of these proposals, if they are adopted as they stand, would be first to lead to administrative, and then to political, chaos. And may I quote the words of Zemindar Telaprole to a large gathering of the non-Brahmins of Southern India. These are significant words—
Britain must understand that we are not cattle to be sold by one master to the other, with the further humiliation of having the first master standing by with a bludgeon in case we object to be sold.
That is exactly the view which is taken by some of the memorialists who are ignored in this Report, and I believe it expresses the opinions of tens of millions of people of India who would not understand one word of this Report and would strongly object to be handed over to the tender mercies of their hereditary oppressors.
The Report contains some most admirable sentiments which may divert attention from some of the dangers that I have tried to point out. We are told that "the first duty of every party in the State is to unteach partisanship." Have we learned
that great truth ourselves? Excellent advice is given in the Report to every class in India. The pity is that it will never reach them. The Report says—
We can at toast appeal to Hindu and Moslem, Brahmin and non-Brahmin, to cultivate a community of interests in the greatest welfare of the whole.
The authors cannot have realised the chasm which at present separates Hindus and Moslems, Brahmins and non-Brahmins, a chasm which was formed hundreds of years ago, which is still deep, and which it will take years to bridge over. The authors of the Report believe that "representative institutions … will help to soften the rigidity of the caste system—a system which dates back for thousands of years. It is a system which has actually been intensified in our own day. Then they believe what to my mind is still more extraordinary. They believe that in "de-liberately disturbing the placid, pathetic, contentment of the masses" they are working for the "highest good" of India. It has not hitherto been regarded as the duty of the Viceroy and Secretary of State to disturb the content of India. The catastrophic possibilities of discontent among 315,000,000 of people do not seem to have occurred to the authors of this Report.
§ Russia is now giving a most appalling object lesson of the results of the breaking up of centralised authority in a country where there are 80 per cent. at least illiterates. The effect of the weakening, or destruction, of British rule in India must be more disastrous, because there the antagonisms, social, religious, and racial, are far deeper, and far more bitter and complex than those which exist in Russia. It is only the paramount authority of British rule which now stands between the Indian people and the blood-stained welter which followed the collapse of the Mogul Empire. We have made mistakes in the past, but still there is nothing in history to compare with our gigantic work in maintaining order and promoting the prosperity of the people of India. The difference between Persia and India to-day is British rule; nothing else. Our work is not finished, and our heavy responsibility still remains. It is the greatest trust that has ever fallen upon any nation; let must fearlessly accept it, and do only what we think right and safe for the best interests of the Indian people. We desire to associate with us in the administration as many as possible of the best minds in India, and not only 562 the little intelligentsia which is represented by a group of agitators.
§ We have still before us a great work in India in gradually educating the masses, and it is a work which we alone can control and direct. The noble Earl, who made a fine effort to rescue higher education work in India from the morass into which it had fallen, knows well how everything really depends on the direction which we give, and that if our influence and our power are taken away there will be a quick relapse. There are ways by which you can accomplish our great task, I believe, in safety, and there are alternative proposals which am prepared to make on geographical lines which, I believe, real Indian moderates would all accept. Meanwhile, I hope the Government will refer this Report to sonic competent examining body which will be able to take and record evidence. I have given my reasons for believing that some of these proposals are dangerous, and in doing so I have only one object in view—the welfare of the masses in India. I have ventured to raise this question in your Lordships' House to-day, only because I cherish a real affection for India and her simple, kindly peoples. I hope yon will pardon me for detaining you so long.
§ Moved, For Papers giving the opinions of Local Governments on the question of reforms; for a selection of Addresses to the Viceroy and Secretary of State, giving both sides of opinion; and for the Report of Mr. Justice Rowlatt's Committee on Sedition in India.—(Lord Sydenham.)
§ LORD CARMICHAEL
My Lords, I fear I have not the wide knowledge, and I certainly have not the eloquence, of my noble friend who has just sat down, but as I was less than eighteen months ago in India, and it has been my duty to keep a constant watch over public affairs there for some years, I hope your Lordships will bear with me while I try to put before you one side of the case somewhat different certainly from Lord Sydenham, but which, I think, in making up your minds, ought not to be entirely overlooked.
My time in India was spent for the most part in Bengal, where those Indians who desire wider political powers for themselves or their friends are at least as active and as insistent in pressing their demands, and form as large a proportion of the population as they do anywhere. It may, therefore, be that I quite unconsciously overlook 563 some points which ought not to be overlooked, and that I attach more importance, or less, to various factors than I would do if I had a wider experience of other Provinces. I was for a short time in Madras before I went to Bengal, and I think I realise as well as anybody how dangerous and how unwise it would be always to treat all Provinces on the same lines. I am willing and prepared to say here that my time in Madras certainly convinced me that, if we are to give wide political powers to some of the best educated Indians, in Madras at any rate and very likely in other Provinces also, we can only do so safely and fairly if we take precautions which would seem quite needless to those who have only a Bengal experience.
I confess I have some misgivings as to the future; I have not, however, any feeling of despair. I do not know, perhaps I ought to know, what are the rules which govern debate in this House. But I presume my noble friend was quite in order in referring to Mr. Justice Rowlatt's Report, and therefore that I shall be in order also in saying that I should like that Report to be made available. I feel certain it would be one which would interest your Lordships. I do not know what is in it, but I do believe, if your Lordships read it, you would realise what I mean when I say that for five years I was never free from anxiety, and that I do not believe that for a long time any Governor of Bengal will be free from anxiety. My anxiety, however, would have been much greater than it was had it not been for the Morley-Minto reforms, which were issued seine time before I went to India. Those reforms may not have been perfect; they may have gone too far in some directions, and may not have gone far enough in others; but, at any rate, they secured for the Governor, plenty of criticism, sometimes not justified, sometimes not given in a friendly spirit, but criticism which certainly helped him (at any rate it helped me) to avoid and to correct mistakes before it was too late. It was owing to those reforms that I often found myself able to get the advice of some of the most intelligent and able, though not always the most friendly, of the educated people in my Presidency, and the advice they gave me was on the whole given most ungrudgingly. It is because I realise how valuable those reforms were, because I want to see Governors in future get more of that advice, and perhaps 564 even more because I feel that there is a great danger if mere criticism is to be the only way of affecting the prosperity of his country which is open to a clever or ambitious Indian who is interested in the welfare of his country in a political direction, that I am glad to find that the Viceroy and the Secretary of State are together so active as they are in taking political reform in hand.
No political reform however wise, will I think rid Bengal of a very real danger—the danger of crime committed from political motives. I feel sure of that now, and for some time to come. But I believe that it is only wise political reform which can lessen—I will go further and say which can prevent—the growth of a furtive sympathy with political criminals even on the part of high-minded gentlemen who would shrink from crime—that furtive sympathy which puzzled me and pained me more than anything else, I believe, during my term of office. Whether we like it or whether we do not like it, the demand for political reform and for self-government in India will go on. Whether we like it or whether we do not like it, there will be political change, and I have no hesitation in saying that change will be in the direction of giving self-government to India. The other alternative would be change in the direction of repression and of a withdrawal rather than of an extension of political privilege, and though that is a perfectly intelligible policy and one which I think might have a momentary success, I feel sure that it is not one which the people of this Empire would tolerate. I personally believe that it could not long have success, even were we to face the enormous expense that would be involved in adopting it.
I was glad, therefore, when the pronouncement on behalf of the Government about a year ago in the House of Commons was made in such unequivocal terms, for it cleared the air to me and to ninny others. That pronouncement seemed to be merely a restatement in explicit terms of what had been implied in many acts, and what. I think was on the whole—I should say certainly was—the basis of British Government in India. But I confess that we did not always act as we felt, and I for one cannot blame the Indians when, as is the case with many of them, they think that what they have seen us do shows that we were somewhat drawing back from that position. The declaration has made 565 it easier for us to put heart into our friends, and it has made it easier for us to meet our foes. India is not, in my opinion at least, fit at this moment for self-government, but many Indians are fit for it, and I think that we shall do right if we do our best to make all Indians fit for it. India is not like this country was before the first Reform Bill, nor is it like our Colonies were before we gave them self-government.
Like my noble friend, I was once a Governor in an Australian State, and I am sure that he and I will both agree in this, that it will be a long time before India is, if indeed she ever can be, a democratic country in the sense in which Victoria or any other part of the Dominions is. As long as caste continues—and I believe that will be for a very long time indeed—India cannot have that homogeneity of ideals which makes democracy, in the sense in which we people of British blood interpret it, possible. India will develop her Government, on the lines no doubt, of her own traditions, but also of the education which we give her, and towards those ideals which that education teaches her to desire. For that reason it seems to me that if she is to be a source of strength to this Empire we cannot too strongly foster her sense of responsibility.
Co-partnership between men of our race and between men of Indian races must, I think, be the safeguard for the welfare of. India for as long a time as I can contemplate, but there can be no true co-partnership where there is no sense of equality, and where there is no sense of common responsibility. Many difficulties lie before US, but it is something now to know that in facing those difficulties we have all agreed that the path of progress has to be in one direction. We are pledged to start in that direction as soon as possible. There can be no standing still, and there can now be no swerving from the path which leads to responsible government.
The Secretary of State and the Viceroy have put forward proposals incomplete in sonic most essential matters, but which they promise to elaborate. Common courtesy, I suppose, if nothing else, will compel us to treat those proposals seriously, since they have been so authoritatively made, but we are not bound to them. The Secretary of State himself -has said that if anyone can suggest a better or more help- 566 ful scheme—I think those were his words—it will be accepted, and if my noble friend Lord Sydenham has a scheme, as he tells us he has, we shall examine it. We shall examine, I think, any scheme which is put forward in good faith, provided only that it secures the retention by the central authority of sufficient power to defend India against all attack from outside, and to enforce justice as between all classes of individuals in India, without which it seems to me India, whatever she might be, could not be a real part of the British Empire. I dare say many of us have our own pet ideas. I have my own, and I suppose that some time it will be my duty to urge them, but it seeps to me that at first what we want is to know what the scheme of the Secretary of State and of the Viceroy really is. Till we know this in much greater detail than we know it now, and in much greater detail than apparently either of those authorities themselves know it, we ought surely to refrain both from condemning and from approving. We cannot wisely sign blank cheques. It is easy to be wise after events. It is easy to point to the course which the India Office and the Government of India might have followed, and which would have left us, I think, some less difficult position than we are in now. But wee are in a difficult position, and it is our duty both to India and to this country to try and get out of that position as well as we can.
My noble friend Lord Sydenham has gone into considerable detail. I do not intend to follow his example, but as he referred to the disagreeable position in which a Governor may at times find himself and I have a good deal of sympathy with him in that—I have had a good deal of sympathy with him before now, and I hope I have tried to emulate him in avoidance of friction, both in Australia and in India—I am tempted here to say that I hope provision may be made in any Bill which is introduced that Ministers shall only hold office during the pleasure of those who are responsible for nominating them, and that things likely to lead to petty disputes between officials at Delhi or Simla and those in provincial headquarters may be reduced to a minimum And for the sake of a fresh Governor I also join in the hope that Lord Sydenham has expressed, though I do not go quite so far as he; I merely say that I hope it will be possible, at times at any rate, to have more than one European on the Governor's Executive Council.
567 Lord Sydenham has told us that if the Montagu-Chelmsford scheme was adopted it would not be possible to induce good men to go out to India as Governors. If I understand him aright I think he does not believe that it will be possible, at any rate soon, to find good men in India to help them in governing the country if they do go. He gave his reason. It was that he dreads a diarchy. I do not suppose that any one would accept a diarchy except as a very transitory measure. I do not like it myself, but I think it possible that it is necessary as a transitory measure. It is curious that not only Mr. Curtis who, I hear, was the originator of the idea, but also Dr. Nair, of whom we have heard a good deal lately, seem to think it necessary; and if newspaper reports be true I find that the merchants of Calcutta, who are no fools, do not think that it will not necessarily work.
We are not all as modest, perhaps, as my noble friend is, and perhaps all your Lordships are not as rash as I may be. But whatever the difficulties of the office of a Governor I am inclined to think that in this House, if nowhere else, it will always be possible to find—not necessarily angels and I hope certainly not fools, but men who are willing and capable to go wherever their Sovereign wishes them to go to do his work. And I believe that in India there will always be men of British blood, as well as men of Indian blood, who are prepared to do their best to carry out any government which the British Parliament thinks ought to be carried out. I know that I can find such men in Bengal, both in the Service and outside it. I am proud to know that a Bengali has for two years in succession taken part in what have certainly not been the least important counsels of the Empire, and Sir Satyendra Sinha is not by any means the only Bengali whom I would trust. And among many officers there are several who have told me that, provided only the weaker brethren are secured from suffering, they would gladly give India responsible government tomorrow.
Two days ago I had a talk with a Member of this House, Lord Reay, a former Governor of Bombay, who I believe of all noble Lords has the longest, or at least the earliest, experience at any rate of governing. Lord Reay, owing to physical infirmity, cannot be here to-day; I am 568 sure we are sorry for that. Lord Reay was in India at a time when reforms such as we now contemplate with equaninimity would not have been dreamed of. His caution is, I feel sure, recognised by most of us, but he told me (I put down his words) that he considers that the time has come when reforms such as are foreshadowed in the Report ought, having regard to the declaration last year and to the loyal attitude of all classes in India towards the war, to be given effect to without delay. And what struck me even more was this, that he told me, and said I might quote him as telling me, that he believed that he could find the nucleus of a very good Ministry in Bombay among those men whose names, as we read in Saturday's newspaper, are attached to a memorandum approving of the scheme which has led to this discussion.
But the thing that is clearest to my mind is this. We cannot reject the Montagu-Chelmsford scheme without incurring some risk. We may have to run the risk, but do not let us do so without well considering what we do. Your Lordships know—there is no need to remind you—that every Indian with a Western education and many with an education which is not Western has for months been familiar with the declaration which was made last August, and they are by now, or very soon will be, more familiar than most of your Lordships are with the scheme as proposed. Nor is it educated Indians only of whom we must think. We are often told that outside of those whom it is now the fashion to talk of as the intelligentsia no Indian troubles his head with politics. Whatever may have been the case some time ago, do not be too sure of that now. I was not quite six years in India—far too short a time for any one to dogmatise upon—and I was only there as a Governor, and a Governor often does not see the real truth about Indian life. But even a Governor can at times get free from the restrictions which probably necessarily do so much to limit his knowledge, and he can always ask questions. Both in Madras and in Bengal I saw and heard enough to convince me that interest in politics is very much more widespread than we are often led to believe it is—very much more widespread than I, for some time even after I got to India, thought it was.
All Indians who have any such interest know, and many of them know very clearly, 569 that a pronouncement was made in the House of Commons very nearly a year ago on behalf of the British Government, that that pronouncement has not been repudiated and it has not even been criticised or at any rate has not even been questioned. They know that that pronouncement set forth the policy of the British Government and of the Government of India in terms which showed a readiness to grant, and grant quickly, to Indians more than must Indians have of late years come to think the British Government would willingly grant. They know that the noble Earl who leads this House and who, they know, takes a very real interest is India, is a prominent member of the Government which authorised the declaration; and they feel sure that the declaration would not have been made if the noble Earl did not himself approve of its being made. They have even been told by some men who profess to be familiar with the style of past Viceroys that they may recognise the hand of the noble Earl himself in what they, rightly I think, look upon as the most vital sentence in the pronouncement.
Indians, no less than we, do not think that declarations solemnly made on behalf of the Government are to be treated as obiter dicta; they think they are meant to be acted upon. They know that the two men whose offices, with the sole exception of the King-Emperor, they have been taught to revere most, have themselves drawn up a scheme, and much to their surprise they are told that the scheme is in its main feature supported by the very officials who as members of the Secretary of State's Council, or of the Viceroy's Council, the Executive Council, must, they presume, be supposed to carry most weight in this country. They find the scheme denounced by many of themselves, and by a few who are not of themselves but who almost always denounce what the British Raj does. They find the scheme not welcomed, but rather the reverse, by certain Englishmen in India who have never made any secret of their dislike of Indian aspirations, and they find it warmly welcomed by some of themselves, possibly not a very great number, still by some whom they look on as men with brain, at any rate, and w ho have often told them that Britain may be looked to with certainty at long last to do what is right.
I think that what I told you just now is a fair presentment of the Indian view of the 570 scheme, on which many hopes are being founded. An alteration is coming about, and I am told that is likely—and I hope it is true—that the men who were inclined to be hostile to the Government are now pausing because of t he presentment of this position and are thinking what their action is to be. If we are now found to reject that scheme with contempt, or at any rate without putting forward arguments which will appeal to Indians and which they will understand, what mill happen? I think they try to understand arguments, and if we do reject it I hope that we shall put forward such arguments; but if we do reject it without convincing them, what will be the result? It will be said plausibly, if not accurately, that me have flouted the Viceroy, that we have flouted the Secretary of State, that we have even flouted the Leader of this House; and it m ill certainly be said, and it will certainly be honestly believed, by many Indians for a very long time, that the British Government have permitted a bad breach of faith, a breach of faith as bad as any of which any Government could be guilty.
When I think of this, I feel that a very grave responsibility lies on us, and I must entreat your Lordships, even if you would prefer some other line of progress, even if you dislike reform, even if you think the proposals dangerous, to pause long before you determine to reject this scheme entirely. I will entreat you at least to suspend your judgment till we know the details as to franchise, as to subjects to be transferred, and as to several other things which we as yet do not know and on which success or failure must to a great extent depend. And when we do know those things I would still beg your Lordships, if you should not be satisfied that the proposals are the best which could be made, to consider most carefully whether we cannot so mould them as to make them a basis on which to work. There must be give and take; there must be modifications whatever scheme is finally adopted; but for the sake of the prestige of the Viceroy's office, for the sake of the reputation for honesty of the English Government in India, I trust that it will be possible for us here to base what is done on proposals which have been made public, and which probably most Indians, and certainly many Englishmen, feel ought to have been made public unless they embody a feasible plan for carrying out the policy set forth 571 in the pronouncement made by the Government which authorised their publication.
At the same time I would urge as strongly as I can on the India Office and on the Government of India that they should lose no time in making the further inquiries which they tell us must be made, that they should allow no avoidable delay in forming or in making their conclusions and the evidence on which they are based known. I, for one, do not believe that Indians are unreasonable. It is often said that they are in a great hurry, but my experience of them is that they are willing, if they really think you mean to do something, to wait longer for that being done than most Englishmen would be willing to wait. I would urge on the India. Office and on the Viceroy to consider at once how to meet objections which have been taken, objections such as the noble Lord has taken; to think, more than it seems to me they have thought, of communities which require special protection—to think, certainly more than it seems to me they have thought, of what is due to British commerce, small as well as great; to do all that they can—and they can do much—to help on Indian industries, and to hasten those adminisstrative reforms which they admit are required and some of which they themselves tell us are long overdue. If they will do this it will afford to Indians an earnest of their good faith, and to us here it will give a proof of their belief in the soundness of their own case.
My Lords, I am afraid I have detained you too long. My words have taken longer than I thought they would take, but I have not spoken with half as much force as I should like to be able to speak with. For the multitude of my words I can only ask your forgiveness. And to add strength to my appeal I can only ask you to look at this matter, not in the light of what I have said only, but as you yourselves would look at it if you could imagine yourselves to be Indians, trusting in the good faith of the British Government.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I am sure that my noble friend below the gangway will forgive me if I say that I listened to the speech in which he made his Motion with some feelings of depression. The speech was as clear in its composition and as lucid in its presentation as my noble friend's speeches always are, but he certainly seemed to regard this remarkable 572 document, the Report presented by the Viceroy and the Secretary of State for India, in a spirit of almost unrelieved gloom. Not absolutely unrelieved, because he stated that there were some passages in it which he regarded with warm sympathy. One part of his speech in a manner specially concerns me, because my experience and share of the government of India has been of a different kind from that either of my noble friend or of my noble friend opposite, to whose speech we have listened also with great interest.
Lord Sydenham remarked that this Report involved a departure from the principle which was laid down by Lord Morley in 1909—namely, that Government here could not in his opinion take any steps towards conferring a system of Parliamentary government upon India. And my noble friend will remember a rather curious controversy which arose two years later, in 1911–1912, regarding a passage in the Despatch addressed to me by the Government of India on the subject of the change of the capital and the other announcement made at the time of His Majesty's Durbar. There was a paragraph in that Despatch which detailed in a prophetic spirit the future of Indian government as consisting of a number of Provinces, autonomous as regards their own affairs, with the Government of India over all. This was taken by some—the extremer type of those of whom my noble friend has spoken as Home Rulers—as foreshadowing a prompt advance in the direction of responsible self-government for India. It fell to me here on behalf of the Government of India—who took precisely the same view of the mistake which was made as I did—to correct that error, and to point out that though we certainly did desire to take steps as fast as they could reasonably be taken in the direction of devolution and of provincial autonomy, yet that the conclusion at which some had arrived, no doubt quite honestly, was in itself without warrant. And it was the fact that at that time, in saying what we did, we had no intention whatever of reversing in any sense what was known as the Morley-Minto policy, but of proceeding upon similar lines.
I frankly confess that even now I cannot clearly picture to myself the existence of a Parliament in India precisely on the lines, say, of Congress at Washington with its Senate and its House of Repre- 573 sentatives. A creation of that kind, exactly on those lines or on similar lines, must at any rate be somewhat distant. I remember a passage in an essay by a noted public man of the last century, Sir George Cornewall Lewis, on "The Government of Dependencies," in which he expressed the opinion that we had made a mistake in this country in furnishing the assemblies or Legislatures in our various Dependencies in different parts of the world with all the apparatus, and with some of the traditions, of the British Parliament. That was written in 1841, before Lord Durham had reported on Canada; ten years before the introduction of the Canada Bill, and when the word "Dominion" had in no way acquired the meaning which it holds at present. There was then no such thing as a self-governing Colony; and whether Sir George Lewis was right or wrong in dreading the advance towards responsible government implied by the creation of subordinate Legislatures in the form in which they then existed in many of the Crown Colonies, it cannot be doubted that the methods of Government have tended to encourage the desire for further independence and responsibility in those bodies.
I may, perhaps, be allowed to say, in passing, that it appears to me to be altogether an unjust criticism to speak of the reforms which were introduced by Lord Morley and Lord Minto nine years ago as having in any sense failed. The circumstances have been altered by this great cataclysm of the world in a manner which no human being could have anticipated. It may be the fact—I do not, indeed, dispute that it is the fact—that the criticism which this Report makes upon the Morley-Minto reforms as having reached, so to speak, the end of their tether, and of not giving scope for further advance on precisely the same lines, is justified. That is due to a great number of different conditions well known to your Lordships; not merely to the advance of education and of what my noble friend has called "agitation," but most of all, no doubt, to the part which India has played in the war, and to the higher self-consciousness which the country has developed owing to her remarkable and never-to-be-forgotten contribution to the strength of the Empire in this struggle.
My noble friend Lord Sydenham thinks that the lines on which the Report proposes to move are wrong. He made various polite references to an advance towards 574 self-government in India; but he did not, I think I am right in saying, indicate in terms plans, or any part of a plan, by which an advance could be made in that direction, except in one instance of which I will say a word in a moment. He spoke of the advance in education and of material progress of different times; but I was interested to note that he indicated the possibility of a system on entirely different lines from that form of devolution by subjects which the Report proposes—his scheme involving a system of further devolution by areas. I have never, as it happens, seen any attempt to work out a scheme on those lines, and therefore I would hesitate to say anything critical upon it offhand without further knowledge; but I confess that the difficulty strikes me that if it were proposed to confer upon particular areas anything in the nature of really responsible government the selection of the area would surely be exceedingly difficult. After all, on a great continent like India an area must have a boundary, and I should have supposed that if some Province or part of a Province, or collection of districts, was to be given really responsible self-government, the most invidious comparisons would be instituted just over the border by those who remained under the present form of government in India, which, however one may disguise it, and whatever compensations there may be, is in its essence a purely despotic government.
I will not attempt to labour that point but I hope that some day my noble friend may develop his particularscheme. I confess that so far as I am competent, to give any opinion, am prepared in the Provinces to run the particular risks—and my noble friend opposite did not disguise that there were risks—of granting some complete freedom to Provincial Governments in certain subjects. As Lord Sydenham pointed out with great truth, you cannot control Ministers who are dependent upon elected majorities. That is no doubt absolutely true, but unless you are prepared to do that in sonic places, and at some time, and in relation to certain subjects, it means that you abandon the idea of self-government in the sense in which that phrase is ordinarily understood. I confess that I for one am prepared to allow people to make their own mistakes to some extent, provided, of course; that those mistakes cannot be made on a scale or at a cost which is really serious to the people of India as a whole. I do 575 not think it can be disputed that in certain ways there will be a direct sacrifice of efficiency in certain subjects, and at some places, but that is the penalty, if that is the proper word, which has to be paid in trusting people with the management of their own affairs. Also I have no doubt that there will be in certain cases some waste of money which would not be wasted if the present conditions were allowed to continue, but to that I say the same, provided, of course, the scale is not so large as to be really serious.
I think that my noble friend takes too gloomy a view when he seems to foreshadow something like permanent hostility to the Governor and the Government on the part of the Legislature with its elected majority. Of course, if he is right, and uniformly right, the experiment is a mistake, and you must continue to govern India more or less on Crown Colony lines; but I trust he may not be altogether right there. I confess I have always myself dreaded the principle of the veto, of which Lord Sydenham spoke, if I may say so, with great accuracy, if it became part of the permanent machinery of government. I know it has been one almost of the catch words of many Indian reformers that the interest of the British Raj can be finally safeguarded by the exercise of the veto of the Governor-General and of the Governors of Provinces. We all know that that is not the case. The veto, as certainly every noble Lord who has been the Governor of a self-governing Dominion knows, is a weapon which can very rarely be used, if used at all. It no doubt can be used oftener in India than in Australia or Africa, but it is a weapon that becomes immediately blunted by use; and one of the features in the Report, so far as the Government of India is concerned, that I favour is that practically nothing is left to the veto of the Viceroy himself—at any rate no more is left than at present—and that he will have the final security of the majority of the Government at his disposal.
I will not attempt to examine the actual terms of the Report or to discuss the powerful arguments which both my noble friends have brought forward with regard to certain points. It is undoubtedly—and this is a defect—exceedingly complicated, more especially with regard to the provincial arrangements. As it so happens, I have had some opportunities of being informed of the process of consideration which was going on, and I think that those who have 576 studied and considered the various alternatives will begin to favour the conclusions more the more they go on, arriving at that kind of approval through a process of an exhaustive character; that is to say, if this or that particular feature seems to be over elaborate or indeed unnecessary, if you go through the mental process of considering all the alternatives you will more often than not find yourself back at the recommendation in the Report, rather than adopting one of the other possibilities.
My Lords, it is not doubt in one sense a leap in the dark, as all great proposals for reform must be, and I can well understand any man who loves India and who knows what India owes to the British connection asking himself whether if the main lines of this. Report are followed we shall be travelling on a road which leads towards the severance of that connection. It is not to be supposed that any Englishman who believes in our service to India, or any Indian of moderate opinions who holds a similar view, would desire to proceed on that road. All the Indian reformers with whom I have had the honour at different times of discussing these questions have expressed themselves absolutely convinced of the truth that, so far as it is possible for a man to look ahead, the idea of the separation of India from British influence, and to a large extent from British control, is a possibility that they would regard with horror, and which they do not believe exists.
Can it be that India will advance far in the direction of real self-government in the technical sense, without a definite elimination of the British element, not only in government but also in administration and the various walks of life in which Englishmen are now so prominent? I saw some months ago an article in a review by a former Indian official, well known to many of your Lordships, Sir Frank Younghusband, not only a most distinguished public servant, but a man who has, I think, seen more of the deeper life and inner spirit of India than most officials have the opportunity or the means of doing. He foretold the possibility of the creation in India, after a period of reform, of a new Anglo-Indian class, not Anglo-Indian in the modern sense of being half-bred, Indian and English, in which it is sometimes used, but rather in the old sense, when there were a number of Englishmen who would have said that their main interests lay 577 rather in India than in this country. Many people, whose opinion is worth regarding, have deplored the gradual extinction, through circumstances, through quickness of travel and ease of passage backwards and forwards, of that class. The old type of what were known as Qui Hi's are tending to become almost extinct; whether they were old military officers or civil servants or men engaged in commerce, and Sir Frank Younghusband seemed to indicate the possibility that there might be sonic return to that state of things, when there were many more Englishmen who knew the aside of Indian life than is the case now, by the settlement in India of a number of families who would go on from generation to generation and form a really British colony there. Whether that is a dream I do not know, but I think it is possible that, as the actual control over Indian government relaxes in its different branches—as we all agree is bound to happen, if not now at some time—a new tie may be created by some such means as those.
I have really nothing more to say, except to express one word of regret that my noble friend Lord Sydenham took a view so unfavourable to the visit of the Secretary of State to India at the request of Lord Chelmsford. As my noble friend knows, Mr. Montagu was not personally responsible for that. The original invitation was addressed to Mr. Chamberlain and was repeated to Mr. Montagu. With the studious care which the right hon. gentleman took all the lane he was in India to play second fiddle, oven to the extent of abstaining altogether from any form of public speech, I cannot think that the fact that he accompanied the Viceroy to sonic of the great centres will have done anything to depreciate the unique position of that great public servant. I should hope, in fact, that the visit will have been advantageous.
Whether noble Lords think this or that passage in the Report conveys good advice or bad, yet we shall all agree that the document as a whole is one of the very lust ability. Regarded as a State Paper I think it is impossible to speak too highly of and, so far as its general lines are concerned, without pledging myself to the support of any particular proposal or paragraph, I may say with the utmost confidence—having studied the subject with some care—that it has my full concurrence.
My Lards, it is with the greatest diffidence that I rise to offer a few remarks upon the Motion of the noble Lord for Papers; and naturally so, because, although it might be thought that one who has had the fortunate experience of administering an Indian Presidency might speak with perhaps more confidence than other Englishmen, the fact that one has left India for nearly a quarter of a century makes one extremely cautious in advancing any dogmatic opinion. I feel very much like the Indian official who has passed his whole life in India, and who, when he is asked a question about sonic part of Indian in which he has not served, always modestly professes complete ignorance of the subject. I do not profess complete ignorance of the subject, but I feel that I have not had that opportunity of keeping in close touch with Indian tin which would justify me in speaking with anything like the assurance of the noble Lord who addressed your Lordships from below the gangway.
Lord Carmichael's speech, coming as it does from one who has had the most recent experience of service in India, naturally deserves the very highest respect, apart from its most thoughtful character. It seemed to me to differ very materially on points from the views held by Lord Sydenham, and it only shows the difficulty of the momentous proposals which will come presently before Parliament. What I do implore of the Government is that in order to enable your Lordships and Parliament to come to a just conclusion upon the proposals they may eventually place before it and enable us to discuss those proposals, we may have all the opinion possible.
Just as there have been conflicting views already in this House to-night so there is a great divergency of views outside. We hear some voices—they are very loud and strident; but there is a great voiceless multitude in India whom we do not hear. There is, apparently, permission given to some officials to speak publicly here upon the Memorandum, whereas until quite recently an embargo was put upon natives of India—at any rate, on one native—preventing them speaking in public. I am glad to hear that this embargo has been removed, because I think we want to hear every possible voice upon this subject. I hope, therefore, that the Motion of the noble Lord will be accepted, and as the proposals of the Viceroy and the Secretary of State have been referred to the Local 579 Governments I hope we may hear their views, and those of the bodies to whom they have referred the proposals, with a view of getting as wide an opinion as possible.
I cannot conceive any more momentous proposals than those which are now coming before us. I should not venture, even now, to offer an opinion about them were it not for the affection I have for the country and its people, engendered by a family service of more than a century and frequent visits to the country. I acknowledge that on the last occasion I visited India, when His Majesty held the Coronation Durbar at Delhi. I recognised such an advance as naturally convinced me that changes had come over the administration of the country since I was there which would not warrant my retaining the views I held up to that time as to what was best for the administration of India, and that changes and reforms of some kind were both justified and absolutely necessary. Since then there has been a great trial—the war—and as India has stood so loyally and so resolutely by England and her Dominions, so, I think, they are warranted in expecting a greater measure of self-government.
The remarks I venture to offer are more in the direction of thoughts that pass through my mind rather than taking up a critical attitude. I find in this Memorandum the contemplation of eventual complete self-government, and I naturally ask myself, Is our Parliamentary system with a wide electorate adaptable to the Orient? What is there in the history of India that justifies us in supposing that that system is as adaptable there as it is to this country, and to those other countries which have attempted to imitate our Parliamentary system? It is a very critical question, and one that we are bound to examine very carefully. I do not quite understand what the noble Lord below the gangway implied in that part of his speech where he depicted the attitude of indignation, I think I might describe it, of the peoples of India if these specific proposals were to some extent rejected and modified.
It seems to me that an immense responsibility is resting upon His Majesty's Government, who have before them the proposals of two officials who, I admit, have no doubt taken a great deal of evidence in India. But surely His Majesty's Government are bound also to take into consideration the 580 views of those voiceless millions who, so, far as we know, at present have not had an, opportunity of expressing their views as to what will be the effect of such wide—reaching proposals as are found in the Memorandum. It seems to me that the Memorandum has been rather argued in order to build up an idea that had been come to in the first instance, rather than it is a series of arguments eventually producing a result. There seems to me a certain amount of "special pleading" about it, which justifies one in asking whether there are any other opinions, and, if there are, imploring the Government to place them before Parliament. Are we so satisfied that our Parliamentary system does produce the greatest possible happiness? I suppose if a Prussian was asked to compare our system with his he would probably say of his, "It has produced great wealth in the country, great commercial activity, and great educational advance"—to sum up in his favourite words, "a high state of kultur." We do not agree with him. We think it is producing an attitude of mind which could justifiably be described as atrocious. But there is the fact that in Western countries, it is not agreed that our very free Parliamentary system is the best. And yet it seems to be contemplated in this Memorandum that it unquestionably is best, and that it ought to be applied—I admit by degrees—to India, because it is held that this is best for a Western country.
These are thoughts which pass through one's mind, and one turns to history and asks oneself, What is there in the history of India which justifies us in supposing that India would be more successful, more prosperous, more contented than she has been since a few years after the Mutiny? One is almost encouraged to say that, from the evidence of history, one could not contemplate such a wide extension of the franchise as is apparently contemplated by this Memorandum, except by degrees. But it is argued that this proposal is merely a stepping-stone to a very much wider electoral basis, and to a very much more liberal devolution of management upon Indian shoulders, and to a gradual elimination of the British element.
We have to ask ourselves which system is the better for an Oriental people, the-enormous proportion of whom, it is acknowledged, are ill-educated, and, so far as political education is concerned, practically 581 uneducated. A huge number are quite uneducated politically. May we not still think that reforms can be attempted whilst the benevolent and paternal control which India has had to submit to ever since the British went there, and by degrees obtained power over the whole country, continues? We have to ask ourselves whether that has not on the whole been the best system of administration that India has had in her whole history, better even than the most brilliant years of the Moghul Power which after all only lasted—the most brilliant part of it—150 years, and was so ill-founded that when it collapsed absolute anarchy over the greater part of India ensued, We should remember that circumstance when it is contemplated that India can be made a nation, and that there is to be a United India.
When one turns to history, where does one find anything in the nature of a United India? The Moguls did not rule the whole of India, and we are the only people who ever have done so, and if our rule—the benevolent adminstration that we have imposed upon India—has produced the success and the commercial activity and the contentment of the masses—and I do not think that it can be disputed that they are very contented—should we not hesitate before we decide to tamper with it? I have always thought myself that the two great desiderata were that the ryot should have his land at a fair assessment, and that the sepoy should himself get good pay, and should know that his family were being looked after. If these things are assured, I never should be afraid of agitation in India. I should regard it as rather ephemeral, and I should assume that India on the whole was contented with our rule as it was.
I do not propose, any more than the noble Marquess did, to go into the details of the proposed diarchic system, but I ask myself this question. Is it advisable to discard the protection of minorities, or what is called in the Memorandum the communal system? So far as I can see, there is no provision for that, except for the Mahommedans, and there it is referred to almost in terms of regret—and possibly for the Sikhs. What is going to be the result of the extension of a wider franchise? Who is going to get the power? There will be Party organisation—very active, if it, is concealed—in order to secure the 582 return of people who will achieve the objects aimed at by particular Parties. What is going to be the result of that? Is it possible to conceive that the Brahmins are not going to secure power under an extended franchise? It would be very astonishing if they were not. They have been most successful in securing to themselves for centuries past the power of hand ling the reins of government in many parts of India. They are doing it now. When it is suggested that Indians do not have opportunities of obtaining high posts in India, it must always be remembered that the Departments are largely officered by Brahmins, and, having regard to their education through many centuries, their breeding through many centuries, their unquestionable capacity for administration, and certainly for passing examinations, I think it must be assumed that under a wider electoral franchise the Brahmin will still manage to force himself to the front, and, I should think, continue to secure the plums.
Let me take just one subject which has to be either in the transferred or in the reserved subjects—education. It is not disputed in the Memorandum that the great object to be aimed at is the better education of the masses of India. I can only give you my experience. I suppose that I was attacked as much as any Governor is ordinarily attacked—perhaps rather more so. But there was one subject upon which I was attacked more than any other, and that was because whenever I had an opportunity—and opportunities were extremely few—of deciding that the very meagre margin of revenue that I could dispose of should be given to primary education, I so gave it, and I was attacked more violently upon that than upon any other subject. The whole pressure that was brought to bear upon the Administration in my time was that every penny that could be spared should be spent upon higher education, not upon primary, and I cannot conceive, under whatever electoral system you have, but that the Brahmin influences will be influential in securing that such moneys as can be devoted to education shall be given in an undue proportion to higher education as compared with technical or primary education.
There are, of course, immense opportubities in India, if capital is introduced and industries can be founded, if the raw material is there and can be used in manufactures, 583 for the employment on most advantageous terms as regards pay of the natives of India. I was reading only this morning a memorandum sent to me on the subject of the officering of an Indian railway or group of Indian railways. This memorandum pointed out that, if only technical, education were taken up as it was by my predecessor Lord Reay in Bombay, and pursued vigorously, what a magnificent opportunity there is for the employment on lucrative terms of many thousands of natives in India, giving them an opening in all probability wider than is the opening in Government, service to which so many of them now look.
I will not go into the details of the diarchic scheme, but I agree with my noble friend Lord Sydenham that the proposed diarchic scheme must produce some most perplexing problems for the unfortunate Governor. I assume that the Ministers who are to be appointed over certain Departments under that scheme will have the control of the officials who do the work and of those Departments. Hitherto it has been the duty, and a very responsible duty it is of the Governor in Executive Council to post his officers where he thought best. I can conceive of a difference of opinion arising on a highly important, point between the Governor and his Ministers as to his distribution of officials. That seems to me a very serious matter indeed, and one which I hope would be avoided as far as possible by making the Governor unquestionably responsible for the distribution of the executive officers, and not allowing him to be questioned by the Ministerial Council—[...]Council B as it was entitled by my noble friend opposite.
It seems to me curious that the authors of this Memorandum have jumped over local affairs and gone in for a more advanced sphere of government. I should have thought it was possible—I dare say it is contemplated in tin future, but it has been discarded at any rate in this Memorandum—to give the opportunity of wider education in administration, and in the handling of financial matters, by widening the powers and enlarging the area over which they work in local government, and certainly in district. In this country, which we must remember is being taken as the example of what is best for India, we have in late years enormously enlarged the powers of area such as county council areas. That does not seem to have been taken up by the authors of tins Memor- 584 andum. Speaking merely from the experience of Bombay I should have thought it would have been possible to have given very wide powers on an electoral basis to reformed councils, district councils based upon areas which are, at any rate in that Presidency, clearly denned as regards race and almost as regards religion; that it would have been possible to have carved areas—in fact there would have been very little carving wanted—to which very reformed powers of administration and a power over finance could have been given. But that is discarded by the authors as not applicable to most parts of India. And therefore I am bound to assume that the geological division of the Bombay Presidency does not apply in other parts of India. But I confess I should have preferred to have seen a reform of that kind first, which would by degrees have educated the people of India by means of an electoral system to a certain capacity for administration over the more important affairs that are controlled by the provincial Governors, rather than by a change which makes a sudden leap over the heads of local governments to the more advanced features of provincial government.
These are the thoughts that have been running through my mind in the effort to come to a just conclusion. For no more momentous responsibility ever Tested upon a people than now rests first upon the Government as regards the proposals which they are going to put before us, and then upon Parliament; and I cannot conceive that the people of this country would wish for one day to stand in the way of giving to India such a reformed system of government as she is capable of enjoying for the benefit of all that silent mass of her peoples. I discard the suggestion that there are not men of eminent capacity in India capable of administering affairs of the highest moment. We know that there are; we know that they have been used to it in the Raj of the Moguls and others. We know that they have shown the highest capacity and that they are showing great capacity in the Native States now. So that I do not suggest for one moment that the native of India so not capable of administering adroitly the affairs of the people whose comfort is under his charge.
But there is one attribute of the British administrator which we must not discard, and that is his absolute impartiality. Any one who has served in India could give your 585 Lordships plenty of stories of how difficult it is to be quite sure that a native of India, however anxious to be just he is, may not be influenced by religious pressure, brought to bear upon him without the knowledge of those under whom he is serving. No one can say what that religious and family pressure is. We do not know. We are not admitted to the friendly family circle of the natives of India, and therefore we cannot be expected to know those more intimate matters. When some great wave of, it may be, religious enthusiasm passes through the country, what we are always anxious about is whether the native administrator is in a position where he can be trusted to do justice between the warring parties. And my Lords, if you suppose that India under any system of government is going to be free from religious animosity, then I ant afraid you are basing your confidence upon a very weak platform. It is not our experience. I am speaking, as I said before, after an absence of nearly twenty-five years; and here is Lord Sydenham, who gave you a story, precisely similar to the story I could have given you twenty-two years ago, of religious animosity, deliberate religious animosity, an insult deliberately prepared by one party or the other, by one religious section or the other, and heaped upon what they regard as their religious enemies, and responded to promptly by the other side, to the disturbance of the whole of society.
Has India advanced in these twenty-five years in this respect? That is a question which I know your Lordships will feel bound to put to yourselves. And are you justified, therefore, in discarding the idea of communal representation and protecting minorities? Of course, I can understand that it is excessively difficult for Parliament now to suggest the protection of minorities. The House of Commons having rejected your Lordships' proposals as regards proportional representation it is excessively difficult for the people of this country to suggest that India should adopt something which they have rejected. But I warn your Lordships that it is inevitable that religious animosity wall continue, and religious animosity may have the effect of doing injustice under an electoral system to minorities which are unable to protect themselves.
I repeat what I said at first. In venturing to rise and address to your Lordships these rather rambling thoughts, induced, as I am 586 sure your Lordships will believe, by a most profound affection for the people with whom I was brought up in my childhood and whose affairs I have administered in my humble way years afterwards—induced only by that, I do beg of your Lordships not to form a too premature opinion, but to wait until we can get the fullest possible information as to the views of all classes in India, which I hope His Majesty's Government will consent to circulate. I shall never forget before I was going out to Bombay being commanded to pay a visit to Windsor Castle, when the illustrious monarch, Queen Victoria, commanded me to hear her view before I left. I cat put them in the shortest possible sentence, and I am not by any means sure that they were not the actual words which Queen Victoria used. She said, "In India you must go slow; go slow."
§ LORD LAMINGTON
My Lords, I rather share the views put forth by the noble Lord who introduced this debate, that it is a mistake that the Secretary of State should have himself gone out to India. The noble Marquess below me took another view, but if it were necessary for the purpose of saving correspondence to bring responsible people, the Viceroy and the Secretary of State, in close conjunction, I believe it is a better principle that somebody completely versed with the opinions and views of the Viceroy of India should have come here and discussed the matter rather than that the Secretary of State should have gone to India. All those reasons were given by the noble Lord, Lord Sydenham. It seems to me that the Secretary of State went out to India with rather preconceived views, and that he has had to cut them square—that he has had to deal with the facts which were brought to his notice in India in such a way as to reconcile himself to his preconceived views.
The other evening I referred to paragraph 144 of the Report, and I think, if I may be allowed to give them, the argument which I have just put before your Lordships would be illustrated by the words contained in that paragraph. I will not read the whole of it, but only a portion. The paragraph contains the following passage—We believe profoundly that the time has now come when the sheltered existence which we have given India cannot be prolonged without damage to her national life; that we have a richer gift for her people than any that we have yet bestowed on them; that nationhood within the Empire represents something better than anything India has 587 hitherto attained; that the placid, pathetic contentment of the masses is not the soil on which such Indian nationhood will grow, and that in deliberately disturbing it, we are working for her highest good.My Lords, in an adjoining Chamber there is depicted Moses coming down from the Mount with an inspired message. It seems to me that that is a modern instance of an inspired message. What right could there possibly be to forecast such an extraordinary change in the existence of the people of India, as the noble Lord, Lord Sydenham has said, that by the introduction of a system of government absolutely and entirely alien to her people for a thousand generations past you are going to bring this fresh state of joy and are working for tier highest good?
Myself, I quite realise that there has been an awakening in India. The noble Lord who has just spoken (Lord Harris) referred to a visit of his, six or seven years ago now it would be, during which he said he had noticed what a great change had come over the people. And, of course, we have the opinion of the Viceroy himself, and also recently we have come into contact with many distinguished Indians who are now over here and who with perfect frankness and honesty, I think, say that unless you have been in India within the last four years you can hardly realise the great change that has come over the people. And, moreover, there was a book published called The Renaissance of India," a book which, has influenced me very greatly in my views, written by Brother Andrew, a missionary, in which he clearly sets out this awakening of a new spirit among the Indian people. I regard that book as of particular value because it is absolutely non-political, and written by one who was in close contact with the Indian people and the leaders of Indian thought. But it was published in 1912 and is now six or seven years old. We have these other views of people who have been and are now in close contact with the Indian people; and they one and all declare that it is necessary to do something to appeal to the people of India for this newly-awakened desire to participate more largely in the administration of their own affairs.
I confess that, having now had more time to consider the Report, it does not seem to me to contain so many dangers as at first I thought it contained. Without going through in detail the many points which have been raised this evening, I would insist on what Lord Harris referred to— 588 namely, the absolute necessity of having communal representation for the security of those many castes and classes of people that they should not suffer any disability or any oppression by being brought under any form of rule of those who in the past had absolutely, to say the least, neglected the interests of the lower castes. The noble Lord, Lord Sydenham, adumbrated a different proposal for the introduction of this principle of self-government in India. He proposed the handing over of whole districts, or a division, or, I suppose, even a Province, where there should be entirely Indian administration. I confess that this seems to me a far more dangerous principle than one where you would have some degree at all events of representative opinion by communities, and thereby enable the Governor in Council to take greater and more just cognisance of what was possibly the feeling of the whole of the people. Suppose that there were collision of opinion in a district which was handed over entirely to Indian opinion—a collision between the holders of the administrative powers and the Governor in Council or the Governor himself—it would be a far greater danger to have an abrupt conflict of authority than a system where you had a certain amount of elasticity caused by representation of communities. But the one thing which, under any scheme that may be propounded, I regard as absolutely essential is that there should be as far as possible a complete system of communal representation. The other safeguard which I consider absolutely necessary is that on reserved subjects the Governor in Council should have not absolute control but control so that there should be no clashing of authority at any particular crisis. It would never do for the Governor in Council not to be able to get through legislation which was considered absolutely important and essential in the best interests of the people.
Then there is the question of finance, also referred to by Lord Sydenham. Here it would seem to be an important point that it should not be possible for those Ministers who were administering the transferred subjects to be able to make any claim to have any grant or fund which had previously been allocated to the reserved subjects. It would be absolutely essential to keep apart the finance of these two branches of the Administration. It will be no light duty, indeed, for a Governor in future under any scheme such as is put 589 forward in this Report. Both Lord Sydenham and Lord Harris referred to a bureaucratic executive to give constitutional guidance to responsible Ministers, to drive the two authorities as a team, and at the same time to arbitrate between, deal with the allocation of funds, and generally to make a scheme work an almost unbearable responsibility for any one man. Therefore a proper safeguard must be devised in order not to make that burden absolutely impossible for any one man to undertake. Lord Carmichael said that he thought there would be found, here or elsewhere, men who would be fitted to undertake the charge; but in my opinion it would be an almost inconceivable burden of anxiety for any one man to undertake the control of such a cumbrous machinery which might produce such complex and difficult problems for solution as would happen if this Report were carried out in its entirety.
But, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said, nobody can come to a definite conclusion until we hear what are really the representations. It is necessary for us to know fully not only the evidence on which this Report has been founded, but also what are the divergent views and fears entertained by those sections of the Indian people who dislike any change in the present system of government. Further, we cannot adequately discuss this subject until the Committee which is to be appointed to determine what should be the subjects to be reserved and those to be transferred, as well as the other Committee which is to determine what shall be the electorate and how we are to compose a communal system of representation, have reported. Until those Reports are available it would be impossible for anybody in this country to decide what should be the final form of the scheme that is propounded.
There have been great Indian reformers, people who have sincerely desired to see the whole system of administration carefully developed. The first one I will mention is Ranade, the great Bombay reformer, who was insistent that social reform, conducted by Indians amongst themselves, must precede any political reform; and as Lord Harris thought, he also believed that it might be possible to develop the system of local boards. I agree with the noble Lord. But we know that this is not what these Indian politicians really desire. They want something higher. They are not content With a sphere of local adminis- 590 tration; they want to have a louder voice in the bigger questions which come up for determination by Government. The second reformer whom I will mention is Rahindra Nath Tagore, the Indian poet and literary leader, who also claims that Indians must first of all so change their character that they can be safely entrusted to administer the affairs of their own countrymen. Surely, therefore, in the interests of the great Indian people we are bound to proceed cautiously. I should be only too glad to see the day when, given these conditions, we can safely entrust a far greater share of the Indian administration to the Indian people themselves.
In my opinion there are two postulates that alone justify one country having control of the destinies of another country. The first is that the country whose destinies are controlled would not be capable of resisting foreign aggression if the power of the controlling country were removed. The second is that having got this controlling power over any country it is the bounden duty of the suzerain power to bring, as far as possible, liberty and justice to every individual of the land. I hold that under Providence the British people have achieved these things in a greater degree than any other nation in the world, in any other country or at any other period. Subject to safeguarding these principles of security, justice and liberty it is quite right we should introduce machinery to secure as far as possible the co-operation and responsible assistance of the people of India in the administration of their own affairs, and then peace and order and even contentment will abide undisturbed in that mighty and diverse peninsula of India. Therefore I myself believe that this Report foreshadows a possible scheme, but I think that it must be attended by very great safeguards to secure the principles that I have just mentioned.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (LORD) ISLINGTON)
My Lords, I think that it is of advantage that by the Motion of my noble friend an opportunity has been afforded in your Lordships' House before the recess of discussing the broad outlines of the Reforms Report, which has been before the public for the past few months. I think it is also of advantage that, as a debate to-day has taken place in the other House, likewise before we rise for the Recess, a debate should take place 591 in this House as well, because in this House particularly there are noble Lords who by their past experience are so fully qualified to give valuable opinions upon the contents of a Report of this character. We have had this afternoon the advantage of the opinions of some of those noble Lords in the speeches to which we have listened. With an exception here and there noble Lords in their speeches this afternoon have, confined themselves to comments on the general outline of, and the principles embodied in, the Reforms Report, and I am relieved that this has been the general procedure, because I should find it difficult this afternoon to attempt in any precise manner to answer, or discuss in detail, the criticisms which might have been made in the debate. There are strong reasons, which I am sure will commend themselves to the House, why a debate in any close detail of this scheme at the present juncture is not really desirable, and would not, I think, serve any really useful purpose. In the first place the Report, which indicates the principles that may be observed in formulating a Reforms scheme, still admittedly leaves unsettled some provisions on which the whole scheme necessarily hinges and which must be regarded as fundamental to the whole scheme.
The Viceroy and Secretary of State during the time they were in India found it—and I think this will be understood by the Hosue—impossible to give the time to the consideration of those particular subjects which it would be necessary to give in order to come to a really useful decision. I allude especially to outstanding questions of such importance as these: the system of the franchise to be adopted in India for the election of members of the proposed revised Legislatures, the selection of the services which it is proposed to transfer in the provinces to Ministers nominated from the Legislative Councils, and lastly, the amount and extent of modification and relaxation of control exercised by the Secretary of State and by the Government of India. I think your Lordships will agree that any scheme which leaves still undetermined provisions on such vital points as these can for the time being but be regarded in the light of a skeleton scheme. Therefore it is difficult, until it contains those important omissions, to deal with and discuss the scheme as a whole, and I think therefore it would be unfair—and I believe many noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon have 592 appreciated it—to condemn or severely criticise the scheme at the present juncture. Equally so I find it difficult to examine in detail the scheme in its still immature condition.
I would, however, press upon your Lordships this additional and I think conclusive reason why your Lordships should reserve your judgment on the whole of this scheme for the present. His Majesty's Government, owing to the war and its onerous daily preoccupations, have been unable up to now to give consideration to this scheme, and they have not had time to form an opinion upon its merits. I am therefore, speaking on behalf of His Majesty's Government this afternoon, not in a position to state the opinion of His Majesty's Government upon the Report. I am well aware of the anxiety—an anxiety amounting, indeed, to impatience—with which a statement is awaited in India amongst many of its people—an anxiety (and I say so with full appreciation of the sentiments of the people of India, as know them well) apt, perhaps, to disable people in India from realising the tremendous daily demand upon the Cabinet, in connection with the conduct of the war. The difficulty of considering a subject, of this magnitude amid those urgent, preoccupations must be patent to all of your Lordships; and apart from this, as has been pointed out this afternoon, the issues involved in this scheme are of great importance to India and to the Empire, and the future success of the scheme depends upon the close consideration of the provisions both in principle and in, detail.
I trust, therefore, that a reasonable period for consideration, in the circumstances to which I have ventured to allude, will not be mistaken or misrepresented in India as any attempt on the part of the responsible authorities in England to postpone, or to exercise dilatory, action. I would venture to counsel patience being exercised in India, to allow due time for the completion of this scheme. My Lords, I say that there is no desire for anything in the nature of dilatory action, or of the postponing of the scheme, and I am in a position to state that the Government, after consideration, have authorised the Secretary of State for India to appoint two Committees to deal with the subjects outstanding in the Report in paragraphs 225 and 238. These two Committees will 593 be authorised, when appointed, respectively to consider, first, questions of franchise and constituencies in India, and, second, which services are to be transferred to the Provinces and which are to remain to the Government of India, which of these provincial services are to be transferred to a constitutional or partially-constitutional system, and the limitations that may be placed upon Ministers in the control of these services.
In paragraph 238 a guiding principle is suggested in regard to the work that the Committees will have to perform. I hope that before my right hon. friend the Secretary of State will be in a position to announce the composition of the Committees. He hopes to be able to find a Chairman of experience and position who will be able to act as President of the two Committees. Your Lordships will see that the work of these two Committees will enormously inter-act and will be of the first importance and responsibility. The extent to which responsibility for those services which are to be transferred to the Legislative Council, under Ministers, must depend on the nature and extent of the electorate which may be made available in any particular Province.
In paragraph 225 the authors of the Report set out various methods which might be adopted in formulating a franchise scheme in India. I have listened with interest to the speeches that have been made this afternoon by noble Lords in regard to this subject, which I fully accept with them as being one of the most important in the whole scheme. I am glad myself that, although the Report indicates a certain direction, it has left an open door for the various methods of forming an electorate. I think at this juncture, with the Committee about to examine this most delicate and difficult subject, I will not venture more than this one observation with reference to a franchise system for India. I think that no effort should be spared to make the electoral system fully consonant with the present day conditions in India.
If it is to be a democratic franchise—and by that I mean a franchise representative of the people, their communities, and their interests—I feel that whatever the electoral machinery that is devised may be, it should afford definite access, by as direct a vote as von like, to the Legislative Council of all those com- 594 munities which are entitled to share political responsibility, and without whose presence in the Legislative Council the representation of the Indian people would, in my judgment, be totally inadequate. That, in my opinion, should be the guiding direction of the Committee, which should influence them in whatever electoral scheme they ultimately devise, and I hope that they will regard principles on those lines as the vital and essential foundation of their scheme.
The Secretary of State has appointed a Committee in the India Office, which is now sitting, and which is considering closely many of those outstanding subjects which were left open in the Report. These subjects, as they are settled by that Committee, will, of course, come under the view of the Government of India; they will form the matured opinion of the India Office and the Government of India, and will, to that extent, fill up those omissions which at present exist in the Report. This Committee which is sitting in the India Office must not be confused with another Committee, which has not yet been set up, but which, I have no doubt, will be in due course, whose duty it will be to look into the whole future composition, organisation and relation to India, of the India Office itself I may also say that along with the work that this Committee is doing a Bill is being drafted, embodying those points in the Report and those which are being considered by the Committee.
I have specially alluded to the work of this Committee because I desire that your Lordships, and those outside, should know that every step is being taken that is possible, as regards the Department, to proceed with the scheme. I also, of course, desire once more to repeat what I have already said, that, whilst these steps are being taken to mature the scheme by the Secretary of State on behalf of the India Office, the fact does not commit in any shape or form His Majesty's Government to approval of the particular reforms advocated in the Report. I may mention also that local governments in India, who were consulted by the Secretary of State and the Viceroy during their tour in India, are now drawing up Reports expressing their views and appreciations of the reforms Report. These Reports have not yet been submitted, but in due course, no doubt, they will be sent home to us, with a covering despatch from the Government of India, and they will undoubtedly be of 595 very great assistance in the final maturing of the scheme.
I hope that the statement I have made will allay any apprehension of those in India that the Reform scheme is being shelved or postponed, and I hope, at the same time, that it will indicate to your Lordships that a course is being taken which, whilst it will produce a, scheme at the earliest date, will also ensure that when it is complete your Lordships will have ample opportunity to consider the whole scheme.
Lord Sydenham makes a request for Papers, and in his speech he alluded to the particular Papers he would like to have published. He asks for the Rowlatt Report, for a selection of addresses, representing the opinions forwarded to the Viceroy and Secretary of State, and also for the Reports of the Local Governments. I may say that the addresses received by the Viceroy and the Secretary of State are now being collected together. They are very voluminous and numerous, and I am sure your Lordships all understand that in these days there is really not sufficient justification for reprinting them and presenting them to Parliament, but I hope you will be satisfied if copies of these, addresses are filed, and copies of the Rowlatt Report placed in the Library of the House, in the same way as they will be placed in the Library of the House of Commons. When the reports from the Local Governments reach this country they will also be available in the same way, in so far as they will contain matter which is of essential assistance to Parliament to form a natured opinion on the scheme.
My noble friend was very emphatic in his general condemnation of the reforms scheme. He indicated a desire to approve a scheme of reform, but I think anybody who listened carefully to his speech would have come to the conclusion, as I undoubtedly did, that very little of the present scheme would satisfy him; that in his opinion, as I gathered it, India at the present moment is not in a condition when she should have any real substantial political reform at all. I gathered, from certain remarks he made, that far from his desiring reform he would almost welcome, in some respects, a strengthening of the present bureaucratic system. My noble friend, and those who hold his rather extreme views in regard to reform, if I may say so without offence, I think start from 596 fallacious premises with regard to Indian sentiment. He appears to believe that nearly all educated Indians who aspire to political advancement at the same time possess a kind of insidious desire to effect a policy which will lead, in the main, to separation of their connection with the Empire. I believe this inference to be profoundly incorrect. It it were true, the outlook for India in the future would be an unhappy one in the extreme.
The desire for political reform, coupled with a sincere loyalty to the British Imperial system, is not only a legitimate but a perfectly consistent aspiration. It is just as compatible with devotion to the Empire amongst Indians in India as it is in the Dominions among our most loyal compatriots, and I venture to say the whole object of the reforms scheme is to effect the result which has been produced with such beneficent effect amongst our fellow citizens in the Dominions of the Empire. Lord Sydenham will say, and he did say in his speech, that political reform on the lines of the Report is really only supported by a small group of extremists, and that those extremists' real and ultimate object is separation from the Imperial connection. That again, I think, is quite an ill-founded diagnosis of the situation in India.
There is not a man competent to speak to-day on the situation prevailing in India, European or Indian, who is not convinced that reform in some tangible and substantial form must be undertaken, and undertaken without delay. It will be only by that reform being undertaken at an early date that we can ensure the continuance of the full confidence and loyalty of the people. I should like to refresh your Lordships' memory as to what has taken place in the past year, because I think it is important in approaching this great subject that the whole story should be well borne in mind. On August 20 last a solemn announcement was made as to the future policy of His Majesty's Government. Before recalling to your Lordships what that announcement was, let me disabuse your minds altogether, if it is in the mind of any one, that in making this declaration the scheme sprang in any shape or form from the brain of the Secretary of State for India. Since the year 1916 the Government of India have been pressing the Home Government, especially the India Office, for a declaration of policy. All 597 responsible authorities in India, whatever their views have been in regard to the form of the reforms, have been unanimous in thinking that, whatever else took place, it would be fatal to put off any longer an unmistakable declaration in India of our future policy. Both the substance and the form of the announcement which was eventually made was the subject of prolonged consideration by His Majesty's Government, which was started some time before the present Secretary of State took office. It was only in the nature of an accident that it fell to Mr. Montagu and not to Mr. Chamberlain to make the historic announcement. I will read one passage from that announcement. It said—The policy of His Majesty's Government, with which the Government of India are in complete accord, is that of the increasing association of Indians in every branch of the Administration, and the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realisation of responsible Government in as an integral[...] part of the British Empire.… They have decided that substantial steps in this direction should be taken as soon as possible, and I word add that progress in this policy can only be achieved by successive stages.I draw special attention to the fact that it states that His Majesty's Government have decided to take substantial steps in the direction of the gradual development if self-governing institutions as soon as possible. Therefore, whether this Report is accepted and approved by the Cabinet or not, your Lordships will see that it is absolutely incumbent on His Majesty's Government, if they are not to be charged with the gravest breach of faith in the history of the Empire, to adopt a scheme of constitutional reform in India at the artiest possible date.
Without desiring to press the merits of any particular detail embodied in the present Report (I am quite prepared myself to admit that some of the proposals are susceptible of improvement and modification—of course, it would be beyond human ingenuity to expect a Report of this importance and width to embody a whole set of schemes which are not subject to improvement and alteration) I would like to urge some reasons, if I may, for your Lordships' consideration that as a prima facie case it is really unlikely, whatever device may be employed, that a scheme can be devised better to fulfil the principles outlined in the announcement than those which have been embodied in 598 outline in the Report. As soon as it was decided by the Cabinet that Mr. Montagu with some selected colleagues should go to India to consult with the Viceroy, a Committee was set up in the India Office—I am talking of last year—to work out the outlines of a scheme consistent with the announcement. That Committee was a peculiarly strong and representative one. It consisted of the highest officials in the India Office, of members of the Council of India, and of more than one official in England at that time who was occupying the highest position in the administration of India. I was a member of that Committee, and I may also add, the Secretary of State did not attend its sittings. We sat for many weeks. The recommendations of that Committee constituted the starting point of the discussions in India. I may say that they form the material of many of the features of what is known now as the Montagu-Chelmsford Report as regards the financial autonomy of the provinces, as regards the proposal to transfer certain services to the control of the Provincial Legislatures, with an elected majority in those Legislatures, and several other points which I will not labour now. These were the work of that Committee. I do not mean to imply, of course, that some of the suggestions of the Committee have not been developed and altered and modified as a result of the Secretary of State's visit to India; nor do I mean to suggest that there are not new points included in his scheme which were not considered by the India Office Committee. But I would remind your Lordship that Mr. Montagu and the Viceroy of India, in framing their proposals, were continuously and closely assisted and accompanied throughout by members of the Government of India and by members of all the various Local Governments.
Your Lordships will therefore see, I hope, that the proposals and their main provisions were not the work, as has been suggested this afternoon, and as is believed even now by some people, of a single individual, but are really the considered result, the collaboration, of gentlemen most intimately familiar with the problems of India and the present sentiment of her peoples. By all that I have said I desire merely to point out to the House that this is not the ill-considered scheme of an individual, but I do not mean at the same time to imply any disparage- 599 ment of the great work performed by the Secretary of State and the Viceroy, and the signal service that they have, rendered by the drawing up of this report. It is a most remarkable document—as the noble Marquess said just now, one of the most remarakble State Papers of recent years. It displays, I venture to say—and I am sure those who do not agree with much of its contents will agree with this—great ability and great industry, and breathes right through all its pages a great earnestness in the problem. As a whole scheme it combines to a singular degree the two objects sought to be attained—a substantial political advance for India on the one hand, with a careful avoidance on the other of any rush or precipitate change which might injure or endanger the vital interests of the country. I think that the Secretary of State and the Viceroy—and I may include those colleagues who accompanied him, among whom was a noble Lord from this House, Lord Donoughmore—have earned the very best thanks of India and the Empire for their work, and I believe that it will be found, on examination and comparison with any other scheme that may be put forward, that this scheme in its broad outlines, subject to modification, subject to improvement if you like, will be found to present fewer difficulties, and to carry out in closer fulfilment the announcement of August 20, than any other scheme that is likely to be devised.
Let me remind your Lordships, if I may, that the general principles in this Report, though of course not its details, have received the unanimous approval of the Viceroy's Executive Council, and the Council of India, and the Indian delegates to the Imperial Conference. I may also say, in reply to my noble friend's remark that a scheme like this is only the demand of a small fraction of the people of India, that in addition to those high authorities we have had now an opportunity of deriving broad information of the impression in India. It has become clear that, with the exception of the out-and-out extremists such as Mr. Tilak and Mrs. Besant, the main principles of the Report have almost everywhere been received with welcome and satisfaction. I believe that I am correct in saying that no less than eight out of twelve living ex-Presidents of Congress have declared themselves generally in favour of the principles of the Report. Only one, Mrs. Besant, has expressed 600 hostility to the scheme. Both the European and Indian Press—in Bombay, in Calcutta, in Madras, and in the United Provinces—have expressed their opinion, and taking it generally, with exceptions, both the European and Indian Press have indicated that they will give at any rate a fair field of consideration to the scheme when it comes to be dealt with.
My Lords, I venture to say with all respect, as my noble friend Lord Carmichael said, that in the face of this consensus of opinion on general principles—concensus of opinion representing official authority, non-official opinion and the general broad view as expressed in the Press of India—that any one who really advocates anything like a general rejection of the main proposals of this scheme will be undertaking a very grave responsibility at the present juncture in India's history. In saying this I once more repeat—because I do not want to be misunderstood—that I do not mean that the Report is not susceptible of considerable improvement and I anticipate that beneficial changes will result from criticism in Parliament and elsewhere, and of course in Parliament your Lordships in especial can give us most valuable assistance.
Before I sit down I should like very briefly to review the alternatives that have presented themselves for dealing with this most difficult and complex problem. They have been alluded to by speakers this afternoon. There is, first of all, the Home Rule scheme for India, advocated by a band of extremists. It is not supported—and this is coming out mere and more clearly every day—by moderate opinion in India; it does not comply with the conditions laid down in the announcement of August 20, namely that of gradual development it is, to my mind quite outside the province, of discussion; it is emphatically condemned in the Report. I think we are all agreed that if it were carried out, either over the whole of India or even partially in a small district or half a province, it would plunge whatever part it was put, into operation in into chaos. And therefore I suggest that that partial arrangement of Home Rule is a most dangerous proposal and one that would lead to very great injury to India I will leave the proposal of Home Rule at that.
I now come to the Congress-League scheme. This is the most authoritative presentation of the claim of leading Indian 601 organisations. It has been criticised very fully and very forcibly in the Report itself and the Report has rejected it as an unworkable scheme. I will not attempt to analyse this scheme. I have no doubt it will be discussed and dealt with hereafter. I think the most striking condemnation that lies been found of this scheme is the fact that Mrs. Besant has favoured the scheme on the ground that it would at once lead to a complete deadlock, and would pave the way to the immediate introduction of Home Rule.
Then there is the question of the maintenance of the status quo, and if I read correctly between the lines of my noble friend's speech I think that is the policy that he truly favours. If the question were dropped and no scheme of reform introduced for India, what would it mean? it would mean a deliberate flouting of Indian aspirations; it would mean a complete violation of the pledge contained in the announcement of August 20, and I venture to say that any action of that character is unthinkable in the present juncture of India's history.
There is one more scheme to I must allude. That is a scheme which takes certain districts in India, trying isolated experiments in self-government. That has been examined and criticised in the Report and, I think rightly, rejected. I will not attempt to discuss it new: its objections are numerous and overwhelming. I do not say that those who advocate find scheme do so with a cynical intention, but I am sure that the result would be both failure and chaos in the districts where it is tried and increased impatience and disaffection throughout the rest of India during the years when the process was being worked out. And it undoubtedly would give an impression to the people of lie that there was insincerity in the method of carrying out the announcement of August 20. I say with deference that I cannot myself conceive anybody regarding this partial and belated scheme as practical one, and as one that would be of real assistance in the future to India.
Last comes the introduction of a scheme such as this one, of partial, limited responsibility now and gradual development hereafter towards a constitutional system, it accordance with the decree of Government and the opinion of Government as to the degree of advance to be made. Such a scheme is essentially transitional; 602 it must be crowded with anomalies, and be full of inconsistencies. It must offer a fertile field of criticism to all those who are inclined to offer it opposition. Such a scheme can always be represented by a destructive critic as unworkable. And any one, as I think my noble friend does who presupposes a break-down over every point of difficulty that would take place in its operation can easily make out a case. Being a transitional scheme it is admittedly hybrid in character, and I hope noble Lords when they approach this subject in the months to come will consider this and always bear this point in mind. They will find as they get closer into an examination of this scheme that in its early and partial stage of advance it inevitably conflicts in some respects with former principles of an autocratic system, while they will find novel departures in principle and detail as well in what they have been accustomed to in a strictly constitutional system.
This is inevitable, and the consequences of this are inevitable, arising from the whole purpose of the scheme. What is the purpose? Briefly speaking, the purpose is this, that you are only going to give certain constitutional powers to those services in the early stages which it is considered India can best administer, and that those services which relate to the law and order and security of the country are still to be retained under an autocratic system. It is perfectly true that the position of a Governor in the future will be a difficult one. I do not know that any Minister's position in our modern system is a particularly easy one, but it is clear that Governors will have to be appointed possessing considerable tact, public experience, and knowledge of affairs and men to steer through this difficult and complicated piece of machinery which is to be set up.
But I do not believe for an instant that Governors possessing those qualities will not be found able to undertake the work. We have already head from India that most of the Governors and most of the Lieutenant-Governors having examined the scheme, consider that they can work it when it is in operation. You must have mutual spirit and common purpose if difficult transitional schemes of this character are to be successful. And if you do not initiate this new scheme for India in this spirit, and have not the faith that a 603 mutual spirit between the two peoples exists, I think it bodes ill for the future of the Empire. The whole scheme presents these difficulties and points of attack, but it is indeed incumbent upon the critics to produce something better conceived, and I doubt very much whether any body of critics can be found in this country who really could produce a scheme based upon the experience and the knowledge of those who have formulated this scheme. There will be full opportunity given on the Bill when drafted, if and when accepted by His Majesty's Government. All I would ask for the moment is that noble Lords should read this Report—should read it as a whole, as a comprehensive scheme—and should be prepared when the time comes to give a fair and unprejudiced and unbiassed consideration to its details, because I am sure that this House, above any other, will be able to contribute and assist towards laying the foundations of this revised scheme on a good basis.
I hope that nobody in this House or in the country will regard these proposals as a reward to India for her services rendered in the war. Any view of that character would be deeply resented in India itself. It should not be regarded as a reward, but as the inevitable consequence of the recognition of the new position and status which India has attained within the Empire during the war. This war has given India an opportunity to show to the world her vast importance to the British Empire, and the immense service she can render in time of need. It is not over-stating the case to say that some of the campaigns essential to our victory in this great war could not have been successfully conducted without India's supply of men and material.
I have one or two figures here which may be of interest to the House and which will show your Lordships the kind of work India is doing to-day. Before 1914 the recruits enlisted annually in India were 15,000; last year the enlistment of combatants—apart from others—was 285,000. This year it is hoped that 500,000 will be raised in addition to the 1,000,000 who have already joined the ranks for the war. In the June recruiting figures which have just come to hand it will be noticed that 50,000 have enlisted, of whom 32,000 are combatants. The expenditure on war material in India is £2,000,000 a month, under the conduct of the Indian Munitions Board. India has supplied no less than 604 1,700 miles of railway, 200 engines, and 6,000 vehicles for the various theatres of war since the commencement of hostilities. Practically the whole of the river flotillas on the Tigris and the Euphrates are vessels from Indian rivers which have been put together by skilled Indian operatives in the shops in India. Then large quantities of tenting, clothing, foot-gear, food—I could go through a very long list of articles—have been supplied from India to all the Eastern theatres of war.
I mention this because it is a fact which claims at the hands of the people of this country and of the Dominions and of Parliament most serious recognition. But I say that there is a wider consideration which should weigh with us in our deliberations over proposals for political advancement in India—What is going to be India's future place not merely in the Empire but in world politics as the result of this war? I would suggest to your Lordships that India's immense size, her population, the vital strategical importance which her geographical position gives to her, and which will no doubt grow in the future in regard to world politics, her inexhaustible range of natural resources—some already developed, some still undeveloped, and much still undiscovered—the courage and intelligence of her peoples; the natural aptitude which many of them display for affairs of State—I say that all these add the utmost force to the imperious and urgent call that there should be granted at an early date, not only in the interests of India but in the interests of the Empire, the first instalments of self-governing institutions, which, growing as; I hope with the passage of time, will enable her peoples to take their right and proper place in their own country—a country which I believe is destined to play so great and vital a part in the future of the world's affairs. Once more I commend this Report to your Lordships' sympathetic attention, incomplete as it is at present; and I would ask you, when it is completed, to give it all the assistance you can so that you may give your full share towards founding a sound revised Constitution for India.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
My Lords, I hope you will allow me to detain, you for a few minutes on the subject of the interesting debate which we have had this afternoon, as I was privileged to take part in most of the discussions that led up to this Report, and signified in the Appendix 605 my whole-hearted approval of the reforms hat are therein contained.
The noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State appealed to your Lordships this afternoon to suspend your judgment, and has quite frankly said that he did not pretend that all the details in the Report must necessarily be regarded as cast iron in the scheme. I should have been prepared to go a little further. I agree that it is necessary for us to keep our minds open for discussion, but at the same time there are a great many details in this scheme of which I am prepared to argue in favour, and to do so as the result of this process. The noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, speaking with the authority of an ex-Secretary of State for India, told your Lordships that by a process of exhaustion—that is, by discarding other proposals; I think I am not over-stating his case—he is realising more and more the soundness of the views expressed in the scheme. That has been my experience also, in my humble position; and as a result of that process of exhaustion I am prepared to argue that a great many of the proposals are made believing that alternatives have had to be discarded as not being equally good.
The noble Lord who initiated this discussion is very extreme—though not more extreme than he is justified in being if what he stated is his belief—in his condemnation of the scheme. But I think the Government may congratulate themselves that the course of the discussion has not followed On the lines pursued by the noble Lord who initiated the debate, because I think it is not an unfair description of the speeches that have followed to say that they were either favourable towards this scheme, or at any rate expressed an inclination to suspend judgment and to await further discussion. I do not think that His Majesty's Government could have asked for more this afternoon, and to that extent I rejoice with them in this debate.
May I now humbly refer to one or two of the points mentioned by Lord Sydenham? He made a little fun of us—of which I do not complain—as a party of happy tourists who went out to India to spend the cold weather season; but who, nevertheless, did not, hesitate to produce this very far-reaching proposal, most of which the noble Lord strongly condemns. As far as the "tourist" description goes, I am ready to accept it as regards myself. I realised all the time that the other members of the 606 deputation were infinitely more useful members of it than I had the fortune to be But, my Lords, who after all were they who went? The Secretary of State himself was no stranger to India. He had served an apprenticeship as Under-Secretary of State, and had visited India before. We had my friend Mr. Roberts, who had also served as Under-Secretary of State for India. We had Mr. Bhupendranath Basu, a very distinguished politician, now at home as a member of the Viceroy's Council, who is certainly not a tourist; and, lastly, Sir William Duke, a most distinguished Indian public servant, who was with us all the time we were there. I admit that the noble Lord has a right to poke fun at anyone he wishes.
§ LORD SYDENHAM
What, I poked fun at was that after this visit you discovered signs of a change of character—not at your tour.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
have not the smallest desire to misrepresent the attitude of the noble Lord, but the impression which I got was that he was inclined to belittle our labours as having been perhaps not quite seriously enough done; but if he does not push that point, I have no desire to refer to it further. The noble Lord then complained of the way in which this Report is published, and he likened it, I thought not accurately, to what would happen if the First Lord of the Admiralty published an Order without having the authority of the Board for publishing it. Surely what has happened is exactly the other way. The Report was published by the Secretary of State with a covering letter from the members of the Secretary of State's Council.
The noble Lord then went on to complain that, certain views were ignored in the Report. The noble Lord has promised us a dossier—I do not know whether my noble friend on the Cross Benches realises how much he asked for—of the Papers which were put before us in the course of the tour. There were 110 formal deputations, and over 100 addresses were sent to us without having been formally read in our presence, but which we of course all read with due attention afterwards. I am, I think, quite safe in saying that there was no typical view held in India which was not put before us, and certainly those which were put before 607 us were very much on our minds during the discussions which led up to the drafting of the Report.
The noble Lord then criticised very severely the proposed reforms in the government of the Provinces, and he used the word "menagerie" as a possibly fair description of what the Government in the future will be. Nobody realises more than I do that diarchy is not a logical thing, as we understand it, but there is absolutely no alternative between transferring nothing and transferring the whole or transferring part, and the Report suggests that you should transfer a part; and this I suggest to your Lordships is the only possible lines on which we can work, in view of the circumstances of the case, granted we are going to make an advance, and I do not think that even the noble Lord himself would contend that no change should be made at all.
May I refer briefly to very small details in the Report to which the noble Lord also alluded in the course of his criticism? Using the phrase B and A subjects, B being the transferred and A the reserved subjects, he warned us that there might be a difficulty through the action of B Ministers, they not being responsible for law and order, the A Ministers being responsible for law and order subjects. I admit that difficulty perfectly frankly, and the only possible safeguard lies in the veto of the Governor, to which we must look to keep us right in such matters.
The noble Lord then asked what will be the position of district officers and similar functionaries, and said they would have to serve two masters. No, they will not have to serve two masters. I understand the system in India is that orders do not issue from different departments of the Government but issue as Orders of Government; therefore an order from Bombay going down to a Commissioner or district officer will go as an Order of the Government of Bombay, and the recipient will not know whether it comes from A or B Ministers. It is just the same in the Board of Admiralty a fancy nobody in the Fleet knows from what department of the Admiralty a particular order issues.
Finally, the noble Lord warned us, very rightly, of the danger of things now going on in Russia being repeated in India. All I can say, with due deference, is that if his 608 geographical reform, of which I have not seen the details, is in any way what I imagine, I should be very much more afraid of a repetition in India of what has occurred in Russia than if the more cautious proposal made in the Report was followed. I am extremely glad to hear the announcement of the Under-Secretary of State that two Committees are to set to work at once. While I realise the importance from our point of view of full consideration before any decision is come to, I feel that nothing is more important than to convince the people of India that you are determined to go ahead generally. The appointment of two Committees will have an excellent effect when the news reaches India to-morrow.
I only want to make one appeal to the Under-Secretary of State. It is with reference to certain things not mentioned in the Report, but it seems to me a very essential point in the situation. I think it is evident from the Report that everybody feels that the law and order question must for the present remain in the province of the Government, which is responsible to Parliament. At the same time there are certain grievances in connection with the law and order question and the administration of justice which are very strongly felt in India, and of the maintenance of which I certainly should not feel justified in arguing in favour. I will not go into the matter in detail now. It is no doubt familiar to the noble Lord opposite. There is the question of what is familiarly known as the union of the judicial and executive functions, the question of trial by jury, and the administration of the Press Act—very great grievance is felt that a newspaper which misbehaves, or which is said to misbehave, can be called upon to deposit security, and that this security can be forfeited, not by order of the Court, but on the fiat of the Executive. Above all, there is the question of the administration of the Army, which cannot be dealt with until after the war.
Those are things with regard to which there is a very strong opinion in India that they ought to be dealt with and the rough places made smooth; and though I realise that the India Office is busy and utterly overworked, I do submit to my noble friend opposite that these are matters which ought not to be forgotten. Knowledge of the fact that the Govern- 609 ment at home are dealing with them will assist the acceptance of the scheme in India, for many people will have far less objection to leaving subjects to the present Executive Government when they know that their grievances on those subjects have been wiped out. In conclusion, I only wish to thank your Lordships and the Leader of the House for the facilities you put in my way in order that I might give what little help I was able to in going to India last winter, and for the kindness with which my going was made easy and my return made welcome. I thank, your Lordships most sincerely that I was able to take a small hand in a task which I feel must, in the end, result in the greatest possible good to that great Empire in which we are so much interested.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I assure your Lordships that I do not rise to make a speech at this time of the evening. Indeed, I should be absolutely unqualified to make a speech on Indian subjects, for I have no familiarity with India or its Government, such as is rightly claimed by many of your Lordships, and have not yet had time to read the Report. I rise merely for the sake of making one single point, and I think it a point of very great importance. It is this I had the pleasure to hear nearly every word of the very able speech of the Under-Secretary. If I may venture to say so, it was a speech of great merit and most interesting, but there was one characteristic of it which I thought very remarkable. He told us, as I understood, that this Report had not been considered by the Cabinet, and had not, as yet, been approved by them. That was a very important announcement, but it was followed by a series of observations in which he detailed the steps which the India Office were taking in order, as I understood, to carry the details of the Report to a still further stage. It is as though a measure were introduced into Parliament, and, before the Second Reading has been passed, the Committee stage was entered upon. That seems to me a very remarkable course of proceeding, because, supposing it should turn out that the Cabinet, after they had come to consider the Report, did not approve of it, then I think the elaborate detail into which the Under-Secretary went will have had the effect of misleading public opinion, both in England and, what is much more important, in India.
610 I need not say that I desire to pronounce no opinion whatever on the merits of the case. I am not very well qualified to do so. But under these circumstances—these very remarkable circumstances—I desire to say, on my own behalf and on behalf of my friends, we must reserve complete liberty of action, not merely as to detail but as to the principle of the Report. It may be, of course, that when we come to consider it, and when we have the decision of His Majesty's Government in its favour—which has not yet been given—we may be as enthusiastic supporters of it as the Under-Secretary; but, until that time comes, I hope it will be understood that the House of Lords is in no sense pledged to the Report, either in principle or detail, and it must not be held hereafter that there is, in any shape or form, any breach of faith, either with the Government or with public opinion in India, if it should turn out that this House or the other House of Parliament takes an adverse view of the very important State Paper which has been submitted to us.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON)
My Lords, the noble Marquess is, of course, entirely entitled, on his own behalf and on behalf of the House of which he is one of the leading representatives, to make the reservations to which we have just listened, and I do not dispute either his right to do so or the propriety of his doing so on the present occasion.
I do not think that the situation is really open to misunderstanding. My noble friend behind me, Lord Islington, has made a case, very powerfully argued, on behalf of his chief and the Office which he represents, but he made it clear—at any rate, it was quite clear to me, and I think, from what the noble Marquess said, it was also clear to him—that the Government are uncommitted in the matter because they have not had time to consider it. And, my Lords, their inability to make up their minds at the present moment is not merely due, as might have been inferred from one observation of my noble friend, to the great pressure resulting from pre-occupations of the war, but is due to the fact that they have not yet received that information which they pledged themselves before Parliament to await before making up their minds.
If your Lordships will look at the Report you will find, in the announcement which 611 was made on August 20 last year—the earlier parts of which were quoted by my noble friend—a subsequent passage in which the Government pledged themselves to await an expression of public opinion in this country and in India. That expression of public opinion has not yet been received. More than once this afternoon we have been reminded that we have not had the opinions of the Local Governments in India. My noble friend promised them at a later date. We shall then have the reasoned opinion of the Government of India upon these opinions. There are also important sections of the community in India, such as the Moslem community, who have not yet pronounced. There are many persons in India very suspicious of what is called Brahminical rule, who are entitled to be heard. In this country there are important associations, bodies, and so on, who in the course of the next three months will acquaint us with their views, and it can only be after full examination of all these expressions of opinion that the Government will come properly charged to an examination of the case.
My noble friend put one other point. He said, or suggested rather, "Are you not perhaps, to some extent, prejudging the case? Are you not perhaps raising undue expectations in India by agreeing to the appointment of these two Committees?" That is a consideration which the noble Marquess was quite justified in putting, and which has been carefully thought out. If the noble Marquess will read the Report I think he will see that that is really not a justifiable interpretation to put upon this step, and for this reason. Before the scheme can be considered by the Government they must have the full scheme before them. The scheme is essentially imperfect in these particulars. We talk here, broadly speaking, about the difference between reserved subjects and transferred subjects. We talk here about the difficulties, the anomalies or the reverse, of the electoral system. Before you begin to consider what your Bill is to be you must have some idea of what the electoral system is that is proposed. You must be able to decide what, in the opinion of competent persons, are the subjects to be transferred or reserved. In fact, I may put it in this way—that these two Committees are really appointed to carry out the work which the Secretary of State himself and his colleagues, my noble friend and others, would have 612 done had they had the time. If, instead of having, whatever it was, three or four months in India, they had had seven or eight, they would have done the work of these Committees and presented their scheme. None of your Lordships would then have said that the attitude of the Government or the views of this House were at all prejudged by what they had done. That, at any rate, is the point of view from which I and my colleagues in the Cabinet have regarded the appointment of these Committees. It would not be fair to assume that they have been appointed by the act of the India Office alone. They were appointed by the Government acting as a whole, and they were appointed from the point of view and with the ideas I have ventured to place before you
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
May I make a suggestion to my noble friend the Leader of the House? When the Cabinet are prepared with recommendations to Parliament I would suggest for his consideration the extreme convenience of dealing with these recommendations by means of a Select Committee of the two Houses. I need not go into the point in detail, but it would enable Parliament to give a far closer and more thorough examination of these proposals than is possible by the ordinary, manner of procedure in the two Houses; it would also enable them to do, what may be very necessary—to take evidence. I merely put that to my noble friend for his consideration, and I think, if he makes inquiries, he will find that there are precedents for that course in regard to Bills before Parliament connected with India.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, I can speak again only by leave of the House. The suggestion made by my noble friend, based upon very considerable Parliamentary experience, is one that is well worthy of consideration. It has been before the Government, and no doubt at a later stage I, or some other spokesman, will be able to make an announcement about it.
§ LORD SYDENHAM
My Lords, I am very sorry if my speech was not as clear as I intended it should be. I thought I made it perfectly obvious that I welcomed parts of the Report most warmly, but that I did object to certain features, and I gave reasons for my objections. As regards these features I am bound to point out 613 that in no Constitution the world has ever known has this duality of government been attempted. Therefore one must be justified in viewing any step in that direction, without any experience to guide us, with some alarm. Nothing would be further from my mind than to intensify the bureaucratic system. I have several ideas which, I think, will go some distance, though perhaps nor quite so far as the Report, in increasing the share of Indians in the administration of India. There is one point I should like to put to my noble friend, as he did not make it quite clear. When this Committee goes out, will it settle the franchise on a communal basis or not?
§ LORD ISLINGTON
It will go out with a broad reference to settle the franchise on whatever it considers to be the best scheme which can be devised as the result of its examination.
§ LORD SYDENHAM
Unless the principle is decided the Committee will have nothing to guide it. The Report, of course, suggests the communal representation of the Sikhs because they are fighting men, but there is a possibility of the working-classes in India having no representation unless you give them communal representation. May I take it that is not to be done?
§ LORD ISLINGTON
I do not think I can say any more than I have said already in answer to that question. The idea is that the Committee will be unfettered in regard to the course of action they may take and the examination they may make.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
It will not be tied down to communal representation? It will not be accepted as a principle that communal representation should be adopted?
§ LORD SYDENHAM
As regard Papers, I quite understand the great difficulty, owing to the printing hardships, of presenting all these addresses, and I understand they will all be laid on the Table of the House. I do ask, however, that the 614 Rowlatt Report may be presented as a Parliamentary Paper. That cannot be a large document.
§ LORD ISLINGTON
I cannot say for certain whether that Report can be printed as a Parliamentary document. If it cannot, I will use what effort I can in the India Office to see that as many copies as possible are forthcoming in the Library.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.