§ Debate on the Motion of Viscount MIDLETON—"That it is desirable that a Joint Committee of both Houses be appointed to consider and report upon the Report on Indian Constitutional Reforms"—resumed (according to Order).
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, it was quite evident, from the course of the interesting debate yesterday afternoon, that the Motion of my noble friend Lord Midleton had divided, itself, or been divided, under two separate heads. In the first place, there is the question whether a Joint Committee of both Houses should be appointed in order to consider and report upon the Report on Indian Constitutional Reforms. That is indeed the main subject of dispute. At the same time it was clear that this was not likely to be discussed without at any rate some general survey of the. Report itself, and I did not understand that the noble Lord opposite, the Under-Secretary, made it at all a matter of complaint that to some orient such a survey should be undertaken.
What was also evident from yesterday's debate was that there does exist a deep and wide gulf between sections of opinion in your Lordships' House and outside regarding the declaration made by the Secretary of State for India in August of last year. The word "revolution" was used by some speakers in connection with that declaration—the declaration, that is to say, that the establishment of a system of self-government in India was the goal at which this country is aiming. I think it is excessive to describe that declaration in itself as a revolution, but it is undoubtedly the explicit closing of a question which hitherto has been regarded as open. So far as I know, no responsible person has ever explicitly denied that the ultimate aim of British rule in India was the establishment of self-government in that country; yet it has never been in terms asserted before. The noble Marquess who spoke yesterday—Lord Lansdowne—was quite accurate in quoting the statement of Lord 826 Morley, that in introducing in 1909 the reforms associated with his name and that of Lord Minto it was far from being his idea to advance along the road leading to Parliamentary government in India; and later than that, in 1911, it fell to me to disavow, on behalf of the Viceroy and Government of India, an interpretation which some people in India and elsewhere had placed upon a well-known paragraph in the Delhi Despatch of the Government of India, which was interpreted to mean something similar to the declaration which has since, been made. As I have often pointed out here, that Despatch pointed to an extended devolution of important powers to the Provincial Governments, but, of course, the Provincial Governments themselves might, at any rate in theory, have been at least as arbitrary as, or even more arbitrary than, the Government of India itself, and therefore there was no colour at that time for speaking of that Despatch as indicating a promise of self-government. Indeed, it clearly would not have been proper either for Lord Hardinge as Viceroy, or myself as Secretary of State, within little more than a year from the time when Lord Morley and Lord Minto had left their respective offices, to have framed an announcement which His Majesty was to make at Delhi, implying a complete reversal of the policy which our predecessors had pursued.
But as I have said, the opinion that self-government was the ultimate aim of our policy in India has never been explicitly denied; and, as we all know, it has frequently been asserted by many in India that as far back as the famous Proclamation of Queen Victoria in 1858 that aim was in fact announced. Now, I go so far as to say that the assertion would not have been made now in the terms in which it was made but for the facts of the war; and it did not seem to me. I confess, yesterday, that the speakers who criticised the terms of the Report and the general policy of the Government of India and the India Office allowed quite sufficient weight for the tremendous change of circumstance which the war has brought about in India, to an extent at least equal to that which it has effected in this country. But, my Lords, I also venture to say that what is called the establishment of self-government in India, even after the Declaration that has been made, is still only an ultimate aim and very far from representing an immediate possibility.
827 I confess I am not able to picture to myself as existing, at any rate in my own lifetime, or perhaps further than that, what would be described as a complete system of self-government in India exactly comparable with that which obtains in the great Dominions, with all the consequences which would naturally apply to such self-government—namely, the complete withdrawal of all British troops from India, and presumably—supposing the analogy of such a Dominion as the Australian Commonwealth to be followed—the complete disappearance of all persons not of Indian origin, whatever their blood, from the service of the State. That is a future to which I myself, as I say, cannot look forward. Therefore I repeat that the establishment of self-government in that sense in India can only he regarded as an ultimate and even a remote aim.
There were two connected points made in speeches yesterday afternoon on which I wish to say a word. The noble Marquess opposite, Lord Lansdowne, quoted an observation from a very high authority, Sir Henry Maine, to the effect that there was a danger in applying to subordinate Legislatures and kindred bodies, such as those in India, the terms which we applied to Parliament here, because it would create an impression that those Legislatures might obtain powers which were not entirely subordinate. While the noble Marquess was speaking I remembered that another thinker, that always informing but sometimes arid writer, Sir George Lewis, had before said something of the same kind; and your Lordships would find that in his well-known paper on the Government of Dependencies, written some thirty years before the date which the noble Marquess mentioned as that on which Sir Henry Maine made his observation, Sir George Cornewall Lewis said that the English Government, in framing the political institutions of its Dependencies, had not been sufficiently careful to give them such a form as might suggest the idea of their subordinate character, and that they had too often used forms and language regarding those Legislatures which might seem to imply that their Government was coordinate and not subordinate.
That, I take it, is what the noble Marquess meant with regard to the Indian Legislatures. Of course, it is only fair to remark that when Sir George Cornewall Lewis wrote this he was thinking more of those 828 Legislatures of the great Dominions which have since become, in fact, practically independent, possibly also of some of the West Indian Legislatures, because in those days, of course, nothing of the kind existed in India, and I have no doubt that the application of those forms and terms to the Indian Legislatures has caused a belief in the minds of many there that the time was coming when those Legislatures would in fact become co-ordinate and not subordinate. Of course, they have not yet assumed that form at all. It cannot be denied that the Government of India is still, in its essence, rather Crown Colony government than Dominion government. Indeed, there are some cases—such a case, for instance, as the Assembly of Barbados—which possess a number of powers that are not enjoyed by the Viceroy's Legislative Council at Delhi.
The other point which was made yesterday on which I wish to say a word arose out of the speech of my noble friend below the gangway, Lord Bryce. He, with, I think, the obvious agreement of those other noble Lords who spoke yesterday, dealt in a very interesting passage in his speech on the desirability of working upwards from powers of local government to the powers of larger Assemblies, terminating possibly in the powers of a responsible Legislature; and my noble friend expressed the view that the political education thus secured showed that this was the proper end at which to begin and not on the larger scale which is proposed in the Report of the Viceroy and Mr. Montagu. I feel great diffidence in expressing on such a matter a view different from that of my noble friend. His authority, we know, on such a subject is vast, and we cannot be too grateful for the information he gives us on such a point. At the same time, I ask myself whether the lessons of history and study of parallel cases in other countries really support that view, and whether the precisely opposite case is not the correct one—namely, that the way to secure free institutions of a lasting sort is to begin at the top and work downwards.
To take the instance of our own country, that undoubtedly is what we have done. We started with something like a free and liberally-elected Parliament in the year 1832. It was not till after that that we even began to reform our amazing corporations, and it was not until nearly two 829 generations later that we attempted anything in the nature of popular government in our country districts by the establishment of county, district, and parish councils. In Ireland the opposite, course was pursued. Here, of course, I shall be in conflict with the majority of your Lordships, but I think I shall have the agreement of my noble friend. In Ireland, as I have said fifty times and as those who hold the view I do have said, the Government of the day began at the wrong end by introducing local government powers into Ireland and denying Home Rule. What has been the effect? The effect has been in some ways an increase of efficiency. In such matters as the supply of labourers' cottages the Irish county councils have shown marked ability and large views. But certainly the effect has not been to make Ireland more contented. The effect has been to make it much more discontented. Party polities have run far more highly in connection with those local bodies than they have in all the ordinary forms of the public life in Ireland. Therefore whatever you may do in India or anywhere else to interest people in local government, and, if you like, in some cases promote the efficiency of local government—though that in itself is, perhaps, a dubious proposition—I venture to think that you will not do anything to increase the general contentment of the country with the whole system under which they are governed.
I will give one more instance from outside. Yesterday the Under-Secretary quoted the case of Russia as an instance of the deplorable results of an autocratic system of government only assisted by an irresponsible Assembly. But I call the case of Russia to aid on the particular point that I am discussing. I have myself no first-hand knowledge, I am sorry to say, of the local affairs of Russia, but I have always understood that, the system of local government there, at any rate since 1864, has been designed on broad and liberal lines. Both the peasants' councils and assemblies and the peasants' courts—answering more or less to petty sessions—have been designed on lines of free local self-government. And yet, my Lords, we have seen that this certainly did not tend to create a contented nation, and we have witnessed to our horror an approach to a jacquerie in the country districts, or many of the country districts, of Russia on a scale which probably no other country in Europe in circumstances of revolution would have 830 thought of imitating. I confess, therefore, that this particular thesis, that it is wise to begin with extended powers of local government while keeping your general government irresponsible and even arbitrary, is one against, which, there is a great, deal to be said.
§ VISCOUNT BRYCE
Perhaps my noble friend, as he does me the honour to refer to what I said yesterday, will allow me to explain that I do not think that, in substance, I differ from the view which he has expressed before. When referring to local government in connection with India my suggestion was this, that the qualities and capacities of a people which make them fit for any kind of self-government, whether in a smaller or larger area, can be more easily cultivated in a small area, and therefore it would be desirable, whatever else is done in India, to endeavour to develop that capacity in extending and improving the system of local government. I did not mean to suggest at all—and I thank my noble friend for giving me the opportunity of explaining this—that on that account their plans for improving government on a larger scale, a provincial and even an Indian scale, should be dropped, or that they should wait until arrangements for local government should be more fully developed, but merely that, the people would be more fit for development if local government is better and well developed.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I am grateful to my noble friend for what he has added, which makes the matter clearer, because I had supposed he intended in the first instance to suggest that only the reform of the smaller areas of local government was necessary. And in my turn, in order to make myself clear, I must explain that I, too, while combating what I supposed to be his view, did not at all desire to minimise the importance of improvements in local government. I remember a long conversation which I had with Mr. Gokhale on this very subject. His special desire was that district officers, and indeed all officers, even of high rank, concerned with districts or large areas, should be supplied with an Indian Advisory Council. That is a suggestion which, as my noble friend knows, has often been made, and I have no doubt that it is one which the Government of India have considered with others.
I come now, my Lords, to a different subject, namely, the controversy—I think 831 that is not too strong a word—which exists as to the proper method of approach to this subject, as to how far His Majesty's Government were right in allowing the Secretary of State to make the announcement which he did in Parliament, and in permitting him to go in company with the Viceroy to study the question in India, rather than proceeding by some more usual method in the first instance. It would have seemed certainly more usual that a great Inquiry should have been instituted in the first place if it was desired to modify in a serious degree the Acts of Parliament under which India is governed. The appointment of a great Royal Commission, including probably members of both Houses but also including others, possibly to conduct part of its work in India itself and other parts of it here, would have been a feasible operation in ordinary times, and would, I think, have been perhaps the most useful method of initiating inquiry. But I think your Lordships will agree that in the circumstances of the war this would have been a practically impossible, course to take. The personnel of such a Commission would have been by no means easy to arrange to the full satisfaction of the country. When so many of the best minds are deeply employed in work connected directly with the war, all the circumstances would have been against such procedure. It would, of course, have been possible to proceed in the first instance by a purely Parliamentary Inquiry, but there again the House of Commons, as we are perpetually told, does not possess the full authority which belongs to that House when it is sitting within its normal term. Your Lordships' House, although undoubtedly deprived of the services of many of its members, could have manned such a Committee with men of great knowledge and experience, but I confess that I greatly question whether the establishment of a Parliamentary Committee of that kind in the right way to begin an Inquiry of this sort. Of the two, the expedient of a Royal Commission, which in my opinion was not possible, would have been infinitely more fruitful. That being so, and it being remembered that to-day something in the way of immediate inquiry was regarded both by the Government here and in India as an urgent business, I do not think we can complain of the expedient which His Majesty's Government preferred to undertake by sending Mr. Montagu to India and allowing Mm to accompany the Viceroy.
832 It may be said—I think it is said—that the Viceroy and the Secretary of State began by begging the question by speaking of the goal as self-government, which, is now declared to be the view of this country. All I can say upon that is that if His Majesty's Government did not desire that declaration to be made they ought to have chosen another Viceroy and a different Secretary of State. The views of the Viceroy on this subject were perfectly well known long before there was any question of Mr. Montagu being Secretary of State for India, and if His Majesty's Government considered that declaration to be imprudent they should have substituted some other gentlemen for the two able and conspicuous holders of these two offices. But I think that it is fair in this connection to repeat what was stated by the noble Lord the Under-Secretary yesterday, that we have to remember that by this Report, as we see it, nothing whatever can be said to be decided. Not only is it a fact that the noble Earl who leads the House and his colleagues in the War Cabinet have not, as I suppose, closely examined this question yet with a view to giving their decision upon it—and they certainly have not given their decision upon it—but, as the noble Lord pointed out, there are a number of points left open which are to be investigated by the two Committees that have gone to India. I hope I may be allowed to say for my own satisfaction, after having, I supposed, worked more with Lord Southborough than has any other member of your Lordships' House, that I, too, echo what was said by some noble Lords yesterday. I am convinced that no better selection could have been made of a man to guide the deliberations of these two Committees.
It was said, "This is all very well, but as a matter of fact the Government is committed. You cannot allow your big men to make tours of this kind and to indulge in such utterances without being bound in practice to carry into effect the views which they have enunciated." I do not think that is quite true, although it is partly true, and rather more true than the noble Lord the Under-Secretary was willing yesterday to admit. I think that it is true in this sense, that although practically all the details of the Report might be altered—it might be scrapped in most parts—yet at the same time the standard of advance which is indicated in the Report is one which you will have somehow to attain. I do not think that it is possible 833 to disappoint India by substituting something far less liberal in terms than this Report, even though the details of what you promise and finally give may be in many respects different. To that extent, therefore, I think that the Under-Secretary perhaps rather overstated this case.
But so far as the details are concerned, I hope and believe that they have to be regarded as open. Take, for instance, the question of the communal vote, which was pressed so strongly by my noble friend Lord Sydenham. I take it that that matter is absolutely open, and that it is quite possible that it may be applied in certain cases and in certain forms quite distinct from those indicated in the body of the Report. It is not a matter on which I myself should like to express a decided opinion, although I think that there are probably certain cases in which it ought to be applied that are not alluded to in the Report itself. Again, there are the relations of the India Office with India and the India Office with Parliament. Those, my noble friend opposite tells me, are now or are going to be under the consideration of an outside Committee. They are stated in very bare outlines, and they are, I suppose, susceptible of all kinds of alteration. Some of your Lordships may recall that I myself tried my hand at amending some part of the India, Office, procedure, and of putting it, as I thought, into more modern and business-like form in some respects, but my well-meant endeavours did not meet the approbation of your Lordships' House, and indeed I felt at the time that the more musty and more antiquated some of the procedure of the India Office was, the more it seemed to appeal to a great many members of your Lordships' House I hope that whoever tries his hand next time will have better luck than I had. As regards the Parliamentary relation, I am bound to say I am personally—this is only a private opinion—not particularly enamoured of the idea of a Sessional Indian Committee. It seems to me a rather perfunctory borrowing from what obtains in some foreign countries—in France, and also, in certain relations, in this United States—rather than a carefully thought out method of conducting one of our public Offices. I am quite open to conviction on that, as on other points. And as to whether the salary of the Secretary of State is placed on the Votes or is paid as at present, I confess I do not think it matters a brass farthing to anybody in 834 or out of the House of Commons, or to the Secretary of State, so long as the amount which he receives is not thereby in any way affected.
But I have no wish to discuss any of the details, and I merely desire to add this, that in the circumstances I do not feel able to support the Motion of my noble friend for the appointment of a Joint Committee. I do not think myself that such a Joint Committee is a very useful body on subjects like this, dealing with matters entirely outside these shores. It is not a very useful body to examine anything else than a Parliamentary Bill. There are subjects which are not embodied in a Bill, such as railway rates, the incidence of prices, and so on, which can be fruitfully examined by a Parliamentary Joint Committee, because it is possible to obtain at demand all the possible information upon them within the walls of Westminster. But that does not apply to a matter of this sort. The knowledge of many of us who have one way or another gleaned some knowledge of India—even the knowledge of those who have held high and responsible positions in Indian Government—necessarily cannot be quite up to date, and it is by no mears easy to bring it up to date by the examination of witnesses. The most that I think can be done by a Parliamentary Committee is what I understand to be the intention of His Majesty's Government—namely, to say that if and when a Bill is produced by them, that Bill, after being read a second time either in one House or the other, should go to a Joint Committee of both Houses. It is my view that the final shape of the Bill must be the work of Parliament. It cannot be anything else. And, on the whole, I think that the methods that are employed for getting first-hand information by the Reports of these different travelling Committees is, for the particular object, the best that can be devised. In these circumstances, therefore, I am not able to support the Motion of my noble friend.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, I approach this subject at a great disadvantage in comparison with the noble Lords who have already addressed you, because I have never been to India, and I have had no experience in Indian administration. I am in the position of the great majority of your Lordships' House. I have had considerable experience of administration either at home or in the 835 Dominions, but never in connection with India. And yet all of us, when the time comes for Parliament to deal with a Bill on this subject, will have to make up our minds and to vote. We cannot absolve ourselves in either House from the great responsibility which will lie upon each individual member of both Houses in dealing with this tremendous subject. Therefore, as no doubt your Lordships also have done, I have read, and re-read this Report. I have studied it with the utmost care of which I am capable, and I confess quite frankly that the result is to leave me in a state of great perplexity and of no little anxiety.
Let me say about the Report that I think it is a monument of industry and also of courage. I think those are the two qualities which stand out highest. But it has a feature which I strongly deprecate. I think again and again the tone of the Report is too apologetic. I hope that when my noble friend Lord Donoughmore, to whose speech we are all looking forward, comes to deal with the matter he will make some allusion to that note of apology, which seems to me to appear again and again. I can see nothing whatever to apologise for in our rule of India, nothing to apologise for about our Civil Service, nothing whatever to apologise for in respect of the proposals made in the Report for keeping the Central Government strong. And yet again and again when proposal are made in this Report for keeping up the strength of the Central Government there is a note of apology in connection with that proposal. I agree with the Under-Secretary of State for India that we are committed to the spirit of the Declaration of August 20, 1917. That Declaration was made by the Ministers of the King, the Emperor of India, and no doubt all his Indian subjects take it as a Declaration of His Majesty's policy, and by that we are bound. We are bound by the spirit of that Declaration, but I entirely deny that we are bound to any particular interpretation of it. I associate myself entirely with what I understood the noble Marquess behind me (Lord Crewe) to say, that we are not committed in any way to the particulars, or any given particulars, of the scheme suggested by the Secretary of State and the Viceroy.
Let me now say a word as to the principles involved. The first principle which we are discussing is that it is the policy of 836 Parliament as representing the people of the United Kingdom, and the policy of our Sovereign, to train India to self-government. I myself do not see how we could adopt any other attitude considering the principle on which this Empire is based, and the principles for which we are fighting to-day. Therefore I am certainly not going to dissociate myself from the authors of this Report, or from the Under-Secretary of State in respect of that Declaration. The next proposition is that there are many Indians who are fit to take part in the government of India. I have not the slightest doubt of that, although I have never been to India. To my mind there is no doubt whatever that there are many Indians wholly fit to take part in the government of India; but I do not believe that those Indians are to be found either by competitive examination or by popular election.
The third proposition is the one to which I want to draw your Lordships' attention particularly; because I think it is the root fallacy of the spirit of this Report—namely, that the form of self-government granted to India must necessarily be of the same type as the self-government known to us in the United Kingdom and in the Dominions. I believe that to be clearly and demonstrably untrue; and, as I understand it, the root difficulty of the position in which we find ourselves is that all educated Indians have been taught to believe that the only form of self-government is our form of self-government. That is not true; yet that implication is found in every page of the Report. I would say that it cannot be true. Reverse the position. Put it in this way—that the form of self-government which is best suited for India is necessarily the form of self-government most suited for the United Kingdom. Nobody would accept that proposition. Why is the proposition which is put in the other way to be held as true? Because, as the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, said last night, there is a fundamental distinction between the Eastern and the Western mind. There is nothing depreciatory in that statement. Neither is good; neither is bad. We Westerns naturally think that the Western mind is the better; Easterns naturally think that the Eastern mind is the better. There is no standpoint by which to compare them; but it involves a totally different conception of life and a wholly 837 different philosophy of politics. Yet this Report proposes, as an apparently unavoidable and clearly necessary fact, to interpret the proposition that India is to be trained in self-government into the proposition that India is to have the same type of self-government as the United Kingdom. I believe that to be the whole root of the difficulty in which we are placed.
Self-government may be of many different types. It varies even among Westerns. The type of self-government enjoyed by the United States of America is a completely different type from our self-government here. There have already been attempts—I want to draw your Lordships' attention to this—to graft our type of self-government on to Eastern nationalities. It has been tried in Egypt, in Turkey, in Persia, in China; and every one of those attempts has been a lamentable failure. In my judgment it does not follow from this that the Egyptians, the Turks, the Persians, and the Chinese are incapable of self-government; what it means in that our form of self-government a not the form suited to Egypt, to Turkey, to Persia, or to China.
Now we have the warning of Russia. My noble friend the Under-Secretary of State alluded to that last night, and I, too, want to say something about it. I am going to make no comparison between Russians and Indians; I have no material for such a comparison, and, in fact, I should regard such a comparison at this moment as an insult to my Indian fellow-subjects. What I want to point out is the tremendous danger in too abrupt a transition from one form of government to another. That surely is the lesson of what has taken place in Russia; not that Russians are necessarily unfit for self-government, but that to attempt without any period of transition, without any gradation, to turn an autocracy into a democracy, is in itself an extraordinarily dangerous performance; and it becomes doubly dangerous when the nation on which the experiment is made is Eastern—as Russia is largely Eastern—and the form of self-government attempted to be introduced is of the Western type.
I desire to dwell upon this because the last thing I want my Indian fellow-subjects to think is that it involves any kind of slur on them, or depreciation, of their qualifies, to suggest that the institutions which we at this moment enjoy are not necessarily 838 those best adapted for India at present. The Russian experiment was bound to fail. It would have failed in England if it had been made when English thought and English training was at the same stage as Russian thought and training. I do not for one moment believe that the same excesses, the same horrors, would have broken out in England at any stage of her history as have broken out within the last eighteen months in Russia; but if, we will say, at the reign of Queen Elizabeth, still more if we say at the reign of Edward I, the attempt had been made suddenly to introduce into England the same system of government as that which was introduced into Russia with a stroke of the pen a few months ago, the failure, though not so bloody, would, have been equally grave and equally apparent. Therefore when I protect against such an experiment being tried in India, I am saying it only because I know that the same experiment if tried in England at the same stage of political education as India is at now would have had the same failure.
It is a curious fact that the only nation in the East where self-government has been introduced on the Western model to any degree—Japan—has not been mentioned in this debate. In reading the speeches of gentlemen like the distinguished representative of India who is over here now, it will be seen that Japan is the model to which thoughtful Indians are looking in their confidence that the particular form of self-government which suits us may be wisely and happily introduced into India. I am sorry that in the Montagu-Chelmsford Report there was no allusion to that at all. How far is the Japanese experience, applicable to what may be the circumstances of India? How far really has the Western model been followed in Japan? Will the circumstances of India under Viceregal government at all correspond to the circumstances of Japan under the government of the Mikado? I think that field of investigation ought to be explored, and I shall be very surprised if such an exploration does not show that there are departures from the Western type in the application of this system of Japan which will be some guidance for the application of principles of this kind in India. I am quite sure that it is far better to look to such an experience as that to avoid the dangers and difficulties which are manifest, than it is to draw from our experience here in the United Kingdom.
839 The chief merits—and here I differ rather from some of my noble friends who have spoken—the chief merits, it seems to me, that lie in the real details of the proposal of the Montagu-Chelmsford Report, lie in the extent to which they depart from the British type. I am not going into the question of the diarchical principle or any other of the strange proposals—I use, the word "strange" not as invidious, but as uncommon—that are contained in the Report. I am quite sure that the greater the courage that the Government show in departing from the common Western type the more likely they are to be successful, and therefore I pick out these proposals which have attracted so much attention as the subject of my humble encomium rather than of my criticism. But, my Lords, I am quite sure that none of your Lordships can have read this Report without feeling that some of the proposals cannot possibly stand. I am not going to make a list of them, or to analyse them, but I am quite sure that no one who has had experience in the government of men, or who has in any degree studied history, can believe that some of the proposals, especially some of the safeguards and checks proposed, can possibly stand. I mention that as leading up to one of the arguments which I shall address to your Lordships presently in favour of my noble friend's proposal for a Select Committee. Again, I certainly think, agreeing with what I understand to be Lord Lansdowne's view, that the Central Government, the Government which after all is responsible for law and order and for the stability of the State in India, is left too weak. It is not the intention of the Report. The Report is perfectly plain in its statement that its intention is to leave the Central Government in that position of strength which we all agree it ought to occupy; but I do net believe that this intention is adequately fulfilled, and I think that is one of the parts of the scheme that require very careful examination.
Now I come, in this same connection, to one of the observations of the Undersecretary last night. He made this point, and it is a very strong point indeed—far the strongest point, really, for the whole of these proposals—and it is this. He said that at the present moment educated Indian opinion, by its representatives, has the power of criticism without responsibility, and that, he said, is the path of danger. I quite agree with him, and so far as the intention 840 of the Montagu-Chelmsford Report is to wed responsibility to criticism I am entirely with the spirit of the authors of that Report; but I want to point out to my noble friend opposite, and to my noble friend behind me, that while they are in their proposals in many important respects wedding responsibility to the power of criticism, they are at the same time opening the door to the same men to further criticism and obstruction where there is no responsibility. That is where the two subjects interlink—the position of the Central Government and the safeguards against its being unduly weakened, and the possession of superior opportunity for criticism of that Central Government, of its administration, and of its acts, and even obstruction of its proposals, by men who are elected for other purposes, who are responsible in other spheres, but who will have no responsibility in connection with these high matters of State where the Central Government of India is intended to be left supreme. Therefore, while the danger of criticism without responsibility is partly obviated, I am not at all sure that the door is not opened to an even greater danger of the same kind in the future.
Now, my Lords, I come to the proposal for a Select Committee. I quite agree that we have to make a case out for that proposal, and I want to argue that case with the Government. It is suggested by my noble friend the Under-Secretary that such a Committee would be in fact a substitute for the responsibility of His Majesty's Government. That is the very last idea we have in our minds. It is quite impossible to substitute anything for the responsibility of His Majesty's Government.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
Then I misunderstood my noble friend. But I wish to make it perfectly plain that there is not the slightest intention to substitute anybody for the Government in the responsibility for this matter. It will be open for the Government to draw the reference to the Select Committee. If you have a Bill you can refer the Bill, and no reference is required; but in this case a reference would be required, and it would rest with the Government to draft that reference. Therefore they could make perfectly certain that the work of the Committee was only turned in a direction 841 which would be useful and helpful to them in their future labours.
What is the kind of work that we say such a Select Committee of the two Houses could properly do? I suggest that it could examine the practicability of some of the details of the Montagu-Chelmsford Report. I think there is a good deal of argument to be used pro and con about some of those, simply from the technical point of view. Are these proposals such as experience shows will work in a Government or in a Legislative Council? In the same way, such a body would examine the value of the criticisms directed against these proposals. Above all, it would weigh the effect of the scheme on the responsibility of the Government of India and on His Majesty's Government at home. Now we really are left entirely in the dark about that. We have eloquent sentences in the Report, but it is a subject which requires examination to the very bottom.
Supposing the whole of these proposals become law to-morrow, what really would be the effect on the Viceroy in his responsibility to the Government of India? What would be the effect on His Majesty's Government at home? What would be the effect on Parliament? These are the kind of questions that this Select Committee, I think, could most usefully examine, and it could also examine the degree to which decentralisation is possible. Personally, I am wholly on the side of the decentralisers in India and everywhere. That is my natural bent in administration, but so long as Parliament remains responsible I do see extraordinary difficulties in decentralising to the extent which, theoretically, is desirable. That, again, could be examined with great advantage by such a Select Committee. I suggest that instead of being the fifth cog in the wheel, instead of being an inconvenient, appointment, there is no body that really could be formed that would do more to help His Majesty's Government, acting on a reference framed by them, to come to their own decision later.
After all, this is one of the gravest matters which has ever come before Parliament. It is not doing again the work of the Montagu-Chelmsford Report. I entirely and emphatically deny that. That work could only have been done in India. This would be a critical examination, on the lines which I have suggested, by the most competent men in England, drawn from 842 both Houses, as to the practicability of these proposals and, as to their constitutional effect. That is all work which, in normal times, a Committee of the Cabinet would be doing now; but the Cabinet have not had time to think of this thing. Although this is one of the most tremendous questions that has ever come before the Imperial Parliament the Cabinet are at the present moment immersed in even greater questions. Nobody blames them. The last thing that any single member of this House would do would be to suggest the slightest blame to His Majesty's Government because they have not been able to consider the Montagu-Chelmsford Report and make up their minds about it. Why, they could not have done so, and they will not be able to do so for some time to come!
Is the interval going to be entirely lost? Is no opportunity going to be taken to use such brains as are available to His Majesty's Government to assist them to come to this decision—again, I say, working on a reference which His Majesty's Government would decide? I should not be supporting this Resolution if I did not believe most completely that it would be of real assistance to His Majesty's Government. It is quite true that it is not the suggestion which I made in debate at the end of the last session. The suggestion I then made is the one upon which the noble Lord has told me His Majesty's Government proposed to act—that when they have brought in their Bill dealing with this question, they will refer that Bill. I think that is quite right. I do not support this Motion in substitution for that. I think that would be the light course when the Bill is introduced, whether a Select Committee is appointed now or not. The Select Committee which is suggested now would have a wholly different f auction, and, I believe, an extremely useful one.
What is the reply of my noble friend? He says that the Report is incomplete, that there are three Committees at work, or shortly going to be at work—one to deal with franchise, another with the division of powers, and the third with the relations between the India Office and the Government of India—and he laid great stress on the impossibility of Hiss Majesty's Government or anybody else forming an opinion about the Montagu-Chelmsford Report till the Reports of these three Committees have been received. My noble friend's argument wil not bear the weight he tries 843 to put upon it. It will not indeed. Does anybody suggest that the acceptation or rejection of the main principles of this Report by His Majesty's Government depends on the Report of any of these three Committees, when these three Committees have quite definite limits within which they must report? There is no absolutely illimitable space in which they can exert their genius of invention. The limits within which the franchise proposals can be made, the limits within which the division of powers can be suggested, are all laid down in the Montagu-Chelmsford Report. That is also true of the relations between the India Office and the Government of India. No, my Lords. The Report will not be technically complete as a State document till the Reports of these three Committees have been received, but if His Majesty's Government had not been immersed in the war they would have announced their policy on the Montagu-Chelmsford Report by now, although these three Committees have not yet got to work. It is nothing but the war, and not the absence of these Reports, that has prevented His Majesty's Government coming to a decision.
Now I want to deal with another argument of my noble friend. He said that this proposal was almost unconstitutional. That was a little rash. Almost unconstitutional! I do not know that it could be unconstitutional for the two Houses of Parliament to appoint a Select Committee to consider any subject whatever, and certainly not a subject so gravely interesting to the future welfare of the Empire as this. Whatever this proposal is it certainly is not unconstitutional. Then he said that there would be no machinery to carry through the work of the Committee after a General Election. He was raising objections which he must have known could very easily be knocked down. These Committees will be composed, I presume, of some of the leading members of your Lordships' House and of the House of Commons. If it were known that a member of the House of Commons was not going to stand at the next General Election he would not be appointed on that Committee, and if a General Election intervened the Committee, of course, could be re-appointed and there would not be the slightest difficulty in the continuation of its work.
Then the noble Lord said that Indians would not come from India. Well, that 844 is entirely at the discretion of the Viceroy He may have been very wise to discourage Indians coming to this country under existing circumstances. But if Parliament appointed a Select Committee I can conceive of no reason why the Government of India should not let men of current opinion, not rebels like Mr. Tilak, come over and give evidence. And let me remind my noble friend that this is not the only proposal that has been made for a Select Committee. The same proposal was made by an Indian member of the Viceroy's Council, and it was at once granted. Why is it wise and feasible that there should be a Select Committee of the Viceroy's Council to consider this Report, and unwise and improper for a Select Committee of the two Houses of the Imperial Parliament?
My noble friend uttered a solemn warning. He said that, the whole of educated opinion in India was looking forward with great hope to the realisation of the spirit of the promise of August 20, that all the moderate section of it had accepted the scheme of the Montagu-Chelmsford Report. And he said—I do not in the least quarrel with him for saying it—what a dangerous thing it would be if there should be any suspicion on the part of our Indian fellow-subjects who are interested in this matter, small though their numbers are compared to the whole population, yet of course the weight of their position and their education is great—he said how dangerous it would be, how disastrous, if they thought that by undue delay or by any intention of going back on the spirit of the promise of August, this scheme, to which they were looking forward, was not likely to be in substance realised. I think my noble friend was only doing his duty in addressing that warning to the House.
But, my Lords, there is another warning which must be in the mind of every one of your Lordships. There is a still greater danger than that, and it is that a scheme should be brought in and fail. It would be far worse than any danger that could accrue from delay in dealing with this question that a premature decision should be responsible for the introduction of a scheme which failed and had to be withdrawn. That, indeed, I can imagine would be the most disastrous thing that could occur to the Government of India. And therefore, while entirely accepting the spirit of the warning of my noble friend, I do protest that he and the Government 845 must not forget the other side of the shield; that is, that they are attempting to do an extraordinarily difficult thing, that it is very hard to be wise, that it is very difficult to foresee what the effect of these proposals is going to be, and that no pains which we can take ought to be thrown away in endeavouring to come to the best decision. Such a decision can only be come to by Parliament. As my noble friend Lord Crewe said, if ever there was an occasion when Parliament can exert a great influence for good on the Government of the Empire, it is on this occasion, in dissecting proposals which are laid before it in connection with the future government of India.
Before I sit down, I want to make one more plea for this Committee. There is another danger, and I think it is present to my noble friend's mind although he did not state it. It is this—that every day that passes without the Government expressing an opinion will make it more difficult in the eyes of educated Indians for the Government, in any important degree, to vary this scheme. I think it is a great, misfortune that by the circumstances of the war the Government have been quite unable, to give their attention to this subject. But as week after week goes by, as month after month passes, as Committee after Committee is appointed and gets to work and not a word is said by the Government on the subject, why of course Indian opinion is getting to accept it as a fact that the Montagu-Chelmsford Report, in its details as well as in its spirit, is the scheme of the Government. The Government may say they are wholly uncommitted, they may protest in this House that they have still before them the opportunity of doing exactly what they think best with this Report, but I submit that they are deceiving themselves, that time is against them in this matter, and that this Committee which we propose would be of assistance to them because it would show Indian opinion that His Majesty's Government, through others and dealing with a deference made by them, is giving attention to this subject, but has not yet decided. So far from in any degree prejudicing the position of the Government, I say it will make their position easier, and will save them, pro tanto, from that impression in India that they are necessarily committed to all the detail, and it will give them material which will be of real assistance to them when the time comes that they can deal with this subject.
LORD MAC DONNELL
My Lords, I have been an attentive listener to this debate, and I came down to the House yesterday with the intention of taking some part in it. The speeches which were delivered by the noble Lords who spoke yesterday seemed to me to have covered the ground so completely that I abstained from any effort to take part in the discussion. But, my Lords, right carries counsel, and during the night I reflected on the long and many years that I lived in India and the part in the Indian Administrators which I was able to take; and my mind was impressed by the weighty arguments and the weighty issue which had to be decided, and I determined to ask your Lordships' permission to offer to you a few remarks—and they will be very brief—upon the whole subject.
I begin, my Lords, by saying that I accept the Declaration of August 20, 1917, in its full extent. As Lord Crewe has said this evening, that Declaration has never been made by the Government of India, or by this Government, in such precise terms, but it has been for many years in India the aspiration of perhaps the best men in the Indian Services. And although the Administration up to the present time has had efficiency as its object there did loom before the minds of many men the time when India might be raised to the position at which responsibile government might be possible. But, my Lords, nobody that I know of, no administrator of India, ever placed, in his wildest dreams, responsible government before good government, and never placed it before the safety and the prosperity of hundreds of millions of Indian subjects.
The authors of this Report seem to think—at least that is the impression conveyed to my mind—that responsible government is the only government worth having. I do not hold that opinion. I was greatly impressed by the remarks of the noble Lord who has just sat down in regard to other forms of government. The mental atmosphere in India is absolutely different from the atmosphere with which we are acquainted in England. From the earliest days government in India was autocratic. An order was given and it was obeyed, or if the order was in fair and unjust it was objected to; but until now never has there been a system of responsible government in India, and never was there until we went into the country any electorate whatever. 847 The electorates established by us in India are, as the authors of the Report themselves admit, of no avail whatever. They will all have to disappear before the electorates which are now to be established. It is difficult for me to understand how any responsible officer could propose to establish within five years, as this Report seems to think possible, an electoral system upon which a responsible, government could be created. I have spent a great part of my life among the people of India. I know a great number of the Provinces, and I know that it is one of the most difficult things imaginable to create an electorate in India.
I greatly regret the procedure which His Majesty's Government have thought fit to take in this matter, Reform of the Indian Government, changes in Indian Governments, have been frequent, and the procedure hitherto followed on great occasions, such as the renewal of the East India Company's Charter, was a careful inquiry into the state of the country, and a report indicating the lines upon which reform should proceed. If such a procedure as that had been taken, if after His Majesty's Government had issued the Declaration of August 20, 1917, it had committed to the Government of India the execution of these reforms, the matter would have been dealt with in a manner which would have excited no such attention as that which has been aroused. The whole thing would have been dealt with in a thoroughly satisfactory way, in a way which would have been consonant with Indian feeling, and a way to which they have been accustomed for generations. Now on this occasion we are told that the whole of the Indian Government as it now exists—the whole of the Indian Administration—is to be torn up by the roots to give way to this new and utterly unknown system. And this is to be done in a country which, we are told, is the land of settled government, "a land of old and great renown where freedom slowly broadens down from precedent to precedent." If the regular course had been followed, if the Indian Government had been entrusted with the execution of the reforms, inquiries would have been made, people would have been consulted, and a system, perhaps not altogether such as we have here, would have been devised, a system which would have been racy of the soil of India and congenial to the ideas of the people. The matter could have been thus disposed of 848 in good time, without haste and without difficulty.
But a microscopic class in India—I do not blame them for wishing to get power; twenty years ago they were scarcely known—ask for powers which are quite incompatible with the maintenance of British sovereignty in India, quite incompatible with the administration of law and the maintenance of order, and incompatible with the administration of justice in the impartial manner in which it has hitherto been administered in India. I agree that our policy in future should be directed towards the training of Indians for responsible government, but above all things they should be tested and tried carefully and for a number of years before they are entrusted with great powers ever persons who deny their competency to administer affairs, and who believe that they will not receive justice from their hands.
If we owe any gratitude during this war to any particular portion of Indian people, we owe it to the gallant soldiers who have crowded into our Armies. These soldiers come, from the agricultural classes, who, according to this Report, form 220,000,000 of the 244,000,000 of British subjects. As far as I am aware, no claim has come from that enormous multitude for a change of government, and no claim has come, so far as I know, from any of the great commercial bodies which flourish in India. The claim has come—and has been propagated in the country by the native Press—from a small microscopic minority who demand to have the vote at once, and, without training, to control the government of India. It seems to me a hallucination that such should be the end of the Government of India, that such should be the end of the Services which have maintained the pride and the power of England in that country—Services which have supplied some of the greatest names in our modern history. Yet proposals are made in these documents that these Services should be subordinated to this new class, that this new unformed electorate should obtain the power now exercised by Government officers in India. If this is done, I see nothing before the Indian Government except red ruin and the breaking up of all laws; I see nothing except constant quarrels, constant internecine struggles throughout the country.
As one who has spent thirty-five years in the country and who knows it, and has no 849 purpose to serve except to preserve to the people of India that prosperity which we have conferred upon them, I beg your Lordships to hesitate before you approve of this legislation. There is no doubt at all that if this thing is not carefully examined now, and if it passes through the regular procedure of our Houses of Parliament, it will come before us in the shape of a law with a large amount of prestige, the prestige of a Government, behind it, and it will be very hard for us or for the other House to refuse it, especially in the times in which we live. I think that the claims which are said to come from India are greatly exaggerated. They are claims from an extremely small body. From the vast mass of the people—from, I should say, 230,000,000 of people—you have no claim at all. From a small nucleus of 200,000 or 300,000 you have that claim, which is increased and reverberated throughout the world through their native Press. If we place confidence upon such a reason as that I foresee that this country, glorious and victorious as I hope she will be in this war, will have to submit to a great catastrophe before many years are over.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
My Lords, I feel that I can join my unhesitating tribute to that which has been offered by several of your Lordships, and especially by the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, to the ability and courage which we can attribute to the authors of this Report, because, whilst I support it and was given the very high privilege of joining in the discussions which led up to it, I am sorry to say that I cannot claim any parentage for it. At the same time I have little complaint with the reception that it has met with. The noble Lord, Lord Sydenham, whom I am sorry not to see in his place, spoke of the Report yesterday as having pleased no one except the entourage of the Secretary of State and the Viceroy, and other people who look up to them. I certainly traverse that description of the reception of the Report, which has now been before your Lordships for some months. There have been, with this, three debates in Parliament, and certainly the reception of the Report in the House of Commons was very favourable. The debate in your Lordships' House before we adjourned was certainly critical, but the criticism was not unfriendly. This debate has been sharper in its criticism, and I shall do my best to answer some of the criticisms which have been made. Of 850 course, as my noble friend who initiated the discussion said, there have been no public discussions. But I think we may claim that the reception of the Report by the Press has not been at all unfavourable. I therefore think I am justified in saying that if any single individual is entitled to a solitary pedestal to illustrate, the position in which he stands in relation to this Report the noble Lord, Lord Sydenham, would have more powerful claims to that pedestal than my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for India.
I contrast at once the attitude of the noble Lord who generally speaks from the cross-benches with the attitude of the noble Earl, Lord Selborne. But before I say one word in reference to his speech I would refer to the specific question which he asked me—Why is there this tone of apology in so many parts of the Report? I am sorry I cannot meet him on that ground, because I absolutely fail to recognise any apologetic tone. I am certainly not in an apologetic tone here this afternoon, and I have not been since I became connected with this matter last October. Our task when we went out last year was a perfectly clear one. We had the Declaration of August 20 as—if I may use the phrase not too officially—our terms of reference. I had accepted that Declaration confident in the fact that it was the Declaration of a Coalition Government, and—I am not ashamed to say it—containing leaders in whom I have confidence in this matter. We had no hesitation, therefore in undertaking our task, and I can remember nothing that occurred in all the discussions which took place leading up to our expressing our concurrence with the Report which could possibly be described as an apologetic attitude, on our part.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
I am sorry if that is the impression that the noble Earl has got.. I, like him, have read the Report a good many times and in a good many forms, and I am certainly unconscious of being in that position myself. But if I cannot satisfy the noble Earl upon that point, I should like to thank him most warmly for his speech. There was obviously a good deal in it which shows that he and I would agree to differ, but I desire to thank him for the attitude which he takes. The noble Earl's attitude is 851 obviously one of constructive and not destructive criticism—the destructive criticism which has characterised a certain number of the speeches which have been made in this debate.
The noble Earl, like the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, and the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, last evening drew attention to the difficulty of the situation which is undoubtedly arising through the fact that this scheme is before the public and is in danger of becoming stereotyped as the only scheme possible, and that hopes, false hopes, may be built up in the minds of our India fellow-subjects for the future. Certainly that danger is there, but we must accept it. We cannot help accepting it in the position that the Government take up, and have to take up. If His Majesty's Government say that the pre-occupations of the war are so great that they must concentrate upon the war, and have not time to give to this very important subject all the attention that it deserves, we must support them in that position. But if the responsibility is on His Majesty's Government, I think same responsibility is on their criticis also. Personally I have little doubt in my own mind that if the Declaration of August 20 is to be carried out boldly and honestly some such scheme as that outlined in the Report will have to appear before Parliament. I wanted to ask when I came down this evening, but I am very glad to say that the noble Earl has anticipated me, whether we may be quite certain that he and his noble friends accept the Declaration of August 20 or not. The noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, divided that Declaration into three limbs, as he called them, and made it quite clear that he accepts two of chose limbs, but is very doubtful about the third. But I was very glad indeed to hear in the speech of the noble Earl (Lord Selborne) that he has no hesitation in saying that he accepts the Declaration of August 20—that is to say, the spirit of it. Had any other declaration been made by the noble Earl—who I am sure speaks on behalf of those acting with him to-day—I think it would have been a great hardship upon many people in India; because we are at any rate entitled to argue that the Declaration of August 20 is now fifteen months old. During nine of those fifteen months Parliament has been sitting, and surely there has been time for those who do not accept the Declaration of August 20 to ask one or other House of Parliament to express 852 its dissent, and so make clear to those who have the hopes that they must not hope too much in the matter.
I desire also to thank the noble Lord for his attitude towards the Indian politicians. I wish that all the critics of reform in India took the same attitude. It has become the fashion in some minds to treat the Indian politicians as if they were a single unit, and to claim that the crimes of the few colour the characters of all. That is a most unfair attitude; and I was sorry to hear Lord Sydenham—perhaps I misunderstood the full import of what he said—speak last night of those "extremists who are now masquerading as moderates." I am sure that the noble Lord by that did not intend to suggest that all the moderates are merely extremist masqueraders.
But I fail utterly to understand one statement made by the noble Lord, and I feel that I must refer to it. Lord Sydenham suggested that some of the extremists had special facilities to put forward their views after the normal time that we gave to that matter. Your Lordships will perhaps allow me to mention that, the procedure followed in India was this. We went straight to Delhi, and most of the part of November that we were in India, all December, and part of January, was spent in formal deputations and in informal conversation in Delhi, Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay. When we returned to Delhi after our tour we concentrated on discussion amongst ourselves, and discussions with the various Provincial Governments whose representatives came up to Delhi. That was the second stage. The point that Lord Sydenham was making good was this. He said—I think that this is further shown in the negotiations entered into with Mrs. Besant and other extremists after the tour of the Viceroy and this addresses and deputations had ended, and when the draft of the Report was in hand.I am quite unable to recognise any authority for that statement. I say perfectly openly that I have nothing but gratitude for the frankness with which I was treated all through the tour. I was allowed access to every document that I wanted to see; and I hope my right hon. friend the Secretary of State will allow me to say that I believe he constantly went out of his way to keep me in touch with the things that were going on. In the same way the members of the Govern- 853 ment of India gave me frequent information, and afforded me constant facilities whenever I wanted any information; and I am bound to say that I have no recollection whatever of any special facilities or of any special interview being given either to Mrs. Besant or to anybody else at the time that I an now describing. I think it is only fair to make that clear, and to offer my testimony in the matter of that little bit of history.
To resume now the point that I was discussing. We all know that there are agitators in Indian life who would be a disgrace to any community. The Rowlatt Report, which was referred to yesterday, proves this, and probably proves also a great many things which many of your Lordships believed already. But it would be very unfair to assume that anything like the majority of Indian reformers are of the class of people such as the Rowlatt Report condemns. On the contrary, I believe, as a result of having talked to many scores of them, that we must look in the future to co-operation with the leading men amongst Indians in association with us. They are the educated class, but they are none the worse for that. It is we who have brought them, into existence by our methods, and we ought to be proud of them and not shy of them. We certainly cannot ignore them; and I feel that we should lose a glorious chance if we did not take every opportunity of welding them into a share with us in our Government. But, at the same time they have a responsibility.
The facts in the Rowlatt Report, I take it, cannot be denied. They are very bad. They are the production of jurists, of men trained in the weighing of evidence; and they condemn a number of the Indian reformers. It cannot, be too strongly insisted that it is the duty of the moderates among the Indian reformers to make it perfectly clear to the public in India and to the public at home that they haw no lot or parcel with the extremists who have been so rightly condemned. Unless they can make that perfectly clear it would be only natural that public opinion here at home may be timid in conferring new powers upon them.
Before I refer to one or two of the criticisms that have been passed upon the Report in this debate, there are two points to which I desire to refer very shortly. One of them has been alluded to in the debate, but the other has not. I do this 854 because I desire specially to ask your Lord ships to keep these points in mind when considering this question; and they are points which have not always been given that prominence which I think they deserve. The first point is the opportunity that the proposals in the Report give for a vast extension of decentralisation from the Central Government. I speak without hesitation in this matter. I had made up my mind upon it, I confess, before I went to India—when I sat upon the Mesopotamia Commission. I do not know if your Lordships will ever suffer the penalty of reading the eleven volumes of evidence which the Government have locked away upon that subject, but my experience upon that Commission brought home to me as clearly as possible the fact that the Government of India where it had failed, had done so through the over-weight that was put upon it at the centre. I have no hesitation in saying that this view which I held when I went out was amply confirmed.
We heard the same complaint everywhere—in Calcutta, in Madras, in Bombay, and in one or two of the other Provinces that I was able to visit. It was always the same thing. "We cannot get answers out of the Government of India," and the explanation given at Headquarters—perhaps I ought not to put it quite so strongly as that, but the explanation that I formed in my own mind at Headquarters—was that the Central Government was choked with the constant reference of detail. One case in particular was brought to our notice—that of Burma. Burma is a Province with the richest possible potentialities, which can claim, however, that its proper development has been constantly checked owing to the timidity of the Government of India in allowing it to create precedents that might be awkward in other Provinces. There is no reason to be timid in this matter. In carrying out, devolution to the Provinces you are devoluting to Provinces with fully organised Governments and with territory of the size of normal European countries. You are not merely decentralising to tiny little units, but almost decentralising to nations, and I desire particularly to point out to your Lordships that there is, I believe for the first time, in thin Report, an opportunity offered of a complete decentralisation such as has never been offered before.
The great obstacle to decentralisation up till now has been the interlocking of the 855 financial systems of the Government of India and the Provinces, and I desire, to pay my tribute to those of my colleagues who took up the discussion of this question and worked out a scheme, I believe for the first time, that will completely abolish what are known technically as "divided heads," and make possible the independence of the finance of the Government of India and of the Provinces. I have not stated the case quite fully. I do not want to go into the matter in detail. A little inter-dependence remains, and the Undersecretary will understand what I mean; but that is, broadly, the system which the Report has worked out, and it will be, I believe, of incalculable value; to the efficiency of the Government of India if it is carried out.
The second point, which I beg your Lordships always to keep in mind when thinking of these reforms, is the proposal for the re-establishment of the Periodical Parliamentary Inquiry. It has been abolished since the East India Company disappeared from the scene, but it is a proposal winch I feel ought to encourage the most timid to give the new system a really good trial. Your Lordships will understand what it is. It is proposed that at certain intervals, not exceeding twelve years, a Committee should go out from home, the names to be approved by Parliament, to inquire into the working of the new Constitution, whatever it is, which will now be introduced. That Committee will have power to inquire into how the franchises have worked—how the democratic part of the Government has done its duty, whether satisfactorily or unsatisfactorily. If the answer is satisfactory, your Lordships will see that a good case will be made in the particular Province for an extension. If the answer is unsatisfactory, a good case is made for taking away from the democratic bodies the powers which they have misused. I wish particularly to insist that, if a Reform Bill comes before your Lordships embodying the proposals in the Report, Parliament will not be finally taking a leap in the dark, but will be initiating a scheme on which it will keep its full grip and will be fully able to watch out its working and check or discourage wherever one or the other is necessary. I know, my Lords, that this is an unusual proposal as far as our experience of public Bills goes, but I think it is a wise one, and, as I have said, a very safe one from the point of view of any 856 doubter as to the, wisdom of the course that we are pursuing.
I would ask your Lordships' attention while I refer to a few of the detailed criticisms which have been made of the proposals found in the Report, but I must first premise and repeat what was undoubtedly noticed by my noble friend Lord Crewe in the debate which took place before the adjournment, in which I congratulate him upon having "spotted," if I may use the term, what undoubtedly has been our experience in the discussions in India which led up to the scheme. These proposals are not the only ones that we discussed. I might almost say that scores of alternatives were discussed, but I do claim that of all possible alternatives we did discuss, the proposals in the Report will be found to be the easiest to carry out for practical reasons, and there will be less objection as a rule to the detailed proposals than I think you will be able to advance to the alternative, proposals if you take up their discussion.
The first criticism that I would refer to was one by the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, who while recognising that the Report is anxious to preserve the power of the Central Government, fears that the detailed proposals are not sufficient to ensure the maintenance of that power. May I mention to him, and I am sure that he will think it over and that his conclusion will be, valuable to us, the difficulty with which we are confronted over the Government of India. I hope I am not speaking disrespectfully of that body when I say that in former years the Government of India used to be entirely isolated at Simla for half the year, but was thoroughly in touch with public opinion through the visit to Calcutta for the other half of the year, Calcutta being one of the most active places in India. The move to Delhi has altered that. They still remain isolated at Simla and out of touch with the commercial life and with a great part of Indian life, for half the year, and are equally isolated for the other half of the year in Delhi. Delhi is not a quarter built, and will not be built, presumably, for a great many years. What we felt as regards the Government of India was this, that something must be done to increase its touch with active life, if possible, from one end of the peninsula to the other, and that the present small Legislative. Council cannot, with the best intention in the world, be 857 regarded as efficiently performing that function now that the residence in Calcutta haw been done away with.
Secondly, I would refer to the criticism by my noble friend Lord Midleton of the prominence given in the scheme to the use of the veto. Lord Midleton, I think, said that you cannot continue to govern by veto, and the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne—I do not think I have his exact words—stated that the veto is always a very unpopular check. I admit frankly that one would expect, if this scheme were carried out, that the veto would be more used then at present. But in place of what would it work? It would work in place of the present official bloc, which is one of the most objectionable things that can possibly be imagined. I think my figures are correct. There are in the Legislative Council of the Government of India sixty-eight members. Of these, thirty-six are officials (twenty-eight officials and members of the Executive Council) five are non-officials nominated, and twenty-seven are elected. The officials are only permitted to vote as they are ordered, and they are very seldom allowed to vote as they think, if they happen to think differently from the Government. The official bloc is really autocracy, or the veto if you like to use the word, with a sham veil of popular government thrown over it. It is degrading to your officials, who frequently have to vote against their convictions.
I need only mention one case to your Lordships. I believe there have been a number of Divisions in years past on the subject of Indian Cotton Duties, in which, naturally, the officials would have to vote the way they were told, and that way, I presume, would represent the opinion of the British Government at home. I met no Indian official in India who does not take what would be called the Indian view as opposed to the Lancashire view in this question of the Indian Cotton Duties. It is, of course, quite unlike the practice at home. We all sympathise with members of the Government when we realise that they are voting for a Government proposal which we know is contrary to their convictions. It has often happened. But at any rate the remedy is in their own hands. If they feel very strongly on the subject they can always resign, and their political career is in no way damaged but very often very much improved.
858 Compare that with the position of the members of the Indian Civil Service. They are servants of the Government. They are ordered to become members of Council. When they are there as a rule, as I have said, they have to keep silence, or, at any rate when they do speak, they speak only as representing their Departments, generally delivering speeches which have been previously printed and approved by superior authority. Whatever their convictions are they must vote as they are told, and, however much they disagree with the Government, they have no remedy but resignation, when means destroying their whole political careers and sacrificing their pensions. I believe the system is detested by many of the officials themselves. It covers them with odium, often unwarranted, from those who ought to be helped to co-operate with them. This official bloc is only a veto in a sham cloak, and I think the veto naked and unashamed is infinitely preferable to it. I admit that the Report does not do away entirely with the official bloc, but it does do away with it to a great extent and substitutes the veto for it. I believe that that is a very great gain.
Another criticism was made by the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, who observed that the Report takes no notice of difficulties arising from the prevalence of caste. I wish he had gone a little more deeply into that argument. I know it is a familiar argument. People often say. "Oh! you must be careful what you are doing; it will interfere with caste"; and there is almost invariably a cheer. I noticed a cheer from this bench—I think from the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, who is going to speak later—when that sentiment was expressed. It came from close to the noble Marquess, anyhow. May I mention to your Lordships what my experience on this point has been? I knew of the existence of the argument when I went to India, and I was very anxious indeed to get all the information I could upon the point. I have discussed the matter with, I am sure, a dozen individuals—men of different castes. Brahmins, non-Brahmins and others—and the invariable answer I have got to the question, "Is not any progress towards democratic ideas barred by the distinction of caste?", is "No, there is no reason why there should be any difficulty at all." That is the kind of answer I got.
Caste certainly bars association for eating together, drinking together, marrying to- 859 gether. It is a social bar, but it is not a business bar. There is nothing to prevent various castes associating for the purpose of business or politics. It is quite true that there does remain what are known as the "untouchable" castes. I have put that question again—the question of their position—to Brahmins and non-Brahmins. That difficulty is admitted, and one can only draw comfort in this matter from the knowledge that there is a small perhaps, but growing, opinion in India anxious to better the lot of these unfortunate people. I admit that it is the weakest point in the answer to the question, "Will not caste be a difficulty?" We can only hope that the progress of modern thought, and probably the progress of Western thought, will help to break down the obvious difficulty of this part of the problem, which is not, however, by any means the whole of the problem when regarded from the point of view of caste.
Then the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, drew attention to the great difficulty of drawing what, I think, he called a "scientific frontier" between the transferred and the reserved subjects. I agree that it is difficult, but what is the alternative? There seem to me to be three courses open—to transfer no power to a democratic interest, which ex hypothesi we are not going to adopt, or to transfer everything, which would fill the minds of a number of Indian reformers with horror at the prospect, or to transfer a certain amount and retain the rest. I therefore entirely agree that the problem is difficult, but it seems to me essential that it must be faced if you are going to make any progress at all. My noble friend Lord Midleton, I was glad to see, while insisting that the power of the Government of India must be retained unimpaired—I think I am not misrepresenting him—is prepared to go a considerable way in the Provinces.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
Well, my Lords, that forces you at once to face this question of the frontier between transferred and reserved subjects. What it comes to is this. It can only be solved, and, what is much more important, worked when it has been drafted, with good will on all sides. And I am optimistic enough to believe that this good will will be present. I believe that there are among 860 the Indian politicians many men anxious keenly to co-operate with you, and I have no anxiety, of course, as regards the attitude of the Indian Civil Servants, whose honourable tradition it has always been to do their best to carry out what they know to be the wishes of the British Parliament.
The noble Lord, Lord Sydenham, referred to communal representation, and I hope I do not misunderstand him. If I do, I will leave the point at once, because if I do not misunderstand him we are in agreement. I do not regard the Report as finally bolting and barring the door against communal representation.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
I see the noble Lord assents. Therefore I will save your Lordships' time by not further referring to it, more especially as it was alluded to by the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe. But the noble Lords opposite—Lord Lansdowne and Lord Sydenham—asked how will the position of the district officer be affected? My impression is that the position of the district officer has greatly changed of late. I got, of course, into touch with some of them and visited their districts, and they were all ready to say, and some to say very strongly, that their position has changed very greatly of late years; they are much less the paternal governors of their districts, and they are much more the writers of Reports for, and the almost parrot-like repeaters of tabulated decisions by, the Central Governments. Under these proposals, with the great extension of the powers and sphere, of local government that either is assumed or advocated, I believe the role of the district officer has a chance of being restored to much of its old freedom as the guide, philosopher, and friend of local thought and administration.
The last point to which I should like to allude is one that was referred to again by my noble friend Lord Midleton, who criticised the Parliamentary Committee that it is proposed to set up. Why is the House of Lords excluded? he asked.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
I am bound to say I have asked the same question, but I think I am giving away no confidence when I confess that the answer given to me was that this Committee will 861 be very largely charged with financial questions, and that, therefore, it might be difficult to associate your Lordships with the work
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
I am aware of that, my Lords, but still a barrier is there, and if my noble friend can succeed in breaking down that barrier I certainly shall rejoice with him. But as regards the Parliamentary Committee system, I confess I am an unblushing advocate of it; and there, I am afraid, my noble friend and I disagree. My noble friend drew a very sad picture of a Secretary of State being brought down to this Parliamentary Committee perhaps twice a week, and being cross-examined on his Estimates or on his policy by members of Parliament, And turned inside out in the process. In my opinion nothing would do a Secretary of State more good than to be treated in that way. I believe that when the secret history of this war is written it will be found that the Parliamentary Committees of the French Parliament have played a most honourable part in directing the policy of the conduct of the war. I will not go into it, however, in detail, now, but I expect that the Parliamentary Secretary of the War Office understands to what I refer. And I have always felt that by such Committees and giving them power to examine the Secretary of State and other high officials over their Estimates, nothing but good would come. Nothing will discover the shortcomings of a Ministry quicker, and nothing will help a Secretary of State more, as I believe very often he ought to be helped, in his annual contest with the Treasury. And therefore I sincerely hope that this proposal of the Parliamentary Committee will not disappear when we have the Bill, which we shall doubtless have some day before us.
My Lords, these are the criticisms of detail to which I have desired to reply. A little scorn has, perhaps, rather been poured on the ultimate goal to which the Declaration of August 20 points. My noble friend Lord Midleton referred to the phrase "The faith that is in us," and condemned it in the sense that it points to democratic institutions. India, he said, may be an Empire, but it will never be a nation——
THE EARL OF DNOUGHMORE
The noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, noticing another idea laid down in the Report, the idea of India being alongside our self-governing Dominions, said, I think, "It is a dream." Our self-governing Dominions he described as British and Western; India is Eastern, and will remain so. My Lords, why should we make fun of the faith that is in us? Is there no faith in us? Can the proposition that Western institutions can never be introduced into India be really maintained for five minutes? Why, we have been introducing them every day for years past. Look at the position of the Viceroy. India is not governed by a Viceroy; it is governed by a Viceroy in Council, which is a Western institution, the Council in which all the members are asked their opinions in order of seniority, and in which minutes of dissent—of almost interminable length, but that is a detail—are allowed to be recorded. That is a Western institution. I have yet to learn that the great Emperor Akbar, after consulting those distinguished men who were his chief advisers, ever allowed a minute of dissent to be recorded.
We have thrown open the doors of Western education to Indians, both in India and here at home; our schools and Universities receive them with open arms, and confer upon them every advantage that we can obtain for ourselves. Indians go back to India impregnated with the philosophy of Oxford, and with the mathematics and science; of Cambridge at their fingers' ends. Western medical science has gone to India to stay, and the country of its adoption rejoices in it and is full of promise of great exponents. The principles of Western jurisprudence have been grafted into Indian lite; the rules of equity are recognised in Calcutta as they are recognised in your Lordships' House. Western religion brings its solace to many on the Indian Peninsula—a small but a growing number. On some Indians the very doubtful advantage of Western tailoring has been conferred, and the less that extends I am sure the better we all shall be pleased. But Western methods of trade and industry are in evidence in many parts of India. The Tata works in Bombay, for instance, are Western in essence but Indian in ownership, and a standing example that the. East can adopt and successfully carry out Western methods.
863 Western means of communication all over the Empire, a network of railways, electric telegraphs which are part and parcel of the life of the people! Can it really be finally maintained that the Western system of government responsibility to the governed is the only Western thing that can never be introduced into India? I certainly cannot maintain that position, and if noble Lords maintain it then it seems to me that it is their duty at the earliest possible moment, as I hinted at the commencement of my remarks, to move that the Declaration of August last is contrary to the beliefs and intentions of the British Parliament. That action has not been taken, and I therefore feel that I am entitled to claim that, whilst constructive criticism cannot but be helpful, purely destructive negative criticism such as we have had a good deal of in this debate is in the circumstances not of the greatest possible value.
The noble Earl, Lord Selborne, accepts the principle of self-government for India, though not necessarily our form of self-government. Self-government, as far as I understand it, presupposses democracy; and the noble Lord, Lord Sydenham, said yesterday that no country is less fit for democratic institutions than India at this moment. I would reply, How then can she ever become fit unless she is slowly given the opportunity of practising the use of democratic institutions? We cannot stay in a perpetual circle. We cannot say that she can never become fit if we never give her the opportunity of learning to be fit. It is because I believe that the reforms proposed by my right hon, friend lead out of the circle in which we have, been for some years that I shall certainly lose no opportunity of supporting them as they are now before Parliament. I desire to say that I quite accept the view of His Majesty's Government, that the proper time for the appointment of a Parliamentary Committee will be when the Bill is in your Lordships' hands, and I therefore propose to vote with them if my noble friend behind me challenges a Division.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON)
My Lords, although the attendance on neither of the two occasions on which your Lordships have, been discussing this Motion has been large, nobody can dispute or underrate the gravity and importance of the speeches that have been made. 864 Among the many debates to which I have listened in this House there is none which has seemed to me not only to be more worthy of the traditions and reputation of your Lordships' House, but also more useful to those who desire to make up their minds on this very difficult and complex question. We have had in the course of the debate speeches from two ex-Secretaries of State, from one former Viceroy, from two Governors of great distinction, and we have just listened to a member of the Commission which is responsible for what is commonly called the Montagu-Chelmsford Report. A great many of these speeches have contained a good deal of criticism—sometimes hostile criticism—upon the Report itself and the recommendations that it makes. With that part of the discussion I am not particularly concerned to-deal. The other part of the speeches has related to criticism—also sometimes very strong and forcible criticism—of the procedure that His Majesty's Government have adopted or propose to adopt.
In all probability it will be considered my duty, speaking for the Government now, to reply more particularly to the charges under the two latter headings to which I have referred—namely, the procedure of the Government up to date, and the procedure of the Government in the stages that lie before us. The history of this matter is well known to your Lordships. It has passed through several stages, all of which are now within public knowledge. The first public stage was, of course, the reading out in another place in August last of the historic announcement by the Secretary of State. I say that that was the first public stage, but it was by no means the first stage, because, as some of your Lordships perhaps know, that announcement was itself the result of prolonged correspondence with the Government of India, of close and repeated examination at home, find of an amount of labour which I can imagine must rarely have been expended upon a public announcement. I imagine that as much care was devoted to this Declaration—perhaps more—than to the famous Declaration of Her Majesty Queen Victoria in 1858, a Declaration which, if I remember rightly, was framed by Lord Derby and corrected and amended by Her Majesty's own hand. Without claiming for a moment that this announcement was, therefore, invested with any pontifical character, it had at the same time a seriousness, a moment, and an 865 intended weight which no one of your Lordships, I am sure, will be willing to dispute.
The noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, in his remarks this evening said that that Declaration no doubt sprang from the circumstances of the war. I think that is a perfectly true and fair remark. I can quite believe that had the war not occurred the Declaration might not have been made either in that particular form or at that particular time. None of us can fail to realise that the war has created aspirations, has unchained ideas, has provoked claims which ten years ago—perhaps even at a later date when Lord Morley and Lord Minto were considering their proposals—would have been deemed premature. That is a fact that we all have to deal with. The war has altered the whole perspective of life in both hemispheres, and it is inconceivable that it should have passed through its tragic course without leaving much more than a ripple upon the surface of the Indian nation, and without profoundly stirring its depths. The second remark that was made by some noble Lord—I think Lord Lansdowne—yesterday, was that the Declaration committed nobody. The answer to that was given by Lord Selborne to-night. The remark is one that I could not for a moment accept.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I said that technically it certainly committed nobody, but that I recognised that an announcement of that kind having been made, it was impossible to ignore it.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I accept the noble Marquess as an ally in the remark that I was about to make. It was this. Of course, the Declaration did commit His Majesty's Government, and Lord Selborne carried the matter a stage further, because in the course of his very weighty speech he said that it committed us, and by us he meant Parliament and the nation. And that this was so I think is clear, because when the Declaration was made I cannot recall in any public announcement in either House of Parliament, or in any speech made in either House of Parliament, any suggestion of dissent either from the spirit or even from the phraseology of that Declaration. In fact Lord Sydenham, who is one of the strongest critics of the Secretary of State's scheme, admitted, I think in the last debate we had here, not only that the pronouncement was a sound and a wise one, 866 but in his view it was a mere re-enunciation of principles which had always lain at the basis of our Government of India.
That was the first stage. About the second stage I need say very little—I speak of the visit, of the Secretary of State to India. The noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, said to-night that there were two alternatives that might have been adopted. The one was an Inquiry by a Royal Commission; the second, I think, was a Parliamentary Inquiry similar to those which have sometimes been held in reference to the Government of India in earlier days, and he gave reasons, which I need not repeat, why neither of those methods was expedient in the circumstances of the case. I may mention this, that the only alternative to the visit of the Secretary of State to India which was before us at the time was a suggestion that an important Commission should go to India for the purpose. As is well known, the views of the Viceroy and of the Government of India had been in our possession for some months. Similarly the Secretary of State for India, then Mr. Chamberlain, and his advisers at the India Office had formulated their own ideas. They were not in complete accord. How were we to effect co-ordination, and, if possible, fusion between the two? There were two methods of doing so; one was the sending out of a Commission to India, the other was that adopted. The drawbacks of sending out a Commission to India at that stage, however authoritative, were these. If they reported in a sense differing from the views of the Government of India, or differing from those of the Secretary of State and the Council of India at home, the Cabinet here would be placed in the almost impossible position of having to decide between three different programmes. In these circumstances, accepting the suggestion of the Viceroy himself, which I personally think was a very wise one, the Cabinet charged the Secretary of State with the Mission to India which he undertook, and when that Mission is sometimes described, I will not say as a hole and corner affair, but as a Mission invested with circumstances of secrecy, and so on, be it remembered that the right hon. gentleman took members of both Houses of Parliament with him, including the noble Lord who has just spoken; and that, although he desisted from making speeches in India, there was no secrecy whatever about the proceedings of the Mission. On the contrary, every body, society, and 867 community in India was prepared for months in organising its case, which had in most cases been published in the papers, and although—I am not certain about this—the meetings between the deputation and Indian bodies may have been conducted in private, absolute publicity attended the whole presentation of the Indian case. That was the second stage.
The third stage was the return of the Secretary of State to England and the presentation of his Report, I think in the month of July. No doubt the whole circumstances of the case and the procedure adopted have been unusual. But I do not think any one would contend that because the Government were involved in war, because they were not able at once to devote close attention to the matter, therefore the Report should not have been published. In fact, an engagement had been given that the views of the Secretary of State when he returned should be placed before Parliament. And therefore we pass the third stage, about which I say, I think there is no dispute—namely the publication of the Montagu-Chelmsford Report.
Then we come to the fourth stage, which I may call that of public criticism. A debate took place, in the House of Commons which I believe was generally, almost universally, favourable to the general scope and character of the scheme. A debate took place in your Lordships' House in which more divided opinions were expressed. The opinion in your Lordships' House seems to have rather crystallised in opposition to the scheme since then, and I think the debate of which this is the concluding stage has been marked by a severer tone than that which marked the proceedings in August last. Meanwhile some noble Lords have spoken as if, short of the Parliamentary Inquiry for which they plead, no opportunity was being presented to the public of forming their own judgment upon the matter. Is that the case? If I may speak from my own experience, although I have now no connection with India, I am inundated with telegrams and representations from all sorts of bodies both in India and at home. The Civil Service have, I will not say put forward, but they have had the advantage of having their case represented by, one of their most eminent members—I speak of one of my old colleagues in India, Sir John Hewett, an administrator 868 of first-class ability, great experience, and of very balanced judgment. And listening to the speeches yesterday evening I could not help being clear in my own mind that Sir John Hewett's pamphlet had been of substantial assistance to some of the noble Lords who then addressed us.
This process of examination and of criticism is not yet exhausted. Mention has been made in the course of this debate of Indian opinion. Indian opinion was, of course, widely, freely heard in India by the members of the deputation. It has not been heard or, at any rate, it has been less fully heard in this country. That has not arisen from any desire to stint the expression of Indian opinion here, any more than in India itself. It has arisen, as I think noble Lords know very well, from the circumstances of the war, the undesirability in the recent stages of the war of letting loose a flood of controversy or agitation in this country. But the Government have always contemplated that Indians should be given the same chance of expressing their opinions here as they had in India itself, with a view, not, of course, of influencing the Government or the members of the deputation, who know their case, but of letting the public at large know what is to be said on both sides of the Indian question. And I think my noble friend the Under-Secretary said yesterday that it has been decided by the Viceroy's Goverment in India and the Government at home to give facilities, as soon as they can be provided, to representatives of all important classes of opinion in India to come to this country. I will discuss a little later in my observations whether the opportunities of which I speak might be in any degree accelerated.
These are the four stages through which we have passed or are passing; and now we are approaching the fifth or penultimate stage, in which it is the duty of this Government, as it would be of any Government, to make up their own minds about the scheme, to prepare it, and to submit it to Parliament. I am not clear that all the noble Lords who have spoken have been quite fair about the work of those two Committees that are already starting, or have started, for India, and about the third, which is in course of being set up in order to deal with the question of the India Office and the relation of the Government of India to the Government at home, the powers of the 869 India Council, and so on. I think it was my noble friend Lord Midleton who drew a distinction between the two Committees which have gone to India, and said that the Committee to deal with the franchise was all right and that that was in any circumstances necessary, but that the Committee to deal with the classification of the reserved and transferred, subjects was in a different category, because it related only to the Montagu-Chelmsford scheme. I do not think that is a fair distinction to draw. Both these proposals are not only germane but essential to the scheme. You cannot, on the one hand, decide what your Legislative Assembly is to be until you have settled what your electorate is to be, and until you have settled the method of elect on that is to be adopted. On the other hand, you cannot form an opinion even on the principle of reserved or transferred subjects until you know what are the subjects it is proposed to reserve and what to transfer. For instance, some noble Lords last night made what I thought were very powerful observations about education agriculture, sanitation. It would be quite wrong to assume that any definite decision his been come to upon this point. I have not the lightest idea what the Committee will decide, but until the Committee advises us it will be very difficult for the Government to make up their minds upon the matter.
At this stage the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, proposes—and he has had very strong support—that a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament should be set up to whom the Montagu-Chelmsford Report should be referred. My noble friend Lord Islington yesterday said that this would be to do the work of the Secretary of State and his colleagues over again. He has been criticised for that remark; yet I think in substance it is quite true. But whether you say that it would be doing the work afresh, or whether you say that it would be doing it in another way, I ask you to pause for a moment and consider whether it is a desirable way or the best way of doing it. Say that you set up this Joint Committee; say that you ask the consent of the House of Commons to appoint its own members in equal proportion to yours upon that Committee. What then? This has been refused on previous occasions. But supposing they agree; do you think that at the present moment this is the best form that you can devise? After all, the Mission had access, as I have 870 pointed out, to every variety and stratum of Indian life and opinion. What could the Committee do here? It could no doubt do valuable work, perhaps more valuable than Parliament, in listening to the evidence of distinguished men who have served in India for the best part of a lifetime, and who are now resident in this country; they would be mostly of our own race and would be able to speak of their knowledge and experience in India. But that is only one side of the shield. It should be worth while, and I think it is, to listen to and to attach great weight to, what is said on that, side; but I hardly think that a parliamentary Inquiry of that sort would carry any great confidence when, owing to physical and geographical conditions, Indian opinion, except that of eminent Indians in this country, must be necessarily excluded.
But suppose that difficulty to be removed. Your Committee sit, and they have the Montagu-Chelmsford Report as a basis of their discussion. If it is a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament we know it has to be composed of representatives of the different sections of opinion in Parliament. Opinion in this House about India is not widely divided, but opinion in the House of Commons takes very opposite and extreme forms. Do you imagine for a moment that you will get from the Committee anything tike a unanimous Report in one direction or the other? You suggest to us that you want to help the Government. We are not very grateful for the offer. Difficult as it is to make up our minds upon the scheme itself, with all its multifarious complexities, I confess that I think our position would be tenfold more difficult if on the top of it we had a Joint Report of a Committee of Parliament, with two or three Minority Reports amending the scheme, criticising the scheme, possibly rejecting the scheme. What is the Government to do when the Committee has reported? Is it to accept some of the suggestions and reject others? Supposing the Committee reject the scheme, are the Government to wipe off the slate altogether the scheme of their Secretary of State and accept that of the Committee? I am putting to you what I conceive to be the serious objections to the creation of a Parliamentary Committee of the character you propose at this moment.
I would like to put another point of view. Would you be acting in quite a fair way to 871 the Secretary of State and the Viceroy? Those two great officials are the responsible heads—subject, of course, to the Cabinet—of the Government of India at home and in India itself. You charge them with this task; you give them six months of time in which to do it; you publish their Report. Before the Report itself is complete—because, as we rill know, these Committees are to complete the Report—before the scheme is complete, before the Cabinet has had time to devote itself to the matter, you say to these two great officials, "We have so little confidence in your scheme that we are going to send it to Parliament to see what Parliament has to say about it," I do not know that the circumstances in which this Report wan written are exactly analogous to any that have occurred before, but I am certain that if I were Secretary of State, or if I were Viceroy, and had been asked by the Government to accept this thankless task and had done it, I should not regard it as in the nature of a compliment—I should be more disposed to look upon it as an affront to myself—if the Government which had charged me with that task took my Report and threw it into the hands of a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament and said, "Let us see what you think of it, and let us know in what form it ought to be worked out."
There is another point, upon which I do not lay so much stress as others might do, because I have not the knowledge with which to do it—but what would be the effect that would be produced in India? Whether India expects to get the whole scheme or not, whether it will or will not be irritated by modifications of the scheme in the future, nothing I am certain is more likely to chill the spirit of India than an impression that the Government at home is not serious; and I believe that if you take the scheme now and put it on the Table of Parliament to be examined with all the powers Parliament would have to revise and transform it, you would produce an impression in India that you were trifling, that you were not serious in your proposals, that the Secretary of State and the Viceroy having done all this work, somehow or other when it got here it was to be brushed on one side and the thing was to be started again de novo. I believe that those who know India will say that I am not putting it too high when I suggest that this impression would exist, and that people would think there, "Here are the 872 Government at home trying to find a loophole of escape both from the policy put forward and from the implications of the famous assurance of August 20 last."
I come now to the case which was very powerfully put by my noble friend Lord Selborne for the Committee, and which I believe was echoed (although I had not the good fortune to hear his remarks) by Lord MacDonnell. It is true that on previous occasions in our history, notably in the eighteenth century when the whole relations of the Company to the Government were under consideration, there were from time to time Parliamentary Inquiries into the Government of India, and that those Parliamentary Inquiries sometimes resulted in legislation. But I think my recollection of history is correct when I say that on no occasion did the Government, introducing a great Bill for the government of India, allow the responsibility to be assumed by anybody but itself. When Mr. Fox introduced his East India Bill in 1783, when that Bill having failed Mr. Pitt followed suit with the next Bill, when the Charter Act of 1813 was passed, when the Act of 1833 followed, when the legislation from 1858 to 1861 that attended the taking over of the Government of India by the Crown took place—in none of those cases was the Bill sent to a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament, nor did it emanate from them. It was introduced into Parliament on the responsibility of the Government, and I submit that it is really not only the old tradition and practice but it is constitutionally the duty of the Government to assume responsibility for their own measures in this respect.
My Lords, I said just now that I would allude to one occasion on which a Joint Committee of both Houses had been moved for in relation to India, and it is somewhat significant. It was in 1886, when Lord Kimberley was Secretary of State, and he was beginning to consider the question of those changes in the Government of India which a little later took form in the proposals of my noble friend Lord Lansdowne, and which incidentally I had the good fortune, as Under-Secretary, to conduct through the House of Commons. In 1886 Lord Kimberley, being anxious to investigate the subject of the Government of India, proposed and carried in this House a suggestion for a Joint Committee which was to inquire into the operation of the Acts of 1858, 1861 and 873 1870. There was no analogy between those, circumstances and these, for this reason. The Government at that time had no policy and no Report on which to work, and no scheme. They wanted to be presented by Parliament with a policy and a scheme, and therefore sought to obtain it by means of a Joint Committee. What happened? Tour Lordships carried the proposal in this House for a Joint Committee to be set up. The House of Commons took no notice, of the suggestion, and the proposal came to nothing. Therefore my Lords, do re-member, though I do not say the same sort of thing would happen again, that by your action you cannot pledge another place to co-operate with you in the manner you may desire.
I think what my noble friend Lord Islington meant last night when he used the word, if he did use it, "unconstitutional," was—and therein I hold him to be right—that the constitutional position is for the Government of the country to make itself responsible for legislation, to lay its Bill before Parliament, to court every manner of Parliamentary inquiry when that stage has been reached, but not to hand over it a functions and duties to Parliament in advance. Then my noble friend Lord Selborne explained his view of what his Committee would do. He was kind enough to tell us that it would do the work of the Cabinet. I am very much obliged to him.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
Yes, do the work that the Cabinet would be doing in normal times and is unable to undertake now. That is a most novel suggestion, for which I am very grateful to him. But I am not quite certain that the Cabinet would have been doing it in normal times. I am not quite clear that any Cabinet, even if there were no war at all, could have settled down at this stage, to deal with the Report before the work of its Committees is complete. More than one noble Lord paid, "Why do net the Cabinet accept the principle of the scheme?" What principle? There are a dozen, perhaps twenty, principles, and I invite any noble Lord who has been a member of a Cabinet—I invite Lord Midleton—to consider the proceedings of a Cabinet which had settled down, whether for one hour or for 874 many days, to make up its mind whether to accept the principle of the Report. The thing is out of the question. The principle of course, is the Declaration of August 20. The whole of the rest is machinery. We are agreed about the broad lines of policy, and no vote of the Cabinet on the question of principle can carry you much further now.
Then a noble Lord says, "Accepting that, cannot we devise some means by which, in constructing the machinery, the Government shall give an opportunity to sections of opinion on important subjects to make themselves heard and make their influence felt in a manner better than that which now exists—better than that provided by the debates in Parliament, which, after all, pass away and are forgotten, and cannot necessarily influence the Government." I think there is something in that point. I have been considering, in the course of this debate, whether it might not be possible to provide some opportunity, not that of the Joint, Committee at this stage, which I have criticised, but some other opportunity of enabling all the sections of opinion, for whom noble. Lords have been speaking in this House, to make their voices heard and their influences felt upon the Government at an early stage; and I am disposed to ask my noble friend the Secretary of State to consider some such suggestion as this. It is quite, true that not merely because of the war but because of the incompleteness of the scheme the Government cannot produce whatever measure they decide upon in its final shape, until these Committees have, reported. That may be a matter of some months; but I think it quite conceivable that the India Office might charge itself with the putting of this scheme in a form—whether it take the form of a draft Bill or otherwise—which might be examined at an early date, and at such examination those authorities of whom I have been speaking—authorities like noble Lords who have addressed us during the last two days—might be given full opportunity of coming forward, stating their opinions, giving their suggestions, and assisting a Committee, if it was a Committee, of the Cabinet, or whoever was in charge of that duty.
I am prepared to make that suggestion to the Secretary of State. I do it upon my own authority, but I do it in the sincere conviction that the opinion which many noble Lords represent here is entitled to 875 be, and ought to be, heard in the most effective way. You have suggested your way. I have shown reasons against that from which I think the Government is not likely to depart. At a later stage, as you know, we shall welcome a Joint Committee on the Bill, whatever the form in which it is introduced and has passed its Second Reading in either House. There are really two desiderata in the matter. the first is the kind of cautious procedure for which the noble Marquess pleaded. He said, "These are great and vast changes; do not be in any great hurry, but give time for consideration." Then, on the other hand, there are those who say that if you spend too much time upon this you allow in liters to crystallise, and people get wedded to the idea that this scheme and this alone is likely to be introduced and must be carried, and authoritative opinion is not likely to be heard. They plead for an earlier opportunity for expert opinion in this country to make itself heard. I have suggested means by which this might be adopted; and, believe me, whether the suggestion is adopted or not, the Government attach the very greatest value to opinions, whether favourable or adverse, such as we have heard in this debate. Speaking for them, there has been nothing in this debate to which I personally take exception.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I do not rise to make a speech, but only to say a few words as to the course which I think my noble friend Lord Midleton is likely to adopt. I thank the noble Earl for the great courtesy of his speech. As to the suggestion he made, I wish to say that we took note of it, and if it were in a more definite form perhaps it might have led to some more positive consideration on our part. If he will allow me to revert to it on a future occasion, we shall perhaps be able to make something more of it. As matters stand, we rely upon this consideration—that the Government have laid this Report before Parliament.
The noble Earl and the noble Lord who speaks for the India Office have represented the action of ourselves as something so strange as almost to be unconstitutional, because we have taken the course that we have adopted. What have we done? The Government have laid a certain Report before Parliament. We imagine that they did not do it as a more form. Why did; they lay it before Parliament? I presume 876 it was for Parliament to rend and consider it. For what other reason could they have done it? If they had wanted to postpone the question of the consideration of this Report until after Lord South-Borough's Committee had reported and the Government had made up their mind, they would not have laid the Report at all. What they did was to say to both Houses, "Here is the Report." My noble friend spoke of not being able to accept a proceeding which would indicate that Parliament was to undertake the consideration of this matter. He provoked the consideration himself because he laid the Report. He did the very thing, the formal thing, which is the regular well-understood invitation to Parliament to consider a particular subject, and that is all that my noble friend has suggested we should do.
The difficulty with us is this. We did not want to pronounce against the Report—we have not sufficient information; that would have been too strong a course—so we adopted a much more moderate course than that. We said, "We will not pronounce against the Report, but we will nake it clear that we are not in any way committed to the Report, and that we require further information." Your Lordships will realise that we have already incurred a very grave responsibility by the silence with which we have received the celebrated Declaration of August 20, 1917. All sorts of implications have been read into that silence. We have been held to be responsible for that Declarartion because of our silence. Well, my Lords, I deny that. I will accept no responsibility for the Declaration of August 20. But we are not going to make the mistake again, and, by our silence, in respect of the. Report itself, incur the charge which would undoubtedly be made against us—"Oh! you did not say a word about the Report; you have accepted the Report." My Lords, that is impossible. We do not wish to refuse the Report, but we do think it is necessary that it should be carefully inquired into. May I add in one sentence this observation. There are immense elements of doubt left. We know nothing of the condition of order in India. We have not been a lowed to see the Rowlatt Report. The ordinary channels of information have been stopped by the Censor, so that we do not really know, like the Government, what has been going on all these years in India. Surely that is material.
§ THE UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (LORD ISLINGTON)
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Marquess, but, I am sure without any intention, he is misrepresenting the situation when he says that he has not been allowed to see the Rowlatt Report. Every effort is being taken in this country by the Secretary of State to have the Rowlatt Report printed and published, and it is only through the mistake—the very reprehensible mistake—in India that the Report is not here now.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am obliged to the noble Lord. This gives me the opportunity of saying that I believe I brought some sort of charge against the Secretary of State a few evenings ago on this subject. The Secretary of State has satisfied me that he is in no way to blame, and I desire to tender him my apologies for having said so. I did not mean that. I did not mean any reference to that omission to send the Report home, but I meant, generally speaking, that we have not yet had an opportunity of seeing the Rowlatt Report. We do not know the condition of order in India, which is