§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (LORD SINHA) rose to move—
§ That the Draft Rules under Sections 7, 11, 23, and 24 of the Government of India Act, 1919, relating to elections to Provincial Legislative Councils and to the Indian Legislature, and Draft Rules of Business for Provincial Legislature Councils and the Indian Legislature, which were presented on the 7th July, be approved.183
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, before moving the Motion standing in my name I desire to express my regret to your Lordships that I am obliged to bring it forward at such short notice, and to apologise for any inconvenience that might have been caused thereby to any member of this House. My reasons for bringing forward the Motion at such short notice may be put in two sentences. Firstly, that the matter is of extreme urgency; and, secondly, that we have done all it was possible to do for the purpose of bringing the matter to the attention of your Lordships at the earliest possible moment.
§ I see that there is a Motion standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, objecting to this procedure, and complaining of the hurry with which these Rules are being sought to be passed by Parliament. I trust that after I have given him the explanation I am immediately going to make, he will be satisfied that there has been every attempt made to put members of your Lordships' House in full possession of the facts. With regard to the question of urgency, your Lordships will remember that when the Indian Reform Act was passed late in December of last year, it was contemplated that it should be brought into operation, and the new Councils under it constituted, by the end of this year or, at the latest, the beginning of next year. For that purpose it was necessary that the Elections should be held in November and some of them, at the latest, in December. They cannot be held until these Rules, which I now bring before your Lordships' House, are passed. If they are not passed now, not only can the Elections not be held in November or December of this year, but they cannot be held in November or December next year; that is to say, the operation of the Act will be delayed by nearly a year and a half.
§ Lord Ampthill will know that by reason of climatic and agricultural conditions, and the fact that our Councils sit only for four months in the year—that is, from December to March—it is impossible that the Elections should be held either in the hot weather or in the rains, and November and December are the only two months during which it is possible to hold them. As I say, if these Rules are not passed now, not only cannot the Elections take place this year, but they cannot take place until the end of next year. On these grounds, the Government of India, from 184 the moment they sent to the Secretary of State the Despatches enclosing these Rules, have been pressing that they should be sanctioned and ready for publication at the latest, first by July 15. Then, under pressure, they agreed if they could get them by July 27, they would endeavour so to expedite matters that they might just be able to hold the Elections in November and December. Those are the urgent reasons why I am obliged to ask your Lordships to take this matter to-day.
§ The next point to which I desire to call your Lordships' attention is that the India Office had done all it was humanly possible to do in order that members of this House might be able to inform themselves in time of the contents of these Rules. The Rules came in four batches, the first of them arriving in London on May 21 and the next three on June 4. Immediately thereafter we asked your Lordships' House and the other House to constitute a Joint Committee for the purpose of considering them. That Joint Committee was constituted on June 8. They began their sittings on the 14th and sat continuously until they signed their Report on July 6. In the meantime, every telegraphic communication that passed between the Secretary of State and the Government of India with reference to any further Amendments they proposed, was from day to day—in fact until the last day—brought before the Joint Committee. The modifications made are practically all by the Government of India themselves as the result of further consideration. That is so far as the Joint Committee is concerned.
So far as the Houses of Parliament are concerned the Government of India sent the Rules and laid them before both Houses of Parliament on these dates—one on June 16, another on June 18, and the third on June 21. The Despatches of the Government of India dealing with all these matters, together with the voluminous enclosures of each Despatch, have been laid in the Library of each House for the purpose of enabling members to inform themselves of the contents. The Draft Rules had the following explanatory note attached to them—
These drafts of Rules to be framed under the Government of India Act, 1919, are laid on the Table for the information of members of both Houses. The drafts are as proposed by the Government of India. They are now in process of examination by a Joint Select Committee, who
will advise the Secretary of State for India as to the form and substance of the drafts, and as to the procedure to be adopted for the purpose of obtaining Parliamentary sanction to the Rules as finally approved by the Committee. This procedure may take one of two forms—the Rules may be laid in draft, and affirmed by Resolution of both Houses, or they may be made, and laid subject to the right of either House to present an Address praying for annulment. It will be understood, therefore, that the present drafts are laid (without prejudice to the final form in which they are to be brought to the notice of Parliament, or to the manner in which they are to be so brought to notice), in order that members of both Houses may be afforded the earliest opportunity of acquainting themselves with the scheme proposed.
Between June 16 and June 21 all these Rules, as sent out by the Government of India, have been available to the noble Lords who wished to inform themselves of the scheme proposed. The Rules, as passed by the Joint Committee, are substantially, and with hardly any modification at all, the Rules as drafted by the Government of India with the alterations they themselves suggested while the Joint Committee was sitting. I trust, therefore, Lord Ampthill will be satisfied that there is no desire to inconvenience noble Lords or to keep from them these Papers with any idea that the matter might not be thoroughly considered.
§ I will now proceed to the Rules themselves. Your Lordships will remember that the Government of India Act of last year is framed on a plan which necessitates the completion of some of its main provisions by a large number of Rules which must be made before the machinery established by that Act can be brought into operation. Under Section 7 provision is to be made by Rules for the Provincial Councils, franchise, qualifications of candidates, and so forth; and under Section 11 provision is to be made for regulating the course of business and procedure in the Councils, including the voting of the annual Budget. There are similar sections in the Act with regard to the Legislative Assembly and the Council of State. The assent of Parliament is necessary for these Rules to be operative, and that assent may be in one or other of the alternative forms provided by Section 44. The form which the Secretary of State, on the advice of the Joint Committee, has adopted is the confirmation by Parliament of the Rules as drafted by the Government of India.
§ Broadly speaking, these Rules deal with the constitution of the Legislative Council, 186 the number of members elected and nominated, their tenure of office, the qualifications of voters and candidates for election, the procedure for holding Elections and deciding election disputes, including Rules as to corrupt practices and the regulation of the business of procedure of the Councils. These matters were all the subject of a very patient investigation by Lord Southborough's Committee in 1918–1919, and that Committee's Report, together with the views and criticisms of the Government of India, was laid last year before the Joint Committee, which, after an elaborate examination, accepted the scheme as laid down in the Report of Lord Southborough's Committee with a few specific variations.
After the Act was passed last year the Government of India was asked to frame Rules on the basis of the Southborough Committee's Report as varied by the Report of the Joint Committee of your Lordships' House and the House of Commons, and in framing these Rules the Government of India, in their despatch of April 29 this year, say—
In the main our task, as we have conceived it, has been to give effect to the recommendations of the Joint Committee.
The Joint Committee, when the Rules came before them, considered them clause by clause, and I need hardly say that, having Lord Selborne as Chairman of the Committee, the work was done as thoroughly as it was possible to do it. They stated in their Report that they considered these Rules, as framed by the Government of India, an accurate and at the same time a liberal interpretation of the intentions of Parliament in framing the Act, and of their own recommendations on the Bill.
§ It comes therefore to this. These Rules have been framed by the Government of India after consultation with the Central Government and Local Governments, in close consultation with Advisory Committees, and after consulting non-official opinion of all sorts and shades, and they are now framed in a manner best suited to the varying needs and conditions of each Province. In these circumstances, having regard to the elaborate examination by the Southborough Committee, by the Joint Committee last year, by the Government of India, by Local Governments, by all shades 187 of official and non-official opinion in India and by their endorsement in the Report of the Joint Committee, I submit that it would be a work of supererogation if I were now to discuss them in detail. They are mostly concerned with details which cannot possibly be revised in the absence of local knowledge. They carry out principles approved by Parliament and by the Joint Committee, and it would be impossible for me, without trespassing on your Lordships' time and attention for a disproportionate amount of time, to go into the details. If there is any point on which any noble Lord desires an explanation I shall be only too glad to give it, or if Lord Ampthill, or any of your Lordships, would like me to read the telegrams from the Government of India bearing on the urgency of this matter, I will gladly read them, as I have them all with me.
§ Moved, That the Draft Rules under Sections 7, 11, 23, and 24 of the Government of India Act, 1919, relating to elections to Provincial Legislative Councils and to the Indian Legislature, and Draft Rules of Business for Provincial Legislature Councils and the Indian Legislature, which were presented on the 7th July, be approved.—(Lord Sinha.)
§ LORD AMPTHILL had given notice, on the Motion of Lord Sinha, to move— That this House regrets that no time has been granted for the study and discussion of the Draft Rules which are to form the basis of the Government of India Act, 1919, and is further of opinion that the haste with which the Bill was forced through Parliament last year together with the present perfunctory treatment of the Draft Rules constitutes a grave infringement of the rights of Parliament. The noble Lord said: My Lords, before your Lordships agree to the Motion which has been proposed, I beg your attention for a Motion which I desire to interpolate. The noble Lord, the Under-Secretary for India, has told us, in justification for the very unusual course which he has adopted, that the Government of India are anxious that the Act should be put into operation this year. My contention is that no urgency, unless it be some vital urgency arising out of conditions of war, can justify the supersession of the functions, duties 188 and rights of Parliament, and—I say this without fear of contradiction—that it would not do the slightest bit of harm, and certainly would not be objected to by the bulk of public opinion in India, if there were a year's delay in putting the Government of India Act into operation.
§ Now the noble Lord, the Under-Secretary, anticipated that I should make some suggestion to the effect that the Secretary of State wished to prevent discussion, or that he wished to keep the knowledge of these Rules from your Lordships' House. No such intention entered my head. I am chiefly concerned with the violation of the customs and traditions of Parliament. In the first place, let me remind your Lordships of the actual facts. It was only yesterday morning that we saw a Notice on the Paper that he was going to move the approval of these Rules. The Rules, which I see by his Motion are stated to have been presented on July 7, have not even now been circulated to your Lordships' House, and it was only this morning that I received my copy, after making a special request. No notice of the existence of these Rules has yet appeared on the pink Paper, on which your Lordships rely for information as to what Parliamentary Papers are available. It was by the merest chance that I heard that this extremely important Motion was to come on to-day, and I was obliged, on the spur of the moment, to put down some sort of Motion—I apologise for its imperfections—in order that attention should be called to the circumstances.
§ The noble Lord tells us that in the library of this House copies of the Rules are posted, with an explanation pasted on them; but how many of your Lordships go daily to the library to see what is there for us to look at? It is altogether an unusual way of calling our attention to the Papers which it is our duty to examine. I do not want to use strong language—the case is so bad that strong language is quite unnecessary—but I submit that the course adopted by the Government is not quite reasonable. It ignores that formality (I will not call it more) which is due towards Parliament. It is wanting in respect for your Lordships' House and, indeed, for both Houses of Parliament. It is not fair to this House, and I go further and I say it is not fair to the people of India.
Of this I have casual proof in the shape of a letter which was placed in my hands as
I entered this House. It is written by a writer who is unknown to me. With your Lordships' permission I should like to read a few sentences from it. It is dated from the National Liberal Club, and says—
A Sikh deputation, consisting of four members and I, on behalf of several landlords' associations of Bengal, arrived in London early this week, only to learn that the Joint Select Committee on Indian Reforms had already submitted their preliminary Report to Parliament on the final constitution and electorates of the Councils of India. The Bengal landlords have a great grievance in the matter of their very inadequate and unfair representation in the Bengal Legislative Council,—
So much for what the noble Lord told us about official and non-official opinion being satisfied—
the Imperial Legislative Assembly and the Council of State, and they could obtain no hearing of their grievance out in India by the authorities at Delhi and Simla.—
That is my answer to the remarks which the noble Lord has just made—
So they were obliged to send out a representative to this country to place their case before the Joint Parliamentary Committee, and they nominated me (I have been elected as the representative of five landlords' associations in Bengal) for the purpose. But, unfortunately for me and my cause, the Government of India would not help me in securing an early passage and I could get none before June 18, when I got one by the SS. 'Loyalty,' a boat owned by an Indian company in Bombay. When I arrived in London I found I was too late. The same thing happened with the Sikh deputation. What a pity that the Zemindars of Bengal should be deprived of the opportunity of even placing their case before the authorities either in India or in England! I have, however, submitted a memorandum to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the subject of my mission and I have prayed that, though late in arriving, my memorandum will be considered by it and justice rendered to my community. If you will be so good as to send for a copy of my memorandum, you will realise how we have been treated and how, so far, justice has been denied to us.
This letter is signed "Prithevis Chandra Ray, Joint-Editor, Bengalee, Calcutta." I think that letter alone is sufficient answer to a great deal that has been said by the noble Lord, the Under-Secretary of State for India.
§ But I am on the constitutional grievance. I say that we have had a great deal too much of this sort of thing, and that it is high tune somebody should make a protest. During the war we submitted to autocratic action on the part of the Government, but it is now two years since the Armistice, and constitutional government is still in 190 abeyance. I am not going to digress in order to dwell upon the dangers of this state of affairs, but it will suffice to say that unrest, discontent and threats of direct action will continue until constitutional government has been restored. That is the position, and, therefore, I say that we ought not to acquiesce without a protest in anything which continues the autocratic system to which we necessarily assented during the war.
§ Let me show your Lordships what a serious thing it is in this particular case to have made Parliamentary discussion impossible. What are these Rules? The noble Lord treated them as if they were something of comparatively minor importance. They are called, I see from my copy, "Draft Electoral Rules and Draft Rules for Election as approved by the Joint Select Committee." These appellations do not correctly indicate the real nature of these Rules. They are nothing less than clauses of the Government of India Act—that momentous measure by which European methods of government are to be established among 300,000,000 of Asiatic peoples of widely diverse races, languages and religions. That Act, which your Lordships passed last year with so little discussion, was merely a framework into which these clauses were eventually to be inserted, and these Rules, which are contained in three fat volumes which your Lordships have not had an opportunity of seeing—I believe there are only three or four fair copies in the Printed Paper Office—are the essential provisions without which the Act cannot be put into operation.
§ They are the very pith and substance of the Act. They are the flesh which is to encase the solid bones of the skeleton, and give vitality to a sentient organism of immense potency for good or evil. These Rules are the provisions for the franchises, the qualifications of electors and the constituencies, and they include the whole of the Electoral Law which is to be established in India. Therefore, it amounts to this—I cannot put it at less—that your Lordships are asked to accept measures affecting the whole Government of India with infinitely less formality than is accorded to a Provisional Orders Bill for municipal gas or water in this country. There is no First Reading, no Second Reading, no Committee, no Report, no Third Reading. In one single Motion, of which you have had 24 hours' Notice, you 191 are asked to pass these Rules which are, in effect, the very bass and substance of this immensely important Act.
§ Your Lordships have not even had time to read them. I managed to get a copy this morning and glanced at it as I came up in the train. You are asked to do this on the recommendation of a Joint Select Committee, but, with all respect to its members, I say they are no more than nominated assessors to the Secretary of State, selected by him personally. The theory is propounded by the noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State, that anything that has been carefully considered, and even considered clause by clause by some Committee, whether it be a Select Joint Committee or a travelling committee like that of Lord Southborough, is sufficiently dealt with. That is a theory which has never before been heard within these walls, and it is one to which no serious student of political affairs could possibly assent.
§ When the Government of India Bill was rushed through Parliament we were asked not to discuss details. We were told that the proper time for discussing the clauses of the Bill would be when the Rules—these Rules—came up for consideration. Your Lordships were promised full time for the consideration of these Rules. I have had no opportunity to look up the Parliamentary reports, but my recollection on that subject is very distinct. I have a very clear recollection of being headed off more than once when I tried to bring up questions which arise out of these clauses. It is as well to ask your Lordships to recall the manner in which the Government of India Act was rushed through Parliament. Will you allow me to remind you briefly of the circumstances, which were undoubtedly without precedent? No measure of importance has ever received less attention at the hands of Parliament—and attention at the hands of a Select Joint Committee is not the same thing as attention at the hands of the House of Commons and the House of Lords—than this Government of India Bill.
§ The first thing was a Declaration binding this country to the introduction of responsible Government for India. That was sprung upon a jaded House of Commons in August, 1917, when members were tired out after their long session and were only thinking of the release of the Recess. That pronouncement, by methods the dexterity of which we are forced to admire, was 192 represented to be a pledge, although it was merely an answer to a Question, binding on this country and on the Government, and, as such, it was held to preclude any discussion of the proposed reforms upon their merits. Six months thus passed Then the Secretary of State went to India. He adopted the unusual course of hammering out a scheme of reform in personal consultation with the Viceroy. This shut down all further discussion for another period of six months.
§ The scheme speciously gilded with the joint authority of the Secretary of State and the Viceroy, was ultimately produced before this Joint Select Committee—to which the noble Lord the Under-Secretary attributes powers and rights equivalent to those of the Houses of Parliament—under conditions which insured that it would come out in pretty much the same form as it went in. There has never been such an adroit Parliamentary manԓuvre in this country, and never has any Minister taken advantage with such success of the national preoccupation in affairs arising out of the life and death struggle for the very existence of this country that was going on. The way in which the Government of India Bill was treated and passed through Parliament was contrary to all the traditions, and the time-honoured practice of the British Parliament. These dexterous manԓuvres are now being continued in respect of the Rules. The position, to put it in popular language, is that the Government and the bureaucracy are "trying it on" this House. They found how exceedingly convenient it was to do without Parliament during the five years of the war, and that is a system which they are naturally going to continue as long as they can.
§ What I wish to ask is how long is Parliament going to stand this kind of thing, and where and when will it end? If your Lordships think there is nothing in what I am saying, it is useless for me to say any more. If this House is content to be the automatic register of the decrees of one of His Majesty's Ministers my Motion will, of course, be ignored, but do not complain, as some of your Lordships do complain, if ordinary back bench Peers like myself no longer consider it a duty to attend the sittings of this House. But if your Lordships are not satisfied with the manner in which we are treated by the Government, here is the opportunity to record a formal protest. If your Lordships do not wish to 193 assume entire responsibility for a measure, of which the very least that can be said is that it is a risky experiment on an immense scale, here is your chance of recording your justifiable doubts—and I know many of your Lordships do entertain grave doubts as to the effect of the Government of India Act—and, still more, of associating yourselves with the peoples of India in the doubts and apprehensions which they most unquestionably entertain in regard to the Government of India Act.
§ The reasons for all this hurry have been explained to your Lordships, and, whether your Lordships think them sufficient or not, I say that you are entitled—I go even further and submit that it is your duty—to protest against the mismanagement and want of foresight which have made such indecent expedition necessary, and which are obliging us, here and now, to outrage the conventions of Parliamentary government and to impair, in the eyes of the people of this country and in the eyes of the people of India, the prestige of this House. Your Lordships will be obliged to let the Rules go through. I am not opposing their passage, because we are hopelessly committed. I am not suggesting that there should be any post-ponenment. I am only asking your Lordships to pass them under protest, and I think that in the circumstances the protest that have submitted to your Lordships is mildly worded. I do not know whether the Rules of your Lordships' House will permit me to speak again before this business is concluded. I have some criticisms to make on the Rules themselves, and I ask for guidance. If I have no right to speak again I must trespass on your Lordships' attention a little longer and indicate in what way I feel it my duty to criticise these Rules and to point out what it would have been open to your Lordships to do if time had been given us to state them. Can I go on?
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
May I suggest to my noble friend that the Motion with which he is now dealing should be disposed of, when the main Question arises again on which the merits can be suitably discussed.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
Clearly; because the main question arises again immediately the noble Lord's Motion is disposed of.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
It is not an Amendment; that is the point. It has been said that it would not be open to this House to criticise these Rules; that we should not be competent to do so. If that is so, the same observation applies to a great many Acts passed through Parliament which are criticised. I therefore desire to indicate the criticisms which I should have felt it my duty to make if a fair opportunity had offered. I am principally concerned with the complaints of the non-Brahmins of the Presidency of Madras—that is to say, the vast majority of the people of that great Presidency, with a population and an area equal to those of the United Kingdom. The Brahmins are only 3 per cent. of that population; the remainder are non-Brahmins. The first result of rousing the people of India from their apathetic contentment, which was the avowed and principal object of the Secretary of State and the Viceroy, has been to divide Brahmins and non-Brahmins into bitterly hostile parties, to revive century-old animosities, and to awake apprehensions which British rule has hitherto prevented from being felt. The British Bureaucracy have been impartial arbitrators between the different races and classes and castes and sects in India. That impartial arbitration is in danger of being weakened.
The Brahmins (and it is as well to know this) are not only of a different caste, but of a different race, from the non-Brahmins of Madras. The Brahmins claims to be of Aryan descent, the remainder are of a totally different race. The Brahmins are securely established in the impregnable fortress of a privileged class—privileged in a way in which no class of men in any other country has ever been privileged. They are armed with the powers of a dominant priesthood over a superstitious people—with greater power than any priesthood has had in any other country—a people whose religion is their social code, whose every act of every-day life is governed by religious ordinance. These Brahmins are a class who are in possession at the present time of overwhelming official and social power. As I have said, the Brahmins are only 3 per cent. of the population, but they hold 80 per cent. of the positions in the public service and in the Councils. They contribute practically nothing in the way of revenue to the State. Their land is "agraharam" or "inam," and they have even contrived not to pay the irrigation cess which is imposed through- 195 out the Presidency. The effect of these reforms will be to increase the overwhelming powers of this privileged class, and to render the British bureaucracy powerless to continue their rule as impartial and benevolent arbitrators.
I want to tell you what the attitude of the non-Brahmins is, and to put it into popular and homely language. The non-Brahmins say, "We would a hundred times rather have British rule than Brahmin rule. We have played the game by you. We have contributed an overwhelmingly large share to the Revenues which have enabled you to keep up your Government. We have stood by you and supported you in all you wanted to do, particularly during the war when we were the people who prevented agitation. We did all we could to assist you and to support the British cause. We do not want these political reforms, but, since it is your wish that we should be governed in a different way, we will do our very best to work this reform scheme. But give us a fair chance."
Remember that Madras is different from the rest of India. The men of Madras are as different from other races in India—the Punjabis or the Bengalis, or the Sikhs—as the British are from the Portuguese; and remember that the people of Madras have had personal acquaintance with both of those European nations. The Madras Presidency has been untouched by successive waves of invasion in the past, and it remains the home of Hinduism and of the caste system. So long as caste exists, and there is no sign that it will be abolished—they say that the Government is powerless. The only hope is to put every community on a level of political equality. Therefore they say, "If you want to give us a fair chance give us communal representation through communal electorates which will enable us to act as a community. That is the only way in which we can act with the slightest hope of success. It is thus that you will give us a chance of organising, of becoming politically minded, and of fitting ourselves to compete with the Brahmins whom we fully admit have all the education and ability and power at the present time. We do not want communal representation for ever, but only until we can train enough people to be politically-minded in the sense which you now desire."
This request did not fit in with the doctrinaire theories held by the Secretary of State. He was thinking, not of India— 196 he did not know enough of India to think of it—so much as of abstract democratic theories, and no idea of communal representation would fit into them. Therefore, it was ordained by the Secretary of State, through this Joint Select Committee, that the grievance of the non-Brahmins in Madras—the grievance of practically the entire population of Madras—should be met by separate representation and by reservation of seats. That is not at all the same thing. Brahmins and non-Brahmins were told to confer together and to arrive at an agreement. A pretty hopeless suggestion! That was the suggestion of the Joint Committee, and it would not have been made by anyone acquainted with the people of the Madras Presidency. But in all good faith they met and attempted it. The Conference broke down.
There were ugly rumours that the Secretary of State had forbidden the Governor to allow even discussion on communal representation. There were the usual denials. The Conference was a failure, and Lord Meston (whom I saw here a minute ago) was sent out to arbitrate. He gave his award, and the result of it has been the bitter and continued discontent voiced every week from India in the papers and communications I have received. The award is described as "cruel and unjust." The effect of that award is that only twenty-eight seats are reserved out of sixty-five. The Brahmins themselves were prepared to concede 50 per cent. Lord Willingdon, the Governor, said 50 per cent. would not be unreasonable. The non-Brahmins asked for forty-two, but Lord Meston has cut them down to twenty-eight. The non-Brahmins say, "We could get twenty-eight seats without representation. What we want is a sufficient number of seats reserved to make this concession of any use to us at all."
This is an important question, and I ought to say a great deal more about it, but in deference to your Lordships and in the whole circumstances, I must be brief. If a Home Rule Bill for Ireland, or a Redistribution Bill for the United Kingdom were in question, and in such a Bill the distribution of seats, the franchises, the qualification of electors, and the laws in regard to corrupt practices had all been left to be settled by Rules drawn up by officials, and passed by a special Joint Committee, would your Lordships have agreed to that, even if that special Joint Committee had been 197 presided over by my noble friend, Lord Selborne, than whom, I gladly admit, there is nobody better fitted for such a position? In the Madras Presidency, with its 41,000,000 of population, and with its area as great as that of the United Kingdom, this is not merely a matter of political enfranchisement, of new civic duty, it is an even more vital matter—it is a question of civil and religious liberty. And the greater part of the fear entertained by the non Brahmins of Madras is that their religious liberty, their religious institutions, will be interfered with in a manner in which the British Raj has never interfered with them, by those who will now be given the power; that is to say, by the Brahmin oligarchy.
But, lest your Lordships should think that I am merely giving you my own views, allow me to quote to your Lordships what has been said by the leaders of the new organisations which have sprung up in the Madras Presidency in order to defend their rights and their civil and religious liberty. Here is some of the evidence which was given before the Joint Select Committee. It refers to Madras only, and I confine myself to extracts—In the public services of the country Brahmins preponderate. A small minority is dominating over a large majority. All non-Brahmins want communal electorates. Even the non-Brahmins of the Madras Presidency Association, a minority party, want communal representation. Almost all the Brahmin organisations conceded the need for communal representation. The All-India Conference of Moderates at Bombay agreed to give communal representation. The Government of Madras has shown that communal electorates are necessary. The Indian Government would concede communal representations, and whatever comes from that source favourable to the non-Brahmins should be given special weight. There is no force in the objection raised in the Report of the Joint Committee against communal representation. The other objections—such as non-Brahmins being in the majority in population and amongst the voters—raised elsewhere do not stand the test of criticism, and numbers do not count.That is a very important point. And here is the summing up of the attitude of the non-Brahmins as given by the President of the non-Brahmin Conference at Tinnevelly in December, 1917—We non-Brahmins are to remain and multiply in order that the chosen few may have subjects to rule, and the British are to remain to keep off external danger by their Military and Naval Forces and to suppress us if we should dare to oppose the orders of a Brahmin oligarchy. Great Britain has the right to demand from us obedience and, if necessary, to secure it by force, provided she rules well and is willing to give us a share in ruling as we become fitter and fitter to bear the 198 responsibilities. But I say emphatically that Great Britain has no right to say, 'I will put over you an oligarchy in which you have no share, which you distrust, which is socially contemptuous of you. I will let that oligarchy shape its policy as it pleases, and if you dare to dispute its authority, then I, even if I disapprove of its policy, will use the British Army to enforce non-British policy. We are not cattle to be sold by one master to another, with the further humiliation of the first master standing by with a bludgeon in case we object to be sold.That is strong language, but it is confirmed by many similar utterances and resolutions, and it expresses what is felt by the non-Brahmins of Madras. The Select Joint Committee have not understood the case at all. I desire to move this Resolution of protest so that if your Lordships agree to these Rule—and I am bound to say you have no option after what you have been told—you will at any rate do so under protest.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I should like to ask my noble friend exactly how we stand. I understood Lord Ampthill to say that lie was not moving an Amendment.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The Motion before your Lordships is the Motion of the noble Lord, the Under-Secretary of State. If no Amendment is moved we shall first of all dispose of that Motion, and then we shall proceed to the consideration of the Motion of my noble friend. If he does not move an Amendment I submit, with great respect to the noble Lord now on the Woolsack (Lord Stanmore), that the proper Motion to put is the one moved by the Under-Secretary.
LORD MAC DONNELL
Then I should like to propose that a postponement be granted to the consideration of these Rules.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (THE EARL OF CRAWFORD)
Is not that in effect what Lord Ampthill has moved? My noble friend moves that these Rules be accepted. 199 Lord Ampthill moves a Motion of regret that there has not been time to consider them, which is equivalent to postponing the consideration. If it were not in the nature of an Amendment Lord Ampthill's speech would have been quite irrelevant.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I think Lord Salisbury is perfectly right that the Motion of Lord Ampthill does not constitute an Amendment to the Motion of the Under-Secretary. The proposition of the noble Lord who has just moved is obviously relevant; that is an Amendment. But I confess I feel that it is not possible, according to the custom of this House, to interpolate an expression of opinion before taking the Vote on the Motion of the Under-Secretary. But, of course, if the noble Lord, Lord MacDonnell, moves what is a substantive Amendment, that would have to be the first matter for consideration.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I think it is quite clear that if Lord Ampthill had intended to move an Amendment he would have moved that all the words after the word "That" in the Motion should be left out for the purpose of inserting the words on the Paper. As I understand, he did not do that. In that case it is not an Amendment to the original Motion at all, and therefore the original Motion ought to be disposed of first. As the noble Marquess, the Leader of the Opposition, has said, Lord MacDonnell would, of course, be in order if he wished to postpone the Motion.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
The first thing is for the noble Lord on the Woolsack to put the Question in the form of Lord Sinha's Motion, which is the Question before the House. The course taken by the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, is quite a commonsense course, but it has in the past been more regularly taken by inserting a protest in the Protest Book of your Lordships' House—a practice which has fallen into some desuetude, but which, in the course of my experience, I have known to take place and in the past I have put my name to several Protests in your Lordships' House. Failing that, the proper course would be for the noble Lord (Lord Ampthill) to allow Lord Sinha's Motion to be put first, and then to proceed with his own.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
Lord Ampthill may withdraw his Motion which he has moved and which the noble Lord has put.
May I make a suggestion which is within the Rules of the House and, perhaps, will be acceptable to my noble friend opposite? It is that he should withdraw his Motion temporarily, with the permission of the House to move it again presently; that the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Sinha, should proceed and, if carried, perhaps against an Amendment, the noble Lord should then move to add to Lord Sinha's Motion: "But this House regrets," etc.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
I agree to that suggestion, on the distinct understanding that I am allowed to move my Motion afterwards.
§ Lord Ampthill's Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD MACDONNELL
May I move that the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Sinha, be adjourned for a month? The reason I do so is that I understand he is proceeding under the terms of subsection (3), of Section 44 of the Government of India Act, which provides as follows—Any Rules to which subsection (1) of this section applies shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament as soon as may be after they are made, and, if an Address is presented to His Majesty by either House of Parliament within the next thirty days on which that House has sat after the Rules are laid before it praying that the Rules or any of them may be annulled, His Majesty in Council may annul the Rules—and so on. I have learned of the existence of these Rules from the Paper. I have 201 only received them within the last three days, but I have been more fortunate as regards the volumes than my noble friend, Lord Ampthill, seeing that while he has only received three volumes I have received four, and the fourth volume is the biggest of the lot.
I have endeavoured to understand these Rules, but I confess I have failed to do so. I now understand that why I failed to do so was that, compared with the Report of the Select Committee, the Rules do not enbody the Amendments which that Committee introduced into them. I was greatly interested in regard to the power which a Governor of a Province will maintain over his Council, and I naturally turned to these Rules and to the Report of the Select Committee to see whether any change had been introduced under that head. I found on page 6 of the Select Committee's Report, in paragraph 17, a very considerable change—The Committee think it desirable that a Governor's intervention in the proceedings of his Legislative Council should be confined to cases in which control by the Executive (which for these purposes the Governor must represent) is essential. having regard to the fact that the Government will not command a majority in any Council, or to cases in which the president will not be in a position to give the requisite ruling.The effect of the Select Committee's Amendment is that instead of a Governor exercising control, it will be exercised by the President of the Council.
The President of the Council will be appointed by the Government for the first four years, and, subsequently, every President of the Council will be elected by the Council itself, and will have the privilege of nominating a panel of gentlemen who, in his absence, shall preside over the Council. Consequently, by the change which the Select Committee have introduced, the control of the Governor of the Province over the transactions of the Council is sensibly diminished, and passes into the hands of the Council itself or into the hands of the elected representatives on the Council. I consider that is a most dangerous innovation. When the noble Lord the Under-Secretary for India says that these Rules have been passed practically in the same form in which they have been sent up from the Government of India, I cite this as an instance which has escaped his notice.
I think it will not be possible to deal with these Rules satisfactorily unless they 202 are taken up one by one. I am a mere novice in this House, but I would suggest that they should be taken up one by one and that the votes upon each of the rules should be recorded. Otherwise, I agree with the noble Lord who says that the people of India will not be satisfied that the Rules have been examined with the carefulness and scrutiny which they deserve. Certainly, as far as I have considered them, I think they require the most careful scrutiny.
§ Moved, That the consideration of the original Motion be adjourned for one month.—(Lord MacDonnell.)
§ LORD SYDENHAM
My Lords, the Government of India Bill embodied what is really the most dangerous experiment to which Parliament has been committed, and for this reason, that it entrusted an enormous amount of power to a very small minority of the people, and also set up dual Cabinets with divided allegiance in every Province, a system which is unknown to constitutional history in the world. Nothing like that has ever been attempted before; it is absolutely a step right into the dark. In such circumstances surely there ought to have been the most careful and deliberate study of all the circumstances involved. What has happened? In another place the Bill was passed through by the application of the kangaroo Closure and most important Amendments were not even allowed to be moved. In this House no adequate debate was possible and vital Amendments were disposed of in a hurry.
Now we are asked to pass these Rules en bloc, many of them containing matter of the utmost importance vitally affecting the future of the people of India. It was not an easy thing to debate the Bill itself when it was before this House, because it was dependent upon a whole mass of Rules which were not before us. We have now the first instalment of the Rules, but only the first instalment, and it is a volume much larger than the Bill itself. I suppose I was lucky, but I received my copy yesterday morning, though I could not look at it until very late last night, and I am not confident that at present I have mastered it as it should be mastered. As the Under-Secretary of State said, and very rightly said, many of these Rules cannot be properly discussed at all; they are matters of detail which cannot even be investigated by the Joint Committee itself, and can only 203 be settled by the authorities in India. But there are other Rules which vitally affect the interests of the great mass of the Indian people who do all the work and provide the greater part of the revenue there.
The Joint Committee last year would not accept (wrongly as I venture to think) the principle of communal representation; yet only by communal representation can you secure a just system of election for the people of India. They did, however, adopt communal representation in certain eases of which we know. They seemed to be particularly sympathetic to the Marathas of the Bombay Presidency. Now they have cut down to seven the seats which were originally intended to be eight, which is far too low to represent that great community adequately. The reason for that reduction is that they accept a definition of "Marathas" which is not historically accurate, which excludes some very closely allied castes altogether. The result of that is that the Hindu non-Brahmin classes of Bombay, large numbers of which are really Marathas, come very badly off in the matter of representation in the Council. The seven members who now remain may have to represent the interests of something like 14,000,000 non-Brahmin Hindus in the Province of Bombay, whilst the Mahometians, who number only 3,500,000, have twenty-seven seats given them. Whatever that may be it is certainly not democracy, and I greatly regret that the backward classes generally have been deprived of their rights under the electoral arrangements now proposed. How the dominant Congress faction regard these poor people can well be understood by the number of violent attacks they have been making on the Maharaja of Kolhapur, who is a stout champion of the working classes in India.
In Madras the non-Brahmins, comprising the vast majority of the population, will be nowhere in the Council of the future. The Government of India gave them originally thirty seats out of sixty-one, and the Joint Committee considered that the final proportion ought to be settled by a Conference in India itself. There was a Conference at which some of the Brahmins were prepared to give thirty-six out of the sixty-five seats, but the Governor ruled that no more than half could be given to the non-Brahmins, and the conference broke up. Then came Lord Meston as arbitrator, and he went to Madras without any know- 204 ledge of Southern India. He cut down the non-Brahmins to twenty-eight out of sixty-five seats and gave a number of reasons for doing so, with which I totally dissent. We had the old story that the non-Brahmins, who are there in a large majority, can perfectly well take care of themselves, but it is impossible in the present conditions of Madras for them to take care of themselves unless they have adequate representation of their own.
Then a most misleading deduction was drawn from the Madras municipality where the non-Brahmins are in a majority. I am told that the noble Lord refused to hear the whole case of the non-Brahmins. I may be quite wrong and perhaps he will wish to explain. In Madras the Brahmins dominate all the public services and they will be able to exercise immense influence at the Elections by methods which everybody who has served in India well knows. The result must be bitter resentment among the loyal people who are the real workers of the Presidency and whose interests it is our duty to safeguard.
Last year the non-Brahmins were at a very great disadvantage before the Joint Committee. They lost their great leader Dr. Nair, who died before his evidence could be taken. They were a small body, and insufficiently provided with funds. They found the Congress Party amply financed and in possession of the field. The Congress delegates had captured the Labour Party in this country and had induced the Labour Party to believe that Brahmins, lawyers, and capitalists, were the only people who represented the working classes in India. Their proceedings were extraordinarily well stage-managed. We had to deal with three Home Rule organisations, all holding exactly similar views, but each requiring a separate deputation to represent those views. In effect it was a procession of town-bred persons whose interests and objects were diametrically opposed to the agriculturists who form the backbone and vast majority of the people of India.
The Election Rules proceed on the assumption that conditions in India are the same as those in Western countries. There are to be bribery laws, and candidates are to make accurate returns of their Election expenses. The Joint Committee has included "employment of paid canvassers in excess of the maximum, which they trust will be rigidly limited" among 205 corrupt practices. This is most right and proper, but it will be absolutely ineffectual when the Elections come on. There can be no proper supervision whatever of the Elections to be held this autumn. A large number of the electors will be totally illiterate and will not know what it is about. There will be corruption and intimidation on a large scale and the first principles of democracy will be flagrantly violated.
The Joint Committee have practically divorced the Governor from his Legislative Council. He is still allowed to veto a motion for adjournment even if the President has granted it. What may that mean? If the Governor is accessible he may be faced with the necessity of giving a hurried decision on a debate which he has not heard. If he is absent there must apparently be a deadlock until his decision can be obtained. On one change I warmly congratulate the noble Earl and the Joint Committee. They have given separate rural seats to the Sikhs of the Punjab which will give some representation to rural interests, but I am sorry to find that it is necessary to add four seats—one Hindu and three Mahomedan—with the result that the rural Sikhs will have little weight in the Council.
I have said enough to indicate how very many matters require the most careful consideration. That is now, unfortunately, impossible. There are a number of amendments I should like to move, but it will be useless to do so in the position in which the House finds itself to-day. There is no time. A very experienced Indian wrote to me by last mail saying—A few months hence we shall have the reformed Councils. Those who will talk the loudest against the Government and officials will get in, and I am afraid we shall be much worse off.That will happen, and it will be due to the indecent haste with which these revolutionary measures have been pressed through Parliament. This premature attempt to force democratic institutions upon the most aristocratic country left in the world can have only disastrous results. It will place, and it must place, large political power in the hands of the small minority of English-speaking persons whose objects have been plainly avowed. They will be able, as they have said, to create impossible conditions in the Provincial Governments and then to urge that the only solution is complete Home Rule. I support the Amendment moved by the noble Lord.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
My Lords, Lord Sydenham and Lord Ampthill are recognised as frank and very direct critics of the whole scheme of reform, and both noble Lords have revived all kinds of attacks on the main principles of the Act which were very frequently heard last year and which, on most occasions, were adequately answered by Lord Sinha and by the noble Earl the Leader of the House. I am sorry that Lord Ampthill should have brought so many charges of bad faith, about adroit manԓuvring, taking advantage of the war, which I confess seemed to me to be very much over-stated and overdrawn. I submit that, rightly or wrongly, fortunately or the reverse, the time has gone by when the Act and its main principles can be profitably attacked. The Act is now a Statute of the Realm. The Rules are an honest interpretation of that Act. That is all that the Draft Rules represent.
Lord Sydenham has not alleged in any case that there is anything in the Rules inconsistent with the Act. He has expressed regret that this or that decision should have been taken, but neither Lord MacDonnell, nor Lord Sydenham, nor Lord Ampthill has in any way impugned the justice of the action taken by the Government of India or by the Select Committee here, as interpreters of this Act of Parliament. I beg, therefore, that your Lordships will not make this the occasion for reviving attacks upon the whole principle of Indian reform, which, in spite of what Lord Ampthill said about hurry last year, was repeatedly discussed both in this House and elsewhere, and with which Parliament, as a whole, dealt, by the votes which it recorded and by finally passing this Bill into law.
§ LORD MACDONNELL
May I be permitted to say that I do not accept the statement with regard to the interpretation of the Act. I do not believe that the interpretation of the Act has been properly expressed.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I listened with great care to the noble Lord's speech, and I did not hear any concrete example given by him as to where he said the interpretation of the Act was incorrect.
§ LORD MACDONNELL
I mentioned the position of the Governor under the Rules. The Government of India Act gave him control over the Council, while the omission 207 of the Governor and the substitution of the President of the Council gives the authority to the President of the Council.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
Well, I will not press the point if I misinterpreted Lord Macdonnell, but I do not doubt that the point has been fully considered; otherwise I do not believe that the Select Committee would have overlooked it. There is just one matter analogous to what I have just said—the complaint that Lord Ampthill brought forward on behalf of the Deputation. They came over here to get the Act amended. They objected, and always did, to the Act as it stood, and do not gather that they object to anything in the Rules.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
Lord Lamington must be aware that they were seen in India, and I must ask your Lordships to do justice to the Select Committee who dealt with this matter. Most of the speakers this afternoon have ignored the Committee, and Lord Ampthill poured thoroughly undeserved sneers upon that Committee and their valuable work. He called them "nominated assessors"—
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
—and used all sorts of rather small criticisms of a body of public men, who have performed the greatest service to Parliament, this country and to India. Now, it is a perfectly common procedure in both House of Parliament, when a matter involving all kinds of small but very difficult and technical points arises, to refer it to a Select Committee. That is the commonest Parliamentary procedure, and that is what has happened in this case; and I defy any Peer, however experienced in Indian affairs, who reads this Report, to deny that these are matters which cannot be dealt with in this Assembly, but, ought to be dealt with by a small and highly-skilled Select Committee. That that Committee did not have the assistance of Lord Sydenham is a matter of great regret, but I am sure that Lord Sydenham, who was on the Committee last year, might, if he had cared to serve, have served on the Committee this year.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
Lord Selborne informs me that Lord Sydenham refused. That Committee had twelve or fourteen sittings, and devoted themselves to the careful and almost meticulous consideration of these questions, and I say it is most unfair that the work of that Committee should either be ignored or treated with so scant a respect. For my part I think that Parliament, and India too, owes a good deal to the good offices of those noble Lords and members of the House of Commons who devoted such close attention to these matters.
I want to add one point, with respect to Lord MacDonnell's proposal. He suggested an adjournment for a month. I do not know if all your Lordships quite appreciate what that means. It was explained very early this afternoon by Lord Sinha. An adjournment of these Rules for a month means the adjournment of the Elections in India for fifteen months; in other words, unless we pass these Rules during the next week or ten days the Elections in India will not take place until November, 1921. Lord Ampthill said that it did not matter at all if they were put off. That is not so. The Act was passed last year with urgency, in order to permit the Elections during the coming month of November. That is the expectation of India as a whole, and that is, in effect, laid down in the Statute.
It was in order to secure the Elections during the coming November that the Act was last year hurried, or, at any rate, was pressed, through as quickly as possible; and not only does India expect the Elections to take place during the coming November, but I really think that those interested in these matters in India are entitled to the fulfilment of that expectation. I submit that it would be a very serious responsibility for us to assume, in order to examine a number of things about which this House, as a House, cannot be qualified to judge—a number of matters which are emphatically matters to be referred to a small and carefully-composed Select Committee—if we took upon ourselves to defer the Elections in India for fifteen months.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
As I was Chairman of the Joint Select Committee I think your Lordships will expect me to say something on this subject. My noble friends, 209 Lord Ampthill and Lord Sydenham, hold very strong views, to which, I think, they are wholly entitled, against the policy of the Government, which is embodied in the Government of India Act. I have no responsibility whatever for that policy, but I must endorse what my noble friend who has just sat down has said—namely, that that is not the issue before us to-night. For good or for evil the Government of India Act passed into law. It received the King's Assent, last December, but it cannot be brought into operation until the Rules, which are now laid before your Lordships, have effect, and they cannot be brought into operation until the judgment of this House and of the other House has been passed upon them. Therefore, really the only question before your Lordships to-day, is whether you should pass judgment now upon these Rules, as proposed by the noble Lord, the Under-Secretary of State for India.
This brings me to the consideration of what these Rules are. Before I deal with that I want to allude to two observations that I think have been made when I was, unfortunately, out of the House. I understand that Lord Ampthill said that when the Government of India Act came before the Joint Select Committee last year it emerged from that Select Committee very much in the form in which it went before the Committee. I respectfully, but wholly, demur to that statement. I say that it was very greatly altered, and I venture to think greatly improved, by the joint Select Committee. The second criticism, made I think by Lord Lamington, was that no evidence has been heard on this occasion by the Joint Select Committee.
Last year the Joint Select Committee sat for an endless series of weeks. We heard an enormous number of witnesses representing every shade of opinion, and I have no hesitation in saying that most of those witnesses simply repeated what another witness had said before them. Nevertheless, we thought it our duty to show the greatest patience and courtesy, and to make it impossible for any Party in India to say that it had not had ample opportunity of stating its case. Having done that once, there is no conceivable reason why we should do it twice. Therefore, the first thing that the Joint Select Committee decided when it was appointed the other day was that it would hear no more evidence on this subject. We heard that a certain 210 deputation, without any communication with us or with the Government of India, had started from India in order to give evidence before us. We had never said or done anything that could lead anyone to suppose that we were disposed to re-open the case or to hear further evidence. We all received an extraordinary number of communications in the form of telegram, memoranda and letters. These have all been received be the Committee and have had the attention due to them.
Now I come to these Rules, which are mainly of the most technical kind possible, and are very bulky. The first thing I want to do is to tender my respectful homage to the Government of India, to the Governments of the three Presidencies, and to the other Provincial Governments, for the extraordinary skill, ability and devotion which they have applied to a most laborious and difficult task. If you had seen, as I have seen, a portion only of the letters, telegrams, memoranda, the Minutes of Council meeting, Committee meeting and subcommittee meeting at which this matter has been thrashed out in India during the last seven months; if you had seen the telegraphic correspondence between the Government of India and the India Office, supplementing the despatches on this subject, you would know that I am not exaggerating when I say that no Government in the world have ever given to a complicated task more laborious care, or brought to its consideration greater ability. When I say that of the Government of India, I am including also the Governments of Madras, Bombay and Bengal. Did my two noble friends adorn the Government Houses of Madras and Bombay respectively, I am perfectly certain they would hold that the opinion—the considered opinion—of themselves and of their Council on a subject affecting Bombay or Madras was a better opinion than the opinion of anybody else in the world, and I should agree with them.
The question really has been—Were we, the Joint Select Committee, composed of members of the two Houses of Parliament (some of whom had Indian experience, most of whom had not), to attempt to do over again the work so admirably done by the Government of India, and by the local Governments in India. We made no such attempt. We studied the result of their work carefully, and we have made a few changes, but very very few. What 211 you see before you, my Lords, is the work of the Government of India and of the Local Governments as I have described them, and the question really is whether there is any body of opinion in this country that can usefully revise that work in detail. I do not think there is. I think, however, that your Lordships have a real grievance, and I have great sympathy with my noble friend's Motion regarding the short time that you have been given to consider this matter. It is no part of my business to defend the India Office in that matter.
§ LORD MACDONNELL
May I be allowed to say that the Joint Committee have changed the orders of the Government of India?
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I said we had changed them, but only in a very few cases. Ninety-nine per cent. at least of the work you see before you is the work of the Government of India. I have great sympathy with those who say that we have not been given enough time, but, even if you had enough time, I do not think your Lordships could usefully undo or revise the work done by the Government of India. That is all I say. The noble Lord the Under-Secretary, who is in charge of this Motion, has explained why he is asking you to pass it at once. I have nothing to add to his explanation. I have no cognisance except what I hear from him of the conditions in India, and it is no part of my business to deal with that aspect of the case. I have only tried to explain what these Rules are, and from what authority they proceed, and the part that the Joint Select Committee has taken concerning them.
§ On Question, Lord MacDonnell's Motion negatived.
§ Then, on Question, the original Motion agreed to.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, I have already received the permission of the House to proceed with my Motion. I have really nothing to add to what I have already said, except that I should like to tell the noble Earl who now leads the House, that I certainly did not mean to sneer at the Joint Select Committee. I am very sorry if I said anything which gave that impression. It was far from my intention to do so. All I meant to say was that a Joint Select Committee is not Parliament, and cannot take the place of 212 Parliament. I also thought that I had made it clear that I am not proposing that the consideration of these Rules should be postponed. I fully recognise that we are committed to, and that we have to pass, the Rules. What I suggested was that your Lordships should express regret that we have not had time to give them at least some form of consideration, and thus might show some respect to the people of India by proclaiming that we are interested—I do not put it higher than that—in all that concerns them so vitally.
I disagree with those who say we can do nothing as regards the Rules. My whole point was that these Rules are the clauses of the Bill—the very things which enable the Bill to be put into operation—and that therefore we have as much right, and that indeed it was our duty, to discuss them as we discussed the clauses of the Bill which your Lordships passed last year. But we cannot do that unless we have the regular stages which enable opinions to be expressed. By our customary methods of dealing with a Bill you disseminate information, you obtain the opinion of your friends, you collect the opinion of those who are vitally concerned, you put those opinions forward in debate, and you hear what the Government of this country and the Government of India have to say in regard to them. Then you arrive at a conclusion. But when the matter is put in the form of a Resolution which you have to take or leave, it is impossible for Parliament to discharge those duties which the people of India look to us to discharge. I quite agree with my noble friend, Lord Selborne, that the man on the spot is the man who ought to be trusted, and I ask your Lordships whether Parliament, in the case of any of the former Government of India Acts—in the case of any former legislation which the Government have passed in regard to India—has taken the view that what has been drafted by the Government of India should be left untouched. I submit that such a contention has never before been put forward in either House of Parliament. I beg to move the Motion standing in my name.
§ Moved, That this House regrets that no time has been granted for the study and discussion of the Draft Rules which are to 213 form the basis of the Government of India Act, 1919, and is further of opinion that the haste with which the Bill was forced through Parliament last year together with the present perfunctory treatment of the Draft Rules constitutes a grave infringement of the rights of Parliament.—(Lord Ampthill.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I do not know whether the Government have anything to say on this point, because I should give way at once if that is so.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am afraid I get up only to sing a very old song and one which your Lordships have heard very often. Therefore, I shall not presume to inflict more than one or two observations upon your Lordships. I am not responsible, of course, for the exact words in which my noble friend has drafted his Motion, but, in substance, I must say that I think he has a very substantial and real grievance. So also have your Lordships, especially those of you who have an interest in, and a knowledge of, India.
It is true that the whole proceedings in this great reform of Indian Administration have left very much to be desired as to the way in which the two Houses of Parliament have been treated. I am not saying that the subject has not had very careful consideration; because, as my noble friend Lord Selborne has just told your Lordships, the Joint Select Committee considered it over a very long period and very carefully. But that is not the same thing—as my noble friend has said—as a consideration by the two Houses of Parliament. It is a growing practice—if I may say so respectfully I think it is a mischievous practice—to pass on the business of this country from the two Houses of Parliament to what are subordinate bodies—namely, Committees —however important those bodies may be. It it a great pity, and it deprives Parliament of its legitimate rights. In my opinion it will end in shaking the confidence of the people of the country.
Now I come to the Rules. I am not going to say a word about them; for many reasons, but principally because I know nothing about the subject, and do not pretend to know. Yet I was struck by one observation made by my noble friend, 214 Lord Ampthill. Not having refreshed his memory, but speaking from recollection, he said that he was satisfied that when the main Bill was going through Parliament he was asked not to discuss the details, on the express ground that the opportunity for discussing them would occur when the Rules were laid before Parliament. That, no doubt, had effect upon many of your Lordships who otherwise would have contributed much to the discussion on this subject. Then comes the occasion of the Rules, and I need not again describe to your Lordships the way in which the House has been treated in respect of them. No one has had an opportunity of reading them.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My noble friend tells me that which I did not know for certain, that they have not been circulated. If I have made a mistake in this regard I apologise; but, at any rate, if they have been circulated it was at the last possible moment. We are asked to pass these Rules into law, so far as this House is concerned, under a duress that unless it is done by to-morrow week the most awful consequences will happen in India. I mean, that the whole establishment of constitutional government there will be postponed for twelve months. I am certain that your Lordships ought not to have been put into that position. I am also certain that the Departments responsible—not the noble Lord himself; I need not tell him that I am not making any personal attack upon him—ought to have arranged their business so that the two Houses of Parliament would have had ample time to discuss these Rules; especially if, as I now understand, noble Lords were asked to defer their observations when the main Bill was going through, on the express ground that now would be their opportunity.
Your Lordships are presented with this Motion in the name of my noble friend. Unless the Government have some means of convincing us that some other course ought to be pursued I do not see how we can avoid agreeing with my noble friend. I do not want to embarrass the Government in this matter, or to be factious; but if I am asked, on the argument so far as it has been submitted, whether I agree with Lord Ampthill rather than with his opponents, I must honestly say that I agree with 215 Lord Ampthill; and I do not think I can avoid giving expression to that agreement if he goes into the Lobby.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
My Lords, I should be very glad if I felt any confidence of being able to persuade Lord Salisbury not to support this vote of censure. I will recapitulate what my noble friend Lord Sinha has said as to these Papers. In the first place, let me point out that these Rules cannot properly be called the basis of the Government of India Act. That is completely reversing the case. The Government of India Act is the basis and the foundation upon which these Rules are made; and to call the Rules the basis of the Government of India Act is a complete perversion of ordinary Parliamentary parlance. Secondly, I think that it is always a pity, in point of form, in one session to censure a Government for what it did in the previous session.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
As a matter of Parliamentary form I think my observation is just. The sins of one session should not be unduly carried forward to the next. But really Lord Salisbury is under a misapprehension. He has not seen these Papers, but they have been available; and Lord Sinha has explained in a very full manner what actually occurred. In the first place, I should remind you that all these documents have to reach England from India by mail. It is impossible to deal with them as you deal with dispatches from Washington, or from Paris, or from anywhere else. Telegraphs cannot help you in these matters. Everything, therefore, has to go by the slow, and frequently very much delayed, method of mailed correspondence. That, in itself, has introduced an element of delay which cannot be over-calculated.
With an extra ten days probably in this House Lord Ampthill, Lord MacDonnell, and others would have been satisfied. The whole records show that there has been no intentional lack of speed in this matter. I do not know whether Lord Selborne has seen the documents, but the communications subsequent to the receipt of these mailed documents have been really on a gigantic scale. The actual document which passed to-day is the document as revised by the Select Committee, but the document submitted to the Select Committee has been available to your Lordships for weeks 216 past—certainly for three weeks. It is true that Lord Ampthill did not know about it and I am sorry that he did not.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I do not know whether Lord Muskerry realises what happened during the war two years ago. It was then settled that Peers should not receive documents unless they applied for them. Had Lord Muskerry applied for the documents he would have received them He did not apply; therefore he did not get them. I did not apply; and therefore I did not get them. But I was entitled to have them, as was any one of your Lordships, three weeks ago. The document went to the Select Committee. I take note of what Lord Salisbury says. I am not sure that he is right that it is a growing practice to delegate the authority of Parliament to Committees, but, for certain things, it seems to me a very business-like and expeditious manner of handling affairs. I said before, and I need not repeat it now, that these documents embodied schemes and details of every complexity imaginable which could not suitably be presented to either House of Parliament and treated as the Select Committe could have treated them. And I would defy either House of Parliament to have devoted, as the Select Committee did, fourteen days to the discussion of these meticulous Rules. Therefore, I do not feel prepared to accept censure on the fact that the matter was referred to a Select Committee.
But I do submit very strongly indeed that there has been no delay—no delay, at any rate, which could have been avoided—and the fact that these Draft Rules were not known to many of your Lordships who have been interested in this subject is not the fault of the Government. It rests entirely with your Lordships to order your Papers as you please, and those Peers who care to say they wish to have Papers sent to them have them forwarded automatically. Finally, the differences between the Draft Rules laid and the Draft Rules passed by Lord Selborne's Committee are quite insignificant. And, that being so, and the Committee having had ample time to go through them in a most complete fashion, even if your Lordships think it necessary to censure the Government, I hope it will be quite clear that the Select Committee has, at any rate, done its duty in the most admirable manner.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I desire to make a very few observations on this matter in order to explain why, although I am in general sympathy with much that was said by the noble Marquess behind me (Lord Salisbury), and also with much that was said by Lord Ampthill, I do not think it possible to support his Motion on this occasion. As regards what was said by the noble Earl who has just sat down, I do not think anybody disputes that it was a wise and customary plan to send a series of Rules of this kind to a Select Committee. It is, I think, agreed by everybody that they are more fitted for examination by a Committee than by the House. But that was not the complaint that was made. The complaint that was made by the noble Lord was that, the Select Committee having considered them, they were not brought to the House in time for any rational approval of them to be expressed here, or disapproval of some items if that was desired, and that, in fact, the Committee was given a blank cheque to alter the Rules as submitted by the Government of India, and that your Lordships had no practical power of expressing an opinion on the subject.
I confess I think there is no little substance in that complaint, and I am also in general agreement with the noble Marquess in the complaint he has made of the way in which many important matters are considered in the Committee Rooms of both Houses, rather than in either Chamber. That is a large question, which it would not be profitable to attempt to discuss on an occasion like this—either the justification for what I think is, in some respects, an unfortunate result of the congestion of business, or the possible remedies which might be applied. But there again I am in general sympathy with what was said by the noble
§ Resolved in the negative, and Motion disagreed to accordingly.218
§ Marquess behind me. But for one reason I could not vote for my noble friend's Motion—because, in particular, of the latter half of it. Lord Ampthill asks the House to express its opinion that "the haste with which the Bill was forced through Parliament last year constituted a grave infringement of the privileges of Parliament." That seems to me to be an over-statement of the case. I think that the Bill, in its main lines, was fairly and fully considered in both Houses of Parliament last year, and it would be a pity, I think, if, by making a statement of this kind, we were to appear to diminish the authority of the Act by making it seem as though it were a measure which had not received proper consideration here.
§ That is an argument, of course, which will not affect my noble friend and some who agree with him, because, if he can make the Act—which he dislikes more or less, I imagine, from top to bottom—appear in an unfavourable light, I conceive he will not be at all sorry. But those of us who are in general agreement with the lines of policy of the Government which were embodied in that Act—whether of this or that detail is a different question—could not, I think, support the noble Lord in appearing to put such a slight on the Act as would, I think, be regarded, and justly regarded, as being inflicted on it if the noble Lord's Motion were carried. And, therefore, although, as I have said, I sympathise with a great deal that fell from him, I am afraid I could not bring myself to vote for his Motion.
§ On Question, whether Lord Ampthill's Motion be agreed to?—
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 11; Not-Contents, 26.217
|Bedford, D.||Chaplin, V.||Lamington, L.|
|Falkland, v.||Muskerry, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Sumner, L.|
|Doncaster, E.||Ampthill, L. [Teller.]||Sydenham, L. [Teller.]|
|(D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Erskine, L.|
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Portsmouth, E.||Elgin, L.|
|Birkenhead, L.(L. Chancellor.)||Vane, E.(M. Londonderry.)||(E. Elgin and Kincardine.)|
|Crewe, M.||Sandhurst, V. (L. Chamberlain.||Islington, L.|
|Astor, V.||Meston, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Milner, V.||Sinha, L.|
|Lytton, E.||Peel, V.|
|Somerleyton, L. [Teller.]|
|Midleton, E.||Annesley, L. (V. Valentia.)||Stanmore, L. [Teller.]|
|Morton, E.||Colebrooke, L.||Treowen, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Desborough, L.||Wigan, L.(E. Crawford.)|
§ House adjourned at twenty-five minutes past six o'clock.