LORD OLIVIER rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they can now inform the House as to the policy which they propose to pursue in regard to Indian constitutional questions; and to move for Papers. The Noble Lord said: My Lords, just about a year ago I was explaining to your Lordships the circumstances in which the Government of India and His Majesty's Government had deemed it advisable to appoint a Committee to inquire into the working of the existing scheme of constitution in India. I then said:—
I have had innumerable representations, and I have had all manner of assurances as to its working, or as to its unworkability. I do not propose to indicate in the slightest degree the effect of all these representations on my mind. All these matters, I suggest, are those upon which a judgment can only be formed after the Viceroy has had all his reports from his Provincial Governors and that Committee has gone thoroughly into the case, and evidence has been heard and considered.
Since that time the Secretary of State and the Governor-General of India have been considering the outcome of the Report of that Committee, which sat under the presidency of Sir Alexander Muddiman, the Home Member of the Government of India. The noble Earl, the Secretary of State, has had the very great advantage of being able to confer upon there matters with the Earl of Reading, the Governor-General of India, and I think I may congratulate His Majesty's late Government on having been instrumental in providing for the passage of a Bill which enabled the Secretary of State to have that great advantage of conference on such matters as this.
§ Before I pass from that matter, I should like to express the very great gratification that it was to myself personally and to His Majesty's late Government that we were able in all matters to work in practical agreement, both on this question and other questions, with the present Viceroy and Governor-General of India, Lord Reading. That was an immense satisfaction to myself, both administratively and personally, and in so far as His Majesty's late Government had a strong and sincere desire to promote the development of responsible self-government in India tinder the scheme of the Montagu-Chelmsford Constitution and in accordance with the declaration of His Majesty's Government, they were—I will not even say seconded in that desire, but they had the entire and most friendly co-operation of the present Viceroy of India. I cannot doubt, therefore, that the question of what is now to be done as a consequence of the Report of the Committee has been dealt with in the most liberal spirit.
I should like to say a few words with regard to the upshot of the Report of that Committee. The Committee comprised Sir Alexander Muddiman, who was the Member for Home Affairs of the Government of India, Sir Muhammed Shafi, a Mahomedan, who was then Law Member of the Governor-General in Council, the Maharaja of Burdwan, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, the well-known Indian Liberal leader. Sir Arthur Froom, Sir Sivaswami Aiyer, Sir H Moncrieff Smith, Secretary to the Government of India, Mr. K. A. Jinnah, Leader of the Independent
Party in the Legislative Assembly, and Mr. R. P. Paranjpye, a well-known Progressive. Their duty was:—
To inquire into the difficulties arising from, or defects inherent in, the working of the Government of India Act, and the rules thereunder, and to investigate the possibility and desirability of securing remedies for such difficulties or defects consistent with the structure, policy and purpose of the Act.
The Committee presented two Reports, but there was little substantial difference between the considerations which formed the basis of the criticism as to difficulties and defects, although the emphasis laid upon them differs considerably. In the upshot the Majority made a series of recommendations for dealing with faults and defects which they found in the working of the Act, with sums of which the Minority agreed and from others of which they dissented.
It would be a great waste of time for me to go into any particulars of those recommendations, because it is obvious that the noble Earl will be able to deal only in the broadest possible manner with the policy which His Majesty's Government intend to pursue, and it would be idle to attempt to discuss any particular recommendations. I would only say that the Minority, in their Report, went further than the Majority in principle, because they came to the conclusion that the difficulties and inconveniences of working the present Constitution were such that no mere amendment in detail would remedy them and make it an efficient system for the training of Indian politicians in Parliamentary work. They had some justification for taking this wider view, for, in announcing the purpose of the inquiry, Sir Malcolm Hailey had stated in the Legislative Assembly that:—
We propose to make a serious attempt to investigate the complaints against the working of the scheme in practice, to assess the causes and to examine the remedies necessary.
If the Minority had—and I shall point out that they had—certain causes of dissatisfaction with the working of the Act, which could not be remedied within the scope of the Act, it appeared to them to be their duty to point out those cases, and to indicate the line upon which they thought that a remedy might be found.
They were further encouraged in that
view by the words of Sir Malcolm Hailey, who at the same time said:—
If our inquiry into the difficulties of the working of the Act shows the feasibility and the possibility of any advance within the Act, that is to say, the use of the Rule-making power provided under the Statute, we are willing to make recommendations to that effect, but if our inquiry shows that no advance is possible without amending the Constitution, then the question of advance must be left as an entirely open and separate issue upon which the Government is in no way committed.
The Minority made certain complaints of the very essentials of this diarchical Constitution which, in fact, are not dissented from by the Majority, and which are endorsed very strongly by a whole cloud of witnesses who have had to do with the working of the Act in several Provinces. They claim that there are certain crucial Parliamentary defects in the Constitution which make it unsuitable and, in fact, impossible, as a training school for Parliamentary government of a responsible character.
That, as your Lordships will admit, is a very serious criticism of the scheme of the present Constitution. The crucial Parliamentary defects of the Constitution as a training ground for responsible Government, admitted though not emphasised by the majority, are brought out very clearly by the minority. The first is the inter-dependence of the administration of reserved subjects—that is to say, subjects reserved for the Governor and his officers and Executive Council—and the transferred subjects which are ostensibly transferred to the responsibility of unofficial Ministers. In that connection I might quote a passage from the dispatch of the Governor of Bombay of November, 1918, in which he pointed out in advance this complication. He then said:
Practically all proposals of importance put forward by the Minister in charge of any of the Departments suggested for transfer will involve a reference to the authorities in charge of the Reserved Department. There are few, if any, subjects on which the functions of the two sections of government"—
responsible Ministers, supposed to be responsible to the Council, and those who are responsible to the Governor—
would not overlap; consequently it will be seldom possible in the case of a transferred subject for a Minister to dispense with a reference to the Departments concerned with the reserved subjects.
That is to say, the Minister of a transferred subject cannot freely exercise his responsibility to the Council alone. He has to act in concert with, or with some submission to, the Governor and those of his officers who are responsible for reserved subjects. That is an interference with anything like government by a responsible Ministry. Secondly, it is pointed out—and this is admitted by both parts of the Committee—that the Ministers cannot be responsible solely to the Legislature, as the Parliamentary Joint Committee in its Report intended, because of the very real control that the Finance Department must exercise over all expenditure, and because the points of view of popular Ministers and of members of the Executive Council in charge of inter-current Departments, who owe no responsibility to the Legislature and are steeped in official tradition, may and not infrequently do differ.
§ Further, there is this third difficulty, that the more responsible Ministers are amalgamated by joint deliberation with the official heads of Departments in a quasi Cabinet, as is advocated by the Majority Committee, the more will they become identified in the popular view with the official Government, and the less possible it is for them either to summon opposition among their own followers to support them against the Government, with whom they have acted, or the more difficult freely to oppose the Government on questions of the policy of the Reserved Departments. It will readily be understood, and both sections of the Committee admit, that in the present stage of politics representatives of the electorate must show, as a whole, the temper of an Opposition. If they do not do so they will be supplanted by other representatives forming a new Opposition, as was done at the last Election by the Swarajists. The functioning of the Councils under the present diarchical Constitution is not and cannot be made a training for ministerial Parliamentary responsibility, however much it may be made a training for ministerial administration, which is a different thing.
§ Now, the question before the Minority, as before the Majority, is whether these defects in the Councils as at present constituted, for their actual purpose of serving as a training ground for Parliamentary responsibility, can be remedied 1066 at all without further reconsideration of the Constitution, and upon that subject evidence was given by a succession of Executive Councillors and Ministers, Indians who had served under the new scheme in high positions, men not hostile to the Government, who with few exceptions gave it as their conscientious opinion that the present diarchical Constitution was not working as a fruitful means of training Ministers in responsible action, but was working in a manner which was causing, and likely to cause, friction and not peace, and that that was in consequence of the very essence of the Constitution, and not at all on account of such minor defects as could be remedied in accordance with the recommendations of the Majority Report.
The Governor-General of the United Provinces, in a Report, described the present diarchical Constitution as "a complex, confused system, having no logical basis, rooted in compromise, and defensible only as a transitional expedient." Sir William Marris and his Council went on to say that their conclusion on the whole Inquiry was that there is no halfway house between the Constitution, which they so forcibly condemn, and a wholly new Constitution, and that concessions falling short of complete provincial autonomy will placate no section of the opponents of the existing system. They say:—
It seems to the Governor-in-Council that the difficulties and defects inherent in the scheme are quite incurable by any mere alteration of the Act or rules. The utmost that changes so restricted could do would be to oil the wheels of the constitutional machinery; they could have no effect on the general and permanent tendencies of the Constitution itself.
This conclusion is really implicit in the Report of the Majority, though they do not emphasise it, and this consideration the Minority took up very seriously. Is it not expedient in the interests of all concerned that the recommendations of the Minority, with which the Secretary of State and the Governor-General may agree, be now adopted, in order to ease the dissatisfaction of all Parties with the present Constitution, and give them hope that a real system of responsible government can be set up, and that the Government should at once take in hand the examination of all the known defects in the Constitution? That is where the Minority Report differs from, and goes
further than, the Report of the Majority, who held themselves, I may say, restricted by the terms of their reference from embarking upon that question.
In that connection I wish to acquaint your Lordships with what I consider a very significant circumstance. Sir Muhammad Shafi, who, as I have said, was a member of the Committee, and Law Member of the Viceroy's Council, after he had discharged his duties on the Committee was interviewed by a representative of the Associated Press of India, and he explained that, whereas in reporting on the reference given to him he did not consider that it was within his province to make any comment on the lines of the Minority Report, further consideration; should be given to the revision of the Constitution. He said:
It would, to my mind, be in the highest degree conducive to the best interests of Government, as well as of the people and of constitutional evolution in India, if the British Government were, without waiting for the expiry of the statutory period in 1929, to undertake a large inquiry of the kind advocated by the Minority by means of a Royal Commission. In its essence this proposal for a larger inquiry is nothing more than the recommendation made unanimously, with the concurrence of the official members of the First Legislative Assembly on the 29th September, 1921, as a result of the debate on Rai Bahadur Jadunath Mazumdar's Resolution advocating certain definite steps in constitutional advance. That Resolution was, in pursuance of the recommendation embodied therein, forwarded by the Government of India to the then Secretary of State. Since then discussions in the Second Legislative Assembly have made it clear that a large majority of the elected representatives of the people are strongly in favour of such an inquiry.
while immediate acceptance by His Majesty's Government of the recommendations for action within the Act made by the Majority would result in a smoother and more satisfactory working of the existing constitutional machinery, the institution of a larger inquiry, as advocated by the Minority, into the defects and difficulties inherent in the Constitution itself, and for the purpose of placing the Constitution on a permanent basis with full responsible government as the final stage, would satisfy by far a large majority of politically-minded Indians. Action on these lines is, in my opinion, certain to bring a twofold result. It would, in the first place, oil the hinges (if the existing constitutional machinery and as I have said above, make its actual working far smoother and more satisfactory than is the case at present. In the second place, the appointment of a Royal Commission would satisfy the Liberals, the Independent Nationalists, and a majority of Mahomedans, who have not definitely identi-
fied themselves with either of those Parties, and, I am hopeful, would go a long way towards influencing the Swarajists to abandon their blocking tactics, thus creating an entirely new atmosphere of mutual cooperation and good will between the Government and the people for the successful evolution of a constitutional programme in conformity with the policy laid down by the British Parliament in the Preamble to the Government of India Act, 1919. This is a course which, to my mind, is perfectly consonant with the dictates of far-sighted statesmanship and is certain to result in strengthening the political connection between Great Britain and India.
§ I am satisfied that the counsel given by Sir Mohammed Shafi, a Mussulman and a man high in the counsels of the State, a man who cannot be accused of any factions desire to make trouble or to accelerate reform in a manner that would be dangerous, is counsel which would be given by practically every native Indian in India who gives attention to politics. It is idle to suppose that Mahomedans are less desirous of the evolution of responsible Government than are the Hindus. It is idle to suppose that the Liberal Party, or the Independent Party, or the Moderates can be detached from the Swarajist Party by such concessions as are proposed to be given by the Majority; whereas I am confident that the opening by His Majesty's Government of the door of hope that the examination of the constitutional position will now be set in hand, as recommended by the Minority, with a view to arriving, in consort with Indian opinion, at some kind of adumbration of a future development of Indian policy, would practically unite and conciliate all the advanced Parties and induce them for the remainder of the time during which the present Constitution may work to do their best to carry on the Government efficiently under this scheme.
§ It is, therefore, my great hope that the noble Earl the Secretary of State for India in his statement to-day will be able not only to tell us that he proposes to consider, with the Government of India, the putting into effect, whether by rules or by amendments of the Act, of the recommendations of the Majority of the Committee—with regard to which he cannot give us the details to-day but can only give them after consultation with the Government of India—but that in addition, he will be able to show to your Lordships and to the Indian reformers some hope that a beginning will be made, following out the lines recommended by 1069 the Minority of the Committee, with some further revision and inquiry into the working of the Constitution. I beg to move.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD)
My Lords, my first duty is beyond question to express gratitude for the great patience which both here and in another place has enabled me to hold the important office that I have filled for a period of eight months without making any considerable Parliamentary statement. For this unusual indulgence I am indebted both to my noble friend Lord Olivier, who has repeatedly postponed a Question put down in his name, to the general body of your Lordships, and not less to those in the House of Commons who have exhibited a similar degree of patience. If may venture to express an opinion upon the point, I think that both Houses of Parliament, in this matter, have exhibited a wise constraint. The responsibility for the government of India is so vast, the problems are so novel and so complex, that no mind, however quickly acquisitive of new facts, or however industrious in its application to their mastery, can hope to make any useful contribution without months of unremitting industry.
I hope I have not altogether misspent the time which the indulgence of the House has made available to me. I propose to-day to make the best attempt I can to discharge the task which will naturally be expected from me; that is, to review the general situation in India. Such a consideration involves financial, commercial and political considerations. I shall attempt to deal with each.
I must, however, make it plain at the outset that upon one, and not the least important, of the subjects to which I must address myself, there has been a considerable measure of misunderstanding. Both in this country and in India there has been much speculation as to the decisions reached by agreement between the Governor-General and myself. No decisions whatever have been reached; nor could any have been reached. Indeed, not even the Cabinet, which has naturally been kept closely aware of the discussions between myself and Lord Reading, has reached any decision. The Government is far too conscious of the implications of the Montagu-Chelmsford Constitution to find it possible even to 1070 think of conclusions until certain indispensable antecedent steps have been taken.
My noble friend Lord Lytton, who is at present the head of the Government of India, has naturally been kept very carefully informed of the discussions between myself and Lord Reading. Week by week, as those discussions have proceeded, he has been made aware, both in general and in particular, of their scope and tendency. Such a knowledge could not properly be withheld from him, though, as I have made it plain, neither he nor his Government is affected by any responsibility thereby. But before any decisions of any kind are taken, it is obvious that the consideration and advice of the Government of India must be formally invoked; and it is at least equally obvious that the opinions of the Legislative Assembly must be elicited. For reasons which are apparent, we should not dream of announcing or even of forming decisions without the contribution of that very important Legislative body which we have so recently called into existence.
I am not, therefore, to-day either announcing or purporting to announce, decisions or conclusions. I cannot any longer resist the legitimate desire of Parliament to be informed of the result of the discussions which have taken place between the Governor-General and myself. The truest description which I can give of the spirit in which I address Parliament is that, having held this responsible office for eight months, I am attempting a survey of the impressions which its tenure up to the present moment has stamped upon my mind.
I address myself, in the first place, to the financial position of India. I am happy to say that on a general survey, this position must be pronounced satisfactory. The period of heavy deficits which in the five years ending 1922–23 amounted to about Rs. 100 crores, may, in my belief, be regarded as definitely closed. This happy result is to be explained by the continued exercise of strict economy in every department of administration and by the imposition of additional taxation, particularly in the years 1921–22 and 1922–23. I need not trouble your Lordships with an examination of the Budget results, unexpectedly fortunate as they were, of the year 1071 1923–24. But I ought to say a word upon the revised estimate for 1924–25, which shows a surplus of nearly Rs.400 lakhs with an improvement of Rs.473 lakhs Revenue and an increased Expenditure of only Rs.92 lakhs. The improvement is mainly attributable to substantial savings in military expenditure, savings in exchange, improved gross Customs receipts, increase in the contribution of railways to general revenues, and a considerable windfall on account of enemy ships.
The Budget for 1925–26, which is based on an average rate of exchnge of 1s. 6d., assumed an excess of Revenue over Expenditure of Rs.324 lakhs, of which Rs.268 lakhs was estimated to be a true recurring surplus. The Government of India had repeatedly announced that their financial policy would be directed to the reduction and eventual extinction of the provincial contributions at the earliest possible date; and it was therefore decided to utilise Rs.250 lakhs of the true recurring surplus in the remission of contributions. Under the scheme laid down in the Devolution Rules, Madras will obtain a remission of Rs.126 lakhs; the United Provinces, Rs.56 lakhs; the Punjab Rs.61 lakhs, and Burma Rs.7 lakhs. The Government of India had already taken into account in its Estimates the further remission for three years of Bengal's contribution of Rs.63 lakhs, which has since been accepted by the Legislature. These proposals, which have been the subject of deep consideration, were not received with any articulate enthusiasm in India. Those Provinces which obtained no relief out of the Rs.250 lakhs, were dissatisfied, more especially as the exceptional treatment of Bengal was continued. Bombay was particularly active in protest, and eventually the Government of India obtained the assent of the Legislature to a distribution of Rs. 50 lakhs of the non-recurring surplus, as a grant for 1925–26 only, to certain Provinces which either would not benefit, or would only benefit slightly by the reduction of Rs.250 lakhs in the contributions. The resolution passed by the two Chambers recommended that the reliefs given to the Provinces should be devoted mainly to expenditure in the Transferred Departments.
I ought not to leave the central Budget without placing it on record that for the 1072 last two years the Government of India has actively pursued the policy of retrenchment in military and other expenditure recommended by the Inchcape Committee. On the civil side, almost all the recommendations of the Committee have received effect, and on the military side, the retrenchments actually secured almost exactly equal the total specific economies recommended by the Committee. The reduction in military expenditure in the last few years is illustrated by the following figures (in crores of rupees) of net expenditure:—
The thanks of the country and of this House are due to my noble friend Lord Inchcape for the invaluable services rendered by the Committee of which he was Chairman.
1922–23 65¼ 1923–24 59¼ 1924–25 (revised estimate) 57½ 1925–26 (Budget) 57
I proceed, my Lords, to add a few observations upon the conditions of trade in this great sub-continent, which is so large a customer of ours at a moment when we need customers wherever we can discover them. India was severely affected by the trade slump which followed the post-Armistice boom. In 1920–21 the adverse balance in merchandise on private account exceeded Rs.78 crores; in 1921–22, the adverse balance fell to Rs.23 crores; in 1922–23, the favourable balance, which is a normal feature of Indian trade, was restored, and exports exceeded imports by no less a sum than Rs.80 crores. In 1923–24 the favourable balance rose to Rs.134 crores. In 1924–25 there was a happy continuance of the revival of trade, and the favourable balance in merchandise on private account was about 150 crores, which is, unless I am mistaken, a record in the history of Indian trade. It is well known that India normally imports a large amount of precious metals towards the settlement of its trade balance, and last year the net imports of gold and silver were no less than 94 crores. The result of the private trade in merchandise and treasure was that there was in 1923–24 a favourable balance for India of Rs.86 crores, and in 1924–25 of Rs.61 crores. This position, a very remarkable one, must largely be ascribed to the fact that the recovery of India's export trade has not been associated with correspond- 1073 ing increase in imports of merchandise. The reasons for the restriction of imports are various. The high prices of imported goods militated against free purchases. Indian exports, on the other hand, consist largely of raw materials for which there has been keen demand. Lastly, the increase in the Indian tariff must evidently have tended towards smaller imports.
The improvement in India's financial position has enabled the Government of India gradually to get rid of its floating Debt, which has, in the main, been funded in the process of loan operations over the last few years. In 1923–24 a 4½ per cent. sterling Loan of twenty million pounds was placed in this market at an issue price of 90. This represented an advance of £5 on a previous issue price of 90. This again represented an advance of £5 on a previous issue of the same stock in October, 1922. Indian credit in this market has been helped by the improvement in her financial position, which has been appreciated in the City, as well as by the general factors that have helped here and elsewhere gilt edged securities. No Sterling Loan was issued in 1924–25, and the Budget for the current year has been framed on the fortunate and reasonable assumption that there will be no fresh sterling borrowing. The absence of the Secretary of State from this market is likely to help further the improvement of India's credit here, especially in view of unprecedentedly heavy appeals to the market since the War.
On the Indian side the market has also been moving in favour of Government as the result of the practical extinction of the floating Debt and the reduction in the amount which the Government has been compelled to borrow. In 1923–24, for the first time for many years, the Government of India found itself able to dispense with unlimited loans. The amount it borrowed was limited to 24 crores of rupees; in 1924–25 the amount raised by the Rupee Loan was only in the neighbourhood of 13 crores of rupees. This year the Budget assumes a Rupee Loan of 12 crores of rupees, but as a matter of fact no new money will be asked for, the loan, of which particulars have recently been published, being a conversion operation only.
I ought perhaps, in any estimate of the present and future material condition of 1074 India, to say a special word upon the subject of agriculture. No greater contrast in occupation than that between the people of Great Britain and those of India could well be found. Whereas the former Jive in vast aggregations in large towns, the latter Lye scattered in countless communities over the countryside. In England and Wales 80 per cent. of the population is returned as urban; in India 80 per cent., on a moderate estimate, is recorded as rural. Unfamiliar as these topics are to me, I nevertheless venture with almost dogmatic certainty upon the statement that an immense increase is attainable in the yield and therefore in the prosperity of agricultural India. Much has already been done by the Agricultural Department: by loans, by irrigation, by scientific instruction. Nor am I unaware of the difficulties which beset the path of the reformer. He is confronted by the stubborn conservatism of the peasant proprietor; by an infinite splitting up and sub-division ownership; even by an obstinate disinclination to be taught new ideas or to adopt fresh methods. But making all allowance for all these difficulties, I would desire to make my opinion plain, that a future of Incalculable prosperity awaits India if and when she learns fully to realise and to value her agricultural kingdom. This particular subject is, as your Lordships know, a transferred subject. This circumstance does not render a correlated and rational attempt to deal with it more easy; but it has been closely discussed between the Governor-General and myself; and I am not without hope that, during my tenure of office, if I am fortunate, it may be in our power to contribute to its further development a powerful impetus.
I pass now to a general consideration of political conditions in India, and here I naturally approach the most important of the discussions which have taken place between Lord Reading and myself. In 1919 a remarkable and extremely o bold experiment was made. It was made in the atmosphere of post-War idealism. My predecessor, Mr. Montagu, who was chiefly responsible for this experiment, must, on the whole, accept any censure where it has failed as he is entitled to all the credit where it has succeeded. He died prematurely. As one who at the 1075 time was never a particularly enthusiastic, though of course I was a responsible, supporter of his policy, I may be allowed, now that he is dead, to pay a tribute of respect and admiration alike to his idealism and to his courage. He was a true friend of India; and his name will not, I believe, be forgotten in that country.
The Act of 1919 was admittedly an experiment. No country in the world has ever been confronted with problems comparable to ours in India. Of the 440 millions of British citizens who constitute the British Empire, 320 millions are Indians. The loss of India would mean a shrinkage in the Empire from 13,250,000 to less than 11,500,000 square miles. Our problem is, in fact, and always has been, one of prodigious difficulty. It is to accommodate the minds of the East to those of the West, or if you prefer so to say it (I have no prejudice in the matter), the minds of the West to those of the East. History can, in fact, in all its courses afford no parallel for such a partnership.
When the British nation first decisively intervened in India, there was no question of a successful and independent national destiny for this incalculable country. It was in disintegration. It could not have continued to cohere. It was in 1746 that the state of war commenced between Great Britain and France in India from which, in the result, we were to emerge as the supreme Power in Asia. And it was not until the year 1765 that that supremacy was decisively asserted. I am, I believe, making no excessive claim when I lay it down that whatever mistakes have been made in the generations that have followed, the fiduciary obligations which we undertook in relation to the complex peoples of India, embracing as they do a population of 320 millions, practising nine great religions and speaking 130 different speeches, have not been unfaithfully discharged. Certainly it will not be disputed that we have never lagged behind the temporary world standards by which responsibilities of this kind have been measured by those Towers which have found themselves, never indeed in analogous, but sometimes in remotely comparable circumstances. And so it happened consistently with our habit of keeping abreast with the current 1076 of modern thought, that we decided, with the full and deliberate acquiescence of both Houses of Parliament, to make that great experiment which is known as the Montagu-Chelmsford Constitution.
It is extremely important that we and others should realise with precision what was done by the Government of India Act, 1919. Its permanent and static effect is unquestionably contained in the Preamble. The Act itself was admittedly fluid and experimental. I shall not feel that. I am wasting the time of your Lordships if I ask leave to remind you of the terms of the Preamble. Its language ought to be borne in mind by every instructed critic of our Indian policy and of the actual Indian situation with which I have to deal. These were the words of the Preamble; this is the obligation contained in that Preamble to which, and to which alone, we set our hands:—Whereas it is the declared policy of Parliament to provide for the increasing association of Indians in every branch of Indian administration, and for the gradual development of self-governing institutions, with a view to the progressive realisation of responsible government in British India as an integral part of the Empire:And whereas progress in giving effect to this policy can only be achieved by successive stages, and it is expedient that substantial steps in this direction should now be taken:And whereas the time and manner of each advance can be determined only by Parliament, upon whom responsibility lies for the welfare and advancement of the Indian peoples:And whereas the action of Parliament in such matters must be guided by the cooperation received from those on whom new opportunities of service will be conferred, and by the extent to which it is found that confidence can be reposed in their sense of responsibility:And whereas concurrently with the gradual development of self-governing institutions in the Provinces of India it is expedient to give to those Provinces in provincial matters the largest measure of independence of the Government of India, which is compatible with the due discharge by the latter of its own responsibilities:These words expressed the deliberate and deeply considered decision of Parliament. Conformably with the principles laid down in this Preamble, one Constitution or another might, at one time or another, be attempted. Experience educating us, or informing our critics in India, might induce us to make an amendment here or an advance or a variation 1077 there. But the whole message as we understand it, of our situation in India, with all that, it involves in the storied past, in the critical present, and in the incalculable future, is to be read in that Preamble. We shall not be diverted from its high obligations by the tactics of restless impatience. The door of acceleration is not open to menace; still less will it be stormed by violence. But there never has been a moment since the Constitution was adopted in which the Government of India, acting in harmony with the Government at home, has not been vigilantly and attentively considering the spirit in which the present reforms have been received in India. It has indeed been an imperative and urgent duty for my predecessors and myself so to consider them. Wise men are not the slaves of dates; rather are dates the servants of sagacious men.
Developments have been easily conceivable to me—are still not wholly inconceivable to me—in which the acceleration of the date of the Royal Commission might have been recommended even by very cautious statesmen. I should, however, be failing in my duty if I did not make plain my clear and definite impression that the tactics hitherto pursued by the most highly organised Party in India could not have been more happily conceived if they had been subtly intended to forward the cause of reaction. A Constitution was given which, whatever its defects, beyond question afforded great opportunities to the politically minded—if I may adopt a phrase I do not specially admire—among the Indian peoples. The opportunities not ungenerously offered might have been made the occasion of a sincere co-operation uniting the ancient and sophisticated traditions of the East with the more practical experience of the West. I suspect that a really gifted national leader would have used the Constitution, with all its possibilities of extension, in this sense.
No such leader was forthcoming. We have been confronted everywhere by those who are our principal opponents, with a blank wall of negation. They did not say: "You have not given us enough; but we will prove by our use of that which you have given that we are fit for more." And yet such an attitude would have been both sensible, practical and politic. What is ten years in the age-long history of the immemorial East? 1078 Our critics took a different line. They said: "We will have nothing whatever to do with your Constitution." Borrowing a quotation which they would perhaps have been unwilling to employ, they almost said, "East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet." They ignored the view, and I think they were profoundly mistaken in doing so, that, strange and apparently incongruous as is the partnership between the two countries, each has much to contribute to the thought and inspiration of the other. The art, the civilisation, the sophistication, the literature and the philosophy of India, though spread over an incredibly wide field and derived from many confluent streams, contain an individual quality to which, in their subtlest elements, Western thought has not attained.
And it is equally true that the practical qualities of the Anglo-Saxon race, harnessed to a very experienced and common-sense outlook upon world politics, brings to the partnership qualities which will not be often found to the East of Suez. Common sense and reason would, therefore, appear to suggest that men of enlightened view in India and in Great Britain should have proceeded upon lines of thought which ought almost—assuming necessary allowances all round—to have proved identical. To talk of India as an entity is as absurd as to talk of Europe as an entity. Yet the very nationalist spirit which has created most of our difficulties in the last few years is based upon the aspirations and claims of a nationalist India. There never has been such a nation. Whether there ever will be such a nation the future alone can show.
One of the greatest anxieties which confronts us in India to-day is the communal differences which divide 70 millions of Moslems from the vast Hindu population. The noble Lord who was my predecessor is indeed mistaken if he finds any signs that these differences have been compoed in the last few years. In these dissensions we have kept our hands unsullied by partisanship. If we withdrew from India to-morrow, the immediate consequences would be a struggle à outrance—I choose my words carefully—between the Moslems and the Hindu population. I put on one side, for the purposes of this anticipa- 1079 tion, the perils obviously afforded by the existence of two or three million turbulent and martial tribesmen, living percariously between the frontiers of India and the borders of Afghanistan.
The actual circumstances being, it seems to me, indisputably such as I have indicated, I have always been puzzled to understand the train of reasoning which passes through the minds of the clever men who have unfortunately made themselves our antagonists in India. There are many such men. I have tried with the greatest sympathy to understand their point of view. I have asked them whether they contemplate the withdrawal at an early date of the British troops from India. I have never found one who advocated such a course. Is there in fact one responsible leader of any school of Indian thought who will to-morrow say: "Commit to us at once the full responsibility; and we will acquiesce at once in the withdrawal of British troops from India"? I do not believe that such a man could be found and, if he could, my opinion of his judgment would under go a swift diminution. I do not speak upon this point without having had many opportunities of founding a conclusion derived from many divergent sources of information. Your Lordships may, I think, take it from me as an almost generally accepted conclusion that an immediate repudiation of our responsibilities in India would be at least as fatal to the interests of India itself as in any year since 1765.
I have thought it desirable by way of a somewhat lengthy preface to make these general observations before. I state my view as to the degree in which the Montagu-Chelmsford Act has been a success or a failure. I am bound in such a matter to make my views precisely plain. In common with my colleagues in the Cabinet, I must, of course, accept full responsibility for that great constitutional change. But I may perhaps be permitted to say that I entertained greater doubts upon this reform than some of those with whom I co-operated. For this reason I am of all people specially bound to attempt an honest and impartial review of the working of the Act. I myself was always very distrustful of the diarchical principle. It seemed to me to savour of the kind of pedantic and hide-bound Constitution to 1080 which Anglo-Saxon communities have not generally responded, and which in my anticipation was unlikely to make a successful appeal to a community whose political ideas were, thanks in the main to Macaulay, so largely derived from Anglo-Saxon models.
I am obliged, therefore, to address myself candidly to the question: "Has the Montagu-Chelmsford reform succeeded, or has it failed?" My Lords, I cannot say that it has failed. It has been exposed to every cruel mishap which could befall a new Constitution, freely conceived and generously offered. Most of the popular leaders in Indian life have abused and defamed it. It has never been given a chance. Mr. Montagu undoubtedly looked, and surely he was entitled to do so, to those who cherished the most sanguine expectations of Indian political capacity to co-operate in his great task. These expectations were not realised. The critics of Indian capacity for self-government would indeed have been helpless had wiser counsels prevailed in India. Suppose, for instance, that judicious and sagacious co-operation had been exhibited by the leaders of Indian thought: Does any one imagine that reactionary critics of those reforms in this country could in that event have retarded the chariot of progress? Had that which was given been used with cheerful good will to justify the gift of that which was still sought, the task of acceleration would have been easy indeed. Unfortunately, the leaders of Indian thought contributed a different bias; and the most highly organised political Party in India wasted its energies upon the futile attempt to destroy that which we had conceived, at least in its first fruits, to be a generous experiment.
But not all the resources of a very adroit and sophisticated Party have availed to destroy this experimental Constitution, and indeed, I, who was prepared to curse, upon the balance of the whole matter find myself almost inclined to bless. These general observations, very necessary to be borne constantly in mind, lead me to inform your Lordships more closely of the results of the working of the new Constitution. We are aided in the task of attempting a general survey of its workings up to the present in different parts of India by the reports which have 1081 recently been presented by the Governments concerned. In the main I accept and am prepared to justify and defend them.
In Madras the transitional Constitution has worked with a great measure of success. Ministers have used their influence to steady public opinion and feeling, and have displayed a general moderation and no small measure of statesmanship. The Governor in Council has stated that if an earnest endeavour to work on constitutional lines is a qualification for political advance, the Madras Presidency has shown itself fitter for an advance than any other province. It is not my wish or concern to dispute that claim.
In the present Council of Bombay, the Swarajist Party is the strongest in numbers, but does not command a majority, and it is pledged to a policy of refusal of political responsibility. The Ministers were, therefore, selected from the smaller groups, a circumstance which must obviously be a source of weakness. Lacking sufficient support from their followers, they are driven to lean precariously upon the official vote, and so the distinction between the two halves of the Government has been almost completely obscured. The Bombay Government has recently pointed out that the main object at present must be to strengthen the position of the Ministers and to encourage the organisation of Parties.
In the first Council elected in Bengal, progress was made and some solid achievements were recorded. The Government claims with justice that Ministers were able to influence a sufficient number of the Members to make it possible, with the aid of officials, to carry through a considerable amount of useful legislation. The second Council contained a large and influential body belonging to the Non-co-operation Party, which is pledged, of course, to prove that the present. Constitution is unworkable. This body was joined by the Independents, and the combined Party commands more than 60 votes in a House of a total strength of 140. The possibility is by no means to be excluded that at the next General Election there may be a return of an absolute Swarajist majority, taking office with the avowed intention of wrecking the Government from within. 1082 The Government points out that the Constitution requires to be specially considered from the point of view of giving the Executive power to deal with obstruction.
Since this Report was framed by the local Government, the Bengal Legislative Council has very plainly indicated that it prefers to dispense with Ministers and the diarchic Constitution. Accordingly, the Government of India and I had no option but to suspend the transfer of subjects in that Province. Your Lordships will not fail to observe that whether the Constitution was good or whether the Constitution was bad, it had at least plainly contemplated the very contingency which has in fait happened, and whether it is a weak point of the Constitution or whether it is a strong point that has assumed the limelight in Bengal, those who framed the Constitution are at least entitled to point out that the Constitution still shows the reserve of strength with which it was endowed at the time it was drafted.
The Government of the United Provinces say that it is constantly alleged by their enemies and critics that the reforms have failed. If this means that the Constitution has definitely broken down they absolutely deny the statement. Since the collapse in its original form of the non-co-operation movement, it is claimed that the internal conditions of the Province have steadily improved, and except for the tension between Moslems and Hindus—which has nothing whatever to do with the Constitution— there is nothing to cause the Government serious anxiety. Forty-seven millions of people in these Provinces are living peaceably under an ordered and progressive administration, and are probably more prosperous than their predecessors have ever been. The reformed Constitution has failed, it is true, to satisfy alike the Swarajists and the Liberals, and this constitutes some small cause for anxiety. The Governor in Council, in words quoted by the noble Lord who moved, has, it is true, placed it on record that, in his opinion, the diarchy is a cumbrous, complex, confused system having no logical basis, rooted in compromise and defensible only as a transitional expedient. My Lords, I have said enough to make it plain that whatever other controversies may 1083 separate the noble Lord and myself this will neither be one of the most bitter nor the most protracted.
In the Punjab the working out of the scheme has driven the two main communities, Hindu and Mahomedan, into open dissension. This is an extremely interesting local development. It has unquestionably aggravated and rendered more bitter their communal differences, and it has further developed an acute antagonism between the urban and rural interests. There is not as yet, in the view of the Government, evidence of the existence of a thinking and selective electorate in the districts capable of exercising its vote on considerations of policy. Here, too, the diarchical scheme has produced considerable anomalies, and it cannot, I think, be plausibly claimed that so far the Punjab afforded a suitable field for the introduction of such a divided responsibility. So far, Ministers willing to co-operate with the Executive have been found who have been supported by a Party which has not attempted to force them into an extreme position.
In Burma, the reforms were introduced two years later, as your Lordships may recall, than in the other Provinces in India. Less than seven per cent. of the electorate voted at the only General Election held, and this was boycotted by the extremists. During the eighteen months in which the reforms have been in operation hardly any difficulties have been experienced, and hardly any defects discovered in the working of the Constitution.
I have almost finished this category, but I think your Lordships will agree that it is important. The Government of Bihar and Orissa said that one may search in vain for signs that three years of the reforms have educated the electorate to the meaning of an Election and the business of a Legislature. In many districts the reports of the presiding officer declared that a large proportion of the voters did not know the name of the candidate for whom they voted, but had only been told the colour of his box. The Government includes amongst the causes which have contributed to the non-success of the reforms, the failure to create a Ministerial Party prepared to support the Ministers in carrying out a definite programme. The Council still remains divided into two 1084 parties, official and non-official. Where the issue is not an anti-Government one Ministers have their following in Council, but they cannot bring this to bear on political conditions and cannot therefore assist Government in times of difficulty. The local Government adds that there is very little that can be done to smooth the working of diarchy, or to eliminate administrative imperfections.
The Central Provinces Government say that the value of the experiment in responsible Government during the first Council was weakened, first, by the lack of connection between the Members and their constituents, secondly, by the absence of any Party organisation which would have made the responsibility of Ministers to the Council effective; and, thirdly, by lack of funds. The fair measure of success in the working of diarchy, which, in their claim, was achieved, was due partly to the moderation of the Council, and partly to the efforts made to work the scheme by the Members of Government and the permanent services. Here also the Province is for the time being without Ministers, but I am not without hope that their appointment may shortly be found feasible.
In Assam the Governor in Council sums up the difficulty of working the Constitution as due, firstly, to the existence of a section of public men, considerable enough in numbers and ability to influence the Council, which is actively hostile to the present Constitution, and declines to work it; and, secondly, to the financial difficulties which have precluded the local Government from undertaking any activities other than those of carrying on the essential administrative functions on pre-existing lines. The Ministers have thus no convincing answer to the cry of their opponents that the reforms have bestowed no benefits on the electors.
Enough has been said to satisfy my present purpose—which is to show that no short or dogmatic answer can be given to the question: Has the Constitution succeeded? It has neither altogether succeeded, nor has it altogether failed; and it must further be noted, by way of additional qualification, that where it has succeeded the price of success has been, at some stages and in some districts, a considerable inroad upon the diarchical principle. I have not thought 1085 it proper to discourage such tendencies, holding the view that the whole matter was experimental and afforded an opportunity to each Province to work out its constitutional salvation in its own way.
What, then, is it possible for me to say, at this stage, of the future? The wisdom of Parliament declared that, after the period of ten years, the Montagu-Chelmsford Constitution should be reviewed by a Royal Commission. It will undoubtedly require such revision; and it cannot be too plainly stated that everything will necessarily be thrown into the melting pot. Diarchy itself is very obviously not a sacred principle. It must be decided by results. The conception was always doctrinaire and artificial. A great measure of success may justify it, where a smaller would not.
And now I apply myself more closely to a subject which has caused much speculation, and provoked at least an equal degree of agitation—the date revision. To those who framed the reforms, ten years appeared to be a reasonable period for review; and in determining what was a reasonable period for the purposes of revision, it seems unnatural to suppose that Parliament presciently anticipated the very unreasonable campaign of non-co-operation which has done its best to wreck the Constitution altogether. Even assuming co-operation, it was thought that a period of ten years would be required to afford the data for reliable conclusions and generalisations. But I do not hesitate to make clear my own view that it was not the intention of the Legislature to attempt to shackle succeeding Governments, if a spirit of cheerful and loyal co-operation was generally exhibited on the one hand, or if upon the other, grave and glaring defects disclosed themselves. It would, indeed, have been an assumption of omniscence alien to the Anglo-Saxon tradition, for Parliament to assume so high a prophetic gift as to declare that in no circumstances should the date of the Commission be accelerated. In fact the door was never closed; it is, on the contrary, open to-day; but the condition is clear and precise. There will be—there can be—no re-consideration until we see everywhere among the responsible leaders of Indian thought evidence of a sincere and genuine desire to co-operate with us in making the best of the existing Constitution.
1086 The Swarajist Party has, in my opinion, most unhappily so far thrown its powerful weight into the other scale. Along this road there is no progress. That Party has recently lost a capable and energetic leader, who commanded great support, and made many sacrifices for a cause in which he profoundly believed. But I should fail in my duty if I did not make it absolutely plain that the advice which he gave to his countrymen was throughout unhappily conceived. It may be—I dare attempt no prediction—that his untimely death will even now afford an opportunity of reconsideration. It has been the habit of the spokesmen of Swarajist thought to declare in anticipation that no Constitution framed in the West can either be suitable for, or acceptable to, the peoples of India. It has always seemed to me that a very simple answer may be made to such a contention. We do not claim in Great Britain that we alone in the world are able to frame Constitutions, though we are not altogether discontented with the humble constructive efforts which we have made in this field of human ingenuity. But if our critics in India are of opinion that their greater knowledge of Indian conditions qualifies them to succeed, where they tell us that we have failed, let them produce a Constitution which carries behind it a fair measure of general agreement among the great peoples of India. Such a contribution to our problems would nowhere be resented. It would, on the contrary, be most carefully examined by the Government of India, by myself, and I am sure, by the Commission, whenever that body may be assembled. I gladly recognise that the so-called Liberal Party in India, neither inconsiderable in numbers nor lacking in the leadership of enlightened men, has refused to associate itself with the ill-starred course of non-co-operation. It is still possible that this Party, perhaps to be gradually reinforced by fresh moderate elements, may play a great part in the Constitution fashioning of the future.
I pass at this point by a natural transition to the Muddiman Report, a subject to which the noble Lord (Lord Olivier) devoted a great part of his observations. The obligations of the Government must be admitted to the experienced men who contributed so much labour, and produced so competent 1087 a Report. We do not anticipate—for reasons which I have already made plain—that we shall be able, as the noble Lord desired, to accept the Report of the Minority at this stage. The problem of provincial autonomy has not indeed been adequately thought out by those who are to-day pressing it so strongly upon our, attention. Provincial autonomy contemplates the complete transfer to all the Provinces of law and order; and it would render necessary far-reaching changes in the Central Government of India which I have never Yet seen closely analysed, and very rarely even cursorily examined. The noble Lord (Lord Olivier) certainly to-day attempted neither analysis nor examination.
It is rather on the lines recommended by the Majority that any immediate action must be taken. As I have already said, we must await the formal views of the Government of India on this matter; but it will certainly be the desire of His Majesty's Government to go as far as possible in carrying out the proposals which the Government of India may make after discussion in the Legislative Assembly. Many of the recommendations of the Committee can be carried out by Regulation, and do not require an Act of Parliament. There need be no delay in making these changes. In those cases where legislation is required the matters will be appropriately dealt with as and when opportunity offers.
I ought next, my Lords, to make a few observations upon a subject which has greatly exercised Indian speculation, namely, the so-called Indianisation of the Army. An essential factor in India's advance towards responsible Government is, to Indian minds, the possession of a National Army. We can all see why, and we can all understand and appreciate Indian aspirations. But here again we are in the region of experiment, and of very delicate and dangerous experiment. The method which has been adopted is that of the complete but gradual Indianisation as an experiment of eight units. It is criticised as being both slow and limited in scope. The process must indeed necessarily be slow—the length of time which it ordinarily takes the British officer, if he is fortunate, to reach the command of his regiment is twenty-five years, and there is no reason to expect that an Indian officer will take a shorter time. And the ex- 1088 periment is necessarily limited in scope if only by reason of the paucity of material. For, apart from the fact that we cannot afford to risk in any degree lowering the efficiency of our small Indian Army, on which the security of India depends, at present we have difficulty in finding enough Indian cadets up to Sandhurst standard to provide sub-alterns even for these eight units. We are doing our best to remedy this. The Prince of Wales' Military College at Dehra Dun is beginning to produce boys of a more promising type; and the Government of India have recently appointed a Committee, under the presidency of the Chief of the General Staff, to examine the whole question of training for the Army. They may recommend the creation of an Indian Sandhurst, and if they do we shall consider their recommendation with every desire to do what may appear necessary to make this experiment of Indianisation a success within its limits. But until it has been shown to be a success within those limits, it is not our purpose to go beyond them. How could we? An Army exists after all for the purpose of fighting, and if we could not get eight units that would fight efficiently, what would be the use of trying sixteen? No sane Government will allow its Army to become the toy of political Parties.
I know that some Indian politicians dislike this particular experiment on the ground of what they call the "segregation" of Indian officers in these eight units, as though some idea of inferiority were involved in it. The complaint comes ill from those who criticise the slowness of the experiment. For what is the advantage of concentrating Indian officers in these units? Just this, that, the test being whether a completely Indianised unit is as good as any other, the sooner we create completely Indianised units the sooner we shall know whether the experiment has succeeded or not. And is not that exactly what the politicians themselves want? One would almost think that those who complain of "segregation" are not so sure as they sometimes seem that the experiment will succeed, and shrink from the conclusive test—He either fears his fate too muchOr his deserts are small,Who dares not put it to the touch,To win or lose it all.1089 But I do not wish to appear unsympathetic. I am not so. We are doing our best. No one did more for India in this matter than the great Commander-in-Chief whose loss we have recently been lamenting, and I adopt his words:—We are experimenting with the Indianisation of eight units of the Army. The experiment must be carried through. It may succeed or it may not. That remains to be seen, but, whatever happens, the experiment must be tried out, and not plucked out by the roots to see how its growth is progressing … India must have the best and nothing but the best for the foundations of her future Army.And now I pass to the position of the Services. I do not want to say very much about this—it will be one of the subjects for the Royal Commission when the time conies. But there is an aspect upon which I must touch. One of the objections to the present Constitution which is most constantly put forward is that Ministers are prejudiced in their task by the fact that not all the Services which are the instruments of their policy are under their control, and that the Bill now before Parliament tends towards accentuating this difficulty. I should be the first to welcome signs that the provisions in the Reforms Act, which reserved to the Secretary of State a considerable measure of direct responsibility for the Indian Services, even in the transferred sphere, were unnecessary, for they would be the best indication that Indian political opinion has realised the vital necessity to the well-being of any form of government of giving public servants general support and encouragement in the fulfilment of their duties. Unfortunately such signs are still all too rare, and until public servants, both English and Indian, can feel in India, as they can elsewhere, that unfair and captious criticism of their actions will be neither voiced nor tolerated by responsible public opinion, the reservations in support of the Services contained in the Reforms scheme will unfortunately remain justified and necessary.
I have already discussed in this House a revolutionary outbreak in Bengal which, in my judgment, rendered the adoption of exceptional repressive measures essential. These measures have not failed in their effect. The local situation is being constantly and vigilantly watched, and when the general interest and safety of the community justify relaxation, such relaxation will not be withheld. But that 1090 moment has not yet come. I ought to make a passing mention of that unhappy efflorescence of communal difference which has occasioned increasing anxiety in many parts of India. These disturbances, troublesome and grave as in some districts they have been, serve as a reminder that Indian problems are not so simple as is sometimes superficially imagined. The presence in India of 70 million Mahomedans, martial in their traditions, and virile in their qualities, contributes an immense complication to difficulties already incalculably great. This situation is being most closely watched both by the Government of India and in my Office.
I add next a word on the subject of the great Ruling Princes of India. Their generosity, their loyalty and their courage have been proved on many a stricken field, and need no eulogy from me. Their rights in the majority of cases are stated and consecrated by solemn Treaties. Whatever changes and developments the future may bring with it, we shall never fall short in our obligations to those who have shared our perils and never despaired of our Imperial destiny.
I must add a very brief observation upon a matter of peat consequence which has caused, and continues to cause, me grave anxiety. I refer to the conditions in which many Indian citizens of the Empire live in various parts of His Majesty's Dominions other than India. The subject is notoriously delicate, and one must avoid indiscreet or unskilful language in relation to it. But I may, I imagine, without offending any interest which I am bound to consider, ask other parts of the Empire to remember how profoundly this problem affects relations between the Empire and India. I know their difficulties. No one, I believe, knows them better. I do not ask more than that, in every measure which they take, they should exhaust every effort to avoid such a discrimination as must deeply wound the ancient and dignified peoples of India.
And now, my Lords, my task is nearly ended. I have had the advantage during the last few months of constant discussions with my noble friend the Governor-General. Let me take this opportunity once for all of expressing the obligations under which I myself, and indeed the whole country, stand to His Excellency. His prudence, his circumspection, his 1091 judgment, his patience and his courtesy, have all been exhibited upon a stage which demanded these very qualities at this very time. He has supported without dismay the burden of many anxieties; and has maintained a high and serene composure in the face of many and various antagonisms. I sincerely hope that he will return to complete his task, strengthened and re-created in health.
I cannot affect to believe that the contents of this speech, to which your Lordships have listened with so much patience, will bring satisfaction to those elements in India which are determined to remain dissatisfied. But I would nevertheless remind them that while we have obligations in respect of the voters, who numbered only some 8½ millions at the last Election, we have also obligations in respect of the 250 millions in British India, of whom we are the responsible guardians, and in a less degree in respect of the 70 millions in the Indian States. While, as we survey the strange history which has associated two peoples so different in origin, in civilisaton, and in religion, we are conscious of many errors of judgment and even of some occasional acts of wrong, we are nevertheless bold enough to claim that, in fair perspective, we have not been the unworthy trustees of the charge which we undertook so many generations ago. We have brought to this gigantic task an unstinted devotion. Many a nameless hero has spent his strength and flung away his life in grappling with the hideous spectre, of famine and disease. Many an illustrious Viceroy, as the stately pages of Lord Curzon's book remind us, has mortgaged too deeply in this same task his vital resources.
The terms of the Preamble are even now not incapable of realisation. But we must first expel and exorcise the demon of suspicion. We ask the Indian people to-day, with the deepest sincerity, for good will and for co-operation. But while it is an object close to our minds to create this atmosphere, I should be guilty of disingenuousness if I painted at this moment the prospects in colours too vivid or too sanguine. I am not able in any foreseeable future to discern a moment when we may safely, either to ourselves or India, abandon our trust. There is, my Lords, no "Lost 1092 Dominion"; there will be no "Lost Dominion" until that moment—if ever it comes—when the whole British Empire, with all that it means for civilisation, is splintered in doom. It is our purpose resolutely, tirelessly, and wholeheartedly, to labour for the wellbeing of India as our ancestors have laboured throughout the generations. For that purpose we desire, and we request, good will; nor shall we be niggardly bargainers if we meet with the generous friendship which is near and dear to our hearts. We no longer talk of holding "the gorgeous East in fee"; we invite in a contrary sense the diverse peoples of this continent to march side by side with us in a fruitful and harmonious partnership which may recreate the greatest and the proudest days of Indian history.
§ LORD OLIVIER
My Lords, the extremely interesting and valuable statement which the Secretary of State has made to the House has left us all so much in his debt that I can well understand that no one would wish to rise hastily to make any superficial comment upon it. I could have made some critical comments, and I could have endorsed very strongly the critical comments which the noble Earl has made upon the previous history of the actions of the Swarajist Party in India. But the noble Earl has addressed himself to the task which he had before him in a spirit of high statesmanship and of good will, and I desire to do nothing whatever to disturb or influence the effect which that appeal for good will may have.
I shall, therefore, make no comments or criticisms upon his speech except to say that the statements which the noble Earl made to your Lordships with regard to the improvement of trade in India and, indeed, with regard to every subject which he touched, were extremely relevant under present conditions to the political difficulties that we have to face. The generally increasing prosperity of which he was able to tell us is, I hope, likely to diminish in the future the difficulties which he and the Governor-General have been experiencing. Especially was I very glad indeed to hear of his determination to take up with the Governor-General in a definite manner the task of really reorganising agricultural methods in India. There is no question whatever that one of the 1093 most continual incitements to complaint against our Government is the extreme poverty of India and the little (as it is alleged) that British Governments have done to remedy and improve the defective methods of Indian agriculture. That, I am quite sure, will be a message of encouragement and of sympathy to India for which the community will be very grateful to the noble Earl.
I should like to make one final observation. I think that the noble Earl may have a little under-estimated, as many people do, the strength of what may be called national feeling and national pride in India and the national disposition to claim that Indians shall have a great deal to say with regard to the framing of their own Constitution. It is not enough to say, as the noble Earl has said and as has been said repeatedly, that you have two great communities in India, that you have many religions, many languages and so on, and that therefore it is idle to speak of India as a nation. That is very much less true to-day than it was even ten years ago. Whereas ten years ago you might have said that the masses of India cared very little about national religion or about politics, it is, I am perfectly convinced from all that I have been able to learn in the last two or three years, equally unquestionable that this era has passed away, that there is a strong and universal sentimentally nationalist feeling in India upon which the leaders who speak in the name of Indian nationality can count.
I should like to quote in that connection a passage from the last Report of Mr. Rushbrook Williams on the Material and Moral Progress of India—the Report for 1923–24—a very useful volume which I am sorry to say is not yet in your Lordships' Library, although I received it myself from India three or four months ago. What Mr. Rushbrook Williams reminds us of is this: He says:While non-co-operation as a political campaign has suffered discredit through its manifest impossibilities, non-co-operation as an attitude of mind and as the vehicle of an awakened national sentiment, still survives. We shall fail to understand the political life of India to-day unless we realise that from the beginning Mr. Gandhi's campaign has not been so much the cause of India's unrest as a symptom of those deep discontents from which the unrest resulted.So, although in times of peace you might have regarded the masses of India merely as a dry bed of sand, you must now 1094 regard them as a bed of sand into which certain infiltrations of feeling have passed, and must take care that you are not founding your policy upon a quicksand. It is on that account that I made my appeal to the noble Earl to take into consideration what I feel convinced is an accurate statement of the feelings of all Nationalist and Propagandist Parties in India in support of the Minority Report, and whereas the noble Earl said, and said truly, that the question of what provincial autonomy means has not been explored, that is one of the very reasons why I want to see, and all who are interested in the development of India want to see, the question of what is to be in the future directly tackled. When such men as the late Governor of Madras tell us that some parts are ready for provincial autonomy, and others are not, I want to see these ideas explored in order to find out whether it is impossible to develop this idea of provincial autonomy. It is obvious, as indeed it was before I rose, that no Papers can be laid because the noble Earl has to correspond with the Government of India before any Papers can be laid, and therefore I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [From Minutes of July 6.]