§ LORD OLIVIER had given Notice to call attention to questions arising in regard to the government of Indian States not forming parts of any Provinces of British India; to ask His Majesty's Government whether they have in view any scheme for dealing with such questions concurrently and consistently with any amendments of the Constitution of British Indian government that may commend themselves to Parliament 396 in the outcome of the Inquiry now being made by the Commission which has been appointed under the Government of India Act; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, yesterday evening the noble Earl the Leader of the Liberal Party, looking towards this Bench, expressed his apprehension that questions were put down on the Paper for the purpose of airing the knowledge of the noble Lords who put them down. I should like to assure the noble Earl that I do not rise to-day for the purpose of airing any knowledge I possess on the subject of the government of India, and it is unnecessary to do so, because at the right hand of the noble Earl sits the noble Marquess [Lord Reading], and on the other side another noble Lord, both of whom have much greater knowledge than I have of Indian affairs and of the matters to which I desire to call attention, which are matters, in my opinion, of public importance.
§ Even before the last Government of India Act was drawn up it had become evident that developments would arise, and were likely in the future further to arise, out of that Constitution, which would lead to the necessity of reconsidering the relations of Indian States to the Indian Government, and I think I am right in saying that, arising out of the views of the Government of India, my noble friend Lord Chelmsford almost immediately took up the policy of somewhat altering the relations of certain Indian Rulers with the Indian Government. That is to say, they began to substitute direct relations for the relationship of the Indian Princes and the Provincial Governments, and in a considerable number of States that alteration has been made and I imagine that alteration of relations is still in consideration with regard to the others. It was obviously a reasonable and necessary development because the more the Provincial Governments became constitutional Governments resting upon an elective basis and having Ministers and Cabinets responsible to the electors, the more difficult would it be for the Indian States to accept the position of reporting to Provincial Governments, especially if the responsibilities of the Governor of the Province itself were transferred in any 397 respect to the Councils. That beginning of the alteration of the relations has been set on foot.
§ Further, it became obvious that if the purposes and the ideas with which the Statutory Commission was set up—namely, of a further division of the Indian Government—were pursued in the direction in which almost all those in India who advocate constitutional reform desire, that is, of delegating a good deal of the responsibility of the Secretary of State and some of the responsibility of the Governor-General to the Assembly, in that case, again, the position of the Rulers of Indian States with regard to the Government of India would be materially changed, and as regards many of their interests—interests of defence, interests of customs and of railways, all those matters which are now dealt with by negotiation between the Viceroy and the Indian States—it would become a question, assuming that there were responsibility in the Assembly, of an Assembly responsible not to the Indian States but to a totally different constituency. The India Rulers have shown themselves to be very keenly aware of that. They have moved in the matter and indicated their view that in any development of the Constitution of India they most not be placed in any respect under the control of an elected Assembly to which they did not contribute and that they did not desire any alteration of their present relations and responsibilities as between themselves and the Crown.
§ Arising out of that the Government of India would give considerable consideration to what, after all, is a necessary development. There is one step in those developments. A Committee was sitting under Sir Harcourt Butler, which took the very necessary first step of ascertaining what were the treaty and constitutional relations between the principal Indian States and His Majesty's Government. That Committee has been sitting for some time and the question of the constitutional position which was the first to be cleared up, the constitutional position of those Indian Rulers in relation to His Majesty's Government in India, has been studied and indeed argued by Counsel with very great ability. That part of the necessary preparation is proceeding, but I submit to your Lordships that in my opinion it 398 is a very small part of the preparation that is required for the consideration of this very great subject. It is going to be a very great subject and no one can conceal from himself the recognition of the fact that now that we have embarked upon the path of Indian constitutional reform this country, with all its responsibilities, has embarked upon a course involving responsibilities which are perhaps very much wider than many of the public recognise.
§ Sir Harcourt Butler's Committee deals only with about 105 directly-represented States and about another 120 of indirectly-represented States. But, as your Lordships know, there are about 560 States altogether, and the position and the future relations of those States with any future Government of India has yet to be determined. So far as I am aware no steps have been taken for dealing either with the problem of the future relations of the States represented in the Chamber of Princes or with the problem of the relations of the other States with the Indian Government. What I am asking His Majesty's Government is whether they have in view any scheme for dealing with those questions, with which we ought to be in some measure prepared to deal, I submit, in anticipation of any finding that may be made by Sir John Simon's Commission. If we are not beforehand in the matter any consideration of the future Indian Constitution must again suffer very considerable delay while those difficult problems of fitting the Indian States into that Constitution are being considered.
I am not going to advocate any views or opinions of my own upon the subject. I would like to quote Sir Malcolm Hailey, an Indian public servant, for whose ability and intelligence every one who knows him has the highest possible respect. During the discussions in the Legislative Assembly on the subject of Dominion self-government for India, Sir Malcolm Hailey said that the Government of India would like to know
whether the States would continue as heretofore to deal with the Governor-General in Council who is responsible to the British Parliament or with the Executive Government responsible to the Indian Legislature.
That is the sort of question which necessarily arises, and, so far as I am
aware, we are taking no steps to inform Parliament or to inform public opinion, either in India or here, as to what lines might possibly he taken in regard to the matter.
§ Very great questions are involved. First of all, there are directly the feelings and honour of the Indian Rulers themselves and their own determination as to what they will agree to and what they will not agree to. Then there are questions with regard to the subsidiary States, whether, and if so how, the Indian Princes and the other States could be fitted as regards All-India interests into any kind of federation, and in regard to what interests they would continue not to have direct relations with the Assembly hut would continue, possibly, to have direct relations with His Majesty through the Secretary of State for India. I apprehend it would not, or it might not, be possible for them to continue to have those relations which they now have with the Viceroy through a constitutionally responsible Governor-General or the Secretary of State for India in Council as at present constituted. Some alteration, it seems to me, will have to be made with regard to those relations. That is a general constitutional question, and I want to know what steps His Majesty's Government are taking to set on foot the consideration of those questions either in consultation with the Government of India or by a reference to such a Committee as my noble friend has been induced to promise to set up. I think that the general consideration of such a question might be suitable for such a Committee to undertake. It is analogous to the question of the constitutional changes that may be recommended by the Simon Commission, which it has been said would be referred to such a Joint Select Committee.
§ Beyond that there are very wide questions with regard, if I may say so, to the international constitutions of the States; whether and how you are going to fit States constituted as at present into an Indian Government in which the whole of British India is governed on representative constitutional lines. Many of the Indian Princes are extremely able and extremely patriotic men and we have the highest admiration 400 for them; but on occasions there have been very strong reasons for thinking that Indian States were not in all respects well governed, and in a minority of cases we can point to certain instances where it has been the definite opinion of the Viceroy that the States were not well governed and some slight intervention has had to be made. That arises from the responsibility which the Government of India has for the good government of the States. That responsibility is acknowledged and cannot be denied.
I would like to quote from a very important Despatch of my noble friend Lord Reading, in which he very pertinently set forth his own views with regard to the obligations of His Majesty's Government and their rights with regard to Indian Rulers. He said:—
The right of the British Government to intervene in the internal affairs of Indian States is another instance of the consequences necessarily involved in the supremacy of the British Crown.… But the internal no less than the external security which the Ruling Princes enjoy is due ultimately to the protecting Power of the British Government, and where Imperial interests are concerned or the general welfare of the people of a State is seriously and grievously affected by the action of its Government it is with the Paramount Power that the ultimate responsibility of taking remedial action, if necessary, must lie. The varying degrees of internal sovereignty which the Rulers enjoy are all subject to the due exercise by the Paramount Power of this responsibility.
That was a very clear statement on the part of my noble friend the Marquess of Reading, and it implies that His Majesty's Government did not, on account of the sovereignty of the Princes, waive their responsibility for the internal affairs of a State.
§ Most, if not all of these Principalities are arbitrary and absolute Governments. Everything depends upon the autocratic will of the Sovereign. With regard to the laws, with regard to the administration of revenues, with regard to the appointment of justices and with regard to many matters which in our own Constitution have been taken out of the power of the Sovereign—those matters are there absolutely within the power of the Sovereign, and are liable, and sometimes subject, to abuse. That is a position which is very keenly recognised by a great number 401 of the Indian subjects of those Princes, and we have recently had in England a Deputation headed by Ramchandra Ras, a very distinguished Indian servant, which put forward in a temperate manner some of the criticisms which they have to make upon the present Constitutions of Indian States which render misgovernment always possible and sometimes inevitable. When you are reconstituting the whole framework of Indian government and are considering the question how far the government of the Indian States can be fitted into that framework, I think it will be found impossible to disregard the question as to whether the autocratic power of the Princes should not in some degree be restricted and delegated. That question will arise, and I do not express any opinion upon it myself.
Throughout the whole of the British Indian States that is the opinion of those who are advocating constitutional reform, and unquestionably it is the view of many who are advocating constitutional reform in the Indian States themselves. A question was asked in another place the other day on this subject, to which Lord Winterton, the Under-Secretary of State for India, gave a reply. Questions were being asked as to how was it possible for the subjects of Indian States to make their wishes known to the Governor-General, and Lord Winterton gave a reply which I shall quote. I do not wish to criticise the reply too severely. It was given at the end of a long string of supplementary questions and possibly was given not with great consideration. Lord Winterton said:—
They can make their position known by writing to the newspapers, by having political meetings, and in various other ways. That is a question quite distinct from whether or not they should be able to give evidence before this Committee.
The noble Marquess [the Marquess of Reading] will admit that that was a sketchy answer.
§ It is not altogether open to the subjects of Indian States to write to the newspapers. We have certainly established considerable protection for the Princes against writing in newspapers. The question of whether an article is appropriate or not is a difficult subject for decision by a Judge who is the servant of an Indian Prince, for his decision might possibly be against the Prince. As regards 402 the holding of meetings and agitations for constitutional reform in India, I do not know what would happen in the more liberal States, but I have a very strong opinion, founded upon certain incidents which have occurred, that in some public meetings for constitutional agitation would be repressed with some severity. Lord Winterton's reply was really, in its nature, rather derisory and did not deal with the question at all. There ought to be, and no doubt there is in so far as the Government of India exercises its responsibility for good government, some way, when dealing with questions of constitutional reform, of getting put forward reasonable presentations in favour of such reform in the Indian States.
§ I hope I do not put the matter too strongly. I want to have some means of getting into public consideration reasonable proposals for constitutional reform in the Indian States. If those States are to be brought into any kind of federation with the rest of India, you may be sure that matter will arise. It has already arisen in India and is being strongly agitated by persons there. On that ground, therefore, I also ask the noble Lord whether His Majesty's Government have in view any scheme for dealing with these questions which are likely to arise? The questions briefly are these: First of all, what is to be the relation of the Indian States and the Indian Princes in any revised Constitution with an Indian Assembly or with His Majesty the King? Secondly, in any such federated constitution will it be possible for His Majesty's Government to maintain in its fulness the present absolute autocracy of the Indian Princes? It is a very difficult question, but it will have to be considered. I think those are the two main points—what is to be the relation between the States and the Government, and whether there is to be any kind of suggestion or recommendation made to Indian Princes with regard to their own Constitution? That is a question on which I express no opinion at the present time and I ask for no opinion, but I hope the noble Viscount recognises—I am sure he does recognise—that those are questions which have to be dealt with. All I ask now is this: Has His Majesty's Government any scheme in contemplation for setting up an appropriate authority or Committee to consider these questions in 403 advance, so that we may have some kind of preparation and some kind of guidance to help us in dealing with the matter when the Report of the Simon Commission comes before Parliament? I beg to move for Papers.
§ LORD HARDINGE OF PENSHURST
My Lords, I cannot help thinking that the Motion which has been put before your Lordships by the noble Lord is somewhat premature in view of the fact that it is made before the publication of the Simon and Butler Reports. I do not propose to enter into abstruse questions of the constitutional reform of the Indian States, but in view of what has been said by the noble Lord I should like to say a few words upon the position of the Ruling Princes. In the first place I would like to emphasise the fact that the Ruling Princes are one of the most loyal and devoted elements in India. Their loyalty to the King and to the Government is unsurpassed. Although memories are short nowadays I would like to remind your Lordships of the offers made by the Ruling Princes at the outbreak of the War—offers of men, money, hospital ships, aeroplanes and every conceivable thing that might be needed. These offers were made spontaneously and they were all fulfilled. I may even mention that there was to my knowledge one of the Maharajahs who offered to sell all his jewels to provide money for the War. These offers, when reported by the Secretary of State, evoked great enthusiasm in both Houses of Parliament. Heavy sacrifices of men and money were made and no help that was ever asked of them was refused. Several of the Ruling Princes led their own contingents to the seat of War.
Since those days, what were in my time in India merely meetings of a certain number of Princes under the ægis of the Viceroy to discuss educational and other questions and questions affecting themselves, have developed into the creation of a Chamber of Princes where such questions and their general policy come under discussion. They are now a corporate body with definite policies of their own and form an integral part of the machinery of the Government in India. Formerly the affairs of the Ruling Princes were dealt with by the Government of India or in the Department. The absur- 404 dity of this arrangement induced the creation of a separate Political Department dealing exclusively with the affairs of the Ruling Princes and under the direct supervision of the Viceroy. Moreover in recent years control of the Ruling Princes has been gradually withdrawn from the Provincial Governments and concentrated under the Political Department of the Government of India. I recount these facts to show that while rapid constitutional progress has been made in British India the Ruling Princes have been slowly developing into a corporate body alongside of British India but practically independent of it.
It cannot be denied that the forms of government in British India are more advanced than in the native States, nevertheless the tendency in these States is towards progress, not unwisely rapid, and in spite of the criticisms of the noble Lord these States as a whole are well governed and meet the needs of the population. There are some States such as Mysore, which really serves as a model and could not be better administered. Of course there must be, and will always be, questions at issue between the Riding Princes and the Government of India, and these questions can well be settled by conferences and by arbitral or other tribunals, but I can conceive no step that would be more of a step backwards, or that would be more resented by the Ruling Princes, than any scheme by which they might be placed in a position of subservience to, or at the mercy of, the Legislative Assembly of even a Central Government or of a Provincial Government. The Government of India, as your Lordships are aware, has treaties of alliance and otherwise with the Ruling Princes. I look forward to the day when these treaties with a very loyal, patriotic and devoted body may be developed and strengthened to the mutual advantage of this country and of India.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, the subject which has been introduced by my noble friend is undoubtedly of the utmost importance, but I confess that I am a little perplexed as to the object of raising it at this moment when we have the Harcourt Butler Committee dealing especially with some points affecting the Ruling 405 Princes and the Simon Commission, at present in India, whose Report we shall all of course await with the greatest interest. One wonders at the suggestion that some scheme should be put forward by the Government at this moment. I presume it is only intended to be for private discussion and not in any way for public debate when we have not yet the Report of the Commission before us. I should have thought it quite unnecessary to intervene in this debate but for some observations which fell from my noble friend. I imagine that he had no intention whatever of reflecting in any way upon the Ruling Princes as a body.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
Certain observations made by him gave his view of the good government in a great many States, but on the other hand he did give indications which might disturb the Ruling Princes very much. My noble friend Lord Hardinge, who has just addressed your Lordships, has dealt with some aspects of the Ruling Princes' constitutional position. I would take the opportunity of saying that during the whole of my experience in India, no more loyal body could be found than the Ruling Princes. Lord Hardinge spoke of the services they rendered in the War and their desire to help in every way. During my period of office such questions did not arise, but nevertheless there are numbers of considerations that constantly arise in which the Ruling Princes might make difficult objections, and I desire to state emphatically that I have never found the Princes, speaking of them as a body—there may be individual exceptions, of course—slow to recognise the necessity of making any concession or falling in with any view that might be put by the Government of India, founded upon the desire to protect or strengthen India or in any way to help Indian interests.
There are, of course, questions affecting their own States which are discussed with the Viceroy and the Government of India. Your Lordships are aware that under the present Constitution the affairs of the Princes are dealt with by the Governor-General in Council—that is, by the Viceroy with the assistance of the Executive Council. There is no Minister 406 for the Political Department, but their affairs are dealt with entirely by the Viceroy himself with the assistance of the Political Secretary. Those of your Lordships who may not be familiar with the constitutional position may need to be reminded that the Departments have their members of the Council who meet in what is the equivalent of a Cabinet with the Viceroy, but the political affairs that relate to the Princes are dealt with entirely by the Viceroy himself—that is to say, he has charge of them, instead of their being in the charge of any particular member. It is on account of this procedure that some difficulties suggested themselves to the Princes in view of an extension of the reforms.
There is no doubt, as my noble friend truly said, that they are alarmed at the notion that they may find themselves dealing with the Governor-General in a Council composed of the Governor-General and Ministers responsible to the Legislative Assembly and the Council of State, or in other words to the Central Indian Legislature, and that they would thus find a change in the position that they occupy at present. Strictly speaking, of course, this would not be so, because they would still be in relation with the Governor-General in Council, but at the same time the position of the Governor-General would have been very materially changed. As your Lordships are aware, the members of the Council are appointed by His Majesty and are responsible to the King and the British Parliament.
What changes, if any, will be made, and whether any recommendation is to be made by the Simon Commission which will affect indirectly the position of the Princes, nobody can tell, and I do not at the moment intend to speculate upon the Report which will in due course be presented. But I do desire to emphasise that the Princes themselves, so far as I am aware—and I think I understand their views in this matter—wish to maintain as closely as they can relations with the Viceroy as the representative of the King. They take their stand upon their treaties and they claim that they should have access, as they have always had, to the Viceroy, in order to put before him any facts that they desire. I can imagine very well that, if a change were to be made in the appointment of the members of the Council, this would very materially 407 affect the position of the Princes, and indeed no one can gainsay that they would have to consult upon their affairs with the Governor-General and Ministers who would be responsible to the Legislative Assembly. In other words, they would then be subject to the Legislative Assembly, and at present they are not. It is true that under the Constitution there are restrictions upon the legislation that can be proposed in the Legislative Assembly and very definite limitations upon the matters that the Assembly can raise.
There is one other point which I think I must touch upon. I refer to the question of the relation of the Princes to the Paramount Power, in other words to the Crown, which is, of course, of the utmost importance. I do not wish in any way to travel outside the scope of this Question by dilating upon the difficulties that present themselves, and apparently, to some extent at any rate, may be agitating the minds of the Princes, but in the Despatch that I sent containing the answer to a letter of the Nizam of Hyderabad I did attempt, in conjunction with the Secretary of State, to define the exact position. I think that one special consideration must always be borne in mind. The Crown is the Paramount Power, and the Princes have their different degrees of sovereignty which vary among their numbers. When you proceed to those that have no internal sovereignty, you find many more restrictions and limitations, but with regard to those 90 or 100 Princes that have undoubted internal sovereignty their position is that they administer their own affairs. They do not of course deal with foreign affairs. Those are dealt with by the Governor-General in Council, and they include all matters which affect the military position of India or even her position in relation to the air. Here there can be no question that the Paramount Power is supreme, and the relations that have been laid down and are well understood, and were the subject of very close search and study before the Despatch was made, are now pretty clearly defined.
There are, however, some questions which have never been settled and are now being discussed before the Committee over which Sir Harcourt Butler 408 presides. Sir Harcourt Butler is specially qualified to preside over that Committee, in that he was at one time during his service in India a very able Political Secretary and has also been Governor of the United Provinces. The relations are very definite. We do not interfere with the internal administration of a State unless there is what is termed gross maladministration. I think it would be unwise to attempt to define more closely what is meant by that term. It is sufficient to enable the Governor-General in Council to intervene when there is a condition of affairs in the State under a Ruling Prince which is one of maladministration, not merely in one particular instance, but of such a character that it can be described as gross. All these matters are, as it seems to me, very clearly understood at the present moment, but there are questions which have agitated the Princes, in relation, for example, to tariffs, which have been imposed in India and which have made certain difficulties.
I am not going to discuss them, however, because they are the subject of consideration, but I must draw attention to what Lord Hardinge said with regard to the Princes and the rights that they have in their Chamber of Princes. To talk of them as a corporate body in the sense in which he used the term is, I think, going a little further than is justified by the Constitution. The Chamber of Princes has the power, and indeed the duty, of discussing certain matters, but there are limits, and one must always remember that some of the most powerful and important Princes do not attend the Chamber of Princes. They make a practice of not attending, and consequently one can hardly say that you have the views of all the Princes in any resolution passed by the Chamber of Princes. Whatever the Princes may do, I feel sure that they will not desire to be placed under the Legislative Assembly. My impression is that they have never hesitated to make that clear, and anyone at all familiar with the subject will understand that. Indeed, it would abrogate the rights which they have by reason of the internal sovereignty which they now enjoy, quite apart from British India. Their relations to British India are simply those to which I have referred, and there is 409 no intervention in the internal affairs of the State except when there is what is termed gross maladministration. My view of the matter is that if the Government were in fact at this moment considering any scheme, I should imagine that they would not make these preliminary discussions or considerations public at the present moment. To do so would be a grievous mistake, and I think a departure from constitutional practice, when you have the Commission of Sir John Simon actually in India at the present moment.
I feel a little anxiety aroused by the observations made by the noble Lord, who certainly did not commit himself to any specific reform but who seemed to indicate sympathy with the view that the internal sovereignty of the Princes must be placed in some way, by the British Government through the Government of India, upon a constitutional basis. That is a very grave departure to take, and it involves the changing of the sovereignty which the Princes at present enjoy. It may be right or wrong—I am not going to discuss it at the present moment—but I hope that it will not be thought, from anything which may be said in this debate, that there is a desire on the part of the Government, or at any rate of the Party to which I belong, to change the system of sovereignty under which the Ruling Prince rules. What we have always aimed at in India, as I have understood, and what was meant in the various discussions which took place before the Government of India Act was passed, was that gradually there should be a reform of the Indian States from within the States, and not in any way forced upon them by the Government of India or the British Crown; that in due course of time, no doubt as what we term wider ideas and broader views prevailed, there might be a greater desire for a more constitutional form of government within the ruling States.
What I do wish to emphasise is that I cannot myself conceive that any Government would seek to force that upon the sovereign States, and indeed it may be a question whether they would have the right to do so under the treaties which exist between the Crown and the Princes, which gave the Princes their rights of internal sovereignty. My main purpose in intervening in this debate was to make it clear that the Party to which I belong 410 have no idea of forcing in any way upon the States a different Constitution from the one which they at present enjoy. That, however, is a different thing from saying that there may not be discussions in the future between the Princes and the Government of India, as the constitutional movement develops in India, for the purpose of arriving at some changes, but those are matters which must be left to, and which, I think, must depend upon the consent of, the Princes themselves.
Certain steps have already been taken. It is very difficult indeed to find a State which is better administered than Mysore, which is always regarded as a model. As Lord Hardinge said there are others; it would be invidious to single them out but equally, for the sake of truth, it must be said that there are some where it is very desirable that a more liberal form of government should be introduced, if it were possible. No one would suggest for a moment that all these States are excellently governed—there are exceptions—but even with regard to any question of intervention your Lordships may be aware that an elaborate system was devised by which a Prince, before any of his powers can be either taken from him or be reduced or modified in any way, or before any deposition can be resorted to, may be heard by a Commission on which there must be at least two Princes, a Judge of the High Court, and two other selected persons, so that you have a tribunal of five. That system already exists for the purpose of preventing what I will call drastic measures in relation to the affairs of any Prince, without giving him an opportunity of being heard before a Commission which was agreed with the Princes at the time when we were discussing the Reforms.
It is now a part of the Constitution, or at least a part of the agreement arrived at with the Princes. Even that is limited. It only applies when it is intended to take away or restrict in any way some of the powers which a Prince enjoys. In all other matters it is of the essence that the Crown is the Paramount Power and the Ruling Princes with their internal sovereignty have that limitation placed upon them, that they are subject and must remain subject to the Paramount Power, which is in itself the best means for the protection of the Princes, both from aggression from the sea—if 411 that were contemplated—and upon land. The security which the Princes enjoy, and have now for a very considerable time enjoyed, is due to the fact that the Paramount Power takes charge and directs them. I think that it is very necessary that we should always remember that. That is naturally regarded as the key of the whole position, and it was largely in order to make that clear that the Despatch was written to which my noble friend has referred. In relation to the matter under debate at the present moment, I can only express the hope, which I fancy will be realised, that the Government will not be drawn into any premature disclosure of what it may do, given certain considerations which no one yet knows, and assuming certain things to happen of which no one has at present the remotest idea.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
My Lords, if the Princes of India can feel at all aggrieved by any of the remarks made by the noble Lord who put down this Motion, they certainly ought to feel well satisfied with the terms in which they have been alluded to by the two noble Lords who have just spoken, both ex-Viceroys of India, as to the attitude of the Princes, and as to the general excellence of their administration. The subject-matter of the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Olivier, is very far-reaching, but there is one point which he is quite justified in raising, and that is in regard to the subordinate States in India. I understood the noble Marquess who has just sat down to say it was essential, in carrying out the reforms adumbrated, that any class of people in India who might think themselves adversely affected should be listened to.
I have given the noble Viscount [Lord Peel] private notice of a question which I am going to mention relating to the many hundreds of subsidiary States scattered throughout India. Of course, I am not going to refer to all of them. What I am concerned with are the feudatory States which exist in the Bombay Presidency, and which, when I had the privilege of being the Governor of Bombay, directly came under the control of the Government of Bombay. These subsidiary, or feudatory States, chiefly lie in the State of Kolapore. Rightly or wrongly, they think that of late they have suffered some degree of 412 injustice at the hands of their Paramount State. These feudatories, I may say, all have their sanads, or agreements, recognised by the Paramount Power, and they are very much afraid that in the readjustment of the various constitutional rights of the people of India they may be neglected. They are not allowed to appear before the Simon Commission—they have no locus there—and they were not able to be represented before the Committee presided over by Sir Harcourt Butler. I therefore wrote to the noble Viscount to ask whether their position is being considered by the Government of India. They feel that they may be harmed if their position is not now taken stock of, and they would be glad to think that no definite change will be made in regard to the Indian Princes generally and their relation to the Government of India without a recognition of these various agreements and guarantees which have been given by the Paramount Power to the feudatory States. It is a most complicated question; there are always differences of opinion between the Kolapore State and these feudatories, and they require very nice adjustment; and therefore I think I am quite entitled to ask whether, or how, these feudatories are to be given some chance of having their views attended to. Not for a moment do I say whether they are justified in thinking that they are being ill-treated, but I think it is quite reasonable for them to ask that their views should be ascertained before any decisions are come to as to the future government of India.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
My Lords, the Questions which have been placed upon the Paper by the noble Lord, Lord Olivier, are very far-reaching, and touch very difficult and profound questions affecting the Government of India. The Motion of the noble Lord, however, would be fully justified, I think, if only by the fact that it has produced two such very important and very interesting statements as those we have had from two noble Lords who speak with very great authority and full knowledge of Indian problems, and especially on questions connected with the Ruling Princes. Underlying most of these questions raised by the noble Lord there is the problem of the relationship between the Paramount Power and the States, 413 and this problem is at present, as the noble Marquess has said, under reference to the Committee presided over by Sir Harcourt Butler.
Perhaps I may remind the House of the terms of reference to that Committee. They are as follows:—(1) To report upon the relationship between the Paramount Power and the States, with particular reference to the rights and obligations arising fromthis does not so directly bear on the point mentioned by the noble Lord—
- (a) treaties, engagements, and sanads, and
- (b) usage, sufferance and other causes, and—"(2) to inquire into the financial and economic relations between British India and the States, and to make any recomendations that they may consider desirable or necessary for their more satisfactory adjustment.When this Committee reports, His Majesty's Government will have, so far as the States' side of the matter is concerned, the material upon which to proceed to whatever further consideration may be necessary of questions either as to the relations between the Paramount Power and the States or as to the relations between the States and British India. But until the Report of the Committee is received it is undesirable to enter into a discussion of such questions on merely speculative or hypothetical lines; and in that respect I think the noble Marquess was right in his divination of the attitude I should be obliged to take up.
The noble Lord's reference to future amendments of the Constitution of British India is at present equally speculative or hypothetical, and when he asks whether His Majesty's Government have in view any scheme for dealing with questions arising in regard to the Indian States concurrently and consistently with any such amendments, I can only say that they have not, and that any definite scheme would at this stage clearly be premature. Of course, I do not wish to say that His Majesty's Government will not use their best endeavours to look ahead into the future and to examine into these very complex and difficult questions. But their solution can only be approached stage by stage, and with a full appreciation of the necessity for caution and deliberation.
414 What I have said hitherto must, be understood as referring to questions coming under the head of relations either between the States and the Paramount Power or between the States and British India, but the noble Lord has devoted some portion of his remarks to questions which, though obviously connected with the problem which I have been discussing, must be recognised in the first place as coming in a different category—namely, that of constitutional or administrative arrangements within the States themselves. Unless this question had been raised I should have thought it undesirable, if not improper, for me to enter upon it now; but one is anxious to avoid any misunderstanding, and I cannot let the noble Lord's observations pass without some reference to them. I must, however, limit myself to some very general observations and I cannot, of course, enter upon any question of their particular or precise and actual application. I might remind your Lordships—it is familiar, of course, to the noble Lord opposite—that the term "Indian States" is of very wide application. There are 500 or 600 of them, varying to the greatest possible extent in size and importance. At one end of the scale is the great State of Hyderabad, with an area of over 82,000 square miles and a population of 12,500,000. At the other end, where we deal with what are more properly described as estates rather than States, we have small areas of less than a square mile with a hundred or two hundred inhabitants. It is obvious that very different considerations must apply to the States at these different ends of the scale. With that reservation perhaps I can now speak in rather more general terms.
First let me remind the House—though I do not say that, my observation bears a very close application to what has been stated by the noble Lord opposite—of the well-known passage to which he has referred in the statement of the noble Marquess, Lord Reading. He read a portion of it, and I think I should also like to read it because it is a very important and, as the noble Marquess said, a very carefully considered statement. As he also said, it was written to His Exalted Highness the Nizam of Hyderabad. The passage is as follows:—The right of the British Government to intervene in the internal affairs of Indian States is another instance of the consequences necessarily involved in the supremacy 415 of the British Crown. The British Government have indeed shown again and again that they have no desire to exercise the right without grave reason. But the internal, no less than the external, security which the Ruling Princes enjoy is due ultimately to the protecting power of the British Government, and where Imperial interests are concerned, or the general welfare of the people of a State is seriously and grievously affected by the action of its Government, it is with the Paramount Power that the ultimate responsibility for taking remedial action, if necessary, must lie. The varying degrees of internal sovereignty which the Rulers enjoy are all subject to the clue exercise by the Paramount Power of this responsibility.This is a general statement, of course, of the rights and duties of the Paramount Power. But, in regard to such questions as those of the introduction of changes in the machinery or methods of government in the States, I must point out that, however important and far-reaching these questions are, they are primarily questions of internal administration which, as such, cannot, generally speaking, be regarded as coming very directly within the purview of the Paramount Power.
I do not think I can with very great advantage pursue this question much further at the present moment. But it is obvious that questions of internal administration must be present to the minds of all who endeavour, from the point of view either of the British Government or of the Indian Rulers themselves, to look ahead into the future of India as a whole or of the States individually. At a time when constitutional changes are under consideration in British India, it is inevitable that much attention should be directed, both in the Press and on the public platform, to the States. Conditions in the States vary greatly, and what might be appropriate and timely in one might well be inappropriate or premature in another. But I need hardly say that the Rulers of many of the States have already shown that they appreciate modern ideals of good administration and strive within the resources at their disposal to attain to them. The Viceroy, in his speech announcing the appointment of the Indian States Committee, took the opportunity of reminding the Princes that, in his view, the more their administration approximated to the standards of efficiency demanded by enlightened public opinion elsewhere, the easier it would be to find a just and permanent solution of 416 the problem of the future relations between the States and British India. Many of the leading Princes themselves are, as I know, very much alive to the importance of this subject; and I know that some of them have of their own initiative taken up the question of reviewing their administration with a view to inaugurating, where they do not already exist, such measures as the promulgation of a definite code of law to be administered by a Judiciary independent of the Executive, and the settlement upon a reasonable basis of the purely personal expenditure of the Ruler as distinguished from the public charges of administration. The two noble Lords who have spoken have paid very just tributes to the loyalty and devotion of the Princes of India, and I should like very respectfully to associate myself with what has been said by those two noble Lords upon that, subject.
There is only one question that was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lamington, who has changed his place though not his point of view, as I understand, in the House. He was good enough to give me private notice of it, though perhaps he will excuse my saying that the notice was received a very short time before this discussion, and so I must answer him rather more briefly than I might otherwise have done. I am not sure that the Government, I am not in fact aware that the Government of India have received any recommendations from the feudatory nobles of the Indian States. I thought possibly the noble Lord was referring to the case of the guaranteed Thakurs in the Gwalior State. As regards that case, I may say that the British Government at the beginning of the nineteenth century, in effecting a settlement in Central India, mediated and guaranteed the relations between the Rulers and the petty chieftains under them. In view of improvements gradually effected in the Gwalior administration there no longer existed the same justification for intervention between the Durbar and the Chiefs; and in 1921 the Government of India made new arrangements under which the Political Department of the Government of India withdrew from direct interference between the Durbar and the Thakurs, and fresh sanads in perpetuity 417 were issued to the Chiefs in question by the Gwalior Durbar. It was, however, explicitly laid down that the pledges originally given by the British Government must remain Inviolable. Representations from some of the feudatories in connection with this new arrangement came before me as Secretary of State for India in 1924, and questions raised by others are, I believe, at present before the Government of India.
Then, as regards the question whether the feudatories would have an opportunity to make representations during the discussion on reforms, if any feudatory is apprehensive as to how changes in British India may react upon his own position he could no doubt express his feelings to his Ruler. If the reference is to any grievance which a feudatory might have against his Ruler, it is open to the feudatory who may consider himself unjustly treated, as to other subjects of an Indian State, to seek redress from the Government of India. Perhaps the noble Lord will content himself with that rather brief answer to the question which he asked. As to the noble Lord opposite (Lord Olivier), though I do not charge him with wishing to air his knowledge on the subject—he has raised very important questions—I am sure he will agree that they are so speculative and depending upon such hypothetical considerations in the future that he will be satisfied if I have not given him a more definite answer than I have been able to do to-day.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
I should like to ask the noble Viscount whether he will consider how these feudatory chiefs may make a representation.
§ LORD OLIVIER
My Lords, I shall have the satisfaction, as the noble Viscount expressed it, that my humble Motion has elicited very interesting and important speeches from Lord Hardinge and the noble Marquess, Lord Reading. I also can congratulate myself in having elicited from the noble Viscount [Viscount Peel] a very interesting and carefully considered statement upon some of the questions I raised, and I thank him for it. I think the debate has been of great interest, but there are some slight misunderstandings, which I 418 should like to clear away arising out of the speeches that have been made. In the first place the noble Lord, Lord Hardinge, seemed to think that it was relevant to my Question that he should set forth what we none of us for a moment disagree with—namely, the great value of the services and the great loyalty of the Princes, and the admirable character of many of them. We all agree with that, but that was not relevant to my Motion. My Motion was relevant to consideration of the question dealt with by the noble Marquess.
It is obvious that in any constitutional development we shall have to consider the position of the Rulers, who number something like six hundred. I ask: Are the Government not prepared with a scheme for dealing with the question? That is to say, are they not prepared to set up a further body of inquiry? I do not ask them to consider a scheme immediately. I ask them to set up a tribunal or a Committee for dealing with the matter. The noble Marquess and the noble Viscount said that was premature. I cannot deny that the noble Viscount has given a very good official answer to me and I should not have expected any other answer; probably if I had been in his place I should not have made any other answer.
§ LORD OLIVIER
I might have had to be more careful. I accept the noble Viscount's official answer and I shall not press for Papers if the House will allow me to withdraw my Motion. The noble Lord, Lord Lamington, made one of my points in his reference to the Harcourt Butler Committee. That Committee does not in the slightest degree have within its terms of reference anything which enables them to deal with the interests of the four hundred odd States. I ask: What means are the Government taking to deal with this question? With regard to the Committee reference which the noble Viscount was good enough to read to us, it is limited and does not deal with the constitutional questions which arise. I go further and I say that the reference to the Simon Commission also does not deal with any of these questions. There is nothing in the reference to the Simon Commission 419 that would enable us to imagine that any question of the Indian States was at all involved. I must perforce accept the view of the noble Viscount, who agrees with the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, that until the Simon Commission has reported you cannot go into those questions. That is not my own view of what is possible, but I have to accept the statement.
Finally, there seems to be some suggestion that I made criticisms of the Indian Princes. The noble Lord, Lord Hardinge, seemed to think I had attacked them. I certainly did not attack them. I gave credit, I hope, to what I know of the admirable rule of many of them, though I said, incidentally, that some of them have not been good Rulers. My point was that, generally speaking, they are all absolute monarchs. The noble Marquess and the noble Viscount seemed to approve of absolute monarchy, but personally I do not. I do not think absolute monarchy is a good institution. That was the sole extent of my criticism of the Princes. I now beg leave of the House to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.