§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN) moved to resolve, That this House approves the Indian policy of His Majesty's Government as set out in Command Paper No. 3972. The noble Marquess said: My Lords, just ten days ago I stood at this box making clear to the House that the Government was determined, at any cost, to maintain the authority of law and Government in India as against attempts to overthrow it by terrorism and assassination, and I said that this was essential, not only to protect the lives of Government servants and the liberty of the individual, but to make it possible for India to attain to self-government along 300 constitutional lines. To-day I have the more pleasant task of setting forth the other half of the Government's policy, its proposals for advancing responsible government in India. For in the long run repression is no remedy. Political discontent requires a political cure.
§ The essence of the problem, perhaps, which confronts Parliament to-day in the discharge of the weighty responsibilities which rest upon it, may be illustrated by an experience which befell me in India-some twenty years ago. I met a young tahsildar in the United Provinces, a man reputed to be an excellent official, yet a strong Nationalist, and a Nationalist in those days, when the collector was still the unquestioned father and mother of his district, was comparatively rare. The tahsildar said to me something like this: "England has done much for India. She has given her unity and honest government. She has built railways and irrigation canals. She has done more—she has, through her sons, shown us a type of character, incorruptible, straight, fearless, public-spirited, a type which we can admire and wish to emulate. But the real lesson that she has taught us is this, that if as a nation we are to have straight backs and to be able to look all the world fearlessly in the face as equals, we must learn to govern ourselves whatever the cost may be. That is what you English would do if you were in our position, and that is what I," said the tahsildar, "mean to devote my life to secure."
§ I was young in those days and before I left India I wrote an article for a British review in which I described, among other things, the Nationalist movement, and I said that in my view that movement was essentially healthy, for it was a movement for political virtue and self-respect. I showed the article to the Indian civil servant with whom I was staying, a man who afterwards attained to the highest office in India, and he said to me: "Do you realise that Nationalism, the demand that the British Raj should be replaced by an Indian Raj, is, strictly-speaking, sedition? It is sedition in the same way as the demand for Parliamentary responsibility was treasonable in England in the days of the Tudors or the Stuarts, for no one may legally challenge the divine authority of the British Raj."301
Two years later the world war fell upon the world, and among other things it blew sway the foundation upon which the old India had rested. In August, 1914, partly because of the unstinted service tendered to the Allied cause by the Princes, the people and the soldiers of India, and partly because of the rapid growth of the demand for self-government, a fateful pronouncement of the future policy of Great Britain to India was solemnly made with the agreement of all parties and the approval of Parliament. I will read the essential words of that Declaration, because they govern everything that has happened since:
The policy of His Majesty's Government, with which the Government of India are in complete accord, is that of the increasing association of Indians in every Branch of the administration and the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realisation of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire.
Thus was initiated the most tremendous constitutional experiment ever attempted in human history, the attempt, in a country containing over 300,000,000 people, to substitute for the old foundation of unquestioning obedience to authority a new foundation for government in India—namely, the consent of the governed as expressed through responsible and not merely representative institutions, and to do this by constitutional and not by revolutionary means.
§ The pronouncement of 1917, however, contained another element. It stated that progress in this policy could only be achieved by successive stages, and the Act of 1919 which gave effect to it provided that the judge of the time and the measure of each advance should be Parliament and that after the lapse of ten years a Statutory Commission should be appointed to advise it in discharging its task. The expedient which was adopted in the Act of 1919 for giving effect to the pronouncement during the first stage of advance was dyarchy in the Provinces and representative but not responsible institutions in the centre for British India. At the same time a Chamber of Princes, a purely consultative body, was brought into being for what has sometimes been called, by way of contrast, British India. I am inclined to think that despite much subsequent criticism Parliament was fundamentally right in 302 approving of the principle of dyarchy in 1919. For the root difficulty in giving effect to the pronouncement of 1917 was to develop Indian political Parties and Indian political leaders, basing themselves on the popular vote, which were experienced and powerful enough to carry the prodigious weight of the huge structure of Indian Government constructed and supported during the preceding century by Great Britain.
§ The dyarchic system was based upon the belief that to attempt to do this by confronting an irremovable Executive with a representative Assembly was bound to exaggerate the habit of irresponsible criticism, and that the best way of developing the capacity for responsible self-government was by entrusting to Indian shoulders, from the start, the full responsibility for certain aspects of Indian Government. The Statutory Commission has pointed out the weakness of the dyarchic system in the circumstances in which it was actually started in most Provinces, though in Madras, the one Province in which a stable political majority was established in the Legislature and also the practice of joint responsibility among the Ministers, the system worked very well. The Statutory Commission, therefore, recommended that full responsibility for provincial government, subject to certain safeguards in the hands of the Governor, should be entrusted to the Provincial Legislatures.
When, however, the Statutory Commission was appointed in 1927—two years before the appointed day—it was made quite clear that in coming to conclusions it was essential that Parliament should have the advice not only of its own Commissioners, but also directly of Indian opinion. Accordingly, in announcing the appointment of a Statutory Commission in 1927, consisting of the representatives of all three Parties, the Government-stated:
that it was not the intention to ask Parliament to adopt the proposals [of the Statutory Commission] without first giving a full opportunity for Indian opinion of different schools to contribute its view upon them. And to this end it is intended to invite Parliament to refer these proposals to consideration by a Joint Committee of both Houses and to facilitate the presentation to that Committee both of the views of the Indian Central Legislature by delegations who will be invited to attend and confer with the Joint Committee and also of
the views of any other parties whom the joint Parliamentary Committee may desire to consult.
Moreover, when the Simon Commission reached India it proposed that its investigations in India should take the form of a "Joint Free Conference consisting of the seven British Commissioners and a corresponding body of representatives chosen by the Indian Legislatures"—a method which, while it was brought into being, failed of its full effect for reasons which I need not refer to to-day.
A year later, however, the Simon Commission went still further. Writing to the Prime Minister on October 16, 1929, the Chairman said:
As our investigation has proceeded, we have become more and more impressed in considering the direction which the future constitutional development of India is likely to take, with the importance of bearing in mind the relations which may develop between British India and the Indian States.… It seems to us that what would be required would be the setting up of some sort of Conference after the Reports of the Statutory Commission and the Indian Central Committee have been made …. and that in the Conference His Majesty's Government should meet both representatives of British India and representatives of the States …. for the purpose of seeking the greatest possible measure of agreement for the final proposals which it would later be the duty of His Majesty's Government to submit to Parliament.
That was the genesis of the Round Table Conference. The decision to summon the Conference was announced by the Viceroy on December 1, 1929, and on July 9, 1930, in a speech to the Indian Legislature, he described it as a joint assembly of representatives of both countries on whose agreement precise proposals to Parliament may be founded.
Thus, while the ultimate responsibility for deciding upon the nature of the Constitution rests, and must rest without equivocation upon Parliament, it is the settled policy that the preparation of the proposals which His Majesty's Government will eventually submit to the consideration of Parliament is to proceed as far as possible by conference and by agreement. The reason for this was well expressed by Mr. Baldwin in another place a few days ago. He said:
It is from [our] teaching that the demand for democracy has come … and you have to remember that an essential and inherent factor in democracy is the consent
of the governed, without which democracy cannot function. You must gain that consent, and that is the basic idea of proceeding by conference.
The Statutory Commission reported in May, 1930, and made proposals for constitutional development in British India with which your Lordships are broadly familiar. In November of the same year the Round Table Conference assembled and the Indian Princes immediately vindicated the prescience of the Statutory Commission by a far-reaching initiative which they took.
§ During the first plenary session of the Conference, two things were made clear. In the first place the delegation of the Princes almost unanimously declared for a Federal Constitution to include all India and not British India alone. In the second place a demand came from every delegation—from the Princes at one end to the representatives of the depressed classes at the other—that this Federal Constitution should provide for responsibility both in the Provinces and at the centre, subject to safeguards—providing always that adequate security was guaranteed to minority rights. The Conference then went into Committee to endeavour to work out practical proposals on this basis, and may I say in passing that in these Committees no document was more frequently quoted than the monumental Report of the Statutory Commission itself? There emerged from this Conference an outline of a Constitution based upon All-India Federation and upon the introduction of responsibility at the centre as well as in the Provinces, subject to well-defined safeguards in the hands of Great Britain for the rights of minorities, for defence, and for the financial stability and internal security of the Indian realm. There emerged also a measure of general agreement as to the nature of the guarantees which were to be embodied in the Constitution for the rights of minorities, great and small. There was also agreement as to the security to be afforded against unfair discrimination against British trade and for the future of the Services.
§ The Conference then adjourned in order to give time for public opinion, both in India and in Great Britain, to consider its Reports. It was followed by the cessation of organised civil disobedience in India and acceptance by the Indian 305 National Congress of the broad basis of federation, responsibility and safeguards, "in the interests of India"—a phrase which may present some difficulty if you think that the interests of England and India are divergent, or very little difficulty if you think, as I do, that they fundamentally coincide.
§ In September last the Conference began to reassemble with certain additions in personnel, notably Mr. Gandhi, as sole representative of the Indian National Congress, but the Conference set to work under conditions of considerable difficulty. In the first place the British Government and people were absorbed in the financial and political crisis which began with the formation of the National Government and only ended with the completion of the new Government early in November. In the second place the delegates from India once again failed to find among themselves a solution for the minorities problem, though the nature of that problem has now been pretty sharply defined. Yet despite these difficulties, despite a campaign of pessimism and disparagement, despite the obvious difficulty of finding a basis of agreement between the standpoint of the Indian National Congress and more moderate opinion, I think it is true to say that the better mind of India, as well as a considerable majority of British opinion, as expressed last week in another place, has substantially endorsed the conclusions of the Conference.
§ I believe that the work which has been done by these two Round Table Conferences, whose discussions are embodied in detailed Reports and whose outcome is the declaration of His Majesty's Government contained in the White Paper now before your Lordships, represents a stage in the evolution of the relations between India and Great Britain whose importance it is impossible to exaggerate. The final decision about the new Constitution rests with Parliament, but that it should have been possible for some hundred Indian delegates, representing every shade of Indian opinion and interest, and some twenty British delegates, representing all three Parties represented in Parliament, to sit round a single table and hammer out the basic outline of a new Constitution for submission by the Government to Parlia- 306 ment, in order that it may obtain its approval in proceeding further along the line before the final draft is made to give effect to these broad conclusions, is in itself, I venture to believe, the best hope that in due time we shall solve the greatest problem which has ever been presented to human statesmanship at a single time, in harmony and with success.
I have dealt at some length with the development of events which have led up to the White Paper, because I have thought that in opening this discussion it might be of some service to your Lordships to have the history set before you. I should now like in my concluding remarks to say something about the merits of the proposals in the White Paper. No one can approach the consideration of the Indian problem of to-day without a profound sense of its un-exampled difficulty, and without deep anxiety about the responsibility which rests upon Parliament in dealing with it. On the one hand you have the basic facts so constantly before the minds of those who knew best what may be called the Old India. There is the central fact that India contains 350,000,000 inhabitants, belonging to many races, speaking many languages, and still mainly illiterate, divided by a cleavage in religion at least as deep and profound as that which divided Protestant and Catholic in the Middle Ages: divided also by the fact that two-thirds of India has experienced British rule for more than a century, while the other third, under the rule of its hereditary Princes, is still in great measure the India of mediaeval times. How, it is often asked, can Western democratic ideals be applied to a country so varied and so vast and so little experienced in the practical working of those ideals, and what will be the effect of attempting this tremendous change on that 80 per cent. of the population of India which lives in the villages, preoccupied with the crops and seasons and with the problems of family and of caste, whose principal interests are peace, order and stable prices for what they produce?
§ On the other hand you have the facts of what may be called the New India. It is almost a century to-day since Macaulay launched India on its course of education in British ideals of liberty and progress. There are at this moment nearly 95,000 students in Indian Universi- 307 ties alone, and the total number in recognised educational institutions is over 11,500,000. Indian youth, pouring in torrents out of these schools and Universities, stands as a whole, to-day, where my tahsildar friend stood twenty years ago, and is strongly and increasingly Nationalist. Women, too, have begun to throw off the traditional reserves and to take an active part in public affairs. The vernacular Press flourishes not in the larger cities alone but reaches in some form almost every village. Social movements of every kind, which it is very difficult for external power to appreciate—movements dealing with untouchability, with child marriage, with the housing conditions in the towns, with the liquor traffic, and with the reform of social and religious customs—have sprung into being, and their adherents demand the right to remodel and transform the older ways of Indian life by legislative action wrought by Indians alone. Economic development and the present world depression are bringing home to more and more people every day the fact that poverty and economic maladjustment are not the result of the will of the gods but the result of causes within the control of man himself.
§ Finally, and not least, is the fact that the idea of India making itself responsible for its own Government is no longer seditious but has been for nearly fifteen years the settled policy of Great Britain, as it has been shown to be the unanimous demand of every section of Indian opinion at the Bound Table Conference itself, provided only, as always, that the rights of minorities are adequately assured. In determining its Indian policy I venture to think that Parliament has to take not only our own set of facts, but both of these sets of facts, into account, and I for one cannot sec that it can adopt any other policy than that set forth in the White Paper, which rests the foundation of the new Constitution of India during the next stage of its development on the three root principles which have emerged from the discussions of the last four years—federation, responsibility, and safeguards. Let me say a brief word about each.
§ Federation means the maintenance of Indian unity. The greatest contribution of England to India has been its unity. Federation is the inevitable consequence 308 of the pronouncement of 1917 if the unity of India is to be combined with the growth of responsible government; and the profound thanks of Parliament are, in my judgment, due to the far-sighted statesmen among the Princes who, on their own responsibility, took the initiative in moving federation to the front of the picture at this critical stage in the evolution of the Indian Constitution. But federation is not less important as an element in the solution of the main minority question. For it is only by the statutory division of the powers of government between States and Provinces on the one side and the federal authority on the other, so that neither can interfere with the other, that you will be able not only to bring the Indian Princes into an All-India Constitution, but to establish the basis upon which the secular Hindu-Moslem conflict can be solved. And it is only, further, by building into the structure of the Constitution real guarantees for individual liberty and for minority rights that you can erect a Constitution strong enough to be a security for internal order, for liberty and peace, as the British power is gradually withdrawn.
§ Next comes responsibility. When we consider the varied facts about the changing India of to-day and the colossal domestic problems which confront her, is it conceivable that they can be solved otherwise than by placing the responsibility for their solution on Indian shoulders, provided always that the security of India, the stability of its government, and the rights of minorities are preserved? Is it conceivable that this Parliament, preoccupied with the unexampled problems and movements of its own domestic world, can also solve the problems of a subcontinent 6,000 miles away, containing 350,000,000 people, on the move, as the people of Britain and of Europe are on the move, through the advent of new ideas and new economic forces of every kind? It seems to me unanswerable that, as proposed in the White Paper, we should transfer responsibility for dealing with Indian social and economic conditions to Indian shoulders as soon as a proper constitutional structure can be devised.
§ I am all the more convinced of this by the consideration that governmental responsibility, that is, the effect of re- 309 sponsibility for government on those who wield it, is probably the one solvent which may make possible the solution of difficulties which now may seem to be insoluble. It is a commonplace of our public-school system that the way to train boys for responsibility is to place responsibility upon them. The very basis of our Parliamentary system is the maintenance of an Opposition whose criticism and promises are tempered by the knowledge that at any time they may be called upon to fulfil them. It is the uniform verdict of our Imperial history that the one way to convert rebels or revolutionaries into constructive statesmen is to thrust responsibility for government upon them, and so make them responsible for the consequences of their own acts. There is a peculiar alchemy in this old Empire, perhaps because we have been so often willing to place responsibility on our own rebels, and in so doing to win them after a time to loyal and enthusiastic acceptance of the British Common wealth system. We have had experience of that kind in this country, in Ireland, in Canada, in South Africa. If I could convince Mr. Gandhi that it is in the real interest of India that he should persuade his young and enthusiastic followers to capture the machinery of government in India by constitutional means, I believe that he would do more, to develop in them that independence of character and that capacity for self-government than he can do by any form of direct action.
§ Finally, there are the safeguards. As I see it, the purpose of safeguards is to ensure that during the next stage of Indian constitutional government, while India is developing the Party structure and the political habits and conventions which are capable of bearing the full weight of an All India Government, there should be ample security for three things—for the unity and defence of India itself, for the maintenance of the structure of the Constitution, and for the just rights of minorities of all kinds. These safeguards were discussed at length in the various Reports of the Indian Round Table Conference. They are set forth in the Prime Minister's statement of January 19, and again in the White Paper which is before you. They were defined by my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for India in another place last week, and perhaps I may be allowed to quote what he called 310 a rather abrupt summary of them again here to-day. He said: "First of all, until India is in a position to defend herself, our command of the Army must be clear and undisputed and our control of foreign affairs must be reserved. Secondly, our relation with the Princes must be retained by the Crown. Financial stability must be efficiently safeguarded, and so, ultimately, must internal security. Minorities must be protected, there must be no unfair economic or commercial discrimination against the British trader, and the rights of the Services recruited by the Secretary of State must be safeguarded." That concludes my survey of the genesis and nature of the general policy submitted for your approval in the White Paper before the House to-day. It is a policy which represents an agreement between the three main political Parties represented in another place. It is a policy worked out by a process of conference on equal terms with representatives of all the main elements of Indian political life, and I believe it commands the agreement of the great mass of responsible opinion in India. So far as I can see, there is no alternative policy open to us. If we try to go faster we imperil the structure of government in India, and therefore probably the peace and liberties and security of the Indian people. If we try to go more slowly we shall deprive ourselves of that consent and co-operation without which the pronouncement of 1917 cannot be realised, and we are likely to be drawn into difficulties of every kind. I earnestly trust, therefore, that the White Paper will receive the endorsement of this House, so that the Government can go forward in working out the mass of unsettled detail in co-operation with a small working Committee of the Round Table Conference to be set up in India, knowing that in so going forward it has the authority of Parliament behind it. The detailed inquiries which are to be set on foot immediately relate to the franchise, and to the division of financial resources between the Federation on the one side and the Provinces and the States on the other, and to the financial problems connected with certain individual States. The Princes are also to endeavour to reach a conclusion about their own representation in the Federation at an early date. At some later date when all necessary material is ready the Round Table Conference will re-assemble 311 in some form for a final review of the whole scheme and, thereafter, a draft Constitution will be presented by the Government for the consideration and decision of Parliament.
§ I confess I am somewhat at a loss to understand the meaning of the Amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, proposes to move to this Motion to-day. Your Lordships are not being asked to pronounce a final judgment regarding the solution of the Indian problem. You will only be asked to do that when a draft Constitution is submitted for your consideration. You are now being asked to approve of the Government proceeding to develop that Constitution on the lines which have emerged from the inquiries, the discussions, and the Conferences of the last four years. The Government cannot accept the Amendment because its adoption would inevitably have the effect of casting doubt in India on the intention of Parliament to proceed on these general lines. If your Lordships definitely disapprove of the White Paper you are naturally perfectly entitled to reject this Motion; but merely to declare that you refuse to pronounce a final judgment regarding the solution of the problem when you are not being asked to do so, in view, too, of the fact that Parliament will have another and full opportunity of doing so later on, can in the judgment of the Government only produce doubt and confusion at a time when definite and resolute action along lines laid down in the White Paper is imperatively needed.
§ One word in conclusion. Indian politicians, especially of the extremist kind, often point to Ireland as the model they wish to follow. I venture to think that in doing so they misread the true meaning of that history. The root of the trouble in Ireland in recent times has arisen from the fact that the Irish question was drawn into the Party politics of Great Britain. One great Party in the State was long reluctant to admit the force of Irish Nationalism or the necessity for giving it legitimate satisfaction. The other Party in the State was just as reluctant to admit the force of what, in the parlance of Indian politics, is called Communalism in Northern Ireland, or the necessity for giving it also legitimate satisfaction. As the re- 312 sult to-day both the United Kingdom and Ireland are divided, though not, I hope, for ever.
§ In India we have so far avoided these pitfalls. The Indian question has been kept out of Party politics. The predominant place to be conceded to Indian national sentiment is fully recognised in the White Paper. So is the necessity for giving ample guarantees to communal and minority rights and aspirations. If we continue to move forward on these lines and if, at the same time, we keep the structure of government firm and intact we may sec at no very distant date a self-governing India which is also a united India, and the forging of new bonds of permanent friendship and cooperation between the Indian and the British peoples. I cannot believe that your Lordships will imperil the attainment of this end by accepting the Amendment and I, therefore, commend with confidence to your Lordships' acceptance the Resolution which I have the honour to move to-day.
§ Moved to resolve, That this House approves the Indian policy of His Majesty's Government as set out in Command Paper No. 3972.—(The Marquess of Lothian.)
§ LORD LLOYD had given Notice that he would move as an Amendment, That this House, while appreciating the efforts made by His Majesty's Government during the Round Table Conferences to resolve the grave problems connected with the future government of India, considers that the moment has not yet arrived at which His Majesty's Government, mindful of their supreme responsibilities for the safety and welfare of the people of India, can pronounce a final judgment regarding the solution of the problem.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in rising to move the Amendment which stands in my name my first duty is to express my thanks to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House for the delay which, though not a very long one, has enabled many of your Lordships to be present for this debate when otherwise you might not have been. I should like also to preface my observations with a brief personal explanation. I desire to make it perfectly plain that, in moving this Amendment on what is admittedly an important occasion, I am actuated by 313 no hostility of any kind to the Government. On the contrary, as the noble Viscount who leads the House knows I think, I was not much slower than anyone else in taking an individual part in trying during the Election to get the National Government returned to power. I would only say that I have no other desire than that this Government should move from strength to strength in the prosecution of those great causes and in the pursuit of those policies for which it was returned to power.
§ Nor do I approach this great problem of the future government of India in any grudging or reactionary spirit. May I venture to remind your Lordships that as soon as ever the great Act of 1919, the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms Act, was passed into law, I not only accepted the reforms which were embodied in the Act fully and completely, but I took an active part in their inauguration and in fashioning the electorate. I look back with satisfaction on the fact that the Government of which I was then the head was able, through troublous times, in pursuit of those reforms to carry every measure without once having re-course to the powers reserved to the Governor and the Government. I stood by that Act then, as I stand by it to-day, with complete and unswerving loyalty.
§ Having said so much, I should like to turn at once to the point which my noble friend who has just spoken has made. Ho wants to know why I am moving an Amendment because this House is not being called upon for a final judgment to-day on the policy outlined in the White Paper. That is technically true, but it is a very narrow shade of meaning. I take the view that if we were to allow this Resolution to pass without protest, when eventually the Bill he has referred to comes before Parliament we should find ourselves in an invidious if not a dishonest position, and at any rate not free to vote against it on that occasion. If we are going to pursue an honest policy in regard to India it seems to me that we ought to take the first opportunity of making the request I am venturing to make to your Lordships' House to-day for further time to consider the great problems that are before us.
§ My right hon. friend the Foreign Secretary was at great pains the other day 314 in another place, to recall the circumstances in which this Act of 1919 was brought into being. In spite of his well-known lucidity, I do not think the new members of the House of Commons, to whom he was specially addressing himself that afternoon, could have derived a quite complete or accurate picture from his recollection. It is true, of course, as he said, that that Act was passed in the critical days of the Great War and in circumstances which, undoubtedly, bind us in very special honour to the fulfilment of the purposes of the Act. It is true that the whole country at that time, more especially those who had fought alongside the Indian troops and had been eye-witnesses of their gallantry and devotion, were moved with generous impulses towards the peoples of India, and rightly moved. Even so, some of us were disturbed at the proposals in that Act. I can only speak for myself, but if my apprehensions were overcome, as they were at that time, it was largely because Mr. Montagu continuously and emphatically urged, and rightly urged, that within the scope of the provisions of this Act, Parliament was to retain complete control at every stage of inspection of India's progress, to stand still, to go back, or to go forward. So much is all that forgotten—or at any rate ignored—that to-day we have Government spokesmen arguing that any reluctance to proceed blindfold at the Prime Minister's pace in this matter is to betray the Montagu Act and to be faithless to our pledges to India. It is nothing of the kind. That is an entirely wrong interpretation, as your Lordships will see if you read Section 41 of the Act of 1919.
§ The Foreign Secretary said too that there were two categories of people concerned in this great affair. One was that of the people who honestly and sincerely desired to achieve or promote self-government in India; the other category was that of the people who did not. Surely there is another category which he did not mention. There is a third category compounded of men in India and in this country who, for the best possible motives, will risk ruining the whole future of responsible Government by precipitate progress and who bid fair to destroy the foundations which some of us have had a hand in trying to build up. Has nothing happened in the last twelve 315 years in the world? Have the constitutional ruins that litter the Near East, the Middle East, and the Far East to-day no meaning to us in relation to Section 41 of the Act? Are we to learn nothing from the crash of these jerry-built constitutions built upon sand, perhaps upon safeguards too, upon phrases rather than foundations? Is it mere reaction or is it prudence and statesmanship to be sure of solid foundations before we attempt to build so great a house? Because, after all, we may not forget Russia, we dare not forget China, and we have to remember that the whole future of India and its peoples—more than that the whole future of the East Indies—depends upon our decision. Therefore, phrases will not do.
§ The Government say to us in effect: "Although we have had the advantage of sitting for weeks in close and intimate conversations with India's representatives and you have not, although we have had Cabinet after Cabinet and find ourselves still with many perplexities, although the minorities were not only baffled but beaten in any attempt to find common ground, although the Princes are still far from unanimity, and although, with all this exclusive information, we are only just able to resolve our own mind, yet we insist that Parliament shall come to an immediate decision, and, if you do not do it, you are reactionaries and betraying our pledges to India." Of course, that is a paraphrase, a summary, but it is rather the kind of argument adopted to those of us who hold these views. It is because I hold that that attitude is wide of the mark and unreasonable that I have ventured to place the Amendment on the Paper to-day. I for one, if I only had two people in the Lobby with me, should refuse to be a party to seeing the work of Hastings, Clive, Hughes, Elphinstone, Bartle Frere, Curzon and Morley, all disposed of in a day's debate or hastened into past history in an hour.
§ After all, I knew Mr. Montagu's mind very well. I had constant and continual conversations with him about those reforms at that time. I know that he foresaw that great convulsions might well, and probably would, follow upon the Great War. That is why he caused his Act to contain the prudent precautionary provisions which it did con- 316 tain. It is now suggested that if we are to make use of his prudence or to avail ourselves of his foresight, we are betraying his purpose. I do not think that is a reasonable attitude. There are few people in this country who, in this matter of reforms, desire to go back. I am certainly not one of them. There is no one who desires to go back, but it is none the less our responsibility to decide the manner and the moment of our next advance.
I confess that I do not understand—and I have read all the speeches very carefully—what is the purpose of this hurried declaration of policy. What the Government, I understand, have said is that we are going to explore the situation further with Committees. If that is so, surely it is a little absurd and a grave mistake to decide your policy before you have heard the findings of your Committees. I know, of course, that the Foreign Secretary said that the reason why it was so necessary to have a declaration from the House was that some people in India have come to believe that our rate of advance was
so slow that it can never be seriously intended to get to the goal.
All this has happened before. Are we really to be asked to make a hurried declaration of policy every time someone reports to somebody else that someone doubts our good intentions in India? Only two years ago we had the declaration of Dominion status made by my noble friend, who, I think, knows that it was an unhappy declaration. How was it justified at that time? Mr. Benn, speaking in the House of Commons on November 7, 1929, used exactly the same arguments and quoted my noble friend Lord Irwin:
He [the Viceroy] said in the first place, that doubts have arisen in India as to the sincerity of British Parties in the matter of the Montagu policy and that for the removal of their doubts it was necessary to issue a clear declaration of existing policy.
We have bad it twice in two years. It was not sufficient at that time to clear the doubts by announcing Dominion status. We have now to make another declaration to clear the doubts again.
§ How many more times are we to have to do it? Would it not have been better to demonstrate conclusively at that time, as I am sure it would be better at this, to any anxious minds in India or any- 317 where else that these doubts were completely groundless, and to show that any and every pledge made under the Act of 1919 had been completely fulfilled in the spirit and in the letter, and then to proceed with unperturbed haste upon the path prepared and approved by Crown and Parliament? That would seem to me the wise way to move. Is the pace really so slow as the Foreign Secretary suggested? Everybody who knows India knows that Indianisation of the Services has proceeded in India not only as fast as was promised but far faster. Everybody knows, for instance, that the Statutory Commission was appointed and set up ahead of its due time. In every manner and by every means we have carried out in every detail everything and more than we promised in the 1919 Act. Far from being slow, I am afraid that ten years is a very short time in the life of the world or in the history of a country to make such great changes. Now we are being asked to advance again at a dangerous speed down a road which may, we believe, lead to our goal, but every inch of which has got to be made as we go and made through utterly uncharted country. I do not think we are proceeding so slowly as all that.
§ I spoke just now about foundations as against phrases and of the great need for foundations. May I say a few words more on that subject? The second Round Table Conference is just over. I admit that I have never viewed the Conference procedure with much sympathy, and I still think that we should have achieved more if we had proceeded by the constitutional method of discussing the Statutory Commission's Report and setting up our usual machinery of Joint Committees to come to aid our ultimate decision. None the less, I am not at all disposed to quarrel with those who say that the Round Table Conference has done, in the event, more good than harm. I think perhaps I underrated its work before it started. I think it has certainly dissolved a good deal of suspicion. It certainly disclosed the difficulty, and that is a great deal. More than that, I am afraid it has revealed chasms far wider and deeper than the worst pessimist had over thought of in this country. The Prime Minister, and I believe others also, urged in the White Paper that we should avoid vague generalities. I very cordially 318 concur. Indeed there is scarcely anyone now who does not realise the danger of any vague phrase, whether federation, Dominion status or the like. Ambiguity has ever been the father of friction and far the greatest danger, the unforgivable sin in my judgment, would be to mislead and deceive the peoples of India into thinking they are going to get something which they are not going to get or not going to get as soon as they hope to get it. I can imagine nothing that would be more likely to lead to bitterness and ultimate disaster.
Therefore it is our duty to consider carefully whether the words in the White Paper are likely to be fulfilled and whether they can in any manner mislead the peoples of India. May I read certain words in the White Paper and, as I read them, will your Lordships remember that the Prime Minister has begged us to avoid all vague generalities? It is in paragraph 2, I think, that these words occur—the interpolations will be my own:
The view of His Majesty's Government is that responsibility for the Government of India should be placed upon Legislatures, Central and Provincial, with such provisions as may be necessary to guarantee, during a period of transition, the observance of certain obligations"—
we are not told what—
and to meet other special circumstances"—
we are not told what special circumstances—
and also with such guarantees"—
we are not told what guarantees—
as are required by minorities to protect their political liberties and rights.
In such statutory safeguards as may be made"—
we are to avoid vague generalities!—
for meeting the needs of the transitional period, it will be the primary concern of His Majesty's Government to see that the reserved powers are so framed and exercised as not to prejudice the advance of India through the new Constitution to full responsibility for her own government.
I was talking about foundations. Is there any hint of sure foundations in this rather vague statement? Let us remember, too, that the Prime Minister in another place begged my right hon. friend the Member for Epping to withdraw his Amendment on the ground that all the right hon. Member desired to achieve by his Amendment was compre-
hended in the White Paper. I think your Lordships will all agree that any form of words which so comfortably comprehends the views of the Prime Minister and Mr. Winston Churchill must have been eviscerated beyond all meaning. Further, do we know, for instance, and does the Government know what it means when it talks about federation? No one has yet, so far as I know, really evolved an idea of what a Federal Government for India may ultimately mean. The conditions are obviously entirely different from those which prevailed in a federation like the United States of America or any of our great Dominions. In the British Colonies you had a number of bodies already more or less self-governing "and all of a like nature with constitutions practically identical. In India we have two absolutely different bodies; you have the self-governing or practically self-governing units—the Provinces, already with Legislatures and already subject, as to their Constitution and as to the rights of the population, to the rule of law. You have on the other hand in India a large number of purely autocratic States governed by Rulers who so far have never subjected themselves as an Executive against their citizens, to any rule of law except their own will. It is at least not an extravagance to say that it is gravely open to question how far there is any possible position in practice for an autocratic Ruler in a democratic federation.
§ We are invited to abrogate Parliamentary control over India without knowing any of these things and without even waiting to know what the exploratory Committees are going to find out. The minorities have not been settled and we know how important they are. The Mussulmans have said over and over again: "We do not want responsibility at the centre until our position has been secured." The depressed classes have said just the same thing. In what manner does His Majesty's Government mean to secure, for instance, the future of the Anglo-Indians to whom we owe such a debt of loyalty and gratitude in India? I think the noble Lord, when he replies, will say that the Government have specifically avoided any attempt at the immediate achievement of their purpose. Yes, my Lord, but, if you so reply to me, I say that none the less you are still inviting us to pledge our- 320 selves to them before you have proved their feasibility, and in a matter so important I think that is imprudent and unwise. How many people at home are there who so lightly passed this White Paper in another place who have the smallest knowledge or could give any unbiased account of such a happening, for instance, as the Moplah Rebellion, the most bloody revolution in the history of the British Empire since the Indian Mutiny? How many of them understand, when they talk of federation with the Indian States, the true inwardness of a matter like the recent affair in Kashmir No, it is all endlessly vague and susceptible of different interpretations.
§ Like others I very much admire the courage of the Secretary of State's speech in another place. No one could have been more precise than he as to the necessity of safeguards, but even he gave us no single hint as to how they could be made administratively effective. If safeguards are really essential—and both he and the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, are emphatic on this point—we ought to be told how they are going to be operated before, and not after, we part with our control of Indian affairs. We know nothing about this and I doubt if anyone knows, but let us assume the safeguards can be made effective. What then remains of responsibility? Listen to the list of them—I will not read all of them because the noble Marquess has just given the formidable list—command of the Army, control of foreign affairs, relations with the Princes, financial stability to be effectively safeguarded, internal security safeguarded ultimately, minorities to be protected, British trade to be protected against unfair discrimination, rights of the Services to be maintained. Really, what is left of responsibility if all these safeguards are to be made effective? Surely the noble Lord must agree that responsibility must become a shadow, or, conversely, if full responsibility is attained, the safeguards are worthless. I cannot believe you can get good feeling from India by proposals of that kind. In the situation of this country, to dare neither to give nor to refuse is, I believe, a very disastrous policy.
§ In conclusion, I want to say we all recognise with what high motives and purposes the Prime Minister is moving in this matter. We all know and admire 321 the efforts made by the Secretary of State to meet the views of both Moslems and Hindus alike. But some of us who are not without experience in the East Dear greatly that we are on the wrong load to-day. If they want to help India cannot the Government see by now that whatever it gives—it may be very little at a time—it must give fully? A gift hedged about with every reservation and Fenced so straitly with every safeguard is no gift at all. There is another course. What is it? May I suggest that you pause awhile in your present programme, The change the direction of your present march; that you stop building from The top, and begin building from the bottom like all good builders do? Extend your franchise, widen your basis, deepen jour foundation. Then you will begin to find out what the great masses of the people in India really think, then you will find out, by interpreting their needs, chat the real masses of the people, not the minute and urban fraction, need. Thus, finding out these things by means of the franchise, you will know the new structure upon which you are trying to build. If you broaden your base, then you will have found out what the people really need, and when you return, after broadening your franchise, you will find loyalty and support. You will find that as you build your house the need for safeguards gets less and less and not more and more, as it is to-day.
§ In moving this Amendment I have three reasons. One I gave at the beginning. A second is that I object to the whole proceeding. I object to this government by Declaration. We have had too much of it lately, abrogating the authority of Parliament. A Conference is held, the Prime Minister goes down to it, he makes a speech, and we are told we have to pass it because it is a Declaration. I think we have had enough of that. There is another reason; it is far the most important one to me, and I believe it will be to your Lordships. It is because the policy of the White Paper, in my judgment, will please no one in India, will manifestly achieve neither security, democracy nor good government, because I fear and believe it will only still further trouble the hearts and minds of the Indian people instead of healing them and advancing their welfare. It is for these 322 reasons that I beg to move the Amendment.
Leave out all words after ("House") and insert ("while appreciating the efforts made by His Majesty's Government during the Round Table Conference to resolve the grave problems connected with the future government of India, considers that the moment has not yet arrived at which His Majesty's Government, mindful of their supreme responsibilities for the safety and welfare of the people of India, can pronounce a final judgment regarding the solution of the problem.")—(Lord Lloyd.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD SANKEY)
My Lords, it is not my intention to detain the House by a long speech. The noble Marquess who represents the India Office has dealt very fully with the Prime Minister's Declaration. But as for nearly two years Indian affairs have occupied the greater part of my time, and, during the crisis through which we have recently passed, almost all my thoughts, I should not do justice to this House or to myself if I did not add a small contribution to what he has said. During the recent discussions there have been many appeals to formulas and much mention of abstractions such as Dominion status, self-determination, responsibility at the centre and the like. Different people attach different meanings to these phrases, and there is no very general agreement as to their real signification. I prefer, if possible, to state our present problem in rather simpler English as follows: India, insistent, desires to have a greater share than she has at present in the management of her own affairs. To what extent, how and when is this to be accomplished? To that question permit me to address myself.
May I be allowed, in order to make my observations clear, to discuss the present situation, to draw your attention to the Round Table Conference, and especially to that part of the work which was dealt with by the Federal Structure Committee, and, finally, to offer some suggestions as to the future? Generally speaking, I suppose everybody who belongs to a civilised community desires three things: first, to live under a Government which can protect him from external aggression and maintain internal peace and order; secondly, to enjoy some measure of material prosperity; and, thirdly, to gratify from time to time his political ambitions. For it is an old philosophy 323 that the State is a creation of nature and man is by nature a political animal. Let me ask you to examine how far British rule in India has satisfied those requirements. For the last two months it has been my duty to listen to much criticism of the British in India, and I desire to say at once that I will make no apology for what we have done. Mistakes have naturally been made, but our record is one that will stand the test of time and one of which we need not be ashamed. We never went to India to conquer, we went there to trade. Only gradually, and most reluctantly, did we exchange the rôle of merchant for that of ruler. Only gradually, and most reluctantly, did we extend our rule over the area which is now known as British India. A career in India has offered generation after generation of our young men an opportunity, not of gaining wealth but of serving the State. The lives which have been given in many a district smitten with plague, in many a district smitten with famine, afford us a magnificent example of self-sacrifice and devotion to the public good.Peace hath her victoriesNo less renowned than war.And it is in this spirit and not in the spirit of those who hope to maintain domination over subject races that the work of Great Britain in India has been accomplished and is still being accomplished.
We have defended India against foreign aggression. We have done our best, often under most difficult circumstances, to maintain internal order. With regard to material matters I will not refer to our system of railways, posts and telegraphs. In a remarkable article written to The Times newspaper by a member of your Lordships' House, the noble Marquess, Lord Zetland—an acknowledged authority on the East and a distinguished Indian ruler—summed up the record of the British Raj in this respect. He pointed out that immense tracts of desert land have been made fertile by means of the greatest irrigation works in the world and that the yield of crops has been enormously increased as the result of scientific agricultural research. Great industries which add to the resources of the peasantry have been built up by British enterprise and with the aid of 324 British capital. The Sukkur barrage will bring 4,000,000 acres of waste land under cultivation. In the Deccan the Bhandardara dam has converted great tracts of desert into prosperous gardens, while the Lloyd dam, the largest mass of masonry in the world, will hold a perennial supply of water which will feed a total of 675,000 acres. These are the real monuments of our rule. I do not pause to consider what has been done for education, for commerce, for industry and the general well-being of the people.
Nor have we failed by gradual advances to satisfy their political ambitions. As far back as the year 1S92 the Indian Councils Act introduced a small popular element into the Legislative Assemblies. From the first English statesmen have looked forward to what to them was the fulfilment of their end—the creation of an India which, developing its own culture and standing on its own feet, would henceforth walk in co-operation with this country along the path of national development to the goal of prosperity and peace. The reforms introduced by Lord Morley and Lord Minto, further reforms associated with the names of Mr. Montagu and Lord Chelmsford, have only been progressive steps in a policy of ordered evolution. Whether each reform was introduced at exactly the right time or whether it exactly suited the circumstances of the moment it would be unprofitable here to discuss. What we have to deal with is the situation in which we find ourselves—a situation in which a body of educated and cultured opinion, nurtured on our own political ideals and sharing, as we have taught them to share, our own political ambitions, press upon us their desire to go a further step along this road and assure us of their willingness to tread it with us. Whether the educational system introduced into India by Lord William Bentinck and Lord Macaulay was the best under the circumstances it is academic now to enquire. The authors upon whom for many years Indian education was based were Burke. Bentham, Mill and the philosophical radicals, and I for one appreciate the difficulty of looking upon Eastern conditions through Western windows.
But, my Lords, great as have been our achievements, both on the material and on the political side, much remains to 325 be done and much, in my view, to which, on the political side, we are, pledged. It has naturally fallen to my lot to hear many public speeches made by Indian representatives and to have many private conversations with them. There are extremists both in England and India. Their views are entitled to respect but it is quite impossible to comply with their demands. Let me, however, endeavour to place; before you what appears to me to sum up moderate Indian opinion. Indian statesmen say that the most striking feature of India at the present time is the poverty of the masses of the people. This is apparent from the reports of two recent Royal Commissions—one on agriculture and the other on labour, respectively presided over by the Marquess of Linlithgow and Mr. Whitley. The poverty of the Indian population, they say, has for its accompaniments exceedingly unsatisfactory hygienic and housing conditions, mass illiteracy and its resultant ignorance and suspicion. In short, the standard of living of the great bulk of Indian people is extremely low and consequently their efficiency and productive capacity are also very low.
They further say that the population of India has in the last ten years increased from 320 millions to 350 millions and this increase will only result in a further depreciation of the standard of living. Whatever critics may say, there can be little, doubt that the? British Government have consistently followed a policy of keeping taxation in India as low as possible. High taxation of a poor country by a foreign government will inevitably cause discontent. Unfortunately the geographical position of India entails the maintenance of a large and expensive Army and a very considerable portion of the available revenues of India is absorbed by military expenditure. A comparatively insignificant sum, it is said, is available for schemes which are calculated to improve the efficiency and standard of life of the people. Owing to their poverty money is not available for measures absolutely necessary to secure social progress, and without such progress the political situation will remain unstable.
It is also pointed out that there is another difficulty in the Indian situation. The middle classes in India are in 326 desperate straits. Every year thousands of young men—you heard the figures given by the noble Marquess—complete their school and University careers, and there is in most instances no employment available for them. It is impossible for these middle-class young men to secure land even if they wanted to pursue farming as a profession, and industry is developing too slowly to absorb more than a very small fraction of them. What is the consequence? They have nothing to occupy them and can look forward to nothing, and as a result they ascribe their unhappy situation to political causes. The majority swell the ranks of the Congress Party, while a minority have adopted Communist doctrines and a certain number have become terrorists. The War has brought India into closer connection with the outside world, and they have learnt to compare their situation with the condition of people in other countries. Now, continue the moderate Indian statesmen, the remedy lies in entrusting the duty of raising money for schemes of betterment to the representatives of the people themselves. This does not mean, they say, that safeguards are not to be provided for the obligations which have been incurred by the British Government. The foundations of social progress in India have been laid by the British Government, but the designing of the structure and the actual building had better be left to the Indian people themselves.
Those are the views of moderate Indians, and with them I find myself if not in complete agreement at any rate in very general agreement, and I have come to the conclusion that until those views are satisfied we shall never have lasting peace and lasting prosperity in India. I am profoundly convinced that the policy which the Government propose to pursue is the one which will produce a result which we all desire, and that is a happy and contented India. That policy was stated with precision by the Prime Minister on January 19 last, at the end of the first Session of the Round Table Conference. Mr. Baldwin, then Leader of the Opposition, speaking in the House of Commons on January 26, said:We have only one duty, and that one duty is to try to implement so far as we can what has been done in the Conference327 What, then, is the position? All Parties, Labour, Conservative and Liberal, supported the Declaration. The matter does not rest there. We now have a National Government, and in the White Paper which has been issued upon the present occasion the Prime Minister says:My colleagues in His Majesty's present Government fully accept that statement of January last as representing their own policy.The White Paper was drafted by a Cabinet in which was included, you will allow me to remind your Lordships, Sir John Simon, Chairman of the Statutory Commission. That White Paper has the approval of an overwhelming majority of the House of Commons.
I am not one of those who speak hard words of gentlemen who disagree with this policy. They are entitled to their opinions, and their informed criticism is a great help to those who are charged with the laborious task of drafting a new Constitution for India. It is difficult, however, to follow the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd. If it means, as I think it does mean, that we should proceed with due care and caution, the noble Lord need have no fear on that score. We are not now discussing a final Bill in Parliament. If, on the other hand, the Amendment is meant to recommend some policy other than that which the Government has recognised as its own, the noble Lord will, I am sure, forgive me for telling him quite frankly that in my opinion the honour of the Cabinet and of the House of Commons is pledged to the White Paper.
Why do I oppose the Amendment? For one reason, above all others, because it will excite suspicion in India. I will venture to make an appeal to the noble Lord. I will ask him to consider the advisability before the end of the debate, of withdrawing that Amendment. One thing I can tell the noble Lord, and one thing only, will prevent what may be a peaceful solution of the Indian problem, and that is Indian doubts of our good intentions, and Indian disbelief in the fulfilment of our promises. Nothing will do more to dispel those doubts, and nothing will do more to dissipate that, disbelief, and nothing will do more to ease our difficult task in India, than the 328 unopposed affirmation by the House of Lords of the Government's Declaration.
Let me state my own position? I believe that the proper solution of the Indian problem is an All-India Federation. Not only is an All-India Federation possible but it is probable, and many of us here will live to see it. We ought not, however, to give any pledge which we cannot perform. We cannot promise that an All-India Federation shall come into force at any particular moment of any particular day of any particular year, because its accomplishment depends upon factors some of which are beyond our control—such factors, for example, as the accession of the Princes to the new form of government. These questions will be settled, and the pledge I give, and I give it carefully, is this: I will do everything I possibly can here towards the accomplishment of an All-India Federation in the shortest time which is reasonably possible.
Let me now turn to the work of the Round Table Conference, and especially that part of it which was dealt with by the Federal Structure Committee. Anyone who sat at St. James's Palace and listened to the arguments brought forward by our Indian fellow-subjects must have felt a thrill in the thought that they, men and women, were in truth members of the British Empire, and that it was owing to its fostering care that they were able to pursue and appreciate our ideals and to shape those arguments. No one, however, could be insensible, as he listened, to the thought that there was another side of the picture. In their enthusiasm they perhaps underrated the difficulties, and were inclined to forget the heavy burden of care which those assume who undertake the creation of a new order of things. It is easy for orators to excite enthusiasm by fervid appeals and high-sounding phrase, but I hope that in moments of exaltation the difficulties of the draftsman will not be forgotten. He, at any rate, has to produce a scheme which will work.
When I speak of the difficulties I cannot forebear to note the wise statesmanship which inspired the speeches of the Indian leaders. They have looked fairly and squarely at the necessity for safeguards. They are prepared to wait for details if the principles are affirmed. We call them safeguards, and so indeed they 329 are, safeguards in the interests of India and of this country; for in defence, in finance, and in many another matter the interests of India and of England are closely bound up together. When one member suffers all the other members suffer with it. As I have been obliged in the course of my remarks to refer to safeguards I am compelled to add a few further observations upon the matter. To me, personally, the heaviest weight is that of the responsibilities and duties which we owe to the people of India—responsibilities which, owing to no fault of their own, they are not at the present moment able to discharge, and responsibilities which we must shoulder for them for some years to come; the duty of protecting the country from that external invasion which through the centuries from time to time has been the curse of the countryside—from the foreign invader who has descended upon the peaceful population, murdering its men, violating its women, putting its children to the sword, and leaving behind him nothing but distress and desolation; the ultimate duty of maintaining that law and order under which all members of the community may live peaceably; the duty of protecting minorities of all sorts and kinds from oppression and persecution, and of seeing that they get a fair share of ordered government, peace and material prosperity.
We owe duties to the Indian minorities—to the Moslems, to the Sikhs, to the depressed classes, to the Anglo-Indians and to the Indian Christians, to those of our countrymen who have embarked in trade and commerce, and those of our own countrymen who at our invitation have engaged their careers and devoted their lives to the Civil Service of India. We must take care that at the inauguration of the new order provision is made to place these classes and these people beyond the reach of any sudden wave of political excitement. It follows that the Army in India is our special responsibility, and that any Constitution must contain such provisions as will ensure that, until the need is past, we can effectively discharge our duty in that regard. It follows also that similar provisions are necessary to safeguard the relations, of India with foreign States, and not only with foreign States but with 330 the Native States of India, to whom public faith, guaranteed by a long string of Treaties and a long chain of dealings, is pledged to secure fair treatment and freedom from encroachment. With regard to finance, in my view this is not the time for public discussion of such a delicate matter. The safeguards which have been indicated must be maintained. Indeed, from conversations I have had with members, of the Federal Structure Committee, it might well be that if the question of finance had to be settled at this moment it would be a case, not for relaxation, but for a tightening up, in India's own interest, of the safeguards already referred to.
Now, it may be asked in what degree have the two long sittings of the Round Table Conference advanced this work? They have made it clear, as I believe, to the inhabitants of India and to the civilised world that His Majesty's Government remain unwavering. They stand firm by the pledges which they have given, and are ready, as circumstances permit, to foster the growth of an All-India Federation. He who, whether on the Indian side or on the British, now bends his energy to conciliation and to co-operation deserves well of both countries, and helps in the accomplishment of another great advance in the history of the human race. He who, on the other hand, from whichever country and from whatever motive, whether for Party purposes, private gain, or personal vanity, obstructs our path and refuses to join with us in this great task of co-operation incurs as heavy a weight of responsibility as any man has ever assumed in a crisis of the world's history. We, for our part, will go forward and no effort shall be relaxed and no trouble shall be spared. Conciliation, consultation, co-operation are the order of the day. But permit me to make to you some suggestions as to the future.
For the next three or four years the initiative with regard to India is in your hands. What is to be your policy? If you do nothing, if you make only niggardly advances you will have chaos in India for the rest of your time; your military expenditure and your Income Tax will go up; your revenue returns will go down, and everything will hasten to decay and dissolution. Do not be deceived. The political pendulum in this 331 country is sure to swing back and an advanced form of Government in a moment of enthusiasm might be prepared to go to lengths which would be harmful both for India and for England. If, on the other hand, you come forward with a generous measure of self-government for India you will attract to you the good will and co-operation of all parties not only to the benefit of India, but as I believe to the benefit of Great Britain and the world. The initiative, I repeat, is with you, and you may be able to effect a settlement which will last not only your time but that of your children's children. Do not forget the history of the Sybilline Books. Now—now is our accepted time; now is our day of salvation. This opportunity may never come again. Do not let us hesitate to seize it.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I feel guilty of an act of presumption in rising to address your Lordships when I know there are so many noble Lords present and, I hope, willing to speak, who can speak with such infinitely greater authority based upon experience of personal and responsible government in India. But it may be that, holding the office I hold in the life of our country, some words may be expected from me on a theme so vital to the future of Great Britain and of India. I can only promise that my remarks shall be brief as I have no desire to stand between your Lordships and the noble Lords who are so much better qualified to speak on this matter than I can pretend to be.
I think I may claim to represent a multitude of my fellow citizens not specially associated with any political Party who are convinced that the time has come when we must implement the promises already abundantly made and begin definitely to set our faces towards enabling India to attain some real measure of self-government with generous trust and confident hope. The difficulties are formidable beyond all words. The White Paper itself sufficiently discloses that. Indeed, it bristles with difficulties which are yet unsolved. Yet I am sure that those difficulties must be approached with one great fact dominating the mind: that is, the growth, the width, the depth of the national movement in India itself. It no longer characterises any one class, 332 or section, or party, or creed. It is universal, I do not say among the multitudes living in the village communities but among all Indians who are capable of political thinking. The Conference which has just concluded is sufficient proof. There all elements of Indian life and society were assembled together and, with no exception, they looked forward to the day when the aspirations of India will be fulfilled by one India with one responsible form of government.
There are many interesting illustrations of the movement of this national spirit in other directions. Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to give one. The Anglican Church in India has attained its autonomy as a self-governing Church within that widespread commonwealth of churches which is loosely called the Anglican Communion. By virtue of the Act which was commended to your Lord ships by the late Lord Birkenhead, it has been set free from any restraints of establishment in India and from all the legal bonds which would bind it to the Church of England in this country. Its motive in so doing has been simply that it may be able to adapt itself in its future life more, easily and quickly to Indian life and thought. At the present time an interesting experiment is being made in South India as to whether all sections both of British and Indian religious opinion may not be gathered together in a united church. The express object is in order that such a Church may be able to give an Indian expression to the life and thought of the Church Universal. These are only illustrations of the way in which in all sections of Indian life there is the feeling that this national movement in India is a great power which remains, which has a great destiny before it and with which this country must cordially co-operate.
Indeed, we ought not to be surprised. It is only the result of our own government of India. As I think the noble Marquess who brought this Motion forward said, the starting point for considering this great theme is not the Declaration of 1917. We have to go back a hundred years to the famous minute of Mr. Macaulay which, as your Lordships know, inaugurated the scheme of English education open to all Indians who chose to avail themselves of it. I do not say that was a very wise minute. Like the 333 noble Lord who moved the Amendment, I have often thought that at that time it might have been better to take another method, to begin rather at the bottom and work upwards through native institutions and through the development of native culture until something really more Indian than English was evolved. But at least at the time, in the sanguine spirit of the middle of the nineteenth century we thought that we were giving the best that we had to give. At any rate, it is too late to arrest the course which then began. We must accept its consequences. The consequences are that the whole youth of India ever since that time has had its entry into a literature and a life which is permeated by the spirit of liberty and self-government. We cannot be surprised that India should now be anxious to reap where we ourselves have sown. I think the noble Lord who moved the Amendment said that we had had enough of Declarations. I think that is true. It is perilous to make many more of them. What is needed is that we should show we mean what we say in these Declarations and are prepared to face their consequences.
If I may allude to the Amendment which has been moved, I may say in passing that I see very few signs of finality in the White Paper which we are asked to commend. On the contrary, to me it opens up a whole widespread avenue of difficult subjects which have yet to be explored before Parliament is capable of making any final judgment whatsoever. But the importance of the Amendment is not in what it says but in the consequences which it will inevitably bring with it. The noble Lord said that one result, at any rate, of the Round Table Conference with which we were satisfied was that it had largely dissipated suspicion. The certain effect of passing this Amendment would be to increase the suspicion which has been so largely removed. It would make Indian opinion think that there was a very large section of British public opinion represented by this House which really in its heart did not stand behind the Declarations that already had been made. To my mind the merit of the White Paper and of the Motion before the House is that it does give a proof of good faith and I am bound to say that, there was some need of such proof being given.
334 There has been a great deal of mischief created by haggling in this country over the particular term "Dominion status." Surely that is a phrase which has given rise to very needless misunderstandings. I accept most fully what was said about it in another place by Mr. Winston Churchill when he said that status only means position, rank, and cannot be regarded as meaning the structure of any Constitution. Precisely. No one could suppose that the Constitution of India could ever be evolved along the lines that have been followed by great Dominions like Australia and Canada. Surely the right way to look at the whole matter is to say to India: "Who can doubt but that we wish to give the great Empire of India a place within the British Commonwealth of Nations not less distinct and marked than the Dominions of Canada and Australia?—and, on that common ground, let us work together to secure within that Commonwealth a Constitution for India, which reflects its own particular problems and characteristics and history and needs."
Indeed, what gives one hope in this great matter is the measure of success which has already attended such co-operation as has been possible. So far as I am capable of pronouncing any opinion upon it, the Round Table Conference has exceeded in its value any anticipations that could originally have been framed without it. I myself, having some experience of conferences, though attended by representatives less gifted with copious eloquence than our brothers from India, thought that it would probably result in no kind of practical result. On the contrary, it has been to me most remarkable to watch how certain great outlines of a future Constitution of India emerged until at the end of the Conference it was plain that, so far as the representatives of India were concerned, there was before their minds a clear picture of the future, an All-India Federation, with responsible government combined with the safeguards so abundantly mentioned, and provincial autonomy in the Provinces.
It is most remarkable that the co-operation of a larger number of representatives of all classes in India than has hitherto assembled should so soon have been able to reach so large a measure of agreement. There is a great deal that remains and I confess that, when I look 335 at what remains to be done, I am still, both in the Native States and in British full of apprehension as to the difficulties India, told me. It was that he involved, but at least a great step forward has been taken and a step from which it is now impossible for this House or Parliament to retreat. I hope, therefore, that India, with this evidence of the good faith of the British Government and I people, will trust the word that has been I given and trust the assurances that have been made.
It is difficult to say what influence Mr. Gandhi will have on his return. I had the great privilege of very long conversation in private with Mr. Gandhi. It was impossible to resist the fascination of his strange and mystic personality. Equally impossible, if I may say so, to follow the movements of his very subtle and elusive mind. I would find it difficult to say, after a very long time of conversation, what Mr. Gandhi really meant either to say or to do when he returns to India. But I venture to hope, speaking of him with great respect, that he will not occupy himself on his voyage home in attempting to read a hidden meaning into this White Paper. I hope that he will take it as it stands as a sincere expression of the desire of the great majority of the people of this country. When he returns I trust that he will, on reflection, see that his own ideals are much more likely to be fulfilled if he steadily follows the policy of co-operation with his fellow Indians and abandons the methods of civil disobedience or even any words that may contribute to the outbreak of violence. I cannot but hope that he will see that it is most dangerous, even in the interests of his own dream of a self-governing India, to accustom the people of India to methods which are subversive of any civil government whatsoever.
This carries with it the corollary that the British Government and people must be ready to give generous trust to India. That they will make mistakes is inevitable and that is the reason why these safeguards and powers reserved to the Governor General are so essential. But responsibility, as the noble Marquess who moved this Motion reminded us, is the only teacher of statecraft. I was very much struck by what a friend of mine, who had occasion to visit all parts of India and to make very careful inquiries into the administration of Indian affairs, 336 both in the Native States and in British India, told me. It was that he was immensely impressed by the administrative ability that had been created among the Ministers of the Native States and he said the reason was that they had responsibility. On the other hand, I am assured that there is, even among some of the most difficult and at present the most intransigent leaders of Indian thought, great administrative capacity, only they have never been able to exercise it because these men have been in the position of permanent opposition. They have never had any responsibility and criticism divorced from responsibility is incapable of effecting any good.
I believe that very different qualities would be called out in these men if they found themselves responsible for the first time for the consequences of their own acts and words. I trust, therefore, that this House and this country will follow the evolution of Indian self-government with patient and generous trust. It is no longer enough for the West to impose its government upon the East, however beneficent it may have been. It is not satisfactory that India should continue to waste its energies on criticism and resentment of that government by the West. The time has come when East and West working together, each giving of its best, may endeavour to further a great common task. To govern India has been the greatest achievement which this country has ever attempted—a noble trust which, as the noble Lord on the ' Woolsack has pointed out, has called forth the devoted service of some of the ablest of our countrymen. It will be an even higher achievement, an even nobler task, to assist India to govern itself.
§ VISCOUNT SUMNER
My Lords, after listening entranced to three out of the four speeches which have preceded me I expect my feeling is very much that of those of your Lordships who are here, and perhaps of those of your Lordships who have gone away, in asking what we are here for? Are we here for the Second Reading debate of a Bill that has not yet come into existence or are we engaged in discussing the Motion which is on the Paper? We have had all the apparatus of the full-dress Second Reading debate—the careful historical summary checked by having the dates before us; the personal reminiscences of 337 early youth when one was in India; high exhortation and professions of personal belief; and strictures passed on those who venture to disagree—all that wealth of eloquence and uplift which is characteristic of a Second Heading debate of the utmost importance; and finally, the noble and learned Lord on the Wool-tack has told us that in his view the Indian problem is quite a simple one, that all India desires is to govern herself in her own way, that we shall never have peace till we let them have their own way, and that if, greatly or meanly daring, we do not let them have their own way our Income Tax will go up.
On the other hand, he and the most rev. Primate comforted us by the heartfelt assurance that they believe that self-government would be good for India and that under that mild discipline they would rise to higher things. But at any rate we were warned, we temerarious and obstinate minds who venture to decline this hush-hush appeal, that humble as we are and unimportant as we know ourselves to be, a word, a vote, almost a look of ours will fill India with distrust and suspicion, and shake the edifice of confidence erected at St. James's Palace through innumerable tedious meetings; and if it does not bring the Empire crashing down round our devoted heads will hold us up to the execration of humanity, black and white. I resent being reminded in this homiletic way that we must remember to observe our pledges, that we must be humble, that although a branch of the Legislature and entitled to vote on occasions, and even now and again to make our votes count for something, we must not in the hearing of an attentive Continent say what is in us—namely, that we think this scheme vague, uncertain, and unsafe—lest we should offend all those distinguished persons who were good enough to come and enjoy the hospitality of this country and hold converse for so long.
It has been inevitable to introduce the personality of Mr. Gandhi. He is no doubt one of the most impressive of political figures in India. Everybody seems to agree that he is elusive and among many other singular qualities he possesses in a high degree the rare faculty of making great statesmen with whom he holds discussion seem faintly ridiculous. Why we should hang all our 338 bells on one horse, and that Mr. Gandhi, I do not understand. I do not understand that India agrees with Mr. Gandhi, and Mr. Gandhi sometimes is in a difficulty to know with which part, of India he should agree himself. But until he has returned to counsel with the powerful party of which he is such an ornament we do not know where we stand with Indian opinion.
As regards pledges some of us think we are entitled to speak of pledges as much as the other side. We are quite as willing as the other side to fulfil every pledge that has been given. We are not aware that we have violated any pledge, and when I come to think of what happens to the pledges of statesmen at home, which are sometimes heard of a great deal at Election times, and less afterwards, I think on the whole that what has been done by this country with regard to pledges to India has been pretty good. But the pledges that are given are not unilateral pledges. They are not mere promises to give to the Indian population, if they are or even if they are not good, what they ask for or what we hope will please them. They are pledges also to the Empire and to this country and we are as much bound by our pledges to see that there is as little risk and mischief as possible to England and the Empire as we are bound to see that India is helped forward on the way to self-government or to whatever you call the goal.
How has the Act of 1919 been treated in fact? Any one who reads it with care will see that the Preamble and the provisions about an inquiry into the fitness of India to receive further political advancement were meant to be what is now called a safeguard. They were not put in merely to defer a difficult question for another ten years. It was the intention of Parliament, and it was the effect and meaning of the Statute, that there should be an inquiry into facts of a specific kind, that the facts so ascertained should be considered by Parliament, and that further legislation, forward or backwards as the case might be, should depend upon the question whether or not in fact India had made any progress towards being fit for the very difficult combination which is being put before her, the engrafting of purely Western ideas; upon minds of purely Oriental experience. I am not so enamoured of White de- 339 mocracy as to be very sure that I can confidently expect they will like it when they have got it, but, it is quite certain, if democracy is to be worked as we know it in this country, there is a very long lesson to be learned of political compromise, political common action, political understanding, and common determination to turn your back upon mere wrecking, before the institution can be said to work well.
Has anything whatever been brought before us to show what is the state of India now as compared with eight or ten years ago in that respect? None whatever. The inquiry was not into the way in which what I may call the Montagu scheme, the existing scheme, has worked. That has been commonly condemned by calling it dyarchy, a name which is unattractive but represents the thing, and the thing was inevitable under the circumstances. But beyond that, so far as I know—I think I may say confidently so far as nine-tenths of your Lordships know—we have not had either the information for ourselves or the verdict of those who have had it before them to tell us what progress India has made in those directions. And in those matters, what is ten years? It is a mere day in the life-time of a country that is to learn to be fit for self-government on democratic lines.
I think the moral to be drawn from the way in which these provisions have been treated is a grave one. No Act of Parliament was passed to modify the Act of 1919, but, by agreement of leading statesmen among themselves, a different procedure was substituted, and instead of finding out by the Statutory Commission or another what is the condition of affairs politically in India, they set to work to find out what it is that Indians will agree to, or that they want, and in that they failed completely. There were a great many things that they have agreed to want, but those they can only get, if one side gets something which the other side refuses. It is perfectly clear that federation is a mere word signifying nothing until you know upon what terms the sovereign Princes are to come into federation, and that you cannot know until they have agreed what share they are prepared to take in the Central Government in which they are to be represented. In the same way you cannot tell 340 what democratic institution can be set up until you have decided, or Indians have agreed, what is to be the relation between the minorities and the majorities; and these two things are at present as far from being settled as ever. The only solution put forward is that expressly stated in the White Paper, that if they cannot agree among themselves England will have to settle it for them.
Well, how are we to tell now whether we are considering a scheme which, at any rate as far as it goes, will be carried out, or whether we may find that, owing to the perversity of the Indian political population, the scheme is to be one which will be based on something totally different—namely, a London-made mechanism for keeping the peace between the communities and securing the rights of minorities; and a London-made scheme—there are plenty of people who would like to make that scheme—to show how hundreds of sovereign Princes, with Treaty rights under the Crown, which are sacred unless they are willing to abandon them, may be persuaded or cajoled or squeezed into giving up their rights lest worse things should come upon them? We hear a good deal about safeguards. If I were the adviser of any of those minority communities, which, thank heaven, I am not, I should suggest to them that statutory safeguards may be not much more good to them than the statutory safeguard with regard to the inquiry into the facts, which is the gist of the Act of 1919, has been to us. Paper safeguards are like other pieces of paper, made to be torn up.
I ask myself, why was this brought before the House? It is, and I hope I have shown in substance that it is, a premature Second Reading discussion upon a Bill which may never eventuate. Why was it brought before the House? The Government needed no assent from us. Our approval of their plan would not strengthen them in the least. On the contrary, to ask our approval until it had been ascertained before-hand that we should say "Yes, yes," was running the great risk that we might upset the peace, order and good government of India by a rash word spoken from one of these Benches. What is it for? I can quite understand why it was necessary to introduce it into the other place. 341 Speaking as far as I understand politics, which is not very far, I should say that whatever else the present National Government got at the last Election, it got no mandate whatever to introduce a scheme for revolutionising the government of India. I will make bold to say that there would not be one candidate in one hundred who ever mentioned India and the Round Table Conference in his campaign, and that there would not be one voter in 10,000 who would have listened to him for a moment or cared twopence about it if he had.
Whatever this mandate may be—and there are differences of opinion I believe about that—it was not a mandate to revolutionise India. Mandates do not matter much; majorities will do as well as or better than any mandate; but at the same time it does strengthen your position if you can get a mandate in an indirect way by bringing the question before the House of Commons, making it a matter of confidence, and carrying the day. It matters nothing whether it is a question of confidence here. The Government will not rely on our confidence, and gets on exceedingly well, I notice, without it. But it is another thing in the other place. Therefore, when the approval was given by a highly satisfactory majority, the hand of the Government was strengthened, and the possible danger to them was averted, and I think they have every reason to congratulate themselves.
There has been a great deal of clamour that they should agree upon something, and do it. A policy of action has been demanded, and it has been said that they were not active enough, and perhaps not agreed enough, but here, at any rate, is a policy of action upon which they are quite united. No Cabinet Minister has been mentioned as likely to resign in consequence of differences of opinion over this White Paper. It is indeed said to have been the product of twenty draftsmen's hands working in singular unison, and I think it was the Lord Chancellor who proudly said that one of the artificers of this great work was the Foreign Secretary. So, I understand, he was. I do not think he had very much to do with the drafting of it, or, if I might humbly say so, it would hive been rather better drafted, but he 342 did say something in his speech that I want particularly to recall to mind and it was this. The language of the important paragraphs repeats the word transition. It is a limitation upon the guarantees; such provisions as may be necessary to guarantee, during a period of transition, the observance of certain obligations. That expression recurs later on and it has been part of the essence of the formula ever since there was a formula earlier in the year. "During a period of transition" means that it is a period the end of which is contemplated, that it is not a series of permanent provisions but that in framing them in the first instance it is contemplated and indeed acknowledged and laid down that a time will come when these things will come to an end.
I wonder whether the minority communities quite appreciate the weight of that word "transition," quite Tinder-stand that the safeguards, whoever frames them and whether they like them or not, are only "during a period of transition" and that in the fulness of time, sooner or later, they will pass away. The only word that I recollect seeing in any of the debates explaining this was when some Member, greatly daring, interposed in the Foreign Secretary's speech an allusion to this subject, and he said airily: "Certainly. Everything in this life is transitional." If that is all that can be said about it—and I am sure the best that could be said of it would be said by him—then I would say, firstly, that transition means that these things will pass away and in the new heaven and the new earth they will not be found. Secondly, that this lightness of heart I am quite sure will not be characteristic of the minorities in question, who see the airy structure of their safeguards dissolved in this way.
I will not weary your Lordships by saying more about the question before us, but I want to give two reasons why, I think, we ought not to answer that question now. I have not made up my mind about this and I have not closed my ears. I have as much good will to the people of India as any member of the Conference or any supporter of His Majesty's Government. But until we know more about it, until we have had time to digest the discussions that took place and the reports of the various sub- 343 committees that were drafted with infinite pains and talent, and to ascertain what is going to happen in India say in the next month or two, I do not think we are equipped to make up our own minds even if the time had arrived when it was necessary for us to express some sort of opinion. Therefore, to my thinking the right answer to make on this occasion is that we are unable to anticipate what is really matter only for a Second Heading of a full Bill by giving an unconditional approval to a provisional scheme of which the details are entirely speculative and are not known to anybody. It is of great importance to us—it is no doubt important outside—for this reason: this is a great State matter upon which many of us feel deeply. The Under-Secretary told us in eloquent language a few nights ago that, speaking at any rate with regard to large numbers of the official classes, every Englishman in India carries his life in his hand.
§ VISCOUNT SUMNER
"In parts of Bengal." I beg pardon. In parts of Bengal it is at present. Let us hope that it will stay there.
§ VISCOUNT SUMNER
I hear the noble and learned Viscount, the Leader of the House, ejaculate that it will not be my fault. I bitterly resent that interposition. So far as I know I have guarded my lips as carefully as any man can be expected to who is not prepared to sacrifice his convictions. I do not see why adherents of one particular Party or advocates of one particular scheme or believers in one panacea should have the monopoly of the right to say what they think upon important matters. If anyone is going to be upset by anything a creature like me can say, then God help India for its case is bad indeed. At any rate we in England do not forget those who run risks in India and we are not satisfied that until the political sections in India are prepared to walk along the ways of peace the time has arrived when with any safety whatsoever any great progress can be made with 344 what is intended to be a pacification. Therefore I hope that your Lordships will accept the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Lloyd, whether he elects, as some have suggested, to content himself with a mere negative of the Government Motion, or whether he thinks it better to press the Amendment in its present or some other form—who wants to niggle about the wording of this Amendment? I hope you will support him in arriving at the conclusion that the time has not yet come when we should be called upon to do that which we can do with some effect when a Bill comes before us but which now we can do with no effect at all.
§ LORD SNELL
My Lords, it is not necessary for us to assume that anyone who takes a special line on this matter is either indifferent to the fate of India or unsympathetic to its aspirations. For my part I am perfectly willing to accord to others a full belief in their sympathy towards India and their sense of responsibility if they also will accord to me the same consideration in the few remarks that I have to make. The noble and learned Viscount who has just sat down could not understand why this matter was brought before your Lordships' House at all. It is not for me to answer that question, of course, but in my judgment it comes before your Lordships in this way: that His Majesty's Government had made certain pledges to the Round Table Conference and it desired to have the assent of Parliament to the general principles of those pledges.
The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, in introducing his Amendment did so in a powerful speech and his experience in India and his capacity as an administrator require that grave attention should be paid to his words. But at the same time I could not help feeling that that which was most prominent in the speech of the noble Lord was that psychology of distrust and apprehension of things that might take place under certain circumstances in the future. I have always understood that the basic principle of Toryism was distrust of the people tempered by fear. I think that was the keynote of the apprehensions of the noble Lord this afternoon. He wondered how many people in this country understood the significance of the word "federation," and it may be that comparatively 345 few do, but nearly all of them know instinctively that federation, with all its difficulties, is preferable to riot and revolution and chaos in India. The noble Lord's name is most beneficently associated with a dam in India, which has enriched and blessed that country. I hope that by his Amendment this afternoon he will not create a barrier which is the reverse of being beneficent to India.
It is greatly to be deplored that a small, noisy, irresponsible but nevertheless dangerous section in British political life have thought it their duty, whatever principles they hold, to declare that the Round Table Conference was a failure and that what India requires in the future is the strong hand of the policeman rather than the understanding head of the statesman. This point of view was put with more force than eloquence in another place the other day by one of those politically paleolithic men whom the General Election has thrown up with such unnecessary redundancy. He said that the two things which we want in India are guts and brains; that "we can do without the brains but we must have the guts." I venture to hope that in using those words the speaker did not make a virtue of necessity.
In so far as the Conference is concerned the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, was good enough to express the opinion that the Conference did more good than harm. I had the privilege of attending nearly all its sittings, and I want to say to your Lordships, in all sincerity, that it was probably the richest experience that I have had in my life, and that so far from being disappointed with it I was intensely comforted and sustained by what I heard there. I regard it as having been a noble effort on the part of well-informed men of all Parties in this country and of all Parties in India to seek a solution of this most difficult and complex problem. It has sometimes happened to us individually that we have had to venture forth in a fog to reach a place that we knew existed, the general direction of which we knew, but which when we set forth we found it difficult to achieve. This was the case with the Conference, but the fog was not in the Conference but in the problem itself. Why should any one have expected that 346 in a few short months a perfect Constitution would have been produced, delicately and perfectly adjusted in all its parts? That would have been a miracle, and I think your Lordships will agree that miracles do not happen—in British political life at any rate. The subject was too big; it was too complex; it was too vast to admit of hasty decision.
To take up the subject of India is like trying to grip with one hand a vast globe. It is too large to grasp and too precious to let fall. Yet in my judgment the Conference came very near to achieving the miraculous. Nothing so big, so fundamentally healing, or so full of promise for the future peace of India in her relations with this country, has happened in our time. Let us think what the position was two short years ago. India was full of suspicion. There was non-co-operation, and on the part of even moderate people in India there was only a sullen acceptance of the existing conditions. The spiritual ties which bound this country to India were at that time nearly severed, and there was the prospect of years of dislocation of administrative difficulty, and of repression. There was the danger, too, that Great Britain might accept that situation, and repeat the dangerous policy that lost this country the American Colonies. The Bound Table Conference has avoided all that, and India and England sat together week after week and faced together, frankly, outspokenly, this problem the solution of which they have to find for the good of both.
Let us remember above all else that the delegates to that Conference have returned to India, assured for the most part of the good faith of the British people and of their great desire to see that self-government is given to India. Compared with that enormous achievement the alleged failures of the Conference are but as dust in the balance. Before the Conference began the temper in India was that somehow or other it would be right to get rid of British control: now the attention of India has been turned to the practical problem, in the solution of which Princes, statesmen, representatives of labour, of the depressed classes and other minorities, have all put themselves under obligations to do their bit to secure a peaceful ending to this great trouble. I have had nearly 347 fifty years experience of conferences. I know something of their psychology, of the impatience of enthusiastic inexperience, of their exaggeration of their grievances, and of their attempt to belittle the difficulties in the way, but I have never been so deeply and so continuously impressed as I was at the Bound Table Conference with the willing subordination of personal aims to the general good, and with the dignity of the Indian delegates. Their work together during many weeks impressed itself indelibly upon my mind.
The second great achievement of the Conference is this, that the conference method is to continue, and henceforth the centre of activities is to be in India itself, rather than in this country. The Conference was adjourned and not dismissed, and thereby certain dangers were avoided. His Majesty's Government was saved from the duty of imposing a decision upon the Conference, which might have turned every man in it from a co-operator to a critic. To-day it remains an obligation upon each one of them to contribute to the desired end. It may be, as speakers this afternoon have suggested, that the old Empire is passing away, and doubtless it will pass. But I am reminded of a phrase in a venerated book that "if that which is done away with was glorious, how much more that which remaineth is glorious."
Having said so much in support of the Conference, I should like to be permitted to offer one or two words of criticism of the White Paper. We are not called upon to pass judgment upon this unfinished picture, the shades and tones and distances of which have not yet been put in. We do indeed think that the Government approached its task in too timid a spirit, rather in the hope that some blessed accident would show them what the next step should be. We prefer to leave captious criticism to-day to the super-patriots who write in the Press and elsewhere. But, in supporting the statement before your Lordships' House, we on the Labour Benches must not be held to approve of all that it contains, nor be committed to any future policy. What I mean by that is that there are certain phrases in the White Paper that honestly leave us quite anxious and perplexed.
348 On page 5, for example, you have these words:You have indicated your desire that no change should be made in the Constitution which is not effected by one all-embracing Statute covering the whole field, and His Majesty's Government have no intention of urging a responsibility which, for whatever reasons, is considered at the moment premature or ill-advised. It may be that opinion and circumstances will change, and it is not necessary here and now to take any irrevocable decision.If this merely means that a certain stage may be reached in the development of these plans when India may change its opinion and wish to begin the experiment of provincial autonomy before that of central responsibility, then our anxieties would be lessened in that respect; but if it means that His Majesty's Government reserve the right to impose upon India any plan irrespective of the wishes of the Indian people, then we should feel alarmed, and it is right that I should speak frankly on that point before your Lordships this afternoon. We cannot put ourselves in such a position that His Majesty's Government could say to us at a later stage: "Because you approved of the White Paper you are thereby committed to whatever interpretation we may choose to put upon the words which were laid before you." We reserve the right to consider future stages upon their own merits. I think your Lordships will agree that that is our right in the circumstances in which we are placed.
Then we should like to know whether it is really the intention of His Majesty's Government to pursue the plan indicated with reasonable speed. Committees, as your Lordships are aware, can kill by delay, as well as by adverse decisions, and we cannot help remembering that every one of the delegates from India has, so far as we know, returned to that country uncommitted. We should have hoped that His Majesty's Government would have obtained from them, some of them at any rate, an assent to the general principles laid down in this Paper before they returned, and I should like to ask whether that has been done.
Before I close I should like to say that in my judgment both India and England owe something to the devotion, the self-sacrifice, and the clear-headed sense of those who were responsible for the conduct of this Conference, and who bore the 349 heaviest share of responsibility: to the Prime Minister for his unwavering insistence upon continuity of policy, and to the genial leadership, the patient help and guidance in the Federal Structure Committee of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. The time and the great need produced the man, and his name will always be honourably remembered as one of the founders and architects of the United States of India. And to the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, for his constant attendance and his helpful contribution in moments of crisis, we are all under a debt of gratitude. And, if I might be so bold, I would add that the Labour representatives, too, tried to play their part with a due sense of responsibility.
In my view we are at the parting of the ways in regard to India, and it is within our choice to say what the future relationships between the two countries shall be. We have to conceive of India as she is to-day and as she may be, not as she was ten, or twenty, or thirty years ago. India is not static, she is alive, intensely alive and on the march, and not even the impulsive theorist is so great a danger as the retired administrator with a frozen mind. I believe it was Palmerston who said that if you really desire to be thoroughly misinformed about a country you should seek the advice of someone who has lived in it for thirty years and who speaks its language. The problem is, of course, difficult beyond all description, but it is not insoluble, and I believe personally in the will and the ability of the Indian people to rise to the task which will be imposed upon them.
Unnecessary delay in satisfying the aspirations of a great people is just as dangerous as foolish haste. Self-government for India cannot be deferred until she has a completely educated population, as the noble and learned Viscount suggested, nor until every Indian advocate has learnt the wisdom and the strength of restraint. And let us remember that other nations set oat on their journey towards self-government with even fewer qualifications than those that India now possesses. For instance, we had our own civil wars in the 17th Century. The United States began her independent life with a violent revolution to be followed by a bloody civil war. Changes of this kind very rarely occur without 350 some dislocation and some anxiety, but on the whole we shall be well advised if we trust the Indian people, and I appeal to them, to trust us. Many of us in the Labour Party worked and spoke and fought in Parliament and elsewhere through many difficult and lonely years, for Indian self-government, and we have earned our right to make an appeal to the Indian reformers to think twice and thrice before they bring upon India the disaster of deliberate disobedience, passive or active. It is not in that way that causes are won.
What are a few years in the history of India? She was old in the business of civilisation before Europe was young, and she can well afford to be generous in her patience. I should like to say in my closing words that we, too, are often disappointed with the pace of things and some of us are compelled to endure the bitter disappointment and discipline of delay. At the same time we know that what we possess we have won by the steady process of natural development, by patience under defeat, by undying faith in the method of reason and not by gusts of violent passion or riot or revolution or non-co-operation. I venture in my great hope for India's peaceful future to suggest to them that they, too, must tread that same pathway, because it is both the safest and the quickest way towards the end desired.
§ VISCOUNT BURNHAM
My Lords, as is only fit and proper in so grave an issue, this has been a remarkable debate. It has been remarkable for one thing above all others—that it has been conducted in an orgy of sentimentality, of which the speech we have just listened to has been a good example. We have been very far away from the facts which count and from the realities of Indian administration. We have been thinking very little of that great Service which risks its life and limb every day in order to maintain the credit and prestige of the British Raj in India. I said that this has been a remarkable debate. Perhaps it will be remarkable for one thing which has not yet come to pass. I understand I am to be followed by the late Viceroy of India, Lord Irwin. We all know of him that he is a man "from whom nobody can differ except in opinion," as I have had the misfortune to do; but when he speaks your Lordships will learn, because I 351 think it is his maiden speech in this House though far from being his maiden speech in Parliament, something of the way in which in India he wielded the wand of the magician. When he went to Delhi the lines are especially true that,A golden palace rose or seemed to rise,The appointed seat of equitable lawsAnd mild paternal sway.Whether his rule finished entirely according to that high standard I hardly know. At any rate, a debate in which he presents an explanation of his policy in India will of itself be remarkable.
As I say, we have been far away from the realities of administration and yet it is the realities of administration in India that count. It is the men who have been carrying out the administration of India who have alone made the continuance of government possible under what are familiarly called the "Montford" Reforms. Nobody, I think, knows that better than the noble Marquess whom I see upon the Benches opposite. I listened with great attention to the able and forceful speech in which the noble Marquess the Under-Secretary presented this Resolution to your Lordships' House. He seemed to me a little too much dominated by those abstract ideas of the equality of all races through all times in all things, and I could not quite agree with him when, in speaking of India, he said that the consent of the governed is that without which democracy cannot flourish. Personally, I do not believe that democracy in India can flourish in our time or for an unlimited period. May I also say that when he used the argument that there are 11,500,000 in the recognised educational institutions of India, he did not tell your Lordships that hardly any of those who go to the elementary schools ever get beyond the first standard of the curriculum; therefore, it is not an education which fits any man or woman for the exercise of civic rights.
Speaking on Thursday last in another place the Lord President of the Council asked for a mandate "in the most difficult task that any one in the Empire ever tried to undertake." In my judgment, in saying this he was not guilty of the slightest exaggeration. I cannot see that what we are doing here this evening, or can do, will make it less 352 difficult to manage. No doubt it is satisfactory to the self-esteem of your Lordships' House that we are now being treated on a footing of equal status, if I may use a word so greatly beloved of Indian controversialists, with the other House. At all events—I gather that the noble Lord, Lord Snell, is of the same opinion—the White Paper, of which we are asked to signify approval, settles nothing and tends still further to unsettle everything. He himself said that the Labour Party were made anxious and perplexed by the paragraph in reference to the pace of what is called advance. It may be that the Indian problem is a jigsaw puzzle which can never be solved; at any rate, I do not think our debate here this afternoon any more than the debate in another place will do anything to solve it.
In dealing with Indian affairs the two qualities most necessary are singleness of purpose and sincerity of speech. It used to be said in the East: "Ho said 'Yes' or 'No' like an Englishman." We seem to have lost our power of saying either "Yes" or "No" without confusion. At the beginning of the debate in another place the Prime Minister, for whom I have the utmost respect and I am quite sure it was only by inadvertence, gave some account of his negotiations with Sir John Simon about the Round Table Conference. I think it is a pity that he only told half the story. The whole is worth telling and is strictly relevant to the issue. Still that is for his judgment and not for mine. The fact that this great act of renunciation follows so closely on the heels of the Statute of Westminster which your Lordships passed with so many misgivings and so much reluctance, although in a sense it is a fortuitous coincidence, has, I venture to think, a logical sequence. It has been asserted that there is no connection between the two because to bring India into the category of a self-governing Dominion of the Crown will require a separate Statute. No doubt that is technically correct, but that is merely a technical point. I am a very old Parliamentary hand and I have hardly known a case of any Government of which it would not be true to say that the head of it could pass into law any emergency Bill he chose with the cry of the interest of the State behind him. Especi- 353 ally is that true now that your Lordships have chosen to so large an extent to efface yourselves as a Legislative Chamber. The present Prime Minister as the head of a National Government has a special position which gives him additional power for such a purpose.
In his eloquent speech the other night on another matter, my noble friend Lord Lloyd talked about the conspiracy of silence here at home as to the means by which a section of the Legislative Assembly in India are endeavouring to drive the English officials from the country, and he said truly thatHer politicians will never have a greater need of the best type of trained Englishmen to guide and advise them or the masses more urgently need the impartial sympathy of the British officer among them.I observe that the Indian-owned Press was very prompt to deal with the issue he raised. I am quoting now from The Times of December 4, and The Times cannot be accused of being adverse to what are called the national aspirations of the Indian peoples. The Times, referring to Calcutta, said:The newspapers here, however, are full of comments on Mr. MacDonald's statement in the House of Commons and the more extreme of them are still fulminating against the Bengal Ordinance. The Congress Press takes an almost unanimous line in professing to regard Mr. MacDonald's statement as a 'huge sham.' and reproaches the Indian delegates to the Round Table Conference with being content to return empty handed. The majority of newspapers print statements by Congress leaders hinting darkly at a now struggle to begin as soon as Mr. Gandhi returns.That comes from Calcutta and from a well-informed correspondent and one may take it as more accurately representing the facts of the case than the optimistic speeches to which we have been listening this evening.
I felt rather sorry for the noble Marquess who introduced the Resolution here to-night when he pointed out that it was very different from when he last addressed the House on behalf of the Bengal Ordinances and gave such a detailed and accurate statement of the state of crime in Bengal. One of the most important Indian delegates was; interviewed by The Times on this subject, Sir Chimanlal Setalvad, who did very good work at the Round Table Conference. He said 354 that, in order that the work should be successful,it is essential that there should prevail in India a calm atmosphere and general good will. It seems almost impossible to secure this with the unfortunate happenings in Bengal and the repressive measures that are announced there in rapid succession.The "unfortunate occurrences" were the assassinations of British officials and the "repressive measures" were merely to give our countrymen there, who are doing their duty to this House and to the Empire, some chance of life.Whatever may be urged in favour of the necessity of special measures, the recent Ordinance sanctioning death penalty for attempt to murder, trial in camera and no appeal, cannot under any circumstances be defended, being opposed to fundamental notions of justice.Though it is only against the criminals who are charged with these infamous crimes! But still the statement is important because Sir Chimanlal Setalvad cannot be looked upon as an extremist and, therefore, I suppose he speaks for the great body of the Indian delegates to the Round Table Conference. He also said:It is difficult to judge from this distance, but it looks as if Bengal is being treated as in a state of war.That seems to me to point the moral of the tale in much better terms than anything we have heard on general grounds about the necessity of satisfying the national aspirations of India. In this connection it should be remembered that the very word India does not occur in any of the 222 languages that are spoken there. It is an entirely European idea and the unity of India has been wholly the work of this country. When we talk of safeguards, I quite agree that they must be real safeguards. The worst of the safeguards that have been proposed—and it is a weak point—is that they depend entirely on the power behind them, which can enforce them, and, therefore, the most important safeguard of all is the safeguard for internal security.
In the second Report of the Statutory Commission it is stated:If the external menace to India's peaceful development is serious, the possibilities of internal disturbance are not less grave. It must be borne in mind that the periods during which India has been free from civil strife have been few find of short duration. It has only been, when a strong Central Government"—355 I commend that to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack—has been able to keep peace among the divergent elements in the peninsula that progress has been possible. Experience has shown in other countries that a period of transition may easily result not in ordered advance but in a lapse into civil war and anarchy. The danger of disorder in India is ever present. There are inflammable elements in the population and jealousy and ill-feeling between important communities which from time to time cause riots and disturbances. The history of communal disturbances during the past two years"—we must recollect, that they have been far more numerous in the last few years than in a whole century in India—shows how slight an incident may cause trouble, which, if not checked at an early stage, can easily spread from district to district. Nowhere in the world is there such need for prompt action as in India and nowhere is the penalty for weakness greater.In face of that, are we going to recommend that the central power should be weakened when it ought to be strengthened, if we are to judge by the experience of the last few years? It is for you of course to decide whether you approve the White Paper and whether at least there should not be some emphasis laid on the greatest need of all, the safeguard of internal security by the exercise of the Governor's power.
The belief, we all know, is current in many parts of India that the British Raj is done for and that the British are on the run. It is a very serious thing because it shows that the fabric of good government, which has been laboriously and conscientiously built up in the last 150 years, is being broken down and cast to the winds with nothing else to take its place. To make this belief universal in India is, of course, the whole policy of the Congress Party and the Congress Leaders. It is the very essence of the Gandhi creed, which, of course, is what we are up against at the moment. I was told by an official of great experience and—unlike the noble Lord who has just spoken—I attach great importance to the opinion of these Indian officials, because in no part of the world is it so true as in India that government is administration—that in a Bengal village a headman, who had been most troublesome of late years, came up to him on his last visit and said: "Why are you still here? I thought Gandhi was king now." Well, 356 Mr. Gandhi has left our shores and carried his tortuosities with him, I sincerely hope never more to try our tempers and our patience. He is now more fitly colloguing with the enemies of this country in Continental cities. To make a prophecy about a man so wholly untrustworthy is very dangerous, but I venture to suggest that from the moment he lands in Bombay again he will be at his old trade of making mischief with his dear helpmate Jawaharlal Nehru, always taking cover behind some general phrases which mean anything or nothing, but resolved in spite of his covenant with the noble Lord, Lord Irwin, to omit nothing that will harm British power, British profit and British prestige.
Great Britain holds India not by terror, but by awe, and that awe Mr. Gandhi and his fellow conspirators are resolved to whittle away. It may be you are deciding to-morrow evening that "the key of India" is to be thrown into chaos and confusion, "a dread Empire" to replace the Pax Britannica which still to some extent prevails. I wish there were more disposition to accept the burden of responsibility in these dark days. I confess I greatly fear that the setting up of the roaming and floating bodies which, far from the healthy influence of public opinion at home, are to carry on the work of the Round Table Conference—in spite of the fact that I see the noble and learned Lord is likely to be at the head of them—may do more harm than good. They will be taken for so much more than they are really worth. Of this I am sure, that if they do their work thoroughly it will take them a very long time, and meanwhile the Round Table Conference will drag its slow length along the coming years, doing nothing in particular, but keeping up all the apparatus of make-believe and pretence by which it has been distinguished, I think, above all other Conferences of which I know. My impression therefore does not tally with that of the noble Lord who said he thought it was one of the most efficient bodies of which he had had experience.
There is, says the Prime Minister, to be a meeting for the final review of the whole scheme. After that, it has to be embodied in a Government of India Bill, which will, I imagine, according to precedent—and in this case the precedent embodies a principle—not only have to 357 be considered in all its stages by both Houses of Parliament, but be referred to a Joint Committee which, presumably, will not be bullied into conformity as on the last occasion of 1919 by the Secretary of State for India. It sounds as if we shall have plenty of time for second and third thoughts before we make the great surrender that is going to wipe out from our maps the British Empire, as I still venture to call it, in spite of the Statute of Westminster, as we have known it in our time. It is for the reason that I believe the Amendment put down by Lord Lloyd will secure for us more consideration and is opposed to the policy of rush in India, that I support him here this evening.
§ LORD IRWIN
My Lords, in venturing for the first time to ask your Lordships' permission to address you I, along with all others who have taken or will take part in this debate, am extremely conscious of the burden of decision in these matters which rests upon His Majesty's Government and the Government of India, and last, but by no means least, upon His Majesty's Viceroy in India; and therefore I would attempt, as I hope all those who participate will attempt, to say no word that might in any degree add to the weight of that burden here or there. I wish I could feel that the noble Viscount who has just preceded me in this debate had been as successful, in what I have no doubt was his desire, to avoid making the task of those administering the government of India at this time any more difficult. I can conceive that much of what he said will in fact, when it reaches Indian cars, operate adversely to the task that he would wish our Government in India to be pursuing.
Whatever may be the purpose of this debate I can assure him that I do not conceive its purpose as being that to which he was good enough to invite me—namely, that I should offer an explanation of my policy to your Lordships' House. In the first place, I am not aware that a, Viceroy, as such, has a policy of his own. His policy is that of His Majesty's Government whom he serves. And in the next place, if there were ever need or occasion for me to offer an apologia it would not, I think, be now.
§ LORD IRWIN
I was not suggesting words to my noble friend, but I think that was perhaps the suggestion of his speech; nor indeed would I for another reason venture to do that, because I would feel some danger of falling within the category of those whom the noble Lord who spoke for the Labour Party described as the most dangerous of guides—namely, administrators who had left the country with frozen minds.
I am not concerned to discuss, as others have done, the purpose of this debate. That is for the spokesman of the Government. I only make this observation. The noble Lord who moved the Amendment, and who I am delighted again to find as a colleague, complained with great force about the extent to which the House and the country were being rushed to form a judgment upon these great matters. He appeared to imply that four or five days ago, or whenever the Prime Minister made his declaration, was the first occasion on which anyone interested in these affairs had had his attention directed to them. The facts are of course very different. The noble Marquess who inaugurated the debate gave us a history of them. There have been deliberations for the last two or three years, reports of the Conferences and frequent debates in Parliament, and I would have supposed that any of your Lordships who had been through that intellectual process would not find it an impossible task to decide, without undue delay, whether you thought the broad plan of procedure and programme suggested by the Prime Minister was such as ought or ought not to commend itself to you.
It is easy, and in one sense quite true, to say that the Conference was much more successful in discovering difficulties than in resolving them. That is quite true. At the same time I think it is also true that only those are likely to depreciate the work of the Conference who, for one reason or another, have from the outset been suspicious of, and disliked, the Conference method, and, in the second place, have always underestimated the difficulties that the Conference was quite certain to encounter. Take first the Conference method—and I take it that, speaking broadly, the object of giving approval to this White 359 Paper is to say that we, broadly, approve the Conference method. As to that, my own view most emphatically is that while nothing can derogate from the sovereign power of Parliament, yet the noble Marquess, Lord heading, and I think the spokesman of the European delegates, if I remember rightly, spoke the literal truth when they recorded their judgment that the Conference method had been abundantly vindicated by the establishment of understanding and contact and the like. I, for my part, can have no kind of doubt that the chances of the solution of this greatest of Imperial problems have been immeasurably advanced by the fact that you have decided to give India the right and the opportunity of being with Great Britain joint architects of her own Constitution.
I made the reflection as my noble friend below me was speaking, and as my noble friend who preceded me was speaking, what a curious thing, to me at all events, it seemed that those European delegates who come from Calcutta, Bombay and from India, who have their lives to live there, whose business is at stake there, who are in daily touch with the currents of thought, who live and sleep with these problems—that they, so far as I know, should all take a different view from the noble Lord below me who spoke earlier or from the noble Viscount, Lord Burnham, who has just spoken. I am not saying they are necessarily right, but I am saying it is a fact that should give your Lordships pause before you assume that they are necessarily wrong. Therefore I think that all those who hold that view of the Conference method and its potential value will welcome the statement of the Prime Minister, which in my judgment signifies broadly adhesion to and pursuance of that method.
It is, of course, folly to underestimate the difficulties. They are grave and immense, but I submit with all deference that it is foolishness not less grave to underestimate and underrate the common ground that has in fact been achieved between British Indian delegates, between the delegates from British India and the States, and between Indian and British delegates. A great deal of common ground has been achieved. I associate myself wholly with the noble Lord who spoke earlier—I think it was the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack 360 —who said that he was not astonished so much at the failure to reach agreement on this or that, as he was at the extent to which agreement had in fact emerged as a result of two years' discussions. Therefore, as I conceive it, in those circumstances the definition of purpose and the definition of clear programme will provide at once an incentive for this Conference spirit to be maintained and made effective.
His Majesty's Government no doubt must have expected, when they authorised this Declaration of the Prime Minister, criticism, and that from two opposite quarters. There were those—and we have had examples of it this afternoon—who think that the quite simple and effective remedy for the difficulty is to stand still if not to go back to something like a paternal system of government, being prepared, no doubt, to meet whatever reactions that possibly may have with a very stout and strong hand. That is one plan. There has been criticism on the other side from India by people who refuse to recognise that the most insurmountable obstacles at the present time are obstacles that Indians themselves alone can remove, and who are, therefore, tempted to find an explanation of them in charges of bad faith or lack of will on this side. Those seem to me to be the two extremes of criticism, and I hope that the bulk of opinion, both Indian and British, will gradually be found to rally between those two extreme poles. I believe that the events of the last ten years, and the discussions of the last two or three years, have succeeded in focussing thought both in this country and in India on realities that had not previously been so clearly apprehended.
I do not want to develop them as your Lordships have had them in mind. It would be convenient, perhaps, to put them together. First of all, the double obligation on Government for realising what political development nowadays entails and involves. By that I mean the one obligation, the clear obligation, of maintaining law and order, and in that respect I have no doubt whatever Parliament will be prepared to give support to whatever powers the Government of India think are necessary either against terrorists or against any potential resumption of civil trouble. The other 361 is that of which, as has been said, all our history is eloquent, and which statesmen should never forget, that consent is ultimately the foundation, and the essential foundation, of your rule. Mere repression unaccompanied by what the noble Marquess who introduced the Motion called the other half of the policy—mere repression is as futile a remedy for political discontent as I personally believe prohibition to be a futile remedy for the alcoholic craving. It is incomplete and inadequate. I think that only the Government that is able to convince reasonable men that it is pursuing with vigour and with determination and with a real intention to succeed, a constructive policy of winning agreement—only that Government can appeal for the support of reasonable men which it is necessary to have if, and when, they have to employ severe measures against unreasonable men. That I think the Conference has done.
I think another result of recent years has been a much truer recognition in England of the force and the nature of Indian aspirations. I venture to suggest that it is a very wrong diagnosis, if such be still made, to suggest that the troubles of the day are due cither to the naughtiness or to the mistakes of particular individuals here or there. That there has been naughtiness and that there have been mistakes I would certainly be the last to deny, but they are not, I think, the fundamental causes. The trouble which we are gathered here to discuss is certainly not a product of the last two or three years. After all, when the Conservative Administration was in power and when the late Lord Birkenhead was Secretary of State and the Indian Congress first proclaimed its creed of independence, that in itself was only the sequel to events which had been operating while my noble friend was Viceroy, and a long time before him and before Mr. Montagu made his famous Declaration. It is indeed true, as has been over and over again said, that it is all part of a much wider thing than just the stirring of national discontent in India.
I was interested when the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor referred to Mill. When I was coming home from 362 India I travelled with a very distinguished man who said to me: "What could you expect when I was sent out to lecture to Bengali students in Calcutta and the textbook that I was given was 'Mill on Liberty' "? The noble Lord below me who moved the Amendment asked whether we had learned nothing from the collapse in Europe of paper Constitutions. My language is not equal to his, but I would ask him with all respect, is there not a world movement from which we may also learn? Are we not to deduce something from the passage of the flame, from the stirring of dry bones across Turkey, Iraq, Persia, Afghanistan, China, Japan? There is manifesting itself in different ways, a great movement across Asia that up to a few years ago would have seemed in comparison stable and unmoved. Can you expect that India would be outside all that kind of movement of idea? You cannot insulate ideas by countries or by continents.
I would also say that I believe it to be a profound delusion to treat this Indian opinion as the work of an insignificant minority which, rightly, firmly, courageously, effectively handled, would quickly fade away and give you no more trouble. I am free to confess that before the civil disobedience movement started I consulted two or three of (I think) the ablest men in India and went over the ground very intimately with them as to whether it was not possible, supposing one could get the necessary support from this country, to inaugurate a plan of such rigid repression as would create the desert which we should then call peace. I postulated suppression of the Press, the closing of Councils, the suppression of public speech. All that I think would have been a possible method with which to treat that movement. But whenever I discussed the question with those who were in a position to form an opinion, I always came back to the same question of, supposing it had been a possible thing to do, where would you have been at the end of one, two, three or five years as regards the main problem which it is the concern of this House to solve? You would have been not only no further forward; you would have been many laps further back. Therefore it is that we have to turn our mind to the way of constructive agreement.
363 I do not by any means underrate the fact that the Conference should have revealed a general willingness to acknowledge the necessity of these so-called safeguards. I am very well aware, and we all ought to be aware, that that general agreement at the present time as to safeguards relates only to very broad purposes that have to be safeguarded. If noble Lords ever did me the honour to read the agreement for which I was greatly criticised with Mr. Gandhi, they would see that he himself accepted the principal purposes which were defined in the agreement as matters to be safeguarded, but it is quite true that there is still a great difference, a strongly held difference of view as to how effect should be given to safeguarding those purposes which it is generally agreed should be safeguarded. Therefore, while perhaps my noble friend who moved this Amendment will say: "Well, if there is all this difference of opinion let us save time and stop talking and decide something," I take the other conclusion—and I think it is the right conclusion. I say that if there are these differences it is a conclusive argument why we should pursue efforts to reach agreement where we have not yet been able to succeed in doing so; in other words to pursue examination of these matters with frankness and with determination to secure agreement.
I have heard a good deal of reference during this debate by some who have spoken—I think the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Sumner, referred to it—to the question of British pledges. My noble friend below me dwelt upon it at some length. They said with great force that as far as they knew there are no pledges that this country had not up to now honoured. I entirely associate myself with that view. There is no question in my mind at all of the strongest protagonist of opinion in agreement with my noble friend who moved this Motion having been in any way false to any pledge. I cannot conceive of any of my friends falling under that description. But that is not the point. The question has been put in debate: What is the trouble about in India? Why is it necessary for the Secretary of State or anyone else to make a declaration in order to reassure Indian opinion that, on your own showing, ought never to have been disturbed? I can only tell 364 you my own experience and why I formed my own opinion on that subject.
I do not mention individuals for obvious reasons. All that I know is that in the first year or two when I was Viceroy I constantly met responsible Indians coming out from this country where they presumably had been in touch with politicians of standing and importance. All of them, or a great many of them, gave me the impression that we had made generous promises of course after the War, when we were all in a mood of some elation, but that having had time to reflect we were getting more sober and sane and had generally modified our views or had calmed down, and Indian mentality and expectation would have to adjust itself to that view. I do not say whether they were right or wrong, but I say unhesitatingly that that was the impression right through political India, and I am not prepared to say that there was no justification for it. That impression has been immensely reinforced from time to time by speeches made by public men in this country and it has been constantly supported by a type of writing that is common in a certain kind of newspaper. All that does harm.
But that, of course, is a very different thing from the kind of doubt many of your Lordships feel as to whether the whole democratic outfit is or is not good for India. I can well understand those doubts, and if I could have approached the problem with a perfectly free hand and we had not all got the commitments and the history of the past years to meet and reconcile with the facts of to-day, I can imagine a very strong case being made on those lines; and I certainly do not identify any doubt of that kind with what is commonly known as reaction. Any of my noble friends in this House who may hold the view that the democratic method is wrong, may be just as sincere in their view as I am in my view, but what I wish to put to them with respect is this. Do they not think that the Chairman of the Statutory Commission—and I have no doubt my noble friend Lord Burnham gave his assent to this sentiment in the second volume of his Report—do not they think that that Report was right when it laid great stress upon the importance not only of 365 a Constitution being intrinsically good but that it should be able, I think the phrase was, "to rally the forces of public opinion to its operation and support"?
The conclusion which I draw from that in that it is no good saying to Indian political opinion: "After all, we do not believe very firmly in democracy, and do not think you would work it very well, and therefore you cannot have it." If India wants to try a Constitution such as we have carefully evolved, then I suggest that your Lordships will, subject to whatever qualifications are necessary to fit the circumstances of India, have to allow that effort to be made, feeling quite sure, as I feel sure, that once you allow that effort to be made you have created the best conditions for Indian opinion to evolve whatever variations Indian traditions "may demand, but yon certainly will not be able to impose any different order of ideas by unilateral admonition or imposition. Therefore, if we accept, as I hope we may, the necessity of this country continuing its interest and its responsibility in Indian affairs, in matters fundamental to the welfare of India on the one hand, and the necessity of securing consent on the other, remembering that consent will be the best safeguard of all, and that good will is the best security for British trade, then it seems that we are forced back upon responsibility and safeguards.
My noble friend Lord Lloyd made great play with a dilemma. He says, if you get all these safeguards, what becomes of your responsibility? He could equally have put the other horn of the dilemma: if you have real responsibility, what becomes of the safeguards? I admit my noble friend's dilemma, and it is, I quite admit, unanswerable; but I ask him to answer mine. If there is force in his dilemma it really means one of two things. Either you never mean to transfer responsibility to a central Indian Legislature at all, or if you do transfer you are going to do it all at once. That id a much more powerful dilemma, to my mind.
§ LORD LLOYD
My noble friend must not think that I assent, but I shall have an opportunity of answering him to-morrow.
§ LORD IRWIN
My dilemma seems to be more forcible than my noble friend's, 366 and neither horn of my dilemma is such as can commend itself to a, prudent man. Therefore we are forced back upon what my noble friend rejects. From another angle, which has not been specifically mentioned this afternoon, I reach the same conclusion, that the general course, the federal plan, with safeguards and responsibility, is right. The noble Marquess who opened the debate referred to the difficulties of a popular Legislature with an irresponsible Executive. The noble Marquess who sits opposite will, I am sure, bear me out in saying that those difficulties, for those who have to administer on the spot, are real and not likely to grow less. There are only two remedies for them. One remedy is to go right back and create the type of Legislature which will work smoothly with responsible government. The other plan is to try and go forward and create the type of Executive that, through responsibility, will secure harmony with a popular Legislature. It is that course which I believe we must attempt to pursue.
There will be criticism, of course, of what has been said from India, where mistrust has very deep roots and is nurtured on impatience, and where it tends to make the wisest people fail to realise that to try to measure Indian history by one or two years is as futile and inapt as trying to measure the height of Mount Everest by a two-foot rule. I hope, however, that all in India will be prepared to ponder the significance of the Prime Minister's statement—not only its contents but the fact that he was speaking, as we have been reminded, for the great bulk of political opinion in this country. In my view there need be now no reason for fear in India, after that statement, that there is any risk of any sharp deflection of British policy as a result of political accidents, and I can see no justification on that statement for any Indian patriot doing other than bending his whole energies to the translation of his hopes into the practical shape of a Constitution which may contain within itself the seed of natural expansion and growth.
It is very easy to criticise, especially if you have no responsibility for policy. It is easy to say that all this effort to advance on these lines involves, a risk. I do not know what does not involve a 367 risk, but every noble Lord has to weigh for himself whether the risk of this course is greater than the risk of that course. You may say that it is not logical. I have never yet seen a scheme fashioned by the ablest brains for India that could be said to be logical. You must face illogicality. I feel not less than any other man in this House the immense contribution, for example, that the Services have made and paid to India for many, many generations; it is impossible to exaggerate or to overestimate it. And I can very well imagine with what apprehension many of them, though by no means all, and many of us here on their behalf, may look forward to a new India, where different conditions and largely different values will prevail. But, as regards the Services, I have very little doubt in my own mind that, if we can steadily pursue the path, and succeed in it—the task of creating a real partnership between Great Britain and India—there will be work for the best of our race to do in India for many generations to come, and work which India will gratefully welcome and receive.
I conceive that India is easily the most difficult Imperial problem that we either have or have ever had. It raises the question of races, the problem of defence, and many others, all aggravated and complicated by the circumstances of the present time, and it is, therefore, not unnatural that those of us who take the kind of view I take should be from time to time criticised as defeatists, advocates of defeatism, and the like. We shall be told, of course—we are told—that the British Raj is done for—the kind of thing that is bound to be said as soon as there is any talk of transfer of power. It is to the interests of both, of the most ardent Nationalists and of the extreme diehards, to say the same thing. It is inevitable. But in my judgment the real defeatism and the real defeat would be so to act as to ensure failure of your principal purpose; for, while we stand still, which I think would be the effect of the Amendment of my noble friend if carried, or while we move slowly, or while we go back, let us not forget that the Indian problem is doing none of those things: it is moving fast, and it is moving past you. And if I might inflict on your Lordships a quotation from a Latin author, which is quite outside my line, 368 but to which somebody drew my attention the other day, I would say: "Fronte capillata est, post est occasio calva"; of which I give the translation as it was parodied by a mediaeval writer in these words: "Opportunity has hair in front, but is bald behind; if you meet her, catch her by the forelock, for Jove himself cannot catch her if once let slip."
And therefore it is not that we have lost the will to govern, or that our nerve is so shaken that we can only abdicate responsibility, but that for many of us the world seems to be changing before our eyes, and the old sense of Empire, the possessive sense of Empire, as I call it, no longer seems to reflect at least my thought. And so, although I know that we shall make mistakes, although I know we shall have disappointments, and that many people whose help we would fain enlist may withhold it, yet I feel very little doubt that, provided we pursue the purpose proclaimed in 1917, which was itself the outcome of forces long previously in operation, it will increasingly be recognised how vital the contribution of Great Britain and India is to the welfare of each other, so that those two countries, whose fortunes and whose destinies have been so strangely and mysteriously intertwined by history, may be able for all time to bring the service of their several gifts to the aid and the welfare of a common Imperial society.
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
My Lords, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned till to-morrow, the debate to have precedence over other business.
§ Moved, That this debate be now adjourned till to-morrow, the debate to have precedence over other business.—(The Marquess of Zetland.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and ordered accordingly.