§ Order of the Day read for the consideration of the Commons Message of Thursday last.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT SANKEY) rose to move, That this House do concur in the Resolution communicated by the Commons, namely: "That, before Parliament is asked to take a decision upon the proposals contained in Command Paper 4268, it is expedient that a Joint Select Committee of Lords and Commons, with power to call into consultation representatives of the Indian States and of British India, be appointed 243 to consider the future government of India and, in particular, to examine and report upon the proposals in the said Command Paper."
§ The noble and learned Viscount said: My Lords, I beg to move the Resolution standing in my name, and in so doing to address your Lordships on three topics: first, Mid quite briefly, on the history leading up to the Round-Table Conferences; secondly, on the proceedings at these Conferences; and thirdly, on the proposals contained in the White Paper. First, as to the history leading up to the Round-Table Conferences. For upwards of seventy years Indians have been admitted to take some part in the Government of the country. England has taught them, rightly or wrongly, the value and desirability of representative institutions. By the Indian Councils Act, 1861, seats were given to them on the Legislative Council: by the Act of 1892, limited provision was made for the use of the method of election in filling up some of the seats, and a still greater step forward was taken by the Morley-Minto reforms, of 1909. The Great War marked a change from era to era. Profound as were its results in England, they were still more profound in India. Indians gave proofs of magnificent loyalty, not only on the material side of finance, but in the higher and nobler qualities of skill, courage, and devotion. Whatever anybody may think of the Government of India Act of 1919, the claims of India for further recognition were irresistible.
§ Upon the 20th August, 1917, Mr. Montagu, who was then the Secretary of State for India, laid down four principles for future guidance. Later a Report was issued which contained proposals for reform recommended by the Viceroy and himself. My Lords, England and India are united to-day in mourning for that Viceroy, Viscount Chelmsford, and for a great Ruler, the Prince Ranjitsinhji, both of whom rendered to the Empire service which will long be remembered. The Report was referred to a Select Committee of both Houses of Parliament, which held 42 meetings under the Chairmanship of Lord Selborne. After their deliberations a Bill was introduced which eventually became the Government of India Act of 1919. There may be some of our fellow-countrymen who do not agree with the policy recommended by Mr. Montagu, or with the preamble and provisions of the 244 Act. Regrets, if they do exist, are useless. The matter is beyond recall. By Section 84A of the Act it was provided that at the expiration of ten years a Statutory Commission should be set up to Report as to whether, and to what extent, it might be desirable to establish the principle of responsible government, or to extend, modify or restrict the degree of responsible government then existing.
§ The Statutory Commission subsequently set up was presided over by Sir John Simon. No Royal Commission ever rendered greater services to their country. They experienced difficulties and dicouragement, but the debt due to them has not been sufficiently recognised. Many of their suggestions were followed by the "Round-Table Conferences," and where we have gone beyond them we have only ventured where we think that they, too, would have ventured under the changed circumstances. The Report of the Commission is, and will remain, one of the great State Documents of English political history. The system of dyarchy in the Provinces introduced by the 1919 Act did not commend itself to the Commissioners. They recommended many changes, the most controversial being the one with regard to the problem of law and order. The reservation of law and order was one of the main features of dyarchy, and as the Commissioners were resolved that dyarchy must go, they came to the conclusion that the responsible Government of the Province should have full responsibility for the Police.
Another striking suggestion was one which they thought could not be realised for many a long year. On page 13 of the Second Volume of the Report they quote with approval the statement made on the 19th December, 1929, by His Highness the Maharajah of Bikaner to the Legislative Assembly of his State in the following words:
I look forward to the day when a united India will be enjoying Dominionstatusunder theœgisof the King-Emperor, and the Princes and States will be in the fullest enjoyment of what is their due as a solid federal body in a position of absolute equality with the Federal Provinces of British India.
The Commission proceed to add:
However distant that day may be, we desire in our proposals to do nothing to hinder, and everything to help its arrival, for already there are emerging problems
that can only be settled satisfactorily by cooperation between British India and the States.
§ Further they recommended that a Round-Table Conference should be held in London to discuss propositions for the future. The Government agreed with the Commission, accepted their recommendation and the first found-Table Conference met upon the 12th November, 1930.
§ I now pass to my second topic, the proceedings of the Round-Table Conferences. The first was memorable for the dramatic declaration by the Princes in favour of an All-India Federation. The vision which the Statutory Commissioners had only seen through a glass darkly became nearer and clearer, and the solution which they had suggested entered at once into the domain of practical politics. A new ideal was wanted and had to be found. Those who saw the enthusiasm and the good will which the declaration of the Princes excited felt their doubts dissolve. My Lords, we "must take the current when it serves or lose our ventures." There have been three Round-Table Conferences, and the most frequent criticism of their labours is that they have not come to unanimous decisions. The use of the word "decision" in this connection is unfortunate. The Round-Table Conference was never meant to be, and in fact never was, a constituent assembly. It was meant to be and always has been a consultative body. The decision on the future Constitution of India is for the British Parliament.
At the conclusion of the first Conference on the 19th January, 1931, the Prime Minister, speaking on behalf of the Government, said:
The view of His Majesty's Government is that responsibility for the Government. of India should be placed upon the Legislatures, Central and Provincial, with such provisions as may be necessary to guarantee during the period of transition the observance of certain obligations and to meet other special circumstances, and also with such guarantees as are required by minorities to protect their political liberty and rights.
§ He added that under existing conditions the subjects of defence and external affairs would be reserved to the Governor-General, and that as regards finance the transfer of financial responsibility must necessarily be subject to such conditions as would ensure the fulfil- 246 meat of the obligations incurred under the authority of the Secretary of State, and the maintenance unimpaired of the financial stability and credit of India.
The Second Round-Table Conference was summoned and began its deliberations upon September 7, 1931. It met with two great difficulties. First, a General Election was imminent in England and actually took place during the sittings of the Conference, so that many of the British delegates were not able to give the time and thought to it that they would otherwise have done. The second difficulty was that in spite of the great efforts of the Prime Minister, which were more nearly successful than is generally known, no agreement was reached between the representatives of the Hindus and the Moslems upon what is known as the "communal question." On December 1, 1931, at the conclusion of the Second Conference, the Prime Minister made a statement on behalf of the Government. He said:
My colleagues in His Majesty's present Government"—
that is, this present National Government—
fully accept that statement of January last as representing their own policy. In particular, they desire to reaffirm their belief in an All-India Federation as offering, the only hopeful solution of India's constitutional problem.
§ Finally he declared the Government's intention to send three Committees to India to examine questions connected with the franchise, federal finance, and specific financial problems arising in connection with certain individual States. The three Committees proceeded to India, and in due time presented their Reports. That of the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, on the franchise, was, thanks to his tact, unanimous, and made valuable suggestions on this difficult subject. As was generally anticipated, the Hindus and Moslems were not able to agree upon the communal question, and that difference was settled by the award of the Government in August of last year.
§ Such was the state of things when the Third Round-Table Conference assembled upon November 21 last. That Conference was smaller in numbers and not so public as its predecessors, which made it much more suitable for the discussion of details. No one who was present at 247 it can forbear to pay a tribute to my right honourable friend Sir Samuel Hoare, the Secretary of State for India, to whose incessant work, great patience and unfailing courtesy the success which was attained is mainly due. I regret, both on personal and public grounds, that we did not have the assistance of any of my old friends and colleagues of the Labour Party. In the light of all this experience and all these opinions, and after consultation with the Government of India, His Majesty's Government promulgated the White Paper which is now before your Lordships. Pausing there for a moment, my Lords, these facts and these pronouncements are woven into the fabric of men's minds in India. After all that has been said and all that has been done during the last five and twenty years, is it not our duty to do our best—no man can do more than his best—to develop responsible government in India? What is our best? That there must be some change is a principle upon which we are all agreed; the only difference of opinion is as to the extent of the change.
§ I now pass to my third topic—the proposals contained in the White Paper. At the present moment your Lordships are not being asked to commit yourselves to anything except to the appointment of a Joint Select Committee. Allow me then to draw your attention to the main proposals put forward by the Government, but before doing so to deal with some criticisms. It is said quite truly that this scheme for an All-India Federation is unprecedented: that there exists no other such form of government. The same remark is often made about our English Constitution. And yet it moves. It is suggested that the matter has been unduly hurried. This charge cannot be substantiated. There has been the Statutory Commission. The Round-Table Conference, which was recommended by the Commission, and its Committees held 160 meetings, spread over a period of more than two years. During this period the Government of India and the India Office were giving daily consideration to the subject. The proposals were canvassed in many debates in both Houses of Parliament, in many discussions outside Parliament, and frequently in the Press.
§ This is not the time for a, minute examination of the details of the White 248 Paper, or for prolonged arguments to support it. An opportunity will be given for such a course not only before the Joint Select Committee, but also when the matter comes back to this House for your Lordships' final determination. Rather would I invite your consideration of several of the main proposals of the Government which are of chief interest to this House. It will be convenient to set, them in the form of questions, and then endeavour to answer them. First: Why is it necessary to go beyond the recommendations of the Simon Report? In one sense we are not doing so. We are only attempting what the Commission itself envisaged as the proper solution—namely, an All-India Federation, although the Commission in the state of their then information considered it to be a distant ideal. Since the Report the march of events has been rapid. There has been a declaration of policy by the Princes. There have been two declarations of policy by the head of the British Government. The author of the Report is himself a member of the Government which supports the present scheme. Many Englishmen are prepared to grant a measure of provincial autonomy only. To others that seems dangerous. In the Provinces we shall not have the co-operation of the Princes, and we shall lose that element of stability. Finally, a measure of provincial autonomy is difficult as far as Indian opinion is concerned. Indian politicians say they will not work it. They reckon ill who leave them out. Rightly or wrongly, many Indians will tell you that you are giving them the husk and keeping the kernel.
§ Next: If responsibility at the Centre is to be granted, what are the safeguards? This is the most important of all the questions, and our answer may he summed up in three sentences: We rely on (a) the powers of the Governor-General and Governors; (b) the Army; and (c) the Public Services. The powers of the Governor-General will be exercised in three different ways. First, with regard to certain reserved subjects—namely, the Army, defence, external and ecclesiastical affairs—he will himself direct the administration without any interference from his Ministers. No doubt a prudent Governor-General will keep his Ministers in the closest contact with these affairs, 249 but the decision with regard to them will be his, subject to the control of the Secretary of State, and, through him, of Parliament. This is unquestionably a very heavy responsibility to place upon any single individual, and in order to assist him it has been thought fit to give him the help of three counsellors, who will be appointed by him and whom he will be able to consult at all times.
§ Secondly, a special responsibility will be placed upon the Governor-General in relation to certain specific matters. Will your Lordships be good enough to look at paragraph 18 of the Proposals? These matters are:
- "(a) The prevention of any grave menace to the peace or tranquillity of India, or any part thereof;
- (b) the safeguarding of the financial stability and credit of the Federation;
- (c) the safeguarding of the legitimate interests of minorities;
- (d) the securing to the members of the Public Services of any rights provided for them by the Constitution Act, and the safeguarding of their legitimate interests;
- (e) the prevention of commercial discrimination;
- (f) the protection of the rights of any Indian State;
- (g) any matter which affects the administration of any Department under the direction and control of the Governor-General."
§ Upon all these the Ministers will have the right of advising the Governor-General, but he will not be bound to take their advice if it appears to him, after considering it, that the due discharge of his responsibility requires that he should himself take action. Thirdly, on all matters not indicated in these categories, he will have to follow the advice of his Ministers, subject to this—that he is not bound to accept that advice if, in his judgment, it would be inconsistent with any special responsibility imposed upon him by the Act. There is a fourth matter altogether outside these three categories, in which the Governor-General will have discretionary powers; for example, a power to dissolve, prorogue and summon the Legislature, to assent to, or withhold assent from, Acts, or to reserve Acts for the signification of His Majesty's pleasure.
§ The Instrument of Instructions to the Governor-General will be a document of the first importance. It must be noted that the Instrument is to be laid before 250 both Houses of Parliament, and an opportunity will be given for each House to make to His Majesty any representation it may desire for any amendment of or addition to, or omission from the Instruction. Pausing there for a moment, it may be asserted that the position of the Governor-General will be fortified by the fact that he is acting (1) under the direct provisions of the Act of Parliament; or (2) under his Instructions (which can be revised by Parliament); and (3) under the control of the Secretary of State, who is responsible to Parliament. Although he will be standing alone, he will have the help and support of the three counsellors and a financial adviser appointed by him. If anything more can be suggested, let it be put before the Select Committee. It may be said that we are placing too much responsibility upon an individual, but looking back over our past history, we have never yet failed to find the man we want. We need not despair for the future. If any noble Lord doubts this, my reply in one word—Circumspice!
§ So far for a broad outline of the position of the Governor-General. But some one will say: "You have given him all these powers, how will he be able to enforce them? "This raises the question of defence. The Proposals lay down that the Governor-General will have full discretion to use the powers conferred upon him by the Act, and it is provided that if he is satisfied that a situation has arisen which renders it impossible for the Government of the Federation to be carried on, he will be empowered by Proclamation to assume to himself the powers of any federal authority. The Proclamation will have the same force and effect as an Act of Parliament, but it will have to be communicated forthwith to the Secretary of State and laid before the British Parliament. To enable him to keep his finger on the pulse of public opinion and to have up-to-date information, he has the right to preside at any meeting of his Council of Ministers, and to have transmitted to himself and to his counsellors in the Reserved Departments and to his financial adviser such information as they may require. The executive authority of the Federation, including the supreme command of the military, naval and air forces in India, will be exercis- 251 able on the King s behalf by the Governor-General, but His Majesty will appoint a Commander-in-Chief to exercise such functions as may be assigned to him.
§ Again pausing for a moment to sum up, the Governor-General will not only have the right but the power, in the last resort, to put the Army in motion and take over the Government. In a situation less formidable various powers are conferred upon him to disallow Acts passed by the Legislature or to reserve them, or, for the purpose of enabling him to discharge his duties, to make Ordinances and to pass or cause the passing of Acts known as "Governor's Acts." This does not mean that the safeguards will be required for daily use. The people of India are not all extremists. There are millions there who are our friends. The safeguards will be able rather in power than in use. Another main safeguard will be in the fact that we shall have the Public Services in India. They will be recruited by the Secretary of State. This fact at once distinguishes the Indian case from the Irish case. In India too defence is to be a reserved subject and the Army will remain under the control of the British Parliament.
§ Permit me here to place on record the immense debt which the country owes to the members of the Indian Civil Service. Life for them is no summer holiday, but an ever-increasing burden of duties and responsibilities. They work far from home—sometimes under the most dangerous political conditions—with a single eye for the good of India and of England. When the history of our Empire is written, no body of men and no individuals will receive greater praise than those who have given their lives to the most wonderful Service the world has yet seen. We are bound in honour to discharge our obligations to protect them, and the paragraphs applicable will be found in Part VI of the Proposals. In addition to the powers of the Governor-General, of the Army and of the Services, a great number of Englishmen are resident in India as traders, missionaries and private persons. They confer benefits on the country. Should the Federation be formed, you will also have the stability which arises from the presence of the Princes. With provincial autonomy only that will be lacking. It 252 may be argued that too much stress is being laid on safeguards. But, my Lords, safeguards are just as necessary for India as they are for England. Great constitutional changes, if they are to succeed, if they are to last, cannot be made rapidly.
§ Next: What will be the powers of the Federal and Provincial Legislatures? It will be outside the competence of the Federal and the Provincial Legislatures to make any law affecting the Sovereign or the Royal Family, the sovereignty or dominion of the Crown over any part of British India, the law of British nationality, the Army Act, the Air Force Act, and the Naval Discipline Act. The Federal Legislature will have an exclusive power to make laws for the peace and good government of the Federation with respect to the matters ceded to their jurisdiction and set out in List I of Appendix VI. In this list there are 64 subjects. Provincial Legislatures will have a similar power in respect of the matters set out in List II. In this list there are 77 subjects. It is true there are many safeguards. It is also true that there are many subjects ceded to the jurisdiction of the proposed Federation. Problems will arise which will exercise all the patience and all the statesmanship of Indian Ministers. It will be for them to set their hands to the plough and their faces to the future.
§ Next as to law and order. Hitherto this has been a reserved subject. The Simon Commission were forced by arguments and circumstances to come to the conclusion that if you are to have provincial autonomy—and there is not any responsible statesman who would not go as far as that—you must allow law and order to be administered by the Provinces. I confess this proposal fills me with anxiety, but there is, it seems, no escape from this conclusion. This is not the moment to argue its propriety. The opportunity to do so will arise later. The powers given to the Governor of each Province aremutatis mutandisthe same as those given to the Governor-General. There are some small differences, but, as in the case of the Governor-General, so in the case of the Governors of individual Provinces, there will be the express enactments of the Act of Parliament, and there will be the Instru- 253 ment of Instructions, which must be approved by Parliament.
§ Next as to finance. Your Lordships will remember that the Governor-General has a special responsibility for safeguarding the financial stability and the credit of the Federation. He will be empowered at his discretion, but after consultation with his Ministers, to appoint, a financial adviser to assist him. The appropriation of revenues relating to certain heads of expenditure will not be submitted to the vote of either Chamber of the Legislature, but, with some small exceptions, will be open to discussion in both Chambers. The important ones to which it is necessary to draw attention are: firstly, expenditure required for the interest, sinking fund charges and other expenditure relating to the raising and service of loans, salaries and pensions of people who are, or have been, in the service of the Crown; secondly—not votable but discussable—expenditure required for the purposes of defence, external or ecclesiastical affairs.
§ Let me now pass to credit and currency. It is a fundamental condition of the new Constitution that no room shall be left for doubts as to the ability of India to maintain her financial stability and credit both at home and abroad. With a view to ensuring confidence in the management of Indian credit and currency, there will be established on sure foundations and free from any political influence as early as may be found possible a Reserve Bank which will be entrusted with the management of the currency and exchange. Before such a bank can start operations with a reasonable chance of successfully establishing itself, the Indian budgetary position should be assured and the existing short-time debt both in London and in India should be substantially reduced. Adequate reserves should have been accumulated and India's normal export surplus restored.
§ Next as to commercial discrimination. This is a matter which has caused great anxiety to the trading community both at home and in India. Discrimination may be exercised either legislatively or administratively. The basic proposal is that the avoidance of discrimination would best be achieved by specific provisions in the Constitution. Time forbids me to go into the subject, important though it is, at greater length, but the 254 Governor-General—and, the Governor of each Province—has a special responsibility given charging him with the prevention of commercial discrimination. The Legislatures will have no power to make laws of a discriminating character against any British subject, including in that term companies, partnerships or associations constituted by, or under, any Federal or Provincial law.
§ Next, with regard to the Federal and Provincial Legislatures. First of all, as to the Cabinet. In his Instrument of Instructions the Governor-General will be enjoined to use his best endeavours to select his Ministers in this manner—namely, to commit to the person who, in his judgment, is likely to command the largest following in the Legislature the selection of Ministers for the Governor-General's appointment, including as far as possible members of important minority communities and representatives of the States Members of the Federation. At the Centre it is proposed to have two Chambers: a Council of State which will last for seven years, and a House of Assembly, which will continue for five. The Chambers will be of equal power, and Bills—other than Money Bills, which must be initiated in the Assembly—may be introduced in either Chamber. There are provisions for an Oath to be taken by members, for the election of a Speaker and the determination of a quorum, for qualifications and disqualifications of membership, and for freedom of speech. Further, there are provisions as to what is to happen in the case of a disagreement between the two Houses. At the moment the numbers of each Chamber and the proportions to be assigned to British India and the States are not determined. With regard to the Provinces, Bengal, the United Provinces and Bihar prefer a bicameral, the others a unicameral Legislature, but here again,mutatis mutandis,the procedure of the Chambers, and the powers of the Government follow those laid down in respect of the Centre. This is not the occasion to define in detail the competence of the Legislatures in terms of subjects, and their rights in respect of revenue. Some subjects will be exclusively assigned to the Federal and Provincial Legislatures respectively, while in others both Federal and Provincial Legislatures will exercise a concurrent jurisdiction with appropriate provisions for relieving conflicts of law.255
§ With regard to the franchise and communal award, having regard to the large number of adults in India, to the great amount of illiteracy, and to the position of women, we are met with difficulty in every direction. The expense of elections and the huge area of the constituencies prohibit adult suffrage. Again, the methods of direct and indirect election have to be considered. Over and above that, the claims of the Moslem community for separate electorates, to which effect has always been given, and the impossibility which the various Parties in India found in coming to an agreement, complicates the problem. In the result a compromise had to be effected which was carried out by the award of the Government in August last year on the communal question. The position now stands as follows: Since British Indian seats in the Upper Chamber of the Federal Legislature will be filled by indirect election by the Provincial Legislatures, no question of franchise qualification arises, but certain specific property and other qualifications will be required in members. The franchise for the Lower Chamber of the Legislature will, for practical purposes, be the existing franchise for the present Provincial Legislature.
§ The existing franchise in all provinces is essentially based on property. In adopting it, with certain modifications, as the franchise for the Lower Chamber of the Federal Legislature, it is proposed to supplement the property qualification by an educational qualification common to men and women, and, where necessary, by differential franchise such as to produce an electorate of approximately 2 per cent. of the Depressed Classes. Provision will be made for an electorate for the seats to be provided for commerce, labour and other special interests in the Federal Lower Chamber. The effect will be to enfranchise between 2and 3 per cent. of the total population of British India. The gross total electorate will amount to between seven and eight millions. The Provincial franchise will be based essentially on property, supplemented by an educational qualification common to men and women alike; also by a qualification for women in respect of property held by their husbands, and by a provision directed to secure an electorate of 10 per cent. of the Depressed Classes. If these proposals are accepted, taking Bengal as a typical case, seven and a-half 256 millions would be enfranchised out of a total population of fifty millions, and probably—it is only an estimate—the general effect over British India would be to enfranchise some 27 per cent. of the adult population. Your Lordships will see that these totals do not materially differ from the recommendations of the Commission. It is to be hoped that the admission of women into the political life of India will proceed rapidly.
§ Next with regard to the States, the date and conditions for the inauguration of the Federation depend upon their accession to it. The process of negotiating with the States individually cannot be undertaken until the Act, which is the basis of the Princes' agreement, has been passed, for until that time arrives the States will not be in a position of final and complete knowledge of the character and powers of the Federation to which they are asked to accede. The condition to be satisfied before the Federal Constitution is brought into operation is that the Rulers of the States representing not less than half the aggregation of the Indian States and entitled to not less than half the seats to be allotted to the States in the Federal Legislature, shall have executed their Instruments of Accession. The Federation will be brought into being by Royal Proclamation, but the Proclamation will not be issued until both Houses of Parliament have presented an Address to the Crown with a prayer for its promulgation.
§ With regard to the Federal Court, there will be a Federal Court with original and appellate jurisdiction in regard to federal natters. Care is taken to ensure the independence and tenure of the Judges. The provincial High Courts, usually known as the Chartered Courts, will be maintained. From all these Courts it will be possible to appeal, sometimes as of right, and sometimes by leave, to the Privy Council. There is a further provision enabling the Federal Legislature to establish a Supreme Court of Appeal for British India, should it so desire.
§ With regard to the control of Parliament, it follows that by the operation of the Act and of the Instrument of Instructions, there will be control of the situation, by the Governors of the Provinces with supervision by the 257 Governor-General, by the Governor-General with supervision by the Secretary of State, and by the Secretary of State with the supervision of Parliament, in whom will rest the ultimate control. The Council of India as at present constituted will cease to exist and the Secretary will have an advisory committee to assist him. Whatever opinions may be held as to the contents of the White Paper, we must all agree that we are indebted to the civil servants for their work early and late during the last three months which has made the completion of the draft so soon possible.
§ With regard to the constitution of the Joint Select Committee, the Government will ensure that all Parties and all main bodies of opinion are represented. Indians will be taken into consultation by the Committee. They cannot be members of it as they are not members of Parliament. It will be for the Committee itself to decide in what way, heir experience may best be used. Such are the proposals which we desire to place before a Joint Select Committee. Give me leave to sum up the situation in which we find ourselves. It is not difficult to criticise any type of government or to make a case against any suggested reform, but first, last, and all the time, we must take care not to undermine the foundations of a policy which our forefathers have done so much to build up. But, my Lords, you cannot stand still; you cannot do little or nothing. What are we to see? Are we to see an India companioned by content, an India making her contribution to the peace and progress of all her many peoples, or are we to see an India torn assunder by dissension, seething with sedition, no use to herself, no use to England, no use to the world?
§ Whatever course we pursue, we shall find ourselves confronted with some risk. To grant complete independence is a risk: to do little or nothing is a risk: to accept these proposals is a risk. But it is with empires as with individuals. Those who will not risk cannot win. They even may lose w hat they have. The scheme upon which we desire the opinion of tike Joint Select Committee, and for which with any modifications made by the Committee we hope ultimately to obtain your approval, is not only a scheme which can be worked, but one which will be worked, at first possibly by only a sec- 258 tion of the Indian people, but eventually by all of them. We have done our best. It is a scheme which, whatever people say, will prove to the world that England is not, unmindful of, and has fulfilled, her promises. It is a scheme which, if you accept it now, may, and probably will, give you a breathing space for years. If you reject it, we may soon have to go farther and fare worse.
§ During this controversy we have heard, and shall continue to hear, extreme views put forward in extreme language. That method let those contrive who will, and when they will, but, as for you, my Lords, when you have considered all the circumstances, when you have weighed all the difficulties, and when you have compared all the alternatives, we do not doubt that you will reach the conclusion that these are wise and practical proposals. They give a maximum of opportunity to India with a minimum of risk to England. A great Indian religious leader and a great Greek political philosopher taught their disciples that in human affairs the wisest course is to follow the middle way. It is because this scheme is, as we think, a middle way between those who ask too much and those who offer too little that we commend it to your Lordships' careful consideration. Our hope is, our belief is, that it provides a path which will lead us to peace at the last.
§ Moved, That this House do concur in the Resolution communicated by the Commons, namely: "That, before Parliament is asked to take a decision upon the proposals contained in Command Paper 4268, it is expedient that a Joint Select Committee of Lords and Commons, with power to call into consultation representatives of the Indian States and of British India, be appointed to consider the future government of India and, in particular, to examine and report upon the proposals in the said Command Paper."—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ LORD SNELL
My Lords, the House is under a very great obligation to the noble and learned Viscount for his lucid and most informing exposition of the scope of the problem which is before your Lordships, and I should like, for my own part, to acknowledge in the fullest way the great courtesy and the unfailing patience which, in his capacity as presiding officer of the Round-Table Confer- 259 ence, the noble and learned Viscount kept that Conference united in the common purpose of promoting the good of India and of our own country. The only critical comment I would venture to make upon the noble and learned Viscount's speech is that he has placed undue emphasis, not on what is to be given to India, but on what is to be withheld from her. I agree with him, however, in the well merited tribute that he paid to the Civil Service for their help in the matter which is before your Lordship's House.
I would like to say that this is in no sense a Party question, and I shall approach it upon the assumption and with the belief that everybody in your Lordships' House is just as anxious as I am to secure the greatest good that is possible to India and to our own country. I also feel that no past declaration should bind us rigidly to a particular set of words or opinions, for we stand in our own place with the problems of our own day before us. The Labour Party, for which I have the honour to speak to-day, desires first of all to reaffirm its point of view in this debate—a point of view which it would be foolish for me to hide, or for your Lordships to ignore. The Labour Party is quite as patriotic as the Epping Party although it may not rise to the same heights of self-esteem, but there are certain principles to which we, as a Party, are bound and to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention. One is that of co-operation between the British Government and the leaders of Indian opinion. We believe that their co-operation should be always sought and never lost sight of, that we should seek to win them at every stage to such constitutional changes as are to be made with regard to their country.
The question as to whether the Labour Party should take part in the Joint Committee which it is proposed to set up was not unanimously approved. Many of our Party were unwilling to submit any of their colleagues to the experience that it was feared they might have to meet upon a Committee where their votes and not their views would be respected, where it might happen that they would be isolated and ignored as colleagues and their proposals automatically rejected. They also felt that there was a difficult question regarding the release of such political prisoners in India as have not been guilty of acts of moral turpitude.
260 It was felt that we ought perhaps to decline to appoint representatives to this Committee until they had been liberated, and I venture to hope that before the Committee actually begins its work His Majesty's Government may make a gesture of good will to India by releasing at least a great part of those prisoners. Nevertheless, the Labour Party as a whole felt it to be their duty to share the responsibilities of Parliament in the great and grave matter which is now before its attention.
They desire me, however, to ask your Lordships to be permitted to read in your House the declaration of principle that was made in another place:The Labour Party stand by the declaration made at their Blackpool Conference in 1927 to the effect that:We reaffirm the right of the Indian peoples to full self-government and self-determination, and therefore the policy of the British Government should be one of continuous co-operation with the Indian people, with the object of establishing India, at the earliest possible moment and by her consent, as an equal partner with the other members of the British Commonwealth of nations."The Labour Party believe that, as stated by the Statutory Commission, the new Constitution should contain within itself provision for its own development. We think that the new Constitution should contain the principle laid down in the Irwin-Gandhi Pact that such safeguards as are necessary should be in the interests of India and agreed on in co-operation with the leaders of Indian opinion. The new Constitution should adopt the principle laid down by the Labour Government at the First Round-Table Conference, and repeated as their policy by the National Government at the Second Round-Table Conference, that the Reserved Powers should not be such as to prejudice the advance of India through the new Constitution to full responsibility for her own government. The policy of the Labour Party, reinforced by these declarations, is therefore clear and unequivocal, and the Party will, in an endeavour to further that policy, nominate its representatives to serve on the Committee."
The noble and learned Viscount, in his opening speech, said that this was not the occasion when detailed criticism of the White Paper would be appropriate.
261 I entirely agree with that idea, but there are one or two questions that I should like to ask which are of some importance. What, for example, is to be the exact position of the Indian representatives on this Joint Select Committee? Will they have full rights as participating members in everything except votes and the preparation of the Report? Will they be able, for example, to submit their own suggestions and to move modifications at all stages in the proceedings? It is important that that should be made clear. The late Earl Birkenhead, in your Lordships' House on November 24, 1927, said the representatives of Indiaare most formally and specially invited to come and sit with the General Committee in Parliament and to develop any criticisms or objections that they feel…Then there is the question of the British representatives on the Committee. Will they be permitted to have their secretaries or advisers with them, as was the case at the Round-Table Conferences? The strain to which they will be submitted will be both severe and prolonged. It would seem that such help would be serviceable both to the nation and to themselves. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Irwin—who I sincerely trust will be well enough to attend later—will be able to give some satisfaction in answering those questions.
I pass, my Lords, to larger and more important matters. The first difficulty that we feel is in regard as to what is called Dominionstatus.The Imperial Relations Committee of the Imperial Conference in 1926 said of the group of self-governing communities composed of Great Britain and the Dominions that each of them as regarded all vital matters had reached a full development. The Committee went on to define their position and mutual relationship as follows:They are autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal instatus,in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.At a later period the Prime Minister, speaking in July, 1928, said:I hope that, within a period of months rather than years, there will be a new Dominion added to the Commonwealth of our nations, a Dominion of another race, a Dominion that will find self-respect as an equal within this Commonwealth. I refer to India.262 And in his speech as Prime Minister at the closing session of the First Round-Table Conference on January 19, 1931, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald said:Finally, I hope, and I trust, and I pray that by our labours together India will come to possess the only thing which she now lacks to give her thestatusof a Dominion amongst the British Commonwealth of Nations—what she now lacks for that—the responsibilities and the cares, the burdens and the difficulties, but the pride and the honour of responsible self-government.So that the promises to the Indian people have been explicit and solemn and should be binding, and our criticism of the White Paper as it stands is that it appears that these solemn pledges have not been honoured.
Not only is Dominionstatusnot granted, but there is no promise that it ever will be granted. The wisdom of granting Dominionstatusto India is open to question, but that we should keep our pledged word is open to no question, and we may have to hear angered Indian representatives say that they have been misled, if not betrayed. No experienced statesman would say that Dominionstatuscould be conferred at once. Our complaint is that it appears to be ignored even as a goal of endeavour, and that omission will give aid and comfort to the extremists in India and will make more difficult the task of the enlightened and moderate statesmen of India who want to arrive at a states manlike conclusion. Further, it would seem that there is no assurance that this scheme will ever be carried out. No date for its coming into operation is fixed and the people of India know that there exists in this country a powerful group of political persons and ex-administrators who have the avowed intention of impeding it at all stages and, if possible, destroying it.
Then consider the impediments in the day of its realisation. Not until the Constitution Act has been passed by Parliament will the Princes be asked to come in at all and, even so, we shall have to wait until the instruments of Accession have been prepared. Secondly, the Federal Constitution will not come into operation until the Rulers of States representing not less than one-half of the aggregate population have executed these Instruments of Accession. Thirdly, Parliament is then to address the Crown praying it to issue a Royal 263 Proclamation in order to make the scheme effective. Can anybody be sure of the type of government that is going to exist at the time that these pledges have to be fulfilled? Suppose that a Government were to come into power dominated by those who object to anything being done in India—is it to be thought for a moment that this scheme would then go through as we wish it to go through at the present time?
Again, in regard to the period of transition no time is mentioned. It has always been understood, of course, that there would be a period of transition during which approved safeguards would be enforced. The Prime Minister, in the White Paper to which I have drawn attention, held out as an objective that responsible government, qualified during the period of transition by limitation in certain directions, would be granted. In the Act of 1919 a period of ten years was fixed when the subject might be reviewed, but here any question of time has been avoided. The whole idea of Dominionstatuswould appear to have gone. The idea of progressive advance towards self-government disappears and in regard to machinery, such as the powers of the Governor-General, the Indian Army and finance, there is an assumption of finality which cannot do other than intensify the problem. I thought that if anything had been agreed to in regard to this problem it was that dyarchy in India had not worked well, but here we not only dc not destroy dyarchy, but we transfer it as it were from the Provinces to the Centre with a possibility of evil there which causes the Party with which I am associated the gravest anxiety.
We should also have liked more liberal conditions to have been given in regard to the women of India. The proposed representation for them appears to us to be quite inadequate. The greatest need in India at present is that of an educated womanhood, and the problem there of wise judgment in matters affecting women's life demands the assistance of the wisest women that India has. Such matters as to the age of consent, child marriage and maternal mortality require the assistance of wise and courageous women. As I see the matter, looking forward, under this Constitution or any other, the men of India will be enor- 264 mously preoccupied during the first years of its operation, with the danger that those things which affect women's lives may be overlooked, or at least ignored, because of these other things that have to be done. The effect of these proposals seems to diminish substantially the proportion of women voters that was proposed in the Lothian Franchise Committee. No one can have worked with, watched and admired the wise capacity of Indian women like Mrs. Naidu, Mrs. Subbarayan or the Begum Shah Nawaz at the Round-Table Conference without feeling that India would be richer if women of a more representative character were permitted to take part in the very important work that is before them.
I would like to say one or two words about the question of safeguards. This is a question of great difficulty and no one will wish to raise objections to safeguards, in so far as they are necessary, because they have always been understood. The Prime Minister made it clear that it would be responsible government qualified during a period of transition by limitations in certain directions. But we nevertheless approach this question of safeguards with considerable anxiety. Let me recall to your Lordships the declaration of principle that I read for my Party. We think that the new Constitution should contain the principle laid down in the Irwin-Gandhi Pact, that such safeguards as are necessary should be in the interests of India and agreed on in co-operation with leaders of Indian opinion. We should like to believe that these safeguards had been arrived at with this end in view. They appear, on the other hand, to be designed mainly for the interests of Great Britain, the interests of India, of course, not being entirely overlooked. Our complaint about these safeguards is that they are not merely absolute but final; that they do not allow for growth; that they take from the principle of self-government its very spirit and meaning. India is to have freedom as a bird within a cage has freedom, but no more.
It would appear that this matter touches the very core of the problem. Why cannot we be perfectly frank about it? Let us try to convince the Indian people that these safeguards are necessary. It is mere adroitness to say 265 we are giving self-government when the very spirit of self-government is being withheld. We shall be accused by the Indian people of a parade of generosity in small things, with a miser's caution in the things which affect a nation's self respect. So our judgment upon this question of safeguards is that it leaves the soul of India affronted. We are gambling on the chance that an enforced discipline will produce the acquiescence that is required. My Lords, mere obedience is the least commendable of virtues. A necessary condition of creative co-operation is freedom for independent self direction. So absolute do these safeguards appear that theMorning Post, the solitary and delighted exponent of class war in this country, is almost lyrical in its praise:The Governor-General and the Governors are safeguarded at every turn…They are empowered to override Ministers, to initiate and prescribe legislation, to provide their own finance, to carry out their own policy…There is a safeguard …in every page of this White Paper.Then there is a word of warning from a Tory paper, theEveningStandard, which says:If the new system of government is intended to be a reality they (the safeguards) must be used very sparingly, otherwise the Indian politieans will complain that they have been cheated. It is certain that they could not he used at all without, grave friction. …I commend those views from a sober source to your Lordships' attention.
Permit me to say, in passing from that aspect of the subject, that our complaint is limited to just this, that the scheme fails in its spirit. Trust is a thing that you cannot give and at the same time withhold. If you give you must give generously and believe that you will meet the necessary response. There is a verse in the Book of Proverbs to which I would like to draw your Lordships' attention in this connection:There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.I cannot understand why His Majesty's Government, are so cautious in just this one thing that matters. There is nothing in India to justify it. The statesmen of India have learned to know the problem as they never knew it before.
It is not in India that the trouble is. The trouble is at home. The Govern- 266 ment are seeking to appease a section of their own Party, and they might as well hope to thaw a glacier by breathing upon it, as to change that point of view; but there is a safeguard that apparently the Government have forgotten—the safeguard of the Indian workers, which we view with some alarm. Under this, and perhaps under any scheme, they would lose one safeguard which they have always had. There has always been a vigilant group in Parliament, not confined to any one Party, which yet saw that if injustice touched the head of any man in India the Secretary of State would have to account for it. The workers of India are more or less left naked before their exploiters.
There is this one other consideration. It will be remembered that, the Princes agreed to come into the Federation on condition that British India was a self-governing body, and that India was not ruled from Whitehall. One wonders whether they will consider that this scheme gives them the condition they sought. It has been said that there is no alternative to the scheme before your Lordships' House. I think there are other and better alternatives, and I will suggest one. If we should satisfy the Indian people in one or two big things, as to the possibility of growth and the steady and assisted march to Dominionstatus—promise them that and I will give any of the safeguards that you think are necessary for transitional purposes, and I believe that India will give them too. In those circumstances we could rightly ask India to trust our judgment.
We have had a thousand years of experience in the work of nation building, and we do not find it so easy. With an almost uncanny gift for seeing difficulties and overcoming them, we advance timidly a step forward only to find that we have been mistaken and that we have to retreat. Other nations have had the same experience. I remember a statement attributed to Catherine of Russia. When Diderot put before her a, cut and dried scheme for the better government of her country she saidYou work on paper, which will put up with anything, but I, a poor Empress, have to deal with human nature—a vastly different thing.So, in this matter, the human factor is variable and incalculable. The Indian people could quite well accept our ex- 267 perience in regard to the machinery of this Constitution, for all that we want to be sure of is that the wheels will go round when the machine is ready to start. If we could give them satisfaction in what touches their self-respect they would, I feel, give us gladly and with both hands the conditions of safety in the process.
I have tried to place before your Lordships with clearness and with reasonable brevity what is, I know, an unpopular view in your Lordships' House, a view which it was my duty to put before you—there is no reason why we should be here except to do precisely that one thing; and I thank your Lordships for listening so courteously and attentively. We are not unmindful of our duty in this grave matter, and we shall, with a full sense of responsibility, try to make our contribution to the solution of what, I repeat, is the greatest and gravest problem of our time.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
My Lords, the Motion on the Paper, which was moved by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, only invites our consent to the setting up of a Committee to consider the future government of India. But I imagine that the Government desire that during the debate which will ensue we shall comment upon the merits of the White Paper itself, which represents the contribution of the Government to that problem. Indeed, the debate could hardly take place on anything else, because I imagine that there is little, if any, difference of opinion as to the necessity of appointing such a Committee. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack invited us to look at the White Paper in its broad outlines, and I shall follow the noble and learned Viscount's invitation. It would clearly be out of place to consider the details of proposals which are admittedly tentative, and which are going to be subjected to the closest examination by the Committee when it is set up.
Let me say, then, that if the outline taken is sufficiently broad I accept this White Paper at least as a basis for discussion. But there are features of it which cause me some anxiety, which honesty requires that I should state, even at this stage. If I do so it is not from any wish to embarrass His Majesty's 268 Government. I am fully conscious of the immense difficulties of this problem. I have had actual experience of it. It is almost impossible for anyone to say with absolute certainty exactly what ought to be done here and now, having regard to the variety and complexity of the interests involved. And I recognise, and desire to pay a tribute to, the sincerity and conscientiousness of the Secretary of State in his endeavour to find the best solution for this great difficulty. I am whole-heartedly with him in his belief that further advance along the lines laid down by all Parties in 1919 is now due, and I agree with the noble Lord who has just spoken that it is over-due. If I venture to make a few criticisms of certain features of the White Paper, it is not because I want to go back, it is not because I want to stand still, it is not even that I want to go more slowly than the Government in the matter, but merely because in certain respects I desire to proceed differently towards the same goal.
I have read most, if not all, of the speeches that have been made by members of the Government in defence of the White Paper, and I cannot help feeling that the arguments which they use are directed rather to the justification of some policy, some action, some advance, rather than to a defence of the particular proposals made in the White Paper itself. They do not tell us that they are united in recommending this as the best possible policy in the circumstances, as good in itself, as in all respects suited to the present conditions in India; but they remind us that they are not free, that the slate on which they are writing is not a clean slate—others have been before them—and that in certain respects they are committed. They admit that the experience of the past has not been entirely happy, and they express doubts as to whether the proposals contained in this Paper will, in fact, provide a better Constitution than that which exists to-day.
I noticed that even the Lord Chancellor to-day, when introducing the subject, spoke of his own anxiety, and the eloquent termination of his speech was almost confined to reminding us of the risks which were involved in the policy. But the Government say: "We must do something, and this proposal is suggested to us by the Simon Commission, that by the Round-Table Conference, that other 269 by the Indian Princes; and after all, if the scheme does not work perfectly, at least we have provided adequate safeguards, and we have reserved complete powers in the last resort in the hands of the Viceroy and the Governors of Provinces." I think that kind of reasoning is rather a counsel of despair, and it fills me with some anxiety and misgivings. It seems to me that since the Simon Commission issued its Report the Government have had no policy of their own to recommend to Parliament, but have endeavoured rather to seek more and more advice in different quarters. We have had, as we have been reminded to-day, three sittings of the Round-Table Conference, three Committees have been sent out to India to examine particular aspects of the problem, and now it is proposed that the White Paper should be submitted to yet another Committee. What I fear is that when at last a Bill is produced, representing the policy of the Government of the day, we shall be told that it is too late for us to consider any other alternative; that we must, in fact, pass the Bill because it has had so many fathers. I cannot help thinking that this is not quite fair to Parliament, and, after all, we are always being reminded that the ultimate responsibility rests with Parliament.
The Lord Chancellor to-day spoke about pronouncements made by Viceroys and Princes, pronouncements which have been woven into the fabric of men's minds in India. I agree, and I deplore the fact that pronouncements of this kind have been made before Parliament has had an opportunity of putting forward a Bill. I think that in a matter of this gravity Parliament is entitled to have placed before it the considered policy of His Majesty's Government and not the policy of other people who are, after all, not responsible to Parliament. I very much regret that in this last discussion even the opinions of civil servants in India were introduced in order to justify the proposals of the White Paper. I shall be told that the time has not yet come for this, that some day we shall have a Bill, and that then we shall he free t o discuss it; but what I fear is that when that day comes we shall not in fact be free. We are not really free now, in view of the procedure that has been followed and the various pronouncements which have been made, of which we have 270 been reminded to-day, and when at last the Bill is introduced I feel that we shall not be free at all.
I think, my Lords, that after the Statutory Commission had issued its Report the Government ought then to have introduced a Bill of their own. They ought then to have told us what their policy was, and if that had been done not only should we have been much freer to discuss it, to criticise it, and if necessary to amend it, but we should have avoided the delay which has taken place during these last three years. During that time considerable experience might have been obtained in India of great value to us in coming to a final decision, and all the unrest which has been accumulating because of this delay might, to a large extent, have been avoided.
But, after all, that is only a criticism of procedure. I come now to consider the proposals of the White Paper itself. Here again, if I mention certain anxieties which I feel about some of its features, my criticism is a criticism of detail, and in no sense a criticism of the intentions of the Government. Broadly speaking, the policy of the White Paper is to establish full autonomy in the Provinces and a Federation of Provinces and. States at the Centre. I accept the policy of provincial autonomy. I only regret it was not introduced some years sooner. I also accept in principle the combination of these autonomous Provinces in British India with the autonomous Governments of the Indian States in a Federal Government for the whole of India. I believe that that is the best outcome, if it could be achieved, of all we have been trying to do since 1919. But what I do doubt the wisdom of is setting up now an incomplete, imperfectly digested, and ill-prepared Federal Government with a divided responsibility which all our experience in India, all the experience of the past, leads me to think will work badly. I do not believe that the authors of this Constitution themselves really believe it will work, and I think they are relying too much upon the safeguards by which it is accompanied to save the situation and put things right when the expected failure of the rest of the machinery takes place.
In this matter I speak from experience. I tried to work this very principle as a 271 Governor of an Indian Province. There are in your Lordships' House other noble Lords who have served as Governors, and who will probably bear me out in what I say. The system did not work well. It did not work well even as an installment of Parliamentary government; and to introduce such a system into the government of India, where the issues are so much more serious, where the consequences of friction will be so much more serious, seems to me to ignore the lessons of the past.
When I say that dyarchy was a failure, I do not mean, as I sometimes hear it stated, that the transferred Departments were badly administered. That was not my experience. I do not mean that Indian Ministers were less competent. In the Province of which I was Governor the same men who served as Ministers were afterwards in several cases selected by the Governor to be his Executive Council. I have been unable to detect any difference in their administration whether they were acting as Ministers or as Executive Councillors. It was not the administration, it was the Parliamentary responsibility which was at fault. Under this system the relations between the Executive and the Legislature were not harmonious. Ministers were not regarded, as they were intended to be regarded, as representatives of popular opinion. My experience was that the reserved half of Government was disliked, but it was respected, whereas the transferred half of Government was not only disliked, but it was despised.
This unfortunate result of dyarchy will, I trust, be largely eliminated from provincial government as the result of the proposals contained in the White Paper, but I fear that these results will be introduced to a far greater extent into the Government of India if you apply to that Government the same system of divided responsibility. The Government of India to-day may not be popular, but it is respected. I doubt whether the proposals of the White Paper will make it any more popular under the system here described, but I fear it may, as in the case of the Provinces, cause it to be despised; and it is a very poor service to the cause of popular government, Parliamentary government, to bring all government into contempt. To create a Parliament 272 and to deny it power is to invite friction, for it is the essence of Parliamentary government that Parliament must be supreme—at least, no Parliament will ever be satisfied until it is supreme. So I feel it is wiser not to create Parliaments until you are prepared to give them such power. The Government are evidently not prepared to give some powers to the Federal Government in India, and yet feel it wise to create a Federal Parliament without such power and that is where I respectfully differ from them.
I may be asked: "What, then, is your alternative?" I agree with the noble Lord who spoke last that there are alternatives. I venture to submit one, but I do not want to speak dogmatically about it or to be in any way too positive. The White Paper begins by stating that federation elsewhere has usually resulted from a pact entered into by a number of political units, each possessed of sovereignty or at least of autonomy. It goes on to point out that in India the Provinces have not yet got those independent powers of authority to surrender. That seems to me the best possible reason for creating them before you create a Federal Government. I know of no precedent for proceeding otherwise. If there are such precedents I hope that some spokesman from the Government in the course of this debate will give us an example of a departure from what the White Paper describes as the usual procedure. I think that if the usual practice in creating federations were followed, the dilemma put by the Secretary of State about responsibility and safeguards would not arise. If a Federal Government is a desired goal surely the first step is to create confederate States, confederate units, and, when they have been created, it is quite possible by such a pact as the White Paper describes to bring them together into a Federal Government. If that course was adopted the safeguards which would be embodied in such a Constitution would be the result of agreement between the different units which have come together to form the Central Government, and they would not result in the same degree of friction which, I am afraid, will be the consequence of the proposals of the White Paper.
Indeed, one of the things I most fear about the proposals contained in this 273 Paper is that they will bring the whole idea of safeguards into disrepute, for I recognise that no matter what Constitution may be established there must be safeguards in it. There are safeguards which will be demanded under the procedure I am outlining by the representatives of the different interests concerned, and demanded in their own interest. I have no doubt I shall be told that although such a procedure is quite logical, although it is theoretically sound, it is practically impossible because the people of India will not accept it. That is, in fact, the argument used by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack this afternoon. That, may be true. I do not know. I am not in a position to judge. It is already six or seven years since I left India, and I may be quite a back number by now, but if it is true that the people of India would be unwilling to attain their federation by the same steps by which every other federation in the world has been attained, I can only say that is because the argument has never been addressed to been in the right way.
It is one of the inherent fallacies of all discussions on this constitutional problem in India that Indian politicians believe—and they have been encouraged in this belief—that the kind of Constitution which they want is something which can be given to them ready-made in an Act of Parliament, that it is something which it is in our power to give and not something which is in their power to achieve. I believe that to be quite unsound. Until that fallacy is corrected you will have continual disappointment, and none of the instalments of self-government which Parliament may intro' duce, however they may be framed, will give satisfaction to the people who believe that they can have a measure of self-government complete in all its details embodied in an Act of Parliament and handed over to them to work.
For this reason I doubt very much whether the present instalment will in fact be more satisfactory, or at any rate more acceptable than others that have preceded it. But I believe that if Parliament were to say in a spirit of real confidence to the people of India: "We are willing to establish a Federal Government for the whole of India as soon as the necessary conditions have been ful- 274 filled, and the necessary conditions are the creation in the first instance of self governing units in British India And agreement between such units and the self-governing Indian States regarding the terms on which they will agree between themselves to accept the authority of a Federal Government. In order to satisfy the first of those conditions we will establish now full provincial autonomy in the Provinces, to be followed, as soon as the second condition is fulfilled, by a Federal Government 'at the Centre"—I believe that if Parliament were to say that in all sincerity, they would have as good a chance of having their proposal accepted as have the Government to-day of securing acceptance for the proposals which they have put forward. In any case, whether that be so or not I myself would never be a party to recommending something that I thought unwise, something that I thought would riot work, merely because I was told that somebody wanted it and it must be given merely because it was desired.
It is impossible in the limits necessitated by this debate to enter into any greater details. I only wanted to say so much because it is so often stated that there is no alternative except to stand still or go back to the proposals contained in the White Paper. I think there are alternatives. There may be others more worthy of consideration than that which I have mentioned. I only hope that the Select Committee when it is appointed will be free to consider all alternatives as well as the proposals contained in the White paper, and as a result of their deliberations to put forward that which they consider the best suited to the conditions. In the meanwhile, all that is being said and written about abdication and surrender seems to me extremely mischievous—mischievous because it encourages terrorist activities in India. I know that is the very last thing people who use those arguments have in mind, nevertheless that is a consequence of arguments so put forward. When these extremist bodies read or hear concessions which they regard as altogether inadequate described as a cowardly surrender, then they flatter themselves that they have made somebody afraid, and they think that by a more intensive application of the same tactics they will secure an even greater surrender.
275 I am quite convinced that in putting forward these proposals His Majesty's Government are actuated by no feelings of fear of anybody, and they have shown—I gladly pay my tribute in this matter—that they, in close co-operation with their representative in India, have known how to re-establish and maintain law and order in that country. I am certain that they have put forward these proposals in the sincere conviction that they are what is best for India and that what is best for India must in the long run be best for Britain also. If I have ventured to make some criticisms of one or two of their features I have only done so because actual experience has taught me that this system of divided responsibility which is a feature of dyarchy in the Provincial Governments in India and which, to some extent, it is proposed to introduce into the Government of India, is neither an efficient safeguard of those interests which you desire to preserve nor a good training for responsible self-government.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, it is a long time since I have inflicted a speech on this House and it is with reluctance that I now ask your Lordships to listen to me for a short while. A sense of duty which may or may not be mistaken compels me to trouble your Lordships. I have had something to do with Indian affairs in days gone by and it is expected of me by my friends in India as well as by my friends in this country, that. I should say something about these momentous proposals for reform from a seat in this House that I have had the privilege and good fortune to hold for no less than forty-two years. I am aware that my opinions may be regarded as out of date, for many years have passed since I was in dose touch with Indian affairs. But anybody who for a while has lived in India, and lived for India, as I had the privilege of doing, must retain to the end of his life a deep attachment to that land of infinitely varied enchantment and a warm affection for all classes and conditions of her peoples.
Ever since I first went out to India forty-three years ago the thoughts of India have never been far from my mind. I have thought of India and dreamed of India from day to day and I care as much as any other person in this country what happens to India. As an English- 276 man I feel that the destinies of the whole of the British race are indissolubly bound up with those of India and with the faithful discharge of the great duty that, under Divine Providence, the British race has towards the peoples of India. We have made these peoples dependent on our protection and guidance and we have made ourselves responsible for their happiness and contentment. We cannot withdraw that protection or abandon that responsibility until it is certain that India can do without our assistance. Our duty in accordance with our pledges, expressed and implied, is to make the peoples of India gradually fit for a larger measure of self-government and to afford them every reasonable opportunity of assuming greater responsibilities, both individual and collective.
To my mind, the whole question is one of the rate at which that progressive devolution of authority should be made. I have been in favour of progress—gradual progress—ever since I was in India. I was advocating some steps in advance long before the question of Indian constitutional reform arose in Parliament during this century. My starting point for the consideration of the present question is a sincere desire to further any measures which will be for the welfare and higher good of the peoples of India according to their own notions, provided always that nothing is done in detriment of our undoubted rights and vital interests. My Lords, we have a right to be in India. The moral and material structure of the India of to-day has been built up by the joint efforts of Englishmen and Indians. It is a concern in which we are partners, united not only by bonds of mutual self-interest in the material sphere, but also by moral ties arising from a glorious association for a century and a half which has been one long splendid tale of kindness and affection between man and man of our two races, of heroic striving and endurance and of self-sacrificing devotion on both sides. Those are things that cannot he changed by time and circumstances. They are as imperishable as the soul of a people, to which indeed they belong. If it be true that nothing ever obliterates the memory of ancient wrongs, real or alleged, from the heart of a people, it is also certain that justice, mercy and mutual confidence in times of stress will never be forgotten. The vast majority 277 of Indians will always preserve friendly feelings towards men and women of the British race so long as we do not abandon them, just as in thousands of British homes the tradition of affectionate regard for India and her peoples will endure for generations. Great Britain and India, cannot part company without supreme disaster to themselves and also vital injury to the whole progress of civilisation.
It cannot be denied that the policy set forth in the White Paper has not pleased anybody except its authors and a proportion of the supporters of the Government in Parliament. That is disappointing, and the most disappointing thing of all is that no section of opinion in India has given approval to the scheme. From every quarter we hear of dissatisfaction and disquietude. It is of course as certain as anything can be that with the present state of affairs no conceivable scheme of reform could escape discontented and bitter criticism in one quarter or another, and this seems to me to be a reason for making a somewhat slower advance until there is a larger measure of agreement among those Whom we hope to benefit. I submit that the present attitude of the Princes towards federation affords abundant justification for caution and delay in certain respects. I cannot help thinking that, if it were put to them in the right way, all political Parties in India would take the same view since it is so manifestly in their own interests that no false step should be taken in this particular direction. Although the idea of federation has now been accepted by all those who were called into conference, it has not yet been possible to ascertain all its implications which were beyond the scope of the Statutory Commission. What is more important is that nothing has been done to ascertain the wishes of the Provincial Legislatures. Just as in some cases financiers would be asking for trouble if they published a scheme for an issue of new capital before it had been underwritten, so it is unwise to propose a scheme for reforms which includes definite provisions for federation until the doubts of the Princes have been allayed and they are generally and genuinely willing to bring their States into an All-India Federation. The question of paramountcy has got to be decided before 278 there can be any hope of securing the general adhesion of the Princes to a Federal Constitution, and no alternative to federation is at present under consideration.
There are, however, further reasons for a more cautious advance which are clearly in the interests of India herself and ought therefore to appeal to all well-balanced minds in India. One of these is that the scheme of the White Paper will cost a great deal more money than India can at present afford, and another is that political changes will have a much better chance of success if they are inaugurated after the present period of economic depression is over. The masses in every country have a way of ascribing all their troubles to the Government under which they live, so that no new Governments in India are likely to enjoy much popularity so long as trade is bad. My own personal view is that the recommendations of the Statutory Commission go far enough for the present. I am willing to support those recommendations, subject to a few modifications in detail which have suggested themselves in consequence of recent events and the deliberations of the Round-Table Conference. This is not the time or the occasion to refer to these matters in detail, but I must mention the one vital matter in which I cannot accept the recommendation of the Simon Commission. With the best will in the world I cannot bring myself to agree to the proposal that law and order should be handed over to popular control.
To do that would be, in my humble opinion, unwarrantable gambling with what the Statutory Commission rightly called the "first interest of every Indian citizen" and, indeed, with the whole safety and welfare of India. From the point of view of Great Britain it would mean exposing the British Army in India to an intolerable strain and the likelihood of having to perform odious duties for which our soldiers are not enlisted. It is true that all troops are liable to be called out in aid of the civil power, but once you come to that stage there is an end to the popularity of soldiers and the confidence which their mere existence inspires among a law-abiding and loyal population. No, the time to hand over the Courts and the Police to self-governing Provinces in India will be 279 when India has such Armies of her own that the assistance of the British Army is no longer required. When you get down to realities and fundamental conditions, it is evident that the real test of fitness for self-government in any nation is the possession of armed forces sufficient for defence against external foes and the internal maintenance of the authority of the Government. You cannot get away from the fact that all goverance is ultimately based upon force. The only virtue in a majority of votes is that it indicates where a preponderance of physical force lies. So far as reason is concerned—and people would have us believe that the world now is governed by reason—it is just as likely that the opinion of a minority should be right as that the view of the majority is the wiser one.
But the thing goes further than that. You cannot have the spirit that makes for nationhood in a country which does not depend upon its own soldiers. Long years ago I was objecting to the proposed disbandment of Madras Regiments because I could not see how the people of the Madras Presidency would ever be made fit for self-government unless they had the opportunity of doing military service and at any rate learning to understand the first duty of citizenship. If I had the opportunity I should urge upon Indian statesmen and politicians that the best and surest way of hastening self-government would be the establishment of a National Militia in every Province as that People's Army or Constitutional Force which is essential to democratic nationhood. It is only thus that you will get the officers and men for the complete Indianisation of the Regular Forces in India or indeed the corporate spirit that is required in every autonomous State. It is only thus that you can give a democratic equality of opportunity in the important matter of military service for citizens. Our Indian friends who have gone to Ireland for many lessons have deliberately turned a blind eye to the military example in that country.
We must not forget that we have always declared that any further advance on democratic lines would be conditional upon the amount of co-operation and good will with which the last reforms have been worked. But thus far we have not had the co-operation we hoped for. On the contrary, there has been a 280 deliberate policy of non-co-operation and in the place of good will there has been an unprovoked and malignant campaign of hatred. Can we hope that further concessions will bring us good will and co-operation, and that consent of the governed without which none of our safeguards can be of any avail? It was evidently the idea of the noble Lord, Lord Snell, that such concessions would bring us good will and co-operation, but I am one of those who believe that we shall only obtain the willing consent of the governed if we do actually govern, and recent events in India have given ample justification for that belief. How, indeed, can we expect good will and co-operation from the people if they are allowed to think that we intend to scuttle and abandon them to their fate? No, we must retain power to prevent oppression and disorder until the number of politically-minded persons in India has so far increased as to make democratic control as possible as it ever can be.
We are told that a complete change has come over India and that those of us who left even ten years ago cannot realise how great that change has been. I have still to be convinced that there has been any change in the character of the people of India, and it is with the character of the people that we are concerned. The object which we profess is to increase the welfare of the voiceless millions who form at least 95 per cent. of the population. To the best of my belief their religion is still the same as it has been for centuries, their social customs are the same, and they remain for the most part in the same condition of "pathetic contentment." I believe that if we left India to-morrow they would be more likely to revert to the Hinduism of former times than to make haste to copy the democratic example of Europe. Climate, environment and natural resources, the things that cannot be changed by any human agency, have something to do with the mind and soul of a people.
I have these beliefs in my bones, but I recognise nevertheless that we must go on with the great experiment of grafting European ideals upon the mighty stem of Indian ideals in the hope that a vigorous and fruitful new species may be evolved. As I have already said, I have always had much sympathy with the 281 aspirations of educated Indians, although no doubt I am supposed to be a reactionary, a de-hard, a disgruntled Pro-Consul, or whatever else the eager constitution-mongers like to call those who have been in India and are now free to express their opinions. But I should like to give some proof, and I can remind your Lordships that that proof stands printed on many pages of the proceedings of this House. I am not ashamed to tell you that years ago I was working hand in glove with Mr. Gandhi, when he was fighting the cause of British Indians in South Africa. I was the champion, the solitary champion, of that cause in this country, but, unfortunately, I was unable to gain support either in Parliament or in the Press. I say unfortunately, because that cause was proved to be right and just, and it was gained in the end, but not until it was too late. If the Government of the day had remembered the professions that we made during the South African War, and had promptly taken bold action on just and generous lines, it is certain that Mr. Gandhi would never have taken his new doctrines of passive resistance and non-co-operation to India. There would have been no occasion to do so, as the peoples of India would not have been slighted by the imputation of racial inferiority. That slight has been at the root of all the present troubles, and I need not dwell upon the immense factor that the personality of Mr. Gandhi has been in the development of present-day opinion in India.
What were we out for, Mr. Gandhi and I, twenty-five years ago? It was for that which I will call Dominionstatus,although it was not that changing and indefinable constitutional relation to which the term is now applied. What we wanted was astatusin the Dominions of the Crown for oar Indian fellow-subjects, thestatusof British citizens, so that they might be able to claim the rights of citizenship in the British Empire wherever our flag is flown, a privilege analogous to that of theCivis Romanusin the old Roman Empire. That is the real Dominionstatus,and if thatstatushad been freely conceded to Indians in South Africa when the question arose in a highly critical form, conspicuous to the whole world, you would not be having the politicians in India asking to-day for a Dominion statuswhich is utterly inapplicable to the relations between 282 Great Britain and India and is, by its variable and changing nature, incapable of precise political definition. That, I submit with all respect, is the answer to what the noble Lord who spoke for the Socialist Party said about Dominionstatus.The appointment of a Joint Select Committee, for the purposes declared in the Motion before the House, is obviously expedient and it seems to me to be the right course to adopt. I can only hope that those selected and appointed for this supremely important duty will be men of sound judgment who will perform their task without fear or favour, and with a single-minded desire to advise what is best in the joint interests of Great Britain and India.
THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
My Lords, no member of this House can fail to feel grave misgivings and grave doubts when he considers the tremendous decision which has to be taken by Parliament in the next few months. The White Paper proposes to solve the almost infinite complexities of the Indian problem by setting up a federation on a scale and of a character never previously considered or attempted. It will be a federation containing 350,000,000 people, 80,000,000 of whom live under the autocratic control of 100 hereditary Princes, while British India has had twelve years experience of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms. The federation will contain two great religions, still deeply suspicious of one another, and over twenty main languages and races, while the political foundation of its government will be some thirty-six million voters in a population 90 per cent. of whom are still illiterate.
That statement in itself is a justification for the safeguards in the White Paper, and that statement cannot fail to fill any thinking person with misgivings and doubts. We should have no sense of responsibility if we did not approach the problem with misgivings and doubts. Yet I believe, and I have thought about the problem almost continuously for three years, and visited India twice before the War, that when the Select Committee comes to face the facts they will be driven to exactly the same conclusion as have been the Round-Table Conference and the present Government. I do not believe that anybody in this House desires to defer or restrict self-govern- 283 ment in India. We are pledged to that policy, as has been repeatedly said, by the Declaration of 1917. It is indeed the inevitable outcome of our association with India. for the last century and a half. What I think does cause anxiety in this House, and elsewhere, is how far and how fast can we go with safety—safety for the 350,000,000 people for whom we are still ultimately responsible; safety for the essential interests of this country; safety for the interests of the Empire.
I venture to think that the White Paper faces the realities of the modern Indian position. Its proposals are based upon three fundamental principles, and I do not believe that this House, or the Joint Committee, will be able to escape following those principles. The first is federation. Every authority which has ever reported upon the Indian problem has said that it is essential, as soon as possible, to develop India as a single unity. It is impossible in these days for the Princes, or the States, which do not form a single block but are scattered from one end of India to the other, to remain in the isolation in which they have been in the past. There are increasing anomalies, railways, customs, irrigation, company laws, defence, every day bringing both sides into ever closer contact. It is an essential policy that all India should be taken into consultation and unless the representatives of the States can come into closer contact with British India the responsibility on the Viceroy will become quite impossible. It will be impossible for him to reconcile a rapidly moving British India with a less rapidly moving Indian India. Federation ought to be the basis of our plan, and that is all the more the case because the initiative came from the Princes. The more thoughtful of the Princes of India have realised that the time had come when they had to move or worse would befall. They faced the facts of modern India, and we have to face them also.
There is another aspect of federation. Lord Lytton stated that a federation would only be constructed by a union of Provinces or States. You cannot apply that to India. The fact in India is that it is a centralised autocracy. If you wait for States and Provinces to unite you will have to wait until India is in a state of chaos. The problem is 284 entirely different. You have to proceed from the basis that India to-day is, to a great extent, a centralised autocracy, and that one of the crying needs at this moment is the decentralisation of Indian provincial government. In a world moving as rapidly as the present, with the Provinces developing as they do, it is going to be impossible for the present centralised Government to continue to function effectively. The essence of federation is not the union of self-governing States into a Federation, it is the separation of the powers of government, it is the division of these powers of government between Provinces or States on the one hand and a central Federation on the other. But each of these States on the one side and the Centre on the other have independent powers, separate from one another, they act independently of one another, and they are not responsible for one another. That is the essence of federation. And the strength of the White Paper is that it begins to face that fact by bringing into operation, subject to safeguards, complete provincial autonomy, and separating completely the powers of the Provinces from those of the Central Federal Government. Federation, therefore, in my view is an essential condition of any progress in Indian constitutional reform, the first basic principle on which we have to proceed.
Now, what is the second? The second is Indian responsibility for its own domestic affairs. Nobody in this House seems to realise the ever-strengthening demand in India, both on grounds of self-respect and on the ground of nationhood, for the control of its own affairs. I would venture to put a few facts in front of your Lordships as to the difference between conditions in India to-day and the India before the War. There is a school population, learning to read and write, of 10,000,000 in the schools at the present time. How many were there before the War? There are 100,000 students in Universities—more than twice as many as there are in the Universities of this country—and practically all of them are being brought up as young Nationalists. There are 100 newspapers in the hands of Indians, mainly, if not entirely, Nationalist in general outlook, which now penetrate into almost every village in the land. The radio is steadily making progress. The economics of the village, of which we hear so much, 285 are profoundly changed. I attended a conference only a few days ago on Indian village welfare. The old Indian village was completely self-contained, so self-contained that its fortunes depended on whether there was or was not a good monsoon. To-day the Indian village depends on world prices, and the Indian villager and the headman of the Indian village are beginning to think in those terms about their domestic problems, because, like shrewd villagers, they realise that their own vital concerns depend on things far beyond their own villages.
In the Legislatures there are 935 elected members to 166 officials. In the Central Legislature there are 145 elected and nominated members as against 26 officials. Just consider the number of Indian members and Ministers who are now administering the country under the general control of this country. No fewer than 32 out of 43 Ministers in the Provinces are Indians. In the big Provinces there are 5 Indian Ministers out of 7, in the medium Provinces 4 out of 5, in the smaller Provinces 3 out of 4; and there are 3 Indians on the Executive Council of the Viceroy. Seven million Indians have been enfranchised for twelve years. They have fought and voted in four Elections, to say nothing of countless local government and municipal elections. I made some study, as Chairman of the Franchise Committee, of the probable evolution of Parties in India, and I came to this conclusion, that the foundations of Party before long would become economic—landlords, tenants, towns; that if only we could get rid of the pre-occupation in India with the British issue Party evolution in India would follow very normal lines. With regard to interest in politics in India, you do not have 50,000 people going to gaol in Lord Irwin's time and 30,000 in the last two years in a country which is not actively interested in politics, and the majority of these are young men and women.
Now that is the new India. It is no use trying to set up a dam against forces of that kind, forces which are very largely of our own creation. I am not talking to-day of pledges, I am talking of facts—facts with which we have got to deal. And even the Moslems, now that provincial autonomy has been conceded, are nearly as vociferous in their 286 demands for self-government as were the Hindus yesterday. Further, in my view—I think it is the view of everybody in this House, certainly everybody who has had a public school education—responsibility is the only way of developing political manhood. We criticise the irresponsibility of India. It is a marvel to me when I consider how long irresponsible legislators have been confronted with irremovable Executives that the Legislatures of India are as responsible as they are. If you are going to develop political capacity in India, as in this country or any other country, you will do so only if you put real responsibility on the backs of the Indian people. And it is just as important to develop knowledge and responsibility at the Centre as it is in the Provinces. If you develop irresponsible Provinces they will make the working of the Centre impossible.
Now, the third feature of the Constitution is safeguards, and the analysis I gave of the modern India in itself is the complete argument why safeguards are so essential at the present day. I am not going to discuss the safeguards this afternoon. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack set them forth in great detail, and there is no doubt left in the White Paper as to their character. The real question, the question in everybody's mind is: Can you use them, will they be effective? On that point there are two alternatives. The first is that this Constitution gets launched with reasonable good will and common sense and that reasonable good will and common sense are shown in its working. If so, I believe that the Constitution will work and that it is the only way in which you can get over the next fifteen or twenty years with reasonable prosperity and reasonable prospects of peace and order.
Why should we always assume, as so many people assume, that you will not get reasonable common sense and cooperation from political India? I am convinced, from what little knowledge I have of India, that if you give it free play India will throw up infinitely more political talent and more political character than most people in this country believe. I think that the assumption that, as we relax control, no effec- 287 tive substitute will come forward to begin to take responsibility in co-operation with ourselves is a quite unwarranted criticism of British rule during the last 100 years. I venture to believe that the dyarchic Constitution has not been a failure. You see what has happened in other parts of Asia and elsewhere. The fact that for the last twenty years India, with all its difficulties, has made steady progress, has avoided the breakdown of government, and has secured co-operation, in the Legislatures and in the Ministries, of representative and competent Indians is testimony to the fact that co-operation does work and has worked. And I see no possible alternative for the future except to continue on those lines.
I remember not so very long ago the prophecies of disaster which were made at the time of the introduction of the Campbell-Bannerman Constitution in South Africa. I think the same prophecies have been made regarding democracy in every other Dominion; yet we have been surprised in most cases at the quality of the men who have been thrown up by the transfer of responsibility to their shoulders—in Ireland, in South Africa, and elsewhere. I venture to believe the same will be true in India, and that you will be surprised at the quality of the men who will be thrown to the surface, men who will wish to co-operate with you once the responsibility of government is on their shoulders, and men whom on your side you will feel honoured and proud to co-operate with. But I admit—everybody has to admit—that it is possible you may not have common sense. I do not want to prophesy what will happen in those circumstances. I will simply repeat what I have repeatedly said to my Indian friends: "If you produce stable constitutional majorities in the Legislatures, and strong and competent Ministries, there will be rapid evolution towards full responsible government, as in the Dominions, with the good will of the British people; but if you fail to produce stable constitutional majorities and competent Ministries, you will thank heaven for the safeguards, for they will save you from war and from the fate which has overtaken China." The first thing is to build on co-operation; if that fails you have your safeguards in reserve, and you 288 can use them and ought to use them vigorously.
Therefore, my Lords, I believe that the scheme is not as the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, said apis aller; I think it conforms to the fundamental realities of the India of to-day and, if I may state them in another way, these realities are twofold. India means, and must be allowed, to take over the control of her own domestic government; it is impossible for this Parliament 6,000 miles away to continue to govern the details of Indian life in the modern changing world. On the other hand it recognises that we are and still must he responsible for the defence and the unity of India, because the unity of India is our creation, and as yet there is no force in India which is able to maintain it if we disappear. I believe the White Paper is sound. I do not say in all its details it is perfect—I think that co-operation between Indians and members of the Joint Select Committee may improve it—but in fundamentals it is based on the ultimate realities of the Indian problem of to-day.
Are there any alternatives? It is said—and I venture to say a word on the point as I was Chairman of the Indian Franchise Committee—that it is a mistake to build India on as much democracy as this White Paper proposes. There is no alternative to the vote. To what dictator are you going to hand over power in India and the Provinces if you do not hand it over to the voters? Moreover, India's crying need is for social reform, and one of the main reasons which animate Congress in the violence of their opinions is this desire for social reform. You will never get social reform without endowing a certain proportion of the people with the vote. To whom are we giving the vote? The instruction of the Prime Minister, to which we tried to conform, was that no important section of the community should lack the means of expressing its needs and opinions, and if you will analyse the proposals I think you will find that we have done our best to give adequate representation to all the main elements of Indian opinion—to the villages, to the Depressed Classes, to labour, to landlords, and, of course, to the three great religious communities. There is no other foundation on which we can build political responsibility in India 289 but one which has some roots in the Indian people. And, as has been pointed out, the extension is not very large. There is no Government which will have more than seven or eight million voters. The thirty-six millions is arrived at by adding together the electorates of all the Provinces. Only 3 per cent, of the population of India is going to be enfranchised for the Central Legislature.
There is one aspect of the White Paper with which I disagree, and that is in regard to the women's vote. In my view there is no more important aspect of the Constitution than that Indian women should have an adequate number of votes. Your Lordships are not elected, but some of you have been elected to another place, and you know well that at times of election candidates pay attention to voters and to nobody else. If you establish the Constitution without Indian women—who need social reform more than any other class in the world—having an adequate number of votes, there will be no hope of their escaping from the age-old bondage in which they live. Our proposal was that not less than one woman to four and a-half men should be enfranchised. We deprecate the White Paper proposal which extends that to one woman to every seven men. I think that is a grave extension. There is one further detail. The Government have made the votes of wives of existing provincial electors dependent on application. It is believed that of the six and a-half million women voters sought to be franchised, four millions will be franchised on what is called "Wifehood application." How many ladies in this country would get on the roll if they had to make application one year before the election, and in a world where the emancipation of women has not gone anything like so far as in this country, how many of these four million women will actually place their names on the roll one year before the election? I think that is a grave mistake, and I hope the Joint Select Committee will remedy it, otherwise we shall find not more than two millions or two and a-half million women voters as against thirty million men—a proportion which is inadequate if there is to be political pressure for removing the grievances under which Indian women suffer to-day.
290 One other word about the second alternative which is often put forward. It is sometimes contended that it is better to proceed with provincial autonomy now and with the Centre at a later stage. What are the objections to this proposal? The first objection is that if you do that you rebuff the proposal of the Princes to form a federation, because the condition they imposed on federation was that there should be some responsibility subject to safeguards at the Centre. That would be a very grave step to take. Then consider what the Centre would be like under such conditions. It is perfectly true that the Statutory Commission proposed an autocratic Centre for the reason that the Centre proposed at that time only dealt with the affairs of British India. I do not think responsibility at the Centre is possible for British India alone, it is only possible for all India. But just consider what that Centre would he like. It would be not a strong Centre but a weak Centre. It would be simply a delegation of provincial log-rollers. They would not be people elected to consider All-Indian affairs. They would be sent to represent exclusively the interests of the Provinces.
Nobody can witness the functioning of the present Indian Centre without realising how bad is the system of confronting an irremovable Executive with an irresponsible Legislature. It is bad for both sides because it means in practice you can only secure your legislation by something like a method of continuous intrigue. Every Government ought to have a majority in its Legislature if it is to function properly, and the essence of the White Paper proposal is that every Indian Government should have a majority in the Indian Legislature, and that questions at issue between the Governor-General and his Ministers should be fought out in the privacy of the Cabinet and not across the floor of the House. I would refer to a remark of the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, who seemed to think you might avoid dualism in some form at the Centre. Dualism is inherent, whatever you do, if you are to have a system, call it what you like, in which Indians and British are to share control. It is purely a question of how you are best to make your adjustment during the next period of your Constitution, and the value of the White Paper 291 —and until I see a better I shall stick to that—is that it says that the best way of doing that is to put real leaders of political opinion in the Legislature into the Cabinet and allow them and the Government to discuss things in the privacy of the Cabinet and not across the floor of the House.
Finally, it is often said that an autocratic Centre could control the Provinces. That is a pure illusion, as once you establish responsible government in the Provinces it is utterly impossible for the Central Government to control them. The Governor may be able to control them but the Central Legislature cannot, for this reason, that no Minister can take orders from two contradictory authorities. He is responsible to the Provincial Legislature; he can only remain in existence as a result of a majority there. What is to happen if he gets contradictory orders from the Centre? It is an illusion to think that under any federal system you can get any Centre which can control the Provincial Government. The essence of federation is the division of power. I think the strength of the White Paper is that it recognises the inevitability of a division of powers between the Centre on the one hand and the Provinces on the other, as in all other great federations of the world.
The last reason why you cannot proceed in two stages has been mentioned by one or two speakers, and that is that Indian public opinion will not accept it. There are two broad alternatives before us in dealing with Indian public opinion. We can either proceed by consent, or we can proceed by coercion. The White Paper is the product of a long process of trying to proceed by consent. Lord Birkenhead committed this country to proceeding by that method as far as possible in the year 1927. There have been three Indian Round-Table Conferences considering the Reports of the Indian Statutory Commission. At those Conferences there have been over one hundred representatives, selected to represent all elements of Indian society, and I have never heard any criticism in India except from Congressmen that the Round-Table Conferences did not represent the main elements of Indian opinion. Even Mr. Gandhi was present at the Second Round-Table Conference with sonic of his colleagues. I believe that if you enact what may be called the White 292 Paper Constitution, the broad outlines of which I have discussed, you will get the co-operation of what I may call the better mind of India in working it. That is a tremendous gain. I believe you cannot get the co-operation of everybody, but you will get the co-operation of the better mind, because it represents a Constitution which has been put forward after long discussion in which Indians have taken an active and very important part.
If you do not enact a Constitution on those broad lines, unless in the Joint Select Committee you can work a revolution with Indian political opinion, then you are faced with coercion, with something like that twenty years of resolute government which we used to hear of before the War in another country. I do not say that if you finally become convinced that that is the only course to take, you ought not to take it. But I would ask you to consider what it implies. You can no more maintain British government in India with the old machinery as against the determined non-co-operation, not of one section only of the mass of political India, than you can fight a war to-day with the weapons of 1914. There has been a great deal of experience in the last ten or fifteen years which sets forth how to run an autocracy, benevolent or otherwise. The old methods of relying upon the Army, the police and the Civil Service are no longer adequate. You have to add three other elements. You have to appoint and control every single teacher in every school in order to see that they are supporters of the regime. You have to own and control and direct every newspaper and every news agent; and you have to have a Party in every village which is willing to put rival Parties out of business. Those are the foundations.
Let us be realists. We on this Bench are sometimes called sentimentalists. If we mean to govern India we must modernise our instruments. I will ask you to consider whether we have the instruments by which we can do these things—man the schools, man the newspapers, have a Party on our side. Just look at these figures. In 1922 there were 1,179 members of the Indian Civil Service who were British, and 208 who were Indian. In 1932 there were 843 British and 465 who were Indian. In the police in 1922 there were 622 who were British 293 and sixty-six who were Indian. In 1932 there were 523 who were British and 152 who were Indian. Now to try coercion without adopting these methods would be foredoomed to failure. If you are going to try to govern India against its will do it resolutely and thoroughly. But to leave to Indian Nationalists all the opinion-forming agencies and to keep in our own hands only the instruments for repressing the opinions so formed would make a bloody revolution absolutely inevitable. You have to control opinion in the modern world if your Constitution is not based upon the free play of public opinion.
One word about Congress. I venture to say that I am not so frightened of Congress as certain people in this country seem to be. No doubt there are irreconcilable elements in it, but there are also all sorts and conditions of men and women and it largely consists of enthusiastic youth anxious to serve the country. It has two remarkable attributes. One is fidelity to Mr. Gandhi's creed of non-violence. We may think what we like about non-violence, but it is a remarkable fact in the modern world that Congress has not resorted to violence in the sense in which revolutionary movements have adopted it everywhere else in the world. The second is that it has done a great deal of social reform work in the villages. What I am frankly frightened of is searing the heart of the youth of India with bitterness and hatred because we do not give them work to do in time. The real remedy for the better elements in the Congress is to get them to undertake the work of governing as soon as possible. It is the core of British experience that what turns people into practically minded and sensible people is responsibility, and the longer we deny them responsibility the more difficult it will be to create responsible men. The sooner we can do that the sooner there will be a youth in India with which we can co-operate in working out or trying to solve the extraordinary problems of that country. Therefore, I am convinced, while the details may be altered, that the only course for statesmanship or for safety is to proceed resolutely along the broad lines laid down in the White Paper and in agreement as far as possible with the better mind of India.
294 It is sometimes said that people who take that view are defeatists. I think not. Rather I think that those who would abandon the course we have been so long following are defeatists. Undoubtedly, we are facing a wave of reaction in the world to-day. But this ought not to make us less faithful to the traditions of liberty and Parliamentary government upon which British civilisation rests. Rather it should make us more resolved to be faithful to them to the end. For the world reaction to-day is only a return to barbarism. It rests on the destruction of the rights of the individual—you see it all over the world—and on an attempt to prevent men thinking for themselves and to substitute exclusive Government propaganda for the free play of public opinion as the basis of government. This phase will pass away—it always has passed away—and our principles will once more win in the end. In any case we cannot jettison our own faith. If, because of reaction elsewhere, we now say to India, after we have led her for a century to believe that to embrace a free civilisation is to become the heir of Rome and Greece and of Britain herself, that we also have lost the faith, we shall then be defeatists indeed for we shall erase the name of England from the roll of those who taught ordered liberty to mankind.
THE MARQUESS OF LINLITHGOW
My Lords, it is getting late and I know that other noble Lords wish to speak this evening, so I do not intend to detain the House very long. The noble and learned Viscount who moved this Resolution traversed a very great deal of the wide field of facts and arguments on which the Motion rests, and I know very well that every aspect of the case will receive attention during the discussion. I propose therefore to confine myself largely to a recital of some of the impressions bearing upon this question which I formed during the time I was in India as Chairman of the Royal Commission on Agriculture. During the course of the inquiry we visited every Province and most of the important towns in British India. The Simon Commission had begun its labours before we left -India and the subject of constitutional reform was everywhere being discussed. I had an opportunity to learn the views of a large number of persons, 295 both Europeans and Indians, with whom I came into contact—members of the Indian Civil Service, members of the Technical Services, landowners and European members of the commercial community. Our task was essentially nonpolitical and those whom I met, whether they were Europeans or Indians, I found very ready to express an opinion and to do so quite freely.
I had not been many months in India before it became clear to me that amongst Europeans it was almost invariably the abler and the more experienced men who were most in favour of an extension of the principle of self-government. I notice that in another place Mr. Winston Churchill attributed this, so far as the British members of the Indian Civil Service are concerned, to the preferment for promotion of persons favouring the Government policy. I do not think that is the case and I am sorry that the suggestion has been made. But even if it were true it would not explain or discount the fact that an overwhelming proportion of the European commercial community is prepared to support a great advance of self-government in India. My own opinions, for what they are worth, were profoundly modified by my period of service in India. When I first went out I was, confess, instinctively opposed to any very rapid extensions of the reforms. Before I had completed my task I had come to the view, which I hold as firmly to-day, that we are bound to go forward with this tremendous experiment and that, having gone as far as we have gone, the greater safety lies now rather in bold advance than in over-caution.
As my noble friend the Marquess of Lothian said just now, the world is moving very fast. Transportation and communications are becoming more speedy and more general. In India roads improve and new roads are being made, and self-propelled vehicles are rapidly bringing the villages nearer to the urban centres and removing the isolation of the villages and the village communities. It will not be long before the development of air travel between this country and India brings the two nearer together than were London and Edinburgh 150 years ago. Your Lordships have been reminded to-night of the extent to which opportunities of education have been extended to Indians. Large numbers pass through the Universities of India and many 296 Indians come to our own Universities and our technical colleges and so on, while others complete their education in Germany, in the United States of America, and in other foreign countries. These young Indians are, most of them, convinced of the virtue of Parliamentary government and of its applicability to their own country. For years we have been instructing them in the merits of self-government and in the merits of the representative principle of self-government, and yet some of us now seem to be astonished by the enthusiasm which Indians show for representative institutions.
But if Indians have changed in the last fifty years, so have we—in our opinions a good deal, in our political life profoundly. It seems to me that apart from other considerations the fact of manhood and womanhood suffrage in Great Britain must profoundly affect this problem. Those who talk easily of an indefinite prolongation in British India of benevolent autocracy seem to me to exhibit a marked insufficiency of political instinct. Nothing could be more fatal to the future welfare of India or more unfair to India than that for the next few decades she should be alternately disciplined by Governments of the right and indulged and cajoled by administrations resting on more radical principles. I, for one, should have far less confidence in my opinions if the political tendencies we are witnessing in India were singular to that country. They are not. Over the whole of the East, from Egypt to China, the ferment is plainly at work. I was glad that my noble friend the Marquess of Lothian made the point that the system of government for which we are responsible in India and for which we have been responsible for the last twenty years spared India many of the disturbances and strains which Eastern countries not so provided had suffered.
A new adjustment, a new way of life between East and West, must be found. It is my belief that in India, through this constitutional experiment in which we are engaged, difficult and obscure though it appears to us at this stage, we shall ultimately make a substantial contribution to that new adjustment. If I may say so in parentheses I respect profoundly the feelings of those, many of them my 297 friends, who, knowing India, dread the effects of the changes that are impending. I know that many of them suffer acutely on that account. But I cannot help observing that they are those for the most part whose bent is rather administrative than political. I am convinced that they are in some degree defending a lost cause. The old India has passed away and, what is far more significant, the world environment in which that India had its being has ceased to exist. Many persons are, I know, deeply concerned at the effect that self-government in British India may have upon the fortunes of the cultivator. In this connection it is well to remember what exactly is the position as regards thepersonnelof the Services. As far back as 1924 the Lee Commission recommended, and their advice was accepted, that appointment to the Technical Services should lie with the Provinces. That means, with few exceptions, that those Services from that moment were destined to be 100 per cent. Indianised, and so in the event has it proved. The Indian Civil Service proper, by a recommendation of the same Commission, is in process of being Indianised up to 50 per cent, by 1939. So that in the field of administration the changes which most closely touch the cultivator have already to a great extent taken place.
I myself believe that the rural population will prove very much better able to look after itself than many persons suppose. It does, however, appear to me that the franchise proposals and the methods of election as outlined in the White Paper are capable of improvement in the interests, among others, of the rural population. I confess I have been much attracted by what appeared to me to be the advantages for India of indirect election based as regards the rural areas upon the village as the primary unit. Indeed, I have been much surprised at the small support for such a system forthcoming from Indians themselves. I am not fully seized of all the details of the noble Lord's inquiry, though I have read his Report, but it seems to me that system has attracted Indians very little. If Indians cannot be persuaded that it is the right system, I shall be the first to agree that it would be idle to put it forward, but in my judgment there is no small danger that in their pre-occupation with the many- 298 faceted problems of constitutional evolution, both at the Centre and in the Provinces, and in their natural desire to secure for their country as large a measure as possible of self-government, it may escape the attention of Indians that, quite apart from their effect upon the future relations between Great Britain and India, and between the territories of the Princes and British India, the proposed reforms are certain profoundly to influence the future ordering of the social system throughout India.
Thus I am persuaded that the major peril to be anticipated as a possible consequence of error is not that of permanent hurt to future good relations between Britain and India, but rather that the system of representative, government, if too hastily applied, or if applied in too advanced a form, may give rise to an assault upon the rights of property and thereby prejudice materially the future development of the country. Upon the vital place held by the law and custom of property in the social fabric of Indian society I need not dilate, nor need I comment upon the supreme importance for India's agricultural and industrial future of an adequate reserve of capital resources, or upon the indisputable fact that all experience, including that in Russia, suggests that the only effective instruments for the accumulation of capital and its productive employment are the thrift and enterprise of the private citizen.
No informed persons can doubt that a certain consequence of the introduction and development of representative government into any community must be a curtailing of privilege and a movement towards the wider distribution of wealth. Such indeed has been the experience of all countries, and for obvious reasons. But for India at the present juncture there is, in my view, a peculiar and special danger, and for this reason. Of peoples such as the British, whose political and constitutional development has been gradual, spontaneous and intrinsic, it is broadly true to say that their economic development has preceded and induced constitutional change. Thus, in the Parliamentary and constitutional evolution of England, first as an agricultural and then as an industrial State, it will be found to have been the changing economic 299 statusof the various sections of the community that have, in the main, brought about the progressive widening of the basis of political power and responsibility.
This process has in England required about 1,000 years to reach its present degree of maturity and it has produced, amongst other things, an electorate that displays what is on the whole an extremely sound instinct in the field of economic policy. In India the plan is different: it is to take a short cut and to graft an extraneous system analogous to the British upon the ancient framework of Indian society. That society, so far as it concerns the great mass of the people, both rural and urban, has not yet reached, in terms of economic development, a point in any way comparable with that presently attained in Great Britain. Briefly, then, it is proposed in India—and I would draw the attention to this of any Indians whom my voice may reach—to reverse the natural order of events and to force forward the purely political evolution in the hope that the economic will follow. Provided that the political development is not advanced at such speed as to place it completely out of tune with India's existing economic condition, there seems to me good hope that the stimulus provided may result in ordered economic progress. But there is, I submit, grave risk that if the pace of political development is too much forced there will be a failure effectively to relate the economic to the political, with dire consequences, of which, amongst the earliest, is likely to be a heavy and sustained attack upon the rights of private property. It seems to me that a system of indirect election, such as that to which I have referred, would go far to mitigate risk of that kind.
One word more. It is very evident that the proposal to transfer law and order is thecruxof this question, and that it is going to be the centre and focus of Parliamentary difficulties in this country. I do not see myself how you can have self-government unless you do transfer what is called "law and order." I am quite certain of this, that the success or failure of Indians in conducting those departments of civil government will be the test by which the British public will judge of the fitness of India for self-government. I am also quite certain that failure by Governments in 300 India to maintain adequate standards of administration in those fields of government would lead in Great Britain to an immediate and insistent demand for a reversal of policy in India, such as no British Government could resist. That such a course should become inevitable would be the mark of failure on the part of Indians and of ourselves to solve the very difficult problems on which we are presently engaged. I, for one, pray that that occasion may never arise, but the danger and its consequences are a possibility, in my judgment, which ought not to be lost sight of.
Had it not been so late there were other matters upon which I had intended to touch, but I have advanced one or two points which seemed to me important and least likely to attract the attention of other speakers. I trust that your Lordships may accept the Motion, and although I am, I think, as well aware of some of the difficulties as are many others, I do not despair. We must go forward and try our hardest—try not merely to satisfy India that as we are trying, but try for all we are worth to make this experiment a real success.
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, while I was listening to the eloquent and praiseworthy speech of Lord Lothian I found myself envying the focus of his mind. Would that the White Paper filled the Bill for me quite so completely as it fills it for my noble friend. None the less I do feel that the production of the White Paper is in itself a tremendous achievement—an achievement which has received hardly sufficient recognition for its own sake. It represents infinite patience, infinite tact, tremendous inquiry, and persistent courage, and it has at last enabled Parliament to confront the problem in a concrete form, and to deal with it as it thinks best with knowledge and understanding, which hitherto has been quite impossible.
It has been said that this is perhaps not the most appropriate occasion for dissecting the White Paper in detail. Perhaps it is not, but there are one or two points to which, I think, detailed reference might be justified, and one is a matter that has been brought to the notice of the country by Lord Zetland, and which has exercised many of our minds. It was in respect of the super qualities which would be required by the 301 Governor-General and Governors The Secretary of State, when he introduced the matter in another place, dealt very fully with that aspect, of the question, and he pointed out that whereas we know, and it is set forth, what the duties of the Governor-General and the Governors would be, we have never had it set forth what the duties of the Governor-General and the Governors now are. There was, however, an aspect which I thought he disregarded. There are among your Lordships many who are accustomed to say to a man: "Go," and he goeth; "Come," and he cometh; "Do this," and he doeth it; and those who are in that position know how onerous it is, but in the long run the autocrat has only his conscience to satisfy. The autocrat whose autocracy is reserved not only has to satisfy himself but also has to carry conviction to his constitutional advisers, and there is not one among your Lordships who would not prefer autocratically to manage ten businesses, rather than control one the first essence of which was that you had to carry conviction to your advisers before you could exercise your own powers. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack paid a neat and pretty compliment to thepersonnelof this House, and I do not doubt that Britain will always find persons capable of filling these great offices, but it would be unwise for its to suppose that. Governors-General and Governors in the future will have less responsible powers than now, and that they will not require to be supermen. I fully believe that they will.
One point to which I think such special knowledge as I possess entitles me to draw attention, is with regard to the reserved subjects in the realm of finance. It will be observed that one of the financial subjects which is not to be subject to, or not to be open to discussion in, the Federal Legislature, let alone to be voted upon, is that which provides for the services of the Viceroy in his relations with the States. Some, perhaps not very many, understand the working of the Foreign and Political Departments of the Government of India. Last year I had unique facilities not only for realising what the machinery was, hut for seeing it at work throughout the length of India. It is, of course, perfectly apparent that some very complete machinery will be required by the Viceroy, as such—not by 302 the Governor-General, but by the Viceroy as direct representative of the Crown. Some such machinery as now exists will be required by him to conduct his relations on behalf of the Crown with the Indian States. That whole subject is not only wholly removed from federation control, but even from federation consideration it is entirely apart. And yet the Federal Legislature is going to be required to pay for it.
In point of fact, this relationship between the Crown and the Indian States will be in the nature of a diplomatic relationship. It is quite obvious that that Service cannot continue to be called the Foreign and Political Service. It will be an absurd misnomer. You may call it the Viceregal Diplomatic Service, you may call it the Diplomatic Service of India, you can find any title you please; but in effect it will be the Viceregal Diplomatic Service, and it, will be a service which the Viceroy is performing on behalf of the Crown of Britain. And the Federal Legislature is to find the money, and it is not to be permitted to vote upon it or even to consider or discuss it. It may well be that the British Parliament would not care to be confronted with the additional expenditure which the control of this Diplomatic Service might place upon it. But if there is one thing more certain than another it is that friction is bound to be created as between the Viceregal Department and the Legislative Department, if the latter is called upon to pay for the former and to have no voice or say in the matter at all. One knows how difficult it is going to be to get this vastly complicated machinery to work at all. All the oil that can be found will be required to be poured into it; but why prepare this grit at the outset? It is bound to be a subject of the gravest friction, and I hope greatly that the Select Committee, when it comes to deal with this matter—which is really smothered in the more important questions which are dealt with at greater length in the White Paper—will find means of getting over what will be a thorn in the flesh from the very beginning.
Perhaps it would be natural, after my experiences of last year, that I should approach the question of the desirability or otherwise of starting responsibility at the Centre at the same time as granting 303 provincial autonomy more from the standpoint of the States of India than from that of British India. It has been said in this House, it will he said again, and it is really almost incontrovertible, that surely autonomy for the Provinces ought to precede any attempt at setting up responsibility at the Centre. If that were done what would happen to the Indian States? The Indian States have a population approximately of 90,000,000, and their area is not far short of half of the whole—it is more than a third—and they are scattered all over India. It is not as if you could set them off on one side. They are all over India, contiguous to British India, and what would happen if provincial autonomy came into effective being before responsibility was set up at the Centre? It would inevitably be the gradual absorption and disappearance of the Indian States. They would, in my view, be wholly unable to resist the peaceful penetration which would percolate into them from the democratised Provinces of British India.
Some might think that a highly desirable thing to happen, but the great majority of Englishmen would think it most gravely undesirable, and for many reasons. In the first place, the form of patriarchal rule which prevails in the Indian States is essentially most suited to the people of India. I should not be surprised if All-India does not one day return to it after having had its dose of democracy. That remains to be seen. But at any rate, no reasonable person would desire to do anything which would destroy that extremely efficacious and efficient form of patriarchal rule which now exists in the Indian States. Some are more efficient than others, it is true, but, on the whole, their form of government is not only efficient, but it is much appreciated. That form of government would stand no chance if left to itself, with powerful autonomous Provinces against the borders of the States. What chances are there for that form of government being retained? Only these. You have to give to the representatives of the Indian States not only the assurance of the maintenance of their present position by virtue of their relations with the Crown, but their own opportunity of preserving that position in a democratic way by their voice in the Federal Parliament. To my mind that is the one hope that the States have of continuity 304 in their own rule without undue, unreasonable, and eventually eliminating interference from British India.
It has been said that we are taking refuge behind the Princes of India. It is not that, but we recognise that the States of India are capable of making a contribution to the stability of the Indian Government which nothing else at the moment is. They bring into government a tradition of government, and if the States of India were not to be given the opportunity of serving in a Central Legislature, not only would they themselves be eventually eliminated by autonomous Provinces, but the Provinces, and possibly the central responsibility given to British India alone, would be infinitely less efficient, less effective, and less in every way desirable than it would be, and will be, by the admission of the States. That is the sort of argument which, at any rate, to myself makes great appeal as against the powerful argument that provincial autonomy ought to precede responsibility at the Centre. It may not appeal to all, but I did have opportunities of going from State to State, of seeing exactly what were their financial relations with the Government of India, of being taken into confidence by many of their Rulers, of finding out what were their fears and doubts, and of forming an opinion upon what I heard and saw. And that was the opinion that I definitely formed.
It is quite true that many of the Princes of India are exceedingly nervous of what may befall them by taking what to them is a very great plunge. We know from reports in the Press that at a meeting of the Chamber of Princes only a few days ago no kind of unanimity was reached. But you would hardly expect unanimity from an assembly of that character. You would not expect, let us say, a Scandinavian country to pledge the Government of Rumania. They are no closer together, their instincts and interests are just as far apart. These Princes have a form of sovereignty which is very precious to them. Many of them live thousands of miles away from each other. They have their individual interests and their State with them comes first. They are perfectly prepared to enter into a Deed of Accession with the Crown but they are not going to do it co-operatively, because 305 they are much too fearful that what I suit a State in Rajputana will hardly suit a State in Dravidian India. And I do not think we are justified in saying that, because the results of the meeting of the Chamber of Princes were not fruitful, the Princes are any further removed from a desire to federate than they were a year, two years, or three years ago.
I do not believe that to be so. I believe that the expression of their opinion means that they desire to be dealt with individually, and I do not think we need be fearful that, if this great scheme is considered by the Select Committee, to which it is possible for them to send representatives, they will draw back from it or make it impossible to set up responsibility at the Centre. I have confidence they will come in, and I have confidence that when they have come in they will be the making of a successful Federal Centre. That is at least one reason why I should be prepared most heartily and most wholly to support the granting of responsibility at the Centre simultaneously with that of autonomy to the Provinces. I do not think it is fair that I should speak any longer. There are many Peers who have been very self-sacrificing in their demands upon your time, and I propose to follow their example, and thank you for the short intervention I have been allowed to have.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just spoken dealt largely with the question of whether provincial autonomy should be established before the Central Government, and he brought forward the very strong argument that it is necessary for the two to be introduced simultaneously because of the position of the Indian Princes. That point was referred to the other day by Sir John Simon in another place when he said that originally the Statutory Commission reported in favour of provincial autonomy coming first, but the fact that the Princes had expressed their willingness to come into Federation had altered the situation. I confess that for some time I was in favour of provincial autonomy being first set up because I thought the opposition of Congress and other extreme elements was due to the fear that the experience of the working of the Councils would be unsatisfactory, 306 and would lead therefore to a postponement of the formation of the Federal Government, and this was a risk they would not incur. Other arguments have now occurred to me which show how really important it is that the two should, if possible, be established simultaneously. With respect to British India, it is now clear that the Conservative groups—the landowners, the Moslems, and other minorities—share the desire of the Hindus that if there is any lapse of time between the coming of provincial autonomy and Federation it should be only long enough to enable the necessary arrangements to be made.
The hostility to the plan of giving provincial autonomy, and making that the test of whether and at what time federation should be introduced, springs from different motives on the part of various elements in the Indian political picture. The reasons for these different elements desiring that provincial autonomy and federation should come virtually together may be summarised this way: The Moderate Hindu believes that the first without the second would be very difficult to work; that at every point the autonomous Provinces would be up against an Indian Government in no way responsible to the people, and that there would be constant friction. Moreover, the whole tendency in recent years has been for them to look to the Centre as the real field of determined effort. With the coming of full provincial autonomy this attitude, it may be hoped, will undergo modification, and more interest taken in provincial affairs.
The Moslems want responsibility at the Centre because they feel that it is only through the Centre that they will he able to espouse the cause of co-religionists who may be discriminated against by administrative action, or may be suffering definite injustice in the predominantly Hindu Provinces. The Moslems will have at least four Provinces of their own, leaving seven which are mainly Hindu; but as they are to have one-third of the total seats in the Federal Assembly, they will be able to bring pressure to bear in support of their co-religionists in particular Provinces. The Depressed Classes want responsibility at the Centre on somewhat similar grounds. It is true that they will have no Provinces of their own, but they will be represented in the Federal Legis- 307 lature, and can bring to notice matters affecting their rights and interests in the Provinces. The landowning and other loyalist elements are favourable to federation because it will mean a powerful grouping together of stable elements, including the Princes and the Europeans, and will set a standard for the treatment of minorities and special interests in the Provinces.
And of course there is that other strong argument which has been brought forward by Lord Hastings that the introduction of the Princes to the Federal system made it almost imperative that the two should synchronise, but I think a proviso might be made in the event of any unfortunate delay occurring whereby the Central Authority cannot be established quickly or its establishment does not synchronise with the establishment of the provincial authorities. Advantage should be taken in this respect of Paragraph 202 of the White Paper which provides for Provincial Councils being set up previous to the Central Authority. I think prolonged delay in setting up the Provincial Councils will only cause damage to our interests in India. In this connection there comes the question of responsibility for law and order. The summing-up on this point in the Simon Commission seems to me unanswerable, and I am not going to elaborate it in my own. language, except to say that if Ministerial responsibility is not given when disorder and riots occur, debates and criticisms of the authorities in the Provinces would take place in Parliament, which might prejudice the position of the Governor seriously and create difficulties for the Provincial authorities.
The other day, in another place, Colonel Wedgwood complained that this proposed Constitution meant the abdication of Parliament. This may be an exaggerated statement, having regard to the various occasions on which, under the White Paper scheme, Parliament will have to be consulted; but I personally cannot help thinking that in so far as this so-called "abdication" means getting rid of Party politics in Indian affairs and placing these affairs more definitely under the Crown, it will be to the gain of both British India and the States. There will be greater freedom from the control of a Parliament that has seldom, if ever, been elected on topics connected with India, and the 308 States in particular should feel more at ease by their contact with the Crown being further safeguarded, a matter to which they attach the greatest importance. The decision of the Government to make the accession of 51 per cent. of the population of the States a condition of Federation is sound. It might he pointed out that the manifest intention of great States like Hyderabad, Mysore and Travancore, and Baroda to come in goes a long way to solve the problem, since in themselves the first six or seven States have half the population of "Indian India." There are, of course, many other important matters to be decided on, which will have to be dealt with by the Joint Committee that is to be set up, and to which I need not refer.
Turning to a more general consideration, it is a misfortune that the old form of the name "The Indies" was ever changed to that of "India." "The Indies" would have given some indication of the number and variety of countries comprised. Indians have no word to express their common country. The name India is derived through the Greeks from the Sanscrit "Sindhu," a river pre-eminently the Indus, and was applied only to North-West India. Sir John Simon recently in another place referring to the inclusion of the States in the Federation said that travelling by train one passed from a British Province to an Indian State as easily as from one English county to another—a true description; but he should have added that it would not have been so except for British suzerainty. The BritishRajhas brought about the co-ordination of India's multitudinous peoples, sects, castes and creeds, and the name India has only been applied to that great geographical area peopled by so many different races since Britain brought them peace and unity.
Is there any instance in the history of the world when a number of different peoples have ever permanently succeeded in having a unified government except when the latter has been held by an outside power? China is an example of the break-up of a State when the foreign hand grows feeble. Even in our own little Island's history that may be illustrated. Your Lordships remember how the British during the long sovereignty 309 of the Romans in this country acquired a knowledge of Latin and used to visit Rome; in fact, they so identified themselves with their conquerors that they used to go repeatedly to the Governor at Rome and claim that they ought to have self-government. They claimed that they had been so educated and so versed in Roman methods of government that they were perfectly capable of looking after the affairs of their country. They were told that they consisted of so many various sects and tribes that if the guiding hand of Rome was withdrawn 'they would simply become the prey at once to an outside enemy. However, on one occasion when the representatives of Britain met the Roman Governor with this claim for self-government, he said: "Yes, you are going to get it now; we are going to withdraw from England, and are going back to Rome to resist the attacks of the Barbarians." We know from history what disastrous consequences followed to the Britons upon the withdrawal of the Romans from this country.
There is a little book which has just been published by Mr. Cadogan, a member of the Statutory Commission, in which he refers to the difficulty of bringing Indian leaders to realise the facts. They seem to be more imbued with their own adaptibility and capability of administering affairs than with the actual state of their country and the possible consequences to it were they given an absolutely free hand. Mr. Gandhi and others have talked wildly of India having the right to secede from the Empire, and of her ability to protect herself. Those who are keen for our disappearance should realise that there are others far keener who gaze across the frontier greedily awaiting an opportunity for loot and devastation such as the world has not seen for centuries. No, my Lords, India cannot do without our protection. There are those who oppose the White 310 Paper and who will argue: "Why then weaken our authority?" The answer is, in my opinion, that, quite wrongly perhaps, a vision has been presented to the Indians' view which has excited their imagination so that to say that now it cannot be realised would only result in a fury of disappointment and anger.
There are two factors to give hope that the dangers in having constitutional government may be successfully overcome in the end. First, there is that of the diversity and rivalry of the different races which require an outside power to adjust them. The other factor is the character of our own people. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack gave ample expression to what our countrymen have done in India. It must be remembered that for more than seventy years a handful of British, some 200,000, and of those only 70,000 were soldiers, have kept peace and order amongst 200,000,000 to 300,000,000 people, and that in that period, showing how successful that rule has been, the population has increased by 100,000,000. This could not have been done unless our administration had been conducted with the earnest desire to advance the welfare of India on the principles of justice, fair play and sympathy. We are not now going to abandon these national attributes because Indians are to shoulder the responsibility of self-government in a greater degree than hitherto, but we will still act as mediators in rivalries and discords and be the harmonising influence in a truly united India.
§ LORD OLIVIER
My Lords, I beg to move that the debate be now adjourned until three o'clock to-morrow.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned at twenty-four minutes before eight o'clock.