§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion made yesterday by the 313 Lord Chancellor, 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."
§ LORD OLIVIER
My Lords, I think your Lordships will generally be disposed to agree with me in my feeling that the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack and the Government on behalf on whom he spoke are to be heartily congratulated on the general approval that has been given to the contents of the White Paper, supported as that approval has been by most weighty, pertinent and well informed speeches from both sides of the House, and tempered as it has been only by the most friendly and moderate criticism. I feel myself extremely happy to be able to join my colleagues of the Labour Party in giving support to the Motion and, although I must say I was a little sympathetic with the expression of regret from the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack that they had not seen their way to take part in the last Round-Table Conference—I thought that was a mistake—I am glad to find myself now entirely at one with them both in regard to the action taken on this Motion and the declaration of policy made in connection with it.
What surprised me—perhaps I ought not to have been surprised, knowing the calibre of the intelligence of noble Lords on the other side of the House—was the great amount of informed support given to the White Paper from Benches from which we have not always been accustomed to hear support of a forward policy in Indian affairs. I think that must have impressed all your Lordships. During the last ten years there have been so many Commissions and Committees appointed both in India and this country to give attention to the subject, that, we do seem to be corning to a more general understanding of what the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, so strongly emphasised—namely, what are the real facts and 314 realities of the political situation in India by which our policy must be guided.
I was brought up in contact with many relatives and friends, both of my Own generation and the previous generation, who were engaged in various Departments of the Government of India—judicial, administrative, police and so On—and I can entirely sympathise with the attitude of mind that was so admirably expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, with regard to the old traditional view of the duties and position of Englishmen in Indian government. But I could not help feeling that we have passed out of that state of affairs in which those observations are relevant to the present situation. The whole facts of the situation in India are now so different that it is impressed upon all who are brought in contact with them that they cannot be handled in the old tutelary way; that we must pass to the realisation of the constitutional promises that India shall be made self-governing, and that. our conviction with regard to that situation does not rest on the fact that those promises may have been made by Her Majesty Queen Victoria, or a Commission, or in incidental utterances of statesmen, but rest on the facts of the situation as attested by men whom, on both sides of the House, we trust and whom we have seen administering the government of India and coming here and taking part in deliberations in concert with Indians themselves.
That state of affairs has really made the general basis of the proposals of the White Paper, in my mind, inexpugnable and I think that is recognised generally by the House. The whole subject falls, as has been said by the Lord Chancellor and others, practically into three parts. The most salient and the new element in the situation since we were discussing this matter in the House three or four years ago is the development of the idea of federation with the consent and co-operation of the Indian Princes. The noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, pointed out that that is by no means a new idea. It is an idea the necessity of which, I am bound to say, impressed me fully ten years ago as soon as I began to study the position of Indian politics, and I was rather surprised and considerably disappointed that the Simon Commission should be so guarded and reticent upon, not the possibility, but 315 the necessity of such a future development. Of course the Simon Commission may have been restricted in their view of the actual things which they were to report on. They were, perhaps, limited by reference to the existing dyarchical Constitution of India. Although they indicated rather tentatively that they looked forward to such a possibility, they were restricted from going into the question further by the fact that they themselves did not at the time recommend a centralisation of Indian affairs under any responsible Government as an immediate step.
When, after this laborious examination of Indian affairs, I reviewed my opinion and was asked by an Indian publicist of considerable reputation what my opinions were with regard to the future of India, I gave them, and he embodied them in the preface of a book he published. I was led to this conclusion:In any modification of Indian government in the direction of the establishment of Dominionstatus,it is obvious that a double process of centralization and decentralization must be provided for. In regard to all those Services which it may be agreed can be best dealt with comprehensively on behalf of the whole Peninusula, the most important of which is obviously the question of defence and among which railways, customs and postal services are other obvious instances, no scheme is conceivable but that the powers now administered by the Governor-General should be deputed to a National Government with the machinery of a. Federal Constitution, and that the right to deal with those particular matters should be specifically assigned by the Indian States to an Executive responsible to a National Parliament in which the Native States will have their fair representation in proportion to their importance and population side by side with the present Provinces of British India. And, correspondingly, all Services other than those which are thus assigned by the Indian Native States to the Federal Government must in the British Provinces be devolved to responsible Provincial Legislatures. The diplomatic relation of the States with the King-Emperor must continue a matter between the Indian Princes and the Viceroy.I think that is a very concise summary of the conclusions arrived at in the White Paper as the necessary next development and I think there is general consent with regard to the desirability of accepting that, subject of course to a certain amount of dilatoriness as regards the establishment of the Central Govern-men. But to that matter I shall come in a moment. 316 I can conveniently deal with the matters on which I desire to touch in the form of references to the valuable speeches which have been made by members of your Lordships' House. First I wish to express the great satisfaction with which I heard the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, point out to your Lordships that the dyarchical system did not fail to work owing to any incompetence or lack of administrative capacity in the Indian Ministers, or even in the lack of Parliamentary capacity in those members of the Councils who co-operated. So far as that test of ability was concerned the dyarchical experiment was successful. But it had its own inherent defects in two respects. The principal one was non-responsibility in matters of finance and the other, perhaps, was non-responsibility in regard to law and order and certain other reserved subjects. But of all others the chief difficulty in the Provincial Councils appears to have arisen from the feeling that they could not exercise control over finance and consequently could not develop the Transferred Services.
In regard to law and order, concerning the transfer of which the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, expressed doubt and hesitation, I may say that I was convinced and converted to the recognition that it was desirable that law and order should be transferred, by no less an authority than the present Viceroy of India, Lord Willingdon, who himself was conspicuous for the ability with which he administered the government of the two Provinces of which he was Governor during the period of the dyarchy. By my conversations with him and others I was led to the same conclusion as the Simon Commission—namely, that it was essential and safe and reasonable, with adequate precautions, to transfer law and order to the Provincial Legislatures. Those two things having been granted—law and order and financial responsibility—the ground was cleared for the establishment of the principle of provincial autonomy. I was glad to hear Lord Lamington admit that, though he himself had at first thought it was undesirable to go further than the establishment of provincial autonomy, he had come to recognise that there were practical reasons why it was an advisable or desirable step.
317 Your Lordships are perfectly familiar with the fate of the Simon Commission. It was handicapped from the first by most unreasonable prejudice against it, on the ground that Indians were not associated with it, but Lord Birkenhead, when moving for the establishment of that Commission, explained, and the Labour Party accepted his explanation, that it was not advisable under Parliamentary conditions to associate Indians with the Statutory Commission. That, however, was taken in very bad part by Indian politicians, and it caused a great amount of prejudice against the work and Report of the Simon Commission. Another thing which caused prejudice against the Report of the Simon Commission, and made it not acceptable to Indians, was that it deferred the granting of responsibility at the Centre. That obstacle, I think, has been cleared away, under proper safeguards, as the Lord Chancellor pointed out, by the Report of the Statutory Commission. So far I hope we have got a general scheme for a future Consitution which, with the materials at our command and the experience that we have, we both as Englishmen and Indians have to operate. I think that in the White Paper you have that scheme taken as far as we can possibly take it, and that we have it with safe and reasonable safeguards.
Now I am going to follow with one of two references to the utterances made in the debate. Lord Lytton put his finger upon one of the great difficulties which we have had for ten years past, at least, in dealing with Indian affairs. He said that Indian politicians always expect to have a ready-made Constitution, and to put it into force at once, and as the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, knows perfectly well, that was expected of the Labour Party when I had theonusput upon me of becoming Secretary of State for India. We were expected at once to create a Constitution and to bring it into operation. That, of course, always has been a perfectly impossible thing, even if it were Parliamentarily and constitutionally possible, which it was not and has not been. We are now at the stage in which it is possible that a Constitution can be established, but that Constitution, even now, cannot, if the safeguards provided for in the White Paper are to be adopted, be put into 318 force in such a form as will give absolute Dominionstatus.So I am quite prepared for, and we have already had indications that there will be, an outcry that faith is being broken with the Indian people, because Dominionstatusis not established.
That is one of the points with regard to which I regret the form of the White Paper. I think His Majesty's Government might have had the courage to endorse the statements of the Prime Minister and other statesmen that we do intend to progress to Dominionstatus.There is also this criticism of the White Paper—although it is a fault that can be remedied by the Joint Select Committee—that the Constitution, as Lord Snell said yesterday, is established and does not provide, as Indian politicians have always demanded it should provide, for automatic and continuous development towards Dominionstatus,even if Dominionstatusis not immediately instituted. The most loyal and helpful of Indian politicians continually complain: "You dangle something before us, and put us upon probation: you say, If you are good boys and. behave well you shall have something more.'" If your Lordships put yourselves in the position of intelligent Indians you will realise that that is an intolerable position. They say: "No, let us have a definite plan, with safeguards if you like, which shall provide that this Constitution shall be the matrix of the Indian Constitution." Unless that is done I am afraid that the White Paper will go the way of all previous attempts to satisfy India. I hope that will be done, and that the result of the labours of the Joint Select Committee will be to make that perfectly clear. Not only have Prime Ministers and Viceroys, one after another, declared that to be the purpose, but it is desired that that shall be a declaration of the British Parliament, and shall be as clearly understood as the provisions of the Act of 1919 were understood. I trust that that is an amendment which will be made in the form of the White Paper when it is returned from the Joint Select Committee.
I would now like to come to the extremely interesting and valuable and impressive speech made by the Marquess of Lothian. After I had listened to that speech I said: "This is a man who has thoroughly seen the bottom of the situa- 319 tion, and who says the things which everyone ought to know." Unfortunately a great number of our population do not know them, and unfortunately some leaders of public opinion take care to keep them blind upon the subject. For instance, after hearing that satisfactory address and realising with a certain amount of satisfaction that it expressed views which I was on the whole able to endorse, I thought that I would remedy the balance by reading theEvening Standard,which is a newspaper with which I chasten my enthusiasms when I feel that they are getting a little too far ahead. I found in theEvening Standardof yesterday an article signed with the initials "A.A.B.," enquiring "Shall Oxford govern India"? Now the gentleman who signed this with the initials "A.A.B." is a very well known journalist, and he was very well known as a Conservative politician fifty-four years ago when I was at Oxford. The noble Earl, Lord Midleton, used to be his colleague in the Oxford Union Society, and I am sorry to say that, although the opinions of "A.A.B." might have been suitable to the years 1880 and 1881, in the intervening years he has not increased in wisdom or in stature.
What he informs the British public in two full columns of theEvening Standardis that the whole genesis of all this trouble about India arose from the fact that two young men, one named Lionel Curtis and the other named Philip Kerr got hold of the impressionable mind of Mr. Montagu, and took advantage of the good nature of the late Lord Chelmsford, and induced them to put on the stocks the dyarchic Constitution of India; that the people of India were so fired with enthusiasm by the ideas presented with such force by Mr. Montagu that they thereupon began to demand further developments; and that the whole landslide of Indian public opinion, as it has occurred since then, and all the trouble we have had was simply due to the editors of theRound Table.I am sorry to say I could not help getting an impression that there seems to be a sort of idea in the mind of the writer of that article that not only had these ideas which have inspired so many Viceroys and administrators and statesmen been begotten and entirely invented by Mr. Philip Kerr and Mr. Lionel Curtis, but that all these successive Round-Table Conferences which we have had were a 320 sort of emanation from theRound Table,that all these ideas were entirely factitious, and, as Lord Ampthill rather indicated, did not at all reflect the real nature and character of India.
I would like to come back to what the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, said, because it struck me as being very much to the point. He said in effect: "I am not talking to-day of pledges"—that is another point; we are not making a step in advance because pledges have been given—"I am talking of facts—facts with which we have got to deal." That, as the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, will agree with me, is the real reason why we have had these constitutional advances in the last ten years. When I came into office I had to make up my mind very rapidly and I was also under the guidance of what is called the Council. I was not the Secretary of State, I was the Secretary of State for India in Council. I may say, incidentally, that I hope that the institution of the Secretary of State for India in Council is one which will perish in the next reform of Indian government and that we shall have the Secretary of State in the same position as any other responsible Minister. I found that the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, was so impressed with the facts of the situation then prevailing in India that he said that, although the Government of India Act provides that dyarchy should have a trial for ten years and that any further progress should depend upon co-operation—and although we were not having co-operation—yet the condition of affairs in India was such and the reasonable demands were so strong that it was absolutely essential that attention should be paid to the situation, and that there should be an early modification of the existing political arrangements. That was his advice and that was what really started the present movement which has developed into the White Paper that is now before us.
My noble friend and I agreed together on one thing and that was with regard to the complete overhaul of what the dyarchic system was doing, how it was working, whether it was working well, and if it was not why it was not so working. As a result of that the Muddiman Commission Report gave us an immense amount of information and 321 valuable material to work upon. My colleagues in the Labour Government and myself considered that before we could assume responsibility for a modification of the Constitution then existing, and before we could even propose to Parliament that we should have an earlier appointment of the Statutory Commission, we must have some preliminary case such as would be documented by an inquiry of that sort. I do not know whether I am indiscreet in saying that the noble Marquess himself was so much impressed by the facts that he was desirous of immediately announcing, not only that we should enquire into the working of dyarchy, but that we were prepared to consider further with regard to the acceleration of the inquiry into the question of modifying the Constitution. That was one of the few differences of opinion which the noble Marquess and myself had. He was so convinced of the necessities of the situation in India that he made that proposal and I hope that his difficulties in India were not increased by the fact that I was not able to give him that assurance. I am glad to say that we have now got past that stage and have been progressing on the lines that the noble Marquess then recommended.
§ MARQUESS OF READING
my I interrupt, because the noble Lord has introduced matters which I confess are entirely matters of memory, and I have not looked at these Papers? My recollection is that we had the Muddiman Report, which enquired into various matters which were administrative, and that certain facts emerged from which it was thought that it was desirable to have a further inquiry, which we could only do with the permission of the Secretary of State, and that would no doubt involve an inquiry into how dyarchy was working. To that extent I agree with the noble Lord.
§ LORD OLIVIER
I could not get my Council to swallow it. They were too nervous. My recollection, which is not sufficiently reliable, is that I had some difference of opinion with my Council. But I only mention this fact to show that. the noble Marquess, with his sagacity and knowledge, was so strongly impressed with the facts of the situation in India that he considered it was necessary to make some further advance towards the 322 realisation of the programme put forward in 1919. Since then we have had this repeated overhauling of the situation by men of all Parties and of all shades of opinion, by Englishmen and by Indians both of the Native States and of British India; with the result that we have got as the outcome what I hope may be regarded as a fairly well agreed document.
I was very much impressed by some observations which fell from the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, and which were endorsed by the noble Marquess, Lord Linlithgow. Lord Lothian said that the centre of interest would shift from political matters to economic matters, and I was very much interested to hear that Lord Linlithgow—who, I may observe, told us that he had been converted by his experiences in India to the policy of the White Paper—said that he had no doubt whatever that one result of the franchise as set up in the way proposed would be to shift the interest of the voters from administrative matters to matters of property. And he expressed a certain nervousness that there would be a tendency to attack established institutions of property in India. Well, that rather amused me, because my friend Colonel Wedgwood, in another place, lifted up a lamentable voice to declare that we had handed over the ryots and peasantry of India, bound hand and foot, to their economic oppressors.
I was very much relieved to hear that both the noble Marquess, Lord Linlithgow, and the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, consider that the Constitution as now proposed gives the down-trodden peasantry a pretty considerable amount of influence in dealing with economic questions. If the noble Marquess, Lord Linlithgow, was nervous about a tax upon property, which he said was the foundation of all stability, we must remember that we established in India, under what are called the permanent tribunals a gross iniquity and robbery of the peasants of India in favour of a class whom we endowed with large landed estates which, under the ancient Constitution, really belonged to the Crown. That was a false step, which we ought to redress. However, between the two—between the apprehensions of Lord Linlithgow and the lamentations of Colonel 323 Wedgwood—I am glad to think that some better attention may be given to the proprietary and social interests of the peasantry than has been given hitherto.
Then I come to one or two observations made by Lord Hastings, whose speeches, I am bound to confess, I always listen to with extreme interest because his interest is political and social rather than administrative. When I have heard the noble Lord speak on agricultural matters, I have always felt that he spoke with a political and social interest rather than an administrative interest to which some agricultural theorists are rather prone. I was greatly interested to hear his comments with regard to the suitability of the government which is proposed for the Indian people. He said that the Indian States of course desire to maintain their own institutions, and their institutions are not democratic, they are paternal. I was reminded by what the noble Lord said of a long talk which I had with that delightful and genial gentleman, the late Jam Sahib of Nawanagar, who explained to me very sympathetically and fully this whole theory of paternal government and what a necessary thing it was for such a people as the Indians. I am bound to say that I have read some very severe criticisms from another side of the administration of the paternal Princes, even including the late Jam Sahib. The Princes say "You say we are extravagant, we spend a great deal on pageantry and on display, we waste a lot of money but the people like it. The Indian people are entertained by these expensive pageants, by these miles of artificial flowers, and by these processions of elephants. What do you do to your people? You let them spend their money on greyhound racing and horse racing and betting and drinking and cinemas, and then you pass laws to prevent them doing so. We give our people what they want to see." That is the paternal manner of governing in India.
The noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, said that that is the kind of government they like; they like to be governed. That is all very well. They liked to be governed, but they do not like to be governed from Downing Street or by Governors sent out from England. If you want a dictatorship, such as Signor Mussolini has established in Italy or as Herr Hitler is establishing in Germany, you cannot do that 324 unless you have it established by a band of free people and in their own country. It is not very difficult for Signor Mussolini to say: "I am establishing a corporate State and my will shall direct it," because he knows the Italian people, for he is an Italian and a very typical Italian; but it is a very different thing indeed to say you can take such a step in India, and appoint such a distinguished administrator as Lord Lytton or anyone else, and have him approved by the population. You can set up paternal government if you have a Prince of royal blood and a Brahmin administration; but you cannot set it up with people sent out from Downing Street or from Parliament, and say: "These are the wise people who ought to govern." We know they are wise; and let me say that no one could have a greater admiration than I have for the succession of recent Viceroys or for the Indian Civil Service; but we cannot organise a modern State in that way. You must go by the way of democracy, and if you are going by the way of democracy this White Paper represents an enormous and difficult task.
No one can look at the schedule of communal franchises devised by Lord Lothian's Committee without saying: "Good gracious, fancy having to be Prime Minister or Speaker in a Parliament constituted with all these Parties." But that is the best thing we have been able to do owing to the divisions and disputations of the Indians themselves. I have again and again scandalised your Lordships by saying that I do not believe in communal franchise. I believe in the general franchise, but the facts, I am afraid, do not admit of it, and I recognise to the full the enormous and conscientious amount of effort which has been made to get rid of these frightful complexities of communal franchises, with the result that no one is going to be satisfied. That is a difficulty for the future, and if Indian legislators are going to say: "We cannot work with this group system, we must throw up a Hitler or a Mussolini or some other dictator," that has got to come in the future. Our immediate path is the path of democratic institutions already set up and accepted in India on these lines.
One point more I should like to make. The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, referred to dyarchy and said reference was made in the other House to the enormous dif- 325 ficulty that would be placed upon the Viceroy and the Governor-General. He said, in effect: "Look at the Viceroy; he will have the whole Political Department with the whole of the Indian States to look after quite independently of his work as Governor-General, and he will have to get a vote from the National Council for the expenses and that would create a great difficulty." As to the practical difficulties of dealing with the Indian States I do not know whether the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, can enlighten us upon them. I should say from my observation that they are pretty considerable. There are constantly small difficulties arising, but it does not seem to me there is any reason to suppose there will be greater labour entailed in dealing with the Viceregal functions in regard to those States than there is at the present time. As regards financial matters surely the Government of India at present is responsible for the Political Department, and the Indian States are able to say: "We pay our taxes and make our contributions towards this. Some part of the revenues of the Provinces is devoted to that purpose and we pay taxes towards them." Theonusof taxation surely remains just as it is at present. The Indian States are entitled to say: "We do pay our share."
I should not have supposed that the mere transition from au autocratic finance to a controlled finance ought to create any difficulty, because substantially the position will be the same. You have the expenses of the Political Department now. They are going to continue, but they are not going to increase, and why should there be more difficulty in future than there has been in the past, unless you are going to suppose that the Indian National Council is going to set on foot a campaign against the Princes and against the Political Department and to try to influence them by cutting down their vote? I do not think it is necessary to suppose anything of the kind. I wish again to express the great satisfaction with which I have listened to this debate, and, as a humble student of Indian politics, as one who during the ten months in which I was in Office devoted a great amount of careful study to India, which study I have continued ever since, I congratulate the Government heartily upon the great work that has been accomplished by the three Commissions and by 326 the Round-Table Conferences. I would like also, in conclusion, to express my admiration, which everyone I think will feel, for the great work which has been done in this matter by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I must confess to your Lordships that I venture to rise to address you this afternoon with feelings of very deep responsibility. It is difficult to exaggerate the seriousness of the task upon which we are engaged. We shall to-morrow, no doubt, accept this Resolution. Your Lordships will agree to the setting up of the Joint Committee. I respectfully think your Lordships will be well advised in taking that course, for whatever view may be taken of Indian reform and the appropriateness of the White Paper, I should think that there could not be two opinions that it is proper, if Parliament is asked to enquire into the merits of the case, that we should be ready to do so. That follows the policy which Parliament has throughout pursued in this matter. At the time the Government of India Act was passed it was provided that there should be from time to time an inquiry by a Statutory Commission. That inquiry was held, and now, after some delay, we are called upon to take into consideration the Report of the Statutory Committee, and the White Paper which has followed it, all in proper sequence, as we would wish it to have been done. But it is a position of great gravity, and I hope your Lordships will approach it with a feeling that in the decision which is going to be made in the Joint Committee and afterwards in Parliament you are uncommitted. That has been emphasised by His Majesty's Government, and my noble friend who leads the House assents to it now.
But are we fully seized of the real gravity of the situation? Take the noble and learned Viscount upon the Woolsack. Last night he delivered to us a very attractive speech, in which he described with great clearness and lucidity the history of this question and the provisions of the White Paper, but he did not seem to me really to realise how profound were the interests we were engaged upon. He said at the end of his speech words to this effect: "Nothing risk, nothing have; there must be a 327 risk"; and in the early part of his speech he remarked that it is said this Constitution we are proposing is unprecedented: so is the English Constitution unprecedented, but it moves. This analogy which it is sometimes sought to establish between the Indian Constitution and the British Constitution I confess fills me with despair. There is no analogy whatever. The British Constitution, as we know it, has been built up gradually through a thousand years, stone upon stone, step upon step, precedent upon precedent. Then the noble and learned Viscount, in the matter of precedent, asked what is the difference between the British Constitution and the Indian Constitution? It is because this Indian Constitution is purely artificial, is established for the first time, striking at the very root of all that is most valuable and most vital in Indian life, that there is a difference. We view it with profound gravity, and cannot regard it with the facile optimism of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack.
I am not speaking only on my own authority, but it has interested me, and it may interest your Lordships, to be reminded of the sort of language which has been used about the policy involved in this White Paper by commentators who are certainly not unfriendly to it. Here is what Sir Samuel Hoare said about it a few days ago:No such change has ever been proposed by constitutional methods in the government of so vast a country in so short a time.I may remind the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack that he protested against any accusation of shortness of time. The phrase really lies in the mouth of his own colleague, the Secretary of State. Here again is something that the Secretary of State said:I suppose that it is the most complicated scheme that has ever been proposed as the constitution of any country in the world. It bristles with complexities, it is filled with difficulties. …That is the thing which your Lordships are called upon through your representatives on the Joint Committee to consider.
This comment is not confined to the Secretary of State, although, of course, he is of the greatest importance in the matter, My noble friend Earl Peel, whom I deeply regret is prevented from being in his place, spoke of it as a gigantic task. Then I turn to the noble and 328 learned Marquess the Leader of the Liberal Party in your Lordships' House. Here is his comment when speaking to the Third Round-Table Conference:There is no history of the creation of federations which can even approach the stupendous character of this Federation.Can it be surprising that some of us hesitate when we are confronted with a task of this kind which its very advocates describe as "gigantic" and even "stupendous"? Surely, my Lords, it is not surprising that a Conservative Party—a truly Conservative Party, for there are many fictitious ones about—hesitates before embarking upon a task such as I have described? And, indeed, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is fully aware of it. Speaking in the House of Commons he said:On the day that I went to the India Office I realised that most of the problems with which I was faced were almost insoluble.That is the Secretary of State's own comment upon his own policy.
I ask your Lordships therefore to bear with me for a moment or two while I point out some of the larger difficulties which stand in the way. I am not going to pronounce a final opinion upon them. We are going to have an inquiry. It is quite evident that if you go into an inquiry and settle beforehand exactly what you are going to settle at the end of the inquiry it is not much use. I thought that some noble Lords last night had hardly appreciated that precautionary observation. Let me just call attention to some of the difficulties. There is first of all the point which I have urged upon your Lordships on previous occasions—the enormous power which this Constitution would place in the hands of the Central Government enabling the responsible Ministers representing the majority gradually to invade and defeat the safeguards.
My noble friend the Earl of Lytton made a very powerful speech last night. I have not got his exact words, but he will correct me if I quote him wrongly. He spoke, if I remember him rightly, of the enormous power which a Parliament would have to absorb the authority, once it started, by the very law of its being. The power of the Ministers is always to say to the Viceroy or to the Governor-General: "If you do not do what we want we will resign and you cannot get 329 any other Government." Constitutional history all over the world simply bristles with precedents for that—the power which Ministers have, and which gradually drives and drives and drives the authority which occupies the Throne or what represents the Throne to make concessions. I made this point in a speech which your Lordships allowed me to deliver in this House not very long ago. I do not know whether any full reply has ever been attempted to it. I think that the Secretary of State said that that kind of thing would not be likely to happen. Why did he say that? What possible ground had he for saying that What Minister will rise in his place before this debate is over and say that that kind of thing is not likely to happen? I do not know that it will succeed, but that it will be attempted is as sure as it is that day follows the flight. That is one point.
Then we come to the communal deadlock. Everybody knows that that lies at the very root of Indian difficulties. How has that been resolved by the Round-Table Conference? How does it stand now? The Indians have been unable to solve it. The solution, such as it is, has been made by the British Government who are always spoken of with some contempt as being 6,000 miles away. The solution was made by the Prime Minister, and this is the form in which he made it:I desire to warn you that if Government have to supply even temporarily this part of your Constitution"—he was speaking to the Indians—which you are unable to supply for yqurselves…it will not be a satisfactory way of dealing with this problem.That is precisely what has happened. They have not been able to solve it, they show no sign of being anywhere near able to solve it, and the Prime. Minister has attempted to solve it over their heads, not in a satisfactory way to use his own words.
Neither has it been accepted in India. I do not profess to be familiar with India from any personal knowledge of Indian conditions, but I have read the Bluebook. Here is what I find is said about the Punjab:The Hindus of the Punjab maintained that they were not prepared to accept any reforms which were based upon communal electorates and communal considerations.330 And, further:A Constitution based upon the Communal Award will be a. mere patchwork.The Communal Award itself, the solemn document of the Prime Minister, is only patchwork in the view of the Hindus of the Punjab. Neither has it been accepted by the Moslems. In the Upper Chamber of the Federal Legislature the Moslem community insisted that their representatives from British India should be elected through separate constituencies. That is not going to be done. That is not part of the White Paper. So we find that the Award which the Prime Minister himself knew to be unsatisfactory has riot been accepted in India. That is the second great difficulty which has not been dealt with.
Then I come to finance. I ventured to put some rather pertinent observations about finance a few weeks ago in your Lordships' House. I described the financial position left by the Third Round-Table Conference as chaos. I got no reply from the Government, but the noble and learned Marquess, who knows all about these things and was a prominent member of the Third Round-Table Conference, said:The noble Marquess used an expression in regard to finance that it was left rather in a chaotic state. I will not use the word chaotic, but I might use one that approaches it very closely.Then I said:How is it proposed to establish a Federal Government without dealing with finance?And here are the words of the noble and learned Marquess:As far as I understand the position it is not intended to do it. You cannot do it.Well, are the Government going to enlighten us a little as to finance before the close of the debate or is the Joint Committee to be presented with a chaotic condition of finance? It is no good making general observations or, if I may respectfully say so, glib observations as to the beauties of the White Paper if you have these elementary points such as the religious difficulty and the financial situation completely unsettled, undigested, with nothing whatever done about them.
May I go a little further? What about the Princes? We know nothing as to how the Princes are going to regard the White Paper; at least we know very little.
331 There was a meeting in India presided over by the Viceroy and, as far as I can make out, the White Paper was not received with any enthusiasm at the meeting of the Princes. Are we to be called upon in the Joint Committee to consider the future of the Government of India, which is to be a Federal Government, without having the least conception of what the Princes think about it? Is there to be no statement on behalf of the Princes which we can judge? As far as I can make out, the policy of the Government is that after the Joint Committee has sat and deliberated, there should be a Bill drawn up and passed through both Houses of Parliament, and then, and only then, we shall begin to know what the Princes think about it; so that your Lordships will be asked to deal with the whole of this subject so far as the Princes are concerned knowing nothing—completely blindfold.
It is not a simple matter. It appears to have dawned upon the Government that all the Princes are riot likely to join. At one time I think they were under the impression that the great majority would, but now it is reduced to one-half—we do not know which or on what terms. Further, each Prince is to come to his own arrangements with the Government. Those arrangements may differ fundamentally and how is that position to be worked? Their representatives in the Federal Assembly will all have an equal power, but they will not have equal power over their respective States. The representative of A State will have a certain power over B State where the representative of B State will not have a corresponding power over A State, because it is provided that there are to be separate arrangements—potentially different. We are to know nothing about all that while the Joint Committee is deliberating—it is all to be done blindfold. This Federal Constitution, which we all accept as the only form in which a Central Legislature and responsible Government should be formed—we are to know nothing as to it.
Then there is the vital matter—I hope I am not wearying your Lordships—of law and order. Even the Lord Chancellor was frightened about that. Even his facile optimism gave way at that point. The peril as regards law and order is very great. I have in my hand an extract from a speech delivered by 332 Sir H. Haig, the Home Member of the Government of India, in the Legislative Assembly recently on the Criminal Law Amendment Bill. The views expressed here are not those of the old Anglo-Indians who have long retired from service in India and are living now in England, and whose opinions are now all despised and cast aside with the comment: "Oh, they left India years ago and know nothing about it" But it is the Home Member speaking a few weeks ago, and he said:We have in India a treble threat to peaceful progress—civil disobedience, Communism and terrorism. … Though on the surface these three are very different movements, behind the scenes there are certain contracts. Terrorism threatens government by open force; the other two—civil disobedience and Communism—are more subtle in their methods, but possibly even more disastrous in their results.And please mark the next words:A crust has been formed and at times we seem to see in a flash how thin that crust is…Let us beware lest the crust give way and we find ourselves precipitated into the abyss.I have left out some non-essential words, but I have not misquoted the speech.
That is the position which is described by the present Minister responsible for law and order in India, and that is the situation of the country to which we are going to give responsible government. This is a very formidable thing. I think everybody seems to have felt how formidable it is and consequently has fallen back upon the Foreign Secretary. It is said: "Well, Sir John Simon in his Report was prepared to hand over law and order to the Provinces." I noticed that the noble and learned Viscount spoke of Sir John Simon's Report with every kind of eulogy and enthusiasm—the Report and the Chairman of the Report which the Government of which the noble and learned Viscount was a member treated with every insult when the Report was presented! Now, however, he is the Foreign Secretary, and they appeal to him.
What did the Foreign Secretary say in another place a few days ago? He was defending this proposal in his Report, that law and order should be handed over to the Provinces, but he went on to say, of which the noble and learned Viscount quite forgot to remind this 333 House, that there were two qualifications. In the first place there was the qualification that in its Report the Simon Commission contemplated that there should be a special European Minister in each Provincial Government to look after this particular side of the question. That was an important qualification, but it is not so important as the second qualification. He said—I am reading now from his speech:The other difference—and again this is very important point—was that of course we were proceeding on the assumption that though there was this transfer in the Provinces none the less there would lie behind that and at the Centre a Government of the sort which we conceived. …That was a Government which was not a responsible Government at the Centre, and, although the words are very carefully drawn, what is perfectly apparent is that the Foreign Secretary in defending this recommendation of the Report said that it was agreed to upon the distinct assumption that there would be no responsible Government at the Centre. What right has the noble and learned Viscount to leave your Lordships under a misapprehension as to what the view of the Foreign Secretary is? The Foreign Secretary goes on to say:and unquestionably it would be a matter for very grave consideration in the Joint Select Committee how far these considerations will alter the view which any of us might take—myself included—as to the practicability of this particular plan.Do not call the Foreign Secretary in evidence again when you are talking about law and order, unless you are prepared to modify your view of the risk of giving responsible government at the Centre. Of course it makes all the difference in the world.
I must not delay your Lordships too long, but in addition to all the list of unsettled vital points there is the question of where are to be found the agents who are going to carry out the Governor-General's wishes if and when he is obliged to act independently of his Ministers. No account has been given to us of how that is to be done. There are to be a few white Civil Servants left, but very few, for most things are to be Indianised. I do not want to say anything against our Indian fellow-subjects. It is to be profoundly hoped that they will be as loyal and as orderly as your Lordships, but if you are providing safeguards you must 334 be able to show that you are providing machinery by which those safeguards can be worked. Otherwise, you are wasting your time. My Lords, there is no such provision.
Then there is the ultimate sanction, in which the defenders of the White Paper indulge. They say—the noble and learned Viscount said: "You can put the Army in motion." Which Army? Is it to be the white Army, the British troops, or is it to be the Indian Army, henceforward commanded entirely by Indian officers? I do not want to be too precise in a matter of this kind, but your Lordships will realise what the difference. means if there is to be a real struggle; and the ultimate sanction, of course, has no meaning unless there is to be a real struggle. I have called your Lordships' attention to these fundamental difficulties with which the Joint Select Committee will have to deal. You are going to hand over, if the White Paper is to be passed in its integrity, to a responsible Government, all these frightfully difficult issues. You have surrounded it with so-called safeguards on defence, on law and order, on religion, but are you sure that your safeguards will work? What is this nation which is entitled to self-governing at the centre? It cannot defend itself, andex concessisit cannot keep order within its own boundaries, and cannot find amodus vivendifor determining its own religious difficulties. To them you are going to hand over this intensely complex, artificial Constitution, with all these vital issues, up to now at all events, unsettled.
I have been told, with others, to beware of a pre-War mind. The pre-War mind which was believed in by the Liberal Party, and by apparently certain members of the Conservative Party too, was salvation by constitutional development. Now we know quite well, we who live in the twentieth century, that there is no salvation by constitutional development. That has all been blown to smithereens. No doubt this great country in which we live has made a splendid success of constitutional development on representative lines, but as far as I can make out no other country has made that success. That is not where salvation lies. Salvation lies in loyalty and in the spirit of service. That is the great lesson. To give people the right to vote and to have 335 a responsible Government—talk about pre-War minds, my Lords, I had hoped that everyone had got past that, had abandoned any belief that that by itself is the road to salvation!
Let us go into this Joint Committee. Your Lordships will vote it, and rightly vote it, and some of us will be members of it. Let us go into it in a spirit of caution—may I use even the phrase conservative caution? Let us not be misled by phrases or by facile optimism, but let us realise that it is only by extreme caution, by weighing every step, that we shall prevent a catastrophe. The responsibility on this generation is very grave. Depend upon it, just as those who were responsible for the Irish Treaty and the loss of Ireland will never be forgiven by this country, so those who lose India will never be forgiven. The Conservative Party have nothing to regret about Ireland. For what was it that we said? And what was it that our opponents said? Our opponents said: "If we pass Home Rule there will be a union of hearts"; We said: "There will be separation." Which was right, my Lords? No, my Lords, the Conservative Party has nothing to be ashamed of. It has made many, many mistakes, but its political instinct was sound, and, if it will give itself the chance, it is politically sound now. Let us enter the Joint Committee in that spirit, and then we shall be able to give a good answer to posterity.
§ LORD HARDINGE OF PENSHURST
My Lords, after the very interesting and most searching speech to which we have just listened I do not propose to detain you for more than a few minutes, as I have no desire to criticise the policy of His Majesty's Government as exposed in the White Paper, except in one matter which I regard as of really great importance. I fully realise that some who may not agree with my criticisms will say to themselves that I am a back number, in which term I fully agree, for much water has flowed under the bridges, and much change has taken place in India, since twenty-three years ago, when I first went out to India. On the other hand I was in India only two years ago for some months, and visited five Provinces and seven States, and during the course of my peregrinations I had full opportunity of discussing with many friends of all classes and persuasions the many ques- 336 tions which were even then and are still now at issue.
I have always been progressive in my policy towards India; in fact during my administration there I was regarded by many with suspicion as an advanced Radical or something worse; and I still am progressive in my views, but on lines of what I believe to be wisdom and prudence and not a leap in the dark. It was on August 25, 1911, that my Government addressed a Despatch to the Secretary of State for India, who was then Lord Crewe. That Despatch was connected with the transfer of the capital from Calcutta to Delhi. In that Despatch forecasting the future policy of India we stated our conviction that before long many Indians would lay claim to a greater share in the management of their own affairs; and we expressed our view that in that case the best and safest line of development would be the grant of autonomy to the Provinces; but we added the condition that there should be a strong Government at the Centre to control and co-ordinate the policy of the Provincial Governments. That Despatch was published, and in February, 1912, there was a discussion in your Lordships' House in which that particular sentence, referring to provincial autonomy, was hotly criticised by my predecessors in office, Lord Minto, Lord Curzon and Lord Lansdowne, but it was approved by some of the ex-Governors who were members of this House, and amongst them, if I remember rightly, was my noble friend Lord Ampthill.
Well, provincial government has come to stay, and I warmly welcome its arrival. It appears now to meet with general approval on all sides. Still, the condition of a strong Central Government is not likely to be realised if responsibility at the Centre is conceded at once. Surely it will be better to allow provincial self-government to develop on its own lines before a new experiment is made at the Centre. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack said in his speech yesterday that in the opinion of Indians it would be giving the husk and not the kernel, and that Indians would not accept that solution. I hope the noble and learned Viscount will pardon me if I express doubts as to whether that statement fully represents Indian opinion, when I tell him that during my stay in Lord Irwin's house at 337 Delhi only two years ago a very distinguished Indian, an adherent of Congress, but a gentleman who has held office as a member of the Viceroy's Executive Council, came to me and urged upon me that when I got home I should do what I could to convince people over here that India would be perfectly satisfied with the grant provincial autonomy, and that only a few politicians wanted responsibility at the Centre. He said—and I can well understand this—that Indian politicians much preferred to be great men in their own Provinces, where they have large numbers of friends and dependants, rather than at the Centre where they know nobody and have no friends. I asked him why he did not say this openly and publicly, and he replied, because he did not dare. In relating this I do not wish to imply that most Indians share his views, but I am quite convinced in my own mind that there are in India a large number of men, politicians like him, who through lack of encouragement do not dare.
Then again it was said yesterday—I think by my noble friend the Marquess of Lothian—that provincial self-government could not be established without responsibility at the Centre. I do not agree with that. It is easy to make an assertion of that kind, and it may be difficult to prove or disprove it, but it certainly was not the opinion of my Government in the year 1911. The noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, in the course of his speech, spoke of risks, and other speakers mentioned doubts and misgivings: but surely, my Lords, we have no right to take risks in our responsibility for the great heritage of that vast continent which has been handed down to us by past generations?
In order to calm the doubts and fears of those who are apprehensive of the policy proposed in the White Paper strong and very necessary safeguards have been inserted. I am very glad that it is so, though I do not attach undue importance to such safeguards. Everyone knows how easily safeguards can he whittled down until they become practically ineffective. When I was at Delhi two years ago another Indian gentleman called upon me. He had been a member of the First Round-Table Conference, and had just returned from London. His object in 338 coming to see me was to persuade me to urge on my return that these safeguards which had been proposed at the Round-Table Conference should be withdrawn, since, he said, they were a. sign of distrust on the part of Great Britain of the Indian statesmen. I naturally demurred, and he promptly added that in any case they would not be respected. I only mention this as an instance of the mentality of some Indians which should not be ignored. I shall not detain your Lordships longer. My point is that I wish to urge upon His Majesty's Government the adoption of a policy of greater prudence and caution, and that there should be no question of conceding responsibility at the Centre until events have proved that self-government in the Provinces is a practicable and justifiable policy, and that no risks should be run of administrative chaos which I am profoundly apprehensive will follow in the event of self-government in the Provinces and at the Centre being conceded simultaneously.
§ LORD STRATHCONA AND MOUNT ROYAL
My Lords, it is with very great diffidence that I rise to address the House, deeply conscious of the fact that in expressing to your Lordships my own views in a more or less unofficial capacity I am giving you the views of one of the younger and less experienced members of your Lordships' House. My task has been made more difficult by the two very striking and stirring speeches to which we have just listened from the noble Lord, Lord Hardinge, and the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury. The speeches of the noble Marquess always command respect and attention in this House, which is always desirous of hearing the views of one who has been Leader of the House and a member of previous Governments. His personality and charm are such that younger ones, like myself, are always willing to listen to him and not so eager to criticise. He will forgive me, therefore, if I do not follow him in every point he made in the very striking speech he gave to us, and I trust that he, on his part, when I express the views which I feel in my heart, will not accuse me of being a fictitious Conservative or of suffering from a post-War mind.
I confess to your Lordships that two years ago I should have found some difficulty in rising from these Benches and 339 saying that I viewed the policy of His Majesty's Government with regard to India at that time with complete satisfaction. That was not entirely because there was at that time a Socialist or Labour Administration in this country, a fact which the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, seemed to overlook in commenting on the chronological sequence of events after the Report of the Statutory Commission was published; but also because at that time I did feel that the pace at which Indian reforms was being accelerated was rather too great. Two years are a long time in politics, and a very long time in Indian politics, and I can say with complete candour and honesty, and without straining or stretching my conscience too far, that I view the procedure which has been outlined by and for His Majesty's Government with complete equanimity and complete confidence.
It has become somewhat of fashion of late to suggest that the Report of the Indian Statutory Commission was shelved or flouted. The noble Marquess, I think, more or less made that assertion in his speech, but I must confess that I have never felt that that was quite the case, although I admit events moved very fast after that Report was issued. I regard it in this way. Once the First Round-Table Conference was summoned, and once we had that surprising—because we did not expect it so soon—declaration from the Princes of their willingness to come into an All-India Federation, the whole situation became changed in a flash. I confess I was also anxious at one time as to whether the procedure to be adopted after the Statutory Commission's Report was not going to be altered. At one moment I was apprehensive lest the procedure of a Joint Select Committee might be abandoned. But to-day that procedure is as complete and perfect as it can be from the point of view of Parliamentary control. Parliament is not only going to appoint its Joint Committee and have the policy "vetted," if I may use an unpleasant expression, by them, but thereafter will come the Bill itself, the Government of India Bill, giving a fresh opportunity to Parliament to express its opinions and its views on the subject.
It has sometimes been complained, not unnaturally, that the present procedure is too radical a departure from the Report of the Indian Statutory Com- 340 mission. As I endeavoured to explain to your Lordships just now, departure was necessary and became essential the minute it was apparent that the Princes were eager, or anyhow prepared, to come in. But I do not regard the departure as so very great. I have always regarded the procedure outlined at the Round-Table Conference, and now, more especially, the procedure laid down in the White Paper, as being complementary rather than supplementary to the Report of the Statutory Commission. The main points of divergence are (1) on the question of federation and (2) on the question of the Provinces; and I will deal very shortly with those two points, if I may. With regard to federation, I have already said that federation became a possibility from the minute that it was apparent that the Indian Princes were ready to come into the scheme. I want to point out to your Lordships that federation has been at the back of the people's minds for a long time, and had been mooted long before the Statutory Commission made its Report.
This paragraph, for instance, appears in the Montagu-Chelmsford Report, which after all, is the foundation of all modern movement for reform in India It is said in the Montagu-Chelmsford Report:Our conception of the eventual future of India is a sisterhood of States, self-governing in all matters of purely local or provincial interest. … Over this congeries of States would preside a Central Government, increasingly representative of and responsible to the people of all of them: dealing with matters, both internal and external, of common interest to the whole of India; acting as arbiter in inter-State relations, and representing the interests of all India on equal terms with the self-governing units of the British Empire. In this picture there is a place also for the Native States.That was written in the Montagu-Chelmsford Report in 1919, and it followed therefore, almost axiomatically, that when the Indian Statutory Commission under the Chairmanship of Sir John Simon came to draft its Report, they had that declaration in front of them. They had been to India and been able to see the situation for themselves, and it was not so very surprising, therefore, that the solution suggested was a federal one, and of course in that, as in other matters, we were guided by the Preamble to the last Government of India Act.
341 There are those who say that the new procedure with regard to federation at the Centre is a reversal of policy in that it is creating a dyarchy at the Centre. Full responsible Government at the Centre is, so we are told, producing a form of dyarchy which was not wanted, but I think there is a slight mistake in that argument. The noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, dealt very well with it in his speech last night in this respect, that under the new Constitution proposed the two things which are left out from responsible Government at the Centre are the Army and foreign affairs. There are certain smaller matters, such as ecclesiastical matters and others which I regard as not of such great importance, but the two major points reserved are the Army and foreign affairs, and they cannot be said to be of vital internal importance as regards the training and responsibility of the Government of India at the Centre. The Army, it is true, has to do duty in India in what may be called an internal capacity. Foreign affairs are obviously affairs outside India and, therefore, granted that in any responsible Government at the Centre you have to have some system of dual control, I think it is legitimate to claim that by reserving the Army and reserving foreign affairs you are not really acting as if you were creating dyarchy at the Centre. The Transferred Subjects in the provincial system were of much more vital importance to the Provinces themselves than those subjects will be to the new responsible Government in India. Finance, of course, becomes altered under this scheme, and the financial proposals given in the Statutory Commission's Report have naturally had to be adapted to meet the new Constitution.
But the greater step is taken, as noble Lords have said in all parts of the House, when you come to the Provinces. All this will lead me in a minute to the question of provincial autonomy and law and order. I want first of all to point out to your Lordships something which I think has sometimes been overlooked—I do not think it was mentioned in the debate in another place—namely, that the Provinces which are going to have provincial autonomy under this scheme are not in all respects the same Provinces which were in being when the Statutory Commission was in India. This scheme gives room for three new 342 Provinces. Since the Statutory Report was published a new Province has been set up on the North-West Frontier. That was a departure from our scheme, but a departure which seems to have been warranted by events which have occurred since then. A new Province has been set up in Sind. I think we should have liked to do the same thing ourselves, but we regarded it as an experiment which could not be justified until the Sukkur barrage was working and the prospect of adequate finance for that new Province was certain. A new Province has also been created in Orissa. That was recommended by a small Committee appointed by the Indian Statutory Commission, but we did not feel, I think, that the evidence was sufficiently adequate or comprehensive for us to make a definite recommendation on that point, so that the new structure in which provincial autonomy would be working is one which consists of more Provinces but of slightly lesser proportions, and in those Provinces, as your Lordships are aware, it is now suggested that full provincial autonomy should be given.
It is when we come to that point that noble Lords on all sides of this House, as the noble Marquess said just now, feel some anxiety—the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack himself said so yesterday—because full provincial autonomy means, as your Lordships are aware, that automatically all subjects come under the leadership of the Provincial Government so formed, and that brings to the guidance of responsible Ministers the Department which is somewhat erroneously spoken of as the Department of Law and Order, in which we find the Police. Let me say at once quite straightforwardly that if we had talked, or ever do talk, of giving full autonomy to the Provinces in India without transferring law and order that would be something of a sham. We are, I am sure, all fully aware of the great difficulties that confront anybody before this decision can be arrived at. The arguments are all set out in a paragraph of the Indian Statutory Commission's Report—Paragraph 63—and I will not weary your Lordships by going through them all, but I would like to make just one quotation from the Report itself. In Paragraph 63 of the Report the Commissioners say: 343We must face the fact that responsible government in the Provinces cannot be achieved without this change.That is, the change of granting law and order. Later on they make other recommendations under the same heading.
The arguments on both sides were somewhat evenly balanced. There was one suggestion that law and order should become a centralised subject. But geographically India is so vast a country that it was considered that to rely on a central organisation—at, say, Delhi—responsible for the whole of the Police force in India, would be an impossibility, and would throw an undue strain on the Governors in the Provinces themselves. I think the thing that perhaps persuaded us more than anything else was the fact that in the Provincial Councils then existing we saw constant attacks made on this Department which was responsible for law and order. The Police force as far as politics are concerned in India is not a popular subject, but the Police force when Indian politicians have no responsibility for it appears to be a subject which they could not resist attacking, and it seemed to us that it was most desirable that this divided responsibility should cease as soon as possible.
The noble Marquess referred to the speech which the right honourable gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made in another place last week, in which he pointed out to the House the ill effect produced by these constant attacks on the Police and Police administration. He said:The result of all this undoubtedly is that, unless you change their position the Police force in India and all the apparatus of law and order tend to be regarded as the agent of an alien bureaucracy.It was a difficult decision to take, and I think we were as aware then as I believe the Government are to-clay that there are risks to be taken in this matter. But very large risks will be taken if land revenue and irrigation are handed over to responsible Ministers. There are many in India who implored us to hesitate before we did that, and it did seem, I must say, when we saw these huge irrigation works and knew the difficulties of communal feeling in India, that there was a risk to be taken there. But this is a time in which risks have to be taken and possible dangers faced. We con- 344 sidered at that time—and I believe considered rightly—that this was a time to say to Indian politicians: "Here is the test of your statesmanship. Are you prepared to administer law and order yourselves? If so, and if you prove worthy of that charge, then we realise that you are able to govern yourselves, at least in the Provinces."
Of course safeguards have been laid down and your Lordships are fully aware what those safeguards are. I should, however, like to correct one statement which the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, made when he suggested to your Lordships that we should not take the speech of the Foreign Secretary as a real defence of our proposals in regard to law and order. I admit there are qualifications. I admit there had been a suggestion of an official Minister, but surely when any of us make these statements and try to frighten ourselves or our friends out of what I think is the right course of action we are going a little bit too far and a little bit too fast.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I do not want to interrupt my noble friend more than is necessary, but I should like to say that the important qualification was not the extra Minister but that the Foreign Secretary put that passage into his Report, according to his account of it in the House of Commons, the presence of a Government at the Centre which he conceived—that is the Government in favour of which the Commissioners were going to report, not the one with responsible Ministers.
§ LORD STRATHCONA AND MOUNT ROYAL
The noble Marquess is perfectly correct in his statement and I agree with him entirely, but I was going on to say that I think he overlooked the passage which came later on in the Foreign Secretary's speech when he said:I should feel much more difficulty than I do"—that is, I suppose, in supporting the proposals—if my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for India was to-day or tomorrow asking the House to vote in favour of the White Paper, but he is not doing that. He is saying"—and then he went on to point out that the House was only dealing with the appointment of a Joint Committee. I 345 think the purpose of this debate is surely to give all the advice and have all the points such as those raised by the noble Marquess put on record, so that when the time comes the Joint Select Committee may sift them and prepare a 'Report which eventually, I suppose, will come before the Government as the basis of the next Government of India Act.
I do not want to take up too much of the time of the House and I only wish to mention one more point. I think a great many people in this country were very seriously concerned when they read a letter from the noble Marquess, Lord Zetland, inThe Timessome days ago in which he referred to the difficult position in which the Governor-General would find himself under the proposed Constitution. The noble Marquess, I believe, is going to speak to-morrow and I shall leave it to others—we all hope my noble friend Lord Irwin will be well enough to be in his place—to deal with that point. But I should like to put forward my own View for what it is worth on that question. It seems to me that the Governor-General and the Governors in India have always had a job which demanded something in the nature of a superman, but they have been fortunate, and I trust always will be fortunate, in finding beside them and behind them advisers whose energy and whose capability for dealing with the situation no one could doubt and who have never failed them.
I would point oat to noble Lords that under the White Paper proposals the Governor-General in future will still have a Civil Service behind him with a large white element in it, with all that the Indian Civil Service means to all of us. We know their amazing power of facing situations in India which we in this country could not contemplate. We know how they have always been able to deal with countries so big that we in this small island cannot conceive of them, and I believe the real answer to the difficulty of the noble Marquess, Lord Zetland, is that a Governor-General and Viceroy in future can carry on his task, difficult though it will be, provided always that he has at hand the advisers of the Indian Civil Service whom, in my opinion, he must and always will have.
The test of this scheme and the test of our proposals is really the amount of co-operation we will receive. This 346 scheme must be worked with co-operation in India and I trust that none of your Lordships will be frightened by the possibility that the Congress Party in India will be unwilling to work the scheme. I think we must always remember that we are not necessarily legislating for Congress; we are legislating for other elements in India—Mahomedans, loyal Hindus, Depressed Classes, Indian Christians, our own European community and others who have always been willing to assist the Government of the country.
Those in that country and in our own Party who have taken a somewhat strong view about the proposals of the Government have, as far as I have been able to see, failed to produce any very obvious alternative. It seems to me the alternatives to this policy which are suggested are either evacuation or autocracy, and no one, I think, believes that in 1933 a policy of evacuation or of autocracy is possible in India. The main justification of our opponents has been that they base their arguments for the unsuitability of this Constitution on the irresponsibility of Indian politicians, but this scheme, we hope, and I believe have reason to hope, will give Indian politicians a sense of responsibility, and a chance to make use of it, and it will be up to them to assist us in making the Constitution work.
Lastly, I think that in these difficult times and in regard to so vast and complex a question as the government of India we have a right to ask for cooperation at home. I was somewhat disappointed that the Labour Party, both in this House and elsewhere, had expressed dissatisfaction with the proposals of the Government. In this matter I think it would not be unfair to say that the Labour Party is rather too young and rather too hasty in its aspirations for India, as for all other countries. The noble Lord, Lord Snell, referred yesterday to the other opposition as coming from what he called the Epping Party. I say with great respect of them that possibly they are too old in that they are somewhat prone to reaction. With great respect to the noble Marquess I say to him and to others that I earnestly believe that in ten years—even in five years, things change so quickly—it is hard to tell who is the latest and only real expert on this question. I would only draw attention to the fact that the 347 policy of the Government received a blessing yesterday from one who really did a great service to India which was not always universally known or recognised. I refer to the Marquess of Linlithgow. The production of his Report on Agriculture—a unanimous Report—was really a tremendous task. It brought him, as he said, to all the villages and through more parts of the country than probably any other Commissioner has travelled, and he was able to tell your Lordships that he believed the time had come for changes somewhat on the lines of those suggested by the Government.
It seems to me that the policy of the Government steers a middle course between the policy of the Labour Party, which I have labelled as too young and too hasty, and the policy of that section of our Party which I say, without any disrespect, is possibly too old-fashioned and possibly a little too reactionary. We all want peace in India. We want peace in our time in India. But we want something more: we want peace in the time of our sons and grandsons; and I am firmly of the belief that there are elements in India which are determined to see that the Constitutional reforms which are proposed become a sound working system and that the Indians themselves will give proof that they not only possess powers of self-government, but that they have no intention whatsoever of severing the British connection. I hope and believe we shall live to see an India under a Constitution somewhat on this basis still continuing as a partner in the British Commonwealth of Nations—a partner proud of that connection and relying to a very great degree on the Englishman to be their right-hand man in the practice and performance of that Constitution. It is because I believe that, because I believe there are elements in India who are determined to do the right thing, and who will always want ourselves to be their partners giving guidance in that task, that I personally have no hesitation in commending this Motion to your Lordships' House.
§ VISCOUNT BURNHAM
My Lords, I venture to think there is no legislative Chamber in the world that can compete with your Lordships' House in the variety and distinction of your experience, and during this discussion of what I venture 348 without exaggeration to call a world-shaking issue many points of view have been registered. Like all your Lordships I have listened with great pleasure to the very agreeable speech of the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, with whom I found myself acting for three years of inquiry and report on the Statutory Commission. I do not think we differed then. I do not gather, having listened to him carefully, that we differ now, because, while his speech as a loyal member of his Government was delivered in support of the White Paper, he did not say anything inconsistent with his continued loyalty to the Commission to which he belonged.
It goes without saying that I echo an opinion that we heard expressed in the House yesterday. The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, made a valuable and interesting speech, and he expressed the opinion that things would have been very different had the Report of the Statutory Commission been made the basis of legislation within the three years of its having been presented to your Lordships' House. Naturally I concur in that and I was glad to hear the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack say that our Commission had not been sufficiently recognised. I can assure him that we all felt deeply humiliated by the manner in which we were treated and by the change that was made for our disadvantage in the practice of Parliamentary procedure. It was not without protest. Sir John Simon saw the Prime Minister of that day, who is the Prime Minister of this day—of course he was the Prime Minister of another Government—and he endeavoured to induce him to extend to us the courtesy of Parliament. That courtesy we never received, and I suppose it is the one example in British history of a Parliamentary Commission, appointed to report, to guide Parliament in its policy, never having had any formal consideration. I do not say that the Report was not read and digested by those who sat on the Round-Table Conferences, but I do know that many of them in India condemned it before they had ever read it, and before they had ever heard what it contained. So the extent of that knowledge cannot have been very profound.
There was another notable speech made in the debate yesterday, as several of your Lordships have observed, and that 349 was by my noble friend Lord Lothian. He gave us an analysis of the equipment of a modern State in grappling with the work of governing a large population, and quite rightly, I think, he put education in the forefront of the programme. He said that we must think of young India, of those young Indians who were being educated in the primary schools. I agree, but we must put some grains of salt into that statement fully to appreciate how much it is worth. We must allow for what under the present Indian situation is called waste and stagnation. I will quote, if I may, from the Report of the Statutory Commission in regard to education. The Statutory Commission appointed a special Committee, under the Chairmanship of Sir Philip Hartog, to investigate education in India, and they reported in their first volume:Making every allowance for the situation created by the sudden large influx into the lowest classes of primary schools, which followed in the wake of the reforms, the fact that, of the 3,453,046 boys who entered Class I in schools in British India in 1922–23, only 655,101 survived to reach Class IV in 1925–26, and that fie rest had fallen out by the way or had vegetated in lower classes without any prospect of attaining even initial literacy, is lamentably significant.That diminishes a good deal, I think, of the value of the statement of my noble friend, as to the effect that education has had up to the present in India. I am not talking of the future, but only dealing with the immediate present with which we have to deal.
I venture to take part in this momentous debate in anything but a cheerful or even hopeful spirit. Still less do I do it in an airy spirit of optimism, and I cordially re-echo the words, which I have torn from their context, used by Mr. Baldwin, when he said: "We want a policy of realism and not a policy of sentiment." I only wish this description had been true of our policy in India during these latter days. We are now leading up, or perhaps I should say drifting down, to the next Government of India Bill, and as the first stage in the process no one can exaggerate the real and vital importance of this debate. When we were in India with the Statutory Commission the greatest advantage which we had was that in each Province we went to we were able to hear the free and unofficial opinions of all the principal people concerned. When we went to take leave of the Governors and 350 Chief Commissioners they spoke their minds. There was nobody with us. I recollect one case in which our host, who was a man of great authority and distinction, seemed so depressed by what was taking place and by his apprehensions as to what would follow, that I said to him: "I fear, Sir, you despair of the Commonwealth." He said: "Of course I do; catastrophe is inevitable." He is retired, so I am able to quote him, anonymously. That is what I found to be the prevailing opinion in the official world of India, as we heard it. It is only fair to add that the high officials were so overwhelmed with the mass of orders and counter-orders they received from headquarters that they had but little time for fulfilling their proper duties in isolation. Some of the senior members were buoyed up by the belief that the existing order would last for their time, and that in any case, as is indeed provided in the White Paper, following the precedent of what was done after the Act of 1919, they would have the opportunity of retiring on special terms. It is unfortunately true that those who have the best right to be heard as to plans that are possible for dealing with the future of India have been to a large degree rejected or ignored.
I fancy that nobody has merited in a higher degree the confidence of the British Government and the British people, than a famous member of a famous family who has written a short treatise on what he calls "India Insistent," Sir Harcourt Butler. He says that:two fixed points emerge from the heat and dust of controversy: (:1) the British cannot go; (2) India without the help of the British cannot, at present, administer or protect the country.He has a special right to speak because he was selected to introduce what are called the Chelmsford-Montagu reforms not into one but into two of the Provinces of India. He says that:apart from any question of self-protection India cannot, at present, administer the country because of her divisions, the ignorance of the vast majority of her people, and her inexperience of self-government.Mr. Baldwin in his speech in another place said that "we have to deal with a new India." I think Lord Lothian talked of the old order in India having passed away. Sir Harcourt Butler's reply is very cogent. He said 351If anybody captured by eloquence and superficial developments inclines to the belief that in India all things are becoming new, let him drift in a. barge dawn the river front in the early morning at Benares, with its palaces and temples, its shrines and its burning ghats, its priests and ascetics, its mysterious practices and multiform ritual, its animal life, the monkeys, the goats, the sacred bulls, the whole apparatus, as it has been called, of higher and lower Hinduism, unchanged throughout the centuries, untouched by the West.I am free to confess that I put my trust in the opinion of Sir Harcourt Butler, founded as it is on half a century of noble service to the Crown in our Indian Empire. The introduction of the next Government of India Bill will mark the end of the beginning and very probably the beginning of the end of British rule in India, which is, without cavil or question, the greatest achievement of the British race. We ought to approach the opening phase with all the equanimity that we can muster, but the number and complexity of the safeguards proposed in the White Paper show how keenly we realise the hazardous nature of the experiment that we are making in developing popular government in our Indian Empire.
We are considering to-day the setting up of the Joint Committee to which the White Paper with its contents is to be referred. Like my noble friend Lord Salisbury, I am in no way opposed to setting up this Committee, and I think it is the wisest and best thing that can be done. We are not considering the actual composition of the Committee, and in this House the difficulty will be that we have too many men of more than the necessary qualifications of knowledge and experience, and among them no fewer than three ex-Viceroys, not including Governors who have filled the office in emergency. There is one name which will, I think, be greatly missed for his invariable courage and foresight, and that is the name of Lord Sydenham of Combe, one of the foremost Peers of the Realm. Apart, however, from the personality of individuals, there is a question of intense difficulty that is not yet settled, and that has been left over for decision by a Government which is not "too brave," to use the late Lord Halsbury's phrase.
According to the assurance of the late Lord Birkenhead, representatives of India are to be added to the Committee, at least for consultation. Replying to questions in another place on March 20 352 the Secretary of State said that Indian delegates not being members of either House clearly would not be able to vote as members of a Joint Select Committee o be actual parties to a Report of such a Committee. Whether the Indian delegates will be allowed to interrogate or cross-examine witnesses were questions of procedure for the Committee itself to settle. The Indian representatives would be invited by the Committee. So far as I know the fact itself is an absolute innovation, and I should have thought it would have been better and fairer to the Committee for the two Houses to have indicated the fit and proper method of dealing with it. Are these Indian ladies and gentlemen, if there are to be ladies among them, to be present as witnesses or as assessors? After the answer of the Secretary of State as I have read it, I imagine that they will be in the room as assessors. According to the dictionary, in the days of ancient Rome the assessor was a person appointed to assist the magistrate with his advice, and the term always had a professional connotation. As the whole matter is a departure in procedure which is bound to serve as a precedent, we ought to know what is the course that the Government, who obviously and properly will dominate the Committee, will recommend to be followed.
It is said that the easiest way would be to let the Indians be present in the Committee for the examination of witnesses, but not for the consideration of the Report. On the other hand, the Report emerges on the consideration of every paragraph of the White Paper, especially when the Committee comes to considering the skeleton of the Bill. Even physically it would be very difficult to use in Committee what was called the in-and-out system or, in the case of Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule Bill, the cat-and-mouse arrangement. It could not work, and it would be entirely destructive of thestatusof Europeans, which the Statutory Commission said is the principal aim of all Indian policy. In that I heartily agree. They said, and said quite rightly, that the Indian politician sought above all things equality with the European. I think that the very suggestion that they should be turned out and let in from time to time is enough to prevent the Indians from ever entering the Committee room at all. There is one thing which is quite 353 certain. If the Indians are present—and I say it with no ill-will, on the contrary with great sympathy for them in most things—when their compatriots are under examination nothing will be said to add to what we know or want to know.
I imagine that the Committee will sit with reporters present. Indeed, I much hope so, because that will prevent distorted or at any rate jaundiced accounts of what takes place being given to the Indian Press. I am far front saying that it is invariably true that the rule of confidence is not observed by our Indian fellow-subjects, but on the Statutory Commission we had the unfortunate experience of finding; that the confidential reports of the various Provincial Governments were always published in the Indian-owned newspapers before we received them individually. The Oriental maxim that "walls have ears" was amply borne out in fact. I would add that if the evidence given by Indian witnesses is published to the world it will lead to the actual infliction of the boycott on those who favour the policy of the Government, and Indians, especially those living in Bombay, have told me that it means "oppression that makes the wise man mad." So I hope and believe that it is possible to come to an arrangement in the Committee that will avoid that difficulty. But I confess I de not see how. And I think it even ignoble that we should come to these conclusions without pointing out to the Committee the part which it ought to take.
It is common ground with all who have had to deal with what are called Indian reforms that no system of popular government has a chance of success that is not founded on the good will and cooperation of the greater part of the many communities which divide India among them. Can anybody say that the White Paper has so far received any measure of approval or agreement anywhere in India? The Secretary of State ventured on the conclusion that criticisms from opposite points of view were self-destructive and cancelled one another. Surely he forgot the vital difference in the nature and the power of such criticism. The new constitutional arrangements have to be worked, not here but in India, and Parliamentary action here will have but a faint and ineffectual reaction out there. Misled by the reserve power of 354 Liberalism in this country, which, as we all know, is very great, those who believe in the virtues of compromise are apt to put their trust in Indian Liberalism, but even more than here the Indian Liberals are a Party of generals; and in order to have any chance of Parliamentary existence they have to toe the line to the Indian National Congress, which is the only political force that counts among the Hindus. And the Viceroy said that only the other day again.
The Indian Liberals who attended the Round-Table Conference have shown that they know their place. They are leaders of a phantom Party whose only hope of being in an All-India Legislature depends on toleration of the Congress Party. Liberal leaders, including Mr. Srinivasa Sastri, declare that the White Paper scheme is inspired by deep-seated distrust of the capacity and bona fides of the Legislatures, and treats them either as political babes or as potential enemies of Great Britain. The choice before the British Government, they say, is to placate the Tories at home or to win the confidence of the people of India. Unless the scheme now published undergoes radical alteration there is no likelihood of allaying political discontent in India.
Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, who is known to many members of your Lordships' House, says that the White Paper has had the most hostile reception in India.It must be recognised [he says] that the proposals of the Government cannot be described in any sense of the term as being based on agreements arrived at at the Round-Table Conference.That is to say, he accuses the Government of breach of faith, and he goes on:A great part of the document seems to be drawn up more with a view to placate that section of the British Conservatives who are frankly opposed to any advance of the Centre, and cannot think of India otherwise than in terms of perpetual tutelage.He considers that the most objectionable features of the provisions are those providing that the recruitment of the Indian Civil Service and the Indian Police should continue in the hands of the Secretary of State. We look upon that as one of the most essential of our safeguards.I must frankly say [says Sir Tej] that if this Constitution is intended to make an appeal even to moderate-minded men in India, it will have to be materially altered in certain respects.355 Sir Purchotamdas Thakurdas, Mr. D. G. Birla, Mr. Walchand Hirachand, and Lala Sriram, who are leaders of Indian commerce in Bombay, Bengal, and Northern India, in a joint statement condemn the White Paper. They "are disappointed to find it is not capable of satisfying even the most moderate section of Indian public opinion." They believe that "there will be greater strife and greater conflict, and no peace." How far you can talk of public opinion in India was dealt with in the Report of the Statutory Commission and your Lordships have read it there. Mr. N. C. Kelkar fears that the White Paper will be "dished" by extremists in India and England. Excepting the franchise proposals, nothing in the White Paper merits approval, he says. The views of Hindu Nationalist members of the Assembly are reflected in Mr. Ranga Iyer's statement that the White Paper proposals are "inadequate, unsatisfactory, and disappointing." There is neither complete provincial autonomy in regard to law and order, nor real federal responsibility on essential subjects. And then we come to the attitude of the Moslems. An indication of it is contained in the statement of Sir Mohamed Iqbal that the White Paper is not likely to satisfy either the country or the Moslem community. So much for the way in which the White Paper has been received in India.
Well, my Lords, there has naturally been a great deal of talk about the parallel case of Ireland. Mr. Baldwin spoke of the failure of the safeguards in the Irish Treaty to which he had been a party, and said he did not wish to "miss the 'bus "again. It is instructive to observe that Mr. Patel, who behaved so shamelessly and shamefully to the noble Lord the present President of the Board of Education, who was lately Viceroy of India, went to Dublin to talk matters over with Mr. de Valera a week ago, and they both indulged themselves in the expression of their fanatical hatred of this country. I quote from the newspaper Press an account of what took place:Mr. Patel, ex-Mayor of Bombay, and former Speaker of the Indian Legislative Assembly, one of Mr. Gandhi's first lieutenants, met Mr. de Valera at Government Building, Dublin, yesterday, and discussed with him for two hours the Indian and Irish situations. Mr. Patel informed 356 Mr. de Valera that India was watching keenly all the developments in the Irish Free State, and wished the Free State all possible success in the present dispute with England. He assumed his sympathy when he remarked sanely and sweetly that there can be no peace in the world so long as the British Empire lasts.' Charging the Government with having made these sinister proposals with a view to goading the people of India to violence,' he said: Britain knows India will not remain for a single moment a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The goal of India's youth is the "Republic of the United States of India." To prevent that goal being reached Britain has produced these latest proposals.' British propaganda was so powerful in America that unless India took measures to counteract it her case would go by default there. Any incident that might throw some slight discredit on the British would always be explained away i n the newspapers.That shows what is the attitude of the man who is Mr. Gandhi's principal lieutenant and chief adviser, and who will have a good deal to do with determining the policy of the Congress Party: and the Congress Party, as your Lordships know, is the only effective political force in the whole of the Hindu community.
The other night when I was sitting in our Gallery listening to the debate in another place Mr. Patel was sitting near me in the Distinguished Strangers' Gallery. I thought we are indeed a long-suffering people to exclude, as we were doing that night, old officials of the Crown in India in order to find room for one of the bitterest enemies we have ever had. Still, that is a relatively small matter. The important thing is to recollect that India is always watching Ireland and "watching her opportunity." I well recollect an incident in our preliminary survey which well illustrates the state of things as it is. We had arrived at Calcutta, and I was asked to preside at the Dalhousie Hall over a University meeting to honour the memory of the late Lord Oxford who had recently died. I took the chair, and a resolution of sympathy was moved by the Vice-Chancellor of the University and seconded by Sir Alfred Watson, the Editor of the Statesman, who, as you know, was recently wounded in a second outrage upon him. Then a member of the Calcutta Corporation asked leave to speak. He was a Mr. Mukerji, a well-known Swaraj leader. He spoke at length, and his principal point was that Lord Oxford 357 had not worked for India, but he had worked for Ireland, and he repeated time after time "those who work for Ireland, work for India." That is the prevailing spirit in the Swaraj Party everywhere throughout India.
We must never forget that our charge, the charge that is put to us in this House and in Parliament, is, as Edmund Burke put it in his address on the Impeachment of Warren Hastings—and it is true with greatly added force to-day—" whether millions of people are to be miserable or happy." The White Paper lays it down that "the conception of a Federation of States and Provinces, and the processes involved in its formation, necessitates a complete reconstruction of the existing Indian Constitution," and that the "basic assumption" is "the spirit of partners. "We are forced, therefore, to examine how far it exists and how far it is secured by the "limitations commonly described by the compendious term 'safeguards' during the period of transition." "Period of transition" is a phrase taken from the first section of the White Paper. I should have thought myself that the use of the word "transition" without further definition was as dangerous as the words "Dominion status," which, because of their ambiguity, the Statutory Commission deliberately refused to use in their Report. At any rate, the Congress Party, which Lord Willie, don, the present Viceroy, spoke of as "the only active political organisation in the country," are not partners to any such scheme—400 of thorn have just been arrested and put into gaol, as recalcitrant against authority.
It is quite evident from what took place at the recent Session of the Chamber that the Ruling Princes are in a divided and discontented frame of mind, of which the best proof was the intervention of the Viceroy when the late Jam Sahib of Nawanagar was making his statement as Chancellor. If the States with a majority of seats come into the federal arrangements, which are admittedly of a novel and experimental kind, it will only be with grave doubts and many reservations. I fancy that the toss is whether they are to have the majority, and, as it is, it is suite possible they will. I will not weary you Lordships, but I should like to give a quotation from a statement by Sir Akbar Hydari. Speaking at Hyderabad 358 on March 10 he said that Hyderabad had agreed, given certain necessary conditions for the fulfilment of these factors, in certain matters, to act together with British India. She had discarded all ideas of splendid isolation, so that the larger entity, India, might prosper and develop constitutionally. I had a talk with the Jam Sahib two days before he left for India. Anybody less inclined to accept federation as it was then I cannot imagine. He said that before they accepted federation for the Chamber of Princes they must have far greater guarantees than they had been given up to then.
In regard to the whole question the opening phase of which is now under consideration of your Lordships' House, it has been said that we have to choose between a breach of faith and a breach of trust. I dissent altogether from the truth of this aphorism. No doubt we stand pledged by numerous assurances to the gradual development of self-governing institutions in India, but the time and pace of the advance have always been left entirely open. How otherwise, I would ask, could the clause have been inserted by common agreement in the last Government of India Act in relation to setting up the Statutory Commission on which I had the honour to act? It was open to us to have recommended that there had not been the degree of co-operation to warrant a further advance. It is quite true we did not do so. We recommended, as your Lordships know, what is called provincial autonomy, but we said that it might well be that popular institutions at the Centre would not follow the British example.
I recollect as we sat on the Commission there were several, among them, I think members of the Labour Party, who thought the institutions might quite possibly have been constructed on the American model, but surely this is proof of what I say, that we should commit a breach of trust if we deprived ourselves of the power to protect peasants who make up 72 per cent. or more of the whole population of India, and the industrial workers who are rapidly increasing in numbers and who divide their year between field and factory, town and rural district. If we did so, we should indeed be unworthy of the great tradition which has come down to us from the makers of India, from the devoted servants of the 359 Crown who have raised the name of this country so high in the estimate of the world for humanity, valour and endurance. To my mind they are the true heroes of the last 100 years of British history.
§ LORD BRABOURNE
My Lords, in rising to address your Lordships' House for the first time, may I crave that indulgence which you always accord so very generously to those undergoing that undoubtedly uncomfortable ordeal? And all the more so do I need it in view of the vital importance of the subject under discussion to-day, a subject which has a very great personal interest to me because in another place, from which I have but very lately come, I had the honour of being Parliamentary Private Secretary to Sir Samuel Hoare. I am not claiming to be an expert, very far from it, but I have learned enough of this very complex subject to realise its difficulties and to realise that it is a subject which a life-time of study cannot exhaust. I have always been a true and convinced Conservative, and I will admit that to start with I was very far from happy at the idea of any rapid advance towards self-government in India. Many of the arguments we have been hearing and reading a great deal of appeared to me to be of tremendous value. Some of them even to-day seem to be very strong arguments to my mind, but after the many contacts I was able to make during the last year or so with Indians of all kinds of political views, I have dome to realise that there is, to say the least, another side to this great question.
I had the very great fortune of attending the Third Round-Table Conference, as an onlooker, and if only more of the doubters of the policy contained in the White Paper at present had had that experience I believe that the opposition to these proposals would to-day be reduced to very small proportions indeed. Two things struck me most particularly during those lengthy and very detailed discussions of the complex points which go to make up the White Paper proposals. First and foremost was the almost complete agreement on nearly all the most controversial points; and, secondly, the steady undercurrent of sound, solid Conservative opinion expressed by nearly all the Indian delegates at the Conference.
360 Your Lordships must remember that there was almost unanimous agreement over the powers suggested for the Governor-General of India, and also that there was a very general realisation—one might say a general demand—for most of the safeguards which to-day appear in this White Paper, a fact one must bear in mind when discussing the feasibility or otherwise of the proposals. I met and had an opportunity of having conversations with many Indians of different political views, such as leading Moslems and big landowners, and I must say that amongst the big landowners particularly I did find a tremendous volume of good sound, solid Conservative opinion.
As I have said, I have always been a Conservative myself, but I found that many of these landowners outdid me in their Conservative views, and that does go to prove that in those landowners we have got a potential reservoir of leadership and of sound, solid common sense which to-day the critics of these proposals ignore altogether. One of these landowners came down to my home in the country because he wanted to study for himself in detail county council administration and the running of an English country estate, and I was surprised to find the grasp and the knowledge of essentials shown by him on his first visit to England. Surely it is men of that type who are going to lay the foundations of the schemes we are discussing to-day. And exactly the same might be said of the representatives of the Princes. I had the opportunity of having many conversations with them and I found precisely the same thing. These gentlemen may differ among themselves—they do differ among themselves—but they are united in the belief that their future and our future is bound up together. They are united in a common desire for stable government, and, above all, by the realisation that the future of India lies inside the British Empire. To-day we have the opportunity of taking action on lines which will bring these moderate elements in with us. If we do little or nothing now we shall lose their sympathy. They will lose confidence, they will lose all heart, and they will either drift towards the extremists or they will lose all political value, and then, at some distant, or 361 possibly not so distant future, when we are suddenly forced into taking action, possibly with a weak Government here at home, we may have to start some new Government system in India without the assistance of those very men who to-day would be the very foundations on which we should build.
Some of the critics of the present proposals are apt to tell us that the present Government are weak in the proposals they are putting before us. They tell us the peoples of the East admire strong Governments. Of course they do. Who does not? But I would suggest that there is some slight confusion in the minds of those critics as to what actually constitutes strength or weakness as regards the future government of India. As I see it, if our Government were to say: "We are uncertain of the future and therefore we will not advance more than a very small distance," that would be weakness. But if the Government were to say: "We fully realise the difficulties, we have explored every avenue and we are prepared to give you the following Constitution," and if they were to say above all "and we will see that it is faithfully carried out"—that, I believe, would be the strong line. That is, after all, exactly what is proposed in the White Paper.
Some critics also express the fear that the future Parliaments and Ministries of India will fall unduly under the sway of the extremists and agitators. There again I venture to disagree. I am quite convinced that the development of the principle of responsibility will bring into practical politics a large volume of Conservative opinion which to-day lies dormant for lack of opportunity. To-day the only aim and object of Indian politicians is to gain some measure, at any rate, of political freedom. The longer the delay the greater the outcry, and the greater the outcry the greater is the sway gained by the Congress Party—the Congress Party which appears to the unthinking masses of India as the only organised Party, the only Party which is really taking active steps to bring about that advance which India is asking for to-day. But bring in federation and the whole picture changes at once. Bring in federation and you bring in the Princes and their Ministers and you bring in that large body of doubting politicians who in India to-day have drifted towards 362 Congress as being the only people likely to bring them to the goal they desire.
Above all, you bring in the masses who to-day are perfectly content to leave their interests in the hands of the official Government. By so doing you will see the beginning of the break-up of Congress which to-day is held together by nothing but agitation. Remove the main cause of that agitation and I believe that there will be very little adhesion left to keep together that curious collection of political partners. Congress will prove itself, I believe very soon indeed, to have no practical constructive policy and above all no experienced leaders. Other people fear Congress because Congress is the only vocal organisation in India to-day. Is there not a lesson we can learn from our own home politics on that point? If a foreigner came to this country during a General Election would he not think during the first few days of the election campaign that the convinced Communists and extreme Socialists were going to sweep the board? You go to meeting after meeting and hear and see organised heckling. Yet what happens on polling day? On polling day it is the quiescent, solid body of electors, who after all form the background of every nation, who rise up and take control. That, my Lords, is exactly what I think will happen in India before very long once you get the federal system into operation.
If I am not taking up too much of your Lordships' time, there is one other point I would like to touch upon, and that is one of the probable results of the extension of tale franchise. I admit I was at first distinctly alarmed at the proposals contained in the Report of the Franchise Committee, but when I studied the Report more fully I very soon realised that if we leave the franchise position where it is to-day it means leaving the future political life of India in the hands of the small urban population and it means leaving the 230,000,000 agriculturists unrepresented and defenceless. After all, it is upon that 230,000,000 agriculturists that the future of India to a large extent depends, because one of the most vital problems as I see it to-day is the supply of food in the future to a population growing as the population of India grew in the last census period by 34,000,000, or 10 per cent.
If you examine the appropriate Appendices to the White Paper you will see that 363 these proposals are the only way in which you are going to bring this all important section of the population into the political arena. Once you get them there I believe they will play an ever increasingly important r ôle. If you call to mind that section of the Simon Report which deals with the rural population your Lordships will remember the stress laid on the boon which security, or law and order, brought to the rural population. That is a boon which I believe they will not readily give up. That is the strongest argument against those who say that to hand over law and order can only end in disaster, because what will be the fate of future Ministers in India who fail to keep for the rural population, or for the population of India as a whole, that priceless boon of law and order and security? Their fate will be the same fate as that meted out to Ministers in any country who do not succeed in fulfilling the wishes of the majority of the electorate. They will lose their jobs and will be replaced by other Ministers capable of so doing. The Simon Commission says that "law and order is the first interest of every Indian citizen, whether in town or country." Therefore I believe if will very soon become the first interest of all Indian Ministers dependent, as they will be, on the will of the electorate, an electorate more than interested in seeing that they carry out their instructions as regards law and order as well as all the many other things which will fall to them to decide.
Safeguards there must be. Indians demanded them at the Round-Table Conference and we need them. I believe the strongest safeguard will be that safeguard which does not appear in the proposals in the White Paper—namely, the safeguard of public opinion as expressed by an enlarged franchise. I welcome very much the proposal to send this White Paper to a Joint, Select Committee, but I trust that their deliberations will not be too lengthy because I believe it is of great importance that too much time should not elapse before Federation is actually brought into being. The noble Viscount who spoke just now laid great stress on the fact that these proposals were received very badly indeed in India. I think that is a perfectly natural thing. These proposals are all in a state of flux. To-day the object of all Indian 364 politicians and of all Indian political Parties, to put it bluntly, is to get the best bargain they can, and who can blame them? But I believe the moment we can go to India and tell them that they have the complete picture of the future Constitution and say: "This is the scheme, go and work it," we shall find that Indian politicians will try to do their utmost to prove themselves wise and able administrators, so as to show the world that they are deserving of the good feeling of this country and of the confidence which the British Parliament and people are prepared to show them.
§ LORD HUTCHISON OF MONTROSE
My Lords, I am sure you will allow me on your behalf to congratulate the noble Lord who has just spoken on his felicitous and well-delivered speech. We shall be only too glad if he will often take part in our debates and I only sympathise with another place in having lost such a promising young man. I would then like to congratulate the Government on this White Paper. It is a very remarkable document and, if I may say so, those responsible for drawing it up are to be congratulated because it is so very well indexed and noted. When, this document goes before the Joint Committee, and I hope and trust your Lordships will agree that it should, it will be an easy document from which to get at the real proposals. I would ask your Lordships to note that it begins in Paragraph 3 by saying that these proposals must not be assumed to be complete and final in every respect, which means, as has been stated in another place, that the proposals can be added to or subtracted from or changed according to the wishes of the Committee. The Committee, therefore, are not bound by any hard and fast, proposals.
I think everybody will agree that Parliament has committed itself with pledges again and again to go forward with alterations and advances in the Constitution of India. It has been truly said by the noble Viscount, Lord Burnham, that the pace and the time of those Alterations have not been defined, but I think it will be very dangerous to say that, having gone so far during the last five years, we can now stand still. We have to go on upon the course we have laid for ourselves. The Act of 1919 laid down in a document exactly the process 365 of events. We have have the Simon Commission authorised by that Act. We have now the White Paper with the Government's proposals, and it seems to me that the next process is to go on with the framing of a Bill on the knowledge contained in the various documents.
I have noticed a tendency among speakers opposed to the proposals to say: Ah, yes, I would be quite willing to accept the proposals of the Simon Commission." In the second volume you have their recommendations. What are the differences between the proposals in the White Paper and the proposals in the second volume of the Simon Report? As far as can see there is only one great difference, and that is that in the Simon Commission's Report they say they do not recommend a Central Government at the present time. They go for autonomy in the Provinces, but not a Central Government at present. But if you will look carefully into what my right honourable friend Sir John Simon said in another place. you will find that, although he was very careful to point out that at the time when he wrote the Report he was not in favour of a Central Government, yet six months before he wrote the Report he wrote a letter to the Prime Minister in which he said a new fact had come across his vision, and that fact was that there was a feeling among the Princes that some form of federation between the Princes' States and British India should take place. He also wrote that that new situation ought to be carefully considered before any definite action was taken by Parliament. If there is one thing that is certain it is that the Princes will very carefully examine any conditions under which they are asked to come into federation. On the 19th January, 1931, His Highness the Maharajah of Patiala stated that by far the largest proportion of the States will come into a federal structure at once and the remainder will soon follow, but he added, and this should be noted, that they could only federate with a British India which has self-government, and not with a British Government as it is to-day.
That new fact created a situation different from that met by the Simon Report, and I think that the Foreign Secretary's present opinion, as expressed in another place, is that provided those States do come in he is a supporter of 366 the idea of a Central Government. Therefore, the whole foundation from his point of view rests on whether the States will come in or not. I had the honour to serve on the Committee that went round the States with my friend Lord Hastings, and during our travels we visited and talked to either the Princes or the Diwans of eighty-eight States; and the impression given to me was that the Princes, provided certain conditions were carried out, were willing to come into a Central Federal Government. The great thing is to understand exactly what conditions the Princes are after. The one overbearing point they raised was the question of their treaties under the Crown. They impressed upon us again and again that they were unwilling to accept any new treaty from any new Government—they must always want to treat with the Crown. And if one looks at the various subjects dealt with under those treaties—tributes, ceded territories and all the various rights of some of the States—they mean that if and when the States are going to come into a federation each one will have to negotiate a new treaty with the Viceroy as representing the Crown. Therefore it is extremely important that we get on now with speed with our drafting of a Constitution Bill for India, so that in a reasonable time we may be able to face the Princes with the situation which they are asked to come into; and of course it is unreasonable to suggest that they should come into any form of federation without knowing all the obligations which they are undertaking.
I was very much struck with what Lord Hastings said yesterday in his speech. He said it was very necessary for the Viceroy, during all those negotiations, to have a first class Foreign and Political Department, and I suggest to the Government that for that particular purpose the Department might well be strengthened and overhauled, in order that when those negotiations come along they will be handled by a suitable staff in a proper way. I listened with delight to the speech of my noble friend the Marquess of Lothian yesterday, and I can only say that he deserves the best thanks of the country for the very wonderful work which he did in India on the Franchise Committee. That was the basis of what now appears in the White Paper, and the brilliance and tact with which he and his 367 Committee faced that great problem are beyond praise. The interests of the Princes are, of course, extremely varied, but I venture to say that it is in the Princes' interests, as well as in the interests of their people, that they should come into federation. After all, if they do not come into federation, and you have autonomous Governments in the Provinces, you will get undoubtedly the gradual absorption of the Princes' States going on through a period of years. They would be well advised to move to the utmost extent to come into a Central Government.
I cannot do better than to quote from the Report of the States Inquiry Committee. They wind up at the end of their introductory chapter:It is in our view inevitable that in the process of transferring further responsibility in such matters to Indian hands, provision should be made for the due participation of the States.The real trouble with the Indian States is their fear that their sovereignty is not going to be safeguarded, and that their judiciary is going to be interfered with. If those two points could be dealt with and made sufficiently clear to them, then I think you would have no trouble in getting them to come in. I hope they will, and I think they will, and if they do it will be to the benefit of India. I have heard it stated that the price to be paid for the various Services is too great. It is laid down in this Report of the States Committee, and somebody has described it as too extravagant. All I can say is that any money spent in bringing in the States in the way laid down in this volume—that is, dealing with the ports and Customs that are in the hands of certain States now, rather than leaving it to a future time—will be money well spent, and money that will bring its due reward by its return in future years.
I have heard noble Lords say that the financial structure of the Federal Government is in a dangerous condition—that it would produce chaotic finance. I am not in a position to say one way or another. The only thing I do say is this, that the finances of India are in a better condition, to-day, than they have been for many years, and I see no reason why, with better times coming, a Federal Government should not, with due safeguards, go along to create a very sound 368 financial position. The real foundation of a successful State is successful finance. I am one who believes that in the future of India lies our greatest heritage and our greatest outlook for trade, and that it is only by working in the closest co-operation with the people of India that we can hope to develop and extend that great trade.
There are only two other matters to which I should like to refer. One is that it is very desirable to get a Central Government in India, as well as autonomous Provincial Governments, from the point of view of the Press. In India practically the whole Press is in opposition to the Government. Once you can create a Government based on representation from the people, you undoubtedly will form the Press into two sections, a Government Press and an Opposition Press, and in that way you will get the various points of view from the Government put before the people. I have heard it stated in India that it is one of our greatest weaknesses in India that we have not got a Press to put the Government point of view. The last matter to which I wish to refer is that I think we ought to be very careful over the Letters Patent issued to any Viceroy, or Governor-General, or Governor, and to see that when they have been drawn they are as little interfered with by Parliamentary action as possible. The more they can be left in the hands of the Crown the better it will be for the various safeguards in the Government proposals. Lastly, I hope that the Joint Select Committee, when it is assembled, will have the services of the best Parliamentary draftsman that can be given to them, because there will be many difficult matters to be attended to. I know that Lord Rankeillour thinks the same, because he made a remark that he hoped that they would have the expert help of a draftsman in the business of the Committee. I thank your Lordships for having listened to me for so long.
My Lords, I do not intend to follow other noble Lords into the constitutional questions raised by the White Paper, and I will leave the question whether provincial autonomy should follow reconstruction at the Centre to others. My concern is with the people of India who will be affected by these matters, and particularly those to whose skill, courage and de- 369 votion the noble Viscount on the Woolsack made a. brief reference yesterday. I do know something about them, and naturally feel a considerable amount of anxiety about the future welfare of Indian soldiers—those who are serving and those who have served. They have, of course, shown magnificent fighting qualities, but it is not generally known what serving soldiers have had to endure in the bad days since the War in the way of abuse and derision, contumely and oppression it is very remarkable that their loyalty has been so very little affected, and that is due first and foremost to their great devotion to their own officers.
Drawn, as your Lordships know, from the more virile of the 230,000,000 peasant agriculturists, very often their interests are very much overlooked because they are silent; but their interests are by no means less important than those of the more vociferous minority. I was very glad to hear yesterday a glowing tribute from the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack to the Indian Civil Service, and I thought that I heard an echo of the same thing from the noble Lord, Lord Snell. If I was right, then it is satisfactory to know that he has learnt something since he referred in another debate to Indian administrators and their frozen brains and other defects. One has very often heard great admiration expressed for members of that magnificent Service, but it appears that when these gentlemen retire on their very inadequate pensions they then develop a terrible mental obliquity, and their opinions are anything but welcome to the political architects of Indian constitutional reform. Of course, one knows that men in possession of incontrovertible facts are very often most inconvenient to theorists.
Fair argument is one thing, but one can only feel angry when one sees in the Press day after day speeches made by those who are admirers of the present. policy of the Government in regard to India, who criticise retired officials of the Indian Services most unfairly, and who lead the public to believe, quite wrongly, that they are harsh and intolerant, bigoted and prejudiced, and wholly without sympathy. My own observations lead me to believe that there are two types of Englishmen who serve in the Indian Services. The first is the man who works hard and conscientiously, and when his work is over does not necessarily seek the 370 society of Indians. But the other type is more fortunate and more to be envied: I mean the man to whom India is something wonderful and entrancing and a book of never-ending interest. Men of this type very often for their recreation study the philosophy, the languages and the religions of the men amongst whom they work. Their sympathy is very quickly recognised, and their reward comes by a devotion and friendship which has to be experienced to be understood.
There were very many outstanding men who were keen students of Indian affairs a few years ago—men like Dr. Pennell of the Frontier and many more I could name—and those of us who wished to study could learn from them things that one could never learn from books. One could learn, too, from men like the distinguished police officer said to be the original of Kim, whose knowledge of Indian law and customs was deep. I can give an instance of a young officer who is no great linguist, who received the trust and confidence of a certain sect and on one occasion he was actually invited by both factions in a temple dispute to be the sole arbitrator and to settle their quarrel. He was known to be impartial and to have a sound knowledge of the religion of the sect, and was a real friend to many of that sect. One would have thought that men like these would have beers valuable advisers to those who wish to design forms of government for India. One would have thought that a thorough study of the people should precede a study of forms of government to guide the lives of the people.
One has heard noble Lords opposite talk almost glibly about the women's vote, and one wonders whether they know exactly what difficulties are involved. It will be well nigh impossible with some very important classes even to get the names of the wives of some of the men on to the registers. I personally have had the very greatest difficulty on many occasions in getting soldiers of these classes to allow their wives' names to be written on the roll, even when they knew that a refusal might make it impossible to establish pensions for widows in the event of their becoming casualties. So things are not quite so simple as they seem.
We seem to have failed signally in India, as in Egypt, in certain respects. 371 Had our progress in educational systems and systems of government been as excellent as our success in irrigation works and land development, opening up communications, and research like that of the late Sir Ronald Ross, we should see a different India to-day. We have tried to apply what suits England to India, and I am afraid it will not work. Some talk very confidently about change in India. I entirely agree with the views expressed yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, and he may be interested in a letter I recently received from one of my oldest friends, who is an honorary magistrate and noted for his severity and his wisdom and for his unique distinction in never having had a decision appealed against. I have tried to translate the relevant part of his letter to the best of my ability. He writes:You ask if I see a change in my people. You and I have often watched the great rivers of the Punjab, low in some seasons and rising when the snows melt. The winds disturb their surface, and their appearance changes, but they do not really change even if their course a little alters. Beneath the surface they are unchanging, and so are my people. At present there is a stillness in the air: we hope all may be well, but some liken it to the quiet that precedes a dust storm at the beginning of the monsoon.I make no comment except that I submit that my old Mussulman friend is probably an even better judge of how things are going than are the Padgett M. P's.
Those who lack enthusiasm about the White Paper are criticised very severely because they have no constructive alternative to suggest. How can you advise a man when he is sliding headlong down a waterfall? He must go down to the bottom because there are no means of saving him. Years ago it seems that we decided against Oriental education and indigenous forms of government, and now we see the logical result of that choice. No doubt it will go through, and perhaps go through quickly, in spite of the warnings that we have heard this afternoon, and we will see how this sham democracy works. I cannot find a single soul of the many that I know who know India as well as any white man can know it who feels the slightest optimism. It can, I am afraid, only lead to terrible chaos, first, because the essentials for democracy are lacking and, secondly, because the reins of government will be 372 in the hands of those ill qualified to hold them.
I will not make any attempt to paint the picture of what is likely to happen when the inevitable crash comes. It would serve no useful purpose. Just what will be the eventual outcome after a period of disintegration no one knows. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, made a shrewd suggestion when he adumbrated, possibly in jest, in yesterday's debate, a return to the patriarchal form of rule which he has witnessed with varying degrees of efficiency in the Indian States. Perhaps if many years ago we had worked out a plan of educating the future young rulers in the science of statecraft, and expanded existing States and created new ones, and evolved a fairly contented United States of India, with each State under Indian rule, and all under a supreme Viceroy with sufficient force to maintain internal peace and safe frontiers, things might have been better. We should have done better than saddle India with a form of Government which few European countries could carry comfortably—and countries which have not all the complications of race, language, and religion which India has. We have been attempting to give the lie to the old proverb: "In the East the parrots never will rule the hawks." My Lords, I most sincerely hope that in my complete distrust of this experiment I may be entirely wrong. If not, well, I grieve for the silent millions who are the victims of a well-meant gift.
My Lords, I shall not attempt to follow the noble Lord who has just sat down in the terrible prophecies which he has presented to your Lordships' House. I rise to say a few words with regard to certain aspects of the White Paper as they appear to me. I have had some experience of administratorship in various parts of His Majesty's Empire, and this has given me some practical experience which leads me to say a few words to your Lordships this evening. I should like first of all to state my position vis-à-vis the main issue of the White Paper. I am not one of those who believe we can stand still with regard to India, retain the old or even the existing forms of government, and make no progress towards materialising the hopes and aspirations towards self-government which have been implanted 373 in the breasts of Indians, not only by successive British Governments, but by the Simon Commission Report. On the contrary, I agree that we are bound to go forward. But in taking these steps forward I venture to suggest that we have to, act with the greatest circumspection and with the greatest degree of caution, because there is at stake the political and physical well-being of 400,000,000 of His Majesty's subjects as well as the maintenance of the integrity and well-being of the British Empire itself.
There is no one in this House or out of it who has greater sympathy with His Majesty's Government in the great and difficult task with which they have been confronted than I have, and I venture to pay tribute especially to Sir Samuel Hoare, the Secretary of State for India, for the way in which he has handled this delicate and complex subject. It would be extraordinary if, as a result of the numerous Round-Table Conferences which have taken place ill this country, of the Conferences which have taken place in India, of the many and varied peoples and races with which this subject is bound up—their different religions, their different customs, the different conditions in which they live—it would, I say, be extraordinary indeed if the form of Constitution which has been produced and proposed were not unlike any other Constitution which has ever seen the light of day. We are told that this Constitution is a Federal Constitution, and that it is a Federal Constitution because it is proposed that the Provinces, which will be made autonomous, and the States of India are to come together to participate in it. It is just because it is unlike any Federal Constitution ever devised—and it is not really a Federal Constitution at all—that many of the difficulties attending it have arisen.
I venture to suggest that, as the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, said yesterday, we should face the facts and get away from the term "Federal Constitution" and designate it a "Co-operative Constitution," which it really is. If we were to call it a "Co-operative Constitution" in which all Parties, including the British Government, are to take their share, with the British Government as the largest and most important partner or co- 374 operator in their capacity as trustee to the many millions of Indians who have not yet been emancipated, then we would approach the subject in a spirit of realism and not in a spirit of self-deception, trying to make something out to be what it really is not. If you are going to have a federal institution in India, then you must follow the example of all other federal institutions elsewhere. You have got to give full powers to your Provincial Governments, and you have got to give full powers to your Federal or Central Government; but I think everybody will agree—every reasonable Britisher and every reasonable Indian—that that is not feasible to-day.
Personally, I am staggered when I contemplate the Constitution outlined in the White Paper. It is the most complex and intricate that man has ever planned; it is a mass of adjustments and compromises which probably have been rendered necessary, but which I feel sure in their application will be exceedingly difficult to carry out: and how they are to be embodied in one Act of Parliament we have yet to see. It is for that reason that, in my opinion, one of the main pursuits of the Joint Select Committee should be to try to simplify the plan, to make it more workable, more understandable to the mass of the people and even to the officials and the Governments who will have to administer it. We all know that one of the main objections to Federal Constitutions is the constant litigation which takes place between the Provincial and the Federal Governments on matters of powers, of status, and of relationship. In Australia such litigation has been very prevalent, although the Australians, as we know, are not a litigious people: but the Indians, on the contrary, are a very litigious people, and consequently I can visualise in the future, as the result of any Constitution set up on the lines of the White Paper, a 'constant stream of litigation between the Provinces and the Central Government and between the States and the Central Government. This will not make it any easier for the Viceroy, and as the noble Marquess, Lord Zetland, has already pointed out in his admirable letter to The Times, he will have an almost superhuman task in carrying out efficiently the duties and responsibilities that will be attached to his office. I should like to support what my 375 noble friend behind me (Lord Hutchison) said a few minutes ago, that the Viceroy should be provided with far more personal assistance than is outlined in the White Paper, otherwise I do not see how he is to be able to carry out his duties efficiently, or even at all.
There is another matter which has given me considerable concern, and that is the position of the Princes of the Indian States in relation to the proposed Constitution. I should like while referring to the Princes to say how sorry I was to see that the Jam Sahib of Nawanagar, or Ranjitsinhji as we have always known him here, had died a few days ago. I feel that his loss will be a great and irreparable one. He was one of the most loyal subjects of His Majesty the King; he was well known in this country, I have no doubt he was a friend of many of your Lordships, and we will all miss him not only in that capacity but as a sportsman and as a good friend. We are told that the original idea of a Federal Constitution for India emanated from the Princes themselves. That may be so, and I do not doubt it, but a great deal of water has passed under the bridges since that idea was first mooted, and it is not at all certain, as my noble friend has just indicated, now that the plan for the Constitution has been produced, that the Princes as a whole are satisfied with the form it has taken.
I only wish here to throw out a note of warning—namely, that it is essential that the Princes, if they are to take any useful part in this Constitution, should do so freely and voluntarily and of their own accord, without any pressure from the British or Indian Government. This to my mind is a most vital point. If the Princes voluntarily, and I might say enthusiastically, use all their great powers of stabilisation and influence in assisting to administer the Constitution, then we can hope that the Constitution may be a success. If, on the contrary, they accede to it in another spirit—that is to say, in a spirit of reluctance or disappointment or unwillingness—then I can see that the Constitution might easily fail and bring great disaster to India and to this country. Consequently it is my sincere hope that the Select Committee will examine this point most carefully, most judicially and most impartially, and satisfy themselves on this matter by not 376 forcing into the new Constitution any of the Princes of the Indian States who may be opposed to it In this we have the analogy of the United States of America. Many of those States did not come into the Federal Government at its inception, and only joined it as time went on and circumstances rendered it expedient for them to do so. It may be possible to follow that procedure in regard to India, and I put it forward as a suggestion. The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, yesterday rather emphasised the point that they should all come in at once and together, but possibly he had not thought of the American solution of this problem.
Another point I should like to mention concerns the Police. I am not at all happy about the arrangement by which the Police are to be handed over entirely to the control of the Provincial Governments. So long as the British Raj has the ultimate responsibility for the maintenance of law and order in India I believe that there should be some arrangement under which not only the Army but also the Police, in the large urban centres at least, should be subject to ultimate control by the Viceroy or by the Governors of the Provinces. We have an example in this country where the Home Office have control over the Police in the London area, and the Government is, therefore, in position to maintain law and order in the largest urban centre in this country not only by virtue of having control of the Army but by virtue of having control of the Police as well. I feel that in India the Police, at least in such large urban centres as Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, Delhi, and probably certain other large cities, should be placed in a similar position vis-à-vis the Viceroy and the Governors of the Provinces, and I hope that this matter may be looked into very carefully by the Joint Select Committee, because it is causing a great deal of concern in this country. I hear on every side, from those who know India and have been in India, that it is causing a great deal of concern to many in India itself.
There is one other matter I should like to mention, and that is a point touched upon by my noble friend. Lord Hutchison in connection with trade. I hope that the Joint Select Committee will take that question into most sincere consideration. I have no doubt they will. To-day we are 377 raising the points which interest us, and which we wish to submit to His Majesty's Government as being of importance. The trade of India with this country is of the greatest importance not only to India but also to this country, and anything that is done to upset that trade must have a dangerous repercussion throughout this country and India and throughout the Empire. Therefore I venture to hope that, whatever legislation is introduced as a result of the work of the Joint Select Committee, it will at any rate contain clauses and provisions to deal with that important matter and to provide the very fullest safeguards possible in that connection. Those are the few words that I have to say to your Lordships on this matter. As I stated at the beginning of 378 my remarks, I believe we must go forward. I, for one, am satisfied that it is the proper thing to refer the proposals in the White Paper to the Joint Select Committee. I sincerely hope that as a result of their work they will be able to hammer out some new form of Constitution for India which will be of advantage to India, of advantage to this country and of advantage to the Empire as a whole.
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
My Lords, I beg to move that the debate be now adjourned and be taken as the first Order to-morrow.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned at seven o'clock.